The other day, I watched part of a program on the History Channel concerning cults. The very beginning of the program openly proclaimed that Christianity started out as a cult. The program stated that Christianity worshipped a man (who was Jesus Christ, of course), who claimed to be able to walk on water, perform miracles such as healing the sick, and giving sight to the blind, and raising himself from the dead. The program stated that Christianity began as a revolution within Judaism, speaking of another "kingdom", which made the religious and political leaders nervous. Membership in the beginning Christian religion included ignorant fishermen, prostitutes, and other renegades from society, who were fanatically devoted to their leader, Jesus Christ.

The program continued by stating that Christianity had taken centuries to become a mainline religion, just as Muslims, and other far east religions are now mainline religions. The program followed up by comparing the fledgling beginning of Christianity with Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre, and the Mormon leader, Warren Jeffs, leaders of FLDS (Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) who is accused of fathering more than 50 children by 40 different women, some of them young girls.

I was troubled by the bold exclamation that Christianity began as a cult, but developed into a mainline religion, therefore I decided to see if Jesus Christ fit the profile of a cult leader.

Some of the identifying marks of a cult are:

  1. What does the group think about Jesus Christ? In the beginning most religious organizations emphasize Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, and exalt him as the Saviour and only way of eternal life. It is important at this point to understand that even though some religions recognize Jesus as the son of God, if any other person or thing is regarded as being equal to Jesus Christ, that religious organization should be considered a cult. For example, religious organizations who declare that Christ, plus something else, is necessary for salvation is a cult. Some cults make Christ equal to their own religious leaders, while other cults make their own unique religious rituals equal to Christ.
  2. Cults frequently instill fear in their followers. Some openly declare salvation is possible only in their group, declaring that if any followers leave their group they cannot be saved and will spend eternity in hell.
  3. Another identifying mark of cults is the exultation of their leaders, who often become greater than Jesus Christ. The eyes of the followers are on the leader, not on Jesus Christ, who they are supposed to be following. The leader has more influence than God, Jesus Christ, or the word of God. Many times, the leader of the cult has a powerful personality, who desires and longs for admiration, often finding fulfillment only by deviant sexual behavior and absolute authority and control.
  4. A fourth identifying mark of cults is the lack of growth, or the inability of the followers to get away from the cult, or the leader or think on their own. There is a "congregational thinking", which stifles individual reasoning.

Christianity is not a cult.

Objection # 1 - Christ pointed his followers to the Father. Any casual observance of Christ will reveal he is not a cult leader. First, Jesus Christ did not point to himself, but desired his followers to follow God, his father. The following scriptures make this amply clear. John the Baptist never intended to begin a cult, as he always pointed his followers to Jesus Christ.

  1. Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
  2. John 5:30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
  3. John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
  4. John 7:16-18 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

Critics of Christ will point to the following scriptures, in which they say Christ was making himself equal to his father. What the critics forget is that Jesus is God in the flesh, nevertheless, he continually pointed his followers to his father, not to himself.

  1. John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
  2. Philippians 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

Objection # 2 - Christ Instills Peace, not Fear.

  1. John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
  2. John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Objection # 3 Christ Pointed His Followers to the Father

A cult leader will always point his followers to himself. Christ never did that, but continually pointed his followers to another his father. Christ pointed to the Bible as the final authority of God. There is perhaps a fine line between following the leader God has placed over you and following God. Some people follow their leader, and forsake the plain teachings of God. That is, of course, error. But it is good to follow the leader God gives you, as long as that leader is following the Lord. A plain warning sign is when the word of the leader becomes more important than the word of God. Many churches will follow their pastor, but they fail to think for themselves, failing to understand their leader needs their thoughts and sometimes their correction. In a cult, the leader or leaders are always correct, and the individuals in the cult do not need to think for themselves.

There are many good organizations that do many good things, but when the leaders of those organizations begin to think they are invincible, and their word is law, it is the beginning of a cult; whether that cult is religious, political, or social. All regulations, rules, and order of conduct must be held to the supreme standard of the word of God. No law, rule, or regulation should be made that contradicts or "bends" what God's word states.

Objection # 4 Christ Taught His Disciples Therefore They Could Grow Spiritually, Mentally, and Emotionally.

The tenderness exhibited by Christ in constantly and continually teaching his disciples is obvious to even the casual reader of the four gospels. The Sermon on the Mount manifests that Christ taught completely different from the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. The religious leaders of Israel tried to force their listeners into a strict and unyielding obedience to their laws and traditions, which they openly proclaimed were the laws given by God to Moses. In fact, the religious leaders had so perverted the law of God it could not be recognized as anything holy.

Christ affectionately and lovingly called his disciples to return to the original intend of the law of God. Christ called Peter at least four times, after he was saved, to be fishers of men. In the same manner, Christ calls his disciples to a tender spiritual observance of the principles of holiness, not to bind them to that holiness, but to free them from the constraints and consequences of sin. Jesus desired his followers to be free, not bound, as related in John 8:31-32, Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. This is not was a cult leader would do.

It is true that Christ had a different agenda than his disciples. But the disciples were wrong. It was their intention to force the kingdom of God upon the entire world, but Christ would not force his kingdom on anybody. Instead, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, who has all power in heaven and earth, would coax and plead with unbelievers to come and accept the good of both temporal and eternal.