The Kingdom of the Cults Book Summary

Title: The Kingdom of the Cults
Author: Walter Martin (revised and updated by Hank Hanegraaff, Gretchen Passantino, and others)

TLDR: This classic work of Christian apologetics exposes the unbiblical teachings of major cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, and more. It equips Christians to discern and refute these doctrines while engaging cultists with the truth of the Gospel.

Chapter 1: The Kingdom of the Cults

This introductory chapter sets the stage for the book’s exploration of various religious movements commonly called “cults.” Martin clarifies that the term “cult,” while often carrying negative connotations, simply signifies a group whose beliefs and practices deviate significantly from established, normative expressions of Christianity. These deviations often stem from the teachings of a specific person who reinterprets the Bible, establishing an authoritative system that often contradicts core Christian doctrines.

Martin emphasizes the importance of distinguishing his approach from the more liberal, tolerant perspectives often taken by scholars of new religious movements. These scholars frequently focus on sociological and psychological aspects, downplaying or overlooking crucial doctrinal differences. He explicitly states his theological foundation: a commitment to biblical inerrancy and Reformed theology. This framework informs the book’s evaluation of the cults’ historical origins, their core theological teachings, and their inconsistencies with biblical Christianity.

While acknowledging the genuine spiritual seeking that often motivates individuals to join cults, Martin warns that their teachings can be spiritually dangerous and even deadly. He argues that although they may contain some elements of biblical truth, cultic doctrines often dilute that truth with human error, creating a deceptive blend that can lead people away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, Martin suggests that cults often capitalize on the church’s failures. They fill in the gaps left by churches that have neglected crucial doctrines such as divine healing and prophecy. He emphasizes the imperative of proclaiming the Gospel powerfully and relevantly, making it clear that where the true message of Jesus Christ is preached effectively, the cults struggle to gain a foothold.

The author calls on Christians to “scale the language barrier” erected by the cults. The cults frequently use standard biblical terms and phrases but redefine them according to their own unique and often unbiblical systems of interpretation. Unless Christians understand what a cultist truly means by the words he uses, they will struggle to have a meaningful and effective dialogue with him.

“The Kingdom of the Cults” is a call to action for Christians to engage with these alternative belief systems through biblical knowledge, discernment, and a compassionate presentation of the Gospel to those entrapped in false teaching. Martin’s core argument is that the most effective antidote to the errors of the cults is a thorough understanding of and personal commitment to the true, historical Christian faith.

Chapter 2: Scaling the Language Barrier

This chapter delves into the complexities of cultic terminology and its impact on communication between Christians and cult adherents. Martin underscores the challenge of “scaling the language barrier”—that is, understanding the subtle redefinitions the cults impose on familiar biblical terms and concepts.

He points out that cult leaders, much like modern theologians who have redefined standard theological vocabulary, often use biblical language while imbuing it with new meanings that are at odds with historical Christian understanding. This creates a “semantic jungle” where Christians, unless they are discerning and attentive to definitions, can be easily misled.

Martin provides practical advice on how to navigate this linguistic maze. He encourages Christians to:

  1. Recognize the Existence of the Language Barrier: Cultists are familiar with Christian terminology and have carefully redefined it to fit their own doctrinal frameworks.
  2. Direct the Conversation to Terminology: Gently maneuver the cultist to define his or her unique usage of key terms and to explain his or her authority for such redefinitions.
  3. Compare Definitions with Biblical Contexts: Test the cultist’s “definitions” against the full context of the biblical verses he or she cites as support.
  4. Define Key Terms Explicitly: Clarify the meaning of important words such as “interpretation,” “historic orthodoxy,” “new birth,” “atonement,” and others to avoid confusion.
  5. Present the Gospel Clearly: Explain the essentials of Christian faith, such as the reality of sin and the need for personal redemption, in terminology that has been carefully defined and clarified.

Martin argues that this approach can expose the flaws in cultic reasoning and strip away the veil of theological deception. He emphasizes the importance of clarity, precision, and contextual understanding when engaging in dialogue with cultists.

The chapter concludes with a call for Christians to familiarize themselves with the unique vocabularies of the major cult systems to effectively witness to cultists and defend the Christian faith against their doctrinal deviations.

Chapter 3: The Psychological Structure of Cultism

This chapter examines the psychological dynamics at play in the formation, growth, and membership of cults. Martin argues that understanding these psychological factors is essential to accurately appraising and engaging with cultic groups. He notes that while individual cultists may have differing personalities, they often share common psychological traits that contribute to their susceptibility to and persistence in cultic belief systems.

Focusing on three major cults—Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and Christian Science—Martin identifies several key psychological characteristics:

  1. Closed-Mindedness: Cultists are generally resistant to rational, cognitive evaluation of facts, often relying on their organization’s interpretations rather than independent thinking.
  2. Antagonism: Cultists frequently exhibit hostility toward those who hold opposing beliefs, often equating the individual with the belief he or she espouses.
  3. Institutional Dogmatism: Cult organizations typically exhibit a rigid adherence to their founder’s pronouncements, often investing them with supernatural authority and demanding unquestioning obedience from followers.
  4. Intolerance: Cultists are often intolerant of any viewpoints other than their own, viewing dissenters as either ignorant or evil.
  5. Isolation: Cultic belief systems often contain logically contradictory beliefs that coexist peacefully in the cultist’s mind through a process of compartmentalization.

Martin provides examples of how these psychological patterns manifest in each of the three cults he examines. For instance, he points out how Jehovah’s Witnesses are conditioned to view “Christendom” as a satanic organization and its clergy as enemies of God, fostering a persecution complex and animosity toward anyone who challenges their beliefs. Similarly, he describes how the Mormon Church uses social pressure, economic inducements, and an elaborate system of rituals and symbols to bind members to the group and discourage them from leaving. He further examines the psychological dynamics of Christian Science, where adherents are taught to deny the objective reality of the physical world and its ailments, leading to a kind of spiritual schizophrenia.

The chapter concludes with a cautionary reminder that cultism is more than just a theological problem. It involves abnormal behavior patterns and conditioning processes that demand careful analysis and understanding if Christians hope to effectively reach those trapped in the grip of the cults.

Chapter 4: Critiquing the Cult Mind-Control Model

This chapter challenges the widely accepted “cult mind-control model” often used to explain cult recruitment, membership, and disaffection. The authors, Bob and Gretchen Passantino, argue that this model, which draws heavily on psychological and sociological concepts such as “brainwashing” and “coercive persuasion,” is flawed on several fronts and potentially even undermines a biblical approach to cults and cultic evangelism.

The mind-control model essentially claims:

  1. Cult recruitment techniques are so powerful and insidious that they override a person’s ability to think for themselves, making them virtual slaves to the cult leader.
  2. Those who have been recruited into a cult cannot leave on their own free will, but instead must undergo some form of professional intervention, such as deprogramming or exit counseling.
  3. A successful intervention rescues a cult member by breaking the “mind control,” thereby enabling them to revert to their original, pre-cult personality.

The Passantinos argue that this model lacks credible scientific evidence and fails to distinguish between legitimate religious conversion and cultic recruitment. They point out that research on the effectiveness of brainwashing, thought reform, and other coercive persuasion techniques demonstrates that these methods are largely ineffective at producing true ideological change.

The authors further argue that the model fails to take into account several key factors:

  1. The significant role personal motives play in a person’s susceptibility to cults: loneliness, a desire to serve God, and a need for fulfillment, among others.
  2. The power of natural suggestibility in making individuals vulnerable to persuasive rhetoric, whether religious or secular.
  3. The fact that most cult members voluntarily leave their groups, demonstrating that they are not brainwashed automatons incapable of making their own decisions.

The authors warn that embracing the mind-control model threatens the freedom of religion by substituting a subjective definition of “destructive” cult involvement for objective, doctrinal criteria. Furthermore, the model’s emphasis on victimization can hinder the process of cult evangelism by discouraging genuine spiritual seekers and reinforcing a sense of helplessness.

Instead of relying on psychological or sociological theories, the chapter concludes with a call for Christians to address cults through biblical apologetics, evangelism, and discipleship. This approach involves:

  1. Knowing God’s Word thoroughly.
  2. Belonging to a supportive, biblical church.
  3. Developing critical thinking skills and a willingness to “test all things.”
  4. Combating false beliefs with biblical truth.
  5. Recognizing the power of the Gospel to transform lives.

Chapter 5: Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society

This chapter delves into the history, doctrines, and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group that claims to be the sole representative of true Christianity in the world today. Martin begins with a detailed historical survey of the movement, focusing on the lives and teachings of its founder, Charles Taze Russell, and his successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford. He documents the numerous inconsistencies, contradictions, and even outright frauds that have plagued the organization from its inception, challenging the claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be a divinely guided theocracy.

A significant portion of the chapter is devoted to examining and refuting several key doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including:

  • The Holy Trinity: Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity, asserting that Jehovah is the one true God, Jesus is a created “mighty god,” and the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force.
  • The Deity of Christ: They reject the full deity of Christ, arguing that He was created by Jehovah and is subordinate to Him.
  • The Holy Spirit: They view the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force or energy that God uses to accomplish His purposes.
  • The Virgin Birth: While affirming that Jesus was born of a virgin, they deny that His life came from God, claiming instead that His human body was simply a vessel for the preexistent Michael the archangel.
  • The Atonement: They view the atonement as a “ransom” paid by Jesus to Jehovah to redeem obedient humankind from the consequences of Adam’s sin.
  • Salvation by Grace: They teach that salvation is earned through works, including obedience to the Watchtower organization, door-to-door preaching, and adherence to the Society’s ever-changing interpretations of Scripture.
  • The Resurrection of Christ: They deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus, claiming instead that He was raised a “divine spirit being.”
  • The Return of Christ: They believe that Christ returned invisibly in 1914, and that His presence is manifested through the Watchtower organization.
  • Human Government: They view human governments as satanic organizations to which Christians owe no allegiance.
  • The Existence of Hell and Eternal Punishment: They reject the biblical doctrine of hell, claiming that it simply refers to the grave.

Martin painstakingly refutes each of these doctrines through careful biblical exegesis, exposing the fallacies in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ reasoning, their selective use of Scripture, and their outright misinterpretations of key terms and texts. He further demonstrates how the group’s reliance on “reason” is often a mask for irrational and contradictory statements.

The chapter concludes with a sobering reminder that the ultimate consequence of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings is the denial of the deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ. The author calls on Christians to be equipped to answer these doctrinal deviations, to unmask the errors of “Russellism,” and to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to those who have been misled by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

Chapter 6: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons)

This chapter focuses on the history, doctrines, and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons. Martin begins with an overview of the church’s impressive growth, its extensive missionary efforts, its tightly-knit organizational structure, its financial wealth, and its significant influence in American society. He highlights the paradoxes inherent in the group’s image: while emphasizing moral values and wholesome living, the Mormons espouse doctrines that are diametrically opposed to historical, biblical Christianity.

A significant portion of the chapter is devoted to analyzing the life and character of Joseph Smith Jr., the movement’s founder. Martin presents documented evidence that challenges the Mormon version of history, exposing Smith’s involvement in occult practices, his dubious claims of divine revelation, and his questionable moral character.

Martin then dissects the Book of Mormon, the foundational scripture of Mormonism. He examines the book’s claims about ancient American civilizations and its alleged translation from golden plates, demonstrating how these claims have been refuted by scientific and archaeological evidence. He further reveals the book’s numerous plagiarisms from the King James Bible, its anachronisms, its false prophecies, and its contradictions, both internally and with the Bible itself.

The chapter then delves into the core theological tenets of Mormonism, contrasting them with biblical doctrines:

  • The Mormon Doctrine of God: Mormonism is polytheistic, teaching that there are many gods, each of whom possesses a physical body and rules over his own planet. God the Father was once a man who achieved godhood through obedience to “eternal gospel principles.”
  • The Holy Spirit in Mormonism: The Holy Spirit is viewed as a “personage of spirit” but lacks a physical body and is subordinate to the Father and the Son.
  • The Virgin Birth of Christ: Mormons teach that Jesus was conceived through a physical union between God the Father and the Virgin Mary.
  • Salvation and Judgment in Mormonism: Salvation is achieved through faith, repentance, baptism, obedience to the Mormon church, and good works. They believe in three degrees of glory: the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms, with the highest level requiring “celestial marriage” (polygamy).
  • The Mormon Savior: Jesus is viewed as the “elder brother” of humanity, a god who achieved godhood through righteous living. His atonement is not sufficient to cover all sins, requiring a “blood atonement” (human sacrifice) for certain transgressions.

Martin concludes the chapter by challenging the claims of Mormonism to be the “restored church of Christ.” He argues that its teachings are the antithesis of biblical Christianity and calls on Christians to be informed about its doctrines and prepared to share the true Gospel with Mormons.

Chapter 7: Christian Science

This chapter examines the history, teachings, and practices of Christian Science, a religious movement founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the late nineteenth century. Martin begins by providing a detailed biographical sketch of Eddy, exposing her involvement in mesmerism, her troubled personal life, and her dubious claims of divine revelation.

He then analyzes the relationship between Eddy’s teachings and the writings of Phineas P. Quimby, a mental healer who preceded her, demonstrating how Eddy plagiarized much of her foundational book, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures, from Quimby’s manuscripts. Martin further documents Eddy’s own contradictions, her hypocrisy in claiming robust health while secretly relying on morphine, and her manipulation of followers to further her financial and personal ambitions.

The chapter then delves into the core theological tenets of Christian Science, contrasting them with biblical Christianity:

  • The Inspiration of the Bible: Christian Scientists accept the Bible as God’s Word but argue that it is filled with errors and must be interpreted through Eddy’s writings.
  • The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ: They deny the Trinity, arguing that God is a single, impersonal “Principle” and that Jesus was a man who reflected the “Christ idea.”
  • The Doctrine of God and the Holy Spirit: God is an impersonal principle, a combination of “Life, Truth, and Love.” The Holy Spirit is equated with “Divine Science.”
  • The Virgin Birth of Christ: They deny the Virgin Birth, claiming that Jesus was born of Mary’s spiritual thoughts.
  • The Doctrine of Miracles: They argue that miracles are not supernatural but rather demonstrations of the power of “Mind” over “matter.”
  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ: They reject the biblical doctrine of the atonement, claiming that Jesus atoned for the “unreality” of a supposed existence apart from God.
  • The Death and Resurrection of Christ: They deny the physical death and resurrection of Jesus, asserting that He did not truly die and that His resurrection was a spiritual, not a bodily, event.
  • The Ascension and Second Coming of Christ: The ascension is a metaphorical rise in spiritual understanding.
  • Satan and the Existence of Evil: Christian Science denies the existence of a personal devil and teaches that evil is an illusion.
  • The Nature and Existence of Hell: They reject the biblical doctrine of hell, claiming that it is simply a state of mental anguish.
  • The Kingdom of Heaven—Its Reality and Significance: They view heaven as a state of harmony and bliss rather than a literal place.
  • The Doctrine of Eternal Salvation: They teach that salvation is not a personal deliverance from sin, but rather a realization of the “truth” that man is already perfect and “saved.”
  • The Doctrine of Prayer: They discourage prayer to a personal God, teaching instead that prayer should be focused on affirming the “Allness” of “Principle.”
  • The Creation of Matter and Its Reality: They deny the reality of matter, asserting that it is an illusion of “Mortal Mind.”
  • Man, the Soul, His True Nature and Destiny: Man is a spiritual being, created in the image of God and therefore perfect and incapable of sin.
  • The Existence of Sin, Sickness, and Death: Sin, sickness, and death are illusions that can be overcome by understanding the “truth” of Christian Science.

Martin concludes the chapter by demonstrating how Christian Science’s teachings are a complete distortion of biblical Christianity, offering a false gospel that leads to spiritual poverty and eternal death. He calls on Christians to be informed about its doctrines and ready to share the true message of salvation with those who have been deceived by Christian Science.

Chapter 8: The Theosophical Society

This chapter examines the history, teachings, and practices of the Theosophical Society, a group that claims to offer a “perennial wisdom” underlying all the world’s religions, sciences, and philosophies. Martin begins by highlighting the Society’s core beliefs, including the oneness of all beings, the immanence of God in creation, and the evolutionary unfolding of divine potentialities. He points out that Theosophy, with its roots in ancient Gnosticism, is fundamentally opposed to the core tenets of historical Christianity, despite its claims to be a “unifier and peacemaker in religion.”

Martin traces the history of the modern Theosophical movement, focusing on its founders, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Annie Besant. He documents their involvement in the occult, their dubious claims of communication with “Ascended Masters,” and their appropriation of Eastern religious ideas and practices.

He then delves into the core theological tenets of Theosophy, contrasting them with biblical Christianity:

  • God and Man in Theosophy: Theosophy is pantheistic, teaching that God is the universe and that man is a “fragment” of God destined to evolve into godhood.
  • The Vicarious Atonement: They reject the biblical doctrine of the atonement, viewing it as “an ignoble belief” that we can escape responsibility for our own sins by placing them on another.
  • Sin, Salvation, and Prayer: Sin is an illusion that can be overcome through reincarnation and the law of Karma. Salvation is achieved by progressing through multiple lifetimes, eventually reaching a state of spiritual perfection. Prayer is “concentrated thought” rather than personal communion with God.
  • Resurrection Versus Reincarnation: Theosophy denies the bodily resurrection, teaching instead that the soul is repeatedly reborn into new bodies until it achieves spiritual liberation.

Martin concludes the chapter by demonstrating how Theosophy’s teachings are a dangerous blend of Eastern mysticism and Gnostic heresy, offering a false gospel that leads to spiritual bondage and eternal death. He calls on Christians to be aware of its doctrines and ready to share the true message of salvation with those who have been deceived by The Theosophical Society.

Chapter 9: Buddhism

This chapter explores the history, teachings, and practices of Buddhism, a major world religion with a growing presence in the United States. Martin recognizes the challenge of presenting the gospel to Buddhists, who often have little or no understanding of Western concepts such as sin, atonement, repentance, resurrection, or salvation by grace. He stresses the need for Christians to bridge the cultural gap, define terms carefully, and focus on building relationships before engaging in doctrinal discussions.

Martin begins by tracing the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, highlighting the central tenets of Buddhism: the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and the concepts of karma, reincarnation, and nirvana. He discusses the two major branches of Buddhism—Theravada and Mahayana—and explores the unique features of Tibetan Buddhism, with its emphasis on esoteric teachings, Tantric practices, and the role of lamas.

The chapter then contrasts the core beliefs of Buddhism with those of biblical Christianity, highlighting several key areas of difference:

  • The Nature of Reality: Buddhists view the world as an illusion, a constantly changing flow of impermanent phenomena. Christianity affirms the reality of the physical world, created and sustained by God.
  • The Nature of Suffering: Buddhists believe that suffering is inherent in the human condition and that the goal of life is to escape suffering through detachment and enlightenment. Christians see suffering as a consequence of sin, but also as a means of spiritual growth and sanctification.
  • The Nature of the Self: Buddhists deny the existence of a permanent self or soul, viewing the individual as a temporary collection of ever-changing mental and physical states. Christianity affirms the existence of an immaterial, eternal soul, created by God in His image.
  • The Path to Salvation: Buddhists seek salvation (nirvana) through self-effort, meditation, and adherence to the Buddha’s teachings. Christians believe that salvation is a free gift from God, received through faith in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
  • The Role of Jesus Christ: Buddhists may view Jesus as a wise teacher or an enlightened being, but they do not accept Him as the unique Son of God or the Savior of the world. Christians believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that faith in Him is essential for eternal life.

Martin concludes the chapter by offering practical advice on sharing the gospel with Buddhists, emphasizing the importance of patience, compassion, understanding, and a willingness to answer their questions honestly and directly. He encourages Christians to present the historical evidence for Jesus Christ, to highlight the weaknesses in Buddhist philosophy, and to proclaim the Good News of God’s love and redemption through Christ.

Chapter 10: The Baha’i Faith

This chapter explores the history, doctrines, and practices of the Baha’i Faith, a syncretistic religion that promotes the unity of all faiths and a global brotherhood of mankind. Martin begins by outlining the group’s origins in nineteenth-century Iran, highlighting the lives and teachings of its founders, the Bab and Baha’u’llah. He documents the movement’s history of persecution, its subsequent migration to the West, and its current efforts to establish a worldwide religious community.

Martin provides a helpful overview of Baha’i beliefs, including:

  • The oneness of humanity,
  • The essential unity of all religions,
  • The harmony of religion with science and reason,
  • The equality of men and women,
  • The elimination of prejudice,
  • The establishment of world peace,
  • The need for universal education,
  • A universal language,
  • The importance of an international tribunal, and
  • The spiritual solution of economic problems.

He then analyzes a dialogue he conducted with a Baha’i teacher, revealing the significant gulf that separates Baha’ism from historical, biblical Christianity. This dialogue highlights the Baha’i perspective on several key doctrines:

  • The Holy Trinity: Baha’is deny the Trinity, affirming instead the oneness of God.
  • The Deity of Christ: They reject the unique deity of Christ, viewing Him as one of many “manifestations” of God throughout history.
  • The Resurrection of Christ: They do not accept the bodily resurrection, understanding it as a spiritual event.
  • The Atonement of Christ: They believe that Christ’s atonement was for His own time and is not relevant for today.
  • Salvation by Grace: Baha’is do not accept the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone, teaching instead that salvation is achieved through faith in Baha’u’llah and obedience to his teachings.

Martin concludes the chapter by highlighting the dangers of Baha’ism’s syncretistic approach, which seeks to blend together contradictory religious teachings, undermining the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. He calls on Christians to be informed about Baha’i doctrines and prepared to share the true message of salvation with Baha’is.

Chapter 11: The New Age Cults

This chapter explores the rise and influence of the New Age movement, a diverse and diffuse collection of groups and individuals united by a common worldview centered on monism (all is one) and pantheism (God is all). Martin highlights the movement’s eclecticism, its blend of Eastern mysticism, occult practices, and Western psychology, and its growing presence in nearly every aspect of American culture.

The chapter defines and analyzes several key New Age beliefs and practices, contrasting them with biblical Christianity:

  • God: The god of the New Age movement is an impersonal force or energy pervading all creation.
  • Man: New Agers believe that man is divine, a “spark” of God destined to achieve “god-realization” or “enlightenment.”
  • Sin and Satan: They deny the reality of sin and Satan, viewing evil as an illusion or a misperception of reality.
  • Salvation: New Age “salvation” is a process of personal transformation, achieved through techniques such as meditation, yoga, channeling, and other occult practices. They embrace reincarnation and karma as means of spiritual evolution.
  • Jesus Christ: They reject the biblical Jesus, viewing Him as one of many avatars or enlightened masters who have appeared throughout history.

Martin discusses the role of channeling, UFOs, and astrology in the New Age movement, exposing their occult nature and their incompatibility with Christian faith. He warns against the dangers of New Age teachings, which promote a self-centered spirituality, a disregard for God’s law, and a reliance on demonic powers.

The chapter concludes with a call for Christians to be informed about the New Age movement, to be discerning about its deceptive tactics, and to be ready to share the truth of the Gospel with New Agers.

Chapter 12: The Unification Church

This chapter examines the history, teachings, and practices of the Unification Church, a controversial religious movement founded by the self-proclaimed messiah, Sun Myung Moon. Martin begins by providing a detailed account of Moon’s life and teachings, exposing his involvement in spiritism, his dubious claims of divine revelation, and his questionable moral character.

He then analyzes the church’s controversial methods, including its aggressive fundraising tactics and its massive wedding ceremonies that are designed to create “perfect families.” Martin documents the church’s financial wealth, its political influence, and its legal battles, highlighting the paradox of a group that claims to promote peace and unity while engaging in deceptive and even criminal activities.

The chapter then delves into the core theological tenets of the Unification Church, contrasting them with biblical Christianity:

  • Unification Theology vs. the Bible: Unification theology is a blend of Eastern mysticism and biblical Christianity, reinterpreting biblical history and doctrine through a Taoist framework of dualism.
  • God in Unification Theology: God is described as possessing “dual characteristics,” both male and female. The Trinity is a “mistaken” concept.
  • Jesus in Unification Theology: Jesus is a “second God” who failed to complete his mission of establishing a perfect family on earth.
  • The Holy Spirit in Unification Theology: The Holy Spirit is an impersonal “female spirit,” the “spiritual bride” of Jesus.
  • Salvation in Unification Theology: Salvation is achieved through faith in Moon as the “Lord of the Second Advent,” participation in the Unification Church, and good works.

Martin concludes the chapter by exposing the dangers of Unification teachings, which offer a false gospel that leads to spiritual bondage and eternal death. He calls on Christians to be informed about the group’s doctrines and ready to share the true message of salvation with Unification Church members.

Chapter 13: Scientology

This chapter explores the history, teachings, and practices of Scientology, a controversial religious movement founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the mid-twentieth century. Martin highlights the challenges of evaluating and engaging with Scientology, given its aggressive litigation tactics, its esoteric teachings, and its reliance on pseudoscientific jargon.

He provides a detailed account of Hubbard’s life, challenging his exaggerated claims of academic and professional achievements, documenting his troubled personal life and his involvement in the occult, and exposing his cynical motivation for founding a religion.

The chapter then traces the development of Scientology from its roots in the Dianetics movement, outlining its core concepts:

  • The Analytical Mind, Reactive Mind, and Somatic Mind: Hubbard’s division of the human mind into these three categories.
  • Engrams: Mental image recordings of past painful experiences that are the source of aberrations and psychosomatic ills.
  • Clear: A state of being free from engrams, achieved through Dianetic auditing.
  • Thetan: An eternal, spiritual being that reincarnates through various lifetimes and planets.
  • Operating Thetan (OT): A highly evolved Thetan who can control matter, energy, space, and time (MEST).

Martin examines and refutes Scientology’s teachings on several key topics, contrasting them with biblical Christianity:

  • Scientology Scripture: Hubbard’s writings are considered scripture by Scientologists.
  • Scientology’s Theology: Scientology teaches a vague and inconsistent view of God, sometimes affirming a Supreme Being and other times embracing polytheism.
  • Scientology’s Jesus: Hubbard denigrates Jesus, viewing Him as an implanted “legend” and suggesting that He was not even “clear.”
  • Scientology’s View of Man: Man is a Thetan trapped in a physical body, burdened by engrams from past lives.
  • Scientology’s Salvation: Salvation is achieved by erasing engrams through auditing and becoming an Operating Thetan.

Martin concludes the chapter by highlighting the dangers of Scientology, with its deceptive practices, its distorted views of God and man, and its focus on achieving spiritual power through occult techniques. He calls on Christians to be informed about its teachings, to be discerning about its deceptive tactics, and to be ready to share the truth of the Gospel with Scientologists.

Chapter 14: Eastern Religions

This chapter provides a brief overview of Hinduism and examines three specific Hindu-based cults: Rajneeshism, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON, or Hare Krishnas), and Transcendental Meditation (TM). Martin emphasizes the growing influence of Eastern religious ideas in American society, highlighting the challenges of understanding and responding to these often-foreign belief systems.

He begins with a summary of Hinduism, discussing its complex and diverse nature, its vast and often contradictory scriptures, and its core beliefs in reincarnation, karma, and an impersonal Ultimate Reality (Brahman). He then provides an introduction to Rajneeshism, tracing its origins to the teachings of the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and highlighting his emphasis on sexual liberation, personal autonomy, and a rejection of traditional morality.

Martin then examines ISKCON, a devotional Hindu sect that promotes the worship of Krishna as the Supreme God. He outlines the group’s beliefs in reincarnation, karma, and a vegetarian lifestyle, and he contrasts their view of Jesus Christ with the biblical perspective.

Finally, the chapter explores Transcendental Meditation, a popular meditative practice promoted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Martin exposes the technique’s religious roots in Hinduism, challenges its claims of scientific validity, and criticizes its attempts to infiltrate mainstream institutions such as schools and businesses.

The chapter concludes by highlighting the incompatibility of Hinduism and its various sects with biblical Christianity. Martin emphasizes that true peace with God is not found in Eastern mysticism, reincarnation, or the pursuit of “god-realization,” but rather in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Chapter 15: The Apocalyptic Cults

This chapter explores the phenomenon of apocalyptic cults, groups that center their beliefs and practices on predictions about the imminent end of the world. Martin documents the history of date-setting and end-time speculation within Christianity, highlighting the dangers of such teachings, and providing a biblical framework for understanding prophecy and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The chapter focuses on three high-profile apocalyptic cults:

  • The Hyoo-Go Movement: A Korean-based movement that predicted the “rapture” would occur on October 28, 1992.
  • The Branch Davidians: A group led by David Koresh that believed in an apocalyptic confrontation with the government and stockpiled weapons in anticipation of the end.
  • The TS (Order of the Solar Temple): A cult led by Luc Jouret that believed the end of the world was near and committed mass suicide to escape the coming destruction.

Martin examines the motivations and beliefs of these groups, demonstrating how their distorted interpretations of Scripture, their charismatic leaders, and their apocalyptic mind-set led them to tragic and even deadly consequences.

He also discusses the phenomenon of “date-suggesting,” a more subtle form of doomsday prediction used by some Christian teachers who use ambiguous language such as “near,” “soon,” or “any moment” to create a sense of urgency and excitement about the Second Coming. Martin warns against the dangers of such teachings, which can lead to fear, anxiety, and disillusionment, as well as a distrust of biblical prophecy.

The chapter concludes by providing guidelines for studying prophecy and the end times:

  1. The Bible Gives No Specific Date for Jesus’ Second Coming: Any teaching that assigns a specific date or timetable for the end is suspect.
  2. A New Revelation Cannot Contradict Scripture: God has already revealed what we need to know about the end times in the Bible.
  3. This Era Is Not Witnessing an Increase in Natural Disasters: Earthquakes, famines, storms, and wars have always been part of human history.
  4. Read Prophetic Passages in Context: Biblical prophecies often have specific historical, cultural, and linguistic settings.
  5. Prophecies Are Sometimes Figurative: Scripture interprets Scripture.
  6. No One Has All the Answers About the End Times: There are several different eschatological views within Christianity.

Martin encourages Christians to be discerning about end-time teachings, to be grounded in Scripture, and to focus on sharing the Gospel rather than speculating about the timing of Christ’s return.

Chapter 16: The Cults on the World Mission Field

This chapter examines the global reach of the cults and their impact on Christian missions. Martin draws on his extensive experience traveling to various mission fields, highlighting the challenges that cults pose to the spread of the Gospel.

He notes that, unlike their approach in the United States, the cults often operate more subtly on the mission field, carefully concealing their true identities and doctrines until they have gained a foothold. They capitalize on the lack of biblical knowledge among new converts, using a mixture of biblical terminology and twisted interpretations to lure individuals away from the true faith.

Martin discusses the specific challenges posed by two major cults:

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses: They use their vast publishing resources to inundate mission fields with literature translated into local languages. They exploit the lack of counter-cult materials available to missionaries and often make it more difficult for legitimate Christian efforts by fostering hostility toward governments and other Christian groups.
  • Mormonism: They emphasize their wholesome lifestyles, their strong families, and their impressive organization to appeal to new converts. They promote the Book of Mormon as “new light on the Bible” and exploit the fascination with ancient American civilizations to draw in followers.

Martin highlights several common methods used by cult missionaries:

  1. Concealing Their Identities: They avoid using their popular names until they have established a rapport with potential converts.
  2. Using Unmarked Literature: Their publications often lack identifying marks, making it difficult to discern their true origins.
  3. Employing Christian Terminology: They master evangelical clichés and biblical phrases, often quoting Scripture out of context.
  4. Denying Core Doctrines: When pressed, they will deny the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace.
  5. Following Up Evangelistic Campaigns: They target new converts from Christian crusades and revivals.

The chapter concludes with a call for Christians to recognize the seriousness of the threat posed by cults on the mission field. He encourages churches to support missionaries with counter-cult materials, to equip them to answer cultists, and to pray for the salvation of those who have been misled by false teachings.

Chapter 17: The Jesus of the Cults

This chapter delves into the central theme of the book: the distortion of the person and work of Jesus Christ by non-Christian cults. Martin argues that the “other Jesus” presented by the cults is a counterfeit designed to undermine the Gospel and lead people away from the true Savior. He highlights the dangers of accepting a redefined or reinterpreted Jesus, emphasizing that any alteration of His identity necessarily negates the salvation He offers.

Martin supports his argument with a comprehensive survey of New Testament warnings about false prophets, false teachers, and false Christs:

  • Matthew 7:15-23: Jesus warns His followers to “beware of false prophets” who come in sheep’s clothing but are inwardly ravening wolves. He emphasizes that these false teachers can be recognized by their “fruits”—their doctrines and practices.
  • Matthew 24:23-27: Jesus further warns of “false Christs and false prophets” who will perform signs and wonders to deceive even the elect.
  • Acts 20:27-31: Paul warns the Ephesian elders of “grievous wolves” who will enter the church after his departure, “not sparing the flock.” He also cautions against those who will arise from within the church, “speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
  • Philippians 3:18: Paul identifies those who are “enemies of the cross of Christ.”
  • 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: He describes “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” He identifies them as “ministers of Satan” who disguise themselves as “ministers of righteousness.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:1-2: Paul warns that “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:3-4: He further warns that people “will not endure sound doctrine” but will “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
  • 2 Peter 2:1: Peter warns of “false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them.”
  • 1 John 4:1: John identifies “false prophets … gone out into the world.”
  • 2 John 7: He describes “deceivers … entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
  • Jude 4, 12-13: Jude warns of “ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” He uses vivid imagery to describe these false teachers as “spots in your feasts of charity,” “clouds they are without water,” “trees whose fruit withereth,” “raging waves of the sea,” and “wandering stars.”

Martin argues that Christians must take these warnings seriously. He challenges the common objections that:

  1. Christians should follow Gamaliel’s advice to “let them alone”: This argument ignores the fact that Gamaliel was not an inspired apostle or even a Christian, and that his advice was given to the Jews, not to the church.
  2. Christians should follow Michael the archangel’s example of not rebuking Satan: This argument ignores the context of Jude 9, which makes it clear that Michael did not keep silent by choice but because he lacked the authority to rebuke Satan.

Martin asserts that Christians have a biblical obligation to:

  1. Identify and refute the “other Jesus” presented by the cults.
  2. Share the true Gospel with those who have been deceived by these false teachings.

The chapter concludes with a call for Christians to be vigilant, discerning, and committed to defending the truth of the Gospel against the ever-present threat of the “other Jesus” and his counterfeit gospel.

Chapter 18: Cult Evangelism—Mission Field on Your Doorstep

This chapter challenges Christians to view cult evangelism as a vital and necessary part of their mission. Martin argues that the church has often been passive and even neglectful in its approach to cults, failing to take seriously the threat they pose to the spread of the Gospel. He calls for a renewed commitment to personal evangelism, urging Christians to equip themselves to answer the cults and to reach out in love to those who have been misled by false teachings.

Martin begins by highlighting the paradox of widespread Christian evangelistic efforts abroad while neglecting the growing “mission field” of cults within the United States and other traditionally Christian nations. He suggests that this neglect stems from several factors, including:

  • Lethargy and apathy: Many Christians take their faith for granted and don’t see the need for personal evangelism.
  • Lack of doctrinal understanding: The average Christian often knows what he believes but cannot articulate why he believes it or support it from Scripture.
  • Fear of confrontation: Many Christians are intimidated by the cults’ seeming knowledge of the Bible and their aggressive proselytizing tactics.

Martin encourages Christians to overcome these obstacles and to embrace their responsibility to be “ambassadors for Christ,” “holding forth the word of life.” He reminds them that the Gospel is God’s power unto salvation and that the Holy Spirit empowers believers to share that Gospel effectively.

The chapter then outlines several practical steps for evangelizing cultists:

  1. Establish a Common Ground: Find areas of agreement, such as a shared belief in the Bible, to open a dialogue.
  2. Define Terms Carefully: Clarify the meaning of key terms to avoid confusion and expose the cults’ deceptive use of language.
  3. Focus on Christology: Emphasize the person and work of Jesus Christ, contrasting the biblical Jesus with the “other Jesus” presented by the cults.
  4. Appeal to the Authority of Scripture: Use the Bible to refute cultic doctrines and to point them to the truth of the Gospel.
  5. Share Your Personal Testimony: Tell them about your own experience of God’s grace and the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
  6. Be Patient and Loving: Cultists are often deeply entrenched in their beliefs and may be resistant to change.
  7. Pray for Their Salvation: The Holy Spirit must open their eyes to the truth.

Martin concludes the chapter with a powerful exhortation to Christians: “We can go a long way toward recovering the ground we have lost, but we must begin now.”

Chapter 19: The Road to Recovery

This concluding chapter outlines a five-point plan for confronting the challenge of the cults and restoring the church to its biblical mission of evangelism and discipleship. Martin acknowledges the daunting nature of the task, given the cults’ widespread influence and their sophisticated techniques. However, he expresses confidence that the church can recover lost ground if it is willing to engage in a concerted effort.

Martin’s five-point plan includes:

  1. Research: Conduct thorough and ongoing research into the history, teachings, and practices of the cults.
  2. Computer Retrieval System: Develop a computer-based information retrieval system to make accurate and reliable data about the cults readily available to Christians everywhere.
  3. Specialized Literature: Produce and distribute tracts, pamphlets, and books that refute cultic doctrines and present the truth of the Gospel.
  4. Educational Reevaluation: Revise the curricula of Christian schools and seminaries to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to answer the cults and to engage in effective cult evangelism.
  5. Conferences on Cults: Sponsor conferences and lectures to inform Christians about the dangers of the cults and to train them in apologetics and evangelism.

Martin emphasizes that this plan requires the cooperation of churches, denominations, pastors, educators, missionaries, and laypeople. He calls on Christians to work together to combat the influence of the cults and to reclaim those who have been misled by false teachings.

He concludes the chapter with a powerful appeal to the Church to embrace its mission: “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”

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