Part 1: Examining the Differences Between Christianity and Cults Lesson 1: What Makes a Cult a Cult?



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The Kingdom of the Cults by Martin (1985: chp. 9; 1997: chp. 9)

Handbook of Today’s Religions by McDowell & Stewart (part 3, chp. 3)

Handbook of Denominations in the United States (10th ed.) by Mead & Hill (pp. 89-91)

“Christianity, Cults, & Religions” pamphlet by Rose Publishing



So What’s the Difference? by Ridenour (chp. 7)

The Compact Guide to World Religions by Halverson (pp. 54-69)



What’s the Difference?

Part 2: Examining the Differences Between Christianity and World Religions

Lesson 3: Hinduism


I. History
According to Ridenour (p. 89), the name Hindu comes from the Indus River, which flows through modern Pakistan. The origins of Hinduism go back as far as 2000 B.C. when the Aryans conquered the Indus Valley. In time, the Aryans recorded their religious beliefs in what came to be called the Vedas, the earliest and most authoritative of the Hindu scriptures.
Famous personages influenced by Hindu thinking include the 19th century American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson; the 19th century American writer, Henry David Thoreau; the 20th century English writer, Aldous Huxley; and the Beatles.185 Perhaps the most famous Hindu in recent memory was Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. Other Hindu groups include the Hare Krishnas (aka ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness), who believe that Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu (see footnote 191), is god186; Transcendental Meditation (TM)187; and the Rajneeshism “cult” (followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)188. Much “New Age” thought is also rooted in Hinduism. Hinduism has spawned several other world religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Hindu leaders are called swamis or gurus. According to Halverson (p. 87), “the vast majority of Hindus--some 700 million--live in India, where they account for 82% of the population” [these are 1996 figures].



II. Some189 Erroneous Hindu Beliefs190


  1. Idolatry

Hinduism has a pantheon of 330 million gods. The primary ones are Brahma, Vishnu191, and Shiva. Like Buddhism, Hinduism tends to be monistic192, believing that everything is part of one impersonal ultimate reality, which most Hindus call Brahma.




  1. Extrabiblical revelation

The earliest and most authoritative of the Hindu scriptures are called the Vedas. Though not as authoritative, the most popular and sacred of the Hindu scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gita. Another significant portion of the Hindu scriptures is called the Upanishads.


C. “Salvation” by works


Like Buddhism, Hinduism believes in “salvation” through the accumulation of karmic merit (more good karma than bad karma), leading to being reincarnated myriads of times193 into successively higher life forms (“samsara”), ultimately leading to “moksha” (nirvana/enlightenment). Moksha reunites one to Brahma.
Hindus believe moksha can be achieved by taking one of three paths: 1) the path of works (dharma); 2) the path of knowledge (inana); or 3) the path of devotion (bhakti).194 Hindus believe that there are many ways to God.
“But striving zealously, with sins cleansed, the disciplined man, perfected through many rebirths, then (finally) goes to the highest goal” (Bhagavad-Gita 6:45).


  1. Jesus is one of many Hindu “avatars,” an incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu.




  1. Other Hindu Beliefs and Practices




  1. Yoga

According to Ridenour (p. 93), yoga is “the attempt to control one’s consciousness through bodily posture, breath control and concentration, to the extent that one comes to understand experientially that one’s true self, one’s underlying soul (atman), is identical with Brahma.” Devotees of yoga are called yogis.




  1. Vegetarianism (based on the Hindu doctrine of nonviolence to all life, called “ahimsa”)




  1. Refusal to kill any creature (presumably based upon the same doctrine of ahimsa)




  1. Cows are sacred




  1. Caste system




III. Our Response


  1. There is one (and only one) living and true God, the God of the Bible (see the lesson on Buddhism).




  1. The Bible is the only source of divine (special) revelation available today (see the lesson on Mormonism).




  1. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone195, not by works (see the lesson on Mormonism).

The Bible teaches that each person lives only one life, and that following this life comes final judgment (John 5:28-29 and Heb 9:27), a judgment based on one’s works during his or her one lifetime (Psa 28:4, 62:12, Prov 24:12, Matt 16:27, Rom 2:6, 2 Cor 5:10, 2 Tim 4:14, Rev 2:23, and 22:12), works that show whether one is a believer or an unbeliever (Matt 7:15-23, 12:33-37, Rom 2:7-10, 6:22, Eph 2:10, and Titus 2:14).


Salvation is based on the finished work of Christ, both His death (removing our infinite demerit) and life (providing the perfect merit God demands). Faith in Christ alone is the only faith that saves (John 14:6 and Acts 4:12). The inclusivism of Hinduism and the exclusivism of Christianity make the two mutually exclusive.196


  1. Jesus is the Son of God.




Jesus is God’s “only begotten” Son (John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18, and 1 John 4:9), meaning He is unique, one-of-a-kind, in a class by Himself (see the NASB marginal notes for John 1:14, 3:16, 18, and 1 John 4:9). He is not one among equals. He has no equal, other than the other members of the Godhead, the Father and the Spirit. The only incarnation of God is the incarnation of God the Son in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14).

Resources for Further Study:



The Kingdom of the Cults by Martin (1985: chp. 15; 1997: chp. 14)

Handbook of Today’s Religions by McDowell & Stewart (part 1, chps. 4 & 7; part 3, chp. 1)

Handbook of Denominations in the United States (10th ed.) by Mead & Hill (pp. 152-154)

“Christianity, Cults, & Religions” pamphlet by Rose Publishing



So What’s the Difference? by Ridenour (chp. 6 and pp. 179-183)

The Compact Guide to World Religions by Halverson (pp. 87-102)

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