John saw a blog I wrote about believers falling from grace. He asked this question:
“I saw in one of your articles [see here] that you were talking about work-salvation cults. Would you consider the Catholic Church as a work-salvation cult?”
Nearly all cults reject justification by faith alone—even if they indicate formal agreement with it. So the question is, what is a cult?
Take a moment and list five to ten characteristics of a cult.
I’ll walk through my list, and you can compare it with your own.
Cults are groups that have the following characteristics:
- They reject one or more of the fundamentals of the faith (esp. justification by faith alone).
- One person or group leads with absolute control.
- They have other Scripture in addition to the Bible.
- They often promote special revelations that the leader has received.
- Special doctrines and practices not found in Scripture are promoted.
- Members accept anything the leader(s) say without question. Independent thinking is a cause for expulsion.
- Most cults say that they are the only true church.
- Members fear being kicked out of the group.
How does that match up with your list?
I was in a cult from ages six to twenty. It had all the above characteristics except that it had no Scripture other than the Bible. It promoted an extreme form of works salvation. You could only be saved between ages five and twenty on one or two special days God had predetermined for you. If you missed your window of opportunity, you were unsavable. If you sinned even once after being saved, you lost your salvation and could never get it back.
The Roman Catholic Church does have some of the characteristics I listed above (1, 3, 5). However, it is not considered a cult because it lacks many key characteristics. The Pope, for example, has little, if any, control. And no longer does the Catholic Church say it is the only true church.
The Roman Catholic Church is not the only leading group that teaches salvation by faith plus works. The Orthodox Church does as well. So do most Protestant denominations. With the exception of the cults, most Evangelicals see all professing Christians as saved as long as they are persevering in faith and good works.
If one must believe in both the Gift of God, everlasting life, and the Giver, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 4:10ff.), then anyone who has never believed in the permanence of the salvation Jesus gives is yet unsaved, whether they are Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or a member of a cult. That means that many outstanding Christians are not yet in God’s forever family. If good works can’t get you into Christ’s kingdom, then it is essential that people believe in Jesus for the salvation He guarantees.
Are you concerned about the eternal destiny of your friends and loved ones who believe in salvation by faith plus works?