Book Review - Cults and the Occult

This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1996, Volume 13, Number 2, pages 219. Please keep in mind that the pagination of this electronic reprint differs from that of the bound volume. This fact could affect how you enter bibliographic information in papers that you may write.

Book Review - Cults and the Occult

E.C. Gruss

PR Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 1994, 222 pages.

E.C. Gruss, the author of Cults and the Occult, is Professor Emeritus, Master's College, Santa Clarita, California. His book, now in a revised and expanded third edition, is a 222-page paperback in 17 chapters, plus an appendix of eight "Christian counter-cult resource organizations." This book is an evangelical Christian critique of selected cults or occult groups and movements. The book ends with a chapter on the New Age movement and a final chapter on "the Christian in an age of confusion."

Some readers are likely to disagree with the author's choice of organizations considered to be cults, such as Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventists, Unity, and Baha'i. Gruss states, "There are two spiritual forces (powers) in the universe," one “led by God," the other by "Satan" (p. 8). One of Satan's "most effective tools" is false doctrine. Gruss concludes his introductory chapter with "it is now time that the cults were confronted as never before by the evangelical church" (p. 9).

Throughout the remainder of the book Gruss proceeds to do battle with what he sees as satanic evil in more than a dozen cults. Each chapter on a specific organization ends with selected references from the New Testament, notes on sources used throughout the chapter, a selected bibliography, and organizations with ministries and materials opposing the organization described in the chapter. Later in the book, the author offers 11 questions "to discern truth from error," which reflect his approach to the cult phenomenon. The list asks if the organization in question believes in the divinity of Christ, a personal God and Trinity, bodily resurrection of Christ, "plain and direct statements" of a whole, unrevised Bible (nothing added or deleted), if they "exalt human leaders...deemed essential" to understand the Bible and salvation, "see man as a helpless sinner," approach God and salvation by works or grace, and the last judgment and "conscious punishment of the lost."

A problem with books such as this is that authors of a specific religious faith often assume they represent the one and only true church and therefore the only way to salvation. Families of Jews, Buddhists, and Moslems, and those unchurched but religious who have been victimized by cults are excluded or approached to convert to the authors' faith. Quotes such as that from Paul ("Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light") are profound and attention-getting, but are essentially nonsectarian. The forces of evil seek to influence any and all faiths.

This book is recommended to evangelical Christians as a concise review of New Testament passages relevant to cults and organizations and materials from this religious faith. For evangelical Christians, Gruss's book will confirm and reinforce their faith and help strengthen them against "harmful cults." It will be of limited use to others. This is not meant so much as a criticism but to express the need for materials useful to all faiths to better understand and guard against harmful cults and cultlike organizations.

Frank MacHovec, Ph.D.

Center for the Study of the Self

Gloucester, Virginia

Cultic Studies Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2, 1996