Misconceptions about Christian beliefs

The editors of Theopedia keep their eyes and ears open for rumours and misconceptions about the Christian faith. If you have heard one, please add it to the list, and point us all in the direction of the truth.

Good people go to heaven

False: Getting to heaven is all about who you know (Matthew 7:21-23) not what you know (1 Cor 1:19) nor how good you are (Romans 3:23:24). So if you want to go to heaven, put your energy into getting to know God, and his son Jesus, and you will discover that he is already drawing you to himself. And as you get to know him, love him, and allow him to rule, then you will "grow" goodness like a grapevine grows grapes (Galatians 5:22).

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God helps those who help themselves

False: This phrase is not from the bible but rather from Aesop's fable Hercules and the Waggoner which was written around the sixth century BC.

The Bible says basically the opposite: that God helps those who cannot help themselves: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). And that means all of us, by the way, because none of us, by our own power, can help ourselves to the kingdom of God (Romans 3:20).

This is not to say that Christians are to be passive – St. Paul compares Christian discipleship to running the marathon: "Run in such a way as to get the prize" (1 Cor 9:24). To avoid inadvertently trying to "lead", "manage", or otherwise "dominate" God, however (surely a futile and dangerous undertaking), we must cultivate the ability to be weak before him. God said it to St. Paul this way: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9).

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Jesus would never judge anyone

False: The Bible says that Jesus will judge us all [John 5:22, Acts 10:42]. Some people want to believe that Jesus is just too nice a guy to pass judgement on people. Others refer to his statements about not coming to judge [John 8:15-16, John 12:47], and point out that his ministry was marked by repeated acts of mercy and grace [e.g. John 4:16-26, John 8:11]. Put together, these passages tell us that Jesus temporarily set aside his mandate to judge us so that he could come as saviour and redeemer, but that on the appointed day of judgement, it will be Jesus in the judgement seat [Acts 17:31].

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Only the King James Bible is correct

False: The Bible is made up of books that were originally written in Hebrew and Greek; all English bibles are translations. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16 that God was profoundly involved in the creation of these books and many Christians trust that he remains involved as new translations are produced. We see the guidance of God in the King James translation, and we love the poetic phrasings, but there is no scriptural reason to believe that this is the only "inspired" translation.

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The Adam and Eve story is really about sex

False: Adam and Eve's nakedness is not about sex, it is about innocence. The Bible says that they were "naked and not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25) – not in the brazen way that an exotic dancer today might be "naked and not ashamed" but in a remarkably pure and simple abscence of any kind of sin. Additionally, God's command to Adam and Eve was to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28), a command which was given during creation, not after the fall, demonstrating that sex, in and of itself is a pure act when done within the boundaries God has set.

Nor was the choice to eat the forbidden fruit about sex; it was about something far more profound. It was about our choice to doubt God's word ("Did God really say..." Genesis 3:1), disobey it ("they ate it" Genesis 3:6-7), and choose instead to be little gods ourselves ("...you will be like God..." Genesis 3:5). Eating the fruit is thus all about sin, not about sex.

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When good people die they become angels

False: As charming as this idea is, there is little evidence for it in the Bible. Angels are a separate order of beings (2 Peter 2:4) that were created before humans (Luke 10:18), are at home in spiritual domains (Matthew 25:31), and act as messengers or soldiers for the Kingdom of God. Although Jesus draws a comparison between risen people and angels (Mark 12:25), he only does so to clarify a comment about marriage and eternal life.

The heaven that awaits those who know God, when they die, is a far greater prize than a chance to be an angel.

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Scripture is threatened by science

False: Jeremiah 31:35-36 says that God has established the laws (Hebrew chuqqah often translated "decrees") of physics, and Christians see God's handiwork as much in the patterns and laws that have been discovered as in the mysteries that remain. The Bible is thus not threatened by the scientific drive to map out the patterns in creation.

The Bible disagrees with scientists who teach that the universe was an accident, asserting instead that it is God's treasured creation (Genesis 1:31) that continues to be held together by his Spirit (Colossians 1:17). Because science is restricted to a study of God's creation, it has no mechanism for gathering evidence for, nor disproving the existence of, a creator that is outside of creation.

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