An inquiry into the paradox of aberrant Christian churches: orthodoxy without orthopraxyBy Martin J. Butz
Published: June 1991
This inquiry addresses the problems of aberrant Christian churches, those organizations which are fundamentally orthodox in their beliefs, yet are reputedly unorthodox in regard to their practices. These churches have become controversial due to the destructive impact that they have had upon some of their membership and for the characteristic similarities they share with commonly regarded cults which allegedly employ techniques akin to brainwashing.
The various usages of the term "cult," including its pejorative denotations and its association with brainwashing/mind control techniques, is explored as a preliminary matter before analysis of controversial churches. Six criteria are proposed which may be useful for determining churches to be aberrant with respect to Christian standards of orthopraxy. The criteria are derived from widely accepted Christian works of systematic and dogmatic theology; namely The Church by G. C. Berkouwer; Christian Dogmatics, by Francis Pieper; and Systematic Theology, by Charles Hodge. The six criteria used to judge departure from Christian standards of practice pertain to: elitist or exclusivistic tendencies, misplaced or excessive authority, improper motivation, overemphasis on form as a function of spirituality, inappropriate or abusive discipline, and misplaced loyalties. The five churches which are the subject of analysis are: the Great Commission International, the Boston Church of Christ, The Bible Speaks, Maranatha Christian Church, and University Bible Fellowship.