Messed Up American Theology: Do we believe the Bible?

Do Americans believe the Bible is true?  Since this country is still overwhelmingly Christian, the answer has to be yes.  Doesn’t it?  That depends.  Approximately 75% of the people claim to be Christian.  That’s overwhelming to me.  But how “Christian” are we?  The Christian Bible is made up of both the Old and New Testaments, so maybe we have to look at them in two parts?  Maybe some people believe the New Testament but not the Old?  We’ll see about that.  In any case, something’s wrong, because a recent LifeWay survey says a growing number say the Bible is not literally true.

Messed Up American Theology: Do we believe the Bible?Unlike LifeWay, who presents only the survey results, I will include analysis.  Not for Americans in general, but for those who call themselves Christian.

Why?  Because my goal here is primarily to speak to “Christians”.  I assume that someone who calls themselves Christian, a follower of Christ, at some level actually wants to do exactly that – follow Christ.  But too often, our own personal version of Jesus isn’t what He told us about Himself.  That’s a problem.

It needs to be explored.  Eternal souls are at stake here.  Being part of the current trend doesn’t make us a follower of Christ.  We have to believe the Bible, believe Jesus and follow Jesus.

Is there a difference between “is the Bible true” and “is the Bible literal”?  Sure, there’s a difference between the Bible being literally true, and it being “true”.  So maybe that number’s misleading because of that.  But still, underneath the numbers are some disturbing things.

This is the second  article in a series on a 2018 LifeWay Research project looking into the theology of Americans.  Basically, it’s a look at what we believe about Christianity.  The survey is Americans in general, not just Christians, so we must take that into account as we study the results.

For those who live outside the U.S. – that’s about half of you who read this – the numbers may or may not apply.  Still, it’s something for each of us to look at to kind of fact-check our own beliefs,

Do we believe the Bible?  An overall observation

Before we get into the details, here’s the overall statement from LifeWay about this particular section on “Do Americans believe the Bible?”

“The last writing included in the Christian Bible was completed nearly 2,000 years ago, yet Americans’ beliefs around this book are shifting more than most other theological beliefs.”

That’s a good thing if it shows a “revival”, an awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion per  Presumably, a revival is accompanied by an increasing number of people who believe in the Bible.

Let’s see if that’s what going on.

The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches

The way this statement is worded, it’s impossible to know if 100% accurate also means people believe the Bible is literally true.  We’ll have to examine some more detailed questions to understand if people consider accurate and literal to be the same, or at least somewhat equivalent.  So that’s coming.

On the question of whether the Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches, the numbers look like things are getting better.

The chart below shows responses for the past three surveys.

Notice that the trend line is going up.  That should be good.  Unfortunately, even in 2018, it’s only at 50%.  That’s not so good.  Remember, about 75% of Americans claim to be Christian.  That means at least 25% of Americans who claim to be Christian don’t believe the Bible is 100% accurate.  The 75% is calculated by subtracting the 25% who don’t even claim to be Christian from the total 100%.  It’s reasonable to assume none of the non-Christians believe the Bible is 100% accurate.

Next, I assume that Christians should expect the Bible to be accurate.  If not, if Christians don’t believe the Bible is true, then what exactly do we believe in?  Subtracting the 50% who do believe the Bible is accurate from the 75% who claim to be Christians, that leaves 25% of Christians who don’t believe the Bible is accurate.  At least 25%.  It’s unlikely, although possible, that non-Christians might believe the Bible is 100% accurate.

In any case, on the issue of “The Bible is 100% accurate in all that it teaches”, things aren’t so good.  Yes, the trend us up.  But it still means about 1/3 of people claiming to be Christian don’t believe the Bible is accurate.

But it gets worse.  You know that 50% who said the Bible was 100% accurate?  That’s not exactly what they said.  When we look at the details from the survey, we find something “hidden”.  It’s natural to assume this was a yes or no question.  Do you believe or not believe the Bible is 100% accurate?  But that’s not the case.

In fact, it was a choice of 5 different answers.  Strongly agree=1.  Somewhat agree=2.  Somewhat disagree=3.  Strongly disagree=4.  Not sure=5.

For this question, the 50% “agree” is actually 32% strongly agree and 18% somewhat agree.  Now that 50% isn’t looking good at all.

A Christian is someone who “believes” in Jesus.  After all, in response to a question from His disciples, here’s what happened:

Jn 6:28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jn 6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Well, “believe in” is a whole lot more than “believe”.  It means believe enough to actually act on what we believe.  For a detailed look at believe, believe in, and follow – I invite you to check out Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God?

The bottom line is, if we don’t believe the Bible is 100% accurate – and I mean really believe it, not just sort of agree – then how can we follow Jesus?  If we don’t believe what Jesus said, how can we possibly claim to be a follower of Jesus?  How can a Christian not believe Christ?

And just case you’re thinking Jesus is only in the New Testament, so the Old Testament doesn’t matter, read on.  Find out what Jesus said about the Old Testament.  About the Law specifically.

The Bible contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true

If you thought the previous question was troublesome, wait ’til you read this one.  The entire statement people responded to was:

The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.

What do we believe about the Bible if it’s just another sacred writing?

First off, that question put the Bible on equal footing with any other writing that someone considers sacred.  Just that alone should raise issues for any Christian that takes the time to think much about what they’re responding to.  There’s no way a Christian should consider the Bible to be just another sacred writing.

Let’s consider this.  We begin with this passage from Exodus.  Before reacting too strongly though, remember, this is from the Old Testament.  Some things changed under the New Covenant from Jesus.

Ex 23:20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. 21 Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. 22 If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. 23 My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. 24 Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. 25 Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, 26 and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.

One thing that’s totally different now is, I will wipe them out.  God won’t wipe out those who are against Him.  And we’re not supposed to do it either.  In fact, we’re supposed to do something like this:

Mt 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Mt 10:11 “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Did you catch the part about If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town?  That’s not wiping out anyone.  Not by God and not by us.  It’s just leave.  God will deal with them later.  That is, of course, unless someone else goes to the same people and they have a change of heart.  That’s what the Great Commission is all about.  Try to give everyone the “Good News”.  Certainly the Good News isn’t about us killing them if they don’t accept it.  BTW, it’s also not about us giving them a hard time or discriminating against them if they reject the message of the Gospel.

The other thing to notice is this: Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.  Whether it’s sacred stones, sacred idols, sacred writings Etc. Christians are not to worship the things that others consider Sacred.  Once again, there’s no directive to destroy them any longer.  But there’s also a command to try to give them the Good News, not to kill them or mistreat them in any way.

What do we believe about the Bible if we think it contains helpful accounts of ancient myths?

There are only four instances in the entire NIV where the word “myths” appears.  They’re in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, all written by Paul.  Before we examine any specifics, here’s a general thought on what Paul has to say about myths.  Please note, the excerpt below uses the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.  It is used in a number of denominations, but certainly not by all.  Also, the Book of Baruch is not accepted as part of the primary canon of the Bible.  I leave it here for completeness of the excerpt.  It’s used in the Catholic Church and some Eastern Orthodox religions primarily.

MYTH, MYTHOLOGY. Gk. mythos, ‘story’; mythologia, ‘story-telling’. In LXX the word-group appears rarely, and never in books translated from the Hebrew Bible. In Ecclus. 20:19 an ungracious man is compared to ‘a story told at the wrong time (mythos akairos)’; in Baruch 3:23 the ‘story-tellers (mythologoi) … ‘have not learned the way to wisdom’. In NT mythos occurs only in the Pastoral Epistles and 2 Peter; and always in a disparaging sense. Timothy is told to discourage interest in ‘myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations’ (1 Tim. 1:4).

There are similar references to ‘godless and silly myths’ (1 Tim. 4:7), ‘myths’ into which false teachers beguile hearers who have ‘itching ears’ (2 Tim. 4:4), and ‘Jewish myths’ to which Christians must lend no credence (Tit. 1:14). A mixture of judaizing and gnosticizing speculation is perhaps implied. Such ‘myths’ are set in contrast to gospel truth: ‘we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses’ (2 Pet. 1:16).  [1]Bruce, F. F. (1996). Myth, Mythology. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 795). Leicester, England; Downers … Continue reading

In particular, notice: Such ‘myths’ are set in contrast to gospel truth: ‘we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses.  As such, Christians should not consider any part of the Bible to be a myth.  

Also worth noting, for some reason, the 2010 NIV does not translate what Peter wrote in the verse above as “myths”.  It uses “stories”.  That’s why a search for “myths” doesn’t turn up the passage in Peter.  It shows, among other things, the difficulties we encounter when trying to just use the English (or other modern language) words when we read / study the Bible.  Much is lost.

With that in mind, let’s look at the four occurrences of this Greek word translated as “myths” and “stories” from Paul and Peter.

If we believe the Bible is the true Word of God,
how can it contain myths?
Warning Against False Teachers of the Law

1Ti 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

Paul warned against teaching false doctrines and spending time on myths.  Obviously, false doctrines are bad.  Christians should not go along with false doctrine.  Here, Paul says that myths and false doctrines both lead people to the same place.  Both promote controversy, meaningless talk, and wandering away from the true faith.

Paul wrote about people like this wanting to be teachers, even though they don’t really know what Christianity is really about.  Obviously, that’s bad.  But as I’ve often pointed out, every Christian is a “teacher” to some extent.  Jesus points that out in this passage:

Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

In the same manner, those who claim to be Christian, but live a lifestyle that’s far from what Jesus taught, are also teachers.  The kind of teachers who teach from false doctrine, meaningless talk, myths, Etc.

If we believe the Bible is the true Word of God,
why would it contain Godless myths that Paul says to have nothing to do with?
Instructions to Timothy

1Ti 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

1Ti 4:6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

See – Paul says have nothing to do with Godless myths.  Now, we haven’t gotten to 2 Timothy yes, but here’s something Paul wrote in that letter.

2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Everything in Scripture is God-breathed.  That’s hardly something Paul would write if He thought it had any myths in it at all.  Surely, if there were any portions of Scripture that were myths, Paul would have spoken out.  He even successfully argued with Peter over some of the practices of Jewish Christians, and their incorrect notion that Gentiles had to become essentially Jewish before getting baptized as Christians.

If we believe the Bible is the true Word of God,
why would it contain myths that people turn away from God to hear?
Paul’s Charge to Timothy

2Ti 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

It seems like the time that Paul wrote about is already here –  men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  If anything, these things were already happening, even when Paul was alive.  I believe what Paul’s saying here is that it will get even worse.  If you read Revelation, that thought is born out. 

The big thing is, whether it was then, now, or later, we must turn away from God in order to even listen to the myths.  Christians do a great disservice to themselves and even more so to God, when we think that God-breathed Scripture is myth.  Maybe it’s no surprise that so many Christians don’t actually live and act like Christ.

If we believe the Bible is the true Word of God,
does it contain Jewish myths that aren’t from God?
Titus’ Task on Crete

Tit 1:10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Paul writes, pay no attention to Jewish myths.  Are these Jewish myths he warns about passages from the Old Testament?  We’ve already seen what Paul wrote about all Scripture being God-breathed, so it can’t be that.  But there’s a higher authority who also talks about things that can be looked at as Jewish myths.

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Mt 16:5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Mt 16:7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Mt 16:8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

This makes sense.  It’s weird to think that Paul wrote so often about the importance of the Jewish Law, and that even part of that Law would be myth.  As Christians, this is something would really should understand.  And believe.

If we believe the Bible is the true Word of God,
how can it be stories and myths?

Peter gets into prophecy below.  About the truth of it.  That it’s from God.  It’s not just stories and myths.

Prophecy of Scripture

2Pe 1:12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

The Apostles lived with Jesus for three years.  They walked side-by-side with Him and learned from Him.  After Jesus’ returned to Heaven, they taught the things they learned from Jesus.  Oftentimes, this was literally at the risk of losing their lives.  It was important to them.  And they thought it important for us to know and to remember.

2Pe 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

The word stories is translated from the same Greek word as myths in the passages above.  Peter is letting people know that they, the Apostles, did not make things up.  They didn’t twist old myths from other nations or religions.  They taught what came from God Himself.

It’s always amazing to me when Christians are willing to so easily think what comes from the Bible is based on ancient myths.  That the Bible is based on something else or someone else’s thoughts and experiences.  Why do we, who claim to believe all Scripture is God-breathed, think parts of it are copied from sources other than God?  Why don’t we even seem to consider that the others copied it from Jewish and Christian history?

17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

2Pe 1:19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

This sentence very nicely answers what I asked above – For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  It’s from God.  Not from man.  And anything that comes from a false god is, by definition, from man.

If we believe the Bible is true, why do we think the Bible contains myths?

Yes, many people who claim to be Christian believe the Bible is like other scriptures considered to be sacred to other religions.  And many Christians believe the Bible contains myths.  Too many of them.  After what we’ve just looked at, way too many.

Here are the results from the LifeWay survey.

As you can see (click on the “strongly disagree” bar) only 28% of Americans strongly disagree with that statement about myths in the Bible.  Disappointing.  Actually, shocking.  Christians allegedly base our faith solely on the Bible, with some notable exceptions, for instance Catholics who also use the “extra-canonical” books like Baruch.  But even there, how can anyone who claims to be Christian not even have full faith and confidence in the Scripture that’s sacred to their denomination?

How is it that 72% of Americans have at least some belief that the Bible contains ancient myths?  How can so many people who claim to be Christians not believe the Bible is true?  Remember what Paul wrote about myths?  Myths are Godless.  According to this survey, 72% of Americans believe parts of the Bible are Godless!

How can that be possible in a country where about 75% of the people claim to be Christian?  It shouldn’t be possible.  Not at all.  And yet, the statistical margin of error in the survey says it’s not only possible, it’s real.  Some of that 75% can’t truly be disciples of Jesus when 73% of the country doesn’t believe the Bible is completely true.

You may want to question my numbers, based on the literal part of the question.  I submit to you, the word “literal” is irrelevant to this question.  If people believe parts of the Bible are myths, it doesn’t matter if they’re literal myths or not.  Myths are, by the Bible’s own definition, Godless.  It’s not up to any Christian to change what the Bible says.  We can’t redefine what Paul wrote.  We’d best better not be redefining something that we’re claiming to believe is God-breathed.

And if we do want to change God-breathed Scripture, whether we believe the Bible is true or not, we aren’t Christians.  We aren’t followers of Christ.  Don’t forget, Jesus said this about even the Old Testament:

The Fulfillment of the Law

Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So if we claim to be Christian, but want to change even the smallest stroke of a pen in the Old Testament, then we are changing something Jesus said will not by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Ouch.  Wanting to change anything means we disagree with Jesus.  That somehow, we believe we can do something that Jesus said will not happen.

That’s a position that means, I believe quite obviously, that we are not truly Christians.  That we are against Christ.  That’s what we’re saying when we, as Christians, say the Bible contains myths rather than the Word of God.

If all that sounds bad, it’s actually getting worse.  Over the past three surveys, the numbers for those who think the Bible contains myths have increased by 3% year over year.  The trend is going the wrong direction.  Sounds exactly like what Paul wrote about in 1 Timothy, doesn’t it?

The Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do

Does the Bible have the authority to tell us what to do?  OK – this one totally blew my mind.  Twice.

First, the percentage responding yes (either strongly or somewhat agreeing) is less than 75%  However, it’s larger than the number who believe it’s accurate!  Fascinating.  People who don’t seem to believe the Bible is accurate do believe the Bible can tell them what they must do.

Second, the percentages are going up for each of the last three surveys.  That’s hard to imagine when the numbers who doubt the Bible is accurate is going up.  Not to mention the number of people who believe the Bible contains myths is going up as well.  That’s just backwards from what logic says should happen.  It means some people believe they should be told what to do, based on inaccuracies and myths.

Here’s the chart for the authority of the Bible.

These numbers are amazing.  Only 31% strongly agree that the Bible has the authority to tell them what they must do.

Wow.  75% of Americans claim to be Christian, and yet only 31% of Americans believe the Bible has that kind of authority.  What’s even worse, less than half of those claiming to be Christian believe the Bible, the Word of God, has the authority to tell them what to do.

There’s a passage in Galatians that should be known to every Christian.  Galatians should be especially important to Protestants, since it’s part of what Martin Luther referred to regarding salvation by faith alone.  But whether Catholic or Protestant, this passage really should be known to everyone who calls themselves a Christian.

Gal 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Life by the Spirit

Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

There are many reasons why people call themselves Christians but refuse to accept that the Bible has the authority to tell them what they must do.  Ultimately though, as Paul writes above, there are really only two choices.

Christians receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized.  However, whether we allow the Holy Spirit to act in us or not – that’s completely up to us.  I didn’t make that up.  It’s not a myth or a story.  It’s in the Bible we, as Christians, claim to believe in.

As Paul wrote above, there’s life by the Spirit and life by our own sinful nature.  Granted, even the very best follower of Jesus does not always live by the Holy Spirit 100% of the time.  However, we should at least believe that life by the Holy Spirit is a goal that we should strive for.  And that the description of life by the Spirit is what it says in the Bible.  Remember, the Bible is true – at least that should be acknowledged by anyone who truly tries to follow Jesus.

Therefore, even though we fail to live our lives by the Spirit all the time, we must also believe that the Bible does have the authority to tell us what to do.  Keep in mind – I’m saying this to all who claim to be Christian.  If we don’t even believe the Bible has the authority to tell us what to do, we aren’t really Christian.  If we don’t believe the Bible is true, that the Bible is the Word of God, and / or that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, then we are not Christians.  Period.

People don’t get to define Christianity.  That was done by Jesus Himself.  Trying to say Jesus is wrong isn’t a characteristic of a Christian.  It’s a sign that someone is against Jesus.

There’s a lot of that rejection of Jesus’ authority behind the numbers in this last question.

You may remember when Jesus healed the ten lepers.  Only one returned to give praise to God out of those ten.  Jesus told us that while ten were physically healed, only one was actually saved.  We’ll get into that in the next installment of this series, when we examine the numbers behind this extraordinary percentage of Christians who don’t believe the Bible has authority over them.  That God doesn’t have authority over them.  Ultimately, we have Christians saying that Jesus Christ doesn’t have authority over them.

Unbelievable.  We’ll see why those people are at the very real risk of being the 90% (nine out of 10) who weren’t saved.

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1Bruce, F. F. (1996). Myth, Mythology. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 795). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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