Lesson 6 - The Church and Cults





According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (as reported by About.com), there are as many as 41,000 denominations and organizations in the world that consider themselves to be Christian.  These break down into sects or divisions of three major groups – Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant.   The report admits that a number of these divisions are reported primarily because of cultural distinctions, and not specifically because of doctrinal distinctions.  Nevertheless, with so many divisions among what is supposed to be one body of Christ, how can we know for certain which groups are legitimately “Christian” and which ones are false? As a matter of disclosure, this lesson has been written from a very distinctly Protestant perspective, and so there may be areas in this lesson where Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox believers may not agree.  Apologies are asked in advance.  Remember: In necessary things unity, in doubtful things liberty, and in all things charity.

Scripture is clear that we ought to be highly concerned about false doctrines within the church.  In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul expresses deep concern over the Corinthian Church’s tolerance for false teachings that had infiltrated their assembly.  In Galatians, Paul identifies the Judaisers as false brothers who were causing significant trouble in that church.  In 1 Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to address the false teachers in Ephesus.  And in 1 Peter 2, Peter warns us that false prophets will attempt to infiltrate the church.  When, however, does a false teaching go from being a minor error in interpretation to becoming a major deviation from the truth of the gospel?  When does a group of so-called Christians become a cult?

The study of cults can be a very tricky one, primarily because the idea of a cult depends highly upon one’s own perspective.  Everyone wants to believe that their specific set of doctrines are the right ones; and so it can be easy to view all others as outsiders – even to the point of considering them cults.  Even evangelical Christianity can be viewed as cultish – not only from the perspective of the non-religious, but sometimes even from the perspective of Orthodox (Catholic and Eastern) Christianity.   Even within protestant Christian groups, differences in beliefs can be viewed with skepticism that borders on cultish.

However, we have already seen that there can be legitimate differences in interpretation on some non-essential doctrines.  Unless such differences are associated with essential doctrine, we must be very careful when using the term “cult” when talking about other “Christian” groups.   Instead, it may be more productive to discuss differences in Christian theology in terms of degrees of theological error.  How significant must the error be before a group is considered a cult?

Another way that cults have been historically viewed has been the extent to which the leader of the cult considers himself a “messiah” or “savior” to those who follow him.  These “cults” are often led by a charismatic personality who bestows upon himself a level of absolute authority over his followers or even a sense of personal infallibility.   Typically, those caught up in the cult are exposed to psychological conditioning that approaches brainwashing and are often isolated and removed from family members and friends to strengthen and reinforce the cult leader’s control over the individuals.  The problem with this approach to the classification of cults is that many view Christianity in precisely these same terms.  Christian doctrine is often viewed as brainwashing.  Many atheists openly consider taking children to church and teaching them biblical stories a form of indoctrination, claiming that it approaches child abuse. New believers often separate themselves from their non-believing families and friends to avoid prior temptations.  This radical change can seem cultish to their unbelieving loved ones.


Defining Terms


It is a legitimate question, therefore, to ask how one knows for certain whether a particular denomination or religious group is a cult.  It is also a very legitimate question to ask about the eternal disposition of those who may be caught up in cults.  Is it possible for a Christian to be deceived by a cult?  Can you be saved and still be part of a cult?   These are very difficult questions. Furthermore, because of the issue of personal perspective, even the very use of the word “cult” can be misleading.  Therefore, it may be better to speak in terms of “false religions” rather than speak in terms of cults.  Before we can answer these questions, however, we must first learn to differentiate between the three key terms that can help us answer those questions - error, heresy, and apostasy.


Heresy.  Until modern times, heresy was defined clearly as any deviation from truth – where truth was defined clearly as orthodox Christian doctrine.  For hundreds of years, this definition was used legitimately to identify and cast out significant theological error in the early church.  Whenever there was a question as to the true biblical interpretation, Christian leaders came together in great councils to establish the single orthodox belief and would proclaim as heresy any dissenting views.  As time progressed, it became more and more difficult for church leaders to come to a single understanding on certain aspects of theology, and divisions and schisms (formal separations) in the church resulted.  Under the traditional definition of heresy, therefore, all of these divisions are heretical – except one.  And which one is correct? Yours? Mine?  Therein lies the problem with the traditional definition of heresy. 

To make matters worse, in the middle-ages, many corrupt Catholic bishops used the concept of heresy to bully and extort their way to political power.  Today, the word heresy is rarely if ever used to describe any organization that claims Christian roots.   Perhaps that is going too far in the other direction.   In our pluralistic society where it seems like we are asked to be tolerant towards any and all religious movements, there is a clear need to identify those that are truly outside the faith.  What is needed, therefore, is a definition of heresy that identifies those movements that are not faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ but that also allows for legitimate differences in opinion regarding interpretation of non-essential doctrines.

Perhaps a better definition of heresy, therefore, is a belief that represents an incorrect interpretation of scripture that changes the nature of our salvation.  For example, it would be heresy to say that we can be saved through faithful observance of the Mosaic Law because scripture is clear that the law cannot bring righteousness.  Likewise, it would be heresy to say that truth can be found through some other means than the Holy Bible or through some religion other than Christianity.  These things affect the very nature of our salvation and so we must get them right.  Certainly this definition is not perfect, but there is certainly a need to differentiate the very fine line between simple doctrinal error (see below) and a belief that truly threatens one’s eternal salvation.  The danger of heresy, therefore, is that it leads to a condition in which one may believe he is saved, but in actuality is lost.  Is it possible for one to believe in a heresy and still be saved?  Can one have a saving faith in Jesus and yet still hold to a heretical view of some form?  That is a difficult question.  We cannot be absolute about that because only God knows for certain who is saved and who is not saved.  However, holding to a heretical doctrine certainly places one’s eternal soul in extreme danger.


 Error.  Error is nothing more than having an incorrect interpretation of scripture.  Error is not always heresy, but it can be.  For example, consider two men discussing their salvation.  Both say that salvation only comes through the blood of Jesus.  Both say that they are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  However, one says that they chose of their own free will to believe in Jesus while the other says that God chose them to believe in Jesus such that it was not of their own free will.  They cannot both be right.  One of them is right and the other is in error.  However, it would be incorrect to say that this difference of opinion means one of these men is saved while the other is lost.  This doctrinal error does not affect either one’s faith in Christ.  Of course the real question revolves around how to differentiate simple error from the more critical heresy.  This is why the issue of essential vs. non-essential doctrines is so important.  If we are too narrow in our scope of essential doctrines, then basically everyone is a heretic.  If we are too broad in our scope of essential doctrines, then nobody is.  Spiritual discernment and faith is an absolute necessity.  As the Apostle John says in 1 John 4:1, we are to test every spirit to see if they are from God.


Apostasy.  Apostasy is intentional abandoning of the faith.  Apostasy and heresy are related, but different.  The difference is that heretics still claim to be Christian while apostates do not.  Technically, anyone who at one point claims to have been “Christian” but no longer holds to those claims is an apostate.  This can happen for any number of reasons, but the primary reasons are persecution and suffering.  During times of persecution, many who claim to be Christian will fall away, abandoning the faith.  During times of suffering, many who claim to be Christian will lose faith and turn away from God.  This, of course, raises the question as to the state of their salvation.  Are they in grace or not in grace?  This also gets into the question as to whether someone can “lose” their salvation or whether they were ever saved to begin with.   While these are important issues resulting in many theological disagreements, the important fact here is that there are those who intentionally – or unintentionally – abandon the faith.  In so doing, they may choose a religion other than Christianity as a replacement or they may simply become irreligious – claiming no religion at all or even becoming an atheist.  An apostate, therefore, is one who stands apart from Christianity.  In a very practical sense from the Christian perspective (if not technically an accurate one), all non-Christian religions are based in apostasy.


With these definitions, therefore, we can be more specific with respect to how we address false religions.  We can categorize them into two categories:


1.     Heretical religions - those religions that claim to be “Christian” but have significant heretical teachings and

2.     Apostate religions - those religions that are separate and apart from Christianity.



Essential Orthodox Beliefs


The key to identifying heretical doctrines is to first understand the essential orthodox beliefs.  By “orthodox” we do not mean The Orthodox Church (as in Eastern Orthodox Catholicism) nor do we mean the highly liturgical, orthodox style of worship.  Instead, orthodox beliefs are those beliefs that the majority of Christians throughout history – and in particular the Christians of the first three-four centuries – have found to be essential and absolute. This concept was addressed in depth in the Designs For Hope course “Bible and Bible Doctrine.”  While there will always be some disagreement among “orthodox” Christians regarding exactly which doctrines are essential and which are not, most can agree that the doctrines established by the early creeds (in particular, The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed) define these essentials.  The creeds themselves are not essential or authoritative, but they represent doctrinal interpretations of the scripture that are.  The following represents a brief summary these doctrines.


The Trinity.  This is the doctrine that there is one God, but that he exists in three persons – The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Each person of the Trinity is referenced as God in numerous places in scripture; and all three are listed together in several places (notably at Jesus’ baptism and in the Great Commission).  The doctrine of the Trinity is essential to our salvation and it is essential to our life as Christians – with each of the three persons of the Trinity playing key and critical roles.  Furthermore, given the way in which the concept of the Trinity was heavily debated, formally adopted at several early church councils, and then subsequently incorporated into several creeds, we can certainly say that there is consensus among Christians both past and present.


The Inerrancy (and authority) of Scripture.  This is the doctrine that scripture is the inerrant Word of God and there is, therefore, no higher authority than scripture. The bible itself speaks very clearly that all scripture is the very inspired words of God – and we know from the character of God and from scripture that God cannot lie.  Our entire faith depends upon the inerrancy of scripture, and Christians both past and present have believed in and relied upon its inerrant truth.  Because it is God’s Word, it must have ultimate authority because there is no higher authority than God.


The Hypostatic Nature of Jesus.  This is the doctrine that Jesus is both 100% God and 100% Man.  Like the Trinity, this is a doctrine that wasn’t so clearly based strictly on scripture because it is not explicitly stated anywhere in scripture.  However, scripture does clearly refer to the MAN Jesus Christ, and scripture does clearly refer to Jesus Christ as GOD.  This doctrine is absolutely critical to our salvation; and, like the doctrine of the Trinity, it is an issue that was hotly debated but ultimately settled through early church councils.  Christians throughout history have believed in the hypostatic nature of Jesus Christ.


The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus.  This is the doctrine that Jesus physically died, was buried for three days, and then physically arose from the grave in bodily form. In terms of biblical clarity, we need no further proof of the essential nature of this doctrine than the Apostle Paul’s discussion of its importance in 1 Corinthians 15.  Paul makes it unquestionably clear why this doctrine is so essential to our faith.  Without it, our faith is hopeless.


Salvation by Grace through Faith in Jesus Alone.  This is the doctrine that salvation comes only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by any work of man (Ephesians 2:8-9).  We can rely once again on Paul for our evidence that this is an essential doctrine.  Not only does Paul repeat it frequently in his writings, but he also wrote an entire book – the Epistle to the Galatians – to expressly make this doctrine clear.  Any doctrine, therefore, that requires man to “work” for his salvation would be in violation of this doctrine.


The Return of Christ.  While we may have many differences on the events leading up to or the timing of historical events prior to the return of Christ, the fact that Christ will return to judge the world is an essential of the faith.  Jesus spoke of it in all four gospels, Paul spoke of it repeatedly, and it is the culmination of the book of Revelation.



Heretical Religions


There are a several religious groups that claim to be “Christian” but have wandered far from the faith.  These groups are founded on doctrines that have significant heretical teaching.  They could easily be categorized as “cults” or “false religions” from the Christian perspective with little or no challenge from the majority of mainstream Christians.   There are other religious groups (also calling themselves Christian) that are not so drastically far from the faith in the majority of their doctrines, but have certain aspects of their doctrine that many (if not all) in mainstream Christianity would consider to be heretical.  These may be more difficult to classify specifically as cultish or false, but the majority of Christians outside of those groups would recognize the heresy in their teaching.  The following addresses some examples of both.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons).  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints claims to be a restoration of the true Christian faith.  Using the Book of Mormon as a text equal (if not greater) in authority to the Bible, the Mormons actually believe that non-Mormon Christianity is a form of apostasy; and through revelation to Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ restored true Christianity.  Mormons believe in the existence of multiple gods and that the three persons of the Trinity – The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit – are not the one true God, but rather are three among many gods.  They believe that our God was once a human-like being that ascending to divinity and that subsequently all of us are capable of ascending to deity as well. The Mormons believe that the sacrifice of Jesus (the offspring of God the Father and some unspecified heavenly mother) provided salvation to all men.  Therefore, all men – except those who are the vilest and most spiritually perverse - will go to some form of heaven.  They believe there are three heavenly kingdoms and that belief in the one true God is not necessary to enter into one of these kingdoms.  Belief in Christ AND following the principles of Mormonism will obtain entrance into the highest of these kingdoms. Only the worst of mankind will be sent to hell.  All of these doctrines are heretical in nature, from denial of the Trinity and the universalist approach to salvation to the elevation of another scripture above God’s Word.  There is no question that Mormonism, despite its ardent claims to Christianity, is a cult and a false religion; and orthodox Christians should not be in ecumenical fellowship with them.


The Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s true name is Jehovah.  Many Christians also believe that Jehovah is the personal name of God, although biblically Jehovah is actually a translation error.  In the original Hebrew, God’s personal name was actually Yahweh.  However, orthodox Christians who still use the name Jehovah know and believe in their heart that they are referring to the one true God – the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  This is not the case for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not believe in the Trinity.  Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is only the spiritual presence and power of Jehovah, not a separate person of the Trinity.  They believe that Jesus was originally Michael, the archangel – a created being rather than the eternal God.  They believe Jesus was born human (not God incarnate) and that his resurrection was spiritual (not physical and literal).  Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that salvation (eternal life) requires faith in Christ, association with the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and obedience to the rules of the church.  Of all of these faithful, 144000 will be considered anointed and will actually rule with Jesus Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in an eternal soul and that non-believers will not go to a physical place of punishment (hell), but rather they will simply cease to exist.  The lack of belief in a soul and the lack of belief in hell are problematic doctrines.  However, the denial of the Trinity and the requirement to be obedient to the rules of the church (works-based salvation) are significant heretical doctrines.  There is no question that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite their claims towards Jesus Christ, represent a cult and a false religion; and orthodox Christians should not be in ecumenical fellowship with them.


The Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science).  The word “Christian” in Christian Science is perhaps the closest thing to Christianity associated with this false religion.  Members of the Church of Christ, Scientist view the writings of its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, as authoritative alongside the Bible.  Eddy viewed everything in the Bible as spiritual and to be taken allegorically.  Therefore, all of its doctrines are spiritual perversions of orthodox truth.  For example, Christian Science is pantheistic, meaning they believe everything is God and God is everything.  Since God is everything and everything is God, all humans are divine.  Jesus, therefore, was nothing more than a human who fully embodied the divine nature – a quality to which all Christian Scientists aspire.  For this reason, Christian Scientists believe that sin, sickness, and death are all illusions and manifestations of incorrect thinking. Since all men are divine, there is no need for a savior.  Salvation, therefore, comes when one ceases to believe in sin, sickness, and death.  Heaven is right thinking, while hell is wrong thinking.   Virtually everything (if not literally everything) about Christian Science is heresy.  There is no question that Christian Science represents a cult and a false religion, and orthodox Christians should not be in ecumenical fellowship with them.


Seventh Day Adventist.  The Seventh Day Adventist is the result of a series of failed revelations and prophesies in the mid-19th century regarding the return of Christ (advent means “coming”).  After a series of such revelations failed, the Adventist movement declared October 22, 1844 as a day of spiritual advent, when Jesus entered into the holy of holies and determined which “Christians” were worthy of salvation.  This “worthiness” of course would not be determined by one’s faith in Christ, but rather one’s obedience.   The revelations of one prophetess in particular, Ellen Harmon White, were elevated to a level equal to Holy Scripture.  The movement adopted sabbatarianism (worship on the Sabbath – or seventh day – that is, Saturday) and belief in the Sabbath as a sign of the true church.  Traditionally, orthodox Christianity has viewed the Seventh Day Adventists as a cult because of their elevation of Ellen White’s prophesies to the level of scripture and their focus on works.  In recent years, however, the Seventh Day Adventists have softened their views on the status of her prophesies and have placed a greater focus on justification by faith rather than observance of the law.  This has made their identification as a false religion more complicated.  Its roots (and possibly still its official doctrine) are clearly false and heretical in nature and origin.  This raises an important question.  How many people are a part of the Seventh Day Adventists, believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ including salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ, do not believe that Ellen White’s prophesies are superior in authority to scripture, do not believe in salvation by works, but simply believe that worshipping on the Sabbath (i.e., Saturday) is proper interpretation of scripture?  Are these people saved?  That is a difficult question.  However, it is probably best for orthodox Christians not to be in ecumenical fellowship with Adventists.  If your organization decided to be in ecumenical fellowship with Seventh Day Adventists, great care should be given regarding the theological influence they have on your people.


The Churches of Christ (Church of Christ).  Although all orthodox Christians believe themselves to be a part of the universal church of Christ, the denomination known as The Church of Christ considers itself to be the one and only true church of Christ, established by Jesus Christ himself in 33AD.  The classification of the Church of Christ is an extremely sensitive one.  In many respects, their doctrine appears orthodox and most Church of Christ members would likely admit to believing in all of the established essential doctrines. However, the Churches of Christ are congregational, and so each local congregation is autonomous.  Unlike other congregational groups such as the Baptists, the Churches of Christ do not believe in adhering to any specific creed other than the bible and will not establish any formal statement of faith.  Therefore, it is impossible to say precisely what any specific congregation believes with respect to the essential doctrines as it can vary from congregation to congregation.   One belief that is problematic within the Church of Christ is the fact that all Churches of Christ believe that baptism is a necessary component to salvation.   Many mainstream Christian groups would view this as teaching salvation by works because you must “do” something (be baptized) in order to achieve salvation.  Therefore, this doctrine could be considered heretical.  The silver lining in all of this is the fact that the Churches of Christ hold tightly to belief only in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.  As a result, the vast majority of non-Church of Christ believers, however, would not consider someone to be unsaved simply because of their association with the Church of Christ.  This author has known many Church of Christ adherents who, in his opinion, displayed all the fruits of righteous redemption.  This raises many questions.  Is this difference in doctrine relative to the baptism heresy or simply a doctrinal error?  If it is heresy, are those who believe it truly saved?  Should other orthodox Christians be in ecumenical fellowship with the Churches of Christ?  These are difficult questions.  However, the issue might be moot as it is more likely that the Churches of Christ will refuse fellowship with non-Church of Christ organizations than the other way around.


Catholic and Orthodox Churches versus Protestant Churches


Roman Catholicism.  The issue of Catholicism is even more sensitive than the issue of The Church of Christ.  There are more Catholics in the world than in any other Christian denomination or organization.  It would be ludicrous to call the Catholic Church a cult or false religion; and yet the very division between Protestantism and Catholicism is based upon the fact that certain critical doctrines of the Catholic Church were considered unbiblical by 16th century reformers.  Indeed, the 16th century condemnations of the Catholic Church by the Protestant Reformers and the subsequent condemnation of the Protestants by the Catholic Church resulted in no small part from differences in opinion regarding justification, the infallibility of declarations of the Pope, and the traditions of the church.  With respect to justification, the Catholics held to justification by grace through faith, but that grace came not solely as a result of faith, but also through the sacraments and good works.  With respect to the Pope, the Catholics held to the fact that the final word on the interpretation of scripture was his.  And with respect to church tradition, the Catholics held to the belief that church tradition had equal authority as scripture.  All three of these were considered heretical by early church reformers because they believed them to be departures from orthodoxy.  Although many of the other aspects of the Protestant Reformation (corruption in the clergy, the issuances of indulgences, etc.) were later corrected in the Catholic Church’s own reformation of itself, these three issues remained a critical difference between Catholic and Protestant Christians and continue to divide them today.    Because these doctrines existed, a number of other doctrines entered into Catholic dogma that the informed Protestant would also find extremely problematic – even heretical.  Among these are the use of idols, the veneration of saints, the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary (that Mary was born without original sin), seeking intercession from Mary (or other saints), the doctrine of purgatory, and others.  The fact that – in the mind of the Protestant - there exists no biblical basis for these doctrines is lost on the average Catholic believer because of their adherence to both the authority of the Pope and the authority of church tradition.  In fact, the informed Catholic finds it equally problematic – even heretical - that the Protestant does not recognize these doctrines.  Thus division continues between the two groups.   Indeed, it has only been since the mid-late twentieth century that there has been any recognition by either group that the other may, in fact, be a part of the one true church.  The true irony is that for the average Catholic and the average Protestant, there seems to be little practical difference in the faith of one who claims to be a Christian in a Catholic Church and one who claims to be a Christian in a Protestant Church.   They both trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation.  Underneath, however, these doctrinal differences are critical.  Most are simply unaware of their existence or their significance.  To them, we are all just Christians trusting in our Savior, Jesus Christ, for our eternal salvation.  What does this say about the redemptive state of either the Catholic or the Protestant?  It would be inappropriate for any non-Catholic to make a judgment regarding the redemptive state of a Catholic believer simply because of his association with the Catholic Church.  Likewise, it would be inappropriate for any Catholic to make a judgment regarding the redemptive state of a non-Catholic believer simply because of his lack of association with the Catholic Church.  In this author’s experience (notably a Protestant viewpoint), there are large numbers of Roman Catholic believers who clearly and unmistakably display the fruits of redemptive righteousness, despite the differences in Roman Catholic dogma that a Protestant might deem heretical.  In recent years, there have been significant attempts at ecumenical reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants.   And while great ecumenical strides have been made, those issues that Protestant scholars consider to be heretical continue to be a barrier to full ecumenical fellowship.   Officially, that fellowship remains fragile at best.


Orthodox Catholicism (Eastern Orthodox).  The Eastern Orthodox Church officially and formally separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 AD primarily over issues related to the authority of the Pope (although the division and differences in belief existed for many years prior).  The Eastern Orthodox Church does not consider itself to be a split from the Roman Catholic Church, but rather a preservation of the one true Catholic (i.e., universal) church.  Eastern Orthodoxy holds primarily to the teachings of the seven major early church councils that took place between 325AD and 727AD.  By name and by definition the majority of the church’s doctrines are orthodox – as is their liturgical style of worship.   However, there are still a few items in their doctrine that Protestant believers find problematic – and for which Eastern Orthodox believers find problematic that Protestants do not observe.  Primary among these are the belief by the Eastern Orthodox Church that they are the one true Church of Christ (excluding Protestants from that category), the fact that the Eastern Orthodox Church gives church tradition equal authority to scripture, and the use of icons in their liturgical worship.  The Eastern Orthodox Church also specifically gives the outcome of the first seven ecumenical church councils equal authority to scripture.  Protestants will not give the outcome of these councils equal authority to scripture, but they do hold that these councils reiterate doctrine that is a rightful interpretation of scripture.  Despite the fact that there is far more in common between Eastern Orthodox Christians and Protestants, there is considerably less ecumenical fellowship between them.  This could possibly be due, in part, to the great schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church combined with the fact that Protestantism came to existence as a split from the Roman Catholic Church several hundred years after the schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  Perhaps as a result of the commonalities between Protestant and Orthodox churches, some protestant groups in recent years have begun drifting more towards the Eastern Orthodox Church, with some actually joining and becoming a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 





Identifying false religions and cults can be tricky, but the reality is that the more one has familiarized himself (or herself) with the essential truths of God’s Word, the easier it is to spot falsehood.  Some so-called “Christian” organizations are clearly false religions and as orthodox Christians it is important that we recognize them as false religions and refrain from ecumenical fellowship with them.  For other organizations, the issue is not so clear and it may be more appropriate to look at them from the perspective of “degrees of error” or “degrees of heretical doctrine” rather than look at them specifically as a false religion – understanding that from their perspective it is you that holds to the erroneous or even heretical doctrines.  Without a doubt, there may be millions in these organizations who are redeemed, despite the fact that you may believe that their official doctrine contains heresy.