Home » 10 Harmful Doctrines and Ideas Fundamentalist Christianity Must Outgrow

10 Harmful Doctrines and Ideas Fundamentalist Christianity Must Outgrow

by Dr. Eitan Bar
28 Minutes read

The following is a collection of 10 stand-alone articles, each varying in length, derived from excerpts of my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse.’ (a sample is available here) Each article presents unique insights and can be read independently. If you wish to quote portions of these articles, please ensure that you provide appropriate attribution by including links to this article and/or my book.

  1. False doctrine: God hates you, He is furious with you and wants to kill you because you are finite and imperfect (aka: sinner), but hallelujah! Jesus saved you from His angry Father!
  2. False doctrine: You don’t deserve God’s love (aka he should hate you).
  3. False doctrine: You are a sinner before you even born, therefore deserving of eternal punishment from day one, just because of who you are.
  4. False doctrine: Even if you lusted in your heart for one second, God must cast you to hell forever to satisfy His justice, and brings about His glory.
  5. False Doctrine: Sure, salvation is free, but it comes with terms and conditions.
  6. False idea: The Word of God encourages to hit children as it will keep them from going to hell (Proverbs 13:24).
  7. False idea: When a Christian community-singing turns very, very, very long, it is considered a spiritual revival.
  8. False idea: You don’t need to study, learn or research the Bible and you don’t need to be helped by experts and scholars. Just pray before and you’ll magically know everything.
  9. False idea: Church? Now, son, that’s on Sunday.
  10. False idea: If you pray before you eat, God will substitute the sugars and trans fats in your McFamily Bundle meal into nutrients and vitamins.

1. False doctrine: God hates you, He is furious with you and wants to kill you because you are finite and imperfect (aka: sinner), but hallelujah! Jesus saved you from Him!

We always say the Cliché, ‘God Hates the sin, but he loves the sinner.’ That’s nonsense! The Bible speaks of Him abhorring us, and that we’re loathsome in His sight, and He can’t stand to even look at us…[1]

(R.C. Sproul)

On the one hand, preachers depict God the Father as a figure who purportedly harbors resentment and anger toward us. He seems unwilling to establish a relationship or even acknowledge our presence. Overwhelmed by indignation, he is eager to unleash his wrath upon us. According to some pastors, even if one identifies as a Christian but remains “lukewarm,” they are still deemed “utterly disgusting to God.”[2]

On the other hand, God the Son demonstrates a willingness to descend and mingle with humanity. He graciously offers to sit down with sinners for some coffee and cake. There are even illustrations of Him permitting drug addicts to inject needles into His own veins as an alternative. He regards us with empathy, shedding tears upon witnessing our anguish. He imparts lessons on forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. His love for us is so profound that, akin to a devoted parent, He is prepared to sacrifice His life on our behalf.[3] This portrayal stands in stark contrast to the former and directly opposes the commonly depicted characteristics of His Father.

It is as if the godhead (of some preachers) extends two hands to us. The right hand represents the Father, who wants to strike us with wrath simply because we are imperfect. The left hand represents the Son; a soft, caring, gentle hand reaching out to hug us also because we are imperfect. It is the classic “good cop, bad cop” method we see in movies. But then, we are told that on the right hand’s way to strike us, the left hand interferes and gets struck by the right hand hard enough that it dies. Finally, the right hand can relax; its wrath was finally satisfied. May the left-hand rest in peace.

But there’s a problem with this version of a god suffering from a split personality or bipolar disorder. And it is what Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). Clearly, some preachers paint a paradoxical picture of who God is. They paint a false picture of a god that has very little to do with the God of Israel. The idea that Jesus saved us from God implies a division within the Trinity, which is not consistent with the unified purpose portrayed in Christian theology.

As a Jewish-Christian, I consider the idea that “Jesus saved us from God” to be wrong for several more reasons. Firstly, according to the Trinitarian doctrine, God is a triune being consisting of the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it would be irrational to say that Jesus saved us from God, since Jesus himself is God.

Furthermore, the crucifixion of Jesus is understood as a manifestation of God’s love and justice. Allowing his Son to provide salvation for humanity demonstrates God’s love, while the consequence of sin is dealt with through Jesus’ death (scriptures attribute Jesus’ abuse and death to wicked men, not to God[4]. To say that Jesus saved us from God overlooks the fact that the crucifixion was an act of love, not something that Jesus needed to protect us from.

But obviously, not all will agree. In his sermon “God Hates the Sin and the Sinner,” Reformed Pastor Tim Conway explains:

What Scripture tells us is that all of mankind are children of wrath. We are objects of the hatred of God by nature. We don’t deserve His love… God is not unjust to hate mankind. Because mankind is a hateful thing by nature. It ought to be hated.[5]

Tim Conway

In case you don’t know Conway and wonder if this is some marginalized unknown pastor no one follows anyways, think again. This sermon is available on the “I’ll Be Honest” YouTube channel. A popular reformed channel that presents Conway’s preaching with that of Paul Washer. Together, they have gained over 70 million video views. Their social media following is about half a million (that’s a pretty big mega-church).

It’s also worthwhile quoting Reformed pastor of The Gospel Coalition Nick Batzig:

Is it right, in any sense whatsoever, to say that the Father was angry with the Son when He punished the Son in our place and for our sin…He made the Son the object of His just displeasure and anger as the representative who stood in our place to atone for our sin and to propitiate God’s wrath.[6]

Nick Batzig

But, if you insist on an even more prominent figure, this quote comes from a sermon by New York Times bestseller, reformed-Baptist pastor David Platt. Its title is, “God hates sinners, not just the sin.”:

So, does God hate the sin and love the sinner? Well… sure… in a sense…But does God hate the sinner as well? Yes!”[7]

David Platt

As far as Platt and Conway are concerned, if God hates sin, he also hates sinners. And since none of us is perfect (we all sin), God hates us all. But in addition to hating us, he also loves us “in a sense.” I bet this is not the first time you have encountered the “God hates you, but he also loves you” preaching. I like to call it “theological acrobatics.” These preachers try to explain to their confused audience how their Father in heaven hates and loves them simultaneously without making it sound as if God suffers from a split personality or bipolar disorder. If you don’t understand why, I dare you to tell your child that you both hate and love them and see how baffled they get. But there’s another issue at hand. If, following God, people were to hate not just the sin but also the sinner, would they not end up hating everyone, including themselves? Perhaps this is how, from “for God so loved the world” (John 3:16), we ended up with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”[8] It is also why we keep coming across statements like this one by reformed Baptist pastor Mark Driscoll:

God’s anger at sin and hatred of sinners causes him to pour out his wrath [on Jesus][9]

Mark Driscoll

These pastors preaching divine abuse clearly connect God’s anger, wrath, and hatred for sinners. They preach a narrative whereby you are born as a God-hating sinner on day one and, therefore, will be damned forever because of who you are, regardless of your decisions or if you were just born yesterday. This can be paralleled to a physician who loathes his patients – even his baby patients – because they are sick, especially if they have multiple illnesses. Because of that, he wants to stay away from them unless he kills them.

But God doesn’t hate sinners; he doesn’t want to damn them simply because of their sins. Instead, God wants to heal, cure, and restore their souls. This process will ultimately come to completion only when we receive a new and resurrected body.

Psalm 5

But if to put logic and emotions aside, isn’t God hating sinners (everyone, as everyone sins) a fact from the scriptures? Marco from Reading, Pennsylvania, wrote to ask reformed Baptist pastor John Piper. The question was answered by Piper in the “Ask Pastor John” podcast: “Pastor John, what do you make of the saying, ‘God loves the sinner, but hates the sin?’.” John Piper’s answered:

It is just not true to give the impression that God doesn’t hate sinners by saying, ‘he loves the sinner and hates the sin.’ He does hate sinners.[10]

John Piper

Piper then went on quoting Psalm 5:5-6 to biblically back up his claim. Likewise, pastor Mark Driscoll preached to his congregation the same motif:

The Bible speaks of God not just hating sin but sinners… Psalm 5:5, “You,” speaking of God, “hate all evildoers.”…God doesn’t just hate what you do. He hates who you are![11]

Mark Driscoll

David Platt preached on Psalm 5:5-6 as well, where he explains:

Sin is the core of who we are in this world. We are sinners with a deep sinful nature, and a holy God who is dead set against sin is also dead set against sinners…We are sinners, and God is infinitely holy and possesses holy hatred of sin and sinners alike.[12]

David Platt

And in his book, Platt repeated:

Does God hate sinners?
Listen closely to Psalm 5:5-6: “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; You hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors.”[13]

David Platt

The logic in quoting Psalm 5:5-6 goes something like this:

  1. Those who sin are sinners.
  2. Everyone sins.
  3. God hates sin.
  4. Therefore, God hates everyone.

Practically speaking, every cute, sweet toddler and every child playing in your neighborhood’s park – God hates them. He hates them all!

On the surface, Psalm 5 contradicts verses like John 3:16, which state that “God so loved the world.” (John 3:16). In “world”, John is speaking about the people in the world, not the waters and soil. So, what John is saying is, “God so loved the sinners.” But in Psalm 5, he hates them? So, which one? How do we reconcile the two? Does God really love and hate us both at the same time? How are we to understand Psalm 5 if not that God hates us all because we are sinners?

Well, only if we take Psalm 5:5-6 out of context will it say God hates us. But first, it is essential to understand what these verses are talking about in their broader context. Hebraist scholar, Mitchell Dahood, explains what Psalm 5 is about the “repudiation of false gods when one was accused of idolatry.”[14] Similarly, VanGemeren, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, says Psalm 5 is about a God who distinguishes himself from other gods:

Whereas other religions brought together good and evil at the level of the gods, God had revealed that evil exists apart from him and yet is under his sovereign control.[15]


So, with this context in mind, maybe more accurate than “God hates everyone” will be to say that God hates idol worshippers. Remember, the pagans around ancient Israel would not only steal office pens and lie about how nice your dress looks today. They would burn their babies as a sacrifice for their idols. They were cruel and evil. So, it is them, in this context, that God hates. But this isn’t even the main problem with how preachers of Divine Abuse use Psalm 5:5-6.

What does it mean to HATE?

In contemporary language, much like the term “love,” the words “hate” and “wrath” have become heavily loaded with strong emotional connotations. They are often associated with images of violence, death, and anger. People use “love” and “hate” to express extremely strong emotions (such as when describing their feelings towards their mothers-in-law). However, “hate” and “wrath” have different meanings in biblical Hebrew. Unfortunately, preachers sometimes make the mistake of using ancient words and giving them modern meanings when they read modern connotations into ancient texts written in a different language.

Biblical “hate”

The Bible mostly uses the word ‘hate’ as a synonym for ‘reject’ or ‘avoid.’ The Hebrew word translated to “hate” is SANE. In the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, it is explained as something one avoids:

The pictograph is a picture of a thorn, then is a picture of seed. Combined, these mean “thorn seed.” The thorn, (the seed of a plant with small sharp points) causes one to turn in directions to avoid them.[16]

Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible

For example, in Romans 9:10-13, Paul clearly speaks of “hate” in a matter of election. God chose Jacob yet rejected (“hated”) Esau. So biblically speaking, to hate someone is to reject or avoid them. To deny your intimacy and blessings from them. If a woman hates her husband, she pushes him away, avoids him, and leaves him. On the other hand, if she still cares for him — loves him — she will argue loudly and get upset with him. You go to battle over the things you cherish most.

Anger doesn’t equal hate; apathy does. We get angry when we care. When we hate, we turn indifferent.

This is why Paul says, “No one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body.” (Ephesians 5:29). We all know people who hate (emotionally) their body (or parts of it). I hated mine when I was a fat kid with zits on my face. But as we just established, Paul is not talking about emotions or feelings of detestation. Paul was saying that no one is avoiding/rejecting their body. It is true that we eat when we are hungry, and we don’t avoid going to the toilet when our body tells us to — even if we emotionally “hate” how we look or something about our body. Similarly, we should read “Esau I have hated”. It’s not that God wished for him a violent and painful death, but that God avoided/disregarded Esau, choosing Jacob instead.

Similarly, we should read Psalm 5:5-6. God avoid-reject the idols and those who worship them – the evildoers. This is also why in the New Testament, Peter explains that when we sin, we cause God to avoid-reject our prayers (1st Peter 3:7).

The bottom line is that God may “hate” by withdrawing blessings and protection from people, rejecting their appeals, or avoiding them. However, he loves even the greatest of sinners. I know it for a fact – because I am one.

The understanding that to hate means to reject, ignore, or avoid is the only way these words of Jesus would make sense:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Love would not demand you “hate” (in the modern sense of it) others or your family because that would no longer be love. Besides, Jesus thought we should love everyone, our enemies included. So obviously, “to hate” your father cannot mean hate in the modern sense of despising him. Jesus wanted his disciples to choose him over their families. Not loathe them. If your parents said you must stop believing in Jesus, which often happens in Judaism, then you should reject their request.

To summarize, ‘hate’ can metaphorically be described the same way darkness or cold can. Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold is that of warmth, so is hate. When you reject, avoid, or ignore someone, you hate them. When you don’t want to sacrifice for a person, you hate them. God avoided the pagan evildoers, but he loves sinners.

We praise Jesus from saving us from His Father?

Consider the following metaphor:

The “Téleios” family is a family perfectly and eternally united. Téleios household was always perfect in any and every possible way. So perfect, the Téleios family was chosen ahead to be the leaders of its neighborhood. This is due to their unparalleled love and unity as a family. Their leadership was also meant to set an example and model for all other families to admire and be inspired by. In the Téleios household, a father, mother, and son lived together in everlasting and perfect harmony. Their life sets the standard for everyone else around them. In fact, many claim that the Téleios family’s unity is the very pillar that holds together the entire neighborhood, especially during times of hardship. The very identity of the neighborhood’s people was rooted in the unity and well-being of the Téleios family. Now, one day, the Téleios’ next-door neighbors, the Israelite family, were acting up really badly. They’ve made such a mess that father Téleios finally started getting upset. As they continued with the hassle, father Téleios became full of rage, so much so that he had to find an outlet — a way to release his wrath and anger stored up against the Israelite family. However, since father Téleios also loved the Israelite family, he took his rage on his innocent son instead. He tied him to a tree outside, pulled out his belt, and beat him up severely until all his wrath and anger finally subsided. After hearing about such an outrageous event, you, who lived just down the block, had to find out what really happened for yourself. So, you rushed over to pay them a visit, and to your amazement, you discovered that not only was the son indeed beaten up severely by his father, he was also cast out of the house, having to spend a few cold nights in the streets all beaten up and injured. As was explained to you by father Téleios, this was the only way he could spare the Israelites. You left their home puzzled. The next day, you saw a group of people walking up to the Téleios household as they were singing a song of praise: “How great father Téleios’ love for us, for he tortured, abused and cast away his son out of his house so he may spare us! For when Téleios the son got severely beaten up, his father’s wrath was satisfied!” Utterly shocked by the ordeal, you picked up the phone, called for a U-Haul, and fled the neighborhood to the city of Secularium.

Will you, as an ex-member of the neighborhood, still consider the Téleios family to be a family perfectly and eternally united in love? Of course not. You would be online filling out a form and submitting it to Child Protective Services. What kind of logic is it that a father would torture his good and innocent son and then kick him out of the house because others down the block were acting up? And if this truly happened in the cosmic realm, what kind of an example does that set for us? Should we also abuse our innocent children when their siblings act up and cause trouble? 

God cannot hate, be upset, or angry with himself. One person in the Godhead may be separated from the others, just as much as you can disconnect your head from your body without dying.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

2. False doctrine: You don’t deserve God’s love (aka he should hate you).

In John’s epistle, he doesn’t say that God is loving, but that “God is love.” (1 John 4:16) Therefore, the very idea that we are not worthy of God’s love diminishes the concept of God by reducing this divine entity to a being that thinks and behaves like a human, and not even a loving or compassionate one. To fully appreciate the depth and significance of God’s love for humanity, it is essential to consider various perspectives that demonstrate the logic behind this divine love.

  1. Unconditional Love: The concept of God often embodies the purest and most profound form of love, known as unconditional love. As the most supreme entity, God is not just another loving father, He is the most loving Father there is. This love transcends human limitations and biases and embraces all beings regardless of their imperfections or shortcomings. By assuming that we are unworthy of God’s love, we are projecting our own insecurities and judgments onto a divine being whose love is meant to be boundless and all-encompassing.
  2. God as Creator: If we accept the premise that God is the creator of all things, including humanity, it follows that God would have a deep and inherent love for His creation. Just as a parent has an innate love for their child (even when they do wrong), God’s love for humanity can be seen as an essential part of the divine creation process. To suggest that we are unworthy of this love is to deny the connection between God and His creation.
  3. The Purpose of Spiritual Growth: The idea of being unworthy of God’s love also contradicts the very purpose of spiritual growth and development. A major aspect of spiritual journeys is to grow closer to God or a higher power, to cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of divine love and to imitate His love, showing that same love to others. If we are inherently unworthy of this love, then the entire process of spiritual growth would be rendered futile and our model of love will be imperfect.
  4. The Nature of Forgiveness: If God is a merciful and forgiving being who understands human fallibility and offers forgiveness and redemption to imperfect beings (whom He created), then if we hold onto the belief that we are unworthy of God’s love, we are essentially saying that we are unworthy of forgiveness. If that is true, then God’s love and God’s forgiveness are completely distinct and disconnected from one another, which will go against the verse main message of the Bible.
  5. God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience: As an all-powerful and all-knowing being, God is capable of understanding the complexities of human nature and the challenges that we face. This divine comprehension allows God to extend love and compassion to all beings, even when they may not feel deserving of it. By assuming that we are not worthy of God’s love, we are limiting God’s omnipotence and omniscience, and imposing our own human limitations onto the divine.

I can’t help but think about the unconditional love parents have for their children. Parents love their children, not because they’ve earned it, but simply because they are their children. Jesus taught God is our Father and we are His children. This love doesn’t depend on achievements or behavior; it is present regardless of our successes and failures.

God’s love for us is not based on whether we deserve it or not. Just as parents love their children, God loves us unconditionally, regardless of our imperfections and mistakes. As it says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This verse highlights that even when we as sinners, God does finds us worthy of His love.

The ‘Parable of the Prodigal Son,’ found in Luke 15:11-32, tells the story of a younger son who demands his inheritance from his father, then squanders it all in a far-off country, living a life of reckless indulgence. Upon facing destitution and famine, the son comes to his senses and decides to return to his father. However, because the prodigal son sinned against his father, he decided to announce to him: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son!” The son mistakenly thought that his father won’t or shouldn’t love him because of this behavior. His sins, so the son thought, made him unworthy of his father’s love (which is exactly what many Christians today believe). However, his father proved him wrong “he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” This happened before the son even apologized! Kids run and play; fathers do not. They sit and wait as you come to show them respect. But here, the father is the one running to the son who has humiliated and sinned against him. That’s unheard of! But this father was like no other. He loves his children despite their sins. His heart is broken for them. But even before this happened, “his father saw him from far away.” This must mean the father was waiting outside for his son, desperately longing for the day he might return. Not only that, but in the Middle Eastern culture of those days, it was way beneath the honor of a patriarch to run like a small child.

Now, while the father had every right to be angry, without anyone blaming him if he decided to “pour his wrath” on his son by stoning him to death as the Law permits, he did not. Against all odds, against any logic, and against what must have “felt right” for Jesus’s audience, not only was the father not upset with his son, but he also ran, kissed, and hugged his young son. The son did not shake his dad’s hand (western culture) or bow in respect (eastern culture). Instead, the father kissed and hugged him as if to say, “You are family. Welcome back home. I missed you.”

The conservative Pharisees who heard this parable probably expected the father to at least tell his returning son something like: “Young man, you stink from pigs. You know how we feel about pigs in this Jewish house. Go, clean yourself up, and then come back so we can discuss the actions you must take to earn back the status you have lost because of your foolish behavior. And, if I see that you get your act together, I might consider you a son again. Servants, quick! Bring a Bible and put it in his hands!

However, that wasn’t the case with this father, who could not bear to see his son barefoot and in filth for one more second. Not only did the father refuse to let his young son become a servant, but he would barely even let him say his apology! In fact, the father ran to his son and hugged him before the son even spoke a word! It was much easier for the son to ask for forgiveness once he was hugged and kissed by his father, proving he loved his son regardless of his sins.

This parable Jesus told went against the very fundamental teaching of the Pharisees (of all kinds and eras) as it shows that God is not seeking to punish, take revenge, and outcast sinners, but to forgive, cover their shame, and assure them of their spiritual status as children of God!

Much like the Pharisees, some modern-day preachers teach that because we are not perfect (and God allegedly hates sinners), God must punish us, otherwise He can’t forgive. According to the logic of these passionate preachers, God created people who are limited and imperfect, yet it is because of their imperfections that He rejects them. “God only accepts absolute perfection.”[17] as it was put by pastor John MacArthur. What a contrast with the love of God for people that Jesus taught about!

When I think about this love, I am reminded that my worth is not dependent on my achievements, my failures, or how others perceive me. My worth is inherent because I am a child of God, and God’s love for me is constant and unchanging. Believing the idea that “I don’t deserve God’s love” is a disservice to the profound nature of God’s love, which is both unconditional and transformative. Fear turns you legalistic. Love helps you mature and grow.

Embracing the truth of God’s unconditional love allows me to grow in my relationship with God and to extend that same love to others. It empowers me to forgive myself and others, to show compassion and empathy, and to strive for growth and positive change.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

3. False doctrine: You a sinner before you are even born, therefore deserving of eternal punishment from day one, just because of who you are.

God created human beings with inherent limitations, which contribute to our propensity to sin. Our finite knowledge and understanding, for example, contrast with God’s omniscience. While God knows everything, we often struggle to discern right from wrong, judge righteously, or make the best decisions due to our limited understanding of the world and its complexities. Additionally, our emotional nature makes us susceptible to manipulation and temptation and can lead us to act impulsively, without considering the long-term consequences of our actions. Furthermore, our limited physical abilities, such as tiredness, pain and illness, may lead to negative feelings toward others, causing us to make wrong decisions or even engage in harmful behaviors. These inherent limitations, along with the influence of our environment and personal experiences, can lead us to make mistakes and commit sins. However, recognizing and acknowledging our limitations can also inspire humility and a deepened reliance on God’s grace to guide us in our journey towards spiritual growth and transformation. If we understand that God loves us despite our imperfections, then it logically follows that we should also love, show grace, and forgive one another.

This was my positive summary of the Bible’s lesson about sin.

Throughout history, many other interpretations have been offered to define ‘sin’ and ‘original sin.’ One of the most popular ones is that of Augustine (354–430). According to Augustine, humans are born with ‘Destination: Hell’ imprinted on their foreheads, so to speak. Augustine, trying to justify the baptism of infants, suggested that the guilt of Adam is transferred to all humans:

Because infants have no personal sin, Augustine deduced their baptisms for forgiveness of sin must be based upon their inherited guilt (reatus) from Adam’s first sin.[18]

Ken Wilson

But of course, nowadays, much of Christianity challenges this notion. For many, ‘original sin’ simply means that since a broken world creates broken people, we have been born into a world of brokenness. The repercussion is that we are all part of a faulty world, and so we are also destined to be affected and add our own brokenness into the messy swamp of human sin. The reality of sin is proven by the fact that we live in a dying world and are slowly dying ourselves:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

Commenting on Romans 5:12, Christian philosopher William Lane Craig explains:

It is in that sense that one man’s sin led to condemnation and death for all men. Adam was the floodgate through which sin came into the human race and then spread to all people, leading to condemnation for all.[19]

William Lane Craig

In other words, you are not guilty of Adam and Eve’s sins. You are guilty because you sin. Hypothetically, if the world were perfect, everyone in it was perfect, and you were born to perfect parents, there was the potential for you to be perfect. However, the imperfections of your parents and the world affect who you are and your decision-making as well. Therefore, you too are destined to be imperfect, and so will your children and so forth. Like an incurable pandemic, sin entered the world long ago, contaminated anything good and pure, and spread to all people.

God created people who are finite

I might be somewhat impatient if you nag me before my morning coffee or if I woke up sick. I am also more likely to be rude if it’s a hot and humid August day and you do not care enough to put on deodorant. However, if you came to me in the evening, smelling good and offering me a glass of delicious pinot noir and a ribeye steak, I would likely beam at you. It is not because I am evil in the mornings and righteous in the evenings. It’s because I am human. However, in the eyes of preachers such as John MacArthur, these are nothing but excuses because “God only accepts absolute perfection[20] if to quote MacArthur once again (I wonder what kind of house MacArthur grew up in that led him to believe that God accepts only absolute perfection…). It’s no wonder secular people view some Christian denominations as harsh, condescending, and legalistic. After all, what kind of father demands absolute perfection from his children or else denounces or kills them?

P.S. Recommended article about Psalm 51:5

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

4. False doctrine: Even if you lusted in your heart for one second, God must cast you to hell forever to satisfy His justice, and brings about His glory.

In the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus was teaching about adultery (Matthew 5:27-30), he said that it’s better to lose one body part, like your eye, than to have your entire body end up in “Gehenna” (Matthew 5:27-29). Was Jesus truly saying that if you were sexually turned on by looking at another person and fantasizing about them, even momentarily, you’d end up in hell forever? Was Jesus teaching us to literally dismember body parts, like our eyes, to ensure our salvation? If so, we would all be blind. Besides, doesn’t Jesus know that we don’t need eyes to imagine and fantasize? Also, since it is the universal experience that sexual impulses are uncontrollable, why would God create us this way to begin with and give us impossible standards? How is that fair? Or maybe this popular interpretation is all one big misunderstanding?

First, let’s take a step back. The Greek word géenna (“hell”) comes from the Hebrew GEHINNOM, meaning “the Valley of Hinnom.” This was a valley south of Jerusalem used as a dump. As with all city dumps, the poor, including lepers, often scavenged through the garbage. To eliminate waste and refuse, it was burned. Therefore, in the “valley of hell,” there were always flames of fire somewhere. Gehenna-hell was a real place full of disgusting waste burned in fire, not a spiritual place across the heavens.

When New Testament texts using gehenna are considered, things become clearer. Jesus symbolically uses gehenna-hell (Valley of Hinnom) to teach about great shame, which is what people who lived or scavenged through the valley felt— constant shame and embarrassment.

Imagine being a Jewish person in a society that would not tolerate any form of sexual immorality and would show no grace or forgiveness for any of it. Instead, they would take everything away from you, leaving you to scavenge for leftovers in the trash thrown into the Valley of Hinnom. In that religious society, being caught in adultery meant being ostracized and literally “thrown to hell.”

This is why living with one eye is better “than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Matthew 18:9). If you were caught in adultery, you would find yourself living in constant shame in the city dump; hell.

Any company that has ever been formed started with an idea, a thought in someone’s mind. Any gun that has ever been fired at someone was triggered by a thought in the shooter’s mind. Actions, every single one of them, are first formed in our minds. This is why Jesus taught that a person who lusts in their heart is as if they committed adultery- because thoughts lead to actions. No adultery was ever committed without the person first committing adultery in their hearts and minds. This is why lusting in your mind could lead to hell, because your thoughts turn to actions, and some actions, especially in an unforgiving religious society, can result in that graceless society taking everything from you, throwing you to rot in hell.

For this reason, being able to control your thoughts is so crucial. But there is an even more important lesson here. It is not God who caused people to end up in the Valley of Hinnom; it was people— a religious society. God, on the other hand, desires for sinners to live with dignity, be rebuilt, and become self-sufficient. It is Satan who is the prince of shame, and shame is an emotional acid inside your heart, gradually burning your soul.

When God witnesses people committing adultery, He does not seek to shame or abandon them. He is not interested in casting them into hell. How do I know? Because when religious people brought a woman caught in adultery before Christ, Jesus did the very opposite of what the religious leaders hoped for. He forgave her: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11).

Religious individuals may eagerly condemn to hell, but Jesus, rather than judging, showed grace. He understood that love is a far more powerful catalyst for the regeneration of the human heart and conscience than the punishment of hell. Where the Pharisees demonstrated hate, judgment, punishment, and condemnation, Jesus healed by being compassionate and showing forgiveness and grace.

Don’t be a Pharisee; be like Christ.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

5. False Doctrine: Sure, salvation is free, but it comes with terms and conditions

As a Jewish person who first came to know Jesus within the realm of evangelical Christianity, I struggled to trace the two schools of thought, Arminianism and Calvinism, back to the Hebrew Scriptures. The problem I found with both views is that they require you to separate the narratives of the Old and New Testaments. If you view the entire Bible as a one-story narrative, where the doctrine of salvation never changed, you will not be able to agree with any view of salvation that links works and salvation together into a single melting pot.

In the protestant world, this debate is especially active. It became a serious wrestle between two schools of thought. On the one end, most members of Arminianism allegedly teach that you are justified (go to heaven) by faith alone. I used “allegedly” because according to Arminianism- if you don’t live holy, keep the rules, produce bucketloads of fruit, avoid sin, endure unto the end, etc. You lose your salvation (will be eternally separated from God). On the other end, most members of Calvinism also allegedly teach that you are justified by faith alone. Calvinists would often use the term “once saved, always saved.” But Calvinism, too, teaches that if you don’t live holy, keep the rules, produce bucketloads of fruit, avoid sin, endure unto the end, etc. Then that proves you were never really saved, to begin with. You only imagined it, but your faith was fake.

At the end of the day, much like many traditional churches, most members of Arminianism and Calvinism teach the same thing: if you don’t prove yourself through works (for too long), God will denounce and kick you out of His house. The only difference is that Arminianism front-loads works into the finished work of Christ, while Calvinism back-loads works into the finished work of Christ. Both schools of thought allusively teach salvation mixed with works, rather than real justification by faith alone. In other words, both worldviews see a connection between what you do and your salvation. In both cases, you are not saved if you live imperfectly for too long. Therefore, salvation is not a truly free gift but essentially something you earn or maintain by your deeds. Essentially, most of Christianity involves faith with works in one way or another. (Perhaps the Catholic vs. Protestant war wasn’t needed all along.)

Imagine two children raised in two different homes: one in the “Calvinium” family, and the other in the “Arminius” family. When the children misbehave, their parents warn them about their bad behavior. In the Calvinium family, the child is warned by his parents that if he misbehaves for too long, it will prove that he was never really their child to begin with, and as a result, he will have to leave the house. In the Arminius family, the child is warned by his parents that they will no longer want to be his parents if he misbehaves for too long, and he, too, will be kicked out of the house.

Nobody wants such parents, yet many people think that their Father in heaven is like that. Can a child who fears that his father will kill him for misbehaving grow up emotionally healthy? Will a Christian who fears that his Father will kill him for misbehaving grow up healthy? RTS (Religious trauma syndrome) proves the answer is no. Salvation mixed with works is what religion is about, and religion is what turns people fearful and legalistic.

In religion, you must prove yourself worthy by works to either earn or maintain your Father’s love. In that case, you have no real confidence or assurance about your eternal future. You go to sleep every night not knowing 100% if you are actually saved or not. So, on the one hand, you find yourself reassuring your children that you’ll love them forever, no matter what, because you understand they need to know that to grow up emotionally and mentally healthy. And yet, you don’t even believe that about your own Father in heaven. The children of God are no different from any other children. Our souls long for assurance, security, and confidence now and forever.

Most Christians, however, live not knowing if they will eventually make it or not. They are left with trying hard, really, really hard, every day, hoping for the best result at the end. They keep on trying, but their soul can never really rest. You see, the opposite of work is rest. When you sleep at night, you don’t do anything but rest. When you go on vacation, they take care of everything for you. You just rest. This is why Jesus said, “I will give you rest” and “You will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30). We can’t rest in our works, but we can find peace in the words of Jesus. 

But if children live in a constant state of fear that maybe tomorrow they will do something stupid enough for their father (earthly or heavenly) to denounce and kick them out, they will never feel safe and secure in their father’s love for them. This goes against basic psychological principles and the mental and emotional needs that God created us with.

Salvation in the Hebrew Scriptures

In the Hebrew Scriptures, God never saved anyone from the children of Israel based on their works. In fact, not only were they spiritually saved regardless of their deeds, but we read about God choosing the worst of sinners to lead his nation (and later, his kingdom). The primary issue with Israel’s giants of the faith who misbehaved was that they did not act as if they had faith in God and trusted that he would fulfill his promises. Did any of them lose their salvation because of this? Not for a moment. However, they faced severe consequences and lost privileges due to their poor decisions. Our sins do have consequences. For example, Moses was denied entry into the promised land, the dream he had worked for his entire life. People’s works were (and are) essential, but they had nothing to do with their salvation.

King David, much like Moses, was a murderer. Yet, God did not revoke his salvation. He didn’t even remove David from office after he murdered and committed adultery. Instead, David continued to lead God’s chosen people and even wrote words that would turn to God’s Word. Imagine that! God took the words of a murderer and adulterer who abused his power and put them in his own Bestseller!

Faith is the instrument by which God saves us, regardless of how well we behave. This has not changed in thousands of years. No one in Old Testament times enjoyed a relationship with God or “got saved” because they were good enough for long enough or tried hard enough. Instead, they enjoyed a relationship with God solely based on their faith in him. In fact, those who maintained the strongest relationship with God were often the greatest sinners of all!

Let’s further develop King David’s case, as he is perhaps the most outstanding example. God declared David “a man after His own heart” because of his faith, even though God knew he would soon become an adulterer and murderer. David abused his power, exploited his authority, and, contrary to popular ideas, David did not repent but tried to sweep his sins under the carpet for a very long time.[21] And even though David did not repent, God kept courting and pursuing David by sending him the prophet Nathan until he finally admitted his guilt. David repented only because of the list of punishments he received while confronted by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12). However, that had nothing to do with David’s eternal spiritual salvation. It had only to do with natural and earthly consequences (verses 10-12), which God graciously agreed to reduce due to David’s admission of guilt (verse 13). King David’s salvation was never in question. God, Nathan, or David himself never pondered if David’s salvation was somehow canceled (or proven to never exist). However, as the story of David proves, our sins have a lot to do with the quality of our lives. David suffered because of his sins. He was rebuked and suffered loss, shame, grief, and so on.[22]

And yet, if not for his great sins, David would not have written songs of worship about God’s grace and forgiveness. We can hear a thousand theoretical explanations of forgiveness, but unless we feel and experience it, we will never fully understand its depth and power. In fact, it may be difficult for some to accept, but just as King David could never have written entire passages in the Psalms glorifying God for his grace, compassion, and forgiveness if it had not been for his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah the Hittite, so too can we only truly comprehend grace by first experiencing God’s forgiveness. Because David was forgiven so much, he learned firsthand how deep God’s forgiveness and grace truly are, and could write Psalms about it. Your past sins should drive you to sing songs of praise about God’s grace, just as many were moved by Hillsong’s “Hundred Billion Failures Disappear.”

Paradoxically, without sin, neither David nor us would ever really understand how deep the love, grace, compassion, and forgiveness of God can go. Ironically, it is through our experience of sin that we come to the knowledge of God. Without sin in our lives, we would never fully comprehend the gospel. Although it brings sadness and pain, sin is a necessary and integral part of our journey towards spiritual growth. We cannot escape it, but we can learn from it and grow.

The greater our mistakes, the more forgiven we are, and the more grounds we have to forgive others who sin against us.[23] The more we experience brokenness, the deeper our insights into life become. Like King Solomon, only someone who has experienced disillusionment from life (and in some cases, from church) can truly understand the meaning of life. It also seems that the more broken a person is, the more grace they have towards others. However, the more religious and legalistic a person is, the less empathy they feel towards others. It’s impossible to sympathize with sinners if you think you’re not one, living in your spiritual ivory tower.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

6. False idea: The Word of God encourages to hit children as it will keep them from going to hell (Proverbs 13:24).

The preacher Michael Pearl and his wife Debi wrote the best-selling book “To Train Up a Child,” in which they teach parents to hit their children with plastic tubes, whips, paddles, canes and belts to “break their will.” They promote abusive tactics such as withholding food, giving cold showers, or leaving kids outside to shame them for disobedience. “To Train Up a Child” has sold over one million copies and has been translated into twelve languages. That means millions of children have been affected. Oy Vey!

As you can guess, this sweet old Baptist couple also used verses, out of context of course, to biblically back up their abusive views. I’m sure you have often heard people refer to one specific proverb:

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24)

In fact, the Pearl couple quotes Proverbs 13:24 several times in their short book. For example, on page 37 the couple quotes the proverb and explains that in modern times, the ‘rod’ is “called whippings.” And in page 46, the couple writes:

A spanking, whipping, paddling, switching, or belting is indispensable to the removal of guilt in your child. His very conscience (nature) demands punishment.

They are reading (and teaching) this verse as if saying, “If you don’t torture your child, he will end up being tortured by God forever.” (In page 46, the Pearls commented on this verse: “A child can be turned back from the road to hell through proper spankings.”) So, they hit, and they hit bloody hard. Then, young children learn to associate wrongdoing with severe physical pain and will do everything in their power to avoid being caught or admitting fault out of fear of punishment. This is exactly how legalism flourishes.

But I find it absurd to think that someone’s sin can be cured by fear and trauma. Nevertheless, this is not to be blamed on the Word of God!

So, what Proverbs 13:24 really is about?

Israel was a shepherd culture. Even today, driving through the roads of modern and high-tech Israel, you will often see shepherds with their flocks. Understanding this cultural aspect will give us a better context to understand Proverbs 13:24. A shepherd carries a rod to fight predators and to lead his sheep. Sheep, known as not being the wisest, will sometimes wander off at the slightest provocation. The shepherd uses the rod to block their way if they wander, leading his flock by directing the sheep back to the desired track. In this way, he disciplines them not to wander away.

The Shepherd, however, does not beat up the sheep with his rod and does not cause them distress. If panicked, they will only run away and freak out the rest. Sheep are to be disciplined with tenderness and gentleness, not by hurting them. This is why king David, a shepherd himself, said: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). A rod will only bring you comfort if it protects you against evil, not if it breaks you. 

Therefore, this proverb says the exact opposite of disciplining your child by beating them up, hosing them with water, and leaving them outside to spend the night alone. If you hate (reject/avoid) your child, you won’t bother protecting, guiding, teaching, and correcting them in their life’s walk. Parents are supposed to discipline their children by protecting, guiding, educating, and warning them (Proverbs 22:6). When punishment is unavoidable, there are plenty of non-violent ways to do it.

I’m not trying to point out whether someone should or shouldn’t ever hit their children. Each parent will do as they see fit (and will one day give account accordingly). Although my personal belief is that there are much better ways to teach and guide our children than by inflicting physical and emotional trauma upon them, my point is that one should not use God’s name in vain to promote unnecessary violence. In fact, I witnessed several times how some parents broke their children thinking they were “disciplining” them in God’s name. The results were devastating. In one case, with three brothers, one of three boys committed suicide, another is in prison, and the third is a drug addict who lives on the streets. In another case with two sons, neither can hold a job and both are heavy drug abusers. And the examples I witnessed are many. I know their parents loved them, but I am afraid they broke them, following advice like that of the Pearls.

I am not the only one thinking there’s a problem. Other theologians also pointed out:

“Do we really believe that God is appeased by cruelty and wants nothing more than our obedience? It becomes imperative that we ask this question when we examine how theology sanctions human cruelty. If God is imagined as a fatherly torturer, earthly parents are also justified, perhaps even required, to teach through violence . . . The child or the spouse who believes that obedience is what God wants may put up with physical or sexual abuse in an effort to be a good Christian.”[24]

Rita Nakashima

The way we understand our Father in heaven – to be loving, tender, and full of compassion or angry, furious, and full of wrath – will directly reflect in how we raise our children. Whether we like it or not, our theology shapes everything about us, including how we treat others. If people look at the cross and see the violence of a Father abusing his own Son, we should not be surprised if they, too, justify their abusive behavior towards their children under the banner of “godly discipline,” fearing if they won’t hit them hard enough, God will.

P.S. After researching serial killers and abusers along with their family histories, I have arrived at this conclusion: One of the most effective ways to foster criminal behavior is by having hyper-legalistic parents who inflict trauma and abuse on both the body and soul of their children.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

7. False idea: When a Christian community-singing turns very, very, very long, it is considered a spiritual revival. 

In ancient times, when people from various nations approached their gods to worship and pray, they would always bring a gift with them. That was called a sacrifice. This offering could be in the form of an animal or agricultural produce. They never came empty-handed, believing that by giving something to the divine, they could invite blessings and favor in return. These prayers and offerings were often made before important events such as harvests, births, or weddings as a way to seek divine protection and blessings. The underlying principle was that if you wanted to ask something of your gods, you needed to give something in return. The God of Israel was no different in this respect. You wish to meet and ask Him of something? Great! But lunch is on you, so don’t forget to prepare and bring a nice meal with you when you come to the altar.

Worship of God always involved sacrificing something, which taught the people of Israel an important lesson: if you want something, be prepared to give in return. In biblical times, the terms “worship” and “prayer” had a broader meaning than they do today. Most types of prayer and worship were not solely about communicating words to God; they also involved actions. However, our modern understanding of the words “worship” and “pray” has evolved to mean “talking and singing to God.”

The New Testament brought about a significant change, teaching a new group of Jewish believers in Jesus that when worshiping him, they no longer needed to bring the sacrifice to God. Instead, He desired for them to bring the sacrifice to the poor and needy, the sick and broken, the widows and orphans, the imprisoned, and the sinners. In this way, they worshiped Him.

But then, with the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews who did not believe in Jesus could no longer offer sacrifices. The Jewish Pharisees, who opposed the corrupt priesthood, seized this opportunity to finally take over by reshaping Israel’s religious practices. They introduced a revolutionary “new” idea, teaching the children of Israel that since they could not bring a sacrifice to God because the temple was gone, they could now bring it to the Pharisees in the form of coins of gold and simply repeat a couple of prayers out loud.

As a result, Christians observed Jews worshiping with words alone, mistakenly thinking that no actions were ever involved (coins of gold do not “moo” or “baa” loudly on the streets). Gradually, Christianity also began to adopt this comfortable idea that worship is about words and is entirely disconnected from actions. This is why, in modern times, we associate “revival” and “worship” with music and songs. But a “worship night” should not just be about Christians going to an amplified concert with cool spotlights, whereby the crowd joins in singing words of praise. Instead, a worship night should be an evening whereby Christians go out to the streets to feed the hungry and cover the poor with a blanket.

An error of modern-day Christianity is to think that in Christ, believers are exempt from making sacrifices. We don’t; we just redirect the sacrifices to offer them to society’s outcasts instead. When we pray before a meal, giving thanks to God, we should also ask ourselves if there is someone, perhaps even in our own neighborhood, who could benefit from more than just our prayers. This is how we truly worship God.

There is nothing wrong with words and music (Psalm 150); it’s called “praise.” But worship is all about sacrifice. This is what Jesus did by sacrificing Himself, the perfect gift of all, and in return asking God to forgive us (Luke 23:34) and interceding for us ever since (Romans 8:34). If this is what Jesus did for us sinners, it means that we too should worship God by blessing sinners.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

8. False idea: You don’t need to study, learn or research the Bible and you don’t need to be helped by experts and scholars. Just pray before, and magically, you’ll know everything.

The truth is that we face significant challenges in understanding the Holy Bible. It was written in foreign languages (mostly Hebrew and Greek), comes from unfamiliar cultures (primarily Jewish and Greek), and was written in foreign settings (mainly Israel and the Ancient Near East) and surrounded by extinct civilizations. Experts spend a lifetime in research and study preparing before daring to interpret ancient texts. These experts are known as philologists, linguists, and paleographers. When they approach the text, they carefully and intensively study it before sharing their ideas. They do this because they respect and appreciate ancient texts. In fact, the word ‘Philology’ comes from Greek and means “love of words.” Philology is where textual and literary criticism, history, and linguistics meet.

If experts handle ancient texts with care, how much more should Christians be careful with the book of books, the Bible? Yet nowadays, Christians are often quick to preach and speak in God’s name about anything that comes to their mind. This results in an abundance of nonsensical ideas being widely spread. Of course, I am generalizing (and I am sure I have also contributed my fair share of foolishness to the pile).

The fact remains that many pastors preach doctrines and theories without necessarily understanding the context or true meaning of the words and terms they preach about. Sadly, they don’t know that they don’t know, and there’s no one to stop them. Teaching false ideas about fictional characters such as Superman, Captain Spock, or Frodo Baggins is one thing. However, teaching false ideas about God and preaching them in His name is a different story altogether. Unfortunately, some people do so as long as they have their seminary degree and stand on a high platform by a pulpit with colorful lights behind them. Freely preaching any idea that comes to mind is how false doctrines grow wings and spread like wildfire. This is probably why there are roughly 45,000 Christian denominations in the world today.[25]

In the field of hermeneutics,[26] the study of interpreting texts, one of the first steps is to identify the genre of the text. The Bible contains various genres such as genealogies, parables, poetry, laments, confessions, psalms of praise, divine utterances, beatitudes, discourse, narratives, government documents, decrees, fables, and more. However, this is not exclusive to the Bible, as we use different genres in our daily language, sometimes even in the same sentence. For example, during the 90s, I had a friend who was a Chicago Bulls fan, and we would watch NBA games together. One day, he exclaimed with excitement, “The bulls and the black cat were unstoppable last night!” My mind was able to understand that “last night” referred to a basketball game, but also that “unstoppable” meant the team scored many points. Without context, I wouldn’t have known that “the black cat” referred to Michael Jordan, the basketball player, and not an actual feline. Context is crucial in understanding the genre and meaning of a text, whether it’s the Bible or our daily conversations. Without context, misunderstandings and misinterpretations can occur, leading to confusion and incorrect conclusions, such as that “bulls” means cattle can play basketball.

We can identify a text’s genre by examining its context. Ignoring the context can lead to misunderstandings of words and ideas. For example, consider the word “bubble.” In one context, it could refer to the bubbles in a bathtub. In another, it could refer to an economic bubble that is about to burst. The meaning of a word is heavily influenced by the context in which it is used. Culture also plays a role in shaping the meaning of words. For instance, in some cultures, people might use the expression “live in a bubble” as an idiom to describe someone who is disconnected from reality.

To further complicate matters, words can also change their meaning over time. For instance, in modern Hebrew, someone who did a great job is called a “super canon.” However, if I had used that phrase fifty years ago and said, “My friend Moti is a super canon!” people would have been confused. The use of figures of speech, slang, and informal language, which are abundant in the Bible, can also vary between different cultural groups. For example, among Americans, the phrase “digging” has a positive connotation. But among Israelis, using the same phrase would imply that someone is talking too much, rendering it nonsensical. Therefore, the relationship between words, their genre, culture, and context is critical in ascertaining their correct meaning.

Likewise, in the Bible. For example, depending on the context, the word “stone” can mean a gift (Revelation 2:17), a compliment (1st Peter 2:4-5), or an insult (Luke 19:40). Stone can even speak of Jesus himself (Acts 4:11). Of course, stone can also mean a literal piece of rock (Luke 21:6). Now, just for fun, imagine you live in a future period and culture whereby the word ‘stone’ means ‘chocolate.’ In your Bible study, you read out loud:

I will remove from them their heart of stone. (Ezekiel 11:19)

The Bible is a complex collection of books, written by many authors over a long period of time, with various genres and literary devices. Understanding it requires knowledge of the historical and cultural context, language, and literary style. It’s not enough to read a verse or two and then apply our own interpretation to it. It takes effort and dedication to study and learn about the Bible, but the reward is a deeper understanding of God and His message. We should approach the Bible with humility, acknowledging that we may not have all the answers and that our understanding may change over time as we continue to learn and grow. 

To summarize, while personal prayer and individual reading of the Bible are essential aspects of a believer’s spiritual life, the idea that one does not need to study, learn, or research the Bible and should not seek help from experts or scholars can be problematic for several reasons:

  1. Complexity and context: The Bible is a complex collection of texts written by various authors over thousands of years. Understanding the historical, cultural, linguistic, and theological contexts of these texts is vital to accurately interpreting their meaning. Experts and scholars dedicate their lives to studying these contexts and can provide valuable insights that may not be apparent to casual readers.
  2. Interpretation challenges: Reading the Bible without any guidance or knowledge of its context can lead to misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the text. This can result in incorrect beliefs or practices that may be harmful or contrary to the intended message of the scriptures.
  3. The role of tradition: In many religious traditions, the interpretation of sacred texts is informed by centuries of accumulated wisdom and theological reflection. Dismissing the insights of experts and scholars could mean disregarding the valuable knowledge and understanding that has been passed down through generations.
  4. Limiting spiritual growth: Engaging with the works of scholars and experts can deepen our understanding of the Bible and enrich our spiritual lives. By only relying on personal reading and prayer, we may miss out on the opportunity to grow and learn from the insights of others.
  5. The value of community: Christianity emphasizes the importance of community and fellowship. By dismissing the role of experts and scholars, we may inadvertently isolate ourselves and miss out on the benefits of engaging in discussion and learning from others in our faith community.

In summary, while personal prayer and individual Bible reading are crucial for spiritual growth, it is also essential to recognize the value of studying, learning, and researching the Bible and engaging with the insights of experts and scholars. This balanced approach can lead to a deeper understanding of the scriptures and foster spiritual growth and development.

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

9. False idea: Church? now, son, that’s on Sunday.

In the 21st century, much of Christianity became about “me before God” instead of “us before God.” Christian lingo reflects this very well: “What is God telling YOU today?”, “Do YOU have a personal relationship with God?”, “Did YOU seek God’s voice on this matter?”, “What a great encounter I had with God last night.” This modern lingo and concepts were foreign to the apostles.

This even affects how we read our Bibles. Let me give you an example. Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This verse is often seen in people’s homes, framed and marked with bold colors in Christian Bibles. It is a source of comfort and encouragement for individuals as it suggests that God has a plan for your future. However, it is important to consider the context in which the verse was written. The prophet Jeremiah sent this message to the nation of Israel, who were exiled in Babylon. God instructed the Israelites, through Jeremiah, to settle down in Babylon, build homes and families, and pray for the peace and prosperity of the city.

While it is perfectly fine to find comfort in this verse, it is essential to remember that Jeremiah wrote this message for a specific group of people — the chosen nation of God — and for a specific reason, thousands of years ago.

In those days, faith was not an individualistic thing. There is nothing wrong with reading the Bible on your own or disappearing for a few days to pray and fast on your own (Jesus did that), but practicing faith alone is a modern cultural innovation. The Bible, however, emphasizes the communal aspect of faith (Hebrew 10:25), which in our days is often reduced to a weekly meeting lasting only an hour or two.

In most modern church meetings, believers have mostly no interaction with their fellow believers, which goes against the essence of community. The dynamic is usually unidirectional, with the message/worship coming solely from the pulpit. We sit quietly, passively, like spectators at a lecture or concert. But community involves living life cooperatively, not just sitting in the same room for an hour. This has been a trend of the last century. In the past, the weekly meetings were only the cherry on top of the cake, a supplement to the cake that was the communal aspect of living together. Today, we have held onto the cherry of weekly meetings but lost the cake of community living.

In Israel, because Jews are not allowed to drive on the day of worship (Saturday), they must pick a synagogue in their neighborhood. Every Shabbat, you would see large groups of people — families who walk together with other families in the neighborhood — walking together to the local synagogue. They all know one another because they all see each other daily at the shop, playground, gym, kindergarten, etc.

But in Western Christianity, people have the freedom to pick any church they want and drive outside their neighborhood or village. However, this can also mean getting farther away from the community where they live and do life. In the past, people were forced to attend church with the same people they lived with. They would worship with the same people they bought eggs from, sold milk to, and whose kids played with theirs on a daily basis. They grew up together, lived together, and formed a spiritual community together. They were there for each other, for better or worse. This is rarely the case today as we don’t do life together anymore. Today, “going to church” often means just sitting by one another for an hour, without knowing the names of the people next to us, let alone their struggles.

So, like the rest of the western world, Christianity became individualistic, and our theology formed accordingly. Of course, faith has a strong individualistic element. Our faith is why God saves us as individuals. Yet, in biblical times, the individual was always a piece of the greater collective.

When we read statements in the 21st century like those in the book of Acts, such as “he was saved, and all his household too,” it sounds a bit strange to us. We might wonder, “What? His family just accepted it right away without questioning?” But back then, faith was very communal. In fact, the phrase “the people of God” is based on that communal worldview. For example, in Exodus 24:7, it says, “Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.'” It wasn’t “I will,” it was “we will.” This implies that people were responsible for one another’s well-being in their faith communities. They were spiritually interdependent. And this hasn’t changed in the New Testament, as we see in Acts 2.

I am not trying to teach how Christians should or shouldn’t do church. I don’t even know if I have a solution to offer. My point, however, is that today we tend to see faith like we do faith — very individualistically. Therefore, we also view theological doctrines, such as sin, as something very individualistic. And so, when individuals sin, we wrongly think, “It’s their problem before God, not ours.” But if we understand how everything is connected in the spiritual realm, then we know it’s not “I sinned before God” but “we sinned before God.” If my neighbor’s children were caught stealing bread while I eat cakes, I might be at fault for not realizing it soon enough and reaching out for a helping hand. So, instead of pointing fingers at sinners, we should consider them family, and family should be there for you when you are at your lowest. I mean, it’s not really “family” if they are only there if you are perfect enough in their eyes. 

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

10. False idea: If you pray before you eat, God will substitute the sugars and trans fats in your McFamily Bundle meal into nutrients and vitamins

As a Jew, I knew little about Christian denominations when I first came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior. I remember trying to figure out why so many in my faith community dislike traditional churches so much, and once I asked what the differences were between the traditional churches and us. I was told that, in contrast with them, we hold to “Sola Scriptura.” Scriptures alone! No traditions! As time passed, I realized every denomination has its fair share of traditions. For example, evangelicals like to pray before each meal: “Lord, bless this food to our bodies!” This prayer never made sense to me, and it wasn’t just because the Torah only commanded the Israelites to pray after the meal.[27] It was for another reason. I didn’t understand the blessing. “Bless this food to our bodies”? Is God about to supernaturally turn our junk food into nutritious food full of vitamins and minerals just because we prayed? This is great news! Now I can eat as many Big Macs and doughnuts as I want, and God will bless them into my body!

Traditions are everywhere, even in how we read the Bible!

So, I slowly realized that traditions are common in all aspects of faith, but we are not always aware of them. Traditions are not necessarily bad (who doesn’t like it when people buy them gifts every year for their birthday?), but sometimes traditions directly influence our theology. When they do, it becomes an issue. A good example, it’s an evangelical tradition about Cain and Abel.

The story of Cain and Abel is where we actually first meet sacrifices in the Bible. These brothers did not have any “Law” that they were following. Like many others in the Ancient Near East, they offered sacrifices to “stay on the good side” of God. These were the “snacks” they offered to God. You have probably heard various traditions about why God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. The most prominent tradition is that Abel’s offering was accepted because it involved the death of an animal, while Cain’s was rejected because no blood was shed. John MacArthur’s teaching is a great example:

We see that Abel did what God required…He brought the right sacrifice that was required by God…It was better because it was blood, and it was better because it was required as a sacrifice for sin.[28]

John MacArthur

The first problem with MacArthur’s interpretation is the anachronism fallacy.[29] God did not require blood as a sacrifice for sin until thousands of years later, in the time of Moses. Moreover, the text offers no such explanation. But in any case, this sacrifice had nothing to do with forgiving sins. The second problem is that later in Leviticus chapter two, we see that God does, in fact, accept bloodless (non-animal) sacrifices without a problem. If the children of Israel were allowed to offer agricultural produce, why would God be so upset when Cain did so? The third problem is that the New Testament’s mention of the infamous story never suggested that bloodless sacrifice was the reason for God’s rejection of Cain’s offering.[30]

According to the text, the difference is that while Cain “brought some fruit,” Abel, on the other hand, brought his very best, “fat portions from some of the firstborns.” Fat firstborns? This is the “grade five Wagyu beef” of ancient times. These were the pampered cattle that enjoyed back rubs and played golf. The difference the text points out to the reader is not in the type of offering (blood vs. bloodless) but in the quality of it (“fat” and “firstborn” vs. just “some”). The quality of the sacrifice is also something God will later emphasize in the Law to Israel.[31] So, in contrast with Cain, Abel brought his very best. At the same time, Cain probably saw some bananas starting to blacken and decided they shouldn’t go to waste. (If only he knew how to make banana bread…)

So, while Genesis chapter four introduces the first sacrifice, it had nothing to do with wrath, sin offering, and blood. Notice verse two: “Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.” Cain brought fruit because he was a farmer. It is no sin to be a farmer. But as a farmer, he, too, could pick the better portion of his fruits. But he didn’t. Therefore, God’s issue was not with blood but with the quality of the offering he was gifted with. So don’t bring your leftovers; bring your best!

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
A free sample is available here.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqAuvdEtbCk

[2] Francis Chan, “Crazy Love”, page 201.

[3] 1st Timothy 3:16, 1st John 4:2, Phil 2:7.

[4] Acts 2:22-23; Acts 2:36; Acts 3:13-15; Acts 4:10, 27-28; Acts 5:30; Acts 7:52; Matthew 26:47-50, 27:1-2; Mark 14:43-46, 15:1; Luke 22:47-53, 23:1-25; John 18:1-11, 18:28-40, 19:1-16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15.

[5]God Hates the Sin and the Sinner – Tim Conway“, YouTube, Sep 18, 2018. 

[6] https://www.reformation21.org/blogs/love-and-anger-at-the-cross.php

[7] David Platt, “God hates Sinners, not just the sin – David Platt” YouTube, Jan 25, 2013.

[8] A well-known sermon preached by the American theologian Jonathan Edwards. Although Edwards used it to emphasize God’s wrath upon unbelievers after death, its been used otherwise as well.

[9] https://realfaith.com/what-christians-believe/jesus-propitiation-substitute-sins

[10] John Piper, “God Loves the Sinner, But Hates the Sin?“, July 30, 2013.

[11] Mark Driscoll, “Jesus Sweats Blood”, realfaith.com

[12] David Platt, “God hates Sinners, not just the sin – David Platt” YouTube, Jan 25, 2013.

[13] David Platt, “What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me?”, page 8.

[14] Mitchell Dahood S.J., Psalms I: 1-50: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, vol. 16, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 31.

[15] Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 88.

[16] Jeff A. Benner, The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, Virtual bookworm, 2005.

[17] https://faithgateway.com/blogs/christian-books/no-merit-of-my-own-righteousness

[18] Ken Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, Pg. 48

[19]Atonement and the Death of Jesus”, YouTube, March 4, 2022.

[20] https://faithgateway.com/blogs/christian-books/no-merit-of-my-own-righteousness

[21] Probably for a year, see 2nd Samuel 11:27.

[22] In the world to come: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2nd Corinthians 5:10). Some of us will be called “least in the Kingdom of Heaven”, while others “great” (Matthew 5:19). That, in contrast to our salvation, does have to do with our good works, with how caring we are for others and how great of sacrifices we make for the sake of the kingdom of God.

[23] Some might object “isn’t it making life easy and cheapen grace?” But I believe it’s the opposite. If God forgives us eternally, then we also must forgive others continuously (Matthew 18:21-22). To forgive is anything but easy. It’s hard, especially when the sins committed against us are great.

[24] Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, “Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us” (Boston: Beacon Press, 2015): 31.

[25] Livescience, “Why does Christianity have so many denominations?” ( July 29, 2022).

[26] The methodology of interpretation of the biblical texts.

[27] “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God…” (Deuteronomy 8:10).

[28] John MacArthur, “Abel: A Primitive Faith,” Oct 25, 2009.

[29] An anachronism is a chronological inconsistency of misplacing people, events, objects, language terms, and customs in the wrong periods. The common types of anachronism in theology are verbal expressions or philosophical ideas placed outside their proper temporal domain/time.

[30] Matthew 23:35; Hebrews 12:24.

[31] Leviticus 1:3; 2:1; 3:1; 22:21-22.

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist