The Marks of Cults

The Marks of Cults
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The gospel defines clearly that salvation is found in the one and only unique God-man, Jesus Christ, and that only through Christ’s efficient and sufficient death and resurrection is salvation found (Jn. 3:16, 36; 14:6; Rom. 5:12-21; Gal. 2:15–16; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Jn. 4:1-6). The Bible also warns against false gospels that will lead one away from Christ and salvation (2 Cor. 11:3-15; Col. 2:8-23; 2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The question is what is a cult? One must be careful not to ignorantly follow a false belief or to falsely accuse a group of being a cult. First, a cult is not just any religion with beliefs different from Christianity. A religion different than Christianity is where their of God’s nature is completely different and unique from the Christian concept of God. A cult is a person or group that proclaims the same God but changes certain aspects of who he is and how one knows him.

In David Breese’s book Know the Marks of Cults, he lists twelve marks of cults to help one identify whether a group that claims to be Christin is a cult. One does not have to meet all twelve marks to be a cult, but certainly the more marks it meets, the more certainty one has that it is a cult.

Defective Christology: Denies some aspect of Christ; His deity, humanity, origin, or the union of his two natures.

A False Basis of Salvation: Teaches that eternal life depends upon works other than faith in the atonement of Christ on the cross.

Uncertain Hope: The issue of a cult member’s salvation is unknown and is based on one’s obedience to the leader and their doctrine.

Extrabiblical Revelation: They deny God’s Word as the only source of authority. They add or elevate their own teachings as authoritative.

Special Revelation: They claim new and continual, exclusive revelation given to them through visions.

False Messianic Leadership: The leader is seen as the only interpreter of Scripture appointed by God and therefore should not be disobeyed.

Denunciation of Others: The members are taught that their community is the only true group and that all other groups are false.

Doctrinal Ambiguity: Their “doctrine” tends to be unclear or continually changing.

Segmented Biblical Attention: They tend to focus on one verse or passage of the Bible to the exclusion of others, violating the context.

Syncretism: They combine different teachings from differing systems of belief, which results in a new teaching or belief system.

Enslaving Organizational Structure: They demand total commitment from their followers that usually destroys their individual will.

Financial Exploitation: The leader strongly implies that money given to the cause will grant blessings, powers, and salvation.


The twelve marks of the cult listed is taken from David Breese. Know the Marks of Cults. Victor Books, 1975.