Seven Further Things You Might Believe Are True About Christianity But Are NOT!
1. An Inspired Bible does Not entail an inerrant Bible.
Inspiration tells us the Bible comes from God and reliably communicates his message to humanity. It does not dictate how God communicates his truth. Can God not use errors and idiots to speak his word to us? Asses and Assholes? Legends and myths? In other words, how God speaks his inspired word has to be determined inductively from the kinds of materials, sources, and speakers we find in it. Not deductively from a claim that if God is perfectly true, therefore his Word is perfectly true, true being understood as in a modernist historical and scientific sense (neither of which, ironically, were true of the times in which the Bible was written).
2. The Gospels are NOT historical accounts that give us a chronological rehearsal of Jesus’ life and ministry.
Why do we have four gospels, then? And why do they not agree at numerous points? Were three or all four of them simply poor historians? No, they were first century historian-biographer-theologians rather than modern ones. Their way of doing history was much more thematic and focuses on the lessons to be learned from various characters, especially the chief ones. Chronology was not primary value; education and instruction was. The gospels are organized by each evangelist to serve these purposes in laying out their view of the meaning and significance of Jesus. This doesn’t mean the gospels do not contain reliable history. I believe they do. It means that this is not their main purpose so it should not be ours in interpreting them. And we should interpret them, as best we can, in line with the first century practices of their authors.
3. Jesus was NOT a Christian!
He was the climax and culmination of God’s long story with Israel. Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s Genesis 12:1-3 promises that God would have, would bless and protect, and would bless the rest of the world through a people from Abraham and Sarah. That’s the plot line of the biblical story. Jesus alone was the one faithful Israelite who kept faith with God and thus brought all these promises to fulfilment. As the post-resurrection heirs of Abraham, called Christ-Ones (or Christians), we live in and out Christ’s victory as a continuation of Christ’s fulfilment of these promise becoming to the Jewish people, experiencing his blessing and protection, and spreading the blessings of God throughout the world. Jesus founded the Christian movement as the Jewish Messiah he was but he was not a Christian.
4. Prophecy is NOT primarily “history written ahead of time.”
Prophecy is much more like an invitation to those who hear it. If they continue the direction they are going, they will receive God’s judgment. But they are not so fated. The prophecy is an invitation to turn away from the judgment-directed path they are presently on (see Jeremiah 18:5-11). Prophecy doesn’t declare what will inevitably happen regardless of human response. It invites the kind of response which will keep them from falling foul of judgment. If they don’t so respond, then judgment it will be. Even the lurid visions of Revelation are not pictures of what is destined to happen. But pictures of what will befall an empire like Rome if they do not change their ways.
5. The Rapture, as popularly conceived, is NOT a biblical doctrine.
1 Thessalonians 4 is about Christ’s return to receive his royal courtiers in the air with him who will then accompany him to earth to take up his royal rule and establish God’s kingdom finally and fully.
6. America is NOT now nor ever has been a “Christian” nation.
Since the resurrection of Jesus there can be no such thing as a “Christian” nation that is not named “Church.” The land of promise in the Old Testament (Canaan) has in the New Testament been fulfilled in the “world” (Romans 4:13). The church as God’s “new Israel” (Jews and Gentiles united in one body) are sent to all the world to establish colonies of God’s kingdom across the globe. The purpose Old Testament Israel was to serve as God’s agent in spreading his blessings to the world has been assumed by the church (see #3 above). And the church is to exist in every country and nation in the world but not as that country or nation. Claims about “Christian” America are a category mistake that we should leave behind.
7. Christ is NOT Jesus’ last name!
Christ means Messiah and identifies Jesus as such. It is doubtful that it ever fully lost that connotation for early Christians. I believe we ought to translate Christ with Messiah wherever we find it in the New Testament. We need to be continually reminded of the Jewishness and Jewish context so necessary for rightly understanding Jesus and nothing says this as directly as identifying Jesus as Jesus Messiah or Messiah Jesus.