Looking back on the creepy cults of the 70s and the self-indulgent excesses of the televangelists of the 80s can be a little like watching an episode of some ghastly ‘reality TV show’: as the freaks and frauds parade on the television screen, that subtle sentiment of “I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men” is never far from the surface.

When it comes to cults and televangelists, of course, evangelical Protestants have an obvious foundation for assuming their superiority to the wild-eyed megalomaniacs and the superannuated mullet-haired mountebanks of the TV revival brigade: orthodox theology.

The scoundrels are all deviant or downright heretical.  We have the right theology, so we cannot be cultists or corrupt, can we?   Sadly, that is not so. In fact, as Paul himself makes clear, the gospel – the true gospel – can be peddled for power and for profit.

To borrow Lutheran terminology, just because the product being sold is the theology of the cross does not mean that the salesman is not a theologian of glory.  Cults and corruption are reflections of certain cultures, not of confessions.

They can be as orthodox on paper as the Chalcedonian Definition but as perverted in their practices as a poker game run by a man called ‘Honest John.’  So just because somebody preaches the gospel, uses the name of Jesus every other sentence and cries when they talk about the lost does not guarantee that they are not a cult leader or simply in it for what they can get out of it. (source)

Carl Trueman

Further reading