What Makes A Group Non-Christian?
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
Today we aren’t talking about the occult (witchcraft, devil worship etc.) but cults; known as Christian aberrations. These are groups that have “gone off the rails” from true Christianity. These are groups that may not be using the Bible or may use it, albeit in a distorted manner, to advance ideas and doctrines that don’t line up with the plain meaning of Scripture. What makes these groups non-Christian is when they deny the three main tenants of Christianity:
- The deity of Christ (including the doctrine of The Trinity)
- Salvation is by faith in grace alone
Without adherence to these three tenants a group/individual is not an Evangelical Christian. These are non-negotiable. So what things do Christians disagree about and are still Christian? Well there are many things; some include tattoos, long hair, makeup, the ecstatic gifts of the Spirit etc. We can disagree on a great many things but still be considered Christians, however when someone disagrees on those three things they are considered an aberration.
Some of these groups include Mormons (see previous article), Jehovah’s witnesses (who literally change the Bible’s words), and even Oneness Pentecostals (because they deny the trinity). Now there are a great many other groups out there, but these are just a few. As a side note, the Oneness Pentecostals should not be confused with other Pentecostal traditions (Two of the most popular Pentecostal traditions that are Christian and DO NOT deny the trinity is the Church of God out of Cleveland, TN and the Assemblies of God. By our definition they are not cults.).
Cults tend to add their own kind of works righteousness to the mix. By doing so, in effect, they make a statement that salvation in itself is not enough, but that you must do works as well in order to receive/maintain your salvation. This violates the doctrine that salvation is by faith in grace alone. To add to it takes away from grace, this violates the simplicity of the Gospel and what God has set up. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB95) reminds us of this, “(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; (9)not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Many cults will cite James 2:26 which states that faith without works is dead in order to propagate their message. This ignores the context of scripture. James is telling us that if a person is saved then he will do works out of the love that God has shed abroad in our hearts. In other words, we do works because of the salvation experience and our love and gratefulness toward God, not to try and earn salvation in any way, shape, or form. Remember that context is the key to Scripture. I can take any verse(s) out of context and make them mean anything I want. This does not make it true. Only in context can Scripture be applied to our lives and cause spiritual growth to happen.
Cults not only take Scripture out of context but will read into Scripture what is truly not there (known as Eisegesis). This employs poor interpretational skills. The goal of interpreting scripture is to pull out the principles that are found there and apply it to our lives (known as Exegesis). To properly interpret a passage (exegete the passage) one must do three things, (1) look at the context, (2) look at the historical background of the passages, and (3) look at the audience to which it was written; doing this will find the principle that is being conveyed. Once you do these steps then, and only then, can you apply the principles to your life. To do this we have many tools and scholars available to us (see LOGOS Bible Software, LOGOS.com).
We must be careful about everything we say and do. We need to interpret Scripture properly so as to not be sucked down into these kinds of groups. Remember that if a group violates any one of the three tenants of the core of Christianity then they are not Christians, no matter how much they claim to be. I hope this article today has challenged you to do some of your own study. Remember that these latest posts are designed to hit the high points while spurring you on to read/study more. What will you do? The Bible calls us to be prepared and have an answer for those who ask. Will you be? The choice is yours.