Marks of a Cult is the latest in a series of DVDs produced by The Apologetics Group and hosted by Eric Holmberg. Previous titles have included Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism and Hells Bells 2: The Power and Spirit of Popular Music, both of which I have reviewed in the past (and both of which are well worth viewing). This latest presentation seeks to answer some of the following questions: Why are Baptists properly considered Christians, but Mormons are not? Why is the Jehovah’s Witness religion classified as an anti-Christian cult while Presbyterians, Wesleyans and Pentecostals are simply seen as denominations within the Christian faith? How does one differentiate between true Biblical Christianity and an aberrant religious movement? And just what are the marks of a cult?
The presentation describes cults through the four marks developed originally, I believe, by Watchman Fellowship. These marks are easy to remember and are helpful in forming a framework around which we can differentiate a cult from a church. The marks are as simple as add, subtract, multiply and divide.
Add: Cults add to Scripture. The revelation of God provided in the Bible is never sufficient for a cult. Thus they must add to the written revelation of Scripture, usually with additional scriptures or with their own translation of the Bible. In this way we have books such as The Pearl of Great Price of the Mormons and the New World Translation of the Bible produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since the Bible claims exclusivity as the written revelation of God, we must see that other books, even if the followers of cults claim that they are equal to the Bible, must actually be over and above the Word of God.
Subtract: Cults subtract from the person of Christ. Cults cannot tolerate the divinity and exclusivity of Jesus and thus usually reduce Him to being a created being. In some cases they make Jesus only a manifestation or mode of God. In either case, the role of Jesus as revealed in Scripture is diminished.
Multiply: Cults multiply the requirements of salvation. Salvation, as it is presented in the Scriptures, is by God’s grace through faith alone. Cults continually add to the requirements of salvation, always adding human works as a necessary prerequisite to salvation. No cult teaches or endorses justification by faith alone. Thus all cults reject the very heart of the gospel.
Divide: Cults divide the loyalty of believers. Each cult believes that it has exclusive revelation and understanding of God that ensures its followers are either exclusively God’s people or are somehow more blessed than others. Cults always seek to divide believers against each other based on the previous three marks. Thus cults are, by their very nature, divisive.
Each of these four marks receives a good deal of attention within the presentation. Each one is proven to be true within the belief systems of several different cults including the Seventh Day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, The Moonies, and Oneness Pentecostals (or the Jesus-Only Movement). Each receives the attention of a large group of highly-regarded Christian apologists. Those who were consulted in the making of this film are:
- Dr. James R. White, Alpha & Omega Ministries
- Dr. E. Calvin Beisner, Knox Theological Seminary
- Dr. R. Fowler White, Knox Theological Seminary
- James Walker, Watchman Fellowship
- David Henke, Watchman Fellowship
- Dr. Steve Cowan, Apologetics Resource Center
- Craig Branch, Apologetics Resource Center
- Clete Hux, Apologetics Resource Center
- Jerry Johnson, The Apologetics Group
As with the previous DVDs released by The Apologetics Group, Marks of a Cult is well-researched, well-made and the facts presented are well-documented. This is a rational, measured, convicting examination of the marks of a cult as they stand against the claims of Scripture. It clocks in at almost two hours which is just enough time to do justice to the topic. It moves quickly and should easily capture the attention of adults and teens. In fact, my only disappointment was in the bonus features which included nothing more than a list of recommended websites and a second list of recommended books dealing with each of the cults. Nevertheless, that is but a small complaint and I am glad to recommend this DVD to you. It would be a valuable addition to any personal or church library.
The DVD is available from Monergism Books.