10 Wrong Beliefs

Major ideas that are called “Christianity” have no apparent origin. They didn’t expect you to notice.

1. Is the goal to get to “Heaven”?

The most basic assumption of Christianity has been that if you do what God says, you’ll die and your spirit ascends to a special place called “Heaven.” The less well-behaved, apparently, drop down to Hell.

All this talk occurs with eerily little Bible reference. As the Christian scholar J. Richard Middleton writes:

“…the Bible nowhere claims that ‘heaven’ is the final home of the redeemed. Although there are many New Testament texts that Christians often read as if they teach a heavenly destiny, the texts do not actually say this.”

Heaven is the Bible’s name for the spirit world, in contrast to the material world, called ‘Earth’. In Genesis 1, God creates both. But as N.T. Wright points out, humans ‘going to Heaven’ as a post-death paradise is a Medieval idea, with pagan roots.

2. Are you supposed to get “born again”?

Christians often say your soul is headed to Hell unless you have a big transformative experience. You “accept” Jesus, then you’re “born again.”

But where is this in the Bible?

Yes, there’s ‘born again’ talk in John 3:3,7, but Jesus’ chat with Nicodemus doesn’t seem to concern a Christian person having an emotional upheaval, and suddenly getting more godly.

As scholars note, the Greek text more suggests the translation “born from above” — or “born anew” in 1 Peter 1:23, or “rebirth” in Titus 3:5. These birthing terms probably refer to the Resurrection. The idea is that you die, and get…born again.

3. Does God have a “plan” for your life?

A major focus of Christian experience is trying to figure out God’s “plan” for you. Typical advice is to pray, and that reveals “God’s plan,” so then you work to make it happen.

But…where is any of that in the Bible?

Try to find where the deity is said to have a “plan” for your life, and there’s not a lot. You likely have to make do with Jeremiah 29:11, where God says: “For I surely know the plans that I have devised for you…”

Except God is speaking to Israel in that passage, and “plans” probably refer to the coming messiah. A divine plan for everyone’s life—with God trying to get people to figure them out, and adjust course—is not a biblical idea. Jesus talks to people about being radically present.

“Don’t worry about tomorrow,” he says in Matthew 6:34.

4. Does the Bible say it’s “inerrant”?

When you grow up Christian, you’re often told the Bible is flawless, an inerrant text. There’s one little problem. “The Bible itself does not claim to be inerrant,” notes the Bible scholar Geoffrey Smith.

It’s not clear the Bible is meant to be viewed as ‘inerrant’. Look at Paul quoting Isaiah 65:1 in Romans 10:2, then look at the Old Testament version. They’re different. The text gets rewritten, or somehow changes.

From the Septuagint to the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are many versions of the Bible in many manuscripts. But Christian leaders came along to use the idea of “inerrancy” as a veiled way of enforcing their own interpretations. As the Bible scholar Michael F. Bird notes:

“Raising the banner of inerrancy was a great way to strike fear into folks that the secular barbarians were at the gates and to justify canceling persons who interpreted the Bible in such a way that undermined the power base of certain leaders.”

If you say you’re on the side of the Bible, and other people aren’t—well that’s a pretty easy way to roll over all the people you hate.

5. Does God have an intended spouse for you?

I grew up with that talk. You weren’t supposed to have sex until that one special person God chose for you appears. Looking back, I realize it was just another strategy of control. The spouse “God chose” for you probably ends up being the one your parents and clerics chose.

In the Bible, however, God is not the big matchmaker in the sky. When Bible characters marry, they’re not said to be designed or designated for each other. Jacob, for example, just seems to like Rachel. As it turns out, the Bible allows you to like people.

The Bible doesn’t seem to describe a God controlling everyone. That’s more a Christian idea.

6. Do you have to have a “Christian wedding”?

An idea you’d often hear identified as Christian is that getting married means going to a church building where a cleric performs a ritual. But…where is that in the Bible?

Jews had wedding customs, as seen in John 2:1–12. Two important points: no religious officials were involved, and women in such scenes are seen as owned. A ‘marriage’ was a bill of sale.

But ordinary Roman people, i.e. Gentiles, just shacked up with each other, and this is what early Christians would have done. As Lesley Adkins notes in The Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome:

“What was necessary in marriage was the living together of a man and woman with the intention of forming a lasting union. There was no prescribed formula of words or written contract (except for dowries).”

7. Does God pick nations to “favor”?

Doesn’t the deity “favor” nations? Christians often say so. I grew up with all the Evangelical talk that America was a “Christian nation,” getting those “blessings” from Heaven when we obey our clerics.

Our clerics were eager to acquire political influence, and have much complained when not receiving it. But the Bible isn’t a political text aimed at installing clerics as rulers, or marking nations as specially ‘divine’.

When Christians talk about God being on their country’s side, it’s just some people trying to rally troops with the idea of the deity loving them the best, and attacking rivals with the idea of being divinely disapproved.

Which doesn’t sound that ‘Christian’ at all.

8. Are clerics supposed to get “ordained”?

Christians have liked the idea that the Bible is a program for clerical control of the world, with clerics having to get “ordained” to get the divine juice flowing through their veins. That means: they say who’s godly.

Where is that in the Bible? The word and concept of being ‘ordained’ aren’t to be found. As the Bible scholar Benjamin Merkle notes:

“The New Testament does not teach that those chosen to lead the church are ‘ordained’ to a sacred, priestly office. It also does not teach that only so-called ‘ordained’ clergymen possess the right to preach, baptize, conduct the Lord’s Supper, or pronounce a benediction.”

Yet again, an idea was created by a religious tradition in order to perpetuate its own power and control. The Bible had nothing to do with it.

9. Are you supposed to hate LGBT people?

That’s what Christians say. God hates ’em, and you should too. Just turn to 1 Corinthians 6:9 or 1 Timothy 1:10, and there it is: the anti-gay hate. Except scholars note the Greek word arsenokoita, often translated ‘homosexual’, doesn’t mean that. No evidence from the ancient world supports it.

Or how about Romans 1:26–27? That’s the killshot anti-gay passage, isn’t it? Many Christians say so. Here we find the apostle Paul telling a complex story, in the past tense, about unnamed evil beings. Christians had no idea who these beings were—only that they were having gay sex!

The Dead Sea Scrolls provided a range of ‘new’ texts with similar words and phrases, and more narrative context. The story of Romans 1 was clearly about fallen angels. See: Brett Provance, “Romans 1:26–27 in Its Rhetorical Tradition” (2019).

10. Isn’t religion about following the “rules”?

That’s how it’s presented. To be godly is explained as you agreeing to cut down on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll—going to church, having a family, following the “rules”—then the deity changes His mind and decides He likes you.

Where is any of that in the Bible? This is a text that speaks of love and freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” says Galatians 5:1.

Just don’t expect to hear that in Christianity.

Borrowed from HERE!