Common Misconceptions about Christianity
1. Christianity is based on blind faith. Christianity is not based on blind faith, but rather faith based on evidence. Blind faith is superstition. Christianity is overwhelmingly supported by reason, evidence, and scientific inquiry as we show in various articles on our website: http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians.
2. We get to heaven based on how good we are here on earth. Well, we do get to heaven based on good works, but not our good works! We get to heaven based on the works of Jesus Christ! The Bible teaches that no one is good enough to get to heaven on the basis of their good works. It is Christ’s sacrifice for our sins that saves us from God’s wrath and hell. See http://www.faithfacts.org/bible-101/what-is-the-gospel and http://www.faithfacts.org/bible-101/christian-cram-course. This is the biggest single misconception about Christianity. This is what separates Christianity from all other world religions and worldviews. Because we cannot possibly be good enough to get to heaven, Christ’s sacrificial life, death, and resurrection are absolutely necessary to get people to heaven. We are saved by grace (that is, it is a gift) through the medium of faith, and specifically not through our own merit (Ephesians 2:8-9).
3. Christianity is a laundry list of things to do. No matter how many ways we try to state this fact in #2 above, it does not seem to sink in. Even many Christians, when asked how we get to heaven, will answer something like, “I always try to be a good person.” But this is an incorrect response and shows great misunderstanding of the Christian message. The correct answer is, “There is no reason at all why I should go to heaven except for what Christ did for me on the cross.” Christianity, unlike other religions, is not a religion as such at all—but rather a personal relationship. God has reached out to sinful man and through his only son Jesus has offered a way to be reconciled to Himself through a personal relationship with Jesus. So Christianity is not a laundry list of things to do. There is nothing we can add to Christ’s finished work on the cross as payment for our sins.
4. Once we become a Christian, being saved by God’s gift of grace, it does not matter what we do. This is the corollary of #2 and #3 above. There are some people who think that since we are saved by Christ’s finished work on the cross, we can just go on sinning and God will forgive us. While we are saved by God’s grace through the medium of faith in Christ, good works will result from a true saving faith. Thus good works are evidence of a saving faith. This is very different from saying that we are saved by being a good person. While the Bible teaches that we are saved by God’s grace through faith, the Bible does not teach “easy believism.” A true Christian will repent of his sins continually and surrender his life to God. While we will never be perfect, or anywhere near perfect—and have ups and downs—a Christian will continue to improve over time through a process the Bible calls sanctification. So, while we are saved as a gift of God available to all who trust in Christ, after being saved, a Christian, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will seek to conform his life to God’s will—as best he understands God’s will and his duty. The Christian life is more about direction than perfection. For more detail, see http://www.faithfacts.org/bible-101/christian-cram-course#christianlife.
5. There are many ways to heaven, many paths to God. Because man is separated from God by his sin, the penalty for our sin had to be paid somehow for justice to be done. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Thus Christ is thus the only name under heaven by which man may be saved (Acts 4:12). See http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/arent-all-religions-the-same.
6. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. This is a nice idea, but does not hold up to logic. Christianity is so radically different from other belief systems that if Christianity is true, the others are false. One can be sincere and be sincerely wrong. Sincere belief in a cult, in a false religion, in atheism, or in the tooth fairy do not get one to heaven. For an explanation, see our article Why Christianity: http://www.faithfacts.org/world-religions-and-theology/why-christianity.
7. The New Testament was written long after the events took place and are thus subject to legends being inserted into the text. The New Testament was written entirely by eyewitnesses to the life of Christ or by interviewers of eyewitnesses. Many of the books were written within 25 or so years of Christ’s death, and many scholars—both liberal and conservative—are moving toward the view that all of the books of the New Testament were written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. For example, scholars are in general agreement, especially, about the authorship of the books by Paul and Peter (who together wrote a majority of the New Testament). And there is further agreement among scholars that these two men were executed in the 60's AD. The one book for which some doubt remains is Revelation. But recent scholarship holds that even this book was written prior to 70 AD. This is the view that liberal scholar John A. T. Robinson presents in his book Redating the New Testament. This is also the view that conservative scholar Kenneth Gentry presents in his book Before Jerusalem Fell. In this article is a list of over 60 scholars who believe that Revelation was written before AD 70: Early Date
So there was not enough time for the stories to have been developed into legend. Further, as professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, C. S. Lewis said, “Another point is that on that view you would have to regard the accounts of the Man [Jesus] as being legends. Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing.” (quote from Lewis’ “God in the Dock.”)
8. The Bible has been changed or is otherwise not true to the original manuscripts. The original manuscripts—that is, the actual pieces of parchment or papyrus upon which St. Paul and others wrote the Bible—are no longer extant. But, especially as regards to the New Testament there has been an unbroken chain of manuscripts from the originals. There are thousands of ancient manuscripts extant, including ones from the first and second centuries. Scholars have been able to correlate the manuscripts to know that the Bible we have today is faithful to the originals. See http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/maps. A good book on this issue is The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F. F. Bruce. Regarding the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered in 1947 were from the time of Christ and even to the 2nd century BC. These manuscripts predate the previously oldest known manuscripts by a thousand years. Comparisons of these texts with the others already in existence showed that they were essentially identical. This information confirms how carefully the texts were copied over the centuries and has given scholars tremendous confidence in the accuracy of the Old Testament we have today.
9. The Bible cannot be trusted because of all the miracle stories. If God exists, miracles are possible. In fact, if God exists, miracles are certain. If he can create the universe—a miracle beyond human comprehension—he could certainly do the other miracles in the Bible. Perhaps the greatest miracle story is the resurrection of Christ. We devote an entire article to the evidence from modern scholarship of the veracity of this claim: http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/contemporary-scholarship. The claim that miracles do not exist is held only by those who hold to a view of naturalism, which says that the physical universe is all that there is. The philosophy of naturalism assumes that there is no such thing as the supernatural. We are convinced that the evidence is strongly in favor of the existence of God, and that therefore miracles are possible. To say that miracles are not possible is really atheism. See http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/does-god-exist.
10. The Bible conflicts with science. While the Bible was not written as a science textbook, a careful analysis of the Bible reveals that the Bible does not conflict with science at all. Charges leveled at the Bible turn out to be red herrings. See http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/are-christians-anti-science.
11. Christianity must be false because evolution is true. We are persuaded, after much study, that not only is macroevolution not true (macro-evolution being the vertical evolution of higher life forms in which a greater quantity and quality of genetic material is introduced by pure chance)—it cannot possibly be true. While this may sound puzzling in this age, we back up this claim with the evidence. For a summary of the research and a discussion of the difference between macroevolution and microevolution, see http://www.faithfacts.org/evolution-or-creation/origins-and-silly-putty.
12. The Bible condones slavery. While the Bible allowed slavery (Leviticus 25:44-46), that was not the end of this story. Both the Old and New Testaments specifically condemn the slave trade (Exodus 21:16 and 1 Timothy 1:10). The Old Testament culture seems harsh to us, but this precipitated the necessity of Christ to come to earth to set things straight. It must also be pointed out that much of what was described as “slavery” in the Old Testament was not forced racial slavery. Rather, it was voluntary servitude, in which people would commit themselves to work for someone else for a period of time in exchange for certain benefits. Many slaves seemed to have lived almost like free men, or lived with a family as quasi-family members. The Old Testament Hebrew laws also had rules about letting indentured servants become free after a certain period of time, namely 6 years (Deuteronomy 15:12-15) or at other intervals such as the so-called Jubilee. The Deuteronomy passage is instructive about the type of slavery that was practiced—not only that slavery could be a voluntary act, but also prescribes rules of aid for the slave. The Bible reminds the Hebrews that they were once slaves in Egypt themselves and they were not to treat people the way that they had been treated. Paul, in the New Testament, taught that a slave can be "a brother in the Lord" (Philemon 1:16). While the Bible may not condemn slavery as loudly as we might prefer, it also teaches that we are all equal in God's eyes (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 9:6; Colossians 3:11). These passages and others laid the groundwork for the abolition movement, which was a Christian movement. Instead of making a frontal assault against slavery, Christianity inculcated a spirit of love and consideration, which ultimately meant its abolition in Christian-grounded countries. See this link: Abolition. Here are links with further information on this topic: Got Questions, Christian Answers, Bible Encyclopedia, Why Paul Did Not Condemn Slavery, Leviticus 25.
13. The Bible demeans women. In fact, the Bible elevates the status of women. Christianity has had a freeing influence for women, especially in comparison to other religions. For a comparison of Islam and Christianity, see http://www.faithfacts.org/world-religions-and-theology/contrasting-christianity-and-islam#women. The passage that is sometimes pointed to that critics say demean women is Ephesians 5:22-33. This passage, while it points out that men and women have different roles, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies just as Christ loved the church. See also http://www.faithfacts.org/christ-and-the-culture/The-Impact-of-Christianity for a list a cultural benefits women have gained from Christianity. The example is Jesus, who treated women (as well as others demeaned in his culture) with mercy and respect. (See the comments in #14 below.)
14. The Bible cannot be correct given the strange rules the Jews had to follow. The rules given to the Jews by God fell into different categories. There were civil, ceremonial, and moral laws. Many of the laws given to the Jews in the book of Leviticus seem strange to us today. While helpful to the Jews (both medically and spiritually), these laws do not apply universally. The civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were specifically repealed in the New Testament. Examples: Acts 10:12-15; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:1-5; Colossians 2:11-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-5. Moral laws were not repealed, but certain harsh earthly penalties for them are not in force in the same way since Jesus’ gospel of grace. Jesus’ example, such as toward the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11, was not to condemn the transgressor to harsh punishment as the culture would have demanded (in this case being stoned to death), but to show mercy and insist that she leave her life of sin. All of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament (with the possible exception of the sabbath commandment). See Commandments in New Testament.
15. The God of the Bible is immoral. This statement is occasionally made by certain vocal atheists who seem to have an ax to grind against the God who made them. It seems incredibly presumptuous of fallible man to think they know better than God. The charge comes about mainly in regard to God’s command to the Jews to take over the land of Canaan and kill the inhabitants, in which the Jews became the responsible agent to execute specific justice against an immoral indigenous society. See http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/how-can-a-loving-god-order-people-killed for an explanation.
16. The Bible does not permit the charging of interest. Not charging interest or receiving interest was a practice in the Old Testament to give benefits to people in need. The New Testament effectively abrogates this practice in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-29).
17. I can be a “Jesus Only” Christian. Some people who don’t like all the moral commands in the Bible want to tear out the pages of the Bible they don’t like. This is problematic for many reasons. One reason is that if you pick and choose what you like and what you don’t like, that is creating a God in your own image. This is idolatry, which is a violation of the Second of the Ten Commandments. Another reason is that if you think that the Bible is not reliable, you don’t know who the Jesus you think you worship is, since what we know about Jesus comes primarily from the Bible. We have more comments on this in this article our article “Cults, Heresies, and Heterodoxies.”: http://www.faithfacts.org/world-religions-and-theology/cults-and-heresies.
18. Christianity is about being financially prosperous. This view of the Christian faith has become popular among some televangelists. It teaches that material prosperity and success in business and personal life is to be expected as external evidence of God’s favor. This is referred to as the “Prosperity Gospel.” It is a dangerous distortion of the biblical gospel. It is true that if one practices biblical principles in one’s life—ethics, hard work, concern for others, discipline, etc.—one is more likely to be successful financially as well as physically healthy, but it is not always the case. The focus of this movement is incorrectly put on the accumulation of wealth and material goods, rather than on the true gospel. The biblical gospel is very clearly the declaration of Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection to save us from God’s wrath and hell. See http://www.faithfacts.org/bible-101/what-is-the-gospel. The Bible teaches an attitude about money and wealth that directly contradicts the Prosperity Gospel:
a. 1 Timothy 6:7-10: "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
b. Mark 10:17-22:"go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. . ."
c. Matthew 6:19-21: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
d. Luke 18:22-25: "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."
e. 1 John 2:15: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
In fact, one of Christ’s most quoted sermons (The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5) essentially assures a Christian that they will suffer hardships.
19. Most Christians think favorably of televangelists. Overwhelmingly, Christians think that most of the TV preachers are full of baloney. Sadly, many televangelists preach a distorted Gospel. Christians whose beliefs are rooted in the truths of the Bible are quick to point out the discrepancies.
20. Christianity is different by insisting that its claims are exclusive. Actually, all religions claim exclusivity. Just ask a Muslim or a Hindu if a Christian is one of them. Even those who say that there should be no exclusivity in religion are in reality making an absolutist claim by eliminating from their circle those religions who claim exclusivity. See http://www.faithfacts.org/search-for-truth/questions-of-christians/arent-all-religions-the-same.
21. Evangelical Christians take everything in the Bible literally. While we take the Bible to be all true, we do not mean that the Bible is to be taken in a wooden literal sense. Just as in other forms of communication, there are different types of language in the Bible. These include history, poetry, parables, allegory, and figures of speech such as hyperbole, symbolism, allusion, and metaphors. The Bible should be taken in the sense in which it was intended by the writer. Context is the key.
22. Christians are not supposed to judge. This is a classic case of taking the Bible out of context to support a particular viewpoint. It is based on Matthew 7:1 which says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." The immediate context of Jesus' statement here is hypocrisy. Jesus explains in verse 5 which follows, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." So Jesus is teaching that we must not judge hypocritically. Indeed, the entire Bible is about how to judge rightly—to determine truth from falsehood, right from wrong. The Bible says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight (Isaiah 5:20-21)." Christians are to "test everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:21), to "take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). But we cannot judge someone's heart and we are instructed to avoid judging by appearances, but to judge rightly (John 7:24). And Christians are always to demonstrate love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22), as well as gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Those who cite the Matthew 7 passage usually have something for which they do not want to be judged. The misuse of this passage is often in the context of the gay rights debate. See Gay Rights.
23. All Christians believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Some do believe that. But many, if not most, believe that the Genesis account of creation contains much symbolism and literary content that is not inconsistent with the standard scientific model. They see no conflict between the Bible and the view that the earth is billions of years old. That is, Christians often hold to an old-earth view.
24. Christianity copied from pagan or other religions. Christianity did not copy from other religions. See CARM on Copy Charge.
25. Christians are hypocritical on the homosexual issue because they ignore the death penalty for this sin as prescribed in Leviticus. (Or similarly, Christians are hypocritical because they insist on sexuality rules but ignore other Jewish laws.) This is a false charge. There were three types of laws in the Old Testament: civil law, ceremonial law, and moral law. The New Testament repealed Old Testament Hebraic civil law (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.) and also repealed Old Testament Hebraic ceremonial law (Acts 10:12-15; Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:1-5; Colossians 2:11-16; 1 Timothy 4:1-5). But moral law remains intact. Thus, the civil penalty for homosexuality no longer applies. But moral law applies to all people in all times, even if they do not know it or do not like it. See this video: Denny Burk
26. Jesus is not mentioned anywhere in history outside of the Bible. In fact, Jesus is mentioned in Roman, Jewish, as well as non-biblical Christian historical literature. See Jesus Outside the Bible. And here is an excellent article focusing on Josephus, but includes other references: Paul Maier. Also see Ancient Evidence.
27. Christ will return in his old human body to rule the world from a literal throne in Jerusalem for a literal thousand years. This idea is popular among American evangelicals, but is filled with problems, incuding continual false prophecies about the end of the world. The idea of a literal millennium comes from Revelation 20, which is the most symbolic chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible. Nowhere else in the Bible is this idea presented. Among the many problems with this is that the book of Revelation insists in over 30 passages that it will be fulfilled during the lifetimes of the first century Christians. Examples: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show his servants what MUST SOON take place." Revelation 1:1 (Not MAY take place, but MUST take place!). "Surely I am coming SOON." Revelation 22:20. If soon means the far distant future, language has no meaning whatsoever! Soon means soon. Many scholars believe Revelation is about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. See my book CHRISTIAN HOPE THROUGH FULFILLED PROPHECY, available at Amazon.com. Also see my article The Biblical Last Days.
28. A person can accept Christ on his deathbed and his life of sin goes unpunished. The person's sins do not go unpunished. Christ paid the penalty. See Moral Accountability in Christianity.
29. Christianity copied resurrection myths of other religions. This is simply not true. See Myths.
30. The New Testament cannot be trusted because it is biased. Just because the writings of the New Testament were put together at a later date under one cover as the Bible, does not mean that they are not reliable. Historians see these writings as they originally were--very early first-century eye witness accounts. The early nature of them makes them more reliable than many other ancient documents. See Early.
31. Christianity has perpetrated evil. This charge usually centers around the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials. These charges are greatly exagerated. The Crusades were clearly defensive in nature. The Inquisition was a political battle of faux-Christianity. All told, the deaths were a tiny fraction of what has been committed by atheists and Muslims. See Crusades and Inquisition.
32. There are contradictions in the Bible. Scholars, including skeptical ones, have been studying the Bible for 2,000 years. Scholars have gone through every detail of the Bible and the overwhelming majority of supposed contradictions are very easily explained. So this charge is a red herring based largely on ignorance of the texts and biblical interpretive methods. Remember that the Bible was written over some 1600 years by 40 different authors. You would expect a different perspective on things from these writers. Here's a website that attempts to give a reasoned response to every supposed Bible difficulty: Bible Query.