The Question, “Should We Still Use the ‘Cult’ Label?”

  • In recent years many in Christian apologetic circles have become more careful in using the label “cult” to describe unorthodox religious groups like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • The concern is that the term “cult” is widely misunderstood in contemporary culture; and because of that, to label someone a member of a cult may be perceived as offensive and shut down further witnessing opportunities.
  • While there are a number of definitions for the word “cult”, when we speak of cults theologically, we are referring what Merriam-Webster calls, “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”.
  • The word “spurious” means, “of illegitimate birth; outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities; of falsified or erroneously attributed origin” (Merriam-Webster).
  • Given the above definitions, any group that claims to be Christian, but does not hold to the historic, orthodox teachings of the Faith as revealed in Scripture can appropriately be identified as a cult.
  • However, when it comes to our personal witnessing opportunities with those involved in the cults, it is advisable to refrain from using the term “cult” until a positive relationship has developed and you’ve had ample opportunity to properly define your terminology.
  • As Christians we must not shy away from pointing out truth from error, but we must do so with the ultimate goal of bringing lost people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Embracing a more sensitive use of the term “cult” can go a long way in this cause.

For more information on the cults and how to witness to them, please check out Dr. Carlson’s book, Fast Facts On False Teachings, available in our online store.