False Views Of Marriage – Part 2

Since writing the previous part of this series, I’ve had the opportunity to read more widely online. I don’t intend to link back to anything which I did in fact read, as my experience was something like sifting through a pile of garbage. Christians seem to have adopted a wide variety of beliefs and opinions regarding the institution of Marriage, even introducing practices in an effort to preserve purity which are foreign to the Bible. Assaults on free choice, making up systems of rules, attempting to bring back arranged marriages, claiming that Marriage or singleness is a gift, the suggestion that you’re not an adult without getting married, the claim that ministry is the only reason a person may choose to remain single, nonsense that God will supposedly try to frustrate your attempts to get married because it’s “not his will”, trying to elevate celibacy above marriage, and other false teachings seem to characterize this festering digital landfill.

No doubt, if you want to understand these issues for yourself I once again have a rather radical suggestion for you. Pick up your Bible, grab a concordance, discard all literature or websites talking about relationships, and study it for yourself. You might even think about getting yourself some good Bible software [my own personal recommendations to you are E-sword and Bible Analyzer], as Bible search engines are easier to use than a physical concordance. With that said, let us jump right into debunking these false teachings.

Assaults On Free Choice, God Meddling in Your Relationships, and the gift of singleness

One website I found spoke of people who try to find a spouse. Evidently this was done by going on mission trips, praying repeatedly, and using websites like E-harmony. After giving a lecture about how God does not promise a spouse to any of his people, the writer of the article proceeded to suggest that an individual’s lack of success in this area was due to God saying “no” or “not yet” and that he was essentially blocking the person’s attempts at finding some one.

The first problem with this position is it assumes that when God wants or does not want something, he will block people from going contrary to what he wants. In which case, I would challenge you research the concept of free will from the Bible. For instance, I made citation of two such passages in the previous part from Deuteronomy and Joshua. Free will allows people to walk contrary to God’s will, though there may be consequences for doing so. Jeremiah could’ve told the Lord, “I’m going to get Married whether you like it or not.” He would’ve experienced the results he was essentially warned of if he had, but the point is that he could’ve chosen to walk contrary to command.

As another example, lets take the Bible’s numerous warnings about marrying unbelievers. Christians often do this anyway, yet God does not step in and stop them. He sends warnings through his servants and perhaps convicts them by flashing the Scriptures back into their minds, but he doesn’t cause the relationship to fail and end in heartbreak. He may then allow people to experience the results of their choices. If a Christian prayed for a marriage and God’s answer was “no”, theoretically they could still find and marry some one anyway, as it is free will that ultimately allows this. I cannot stress this enough, you have a choice.

Another problem with these ideas is they ignore Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7. If a person is trying to find some one, that is a pretty good indicator that they “cannot accept” Christ’s saying in verse 12. Otherwise they would be perfectly fine, and might not experience even the slightest longings in that area. In addition, such views ignore the fact that only two of the Eunuchs on Christ’s list are involuntary and the third is a purely voluntary action chosen by the individual. “Made themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven’s sake” makes this pretty clear. If God is manipulating circumstances to prevent some one from getting married because it’s “not his will”, than a person’s state of singleness is involuntary. Therefore one might reasonably argue that they’re not really the third type of Eunuch which Christ mentions. These ideas really are just another attack inside of Christendom on personal choice, likely held because the people espousing these ideas are deterministic in their thinking.

Consider also the Biblical record of Marriages. There are no cases where we read of God stepping in to prevent some one from getting married anywhere in the Bible. You may search from Genesis to Revelation, but you will find no such stories where God has ever done this. There are no records stating that God rigged events so that a person would not find some one. In addition, the only times he ever commanded people to marry or stay single were given under special circumstances to prophets who do not represent the general population. Thus we might safely conclude that in a general sense, God doesn’t do this kind of thing. He may not answer prayers the exact way you want him to, but this doesn’t mean he will stop you if you decide to do your own thing.

After this, the most obvious arguments that can be marshaled against such teachings stem from statements speaking of God’s character in the Bible. I think specifically of John 3:16, 1 John 4:16, Matthew 10:30, Psalm 145:8, etc. God is described as one who loves the world, who is Love, who numbers the hairs of your head, and who is full of compassion. How could a God who is full of compassion deliberately rig your relationships to fail or make it harder for you to find some one? I might further add that if God were to do such a thing, than he doesn’t really love you as he claims, and he isn’t love, because if you love some one you wouldn’t hurt them.

Usually at this point some one objects by saying, “but God will give you what is for your best, and his own glory!” I might ask in response how cruelty is in a person’s best interest, or how it glorifies God. Like it or not, arbitrarily manipulating circumstances in a person’s life to where they cannot get married is cruel. I would not be surprised if some folks would leave Christianity because of this suggestion. Given the fact that there are numerous Bible passages that portray God as a being of love, compassion, and kindness we may safely conclude that the suggestion that God is manipulating circumstances so that you can’t get married doesn’t glorify him. It makes him out to be cruel, like some one who seeking to torture you. Maybe a study on what actually does or does not glorify God from the Bible is in order.

But not only does this fact present itself, but the objection once again ignores Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7, both of which are authoritative Biblical texts that set the standard for what is or is not best for a person when dealing with this subject. You should let those verses sink in, because they put the abilities a person is in possession of on display and show that whether or not somebody is getting married is really up to them. God would not manipulate circumstances to prevent somebody who “cannot accept” Christ’s saying from getting married. As for 1 Corinthians 7, let’s take a quick look at Paul’s counsel which destroy these ideas.

“For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” – 1 Corinthians 7:7-9

Paul starts off by saying that he “would that all men were even” as himself. If we scroll down to verses 8-9, we find some clues as to what he is here talking about. He speaks of how it is good for the unmarried and widows if they “abide even as I”, then makes reference to those who cannot contain, and says “let them marry.” This suggests that Paul remained unmarried, especially when one considers his reference to containment in connection with these cryptic statements about himself. Thus when he says he “would that all men were even” as himself he is saying that he stayed single, and that he would like it if all men were that way. Above in verse 6 he states that he speaks “by permission, and not of commandment.” So, Paul is here giving nothing short of his own opinion, and thus such a text should not be read as saying all men should stay single. This would be ignoring Christ’s statements in Matthew 19:11-12.

Paul then references gifts, saying that everybody has his proper gift of God. This is usually where people get the ideas of the “gift of singleness”, “gift of marriage”, or even “gift of celibacy.” The problem is that people stop at this verse and do not keep reading. Paul follows up by saying that, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry.” ‘Therefore’ is a word which links the two statements, since it means “for that reason, consequently.” Paul is saying that because everybody has their proper gift, it can be good if people remain unmarried, but if they cannot “contain” [i.e.] handle that lifestyle they should therefore be allowed to get married. He finishes by saying, “it is better to marry than to burn.” The New King James version adds the words “with passion” into the mix. Here is the crucial point, singleness itself is not the gift but rather to ability to “contain” as Paul states. Though these texts by no means state that celibacy, singleness, or marriage are themselves gifts.

The concept of the “gift of singleness” is something we’ll come back to. But for now, I want you to focus in on the abilities that a person is in possession of. If some one “cannot contain” as Paul states, is it really logical to conclude that God will manipulate circumstances so that they cannot get married? If it would cause them to “burn” as Paul says would God therefore block a person from finding a spouse? The answer would logically be a resounding “no.” This does not mean that prayer will cause a spouse to miraculously appear, or that God will always answer “yes” to such prayers. Though I know some personally who’ve found their marriages through prayer, this doesn’t mean it’s always going to make somebody materialize in your home. We need to remember that God isn’t a dating service or a vending machine. At the same time, I will not say that such prayers are inherently wrong though some act as if they are.

So, if God doesn’t manipulate circumstances to block a person from getting married, what stops people? This would seem a very logical question, and in view of it I would like to point out that there may be practical reasons why a person is having trouble finding a spouse. For instance, it should be noted that the concept of the “gift of singleness” has been used to attack people who desire Marriage. Usually they will get a line about how singleness is a gift, dating is bad because it causes discontent with said gift, they should just be content with what they have, and its wrong to seek for it. They might even have 1 Corinthians 7:27 thrown at them, twisted outside of its context. This kind of garbage is what causes the reaction from the people who run around saying Marriage is a duty, and both positions are wrong. But further, it can cause a person not to seek out a relationship, and thus by default not to find it. Unless you actually put the effort into finding some one, in most cases it isn’t likely that some one will just magically materialize in your home so that you may marry them.

In which case, it is also worth pointing out that merely praying about it until you’re blue in the face doesn’t guarantee somebody will show up. Especially if you’re the man, because it seems like women these days expect men to do all the work in getting things started. Some even go so far as to preach that this is the way things are supposed to be, when I’m not convinced the Scriptures really definitively teach that. Others things worth consideration might be that you give up too easily [i.e. it fail a couple of times and therefore conclude it won’t happen], you have too high of or impossible to meet standards thus causing you to overlook perfectly compatible people, and you’re not open to looking in multiple avenues [there are more websites than just e-harmony, some of which are even Christian specific, and mission trips are not the only place to meet other Christians.] Maybe there are even things in your life and habits that block it from happening.

One of the biggest things that needs to be acknowledged is free will. Not only does the suggestion that God is manipulating circumstances to prevent a person from getting married ignore the free choice of the person seeking, but it ignores the the choices of others involved. For instance, women can choose to say “no” and reject your advances for virtually any reason. This isn’t God manipulating circumstances to prevent you from getting married, it’s the free choice of the woman who doesn’t want to date or marry you. Sometimes an individual just doesn’t like you, and I think Christians should acknowledge that such a thing is a person’s right. It doesn’t mean that God has rigged everything against an individual getting married, neither does it mean that therefore nobody will ever like you. This would be what is termed “over generalization”, which is where one or two pieces of evidence are taken to support blanket conclusion covering all of something.

To Be Continued

This seems to be a good point to cut it off and continue onto a 3rd part, which was ultimately not my expectation. So, I intend to continue examining and refuting the other errors in part 3. I hope this post is a blessing to you!

False Views Of Marriage – Part 1

“You don’t get to decide to get married because you aren’t in control of your life!”

“What will you do if it’s God’s will for you to marry!? Will you say no!?”

I have been a Christian for seven years. Throughout my time as a follower of Jesus, I’ve often had encounters with people holding to false theology. False beliefs and teachings are floating around everywhere, as if every “wind of doctrine” is blowing in the Churches of Christendom. Marriage seems to be no exception, where even here some Christians do not seem to have correct views of it. I don’t mean to zero in on those who think that Marriage is the attainment of perfect bliss, either. This would constitute more naivete than false teaching. Instead I mean to target those views of Marriage which malign God’s character [and they’re more prevalent than you think.] There are also ideas related to this subject which are extreme and potentially dangerous.

One such view is what should be termed “salvation by marriage.” It should be acknowledged that nobody literally runs around, so far as I know, thinking that Marriage will lead to their salvation. Instead there is a much more subtle teaching, which seems to have no Biblical support whatsoever, that Marriage is meant for the growth of Christian character. I’ve heard some go so far as to suggest that Marriage is God’s most effective tool for causing Christians to achieve likeness to Christ. But an in-depth research project on the subject of Marriage has yielded no such information supporting this view point. With the best Bible software at my disposal, I searched for words like “Marriage” and “Wife”, and studied each passage that jumped out at me in its context. I found no evidence anywhere from Genesis to Revelation that supports the notion that Marriage is God’s most effective tool for Character growth, that it was his original purpose for Marriage when he created it, or that Marriage has any connection to the Salvation of Christians.

I must say that if a Christian decides to marry an unbeliever, this has the potential to suck the Christian away from his or her faith. The Old Testament is full of warnings meant to steer the Isrealites away from marrying the Canaanites on the grounds that it would lead them into Idolatry. You also have stories which demonstrate the effects of this in action, such as Ahab’s Marriage with Jezebel which lead to the apostasy of both him and all of Israel. This is a Biblical route in which a Christian’s salvation could be effected negatively by a Marriage, and it has strictly to do with the influence a wife has on the husband and vice versa. This would be the rationale behind Paul’s prohibition of being “unequally yoked” together with unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14.

Marriage is not a salvation issue. If Christians do not get married, there is no evidence anywhere from Genesis to Revelation that even remotely suggests that they will be penalized for it. Neither does the Bible paint it as something which could be helpful in a Christian’s salvation. What some have failed to recognize is that a view which paints Marriage as the most effective tool for a Christian’s character growth/sanctification is a doctrine lacking in the department of compassion. What if a person never finds a wife or husband? Does this mean that sanctification will be harder for them than those who’re married? Such a thought would place considerable discouragement not only on those who have difficulty involved in finding some one, but people who have chosen not to marry.

People who hold to this view need to recognize that relationships are hard. My own personal experience is that it is exceedingly difficult to find some one, especially since my previous Church had no women my own age. In addition I’ve found it even harder to avoid something bad happening. Its been something like walking through a mine field. I cannot even begin to stress just how cruel it is to suggest to people who’re having such difficulties in this area that its going to be much harder for them to experience sanctification because of not getting married.

Some who think this way have a tendency to equate questioning their position with downplaying or attacking the institution of Marriage. Marriage is a sacred institution which was given to man as a gift shortly after creation alongside the Sabbath. Hebrews 13:4 calls it “Honorable”, and 1 Timothy 4:1-4 classes enforced Celibacy as a “doctrine of devils.” Proverbs 18:22 suggests that finding a wife is a “good thing.” [Surely this means a good wife.] It should also be noted that Christ performed one of his miracles at a wedding feast. There is nothing wrong with Marriage inherently, and it doesn’t need to be connected to Character growth in order to be a blessing to mankind, have sacredness, or be held in high regard by the Christian. Some through the centuries have had the mistaken notion, perhaps based on a misinterpretation of Matthew 19:11-12, that Celibacy is somehow more commendable than Marriage. Hebrews 13:4 destroys this false viewpoint. Thus Marriage can be still viewed as honorable without being seen as the most effective agent for your character growth.

Closely connected is the notion that the Christian doesn’t have a say in whether or not they’re getting married. The two quotations given at the beginning of this article illustrate this view point. Essentially it is claimed that we have to pray for divine guidance in order to determine whether or not we’re getting married and submit to whatever God tells us to do irrespective of our personal wishes. Now if a Christian wants God to lead in these areas of their life there is nothing wrong with that. But these ideas go well beyond that and practically imply that people will be forced into marriage by divine providence, which is usually accompanied by the suggestion that any resistance will cause the Christian to be lost. This is like the reverse of the age old position of enforced celibacy.

God’s character is maligned by these ideas. The Bible paints God as a being of love, compassion, one who numbers the very hairs of your head, and kindness. It pictures him as one who does good to all, and whose tender mercies “are over all his works.” You cannot claim to love some one and then force them into Marriage irrespective of their wishes on the matter. Regardless of the justification [some like to use the “its for your best” platitude that Christians often toss out at such an objection] this would be a very hurtful move to somebody who wants to remain single. The reverse is true for those who want to get married. In actual fact, this would just be a divine version of enforced celibacy, and thus it has to be acknowledged that most people would be harmed by this. I have a difficult time of seeing God as a being who is in the business of causing deliberate harm to his people, which sounds more like an accusation that would come from the mouth of Satan.

The teaching also ignores Bible passages, as well as whole chapters, such as Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7. Matthew 19:11-12 is the teaching of Christ regarding Celibacy. In verse 11 Christ says, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” Clearer translations, such as the New King James Version, translate the word “receive” as “accept.” Jesus was virtually saying that not everyone was able to accept what he was about to say, but only those to whom the saying had been “given” could do so. A person’s acceptance or rejection of a message has to do with their initial reaction to it, and whether or not they want to carry out the instruction therein contained. “Cannot” is also a strong word, running contrary to the notion that Philippians 4:13 should be taken to its literal extreme. Evidently there actually are things that a Christian cannot do, although in this case it depends heavily on them personally and where they stand on the issue. “Given” in this statement seems to be suggesting that Christ’s upcoming saying is targeting a specific type of person.

In verse 12 Christ then says, “For there are some eunuchs which, were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive let him receive it.” The term “eunuch” is a word which references an individual who has been neutered, or rather a man who is castrated due to his service in a king’s harem. In general it references some one incapable of producing children. This is evident from Christ’s use of the term, as he speaks of people who were born that way, people who were made that way by men, and people who made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom.

However, it should be noted that the third type of Eunuch Christ references is not an individual who has been castrated. You should observe that Strong’s Greek Lexicon, shown below, suggests that the term “Eunuch” has a figurative sense referencing living in an unmarried state. Taking his statement with regards to Eunuchs literally would be dangerous and extreme, sort of like taking his statements about cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye rather than sinning to an extreme literal interpretation and then severely injuring yourself because you thought this was Christ’s direction. It should be observed that Jesus often used figurative language in some of his teachings and parables, spoke with hyperbole, and used similar illustrations. Concrete thinking should be suspended when dealing with some of his sayings.

[*StrongsGreek*]
2134 eunouchizo yoo-noo-khid’-zo from 2135; to castrate (figuratively, live unmarried):–make…eunuch. see GREEK for 2135

Notice that Jesus used the words “made themselves”, and then contrast that with the two previously cited types of Eunuchs. If a person is born incapable of having children they had no control over this happening. Somebody who was made a “Eunuch of men” was forced into that position by the cruelty of men. The third type of Eunuch is completely deliberate. The word “made” strongly implies that it was a deliberate action on the part of the individual. In other words, they did this to themselves. It was not decided for them by anyone else. These words alone, in contrast with the individual who “cannot” accept this saying imply free will or choice on the part of the Christian. This is through a contrast of options, something which Scripture uses to suggest free will in other locations of the Bible. [See Joshua 24:15, Deuteronomy 30:19]. Either a person “cannot accept” Christ’s saying, or he can and therefore he makes himself a Eunuch for the sake of the kingdom. But whether or not he is capable of accepting it depends heavily on him. Not only may we derive free will from this fact, but it should be clear that a person’s abilities also has an influence on whether or not they’re getting married.

Now, to demonstrate more fully that these passages are in fact in reference to Marriage take a close look at its context. Verse 10 states, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” From verses 1 down through 10, the entire subject was marriage and divorce, and it was brought on by a question the Pharisees were using to entrap Jesus. Thus Matthew 19:11-12 must unquestionably be talking about Marriage, and the conclusion is inescapable that Christ was using “Eunuch” as a figure to reference living in an unmarried state for the sake of the kingdom.

However, Christ’s statements should by no means be taken as suggesting that Celibacy is more commendable than Marriage. The Bible should be making this clear when it classes enforced Celibacy with apostasy [1 Timothy 4:1-4], calls Marriage “honorable” [Hebrews 13:4], states that whoever finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor of the Lord [Proverbs 18:22], and so on. A more balanced position would regard permanent singleness by choice as something which could cause some one to have more time for ministry, but which is not necessarily something to be exalted over Marriage. It’s a choice and not something to be enforced, neither is it required on the part of the clergy. Not only would such a notion run contrary to 1 Timothy 4:1-4, but it would also contradict the qualifications of bishops and elders who were to be the “husband of one wife.” [Titus 1:5-6, 1 Timothy 3:2.]

A case by case study of the Marriages of the Bible also reveals that there were only two times in which God ever gave commands in this area of a person’s life. One was Jeremiah, who was told to remain single directly. The other was Hosea, who was ordered by God to marry a “wife of whoredoms” [implying either that she was a prostitute or a wife who cheated on him frequently.] Hosea 1:2-3 and Jeremiah 16:1-4 are where you may find this information. Verses 3-4 strongly imply that the whole reason Jeremiah was issued the command not to marry is simply that his wife and children would’ve been killed. Hosea’s Marriage is obviously being used as a symbol for Israel’s apostasy, which is evident by the phrase “for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.” In other words, these extremely rare cases are under special circumstances that the average person might not necessarily experience. I personally have never been used by God as a symbol for my local Church.

This alongside the low amount of such commands strongly imply that the majority of people are left to marry or stay single on their own. There really is no reason to believe that God is going to issue commands to the average person in this area. The fact that he has only done it twice throughout all of sacred history should give us a clue that generally he isn’t interested in playing puppeteer when it comes to whether or not a person will marry. Christians need to realize that this is a bit like expecting God to tell you whether or not to eat an apple or an orange, which is a bit ridiculous. God is a God of love and choices, he isn’t in the business of forcing others to do anything. Honestly, reading either Hosea’s case or Jeremiah’s as though we must wait for God to tell us what to do regarding whether or not we’re getting married is a bit of a stretch. I might go so far as to declare it Eisegesis [reading something into the Bible that isn’t there.] It should be remembered that these stories are descriptive rather than prescriptive, and thus are not meant to be suggesting that you cannot decide whether or not to get married, since this would run contrary to the actual counsel given in Matthew 19:11-12.

1 Corinthians 7 will reinforce this position, but it will have to be examined later due to the length of this article. However, one point that will be covered in closing will center around the belief that Marriage is a duty. This view is pushed by one particular person who recently wrote a book challenging the concept of the “gift of singleness.” I can understand reacting against people who teach this kind of thing, but swinging to the opposite extreme and implying that Marriage is something a Christian MUST do is a bit of a stretch. I will not only reiterate my previous point that relationships are hard, but point out that this has the potential to cause the Christian to live with guilt because they’re having trouble finding some one to marry. There also is no Scriptural support for such a position.

There are no Bible verses condemning Celibacy in anything other than an enforced context. Remember that Adam was the only human being alive when God gave Eve to him, and thus Genesis 2:18 would have more to do with isolation as opposed to singleness [which doesn’t necessarily result in a person being “alone.” How can some one be alone when they have friends they can talk to, co-workers they can converse with and witness to, or people to fellowship with at Church?] As close as the Bible gets to a command to Marry for the general populace is Genesis 2:24 which reads, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” When compared with Christ’s statements in Matthew 19:11-12, and later passages we will examine in 1 Corinthians 7, it should actually be clear that this is more stating that marriage is the general plan for most people. It is the natural order of things. Such a passage in Scripture would speak volumes as to why not everyone can receive Christ’s saying in Matthew 19, why some people would find Celibacy painful, and perhaps even why some one carries the desire for marriage. But when read in connection with other passages this statement no longer assumes the position of a command. Christians do not have a duty or obligation to get married. In fact, turning it into a duty is a bit strange since usually people want to get married.

I cannot stress this enough. Marriage is a choice, not a duty or an obligation. Christians do not have to get married if they do not want to. Neither do they have to stay single if they want to get married. Christians need to toss their false doctrines making it anything but a choice in the garbage.

When To Leave Your Church

In recent times, I’ve come across a number of articles from Christian websites giving instruction on a sensitive topic. That of course being, “when to leave your church.” The overwhelming majority of them seem to carry a rather unified message, claiming that the primary legitimate reasons to leave a church surround doctrinal matters. Although occasionally something to the effect of, “the church becomes more about politics than Jesus” or “transformation is absent” show up on some lists. Most seem to be against leaving because somebody said or did something unpleasant to you, building their case on a list of stock arguments derived from Biblical instruction on forgiveness and reconciliation.

First, it needs to be acknowledged that the Bible is silent on the subject of exchanging churches. In other words, it doesn’t comment on church “hopping”, “shopping”, or any of the other pejorative terms attached to jumping around from church to church. Usually Christians speak negatively about this because they’re unreasonably concerned that it will quickly become “church stopping”, where you cease going to any church entirely. I’m not convinced this is something which will happen, as it would depend heavily on the determination of the individual to find what they’re looking for in a church and the will power involved in sticking with any church-going. Neither has any real evidence that this is the case been brought to the table.

A certain text in Hebrews, which speaks of “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25] negatively targets “church stopping.” Although to read this as though we’re bound to one particular church, and if we leave it for another we’re somehow doing something wrong would be a stretch. Verses 26-27 beneath it reference sinning “willfully” after having received the knowledge of the truth, as well as a “certain fearful looking for of judgment.” The Greek meaning of the term “forsaking” seems to mean something more like total desertion, rather than the occasional disappearance. To forsake the “assembling of ourselves together” would then obviously be to avoid any assembly of Christians together, rather than simply switching churches.

G1459
ἐγκαταλείπω”
egkataleipō
eng-kat-al-i’-po
From G1722 and G2641; to leave behind in some place, that is, (in a good sense) let remain over, or (in a bad one) to desert: – forsake, leave.

There are a variety of reasons that people are motivated to leave a church. Probably the most Biblical on the list is surrounding doctrinal issues. I can think of scenarios in which churches corporately adopt heretical theories, in which case leaving would be a move that has great value. This would protect you from falling into the same errors, since you’re not invincible and it may not be wise to willfully listen to error sermon-after-sermon. People also leave because some one said something to them which was offensive.

Since there is no perfect church, leaving because of one or two incidents may only cause you to be greeted with disappointment. In such cases, thicker skin is needed on the part of the Christian. This may also be where forgiveness comes into play, as leaving in a fit of rage may suggest that the person is holding a grudge against the church or the person in the church. Scripture obviously speaks of forgiving others and seeking reconciliation with those you’re in conflict with all over the place. So, to the credit of those who online have written against leaving a church because of conflict with a person they certainly have some points in this area.

However, it should also be noted that there are times where hitting the “forgiveness” and “Reconciliation” buttons is just a little bit too simplistic. For instance, Christians often think that forgiving a person and resuming regular association with them are one and the same, and that reconciliation is absolutely required in all circumstances. The assumption seems to be that otherwise you have not truly forgiven the person. The problem with this thought process is that it ignores the potential for a person to simply just want to get away from bad behavior in the church.

As one example I make citation of myself. I have been a Christian for around 7 years now. During that time, when I related to a brother in Christ that I wanted to be an author the person crushed my dreams. They responded by saying, “no one will read your books” and “we have enough literature.” Another person told me, “go get a real job!” These are very discouraging things to say to a person who wants to be an author. In general, I do not allow my memory of this experience to lead to anger towards the individuals. But I recognize I don’t want to be around them or share my dreams with them. Why might this be the case? For the simple fact that I recognize this sort of behavior doesn’t make a person desirable to associate with.

I would not leave a church for such an encounter by itself. But the point I’m attempting to illustrate here is that when some one demonstrates themselves to act in an unpleasant fashion, it is only reasonable to avoid that individual. This prevents you from having further negative experiences with this person. When the Bible speaks of reconciliation, I do not believe it is forbidding these kinds of scenarios — Christians would be bound to experience repeat abuse by very manipulative and hostile people within the church.

With that thought in mind, while one or two comments require thicker skin to deal with what if the person’s behavior persists? People generally have unrealistic pictures of Christians as being inherently good people, when in actual fact they’re sinful and fallen like everyone else. This means that you will find bullies in the church as you would outside of it. Think of some one intentionally harming you every time you attend church. They put you down verbally every time they see you. They use the concept of “reproof” as their weapon to hurt you, over-criticizing everything you say and do. You cannot talk to them on the phone or in person without them finding something to chastise you for. They go out of their way to deliberately crush your ministries, saying things to you like “haven’t you done enough for the Lord!?” They act the naysayer whenever you’re trying to win souls for Christ, telling you that “that person will be too challenging!”

Avoiding them and simply not talking to them seem like viable options. But what if you can’t? What if it happens during gatherings where this individual is present? What if you cannot even be in the same public place with this person with it happening? Much to the dismay of those who believe there are few legitimate reasons to leave a church, I personally wouldn’t stick around in that kind of a situation. In this context, simply “forgiving them” and seeking to be “reconciled” are simplistic responses. There is no confronting such a person, as you would be placing yourself in a situation to receive further abuse. You cannot avoid the person either for reasons previously dwelt upon. Thus in such circumstances I would see this as a valid reason to leave a church, or to jump from church to church, until one finds a safer environment.

Other reasons I would consider pretty good stem on the overall behavior of the Church. What if the Church is acting in a manner which comes off like a cult? Christians who believe their particular churches to be orthodox in all of their doctrines would find such a thing unthinkable! How could their Church ever act the way cults act? The problem here is that generally when Christians think of cults, the picture they have is the one fed to them by the counter-cult movement within Christian Apologetics. Due to the work of this movement, people tend to think of the term “cult” as applying primarily to groups that are unorthodox in their doctrinal views. The theological sense of the term might constitute a solid reason to leave a church, but this is hardly different from leaving for doctrinal reasons.

When I think of cults I think of Jim Jones. We’re talking about a man who killed his followers with poisoned Kool-Aid. It should be noted that groups like his maintain control over their followers through manipulation, coercion, mind control techniques, and other unsavory means. Such groups also do not like critical thinking of any kind. It should be noted that any attack on critical thinking within a Church is questionable, as Christians should be free to research something from the Bible for themselves. They should be just as free to understand the foundations of why the Bible and Christianity is true, especially in a world filled with a myriad of religions and ideas. Attempting to stifle any investigation into these questions because you think it isn’t faith comes off an awful lot like you’re attempting to hide something, and you don’t want other Christians thinking critically about what you say.

Stifling investigation into the truthfulness of doctrinal questions is a cult-like behavior. If your church is actively doing this, than I would say it is time to leave. I recently have left my own local church and have begun searching for another because I felt like critical thinking regarding doctrinal issues was unwelcome. It was typically branded as “looking for excuses”, as if there was no legitimate reason to be asking questions. I have not left the Christian faith, neither have I changed positions on anything I’ve written about on this blog. But I felt like I needed to get away from the boot of those who would not allow me to critically examine the truthfulness of some of the things I had been taught. Especially since they could not abide adopting an alternative viewpoint on issues which were not questions related to the salvation of Christians. They actively made these questions of salvation, and branded the alternative views as those which would cause Christians to be lost.

Coercion also comes to mind. I am aware of one particular Church that had taken the issue of Vegetarianism to such an extreme that it was made essential for the Christian’s salvation. There are a number of Biblical texts which this thought would contradict, in addition to an overwhelming lack of evidence that becoming a vegetarian is explicitly commanded in the Bible. If a Christian wants to be a vegetarian or a vegan, there is nothing wrong with that choice. But they should not be running around turning it into an issue of morality when it isn’t. It is unfortunate that at least four members of this Church attempted to coerce a close friend of mine into becoming a vegetarian based on this false doctrinal premise. How they arrived at such extreme conclusions is something which I still have failed to grasp, especially with the lack of Scriptural support. With that thought in mind, if a Church is using coercion you really should consider using the ‘exit’ door.

Questionable beliefs that lead to rash behavior also come to mind. “Fanaticism” might be a better term in this instance. I am thinking specifically of people who believe that a visit to the hospital or doctor constitutes a denial of faith and is somehow displeasing to God. This furnishes a pretty sound example. This kind of thinking is typically termed “tempting God” in the Biblical record. The best example of which is found in Matthew 4:5-7, where Jesus is taken to the top of the temple by Satan and told to jump off of it on the grounds that God’s angels would hold him up. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” was Christ’s response. If a Church decides that common sense should be thrown in the garbage and therefore they shouldn’t see a doctor, have medical insurance, or go to the hospital in times of medical emergency than perhaps its time to leave that Church. Extreme beliefs like this that are outright fanatical and rash can be very dangerous and it isn’t safe for a Christian to associate with those who hold to such thinking.

Beyond what I’ve listed, if you start to observe mind-control techniques used in your local church, manipulation, or anything akin to Jim Jones-style behavior you need to get out of there. There is no legitimate reason to suggest that a Christian should stick around in such a situation. I feel that these constitute valid reasons to leave which do not seem to receive as much attention as the doctrinal side of things and are worth consideration.

Thinking For Yourself

In the post titled “A Radical Suggestion“, I’ve outlined an approach to dealing with concepts such as the pre-tribulation rapture, the debate about the rapture’s sequence [pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib], and other issues related to end times teaching. I want to develop these suggestions further, and expand this concept well beyond the rapture. It should be noted that teachings with regards to final events are not the only doctrinal positions for which there is massive debate within Christian circles.

Some other examples come down to issues such as the three major schools of thought on final punishments. The traditional view of eternal conscious torment, Conditional Immortality, and Universalism form these three schools. With regards to Prophecy, some of the major schools of thought include Historicism, Futurism, and Preterism. Not to mention those who follow “Progressive Christianity” type thinking have thrown out prophecy entirely, claiming that it is not predictive in it’s character. There is even a debate between those who hold to Calvinistic type beliefs and the Arminian school of thought, with others leaning towards Molinism.

Variation doesn’t just exist surrounding prophetic interpretation, but perhaps virtually every doctrine within Christianity. It would seem there are beliefs within the faith that are as numerous as there are denominations. On the one hand, this may not be as confusing as the variation regarding prophetic interpretation. Most choose to listen to their pastor rather than conducting their own research, or they study with a sort of spiritual “Confirmation Bias.”

The challenge really comes down to deeply entrenched beliefs. Regardless of whether or not the Bible discredits them, people will read them into the Bible. Even to the point of ripping passages out of context, interpreting the text with Esiegesis, and focusing in only on texts that support their thinking while ignoring everything else. I would even dare say that such beliefs lead to accusing the opposing side of doing those very things, whether they actually are or not. People have a tendency to build justifications for practices and beliefs which they may know are wrong, but which they have no desire to abandon.

In view of such a deep entrenchment within people’s thinking, I don’t imagine that those who hold to particular beliefs such as: the pre-tribulation rapture, Calvinism, Preterism, Eternal Conscious Torment, Universalism, or “Progressive Christianity” will be willing to accept my challenges and radical suggestions. I can expect within reason that they would either be offended, or take it on but because of a “spiritual confirmation bias” come back with evidence that supports their thinking every single time. No doubt, such persons are not confused about the variation of beliefs within Christianity. They’re so convinced of their deeply held beliefs that the word “entrenched” couldn’t describe the situation better, as this definitely implies a deliberate effort to fortify those beliefs against any attempts at discrediting them from the Bible.

My attention is more on the seeker after truth. I define this as a person with an open mind and heart. We’re talking about somebody who is seeking to know what the Bible teaches, without bias from any particular church dogma. That seeker after truth is a person not only willing to do the research and think for themself, but to surrender ideas they hold to which may not have a foundation in the Scriptures, and to lay aside practices which may not be inherently right. This person might also be willing to start literally from square one.

I want to issue something of a rallying cry to Christians everywhere. That cry is simply to think for yourself. Do not allow anyone, whether it be a pastor, elder, blogger, or some prominent teacher to interpret Scripture for you. Understand that during the days just before the Protestant Reformation, the Church taught that only the priests were competant to explain and interpret the Scriptures. Remember that such a teaching gives the church power over the lay people. It also creates a situation where in effect, you may end up following the clergy over the Bible.

We should not follow the opinions of the “learned” within Christianity as though they’re absolute truth. Neither should our pastors be placed in a similar position, where they’re given a level of trust that should be attributed to God alone. Instead all teachers, whether pastors or theologians, should be thoroughly fact-checked by the Scriptures. Their sermons and teachings should be subjected to a high level of scrutiny to determine whether or not there is truth in it, lest one be in danger of accepting doctrines and ideas potentially threatening to one’s salvation. Although lies may not be around every corner, every precaution should be exercised and discernment should be practiced rather than adopting the position of a “doctrinal sponge” where everything is accepted blindly without critical thought.

Some have at times gone to the opposite extreme. Instead of total reliance on the minister, they’ve generated theories which are not in God’s word. Speculation and theorizing have been indulged in by many, who perhaps might be seeking something to gratify the imagination over Scriptural truth. Much of this is borderline Esiegesis, but it should be noted that this is more likely what Scripture targeted when it spoke negatively of “private interpretations.” God is the source of the true interpretation of the Bible, and hence we must always come to him in prayer in order for the Holy Spirit in order to properly interpret the word of God.

But thinking for yourself when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture is important. You should not allow others to investigate, pray, research, and think for you. Satan may work in this way to control the minds of the people, locking Christians into false beliefs and deceptions through the use of some prominent Theologian whose teachings are accepted as authority over the Bible. No doubt, Christians should faithfully study the Scriptures to discern if things they hear at Church are true, practicing discernment. But also doctrines that are spread wide throughout Christianity should pass the Bible test.

To test a doctrine, you must study it carefully and prayerfully. The Bible should be approached without a “spiritual confirmation bias” where you’re ready to gather up evidence to support your pre-existing beliefs. In fact, every preconceived idea about a subject should be laid at the door of investigation. Then and only then can you arrive at accurate conclusions when researching any subject from the Bible. As originally suggested, lay aside all Bible commentaries. Even reference works should be set aside if you have the slightest suspicion that they may color your interpretation of the Bible. Any other books, sermons, or articles which speak on the subject should be set aside as well.

Begin with the key verses used to support a particular belief or doctrinal view. Lay aside all interpretations that have been read into the passage and research the context, pay close attention to the exact words to see if a text as been read Esiegetically, and carry out a comparison with other texts found elsewhere in the Scriptures. Use the lexicons which your concordance or Bible software may come equipped with to see if there is anything behind the Greek or Hebrew which helps to address the way the text has been perverted. You might also write out a list of key words or terms which are along the same subject matter and carefully research every Bible passage you can find which speaks about the subject. In this manner, through careful self-study, you will have a better grounding for your beliefs.

 

A Radical Suggestion

Lately I’ve come to rely on the WordPress.com Reader, which has left me sifting through large amounts of blog posts daily as I try to engage in conversation with other bloggers. Having a special interest in Bible Prophecy as can be seen by what I’ve been posting on my own blog lately, I’ve found myself upon occasion searching up terms like “End Times”, “Matthew 24”, or “Second Coming.” A vast sea of ideas and beliefs about these subjects can be found on Word Press alone.

The concept of the Rapture, the seven years of tribulation, and the debate as to when the Rapture will take place have stuck out prominently to me as I’ve searched through the various posts on Word Press. Reading some of this material, at times it feels as if my heart sinks. I have a burden for my Christian brethren who hold to these beliefs about the final events of this earth’s history. In fact, this is why I’ve put as much emphasis on it as I have in my commentary on Matthew 24.

There is a very real danger to these ideas, especially the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture, which is not sensed by those who hold them. It is based on the idea that they will be extracted from this earth by God, and therefore will not have to endure the persecutions and deceptions of the last days. This would leave them unprepared to engage in conflict with these things, which would hit them in such a manner that it would be as if these things had never been revealed in Scripture. Some have been burdened, worried that they might be “left behind” when the Lord returns, while others would be raptured away to heaven.

The debate as to whether or not the Rapture will occur prior to the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, or after the tribulation at times has caused much confusion to honest Bible Students seeking to understand Prophecy for themselves. Combined with the cryptic nature of some of these Prophecies found in the books of Daniel & Revelation, as well as the gospels and other books of the Scriptures, the task of attempting to understand final events can often seem daunting.

I want to propose some radical suggestions. If the Rapture of the faithful prior to the tribulation, and this concept of seven years of tribulation are apart of your belief system than you might be upset by what I’m about to say. Unfortunately sometimes toes need to be stepped on when the truth is spoken. This would be therefore your official disclaimer. Otherwise you might be blessed by my suggestions, especially if you’ve been confused about these issues.

For those that are confused, I would first counsel you to abandon the Rapture entirely. Lay aside all of your preconceived ideas about it, and anything you may have heard from the pulpit with regards to this subject. Just the same, I would suggest that you set aside any ideas about a seven-year period of tribulation, a future one-man hitler antichrist, a rebuilt Jewish temple, and the entire chronology of events you’ve always heard about. [Whether or not it will be pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post tribulation.] Ask yourself some questions, “is any of this really true? Is this what the Bible really teaches about the end of the world?” My counsel to you essentially boils right down to the request that you stop approaching the Bible with the assumption these things are taught in Scripture.

Afterwards, I want you to lay aside all Bible commentaries and books you may have purchased about last day events. This includes novels, especially the left behind series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins. But any novels or movies about the end of time need to be set aside. Your next task from here will be to set aside all sermons on this topic, YouTube videos, audio recordings, and even presentations you have attended in person at your own church. You do not want to study your Bible through the eyes of your Pastor, Theologians, or ‘teachers’ that you may have heard. Otherwise you will end up simply accepting their views as ‘truth’ whether it is or is not, and may not be able to see things in Scripture as they actually are.

From there your task is to sit down with your Bible and a Concordance. The search engine E-sword comes equipped with is also a good option. Begin with earnest prayer for light on the matter and commence a deep dive into your Bible. Use the Concordance or Bible search engine to find everything you possibly can in the Scriptures that has any bearing on the subject of last day events or the second coming of Christ. Then I want you to line up every single passage before you form your conclusions, and watch how each text adds details to and complements the other. Research everything you can possibly find in the Bible on the matter. Especially view proof-texts which are used in Support of these teachings with a degree of skepticism. Ask yourself, “is this really what the verse is saying?” Check to see if such passages have been studied in context, read with Eisegesis [reading something into a text which isn’t there], or studied in view of other passages.

Once you finish, ask yourself the same questions as you did at the beginning. “Is any of this really true? Is this what the Bible really teaches about the end of the world?” When you come to the Lord in prayer over the matter ask him repeatedly and persistently if these views are true and found in the Scriptures. These prayers should be combined with your in-depth Biblical research project on the matter.

If you struggle to understand prophecy because of its cryptic nature, than focus on the plain passages of the Bible first. Not every prophetic text in the Scriptures is highly symbolic. A good place to start would be the gospels, going over Christ’s teachings in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John regarding the second coming and the end of time. When you come across a passage of Scripture which seems to support these views, compare it with other passages to see if an alternative explanation can be found. This would not be to get around it’ but instead to determine if the text has been interpreted properly.

It all boils down to this. If you’re confused about it, stop being so reliant on teachers in your church or particular denomination and research it for yourself. Do your own thinking, and stop reading the Bible through the lens of what others say about it. For those that have held a strong belief in this school of prophetic interpretation my only suggestion for you is take a look at the evidences which will be posted on this blog countering those viewpoints and study them prayerfully.

This has been addressed already through these two pages, and this article. In addition, my commentary on Matthew 24 presents some limited evidence against this thinking in parts 1 and 2. If this is your traditional thinking about Prophecy, if you’ve long-held this belief and look at it as gospel truth, than I only ask that you take a candid look at the evidence which I do and will present on this blog, and reconsider your position.

The Importance Of Bible Study

“What have you been studying out of your Bible lately?”

To many within Christendom, this would seem an unanswerable question. It is as though some irrefutable argument was thrown at them, and they’re squirming to respond with solid logic. The reason for this is of course obvious, they haven’t been studying their Bibles. Searching the Scriptures seems to be a neglected and forgotten practice in the Churches of today. A variety of reasons are usually cited, from not having the time to not knowing how.

At one time, I had the opportunity of attending a group Bible study at another Church. It was aimed dominantly at young people, and I was invited to it by a couple of friends. Rather than an interactive study as I was typically used to from my own Church, this seemed more like a sermon with some discussion that followed than anything. One of the people who I met from here remarked, “I don’t need to study the Bible. It’s not like it’s a salvation issue!”

Evidently this individual did not consider Bible study to be important enough to be ranked as something effecting their salvation. To this day such a statement causes me to smack my palm against my face as a reaction to what was said by this person. Bible Study is perhaps more important than we as Christians give it credit for, and it does indeed have an impact on our personal salvation.

Without even addressing the act of searching the Scriptures itself, there is the fact that the Bible teaches precisely how to be saved. Thus if a Christian is neglecting to study the Bible, they will not have a correct knowledge of salvation, which would impact their’s in a negative way. Without an understanding of how salvation works, how is it that you’re supposed to be saved? You could literally wind up attempting to earn it by your own good works in spite of passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 6:23, but you would not know about these texts if you had not studied your Bible.

The Scriptures are also a safeguard against deception. To be clear, deception isn’t given to save you. The entire purpose of it is to lead you away from the true path, to cause you to miss the mark so to speak that would lead to God and salvation. Real world examples can be in the form of other religions, such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Can you believe that the teachings of these groups will save the members of their congregations, and that these religions genuinely do lead to God and salvation? If this is in your thinking, you’re probably heading down the path of subjective truth and universalism. Both beliefs are wrong, but you wouldn’t know this unless you had studied your Bible.

The first great deception provides us an example of how error and false teachings are given to trigger the loss of our salvation. Especially when you consider the source of deceptions, as outlined by the Scriptures, and where the first one came from. In fact, we as Christians are in the mess we’re presently in, in which we’re sinners in need of a saviour, because of the first deception and it’s results causing the fall of man.

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:1-5

Many of us know where this story goes from here. If you don’t, Genesis 3:6-24 will finish it off for you. Eve and Adam both ate from the tree as a result of these statements of the devil, although according to other Scriptures [“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression” – 1 Timothy 2:14] Adam was apparently not deceived during this whole mess. To an extent, the implication here is that he ate from the tree deliberately. I’m not certain we have the full picture as to why he would do this, but I can make a well-educated guess that it has something to do with Eve. Evidence supporting the fact that the serpent is in fact the devil can be derived from the book of Revelation.

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelation 12:9

A few key points may be gleaned from this incident.

  1. The result of the fall of man, brought on by deception, was the entrance of sin into this world. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death, referencing the loss of one’s salvation. [Revelation 21:8]
  2. The fall of man resulted in Adam & Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden and access to the tree of life being barred, in one sense causing them to lose eternal life. [Genesis 3:22-24, 3:19.]
  3. Deception resulted in the first sin ever committed. Is it not logical to conclude that one purpose of deception is to trigger the commission of sin?

In view of these facts, it should make a bit more sense why the Bible is full of strong warnings about deception, false teachers or teachings, and false prophets. [2 Peter 2:1, Matthew 7:15-20, 1 John 4:1, Matthew 24:23-24, Matthew 24:4-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, 2 Timothy 3:13, Revelation 16:13-14, Deuteronomy 13:1-4.] These things are not brought onto the scene to save you, they’re strictly for the purpose of misleading you so that you will miss the mark and ultimately miss out on eternal life.

The only way to defeat deception is a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. Think of the Bible as a map and a compass. We use these tools to find our way in order to avoid being lost in the wilderness when we go hiking or on long backpacking trips. They help us find direction and determine our position. Imagine for a moment that these instruments have given you the details of where you need to be and go in order to avoid getting lost, but on your journey you come across many who say you’re heading in the wrong direction. There is nothing wrong with either your compass, and your map is accurate. In all reality, they’re the ones taking the wrong route. But you wouldn’t know this unless you checked your map and compass.

When false teaching, teachers, or prophets arise telling you “this is the way”, a thorough knowledge of your Bible enables you to know the correct path in spite of their deception. If it points one direction, and people point another way, in all reality the Bible is correct and they’re wrong. But without studying your Bible you will not be able to detect these things. This is why the Bible gives us the example of the Bereans, who literally checked their “compasses and maps” when they were introduced to fresh concepts to be sure if they were heading in the right direction.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming hither went in unto the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” – Acts 17:10-11

The Bereans are termed “more noble than those in Thessalonica” due to the fact that they “searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” As Paul and Silas preached to them, they had a tendency to check their “map and compass” as I stated above to determine if those two were teaching truth, which I would suggest is a part of the reason why they “received the word with all readiness of mind.” This where the phrase “being a Berean” in Christianity originates from, and it is based on their example of checking things out.

Your Bible cannot function as a spiritual map and compass for you, if you are not well conversant with it. Thus if deceptions particularly relating to salvation were to arise, you wouldn’t be able to pick up on it. In such a case, you could more than likely end up losing your salvation, as Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden. Especially if you’re as accepting of passages quoted out of their context as the last post demonstrated many Christians to be.

You are dealing with a foe who is also a thorough Bible student, and who has often quoted texts outside of their context to support his deceptions. You can especially observe this taking place in Matthew 4:5-7, which are passages from which we get the concept of presumption, or simply “tempting God.” Since Christians have demonstrated due to Jacob Dufour’s experiment that many of them cannot pick up on when some one quotes a verse out of context, unless they obtain a thorough knowledge of their Bibles they’re likely to be swept up by the strong current of the devil’s lies. This is not something that Satan does to save you, neither are his deceptions things that you would want to run around believing if you had their true character unmasked.

At this point the reasons mentioned above are usually cited, such as not having the time. The demands of married life can be somewhat understandable, in addition to work. But at the same time there needs to be some questions asked as to whether or not your time is being used wisely. If you were to calculate the amount of time you have in the day in which you’re not working, spending time with family, or sleeping perhaps you would be shocked to find that maybe you have more time for the Bible than you thought.

For instance, how much time after work is spent in front of the television watching movies or some show? In the case of youth, how much time is spent playing video games? These are buttons that need to be pushed in the Christian world, because I strongly believe that many of us have made idols out of entertainment. Our free time is often all-consumed by amusements whereas very little time is spent in the word or in prayer. We neglect these important practices of the Christian life in favor of amusements and suffer the results in a lack of power and discernment in our walk.

When I worked swing shift at a foundry a few years back, I was still able to find time to pray and study my Bible. I would spend breaks and lunch during my shift praying and memorizing Scriptures, and took the time before work to pray and study the word. Theoretically you should have time both before and after whatever job you work and time off from work. This can be in the form of vacation time, holidays, weekends, or simply just days off that some jobs give. How much of this time is spent in your Bible as opposed to on other things? Most people have a tendency to gravitate towards entertainment/amusement first over the Bible during such days.

Reality boils down to the fact that “I don’t have time” is an excuse. You would probably find that at best you have anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour every day in which you could be studying your Bible, or at least memorizing a passage of Scripture. The real reason probably goes back to the previously mentioned entertainment. Idols in the form of movies and video games have created a situation in which Christians would rather engage in these activities than spend time in the word.

Not knowing how to study the Bible is a little bit more legitimate of a reason. I’ve come across some that are fifty-five years old, have been Christians all their lives, and they still do not know how to study God’s word. Many can find the task a little daunting. But I’ve written two posts here and here which deal with this subject in-depth, and should help to resolve that problem. Even then, much of what I learned was through trial and error, sort of jumping in and learning to swim. I had the advantage of naturally being somewhat of an intellectual individual who is analytical in his thinking, but this still demonstrates that you can figure it out if you’re willing to.

One of the real problems may rest in the fact that there are hordes of people in our age who do not like reading. In all reality, if this is you I would say you’re going to have to overcome this in the case of your Bible. This is because the idea that searching the scriptures has no impact on your salvation is a false teaching, the Bible has a major impact in the transformation of your character, and you more than likely will be swept up with the current of Satan’s deceptions otherwise. You do not need to spend time diving into a reading list which is 144 books long like myself, but I cannot stress enough how important it is than you get into your Bible. It is probably the most important book that you will ever read.

I would go so far as to say that reading the word isn’t enough. Simply studying it isn’t enough either. You need to thoroughly examine it and apply its teachings to your life. You can study the Bible as one studies the sciences, but it will not be of any value unless you’re living up to teaching of the Scriptures. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” – James 1:22

If you catch the importance of Bible study, than my appeal to you is to spend at least one hour every day, whether before or after your job, searching the pages of holy writ. Use the methods outlined in my other posts, and perhaps leave a few comments about the effects on your walk with God.

Contend For The Faith

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” – Jude 1:3

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” – 1 Peter 3:15.

Apologia

This Greek word is the source of our word “apologetics”, which means a defense of the faith. The word here used in the Bible as “Apologia” in the Greek under the term “answer” as it appears in 1 Peter 3:15 means “A verbal defense, speech in defense, a reasoned statement or argument.” This is of course according to Thayer’s Greek dictionary. Being the branch of theology which focuses on a defense of the faith, you would think that Christians might see this to be more important.

An effective defense of the faith requires a person to be studious. I would suspect you would have to read works that have been written answering charges, take the time to research what others have done in this branch of theology, learn what the different logical fallacies are, and spend the time answering attacks on the faith. I’ve run into too many who consider this to be a waste of time. Some of the reasons cited are the idea that you should spend your time studying the truth, and often an illustration of how “they” don’t spend time studying the counterfeit dollar in order to spot the fakes but instead study the genuine.

Comments which imply that people think apologetics is about arguing with others are occasionally made. Then others will still say they don’t have the time to spend in studying into something which isn’t true. We then start to wonder why it is that our youth sometimes leave the churches in droves, and it is so hard to answer the charges of atheists. I know that some in my church have struggled to answer questions which relate to God’s existence. Challenging questions like “who made God” and “why does he allow evil” are the stumps which Christians of different faiths have a tendency to trip over, including the issue of “why Did God command Genocide?”

I’ve had an interesting experience in this area myself. So much so that I would say my encounters with opposition to the Christian faith have been quite insightful. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity for door to door work. Knocking on doors is a very rich experience, in which you gain an intimate understanding of evangelism and what kinds of attitudes exist in the world. A friend of mine once said that, “you’re getting the whole gambit.” I’ve met all kinds of people knocking on doors, and have enough experiences where I could probably write a book chronicling my story.

But I learned something very important when I was beating on doors. Upon occasion, an atheist answered the door. From these people I have been told I’m following a ridiculous path, that my testimony is an example of a coincidence, that there is no God because if he existed he wouldn’t allow evil, that God himself must be evil because of apparently messed up things in the old testament, and that he cannot be real because they’ve found alien skeletons on the moon. I think the attack I’ve heard the most is, “who made God?”

While this was discouraging at first, it drove me to study into apologetics. I have to admit that I have much to learn. But I’ve discovered that the question of “who made God” is a lot like the controversy surrounding Arianism, in which those who’re into false theology claim that Christ is a created being. If God was made than he obviously isn’t God, and thus the question cancels itself out. Alien skeletons on the moon is of course a laughable argument. But this is all beside the point. We as Christians need to know why we believe what we believe.

An argument often used by Atheists is that if you were born in some other country, you would be a part of a different religion. Thus it is claimed that you have been brain washed into accepting your current beliefs, that in applicable cases you’re only following it because your family has, and so on. We need to know why we believe what we believe as Christians, and not find ourselves going to a particular church because our parents always went to it. There is a real need to study into these matters. We often however do not study these things, and thus we’re left defenseless when the arguments of the atheists start pouring in.

We need to be able to respond to some of the attacks on Christianity which exist in our day. We should also understand that it isn’t a denial of faith to be able to explain why you believe in God, as this would be living up to some of the Biblical commands, and the early Christians had apologists in their ranks. Studying into Church History is sufficient to reveal that they had to deal with attacks against Christianity as well. They contended for the faith, responding to these charges at a time when they were also experiencing fierce persecution.

Today we don’t see the importance of this. More likely we don’t want to touch it because it involves the word “study.” If Apologetics requires research and studying, some of the masses who don’t like to read or barely get into their Bibles more than likely wouldn’t touch that branch of theology. Perhaps the thought that enters into their mind is that they should leave it to Ken Ham or Ravi Zacharias. Thus they don’t bother to touch it. This is like leaving evangelism to your pastor.

There are several reasons for why we need to consider the importance of apologetics. One of them is that Christianity is under attack from all directions. There are assaults on the trustworthiness of the Bible, the existence of God, and his character. It comes in a variety of forms from Evolution to the question of why there is an apparent command of Genocide in the Bible. Some of these questions can be very perplexing if you’re confronted with them. While the older people of the Church may be able to dismiss such questions easily, the youth could have their faith completely destroyed. Hence it doesn’t cut it simply to teach Bible stories without providing ample evidence upon which for them to base their faith anymore.

Christianity is also under attack in the form of cults that have arrived upon the scene who wrap themselves in the garments of sheep. The Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are examples of groups which fit this description. In view of so many attacks from external sources, I think it would behoove you study into the matter. A defense of Christianity is a needed thing, especially if you expect the Youth to stay in the Church.

But alongside them we have internal assaults in the form of heresies around almost every corner, and a mass amount of lay people who are not practicing discernment. Without exaggerating the seriousness of the situation, I would say that there is a spiritual war that is raging out there, and we as Christians are often busy posting things on Facebook like “post amen and God will bless you with such and such.” But as the video below demonstrates, some of us can’t even pick up on when something is quoted outside of its context.

Jacob Dufour is honestly some one I know almost nothing about. In the video he claims to be a Christian filmmaker. I’ve never seen any of his movies. This YouTube video is about as close as it gets to me watching something produced by him, and I stumbled across it because a friend of mine on Facebook shared it on their timeline. In turn I shared it on mine, because ultimately the message of this video is something that we as Christians need to see and consider. Thus it wound up in this post, as I thought it was very fitting with the subject in question. But because I do not know if everything he produces is Biblical, I thus will not say that I endorse all of it. If you watch anything of his in the future, do so with the very same critical eye that he admonishes you to have.

This video displays an overall lack of discernment, and perhaps even Bible study, on the part of the majority of Christian laypeople. What is worse is one of the individuals whom he was conversing with claimed to be a pastor, and mistook the quotation cited [which was originally from the devil as you saw], as being “our Lord Jesus.” Apologetics helps with the external assaults, but when the battle involves heresies floating around within the Church, especially in the form of prosperity gospel trash, you will need discernment. In fact, this video would cause me to go so far as to say that we’re in trouble. Why is it that I say this?

  1. A quotation which was taken out of context was accepted as truth because it sounded nice and inspirational.
  2. It stands to reason that if almost 97% of Christians conversed with were duped by a quote taken out of context as a simple experiment to see if they were serious, than they would likely be deceived on a more regular basis. Therefore they may accept all kinds of heresies as truth just because a quote was taken out of context to support it and it sounded “inspirational.”
  3. This was a statement taken straight from the mouth of Satan while Jesus was tempted. If Christians were duped by this, what will they do when the deceptions of the last days are multiplying around them? [2 Thessalonians 2:8-9, Revelation 16:13-14, Matthew 24:4-5.]

Christians really are in trouble, and especially at a time in which the battle for the faith thickens around us. Scanning through the WordPress reader, at times I’ve come across some blogs that have been produced by other Christians who’re an inch away from leaving the faith. Some of the earlier blogs I found when I started this ministry were by people expressing doubts about the truthfulness of the Bible and the existence of God. A friend of mine from the Bible college I went to suggested one of them was taking a bite out of “secular humanism.” They were definitely heading in the direction opposite of belief in God, as the title for their blog gave this suggestion. I battled back and forth with the person over Conditional Immortality in their blog comments for a time, not realizing that there was no way on earth they would listen to me. It was sad, because I was drawn into the fray over the fact that a part of the reasoning behind their doubts about God’s existence was the issue of an eternally burning hell.

Another blog that I found spoke about how there is no evidence to back Christianity up. The writer was going so far as to say that the “faith once delivered to the saints” was entirely fictional, and that learning this was a heart wrenching experience for them. It is saddening to come across something like that, but it can be directly charged to a neglect of study on the part of Christians. We not only do not study our Bibles or neglect to fact check those who quote something out of context, but we neglect an important branch of theology that would have us prepared to deal with such situations!

It is high time for us as Christians to awaken from our slumber. We need to be like the bereans, and we need to know why we believe what we believe. We cannot be the lukewarm pew warmers that some have been. There is a real need right now for us to be awake, especially if we genuinely believe that we’re approaching the final days of this earth’s history.