What is a Cult?                                            By Jack Kettler


A Fact Sheet


How to define a Cult:


Fundamentally, a cult is a religious system with distinctive rites and customs. Cultus comes from Latin and means worship.



A group usually religious that is unorthodox, and has an abnormal commitment to an authoritarian leader or group of leaders and is characterized by exclusiveness (we are the only ones) along with secret doctrines and practices not easy to get to by the public. The word cult is not found in Scripture. In addition, the word cult is comparable to saying aberrational, heretical, either, which would describe an organized group that follows false prophets or false teachers.



A belief that is contrary to orthodox religious doctrine, specifically, Christian creedal formulations.



A sect is a subgroup or offshoot of a religious belief system.


From a Christian Perspective:


“We define the word ‘cult’ to mean a group of religious people whose belief system and practices deviate significantly from and often contradict the Holy Scriptures as interpreted by orthodox, biblical Christianity and as expressed in such statements as the Apostles’ Creed.” (1)


General Observations:


First, a cult is a group that loves something or someone. For example, the phenomena of the “Elvis cult,” which is made up of devoted fans. A film (Rocky Horror Picture Show) or rock band (The Grateful Dead) can have cult status. 


Second, a cult is a religion whose beliefs differ from the mainstream of a particular religion. For example, Sufism usually is translated “mysticism,” could be considered an Islamic sect or cult. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are Christian cults.


Third, is exclusivity, governed by secrecy, and has authoritarian structures.


Forth, an abnormal commitment or devotion to a leader or group of leaders.


Fifth, will play upon fears, the world to end soon. 


Sixth, will cut people off from families or those who raise questions about the validity of the group.


Scriptural Warnings and Admonishments:


“And then if anyone says to you, ‘look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” (Mark 13:21-23 ESV)


“For I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30 KJV)


“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also are transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2Corinthians 11:13-15 KJV)


“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2Timothy 3:16 KJV)


Is there value in studying cults and cultic teachings versus the Bible?


When you know the truth, that which is genuine, you will quickly recognize the counterfeit. Bank tellers spend time becoming familiar with real currency. After this familiarity with the real thing, encountering the fake currency is easy. It is the same with biblical doctrine. Spend your time becoming experts in understanding sound doctrine. Then when encountering false doctrine, it will be easy to detect an error.


In closing:


“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:104)



1.      Ronald Enroth, Evangelizing the Cults, (Servant Publications, 1990), p. 11.

 “To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com