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  • Writer's pictureShelli Owen

RELIGION – “Weal or Woe?” Series

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

(Revised 8/29/2023)


“If someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:4)


Painting: St Anthony of Padua, c 1640 - Francisco de Zurbaran
St Anthony of Padua, c 1640 - Francisco de Zurbaran

It happened the second time I went to college—this time at a “Christian” university. It began in my required, introductory Biblical studies classes. A deliberate, underhanded attempt was made to deconstruct my Christian faith.[1] In truth, since I was two to three times the age of most of the students and many of my teachers, this was part of a calculated endeavor aimed at deconstructing the Christian faith of young people entering college for the first time.


Though I’m sure the professors had convinced themselves they were doing students a favor, the approach was anything but straightforward and honest. It was an unfaithful act of double-dealing. Most of the parents paying for their children’s education and some of the students themselves would have had objections if they had known of this intent on the part of the heads of the religion department or their approach. Many, if not most, would have very possibly withheld their enrollment. It definitely wasn’t something published or used to promote attendance at this Christian university. I’m not even sure the president of the university knew of it.


Is the Bible really the inspired word of God? Is it historically based? Is it scientifically sound? Were these writings just part of political posturing, fearmongering, and manipulations used by male (patriarchal) Israelite leaders to oppress women, endorse slavery, commit genocide, land-grab, and railroad people into following and submitting to them? Was material in the Bible actually borrowed from other pre-existing sources? Did the Bible miracles really happen—including the virgin birth? The resurrection of Christ? Were the supernatural events included in the Bible just part of a tendency to hyperbole or fantastical folklore or made up by primitive people in the past? Did Jesus really claim to be God? Or did His disciples make this up to gain influence and power over people’s lives? These are some of the kinds of questions and doubts intentionally raised by my university professors (2015–2020).


It wasn’t so much the questions themselves, or even the doubts, that were problematic. It is—at the right time (in God’s, not human, timing)—an important part of healthy growth in one’s Christian walk to question and doubt and work through human muddles into a deeper understanding and faith in God. It was their approach that was all wrong—devious. The “erudition” of “brilliant, predominantly qualified” minds based on “the cutting edge” of the latest, “supreme, utterly professional research” was put forward by my “Christian” professors as the end-all, be-all—preeminently over God, His character and attributes and word—at a professedly Christian university by allegedly Christian professors. It was their definitive presentation of Modern and Progressive Bible “scholarship” through classroom instruction and assigned reading materials that didn’t sit right with me.


At first, I couldn’t quite identify what was going on. Eventually, my eyes were opened through some online Christian ministries.[2] Also, after I had attended for some years, and had started to get to know people in the religion department, I began to put the pieces together. Though I wasn’t sure of what they taught, I was sure, after being around some of them and in some of their classes, that the department heads who justified themselves in taking this approach had good intentions, mixed with supreme confidence in themselves. That’s part of what I’d like to address here.


No matter how people would like to explain it, a Progressive (not in the good sense) element had crept into this university. It had infected several whole departments. Besides the religion department, it had also spread (at least) through the art, English, and social sciences departments—as I learned first-hand. I don’t know if this is still true for this university because many staff changes have been made since I graduated in 2020. I do know this same element has crept into many “Christian” universities and churches across the USA. It’s the zeitgeist or spirit of the age in which we live.[3]


People have been whole-heartedly embracing and employing this critical, accusing, lying spirit without real discernment. I believe that’s how this spirit has seeped into Christian universities and churches. It’s only one element in a whole palette of false religions—or human-made systems of belief and practice—from which one can choose to paint pictures in imitation of the real thing. This particular spirit of “Progressivism” (addressed in my “Social Justice...” blog[4]) comes out of the humanist movement. It has nothing, in truth, to do with knowing the LORD, God, or coming into a relationship with Him. I submit that this kind of false religion brings woe and not weal to humankind. Also, I propose that the worst kind of false religion is that which claims to be of the LORD—God as revealed through the Bible Testaments—but is not. This misrepresentation repeatedly allows people who wrongly believe a false religion is approved by the LORD, God—who are already looking for an excuse to reject God—to reject Him altogether.


It's important to ask how false religions come about and to recognize them. What is at the heart of false religion?


When I was the parent of four teenagers all at once, I felt like there should be another label added to the many labels for abuse in relationships. And this label should be “Teen-Parent Abuse.” Not only did some of my teenage kids express and apparently whole-heartedly believe I didn’t love or care about them; but they also constantly, it seemed willfully, misjudged me and my intentions, words, and actions toward them. All the while they adamantly declared they were the ones being misunderstood. I probably should have practiced more empathy with them. But I didn’t have that much wisdom or self-confidence.


In our better moments, my husband and I saw this behavior as a kind of temporary insanity. For example:


Parent: You could have let one of us (parents) know your friend’s car broke down and you wouldn’t be home before 11:00 PM (thinking communication would be nice to eliminate the need to worry our child might be lying dead on the side of the road somewhere...).


Teen: You never trust me! You’re always on my case! How can you say you love me?! (believing and expressing these things in dramatic extremes of “always” and “never”—even though the last few times they came home a little late we’d let it slide).


Whether I truly loved or cared about each of my teenagers, or was or wasn’t in the right, didn’t seem to matter to any one of them. I was always wrong in their eyes. It was exhausting. It put me on my knees in prayer to God continually, because—more than half the time I believed they might be right, and I very possibly might be in the wrong.


The spirit of criticism and accusation was active and alive in our home. I learned a lot about myself during that time—and not always things I liked to know. I did learn that convictions from God are specific and coupled with the hope of redemption and victory through Christ (the other half of the story). Satan’s criticisms and accusations are general—they caused me to believe I was a generally worthless person (not the true or whole story).


The fact that God has made us all independent souls with a desire to exercise the will He gave us was also fully evident. It turns out, we raised some extremely (beyond God’s intent) independent children. Where did the encouragement for that extreme come from? I didn’t have to look far to know. I learned, as God’s child, a lot about personal submission to Him, or my lack of it, during that time.


This season in life was accompanied by the confusing, hard-to-understand, and even harder-to-deal-with manifestations of mental illness in our immediate and extended families. It was especially apparent in a daughter who expressed paranoid Schizophrenia and a brother who manifested Bipolar narcissism. Dealing with them generated even greater doubts—pinpointing my (or our) parental and personal failures. True things, that I (or we) had done wrong, but often with a twist—mixed with things that weren’t true. Some things were just outright lies about me, or us as parents.


The personal criticism and accusations sometimes heightened and deepened to unbearably painful levels during severe episodes with these loved ones who were under the influence of these diseases and speaking and acting out of them. They seemed to be driven or possessed by another spirit—a fundamentally evil spirit—a critical, accusatory spirit. (Demon possession was a possibility I ended up looking into.)


The very first story in the Bible after the creation story demonstrates the first example of a choice to misunderstand. The victim, of the abuse of a willful choice made by loved ones to believe other than what was (and is and always will be) true about Himself, was God. In this instance—unlike my own mentioned situations—Adam and Eve, God’s children so to speak, were absolutely in the wrong in their judgment or assessment of God, who was and is and always will be perfect in goodness, righteousness, justice, and mercy—in love. Their choice to falsely judge God—their failure to practice discernment or to seek truth—allowed them to also misjudge, and so believe, the serpent (Satan) was trustworthy and that their own understanding was, or could be, somehow superior to God’s eternal—beyond ancient—wisdom and omniscience:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” [God did not also say “you must not touch it.”]

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman [a straight-up lie].“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:1–8, bolding mine)

Eve, then Adam through her strong influence, first doubted the goodness and faithfulness of God, trusted the serpent and Eve’s judgment of God more, and then acted on it. Eve’s and Adam’s choosing to believe wrong things about God was the first transgression against Him, and it is the root of all transgression and sin against God, ourselves, and others.


From the beginning, the serpent in this story has been understood to picture Satan or the Devil. Satan is understood to be an unseen (immaterial) yet powerful angel or spirit that rebelled against God, and who with his followers seeks to separate or keep humans separate from God and the truth about Him. Jesus identified that Satan has been a liar from the beginning and is the father of lies.[5] And that Satan aims to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Jesus came to overcome the work of Satan.[6] (Including Satan’s work through very human and arrogant university professors to purposely “deconstruct” or destroy the faith of young college-age students.) He came to return humans to faith in God and His Word.


Jesus was (and still is) the only human being whom the LORD, God (of the Old Testament and the Hebrews) promised and acknowledged as a true representative of Himself on earth. Jesus is the Anointed One, Messiah (in the Hebrew language), or Christ (in the Greek language) whom God promised—through His Spirit and Spirit-inspired Word, including what is now compiled in the Bible Testaments—from the beginning of time to send to earth.[7] Jesus was appointed to be the Anointed One (a Prophet, Priest, and King) forever after He first came.[8] And, as no other human being ever has or could, Jesus has fulfilled and continues to fulfill the Old Testament prophesies, pictures, and types or examples God gave pointing to Him.


This is the Jesus who was (and is) perfectly wise, merciful, and just in His judgments. Who was (and is) always long-suffering, gentle, and kind, yet unfailingly steadfast and unyieldingly righteous (just). And who turned the world upside-down with His revolutionary life and teachings, and His servant’s heart expressed in His healing and care for the common, poor, oppressed, sinners, and other social outcasts. Jesus who, Himself, by His words and works claimed and proved to be—as His earthly disciples affirmed, and His current followers continue to reaffirm—the Christ of God.


This is also the Jesus who claimed to be—as God’s Spirit repeatedly confirmed and continues to confirm to His past and present earthly disciples—the divine Son of God. Jesus Christ appeared to various humans in various preincarnate forms as “the angel of the LORD,” identifying Himself as God, and was recognized and worshiped as God (during Old Testament times).[9] “When the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4),[10] in and as part of the history of the world, He was conceived in the womb by God’s Spirit from His Heavenly Father through an earthly mother.[11] Several times during Jesus’ lifetime, heavenly messengers (angels) as well as the Father God’s voice from heaven declared to humans that Jesus was God’s Son and that God was pleased with Him.[12] Later, Jesus was killed by the rulers of His people because of this claim—which they took to be blasphemous because they knew, by claiming this, Jesus was also claiming to be God.[13] As Christians have testified ever since, endorsed by God’s Spirit, Jesus was both fully man (or human) and fully God.[14]


There is a beautiful Celtic hymn that I love, which directs these words to the LORD: “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art....”[15] This could also be summarized in the prayer: Who You are in truth, Lord, reveal this to me. Or: Don’t let me believe false things about You, Lord.


Jesus, who was and is God’s only perfect representative, instructs those who believe in Him with these words: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free...” (John 8:31­–32).


It may seem counterintuitive, but Jesus is right (of course), we grow in our knowledge of the truth about God by obeying Him. Through this practice, God’s character and attributes—His ultimate goodness—are revealed more and more, and our faith and gratitude grow proportionately.


In truth, the lies in the Garden of Eden are undone when you:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5–8)


Now that we’ve observed how false religion begins; let’s look, with a little discernment, at some modern examples.


Spiritism

Spiritism has been around almost since the beginning of human history. It has never gone away, and now seems to be on the rise. The way it is practiced has gone by different names (divination, witchcraft, sorcery, necromancy, interpreting omens, palm reading, tarot cards, Ouija boards, etc.), but independent of its past or present names, not much has changed. It is the practice of seeking to communicate with the dead, divine the future, affect the future, or feel out what one’s actions should be (for “success”—whatever that means to the seeker) without God, but with the help of mediums and the (evil or lost) spirits of the dead or demons (Satan’s minions). Sometimes people who believe in reincarnation use hypnotism, drugs, or similar methods to “help” people “remember” pertinent information from their supposed past-body-inhabiting spirit. Sometimes, these practices are also engaged for the (ungodly) purposes of gaining some kind of power or influence over others, or for hurting others—generally out of a strong desire for unthinking retribution or revenge, but sometimes merely out of spite.


One thing these practices have in common is that they are reliant on spirits other than God’s Spirit, and they distract or lead people away from looking to God and from caring about the truth concerning Him. Sometimes they lead people into deeply dark places (insanity), terrible bondage (slavery to evil spirits), and even death.[16]


Many false religions rely on various kinds of spiritism, spiritists, or mediums in one way or another. Even some Christian individuals and denominations are susceptible because they fail to heed the apostle John’s warning: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1a). Or Jesus’ warning to “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15–16a). Instead, some Christians give heed to seducing spirits that lead them into confusion and error, or they follow false prophets—inspired and moved by spirits other than God’s Spirit—that lead them away from the truth about God and His protection and blessings (Weal) into unnecessary distress, discouragement, or despair (Woe).


All these practices, from spirits under the guise of (pretending to be but not) “Pentecostal” influences, to overt witchcraft or Satan worship, are not only not of God, but also actively oppose Him. They stir up His anger, which is against those who willfully turn their backs on Him and literally allow or seek out imitations and lies or power and influence by these means, to their own and others’ short-term, long-term, or eternal hurt.[17]


Pantheism

Pantheism, in one form or another,[18] has also been around since ancient times, is still alive and well, and is also on the rise. It is the belief that all or parts of God’s material creation are God. It’s the worship of created things rather than of their Creator. It fails to give credit where it is due for the gift of creation—which creation speaks eloquently and symbolically of God’s characteristics and good purposes for us.


God’s creation, which is meant to draw us closer to the truth of who He is and what He intends for us is instead twisted into yet another means for keeping us apart from Him. Pantheism ignores the true God and a relationship with Him, which is founded on deserved reverence, gratitude, and love for Him. It substitutes for Him, His—yes glorious—but still only temporal, non-eternal gifts that are not Him. It denies how “God loves and cares about people and intervenes miraculously and regularly in their lives.”[18]


A Pantheistic perspective also causes people to mistake God’s presence, which emanates, enlivens, and maintains all that He has created. It offers instead a generic spirit that animates (or spirits that animate) the material universe(s) or things in the universe(s) independent of the true and living God—as if all things in heaven and earth create(d), came (or come) to life, display(ed), and support(ed) themselves by themselves or have always just been “there” doing what they do or being what they are.


Pantheism and Spiritism separately or combined are a form of idolatry or the worship of an image or form that is not God. They both follow (believe) or worship Satan or demons instead of God. They both have to demonize or ignore God to continue. They both deny and sometimes even malign the true character and nature of God. Paradoxically, they both end in eternal separation from God and the Spirit that gives life and breath. Another name for this separation is hell (or woe).


Darwinian Evolution, Marxist Ideologies, and Academia

In previous blogs in this “Woe or Weal?” series,[19] I addressed some amoral, godless, and dangerous (deadly) systems of belief and practice that claim there is no God (or the supernatural). The sects of Darwinian evolution, which poses as instruction in objective science;[20] Marxist ideologies, which pose as bringers of social justice;[21] and the training in these two creeds through our school system, which brainwashing poses as being part of a valid education.[22]

These belief systems, along with their methods of indoctrination and training, want to be considered secular or non-religious. But the fact is, they take a religious stance—that the LORD, God (of the Bible) does not exist. While their claims to be non-religious are pretentious, they are not as hypocritical as sects that doclaim belief in the LORD, God, but do not, in reality, believe in God—as their beliefs and practices demonstrate.


These latter imposters are also worse than religions or systems of belief and practice that place themselves outside the realm of Christianity and Judaism and their offshoots. Religions outside the Judeo-Christian realm, though they are limited by their human circumstances and understanding, can and often do represent aspects of the truth of God. At the same time, they more understandably misrepresent or only partially represent truth concerning the LORD, God.

Simultaneously, because the life and teachings of Jesus Christ were (and continue to be) so extraordinary, there is no significant non-Christian religion that has been able to ignore Him. He must be, and is—in one way or another—included in their equations that are meant to equal truth![23]


Judaism

When faced with Jesus, devout Jews have believed various things—good and bad—about Him. Such as, He was “a charismatic community leader,” “a wise rabbi,” “a heretic,” a false prophet, or a “failed messiah.”[24] They also believe that he was “a good man, a historical figure, ...an inspirational teacher,” and so on.[25] Even devout Jews cannot indefinitely ignore Him, even while they are misinterpreting or misunderstanding who He was and is to them, and even when they are unaware He humanly came through their ancestors.


Islam

Muslims consider Him “one of the greatest of God’s messengers to mankind.”[26] They believe He was born miraculously and was a good and true prophet who performed miracles, but they don’t believe that He was crucified or that He died, but that God “raised him up to Him.” In the end, on closer examination, Islam teaches such contradictory things about Him, that it has caused seekers of truth within Islam to embark on their own journeys to discover what is true about Him.


Buddhism/Taoism

High-level Buddhists, such as the Dalai Lama, have concluded that Jesus was a Bodhisattva or an enlightened person. Others, such as Thich Nhat Hanh, even affirm His death and resurrection. Bokin Kim has labeled Him the Buddha Dharmakaya, a person “similar to Gautama who was just a historical manifestation of the transhistorical.”[27] Buddhist-Taoists, according to the sutras, consider Jesus a “Good Spiritual Friend” or a “Dharma Sovereign,” which refers to “the divine” or the “One Spirit.”[28] Another description of Jesus from Taoists is that He is the “Logos,” “Dao” or “Tao”—in fact, “In many Chinese versions of the Bible, the Greek word ‘Logos’ is translated as ‘Dao’ (Tao).”[29]


Hinduism/Krishnas

Many Hindus have seen Jesus as a Sadhu, a holy man, or a saint.[30] Hindu Krishnas have believed “...that Jesus, like Lord Krishna, is just another avatar of the Divine, who came down to show humanity in the righteous way of life.”[31] Deepak Chopra has said, “Christ-consciousness, God-consciousness, Krishna-consciousness, Buddha-consciousness [is] all the same thing. Rather than ‘Love thy neighbor,’ this consciousness says, ‘You and I are the same beings.’”[32] Some learn, with time, the truth of Jesus’ uniqueness.


Shintoism, Confucianism, and Caodaism

Shintoists have believed Jesus was a legendary figure in their own history.[33] Sikhs have believed He was an enlightener.[34] Confusianists have believed He was “Jun-Zi, a gentleman and altruist.[35] And Caodaists (Cao Dai) have looked at Him as a holy man or a saint, which is how they look at many exceptional persons, including, “Muhammad, Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, Julius Caesar, and Buddha,...”[36] along with “...Confucius, ...Pericles, ...and Sun Yat-sen.”[37]


Jesus Christ is viewed in different ways by non-Christian religions—but one thing is certain: He is unignorable. Recently, I listened to Keith Green’s story on YouTube. It was for this very reason he decided to investigate who Jesus was (and is). In a 1978 interview, after he had become a famous, influential, much-loved Christian musician and songwriter he shared the following.


As a young Jewish man, he had been raised with a mix of teachings, including some Christianity and meta-physics (or positive thinking) blended with Jewish practices until he became so confused, he rebelled against it all. He started exploring Eastern religions, drugs, meditation, and yoga. However, he kept searching because though these things satisfied him for “hours or days at a time,...[he’d] always come back down...[He] always knew that when [he] found true happiness and peace, it would last.” Then, he observed that:

In all the Eastern religions and all the cults and all the world religions, they always gave some credit to Jesus Christ. The Muslims say that He was a prophet; the Krishnas say that He was an incarnation of the godhead in His age; Yogananda and all these different eastern teachers said that He had Christ-consciousness...; the Buddhists would even say He was a Buddha...another incarnation of God like Buddha was.

In all my searchings, I saw that all these people were pointing to Jesus. They were [claiming] Jesus is one of the ways, but we’re one of the ways. They wouldn’t all agree on anything except that Jesus was one of the ways.

And then I looked into the Bible, in John 14:6..., where [Jesus] says, “I am the way; I am the truth; I am the life. No one gets to the Father but by me.”

So, they all gave Him credit and He only gave Himself credit. And I [thought], that kind of eliminates everybody [else]. They all say He’s cool, and He says He’s the only One that’s going to get you there... So, I started praying to Jesus.[38]

Keith Green became known as a man completely sold out for Jesus Christ. He was a practicing Christian for the rest of his life before he died in a plane crash in July 1982.


Again, while it’s understandable that non-Christians would have a faulty perception of God and Jesus Christ, it’s far less understandable for those who claim to be Christians, but in fact, they ignore Jesus and the Lord, God, He came to represent. When the beliefs, attitudes, and works of those who claim affiliation with Jesus are actually against God, it’s a truly evil hypocrisy. Many non-Christians are eager to point out any pretension or hypocrisy (while paying no attention to their own) and find great satisfaction in doing so. Anyway, if there is even a little merit in these accusations, it would be good for us as professing Christians to take a closer look at ourselves and to God for direction and correction. If we love God, we will want to put aside beliefs and practices that don’t represent Him—repenting of such things—to become closer followers of Him through Jesus, “in Spirit and in truth” (see John 4:24).


Judaism/Christianity?

False religion within the Judeo-Christian framework might seem like it would be a complex issue, but again, it is really very simple. Either we are seeking and getting our truth about God from God Himself or are we relying on human understanding based on the lies of Satan.


It’s not more complicated than that. We’re back in the Garden of Eden and daily, even moment by moment, with our human nature, facing the same old, first, temptation. And, as to whether we’re obeying God so we might know the truth, as Jesus taught, we’re back to the Ten Commandments God gave through Moses and the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus elaborates on them. (See Exodus 20:1–20; Deuteronomy 5:1–29; 18:14–22; Matthew 5...).[39]


A significant sign of faithfulness to this quest we can look for in ourselves and in groups we might be investigating is: who or what we or they value or hold to be of first importance. Is the truth about God through Jesus Christ the central focus? Who do we or they trust and obey? Where do we or they look to for truth, wisdom, help, and advice? Also, we can tell by who or what we or they worship and adore. To whom or what do we or they give our time, energy, talents, and resources or serve?


After sin entered the world through the initial transgression of Adam and Eve—a sin we have repeated continually in subjection to our human nature—no human has ever been able to see or comprehend God as He is, except Jesus. God sent Jesus Christ, His “only begotten Son,” to overcome our transgression and sin and to restore our sight.[40] Jesus, Himself declared, “No one knows the Son except [God] the Father, and no one knows [God] the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).


We need God’s Spirit, through the perfect work of Jesus on our behalf, to learn the truth about who God is—and the truth about what His heart or will for us is—or who we are and our true potential (which is only found in Him).[41] As the Apostle Paul taught: “Who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). And as the Lord declared through the prophet Isaiah:

My thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,...

As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)

The Bible is also clear, the Spirit cannot dwell with us, and God cannot be known by us, none of us is worthy, without the sacrificial atonement of Jesus.[42]


All Christians are a work in progress—repentant sinners (or transgressors) who are forgiven by God because of what Jesus did on the cross—daily new in seeking the truth of God and obeying Him. Our walk is only possible because Jesus died and took our sins against God on Himself—even though He was innocent—so we could be reunited with God and receive His Spirit to teach and guide us into the truth. The consequence or “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) or separation from God. Jesus gave His perfect, unblemished life in acknowledgment of the seriousness of our sin (or injustice) and unbelief before a perfectly good (just) and holy God. God promised and has accepted the work Jesus would do, has done, and continues to do on our behalf. He demonstrated this by resurrecting Jesus and giving us, His disciples, His Spirit, beginning at Pentecost and continuing until the present time.


Not all who call themselves Christians are “born again” or “born of the Spirit,” or “baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire” (See John 3:1–21: Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16) or being taught and led by God’s Spirit into truth. Some consider themselves Christian because they were born into and raised in a Christian family, community, or church. They use Christian vocabulary and have participated in the traditions and practices of some form of “Christianity”—which may or may not be of God in whole or in part.


People may personally or as a group be following their own “wisdom” and another spirit altogether and still call or consider themselves Christians. When people believe false things about God and His purposes and sometimes even practice things that are in truth an abomination in God’s eyes (totally out of line with His goodness) in His or Christ’s name, it brings a blot on His reputation. Some people—again without discernment—will believe these ungodly things are from Him.


Some call themselves Christians (or practicing Jews), who, as Jesus described (concerning some Pharisees of His time), “have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. [They] have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe [their] own traditions!” (Mark 7:8–9). As professing Christians, we need to ask ourselves: “Am I, or is my church, doing this?”


Jesus declared that these people appear (to some) to be highly religious, but in reality, they “break the command of God...[and] nullify the word of God for the sake of [their] traditions” (Matthew 15:3–6). While they are claiming to “honor [God]...their hearts are far from [Him]. They worship [God] in vain [or ineffectually]; their teachings are merely human rules” (Matthew 15:8–9, Jesus quoting Isaiah 29:13).


What are modern equivalents to what Jesus was identifying? Am I, Are any who call themselves Christians exempt from participation, in part if not wholly, in this kind of false religion that holds onto human traditions and rules instead of looking to God and His Word—and following Him in Spirit and in truth? Even Spirit-filled Christians can sometimes, for a time, be deceived. We need to prayerfully examine ourselves and let God reveal where we are practicing false religion to any degree. Is there religion that is not of God or dishonoring to Him in our homes, fellowships, or churches?


I believe we are all more susceptible to false religion than we realize. (I’m speaking from experience and am including myself in this tendency.) Below are some ways we unwittingly participate or make choices that result in false beliefs and practices or false religion. Ways that we, as “Christians,” sometimes humanly exalt our own understanding over the truth of God and end up, instead, believing the lies of Satan about God, and so transgress against the truth of who God is and lead others into error as well.


LEGALISM

It’s natural for humans to feel like, in all fairness, no one can or should get something for nothing. Though it’s good to work and be a contributing member of society, this expectation can also be how we naturally fall into legalism.


Prone to legalism, we tend to believe we need to earn God’s favor and that entrance into heaven must be (because we believe it is) based on the “good” we do outweighing the “bad.” We wait to be “good enough” or “ready” before we will approach God for help or get earnest about following Him—so we never do.


When we individually or as a group get caught up in a legalistic outlook, we actually believe we can keep all the commandments of God or assume we are keeping most of them at any given time. In other words, we trust we are (naturally) moral or good people. We’re not realizing how pure and good and perfectly just God is, or the insurmountability of our own sins (only Jesus can lift us out of them), or the degree of our own unfaithfulness to God. We’ve forgotten that “all have sinned and fall[en] short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)—including ourselves. We are not understanding God’s mercy and grace or our need for them.


Also, with a legalistic mindset, our focus tends to be on outward righteousness (or acceptable behaviors) and “religious” forms, ordinances, or standards. We judge our own and others’ behaviors as being “good” (or not)—based on human understanding and assessments; so, not necessarily according to God’s standards. We judge mainly according to our own preset expectations, ideals, or traditions and call them God’s when they’re not. We can be unforgiving of ourselves and others who don’t live up to our own or society’s (a church’s, or an organization’s) expectations, which often have little or nothing to do with God’s will.


Because we believe that compliance with certain rules or practices (ordinances) can earn us entrance into heaven (or Eternal Life), we can sometimes become harsh or overly pushy about dictating and imposing those rules or practices on ourselves or others, thinking it’s “for their own good.” Our concentration on following these human-generated protocols, believing they are God’s, re-enforces the lie. There also tends to be an emotional swing between pride or arrogance about how well one is doing (or a group seems to be doing) and despair or despondency because of repeated failures. I know this was a pattern for me, personally, growing up with a legalistic mindset.


Paul the apostle got so frustrated with the pride of Jews who were determined that everyone must be circumcised like them, that he said to those who had been persuaded by them:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you....As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Ephesians 5:2–8, 12, bolding mine)


When one is entrenched in legalism, the things that are actually (honestly) in one’s heart and mind, beliefs and values, attitudes and emotions are not examined as being at the root of one’s behaviors (and brought before God for His Help in dealing with them). God’s word, thoughts, heart, and purposes are not earnestly sought or considered. Prayers are generally rote, superficial, and meaningless.


Generally speaking, an extreme legalist is not Spirit-led. One of the oldest examples is King Saul. Before he was made king of Israel he was filled with the Spirit of God, so that “when all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’” (1 Samuel 10:11). But later, because Saul sought to be great and elevate himself through his own idea of righteousness, to the point of outright disobedience and rebellion against the Lord, the Lord withdrew His Spirit and the kingdom of Israel from Saul and he was tormented by evil spirits instead.[43]


A legalistic person does not see or trust God enough to be able to accept God’s goodness or mercy or the completely unmerited forgiveness of sin God provides through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ, whom God sent. Neither will this person surrender to Jesus as Lord and Master. Neither does this person have the grace of God’s Spirit to Help them desire, seek, or do God’s generally revealed will, as inspired by God’s Spirit and as recorded in the Holy Bible. Nor does this person pray, then listen and wait for God’s specific will (within His general will) for their own life through the Holy Spirit—whose purpose is to inspire day-to-day, sometimes moment-by-moment, consistent with God’s heart and will. Finally, without God’s Spirit, this person does not have the motivation to share with others the good news of what God has done and is doing and will do in them or His people—despite their unworthiness, because of Jesus’ finished work for them—because they aren’t experiencing this. They are cut off from the Vine (John 15:1–17).


For a die-hard legalist, it’s as if Jesus never came to earth to draw or reunite humankind with God. Neither the Lord’s Word (in the Bible) nor His Spirit have the active power or sway that they are meant to have and that they do have for one living a life influenced and powered by faith in God through His Spirit. Extreme legalism is dead religion and keeps people separate from God. Some will say they’ve tried Christianity, “been there, done that,” but it isn’t following Christ or His teachings that they’ve tried.


Instead, the legalist’s inherited or chosen established way of thinking, feeling, believing, understanding, interacting, and doing life is everything. The legalist’s tradition, program, or way is god to him instead of God. In this manner God’s good gifts, like marriage, family, fellowship, church, homes, possessions, and other blessings become idols and recipients of a person’s whole-hearted devotion, time, energy, and resources—replacing relationship and interaction with the Lord and opportunities to serve others in truth through Him.


Legalists can hold so faithfully to their own dogma and practices that they are just as devoid and dismissive of God as any devout atheist is. They reject God’s being who He is (an infinite mystery). In effect, they deny the authority of His Holy Spirit and His being the Author of or Inspiration behind the Bible. They do not allow God to be—to themselves—as He has declared Himself to be: a living, relational, glorious, loving, interactive Being; who is infinite, unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, purely good, and a perfectly just and merciful (loving); who wants a personal, ongoing connection with each one of us!


The worst aspect of legalism is how people under its spell sometimes misuse God’s name and the words in the Bible. Through these things, people wield power and authority over each other for harm, to abuse or revile one another, or to promote their own personal or group’s “rightness” or “trueness” and agenda (programs, projects, aims). Belonging is often fear, duty, or guilt-based—not in a healthy balanced way—not based on the truth of God, His Word, or His faithful promises (that only He can fulfill). Legalism in the extreme is the kind of “Christianity” that ultimately drives people away from this so-called “Christianity”—which can be a good or bad thing, depending on where a person goes from there.


Legalism to any degree is false religion. It is behind what people generally call hypocrisy, which is generally what people end up rebelling against—sometimes thinking they’re rebelling against God.

Just as a side note: legalism isn’t isolated to Christians. You might observe that it is also a mode many new secular philosophies and socio-economic-political ideologies take as well. People operating in this manner can be very dogmatic, exacting, and unmerciful. Also, as a pastor friend, Chris Schauermann, said: “Virtually all religion other than Christianity is legalism, trying to get to God by obeying a set of [human crafted] laws.”


PROGRESSIVISM

For some reason, we seem to lean toward extremes. It’s “either-or” for us. On one end of this spectrum is legalism and on the other end is permissiveness or in Christian lingo, cheap grace (that is a mockery of God’s grace). The current social-economic-political Progressive movement or pseudo-social-justice movement influences people to embrace this extreme—legalistically.


Since it is presently the socially accepted point of view, it is sometimes difficult to see or discern it in ourselves or our affiliations. It also holds human understanding of the adopted lies of Satan above true knowledge of or from God, so is another form of false religion we need to be watchful of adopting or supporting.


Permissiveness or progressivism assumes that at the core all humans are naturally good or benevolent, so people’s tendencies and drives must be good as well. It also entails believing people don’t need to be controlled or disciplined but rather indulged to the full extent (at least sometimes if not all the time). The ideas of personal responsibility and accountability are resisted, landing on hard (heart) ground here.


The idea of willingly stepping forward to own one’s mistakes or misdeeds or of making things right after an offense doesn’t even register or seem necessary. This a-little-bit-narcissistic point of view believes oneself and others really can do no wrong. And that “wrong” doing is relative or subjective, and not something to be concerned about—unless someone else—who is seen as the wrong kind of person—is doing it. Rebellion against the status quo and almost any kind of authority or rule-setting entity (parents, “religion,” police, “government”) is often thoughtlessly embraced and applauded.


The “Christian”-humanitarian version of over-permissiveness or progressivism that at least acknowledges God, maintains God knows we will make mistakes, but He is only merciful; God’s justice is conveniently ignored or only applied to “enemies” who don’t agree with at least a degree of the permissiveness “required” by us individually or as a group.


The balance of both justice and mercy in God’s love through Jesus is not understood. A misapplied sympathy or “empathy” for other people overrides God’s moral law or justice—so someone is always left to unwittingly or intentionally suffer injustice on the other end of it. Perpetrators of injustice are seen as victims of circumstances and society and excused—despite their own choices or hearts that are unrepentant of the injustice, harm, or destruction done to the true victims and/or their loved ones or their property. There is a belief God’s grace is unbound for all without any turning to truth or God. No sorrow for sin, nor desire to know, love, believe, or obey God as He is, is expected. A confusion exists that one must not only love the sinner, but one must love the sin as well, in order to love the sinner.


Poverty and youth are often seen as inherently righteous; the poor and young can do no wrong; the older, or established rich are seen as inherently evil. A short-sighted view of suffering and pain is held. It is always considered evil, without consideration of its value, despite the temporary cost, of character growth and development in the eternal scheme of things. The worth of a human soul to God—and of each soul growing closer to its glorious potential—sometimes through pain, trial, and testing—is not understood.


Deep sympathy with people who are passionately and “justifiably” offended for whatever reason by the Lord, the God of the Bible, and His words (according to Satan’s lies) sometimes overwhelms and pushes people, away from any desire to seek the truth about God. People lose any desire to go to church or to be in Christian fellowship, comply, or participate in any way unless it is with like-minded progressives.


Having and practicing sympathy or empathy for others is not the problem or issue with permissiveness. It is the lack of balancing these emotions with wisdom and discernment from God. Empathy or sympathy without the practical wisdom, foresight, experience, or truth from God (including in or through history) can, in reality, end up causing misjudgments that are exceedingly harmful (to oneself and others).


Such well-meant sympathy has also predictably brought with it some short-sighted and irrational claims, not only about current life circumstances but also about God and His Word. For example, by this purely emotional, empathetic view (without historical context or knowledge of God) the Old Testament (or most of it) could not have been inspired by a (God’s) loving Spirit. “How could a loving God have commanded the Canaanite ‘genocide’?” for example. According to this vantage point, the Old Testament had to have come (paradoxically), as a whole or in part, from very fallible or dysfunctional human beings (who are naturally “good” from birth!?!).


Some espousing this stance hold the entire Old Testament in contempt as well as the New Testament—and still call themselves Christians. Some hold that just parts were inspired (authored) by God. Some hold that only the New Testament was inspired by God. This is a very subjective picking and choosing of what is of God and what is not regarding the Bible. Somehow these empathizers see their own human sympathy or empathy as being greater than the love of God or His revelation of Himself when He was with us (Immanuel) through the person of Jesus. Or they have failed to apply the revelation of God through Jesus, to the Lord, God, of the Old Testament. "Jesus Christ [who] is the same yesterday and today and forever "(Heb. 13:8).


The permissive or Progressive view too conveniently shapes God into an image that is acceptable to the current feelings and sympathies (whatever they are) of very often, fallible, human beings. It denies God—the eternal, unchanging Spirit and Inspiration behind the words in the Bible—the opportunity to show Himself, through Jesus, to be far greater and far more loving than even these extremely empathetic or sympathetic people could ever begin to imagine.


CULTS

I’m not going to go into detail or single out any one cult. I’ve been part of a cult and was bewildered by this label being assigned to the religious organization I belonged to. This isn’t why I’m not getting specific. It’s because I’ve since learned to discern cultish behaviors, and they aren’t isolated only to organizations commonly labeled as cults. I think it’s important to realize that without discernment, these behaviors are also easy, even natural to fall into. Maybe it would be better, in the long run, to call them choices.


A cult or false religion comes out of the choice to follow an emotional attraction to the teachings and practices of an eloquent or convincing (charismatic) leader—other than Jesus Christ—who claims to have a better revelation of God and Jesus Christ than any other church or religion. A cultist adheres to this leader—rather than Jesus Christ—as the ultimate authority.


The main instigator(s) or the leader(s) of a cult invariably changes or adds to the Bible Testaments to back the existence of the cult—or the need for the leader(s) and the new doctrine he or she is “bringing to light.” Adherence to this new doctrine means accepting as Scripture, or as the word of God, additions to, subtraction from, or changes to the Bible Testaments.


Both leaders and followers of cults tend to lack familiarity with God’s voice through knowing His Word in the Bible by His Spirit. They don’t seem to value what God has spoken of His heart and will through prophets and apostles and other witnesses by His Spirit. Cultists seem to be enamored with seeking or espousing some “new” truth or practice or “revelation from God” that will enthrall or save or change the world—other than what Jesus Christ has done and offers us. Instead, they often focus on their own perception of the shortcomings and failures of humans in the church (past and present) and claim to be God’s new and ultimate solution.


Simultaneously and paradoxically, in imitation of God’s church—but lacking His Spirit of genuine love—a cultic religion is maintained by “special” bonds. There is often the draw of having a like-minded “family” or social connection with other cult or church members. But there is also commonly a fear of losing the promised rewards or of receiving damnation according to the cult or church leader’s teachings if one doubts or leaves the cult. (These “rewards” and “damnation” are not in line with or according to God’s Word or authority—which is not known or has been “forgotten.”) There is also fear of ostracism or losing relational ties with people in the cult or church group should one doubt or leave the “faith.” Cultists tenaciously—loyally—hold to the teachings of their leader(s). They internalize their cult’s beliefs and religious practices or traditions as their own. Often this is reinforced when they serve as missionaries or defend themselves and their group against “persecution” from outsiders.


Within a cult, people reinforce with each other and through their teaching that if anything drawn from the Bible differs from their own cult “approved” view, it has been misinterpreted, maliciously twisted, or falsely generated. They do not think about or consider that the Lord, God, could be faithful and able to preserve His word in the Bible as it has come down to us, nor do they consider God or Jesus, by God’s Spirit, to be the final authority on His own word in the Bible. They commonly take God’s words out of context to fit their own paradigm. Cults use alternate Bible translations and/or additional books of “Scripture” or practice that develop and uphold the “new” doctrines and the traditions inherent in their group.


Especially ironic, is that cultists generally consider themselves and their group to be more faithful or true to God in belief and practice than all the “other Christians” outside their “special” or singular group because of what’s been added or changed by their leaders. They hold the authority and words of their sect’s leader(s)—often called “Prophets, Apostles, Popes, Priests, Masters, Teachers,” etc.—as preeminent over the Old or New Testament witnesses of God; of His Christ, Jesus; or of His Holy Spirit. In other words, they are religious elitists, who do not hold God and His word (the Bible Testaments of Him as revealed by His Spirit) to be as authoritative or relevant as their own teachings and traditions about God and His word.


It is very difficult to see these things in ourselves, so don’t be too hard on people who are especially susceptible to cults or who have been raised in a cult. The way one is raised has a big influence on how one thinks of or sees the world and God from the start. “Mainstream” Christians can be (are too often), from time to time, cultic in the way they glom onto or follow some of their pastors, preachers, Christian teachers, speakers, singers, artists, and so on.


(LITERARY) CRITICISM

Literary criticism (or textual criticism) can be a valuable tool for discussing, studying, or analyzing literature when it’s rightly applied. But when it’s made into a religion itself or misapplied to God and His Word in the Bible Testaments, it can unbalance perspective and dictate an entirely false outlook. Especially in approaching the Bible, there needs to be as much—if not more—skepticism about literary criticism as there is about what is being critiqued.


When it comes to God and His word, we need to recognize that now we’re dealing with a Being and words inspired by His Spirit that are outside the ability or tendency to err, like us. There may be human error in the transcription or transmission of the Bible record, as God used human agents led by His Spirit to reveal Himself and to transmit this revelation to future generations. But human error in the Bible’s transcription and transmission cannot be our focus if we want to understand the Bible’s message. It is not appropriate to apply literary criticism to God’s Word the same way it is applied to other “authors” or works of literature. The Bible is a unique book and should be approached as such.


This is an area that specifically concerns Bible scholars. But it also concerns the rest of us Christians, because we can directly benefit or be led astray in our own beliefs about God by “scholarly” work(s) concerning the Bible. Some Bible Scholars have been faithful to God and to seeking context and clarity, prayerfully, by His Spirit; but others have not and they have led people—sometimes far—astray. Some have even led individuals to leave the Christian faith based on their “Biblical scholarship.” Much of the “deconstruction” I mentioned at the beginning of this article had to do with professors encouraging students to have more, even absolute, faith in their own or others’ Bible scholarship above having faith in God and giving God and His Word the benefit of the doubt. There wasn’t encouragement to seek to understand the Lord’s word, nor His will or heart, by His Spirit—but only to try to understand God’s word through one’s own and some esteemed human scholar’s mental acuity or understanding.


Practicing Discernment

Here are some things to be watchful of in one’s own research or study and in regard to Bible scholars and their scholarship. First, to begin with, is there greater faith in human understanding (or in Satan’s lies: “Did God really say...?”) than there is in God and who He says He is? Does the Bible scholar have an extreme legalistic, permissive (or Progressive), cultic, or other such leaning in the first place? (Is this person beginning with a leaning on their human understanding, and showing themselves susceptible to Satan’s lies from the start?) Is there too much weight or too heavy a leaning or undue reliance on human research and understanding alone? (Without prayer for the leading of God’s Spirit or consideration of the Bible’s having been inspired by God’s Spirit.) Is the Bible scholar’s first or underlying presumption or assumption that scripture is most likely not inspired by God? (Why is this person even studying the Bible!?)


Is there an acknowledgment of the fact that the scholarship is as limited as the humans who participate in it; that there are major disagreements among the scholars themselves (past and present); and that what can be materially and humanly applied or compared with the Bible record at any given time (archeological or manuscript evidence) is always, even sometimes dramatically, changing? Or is faith placed more strongly, even completely, in the most recent, visible, or popularized understanding and interpretation of history, archeology, and writings (rather than in God—as if the God with whom the “Christian” scholar still professes affiliation does not exist)? When there is a doubt, is it placed on the possibility of fallible scholarship? Or is the scholar’s go-to to doubt the veracity of God and His word?


Does the Bible scholar love the Lord, God, first and foremost above his or her scholarship or agenda? Is he or she seeking to know and glorify God or seeking glory for him- or herself? Does the Bible scholar have a heart (desire) to serve God through his or her scholarship—and in other ways? Is the scholar more interested in promoting him or herself and the area of their specialty than anything else? Is their pride in their own contributions—rather than in the Author behind it all? Or from the praise or promotion of the “scholarship,” does it appear that the god being worshiped—or getting all of the adoration, energy, money, and time—is actually the scholarship itself or the scholar doing the research?


Does the scholar approach the scriptures with and encourage an attitude of humility before God? Is there an acknowledgment that God is greater than we are and that there will be mysteries we may not understand in His Word and in this life? Is there encouragement to seek answers from God when we don’t understand? Or is there bitterness about things God does or allows because His reasons are currently hidden from us?


Is the reliability of God and His Word cast into doubt by the “findings” or “evidence” as they are presented? Is the “scholarship” being held up as being finally or definitively true? Is any acknowledgment of possible error just cursory on the part of the “scholar”? Is vain arrogance the foundational spirit of the scholar’s work? Is there a seeking of justification for disobedience to God or for lifestyle choices that are contrary to God’s word coupled with the scholar’s aims to discredit the reliability of God or His Word?


Is there an actual, conversant—not just asserted—familiarity with the WHOLE Bible and not just one part or area of expertise on the part of the Bible scholar? Is the Bible scholar addressing or treating the material in its historical and spiritual context; or interpreting it through a modern, “Progressive,” or another inappropriate lens? Does the “scholar” find delight in or take pride in exposing supposed “contradictions”?


Literary Criticism and other such “scholarship” applied to God and His word (authorship) without respect to God as the inerrant inspiration behind it, begins on a false premise. Progressivism, Naturalism or Materialism, Humanism, and other human-generated -isms are not fit perspectives, nor do they provide the tools, for studying the supernatural, let alone God’s interactions with humankind or His revelations of Himself to humankind in the Bible. This secular or non-religious (not Christian or Jewish) approach to God and the Bible shouldn’t be posing as valid Bible scholarship or pretending to be an authority on the Bible. In the last few centuries, some of this godless to anti-God “Bible scholarship” has played a large part in generating false religion or in turning people from God and His word in the Bible altogether.


Why do believing some Christians or practicing Jews still embrace such “scholarship”? Again, we are back in the Garden of Eden, facing the first temptation. It is due to a lack of discernment. Christians and Jews who applaud a false “scholarly” view can do and have done tremendous harm when they have used their influence to divert, especially the young and inexperienced, into a faith in scholarship rather than in the Lord, God. The God who inspired the words that these false scholars appear to study so zealously. This kind of study cannot lead to the truth of God and who He is, despite “scholars” using His Word in the Bible.


I’m not saying there aren’t faithful scholars, there are, and their work has been a huge blessing to the church. I am not even saying there haven’t been any worthwhile contributions to Biblical scholarship from the camp that prefers its own scholarship and understanding over God’s. But when it comes to seeking, learning, and being personally affected by who God is, and by what He has to say, this unbiblical, “Bible scholarship” does not serve the cause of finding the truth of and from God by His Spirit.


Summary

These aren’t definitive lists or observations, but general things I’ve noticed about human nature regarding religion. When we hold tenaciously—loyally—to our own understanding and the religious or other traditions that have been passed down to us, without discernment, we are keeping ourselves separate from God and who He is in truth. We are substituting false religion for true knowledge of and relationship with God. We are letting ourselves be ruled by false authorities (ourselves included).


False religion fosters a spirit of independence from God. We rely on our own and others’ “goodness.” When there’s a problem, we lean on our own understanding, take things into our own hands, and try to fix the problem on our own, in our own way—without anyone else’s help—if it’s at all possible. We generally take all or most of the credit for our accomplishments or successes, without acknowledging God’s help, except in a rote or cursory way (knowing we should acknowledge God—so doing it). In truth, it seems this independent spirit enters us at the age of two (with “me do”), becomes rekindled by hormones when we are in our teens, flares with passion in our early twenties until our brains finish developing around age twenty-five, and never seems to completely leave us for the rest of our lives. If we don’t learn balance, and become too self-sufficient, this spirit can isolate us from God and others.


These and other modes of false religion are as old as time, and you can be sure there is a little of them in each one of us and in our churches and other Christian organizations. They are not just in secular institutions or only in “other” religions than our own—because all humans have blind spots concerning God (that God does not have). That’s one huge reason we all need God, His absolute standard in His Word (the Bible), and His Spirit through Jesus Christ to guide us and bring our lives into the light of the truth about Him and His will for us. Only He can create “weal” (blessing through the truth of God) in our lives and save us, despite ourselves, from “woe” (separation from God). As Jesus observed, we must be “born again.” We can only discern the truth of God by God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ.


“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)



 

[1] What is deconstruction? A whole additional topic. There are pros and cons to it. Personally, I believe God will do this in the right time and way in our lives without us taking it into our own human hands so that all that is left is the truth about Him. https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=what+is+deconstruction+of+faith&atb=v230-1&ia=web https://www.dailychristianhelp.com/christian-deconstruction/ [2] See: Capturing Christianity, interview with Alisa Childers: “Progressive Christianity is Dangerous,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ6doQsSQLU; Sean McDowell, “Why Do Christians Abandon Faith? (And What Can We Do About it),” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMkGl4CEW-Q; and Alisa Childers, “From Christianity to Progressive Christianity and Back Again, with Josh Morris, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg8nWHXbwyo [3] See my previous blogs in this series: https://www.wordsintime.net/blogs/categories/considering-issues [4] See: https://www.wordsintime.net/post/social-justice-weal-or-woe-series [5] John 8:44. Concerning this evil spirit and false religion, see, for example: Genesis 3:1, 13, 15; 4:7–8; Job 1:6–12; 2:1–7; 1 Sam. 16:14–16, 23; 18:10; 19:9; 2 Kings 21:6; 1 Chr. 21:1; 2 Chr. 33:6; Isaiah 14:3–20; Zech. 3:1–2; Matthew 4:1–11; 13:38; Luke 10:18–19; John 3:19–20; 8:23, 44; 10:9–11; Acts 20:30; Romans 1:18, 25; 2:8; 5:12; 2 Corinthians 2:10–11; 11:3, 14; 1 Thes. 3:5; 2 Thes. 2:9; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:7–8; 4:4; Titus 1:10–16; Heb. 10:26; James 1:13–15; 2 Pet. 2:1–3; 1 John 2:15–17; 3:8, 12, 15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:9, 13, 24; 3:9; 12:7–12; 20:1–3, 7–10 (also search: Satan, Devil, evil, etc. on BibleGateway.com, https://www.biblegateway.com/ ) [6] Regarding the human seeking and the Lord’s giving of truth, see: Duet. 18:9–22; Ps. 25:5; 119:43; 145:18; Isa. 45:19; Jer. 7:28; 9:3; Dan. 8:12; 9:13; Zech. 8:16; Matt. 4:1–11; 16:23; 22:16 (Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21); Luke 10:17–19; John 1:14, 17; 3:16–21, 31–36; 7:18; 8:31–32, 42–47; 14:6–31; 15:26; 17:17; 18:37; Acts 26:15–23; Rom. 9:1; 15:8; 16:19–20; 2 Cor. 4:2; Eph. 1:13; 4:15, 21; 5:9; 6:14; 2 Thes. 2:8–13; 1 Tim. 2:1–7; 3:9, 15; 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:15, 25; Titus 1:1; James 1:16–18; 1 John 1:5-10; 2:3–14, 20–25; 3:16–24; 4:1–6; 2 John 1:1–3; 3 John1: 4, 8 [7] 2 Tim. 1:8–10; Titus 1:1–3 [8] See: Deut. 18:14–19; Ps. 110:1–4; Zech. 6:13; Ps. 89:1–4, 19–37; Isa. 9:6–7; etc. [9] See (for example): Gen. 16:7–11; 18; 22; Exo. 3; Num. 22; Josh. 5:13–15; Judges 6; 13; etc. [10] See: Mark 1:14–15; Gal. 4:4–5; 1 Tim. 2:3–6 [11] See: Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18–25; Luke chapter 1; 2:1–38; John 1:1-18 [12] See: Matt. 3:13–17; 17:1–8; Mark 9:2–8; Luke 2:1–20; 3:21–22; 9:28–36; John 12:20–36; 2 Pet. 1:17 [13] See: Matt. 26:62–67 (Mark 14:60–64); Mark 2:1–12 (Luke 5:17–26); John 5:16–18; 8:54-59; 10:22–39; 19:7 [14] See: Smith, Steven (editor), OpenBible.info, “100 Bible Verses about “Jesus Christ Funny Man Fully God,” Aug. 7, 2023; https://www.openbible.info/topics/jesus_christ_fully_man_fully_god [15] Forgaill, Dallan (attributed to), translated by Mary E Byrne, published 1905, arranged by Eleanor H. Hull, 1912, Timeless Truths: Free Online Library, “Be Thou My Vision,” accessed 7/24/2023, https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Be_Thou_My_Vision/ [16] See: Dr. Philpott, P.W., Moody Church Media, “Seducing Spirits: Spiritism vs. Scripture, 1992, https://www.moodymedia.org/articles/seducing-spirits-spiritism-vs-scripture/; Steven Bancarz, “Doreen Virtue’s Testimony From New Age to Jesus,” Apr 16, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgUDwzlF_KU; Sean McDowell, “Horrifying Story out of Witchcraft (w/Julie Lopez),” Jun 9, 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4-MQ4mXb5Y; and Sean McDowell, “Real Life Testimony of an (Ex) Psychic,” Feb. 28, 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KkP3C0Uf-g [17] See: Exo. 22:18; Lev. 19:26, 31; 20:6–7, 27; Deut. 18:9–13 (see also the following prophecy of Jesus in verses 14–19); 1 Chr. 10:13; 2 Chr. 33:6; Gal. 5:19–25 [18] See: Zavada, Jack, Learn Religions, “What is Pantheism?: Why Christianity Refutes Pantheism,” Feb. 16, 2021, https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-pantheism-700690 [19] See the introduction to this series: https://www.wordsintime.net/post/weal-or-woe-an-introduction [20] See this blog on false “science”: https://www.wordsintime.net/post/science-weal-or-woe-series [21] See this blog on distorted “social justice”: https://www.wordsintime.net/post/social-justice-weal-or-woe-series [22] See this blog on questionable “education or academic” training: https://www.wordsintime.net/post/academia-weal-or-woe-series [23] See: Cold-Case Christianity – J. Warner & Jimmy Wallace, “Other Religions Point to Jesus,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUOM42eUwIs [24] My Jewish Learning, “Ask the Expert: Who Was Jesus? A man, a myth or a God?” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ask-the-expert-who-was-jesus/ [25] My Jewish Learning, “What Do Jews Believe About Jesus? How Judaism regards the man Christians rever as the messiah,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/what-do-jews-believe-about-jesus/ [26] A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, “What Do Muslims Believe about Jesus?” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-10.htm [27] Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, “Buddhism and Christianity,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_Christianity [28] Beliefnet, “Meet Taoist-Buddhist Jesus: Thomas Moore talks about the remarkable scrolls that retell the Christian Gospels from a Buddhist/Taoist perspective,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/2003/07/meet-taoist-buddhist-jesus.aspx [29] Ritchie, Reverend Francis, Rev. Frank Richie: Minister|Chaplian|Broadcaster: Spiritual Disciplines, “Jesus and the Tao,” September 30, 2013, https://francis-ritchie.com/jesus-and-the-tao/ [30] Rishi Das, Shaunaka, BBC: Religions, “Jesus in Hinduism,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/beliefs/jesus_1.shtml [31] Learn Religions: Indian Arts and Culture: Hinduism, “The Christ-Krishna Connection…,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.learnreligions.com/christ-krishna-connection-1770450 [32] Beliefnet, “What Do Hindus Believe About Jesus?” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/hinduism/2002/05/what-do-hindus-believe-about-jesus.aspx [33] Lidz, Franz, Smithsonian Magazine: History, “The Little Known Legend of Jesus in Japan,” January 2013, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-little-known-legend-of-jesus-in-japan-165354242/ [34] Singh, Nikki, SikhNet, “Jesus through Sikh Eyes,” December 29, 2009, https://www.sikhnet.com/news/jesus-through-sikh-eyes [35] Bai, John Changjin, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University: Digital Commons: School of Theology and Seminary Graduate Papers/Theses, “Jesus the Christ as a Jun-Zi in Confucian Perspectives,” 2009, PDF: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1740&context=sot_papers; https://www.learnreligions.com/confucianism-beliefs-the-four-tenets-4779927 [36] World Atlas, “Caodaism (Dao Cao Dai) Religious Beliefs,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-caodaism-dao-cao-dai.html [37] Britannica: History & Society, “Cao Dai: Vietnamese religion,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Cao-Dai [38] YouTube: 100huntley, “Keith Green's Incredible Testimony: ‘Jesus proved He is God!’ - 1978 Interview,” accessed 7/25/2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfzK6RGHe0M [39] See: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exo.+20&version=NIV; https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deut.+5&version=NIV; https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deut.+18&version=NIV; and https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+5&version=NIV [40] See: John 1:18; 3:16–18; 1 John 4:9 NKJV: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1%3A18%3B+3%3A16%E2%80%9318%3B+1+John+4%3A9+&version=NKJV [41] See: Neh. 9:20; Isa. 11:2–4; Jer. 31:33–34; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26; Dan. 2:34; Hos. 1:7; Joel 2:28; Zech. 4:6; John 1:13; 3:5–6; 14:26; 15:26; Acts 2; Rom. 8; 1 Cor. 2:11; 6:11; 15:50; 2 Cor. 3:3; Eph. 1:17; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:6; 3:16; Titus 3:5; Acts 9:17; Rom. 12:2;15:16; 1 Pet. 4:14; 1 John 5:6; Rev. 19:10 [42] John 7:39; Gal. 3:14; Eph. 1:13; Titus 3:3–8; 1 Pet. 1:2 [43] See: 1 Sam. 15:1–29; 16:14–15, 23; 28:15

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