The phenomenal growth of China’s church has, justifiably, given rise to much discussion about how Christianity will impact China’s future, particularly as China, according to at least some estimates, is on track to have the largest Christian population of any country within a matter of decades.
Beneath the upbeat reports of the church’s growing numbers and influence, however, is the harsh reality that unprecedented growth accompanied by a severe shortage of trained leadership has left the church increasingly vulnerable to cults and heresies. Christ himself foretold as much in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), where he indicated that the spread of the gospel would invariably be accompanied by counterfeits. One does not have to look too far to find examples of this happening in China today.
In the latest issue of ChinaSource Quarterly we take an in-depth look at cults in China and their impact upon the church. An overview of the most active cults reveals that three quarters of the most prominent indigenous groups have come into being during the past three decades. Though they exhibit a bizarre diversity in terms of beliefs and practices, they nonetheless share several common characteristics. These include having a leader who claims divinity or a special prophetic role, authoritative texts or specific doctrines that are held to be equal or superior to the Bible, strict rules for members and harsh consequences for those who do not follow these rules, and an apocalyptic vision. The violent nature of some of these groups was vividly illustrated last year in the vicious murder of an unsuspecting McDonald’s customer at the hands of members of the Almighty God sect, formerly known as Eastern Lightning.
The parable referenced above provides assurance that false teachers will, in the end, be rooted out of the Kingdom. In the meantime, the church’s best defense is a solid Christology; for as Christ is exalted the genuine holiness of the church will stand in stark contrast to the error of the cults, revealing their counterfeit nature.
Inside the Spring 2015 issue of ChinaSource Quarterly:
Confronting the Cults
Brent Fulton, Editor
The War against Cults in China
Lambert writes: “China has been experiencing a major revival of religious faith…at the same time there has been an upsurge in cults, many of them quite bizarre.” He traces a brief history of China’s cults and then deals with how a cult is defined in China. He goes on to look at the difficulties that emerge when applying unclear and subjective definitions of what constitutes a cult and concludes with an overview of Eastern Lightning.
Combating the Cult “Almighty God Church”
The author takes an in-depth look at Almighty God Church (formerly Eastern Lightning) and its impact on China’s house churches. He looks at early house church responses to this cult as it began infiltrating congregations as well as later responses as it became a greater problem. Yu shares with us a portion of the biblical Christology he developed to refute the erroneous teachings of this group.
Discerning a Cult
SALT (Systematic Asian Leadership Training)
How can a cult be identified? This article alerts the reader to characteristics that can serve as warnings for the possible need to make a further examination of a church or group. It discusses specific issues related to authority and exclusivity, control and submission, secrecy and darkness, and abnormal changes in goals and conduct.
View from the Wall
A Field Study of “The Church of Almighty God” Cult
Li Jin and Ma Li
The authors did a field study of The Church of Almighty God over several years. In their report they include excerpts from the writings of the “female Christ” found in The Scroll That the Lamb Opened. There are also quotes from several individuals they interviewed who had dealt directly with the cult. They conclude with comments regarding churches adopting either an “open or closed” policy.
Peoples of China
Chinese Cults, Sects, and Heresies
Peregrine de Vigo
The author provides a brief overview of ten cults active in today’s China. First, he gives the cult’s name and any additional names it is known by. Next, he identifies the founder and any leaders giving a brief summary of their backgrounds. Finally, he discusses areas of concern including major points at which the cult’s teachings diverge from those of orthodox Christianity.
Refuting False Teachings by Untwisting the Scripture
Correcting the Cults: Expert Responses to Their Scripture Twisting by Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes
Reviewed by Joann Pittman
Geisler and Rhodes provide a valuable reference tool for anyone looking for help in refuting various false teachings. After discussing the definition of a cult, they give an overview of the doctrinal, sociological, and moral characteristics of cults. To untwist a Scriptural interpretation, they supply a Scripture reference that raises an important question, an explanation of the common misinterpretation of the passage, and an explanation of the correct interpretation.
- Pray that Chinese believers will be rooted and grounded in scriptural truth and not taken in by cultic teachings.
- Pray for pastors and church leaders as they instruct their congregations in the scriptures and in refuting false teaching.
- Pray that false teaching will be quickly discerned, rooted out, and not disrupt or destroy congregations.
- Ask that additional instructional materials exposing cults, teaching how to identify them, and how to not become entangled in them will be developed and made available to churches.
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