When Cultists Ask: A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations. By Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997. 365 pp. Cloth, $24.95.
When Cultists Ask: A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations is a companion volume to When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler and Tom Howe, and When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook of Christian Evidence by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks. The aim ofWhen Cultists Ask is to catalog and answer many misinterpretations of the Scripture set forth by various sects and cults to justify their own aberrant beliefs and behaviors. They certainly hit the mark. This book has many excellent features.
First, the introduction is a very helpful overview of cults. It succinctly defines the term “cult” and explains what sort of doctrinal and sociological characteristics are generally associated with cults. Also included is helpful information about cults such as their methodology, reasons for their rapid growth, and the spiritual, psychological, and physical dangers of being in a cult.
Second, the general format makes this reference very easy to use. Organized in biblical order from Genesis through Revelation, the book deals with the misinterpretations in the order that they appear in the Bible. Geisler and Rhodes list the passage that is misinterpreted by a cult, explain the misinterpretation, and then give the correct interpretation of the passage.
Third, not only are the misinterpretations of mainstream cults such as Mormons, Oneness Pentecostals, and Jehovah’s Witnesses included and answered, but the authors admirably include and answer other groups which, though not strictly labeled as “cults,” have many cultic aspects in their theology. This, in my opinion, is a brave and necessary strategy in this day when unbridled ecumenicalism is advocated above truth.
Fourth, the index, which is divided into three main sections, is very helpful and easy to use. Geisler and Rhodes have not only compiled an index of the specific verses misinterpreted by the cults (i.e., “John 1:1,” “Mark 16:16”), but they have also indexed the misinterpretations by topic (i.e., “Baptism,” “Salvation,” “Deity of Christ”) and by specific religious group (i.e., “Mormons,” “Jehovah’s Witnesses”). This is especially helpful if the book is being used as an aid in witnessing to cultists.
Fifth, the book includes a comprehensive bibliography that contains both primary and secondary references for further study of the cults.
Finally, the authors provide a strong defense of the essentials of the Christian faith such as the nature of God, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the physical resurrection, the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, and, especially, salvation by faith alone. Thus, this book is full of topics that would interest and benefit members of GES. Geisler and Rhodes spend much time and energy defending salvation by faith alone, since it is one of the main doctrines that every cult denies. In addition, they address many gospel-related topics such as the nature of faith, the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as Savior, baptismal regeneration, universalism, salvation by works, postmortem conversion, reincarnation, purgatory, annihilationism, soul sleep, eternal rewards, immortality of the soul, and apostasy.
This book is a “must have” for anyone who is interested in sharing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with those who are trapped in the theological and sociological quicksand of the cults. Not only will it help believers defend the faith against the growing number of cultists around the world, it will also help them better understand and appreciate the foundational doctrines of the historic Christian faith.
Jeffrey M. Spencer
Maranatha Bible Church