AUTHOR: Watchman Fellowship
PUBLISHED ON: May 1, 2003

                      PATTERNS IN THE CULTS
                    Watchman Fellowship, Inc.
                            P.O. Box
                      Birmingham, AL 35219

Cults!  The mere mention of the word brings to mind Jim Jones and
the Jonestown tragedy, Charles Manson and the Tate-La Bianca
murders, and a host of other bizarre individuals and groups.

However, most cults are not that bizarre.  Their followers dress
like everyone else, work normal jobs, and by and large, are very
sincere and honest individuals.  As a matter of fact, most of the
followers use Christian terminology very fluently, thus making a
cult very difficult to spot.  The difference between the cult and
true Christianity lies in belief.

Though the average cult member will confess a belief in Jesus
Christ, a reliance on the Bible as his authority, and devotion to
God as a lifestyle, in reality, all of the terms have been
redefined.  What appears on the surface to be Christian deviates
greatly from what the Scriptures actually teach concerning the key
doctrines of the Christian faith.

Due to this subtle deception, it is imperative that people know
what to look for in trying to determine if a particular group is a
cult or not.  In light of this need, there are four basic patterns
which exist in all cults who claim to be Christian.

                    ADDING TO THE WORD OF GOD

The first pattern apparent in all cults is the habit of adding to
the Bible instead of accepting it as the sole authority of one’s
faith.  Throughout scripture, God warns against this practice. For
example, in Proverbs 30:5-6, the Bible states, “Every word of God
is pure; he is a shield unto them who put their trust in Him.  Add
not to His words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
However, the cults disregard this warning constantly as the
following examples clearly show.


In the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints (the Mormons), they state in the eighth article, “We
believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated
correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of

Note the condition placed on the Bible,”…as far as it is
translated correctly” whereas the Book of Mormon is accepted as
scripture, period!!  Thus, the Book of Mormon takes precedence over
the Bible.  In addition, Mormons consider the “Doctrine and
Covenants” and “The Pearl of Great Price” as scripture.


In the Divine Principle, the following statement is made, “The
Bible, however, is not the truth itself, but a textbook teaching
the truth.  Naturally, the quality of teaching and the method and
extent of giving the truth must vary according to each age…
Therefore, we must not regard the textbook as absolute in every
detail.” (p.9)

In other words, the Bible is true only in a relative sense, not an
absolute sense, thus opening the doors for the Moonies to accept
any source as their authority, whether it contradicts the Bible or


Whereas the Jehovah’s Witnesses state they believe that the Bible
is God’s Word, their writings make it very clear that one must read
The Watchtower in order to understand it.  In the book, “Qualified
to Be Ministers,” they state,”… The Watchtower shows the Bible to
be the one practical guide for modern times.  It is all important
to study the Bible, and, since The Watchtower assists in
understanding the Bible, its study is also imperative (p.156)

On the same page Witnesses are told to “believe all things” that
The Watchtower brings out.  This teaching effectively makes the The
Watchtower publications an inspired commentary on the Bible with
complete obedience required.


Like most cults, Christian Scientists affirm that the Bible is
God’s Word and the source for their teachings (Science and Health,
p.126).  However, on page 139 of Science and Health, Mary Baker
Eddy states, “… the manifest mistakes in the ancient versions;
the thirty thousand different readings in the Old Testament, and
the three hundred thousand in the New, these facts should show how
a mortal and material sense stole into the divine record, with its
own hue darkening, to some extent, the inspired pages.”

Thus, the Bible is full of errors leading the Christian Scientist
to rely on only one source of authority, the writings of Mary Baker
Eddy and the church.

                    SUBTRACTING FROM CHRIST

The second and most important pattern to look for is the practice
of subtracting from the person of Jesus Christ, usually by denying
the fact that He is God.  This belief is the cornerstone of the
Christian faith and supported by numerous passages of Scripture
(John 1:1, John 20:27-28, Relevation 1:17 compared with Isaiah

Nevertheless, from the beginning of the Christian Church, there
have been those who have distorted the person of Jesus Christ, thus
creating another Jesus.  In II Corinthians 11:4, Paul dealt with
this problem when he scolded the Corinthian Christians for
accepting another Jesus, “For if he that cometh preacheth another
Jesus, whom we have not preached… ye might well bear with him.”


The Jehovah’s Witnesses have done one of the most thorough jobs in
creating another Jesus.  In “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” they
state, “Being the only begotten Son of God and the ‘firstborn of
every creature,’ the Word would be a prince among all other
creatures.  In this office, he bore another name in heaven, which
name is ‘Michael'” (p.49).  In other words, Jesus is merely a
created being, not God the Creator.

They further teach that after Jesus’ death, God the Father disposed
of his body and he was resurrected as a spirit creature, (“Things
In Which it is Impossible for God to Lie,” p.354; “Let God be
True,” p.138).

This is definitely not the Jesus of Scripture who has always
existed, created all things, died for our sins, and rose again


While appearing to be the Jesus of Scripture, the Jesus of
Mormonism is also “another Jesus.”  In “Gospel Through the Ages,”
he is identified as the spirit brother of Lucifer (p.15).  Joseph
Felding Smith, the tenth president of the church, denied that Jesus
was begotten by the Holy Ghost and Brigham Young consistently
denied that the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross through the
shedding of his blood was sufficient for all sins (“Doctrines of
Salvation,” Vol. 1, p.19; “Journal of Discourses,” Vol. 4, pp.219-

Besides these errors, Mormonism holds to polytheism, the belief in
many gods, thus making Jesus one of many gods (“Teachings of the
Prophet Joseph Smith,” p.349).


Like many of the Mind Science cults, Unity denies the deity of
Jesus Christ by dividing Jesus and Christ.  Charles Fillmore wrote
in “Jesus Christ Heals” that “Christ, meaning ‘messiah’ or
‘anointed,’ designates one who had received a spiritual quickening
from God, while Jesus is the name of the personality… Christ is
the name of the supermind and Jesus is the name of the personal
consciousness,” (p.10).


In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Apostle Paul clearly stated, “For by grace
are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the
gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”

The Word of God plainly teaches that salvation is a gift that God
offers sinful man.  There is nothing anyone can do to earn it, it
is the gift to be accepted or rejected.  Through this teaching is
so clear in the Scriptures, the cults constantly pervert it.


A perfect example of this pattern is found in the witnessing of
Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Worldwide Church of God,
which publishes the magazine, “The Plain Truth.”  In the
“Ambassador College Correspondence Course” the following statement
is made: “Most professing Christians think they were ‘Born Again’
when ‘they accepted Christ’ and ‘were baptized.’  From that time,
supposedly, they received the Holy Spirit and have been living a
New Life in Christ.” (Lesson 8, p.3).
Armstrong further states in his book, “Which Day is the Christian
Sabbath?”, “You shall be saved by Grace, but God does lay down
conditions.  You can comply, and receive glorious GRACE – or you
can rebel, and pay the DEATH PENALTY – for eternity!” (p.107).

Thus, while teaching salvation by grace, Armstrong has redefined
grace to include conditions which one must keep in order to receive
eternal life.  By doing so, he has nullified the meaning of grace
for grace is God’s undeserving love which He pours out on mankind.


The Jehovah’s Witnesses also hold to a works salvation.  In “Let
God be True” The Watchtower states that “Immortality is a reward
for faithfulness,” (p.74).  Notice that the word “reward” is used,
thus implying one’s works determines their salvation!

This view was presented very clearly in the February 15, 1983 issue
of “The Watchtower” on pages 12-13.  In this issue, four
requirements were given for salvation: a knowledge of God’s
purposes, obedience to God’s laws, association with God’s
organization, and loyally advocating God’s Kingdom rule to others.


In advocating a works salvation, The Mormon Church clearly presents
its case.  In the book “Doctrines of Salvation” by Joseph Fielding
Smith, he states that for one “…to be exalted one must keep the
whole law… to receive the exaltation of the righteous, in other
words eternal life, the commandments of the Lord must be kept in
all things.” (Vol.2, p.6).


The fourth pattern found in the cults is the practice of dividing
the loyalty of the follower between God and an organization or
individual.  Whereas the cult will convince its followers that they
are an organization wholly devoted to God, the follower is taught
to put his trust in the organization instead of God.


A clear example of this can be found in two issues of The
Watchtower magazine released in 1979.  The May 15th issue posed the
question, “Is Your Trust in God or in a Man?”

By the wording and the graphics on the cover, the writers were
emphasizing one putting their trust in God.  However, two months
earlier, in the March 1st issue, the cover read, “Put Faith in a
Victorious Organization.”  So, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, in whom do
you trust: God or the Watchtower Society?  In all reality, The
Watchtower for they are placed before the Witnesses as God’s only
true organization on earth (The Watchtower, July 1, 1973, p.402).

Thus, while the Witness believes he is trusting God, his loyalty
has been divided between God and the Watchtower Bible and Tract


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also guilty of
this deceptive practice.  Throughout their writings, one will find
numerous challenges and instructions concerning placing one’s faith
in God.  However, on February 26, 1980, President Ezra Taft Benson
gave a lecture at Brigham Young University titled, “Fourteen
Fundamentals in Following the Prophets.”

The second fundamental stated, “The Living Prophet is More Vital to
Us Than The Standard Works.”  In Mormonism, the standard works
include the “Book of Mormon,” the “Doctrine and Covenants,” and the

In explaining this point, he quoted Brigham Young who said in
reference between the words of the prophet and the standard works,
“When compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to
me… I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing
in the books.”


Herbert W. Armstrong created this division in the Worldwide Church
of God by stressing that the Worldwide Church of God is the only
true church.  In his book, “Where is the True Church?” Armstrong
makes this belief quite clear that the true church will be named
the Church of God.
On page 26, he stated, “In some New Testament instances, a
descriptive term is added to the name, as the Church of God at
Corinth…  And today, it is the Worldwide Church of God.”  By
placing the Worldwide Church of God in the position as the only
true church, Armstrong has placed it before the members as the
basis for authority in matters of faith and conscience.  Therefore,
the member’s faith is actually placed in the church, not God!

Over and over again, this deceptive practice is found throughout
the cults as the followers are told to put their faith in God
alone, but then are led to place their faith in the cult!  The sad
thing is that many cultists are so deceived that they don’t see the
division and feel that they are fully trusting God.

                          AN INVITATION

As you have read through this vital information on how to spot a
cult, some patterns may have sounded similar to some practices in
a group to which you belong.  If so, you are involved in a group
which is not based solidly on the Word of God.  Due to that, you
may have never been told to place your faith in Jesus alone, who
said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto
the Father but by me” (John 14:6).  If this is the case, we invite
you to trust Him alone as your Lord and Savior.

On the other hand, you may have already made this important
decision and are actively involved in a strong Christ-centered
church.  However, just because you are a believer, do not ever
think that you could never be led astray and begin adopting some of
these patterns in your own life. Remember, these patterns are
presented in a very subtle fashion using Christian terminology and
the Bible as a springboard!

If you have any questions or need assistance, please do not
hesitate to contact Watchman Fellowship at the address listed
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