There are a lot of bad ideas about God and spirituality in the world. This article introduces you to the five most common bad ideas.
1. Jesus was just a really good guy.
This is the idea that Jesus was a really great guy, a wise teacher, a loving spiritual leader, a divinely inspired prophet or maybe even a special creation by God sent to save the world – but He wasn’t God Himself. It paints Jesus as something less than the eternal, uncreated God who created and rules the Universe. However, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was in fact God in the flesh who came to the earth to bring salvation to humankind. It teaches that Jesus was never created but has eternally existed as a part of the Triune Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to Himself as God, He received worship as God and His disciples taught that He was God. John 1:1-3; 8:58; 20:28-31, Colossians 1:15-17; 2:9, Philippians 2:5-8, Hebrews 1:8.
2. Don’t take the Bible too literally.
This is the idea that the Bible is a great book that can be really helpful in many areas but it’s not to be taken too literally. Many believe that while the Bible might be inspired by God on some level, there are many errors, corruptions, and myths in the text. Many also believe that the Bible was written to a certain time and culture and that much of it is dated and irrelevant for our world today. Because of this, while it’s good to study the Bible for some general principles, we shouldn’t take it too literally or apply all of it’s teaching to our lives today. However, when you actually look at the facts you discover that the Bible we have today is actually a very accurate record of what was written centuries ago and has proven not to have any meaningful errors. And while it’s important to interpret the Bible correctly, taking into account cultural nuances, genre and different types of literary techniques, the Bible actually speaks very relevantly to our world today and the truth in it has not changed because the world have changed. The Bible also teaches that the words of Scripture are the very words of God, and as such, are mean to be authoritative in our lives. So even when the Bible is politically incorrect by the standards of the world today, we can trust that it is from God therefore its teaching is perfect and eternally relevant. 2 Timothy 3:15-17, 2 Peter 1:21, 1 Corinthians 14:37.
3. God will be good with everyone in the end.
This idea, often called Universalism, is the idea that everyone goes to Heaven in the end. It doesn’t really matter what religion you believed or didn’t believe, God’s a really nice God and wouldn’t actually punish anyone in Hell, so everyone will end up in Heaven eventually. Some believe that if you don’t come to believe in the right spiritual truth in this life, you’ll be given another opportunity in the afterlife to turn to God and accept His truth. Others just believe that there is no one right way and that all roads will eventually lead to Heaven. However, the Bible clearly teaches that the only way to make it to Heaven is by recognizing your sin and putting your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin. It teaches that if you deny Jesus, ignore Jesus, believe in a Jesus other than what is described in the Bible, or choose another path besides Jesus, you will not go to Heaven when you die, but rather spend eternity in Hell. John 14:6, Matthew 7:13-14; 25:31-46, Acts 4:12, 1 John 5:11-12.
4. Good people go to Heaven.
This is the idea that as long as you try your best to be a good person, you’ll end up in Heaven. It’s different than Universalism which says everyone goes to Heaven, but says that anyone can go to Heaven as long as their good outweighs their bad and they avoid the really big sins. Essentially, it makes Heaven the reward for people who try their best to be good people. Different people and groups have different ideas about what constitutes being good, or just how good you have to be, but the idea is the same – as long as your good and follow the rules, you’ll go to Heaven. However, the Bible teaches that no matter how hard we try to be good, we’ll never be good enough on our own. It teaches that every human being is inherently infected with sin and even the good things we do are tainted by our sin. And besides, the Bible teaches that God’s standard for getting into Heaven is absolute perfection, so all of us will fall short. So in the end, no matter how hard we try, we can never be good enough. Instead, rather than trying to make our good outweigh our bad, the Bible teaches that we need to be forgiven for our sin and be declared perfect by God by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:21-23; 4:5-6; 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 3:9, 2 Timothy 1:9.
5. Good Christians will be healthy and wealthy.
This idea, often called the “prosperity gospel,” is the idea that if you’re really living for God the way He wants, you’ll be physically healthy and financially prosperous. Many people believe that health and wealth are God’s way of rewarding those who are faithful in this life, and conversely, sickness and poverty are somehow punishments for a lack of faith or sinful behaviors. This idea sets up the expectation that good Christians will be spared of difficulties in this life while weaker Christians will be forced to endure hardship. However, the Bible never equates physical health of financial prosperity with good faith or righteousness. It never promises a life of ease and fortune to those who are faithful or a life of difficulty and pain to those who are unfaithful. In fact, wealth is often described in very negative terms and suffering in very positive terms. The Bible clearly teaches that sometimes God blesses people with health, wealth and positive experiences. But God also sometimes blesses people with challenges, suffering, and hard times as a means to grow them or to glorify Himself. There is no biblical reason for the Christian to expect physical, worldly blessings for faithfulness or physical, worldly difficulty for unfaithfulness. Luke 12:15, Matthew 6:19-25, John 15:18-20, Acts 12:1-3, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, 1 Timothy 6:6-11, James 1:2-4.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Which of these five heresies do you think is the easiest to believe? Why?
- Heresies often thrive because they contain a portion of truth. What is the portion of truth in each of these heresies?
- How can we get the discernment we need to fight these heresies?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.