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Old 06-11-2018, 07:02 PM   #1
Evangelical
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Default How to Detect a Sect

On this forum there is a "how to detect a cult" thread. This thread is about how to detect a sect according to the Bible. I believe a cult is worse than a sect, but a sect is harder to detect. However to our advantage, the Bible seems to reveal more about sects (or divisions) than it does about cults.

First, a brief historical look at the word "sect", because it has different meanings depending upon who is using it.

Modern-day Protestant usage - Protestants changed the original meaning of the word "sect" from one of neutral meaning to a negative meaning where some sort of heresy is implied (e.g. denial of the Trinity, the divinity of the Son, etc). They believe that any group of believers which are known to believe and observe the revealed truths of the Bible are seen as genuine churches, and any that are in disagreement with the Bible or with various Creeds (Nicene, apostles, etc) are not. This is why today, JW and Mormons are considered sects, and 100 or so denominations including even Catholicism and extreme Pentecostal groups are considered genuine churches.

Old-day Protestant usage - the Reformers saw themselves as "reforming" the one true catholic and apostolic church, notably, the Lutherans and those in the Church of England, also taking advantage of the political upheaval at the time. In countries which had State churches, such as England and Germany, the word sect became appropriated to any off-shoot groups that did not recognize them as genuine churches. In other words, the word "sect" was used in a similar way to how the Catholics use the word.

Traditional Catholic/Orthodox usage - any group of believers or denomination that separated from the "mother church" is viewed as a sect, schism or heresy.

Biblical useage - the word sect comes from the latin word sequi "to follow". The plain meaning of the word sect, is really neutral and has no negative connotations, unlike today's use of the word where it implies some sort of heresy, or the Catholic useage where it implies separation from some long-existing Christian entity.

So lets rid ourselves of this false idea that a sect must involve some sort of gross heresy such as denial of the Father, Son or Trinity, or rejection of some religio-political structure such as the Church of England or Roman Catholic Church. Rather than interpret the word sect however we like, let's take a look at what the Bible says about sectarianism. It then follows, that whatever it says about sectarianism can be used to define a sect.

The best place to start is with 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 which is about sectarianism in the church:

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 King James Version (KJV)
10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Now many may think this is about keeping the peace between their brothers and sisters in their favorite denomination or between different believers in different denominations. That is not the case if we look at the context.

Context:

Who is it written to? The church in Corinth - all the believers in Corinth. This then is the default, normal, pre-corruption condition that Paul is writing from. He is not writing this thing as a Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran or Protestant Christian, but as a Christian in the city of Corinth.

What it is about? - warning them about sectarianism in their midst. Any party or group of Christians within that city who satisfy Paul's factors are probably a sect not a church.

So let's take a look at what 4 of those factors are:

1) - Not speaking the same thing and not joined together in the same mind and same judgement.
2) - Contentions
3) - Saying, "I am of Paul, I am of... etc"
4) - Baptizing in some name other than Christ

Let's see if these 4 points can apply to denominations

1) - every denomination and different denominations do not speak the same thing and are not joined together in the same mind and judgement. Each denomination judges things differently, whether it's about church structure, the nature of the bread and wine, the importance of certain days of the week, or what the church's own identity and purpose is. Everyone has a different opinion and this is institutionalized into some organizational structure. This point also rules out ecumenism - different denominations coming together in the guise of unity but each still holding onto their different opinions which means the ecumenism is a temporary, not permanent, unity. An example of "not having the same judgement" is that different denominations see things in different light. For example you can get divorced in some denominations where you cannot in others.

2) Contentions - every denomination is a result of some contention between believers in Christ. 600+ years ago it was unthinkable to separate the church. Today if different believers have different opinions, it is almost expected. Anyone can start a new church if they disagree with an old one. Some Christians see denominations as necessary to "keep the peace". Some denominations (e.g. Assembly of God) even have sectarianism as their goal - "church planting" as their main goal - building newer and better churches in places which are already heavily churched, breaking apart larger churches into smaller ones and absorbing smaller ones into larger ones.

3) Saying "I am of....". This is about having our identity in anyone or anything other than Christ. An example of this is when some Christians in denominations say firmly "I am Lutheran", or "I am Catholic" and cannot see their identity in Christ apart from their chosen denomination. Typically the pastor or priest would say this, who have devoted their life to the denomination and are making a living.

4) Many Christians and leaders of denominations consider that if you are baptized in them, you are baptized "as a Catholic", or "as a Lutheran", or "as a Baptist". Years ago it was near impossible to fellowship in major denominations unless you had been baptized in them or achieved some sort of entry requirements. Years ago, marriage between Catholics and Protestants was forbidden or shunned, and sometimes even between Protestants. In the Bible there is no such thing as being baptized "as a something". There is also no other requirements for church membership in the Bible than to be baptized.

In summary, four points from 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 were given by which we can recognize a sect. These points were taken from the plain reading of the text, without any reference to heretical doctrine or relative association with some organization or institution. We can note that the default condition of a church that Paul was writing from and who he was writing to, was all believers in the city of Corinth.

We can reconsider the meaning of the word sect as used by different groups:

Modern-day Protestant usage - we can see that the idea of a sect is not about soundness of doctrine but about commonality and identity between all believers in a city. For this reason, it's possible for even the most doctrinal correct church to be a sect.

Old-day Protestant and Catholic usage - we can see that Paul's letter was addressed to all believers in the city of Corinth and not to any particular State church as long as that State church does not represent all believers in the city. Historically, the State church probably was at one time a representation of all believers in the city, so in some sense the logic holds, but that is no longer the case today. Times have changed, but their definition of the word sect has not, or more importantly, it does not come from the plain reading of 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 but from their perception of themselves as the one true church.
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Old 06-12-2018, 08:01 AM   #2
awareness
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Default Re: How to Detect a Sect

Well thought out OP bro EavnG. I really can't tell you what modern day sects are. But I know one when I see one.

The estimate is that today there exists over 33,000 Christian sects. Of course none of them consider their group a sect. A sect is other groups.

Nee and Lee didn't think their group was a sect. They didn't even consider their movements as religious. That just made them non-religious sects.
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Old 06-12-2018, 05:39 PM   #3
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Default Re: How to Detect a Sect

Quote:
Originally Posted by awareness View Post
Well thought out OP bro EavnG. I really can't tell you what modern day sects are. But I know one when I see one.

The estimate is that today there exists over 33,000 Christian sects. Of course none of them consider their group a sect. A sect is other groups.

Nee and Lee didn't think their group was a sect. They didn't even consider their movements as religious. That just made them non-religious sects.
Evangelical would also not think that his group is a sect or denomination, not divisive, not contentious, not “of Lee”. It’s really insane how two people can look at the same issue and derive an opposite conclusion. Fox News vs. MSNBC.

I enjoyed your point that “none of them consider their group a sect”. Would be funny if it were not true.
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Old 06-12-2018, 06:58 PM   #4
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Default Re: How to Detect a Sect

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Originally Posted by leastofthese View Post
Evangelical would also not think that his group is a sect or denomination, not divisive, not contentious, not “of Lee”. It’s really insane how two people can look at the same issue and derive an opposite conclusion. Fox News vs. MSNBC.

I enjoyed your point that “none of them consider their group a sect”. Would be funny if it were not true.
Who is not a sect according to you? Every Sunday millions of Christians meet together at different places. Which one(s) are not a sect?
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Old 06-12-2018, 07:24 PM   #5
awareness
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Default Re: How to Detect a Sect

Quote:
Originally Posted by Evangelical View Post
Every Sunday millions of Christians meet together at different places.
11:00 o'clock Sunday ... the most divisive hour of the week.
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There's enough religion in the world for people to hate each other. But not enough for people to love each other. There's a serpent in every paradise. Trusting in God is easy. It's trusting in man that requires a lot of faith.
Judaism is Satanic Catholicism is demonic and Christianity is christless - Witness Lee.
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Old 06-12-2018, 08:43 PM   #6
Evangelical
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Default Re: How to Detect a Sect

Quote:
Originally Posted by awareness View Post
11:00 o'clock Sunday ... the most divisive hour of the week.
Yup, when the mother goes to the Catholic church, the father stays at home and watches church-TV and the children go to the pentecostal church.
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