Cults and Cultism have been a part of the human fabric since almost its inception. More recently, however, the idea of belonging to a cult has taken on a more sinister meaning. Starting with the writing of the Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin in 1965, to belong to a cult was to belong to an aberration of the Christian faith. From that particular perspective other less theological approaches to cult observation began to arise, whether they were sociological or psychological.
Typically when addressing the idea of aberrant doctrines it is meant that the cult or cultist either denies, distorts, or demeans the fundamental aspects which constitute traditional, biblical, historic Christianity. In other words, it is not uncommon for a cult to deny the reality of the Trinity or the deity of Jesus Christ (Jehovah's Witnesses), or even that Christ came in the flesh at all (Gnosticism). Or a cult may simply distort a fundamental tenet of Christianity, such as is the case when Oneness Pentecostals distort the Trinity by asserting that God simply changes modes to represent the Father, Son, and Spirit, when he needs to, but is not actually three different persons in the one godhead. And when denial and distortion do not fit the description of cult operation, the cult simply demeans a given doctrine, such as when the cult claims to uphold the Bible as authoritative, only to turn around assert its fallacious nature, and the necessity of incorporating extra-biblical revelation to clear up any errors or fallacies. Mormonism, with its Book of Mormon, is a classic example of a cult that demeans the Bible through its doubletalk outlook toward the Bible.
Aside from aberrant doctrines contrary to biblical, historic Christianity, cults often exhibit other characteristics which set them apart from the mainstream of both religious and secular life. Often a cult manifests a dynamic, charismatic leader who rules with domineering authority over his followers. Frequently the leader is involved in, or has been involved in, some kind of immoral activity, typically as it relates to sexual intercourse. Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Jim Jones (Peoples Temple), Charles Manson (the Family), Moses David (Children of God), David Koresh (Branch Davidians), and Claude Vorhilon (Raelianism) are all classic examples of cult leaders with propensities to seduce their female followers because of the strong personal influence they hold over them.
Greed, or a lust for money, is another regular trait found among the cults. Some twist biblical precedence to swindle money out of their followers, while others simply pressure their flocks into buying services and "technologies" which promise great rewards for their sacrifices. It is not uncommon for those involved in Scientology to pay thousands of dollars for auditing sessions which the "church" convinces its adherents will help them traverse to the next "Operating Thetan" level. Similar tactics are employed by many Word-Faith preachers such as Benny Hinn, Ken and Gloria Copeland, and Bob Larson, to name just a few, as they advertise the need to buy "anointed" prayer clothes, books, self-help recordings, etc., all promising special blessings from God, while the former fly around in their private jets.
The number of cults cannot be assessed with absolute precision. While there are several fairly large cults that are noticeable, and will most likely be around for some time, others are relatively obscure and small. Some have estimated that anywhere between two and three thousands cults are in existence at any given time, but that number likely wavers with each passing day, as one cult arises and another one folds. The keys to remember is that they do exist, there are many of them, and anyone at any given time is susceptible to being drawn into a cult, if one is not careful.
It is the expressed desire of CAPRO to aid in preparing the reader to be wary of cult recruitment and indoctrination. For once a person has been hooked into joining a cult, it is almost impossible to retrieve that friend, family member, or co-worker from the cult. Therefore it is with God's blessing that you review the information placed here, for preventative intervention is going to be the best remedy to avoid becoming the victim of the cult.