Essentially it is a group of people gathered around a religious leader or organization that denies Christian orthodoxy- the core doctrines of the faith.
Why should we study cults?
We should, in our desire to fulfill the Great Commission, study to evangelize them. Also, the more knowledge we have, the better equipped we are to protect ourselves and others from them.
Is there a difference between a cult and the occult?
Yes. Occultism is a realm of practices designed to penetrate "mysteries" and includes such things as Ritual Magick, Necromancy, etc.
Why do cults prosper?
They provide answers to seekers, albeit the wrong answers. They also appeal to human needs, such as a sense of belonging, meaning, etc. They also tend to have a very robust evangelistic fervor, unlike the church, which tends to be weak on that front. And don't forget that their success is supported by direct Satanic deception in society and culture.
What are the marks of a cult?
There are six basic marks or signs of a cult:
1. They have new truth, a new prophet or a new book.
2. They preach another "Jesus". Rarely is He the unique Son of God, 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity.
3. They often have a false concept of God, such as denying the Trinity.
4. They often teach salvation by works.
5. They are exclusive. Only they are the enlightened.
6. They may give false prophecies.