Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.
As fundamentally as I or other Protestants might take issue with Roman Catholicism on specific theological issues, I do not think that Roman Catholicism would be properly categorized as a cult for the following reasons: (1) Cults, generally speaking, are small splinter groups with a fairly recent origin. Catholicism, on the other hand, is the largest body within Christendom, having almost a two-thousand-year history that has continuity with apostolic, first century Christianity, and that forms the ecclesiastical tree from which Protestantism originally splintered. (2) Cults are usually formed, molded, and controlled by a single individual or small group. By contrast, and despite the authority of the pope at any given time, the Catholic church has been molded by a very large number of people throughout its long history, and is governed by creeds and councils. (3) An appropriate description of a cult is “a religious group originating as a heretical sect and maintaining fervent commitment to heresy.” Regardless of one’s criticism of Catholicism, and even if it is heretical at certain points, it does not fit this description. It did not originate in heresy, and it possesses a structural orthodoxy that true cults do not have. (4) Cults (when defined as heretical sects) are classified as such because of their outright denial or rejection of essential Christian doctrine, such as the triune nature of God, the true dual nature (divine-human) of Christ, or the need for divine grace in the process of salvation. While Protestants have accused Catholicism of having an illegitimate authority and of confusing the gospel, Catholicism does affirm the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and salvation ultimately being a gift from God. (5) Cults frequently have a low view of the Bible, replacing or supplementing it with their own so-called “sacred writings.” In fact, cults often argue that the Bible has been, to some extent, corrupted and therefore their writings are needed to restore the truth. While Catholicism’s acceptance of non-canonical writings (the Apocrypha) and placing of apostolic tradition on par with Scripture are fundamental problems for the Protestant, Catholics nevertheless retain a high view of the Bible (inspired and infallible) and see it as their central source of revelation. 6) A frequent characteristic of cults is their emphasis on a “remnant identity” — that is, they claim to be God’s exclusive agent or people who are restoring “authentic Christianity,” which has been corrupted or lost. Usually this type of restorationism has an accompanying mindset against creeds and Christian history. While Catholicism has at times been guilty of exclusivity, it emphatically denies restorationism, and strongly emphasizes the continuity of God’s church throughout history. 7) Those who classify Roman Catholicism as a cult (that is, an inauthentic and invalid expression of Christianity) usually also give the Eastern Orthodox church the same classification. However, if both of these religious bodies are non-Christian, then there was no authentic Christian church during most of the medieval period. There was no non-denominational, Bible-believing church independent of those two church bodies during most of the Middle Ages. Any schismatic groups that existed during that period were grossly heretical. 8) Even with the serious problems evident in Roman Catholic theology from a Protestant point of view, Catholic doctrine overall does not fit the pattern of recognized cult groups. Catholicism affirms most of what the cults deny and possesses an orthodox foundation that cult groups lack.
IS THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH A CULT? Before attempting an answer to this question, it would perhaps be appropriate to evaluate a Christian cult within the context of its violation of the fundamental truths taught in Scripture. A Christian cult is a sect or movement that rejects the authority of the word of God and the preeminence of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith. Some of these fundamentals can be outlined as follows: 1) THAT man fell into sin by Adam and that the atonement for the redemption of man is exclusively available in Christ alone through His finished works of the cross. 2) THAT the Biblical Scripture is the word of God and is authoritatively binding on the church in all ages (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is the sole yardstick by which matters of the Christian faith and practice are resolved. 3) THAT Christ is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). He is the sole mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5-7). 4) THAT salvation is the gift of God that is available in Christ alone. It is received by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. It is not received by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). 5) The Church is fallible but the word of God is infallible (Rev 2-3). 6) No man since Adam is without sin except Jesus Christ who was both Man and God at the same time (hypostatic union doctrine). Having stated these fundamentals truths, we can now examine the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in the light of these truths. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Scripture is subordinate to the Church and that the Church has exclusive authority to interpret the word of God. This is a serious contradiction to the authority of the word of God. Secondly, Roman Catholicism holds that salvation is earned through works. This works based doctrine contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9 and several other passages of Scripture. They overlook the efficacy of the atonement of the cross. Thirdly, Roman Catholics teach that Mary the mother of Jesus plays a mediatorial role in heaven where she sits next to Christ and conveys petitions on behalf of believers. This teaching violates 1 Timothy 2:5-7 above. Roman Catholics teach that Mary was born sinless and that she ascended to heaven. Nothing can be further from the truth. Finally, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Pope is infallible and has authority to make regulations and doctrines that are binding on the church. There are several other teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church that fly in the face of biblical truth. It is my considered view that the Roman Catholic Church satisfies the requirements of a Christian cult. Its denial of the fundamental truths of Scripture inescapably places it among major Christian cults.
All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.
A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.