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

Previous chapter: Deception

Part 2: Practice

Morality

There’s probably no better example of where the leaders within Churchianity make 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 the body of Christ, and also because they themselves have 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 them to teach others to try to be more “moral” than God Himself, acting just like modern-day Pharisees, becoming morality police who teach that any number of actions, many of which are never even mentioned in the Bible, are forbidden.

Before getting into some of the specific actions that the religious mistakenly think we need to avoid, it should first be noted that the Bible does tell us plenty of things that God actually would prefer people not do 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 the morality police dislike on that list, including some of the biggest hangups religious conservatives have (although there are a number of things on that list which many of them do seem to enjoy). What He does hate, however, is dishonestly (which is brought up twice in that list, after all), and I suspect that religious lies are the worst sort of dishonesty since they’re lies about God Himself. 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 followers) 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 tried to squash Him and His teachings (and any others who taught them as well), 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 don’t seem to realize 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 (since, again, it’s Paul’s teachings that the body of Christ is supposed to concern itself with in the dispensation of Grace). Starting with a flawed presupposition about doctrines like sin and grace will cause one to think that they’re supposed to be concerned with religious rules when being a member of the body of Christ is actually about something else altogether. Basically, Paul’s Gospel isn’t a religious proposition (“do this or else!”); rather, it’s a proclamation (“it’s already been done by Christ, so why not believe this Good News and stop trying to please God yourself?”). In fact, the Christianity that the body of Christ is supposed to concern itself with is not a religion at all. Instead, as Robert Farrar Capon once wrote, “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.”

While most religions are a set of rules that people need to follow in order to A) live an enjoyable life, B) avoid suffering negative consequences (either imposed by followers of said religions in this life or by God or other beings in an afterlife, or by being reincarnated to live another mortal life again on Earth after death), and C) make God happy, Paul promised that A) believers of his teachings are less likely to have a fun life than those who don’t believe his message since they’d be persecuted by those who do prefer religion (including the Christian religion) to the truth, B) explained that we don’t have to do anything to avoid suffering a negative afterlife since we’ve already been justified regardless of what we do, and C) told us that God is already happy (again, “blessed” literally means “happy” in the original Greek). Instead of following a bunch of rules the way followers of other religions (including the Christian religion) do, members of the body of Christ don’t have to actively try to avoid sinning by their own strength at all (and, in fact, should actually not ever try to), since they are justified (and living) by faith (although it’s not their own faith but the faith of Jesus Christ that they’re justified by), and are walking according to spirit and not according to flesh. Those who are walking according to spirit are trusting that Christ will live the life He wants us to live through us and will end up doing the things God wants us to do and avoiding the things God wants us to avoid Himself through us. It’s only when we start walking according to flesh, meaning we start worrying about religion and trying to follow rules and prohibitions, that we begin doing the very things that God doesn’t want us to do because trying to follow the (Mosaic) law only leads to more sin.

Bottom line, never trust a teacher who tells you to avoid the appearance of evil, or that the “natural man” is evil. And if you hear someone espousing “traditional family values” or telling you to follow the Mosaic law in any way (at least if you’re in the body of Christ), 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 technically 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, telling themselves that there’s really only one Gospel while also completely failing to understand what Paul’s Gospel actually means in the first place] have a defiled mind and conscience that causes them to consider pretty much nothing to be pure). Yes, if someone doesn’t have faith that something is allowed, then it would be a sin against their own conscience to do it (although not because the action itself is necessarily actually sinful in and of itself), but the corollary of this verse must be true too: if that which is not out of faith is sin, then that which is out of faith is not sin. It is true that Paul used food and holy days as specific examples, but the principle still applies to everything.

Remember also that we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, which means that sin has no more power over us (and to reckon isn’t to try make something a fact, meaning to try to avoid sinning in this case, but rather it means to simply recognize that it’s already a fact and stop letting sin reign over you by trying to avoid it or by trying to “crucify your flesh,” which is something that’s already been done once and for all time for the body of Christ rather than something that has to be done again and again [when Paul said, “I die daily,” he didn’t mean he died to sin daily — which would be a ridiculous thing for him to be implying since he’s told us to recognize that we’re already dead to sin — the context of that passage was physical death and resurrection, and was simply speaking of how he risked physical death regularly thanks to the various persecutions and perils he faced in his ministry], just as Jesus’ command to “take up one’s cross daily” doesn’t refer to this either [aside from the fact that this was directed specifically to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead of to the body of Christ, even if it could be considered a trans-administrational truth, it wasn’t talking about avoiding sin but rather about being willing to face death like He was about to do]).

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 to avoid rejecting what they’ve believed and falling back into sin so as to not “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 (which isn’t to say that we aren’t necessarily also “forgiven,” but our “forgiveness” or “pardon,” just like our justification, isn’t conditional the way it is for those in the Israel of God, so it can never be lost). In fact, from an absolute perspective, it can be said that everyone — Christian or otherwise — has actually been justified from sin, since everyone is said to have died in Christ (at the very least from a proleptic perspective, if not in actuality at present, which it might be). And since Christ died for our (meaning everybody’s) sins, we know that sin has been taken care of for everybody already anyway, but since not everyone has been conciliated to God in their own minds yet, most won’t come a realization of this truth until the very end of the eons (and judgement for one’s works or actions can still occur, of course, with “payment” for each act or work performed, but this is referring to “payment” for evil rather than “payment” for sin — one should never make the mistake of thinking sin and evil are the same thing — since sin has already been “paid for” by Christ).

Now please don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to think I’m telling you to commit sins here (at least not actual sins; I’m not talking about the innocent actions that many religious Christians confuse for sins), or that we shouldn’t walk worthy of the Lord (although it’s imperative to remember that the pace at which we walk is entirely in God’s hands). I’m the last person who would want to encourage anyone to actually 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, all the while calling their actions and teachings righteous and good). As anyone looking in from the outside could tell you, greed, fear, paranoia, hunger for power, peer pressure, envy, hypocrisy, arrogance, prejudice, intolerance, anti-intellectualism, 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 [yes, it’s likely that most Christians will actually end up at the Great White Throne Judgement due to their believing a false gospel]. If the citizens of the cities that rejected Jesus’ disciples are going to be judged more harshly than those of Sodom because they had the light revealed to them, how much more severely are those in Christendom who have the completed Scriptures going to be judged for ignoring, and even rejecting, the truth found therein, following the myths of their religious leaders instead because they prefer to have their self-righteous ears tickled?).

While worrying about sin is not something we in the body of Christ are meant to do, it can still helpful to know why some of the activities that religious Christians think are sinful really aren’t, and how one responds emotionally to what they read in the rest of this chapter is a good test of whether one is walking in the spirit or walking in the flesh. Those who aren’t walking in the spirit will feel their pharisaical flesh crawling, and their self-righteous souls getting stirred up by some of the things that are about to be covered, and they would be wise to consider reevaluating themselves, spiritually-speaking, and also question whether they’re more interested in holding fast to the traditions they’ve been taught by their denominations and religious leaders or in what Scripture actually teaches.

Perhaps the best example of an unscriptural tradition when it comes to sin is the twin topic of sex and lust. You’ve almost certainly been taught that premarital sex is a sin, and 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 many Christians believe it does. Of course, some modern versions of the Bible now use the 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. Some of the better translations of the word are “prostitution,” “harlotry,” or “whoredom,” but even there one has to be careful not to confuse this with consensual sex work as these English words would currently be used, since the Greek word actually had to do with sex that women who were basically slaves would be forced to do, not with the voluntary trading of sex for favours (which had a different Greek word that one would use when referring to that concept: hetaira [ἑταίρα]). Whatever translation of this word one uses, though, the most important thing to ask is what the word means, and the best Bible scholars (see Vine, Thayer, Knoch, etc.) agree that the English meaning of porneia is closer to “illicit sexual intercourse” (or “unlawful intercourse between the sexes”) than anything else.

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 being illegal 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 could also result in harsh penalties, premarital sex on its own was never specifically forbidden or called sinful in the Hebrew Scriptures. Of course, premarital sex (or sex outside of marriage) technically could fall under the broad label of porneia in some parts of the world (and still can today), but it could (and can) only legitimately do so in regions where this actually was or is considered to be illegal (such as in parts of the Middle East today, for example). Outside of those more conservative regions of the planet, however, it wouldn’t be considered to be wrong by the law and hence wouldn’t be a sin to do so since it wouldn’t be a crime.

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 it would for those who were required to follow said law). But it primarily spoke of sexual idolatry, referring to sleeping with temple prostitutes (Paul would presumably have also been speaking against the rape of the women forced to participate in prostitution when he spoke against porneia, not just the idolatry aspect of it, but the connection to idolatry was a large, if not the largest, part of it) 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 that sex outside of marriage 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 such 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.

Of course, some try to argue that Paul did tell them to avoid premarital sex a couple chapters later when he apparently tells them, “and because of the whoredom let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her proper husband,” supposedly telling them to get married rather than have premarital sex, but that’s not what he’s actually trying to get at there at all. It would take a much longer study to get all the way into the full meaning of this chapter, but along with actually taking the context of the passage into consideration, there are also idioms in the original Greek text that aren’t obvious if you’re not aware of them (for instance, the phrase “not to touch” was a figure of speech that literally meant “not to have sex with,” only perhaps somewhat cruder [it should probably actually be translated with a four-letter verb]), so a more informative paraphrase of the first couple verses of that passage, that is more in line with the actual meaning of these verses, would be, “Now, about what you wrote to me, you said: ‘It is ideal for a man to avoid having sex with a woman.’ Whether or not that’s true, in order to avoid the temptation that would almost certainly arise to have sex with temple prostitutes instead, let every man continue having sex with his own wife, and let every woman continue having sex with her own husband.” Basically, this passage is talking about Corinthian Christians who had come to the conclusion that it would be more righteous or holy to avoid sexual intercourse with their spouses altogether (perhaps because of outside Gnostic influences, although we don’t know the reason for certain), but Paul warned them that they should not stop sleeping with their already existing spouses or they could end up inadvertently committing idolatry as their biology would very likely lead the men to sleep with temple prostitutes instead (because they were the easiest people to find sex with aside from with one’s spouse, since people generally didn’t have romantic relationships back then as we do today; marriage was more of a business arrangement until very recently, so outside of marriage and adultery, the easiest and most common way for a man to have sex in that time and place was with a temple prostitute), and the women could even end up committing adultery. Yes, celibacy is honourable if one can handle it (the reason for this isn’t because sex is somehow dirty or less than righteous and something that should be avoided in general, however; it’s because it helps one hold lightly to the things of this Earth so one can focus solely on the things of God instead of the concerns of one’s spouse, since the easiest way for one to have sex while avoiding idolatry was through marriage when Paul wrote that), but as the writer of Hebrews put it (even if this is a Circumcision writing, this is one of those trans-administrational truths that applies to those under both Gospels), marriage (and sex in marriage) is just as honourable, and one shouldn’t defile their marriage bed by sleeping with temple prostitutes or by committing adultery (both of which would be temptations if a married couple stopped sleeping with each other). Contrary to what most have been taught, Paul wasn’t telling single people to find marriage partners rather than commit the supposed sin of having premarital sex in this passage (they generally didn’t have boyfriends and girlfriends like we do today anyway, so the idea of unmarried, romantic “couples” having sex probably wouldn’t have even crossed Paul’s mind); the context of this chapter and the previous chapter makes it pretty clear in the original Greek that he was talking to the already married in the first seven verses, telling them that the husbands risked going to temple prostitutes if married couples stopped sleeping with each other, which would be tantamount to idolatry because sex with temple prostitutes would necessarily involve worshipping other gods in the process. As for those who were once married and wished to remarry (the word “unmarried” in this passage almost certainly refers to widowers, based on the patterns through this chapter in the original Greek text, although it’s still perfectly valid advice for those who haven’t been married yet either), while he’d prefer for them to remain unmarried like him so they can focus on pleasing the Lord rather than a spouse, he does still say that getting married is better than burning with the desire to be married if they can’t control their desire for marriage (it’s unlikely that he was talking about burning with sexual desire here; based on the context of the topic of marriage in general throughout this part of the chapter, and the fact that he was saying it would be good for them to remain unmarried like him, it seems far more likely that he would have simply been referring to the desire to be married, particularly since sex outside of marriage hadn’t actually been condemned anywhere else in Scripture prior to his writing this, at least as long as it wasn’t illegal or idolatrous). And as far as those of us in this day and age go, at least here in the western world, there are other ways for unmarried people to have sex without resorting to visiting temple prostitutes, although if they are “burning” to get married, they certainly should.

In addition to these more literal interpretations of porneia, there was also a figurative meaning to the word (and its Hebrew equivalents in the Hebrew Scriptures), 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, 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; there are religious Christians out there with this mentality). The idea that premarital sex is sinful causes many parents to actively make sure their kids don’t learn about protection 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.

Even with all that being said, many religious Christians will try to defend their indefensible claims about premarital sex based on Jesus’ comment about “lust” and “committing adultery in one’s heart,” attempting to convince us that this makes premarital sex sinful by default since you wouldn’t have sex without sexual desire (they like to use this argument to condemn masturbation and pornography too). However, because so few understand right division, not to mention what Scripture says in its original languages, they don’t realize that He was actually speaking about something else altogether in that passage from what most people assume. In fact, when you discover what “lust” really refers to in Scripture you’ll realize that it is actually often encouraged, and that it’s also time to reconsider your thoughts on porn as well (and, really, anyone who cares about women at all should actually be encouraging the spread and consumption of pornography because [contrary to the claims of the morality police who, as it turns out, appear to be wrong about basically all of their assertions about sexuality] when porn usage increases, sexual assault decreases, unless they don’t care about reducing sexual assault, which would be quite sad).

To put it plainly, to “lust” in Scripture, in its original languages (chamad [חָמַד] in Hebrew, with 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 (the Lord’s statutes and judgements are to be lusted for/desired more than gold, and even Jesus “lusted/desired” according to the Bible. In fact Paul himself encouraged epithymia at times as well). What Scripture does condemn when it comes to epithymeō 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), which is what the 10th Commandment is all about. But to enjoy the way someone looks, or even to fantasize sexually about someone, isn’t what is being criticized when epithymeō actually is spoken against in Scripture; intent to take someone else’s “property” without permission also needs to be there for the coveting to be wrong (otherwise, accepting something you desire as a gift, or even finding your own spouse sexually appealing, would also technically 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 only applied to Israelites, and even then only to some of them (it was a part of the Sermon on the Mount, which was all about elaborating upon the Mosaic law, something that never applied to Gentiles, and doesn’t apply to Jews saved under Paul’s Gospel either, so even if Jesus did mean what most Christians assume He did here, it wouldn’t apply to most people anyway). But even if those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision did somehow fall under this particular point in Jesus’ sermon (which they don’t), the word “adultery” in that passage really tells us everything we need to know about the context of the passage; a man (even a married man) couldn’t commit adultery with a woman who wasn’t married (or at least betrothed) back then, since adultery in Bible times wasn’t defined the same way we do so today (adultery was a property violation back then, not a purity violation, which is why Jesus didn’t condemn women for desiring men, since a woman couldn’t own a man through marriage — a wife was always the property of a husband and never the other way around at that time), and it’s extremely important to interpret a passage of Scripture using the definitions of the time rather than basing our interpretations on modern definitions of English words (using modern definitions rather than the definition of a word at the time it was written is how we end up with all sorts of confused and unscriptural doctrines). It’s also important to note that nowhere prior to this sermon had sexual attraction or fantasy, or sexual desire in general, ever been condemned anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (or anywhere else in the Greek Scriptures either, for that matter). When one realizes all this, it becomes apparent that Jesus wasn’t creating a new law for Israel to follow, but was simply expanding on one His audience was already familiar with (the 10th Commandment), pointing out that for a Jewish male to covet his neighbour’s wife with the intention of having her would basically be the equivalent of breaking the 7th Commandment as well, but He wasn’t even hinting that finding other people sexually appealing, or admiring their bodies (or even fantasizing about them) was at all wrong. 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) Churchianity to a fatal degree. This, of course, would be the religious lust of self-righteousness, so if a religious leader tries to convince others that simple sexual attraction and desire (or even premarital sex) is sinful, it would be wise to question any of their teachings since they’re demonstating how little they likely know about Scripture, and there’s a good chance they haven’t even been saved yet (relatively speaking, of course), since they likely don’t understand what it means to rightly divide the word of truth. Of course, another reason that religious conservatives are so opposed to “lust” (and anything even related to premarital sex) is simply basic erotophobia. Thanks to the horribly harmful purity culture that conservative Churchianity has inflicted upon the world, too many people grow up with the idea that sexuality (anything from simple sexual desire to any form of sexual activity itself) is inherently dirty and shameful. Most Christians will deny this and claim that sexual thoughts and acts are only “dirty” or sinful when they’re outside the context of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage, but they themselves don’t realize just how deeply the effects of purity culture have rooted into their subconscious, eventually blossoming into full-blown erotophobia, which in turn forces them to have to believe that mistranslated and misinterpreted Scripture is true because anything else could allow the sexuality they so fear to enter their lives.

There is a lot more that can be said about this complex topic (which has admittedly been simplified a great deal here), but the bottom line is that modern religious Christians are following in the footsteps of the fourth century Institutional Church (who gave us many false doctrines that Churchianity never recovered from; so many of the errors of the Christian religion find their roots in that time period) and are making the same mistake of reading their own biases into the original text just as those so-called “Early Church Fathers” did, although it’s even worse today since so much time has passed and most Christians are now unaware that, in the first century, sex among the people Paul taught almost never took place between people who were considered equals, and this included sex within marriage. As already mentioned, the idea of a boyfriend and girlfriend, as we understand them today, in love with each other and sleeping with each other probably wouldn’t have ever entered into Paul’s mind since that wasn’t how relationships between the sexes generally worked back then, but there’s literally no reason to think he’d have a problem with consensual sexual relations between a couple in love today as long as no worship of other gods was involved, and it wasn’t actually illegal where they lived.

Premarital sex isn’t the only thing religious leaders have 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:

Homosexuality is forbidden. Like the topic of porneia, 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 rape and/or 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 [an action that actually was forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures] 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 — and, of course, there’s also the fact that the actions mentioned here were actually “punishments,” so to speak, themselves; Paul’s point in this passage wasn’t that he was telling people to avoid certain sexual sins, but rather that the sin of idolatry would lead people to certain negative consequences). As far as males go, 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” (which had nothing to do with homosexuality at all) today, and I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of these religious conservatives at the final judgement. Even if only indirectly, homophobic (and transphobic) conservatives are responsible for many homeless youth, as well as for numerous suicides, not to mention all the assaults against and even murders of people who are different from them when it comes to their sexuality and gender identity, and pretty much each and every conservative (whether they’re religious or not) is going to have to answer for their culpability in these horrors when they’re standing at the Great White Throne Judgement. Because even if they’re only indirectly responsible, they all still have a responsibility for all of this suffering nonetheless.

Abortion is condemned by the Bible as murder. Regardless of one’s feelings on abortion (and whether it happens to actually be wrong or not, which I’m not taking a side on either way in this section), 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 (abortion might involve killing, but killing can only be classified as murder if the killing is unlawful under one’s human government, or capital punishment and the killing of enemy combatants in war would also have to be called murder). 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 much of history (at least among Christians who hold to Sola scriptura). It’s only extremely recently that certain conservative Christians (mostly of the Roman Catholic variety) 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), primarily because they wanted to punish women for enjoying sex and to ensure that they suffer long-lasting consequences for their actions (they’ll argue that it’s actually because they think abortion is immoral and that they believe in “the sanctity of life,” but the way they treat those who have been born reveals the real truth about them to the rest of us: that they don’t actually believe in “the sanctity of life,” in good morals, or in ethical practices at all).

Monogamy is the only acceptable form of romantic relationship. Honestly, nearly every Christian is likely aware of the fact that polygamy and other forms of non-monogamy were considered to be an acceptable practice for people by God in the Bible, with the possible exception of local church overseers and deacons (depending on how one translates/interprets those particular passages; there’s good reason to believe they’re actually just saying that an elder or deacon should have at least one wife, meaning they should not be single), but you’d never know it to hear them talk about it. God even told David that if he wanted more wives, rather than taking someone else’s wife all he had to do was ask God for more. So 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 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. While it might not be pro-drunkenness, 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, along with the various other so-called “sins” that have already been covered in this chapter, are a great example of how many religious leaders 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 (sometimes because they misunderstand the meaning of the passage that supposedly tells us to “avoid all appearance of evil,” sometimes because they actually, albeit mistakenly, think these things really are sinful, and sometimes because they don’t know what “worldly” or “not being of the world” really means [hint: “the world” at the time the Scriptures were written was very religious and conservative, particularly “the world” that Jesus was speaking against; Jesus didn’t spend His time condemning those the religious thought were sinners, but rather those religious conservatives who were doing the condemning of everyone who wasn’t living up to their so-called standards of righteousness, which should make it pretty obvious what “the world” He was against referred to)].

All that being said, if you really want a general principle of morality to live by under the dispensation of Grace, I can give you the philosophy of morality I myself live by (just don’t take this as a rule; it’s simply my own principles that my conscience and common sense led me to). In no particular order, I ask myself a number of questions, such as, “is it loving to do so?” If it’s done (or avoided) out of actual love or compassion, odds are high that it’s fine to do. I’ll also consider whether it’s harming anybody unnecessarily against their will. This is because certain actions can harm people without being sinful, actions such as defending someone against an attacker, for example, or a doctor amputating a limb to protect against the spread of a disease, so sometimes “harmful” actions are necessary (and the “against their will” part is because something such as piercing someone’s ears when they want it done is technically causing them “harm,” or is at least damaging their body [even if only the tiniest bit], but it’s not to a fatal or even serious degree, and it’s their desire to have it done, so a professional piercer can rest assured that they aren’t sinning by causing this sort of harm or damage). But if an action would result in unnecessary harm to somebody against their will, it should likely be avoided. Another consideration is whether an action would get one in trouble with the police or break a secular law of the land. If it would, it’s probably best do something else instead. Of course, I also look to Scripture to see whether Paul has spoken against a specific action I might be wanting to do. While his teachings were exhortations rather than commandments, for the most part, it’s still a good idea to see what he had to say about things if you’re in the body of Christ (for those who are in the Israel of God instead, they should be looking to what the circumcision writings say they should do and not do) and don’t want to miss out on the allotment of the kingdom of God (which should not be confused with salvation; the allotment is a special inheritance, specifically reigning with Christ, but it isn’t salvation [at least for those in the body of Christ] since salvation isn’t based on our actions — even if we stop believing in Him for some reason, He’ll remain faithful to us from a salvation perspective since He can’t disown (or deny) Himself [and the body of Christ is now a part of Himself]). And last (but definitely not least), I think about whether it’s an idolatrous action that would result in the worship of another deity (or worship of anything other than God). If so, I definitely don’t do it. But if something is loving, isn’t harming others unnecessarily against their will, isn’t illegal, doesn’t go against (properly translated and interpreted) Scripture, and isn’t idolatrous, I have the faith that it’s generally perfectly fine to do so. If you don’t have the same sort of faith about a specific action, however, it would be a sin for you to do it, and you should avoid any action that would go against your own conscience until you have legitimately changed your mind about it being wrong (just don’t judge another person for their actions — presuming these aren’t actions that harm others unnecessarily against their will, aren’t illegal, and aren’t idolatrous — if it isn’t going against their conscience).

Next chapter: Politics

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

Previous chapter: Predestination

Deception

Everlasting torment in “hell” (as well as Annihilationism, among those Christians who have enough of a conscience to reject the idea of never-ending torture but still can’t see the full truth) and human “free will” are two 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 (if someone believes that anybody at all is still “dead” [be it actually dead or only figuratively dead] at the consummation of the eons, they don’t truly believe Jesus actually died for our sins [which is referring to the sins of everyone, not just the sins of Christians], taking care of them Himself some 2,000 years ago, but rather believe that we still have to do something about our sins ourselves today, and if we have to do something about our own sins, even something as supposedly 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), but they weren’t the only traditions he made sure were taught. He also tried his best to convince those in Churchianity of the immortality of the soul, but if the soul is immortal then that means Jesus didn’t truly die, only His body did, which would mean we are still in our sins and have no hope since the Gospel of the Uncircumcision which tells us that Christ died for our sins would not actually be true.

Of course, coming to understand that Jesus actually fully died brings one to the realization that, in addition to misunderstanding the character of God, most Christians have also misunderstood “the nature of God” (for lack of a better term), 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 (the Bible teaches that, while there are many gods out there in the universe [it would be difficult for the Father to be the God of gods if there were no other gods out there to be the God of], there is only one Almighty God [who created all the other gods], who has no equals or co-equals, and while it now [post resurrection/vivification of Christ] might be technically accurate to call Jesus a God, as far as those in the body of Christ are concerned we have only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, but not in all men is there this knowledge — in fact, practically not in all of Christendom is there this knowledge), it seems one can’t even join the body of Christ while truly believing in this doctrine (since, again, 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 can’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 eons. In addition, 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 (Jesus can’t be both God and the Son of God at the same time since that would make Him the Son of Himself [while there is debate among those in the body of Christ as to whether He came into existence before anything else did, or only came into existence 2,000 years ago at His physical birth, either way, to actually be a Son, He’d have to actually come into existence at some point in time rather than existing forever in eternity past like God did]). Scripture speaks of the Son of God and the Spirit of God, but never “God the Son” or “God the Spirit.” Sadly, the true deity of God, and what this actually means, is a doctrine that has been lost to most of Christendom for centuries now, as has the definition of the word “of,” or so it seems (just as it does in so many other cases when it comes to this word, most of Churchianity seems to have serious trouble with what this word means). It’s important to remember that Scripture puts a lot of emphasis on the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and on how one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (particularly those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision), so much so that claiming He has an identity not found in Scripture — “God the Son” — is teaching another Jesus. Of course, some like to claim that the trinity is “a mystery” that isn’t meant for us to understand, but nowhere in Scripture do we find this teaching, so they have no foundation on which to lay this claim (before moving on, I should quickly say that the Oneness doctrine is equally incorrect for basically the same reasons listed above that trinitarianism is wrong).

Ultimately, belief in any of these traditional “orthodox” doctrines seems to mean 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) among the majority of the followers of the Christian religion, it’s generally safe to assume it’s a doctrine of demons and that the opposite is true instead (particularly if it’s a major tradition, doctrine, or practice taught by Rome [for whom eternal damnation, human “free will,” the trinity, and the immortality of the soul are all extremely important doctrines, which makes them all extremely suspect even without the evidence against them all that I’ve provided], who, no, did not give us the Bible as they like to claim). When it comes right down to it, there’s relatively little 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 a few 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’s questionable whether one single member of the Institutional Church could ever give a satisfying, or even remotely biblical, explanation as to why God created humanity and allowed [or, really, arranged for] sin and evil to enter creation [when one studies the Scriptures concordantly, they discover that sin and evil didn’t derail God’s original intentions for the universe at all but are actually 100% necessary for the completion of His purposes, and that this is, in fact, exactly how God always operates]). It seems (from a relative perspective, at least) that 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 (Paul’s remonstration against Israel in his epistle to the Romans, that because of them “the name of God is being blasphemed among the nations,” is today almost better applied to those in the Christian religion who give the world contradictory messages about God that keeps people who think about these things from believing in such an apparently confused deity, telling people that God loves everyone unconditionally, as long as they meet the condition of loving Him back; that you are saved by grace alone and not by any actions of your own, as long as you act now and choose to become a member of the Christian religion before you die; and that God is the Saviour of all humanity, yet will fail to save most of the humanity He’s supposedly the Saviour of, who will actually be tormented in hell forever [or will at least be burned up and cease to exist forever if the Annihilationists are correct] rather than be saved. Thanks to these false expressions, those who are able to recognize the hypocrisy hear these things and think, “the god of the Christian religion says one thing but apparently means something else altogether, so why would we want anything to do with this seemingly dishonest deity?”).

That’s not to say that all Christians who believe in “free will” or everlasting punishment (or Annihilationism) will definitely miss out on eonian life, however (although a pretty large number of people who call themselves Christians very likely will). Some Christians outside the body of Christ will quite possibly still experience the next eon. 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 eon (and even in this eon), some of them might still get to enjoy the impending eon 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. Just as those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision aren’t the bride of Christ [and, in fact, the term “the bride of Christ” isn’t even a biblical one], those under the Gospel of the Circumcision weren’t and aren’t a part of the body of Christ. The justification of those in the body of Christ is quite different in nature from the justification of those the “circumcision letters” were written to is as well). As Cornelius demonstrated in the book of Acts, even Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision (no, he wasn’t saved under Paul’s Gospel, contrary to the assumptions that many who still don’t truly understand how to rightly divide mistakenly hold to, although it’s sometimes easy to understand why some might be confused). 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 (and can stop trying to base their theology and churches on the circumcision teachings). But as far as those of you who have now learned how to rightly divide the word of truth go, and know what salvation actually is (both sorts of salvation), you’re ready to also dig deeper into the rest of Scripture with a framework that will make it that much more clear what else the leaders of the Institutional Church might not have taught you thanks to their pre-existing assumptions about what Scripture says.

Next chapter: Morality

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

[I’ve made many updates to this book since I originally wrote it, so if you notice that the dates in some of the supporting links postdate the time it was written, that’s why. If you see any broken links or mistakes, please let me know so I can look into getting them fixed.

Disclaimer: Just because I link to a specific article or video in the supporting links (which are the double-underlined words like these) throughout the book doesn’t mean I agree with everything they believe and/or teach. Sometimes it’s just that they happen to have better supporting material on a specific topic than anybody else does.]

Introduction

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 perhaps a sip of a grape-based beverage). What almost none of them are aware of is that the reason they do these things is not because Scripture tells them to, but rather because of tradition. In fact, nearly every doctrine and practice taught within Churchianity (as some of us call the Institutional Church and the religious/”orthodox” version of Christianity that most people are familiar with [as opposed to the religionless/”heretical” Christianity that I now believe the Scriptures teach is meant for the body of Christ]) is based on the traditions and creeds of man rather than the teachings of Scripture. Members of the body of Christ in the first century gathered as the ecclesia (or church) very differently from the way those in the Christian religion have been taught to, and their beliefs were quite different as well.

I’d always been taught by my religious leaders to interpret Scripture pretty literally (aside from the parts that were obviously figurative, such as the parables, of course), but I came to see that they weren’t really interpreting it quite as literally as they claimed to be themselves, at least not when it contradicted their traditions, and they certainly weren’t interpreting it particularly consistently. In fact, as I dug deeper and searched for an ecclesia that did, I learned that almost no pastor has taught the members of their congregations very much about what Scripture actually says at all. Instead, they were (even if unintentionally) preaching false doctrines based on pre-existing assumptions about what Scripture says thanks to traditions they themselves had been taught by their denominations and leaders. Because of this, the members of these assemblies are missing out on some extremely important truths, and are instead taught ideas that are directly contrary to what Scripture really says. Thankfully, I was able to find teachers outside of the Institutional Church who did teach properly translated and interpreted Scripture (you’ll find some of them in the many supporting links, which I use in place of footnotes, that I include throughout this book). As you read on, you’ll discover many of these truths for yourself that I and many others like me learned when we began to interpret Scripture a lot more literally and consistently than those of the denominations we left behind ever did.

My challenge to you, particularly if you’re a Christian who claims to hold to Sola scriptura over tradition, is to read this book with a mind open to the possibility that some of the things you currently believe Scripture teaches could actually be based simply on traditions you’ve been taught rather than on what Scripture really says (particularly in its original languages). After reading some of the responses from people who have attempted to critique what I’ve written here, it’s become very obvious that most of them either weren’t able to maintain this mindset while reading it, or they just didn’t bother to read it very closely in the first place, likely just skimming through it quickly (and entirely ignoring the supporting links). Because of this, they sometimes tried to respond to my points by making arguments I’d already completely refuted, somehow missing those sections of the book altogether. So if you are going to read it, please do so carefully and prayerfully (and perhaps hold off on writing your refutations until you’ve read the whole thing, since the odds are high that I [or one of the articles or videos in the supporting links] have already responded to your point a little further on in the book), as well as with the humility to acknowledge that you could be wrong about something you currently believe. And if you find yourself immediately disagreeing with a point I make, thinking to yourself, “this can’t possibly be right because we know x is true instead,” stop to ask yourself why you’re so sure that x is the case, and then consider whether the reasons given in this book might actually prove that x isn’t really true after all.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Part 1: Doctrine

Chapter 1 – Dividing

Chapter 2 – Judgement

Chapter 3 – Predestination

Chapter 4 – Deception

Part 2: Practice

Chapter 5 – Morality

Chapter 6 – Politics

Chapter 7 – Church

Conclusion

 

Next chapter: Dividing

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.

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%.