CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Three Easy Steps to Become a Cultist or Heretic

Jun 16, 2017

I am always ready to be of assistance, so I am happy to come to your aid if you are looking to become a cultist, or slip into rank heresy. Thanks, you can pay me later. But I also write for those who are not specifically seeking to move in these directions, but will find themselves heading there nonetheless if they are not careful.

The sad truth is, it is relatively easy to slip into theological error, to slide into heresy, or to end up in a cult – or even start your own cult. It is a lot harder to stay on the biblical and theological straight and narrow. I love how G. K. Chesterton put it in his superlative volume Orthodoxy:

It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom – that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.

cult 9So what makes me an expert in telling you how you can so easily fall into heresy or end up in a cult? Simple, I have three main means by which I can know all this: I have all the warnings as found in the Bible; I have all the lessons found in church history; and I have far too many personal examples of this that I have witnessed over the years.

I have seen many who were once sound Christians – or seemed to be so – who ended up falling into damnable heresy or finding themselves enmeshed in an ugly cult. Some even ended up forming their own cult with their own small band of deceived followers.

So how can all this happen? There would be a variety of reasons for this, but if you allow yourselves to get into these three areas – to do these three things – you will be a prime candidate for falling from grace and falling into heresy or cultism. Here then are the three steps to follow so that you can easily fall (and note how closely related they are to each other):

Step One: Be Proud

Pride of course is the basis for a multitude of sins. It is one of the key things that separates you from God, and results in all sorts of danger creeping in. It should go without saying that Scripture speaks repeatedly to this issue. One key text is James 4:6, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

That verse alone should seal the deal. Want to stay close to God and thus much more immune to deception and falsehood? Then stay humble. Want to be far from God and wide open to the cults and every false doctrine? Then stay proud. Pretty simple really.

There of course would be plenty of other passages we could mention here. The wisdom literature is full of passages on this. Let me just offer a few of them:

-Psalm 138:6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar.
-Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
-Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
-Proverbs 21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.

The humble are those God looks upon and who have wisdom, making it harder for them to fall away whether by false doctrine or wrong living. The proud on the other hand are distant from God, will end up in disgrace, and will easily fall into destruction.

Thus the Bible is clear: one of the easiest ways to get led into cultism and heresy – and every other problem – is to have a proud, arrogant spirit. Satan loves such people and he so easily twists and turns them to do his bidding. He loves the proud, but he hates and fears the humble. He knows the truly humble are almost off limits to his evil devices.

Step Two: Have an Unteachable Spirit

I have often written about this. And of course it goes so well together with pride. When you are proud you are not teachable, but when you are humble, you have a teachable spirit. You are willing to listen to others. You realise that you do not know it all. You understand that being open to God and his truth is vitally important.

And you understand that this is a lifelong process. We do not get all truth the day we are saved. We do not and would not have the capacity for it. We learn and grow and develop over the years. Being open to learn and to be taught is a key part of the normal Christian life.

It is an indication of a Christian who wants to grow and become all he can be in Christ. Again, the Bible speaks much to this, the wisdom literature especially. Here are just a few such verses:

-Psalm 25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation; on you do I wait all the day.
-Psalm 86:11 Teach me your way, O LORD; I will walk in your truth: unite my heart to fear your name.
-Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
-Proverbs 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
-Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

We see here the connection between the man that God approves of, and his attitude of teachability. The fool is not open to being taught, but the wise are. The fool easily falls into demonic deception and doctrinal error, while the wise do not anywhere near as easily do so.

Step Three: Refuse to Learn from Others

This of course is part and parcel of the above two steps. When we are humble and teachable, we do not shut out others from our lives, but we in fact surround ourselves with others – especially those we trust to speak truth into our lives and help us grow doctrinally and spiritually.

God gave the Body of Christ teachers. They are essential for Christian discipleship. Whenever you get to the place that you think you no longer need others to help teach you, disciple you, and speak truth into your life, you have hardened yourself and made things much easier for the devil to lead you into error and heresy.

And a sure way to help that ensure your transition into cultism and heresy is quick and painless is to play down doctrine and theology. Pretend you do not need sound doctrine, and push the claim that ‘doctrine divides, but love unites’. Having a low view of theology is a sure way to slip right into cultism and error.

All this is again connected with pride. The unteachable think they have some kind of infallible pipeline to God and have no need of other ‘mere humans’. They will not listen to others, listen to sermons, read good Christian books and commentaries, and so on.

In their arrogance they think that they alone with God can get all truth. That is exactly what the cults teach people: ‘You do not need other teachers. Burn those Christian books. Isolate yourself from other churches.’ That is a sure path to being ensnared in deception and heresy.

Yes we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in all truth, but that is always in conjunction with the whole Body of Christ, and the teachers God has given us. We reject good teachers and good teaching to our own peril. Just a few passages from Paul on this:

-1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.
-Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.
-2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
-1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
-1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
-2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

It is when we take ourselves out of the protections that God has given us that we can get into real trouble. And one way he protects us is by giving us teachers to help us along the way. Refusing the teachers he has placed over us is to place ourselves in real jeopardy, to open ourselves up to satanic deception.

So if you are quite keen on how you too might get sucked into a dangerous cult or a diabolical heresy, the steps are quite easy: stay proud, stay unteachable, and refuse to learn from others. That will pretty much guarantee that you will sooner or later get sucked into damnable heresies and deceptive cults.

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9 Responses to Three Easy Steps to Become a Cultist or Heretic

  • Hi Bill, a very appropriate posting for the toxic climate we’re living in. The 3 danger points that you highlighted; Pride, Unteachable Spirit, & The refusal to learn from others, are issues, that I myself constantly have to guard against. Another trap for Christians that I would like to suggest, is when “life” with all its twists and turns can sometimes knock you flying without any reason or contributing factors. It is under those conditions, that it can be very easy to retreat into “isolation”. Being isolated can make you vulnerable for the 3 danger points highlighted and discussed in this article. Bill, might I suggest that you “repost” this article every six months? Christianity is entering a new “dark age”, we need to be regularly refreshed on these pitfalls. Regards, Kel.

  • Thanks Kelvin. Yes there would be other reasons for, and stepping stones to, getting into cults. And yes it may be worth reposting this from time to time. Blessings, Bill

  • Interesting article Bill. I too have come across those who have fallen away and pride is often a big thing. The attitude that God should conform to one’s own standards.
    On a lighter note, another sign that you’re on your way into cultism – if you feel the need to attend a church that has a uniform, or at least a strict dress code!
    Regards, Anthony.

  • Great article Bill.

  • Hi Bill, I follow you on facebook and appreciate much of what you write. What I can’t get my head around is why you are not yet Roman Catholic? What is it that is stopping you? ….
    I would love to debate/talk to you about why you are not Catholic. Maybe through facebook message.
    Thank you for your voice and your work.
    God Bless

  • Thanks Bernadette, but let me stop you there if I may. I will not run with your entire comment, and have in fact deleted some of it. And there is a very good reason for this. Folks should know by now that I do not allow the old tired sectarian debates between Catholicism and Protestantism on my pages (whether here or on things like FB). I have often explained that. But if you want to know more about why that is, and what I think of your question in general, I have just penned a new piece on all this. Please have a read of it to see where I am coming from, and how I have answered questions such as yours: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/06/17/defence-protestantism-response-catholic-friends/

  • John 10:10 KJB The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

  • Straightforward and helpful teaching as usual Bill.

    I particularly like how you brought it back to this point – “Pretend you do not need sound doctrine, and push the claim that ‘doctrine divides, but love unites’.”

    Of course Christians of all stripes can be prone to pride and inability to be taught, but it is in particular this post-modern flavour that ‘love conquers all’ that is particularly susceptible.

    The problem stems as you say from their lack of commitment to sound doctrine. They neither teach it, nor emphasise its importance, which is the only way they can continue to promote a gospel of love, and not one of repentance and faith, because if they cared about doctrine it would quickly dissolve.

    Why bother actually learning the word of God when you can simply ‘love on people’ which so far as I can tell means proffering up subjective feelings of affirmation and comfort.

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