Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more

[This article was originally written in April of 2017. I’ve made constant updates to it since then, however, and the date of the latest major update can be seen in the date stamp above.]

Every weekend (mostly on Sundays, although some prefer Saturdays), billions of followers of the Christian religion all around the world head over to a building to sing some songs, donate some money, and listen to a speech (and, in some cases, have a bite of bread and a sip of a grape-based beverage). While I used to attend these meetings quite regularly myself, I haven’t gone to one in many years now. I’ve been asked to return on occasion, but when I explain why I no longer do so it becomes apparent pretty quickly why I’m not able to any more.

When I stopped participating in these practices it wasn’t because I had stopped believing the Bible. Rather, when I finally walked away from Churchianity, as I like to call the Institutional Church and religious/“orthodox” Christianity (as opposed to the religionless/“heretical” Christianity that I believe the Bible teaches is for the body of Christ), it was because of just how unbiblical pretty much all of the Institutional Churches I’d ever visited actually are. I’ve attended any number of traditional churches back in my religious days and, while I haven’t experienced all of the denominations or assemblies out there, I can’t think of one I have visited that had leaders who taught, or even seemed to know, what is actually written in Scripture. If you attend any traditional church services at all you’ll inevitably hear the preacher telling people they need to get back to the Bible, yet if the congregation (at least within any traditional church building I’ve visited) listened to him and took his statement to heart, they’d quickly stop attending that gathering. In fact, I don’t believe a single first-century believer would recognize much of anything that is practiced or preached in a modern church building (although, again, I haven’t visited them all, and perhaps yours is different, so read on and then let me know if it is after you’ve finished this article and learned what I believe Scripture teaches).

The problem is, rather than digging into what the Bible actually teaches, most religious Christians find it easier to simply follow the traditions that have been passed down to them by their religious leaders and denominations, misguided traditions based on five serious mistakes: mistranslation, misappropriation, misunderstanding, misassumption, and misanthropy.

Mistranslation

The first thing that people who do believe Scripture was inspired by God need to realize is that they would do well to A) pick up a concordance (and actually use it), and B) learn a bit about the original languages the Scriptures were written in. While some are worse than others, pretty much every translation has some passages in it that are badly rendered thanks to the preconceived doctrines of the translators, doctrines they often (mis)translated into their versions (or which they were told they had to “translate” into their versions by those who commissioned the translations). Because of the presuppositions and preferences held by the translators, and biases held by their benefactors, translations of Scripture ended up with all sorts of things that put them at odds with what they actually said in their original languages.

Misappropriation

In addition, most religious Christians aren’t aware of how to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Unfortunately, without knowing how to do this it’s basically impossible to understand what sort of doctrines today’s Christians are supposed to believe and follow. It’s extremely common for those within the Institutional Church to believe that certain things in Scripture which were meant only for specific people in specific times apply to everyone always, causing them to think they have to follow commandments that don’t apply to them, and try to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results).

Misunderstanding

There’s also the fact that religious Christians tend to fail to understand basic logic and science, preferring to believe what their religious leaders tell them about how reality works rather than looking into and accepting how it actually works. Among other consequences, this causes them to assume that parts of the Bible which should be taken a little more figuratively are meant to be read extremely literally (and vice versa), leading to serious confusion. Remember, ignoring science and common sense is how we end up with beliefs like the idea that the earth is actually flat rather than spherical. If you read the Bible too literally you’ll have to conclude that the world really is flat, so Flat Earthers are a good object lesson to us, serving as a warning to be careful not to leave science out of our exegesis.

Misassumption

Simply believing their religious leaders rather than studying things for themselves also causes religious followers to make major assumptions about what is written in the Bible, leading them to believe any number of theological and ecclesiological ideas that are never even hinted at in there. Because of these presuppositions, you’ll find members of Churchianity have all sorts of unscriptural ideas about what God wants them to believe and how they should behave, as well as how they think the rest of the world should be forced to act, based on doctrines they’ve simply assumed are in the Bible without bothering to take the time to confirm whether they actually are written anyplace in there. Ultimately, a combination of laziness and misplaced trust in false teachers has led Churchianity to an extremely unbiblical church structure and worldview.

Misanthropy

Finally, the most important thing we are told we’re supposed to do (aside from having faith) is the one thing that I’ve almost never witnessed from anyone within Churchianity (with a few rare exceptions). Christians are called to love those around them, but despite their lip service to love, it’s extremely rare to actually see any real love towards other people inside or outside the Institutional Church by its members. Rather than love, we see hatred (or, at the very least, apathy) towards their fellow humans manifested among religious Christians. This goes for the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit as well, I should add; it isn’t only love that is lacking. None of the Fruit of the Spirit seems to be a trait of Churchianity in my experience. Instead we see the Fruit of Religion (paranoia, selfishness, peer pressure, intolerance, hostility, anti-intellectualism, arrogance, hypocrisy, and guilt) causing religious Christians to accept the hateful traditions of their denominations over what Scripture actually teaches.

Dividing

Remember, if you start down the wrong path to begin with, odds are high that you won’t end up in the right location at the end of it all, and those five mistakes made by the Institutional Church has them on the wrong path from the very first step. In order to find the right path, you need to first know how to rightly divide the word of truth.

To get started on this path, it’s important to understand that when you read the term “the word of truth” in the Greek Scriptures (meaning the books in the Bible that are generally referred to as the New Testament) it isn’t just yet another synonym for Scripture, so this isn’t simply referring to dividing the Bible into the two sections that are commonly called the Old Testament and the New Testament. If you look up each time the term is used in the Greek Scriptures, it appears that it actually refers to the Gospel. To backtrack a little, it’s imperative to understand that, while every Scripture inspired by God was written for all of us, not every part of the Bible was written to or about all of us. When one comes to this understanding, it becomes clear that the Good News (which is what Gospel means) has to be properly divided, and the Apostle Paul tells us exactly what it means to divide the Good News.

To put it simply, there is more than one Gospel in Scripture that the word of truth can be divided into, two of which are known as the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. It’s important to note that Paul didn’t say Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the Circumcised while he himself was called to preach the Gospel to the Uncircumcised in his epistle to the Galatians (despite how some translations might render it). Rather, these were two different Gospels meant for two different groups of people. So while Jesus (who, while heralding the Good News of the impending arrival of the New Covenant, had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under the Old Covenant), Peter, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples taught the first one specifically to Israel, Paul was singled out by Christ to teach the second one to the world (which means a Christian rejecting Paul’s special Gospel, not to mention his other unique teachings and ministry, could be said to ultimately be rejecting Christ), and it’s the second one that is meant for the body of Christ today. Other parts of the Bible are important for context, among other things, but it’s only Paul’s epistles that are written specifically to the body of Christ. As useful as the rest of the Bible is, the parts not written by Paul were primarily intended for Israelites, and we can’t forget that fact when studying Scripture if we want to come to the correct conclusions.

These Gospels aren’t even remotely similar to each other, so how anybody ever concludes that they’re one and the same is quite perplexing, but somehow the vast majority of people have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture. But if one doesn’t come to understand the difference between the Gospels, they’ll assume that many commandments in the Bible are meant to be followed by believers in the body of Christ today that actually aren’t, they won’t understand which church they’re a part of (or when it actually began), and they can even come to completely misunderstand what the Gospel the body of Christ is saved by actually is.

So what is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, also known as the Gospel of Grace, or sometimes just called “my Gospel” by Paul (who would be the Bible’s biggest egotist for calling it that, by the way, if this wasn’t a distinct Gospel given specifically to him), and how are we saved under it? I’m going to begin by stating what it isn’t. The Gospel of the Uncircumcision isn’t that one can be saved by asking God to forgive them for their sins and/or “asking Jesus into their heart,” as are common ways many religious Christians mistakenly share the Gospel. If that’s all one has done, they probably haven’t really been saved yet, relatively speaking (at least not under this Gospel; many people who call themselves Christians have very possibly unknowingly become proselytes of the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, however). Rather, this Good News is simply that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and that God raised Him from the dead after three days. As I’ll explain later, very few Christians actually do, but if you truly believe in Christ’s death for your sins, His entombment, and His resurrection, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking; everyone has already been reconciled by Christ, from an absolute perspective, by His death and resurrection). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel other than that faith; no “asking Jesus into your heart” is needed, nor is asking God to forgive you for your sins required, and water baptism is definitely not something you have to do to be saved under this Gospel. And on that note I should probably add, while most people today assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized with water, this isn’t actually the case for those saved under the Gospel of Grace. Yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water, but he stopped pretty quickly. I’ll also say, though, that the body of Christ does still get baptized. It’s just that we’re not baptized in water. Water baptism was actually a part of the law of Moses, and those saved under this Gospel are not under the Mosaic law in any way (no, not even the Ten Commandments).

The Gospel of the Circumcision, on the other hand, was the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven was ready to begin on Earth (which is why it’s also called the Gospel of the Kingdom), and to be saved under this Gospel one had to repent (of sin in general, and later of murdering Jesus in particular), believe that Jesus the Messiah (Christ) is the Son of God, be baptized in water, follow the commandments Jesus taught his disciples during His earthly ministry, confess one’s sins when one slips up, and endure to the end. While baptism, following Jesus’ commandments, confessing sins, and enduring to the end seem to be necessary to maintain salvation under this Gospel, at its simplest, believers of this Gospel just had to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. While faith is ultimately the basis of both Gospels, nowhere was Israel told by Jesus or His disciples to trust in His death, burial, and resurrection for justification or salvation. You won’t find the Gospel of Grace explained anywhere in the books traditionally called the four Gospels, not even in the famous John 3:16 passage that evangelists quote so frequently. Yes, Jesus did tell His disciples about His impending death and resurrection in the Gospels, but not only did they not understand what He was telling them, He didn’t explain it as something they had to believe in to be saved. And while Peter did mention that Jesus died and was resurrected in his sermons in the book of Acts, it was only brought up as an accusation against those who killed Him, and as proof that He is the Messiah and that He is still able to bring the Kingdom since He’s no longer dead; it wasn’t explained as the method of salvation to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision in these sermons either. As an example, the statement of faith made by the Ethiopian eunuch to Philip before his baptism had nothing to do with faith in Christ’s death or resurrection for his justification, but rather that he believed Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God. So faith, in the Gospel of the Circumcision, was in the identity of Jesus, while faith, in the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, is in the work of Jesus.

The end result of these Gospels is somewhat different too. Those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Testament (or New Covenant) during the period known as the Millennial Kingdom that has been promised to Israel long ago, while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are known as the body of Christ, the ecclesia (or church), and are promised spiritual blessings and are destined for the heavens or celestials (and are no more under the New Testament than they are able to be born again, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even a kingdom of priests as Israel one day will be).

The lack of understanding regarding the difference between these two Gospels, as well as what parts of Scripture are written to Israel (and her proselytes) and what parts are written specifically to the body of Christ in the current dispensation, is also a major cause of the disagreements one finds between the many denominations within Christendom, whereas rightly dividing the word of truth resolves a lot of the apparent contradictions that seem to be prevalent in the Bible (especially between Paul’s epistles and the rest of the Greek Scriptures, particularly the letter that James wrote). So not only is this concept extremely important for believers to grasp, it’s so central to understanding what the Bible is saying that one can’t properly interpret much of Scripture at all without beginning from this perspective (even something like evangelism will be a confusing task for those who don’t understand that “the Great Commission” wasn’t meant for the body of Christ; instead, we have a greater commission, and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began just as Paul was), which is why I suggest digging deeper into this important topic. Once you’ve learned how to rightly divide (not just the word of truth, but the light as well), you’ll be ready to dig deeper into the rest of Scripture with a framework that will make it that much more clear what else the Institutional Church has misinterpreted and mistranslated thanks to their pre-existing assumptions about what Scripture says.

Morality

There’s probably no better example of where the Institutional Church makes incorrect assumptions about what the Bible teaches than the ideas they hold on the topic of morality. Because many are under the mistaken impression that the Mosaic law is applicable to them, and also because they’ve been taught that certain things are sins that Scripture never actually calls sinful, they’ve got all sorts of mixed up ideas of what is right and wrong today. This causes religious Christians to try to be more moral than God Himself, acting just like modern day Pharisees, teaching that any number of actions, many of which are never even mentioned in the Bible, are forbidden simply because they either misunderstand Scripture or have never actually studied it for themselves and just assumed their religious leaders know what they’re talking about.

Before proceeding any further on this topic, I should discuss an important principle of the hermeneutics of hamartiology in Scripture that really should be obvious to all Christians but normally isn’t. As I’ve already said multiple times, the body of Christ isn’t under the Old Testament or the Mosaic Law. That said, some parts of it do still help us understand what sorts of actions would be considered to be sinful, and it also helps us interpret teachings, commandments, and exhortations in the Greek Scriptures in many places as well. Basically, if an action isn’t ever taught to be sinful anywhere in the Old Testament, to claim that it is wrong would be a major assumption that would require some serious (and “rightly divided”) exegetical support rather than the usual eisegesis that religious Christians commonly use to force their preconceived ideas about morality into the text. The parts of the Mosaic Law regarding morality made it pretty clear what people were commanded to do and avoid back then. In general, it wasn’t just vague commands that could mean multiple things; each sin mentioned in there was spelled out pretty specifically and plainly. So, when trying to understand what something we’re told is better to avoid in the Greek Scriptures actually means, we can’t just read our own modern ideas about morality into it. Instead, we have to ask ourselves how the original audience would have understood it back then in light of their understanding of the Old Testament (or even their lack of understanding in the case of Gentiles who weren’t necessarily entirely familiar with it).

For instance, you’ve probably been taught that premarital sex is a sin. While there definitely are sexual acts that should be avoided, this doesn’t seem to be one of them. The primary reason that most religious Christians are so against premarital sex is one little word: fornication. Depending on your English translation, you’ll find fornication criticized as a very bad thing that one should flee, and if you look fornication up in an English dictionary you will indeed find that it means sexual intercourse between unmarried partners. The problem is, the word translated as “fornication” in some translations of the Bible is the Greek word porneia (πορνεία), which does not literally translate to “premarital sex” as most Christians believe it does. Of course, some modern versions of the Bible now use term “sexual immorality” to render the word porneia, which is somewhat better than “fornication” as a translation, but it’s still quite problematic since it’s just a broad and general term that doesn’t tell us anything on its own about what sexual acts would actually be considered to be immoral. Whatever translation of this word we use, though, the most important thing to ask is what the word means, and the best scholars (see Vine, Thayer, Knoch, etc.) agree that the meaning of porneia is “illicit sexual intercourse” (or “unlawful intercourse between the sexes”).

If we take the term “illicit sexual intercourse” literally, it means sexual intercourse that breaks the law. Generally, here in the western world, premarital sex doesn’t break the law, and it certainly wasn’t against the law among the Gentiles Paul wrote to when he told believers to avoid porneia either. And if one digs into the Mosaic Law, they’ll see that it also wasn’t ever spelled out as a sin in there. While there were sometimes civil consequences for premarital sex among Israelites back in Bible times without first getting the permission of (and likely paying a brideprice to) a woman’s father (sadly, women were considered to be property in ancient cultures including that of Israel, and were often basically sold from one “owner,” her father, to a new “owner,” her husband, through marriage), and deceiving someone into thinking a woman was a virgin when she wasn’t so that her father would get a higher brideprice for her could also result in harsh penalties, premarital sex on its own was never specifically forbidden or called sinful in the Old Testament.

So what sexual acts would be considered illicit (or immoral) when the word porneia was used in Scripture? Well, it would, of course, cover the specific sexual prohibitions that actually were mentioned in the Mosaic Law, at least for followers of the Jewish religion. But it primarily spoke of sexual idolatry, referring to sleeping with temple prostitutes who did so as a part of worshiping other gods (in Bible times, Satan used sex to lure people into idolatry; today, now that temple prostitution is no longer a thing, he uses it instead as the new circumcision), although it could also be used in reference to sexual practices that actually were considered illicit by the culture in question, practices such as incest, for example (this particular instance of porneia actually demonstrates quite conclusively that premarital sex was not considered to be a sin. If it were, the Corinthian believers would never have even considered letting things go this far; they would have stopped long before accepting, and seemingly even taking pride in, this relationship happening among their church members if Paul or anyone else had previously taught them premarital sex fell under the category of porneia-based sins, and he also apparently forgot to tell them it was a sin in this epistle as well when he was telling them to avoid porneia, so one who claims it is sinful is just eisegeting their own preconceived moralistic bias into their interpretation of the word porneia in this and other parts of Scripture). In addition to these more literal interpretations, there was also a figurative meaning to the word (and its Hebrew equivalents in the Old Testament), having nothing to do with physical sex at all, but simply being a metaphor referring to outright idolatry.

The one thing it never meant, however, is premarital sex, or at least by now it should be obvious that there’s zero reason to believe it did (some will claim that Jesus’ comment about “lust” and “committing adultery in one’s heart” makes premarital sex sinful by default since you wouldn’t have sex without sexual desire, but as will become clear shortly, He was actually speaking about something else altogether there from what most people assume), despite the fact that your parents and pastor would probably prefer you believed it did. Of course, they likely only think they want you to. If they understood just how many STIs and unwanted pregnancies this teaching is responsible for, they might change their minds (unless they’re the vindictive sort who want those they consider to be sinners to be punished physically for defying their rules; I have known some religious Christians with this mentality). The idea that premarital sex is sinful causes many parents to actively make sure their kids don’t learn about condoms and birth control, but since pretty much an equal number of Christians have premarital sex as non-Christians (the religious can’t fight nature and biology any more than the rest of the world can), only without any knowledge of how to minimize the potential risks, young people in conservative areas or with religious parents tend to end up with more diseases and unwanted pregnancies than those who don’t, and if you’re going to judge a doctrine or religious teacher by its or their fruit, it’s easy to see that the traditional “Christian” view on sexuality is rotten to the core.

Premarital sex isn’t the only thing Churchianity has insisted that people shouldn’t participate in, however. There are so many other traditional religious ideas that aren’t in the Bible but that you’ve no doubt been told you must abstain from as well. For example:

Lust is always wrong. When you discover what “lust” actually refers to in Scripture you’ll realize that it is often encouraged, and that it’s also time to reconsider your thoughts on pornography as well. In fact, anyone who cares about women at all should be encouraging the spread and consumption of pornography because when porn usage increases, sexual assault decreases. To put it plainly, to “lust” in Scripture, in its original languages (epithymeō [ἐπιθυμέω] being the verb form of the word in Greek, and epithymia [ἐπιθυμία] being the noun), doesn’t simply mean to have sexual attraction to someone, but rather it just means to “covet” or “desire” something or someone, and sometimes lusting/desiring is a good thing (even Jesus “lusted/desired” according to the Bible). What Scripture does condemn when it comes to lusting is coveting something that already “belongs” (so to speak) to someone else, such as someone else’s property (or wife, since, again, women were considered to be property back then, unfortunately). But to enjoy the way someone looks, or even to fantasize sexually about someone, isn’t what is being criticized in the instances that epithymia actually is spoken against in Scripture; intent to take someone’s “property” without permission also needs to be there for the coveting to be wrong (otherwise, accepting  something you desire as a gift would also be wrong). So for epithymia over a woman to be considered “committing adultery in one’s heart,” in addition to needing to have intent to actually possess her, she would have to also belong to someone else already, which is, thankfully, not possible in the western world today since women are no longer considered to be property (and, of course, that passage wasn’t written to those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision anyway. But even if it was, the word “adultery” in that passage really tells us everything we need to know about the context of the passage; one couldn’t commit adultery with a woman who wasn’t married back then). In fact, those who do try to force sexual desire out of their (and others’) lives are actually demonstrating a symptom of a far more pernicious form of lust than any mentioned already, one which affects (and infects) those in Churchianity to a fatal degree. I’m referring, of course, to the religious lust of self-righteousness that religious Christians all live by as if it were the most important commandment God ever gave.

Abortion is condemned by the Bible as murder. Regardless of your feelings on abortion, it isn’t ever mentioned in the Bible; and since murder is a legal term, it can’t legitimately be defined as murder in places where it’s not illegal. Most Christians today also aren’t aware that abortion (at least if performed during much of the first two trimesters) was not actually considered to be wrong by most Christians throughout history. It’s only extremely recently that certain conservative Christians gained enough political power to sway nearly everyone to suddenly assume it was always thought to be a sin (not that we should base our theology on what religious Christians have historically considered to fall under the purview of “orthodoxy” or “orthopraxy,” of course, but it is still something interesting that anti-abortion Christians should be aware of).

Homosexuality is forbidden. This is a tricky topic, but whatever Scripture does say about homosexuality, at most one could argue that it might forbid anal sex between males outside the context of idolatrous prostitution (which is always wrong, and quite possibly what it’s actually forbidding according to many scholars). Regardless of whether it does, however, it doesn’t say anything about love, romantic relationships, or other forms of sexuality between males, and it definitely never says anything about love, romantic relationships, or sexuality between females (the passage in Paul’s epistle to the Romans about idolatry that some mistakenly use to argue against homosexuality does not actually condemn women lying with women as many believe, and may in fact be talking about women lying with animals when the context of worshipping the creature in that passage is taken into consideration, although it could also be argued that it instead refers to women participating in a certain sort of shrine prostitution. Either way, the idea of women lying with women had never previously been forbidden in Scripture, so there’s no reason to assume it was all of a sudden being forbidden at that point). As far as males go, as I mentioned, there are some who make persuasive arguments that it’s only idolatrous prostitution and rape between males that’s forbidden (much like the “porneia” issue between men and women), but I haven’t studied this issue enough myself to be dogmatic about it either way. What I will say, however, is that Scripture is very clear that it’s the anti-gay conservatives who are actually guilty of “the sin of Sodom” today, and I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of these religious conservatives at the final judgement.

Monogamy is the only acceptable form of romantic relationship. Honestly, I’m fairly certain that pretty much every Christian is aware of the fact that polygamy and other forms of non-monogamy (adultery in Bible times wasn’t defined the same way we do so today) were considered to be an acceptable practice for people (with the possible exception of local church overseers and deacons) by God in the Bible, but you’d never know it to hear them talk about it. Basically, those conservatives who claim they’re fighting to promote “traditional marriage” really aren’t (if they were, they’d be promoting polygamy at the very least), and I also personally happen to think that if monogamy was actually natural, cheating wouldn’t be so common in so many relationships (yes, even in Christian relationships).

Swearing is shameful. The Bible actually has plenty of profanity in it in its original languages. In fact, the only thing that looking down on profanity does is demonstrate what an unspiritual (and likely hypocritical) snob one is.

Drinking alcohol is not allowed. It’s definitely not pro-drunkenness, but the Bible actually recommends the consumption of alcohol in some places.

Dancing, movie theatres, certain music, card games, and various other “worldly” activities should be avoided. Some Institutional Churches are worse than others, and most aren’t this extreme, but these examples, along with the various so-called “sins” I’ve already covered, are a great example of how the religious like to add rules to the Bible that were never mentioned in there to begin with, or twist teachings that are in there to try to make them say things they never actually meant.

Look, the Bible already tells us plenty of things that God would like people to avoid without us needing to add to it (even if the list differs depending on which dispensation one is living under; it’s perfectly fine for members of the body of Christ to eat a BLT). In fact, Scripture even gives us a good list of things God hates. But there’s nothing at all about most of the things religious Christians dislike on that list, including the biggest hangup religious conservatives have (it seems the creator of sex is, understandably, a lot more liberal about sexuality than most humans are). What He does hate, however, is a lying tongue, and I suspect that religious lies are at the top of that list. Basically, if a particular action isn’t on one of those lists, insisting that it’s sinful and making new rules that God Himself never made is really lying about what God wants, just like the religious leaders in Jesus’ time did. And remember, it was those very same people who opposed Jesus, and who conspired to have Him (and, later, His apostles) killed. That’s right, it wasn’t the pagans, atheists, or liberal theologians who tried to eliminate Christ and His followers. Rather, it was the religious conservatives of His time who didn’t like the idea of freedom or grace who tried to squash those ideas (and those who preached them), just as they do today (as it was then, the greatest enemies of Christ and His true followers are still religious conservatives, even if these “ministers of righteousness” call themselves Christians now).

All of that aside, though, worrying about morality (at least the way conservative “Christians” understand morality) is a huge red herring. What followers of Churchianity forget is that all of the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” causes them to completely miss the point of Paul’s teachings to begin with (again, it’s Paul’s teachings that the body of Christ is supposed to concern itself with in the current dispensation). Starting with a flawed presupposition about doctrines like sin and grace will cause you to think that you’re supposed to be concerned with religious rules when being a member of the body of Christ is actually about something else altogether.

Bottom line, members of the body of Christ don’t actively try to avoid sinning by their own strength, since they are justified (and living) by faith, and are walking according to spirit, not according to flesh. Basically, never trust a teacher who tells you to avoid the appearance of evil, or who says you should “touch not; taste not; handle not.” And if you hear someone espousing “traditional family values” or telling you to follow the Mosaic law in any way, don’t walk; run! It means that they are very likely a wolf in sheep’s clothing, trying to lure you into their religious trap. At the very least, they are extremely confused and likely have nothing useful to teach you (at least from a spiritual perspective). Remember that, while not all things are a good idea, all things are permitted, and also that to the pure all things are pure (but those unbelievers in Paul’s Gospel who are pretending to be believers, likely lying even to themselves about their faith, have a defiled mind and conscience that causes them to consider pretty much nothing to be pure).

To be fair, The Bible does seem to teach that those Christians who happen to be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do have to be careful not to “lose their salvation,” so to speak, or they’ll miss out on the Millennial Kingdom, if not more. But as far as those of us in the body of Christ go, while we might not all get to reign, we are safe, as far as our salvation goes, regardless of what we do, because we’ve been justified from Sin rather than just forgiven of our sins.

Now please don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to think I’m telling you to sin here. I’m the last person who would want to encourage anyone to sin (although, if you aren’t accused of encouraging people to sin, you probably aren’t teaching the same things Paul taught about sin and grace, since this false accusation was also levelled against him). The problem is that, while nearly everything religious Christians think is sinful actually isn’t anyway, almost all of the actions and attitudes that they live by are extremely wrong (and often quite evil). As anyone looking in from the outside could tell you, greed, pride, fear, hunger for power, envy, prejudice, hypocrisy, malice, spite, and all manner of other actual sins are the hallmarks of most of Churchianity. That said, where sin increases, grace superexceeds, so even religious Christians can technically experience God’s grace (but as far as those who don’t embrace His grace go, I really wouldn’t want to be a conservative religious leader at the final judgement, and those who willingly follow these leaders are in for a world of sorrow at that time as well).

Politics

Regardless of one’s views here, however, whatever the Bible might actually say about morality within the body of Christ, it’s limited to the body of Christ, contrary to what so many in the Institutional Church seem to believe. Trying to force those who are not a part of the body of Christ to live a supposedly “Christian life,” by legal means or otherwise, is not even slightly justifiable. Nowhere in the Bible is it even hinted at that the body of Christ is called to influence (or force) our cultures to be more conservative or follow religious laws. In fact, the only thing we’re asked to do regarding the government is to obey the secular laws and to pay our taxes. Yes, in a democracy we the people technically help determine the secular laws to a certain extent, but there’s still zero biblical excuse for trying to create laws based on religious morality (especially when we consider the fact that most religious morality isn’t at all biblical, as already discussed). And culturally, there also isn’t any reason to go around putting down non-believers for doing things that go against one’s moralistic and legalistic sensibilities (particularly, again, since most of the things the religious think are sinful aren’t actually even slightly sinful to begin with), for trying to pressure the rest of the world into acting the way conservatives want them to, or for any number of the cruel or unnecessary actions that so many of the religious seem to feel obligated to perform against those in their communities and countries. Actions such as trying to get people fired, kicking people out of their homes, or not being willing to sell things to people, all based simply on who they happen to be attracted to or what gender they identify as, for example; or actions such as trying to enforce prohibitions against consuming certain beverages or plants, or at least enforcing prohibitions against purchasing such things on certain days of the week (to name just two of many examples). Any attempt to legislate religious morality, or to pressure the rest of the world into following one’s conservative leanings, will do nothing but drive people even further away from the faith one no doubt wants them to embrace, and will also continue to cause everyone to misunderstand what Christianity is actually about (hint: it’s not about trying to be as big of an asshole as possible towards those who don’t believe and act the way you do, as so many conservative “Christians” act like they think it is).

This is an important factor for parents to keep in mind too, by the way. Raising your kids to be good citizens who live peaceable lives is important, but trying to force people to live “godly lives” misses the entire point of Paul’s teachings. You can’t force the Holy Spirit into somebody, and trying to force people (children or grown adults) to live according to religious rules will only cause them to sin and rebel all the more, as Paul makes quite clear (that was the whole purpose of the existence of the Mosaic law, after all).

History is very clear about all of this as well, of course. When religious “morality” gains control of government, people suffer. There’s almost nothing scarier, or more antithetical to freedom, than a theocracy or theonomy (remember, it is for freedom that we have been set free; it wasn’t so we would put ourselves back under religious bondage). When religious conservatives run governments without a liberal and secular hand to restrain them, people are censored, fired, expelled from their homes, imprisoned, tortured, and even executed simply for their beliefs (or lack thereof), as well as for the most innocent of actions. If someone challenges the religious status quo or does things considered sinful in a theocratic society, religious conservatives become extremely evil towards such heretics and infidels (and even today in more secular countries you find religious conservatives trying to take or keep civil rights away from people who might live differently from them for no reason other than the fact that these differences might not line up with their religious beliefs). This is one reason I like to stay far away from religious conservatives in general (or at least only meet with them in public places). Perjury, assault, torture, theft, and killing are a major part of the heritage of nearly all conservative religions, and I have no doubt that many of them would bring that legacy back into practice if they could. That’s not to say all religious conservatives would do this if they had the opportunity, but I still wouldn’t want to take that chance. And regardless of their propensity towards violence, I have no doubt that most of them would definitely (and happily) fight against freedoms and civil rights for people who are different from them in various ways, particularly when it comes to sexuality, and I see no good reason to have much to do with people who would be so heartless and cruel.

Religious conservatives sometimes talk about a culture war, and they are right, there is one happening. The problem is, they’re on the wrong side of this battle. Conservatism is basically about greed, hunger for power, paranoia, racism, sexism, homophobia (among other forms of erotophobia), and just having a lack of empathy towards one’s neighbours in general. All of this ultimately leads to people trying to control the lives and actions of those who might be a little different from “the norm,” and religion only makes conservatism worse since it leads people to believe their harmful mindsets and actions are sanctioned (or even commanded) by God. So if you wonder why some of us remain wary of religious conservatives (“Christian” or otherwise), I hope it should be obvious at this point.

Church

As I’m sure you know, religious leaders don’t only tell us that certain things are forbidden. They also try to convince us that certain things are required. If you do attend traditional church services and become a member of a particular assembly, you’ll likely sit through a number of sermons meant to make you feel guilty if you don’t give them a percentage of your money on a regular basis, sermons that completely ignore the fact that the tithe was meant solely for followers of the Old Testament law. Christians in the body of Christ (Jewish or otherwise) are not supposed to follow the law of Moses, and those who do try to follow any of it are then under a curse and are obligated to follow all of it, according to Paul (that means no more bacon or shrimp, or clothes with mixed fabrics, or doing chores or running errands on Saturday).

Of course, a true biblical tithe is actually in the form of food, drink, or livestock, and only goes to the Levitical priests and to the poor (with the exception of the tithe that wasn’t given away at all, but was rather consumed by the tithers themselves). Unless your pastors are Levites who perform animal sacrifices, they have no scriptural basis for demanding it from anyone (no, not even Abraham’s tithe to Melchizedek helps their case, unless perhaps your pastor is the king of Salem and you’re tithing of the spoils you took from your enemies in battle). There’s absolutely nothing in the Bible about the body of Christ having to give a tenth of their money to their religious leaders or organizations.

While tithing isn’t a biblical idea for today’s believers, what is recorded as having apparently happened among the body of Christ is people giving financial gifts to those in financial need. They didn’t, however, just give money to pastors who simply wanted to live off church members’ hard-earned money or keep the power running in a church building.

Those church buildings and pastors themselves, by the way, are also a big problem, since modern church services, and the buildings themselves, don’t have any biblical justification for existing in the first place. The early church didn’t meet in chapels or temples specifically meant for Christian worship. Instead, they met in each other’s homes. And a gathering wasn’t a few songs and then a sermon by a pastor. There might have been songs, and even a speech or two, but the early church gatherings generally included a meal (“The Lord’s Supper” was a part of a real supper meant to demonstrate the communion or unity of the body of Christ; it wasn’t just a little snack) and discussions (actual conversations and dialogue rather than just a monologue by one preacher). Church buildings didn’t exist until quite some time later, when Christianity became more formal and institutional rather than relational.

To be fair, it’s not the buildings themselves that are the real problem; it’s the “organization” and lack of real, spontaneous, Spirit-led fellowship. Yes, you will almost certainly hear the word “fellowship” in most traditional church meetings, but you also almost as certainly won’t experience any there, despite how much so many pastors seem to love the word (it’s hard to fellowship with the back of someone’s head while sitting in pews listening to a sermon). But you can technically meet in a home and still be an Institutional Church, or rent a room and be a relational, Open Church (as biblical church gatherings are often called). As nice as a home gathering is, it’s really the openness and fellowship that are the important factors. That said, if a local assembly owns a whole building that they meet in — even if they just call it a chapel or a hall — you should probably stay far away. Owning a building for worship and sermons is a good  litmus test for a church, demonstrating that they likely know extremely little about biblical theology and what Scripture actually says. In fact, you’d be much better off spiritually in a strip club than in a so-called “house of God” (as many mistakenly call these buildings). At least in a strip club nobody is deceiving you about what Scripture teaches when they try to take a percentage of your money as you enjoy more of the beauty of God’s creation than you’re likely to ever experience in a church building (and I should say that I’m sorry if I’m making it sound like these buildings might not be good places to visit in general with the way I worded that; I do realize that it’s insulting to strippers to compare their places of employment to the buildings that people are routinely lied to about God in on a weekly basis by many pastors, so I hope they’ll accept my apology).

Speaking of those pastors, the idea of a pastor or priest or any professional clergyman who rules over a church (a word which simply refers to the “group” or “assembly” of believers in an area, by the way; it never referred to a building) isn’t in the Bible either. Local churches were overseen by a group of unpaid elders or overseers (or “bishops,” depending on your translation), not run by one paid man (that’s not to say that evangelists shouldn’t be paid to evangelize, but elders and evangelists aren’t necessarily always the same people). If you have one person leading (and performing the entire ministry in) a local gathering of believers, I would suggest not having much of anything to do with them or their gatherings if you value your spiritual (not to mention physical) wellbeing. And, just as a quick aside on the topic of spiritual things, the charismatic spiritual gifts that some pastors say one should have really aren’t meant for those in this dispensation today either. That’s not to say God can’t or doesn’t ever do miracles anymore; just that they’re the exception and not the rule while the reason for the sign gifts are temporarily paused.

Aside from tithing, there’s one more unbiblical tradition that religious leaders will condemn you for if you don’t do it on a regular basis, and that is attending their gatherings on the day they believe to be the Sabbath. Now this is one where various sabbatarian denominations are partially correct, while also being quite wrong about it at the same time. The Sabbath is indeed Saturday as they claim; it was never changed to Sunday (and Sunday is not the Lord’s Day either; the Lord’s Day, also known as the Day of the Lord, is an event that hasn’t happened yet). But since those of us saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision are not under the Mosaic law in any way whatsoever, it doesn’t really matter what day the Sabbath is. In the very beginning of the church, believers didn’t pick one specific day to gather together; they could meet any day of the week (possibly doing so more than one day a week, and very likely often happening later in the afternoon or evening after work rather than first thing in the morning). That said, there’s nothing technically wrong with meeting on a Sunday. In fact it’s often the most convenient day to do so on at this point in history since the Institutional Church has managed to convince most people that it is the new Sabbath thanks to the influence it’s had over our society, but it’s really not any different from any other day of the week so don’t feel any obligation to treat it like a special day.

And on the topic of esteeming certain days above others, be they new holidays invented by (or pagan holidays that were “Christianized” by) the Institutional Church (such as Lent, such as Easter, and such as Christmas, to name just three) or days that are observed by Jewish followers of the Mosaic law, while I don’t think it’s a great idea, I also don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to celebrate a specific day if it’s something one enjoys doing just for the fun of it (or if it’s something one who is weak in faith still feels they need to do). Just realize that none of these days are required for the body of Christ any more than the Sabbath is, and that nobody should be looked down upon for not participating in these “holy days.” And, of course, I hope that everyone is aware of the fact that Jesus didn’t actually die on a Friday, wasn’t crucified on the day we call Easter on our modern calendars, and wasn’t born on December 25th either (while it doesn’t really matter when He was born since we aren’t told to celebrate His birthday in Scripture, there’s good reason to believe it was actually in September or October on our modern calendar). That said, if you’re going to celebrate Christmas or Easter, I’d suggest doing so mostly from a secular perspective, focusing on the chocolates and eggs and gifts and such. To do otherwise (meaning, to celebrate them as remembrances of Jesus’ birth and death) is to know Christ after the flesh, which is something the body of Christ is called to move past.

Predestination

While there aren’t specific dates that we’re supposed to observe, there are specific ages that humanity experiences, although not everyone experiences them the same way. Only those few people God has elected (chosen) for eonian life (a transliteration that, as will be explained shortly, is a far superior rendering of what most Bible translations call “eternal life” or “everlasting life”) will be given faith and be reconciled (again, from a relative perspective; as I’ve said before, everyone has already been reconciled by Christ, from an absolute perspective, by His death and resurrection) and saved in this lifetime; they will get to live through all of the eons or ages to come (both those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and those under the Gospel of the Circumcision, even though these two groups will experience the next age differently from one another).

This faith is not something you can just decide to have, however. You can’t choose to believe the Gospel (either Gospel) without God first giving you the faith to believe (faith, especially the faith to believe the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, is not of yourself; it’s by grace, rather  — a gift of God to certain chosen people who are predestined for eonian life for a specific purpose), and to teach otherwise is to teach salvation by works.

I’m sure the idea that “choosing to accept Christ in order to be saved is actually salvation by works” goes against what most of Churchianity has probably taught you, but if you need to stop sinning and decide to choose Jesus as your lord and saviour in order to be be saved, how could it be anything else? The first part of that should be obvious enough, since forcing yourself to stop sinning in order to be saved is obviously a works-based salvation, but even having to choose to believe is a work. If you don’t agree with me, try choosing right now to truly believe in Thor as your lord and saviour. Can’t do it, can you? Forcing oneself to believe something that one hasn’t organically come to believe is one of the biggest mental works a person could do, and I doubt that anybody is actually capable of it. Regardless, even if someone could somehow brainwash themselves into believing something they really didn’t previously believe, it would still be an action (even if just a mental action) they had to accomplish to save themselves (or accomplish to participate in saving themselves). Pretty much every denomination and cult (not that there’s much difference) out there teaches salvation by a combination of Christ’s sacrifice plus our own “free will,” but if salvation is by grace plus something else, it’s ultimately salvation by works. Accepting Jesus as your saviour doesn’t mean choosing to allow him to save you (which would mean you would have a role in your own salvation, even if just the small role of making the right decision), but is rather accepting that he has already saved you after you’ve been given the gift of faith to believe the good news of your already existing reconciliation because of His death and resurrection. And if one isn’t among the elect, then judgement is a part of God’s sovereign plan for that person, and they couldn’t possibly believe the Gospel no matter how hard we try to get them to.

The sovereignty of God and His purposes for creation from before it all began is one of the most important factors in the Bible, yet very few people are aware that He has a reason for everything that has happened in creation, and has had very specific plans for the ages (and those in each age) from the beginning. In fact, thanks to bad translations of Scripture, most Christians aren’t aware of the concept of the ages (or the eons) at all. Rather, most religious Christians believe that God really hoped humanity wouldn’t sin, but is now on Plan B because we did. They don’t realize that everything about creation, be it good and evil, sin and righteousness, pleasure and suffering, faith and disbelief, even the Devil and the crucifixion, were all intended by God from before the beginning of creation. Of course, because of their soteriology, many people dislike the idea of predestination since it would mean God decides that certain (indeed most) people will suffer forever in a literal lake of fire. It’s only when one realizes that God has a specific reason for electing only certain people to be saved in this lifetime, and that nobody stays in hell forever (not to mention that both hell and the lake of fire probably aren’t what most people think they are), but rather that God actually had a plan all along that works out for everyone in the end (not just for every human but for every spiritual being as well), that one might come to understand that predestination is ultimately in our best interests. The Bible tells us that God takes credit for both the good and evil that exists in the world (even Satan was created the way he is for a specific purpose), as well as for who ultimately experiences reconciliation first and who has to wait until later, so I’m happy to let Him have the credit rather than blaming my so-called “free will” for it.

Speaking of which, many who are uncomfortable with the idea of predestination like to say things along the lines of, “God doesn’t want robots,” and teach that God gave us something called “free will” so we could decide to choose Him for ourselves. These people don’t understand that, aside from being unscriptural, “free will” is also a complete impossibility from a purely logical and scientific perspective and can’t actually exist in reality. That said, I don’t think most people know what the term “free will” even means. What it doesn’t mean is the ability to choose. We can definitely choose things; it’s just that those choices are all predetermined (we all have a will, it’s just not free), either by our nurture and nature (meaning life experiences and genetics), or by influences outside the sphere of the physical universe (such as by God). Remember, events always either have a cause or they don’t; there’s no way for an event (even an event such as a decision or choice) to be anything other than caused or uncaused. If it’s caused, it’s predetermined; if it’s uncaused, it’s random (which I doubt any religious Christian would think is better than being predetermined). Nobody has ever been able to give a third option that works within the limits of reality, which means it’s time to throw the idea of free will away and accept that God is fully in control, even when it comes to salvation and judgement. And don’t worry, this doctrine doesn’t mean you’re a robot. Because, honestly, that would actually give you too much credit.

Judgement

Just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive, but each in their own order. It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “so also shall all in Christ be made alive.” Rather, it’s a parallelism (everyone affected by the action of first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will; just as nobody had any say in joining in the first Adam, they also have no say in joining the last Adam) that also tells us there’s an order to when all shall be made alive. Paul is talking about three different orders or groups of humans to be made alive, and these three orders combined consist of all humanity. The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which refers to the body of Christ vivified (brought beyond the reach of death) at the “snatching away” (who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ among the celestials). The second is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring to those made fully alive at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom after the Tribulation period (people such as “Old Testament” saints and those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision, for example). And finally, “then cometh the end” (eîta tò télos [εἶτα τὸ τέλος] in Greek), referring to the “telos” of humanity (since he’s still speaking of this order of resurrection here), meaning the end or the rest of humanity, fully vivified either during the final age (known as the eon of the eons) or, more likely, at the consummation of the ages (after the final age is completed). So, while every human who is affected by the curse will also be equally (if not more so) affected by the cross, it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time. Only those predestined for eonian life will live through the eons or ages to come and experience salvation during those ages; everyone else will go through eonian death first.

What this judgement actually is, however, is a point that few people today ever come to understand. Most think it refers to “everlasting punishment” in a fiery place called hell, but this is a doctrine that didn’t exist among the first believers in Christ (and you won’t find it in the Scriptures Israel accepted – which Christians normally call the Old Testament – either, which is strange since you’d think God’s chosen people would have been warned about something so terrible). This is another great example of one of those pre-existing beliefs that caused many translators to mistranslate Scripture from its original languages, in this case causing them to translate Greek words like aiónios (αἰώνιος), which generally refers to a set period of time with a definite end, even if that end date is unknown (literally, “pertaining to an eon/age”), into words that mean “never ending.” Even if we were to translate it as “everlasting” or “forever” in some places (which I contend is a bad idea), we’d still have to interpret the word based on the context of the rest of Scripture, and aside from the fact that Scripture tells us everyone eventually will be saved, there are also plenty of things in the Bible that seem to be said to be everlasting (if one translates it that way) that it also says will eventually end, and Scripture even talks about a fire that will never be quenched or go out but that is not burning today, so good exegesis is imperative here if you’re going to translate it that way for some reason. In addition, while I don’t agree with all of his theology, the nineteenth century theologian J. W. Hanson also did a good job of demonstrating from extra-biblical writings that these words didn’t mean “everlasting” outside of Scripture back then, so there’s no reason to believe they do in Scripture either (outside of preconceived doctrinal bias, of course).

Because of these presuppositions and bad translations or interpretations, most religious Christians are under the impression that, while God tried to save everyone through Christ’s sacrifice, He will ultimately fail when it comes to 99% of humanity since He just isn’t powerful enough to convince them to choose the right religion, probably because He didn’t make most people smart enough or wise enough to come to the right decision in the first place. Those who believe this aren’t aware that God’s purpose for the ages was never about hoping people will choose the right religion so they can be among the lucky few who escape never ending torture, but rather that He saves those who are helpless to save (or even participate in saving) themselves (although, again, each in their own order).

Aside from being completely unscriptural, the horrible doctrine of everlasting torment in hell is also probably the biggest cause of religious evil. How so? First, it’s caused millennia of psychological torture for children (and adults). Somehow, religious parents have rationalized the idea that instilling the fear of this mythological torture chamber into their children is a good thing, but all it does is cause sleepless nights for millions of kids who are terrified they or their loved ones will suffer horrific agony for eternity with no chance of escape if the wrong decision or action is made (Evangelical “end times” beliefs should also never be taught to young people for similar reasons; based on the testimony of so many, my own included, I would recommend that parents not let their offspring be exposed to the topic of eschatology until their very late teens if they value the mental wellbeing of their children).

Perhaps worse, though, is the fact that once this doctrine has been completely absorbed into the psyche it makes emotional empathy an extremely difficult thing to possess, causing religious people to think it’s okay to reject and even eject family members (sometimes from their own homes) who believe differently from them, and discriminate against or even be violent towards people who don’t follow their religion or who might not think certain actions are actually wrong (“if God is going to torture people forever in the afterlife for even the smallest infraction, what’s a little temporary violence in this life?” is what it seems many religious people believe).

Aside from the fact that anybody who sat down to actually think about it would realize no sin or crime could ever warrant torture that lasted forever, however, the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, not never ending torment. If the punishment for sin was nonstop pain, then Jesus would have to still be suffering for our sins (and would need to continue doing so forever).

Fortunately, there isn’t anything in the original Hebrew or Greek that implies that hell (which itself is a bad translation of multiple words that actually refer to different places from each other) lasts forever anyway (in fact, it says the exact opposite), nor that the lake of fire (which is different from hell) does either when properly interpreted. Not even the story of the rich man and Lazarus helps support the idea of everlasting torment when it’s properly understood (unless you believe Lazarus was literally sitting inside Abraham’s chest, and that there’s actual physical water in the spirit realm. It’s funny how things pertaining to “hell” are literal in their mistranslations until they’re not when it comes to Churchianity; see also the lack of bodily mutilation and the general lack of helping the needy among religious Christians who don’t understand right dividing as similar examples).

What few religious Christians seem to understand is that, when Jesus spoke about the future, He wasn’t talking about ethereal, spiritual “places” in another dimension called heaven and hell. Rather, He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven (an actual physical 1,000-year long kingdom here on Earth that is sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom), Gehenna (an actual physical garbage dump in Israel, although it’s quite pleasant at the moment, that Jesus’ Jewish audience would have immediately recognized as a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy about the place the corpses of lawbreakers during the Millennial Kingdom would be burned and devoured by worms in), and Hades (which is simply the word used in Scripture for Sheol, the Hebrew word for the grave — or, more literally, “the unseen” — when written or spoken in Greek). Basically, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual realm called heaven for the righteous when He spoke (nor did He ever offer anybody everlasting or eternal life either, since eventual everlasting life for everyone is already a given thanks to His death for our sins and subsequent resurrection, which is actually what the Good News that is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is proclaiming), nor was He warning about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners. Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy eonian life on Earth during the next age or two in His message while on Earth/teaching those elected for the body of Christ how to enjoy eonian life among the celestials during the next two ages in the message He gave Paul after He physically left Earth (while everyone eventually gets everlasting life, only a small number of people will experience eonian life; only those who believe that the Good News that applies to them is a fact will get eonian life) , and B) warning them about how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having your dead body displayed in public in Gehenna (also on Earth), not to mention missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom (and quite possibly the next age after that as well) because they’d be dead (which would be what eonian death refers to). These (and many other) facts, combined with the fact that Scripture is quite clear that everyone eventually will experience reconciliation and immortality (yes, even those who commit the supposedly “unforgivable sin”), makes it pretty obvious that the only reason for the morally and spiritually depraved followers of religion to continue believing in a demonic doctrine like everlasting torment after learning these truths is because they want to believe it (and continuing to believe and teach it tells the rest of us just how hardened their hearts and cauterized their consciences are, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the ages). Sadly, the religious only seem to want Good News as long it’s not too good.

So, while everyone will eventually enjoy immortality (everlasting life), those who aren’t predestined for eonian life will first go through judgement (not to be confused with punishment), and some will even experience the second death. However, at the consummation of the ages, the grave (which is all that hell really refers to as far as anyone in this dispensation is concerned) will have no victory and death (all death) will have no sting because it will have been destroyed, and God will be “all in all.” This truth is lost on those who are lost thanks to their slavery to the demonic teachings of the Christian religion, but if this weren’t the case (if most of humanity were to suffer consciously in the lake of fire forever), all this judgement would do is torture the majority of people who ever existed nonstop, which would serve no purpose at all other than to stand as an everlasting reminder that God was a failure in ridding creation of evil, ultimately making Him and Jesus A) monsters (only the most horrific of monsters could force, or even allow, someone to be tortured forever; the worst person to ever live could never do anything like that, but religious Christians want to accuse God of doing so), and B) the biggest sinners of all. Thankfully, that’s not the case. In the end, God will successfully destroy evil, sin, hell, and death (again, all death; even the second death). To be true to Himself, He has to, since His purpose and character have never been to cast people away forever.

Deity

In addition to understanding the purpose of God for the ages, one also has to understand the character of God, and those who teach everlasting torment in hell seriously slander the character of God. In fact, misunderstanding the character (and nature) of God might be one of the biggest causes of the presuppositions that led to religious Christians making the five big mistakes I listed at the beginning of this article, which in turn are the source of all the confusion within Churchianity I’ve been writing about.

God has many attributes, but perhaps the most important way to understand God is to remember that while the Bible tells us that God has wrath, it also tells us that God is love (and not the other way around). Religious Christians will claim to agree with this statement, of course, but they completely fail to understand what love is. Among all the other things that Paul tells us love is, he tells us that love always perseveres and never fails. Yes, those God loves He chastens, but the purpose of this is to help, not hurt; it isn’t simply an end in itself. And since He loves the whole world, He’ll chasten the whole world, even if in different ways at different times for different people.

What the religious always forget is that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, so if you want to truly understand the character of God, all you have to do is look at what we’re told about Him. For instance, Jesus often kept His teachings a secret from those who weren’t meant to understand them at that time, speaking in parables so that “seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand,” which tells us that not all of God’s truths are intended for everyone to understand just yet (not even religious Christians who are reading this, most of whom have already rejected everything I’ve written here since they haven’t been called to grasp the truth yet). But even with His truth hidden from most, we also see that Jesus insisted on extreme forgiveness (seventy times seven, and even forgave those who killed Him), and ultimately sacrificed Himself to save the world. When you want to interpret Scripture, you have to ultimately do so using a hermeneutic that begins with Christology. If you don’t do that, it’s easy to misunderstand the passages about judgement, and just as easy to forget that everything in Scripture needs to be read with His character and His purpose for creation in mind.

It’s no wonder that so many misunderstand the character of God, though, when they also misunderstand the nature of God, thinking that Scripture teaches God to be three people rather than one. Within Churchianity it’s incredibly common to assume that one can’t be a true Christian without believing in the “orthodox” tradition known as the trinity, which is ironic since, in addition to the fact that it’s a tradition that is completely contradicted by Scripture, (even by the famous John 1:1 passage that so many mistakenly assume is teaching this doctrine), one can’t even join the body of Christ while truly believing in this doctrine (since it means they don’t believe Christ actually fully died for our sins, but that only His body did; God can’t die, so if one believes that Jesus is God, they don’t believe that Jesus truly died), so I would posit that the reason it’s become one of the most important ideas in the Christian religion is because Satan wanted to make sure as few people as possible could become a part of the body of Christ and take his reign from him during the future ages. I’d also suggest that belief in the trinity might keep those under the Gospel of the Circumcision from eonian life as well, since belief that Jesus is the son of God is required for salvation under that Gospel, and the trinity teaches that Jesus is “God the Son” (really nothing more than a title for a certain part of God) rather than the actual Son (offspring) of God.

Deception

The trinity is just one of the various “orthodox” traditions that Satan made sure were taught in the Christian religion to keep one from eonian life under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. The others, of course, are everlasting torment in hell (if someone believes that anybody at all is left behind in the grave at the consummation of the ages as a punishment for sin, they don’t believe Jesus actually died for our sins, taking care of them Himself, but rather believe that we still have to do something about our sins ourselves), free will (if we have to do something about our own sins, even something as simple as making the right decision, it was us who finally dealt with our sins at the end of it all rather than Christ taking care of it all through His death and resurrection — He only performed the first step; we had to complete the final step ourselves by making the right choice, making us our own saviours, or at least partial saviours), and the immortality of the soul (most Christians aren’t aware that the dead know nothing; and if the soul is immortal then, again, that means Jesus didn’t truly die, only His body did). Ultimately, belief in any of these traditional “orthodox” doctrines means one hasn’t fully believed Paul’s Gospel and has not joined the body of Christ.

Basically, if something is an important teaching or practice (or is considered to be an “orthodox” tradition) in the Christian religion, it’s pretty much always safe to assume that it’s a doctrine of demons and that the opposite is true instead. When it comes right down to it, there’s almost nothing that the Institutional Church gets right about God or Scripture. Although some denominations do occasionally stumble upon parts of certain truths seemingly accidentally, it’s extremely rare, and no one denomination within Churchianity ever seems to get more than two or three things at most somewhat right — and even then, they rarely understand even a small portion of the full implications of the parts they sort of appear to grasp. It seems Satan works hard to keep people in these denominations from joining the body of Christ, and also to use these churches to keep the rest of the world from learning spiritual truth as well. Using bad translations and even worse interpretations, Satan’s false apostles, deceitful workers, and ministers of righteousness within Churchianity (aka the conservative leaders and teachers within the Christian religion) have hijacked the Bible, convincing billions that Scripture is actually a much more conservative set of documents than it really is, and have also managed to deceive billions into thinking that God is capable of allowing never-ending torture to occur (causing people to reject God altogether thanks to the monstrous false image of God we’ve been told is the real God). These lies, along with the deceptions that keep the majority of humanity (including many Christians) from experiencing eonian life, make the Christian religion the most nefarious cult (which, ultimately, is what the failure known as the Christian religion really is: an idolatrous cult of confusion, hypocrisy, guilt, erotophobia, and terror) there is. The truths of actual scriptural Christianity sets people completely free, but the conservative “orthodox” teachings of traditional Christianity only enslaves people into the bondage of religion through its rules, discrimination, and shame.

That’s not to say that all Christians who believe in free will or everlasting punishment will definitely miss out on eonian life, however (although my belief is that a pretty large number of people who call themselves Christians very likely will). I personally suspect that some Christians outside the body of Christ will still experience the next age. It’s just that, due to their ignorance, those Christians are unknowingly under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead of the Uncircumcision. So, while most Christians aren’t a part of the body of Christ and will miss out on celestial blessings in the next age (and even in this age), some of them might still get to enjoy the impending age here on earth if they follow the requirements of their particular Gospel (and don’t try to mix their Gospel with Paul’s Gospel; it’s either one or the other). As Cornelius demonstrated in the book of Acts, even Gentiles can be saved under that Gospel. However, they might not experience the full blessings that Israelites saved under it will, so if they are able to believe the Gospel given to us by Paul instead, they’ll be much better off.

Conclusion

I could go on and on about the multitude of ideas that religious Christians are ridiculously confused about thanks to the flawed assumptions they begin with, and a lack of desire to actually take the time to pick up a concordance and dig into what the Bible really says, taking their pastor’s word for it instead, but that should be more than enough to explain why I couldn’t ever return to a modern Evangelical or Protestant congregation. Not that I’d be welcome back at one anyway, if I ever wanted to return. At least not if I refused to keep my mouth shut about the various things actually taught in the Bible. So perhaps the real question shouldn’t be why I couldn’t return to a traditional church, but why you yourself might still consider having anything to do with such an unbiblical, not to mention harmful, institution.

Now, I suspect that most of what I’ve written here is brand new for many of you, and that you’re not sure what to believe (or think it’s so foreign to what you were taught growing up that you’ll just reject it out of hand). However, for those chosen few of you who do dig deeper and then realize that you need to reject Churchianity and organized religion, you’ll be left wondering what you should do instead. Well, first of all, it means that you get to sleep in on Sunday mornings if you want to. Beyond that, however, if you can find an Open Church that actually teaches what the Bible says, it might be a good group to check out. Otherwise, just keep studying the Bible (you’re better off not participating in any church gathering than you are attending an Institutional Church. Yes, it’s beneficial to fellowship with likeminded believers, but you won’t find many likeminded believers in the traditional denominations, at least not if you happen to agree with what I’ve mentioned in this article). Bottom line, to those of you who are inspired to do so, pull out your Bibles (preferably a good literal translation; if you’re going to really study Scripture in depth, don’t use a translation as badly flawed as the King James Version), concordances, and Hebrew and Koine Greek dictionaries, fire up your search engines, and start studying to “shew thyself approved.” Be warned, however, that if you do come to the conclusions I have about the Bible, you’ll likely be called a heretic by the “orthodox” members of Churchianity, and even shunned by many of them. But to that threat I simply repeat the words of A. E. Knoch: “Heretic” is the highest earthly title which can be bestowed at this time.

Postscript

I’d like to think it would go without saying, but in case it doesn’t, I should point out that just because I link to a video or other article doesn’t mean I agree with everything the creators of said videos and articles believes, so you’ll have to be careful to “eat the meat and spit out the bones,” so to speak, when reading them. I should also say that this article is constantly being updated with new thoughts, as well as new links to more supporting articles and videos, so if you’re curious to learn more as I edit and add to the article, refresh it and reread it regularly. And please do click all the links and learn what the supporting materials in them teach, since I couldn’t possibly fit it all into the article itself.

Profane Hypocricy

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

It’s said that Tony Campolo would often begin speeches with the previous quote, and it’s a great example of how certain people get offended by the wrong things.

People all over the world, even the western world, are being persecuted solely on the basis of who they happen to be sexually attracted to. Much of the time this persecution is perpetuated by those claiming to follow Christ. People in the US are going into debt because they had the gall to get sick or be injured and require medical care, and many of the people insisting this debt should continue to be forced upon them are also Christians. Children and adults alike are going hungry all over the world, even in America, while there’s more than enough food in the world to feed every single one of them. Many women, often while they’re still just children, are forced to be sex slaves, even here in the west. People are arrested and thrown into prison every day for the crime of ingesting (or even simply possessing) a plant that God created, while actually harmful drugs are allowed to be created by greedy companies and sold to us in order to make these rich men even richer. And politicians continue to create unjust and harmful laws all over the world, again, even here in the west; and what’s worse, a large majority of people often actually support these laws because they think their deity will bless them if these rules are created and obeyed.

Most of us have become desensitized to these tragic everyday realities. Honestly, most of us really just don’t care (if we cared we’d do something about it). Yet, while these horrible things don’t phase most Christians anymore, some still get terribly offended when they hear certain sounds or read specific combinations of letters. And, let’s be honest, that’s all swearing or profanity really is.

I’m not going to exegete all the passages in the Bible about language, though I will quickly point out that saying “oh my God” isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain since “God” isn’t even close to being the Lord’s name in Scripture (and the commandment isn’t talking about profanity either anyway; it’s basically referring to perjury after swearing not to while using the Lord’s name in your oath). Instead I’ll point out the hypocrisy, not to mention haughtiness, of having trouble with profanity.

All profanity means is “outside the temple,” ie., anything that isn’t sacred. I won’t get into the problems with the secular/sacred dualism most Christians hold to, but technically anything non-religious is “profane,” not just certain words. However, pretending for a moment that certain words are more profane than others, the idea that words can be bad in the first place quickly becomes comical when you begin to deconstruct the idea.

Let’s break it down. Is it the particular combination of letters, or the specific sound the word makes when spoken, that makes a word wrong to use? It’s obviously ridiculous to think so, otherwise the words “damn,” “hell,” and “ass” shouldn’t be read in the KJV Bible, or said in a homily, as they’d be just as inherently bad in Scripture or sermon as when spoken in everyday parlance.

Is it the meaning behind the word? If so, simply saying “sexual intercourse” (or “rats” or “ouch” any other number of euphemisms) would be just as bad as saying “fuck;” and “crap” or “faeces” would be just as bad as saying “shit.”

Is it the intent behind the words? For instance, is it okay to say fuck if you’re referring to sex, or just using it as a playful adjective, but wrong to use in anger against another person? I’m okay with this, but only as much as I am with the idea that we shouldn’t be saying anything with the intention of hurting another person (whether in anger or not), regardless of what words we’re using.

When it comes right down to it, getting offended by these “vulgar” words implies that you think you’re too good to hear everyday, common language, and that you probably need to be brought down a peg or two.

Honestly, the old childhood saying about sticks and stones is true, and words can only hurt you if you let them. But, if you really insist on being offended by certain words, how about choosing to be offended by those words intended to hurt people who don’t happen to share your particular values or preferences instead of words that simply add a bit of colour to everyday speech.

But I’ll make a compromise. Get offended by the many injustices and atrocities being committed not only around the world but even in your own backyard, and I mean offended enough to actually do something about it, and I’ll try to pretend you’re not a snob when you turn up your nose at everyday language. And I won’t even say the word uterus around you if that helps.

Bible Verses to Help in Your Fight Against Abortion

Have you ever wanted to come up with a good 1-2 punch from the Bible to help you win arguments about why God hates abortion? Well, now you can. Here are the only passages you need to know to turn your abortion loving friends against killing babies:

  • Exodus 20:13 – “Thou shalt not kill.”

Well, that isn’t going to work if we’re going to support the death penalty and war and cops carrying guns in the line of duty. Let’s see… Oh, I know. Other translations put it as, “You shall not murder.” That’s better. Hmm… Except that murder technically means “illegal killing,” and if abortion is legal then it can’t actually be labelled murder. Well, let’s find a better passage then.

  • Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

Great! No, wait, all that really tells us is that God knew Jeremiah before he was born. Hmm… does this mean that we exist as spirit babies before we’re born? This is going to help Mormons defend some of their theology, but all it does for the rest of us is explain that God foreknew Jeremiah’s existence and planned for him to become a prophet beforehand, so we’d better keep this one under wraps if we don’t want to have to wear special undergarments. Anyway, it doesn’t tell us that God hates abortion like we know He does from the Bible, so we’d better find those passages telling us that He does.

  • Psalm 139:13-16 “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”

I’m not sure what that says, let’s check the NIV. Oh, that’s just more of Jeremiah 1:5, explaining God’s foreknowledge and predestination. Since most of us want to keep believing in free will, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take that passage too literally anyway. Moving on…

  • Luke 1:39-42 “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”

Yes! Babies in the womb can leap when the Holy Spirit inspires them to do so. Although, on second thought, what does that have to do with abortion? Drat, I thought I was onto something there. Well, let’s see what else I can find. Hmm… I’m out of passages. Well, at least we know that God loves children and would never do anything to harm them:

  • 2 Kings 2:22-24 “So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake. And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”

Whoa, God sent bears to kill children for making fun of someone’s baldness? That’s scary. Maybe He only loves children while they’re still in the womb. It’s a good thing we’ve got all those passages explaining that He does, isn’t it?

Disclaimer: This post isn’t meant to support either the pro-abortion or anti-abortion positions. The only point is that the Bible can’t be used to defend the idea that God hates abortion or is pro-life. God does LOTS of killing and sanctioning of killing, even of children, according to the Bible, so it isn’t in your best interest to try to use it to fight abortion.

Also, if you believe in everlasting torment in hell and the age of accountability, you should be hoping that every pregnancy ends in abortion.

All Things Are Permitted

There’s a very simple bit of theology that the church in general doesn’t seem to have caught onto yet: According to the Bible, we can do whatever we want to do (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Does the Bible really tell us we’re free to sin? Yes, technically it does. We can do pretty much anything and we’re still covered by grace. In fact, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

However… just because we CAN do whatever we want doesn’t mean we SHOULD do whatever we want. While 1 Corinthians 6:12 does tell us that everything is permitted (or lawful, depending on your translation), it goes on to remind us that not everything is expedient or profitable. Remember, your actions are going to have consequences, both to you and to others.

And not only do we have to consider the possible negative consequences, there’s the fact that the more we give in to harmful desires, the more we can become enslaved to harmful habits. Since the whole point of Christianity is supposed to be freedom (it’s for freedom you’ve been set free, Paul says in his letter to the Galatians), being enslaved by harmful desires is no better than being enslaved to religion.

The bottom line is, don’t let any religious leader tell you you’re not allowed to do something, but it’s also a bad idea to let any habit or desire rule your life. And always consider what the consequences of your actions might be, not only to yourself, but to others as well.

That being said, not everything that we’ve been taught to believe is sinful or harmful by our religious leaders actually is sinful or harmful. I brought up one of these “sins” in my recent post on premarital sex. The problem is, there’s a lot of confusion, and even outright misinformation, about some of the things that we’ve been taught are wrong to do. This means we should each reevaluate our ideas of what some of the things we might personally need to avoid are, but we also need to keep in mind that some of the things which might be harmful or habit forming for me might not be the same for you, and vice versa.

However, there’s still one more factor to consider. Even if we know that an activity is completely harmless to us, some of our brothers and sisters won’t have the same understanding we do, which can lead them into harmful habits themselves if they don’t understand proper balance. Similarly, many of them (most of them, in all honestly) don’t have very strong faith in God’s grace, and publicly practicing certain activities they consider to be sinful can cause some of them to stumble at times, so abstinence, at least publicly, might be the advisable course of action in some situations (though less often than you might think. Helping someone remain “weak” in their faith isn’t necessarily doing either of you any favours). This, of course, brings up all sorts of other questions, but those will have to wait for another post.

Disclaimer: Just because something is covered by grace or is not against God’s law doesn’t mean it isn’t against one of man’s laws. This post is not meant to encourage anyone to break any of the laws of the land where they live, as unjust as certain laws may be.

Dialogue With an Evangelical: The Movie

Three years ago, I shared a little dialogue between myself and a random evangelical on the subjects of hell and Christian Universalism.

For the fun of it, I decided to make up a short video of that discussion using those talking bears I’ve been seeing around the web over the last few months.

It seems to have a couple unusual pauses in the dialogue for reasons I haven’t determined yet, but otherwise it seems to have come out well for my first attempt at a video.

Avoid Sexual Immorality

A few months ago I pointed out that not only can lust be a good thing according to the Bible, but that even Jesus lusted. I also claimed that the Bible actually says a lot less about premarital sex than we’ve been told it does. Here’s a quick explanation of why I said that.

If you grew up human, you probably know that those in the Christian religion normally condemn premarital sex (along with various other sexual practices that seem to make them squirm). They’ll usually tell you that this is because God also condemns it in the Bible. Of course, like nearly everything else, they generally haven’t actually studied whether or not Scripture really says what they think it says.

The primary reason that most Christians are so against premarital sex is one little word: fornication. Depending on your English translation, in the New Testament you’ll find fornication criticized as a very bad thing that one should flee, and if you look fornication up in an English dictionary you will indeed find that it means sexual intercourse between unmarried partners. The problem is, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English.

The word translated as “fornication” in the Bible is the Greek word porneia (πορνεία). The thing is, this word does not literally translate as “premarital sex” the way the religious would like you to believe it does. In fact, it’s generally agreed that the most accurate translation of porneia is “illicit sexual activity” (or “illegal sexual activity”).

The most obvious question, of course, is what exactly constitutes “illicit sexual activity.” Of course, if one has been brought up with the presupposition that premarital sex is wrong then one will naturally assume that it falls into this category (hence the “fornication” translation in many Bibles). But one should never make assumptions when it comes to theology, even if it is the easiest route to take.

If we take the term “illicit sexual activity” literally, it means sexual activity that breaks the law. Generally, here in the western world, premarital sex doesn’t break the law, and it certainly wasn’t against the law among the gentiles Paul wrote to when he told believers to avoid porneia either.

The truth is, the word porneia actually had multiple meanings, depending on how the word was being used. It spoke of sexual idolatry in some cases, referring to sleeping with temple prostitutes who did so as a part of worshiping other gods. It could also be used in reference to sexual practices that actually were considered illicit by the culture in question, practices such as incest, for example. There was also a spiritual meaning to the word, having nothing to do with physical sex at all. The thing to take away from all this is that we can’t simply take the word and force the meaning of premarital sex onto it, despite the fact that your pastor would probably prefer you did.

Now, I could go over each occurrence of the word porneia in the New Testament with you, but it would be better for you go over them for yourself. Here’s every occurrence of the word in the KJV where it’s translated “fornication.” What I want you to do is read each passage and replace the word “fornication” with the word porneia in your mind, and then think about whether premarital sex is what the passage is definitely talking about. I think you’ll find that, at least in most (if not all) cases, there’s little to no justification for making that assumption.

The Problem With the Origin of Evil

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to an excellent series on the topic of questioning God over the existence of suffering and evil. It’s been an interesting look at the question of why God allows evil and suffering in the world, as well as asking whether it’s okay to be upset with God over it.

The reason for this post isn’t to get into whether it’s okay, however, but rather it’s because I became very uncomfortable while listening to today’s sermon on the topic of the origin of evil. He asked all the right questions, and brought up the logical argument that if God is all powerful and all knowing then He must ultimately be responsible for its existence. He then decided that, since God couldn’t have created evil, it must originate in man’s free will. I had a couple problems with this, the first being the sudden assumption, seemingly out of nowhere, that God couldn’t possibly have been responsible for evil’s existence.

I know that it seems like a noble thing to try to take the blame away from God, but doing so also takes away from the godness of God (or perhaps we should say the sovereignty of God, to use a more theological term).

Trying to blame humanity’s free will also causes problems. I’ve written about this before, but human “free will” is a complete logical impossibility. We can make choices, but those choices are predetermined by our nurture and nature (both physical and spiritual). Sure, we have a will, but it’s anything but free. There’s no way around this that I’m aware of, and to simply wave our hands and say free will exists because we want it to doesn’t actually give us any answers or help us in any way.

Despite what I’m assuming is his desire to keep the blame for evil from falling on God, both logic and the Bible tell us that God is responsible. If God knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin (presuming the story in Genesis 3 actually literally happened) and still created them anyway, then He has to take the responsibility; there’s just no way around it. Considering the fact that free will doesn’t exist, there was no way that they weren’t going to eat the fruit. If God didn’t want evil to exist He never would have created the fruit or the talking snake.

In the end, though, God ultimately takes responsibility for evil anyway (at least He does if you believe the Bible). In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (for those who aren’t using a Bible with Strongs numbers, the word for “evil” there is the Hebrew word ra`, the same word used in the name of the tree Adam and Eve ate from, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”).

We also read, in Amos 3:6, “shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”

And finally, simply put, “all things are of God” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

It might seem honourable to try to blame humanity for evil, but God Himself takes the credit so we might as well let Him have it.

Having said all that, I also want to point out that using the word “evil” can completely distract us from the real problem, which is suffering. As I’ve previously written about, evil doesn’t actually exist as an ontological “thing” (which, thankfully, the preacher does briefly acknowledge). Suffering, however, is very real, and most of it originates in what we call “acts of God” (the figure of speech we use just goes to show that we recognize, even if only on a subconscious level, that God is ultimately responsible for the suffering we experience in this life).

There’s more I could say on all that, but I’ll end off by pointing out one more common evangelical assumption he made in the sermon, the idea that Satan was once good but fell from grace at some point in the past due to pride. The truth is, there’s nothing in the Bible that actually comes out and says this. In fact the Bible actually says that the devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), which indicates he was probably never actually good. There are a couple passages that evangelicals tend to read into when trying to back up this Christian urban legend, but it’s not good exegesis in my humble opinion.

All that being said, nobody is perfect, and I still think this preacher is pretty good on a lot of other topics as well.

The Lusts of the Flesh

Is it wrong to lust after an attractive girl? Did Jesus ever lust? I’ve been meaning to write about the topics of lust and sex for a little while now, but a friend of mine beat me to it. So, before I get into the subject myself, I want you to first watch Martin Zender talk about it in his biweekly Crack O’Dawn Report:

It’s not just Jesus who lusted (seriously, watch the video), the Old Testament prophets did too (“desire” in that passage is the same Greek word translated “lust” in Matthew 5:28). Not only that, the Apostle Paul tells us that lust can even be a good thing at times (again, same Greek word being used for “desire”).

It all comes down to context. When Jesus compared lust to adultery, He was most likely referring to coveting a woman who already belonged to another man, not to simply finding a single girl sexually appealing (the same Greek word is also translated as “covet” in at least one passage).

The Christian religion might be primarily about sexual repression (okay, it is; there’s no “might be” about it, despite what people might say), but the Bible isn’t as against sexual desire as most Christians believe it is. It even says less about premarital sex than most people may think, but I’ll get into that in a future post.

Questioning Your Presuppositions

While truly questioning one’s theological presuppositions is rare among Christians, the real hallmark of a heretic is that he or she is willing to reject the ideas that conflict with reality, regardless of how orthodox said beliefs may happen to be and how much trouble he or she might get into for following the evidence no matter where it leads.

Growing up in the evangelical church, I was trained to believe all sorts of doctrines based on my denomination’s ideas of what the Bible says. We were taught that people who didn’t become Christians before they died would suffer forever in hell. We were taught that having sex is pretty much the worst thing that someone can do unless one met very specific requirements such as being married to the person you were sleeping with and being the opposite genders of each other. We were taught that drinking alcohol is wrong if it isn’t during communion. And we were taught that, every Sunday, people should gather in a building to sing and listen to a presentation by a pastor or elder and then give money to the people running the building.

What most rarely did, however, was ask why we should believe and do (or avoid) these things. If one of us did happen to wonder aloud about any of these doctrines, we were simply told that the Bible teaches these things and we were possibly shown a passage or two of Scripture that seemed, at least on first glance, to support these ideas. What we weren’t shown were any contextual reasons for interpreting the passages the way we were told we should, or given any proof that the English versions of the Bible we were using were translated accurately. And, perhaps most importantly, we were never told why we should consider the Bible to be inerrant, or even the basis of spiritual truth, in the first place.

Most people in the churches I grew up in were happy to take the doctrines they were taught for granted, trusting that their pastors and teachers must know what they’re talking about and believing that their leaders wouldn’t lie to them (even unknowingly). A few of us, however, weren’t content to simply accept “because the Bible says so” as gospel truth. We got right down to the foundations of our faith and questioned the validity of ideas like biblical inerrancy, and even if we accepted that there is truth in Scripture, we didn’t blindly trust that the translators were without bias or error in their English versions. And, after much investigation, we concluded that many of the doctrines we had been taught were actually being read into Scripture based on the presuppositions of our church leaders as opposed to legitimately being interpreted from Scripture without bias.

Of course, coming to theological and spiritual conclusions contrary to those that we’d been taught didn’t make us popular. Despite what you might hear, Christians don’t become heretics to win friends and influence people. Rather, we become heretics because we’re more interested in truth than in dogma. Because if truth is what you’re after, questioning your assumptions is not enough. You’ve got to actually be willing to accept that you might have been lied to and be able to handle the consequences that will inevitably arise when it becomes known that you’re not blindly following the leader anymore.

To those brave few who do make this uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding journey, I congratulate you and wish you godspeed on your travels. To the rest of you, I also wish you well and simply ask that you go easy on those who may not agree with you 100%.

The Christian Religion is a Failure

This might come as a shock to some, but the Christian religion can’t help you. It won’t help you live a better life. It won’t bring you peace of mind. It won’t even help you get to heaven. In fact, odds are it will do just the opposite. Sure, it’s got its benefits (well, depending on where you live anyway). You get to go to meetings at a cool clubhouse every weekend. You get to feel good about how smart you are for choosing this path. And perhaps the most satisfying part is that you get to look down on all those sinners who just refuse to stop enjoying life without at least giving 10% of their earnings to your favourite religious leader.

The problem is, members of the Christian religion are just as likely as those outside their numbers to commit adultery. They’re just as likely to lie. They’re just as likely to steal. They’re just as likely to rape. They abuse their children and spouses just as often as anyone else does (possibly even more frequently), physically, sexually, and particularly emotionally. And don’t even get me started on the internal sins that so many of them seem to be completely shameless about, sins such as pride, greed, envy, anger, gluttony, and the list goes on and on.

While they preach that sex outside of marriage is wrong, just as many Christians have premarital sex as non-Christians, and just as many of them consume porn as everyone else does. Belonging to this religion doesn’t take away one’s sex drive, nor does it change one’s sexual orientation, and people are going to do what they’re going to do, sexually speaking, regardless of what religion they belong to.

Not only does belonging to the Christian religion not change your behaviour, it doesn’t bring peace of mind for more than a brief period of time after one’s conversion experience either. For a little while after joining the church you might feel like your sins have been forgiven and experience confidence that God loves you and will take you to heaven in the Rapture (or at least after you die if Jesus takes too long getting around to returning). You might even be able to abstain from some of the habits that drove you to convert in the first place for a period of time (conversion experiences can give you the strength to change your life for a short amount of time, no matter what it is you converted to). But give it a little while and you’ll realize that you’re sinning just as often as you did before you “got saved.” Guilt will begin to eat away at you, and you’ll wonder, at least off and on, if you’re going to end up in hell after all (or, at the very least, whether God is going to punish you while you’re still alive).

And speaking of hell, you’re either going to drive yourself crazy worrying about the eternal fate of non-believers, not to mention your “unsaved” loved ones, or you’ll become callous and convince yourself that people deserve their fate so you can avoid going insane.

The truth is, people are generally much better off avoiding the Christian religion altogether (and any other religion too, for that matter).

Now you may be asking what it is that I would suggest as an alternative to the Christian religion, and in response I would recommend Christianity. Of course, if you aren’t a regular reader of this site, you might wonder what the difference is. The difference is that “Christianity is not a religion, it is the announcement of the end of religion. Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle of Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever succeed (see the Epistle of Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, then, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical, and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.’ It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.” – Robert Farrar Capon. Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus

Those of us who have rejected the Christian religion for Christianity have found a lot more peace than we had before. We’ve stopped trying to avoid sin because we’ve realized that attempting to stop sinning only causes you to sin all the more. We’ve stopped worrying about hell, for ourselves or for anyone else, because we’ve discovered that hell isn’t the ultimate fate for anybody on this planet, at least if the Bible is to be believed. On the contrary, we realize that, even with our imperfections, God accepts us just the way we are. And we’re through with trying to use our will power to live a “godly life” because we know it can’t be done. Instead we find much more peace in trusting that Christ will live the life He wants us to live through us.