Would you care to engage in a simple exercise that’s a bit humiliating and humbling, all at the same time?
What? You’re not sure you want to go there? Not to worry. Rest assured you will profit from this experience if you’ll only approach it with honesty and absolute transparency, following it up with deep reflection and prayer.
Everyone on-board now? Good; let’s do it! Here’s the exercise:
Make a list of fifty things you once believed were true in regard to faith, but now no longer believe.
Yes, there are a few rules for this exercise. Here they are:
1. Reach back over the span of your entire life, not merely listing beliefs you’ve held recently.
2. List the beliefs you held that aren’t just “safe” to admit. Go for broke and let it all hang out. Who do you think you’ll surprise? God?
3. Don’t just string up “little fish” here. Put the big fish in the cooler, too.
4. Resist the urge to cull out the beliefs you held for only a relatively short period of time. If you firmly believed it, no matter for how long, it’s a candidate for the list.
Now since I try not to ever encourage you to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to first do myself, here’s my list of 50 things I once believed in regard to faith, but no longer believe, appearing here in no particular order.
(Man alive this is embarrassing, but hey, I promised you this would be humiliating! I did tell you I no longer believe these things, right?!)
1. The only way God’s Holy Spirit works in the life of a Christian is through the word of God.
2. It is forbidden by God for a Christian to ever divorce another Christian except for the reason of sexual adultery.
3. Warfare, while being a sad, lamentable state of affairs, is essentially a “non-religious issue” for being a Christian nation, we only pursue “just wars” and engage in war in such a way as God himself would unquestionably approve.
4. The only “real” English Bible translations are the KJV or ASV 1901.
5. To read or study the religious writings or messages of authors or speakers outside of the Churches of Christ is to pollute your mind and to endanger your soul.
6. It is my responsibility as a Christian to spend a significant portion of my time serving as something like a “brotherhood policeman,” watching for wrongdoers within my church heritage and publicly calling them out on their sin.
7. The Old Testament doesn’t have much of anything to offer to Christians today, having been replaced by the New Testament.
8. The Gospels are something akin to “secondary” literature compared to the importance of the Book of Acts and the epistles.
9. Audible prayer must be concluded with the statement of the phrase “in the name of Jesus;” just saying “Amen” won’t get the job done.
10. The totality of Christ’s church essentially consists of the folks who gather together on Sundays with a sign in the front of their building that reads “Church of Christ,” and only a small portion of them, to boot.
11. It is wrong to associate in any fashion, including prayer – except for the sake of attempting to make correction – with any religious teacher who is not a member of the Church of Christ.
12. The United States of America is “special” in the eyes of God compared to all other nations.
13. Virtually perfect attendance of church assemblies and stellar knowledge of the Bible are the two chief keys to becoming, and the true measure of, a faithful, growing Christian.
14. The acts I engage in during Sunday morning church assemblies are far more important to God than anything else I engage in during any of the other hours in a given week.
15. To die while in the act of sinning is a guaranteed ticket straight to hell, bar none.
16. A genuine Christian is to be about maximizing the number of Christian friends and acquaintances they have and minimizing the number of relationships they have with those who are not Christians.
17. All people who go to hell are literally, ceaselessly roasted alive in fire forever, tortured eternally by the decree of the living, loving God, be they Hitler or your golden-hearted, absolutely selfless, non-Christian neighbor.
18. Submitting to baptism for any reason other than expressly “for the forgiveness of sins” (or for any group of reasons and motivations that did not specifically include “the forgiveness of sins”) was most likely nothing more than getting wet and “doesn’t count.”
19. Everything depicted in the book of Revelation concerns the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
20. Christ’s true church had, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist between about 100 A.D. and 1800 A.D.
21. Every human being on planet earth had heard the gospel preached to them before the last of Christ’s apostles died.
22. Zero miracles have been worked in the world since the death of the last person upon which the apostles laid their hands.
23. The Roman Catholic Pope is the anti-Christ spoken of in John’s writings and the “man of lawlessness” mentioned by the apostle Paul.
24. Involvement in religious associations (such as a ministerial alliance or a church softball league) is a sign of serious compromise of Christian conviction.
25. It is wrong for a woman to pass a communion tray while standing up.
26. For a church to construct or own facilities for any purpose other than its own Bible classes, worship gatherings, and church meals is a serious misunderstanding of the purpose of the church.
27. Any view other than the days of creation (as mentioned in Genesis 1-2) being literal twenty-four periods of time is heresy.
28. It is wrong to contribute money to a church in any other fashion, or on any other day of the week, than by depositing it in the offering plate on a Sunday.
29. It is sinful for a Christian to engage in dancing of any kind in any context, just as it is wrong for a Christian to ever drink any alcohol at any time, period.
30. For a sermon to not include a direct appeal (or “invitation”) for those yet to believe to do so, to repent, and to submit to baptism, is wholly unacceptable.
31. The number of Bible verses a teacher or preacher quotes, or at least references by citation, is the second most important criteria by which the quality of a message is to be judged.
32. It is possible for all Christians everywhere to see all things alike in terms of faith.
33. Fasting is not a helpful spiritual discipline for Christians today and anyone who would suggest otherwise should be regarded with suspicion since “fasting is not a command of the New Testament.”
34. It is wrong for a Christian to wear jewelry or furnish their home with decorations depicting the cross.
35. It is wickedness for a Christian to happily listen to – much less directly participate in by singing along with – spiritual songs, psalms, hymns, or any other genre of music, that is accompanied by instrumental music.
36. The church of Christ and the kingdom of God are synonyms for the same thing, one not being anything more or less than the other.
37. It is simply not possible for anyone who has never even heard of Jesus Christ to have the slightest chance of salvation, God deliberately limiting any extension of his mercy only to those who have heard of his Son.
38. In all instances, the marriage of a Christian to someone who is not a Christian, is a marriage not fully recognized by God.
39. It is unoffensive for a nation’s patriotic symbols to be displayed in a house of worship.
40. Applause, the lifting up of hands, swaying or moving in rhythm with songs, or saying anything other than the word “Amen” – be it by man or woman, young or old – is to be avoided and frowned upon if you are a part of the audience in a worship gathering for such is unbecoming of worship offered to God.
41. Singing in a worship gathering other than congregational singing (be it a solo, a duet, a choir, etc.) is sin.
42. “The unforgivable sin” is suicide.
43. Providence is a fabrication of the mind, all human matters being solely, and strictly, the result of chance or choice.
44. God has never heard a prayer from someone he hasn’t already saved.
45. Going to a movie with a rating other than G or PG is a shameful sin, and even watching those with a rating of PG is suspect.
46. It is simply inconceivable to call yourself a Christian and vote any other way than straight-ticket Republican.
47. To remove life support, once begun and deemed necessary, is actually murder, in virtually any and all situations.
48. Heaven is a place with streets of real gold.
49. Virtually nothing is a matter subject to individual conscience for virtually all things are matters of faith (cf. #32 above ).
50. Grace is something best not talked about, for it is a “behind the scenes” teaching of Scripture, easily misunderstood, and not really relevant to everyday Christian living.
Well, by now you must either be thinking, “You’re mighty dumb, Dave!” or “What cult did you crawl out of, Smith?”
While I won’t try to argue the observation or the question, I will gladly share with you why I’m sharing this list with you … but, you’ll have to read tomorrow’s post to get it.
And I’m going to ask you to make your own list of things you used to believe in terms of faith before you read it. That’s right, you’ve got homework to do so go to it. If you hit a wall, ask someone who has known you a long time, and known you well. I’m sure they’ll help you remember a few things!