Lies from the Pulpit
Lies from the Pulpit
Christianity is filled with sincere people who are doing their best to adhere to the teachings of the Bible. But their ability to do so is hampered by thousands of years of human dogma, preferences, and opinions. Occasionally, some professed Christians (including leaders, priests, pastors, authors, etc.) actually prefer the arbitrary tradition over what the Bible says, which only complicates matters even more. But this is the Information Age, studying the Bible is easier than ever, and most people want the facts, especially when it pertains to things that will redefine their lives. So let's talk about what's actually in the Bible. The results may be shocking...
This isn't easy to write, as I know it will ruffle a few feathers. I don't mean to be needlessly offensive, but the truth needs to be said. I'm bothered when people are taught things under the premise of it being "what the Bible says" when it's simply not what the Bible says. As a believer, I try to align my theology, doctrines, and judgement with the Bible. I believe that is the canonical role of Scripture and the obligation of every believer.
Granted, not everyone shares my perspective. If your religion has extra parameters beyond Scripture, that's your prerogative, but please know that we simply have differing religious premises. And please have the honesty to admit that your extra-biblical beliefs are based on something other than Scripture.
This isn't a definitive list. Depending on your denomination, doctrine, and theology, you likely have encountered other extra-Biblical legends. The following list is just the tip of the iceberg, and it includes some of the most frequent Biblical errors that I've encountered living in the Bible Belt. This is my list of pet peeves, statements commonly made by Christians that are simply unbiblical.
"The 'Rapture' is coming."
Nope. Left Behind got it wrong. The idea that Jesus will magically take Christians away to heaven before the culmination of the Apocalypse just isn't in the Bible. There isn't a single verse in the Bible that states that Christians will be suddenly "raptured" away from the Apocalypse. If anything, Jesus actually said that the opposite would happen. In a parable, Jesus explained how evil would be gathered and destroyed before the righteous are gathered to the Father. Christ's parable fits perfectly with His later warning that people may be suddenly taken away, and it helps us understand the nature and fate of those whom He said would be "taken." The righteous ones are those who remain. Furthermore, Paul's reference in 1 Thessalonians to people being "caught up" with Christ says nothing about the Apocalyptic wrath of God (see the "Lord's Day" situation below), the timing of that event, or the conclusion of that event. It doesn't give any indication that we should expect a Kirk Cameron/Nick Cage style event.
"Bad people will burn in hell forever."
The Bible isn't always as definitive as religious legends. Scripture is actually pretty vague about the afterlife, especially for non-believers. So much so that the Sadducees in Christ's time didn't believe in any form of resurrection — despite being Jewish religious leaders. Bad people spending forever in fiery torment and agony just isn't promised in the Bible. (Though it does make for a compelling scare tactic to gin up conversions at altar calls and funerals.) Yes, there is some Scripture (mostly amid symbolic visions in Revelation) about a lake of fire that burns forever and the devil, demons, hell and wholly wicked people being destroyed there. But there's no Scriptural nor logical reason to believe that people will suffer endlessly and that the "lake of fire," if literal, will somehow be a miserable form of eternal life. If anything, it's reasonable to assume that those damned to the lake of fire may actually just cease to exist, as fire tends to consume things and eternal life is only promised to those in covenant with God.
"Just ask Jesus into your heart."
Jesus never asked to be invited into your heart (whatever that means). It's not in the Bible. "Asking Jesus into your heart" is never stated as part of Scripture's prescription for salvation.
"Church services should end with an altar call."
I've been to a lot of altar calls. People rave about good altar calls. Billy Graham made a career out of them. They're usually hyper emotional and mean a lot to the people involved. For many Christians, an altar call is the most important thing that can happen, especially at a church service. I've even heard people criticize pastors for not ending all of their sermons with altar calls. It's curious then that Jesus never conducted an altar call. The disciples never did the "every head bowed, every eye closed" bit. No one was ever asked to come down to the front of the synagogue to be saved. But somehow those people still led folks to salvation... Interesting.
"Say the 'sinner's prayer.'"
Nowhere in Scripture is the process of salvation tied to a prayer — let alone the recitation of a scripted or prompted prayer. There are a number of things that the Apostles prescribed as part of the salvation experience (e.g. repentance, agreement of and surrender to the Lordship of Christ, baptism, etc.), but the Apostles, Christ, and everyone else in Scripture never mandated a "sinner's prayer."
"Sunday is the 'Lord's Day.'"
The "Lord's Day" has become Christian lingo to refer to Sunday, but that wasn't the case 2,000 years ago. In Scripture, the "Day of the Lord" is a tragic reference to the final judgement of mankind. That is to say, it's talking about the era often referred to as the "End Times," TEOTWAWKI, or "when all hell breaks loose." It's not a happy thing. And it's definitely not the Sabbath. Additionally, Scripture clearly states that Christ is the "Lord of the Sabbath [Saturday]," which leads me to...
"The Sabbath was changed to Sunday."
Wrong. Jesus kept the seventh day Sabbath, as outlined in the Ten Commandments and extensively elsewhere in the Bible. The Apostles kept the Sabbath. There isn't a single verse in the Bible to support the notion that God changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.
The idea that Christians ought to reverence Sunday over Saturday is strictly a remnant of the Catholic Church's influence (see CCC 2190). In fact, the Catholic Church is very candid about the fact that Sunday is not the Biblically prescribed Sabbath. They claim that Sunday ought to be observed for worship only because they think it was the day of Christ's resurrection (which was actually on Saturday night, as discussed below) and there are two Bible verses in the New Testament that talk about the early believers doing things on Sunday. The first point is moot and the second largely ignores the numerous verses in Acts and elsewhere that discuss the first century believers gathering every day of the week and continuing to participate and learn in the weekly Jewish synagogue services, which centered on the Sabbath day. Whether or not the Apostles did some things on Sunday has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not they kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath remains valid, or the fourth commandment should be kept. The Apostles also did stuff on Monday and every other day of the week too.
"The Law is done away with."
Paul never said that, and Jesus said the exact opposite of that. Paul said that Christ saved us from the "law of sin and death," which means just exactly that. For believers, the rule of sin and death has been defeated by Christ. We're absolutely free from being ruled by sin and death. Paul did not say that the Torah was sinful and deadly and nailed to the cross. Paul himself even kept the Torah and helped others to do the same. As mentioned, Christ said that we should absolutely not think that he came to "abolish the law/Torah." Christ also said that we should do and teach God's commandments, and that those who do so (people like Paul) ought to be regarded as "great in the kingdom of God."
"Peter's vision canceled the dietary laws."
The common Christian line about Peter's vision is that it was the moment that God permitted His people to eat "unclean" animals (e.g. pigs, lobsters, alligators, etc.), despite the divine prohibition against doing so that had existed since the time of Moses, the classification that existed in Noah's time, and the continual condemnation of eating unclean animals that continued through the prophets and New Testament, and is prophesied to be in effect in in the final judgement. It's a funny interpretation because when Peter himself questioned the meaning of his vision, God revealed to Peter that it had nothing to do with food and was simply a metaphor to describe how we should regard other believers.
"'If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray...' God will heal America."
God promised Solomon the following: "If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). It was a promise made directly to the king of Israel regarding the fate of Israel. When God said that He would "heal their land," He wasn't talking about Kansas. He was talking about the little piece of land in the Middle East.
"Women shouldn't work outside the home."
In some Christian circles (as in many other religions and worldviews), women are taught that it is somehow sinful or unrighteous for them to work outside the home. It's a rule that was never written in Scripture. And there are plenty of Biblical examples of women working in multiple vocations, including "outside the home." Most of the matriarchs of Israel were free range shepherdesses — a predominantly masculine profession. The iconic "Proverbs 31 woman" was involved in real estate, retail merchandising, and more. Ruth went out to work. Lydia was a retailer. Hulda and Deborah were multi-vocational. To say that women shouldn't pursue vocations outside of wifing and mothering is simply not following the Biblical model for womanhood.
"Nudity is a sin."
Context is everything. Nudity at a strip club is intentionally meant to incite an actual sin (lust). But nudity in and of itself is not a sin. You were born naked and innocent. Adam and Eve were created to be naked. Jesus died naked. God Himself told the prophet Isaiah to lay around in the buff. If you want to absorb vitamin D au naturel, go ahead. Despite all the Christian hysteria regarding physical "modesty," nudity is never prohibited by God in the Bible. Consequently, it's not a sin.
"Kinky sex is a sin."
As previously discussed on this site, the Bible never prohibits any specific sexual acts between spouses. As such, all is permissible at appropriate times within the context of a consenting monogamous marriage. There isn't a Biblical definition for holy or unholy sex acts within marriage. So if you want to wear a top hat and monocle and roll around in peanut butter while the missus amorously calls you "Mr. Peanut," you do you. It's not a sin. (It's weird — but not a sin.)
In this same vein, the seminal issue of masturbation invariably comes up, so I'll address it...
The myth that masturbation is inherently sinful has been around for ages. Despite the prevalence and widespread condemnation of masturbation, Scripture has absolutely nothing to say about it. There isn't a single Bible verse that even addresses the practice. The closest we get is the oft-cited story of Onan, a man who engaged in a levirate marriage with the woman that had been his sister-in-law. Scripture clearly explains, however, that Onan's error was in his practice of "pulling out" during copulation — not masturbation. In other words, Onan was having sex with the woman but denying her the ability to get pregnant, despite pregnancy being the only reason she entered into the marriage. The entire purpose of levirate marriage was to grant the widowed woman an heir to ensure her economic and familial status. God's grievance against Onan was rooted in Onan's attempt to take advantage of the woman to whom he owed an heir.
"Drinking is a sin."
Jesus drank alcohol. Jesus' first recorded miracle was when he created wine for people who had already been drinking, so that they could continue drinking. God told the Israelites to drink. Godly people like Melchizedek and Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and others drank together. Paul told Timothy to drink wine. When the apostles were thought to be drunk in Acts 2, their response was not that they do not drink but simply that it was too early in the day for them to have yet become drunk. While believers ought to obviously avoid alcoholism and outright drunkenness, there isn't a single verse in the Bible that prohibits people from drinking, unless they've taken a Nazarite vow.
"Smoking is a sin."
Smoking isn't mentioned in the Bible, though there are some who believe that cannabis was used by the ancient Israelites. Yes, your body is a temple, made in the image of God, and worthy of care. But if we're going down that rabbit hole to damn those who smoke, the same condemnation should follow those who overeat, spend too much time in the sun, don't regularly exercise, injure themselves doing Crossfit shenanigans (warning: adult language and Spandex in the link), or fail to follow decent hygiene regimens.
"Gambling is a sin."
The Bible never prohibits or even condemns gambling. And it wasn't because gambling didn't exist. It did. But Scripture tends to take a fairly laissez faire view regarding how one spends one's own money. While gambling may be a statistically irresponsible and an economically backwards decision, it's not inherently sinful. So if you're deciding your evening's entertainment and trying to choose between spending $100 at the casino or the local movie theater, I'd go with the casino every time. At least the casino has a marginal chance of not being a financial loss.
"Saying 'GD' is taking the 'Lord's name in vain.'"
Nah. The third commandment (fourth, if you're Catholic), which prohibits using "the Lord's name in vain," actually has nothing to do with saying "Godd**n" [censored for your sensitivity — not mine]. First off, God's proper name isn't "God" — it's Yahweh. Second, and more relevantly, the Hebrew meaning of the word used for "name," shem, actually refers first and foremost to one's reputation and authority. The third commandment was a prohibition against using God's authority in a meaningless (vain) way and acting in the authority of God for empty purposes. I covered this extensively in The Marriage Commandments, so I won't waste time repeating myself here. Third, it is only God who can actually damn something, so the linguistic meaning of "God, damn _____" is actually accurate, though should be used with caution as those words convey a fairly grave meaning. And it's generally considered to be a rude expression, so keep that in mind before you go around loosely using that phrase.
"Cussing is a sin."
It's certainly not polite, but nowhere in the Bible does Yahweh, Christ, or any angelic messenger prohibit people from cussing. The closest we can get to a direct prohibition on four letter words doesn't even show up until Paul's letter to the Ephesians, in which he writes, "and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks." That passage is the only time in the entire Bible where those specific words (translated in the NASB as "filthiness," "silly talk," and "coarse jesting") are used. And the context of Paul's message is how believers ought to behave, meaning that believers should not make obscene remarks or insulting jokes about others. That's a completely separate issue from whether or not someone is sinning when they damn a hammer that has struck their thumb or express their contempt for a crappy situation.
The Bible also has a handful of examples of people using foul language. Some of the salty language has been sanitized out of our English Bibles, but the original meaning was similar to our modern equivalents. The Old Testament has about a half a dozen coarse references to "piss," which are never mentioned in a positive context. The prophet Elijah mockingly questioned whether or not Baal was taking a crap. Saul called Jonathan a sonofabitch. Christ referred to his enemies with a number of then-salty slurs (e.g. "fox," "snakes," etc.). Even Paul himself referenced excrement when talking about the things of the world (see Philippians 3:8's reference, which has been euphemistically replaced with "rubbish" in many English translations).
"Christmas is Jesus' birthday."
The birthdate of Christ was never documented in the Bible or early Christian writings, though there is some evidence to support that Christ may have been born in the fall. A brief read of any encyclopedia is all it takes to debunk this one. Turns out that there's absolutely no factual basis behind the association between Christ's birth and Christmas. In fact, the holiday we now know as Christmas was actually around before Christ was even born, and neither Christ nor His disciples celebrated it. For the Romans, it was a drunken, orgy-filled celebration of the winter solstice, up until the time that Pope Julius I decided to put Christ in Christmas. Later, Europeans incorporated a variety of regional pagan rituals into the drunken sex holiday, making the Yuletide truly gay, indeed.
"Jesus died on Good Friday."
This is a significant theological lie. According to the Gospels, the only sign Christ gave to prove his divinity was that he would be resurrected after "three days and three nights." The problem is that the traditional timeline (a Good Friday afternoon crucifixion and an Easter Sunday morning resurrection) only adds up to one day and two nights — half of the time promised as the "only sign." This tradition actually undermines the very authority of Christ and all of Christian doctrine.
The mistake comes from a misunderstanding of the Jewish Passover, which occurred at the time of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. When the Gospels' report that the disciples of Christ wanted him buried before the start of the Sabbath, it wasn't because of the weekly Sabbath (which starts at sundown on Friday). According to the Torah, the day after Passover is a unique, annual Sabbath holiday. That was the "Sabbath" the disciples were concerned about. Then there was another Sabbath (the regular, weekly, Friday night to Saturday night Sabbath). Then, the women went to the tomb to find that Christ had already risen.
"Jesus was resurrected on Sunday morning."
Following the calendar of the Passover/Passion week, Jesus was crucified on Passover, which was on a Wednesday afternoon. He was then buried for three days and three nights:
- Wednesday night, Thursday day;
- Thursday night, Friday day; and
- Friday night, and Saturday day.
That is exactly the time prophesied for the entombment of Christ. The Gospel of John explicitly states that it was "still dark" when the women went to the tomb. Other Gospels talk about the "dawn" or "beginning" of the first day of the week. In the Jewish culture, a day actually begins at sunset — not sunrise or midnight. Point being: Jesus had to be out of the grave before Sunday morning. The "Easter sunrise" resurrection tradition both contradicts the Gospel account and Christ's prophecy of "three days and three nights."
As in most human endeavors, there's a lot of garbage to wade through, but don't let the misinformation discourage you from finding the truth. Keep studying. Keep learning. Reserve the right to get smarter and to change. And keep moving forward.