What is a Cult? Occult?

Let’s get occult out of the way first.  Occult is Greek for “hidden” which does not make it evil or suspect.  Doctors speak of “occult blood” meaning blood in such small amounts that one must locate it by microscope.  In religion it refers to hidden messages, systems, or procedures that may not be seen or known to the general public.  That does not necessarily make them evil.

But incantations and curses certainly can be called occult and evil.  When I taught at a woman’s prison the director found beside her office window a freshly dug hole containing a sack with a boiled silver quarter and some pieces of chicken.  I was told this was a curse of some sort known to island peoples.  Santeria is filled with stuff like this.  That makes it a cult.

A cult was defined recently as any religious group which worships its own doctrine.  By this definition we can find many examples.   Of recent date are the doctrines regarding homosexuality.  For practicing homosexuals I notice that is their one issue and it impacts their whole lives.  The gays I have known literally talk of nothing else; all their decisions are based on this, political, social, financial, and of course personal.  One prominent gay has his library-study lined with pictures of well-known homosexuals, including Leonard Bernstein who was a close friend of this man’s partner.

The same patterns apply to a feminist who supports not only women’s rights but also in many cases their superiority, plus abortion.  These are often called one-issue voters. We are speaking here now of individuals not of PACS and organizations which lobby for specific legislative and judicial change.  They may have cult followers but essentially they are obeying the laws on activism.

But now to religion.  Here is where that sharp two-edged sword of the spirit slices Christians as well as non-believers.  There are denominations that say you cannot belong to our church if: (1) You are divorced (2) Not baptized in water (3) Not a member of this church (4) Taken special training or schooling (5) Not married.  This is cult behavior.  It limits Christ and cheapens the gospel.

Some Messianic Jews I know teach that the food laws and other Old Testament rules must continue to be followed when they become Christians.  The term for this behavior is “Judaizers” and is forbidden in the New Testament for good reason.  It means that Christ’s death for sins for not sufficient.  These people don’t go to hell, but their share in the glory of salvation is reduced.  See Deut 4:2 and Rev 22:19.

One Catholic woman refused to speak to me after I told her we distributed Bibles in Mainland China so people could be saved by reading them (which they often were.)  We would tell them that “even though we must return to America, you can get to know Jesus with this book.” But her church taught that only a person (a priest in her instance) could give the message of God.  That is bad doctrine because it puts the burden for salvation on humans and not on the deity.  Anything that takes away from the person and the work of Christ is wrong.  God is not limited; we are the limited ones.

Some churches refuse to allow woman ministers.  To do so ignores the scripture, “In Christ there is no male or female.”  That tells the world their church is not really “in Christ.”  Are they ready to accept that? Many very poor churches have female ministers, but when prosperity takes over, so do the men, which tells me that it is all about money.  God can hardly be amused. Galatians 3:28.

God holds ministers to a higher standard.  Many ministers think the opposite – that they can get away with stuff not allowed to them as private citizens.  One man I worked with thought he could lie and drink to a drunken state and it was OK because he had a thriving ministry.  But God is watching, and his ministry today is ashes.  We are all accountable to God, the more so for having been given a greater opportunity.

And while we are on alcohol.  The Bible says nothing about abstaining from beer and wine.  Strong drink is condemned, but the issue is not the drink, it’s the drinker.  Is it in excess?  All excess is called sin, which includes spending money, phone calls, text-ting, food and drink.  In this regard we all need correction.  To the contrary – wine makes glad the heart of man” so it’s OK.

Psalm 104:15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.

At one time I worked for a denomination which outlawed alcohol. A friend asked me how I could agree to this and I replied, “It’s the cost of doing business.” When I left that group I left their rules behind. It is not sinful to agree to company rules, but we must not ever do anything in violation of God’s holiness. Years ago a friend left employment with a huge national company which sells lawnmowers because they made carousing with women and alcohol a company practice. He was right. I think many people would divest themselves of that stock if they knew the facts. God does not honor long-term that kind of company policy.

Seventh Day Adventists have made huge contributions to their fellow man especially in the medical field but I still find so many insist that you must go to church on Saturday to be right with God. There is a scripture that specifically says this is not so:

Colossians 2 (New King James Version)4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. and 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths

Ultimately our position with God is not about behavior but our attitude. As we get into the presence of God we learn that dependence on Him and his Word is what gives us life.  The rules will fall off like heavy winter clothes when spring comes. 

 

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