Is the Church of Christ a Cult?

HomeChristianity and the BibleIs the Church of Christ a Cult?

I’m regularly asked about the beliefs of particular groups of people, like Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists. When I respond, I try to be very careful in my assessments. My goal is to compare beliefs (any beliefs, including yours and mine) with what we find in the Bible. I do not feel comfortable saying whether anyone in particular has been saved, let alone an entire group. Many people are born again in spite of bad theology, and many people are bound for Hell in spite of good theology. In this article, I simply explain some of my experiences and thoughts about Churches of Christ.

My goal here is not to offend. My goal is simply honesty, fair-mindedness, and grace. This is a real question from a real reader. If what I’ve written here offends you, I can’t say whether that’s good or bad. That would depend on whether what you believe matches or contradicts what God has said in Scripture. If you’re a born again member of a Church of Christ, you are my family.

First, what is a cult? The word simply suggests a specific set of beliefs that spring from another set of beliefs. In that sense, Christianity is historically and technically a cult of Judaism. The word is neutral, even though most of us use it in a negative sense. There’s no question that those in the Church of Christ share many beliefs with traditional, historic Protestant Christians… but there are some distinctives that separate them. That makes them a cult of Christianity in a technical sense, but that should not be considered a negative without addressing their actual beliefs.

It’s important to distinguish here between different movements with similar names:

Theologically, the Church of Christ is a mixed bag… some parts great, some parts not so great. Because each congregation is independent, it’s impossible to speak clearly about all of them. What you read here is generally what they have in common.

I’d like to point positively to a few things they believe that are worth considering, in light of Scripture:

There are, of course, differences. Some are inconsequential, some are simply in conflict with my understanding of Scripture.

I’ve had friends who attended (and led) Churches of Christ that I consider brothers and sisters in Christ, with no real questions about their salvation. I’ve also met some that I would definitely not consider followers of Jesus. This is true of every church I’ve ever attended (or studied). Most congregations have a mix of saved and unsaved people, so that’s not a surprise.

When I’m assessing whether any group is “Christian” or not, I ask this question: Are people in this group saved BECAUSE of what they teach, or IN SPITE OF it? Mormonism, for example, includes many false teachings. I believe that some Mormons have been saved… not because of Mormon doctrine, but in spite of it. God can draw anyone to Himself, and that includes those who are simply wrong about Him. When I think of the Churches of Christ, I wouldn’t put them in the same group as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Unity. I would put them in the same category as Seventh-Day Adventists: right about a lot, wrong about some things, not recommended, but not to be condemned outright.

In my opinion, in spite of their seemingly obvious errors, I would suggest that a person attending a Church of Christ could be saved because of what is taught, rather than in spite of it.

I hope that answers your question, my friend.

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