Pam gives a broad definition for the word “cult,” because she does not know the Lord, and therefore cannot speak definitively of what is true. This leaves the door open to all kinds of falsehood and confusion. Her works give knowledge, but do not give Life. By this knowledge no one can be led out of the self-righteousness and error in which she dwells.
We send Pam The True Marks of a Cult along with Victor’s letter, which illuminates the ambiguous and uncertain criteria she gives for identifying a cult, the purpose of her works.
Hi Pam, Paul here. You received a letter from Victor on December 20th (2004), and he never heard back from you. Did you receive it? Could you also please acknowledge receipt of this letter with the attachment on cults?
Greetings in Christ Jesus, Pam,
We have written a paper on cults called The True Marks of a Cult precipitated by contact with CRI. Knowing that you were dealing with descriptions and assessments of various churches and religious movements, we went to your site and found your definition of a cult for your intents and purposes. There is quite a difference in our definitions. That would not necessarily be a problem to us except for perhaps two reasons. One, yours is quite vague, failing to identify a cult as it is, not according to preconceived notions, social stereotyping and conditioning (to which you may well be subject), but according to its nature and capability of deception. Therefore, your definition would make substantial allowance for falsehood. It seems to us (and you may agree, and perhaps intended it to be, and rightly so) that your definition could be applied to many churches and organizations not considered to be cults by the mainstream religious and/or secular society. It could also be applied to cults that are deemed cults. Furthermore, and more seriously, your definition could well be applied to those of genuine faith in Christ, not only of today, but also of those believers described in the Book of Acts.
You write: “For the purposes of this website, a modern religious cult will be defined as a group of people established by one leader or a small group of leaders, to whom they are intensely dedicated and obedient, and who have such a significantly unique set of beliefs that they are cut off from religious fellowship with all others outside their own group.”
Let me comment more specifically on your definition: I was born and raised Catholic. These words quoted above could easily describe my experience, in respect of the leaders, dedication and obedience to them, and in the fact that we were gravely warned that we were to have nothing to do with other religions or religious activities, though we would have social relations with others. When I became a Southern Baptist, it was not any different in essence. They wouldn’t even allow other Southern Baptists to “partake of the Lord’s Supper” if they were not members of the local congregation. There are several well-known and accepted denominations with like characteristics. Yet these denominations are not considered cults, according to the usual definitions, yours included. On the other hand, your definition could include these. Also, think about this: your definition could easily and aptly apply to Jesus and His disciples. Therefore, what is the value of your point?
You continue: “Given this definition of modern religious cults, the following observations may be helpful when evaluating the potential for serious spiritual harm of any given such cult.
Religious cults frequently:
Are started by one very persuasive teacher/leader”
I ask you: How many religious groups have not been started by such persons?
One could say that about William Booth, John Wesley, Calvin, Luther, Armenius, Menno Simons, Jacob Huter, A.B. Simpson, and even…Jesus Christ! So what then would be your point?
Continuing: “Have a tightly organized and restricted membership”
I was very restricted as to my freedoms of belief in the Catholic Church, and in both beliefs and activities with the Baptists and the Alliance Church. What say did I have in their hierarchy, doctrine, modus operandi, or religious philosophy?
At the same time, Jesus was leader, not to be questioned or competed with, as were His disciples. He would draw them aside and explain things to them that He would not explain to the multitudes. He chose twelve apostles and no more. He included only three at the transfiguration and commanded them to tell no man of what occurred for the time. Only one hundred and twenty were to await His coming in Jerusalem after His ascension. “Tightly organized and restricted”? I think so.
What if there is not a restricted membership? Did the Moonies have a restricted membership? Were they not out to recruit as many as possible?
Continuing: “Are convinced they have the only acceptable way of life”
The Catholics are so convinced. “We are the One, Holy, Apostolic, Universal Church, and all others are our lost children.” The Baptists were convinced that they were the only ones right. I know. I was there, in close friendship and confidence with the leaders.
I dated a Salvation Army girl for a while. Her parents were not enthused about my marrying their daughter and remaining a Baptist. The Baptists were not impressed with my contemplation of marrying her. One believed in eternal security while the other did not. One believed in immersion while the other believed that uniforms would be sufficient for a public testimony. The only way either of them would be content was if we were to join them as one. What about many Reformed Churches? What about Mennonites, Seventh Day Adventists and so many others, many of which you mention, or are aware of, that are not considered by mainstream society to be cults?
On the other hand, was Jesus not convinced He had the only acceptable way of life? Were not His disciples so convinced, to the laying down of their lives?
You continue: “Many religious cults do not:
Have any occult or New Age connections or beliefs
Have radical or violent tendencies
Use “brain washing” to get or keep members”
These words apply to many accepted organizations as well as to Jesus. What is your point? How do those points help me to identify a cult? I think you are pussyfooting.
Continuing: “Some religious cults may:
Rely on fear to keep members in line”
Consider what happened with Ananias and Sapphira. You may argue that God did it. Easy to say, with hindsight and some belief; yet it was Peter who spoke to Sapphira as though he was in control. It could easily have been interpreted that way. And fear did come, did it not? And what of Elymas, whom Paul, through the Spirit, blinded? The interesting thing is that many believe things because they are in the Bible, yet if these same things come in the present day, in a different form or wording, they are discounted because they are not clearly indicated in Scripture. This is Bibliolatry and hypocrisy. Could not the Lord’s words be judged to instill fear?
“And some were present at the same time reporting to Him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And answering, Jesus said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, No. But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were sinners above all men who lived in Jerusalem? I tell you, No. But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
You continue: “Rely on isolation to keep members away from other teachings
Use Christian terminology, but be unbiblical in their definitions
Disguise their actual teachings when dealing with the public”
Consider that none of the Lord’s followers were of any denomination once joined to Him, and that Jesus severely criticized the denominations of His day. He warned His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees, that is, their doctrine. He interpreted the Law on another level, conducted Himself unceremoniously and unconventionally on the Sabbath and in the Temple, gave new meanings to old sayings, and even referred to the Scriptures as testifying of Himself. Consider that to the multitudes, He spoke in parables so that they would not understand, and often warned His disciples not to tell any man of His being the Christ. Consider these things in light of your criteria immediately above.
While I may appear to contradict myself here, or to use invalid examples (because I can see where my examples can be invalid) and appear to not understand what you are saying, I do understand. My point is that your identification marks of a cult are rather general and open to interpretation. We ask you to read our paper and consider.
Again, as I read your site, you are able to logically, effectively, and eloquently express yourself in orderly fashion. As well, you have quite researched your subject material. I am impressed. You have done an excellent job. However, Pam, it is not enough. We hope that the Lord will grant you to know whereof we speak. Upon reading some material concerning cults on your site, I gathered that you had cast aside all validity of spiritual leadership and authority in the Church, His Body. Perhaps you might do well to read The Big Lie Exposed.
We are not here to convince you to follow our leadership. That would be placing the cart before the horse, or presuming to sell a product for which there is no need or demand. What we will tell you is that you err in the things of God. If He should give you to know that, and if He gives to you that we are His appointed servants to lead and to teach others, then we will be here, if and as He wills.
If you have any criticisms of this paper we now send you, feel free to express yourself.
Pam’s reply #1:
I’m sorry, but you fellows just don’t get it.[From The True Marks of a Cult:] “False religion is man-made. True religion is God-made. One is a cult, and the other is true reverence of God.”
The word “cult” is just that … it is a word. YOU can choose to define it however you want. But it existed long before you came on the scene, and added your personal definition and declared all others wrong. And when the word came into the English language, it did NOT mean “false religion.” You may be the arbiters of what *you* believe to be true in life, including all true doctrine of true religion. But you are not the arbiters of language. Language exists separate from you. And all current languages were not given by fiat of God (as would have been the language of Adam) but have developed over time. Meanings of words within such languages are not static and rigid, but fluid.
You have chosen to put a negative connotation to the word cult. That’s your prerogative. And that was the point of my statements on my website. The word is NEUTRAL by itself. It is context and history that has affected how the word is used. And in our day, it has come to mean many different things to different people. There IS no “one perfect meaning” that was given to the word in ages past by some “language authority.”
I merely note on my site that anyone who chooses to use the word to communicate needs to define for their readers what they mean when they use it. You choose to define it as “the opposite of true religion.” Fine. Stick to that definition and you can communicate. But don’t try to use it with others without that definition, because you will mislead. There is NOTHING inherent in the history of the word up until modern times that forces it to that negative connotation.
You are still uncomfortable that the purpose of my Field Guide website is not to establish all the factors of “true religion.” It is to address tactics of groups and leaders. As I have told you before, I do not believe that people are free to pursue true religion until they are mentally and spiritually free from the influence of those who would abuse and deceive them. Once that has happened, their minds and hearts can be open to “the whole truth.” You obviously do not understand my calling. I don’t expect you to, as your minds are obviously closed in this area. It is not clear to me why you view me as a “project” you must pursue. 🙂 But you are wasting your time. I find your style of reasoning utterly flawed.
If you are concerned for my salvation, then pray for me. If I am to understand something different from what I understand now, God can open my mind to it. Your faulty reasoning efforts aren’t going to do the job.
Pam’s reply #2:
“Upon reading some material concerning cults on your site, I gathered that you had cast aside all validity of spiritual leadership and authority in the Church, His Body.”
Wrong again. This is one reason that I am unimpressed with your efforts to convince me that I ought to listen to you as having special insight from God. You “gather” totally wrong. I merely do not see any evidence that *you* have any authority in the Church, nor qualifications as my “spiritual leaders.”
Again, if you believe that I am incorrect, then pray for me that God will open my mind to see.
Did you receive Victor’s letter that I mentioned to you? Why are you so uncooperative and unfriendly as to not answer my question? You do not even greet us when we give you the honor of our time and effort, coming to you as the friends and brethren of God and Christ to communicate with you. What is that all about?
Have you been sharing these correspondences with your husband? He should be aware of those things we have written to you and your answers to us. You are out of line altogether with what you reply, and, more importantly, in your attitude. If he has seen your letters and approves, or simply allows you to behave with such childish impudence, then he ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself. He sets a horrible example for all to see in the Name of Christ by letting you speak for his house without knowledge, wisdom, humility, or godly kindness.
Our writing you had nothing to do with the technical definition of the word “cult.” We won’t bother chasing rabbits there.
“I do not believe that people are free to pursue true religion until they are mentally and spiritually free from the influence of those who would abuse and deceive them. Once that has happened, their minds and hearts can be open to ‘the whole truth.’”
You presume, by your works, to lead people out of abusive religion, so that they might receive the true. Yet we ask of you, why you do not identify and warn against those massive offenders who abuse and deceive the billions, namely the Catholic Church, Billy Graham, and the many Evangelical, Protestant, and other church systems of men that deny Jesus Christ in all their ways?
The Lord God says to come out from among them, to be separate, and He will receive you, so that you will then become His sons and daughters. What gives you the right to preach a truncated gospel, which says to come out of those organizations that “I, Pam Dewey, have identified for you as abusive, by my criteria”? Just who are you to dilute and deny the true preaching of God and His gospel by your own understanding and preferences? You are nothing less than a witch and an idolater in your rebellion and stubbornness. And you think you are doing good things for God? The false ones you criticize think the same. Yet they are not writing web pages against you. You will receive the greater judgment, because of your arrogance and hypocrisy.
The Lord has not sent you in your work, Pam. You have, in your wounded pride and bitterness, taken on the work for your own sake. You do not care a whit for anyone else. Men are deceived, but we are not, because He sees you. We do not condemn you, but your denial of truth does. You are too proud and hard to hear the Lord. You speak as if you have a relationship with Him whereby He can simply tell you these things, but how will you hear Him if you do not hear those that speak by Him? Jesus said to those like you, “You will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord.’” So it is and will be.
Had you red further in the document, you would have seen that we are not presuming to change the English language. Nor are we imposing a definition upon anyone.
You accuse us of faulty reasoning, and presume to have the power to enlighten others concerning their religious bondages, by the carnal mind, by man’s wisdom, in order to pave the way for receiving the truth. We are not reasoning in the flesh, but in and by the Spirit. With the apostle Paul, we can declare:
“We don’t speak about these things using teachings that are based on intellectual arguments like people do. Instead, we use the Spirit’s teachings. We explain spiritual things to those who have the Spirit. A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the teachings of God’s Spirit. He thinks they’re nonsense. He can’t understand them because a person must be spiritual to evaluate them. Spiritual people evaluate everything but are subject to no one’s evaluation. ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so that he can teach him?’ However, we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:13-16 GW).
You think we are ignorant of you and your ways. You have judged us to be foolish and unlearned in the things of God. We have patiently borne with you in your intellectual pride and carnal reasonings. I have had an appreciation for your depth and comprehensiveness of research, firstly, and, secondly, for your ability to communicate your knowledge so clearly and effectively. However, I have also declared that it is not enough, not nearly. You are foolish in your “wisdom,” quite proud, and truly wicked. I have tried to reason with you, but Paul was right from the beginning; you really have no use for the Lord you presume and profess to worship and to serve. You will call that our opinion and judgment. We say it is not, and there we are, at a stalemate. It is to your detriment.
Formerly, you said to us, “Thanks for the sincerity of your input. But I guess you’ll need to shake the dust off your feet.” Now you say, “If you are concerned for my salvation, then pray for me.”
We would have to be fools to believe you have any faith in our prayers or that you are sincere in your suggestion. I have to say that your sarcasm and bitterness of spirit are contemptible, not only to us, but especially to God. You have been taking on a “crusade” to expose all error, yet are in all error yourself, in spite of your scholarly abilities. We are not at all free to pray for you.
You formerly wrote: “After getting your original offer, I did a search on your name and Victor’s name on the web. I only found them together twice. Am I correct in assuming the web-based portion of your ministry is just getting off the ground?”
I had the impression you were asking out of evil intent. How was your question relevant to the matters in discussion? Did you think we were trying to become somehow known by you? Why should it matter if we have been on the web for two days or two decades? I think it was arrogant and ignorant of you to suggest we had nothing to say because we were not long on the web. You will know whether what we say is worthwhile heeding.
You write: “It is not clear to me why you view me as a “project” you must pursue. :-).” Not knowing the Lord, you would not understand His ways, and in your pride and carnal wisdom, you could not consider that it is the Lord by us that has been reaching out to you repeatedly, with longsuffering. Indeed, you find yourself quite self-sufficient in the spiritual, and have said, “You are wasting your time.”
Seeing you throw it back in our faces, and His, at every turn, distorting everything we say, not bothering to try to understand, or believe, or read what we write, or even to acknowledge that you have received some of our correspondence, we will reluctantly and sadly heed your former suggestion, not because you spoke it, but because it is necessary in the Lord. We do shake off the dust from our feet. The Sodoms you presume to expose will find an easier time of it than will you. We will see how Your Highness fares when He will not heed your calls (Proverbs 1:24 and f), seeing you have refused His.
Contending with those yet in the systems of men, for the true faith once delivered to the saints,