One Way Cults Begin

It’s true that all popular figures are in danger of allowing themselves to gather groups around them who become near-worshippers of them. They can encourage this “groupee” dynamic and gain a following that believes almost anything that they affirm—remember Jim Jones and the Koolaid? This popularity phenomenon is obviously one ripe source for the fostering of cults. Unless this dominant figure discourages such adulation, he may unconsciously allow these followers to become cultic in their attitudes. If the leader sets forth a doctrine or two that deviates from traditional biblical teaching, you have all of the ingredients necessary for establishing a cult. But that’s not the emphasis of this blog.

Rather, as someone has said, “Cults are the unpaid bills of the Church.” What does that mean? Simply this—whenever the church of Jesus Christ fails to emphasize some truth, and becomes imbalanced in one direction or another, it leaves room for a cult to creep in and take over that area of theology which it has neglected. You didn’t pay your bill, so someone else moves in to take possession of what was your God-given responsibility to teach in the first place.

Take the days in which there was little emphasis upon eschatology. The Adventist cults gained favor. The period in which there was little concern for pastoral care led to the beginnings of the healing cults.

The question today is what is the church neglecting, and what will this lead to? Clearly work in systematic theology and the faithful exegesis of the Scriptures is at an all-time low during the current generation. Where are the giant exegetes today? The outstanding systematic theologians? Those whose interest is in biblical theology abound; but where are the commentaries that deal in depth with the text rather than skipping around from place to place attempting to find similarities in various passages?

Moreover, application, as a result, is disappearing from the pulpits of those who are enthralled with the “discoveries” of some biblical-theological devotees. People are beginning to get essays from the pulpit in place of clear, substantive doctrine, proclaimed from well-exegeted passages, and applied to the daily lives of those who listen. There are even those who are questioning the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone!

It’s time for preachers to wake up. We could easily have a new sort of cult emerging right before our eyes— one whose adherents look down their noses on “mere” exegetes and systematic theologians, and dismiss practical preachers of the truths of the Scriptures. Take heed!

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