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

Previous chapter: Introduction

Part 1: Doctrine

Dividing

In order to truly dig deeper into Scripture and learn the doctrines that most of us were never taught by our pastors, one needs to first know how to “rightly divide the word of truth,” since without knowing how to do this it’s basically impossible to understand what sort of teachings the body of Christ is supposed to believe, follow, and proclaim. 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 to try to claim certain experiences and benefits that don’t either (sometimes with deadly results). In order to do this “rightly,” it’s important to first 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 traditionally called the Old Testament and the New Testament (although dividing Scripture rightly will be a valid side effect of this practice since, 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). If you look up each time the term is used in the Greek Scriptures, you’ll discover that it actually refers to the Evangel or Gospel rather than the Bible itself. When one comes to this understanding, it becomes clear that the Good News (which is what Gospel means; the Greek word euaggelion [εὐαγγέλιον], which we translate as “Evangel” or “Gospel” in English, literally means “Well Message,” “Glad Tidings,” or “Good News”) has to be properly divided, and the apostle Paul tells us exactly what it means to rightly divide the Good News.

To put it simply, there is more than one Gospel in Scripture that the word of truth must be rightly 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 wasn’t simply saying that Peter was called to preach the Gospel to the circumcised while he himself was called to preach the same Gospel to the uncircumcised in this particular verse in his epistle to the Galatians any more than Matthew says that Jesus went around preaching the Gospel to the kingdom instead of going around preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (this verse in Matthew uses the same “possessive” genitive case in the Greek for the word Kingdom that the verse in Galatians uses for Circumcision and Uncircumcision). Yes, as the next two verses in Paul’s epistle point out, both God and the pillars of the circumcision ecclesia did send Paul to the Gentiles while Peter and the rest focused on the Jews, but this wasn’t him just being redundant. This was Paul expanding on his previous statement by telling us who the primary audiences of each of the two separate Gospels are (he wasn’t simply recapitulating what he’d just written; he was giving us new information about what he’d just told us), just like the verse in Matthew told us that the audience Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom to were the people of the cities and villages of Israel. And, in fact, the whole reason he went to see Peter, James, and John in the first place was because he had to communicate to them what his specific Gospel to the Gentiles was since it wasn’t the same one they were preaching (if it were, he certainly wouldn’t have had to explain what the Gospel that he preached among the nations was, and there wouldn’t have been a dispute over it that Peter would have to resolve [this is almost certainly the whole reason the book of Acts records God sending Peter to Cornelius and his family: so that he’d be able to defend Paul]). Despite how some translations might render it, not seeming to grasp the difference between the genitive and dative cases in Greek (as previously mentioned, Circumcision and Uncircumcision are both in the genitive case here, so the possessive “of” is the correct translation, and “of” doesn’t mean “to” as some seem to think it does. If I were to serve the food of the Greeks and you were to serve the food of the Jews we’d both be serving different sorts of food [even though what both of us were providing would still be called food, and might very well have overlapping ingredients, we’d still end up with two different types of meals], whereas if I were to serve food to the Greeks and you were to serve food to the Jews we could very well be giving out the same food [although not necessarily the same food since it could still be two different types of food being given out to two different groups of people, which is why, while those who disagree with this teaching have no choice but to translate, or at least interpret, the passage as “the Gospel to the Circumcision and the Gospel to the Uncircumcision” in order to defend their preexisting belief that there is only one Gospel, rendering it that way still doesn’t conclusively prove their viewpoint. And since the truth that there is more than one Gospel mentioned in Scripture doesn’t hinge on this one verse alone anyway, it doesn’t even really matter if someone does choose to mistranslate it that way]), these were two separate Gospels meant for two separate groups of people, as the rest of this chapter will make abundantly clear based on many other passages of Scripture as well (even if anybody can technically be saved by whichever Gospel they happen to be predisposed to follow — Gentiles can be saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision just as Jews can be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision; these are just titles and have nothing to do with whether one has surgery done to one’s genitals or not — as long as they don’t try to combine the two of them [Paul says they shouldn’t switch between the two of them either, but rather stick with the one they’re called to]).

Basically, the terrestrial Jesus and His disciples taught the first Gospel specifically to Israel. While heralding the Good News of the impending arrival of the New Covenant, Jesus had an earthly ministry that was still pretty much entirely under the Old Covenant and was only a minister of the circumcision while He walked the Earth (meaning He was sent only unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel — and it’s important to note that this assertion was made by Jesus in regards to His disciples’ request to help a Gentile, so people who believe it doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means have to explain how it can instead mean His earthly ministry was directed to everyone instead of specifically to Jews when the entire context of the verse is Jesus at first refusing to help a Gentile woman [yes, He did eventually relent and help her, as well as a couple other Gentiles on other occasions, but the Bible makes it clear how unusual this was, just as it does on the one occasion Peter spoke with Gentiles in the book of Acts]). Despite making a couple exceptions for very specific reasons, His earthly ministry (aside from His death and resurrection, of course) was not directed towards the Gentiles, and His teachings were about the Kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth — specifically to Israel — rather than the body of Christ going to the heavens (as the later teachings of the celestial Jesus through the apostle Paul were). In fact, He made it very clear to His disciples when He sent them to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry that they should not go to the Gentiles or even to the Samaritans, which seems strange if this Gospel was meant for everyone (especially if this particular Gospel had anything to do with escaping “everlasting torment in hell” as most people mistakenly assume it does; you’d think it would be urgent to get the message out to as many people in the area as possible if that was the message).

Paul, on the other hand, became the dispenser of the second Gospel when he was singled out by the glorified Christ (the same Christ who walked the Earth and died for our sins, but now in a new role and with a new message for a new audience) to teach this Gospel to the rest of the world (which means a Christian ignoring or rejecting Paul’s special Gospel, not to mention his other unique teachings and ministry, could be said to ultimately be ignoring or rejecting Christ), and it’s this second Gospel that is meant for the body of Christ today (although it should be noted that Paul actually did teach the first one for a time as well, at the beginning of his ministry, at least when preaching to Jews). The rest of the Bible is important for context, among other things, but it’s only Paul’s epistles that were written specifically to the body of Christ (and, in fact, only Paul himself ever used the label “the body of Christ” anywhere in Scripture, which should tell us something). As useful as the rest of the Bible is, anything other than the 13 epistles signed by Paul was primarily intended for Israelites (Hebrews, regardless of who wrote it, was meant for them too, which should come as no surprise to anyone who happens to notice the title of the book), and we can’t forget that fact when studying Scripture if we want to come to the correct conclusions.

So what is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, also known as the Gospel of the grace of God (a title that is often shortened by believers and simply called the Gospel of Grace; and while this label isn’t actually used in Scripture, it’s a shorthand that does still seem accurate enough), the Gospel of Christ (it’s important to note that Paul doesn’t call it the Gospel of Jesus Christ but instead he called it the Gospel of Christ, which is because it wasn’t the Gospel the terrestrial Jesus was teaching when He walked the Earth but was rather the Gospel the glorified Christ later entrusted to Paul), as well as the glorious Gospel of the blessed God which was committed to Paul’s trust, or sometimes just called “my Gospel” by Paul (who would have been ridiculously arrogant, and would really be the Bible’s biggest egotist, for calling it that rather than just “the Gospel” if this wasn’t a distinct Gospel given only to him — which we know it was since it was committed specifically to his trust — not to mention the fact that one doesn’t call something theirs unless they’re trying to differentiate it from something that belongs to someone else, or at least point out that it doesn’t belong to someone else), and how are we saved under it? Before answering that, it’s important to know what it isn’t. The Gospel of the Uncircumcision isn’t that one can be saved by confessing and repenting of (or turning from) sin (repentance is still important, but it’s not trying to stop sinning that saves someone), by asking God to forgive them for their sins, by simply asking God or Jesus to “save them,” by “following Jesus,” by “giving their life to Jesus or to God,” by trying to have “a personal relationship with Jesus,” by “accepting Jesus as their personal saviour,” by making Jesus “the Lord of their life,” by “asking Jesus into their heart” or “into their life,” by being a good person (or by “doing good works”), and/or by being baptized in water, as are common ways many religious leaders mistakenly share the Gospel. If one or more of those things are all one has done, they probably haven’t really been saved yet, relatively speaking (at least not under this Gospel; some people who call themselves Christians have very possibly unknowingly been saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision instead, however — God always kept a remnant of believing Israelites for Himself [although, of course, Gentiles could also become included in this remnant, and there’s no reason to believe this is no longer the case], and we know the remnant can’t refer to those Jews who are saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision and brought into the body of Christ because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, so this must refer to those Jews and proselytes who were [and the remnant of Jews and proselytes who currently are] saved by another Gospel). Rather, this Good News is simply a proclamation that Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused after three days. While they think they actually do, very few Christians truly believe this Gospel because they lack an understanding what Christ’s death for our sins (those three little words make all the difference, and, as will become clear as you read on, differentiates this Gospel from the one most preach, and likely even from the one you currently believe), His entombment, and His resurrection on the third day really accomplished. But if you’re someone who does understand the full meaning of this Good News, you’ve already been saved (again, relatively speaking, meaning you’re now a member of the body of Christ; everyone is reconciled, from an absolute perspective, by Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, whether they believe it or not, which is what this Gospel is actually proclaiming). Nothing else is required for salvation under this Gospel from an absolute perspective than what is stated in that Well Message (not even belief in this Gospel; believing this Good News only means you get to experience salvation earlier than everyone else because it means you’re in the body of Christ, as will be explained further on); no confessing or repenting of/turning from sin (repentance for those in the body of Christ means to change our mind about who we are and what Christ did for us, meaning we come to realize our sinfulness and that there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves at all, but rather we realize that only what Christ did can save us), asking God for salvation (He’s already saved us all, from an absolute perspective, through Christ’s death for our sins, entombment, and resurrection, and those who believe this Good News have also already been saved from a relative perspective as well), doing good works, “following Jesus” (as if that was even possible today), or “asking Jesus into your heart” (which is a completely meaningless, not to mention unscriptural, expression) 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, while most people assume that after you believe the Gospel you should be baptized with water, although those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision do need to be baptized in water, this isn’t actually the case for those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision. Yes, Paul did baptize a few people in water early on, but he stopped pretty quickly. That said, the body of Christ does still get baptized, and the baptism we’ve been immersed in could even be said to be necessary for our salvation from a certain perspective. It’s just that we’re not baptized in water (nor are we baptized with the Holy Spirit, even though we are baptized by the Holy Spirit). Water baptism manifested Christ to Israel, and was actually connected to the law of Moses and the two covenants that God made with Israel, and those under this Gospel are not under the Mosaic law in any way (no, not even the Ten Commandments; some like to divide the law into “the moral law” and “the ceremonial law,” claiming that only the latter has been abolished while the moral law [including the Ten Commandments, or at least most of them] has not, but they are simply making this idea up to suit their own pre-existing doctrines — nowhere in the Scriptures does it instruct us to divide the law this way. In fact, the Scriptures say, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” and, in fact, Jesus told us that He didn’t come to abolish the law at all), or a part of either of God’s covenants with Israel (and, as with their two covenants, only Israelites were ever under the Mosaic law anyway; Gentiles never were to begin with). Instead of being baptized in water, we are baptized into the body of Christ, and since there’s only one baptism for us, it can only be that baptism into the body (and what Christ experienced in His body for us, including His death) rather than the various other sorts of baptism mentioned in Scripture.

The Gospel of the Circumcision, on the other hand, was the Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, meaning not only was it ready to begin on Earth but that it was indeed already in their midst in the person of its Anointed One (Messiah/Christ and King), which is why it’s also called the Gospel of the Kingdom, and to be saved under this Gospel (meaning, to live in that kingdom when it finally arrives on Earth) one had to repent (of sin in general, and later of killing Jesus in particular) and believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, followed up by being baptized in water in the name of the Lord (meaning being baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ rather being baptized [immersed] into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, which is a whole different baptism that won’t even become relevant until the Kingdom of Heaven fully begins on Earth), following the commandments Jesus taught His disciples during His earthly ministry, confessing one’s sins when one slips up (then also forgiving others who sinned against them), and enduring to the end (of one’s life or of the period commonly known as the tribulation, whichever comes first). While works on their own never saved anyone, in order to maintain salvation under this Gospel they’re still quite required to be performed: works that include water baptism, confessing sins, enduring to the end, and following Jesus’ commandments (which includes following the law of Moses, since it doesn’t pass away [although parts of it have been fulfilled and other parts have possibly been temporarily paused] for those under this Gospel until the new heaven and the new Earth begin after the Millennium ends; don’t confuse the end of the Old Covenant — or even the beginning of the New Covenant, which hasn’t actually begun in earnest yet [while the New Covenant got its start by Christ’s death, the results of that covenant haven’t fully come into effect yet since it went temporarily on hold when Israel as a whole rejected Jesus as the Messiah — and if anyone disagrees and thinks the New Covenant is currently fully in effect, ask them if they see any wolves dwelling with lambs, or leopards lying down with goats yet] — with the end of the Mosaic law, which happens at the conclusion of the Millennium one thousand years later, after the current heavens and Earth are destroyed). Still, at its simplest, followers of this Gospel just have to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in order to be saved in the first place, and enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven when it arrives on Earth (which is what salvation under this Gospel entails — it has nothing to do with “going to heaven” in a spiritual state after one dies [or to do with the Kingdom spiritually residing within oneself while still alive; while there is a spiritual element to the Kingdom, few seem to know much about the physical side of it, so I’m focusing mostly on that in this book], and everything to do with the kingdom coming to them physically on Earth from the heavens, either while they’re still alive or after they’ve been resurrected after the tribulation period — and if the “heaven” passages aren’t talking about what most Christians assume they are, perhaps the “hell” passages aren’t either, as I’ll discuss in more detail in the next chapter). While faith is ultimately the basis of both Gospels, nowhere was Israel told by Jesus or His disciples to trust in His death for our sins, His entombment, or His 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 (and His death was even prophesied beforehand), but not only did they not understand what He was telling them (which should really be all the proof one needs in order to see that they weren’t preaching His death for our sins when they were sharing their Gospel prior to His death, which means they weren’t preaching the same Gospel as Paul was since that’s what he preached as his Gospel), He also didn’t explain it as being for our sins or as something they had to trust in to enter the impending Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. 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 (the cross was Bad News for those who heard him rather than the Good News that it happens to be for the recipients of Paul’s message; when it comes to the crucifixion, Paul essentially tells his readers that the cross saves us while Peter taught his audience that they couldn’t be saved unless they repented of the cross), and as proof that He is the Messiah and that He is still able to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth 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 (just believing that Jesus died and was resurrected isn’t enough to actually be saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision — the people who had Jesus killed, for example, obviously knew He died, but that knowledge on its own couldn’t help them — the difference between an atheist who believes that Jesus died [or even a member of a cult who believes He died and then came back from the dead] and a member of the body of Christ is that those in the body of Christ also believe that His death was for our sins, and Peter didn’t preach that fact about Christ’s death anywhere in his Acts sermons). Similarly, Stephen didn’t preach the cross for salvation either. Rather, he simply accused those who were about to kill him of murdering Jesus as well (as it was with Peter’s messages in Acts, this was very Bad News for his listeners too; not Good News for them at all). Simply put, nobody prior to Paul had ever proclaimed the cross as anything other than Bad News, and if it’s Bad News in those messages then it isn’t Good News/the Gospel in those messages, which means the “message of the cross” that Peter and others preached isn’t the same “message of the cross” that Paul preached, since in his Gospel the cross was only Good News for his audience. As an example of someone getting saved by believing a Gospel prior to Paul, the statement of faith made by the Ethiopian eunuch to Philip before his baptism had nothing to do with faith in Christ’s death for our sins at all, but was instead that he simply believed Jesus the Messiah is the Son of God (and, just as a quick but related aside, the Ethiopian eunuch was almost certainly Jewish himself — of the diaspora — since not only was he visiting Jerusalem to worship like those a few chapters earlier in Acts 2 were, but also because no mention of his being a Gentile was made even though just two chapters later such a big deal is made of Peter talking to Gentiles [and Peter even had to defend himself for doing so to the rest of the apostles, which Philip didn’t have to do], and even afterwards those who were scattered abroad preached only to Jews — which, as another quick aside, shows us they didn’t seem to take the so-called “Great Commission” to go make disciples of all nations too seriously if it was meant for their time, although the real reason for this is because it isn’t meant to go into effect until the Millennial Kingdom begins on Earth in the future — so it seems very probable that preaching to Gentiles was only done one time prior to Paul doing so [and the Gospel preached then wasn’t the same Gospel Paul preached either], very likely for the purpose of Peter being able to later help defend Paul). Yes, the eunuch learned that Jesus died (just as Cornelius later learned from Peter), but like those before him (and like Cornelius after him), he wasn’t taught that it was for our sins (similarly, Cornelius was told by Peter that, in every nation, he who is fearing God and acting righteously [or worketh righteousness] is acceptable to God, while Paul said that God saves the body of Christ and calls us with a holy calling, not in accord with our acts or works, but in accord with His own purpose and the grace which is given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, showing us that Gentiles who were preached to by Peter were given an entirely different message from the one Paul gave the Gentiles he taught). So faith, under the Gospel of the Circumcision, is in the identity of Jesus, while faith, under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, is in the work of Jesus. Likewise, the cross means (and meant) something very different to those under the Gospel of the Circumcision than it does to those under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision (it wasn’t something anyone was looking forward to, nor was it something anyone understood prior to Paul outside of the context of the New Covenant and the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth).

As should be obvious at this point, 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 (if someone thinks the message that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is the exact same message as “Christ died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day,” just worded differently, or that Jesus and His disciples were teaching the latter, they really need to explain how these very different sounding messages are actually saying the same thing, as well as how the disciples could have possibly been preaching Christ’s death for our sins when they didn’t even understand that He was going to die), but somehow the vast majority of people have confused them for each other and assumed there’s only one Gospel recorded in Scripture, a mistake that even some in the body of Christ have made recently. The fact that if one were to remove the epistles of Paul from the Bible they’d completely lose the doctrines of salvation by grace through faith apart from any works and justification apart from the law, however, should really make it clear that Paul was teaching something different (in fact, if Paul’s teachings aren’t different in meaning from the rest of Scripture it would mean the body of Christ is required to follow the Mosaic law — in spite of the fact that Paul taught that we not only aren’t required to but actually shouldn’t try to — since John taught that those saved under the Gospel he believed had to follow the precepts Jesus taught [which were all about a correct understanding and following of the Mosaic law, and are precepts that will remain relevant to believers in Israel’s Gospel until the new Earth begins in the future]), and that it’s Paul’s teachings the body of Christ should be following (and arguing that there’s only one Gospel but that this one Gospel has only been gradually revealed to us through progressive revelation, as some have attempted to do, doesn’t make any sense at all when one stops to really think about it. Those who make this argument generally still believe that one must believe in Christ’s death for our sins and His resurrection to be saved, so even if there somehow was only one progressively revealed Gospel, nobody prior to Paul believed in Christ’s death for our sins, so that would have made the Gospel being preached prior to Paul pretty useless unless people prior to Paul could be saved without believing that part of the Gospel, but that just takes us right back to the fact that we would have to divide the Gospel into two different messages of Good News [perhaps we could call this idea “rightly dividing the word of truth”], one preached prior to Paul and one that Paul first taught, taking us full circle to what I’ve basically been getting at all along here).

Of course, anyone who believes that Paul was later preaching the exact same Gospel to the Uncircumcision that Peter was preaching (I say later because, in the messages Paul is recorded as having preached in the book of Acts, they were primarily connected with the Gospel of the Circumcision) also has to explain how Paul could possibly have never heard this Gospel the entire time he was persecuting Christians during the time he went by the name Saul. And yet, based on what he told the Galatians, he didn’t hear the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles from any mortal humans, but rather learned it directly from Christ. It’s extremely difficult to believe that he somehow wasn’t aware of the most important teaching of those he was persecuting — one would be hard-pressed to answer the question of why he was persecuting them in the first place if he didn’t know what they believed — and we know that he wasn’t told it by Jesus on the road to Damascus, yet he immediately preached the Gospel that Peter and the rest of the apostles were preaching after being healed by Ananias, so the obvious conclusion is that the Good News he later preached to the Gentiles — the Gospel of the glory of the happy God (blessed literally means happy in the original Greek), which, as Paul wrote, was entrusted specifically to him (and not entrusted to anyone who came before him) — wasn’t the same Good News that Peter preached to Israel and the proselytes (and that Paul himself preached at the beginning of his ministry, and not only in Damascus but also in Jerusalem three years later as well, where the apostles and Jesus’ brother James became acquainted with him for a couple weeks and would have also gotten to known the Gospel he was preaching while there, which means that he wouldn’t have had to return a decade or so later to explain what the Gospel he was later preaching among the Gentiles was if it was the same one he’d preached there before since Peter and James and the rest of the apostles would have already been familiar with it from his previous visit), but was rather given to him later by revelation, perhaps while in Arabia, after he’d already preached Peter’s Gospel in Damascus.

One possible reason for the lack of realization of the existence of two Gospels in Scripture is confusion about the warning Paul gave in his epistle to the Galatians about preaching any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they’d already received. Unfortunately, most Christians not only read more into this passage than it’s actually saying, they also don’t pay close attention to the specific wording of the passage either, leading them to believe a whole doctrine that wasn’t what Paul was getting at there at all. Paul wasn’t saying there is only one true Gospel there, or that nobody could ever preach a Gospel to someone other than the one he taught the body of Christ. What most people who base their assumption on this passage aren’t aware of (likely because they’ve only read translations of Scripture that mistakenly say meaningless things like “another gospel which is not another” [which is it? Is it another Gospel or is it not another Gospel? It can’t be both] in the verses before his warning) is that he actually used two distinct Greek words rather than one (which means the passage should be rendered more along the lines of “a different gospel which is not another”) in order to differentiate between a legitimate Gospel that wasn’t his but was still perfectly okay to be taught to certain people and an illegitimate “gospel” that shouldn’t be taught by anyone at all, speaking of both a “different” (heteros [ἕτερος]) gospel and “another” (allos [ἄλλος]) Gospel. “Heteros” basically means “other of a differing sort” while “allos” means “other of the same sort,” so one was “another/allos” (fully legitimate, just like Paul’s) Gospel being preached by Peter, and one was a “different/heteros” gospel, that wasn’t even “another/allos” actual Gospel at all like Peter’s was, but was rather a bastardized mix of Peter’s Gospel and Paul’s Gospel that couldn’t save anyone. Likewise, Paul wasn’t saying people who taught that there were other Gospels were under a curse, since he did so himself just 24 verses later; he was only teaching that those who would preach any other Gospel to the body of Christ than the one they had already received as something they should follow were, but Peter and the rest of the apostles could preach their particular Gospel as something to be followed to anyone that they wanted to without fear as long as it wasn’t to members of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, the evangelists and teachers of the Christian religion today aren’t even proclaiming that one, but instead are the very people who are guilty of preaching the adulterated “different/heteros” gospel that isn’t even “another/allos” legitimate Gospel at all like Peter’s was, bringing the curse Paul warned about upon themselves. And on the off chance that anyone ever tries to claim that “different” and “another” actually mean the same thing, here are some sentences to consider: 1) “the word ‘different’ is different from the word ‘another,’” 2) “the word ‘another’ is another from the word ‘different,’” 3) “the word ‘another’ is different from the word ‘another,’” and 4) “the word ‘different’ is another from the word ‘different.’” Read those, then ask yourself if those sentences all mean the same thing, or if the last three even make any sense at all. And to really drive the point home, if the two words truly did mean the same thing, the verse could also be translated as “a different Gospel which is not different,” but that might be the most nonsensical one of them all. And if the words don’t mean the same thing, as I hope those examples prove to you, there’s literally no way to interpret the passage as meaning Paul is saying there’s only one legitimate Gospel since he’s clearly allowing for at least three separate messages called gospels in this passage, 1) his own Gospel, 2) another Gospel, and 3) a different “gospel,” which means the only way he could have been talking about only two messages called gospels — 1) his own Gospel, and 2) a different “gospel” — with only one being legitimate, is if “another” and “different” actually did mean the same thing. Besides, Scripture tells us about other Gospels (or Evangels, or proclamations of Good News — these are all translated from the same Greek word — euaggelion — and all mean the same thing, “Glad Tidings” or “Well Message,” even if the “Well Messages” aren’t always the same message each time the word euaggelion was used in Scripture) than just Paul’s Gospel and the different “gospel” he’s warning about, and even though only two of the “Well Messages” are connected directly to how one is saved (the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision which, as we’ve already determined, are entirely different messages that don’t discuss the same topic at all, one being about the Kingdom of the Heaven being at hand and the other being about the death of Christ for our sins, as well as His subsequent entombment and resurrection), there’s no way Paul could be saying there’s only one message allowed to be called the Gospel in existence or else we’d have to remove those verses discussing the other Well Messages from the Bible altogether.

Another possible reason so many Christians insist that there’s only one Gospel in Scripture is that Paul tells us there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body of Christ, and they then go on to make a major assumption: that every Jew who believes in Christ is brought into the body of Christ (and that every first-century Jew who believed in Christ became a member of His body prior to Paul’s revealing of the body to the world). But if that were the case, this would mean they would all lose the standing above the Gentile nations that Israel was promised to be given by God one day (they don’t have it now, but they certainly will in the future, despite what some who don’t understand the difference between future events and already fulfilled prophecies seem to believe), and that they’re no longer under either the Old or the New Covenant, both of which were only ever given to Israel (this is also a result of confusing the new birth, which Paul never wrote about, with the new creature or creation, which only Paul ever wrote about — the idea that these two concepts are just synonyms for one another is a major, and entirely unfounded, presupposition that is actually never stated in Scripture, which means there’s no reason to believe they are outside of preexisting doctrinal bias). This assumption reveals first and foremost that they don’t understand God’s purpose for creating “the body of Christ, the ecclesia” any more than they understand God’s prophetic purpose for Israel (or understand the difference between the “mysteries” [or “secrets,” which is a better translation] of the dispensation [or administration] of Grace and Conciliation and of the prophecies that don’t apply to this dispensation at all), and that being a part of said ecclesia was never meant for every believer in Christ throughout history. The body of Christ has a future job to do in the heavens (among the celestials), and our true citizenship is in those heavens rather than here on Earth (in fact, another translation of that verse is that our realm is inherent in the heavens, as opposed to our realm being inherent down here on Earth). That can’t be said about Israel however, at least not the faithful Israel known as the Israel of God. Unlike the body of Christ, who will be out there working in the heavens (the heavens, or “Heaven,” just refers to everything “above” the Earth, including our sky and atmosphere, where the birds and clouds are, but more importantly, to outer space where the sun and the moon and other heavenly bodies are — “in beginning [the word “the” is not there in the Hebrew text], God created the heavens and the Earth” — [although, when it talks about where we’ll be in the heavens, it would be referring to deep space, likely beyond the reach of our current telescopes, but still in our physical universe], out among the stars and planets where most of the celestials reside [even if perhaps partially in higher dimensions if they’re not just somehow invisibly living on our plane of existence] and is actually a place you wouldn’t want to go without either a space suit or a vivified [immortal] body that could survive and thrive out there; it isn’t the wonderful, perfect place most people think it is, at least not now [nor is it a place that anybody who is dead goes to; only the living can go to Heaven, at least in a conscious state], although it will be pretty great for the body of Christ when we have our new bodies that can enjoy it out there with our Lord as we fulfill our impending ministry to the celestials there [this also means that the term “the Kingdom of Heaven,” or “the Kingdom of the heavens,” might actually be better translated as “the Kingdom of outer space”]), the Israel of God will remain here on Earth and maintain their earthly (Jewish) identity and citizenship throughout the Millennium, and will rule over the Gentile nations throughout the 1,000 years (this is also when the “Great Commission” to disciple all these nations is finally supposed to take place). Since only Jews who “are saved” (those known as “the Israel of God”) are among this group, if “being saved” means they’re no longer identified as Jewish and that they are going to rule far off in the heavens (which would be the case if they were brought into the body of Christ), how are they going to also be Jews (which they apparently no longer are since there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body) reigning on Earth? This confusion is easily cleared up as soon as one comes to realize the difference between the body of Christ and the Israel of God, and how each of these two groups are saved (and what each of their salvations entail). Of course, it also helps to realize that Paul was the first to be saved under his Gospel and join the body of Christ (not to mention the first to preach his Gospel), so no Jewish believer prior to him could have been a member of Christ’s body yet anyway. Yes, it’s true that there is only “one body” for us, but this is because the body of Christ is supposed to be without schism, not because other “bodies” that aren’t the body of Christ don’t exist (while all the provinces and territories of Canada make up one country, there’s still more than one country in the world [unless one believes the 50 states that make up the United States of America, along with all the other parts of the world, are a part of Canada too], and this same chapter also says that there is only “one baptism,” yet there are multiple types of baptisms mentioned throughout Scripture, so this verse isn’t saying that there’s only one body [or baptism] in existence in the world, but rather that those in the body of Christ should not be divided into different denominations just as they should not participate in any baptisms other than the one they’ve already experienced). So, even as Paul wrote these truths, another group of men lived for whom the truth “neither Jew nor Gentile” did not apply, and those men were the 12 apostles (or at least those of the 12 who were still alive by this point). Paul had forfeited his Israelite identity, but the rest of Jesus’ disciples never did — and neither were they supposed to. Jesus told His disciples that they would sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel, a promise that did not apply to the apostle Paul (who, along with the rest of the body of Christ, would instead judge angels — hopefully the pattern of the difference between the terrestrial and celestial destinies of these two different groups of Christians is becoming clear by now). So while the body of Christ is indeed one body, it can be said that the Israel of God, too, is one body.

So, while Abraham is the father of us all (the fact that Paul often quoted the law and prophets does not mean said law and prophets as a whole apply to everyone, nor does it detract from his unique Gospel), and both groups can be said to be “in Christ” (which is one of those trans-administrational terms [such as “baptism” or “light” or “mystery” or “Gospel” or “kingdom,” to name just a few of many examples] that is used by both but can mean something slightly different to each; as A. E. Knoch put it, “Israel came first in time, and the divine vocabulary is based largely on God’s dealings with them. Even if our blessing does not now come through them, it can often be best expressed by borrowing their terms”), those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision are promised the earthly blessings of the New Testament (or New Covenant) during the period of time known as the renascence (or the regeneration), the times of refreshing, or the restitution of all things (as you can see, this period of time goes by many different names, including other names that don’t start with the letter “R” as well, such as the Kingdom of Heaven [or the Kingdom of the Heavens, which is a subset of the much larger Kingdom of God], the Lord’s Day [or the Day of the Lord, although perhaps better put as the Day of Yahweh], the 1,000 years, the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom, and is something that has not happened or even really begun yet) that was promised to Israel long ago (it should probably also be clarified that while the Day of the Lord includes both the 7 year period commonly known as the tribulation as well as the Millennium, the time on Earth known as the Kingdom of Heaven includes both the period known as the Millennium as well as the later new heaven and new Earth), while those saved under Paul’s Gospel are promised spiritual blessings and are destined for far greater things (at least at first) out there in the heavens, and are no more under the New Testament (or any covenants for that matter, nor would they want to be if they truly understood what that would mean for them) than they are able to be born again like Israel needs to be, and they’re definitely not a replacement for, or a spiritual Israel, or even the kingdom of priests that Israel as a whole will finally be one day (and, just as a quick warning, one should be cautious about claiming this title since appropriating the role of a priest without actually being anointed and appointed as one by God can be somewhat dangerous, although perhaps less risky under the current administration of the Conciliation, but wisdom is still called for), because the body of Christ has been circumcised of the body of the sins of the flesh rather than circumcised of the foreskin of the heart (the latter being a spiritual circumcision which, like the physical circumcision of the male genitals, is only meant for Israel). Basically, Churchianity needs to stop stealing the covenants, commandments, prophecies, and promises (not to mention punishments) that were meant only for Israel and trying to give them to the body of Christ and the rest of the world (and, likewise, stop trying to take the blessings given to the body of Christ and trying to apply them to the Israel of God).

Unfortunately, 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 (while also conveniently ignoring certain parts that aren’t meant for them simply because they don’t like them rather than because they actually understand right dividing), 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, causing Christians to present a convoluted Gospel message to the world that doesn’t actually help anyone. Many people don’t like the idea that not everything in the Greek Scriptures was meant for everyone to follow, but it’s literally impossible to follow everything in them when even within the books commonly referred to as the Gospels you have Jesus giving instructions in one place that contradict instructions that He Himself had previously given (on purpose, of course), so those who teach that everything in the Greek Scriptures is meant for everyone to always follow really aren’t paying attention.

The lack of understanding regarding the many differences between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Grace, as well as what parts of Scripture are written to Israel and what parts are written specifically to the body of Christ under the current dispensation of Grace (not to mention the lack of understanding that the Scripture written to Israel has to be rightly divided as well, as Jesus Himself demonstrated), is also a major cause of the disagreements one finds between the many denominations within Christendom (although it should be noted that there are really only two legitimate “denominations” within true Christianity [the body of Christ and the Israel of God]; the other so-called “denominations” [such as Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Plymouth Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.] are members of the Christian religion rather than followers of scriptural Christianity), whereas right dividing resolves a lot of the confusion and apparent contradictions that seem to be prevalent in the Bible, especially between Paul’s epistles and the rest of the Greek Scriptures, particularly the book of Revelation and the letter that James wrote (which, despite the efforts of many well meaning but confused theologians to fit a square peg into a round hole — not to mention their adamant and repeated denials of this fact — does not line up with the teachings of Paul), but really all of the rest of them as well (although using a better translation also helps in other cases). Of course, the fact that the apostle Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles means that the 12 apostles (not to be confused with those apostles who weren’t among the 12, such as Barnabas, who did teach the same as Paul, and who were among the last group of people to be appointed as apostles everweren’t apostles of the Gentiles, and the fact that Paul was the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles means that Peter and James and John (and even Jude) weren’t ministers of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, making it extra clear that their epistles and teachings weren’t meant for Gentiles in the body of Christ, but were instead meant for those who were not Gentiles.

I admit that it can be difficult for those who have been brought up to believe that the entire Bible, including all of the teachings and instructions found therein, must apply to everybody always, or at the very least that the Greek Scriptures must (even I had difficulty with this idea when I was first introduced to it), but if one is able to consider the possibility that the tradition they’ve been taught might not be scriptural and that it might not all be applicable to everyone throughout history, they can then notice some of the significant differences between the teachings and exhortations of Paul and the teachings and commandments found within the Circumcision writings (referring to the Hebrew Scriptures — which Christians normally, and mistakenly, call the Old Testament — as well as the rest of the Greek Scriptures that weren’t signed by Paul). Some of the differences that might begin to stand out to those who realize the truth include the fact that those who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision will reign on Earth (the meek merely inherit the Earth [or, more accurately, will only enjoy an allotment of the land]), while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision will sit together in heavenly places (or, better put, will reign among the celestials in the heavens) — the former will have an earthly or terrestrial glory while the latter will have a celestial glory in the eons to come. Or the fact that those saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision were only said to be known from the foundation of the world (or the “disruption of the world,” depending on your translation, which would be the event that made the Earth become a chaos and vacant [or become without form and void] in Genesis), and were in fact first called and then chosen, while those saved under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision were said to be known before the foundation or disruption of the world, and were instead first chosen and then called. Likewise, the former will keep the law (and, indeed, must perform works or their faith will prove to be dead and useless and they won’t be said to be justified when Christ returns), while the latter aren’t under the law at all (and will still be justified even if all they have is faith without works). As an example, the former must forgive others or they won’t be forgiven themselves, while the latter deals graciously with others simply because God has already forgiven them, which is why the former is currently only hoping for grace (which will be brought to them when Jesus returns if they managed to endure to the end) while the latter is already standing in grace.

Now these aren’t just minor variations in terminology; these are completely different messages for two completely different groups of people. Unfortunately, if one isn’t being honest with Scripture and insists on trying to make these major differences between Paul’s teachings and the teachings in the Circumcision writings say the same thing because their preconceived doctrines force them to have to believe they mean the same thing, they’re just not ready to interpret the rest of Scripture. In fact, not only is this concept so extremely important for believers to grasp, it’s also 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” [a label that isn’t actually even found in the Bible] wasn’t meant for the body of Christ at all. Instead, rather than discipling all nations to be observing what Jesus commanded His disciples and baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (which, as has already been discussed, is a whole different baptism from the one that Peter did with water, since the baptism he’s recorded as having performed in Scripture was specifically “in the name of Jesus Christ”) as the Israel of God will be called to do in the future (when the dispensation of Grace has ended and Israel has been saved and finally begins their ministry to be a light to the Gentiles and salvation unto the ends of the earth as they were long ago prophesied to one day be, and when Gentiles will in fact only come to know God by following the Jews), we have a greater “commission” and “one baptism” in spirit into the body of Christ, and are called to be stewards of the mysteries that were kept secret since the world began (including the Mystery of the Gospel, which is a secret almost nobody knows anymore) just as Paul was, and can in fact currently help other Gentiles come to God even if we’re not Jews, which is why it’s imperative to truly understand this important topic.

Next chapter: Judgement

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.

Please note that I’m including most of my scriptural references in the links throughout this book, and they also contain extended exegesis that I couldn’t fit into the book, so please be sure to click all the supporting links in order to get the full picture as well as all the Scripture references. Please also keep in mind, however, that just because I link to specific articles or videos doesn’t mean I agree with everything their creators believe and/or teach. Sometimes it’s just that they happen to have better supporting material on a specific point 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 abundantly clear 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%.

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.