I am wrong. On what? Many things, I imagine. And so are you. Your neighbors, as well. We all get things wrong, being finite and sin-impaired people. Fortunately, the Triune God revealed in Jesus Christ has provided a path to true knowledge, which sometimes must correct our mistakes. Most of what He has to say to us is found in the Bible, written by the apostles and the prophets.
The irony of this revelation is that even the divine revelation itself can be affected by our broken minds, and so there are many misconceptions, bad ideas, and even what might be called “lies” that arise about what it teaches. Here, then, are five popular falsehoods about Christianity I’ve heard repeated and grow very weary of.
- All sins are equal. This is an especially irritating lie. Jesus himself is the one I can think of most immediately speaking of people having greater or lesser sin (John 19:11), and greater or lesser condemnation (Matt 11:21-22). In fact, on this matter I can speak with certainty that the Bible says just the opposite. Everything in Scripture shows that some sins are worth greater punishment than other sins are (Luke 12:46-48). The greatest of these is quite obviously the unforgivable sin (Mark 3:28-29). If Scripture were not clear enough, we intuitively recognize the absurdity of all sins being equal if we take it to its natural conclusion. If all sins are equal then the five-year-old who take a candy bar out of the cabinet when he is not supposed to is just as guilty for that action as a man who molests him later that night. God is too just in scripture for such nonsense.
- Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Eh, this is just a silly gimmick. The Bible only mentions “religion” only a few times, and the two New Testament instances off the top of my head say that what we believe is a mysterious religion (1 Tim. 3:16) and that caring for the needy is true religion (James 1:27). The dictionary definition of a religion is simply a system of beliefs usually including recognition and worship of some kind of supernatural power, such as a personal God. Surely we as Christians believe in and worship God! Usually, the point made here is more of an issue of law and grace, or faith and works, but nowhere does Scripture categorize religion with law and works, and relationship with grace and faith. In fact, such Christians rituals as baptism and Communion are altogether characteristic of religion.
- My faith is just between me and God. A great number of people imagine that their salvation and sanctification is just a matter to keep to themselves. It’s none of anyone else’s business, right? Not according to Scripture. As John Piper quipped about salvation, “Eternal security is a community project.” The author of Hebrews forbids us to neglect meeting together. Scripture speaks to, of, and for the church, the called out people God, and rarely to individuals. Most of the times the Bible says “you,” it’s plural, not singular. We are constantly commanded to love, edify, help, and encourage each other (Phil. 2:1-4). We are also given the more difficult responsibility of rebuking, correcting, and even judging each other (2 Tim. 4:2, Matt. 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:1-13). We are community of faith. Jesus did not die for you apart from dying for us.
- Christians should never judge anyone, especially about their salvation. Unlike many of these other lies, this one has a Scriptural basis. Matthew 7:1 says not to judge unless you want to be judged. “Case closed!” some people would insist. But as reading to verse 7 makes clear, the prohibition is truly against hypocritical judgment, and once we confront our own faults we are ready to help (in gentleness and love) rebuke our brother. Other texts clearly demand we judge within the church against false teachers (1 John 4:1), between believers and unbelievers in the church (1 Cor. 5:12), and among the believers (1 Cor. 6:1-8). And judgment which is made rightly, not by appearances, is commended (John 7:24). What is key is that all judgment is done with love, wisdom, patience, and faithfulness to Scripture. Judgement that is hypocritical, hateful, prideful, unbiblical, or based on appearances is repeatedly and harshly condemned.
- Our great hope is to one day leave the earth and go be with Jesus. For some reason, this is a popular falsehood. So many of us imagine that what we are promised for hope in the Gospel is that we can die and go to heaven, escaping the wiles of this earth, and so live forever with Jesus in the sky. Except this is a radically non-Christian conception of heaven. Our hope as Christians is inherited from the Jews, and their hope was physical resurrection at the end of the age (Daniel 12:2). We will not float around as spirits in an immaterial glory (indeed, being without the body is considered by Paul nakedness in 2 Cor. 5:4), but instead God is working to renew all creation (Isa. 65:17-25, Rev. 21, 2 Cor. 5:17, 2 Pet. 3:13), and one day will complete the act by raising our physical bodies (1 Cor. 6:14, John 6:54, 1 Thess. 4:14). Jesus will reign there physically as King (Isa. 2:4, Ezek. 34:23-24, Matt. 19:28). What God has planned for us is to live on Earth 2.0 with glorified, imperishable bodies, not to escape this world for an ethereal vacation.
Any more obvious, popular bad ideas you can think of in Christianity? Comment about them!