By Vexen Crabtree 2018
Many verses in the Bible warn against the dangers of having the wrong beliefs. Exodus 20:3-6 instructs that "you shall have no other gods before me" and goes on to warn that the punishment for it will persist for four generations of the wrong-believer's offspring. Deuteronomy chapter 13 contains three repetitions of a warning that if someone tries to convince you to worship 'other gods' then you must kill them - even if it is a relative (Deuteronomy 13:2-5, Deuteronomy 13:6-10 and Deuteronomy 13:12-15). Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelations 21:8 warn that worshipping the wrong god will land you in hell. More verses, such as Exodus 23:13, Leviticus 19:4, Jonah 2:8, Psalm 16:4, Jeremiah 11:12, 1 Corinthians 10:14 and 1 John 5:21 all warn against idols in general but don't give clear punishments. The message is clear: If you choose to worship a god, you'd better pick the right one!
Aside from the question of which god you worship, the Bible states that you have to have the correct beliefs about that god, and to do the correct rituals. Ezekiel 13:9 says that those who fall for fake divine messages will feel the wrath of god. Mark 16:16 say you must be baptized and The Biblical letter of 2 John is dedicated to the sole purpose is to say that a form of Christian belief called docetism is equivalent to godlessness. "Pascal's Wager" is an infamous argument that it's better to believe than not to, but, the Bible has two insults to those who like to tread carefully: Hebrews 6:4-6 and 2 Peter 2:20-22 both say it is far worse to embrace Christianity but then do so wrongly than it is to simply remain a non-Christian: "it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness". Until you can be sure of exactly which form of Christianity to choose (and there are hundreds, just today), then it is safer to avoid the minefield than to traverse it and get it wrong.
Many verses in the Bible warn against the dangers of idolatry (which is, worshipping the wrong god). Exodus 20:3-6 instructs that "you shall have no other gods before me" and goes on to warn that the punishment for this will not only affect the sinner in question, but four generations of his offspring will also be punished for it. Deuteronomy chapter 13 is compiled from three repetitions of a warning that if someone tries to convince you to worship 'other gods' then you must kill them - even if it is a relative (Deuteronomy 13:2-5, Deuteronomy 13:6-10 and Deuteronomy 13:12-15). Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelations 21:8 warn that worshipping the wrong god will land you in hell. More verses, such as Exodus 23:13, Leviticus 19:4, Jonah 2:8, Psalm 16:4, Jeremiah 11:12, 1 Corinthians 10:14 and 1 John 5:21 all warn against idols in general but don't give clear punishments, however, the picture is already drawn: pick the wrong god, and things are not good for you nor your descendants!
Even if you pick the right god (good luck) there are frequently so many divisions and contradictory factions that the path to the "right" set of beliefs is a long way from being settled. . Ezekiel 13:9 and Jeremiah 23:16 both say that those who fall for fake divine messages or listen to the wrong prophets will not be re-educated by god, nor given correct messages to displace the old ones: they will simply feel the wrath of god. So the task of choosing a correct set of believers to follow is exceedingly precarious. Although in the Christian Bible the following verse says it is better to believe in general, further verses reveal that the truth is a little more complicated:
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
According to the author of Mark 16:16
So it seems at first, God will punish those who are not lucky enough to be convinced by Christian claims that you have to be baptized. However many people are at first convinced of their new, Christian, religion, only later to realize that some of it doesn't make sense, or, to come to believe some things wrongly within Christianity. So, take note of this verse:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
What is this saying? If you start out believing the right things and take part in the Christian religion correctly, but then 'fall away', then it is impossible to be brought back into the fold. In other words, once you start believing, you have to avoid heresy and wrong-belief, otherwise you pay for it eternally. Serious stuff indeed. This of course isn't the only place in the Bible where you find such text:The Second Epistle of John (2 John) is very short, just 13 verses. The author writes using the name of a well respected Christian in order to convince others that a particular belief is wrong. The entire epistle is about this one point. He writes against the belief that Jesus' body was spiritual in nature, and not fleshy; a belief known as docetism. 2 John says that if you don't have the right beliefs about the relationship between Jesus-as-god and Jesus-as-man then you are godless (2 John 1:7-9), and Christians can't greet you politely nor welcome you in to church or home (2 John 1:10-11). Just to greet people with wrong beliefs, says 2 John, is to be in league with evil! This has no doubt helped encourage the intolerant and fundamentalist streams in Christian history. 2 John does contradict a few other verses in the Bible that say Christians should debate doctrine patiently and respectfully (1 Peter 3:15-16, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 3:2 and Colossians 4:6).
Evangelist's like Horatius Bonar (1850) thusly taught that having wrong views of the trinity cause "darkening and deadening" of the soul, but, having wrong beliefs about Jesus is much worse1..
When I read passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 and 2 John, I wonder if Christianity is safe at all because how would any convert know if they believed the wrong things, given our reliance on shaky historical translations of the Bible? If you doubt the conclusion that it is better to avoid Christianity altogether than to commit to it, then, read one final verse:
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”
“Pascal's Wager is a rhetorical argument proposed by Christians against atheists, and holds that it is 'safer' to believe in God because if you're wrong, you don't lose anything, but if you disbelieve then you could end up foregoing the benefits of heaven. It is a very common argument2. But here are five reasons to turn this argument on its head, and reject God and religion: (1) As God has historically served as a force for evil and it seems that any demon could very easily trick us into thinking that it is God, we must reject all feelings and thoughts from God for fear of us being deluded into committing yet more misdemeanours. (2) The major monotheistic religions hold that idolatry is a serious sin so it is safer to accept no god rather than risk accepting the incorrect one. (3) The major monotheistic religions hold that having the correct beliefs is so important that having the wrong ones is normally punished with particular glee; it is safer to remain doubtful than to commit to the wrong set of beliefs. (4) The goal of reaching heaven is a selfish motive so probably won't get you there. (5) A good and benevolent god judges us according to our choices and moral actions in life, not according to the religions we happen to be born with, or convert to, given that our choices are based on incomplete and subjectively interpreted evidence. If God is just then our chosen religion and incidental beliefs are irrelevant to it. In conclusion: it is much safer for yourself and for society to not pick a religion and to not believe in any particular god.”
Current edition: 2018 Mar 273
Parent page: Christianity
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The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.
"The Gospel of the Spirit's Love". Some copies of this are entitled "The Gospel of the Holy Spirit's Love". Date of publication unknown, I'm using 1850 as a working date as it is in the middle year of his writings. Horatius Bonar was an evangelist preacher from Scotland, and an undistinguished but prolific author.