Christianity - Common Misunderstandings

The Christian religion includes many subject areas where there is some level of confusion or misunderstanding. This situation is primarily why the BELIEVE Religious Information Source web-site exists, to permit readers to learn the various common opinions of most of those subjects. However, there are a few subjects that appear to be broader than any of those specific subjects, and this essay is an attempt to present them.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a "Team"

Nearly all Christians believe in the Divinity of the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. That's fine. A common perception of the "Trinity" is that that's all there is. That is not the true situation.

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The very First Commandment informs us that there is ONE God. It leaves absolutely no doubt on that point. Christians accept and believe the Commandments, and so there must be a central recognition of this fact of there actually being but One God. The actual Trinity Doctrine includes this, and all Christian scholars accept the concept that there is One God, Who is Three People.

The idea that anything can be both 'one' and 'three' at the same time has always been a difficult one, even for scholars. Various scholars have presented an assortment of analogies to try to make this all more understandable, but the analogies all have had problems of their own.

In any case, it is VERY important for us all to realize that there is no "team effort" of the Trinity, as They are actually One and the Same God. People seem to overlook that there are no instances in history where more than one of them was actually sensed (was Present) at any one time. If They actually were a "team", there would certainly have been instances where Two or Three of Them would have acted together, actually using that teamwork. Since there is but One God, it does not appear possible that a "group portrait" could ever exist of Them.

This issue is important in a thousand ways. Christians seem to often overlook that there is One God, even though there is great centrality given to Jesus, Who actually IS that One God. But, in general, it seems that Christians generally think so separately of Jesus and the Holy Spirit (and rarely think of the Father at all!), that the Oneness of God is neglected. The Trinity is entirely based on that Oneness, and it must not be forgotten.

Non-Christians are even more misled by the Trinity concept. Consider a portion of paragraph 131 of Sura (Chapter) 4 of the Muslims' Koran:

The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, is but the apostle of God and His Word, which He cast into Mary and a spirit from Him; believe then in God and His apostles, and say not 'Three.' Have done! it were better for you. God is only one God, celebrated be His praise that He should beget a Son!

or paragraph 59 of Sura 5:

They misbelieve who say, 'Verily, God is the third of three;' for there is no God but one, and if they do not desist from what they say, there shall touch those who misbelieve amongst them grievous woe.

Jews, and many others, have similar misunderstandings of the Trinity. There is a common perception that Christians believe in THREE Gods, and those religions violently challenge such a notion. One of the main reasons that Muslims constantly repeat "There is no God but God" is to confirm that they absolutely accept the First Commandment, while implying that Christians don't.

It becomes easy to see why Muslims and Jews dis-respect Christianity, because they think that Christians believe in more than one God, in direct violation of the First Commandment. Even though they have respect for Jesus, they do NOT accept His Divinity because they think that He represents a SECOND God. If that were actually the case, they would be absolutely right!

If Christianity more emphasized the ONENESS aspects of the Trinity, Jews and Muslims (and others) would better see that there actually IS no conflict with the First Commandment. For example, Muslims might then realize that God (Allah) Himself was actually walking the Earth for thirty years, six hundred years before Muhammad composed the Koran. If they realized that Jesus was NOT a "second" God but actually the One and Only God, the majority of differences between Christianity and Islam virtually disappear!

All of the DIFFERENT Bibles Indicate
Uncertainty as to the Real Scriptures

Many modern Christians have chosen to have an attitude where they feel they can pick and choose whatever parts of the Bible they want to believe or that they want to obey. They often cite the fact that dozens of popular Versions of the Bible exist, which don't agree exactly with each other, claiming that that indicates uncertainty as to what it actually says.

Such is not the case. There certainly are many Versions, and they don't always read the same. But that has nothing to do with knowing the words! The New Testament was originally written in a Greek dialect, and nearly all of the Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew, later translated into Aramaic. All of those words are very accurately known. Better than that, the various possible meanings of all those words are also known. There is a reasonably popular book, called the Strong's Concordance, which lists every one of those original words, with all their possible meanings, as translated into English.

That's where a major problem lies, in translating those words into English. Many words and phrases can be translated more than one way into a different language. Remember that Bueños Dias or Aloha can mean either 'hello' or 'goodbye'. For each popular translation of the Bible, many dozens of talented translators were involved. And they all regularly faced words and phrases that have that hello/goodbye aspect to them. They used their best judgment as to what the Original text actually meant, in order to select the best translation. THIS is actually the source of virtually all the variation among Bible Versions. Virtually all serious Bible students keep a Strong's handy, to look up the original source word when the slightest uncertainty seems present. We highly recommend that.

As to the accuracy of those original words, modern research has accomplished much. As it happens, researchers have discovered over 15,000 scribe-written copies of various Books of the Bible. Enormous amounts of effort have gone into comparing every single character of all of them, and a variety of research methods have been used whenever any differences have been found, in order to determine the actual correct character. With so many existing scribe Manuscripts and such massive analytical efforts, the current original texts are essentially 100% accurate. No significant errors could still exist in any of the Books of the Bible.

There is a related issue. Some Christians have come to feel that they are free to believe or question anything they wish in the Bible. This has given them the impression that they have great liberty regarding what they are required to do and think in order to be a Christian. They are certainly wrong.

A person is certainly free to decide whether the Bible has any value or not. A central issue in that matter is usually regarding whether God "inspired" the Bible's human authors. Consider the possibilities.

IF a person does NOT think that God inspired the Bible, or that God doesn't even actually exist, then the Book would seem to have very limited value, and it would certainly not deserve to be the central focus of Faith.

On the other hand, if one accepts the idea that God participated in inspiring the Bible, it becomes an important Book. Technically, there would still be three possibilities to consider.

  1. If God inspired the Bible, and it is all absolutely and precisely true (in its Original language and the Original Manuscripts) and accurate, then we should carefully pay attention to every detail of it. Traditionally, this has always been the case for both Christians and Jews.

  2. If God inspired the Bible, but He is Evil, then it is likely to nearly all be untrue. However, no accepted concept of God would see that as possible of Him.

  3. If God inspired the Bible, but it contains both Truths and untruths, and it contains inaccuracies or distortions, this appears to be the only possible assumption of those Christians who feel they can freely select the parts of the Bible they want to obey. If God is even remotely as Powerful and Considerate and Compassionate as we believe Him to be, would He intentionally include such faults in the Book He provided us as a Guide? Or, could He be so sloppy as to unintentionally include such flaws in it?

For this last matter, it seems impossible that the God we know and Worship would be either intentionally deceptive or incompetent. For, if He was, then the consistency and reliability of our Universe would be an unexpected effort of His. When you step out the door of your house, you might fall into a bottomless pit, rather than stepping out on the sidewalk that you know is there.

For these reasons, it seems inappropriate to feel that a person could pick and choose various parts of the Bible to accept and obey. If you accept ANY of it as being valid and valuable, then you are implicitly accepting that God participated in its creation. And if God participated in the Bible being composed, that seems to necessarily imply that ALL of it was Originally precisely correct and accurate, in its Original language.

These observations do not make such claims regarding any specific modern Bible translation. Given that we see the inconsistencies between Versions, we should certainly be somewhat cautious at totally accepting any one of them. Either use two or more different Bible Versions in your studies, or have a Strongs handy, or both! As long as you can get to an understanding of what the Original texts said and meant, you will have the true meaning!

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in June 2002.

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