TODAY'S CULTS: A REVIVAL OF ANCIENT HERESIES
This month's Watchman Expositor takes a look at the historical roots of the false doctrines taught by many of today's modern cults.
Although we have seen an explosion of new cults in the last few decades, the cult problem itself is not new at all. Christian cults have been around ever since the first century.
Of course, they did not call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, New Agers, etc. then, but their teachings were surprisingly similar to the cults of the 1990's.
In the first century, Christians dealt with such cults as early Gnosticism, the Galatian Heresy (the sect of circumcision), the Docetism of Cerinthus of Asia Minor, and the sect of Alexander the coppersmith.
In addition, they also struggled against the teaching of some of the Jewish sects or cults including the Pharisees, who taught salvation by keeping the law, and the Sadducees, who denied the doctrine of resurrection.
After the close of the New Testament, other cult leader arose. These included Montanus, Arius of Alexandria, Marcion of Rome, Noetus of Smyrna, and Sabellius.
While these men are long dead, many of their teaching survive to this day in modified or redefined forms.
Today's Christian may see little relevance in learning about dead heretics with strange sounding names who taught false doctrines with hard to pronounce titles like "Modalistic Monarchianism" or "Patripassianism."
Some Expositor readers may see this month's issue "too difficult to understand" or "irrelevant. Some may even be tempted to lay this month's issue aside.
But voices from the past cry, "DON'T DO IT!"
While the study it may be challenging, a basic understanding of the major heresies of Church history is essential to understanding cults today.
It has been said, "Those who forget the past... are condemned to repeat it."
And truly, today's Christians have largely forgotten the errors of past centuries. No wonder there is a cult epidemic today!
Satan is powerful, deceptive, and seductive.... but he is not very original.
The devil takes the same old heresies that have been around for hundreds of years, puts a fresh coat of paint and a new name on them, and then sells them to the next generation that sees them as new truths. However they are neither new nor true!
This is why a study in ancient heresies is so important to understanding the cults of today.
A doctor who had never studied the theory of vaccination and had never heard of Jonas Edward Salk would be of little use in an polio epidemic.
This doctor would have to research and study the disease from scratch not knowing that the disease had been isolated and cured over thirty years ago.
Likewise, today's Christian who tries to respond to the challenge of the cults with no knowledge of cult history, is poorly prepared and inadequately equipped.
Christians should not dread this type of research. A little Church History has never killed anyone yet. In fact, it could be very healthy -- spiritually.