Questionable Bible Doctrines
One of the principals of sound biblical
interpretation is that one should not build a doctrine based upon only a single verse or
idea. Some doctrines, such as the doctrine of justification
by faith, are stated emphatically and repeatedly in the Bible, as
indicated in the article on Justification
by Faith. However, throughout the centuries, many have chosen to build various
questionable Bible doctrines with little justification from the
Scriptures. A few examples are as follows:
Suffering in Hell
To be fair, I will first be critical of evangelicals, because I am
one. Many would agree that hell is the destination in the
after-life for those who die without faith in Christ.
Although the concept of hell is usually equated in the Scriptures with
our word "destruction," most evangelicals insist that hell is a place
of eternal suffering. This is a difficult doctrine, and the
question remains whether or not an unbeliever's soul is "destroyed" or
if his soul remains very much "alive," suffering eternal punishment.
Evangelicals build the doctrine of eternal suffering by equating "the
lake of fire" with the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke
16:19-31, as well as Revelation 20:14-15, which says, "Then death and
Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second
death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of
life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
Again, it is difficult to properly interpret this doctrine, and to
decide whether or not the "fire and brimstone" type of preaching is
justified. In my view, the concept of hell is more often
clearly presented as destruction rather than eternal
suffering. Perhaps evangelicals should encourage faith in
Christ as an opportunity to spend eternity with God instead of trying
to scare unbelievers by dwelling upon eternal suffering as the alternative.
Salvation By Works
Roman Catholicism, as well as many other groups within Christendom,
have basically built a false doctrine of salvation by works, based upon
two verses in the book of James. James 2:17 says, "In the
same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is
dead." James 2:26 says, "As the body without the spirit is
dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
The doctrine of soundly repudiates this idea, as shown by the
many proof passages in the associated article on Justification
By Faith Alone.
The Catholic view is that water baptism removes sin and provides
salvation. This is based upon Acts 2:38, which says, "Peter
replied, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus
Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift
of the Holy Spirit.'"
This is due to a misunderstanding of the word "baptism." The
Bible references more than one type of baptism, although each one
includes the idea of identification. In the above verse, this
baptism is speaking of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and identifying
with Him--not the baptism of water. Please see the many proof
texts in the articles on Water
Baptism and The Baptism of the Holy
Seventh-Day Adventists believe that they should worship on Saturday,
based upon the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:10, "but the seventh day
is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any
work..." However, in the New Testament, Colossians 2:16-17
says, "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink,
or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a
Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to
come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." For
believers, every day is the same, and we should worship God each
day. Even the idea of Sunday (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2)
being a "Christian Sabbath" is simply tradition--not Bible
doctrine. It's good that most believers gather to worship on
Sunday, but it would be just a biblical to gather on any other day.
The Church of Christ
The Church of Christ split from the Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ) because of their belief that church worship should include only
a cappella singing, without the use of musical instruments.
This doctrine was built upon the idea that no musical instruments are
associated with worship in the New Testament, like they are in the Old
Testament (such as the trumpet, harp, lyre, tambourine, strings, flute,
and cymbals in Psalm 150). This is a doctrine of omission,
and it's unjustified. Since no guideline against musical
instruments is stated in the New Testament, common sense would tell us
that instruments such as those explicitly listed in the Old Testament
are fine for worship. It's quite obvious that this principal
of omission shouldn't be applied to other ideas. For example,
just because the New Testament doesn't mention gathering on, say,
Wednesdays, this shouldn't keep us from attending Wednesday night prayer meetings.
In 1920, a strict Amish bishop rejected the use of (the relatively new)
high voltage electricity. The idea was to avoid a physical
connection to the outside world. However, such avoidance, and
such doctrines are not biblical. The Bible promotes the idea
of living a life of witnessing to both believers and unbelievers as we
live among them "in the world" (John 9:5, Romans 14:10-21).
The Amish have since made exceptions by allowing the use of electricity
if it is produced without access to outside power lines, such as
batteries and electric generators.