Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Christian Myths 2

This series is on Christian myths. I will come back to it from time to time to examine some. These next two are very interesting. Please leave feedback or comments if you have any suggestions for further study!

1. Russians dug a hole into Hell.

The Myth: This has been circulating in e-mail form for I don’t know how long. The idea is that back in the days of the Soviet Union, a team of scientists wanted to do some experiments involving the depths of the earth and so dug themselves a hole miles deep into the earth. For some unknown reason, they deposited a super-sensitive microphone down there, and were horrified to discover it recording the screams of those suffering eternal torment. Hence, we are told, Hell is a real place, evidently directly beneath Russia.

There are a few problems with this. 1. Hell is never actually described as a place located physically in the earth. In fact, it seems to be a spiritual realm more than anything else. Hence, it seems unlikely physical perceptions can take place (such as us seeing or hearing people who are actually in Hell). 2. It seems unlikely that a microphone could withstand such heat. But even assuming it could, we have 3. The source of this information was a tabloid. No evidence can be found of its veracity, and tabloids are not exactly known for their journalistic truth.

Why it matters: Because every claim to the secular world’s verifying biblical truth that turns out to be false damages the credibility of Christianity in general. It’s not exactly logical or fair, but it is true. These types of claims also give a false sense of security for things we cannot see or experience physically. If these types of claims can be validated, then it seems we can rest assured in these after all. However, while faith is not blind, it is not necessary to have 100% certainty of 100% of the doctrines of the Bible in order to believe either. We ought to rejoice in truth, and repudiate error. And maybe just do some more digging.

2. God wants me to be happy just as much as he wants me to be holy.

The Myth: Although most people don’t ever say this, one would be very surprised at just how many Christians believe it. Consider Christian divorce. Despite zero biblical evidence supporting their position, people will say, “But God knows my heart! I could never live a fulfilled and happy life in that marriage. He was dragging me down. I had to leave or I would never be happy!” Such an attitude is shameful.

Or consider a Christian doing a particular action or participating in a particular event on the basis of his fulfilled happiness. While Christians are commanded to have joy in several places in the Bible, Christians are not commanded to be merely happy—and certainly nowhere commanded to be happy at the expense of being holy. In fact, Peter writes (echoing the Old Testament), “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)
The word “conversation” is the Greek word αναστροφη. It comes from a verb form of the word meaning to turn back and forth; metaphorically it describes one’s lifestyle or conduct in life itself. Essentially, Peter is saying to be holy in all areas of living! We do not get to choose which commands we follow and which we don’t. Whether it makes us happy ultimately we cannot know (perhaps the action brings a momentary discomfort, but we ultimately find it to bring the greatest joy in this life or the next—Romans , anyone?).

Why it matters: Christians cannot continue to live as though happiness and self-indulgence are the keys to the kingdom. The American church is in a very sad state indeed, where biblical injunctions are typically ignored with this philosophy. It’s not as though they have any type of argument. However, they contribute to a church culture of selfishness and ungodliness. Any church culture that reflects this attitude will have difficulty in converting the world. In fact, as we have seen, it often has a repelling effect.

Next up: The “Is-Ought” fallacy and the book of Acts . . .
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  1. I believe hell is a physical place, though it doesn't exist yet. The afterlife is Sheol at this moment, Hades and Paradise. There is a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous during the new creation and the unrighteous will have a physical torment in hell. But yeah, it's not in the earth, people need to let go of Dante.

  2. Max, I couldn't agree more with the view on Hell! But what do you say to those who say believers who die go to Heaven, on the basis of the verses which say "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" and that the Lord is "at the right hand of the Father"? I tend to embrace this view, but I realize it is tentative, rather than dogmatic and explicit. What say you? (I also haven't really looked at it much, to be honest)


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