Authoritarian. There is almost always a central, charismatic, living human leader who commands total loyalty and allegiance.
Oppositional. Their beliefs, practices and values are counter to those of the dominant culture.
Exclusivistic. They are the only group that possesses the “truth.”
Legalistic. Rules and regulations abound governing spiritual matters and the details of everyday living.
Subjective. They emphasize the experiential, the feelings and the emotions. This is usually accompanied by an anti-intellectualism.
Persecution-conscious. The groups feel they are being singled out by mainstream Christians, the press, parents, and the government.
Sanction-oriented. They require conformity in practice and belief, and exercise sanctions against the wayward.
Esoteric. They promote a religion of secrecy and concealment. Truth is taught on two levels, inner truth and outer truth.
Anti-sacerdotal. There are no paid clergy or professional religious functionaries.
Signs of a cult
(1) Secrecy is employed; seldom is there full disclosure.
(2) Elite leadership does all the thinking. Others follow.
(3) Followers are the only ones who possess the whole truth.
(4) Scripture is never taken at face value.
(5) Loyalty goes to a leader or a system.
(6) The concepts lack historical roots.