Challenging the Cults



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Challenging the Cults

1. Essential Christianity

2. History of the Cults

3. Rise of Islam

4. Answering Muslims

5. History of Jehovah Witnesses

6. Answering Jehovah Witnesses

7. History of Mormonism

8. Answering Mormonism

9. History of the New Age

10. Answering the New Age

11. History of Buddhism

12. Answering Buddhism


2. History of the Cults

BuddhaJesus was in Jerusalem, having a conversation with the Pharisees after healing a man on the Sabbath, and he made this declaration,

"You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.  John 5:39


Jesus was saying He is the focus of both the Old and New Testament, the scriptures of Israel.  Jesus declared Himself the focus of “Truth”,


Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6  


There is in the heart of the Humanity the search for meaning.  This search goes back to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.  Since that point man has looked forward to redemption, there is a natural inclination for humanity to seek a reason for being.  Religion attempts to answer this emptiness. 

            About 560 BC, Siddhartha Gautama was born in Northeastern India to royal a Hindu family.  He was shielded most of his life from the conditions of the world outside his families’ palace. One day he saw the suffering of humankind outside his palace, he became aware of death and suffering and looked for the meaning of life.  Not satisfied with Hinduism, he meditated under a fig tree and reached a point of “Enlightenment”.  Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha or “Enlightened One”, he would preach to those in the world a way of escape from this life.  By following Siddhartha’s way, “Four Noble Truths” and the “Eightfold Paths” man could earn his way out of the tedium of life to enter “Nirvana”, the stopping of suffering. Siddhartha offered the suffering followers of Hinduism a way of escape, by following him and his “Truth” the people of India would have hope. Before he died, at the age of 80, Buddha commented on the state of his physical life,


“I am old now, Ananda, and full of years; my journey nears its end, and I have reached the sum of days, for I am nearly eighty years old. Just as a worn out cart can only be kept going if it is tied up with thongs, so the body….can only be kept going by bandaging it.”


            After his death, Siddhartha was deified and worshipped by his followers, Siddhartha illustrates the heart of man throughout history, his desire to worship or be worshipped.  Siddhartha, not finding hope in Hinduism became the focus of hope; he became the Buddha or “Enlightened One”.  Siddhartha teachings and writings have survived from the 6th century BC until the 21st century.  To this day hundreds of millions of people look to his image and teachings for hope and redemption.

            Man has looked for redemption since the fall and our redemption is found only in Jesus Christ. Jesus refers to those “Enlightened leaders” such as Buddha in the Gospel of John,


8 "All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.

9 "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 10:8-9


God has revealed his identity and “Truth” through the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the Bible.  The Bible is the source of our knowledge about who is God and what is our purpose in life?  God’s Word is the Satan’s target, and his workers lead people astray to turn them away from Truth.


13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.

14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15


By individuals who claim to represent God, Satan assaults the descendents of Adam.   Israel was lead in the desert by Moses for forty years and was about to enter the Promised Land, which Moses was not to enter. The problem arose how would Israel be able to distinguish between “False Prophets” and “True” prophets who were going to reveal God’s word to the people. The “Test of a Prophet” was revealed to Israel in Deuteronomy 18:18-22.  Since a prophet would be claiming to speak for God, what that individual says should be true.  If what the individual says does not happen, the person is a “False Prophet”, and not be feared.  The “False Prophet” is to be put to death.

            There are several tests and ways of knowing who is speaking for God and who is not.  The responsibility of Truth falls on the hearer. In understanding and working with cults, it is important to understand the tests of the prophets revealed in scripture.  All the cults fail the tests revealing their false nature.  Cults use fear to keep their followers in line, for this reason we are told, “You shall not be afraid of them” (Deut 18:22).


Tests of Prophets

1. Test of the Words of Prophets


'I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.


'And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.


'But the prophet who presumes[1] to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'


"And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?'


when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Deuteronomy 18:18-22


1. Death to false prophets who are presumptuous whether they speak in the LORDS name or other gods names.


2. “False Prophet” status is revealed through false prophecy.


3. No attention or fear to the words of false prophets.


2. Test of the Dedication

of God’s

People  by False Prophets



"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,


"and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'-which you have not known-'and let us serve them,'


"you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.


"You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.


"But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5


1. Signs and wonders may occur by False Prophets


2. Their way does not correspond with previous revelation.


3. Lord is testing the love of his people, whether they are wholly devoted to Him.


3.  Fruits of False Prophets


"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.


"Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.


"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.


"You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?


"Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.


"A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.


"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.


"Therefore by their fruits you will know them.


"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.


"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'


"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'


"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

Matthew 7:13-24


1. The way to eternal life is narrow and exclusive, the way to death is broad and inclusive.


2. False prophets come in outwardly similar appearance, but are destructive inward.


3. The fruit of their life will expose their “False prophet” status.


4. Outward actions do not bring salvation but a relationship with Jesus alone.  Jesus must “Know” us.

4. A Different Gospel


I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,


which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.


But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.


As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.


But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.


For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:6-9,11-12


1. A Different Gospel[2]


2. Perversion[3] of the Gospel  already given, the individual  is to be accursed


3. The Gospel (Good News) has  been given to the Church and not to be changed.



Early Cults

Not long after the Church was established at Pentecost Satan began his assault on the Church through deceptive teachers trying to lead people astray, away from the Gospel (Good News).  Paul reprimands the church at the Galatia for listening to the Judaizers, who taught that in order to become Christians Gentiles must first become Jewish proselytes and submit to all the Mosaic Law.  The time of this letter follow the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:23-29) about A.D. 49. Paul in his letter to the Galatians defends the doctrine of “Justification by faith” (Romans 3:31) and warns them from following after another Gospel, a perversion of the “Truth”.



1. Doctrine of




"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:


"I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.


"But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.


"Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.


'Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.


"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it." '

Revelation 2:12-17


2. Doctrine of “Prophetess”


"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:


"I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.


"Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.


"And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.


"Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.


"I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.


"Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.

Revelation 2:18-24


            In the letter to churches in the book of Revelation, Jesus castigates the churches in Pergamos and Thyatira. Here Satan undermines the Gospel through false teachers by false doctrines. The church at Pergamos and Thyatira had people who taught doctrines that combined  sexual liberties and idolatry with the doctrine of “Grace”.  Irenaeus writes that Nicolas, who was made a deacon in Acts 6, was a false believer who later became apostate; but because of his credentials, he was able to lead the church astray. 

            These doctrines are compared to Balaam, who taught Balak,  to defeat Israel, he needed to seduce the people away from God, through the Moabite women.  This was the method used by Nicolatians and the “Prophetess” of Thyatira to seduce the church.  This was the formative years for the heretical teaching of the Gnostics who would pervert the Gospel and try to merge both Greek and Eastern teachings into a multi-faceted system.

            Revelation 2:24 reads, “Who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say,” the idea of knowing (Gnosis) hidden secrets was part of the Gnostics attraction by many.  The ability to know secrets through special initiation rites is with us today in many of the cults such as Mormons and Masons.




The word Gnostic is derived from the Greek word gnws meaning “To Know”.  Gnostics were the product of trying to combine Greek philosophy and Christianity.  Gnostism was fought by the early apologists of the church men such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus and Epiphanius described and countered their teachings.  Irenaeus (120-202 AD) wrote Against Heresies and Tertullian wrote Against Marcion, Irenaeus and Tertullian catalogued and described the Gnostic belief systems, and countered with scripture and logic. 

            The early church fathers held that Gnostism began with Simon in Acts 8:9-24


9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great,

10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, "This man is the great power of God."

11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.

12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,

15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,

19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!

21 "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.

22 "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.

23 "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."

24 Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me." Act 8:9-24

            In Acts, Simon is said to have practiced magic in Samaria, where he said that he was “that power of God which is called great”.  Justin Martyr (100-165 AD; Apology 1.26) places Simon in Rome in the time of Claudius (A.D. 41-54 ) where he was associated with a former prostitute, named Helena, of whom it was said that she was “the first thought generated by him”.

Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.23.1-4) goes on to say that, Simon claimed to have appeared among the Jews as the Son, to descend in Samaria as the Father, and to have come to other nations in the character of the Holy Spirit.  Helena descended to the lower regions of space and generated angels and powers by whom the world was formed, and then became a captive of the lower powers (the lost sheep, Matt. 18:12, Luke 15:4). Simon, as the Great power, appeared among men as a man in order to free Helena and others from the rule of those who made the world.  Thus it was from Simon and the Simonians that “What is falsely called knowledge” (I Timothy 6:20) took its beginning.


O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge[4] I Timothy 6:20


            Epiphanius of Salamis (Panaraion 1.2.21) claims that Simon considered unnatural sexual relations a matter of moral indifference, and used materials from such in his “Mysteries”. Describing Simon’s system, Epiphanius writes:


Simon also offers certain names of principalities and authorities, and he speaks of various heavens, describes powers to correspond with each firmament and heaven, and gives outlandish names for these.  He says that there is no way to be saved but by learning this mystical doctrine, and offering sacrifices of this kind to the Father of all, through these principalities and authorities.  This world has been defectively constructed by wicked principalities and authorities, he says. But he teaches there are is a death and destruction of flesh, and a purification of souls only—and (only) if these are initiated through his erroneous knowledge. And thus the imposture of the  so-called Gnostics begins.


            In Samaria, when Simon offered money to be able to convey the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter condemned him (Acts 8:18-24); according to the so-called Clementine Homilies and Reocognitons (second-third centuries), there was further contention between Simon and Peter in various cities, including Rome.  At Rome according to Hippolytus (Refutation of Heresies 6.15) Simon met his end when he had himself buried alive and instructed his disciples to dig him up again after three days, but was not raised again to life.[5]

            After Simon death Menader, a Samaritan, succeeded him also. He taught the world was made by angels but that he himself not Simon was the person sent as the savior, and that his knowledge his disciples overcome the angels and by being baptized into him (Menader) you receive immortal youth.

            Gnosticism gained followers throughout the world and broke into many branches with various leaders. Many of these sects of Gnostic teaching in order to legitimate their teaching and authorities authored books and attached names of apostles to the books.  Titles of these  book include: The Gospel According to Thomas, The Gospel of Mary, The Sophia of Jesus Christ, The Apocryphon of John, The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel According to Philip, The Gospel of the Egyptians, The Apocalypse of Adam and others.

            The divine messenger is frequently identified with the figure of the Christian’s Jesus Christ, but such identification has some very significant alterations. The divine messenger Christ, for the purpose of modeling the divine perspective “Adopted” the body of Jesus at a point such as the baptism and departed at a point such as just prior to the crucifixion.

            The teachings of Basilides, who live during the time of Hadrian (A.D. 117-138), taught Jesus did not die on a cross but a phantom was crucified in his place. This teaching has found its way into the Islam’s Koran by A.D. 610-632.




Gnostic Doctrine 

The Qur’an

Wherefore he did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross

in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Jesus, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Jesus himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them. For since he was an incorporeal power, and the Nous (mind) of the unborn father, he transfigured himself as he pleased, and thus ascended to him who had sent him, deriding them, inasmuch as he could not be laid hold of, and was invisible to all….. If any one, therefore, he declares, confesses the crucified, that man is still a slave, and under the power of those who formed our bodies; but he who denies him has been freed from these beings, and is acquainted with the dispensation of the unborn father.[6]



And for their saying, "Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of God." Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness. And they who differed about him were in doubt concerning him: No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really slay him, but God took him up to Himself. And God is Mighty, Wise!

Surah 4:157







Marcion was a 2nd century heretic, and founder of churches that rivaled orthodox Christianity.  He came from Sinope, Pontus, to Rome and offered the church a large sum of money.  He was disfellowshipped in 144 AD for his teachings and his money was returned.  He used his wealth and organizing ability to set up a rival church, which became widespread and lasted for several centuries.

            Marcion rejected the Old Testament and issued his own New Testament, which consisted of an abbreviated Gospel of Luke and ten Pauline epistles (excluding the Pastorals) edited on a dogmatic basis. His Antitheses set forth contradictions between the testaments. His positions are known principally from the five-book refutation by Tertullian, Against Marcion.

            Marcion distinguished between a creator and redeemer Gods; judgment belong to the Creator and redemption to the Father, the unknown God before the coming of Christ.  The OT was the revelation of the Creator, the God of the Jews, who worked evils and was self-contradictory.  Jesus Christ was not he Messiah predicated in the OT but a revelation of the God of love.  This only seemed to suffer and he raised himself from the dead.  The original disciples of Jesus had Judaized, so the Father called Paul to restore the true gospel.  However, Judaizers interpolated his epistles, so Marcion had to restore the “True” readings.  The flesh is unclean, so only the unmarried were baptized, except at the end of life.  Water was substituted for wine in the Lord’s Supper: There was no law, and salvation was by grace alone.

            Marcion shared his view points with the Gnostics, but differed from them in his rejection of speculation and allegory, his concern to organize a church, and in taking his stand on a written revelation alone. Reaction to Marcion speeded up the formulation of the orthodox canon, creed and organization of the church.[7]



An Iranian philosopher and painter named Mani (216-277 AD) established Manichaeism by synthesizing Zoroasterian, Christian and Buddhist ideas.  This was one of the major faiths of the ancient world. Mani received his early education in a Gnostic community in southern Babylon and claimed his first revelation at the age of twelve and his call to apostleship when he was twenty-four.  After his efforts to convert his community failed, he traveled to India, where he founded his first religious group. He returned in 242 to preach his faith in Babylonian provinces and he became a vassal of the new monarch Shapur I. Although Mani’s beliefs were never established as the official state religion, he enjoyed royal protection and sent proselytizers throughout Persia into foreign lands.

            Mani contended that he was the greatest and last prophet or paraclete sent by the Father of Light. His teaching was claimed to be superior to prophets who preceded him because unlike Zoroaster, Buddha and Jesus, Mani published an authoritative canon of at least seven major works. Through knowledge (Gnosis) of his system and ascetic practices his followers could obtain salvation. His system includes an elaborate mythical cosmogony and eschatology conceived in terms of two absolute principles, Light and Darkness, and an ascetic way of salvation.  Mani claimed continuous revelations and inspiration from an angel, “The Twin”, who as his heavenly alter ego prepared and protected him as a teacher and initiated him in the way of salvation.  Miraculous healings were attributed to Mani to authenticate his divine mission.

            After the death of Shapur, Mani was charged by Persian priests (Zoroasterian) with perverting the traditional religion. The new king Vahram I, imprisoned him, and a prolonged trial ensued.  Mani was chained (known to his followers as his “Crucifixion”) and greatly weakened by fasting.  He died twenty-six days after giving his final message to his church.  His followers memorialized Mani’s death in their Bema festival celebrated yearly in March[8].

            Manichaeism spread both east and west from Persia.  In the West it was vigorously fought by both the Christian church and Roman emperors. Opposition was especially strong in Africa under Augustine, who for nine years had been a “Hearer”, (follower of Mani).  Augustine challenged Manichaeism by denying Mani’s apostleship and condemning his rejection of biblical truth.



To respond to these heretical attacks by Gnostics and their sub-branches it was important to establish Gospel “Doctrines[9]” and distinguish “Truth” from falsehood.


Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.  2 John 1:9


For this reason this reason the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed were written, to detail “Right” doctrine as opposed to false and heretical teachings and teachers that were emerging as Christianity began to spread from Jerusalem to the outside world.





Arius was a North African priest, who gave his name to one Christianities’ most troublesome schisms was born in the late 3rd century.  He came into conflict with the Bishop of Alexandria over the nature of Christ.  He taught that Christ was a created being not God, he published a work called Thalia to propagate his views. 

            In February,325 Arius was condemned at a synod in Antioch.  The Emperor Constantine was intervening by this time, and it was he who called the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicea. This council met on May 20, 325, and subsequently condemned Arius and his teaching.

            Athanasius was at the council and became a champion against the teachings of Arianism. Arius would later repudiate his view and was later readmitted into the church. 

            Arius taught the Logos, was first born, created of God, was incarnate in the Christ but asserted Arius, “There was when he was not”.  In response the council of Nicea, used the catchword  (homoousios)  meaning “of one substance with the Father”.  The Arians asserted Christ was (anomoios) was unlike the Father in substance.  The Nicene council declared anathema those who claimed any of the following regarding Christ and his nature; “There was once when he was not”, “The Son of God is of another subsistence or substance” and “The Son of God is created or alterable or mutable”

            It was not until the end of the Seventh century that Orthodoxy was rid of the Arian heresy.

Today, Arianism has been reborn in Unitarianism and the Jehovah Witnesses who regard Arius as a forerunner to C. T. Russell their founder.


[1] dwz Zuwd (zood);  Verb, Strong #: 2102, to boil, boil up, seethe, act proudly, act presumptuously, act rebelliously, be presumptuous, be arrogant, be rebelliously proud

[2]  eujaggevlion Euaggelion (yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on);  Word Origin: Greek,  Noun Neuter, Strong #: 2098 the glad tidings of salvation through Christ the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ the gospel


[3] metastrevfw Metastrepho (met-as-tref'-o); Word Origin: Greek,  Verb, Strong #: 3344 around, turn around to turn


[4] gnw'siß Gnosis (gno'-sis); knowledge signifies in general intelligence, understanding

[5] Myth & Mystery, Jack Finegan, Baker Publishing, Pg. 221-222, 1989

[6] Irenaeus, 120-202 AD “Against Heresies”,  Book 1, Chapter 24, DOCTRINES OF SATURNINUS AND BASILIDES.


[7] Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Publishing Pg. 686, Marcion

[8] ibid, pg. 682-683

[9] didachv Didache (did-akh-ay'); teaching that which is taught  doctrine, teaching, concerning something