Not according to legal description of a cult

Several groups against non-trinitarian groups claim those, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians to be people belonging to a cult.

“Christadelphian research” is one such group which tells its readers to bring an exhaustive and authoritative investigation into the Christadelphians.

They seem not to agree with the fact a cult has to have a central leader, engage in emotive appeals and shun former member; and say

“In fact the difficulty with the word and concept of a “cult” is the lack of meaningful definitions and a good consideration of this can be found on the Religious Tolerance website.  To put it simply, there is no objective classification of what a cult actually is and without that the term is best avoided as a label.”

Why do they not take the juridical term and explanation concerning cult and cultism?

One should know that the word “cult” is derived from the French word “culte” which came from Latin noun “cultus“, related to the Latin verb “colere” which means “to worship or give reverence to a deity” and indicates that it is about “adoration”.
Today we are very far away from the 17th century meaning of the word by which in its original meaning, the term “cult” normally would indicate or being used for a system of religious beliefs and rituals (formal worship) plus its body of adherents, and as such could be applied to any group of religious believers: Roman Catholics, Baptists, Mormons or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Anglicans, but also out of Christendom and Christianity in the different religious groups, like for example Hindus or Muslims.

However, the term has since been assigned at least eight new and very different meanings. The original meaning of “cult” remains positive; more recent definitions are neutral, negative, or extremely negative and many use the name for what they really should call sects“.

Many people use the name “cult”  for a religion which they regard as unorthodox or spurious, outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities. depending on where is been spoken about a group the way people look at it may be totally different. All depends on the size of the group in a certain place, as such a small religious group that exists in a state of tension with the predominant religion can be considered a main or major religion whilst somewhere else it might be considered a cult. Hinduism might be considered a cult in North America; Christianity might be considered a cult in India.

Often a new or newer group might be considered as a cult, though later it might become also a denomination like there exist many denominations today in the major religious groups (Jews, Christians and Islamist as well as other religions).

The Christian religion, as it existed in 30 CE might be considered a cult involving one leader and 12 or 70 devoted disciples as followers.It all started off by the Jewish sect or Jewish cult “The Way“. Out of that Jewish sect came very different religious groups, which we now consider part of Christianity or all part of Christendom.

Smith, Joseph; Moroni
The angel Moroni delivering the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, lithograph, 1886. – Everett Collection Historical/Alamy

It happens more than a schism group at first is considered to be heretic. The followers of Calvin and Luther were considered “from the devil” and following dreadful false teachings, but today everyone accepts the Calvinist and Lutherans to be Christians.
During the Second Great Awakening the farmer-son Joseph Smith said he experienced a series of visions. He published what he said was an English translation of golden plates given by the Angel Moroni. Those plates inscribed with a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient American civilization formed the source material for the Book of Mormon, which became accepted as holy scripture, in addition to the Bible, in the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Mormon churches. This church was first considered as a “cult” but today in the United States of America and many other countries is seen as an established denomination of about 15 million members.

In Belgium the governement a in the 1990ies called the Baptist church a sect and there were many court cases against several Baptists, though in the United States of America Baptists belong to a huge main church. In many newspapers and magazines they were considered a cult and spoken of negatively.

It is striking that opponents of certain religious groups portray those unwanted or unwelcome groups as cults or sects and call them publishers of false teachings. In most of the times one can find fundamentalist Christians doing so. In this world we can see a counter-cult movement (a.k.a. CCM or discernment ministries) being composed primarily of conservative Protestant Christian individuals, agencies, and para-church groups who attempt to raise public concern about religious groups which they feel hold dangerous, non-traditional beliefs. Those in the CCM are sometimes called heresy hunters or heresiologists.
Those accusing others of being cults, consider that they present the only true religion and that therefore other thinkers should be wrong and avoided. They are strongly motivated by a concern for the spiritual welfare of people in the groups that they label as cults, aberrant sects, heretical religions, etc. Those in the CCM believe that any group that presents itself as a Christian faith group while rejecting one or more of the historical Protestant Christian beliefs endangers the salvation of its own members, and weakens the Christian religion itself.  It is out of fear for loosing members or having less converts, that they try to frighten people for those groups which have other teachings than theirs.
We clearly see such an attitude first in the 1970ies by the Roman Catholic Church against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, even going so far to take away the Divine Name Jehovah away from their Bible and parish publications. The growing of several other non-trinitarian groups, like the Christadelphians and the Church of God, frightened lots of protestant groups which saw members of their church leaving them for joining those Unitarian churches.

CCM ministries often have a church teaching based on intimidation, scaring their own flock by telling them that they could go to an eternal furnace, called Hell. The fundamentalist believers, not accepting what the helfire in the bible spoken is about, generally believe also that God will send members of many “cults” to that place of eternal torture after they die, because they have believed the false teachings of their faith groups. This makes them to believe that the heavenly Father would be such a cruel Being that He sends His Own children who do not follow like certain churches want, to a place to be tortured by fire for ever. (Not exactly a picture of a loving Father, though Scriptures tell us God is a loving Father.)

CCM ministries often have contradicting teachings about salvation and on one site they say people do not have to do any works, saying salvation does not require more than repentance for their sin and trusting Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Though for them to be saved, one must also believe their things about Jesus and have to belong to their church.

Often those CCM groups spread falsities about other groups and tell others those groups are telling lies and presenting false teachings. Those CCM ministries try to get the ‘sole right’ to present the Christian Church, by which other churches are silenced and religious freedom being taken away.
Religious freedom should be protected by us all, the same as we all should go for freedom of speech. People should know, recognise but also accept that there can be other opinions and that people can have different interpretations about certain Scriptural texts. To follow views which are unconventional and the right to follow them has been an important freedom we should value. People therefore should be careful to avoid simplistic labels that portray only negative associations. In some countries “anti-cult” legislation limits beliefs to a set of state approved churches and that would be a dangerous route to follow.

To suppress new movements on account of their difference would therefore be to suppress both religious freedom and also the ability to protest at evident weaknesses in churches and society.

Those who are against the Christadelphians and Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) and therefore call them a cult, and the JW even a sect, should think about the justification of such terms for those groups who do not follow a person his or her teaching (like Calvinists, Lutherans, a.o.) and do not act like sectarian groups would do, having it easy to enter but very difficult to quit. Just the opposition in many of those non-trinitarian groups it might be more difficult to become a member, than in other Christian churches, but is it much easier to make it that they ask you to leave the group, or have you disfellowshipped.

Those who consider Christadelphians a cult or a sect, should come to see that in that group no ‘one individual’ or ‘person’ is in control. Every ecclesia or community is free to arrange their own working. Sects have someone with the most hierarchical post in control of everything. There is no hierarchy by the Christadelphians and nothing as for example a head of the community or a pope. There is also no control of information, this is what it makes such a rich community with many thoughts circulating about many matters. Everybody is free to speak and utter ideas. There is no control of thought at all by the Christadelphians.

By the Christadelphians everything turns around ‘free will’ and the free choice of each individual. It is that free will what  many CCM want to rob, bringing people under their control and (perhaps most important of all) having the people giving their money to their church.

The Christadelphians are a non hierarchical group where everybody is respected as a creature of God.

Those against the Christadelphians sometimes claim that

There is a strong pressure to conform to accepted beliefs, to be seen to not question those believed fundamental, to accept certain views about life and society, the role of women and many other things. {Are the Christadelphians a Cult Group?}

One may find it abnormal that before some one is accepted in the group he or she has to conform with the Christadelphian ideas. But should not all Christian churches have their members only baptised when they are mature enough in the teachings or ideas of that church they want to become a member of?

Not only the Christadelphians and/or Jehovah’s Witnesses want to check first if the person who wants to become a member of the church, believes that what they consider essential to their faith. Some agreement is the basis of most groups in society. Additionally there is no underlying aim by the non-trinitarians (this in contrast to many Trinitarian churches) to gain financially from converting people. No financial contribution is expected and in several churches there is no tour at the service to request financial contributions (like you can find in the Roman Catholic and many Protestant churches) .

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Preceding

Are the Christadelphians a Cult?

Next

Those willing to tarnish

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Additional reading

  1. Ideas about Religiosity
  2. When there is secrecy involved
  3. A small company of Jesus’ footstep follower
  4. Those who call the Christadelphians a cult
  5. Lovers of God, seekers and lovers of truth
  6. What Christadelphians believe
  7. What are Brothers in Christ
  8. What Christadelphians teach
  9. Christianity is a love affair
  10. The Law of Christ: Law of Love
  11. Agape, a love to share with others from the Fruit of the Spirit
  12. The Greatest of These is Love
  13. Unconditional love
  14. Compassion and Discipline
  15. Integrity of the fellowship
  16. Fellowship
  17. Some one or something to fear #3 Cases, folks and outing
  18. One Bible, many Churches

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