[223] What is a cult ?

Why do you people keep paying out money for what is not bread ? (Isaiah 55:2)

Here are the key features, the tell tale signs, of a Religious Cult:

1.    Brainwashes its members

2.    Excludes or minimises external influence on its members

3.    Threatens all people with damnation unless they join up and stay loyal

4.    Leadership claims infallibility in some respects, as a means of stifling debate, claiming to be God's mouthpiece on earth

5.    Places non biblical restrictions on the physical behaviour of the flock

Church Brainwashing Excluding External Influence Threatens with Damnation God's Mouthpiece, Infallible in some respects Non Biblical Physical Restrictions on Life
Catholic Some (Jesuits) Some (monastic) Yes Yes Yes
Jehovah's Witness Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Church of England No No No No No
Church of God Yes ? Yes ? Yes
Hasidic Jews Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mormons Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Christian Scientists Yes ? ? ? Yes
Pentecostals Yes ? Yes ? ?
           
           
           
Lord's Witness No No No No No

This table is what we believe to be the case (our views are not infallible!) But please check your religion out against these criteria.

Brainwashing 

Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason (Romans 12:1).
You cannot serve God with someone else's mind, such as the mind of your priest or vicar or leader, you should serve him with your mind, your whole mind:

And you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength (Mark 12:30).

Excluding external influence

However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man (1 Corinthians 2:15).

So we should examine everything, for we are no longer in the garden of Eden, we are surrounded by thorns and thistles. We should brave it all so that we can develop the love of God which Paul defines as:

Love is long-suffering and kind... It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Threatening with Damnation

No man can restrict the mercy of God. Many unrighteous men who do not know God at all will be saved both through Armageddon and by the resurrection of the dead. St. Paul has told us:

And I have hope toward God, which hope these [men] themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15).
So the unrighteous (at least some of them) get a resurrection too. For the whole timetable of the resurrection of unrighteous humans born in the last 6,000 years into the kingdom of God during the next 1,000 years - see [106].

In the case of Noah's ark, there were unclean animals who went in by twos. In the case of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah the whole city of Zoar was saved due to the incompetence of Lot. In the case of Jesus' death there was the murderer on the stake next to him who defended him and asked to be remembered by him - that was enough. In the case of the Exodus from Egypt a vast mixed company of non Jews left with Moses:

And the sons of Israel proceeded to depart from Rameses for Succoth, to the number of six hundred thousand able-bodied men on foot, besides little ones. And a vast mixed company also went up with them, as well as flocks and herds, a very numerous stock of animals (Exodus 12:37,38).

Basically the angels will make up for the inadequacy of all true religions and save those whom they missed and who have a chance of learning something from the Kingdom of God. And there hasn't always been a true religion around so all the people born in the periods when God has not had a true religion who are saved, are saved by the angels. For a description of what sorts of people are saved 'unofficially' as it were - see [106].

Leadership infallibility

Papal infallibility is as famous as it is ridiculous. It is important to make the distinction between being guided by God and being infallible because of his guidance. The point is that no leadership of any true religion is able properly to follow God's guidance. Therefore any one of their understandings or courses of action may in fact be wrong or sinful notwithstanding God's efforts to guide them. Not because of inappropriate or negligent guidance, but because of the freedom to sin that God gives us all. Even Jesus could not guarantee that he would follow God's guidance perfectly:

And a certain ruler questioned him, saying: Good Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?
Jesus said to him: Why do you call me good? Nobody is good, except one, God
(Luke 18:18,19).

Jesus was good enough to obey the law of Moses throughout his ministry, and to give his life as a sacrifice for us. But he did not regard himself as 'good' period. So he knew he was capable of slipping up. In fact had he not retained this capability to fail, then his whole test would have been a charade. Since he was not good period, then he was not infallible, and therefore neither is any leader of any Christian religion. Look for example at King David. A man described as having a heart which was complete towards God:

And it came about in the time of Solomon's growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father (1 Kings 11:4).
But David committed adultery with Bath-sheba, and he effectively murdered her husband Uriah!

And the high places he did not remove. Nevertheless, Asa's heart itself proved to be complete with Jehovah all his days (1 Kings 15:14).
King Asa, had a complete heart, but he did not follow God's guidance fully, he left the high places, where idolatry occurred. So even the leaders of true religions with complete hearts will for a fact slip up. So they have no infallibility of any sort. And the number of them that claim they do is the number of them that are liars. The Jehovah's witnesses leadership claim that they will never as a group go wrong. But just in making this claim, as a group, they have gone wrong. Remember Peter's words:

Then he said to him: Lord, I am ready to go with you both into prison and into death.
But he said: I tell you, Peter, A cock will not crow today until you have three times denied knowing me
(Luke 22:33,34).

Non Biblical Physical Restrictions

Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him (John 4:23).

This hour has come. We should worship God in spirit, not by making grandiose physical gestures:

If you died together with Christ toward the elementary things of the world, why do you, as if living in the world, further subject yourselves to the decrees: Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch, respecting things that are all destined to destruction by being used up, in accordance with the commands and teachings of men?
Those very things are, indeed, possessed of an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and [mock] humility, a severe treatment of the body. But they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh
(Colossians 2:20-23).

Stopping swearing, not going near any women, living modestly, attending every single religious meeting, these things are fine if that is where your spirit leads you but they are not necessary. They should not be enforced by congregation law. They are a matter of choice. We have the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:21). St. Paul said respecting himself and every other Christian:

All things are lawful for me; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful for me; but I will not let myself be brought under authority by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).

As regards religions who forbid marrying we have:

However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying
attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth
(1 Timothy 4:1-3).

State Religions

No state religion, such as the Church of England, the Russian Orthodox Church or the Greek Orthodox Church can possibly be a true religion because in the first place they are Nationally based, and God's house must be worldwide and is not divided:

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself comes to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand (Matthew 12:25).

The Nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms and they both fell. But the priesthood, under the sons of Aaron, the house of Aaron was never divided. Abijah (Abijam), the son of Rehoboam, the second king of Judah said to Jeroboam:

And now you men are thinking of holding your own against the kingdom of Jehovah in the hand of the sons of David, when you are a large crowd and there are with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made for you as gods.
Have you not driven out Jehovah's priests, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and do you not keep making priests for yourselves like the peoples of the lands? As for anyone that came and filled his hand with power by means of a young bull and seven rams, he became a priest of what are no gods
(2 Chronicles 13:8,9).

The priesthood of Aaron fell, but was instantly replaced by the Christian priesthood, for which sons of Aaron were just as acceptable. But, in the second place, Satan said to Jesus, when tempting him:

So he brought him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time, and the Devil said to him: I will give you all this authority and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me, and to whomever I wish I give it (Luke 4:5,6).
From this it is apparent that Satan holds all the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to whom he wants. This would include England, Russia and Greece. So the church should keep entirely separate from the kingdoms of the world, as Jesus said:

If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you (John 15:19).
This is quite obviously not true for members of state religions. Finally the apostle John has told us:

We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one (1 John 5:19).
This is a fundamental spiritual reality, but it is not as damning as it sounds.