Cults: Is Calvary Chapel a cult? Is the Moses Model doctrine unbiblical?

Is Calvary Chapel a cult?  I am not saying it is or isn’t, but let’s explore the signs and evidence.  Most people view Calvary Chapels as a place where they can go to listen to sound, Biblical teaching. But what really goes on at Calvary Chapels? There are many lawsuits currently addressing abuse and molestation in Calvary Chapel churches. There have been hundreds of stories and many, many witnesses have come forward to share their stories at to these two amazing interviews: Radio Show, host RemnantRadio, interview of Alex Grenier concerning Calvary Chapel entitled, “dealing with devils”. Listen to another fantastic interview here.


Did you know that there are pagan origins for the upside-down dove symbol? This is the symbol that Calvary Chapel uses, instead of the cross! The following is an excerpt from this article entitled “Christian” Occult Symbols:

“There is a serious contradiction in the issue of the dove in Chuck Smith’s own teachings. It is reported that Calvary Chapelites supporting the exchange of the cross for the dove derive their belief from Hislop’s 1858 book, The Two Babylons, where Hislop attempted to show the pagan origins of various Christian symbols.21 However, Hislop also claims pagan origins for the dove symbol. *See pages 51, 78, 126, and 141-144. ** 22 Figure 25, on page 79, shows one of the persons of the Assyrian Trinity depicted as a dove. Chuck Smith recommends this book in his Commentary on the book of Revelation, which is accessed through Chuck Missler’s web site.

In chapter 17, v. 5, Pastor Smith says:

v.5 Suggested reading for history students: The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. This book connects ancient Babylon with the corrupt church”.


I have discerned for quite some time that something is not quite right with the Calvary Chapel Movement. I pray these interviews would enlighten the hearer as to what really happens in Calvary Chapel. If you have suffered spiritual, sexual or physical abuse from Calvary Chapel, please don’t be scared, and share your story at Calvary Chapel Abuse.

The problem is, the Moses Model doctrine that is distinctive to the Calvary Chapel Movement is not Biblical (rightly divided for these New Testament times)! It is a twisted, man-made doctrine. This is a departure from sound Bible doctrine.  I wrote about the Moses Model years ago after God revealed to me its error and inconsistency with the New Testament form of leadership (which is a bottom-up, servanthood style).

This Moses Model doctrine is so disturbing, to anyone with discernment that is! Check out what I found on this website which explains the Moses Model quotes from the Calvary Chapel Distinctives (by Chuck Smith). Notice how distorted and warped this is:

The Calvary Chapel Philosophy of Ministry

I believe the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached by most of the Calvary Chapel clergymen. There is much sound Bible teaching that followers of Jesus can benefit from. But it is of grave concern that this network of clergymen are taught to see themselves as having the mantle of Moses over their congregations. Most people who attend Calvary Chapels only see the presentation on Sunday mornings and are never in a position to experience the direct effects of this Moses Authoritarian approach. Calvary Chapel clergy are given many opportunities to learn the philosophy of leadership taught by Chuck Smith. There are certain classic audio tapes that are distributed among the clergy. There is also a booklet called, “THE PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY OF CALVARY CHAPEL” by Chuck Smith. In this booklet, which can also be found online, Chuck Smith teaches that a Calvary Chapel should be ruled similar to how Moses ruled over the people of Israel:

“As a theocracy, God established the nation of Israel, but He called Moses to be the earthly leader over the nation, and God, through Moses, led the people. Moses was the recognized instrument of God in leading the people. When things became too heavy for Moses, the responsibilities too great, he gathered seventy of the elders of Israel, representatives from the twelve tribes, and the Spirit of God, Who was upon Moses, came upon them also. And they began to rule with Moses.

However, there were times when the people would bring an issue to one of the elders that they were not able to resolve. In that case the issue was then brought to Moses and Moses, in turn, went to God and God gave Moses the answer to the problem. Reversing the process, Moses would then pass the answer to the elders, who passed it to the people.

Also, under Moses’ charge was Aaron and the priesthood from the tribe of Levi who oversaw the spiritual aspects of the nation. As the elders were overseeing the legal and business squabbles and differences of the people, the priests were overseeing the spiritual aspects of the people.

In order to illustrate Chuck Smith’s teaching on “Moses”-style authority he provides a graphic.

(sorry, check the site for the graphic)

The following is a diagram of the type of government God established with His nation Israel, and a diagram of what Calvary Chapel understands as the New Testament counterpart as God’s government for the church.

We feel that this is the form of government God desires for His church: Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church; He established the episkopas or bishop, who we call the pastor, who is responsible to Jesus and whom must recognize and bear the responsibility to guide and to direct the ministry of the local church, guided directly by Jesus Christ. Under the pastor, in some cases, you have the assistant pastors, equivalent to the priests under Moses’ rule.

“You also have a board of elders. The board of elders discuss and decide the business aspects of the church, the spending of the church funds, the requests for help that they have from various missionary groups, and ministries.”


What is also a departure from sound doctrine, a heresy, is the teaching that we as believers are called to never judge anyone ever, even in the church. This is not right. It is a departure from sound doctrine and the words of the Apostle Paul, and the effects are far from good. It allows for sin to go unchecked and to prevail in the church. It allows for believers to have a fear of making a righteous judgement call in the church and to speak up about sin and wickedness, which is our Biblical mandate (John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 5:12; among other scriptures).


Does CC have characteristics of a cult? Isn’t a ‘cult of Christianity’ an organization that departs from sound doctrine, who call themselves Christians, who have a single, hyper-authoritarian leader at the ‘top’ (visualize a pyramid)?  Even though much truth is taught, doesn’t God say a little false teaching (leaven) ruins a place (Galatians 5:9)?

Let’s examine the Moses Model. We know it is unbiblical and not sound. Is it heresy? Is the person who created this a heretic?

What does Webster’s dictionary say about the word ‘heretic’?

1. (n.) One who believes some doctrine contrary to the established standards or prevailing religion.
2. (n.) One who having made a profession of Christian belief, deliberately and pertinaciously refuses to believe one or more of the articles of faith determined by the authority of the universal church.

What does the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia say about the word ‘heretic’?

her’-e-tik, her’-e-tik, he-ret’-i-kal (hairetikos): Used in Titus 3:10, must be interpreted according to the sense in which Paul employs the word “heresy” (1 Corinthians 11:19 Galatians 5:20) for “parties” or “factions.” According to this, the Scriptural meaning of the word is no more than “a factious man” (American Standard Revised Version), an agitator who creates divisions and makes parties. Weizsacker translates it into German ein Sektierer, “a sectarist.” The nature of the offense is described in other words in 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 11.

King James Bible Dictionary?

One who causes divisions, factions. A man that is an HERETIC after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (Titus 3:10-11)

If the Moses Model is a heresy, and Chuck Smith created it, would he be considered a heretic, or no?  Just a question.  Oddly, there is a single, authoritarian leader at the top of the Calvary Chapel Movement (a characteristic of the cults), as well as at the top of each individual Calvary Chapel.

Let’s look at the definition and just a few characteristics of ‘cults’.

Merriam-Webster dictionary:

A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also: its body of adherents

Wikipedia explains mind control as a characteristic of the cults:

Studies performed by those who believe that some religious groups do practice mind control have identified a number of key steps in coercive persuasion:

1. People are put in physical or emotionally distressing situations;
2. Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized;
3. They receive what seems to be unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from a charismatic leader or group;
4. They get a new identity based on the group;
5. They are subject to entrapment (isolation from friends, relatives and the mainstream culture) and their access to information is severely controlled.

According to F. Derks and J. van der Lans, there is no uniform post-cult trauma. While psychological and social problems upon resignation are not uncommon, their character and intensity are greatly dependent on the personal history and on the traits of the ex-member, and on the reasons for and way of resignation.

Interesting that so many stories are coming forward concerning post-cult trauma, spiritual abuse, social problems, blacklisting, etc., of former Calvary Chapel members.

Cults have a single, charismatic, authoritarian leader at the top:

“By sociological typology, cults are, like sects, new religious groups. But, unlike sects, they can form without breaking off from another religious group, though this is by no means always the case. The characteristic that most distinguishes cults from sects is that they are not advocating a return to pure religion but rather the embracement of something new or something that has been completely lost or forgotten (e.g., lost scriptures or new prophecy). Cults are also much more likely to be led by charismatic leaders than are other religious groups and the charismatic leaders tend to be the individuals who bring forth the new or lost component that is the focal element of the cult. Cults, like sects, often integrate elements of existing religious theologies, but cults tend to create more esoteric theologies synthesized from many sources. Cults tend to emphasize the individual and individual peace”.


That’s odd. Chuck Smith is at the top, and take a look at the Moses Model, at how each Calvary Chapel is run: you will see a single, authoritarian leader at the top.

Even more disturbing is Chuck Smith’s recent blast from the CCCM pulpit, toward child abuse survivor Alex Grenier. Somewhat similar abuse happened to me when I confronted sin in the church. Is that the righteous thing to do according to God’s Word? Click here for that story. Why is it that senior pastors at Calvary Chapels often rebuke their critics, even if the criticisms are completely valid, true and scriptural? Is it right to call someone a liar or a slander when they are not?


It is dangerous to follow a modern Moses. The above source goes on and explains it well:

Dangerous to Follow a Modern Moses

“In these last days, it is extremely dangerous to follow religious leaders who are convinced that they have the authority of Moses over the Body of Christ. This is the essence of the Priesthood. This is the essence of a Papal system. This is the basis for many coercive and blasphemous cults. To repeat what I say in the article, The Moses Cults”, many religious groups exercise unbiblical control over their people. They are authoritarian cults. Often there is a single leader around whose personality the religious group revolves. One way that such power and control is justified is by stating or implying that the leader has assumed the mantle of Moses. They teach that the leader is called to exercise similar authority among the people as Moses’ authority among Israel.

This is the pattern in the Mormon Church, the Unification Church (Moonies), and was the pattern in Jim Jones’, The Peoples’ Temple. It’s Blasphemy. But it is more than just coercive control of the people to assume the mantle of Moses. For any man to presume to take upon himself the mantle of Moses is not only a possible sign of an authoritarian cult, but it is blasphemy. God’s Word clearly teaches that Moses was intended to be a type of Christ, NOT of modern day religious leaders.

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
Deuteronomy 18:15

For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
Acts 3:22

This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear”.
Acts 7:37

Be warned.

“If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked” Proverbs 29:12.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” 1 John 4:1.

Tags: Abuse, Alex Grenier, Bob Grenier, Calvary Chapel Visalia, Child Abuse, Chuck Smith, Roger Wing, Christian cults, Moses Model, Chuck Smith

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