Ministry Resources

Believe Whatever you Want, but—what if it’s Wrong?

Author: Dr. Craig Keener

might sound like a grumpy sourpuss in this post, but please feel free to balance it with my more upbeat ones.

Too often we believe things because they are things we simply want to believe. That does not make them wrong, but it does mean that we don’t know whether they’re right. Most people know better than to drink something labeled poison just because they want it to believe that it might be Diet Sprite. Here are some doctrines some people like to believe that merit further investigation. I note just a couple verses for consideration after each, though these could be multiplied.

  • Sufficient faith can keep us from experiencing persecution (contrast 2 Tim 3:12, though of course God does deliver)
  • Everyone will always get healed if we have enough faith (contrast 2 Kgs 13:14; 2 Tim 4:20; though of course God does heal)
  • Everyone will always become materially prosperous if we have enough faith (contrast Luke 6:20; James 2:5; though of course God does provide)
  • God sends only pleasant prophecies about society, never judgment (contrast Jer 6:14; 8:11; James 5:1-6; Rev 17—18; though of course prophecies can also comfort)
  • God sends only pleasant prophecies to the church, never reproofs (contrast Rev 2:4-5, 14-16, 20-23; 3:1-3, 15-19; though of course prophecies can also comfort, including in Rev 2—3; plus a culture of honor, gentleness and sensitivity should be privileged, especially by those just starting in prophecy and correction; even for severe circumstances, cf. 2 Tim 2:23-26)
  • God would never reprove our behavior through teaching in the church (contrast 2 Tim 3:16; 4:3; though his reproof, when needed, is gentle for the humble)
  • A person who has professed Christ can never turn away from the faith and be lost (contrast Gal 5:4; Heb 6:4-8; though of course God helps believers persevere)
  • Everything in the Bible about grace is for the church, whereas everything about obedience or judgment is only for Israel (contrast 1 Cor 10:1-11; Gal 5:13—6:10; though of course grace preempts judgment and also enables obedience through faith)
  • Christians will be raptured before suffering great tribulation (contrast 2 Thess 1:5—2:4; 2 Pet 3:9-13; though of course God often protects his children, as in Goshen)
  • The world will get nicer and nicer until Jesus comes back (contrast 2 Thess 2:8-12; Rev 16:12-16; 20:4; though of course God can use us to make many things better)
  • God expects us to write our own destinies (contrast Prov 16:1, 9; 19:21; though of course we should embrace God’s vision for us in faith)
  • Everybody will be saved (contrast Matt 25:46; Jude 10-13; Rev 3:5; 14:9-11; 20:15; though the gospel saves hundreds of millions of people—may we make it available to everyone, no matter what it costs us)

That’s probably enough for now—I don’t want to get anyone in a bad mood. And I confess that some of the above, such as everyone getting healed in this life and everyone getting saved, I wish with all my heart to be true. But it’s better to know what’s really true so we can make some things better than to go into trouble blindly (Prov 22:3; 27:12). If a tornado’s coming, I’d rather believe it and take shelter than simply confess, “That tornado is not coming.” The odds usually favor it missing you, but the stakes are quite high if you’re wrong.

Of course, there are some things that seem too good to believe and yet are true—especially the good news that our creator died for us and guarantees us eternal life with him if we trust him. Before I met God, when I was an atheist but starting to question my certainty about that, I thought that the most wonderful thing in the world would be if there was an infinite being who was not only infinite but even cared about us (and especially me, messed up as I was). That seemed too much to hope for … until I met him and discovered that he does care about us. (Otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered to make us.) How true is the phrase, “amazing grace”!

We need to search Scripture with an open mind and heart. We need to read with the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, so that we find the message that God really has to communicate to us. That means hearing the message that God inspired, rather than just what we want to find.

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