It’s unsettling how often Christians tell each other things that simply are not true. Here are five examples of varying import.
1. Satan was an angel who fell to Earth after a cosmic failed coup against God.
It’s some consolation that most conservative theologians will readily admit that the verses that are misconstrued to support this (Isaiah 14:11-14, Ezekiel 28:13-19] have nothing to do with Satan. The first referring to the King of Babylon, the second to the Kingdom of Tyre. However, even with this admittance, the idea that Satan is an “Angel gone bad” is still clasped.The Bible does not indicate that there was ever a time when Satan was good. We are told he has been “sinning from the beginning”[1st John 3:8] and a “murderer from the beginning”(John 8:44). [Where we have to assume “murder” is used in the enlightened sense of having hatred in his heart.]Further, the Bible never calls Satan an Angel, nor does it indicate that Satan was thrown out of heaven before the creation of man. In fact, Satan was in heaven up until the time of Christ’s resurrection. [Note in Job 1:6, the angels and Satan come to present themselves in front of the Lord and Revelation 12:7-11 is about as clear as one could hope for in terms of pinning Satan’s fall to a timeline.]Christians cling to the idea that Satan is a fallen angel for two reasons…both having to do with Human philosophy. First, it is convenient to think the only categories of rational beings are God, angels, and humans. Admitting the need for something outside these neat boxes is resisted. Secondly, saying that Satan was evil from the beginning sounds too close to saying that Satan is inherently evil. Most people are okay with that idea, but not Evangelical Theologians…for that would suggest that God created something that was inherently evil. That idea does not sit well with many people…so it is far more convenient to just say Satan is a fallen angel…even though he is never called an angel nor is it suggested that he “fell” from being a servant to God.
2. Belief in Christ is the only way to receive forgiveness of sins.
Contrary to this, the Bible gives several ways for which forgiveness of sins might be accomplished (not even counting the sacraments):
A. By forgiving others [Matthew 6:14, and elsewhere. Note this was spoken without condition to masses of people before there was even a notion of what it meant to be a “Christian.”]
B. By repenting [Luke 3:3, before Jesus was even preaching.]
C. By power of the church [John 20:23, since Jesus and Stephen both asked god to forgive those ho were killing them, this certainly extends outside the realm of believers.)
D. By having another pray for you [1st john 5:16]
E. By confessing our sin [1st John 1:9, once again something that could be done without any knowledge of Christ.]
3. God never suffers a change of mind.
Christians often feel it would suggest something unsavory regarding God’s omniscience should it be suggested that a change in mind occurred. It seems God has the power to do anything except change plan.In reality, though, it is easy to find examples of this in the Bible.An important one is switching from sons and grandsons incurring the debt of their fathers. God proclaimed an end to this in Ezekiel 18. Compare this to the story up until then when one generation of Israel could be punished until the sins of the previous generations had been offset through suffering. [A recurring idea in Isaiah, but Exodus 20:5 clearly describes the process.]In Jeremiah 18:5-10, God goes out of the way to be as clear as possible regarding the flexibility of divine decree.There are many other examples, but the above is the hardest to ‘get around:’
- God regrets creation of humanity Genesis 6:6
- God plans to destroy all Israel and start over with Moses Exodus 32:14
- Eli’s family promist renounces [1st Samual 2:30]
- Judah/Israel are told that after God delivers them, they are never to be shamed again. It appears that their lack of acceptance of Christ robbed them of that promise.
- Judah is to be saved from Babylon after 70 years but the promise is nullified due to their lack of repentance [Daniel chapter9]
- Christ [and Paul] give every indication that the second coming is coming very, very soon. Paul had to write a letter to the Thessalonians just to calm their fears that they had missed out. 2000 years later, we are still waiting.
I want to clarify that I’m not accusing God of breaking promises here. The covenants of God [even the New Covenant!] have understood, implicit requirements. That is why Daniel knew Judah was in danger of not receiving her deliverance. The problem for the Calvinist (but not a problem for someone with a less chiseled view on predestination) is that this point doesn’t really get them out of the fire. If God knew beforehand that these promises would have to be nullified due to Israel’s not repenting, then it makes God look foolish for proclaiming them in the first place. 4. Profanity is Inherently Sinful Various verses are given to legitimize this, but none of them are particularly compelling unless you are trying to read into the Scripture this cultural idea. This is rather frustrating, as I know very serious Christians who put this as one of the top things they think of when imagining a “solid” Christian. There’s no clear reason why curse words in general violate the overarching commandment of love toward God and neighbor as they are simply an artifact of human philology.Most importantly, Paul uses profanity himself. In Philippians 3:8 the word translated “filth, rubbish, refuse, dung,” etc. is really just the Greek word for “shit.”
5. The Pharisees were “Legalistic”
Christians heap all manner of insults upon the Pharisees. while this is not in and of itself much different from the Gospel of Luke, the problem is that we do not criticize the Pharisees for the things they were actually doing wrong.We paint Pharisees as people who “tried to be saved by works” or put emphasis on doing ritualistic things that are not important. We use the same term to refer to ultra-conservative Christian churches who forbid drinking, dancing, watching Hollywood movies, profanity, or voting Democrat.This is very much a false comparison.Christ did not take the Pharisees to task because they required people to keep the law. He attacked them for not showing the Jewish people [or realizing themselves] the greater aspect of the Law that was meant to be conveyed through the written Law.
It would have been very wrong of the Pharisees to not require the Jews to keep the Sabbath or eat only clean foods, etc. These signs of Israel’s holiness [which means simply “to be set apart”] were extremely important to God. The prophets put these requirements in the same category as idolatry and murder [though with less emphasis to be sure.]
The problem is not that the Pharisees were observing or requiring these things, but rather that they were not at the same time teaching others the spiritual aspects of the law such as justice, mercy, and compassion. Matthew 23:23 describes this pretty well.For that reason, the Pharisees should not be compared to those today who simply make up requirements or ordinances that have either no basis in Scripture or rather dubious support.
On the other hand, it is certainly not wrong to specify what is required of believers. Jesus had no qualms about doing that. He tells us that no one is worthy to be His disciple unless he or she renounces worldly possessions [Luke 14:33], and faith-not-works Paul has some rather strident points to say on church discipline [1st Corinthians 5:1-7] and the danger of sin in general [Ephesians 5:5-6].
What myths do you hear other Christians say?