Every other year since 2014, Ligonier Ministries has partnered with LifeWay Research to survey the beliefs of Americans on a number of theological and ethical issues. Like past surveys, the 2020 State of Theology survey reveals some encouraging results, but it also reveals confusion and a lack of theological knowledge among evangelicals. In this article, we will take a look at each of the thirty-one questions on the survey in an attempt to help readers understand the orthodox Christian view on these issues as well as the biblical grounds for it.
To take the survey yourself and explore the data, go to www.thestateoftheology.com. New this year is the option to create a group survey that you can send to your friends, family, or church. It’s completely confidential and is a great way to start a discussion on what the people in your community believe.
1. God is a perfect being and cannot make a mistake.
Christians strongly affirm that God is a perfect being because to deny that God is a perfect being is to deny that God is God. An imperfect being, by definition, is not God. The great Princeton theologian Archibald Alexander rightly said, “The very idea of God is that of a being infinitely perfect.” God’s work is perfect (Deut. 32:4). His way is perfect (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30). His law is perfect (Ps. 19:7; James 1:25). His knowledge is perfect (Job 37:16). All this is true because God Himself is perfect (Matt. 5:48). Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1 expresses this biblical truth in the following words: “There is but one only, living, and true God: who is infinite in being and perfection” (emphasis added; see also Westminster Larger Catechism 7).
The Apostle James makes it clear that to be perfect means to be complete, to lack nothing (James 1:4). Theologically, this idea is most obviously related to God’s attributes of self-existence (aseity) and self-sufficiency (independence). Unlike creatures, whose being is contingent and dependent, God’s being is necessary and independent. In other words, God cannot not exist, and God depends on nothing else for His existence. The One who is “I am” does not have the potential to be anything more or less than what He is. He is, therefore, infinitely and unchangeably blessed in His being, and He is infinitely and unchangeably blessed in His being because His being is infinitely and unchangeably perfect.
For God to make a mistake, there would have to be in Him some imperfection in His holiness, goodness, knowledge, or wisdom. The fictional pagan gods make mistakes because they are created in the image of man, and human beings are less than perfect in goodness and knowledge. God, on the other hand, is neither malicious nor ignorant. Instead, He is perfect in all His attributes because He is His attributes. He cannot, therefore, make mistakes. To suggest otherwise is blasphemous.
2. There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
In this short sentence we find a concise statement of the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Although the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, it is a helpful way to speak of a doctrine that is a “good and necessary consequence” of what is expressly taught in the Bible (see WCF 1.6).
The doctrine of the Trinity is grounded in several explicit teachings of Scripture. First, according to Scripture, there is one, and only one, God. We read, for example, in Deuteronomy 4:35, “To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.” Second, Scripture affirms that the Father is God. Jesus often speaks of “God the Father” (e.g., John 6:27). Paul speaks numerous times of “God our Father” and “God the Father” (e.g., Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3).
Third, Scripture also affirms that the Son is God. In the prologue to the gospel of John, the “Word,” who is revealed to be Jesus (1:14), is identified as God (v. 1). Fourth, Scripture affirms that the Holy Spirit is God. He is equated with God in Acts 5:3–4. Elsewhere, the New Testament authors identify the Holy Spirit with Yahweh through their use of Old Testament quotations. Compare, for instance, Isaiah 6:8–10 with Acts 28:25–27 and Psalm 95:7–11 with Hebrews 3:7–11. Fifth and finally, although the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are affirmed to be God, Scripture also distinguishes the three. They are distinguished, for example, by use of the language of sending, loving, speaking, interceding, etc. (see Luke 3:22; John 3:16–17; 3:35; 11:41–42; 14:15; 15:26; Rom. 8:26–27).
The biblical doctrine of the Trinity is summarized in the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the prophets.
The doctrine of the Trinity is fundamental to the Christian faith. If any element of it is rejected or altered, every other Christian doctrine is negatively affected.
3. God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
In the contemporary world, it is common for people who believe in God to affirm that God accepts the worship of all religions as long as the worshiper is sincere. There is no evidence for such a view in Scripture, however. In fact, from Genesis to Revelation, Scripture reveals the exact opposite.
This is clearly seen in the first of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2). The ancient Near Eastern world in which Israel lived was filled with all manner of religions and “gods.” God rejects these other religions. Why? Because the “gods” of these other religions are actually demons, and the worship of these demons is an abomination (Deut. 32:16–17; Lev. 17:7). The Apostle Paul teaches the same in the New Testament (1 Cor. 10:20).
During His temptation, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 to Satan, saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10). That is religious exclusivism. In the incarnation, the Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14). He is now the one mediator between God and men (1 Tim. 2:5). There is no other.
Jesus Himself clearly expressed the exclusivity of Christianity when He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “No one” means no one. This is why Peter, when filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the following regarding Jesus: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). For those seeking salvation, there is no one else.
If God accepted the worship of all religions, there would have been no need for the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ because there were plenty of existing religions already during the first century. If God accepted the worship of all religions, there would also have been no need for the Great Commission and the evangelization of the nations. If God accepts the worship of all religions, the evangelism that Jesus commanded is a waste of time.
God does not accept any religion other than the one He graciously provided. He does not accept religions that substitute worship of the creature for worship of the Creator. God does not accept false worship. God does, however, accept the worshipers of any religion when they repent of those religions and trust in Christ.
4. God created male and female.
A fundamental aspect of human nature is that human beings are male and female. This is the case because God created human beings as male and female: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). The same truth is repeated a few chapters later: “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created” (5:1–2). Jesus refers back to this basic fact of creation when the Pharisees pose a question about divorce. He begins His response by saying, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matt. 19:4).
Nature teaches this same truth, as any student of biology knows. There are noticeable physical differences between males and females due to the way God created the human reproductive system. Every other system in the human body can fully function in a single human body. The digestive system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the immune system, etc., can all fully function in an isolated single human being. The reproductive system, on the other hand, requires a male and a female to fully function and to actually reproduce human beings. Because of the fall, birth defects and other abnormalities in the reproductive system sometimes occur, but we recognize these as abnormalities only because we clearly know what the normal reproductive system is.
Maleness and femaleness are given biological realities for human beings because God created that reality. It is as much a part of reality as gravity.
5. Biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. This event actually occurred.
To deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is to deny one of the central tenets of Christianity. It is, in fact, a rejection of Christianity. The Apostle Paul made this abundantly clear when he included the bodily resurrection of Christ in his summary of the Christian gospel (1 Cor. 15:4). He goes on to say, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (v. 14). If that were not clear enough, he then says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (v. 17). He says both of these things in the context of a lengthy discussion of bodily death and resurrection.
The Gospels also clearly teach that the resurrection of Jesus was the raising from death of the same body that was crucified. It’s why the tomb was empty (Luke 24:3). When Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection, He goes out of His way to make it clear to them that He has been raised bodily:
And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:38–40)
He goes so far as to tell Thomas to touch the wounds He suffered at the crucifixion (John 20:26–27).
Numerous alternatives to bodily resurrection have been suggested by skeptics over the centuries, but none of them explains the actual evidence we have. The “swoon theory” suggests Jesus did not really die on the cross. He merely fainted, and then the cool air of the tomb revived Him. He rolled the massive stone away and walked out. Given what we know about Roman scourging and crucifixion, this would have required a miracle on par with bodily resurrection.
Others have suggested that the many people who saw Jesus after His death and burial experienced a mass hallucination. A hallucination involves perceiving something that is not actually present in the world outside the mind. In other words, a hallucination is internal to the individual experiencing it. It is completely subjective. In order for the hallucination theory to even approach plausibility, one would have to posit multiple people, one after another, experiencing the same subjective hallucination. On top of that, one would have to suggest that hundreds of people simultaneously experienced the same hallucination (1 Cor. 15:6). In short, one would have to change the very definition of hallucination in order for the hallucination theory to be plausible. There are other theories that have been suggested, but like the swoon theory and the hallucination theory, they cannot account for the actual evidence.
6. Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.
To affirm this statement is to align oneself with one of the most serious heresies ever to confront the Christian church. The orthodox Christian doctrine, as found in the Nicene Creed, states that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” The Nicene Creed was a result of the Arian controversy in the fourth century. Arius, and those who followed him, taught that the Son is the first and greatest being created by God. This puts the Son on the creature side of the Creator-creature distinction, which would mean that the Son is not “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God” and not “of one substance [Greek homoousios] with the Father.”
The original Nicene Creed was produced at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. It was a direct response to the teaching of Arius. After the council, variations on the Arian theme developed along with new heresies regarding the Holy Spirit. The Council of Constantinople met in AD 381 to deal with all this. It supplemented the original Nicene Creed to more fully address these new developments. The Nicene Creed summarizes the church’s belief in the teaching of the Scriptures regarding the Holy Trinity.
The Scriptures assert that the Son is on the Creator side of the Creator-creature distinction and has, in coming into the world, assumed a human nature. In short, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God incarnate. The evidence for this doctrine is found throughout the New Testament. The Word, who is identified with Jesus in John 1:14, is said to be God in John 1:1. The New Testament also repeatedly attributes to Jesus words, deeds, and properties that can be properly said only of One who is truly God. Jesus is rightly worshiped (Matt. 2:2). Jesus encourages His disciples to pray to Him (John 14:14). Jesus forgives sin (Matt. 9:1–8; Mark 2:1–12; Luke 5:17–26). Jesus is sovereign over nature (Matt. 8:23–27). Jesus will be the judge on the last day (John 5:22; Acts 10:42). None of these things could be properly said of Jesus if Jesus were not very God of very God. The Son of God is not less than God. He is God.
7. Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.
Arians, who believe Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God, affirm that Jesus was a great teacher, but those who believe that Jesus was a mere man often affirm the same thing. They will say that Jesus was simply a great teacher. Many people in our day affirm something along these lines. What many of them do not understand is that one cannot affirm that Jesus was merely a man and at the same time affirm that He was a great teacher. Why? Because if He was merely a man, what He taught is delusional at best and demonic at worst. Many years ago, C.S. Lewis made the same basic point in his book Mere Christianity when he argued that given the things Jesus said and did, He is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord.
The problem with the claim that Jesus was merely a great teacher but not God is that His teaching and actions repeatedly included both explicit and implicit claims that He is God. If a teacher is not God and yet claims to be God, then that teacher is not a great teacher. He or she is either a liar or insane. So, what did Jesus teach through His words and actions?
Jesus claims to have existed with the Father before the creation of the world (John 17:24). He uses the Old Testament name of God in reference to Himself (8:58). He claims authority to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6; see Isa. 43:25). He encourages His disciples to pray to Him (John 14:13–14). He taught that He is to be the object of men’s faith (14:1). He claims sovereign authority to judge all mankind (5:21–27; see Matt. 28:18). He claims omnipresence (18:20). He claims a kind of knowledge that requires omniscience (11:27). Anyone who is not God and says all these things is not a great teacher. Jesus said these things. He can be a great teacher only if He is God incarnate.
8. The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.
The idea that the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person is an old heresy dating back to at least the fourth century, but it has survived to this day. It is the view, for example, of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who argue that the Spirit is God’s “active force.” They argue that Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit’s being “poured out” on someone or “filling” someone. A person cannot be “poured out” or “fill” something, they argue, so the Holy Spirit must not be a person. They argue that when Scripture uses personal language in regard to the Holy Spirit, it is using figurative language.
Those who argue in this way have the facts precisely backward. In the first place, the language of “pouring out” and “filling” is applied to subjects in the Scripture about whose personality there is no doubt. David (a human person) cries out, “I am poured out like water” (Ps. 22:14). Paul (another human person) speaks of being “poured out” like a drink offering (Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6). Since we know that David and Paul were real persons, we know that the language of “pouring out” is being used figuratively. What about the language of filling? In Jeremiah 23:24, God declares that He fills heaven and earth. This does not mean that God is an impersonal force. Jesus is also said to “fill” all things (Eph. 1:23; 4:10). Jesus, too, is not an impersonal force. In short, if someone is said to be “poured out” or to “fill” something, it is not proof that that someone is not a person.
Additionally, personal language is applied to the Holy Spirit in a multitude of ways and in a multitude of contexts that make it impossible to conclude they are all examples of personification of an impersonal thing. Scripture regularly uses personal pronouns when speaking of the Holy Spirit (e.g., John 15:26; 16:13–14; Acts 10:19–20; 13:2). The Holy Spirit is “He,” not “it.” Scripture ascribes to the Holy Spirit personal properties such as understanding (Isa. 11:2; 1 Cor. 2:10–11) and will (1 Cor. 12:11; John 3:8). Scripture also ascribes numerous personal activities to the Holy Spirit, including speaking (Mark 13:11), revealing (Luke 2:26), guiding (John 16:13), teaching (Luke 12:12), bearing witness (John 15:26), loving (Rom. 15:30), warning (1 Tim. 4:1), and appointing people to office (Acts 13:2).
Has a force such as gravity ever appointed anyone to office? Has a force such as magnetism ever exhibited understanding and will and the ability to speak and love? No. The Holy Spirit does these things because the Holy Spirit is not a force. The Holy Spirit is a personal being, the third person of the Trinity.
9. The Holy Spirit gives a spiritual new birth or new life before a person has faith in Jesus Christ.
The important theological truth communicated in this statement is that regeneration precedes faith. Regeneration must occur first because every descendant of Adam is born dead in sin (Eph. 2:1; see Rom. 5:12). Eventually our spiritual death will be followed by our physical death (Gen. 3:19). This is why Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Those who are spiritually dead—and that includes every human being—must be brought to spiritual life. We must be spiritually resurrected, and this is not something we can do ourselves. It is a sovereign work of God. We cannot be regenerated by having faith because dead people cannot do anything.
Our situation is similar to that of Lazarus (John 11). Lazarus was dead and could do nothing about it. Jesus stepped forward and commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave. It was impossible for Lazarus to respond, however, unless God gave him life first. In a similar way, we are all spiritually dead when Christ comes and commands us to believe in Him. It is impossible for us to respond until and unless God first gives us spiritual life. God first regenerates us (gives us spiritual life), and as a result we have faith, which itself is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8–10).
Throughout his ministry, Dr. R.C. Sproul often said that this little phrase, “regeneration precedes faith,” captures the essence of Reformed theology. He could not have been more right.
10. The Holy Spirit can tell me to do something which is forbidden in the Bible.
For this statement to be true, two things would have to be possible, both of which are false. First, the Holy Spirit would have to be able to contradict Himself. Scripture, the Bible, is the very Word of the triune God: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is closely associated with the inspiration of Scripture: “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). In other words, that which is forbidden in the Bible is forbidden by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cannot command you to do something He Himself has forbidden because He doesn’t contradict Himself (Num. 23:19).
Second, for the Holy Spirit to be able to tell you to do something forbidden in the Bible, the Holy Spirit would have to be able to sin. Encouraging someone to sin is a sin (Jer. 28:15–17). When God forbids something in Scripture, that law is an expression of His will. Sin, by definition, “is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 14). As John puts it, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). The Holy Spirit is holy. If a spirit is telling you to do something forbidden in the Bible, you can be certain that it is an unholy spirit.
11. Everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.
The idea that people are basically good by nature echoes the ancient Pelagian heresy, which affirmed that Adam’s sin affected Adam alone. According to this view, human nature was not affected by Adam’s fall. Scripture teaches otherwise, asserting that Adam’s sin affected all his natural-born posterity (Rom. 5:12–14). By nature, human beings are “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). This is the theological point behind the phrase total depravity—the T in TULIP. This doctrine is found throughout both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Gen. 6:5; Pss. 14:1–3; 143:2; Eccl. 7:20; Isa. 64:6; Mark 7:18–23; Rom. 1:21–32; 3:10–18, 23; 8:5–8; Gal. 4:3; Eph. 2:1–3; 4:17–19; Titus 3:3).
Christians can become confused because Scripture teaches that human beings were created by God in His image (Gen. 1:26–27), and God calls all that He created good (v. 31). If everything that God created is good, and if God created human nature, then isn’t human nature necessarily good? Yes. As originally created, human nature was good. However, part of human nature is the human will. The first human beings had the responsibility to align their created wills perfectly with God’s will—to obey Him. Instead, they disobeyed God. Like Satan, they turned their will, as it were, perpendicular to God’s will, introducing sin and misery into the world and into their own natures. In other words, they sinned. When they did this, human nature was distorted and corrupted. Like begets like, and all humans are now born with a corrupted and fallen human nature. Human beings are now born slaves to sin.
This is why the claim that “everyone sins a little” is also incorrect. We tend to measure ourselves against other human beings, and we like to pick the absolute worst specimens for comparison. We like to compare ourselves to people like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or Mao Zedong. It’s easy to feel good about ourselves if the standard is refraining from killing millions of human beings. But this is not the standard by which the Word of God measures sin. The standard is God’s will, and the requirement is perfect obedience to that will. “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10; see Gal. 3:10). The question is not, Did you refrain from murdering millions today? The question is, Did you perfectly “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” today, and did you perfectly love “your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37–39)? How often did you fail to do this perfectly? Was it just “a little”? No. We fail to do this a lot, and that means we sin a lot. This is why we need the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. He is the only One who has ever perfectly fulfilled the law.
12. Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.
This statement is difficult for some Christians to affirm because we frequently lose sight of the true nature of sin. We fail to grasp the true nature of sin because we do not grasp the true nature of the holiness of God. When we begin to understand better the holiness of God, we begin to get a clearer understanding of how utterly evil sin is. To be as blunt as possible, all sin is satanic. Every time we commit any sin, we are following in Satan’s footsteps. We are turning against our holy God, spitting in His face, and defiantly saying to Him, “Not Thy will, but my will be done.”
A seemingly “small” sin, eating a piece of fruit, led to the fall of humanity and the curse under which all creation still groans (Rom. 8:18–24). Many people, even Christians, look at this and ask how a just God could inflict such a punishment for eating a piece of fruit. What they fail to realize is that in the act of eating that piece of fruit, Adam and Eve were doing much more than biting and chewing food. They were trusting the serpent rather than God (Gen. 3:3–6) and disobeying a direct command of God (2:17). In doing so, they were choosing to follow Satan rather than God. The moment they acted on that temptation, they became, in effect, Satanists and “children of the devil” (1 John 3:10).
Because God is holy, His will is completely holy. It is perfectly pure and good and beautiful. It is light without any darkness (1 John 1:5). To depart from it in any way, even to the smallest degree, is to blasphemously declare that our fallen and corrupt human wills are to be preferred to God’s will. Yes, there are degrees of sin (John 19:11). But all sin is a choice of our will over God’s will. Once the created will has chosen itself over God, holiness and justice require that it be judged, and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). On its own, that fallen will cannot return to perfect alignment with God’s will because it has already become deformed and corrupted. Satan and those angels who followed him did this, and hell was prepared for them (Matt. 25:41). Satan deceived our first parents, and they likewise chose their own will over God’s will. By His grace, however, God offers redemption for human beings who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
13. God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s works but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.
This statement concerns the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. Westminster Shorter Catechism 33 provides us with a good concise summary of this doctrine: “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” Justification is an act of grace (Rom. 3:24). Grace, by definition, is a gift, not a wage earned for works we have done (4:4). By this act of God’s grace, He pardons all our sins (vv. 6–8), and in Him we “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is because Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to us (Rom. 4:11; 5:19). We receive this by faith alone (Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9).
The doctrine of justification by faith alone was at the heart of the sixteenth-century Reformation debate. Over time, Roman Catholic theologians had conflated justification with regeneration and sanctification and had developed a complex doctrine of grace and salvation rooted in their sacramental system. According to Rome, redemption was accomplished objectively by Christ. Its application to people is called justification. This subjective aspect of redemption requires the cooperation of man. In Roman Catholic theology, there are a number of different categories of grace, but key to the doctrine of justification is the idea that grace is God’s supernatural gift to man in the work of redemption. The most important distinction for the doctrine of justification is the distinction between actual grace and habitual grace. Actual grace is a gift from God that enables us to act as we ought. Habitual grace is sanctifying/justifying grace that is infused into the soul, thereby changing the soul and restoring it. The Council of Trent, a sixteenth-century Roman Catholic council, defined habitual grace’s effects in terms of regeneration and sanctification. One receives this grace by means of the sacrament of baptism, and if it is lost through mortal sin, it can be regained through the sacrament of penance (i.e., confession or reconciliation).
The Protestant Reformers rejected the idea of human cooperation in the work of justification and distinguished justification from regeneration and sanctification. Instead of saying that we are justified because we have been made inherently righteous, they argued, on the basis of the biblical texts cited above and many others, that our sins are imputed to Christ and His perfect righteousness is imputed to us. We receive this righteousness by faith and by faith alone. Therefore, we are declared righteous (justified) on the grounds of Christ’s perfect righteousness that has been imputed to us. This justification cannot be separated from regeneration and sanctification, but it must be distinguished from them.
14. The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.
The root of the mistake in this statement is the assumption that the Bible is one among many in the broad category of “sacred writings.” Christians reject that premise. The “sacred” writings of other religions are nothing more than the works of human imagination. Holy Scripture, on the other hand, is absolutely unique in that it is theopneustos or “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). Above and behind its human authors stand the divine Author (2 Peter 1:20–21). It is, therefore, the very Word of God.
The phrase “literally true” is often used by Christians in ambiguous ways that can cause confusion. Everything the divine Author intended to affirm as true in Scripture is true, but sometimes the divine Author chose to use metaphors and other figurative language to teach these truths. Isaiah 55:12, for example, speaks of a time in the future when the hills will sing and the trees will clap their hands. That which God intends to teach here is true, but He uses figurative (nonliteral) language to do so. As John Calvin said about the language in this verse, “They are metaphors, by which he shows that all the creatures bow to the will of God, and rejoice and lend their aid to carry on his work.”
15. The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches.
The easiest way to understand why Christians rightly affirm this statement is to substitute the word God for the Bible in the statement. God, of course, is 100 percent accurate in all that He teaches. No Christian would deny that statement, but is the substitution of those words legitimate? Yes, because the Bible is God’s Word. Paul writes: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 ;Tim. 3:16). Peter explains how this relates to the human authors: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
God, then, is the primary author of Scripture, and His Word is truth (John 17:17). He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Based on the fact that Holy Scripture is God-breathed, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states: “We affirm that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses” (Article 11).
In order to understand what “100 percent accurate” means, we also have to keep in mind other relevant facts about Scripture. For example, God accurately reveals some truths by means of figurative language. This means that to understand what the Bible is accurately teaching, it is absolutely necessary to understand the various genres found in Scripture. Poetry, for example, is not interpreted in the same way that historical prose is interpreted. Both are accurate, but each follows different rules appropriate to the genre. Furthermore, some of what is found in the biblical prose narratives are records of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. These sins are accurately reported, but they are not commended.
In short, Scripture is the authoritative Word of God, and everything God intended to teach in it is 100 percent accurate. Readers, however, have to understand some of the different ways that He taught truths in the Bible. God is always accurate. Our interpretations sometimes are not.
16. Modern science disproves the Bible.
To get to the heart of this statement and discern whether it is true, we have to take a step back and look at the various relationships among aspects of God’s creation, God’s Word, and the human interpretations of both. God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them (Gen. 1:1). God also breathed out the Holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16). God reveals Himself in both (Rom. 1:19–20; Ex. 34:6–7). God’s revelation of Himself in His created works is called general revelation. His revelation of Himself in Scripture is called special revelation. Since God is the One revealing Himself in both, His general revelation and His special revelation cannot contradict each other. Things get more complicated, however, when we bring fallible human beings into the picture.
Human beings can study the stuff of creation (the works of God’s hands) and/or what God reveals about Himself in those works. The natural sciences study the stuff of creation (stars, rocks, oceans, animals, energy, molecules, etc.). Natural theology studies what can be known of God through a consideration of these created things. In a similar way, human beings can also study the materials used to write the Bible and/or what God reveals about Himself in the Bible. Papyrology, for example, studies the physical materials used to write the Bible (papyrus, inks, etc.). The fields of biblical theology and systematic theology study what can be known about God through a consideration of the content of the biblical texts. Because all these studies are carried out by fallible human beings, the results of any of them can be mistaken. Natural scientists and natural theologians can each misinterpret the stuff of creation in their own particular ways. Papyrologists and theologians can each misinterpret Scripture in their own particular ways.
Modern science, the fallible human study of creation, cannot disprove the Bible, which is God’s special revelation. The only thing that science can potentially disprove is fallible human interpretations of the biblical text, but it has to be remembered that the scientists are also fallible and capable of misinterpretation. Scientists can disprove incorrect interpretations of creation by other scientists. Sometimes science can disprove incorrect interpretations of the Bible. If, for example, someone reads Revelation 7:1 and its language about the four corners of the earth and concludes that the earth is actually a flat square, then the natural science that studies the planet God created can correct that misinterpretation and help us see that Revelation must be speaking metaphorically here. Science cannot disprove the Bible, but it can occasionally disprove faulty human interpretations of the Bible that touch on the stuff of creation.
17. God will always reward true faith with material blessings in this life.
This statement reflects the teaching of the so-called prosperity gospel, which is in fact a false gospel. Those who are teaching it are twisting Scripture to make themselves wealthy. God certainly does pour out His blessings on the faithful, but it is not always great material wealth. Paul, for example, proclaims the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:7–8). He is not talking about Jesus’ money. He’s talking about Jesus. The pursuit of the “riches of Christ” is to be our priority, and that is very often accompanied by suffering and persecution, not fabulous wealth (Matt. 5:10–12; John 15:20; Rom. 5:3; 2 Cor. 1:6; 12:10; Phil. 1:29; 1 Thess. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:3; 3:12; Heb. 11:36; 1 Peter 3:14; 4:16, 19; 5:9–10).
Jesus Himself warned us of the danger of putting material wealth before God. He said that we are to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth (Matt. 6:19–21). But how can earthly treasure be dangerous? Because it can subtly takes our eyes and hearts away from God. Even worse, it can make God a means to a worldly end. True blessing is being content regardless of how much or how little material wealth we have (Phil. 4:11–12). Those who are rich in material goods are called not to trust in those riches but also to be rich in good works (1 Tim. 6:17–19).
The prosperity “gospel” creates an unbiblical attitude toward the poor. It implies that those who are poor must not have enough faith. This ignores the entire tenor of Scripture. Consider, for example, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31). Which of these two was truly blessed? The rich man who refused to help the poor and who went to hell? Or Lazarus, the one who prosperity preachers would say didn’t have enough faith but who went to heaven? Over and over, Scripture warns us that material riches can be a danger to faith. Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24–25). Paul said that the love of money is the root of all manner of evils (1 Tim. 6:9–10). The Bible indicates that riches can be deceitful (Mark 4:19). So is the prosperity gospel.
18. Hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever.
There are few doctrines that are more commonly denied by professing Christians today than the doctrine of hell, yet Christ Himself said more about the subject than anyone else in Scripture. If Christians, by definition, are those who follow Christ, we cannot simply ignore what He said on this subject. Jesus Himself spoke of hell as a fearful reality, a place of eternal punishment for those who die without faith and remain unrepentant.
Jesus speaks of hell as a reality in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:22, 29–30). A little later He says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (10:28). Jesus describes hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (13:42). He says physical mutilation would be preferable to hell (18:8–9; Mark 9:43). Regarding how long the punishment of hell will last, Jesus says that it is as eternal as the bliss of heaven will be for the redeemed (Matt. 25:46; John 3:36). The same word describes the duration of both.
Jesus, who would know better than anyone else, told us in no uncertain terms that hell is real, that hell is eternal, and that hell awaits all who reject Him. We may find this teaching disconcerting. We may find it disturbing. But if we reject it, we are calling Jesus untruthful.
19. There will be a time when Jesus Christ returns to judge all the people who have lived.
In the Nicene Creed, Christians confess that we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ who, after His death and resurrection “ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead.” This creedal statement is a concise summary of biblical doctrine. The biblical account of the ascension of Christ is found in Acts 1:9. The same passage promises that Jesus will return at some unspecified time in the future (Acts 1:11). Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 speaks of Christ’s being seated at the right hand of the Father (vv. 34–36). That is where He is now. He has received His kingdom and all authority in heaven and on earth (Dan. 7:13–14; Matt. 28:18). He is now putting all enemies beneath His feet (1 Cor. 15:25).
Paul’s most extensive discussion of the future second advent of Christ is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, but he supplements it in other places such as 1 Corinthians 15. As Paul explains, at the second advent of Christ, the dead in Christ will be raised first, and then those Christians who are alive at the time of His return will be caught up with Him (1 Thess. 4:16–17). The dead in Christ will be raised imperishable, and those who are alive will be changed (1 Cor. 15:52). At the final judgment, Jesus will be the judge (John 5:22; Acts 10:42; Rom. 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:10). The nature and results of this final judgment are vividly described in Revelation 20:11–15. All stand before the Great White Throne. Those whose names are not found written in the Book of Life are cast into the lake of fire. The redeemed will enter a new heaven and new earth where they will be face-to-face with the Lord forever (Rev. 22:1–5).
20. Worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.
Worshiping alone and with one’s family is encouraged in Scripture and in the Reformed tradition. In fact, the Westminster Assembly produced a short Directory for Family Worship that explains both. We see the beginnings of family worship very early in Scripture during the patriarchal period under the leadership of men such as Abraham, who was required to circumcise the males in his household (Gen. 17). At the time of the exodus, each family was to observe the Passover in their home (Ex. 12:3, 26–27). All families were to teach their children the law (Deut. 6:6–7). Jewish worship became more institutionalized with the establishment of the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices, but individual worship, family worship, and corporate worship were all observed. After the destruction of the temple, the synagogue was established as a form of corporate worship and was still in existence at the time of Christ and the early church (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; Acts 13:5; 17:7).
All three forms of worship are still to be practiced today. As individuals, we are to worship God in private prayer (Matt. 6:6). As families, we are to continue to worship together (Acts 16:15). But neither of these replaces corporate worship. Given the long Jewish history of corporate worship and the fact that the first converts to Christ were Jews (2:41), God would have to have stated clearly that a radical change had taken place in what He expected if corporate worship had suddenly been made optional for Christians. This did not happen. And the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42).
Paul’s writings assume corporate worship. In 1 Corinthians 11:18, he writes, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church . . .” It is assumed that the Corinthian Christians will be coming together to meet as a church. The same is assumed in 1 Corinthians 14:23 when Paul discusses worship in the corporate gatherings. Corporate worship is required for differently gifted believers to build one another up. It is why the author to the Hebrews writes,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24–25)
21. Christians should be silent on issues of politics.
There are a number of ways this statement could be interpreted depending on the assumptions one brings to it. Is it referring to all Christians or some Christians? If only some, which ones? Is it referring to pastors? Is it referring to Christians considered individually or corporately? What does “be silent” mean? Public silence or complete silence? What exactly is an “issue of politics”? Does it mean specific pieces of legislation or specific court rulings? Or does it mean contested ethical issues? How do we define the word politics? That word can mean everything from “the art or science of government” to “the total complex of relations between people living in society.” Does it take local circumstances into account? Is the answer for Christians in England different from the answer for Christians in North Korea or Iran?
In the North American context, the question speaks most directly to the post-Enlightenment secularist view of the relation between church and state. The secular view, which is widely assumed in the West, considers religious faith a purely private affair that should have no place in the public square. In other words, secularism insists that Christians should not express their beliefs publicly; nor should they take stances on political issues based on their Christian faith.
Scripture does not allow Christians to remain silent about their beliefs, and it encourages them to be salt and light in the midst of fallen cultures (Matt. 5:13–16), but Christians disagree on exactly how they should speak to the political and cultural issues they encounter. One reason for this is that Christians come from all tribes, tongues, and nations. They exist and have existed in a huge variety of cultures and countries. Each nation, each political structure, and each culture is different. Scripture does not provide detailed instructions on how Christians should interact with every potential kind of political and cultural context that might arise in history. It provides general principles, and Christians have to use biblically informed wisdom to apply those principles in their specific context. Sometimes they disagree on how best to do that.
In addition to learning the general principles of the law in order to know what is good and what is just, we can also learn by studying the biblical examples of men such as Joseph and Daniel who served pagan rulers and remained faithful to God. We can learn from the prophets who publicly called out both Israelite and pagan rulers when they were in sin. We can learn from the example of Paul and the other Apostles who faithfully proclaimed the gospel and established the church in the midst of the pagan Roman Empire.
22. God chose the people he would save before he created the world.
The doctrine of election has been at the center of controversy in the church for centuries, but this is not due to a lack of explicit teaching in Scripture. From beginning to end, Scripture places the salvation of sinners in the sovereign hands of God. God reveals in His Word that He sovereignly works all things according to His will (Eph. 1:11). He also reveals that those who are saved are saved not because of their works but solely on the basis of God’s grace (2 Tim. 1:8–9). We are taught by God’s Word that His election unto salvation occurred before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:3–6; 2 Tim. 1:9). Those whom God predestined for salvation before the foundation of the world He calls in time (Rom. 8:28) and draws to Christ (John 6:44). As creatures of God and as sinners, deserving of God’s wrath, we have no right to question the ethics of election (Rom. 9:20). We know God is good and that all He does is good. When we do not fully understand something, that knowledge alone should be enough for us.
The Canons of Dort helpfully explain the nature of God’s work of election:
Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. (I.7)
Our response to the biblical doctrine of election should be one of humility rather than arrogance. It is a mystery we can barely begin to fathom. With Paul, we should cry out:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33–36)
23. Churches must provide entertaining worship services if they want to be effective.
A Christian cannot affirm this statement without denying everything that Scripture reveals about the nature and purpose of corporate Christian worship. In the first place, worship is to be directed toward God alone. As Jesus said, quoting Deuteronomy, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10). Not only is worship to be directed to God alone, but God alone reveals the acceptable way He is to be worshiped (Deut. 12:32; Matt. 15:9). God “may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men” (WCF 21.1).
The idea that worship should entertain those in attendance places the worship of Almighty God in the same category as a sporting event, a movie, or the circus. It is a blasphemous inversion of the nature of worship; it can turn something that is intended to be God-centered and God-honoring into a man-centered spectacle. Biblical God-centered worship involves prayer with thanksgiving. It is to be done “with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance” (WCF 21.3). It involves the reading and preaching of the Scriptures, the singing of hymns and psalms, and the administration of the sacraments. God is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:43). We are called to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28–29).
The idea that the church has to offer entertaining worship services to be “effective” is also importing a worldly concept of “effectiveness” into the church. The church is not called to be “effective.” The church is called to be faithful to her Lord. If the church is faithful, the Lord will add however many to the church that He sees fit (Acts 2:46–47). The simple preaching of Christ and Him crucified may appear ineffective to Madison Avenue, but it has always appeared foolish to the worldly (1 Cor. 1:23). In reality, it is the power of God to salvation (Rom. 1:16). The church is not in the business of entertaining believers or unbelievers. We are to leave that to actors and athletes. The church has a much higher calling, and we abandon it at our own peril.
24. God is unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions.
God has given us instruction in His Word regarding how we are to walk and please Him (1 Thess. 4:1). Walking involves putting numerous small steps together. Likewise, our spiritual walk involves putting numerous small decisions together. God is concerned with our day-to-day decisions because God’s will for us is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3). He calls us to take up our cross daily and follow Christ (Luke 9:23). To do this daily requires many good daily decisions.
All our decisions are acts of our will. Since our goal is to be more and more conformed to Christ, our goal involves having our wills, by grace, more and more aligned with His will (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 1:3–5; Phil. 2:12–13; Col. 3:3–10). Our day-to-day decisions, therefore, either contribute to our sanctification or detract from it. For our wills to be aligned with God’s will and for our decisions to please Him, we have to know His revealed will, His law. We find His revealed will, His instruction for us, in Scripture (Ps. 119:105; 2 Tim. 3:15–16).
Regarding God’s will and our decisions, there are several things we have to understand. For instance, we have to understand that God’s law does not tell us what our decision should be in every conceivable circumstance. Scripture doesn’t tell you whether you should go to this college or that college, take this job or that job. Generally speaking, God’s moral law provides broad principles. Wisdom is required to apply those principles in the innumerable different circumstances that Christians will face. Christians should study both the law and the Wisdom Literature of Scripture to develop the wisdom necessary to make good day-to-day decisions.
A second important point to note is that although God is concerned with our day-to-day decisions, not every decision is a decision between good and bad. Not every decision is of the same kind. “Should I rob this bank or not?” and “Should I have the soup or the salad?” are not the same kind of decisions. One involves a choice between good and evil. The other involves a choice between one good and another good. Eating soup or salad only becomes a sinful choice if you eat without thankfulness to God for that food or you become a glutton. God has numbered the very hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:30). He is certainly concerned with our everyday decisions.
25. The Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do.
To understand why this statement must be affirmed by all faithful Christians, one must understand what the Bible is. Paul explains this in his second letter to Timothy: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (3:16). The word translated “breathed out by God” is theopneustos. It literally means “God-breathed.” In other words, the Bible is the very Word of God. The Bible has the authority to tell us what to do because God has the authority to tell us what to do.
It should go without saying that God has the authority to tell us what to do. He is the Creator of heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 146:6). He upholds our very existence (Heb. 1:3). He is King and Lord (Ps. 47:6–7). We are, therefore, His creatures and subjects and owe Him obedience. The living God is also infinitely good (34:8). Because the psalmist recognized the perfect goodness of God, he asked God to teach him His statutes (119:68). The psalmist knew that his Creator had the authority to tell him what to do, and he knew that what God told him to do was good. Jesus also made it abundantly clear that man is to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).
26. Learning about theology is for pastors and scholars only.
Christians will sometimes affirm this statement because there is some ambiguity in the way the word theology is used. It is often used to refer to a formal academic study requiring mastery of ancient languages and other related fields. But that is not the only way the word theology is used. The basic meaning of the word is “knowledge of God.” Is knowledge of God for pastors and scholars only? No. We are all called to know God (Col. 1:9–10).
This is why theology is important for all Christians. Theology is the knowledge of God. If we are all called to know God, then we are all called to learn about theology to some degree. This does not mean that a person has to study theology at the formal academic level. It does mean that we are to do what we can to grow in our knowledge and love of God. This is the most important function of theology, and it is why theology can never be rightly done if it is separated from prayer and praise. Theology and doxology must not be separated.
Studying theology has secondary benefits as well. Learning at least the basics of theology can help all Christians be more discerning and better able to spot the kind of serious errors we have discussed throughout this article. A lack of any theological knowledge leaves Christians open to the wiles of false teachers. There are many wolves in sheep’s clothing roaming around the church, harming unwary sheep. Studying theology helps us discern the difference between a counterfeit and the genuine article. It helps us spot the zipper on the back of the wolves’ ill-fitting sheep costume. It helps us know and proclaim the truth to a lost world steeped in lies.
27. Sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin.
The fact that so many Christians deny this statement is a clear example of how much Christians have become conformed to this world as opposed to being conformed to Christ. The sexual libertinism that has become the norm in Western culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is gradually becoming the norm in the church as well. All manner of sexual immorality is being excused by professing Christians in flagrant disregard for God’s Word, and on those rare occasions when His Word is taken into consideration, it is being twisted beyond all recognition by those who want God to call good evil and evil good in order to justify their lusts.
God takes sexual immorality very seriously. Over and over, in both the Old and New Testaments, sexual immorality of all kinds is strongly condemned (e.g., Lev. 18; 1 Cor. 6:12–20) and judged (e.g., Gen. 19). Christians are commanded to abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3). In fact, we are to flee from it (1 Cor. 6:18). Why? Because sexual sin is a sin against our bodies, which are united to Christ (1 Cor. 6:15) and are a temple of the Holy Spirit (v. 19).
Marriage is a creation ordinance designed to establish a covenantal bond of faithfulness and unity between a man and a woman and to provide a place for the procreation and raising of children. The marriage bond is an earthly image of the covenantal relationship between God and His people (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 2:2). This is why Israel’s apostasy is often compared to adultery (e.g., Jer. 3:1; Ezek. 16:14–63; Hos. 1:2). The same analogy is carried over into the New Testament when marriage is used as an image of the relationship between Christ and the church (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:21–24).
Sexual intercourse is reserved for marriage because of the unity it creates between a man and a woman. As Jesus explained, the man and the woman “become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5). That unity in the flesh is built on the covenantal bond of unity established by the covenant of marriage. Sex without the marriage bond creates a union of the flesh without the corresponding covenantal union. This is why fornication is contrasted with marriage in Scripture (e.g., 1 Cor. 7; Heb. 13:4). Those who are unable to control their sexual desires are to get married and not commit fornication (1 Cor. 7:2); we are warned that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10). Those who have committed this sin are not to attempt to justify it. They are called to repent and confess their sin (1 John 1:9).
28. Abortion is a sin.
Abortion is sin because murder is sin (Ex. 20:13; Rev. 21:8). Murder is the unjust killing of a human being. Abortion is murder because abortion is the unjust killing of a human being. Every embryology text on every college and university campus states that the fetus is a genetically distinct individual human being from the moment the sperm cell fertilizes the ovum. In other words, conception is the point in the reproductive process where a new individual human being exists. The fetus, therefore, is not a “potential” human being or a “potential” life. It is an actual genetically distinct human being in its earliest and most defenseless stages of development.
This means that abortion is not merely an abstract debate over a woman’s right to choose. That choice involves the life or death of another individual human being. Abortion is not merely a private medical decision involving a woman and her doctor. It always involves a third distinct human being as well. Abortion is not merely the ending of a pregnancy. Abortion is the murder of a human being. Abortion is not a “right” because no one has the right to kill these human beings any more than they have the right to kill any other human beings. No one has the “right” to commit murder.
Many of those who used to defend abortion by claiming that the fetus is not a human being have been forced by science to abandon that argument. Many of them now grant that the fetus is a human being but deny that it is truly a person. In this way, they follow in the footsteps of racists and genocidal mass murderers of the past who have justified their sins and crimes by denying the personhood of those they hurt or killed.
Like those Europeans and Americans who denied that Africans are truly persons and like the Nazis who denied that Jews are truly persons, the pro-abortionists of today deny that children in the womb are truly persons. Because their definition of personhood is arbitrary and not grounded in anything objective, its boundaries depend solely on the whims of those in power. In some places, the mentally handicapped and those suffering from a variety of illnesses and injuries involving the brain are also in danger of being removed from the category of “persons.”
Abortion is quite simply evil. It is a wickedness that stems from our culture’s lust, narcissism, and pride.
29. Gender identity is a matter of choice.
To understand the meaning of this statement, we have to have some grasp of the claims of the transgender movement. Over the last several decades, this movement has become very prominent and very vocal. Transgenderism separates the concepts of sex and gender. According to transgender ideology, sex has to do with biological and physical aspects of a human being (including DNA and sexual anatomy). Gender, on the other hand, has to do with a person’s subjective feelings of being masculine or feminine. The transgender person, generally speaking, is one who identifies himself or herself with a gender that does not correspond to his or her biological sex. Transgenderism, thus, rejects what it refers to as the “gender binary,” the idea that there are only two genders. Instead, gender exists as a spectrum with an almost limitless number of possibilities.
Transgender ideology stands in direct contrast with Scripture, which teaches that human beings are created in the image of God and are created male and female (Gen. 1:27). There are no other options. Scripture also teaches that our behavior is to correspond with our biological sex. For example, Scripture forbids women from wearing men’s clothes and vice versa (Deut. 22:5).
We cannot choose our biological sex any more than we can choose to be a bird rather than a human. If our subjective experience does not correspond to the real world, for whatever reason, our feelings have to be conformed to reality because reality will never change to match our feelings. If I claim to be a bird trapped in a human body, I can put on a bird mask, say I’m a bird, and even pass laws making everyone else say I’m a bird, but if I leap off the top of a high-rise in an attempt to fly, I am going to die regardless of my feelings.
If the cause of the dissonance between my feelings and the real world is a disorder in the brain like those that cause delusions, hallucinations, and psychoses, then the disorder should be treated appropriately. If the cause of the dissonance is willful rebellion against God’s created order and law, then what is called for is repentance.
Those psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, legislators, and others who are pushing everyone to affirm that the dissonance is resolved only by denying the real world may be doing so out of fear of the mob, but whatever the reason may be, they are exacerbating the problem exactly as they would be if they told the man who thinks he is a bird that he really can fly.
30. The Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today.
The fact that a growing number of professing Christians affirm this statement is another example of how much Christians have become conformed to this world as opposed to being conformed to Christ. Scripture repeatedly and clearly condemns homosexual behavior as an abomination. In Leviticus 18:22, for example, homosexual behavior is addressed between child sacrifice and bestiality. In Leviticus 20:13, it is listed alongside incest and bestiality as sins worthy of the death penalty. This indicates that it is among the permanent moral laws of the Old Testament rather than the temporary ceremonial laws found elsewhere in the Pentateuch.
The permanent binding validity of the law against homosexual behavior is confirmed when we discover that it is repeated in the New Testament after the death and resurrection of Christ. In Romans 1:26–27, Scripture speaks of homosexual behavior as a dishonorable passion, an unnatural relation, and a shameless act. All this behavior is a result of God’s giving them up to their impure lusts as punishment (1:24–26). Elsewhere Paul says that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10). He urges his readers not to be deceived about this. Sadly, many contemporary professing Christians are deceiving themselves and others.
Every human faculty has been perverted in one way or another by the fall, and as a result some people are sexually attracted to those of the same sex. Both the desire for sexual and romantic intimacy with a person of the same sex and giving in to the desire are sin. However, there is hope in Christ for those who experience those desires. Redemption includes the restoration of our distorted faculties—our reason and our will and our passions, and it involves putting to death all the works of the flesh.
31. Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.
The use of the words belief, opinion, and truth can be confusing to Christians today because these words have different connotations to different people. Belief is often seen as something one does that is opposed to reason. Opinion is seen as purely subjective and having no binding force. Truth, if it is admitted to exist at all, is often relativized.
In classic theological works, opinion, doubt, knowledge, and belief were all ways of responding to a proposition. Opinion meant that you assented to the truth of the proposition while holding out the possibility that it might be false. Doubt meant denying the truth of the proposition while holding out the possibility that it might be true. Knowledge meant assenting to the truth of the proposition on the basis of direct experience. Natural belief meant assenting to the truth of the proposition on the basis of another person’s testimony. In this way of thinking, belief, by definition, is not the same as opinion, but both are addressing objective truth. Faith is similar to natural belief, but it is not something that fallen man can do. It is the gift of God.
Jesus Christ claimed to be God incarnate and the only way of salvation (John 14:6). That proposition is either objectively true or it isn’t. Every religion in the world either affirms the truth of Christ’s claims or else denies it. This means that ultimately every religion is about objective truth. Every religious claim is either objectively true or objectively false based on where it stands in relation to the claims of Jesus Christ. Individuals may think that Christ’s claims are true while holding out the possibility that they are false. They may think His claims are false while holding out the possibility that they are true. Neither opinion nor doubt, however, changes the fact that His claims are objectively true.
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