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Biblical Illiteracy Is Destroying Our Christian Witness

Aug 6, 2020

Clueless and unthinking Christians are causing great damage to the church:

Let me mention some basic truths at the outset. You cannot claim to love God when you refuse to use the brains that God has given you. You cannot claim to love God when you refuse to seriously study and obey the Word of God. You cannot claim to love God when you slavishly follow whatever the surrounding culture is doing.

And I can keep adding to this list. You cannot claim to love God when you put the fear of man ahead of the fear of God. You cannot claim to love God when you slavishly follow what the world tells you instead of what God has clearly said. You cannot claim to love God when you run on emotions and feelings and turn off your mind.

On a daily basis I am horrified to see examples of all these things happening. I see people who claim to be Christians – and worse yet, people who claim to take the Bible seriously – doing these very things all the time. It just bothers me no end to see this occurring. And examples of this are legion.

Quite a lot of this unbiblical and sub-Christian nonsense I am hearing and seeing far too much of lately has to do with our draconian corona lockdown measures. I keep getting clueless Christians pushing just plain false and dangerous thinking on these matters. And worse yet, it is patently unbiblical.

Indeed, it is getting really depressing to see this stuff, especially from those who should know better. Many of their foolish remarks have to do with our secular authorities. And the main sorts of reckless and humanistic thinking I keep encountering from them include this: ‘Christians should only pray for our political leaders.’ ‘Christians should never criticise political leaders.’ ‘Christians should never disobey the state.’

What? Are these folks for real? Have these folks ever actually read their Bibles? We know it is a chief mark of a cultist to twist the Scriptures and/or to pull a few texts out of context, or to pit some biblical truths against others. That is exactly how the cults operate. That is NEVER how anyone claiming to be a biblical Christian should operate.

These dodgy claims and others like them are not at all difficult to get a biblical handle on. One simply has to read the Bible instead of running with the spirit of the age to see how utterly foolish they are. So let me offer a few thoughts on them, although I have written on these things quite often before.

Should we pray for our leaders? Of course we should – that goes without saying. In various places the Bible tells believers to do just this, most notably in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

But – and this is a massive but – those who insist that we pray for our leaders while also insisting that we can never criticise them or hold them to account are simply not thinking straight – nor are they thinking biblically. The Bible everywhere makes this quite clear.

In our role both as Christians and as citizens we are obligated to keep our leaders in check and hold them to account. We are always to seek for godliness in the land and in our rulers. We are always to reject and rebuke ungodliness and evil. We are always, in other words, to be salt and light, and seek for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

And of course one can do all this while also praying. It is NOT an either-or situation here, but a both-and. We are to keep those in authority in our prayers while we also seek for righteousness to prevail in the land. The biblical verses about seeking godly governance and righteous rulers are many. That should be something all true Christians not only pray for but work to see achieved.

The Bible throughout also makes it clear that the state is not absolute and that leaders are not above criticism and rebuke. In the Old Testament we see numerous examples of this. Moses of course defied the edicts of Pharaoh. The priests and the prophets routinely challenged and rebuked the leaders of Israel and other nations when they went astray or engaged in evil practices. Daniel and his Jewish friends regularly defied the powers that be and refused to bow the knee.

In the New Testament we find more of the same, whether it is John the Baptist strongly and publicly rebuking King Herod; Jesus rebuking and calling out the religious leaders of the day; or the disciples defying the state when government dictates conflicted with their God-given obligations.

Yet these rather brainless critics would presumably tell the prophets, John, Jesus, Peter and all the others that they were wrong and sinful to defy the state, criticise leaders, and disobey unjust laws. These biblically illiterate “Christians” would have rebuked Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for refusing to bow down before the statue of Nebuchadnezzar. They would have told Peter to repent when he told the authorities, “We must obey God rather than man”.

But all of this I have spoken to before in great detail and with plenty of biblical references, so have a look at these articles for much more on this:

billmuehlenberg.com/2020/05/15/the-state-is-not-absolute/

billmuehlenberg.com/2020/05/05/christianity-and-the-state/

billmuehlenberg.com/2014/12/03/difficult-bible-passages-romans-131-7/

billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/02/christians-and-civil-disobedience/

As I make clear in those and other articles, generally speaking we are to submit to the authorities. But the government only has limited and delegated authority given to it by God, and when it oversteps the mark then believers may need to say no to it in order to say yes to God.

Sure, we will need to prayerfully and carefully seek the mind of God as to when an unjust law must be disobeyed, or when an ungodly leader must be opposed. But this is something that happens repeatedly not just as we read in Scripture but also in church history.

We are nowhere told to just be a bunch of unthinking and undiscerning sheep, going along with whatever the state tells us. We are to test all things, we are to judge wisely, we are to biblically assess, we are to morally and mentally critique all things – and that includes what our leaders say and do.

Blind subservience to the secular state not only results in tyranny and loss of freedom, but it is also NOT what biblical Christians should be involved in. We of all people should know that we take the knee to no one but Almighty God. We are not to be brainless sheep without any biblical understanding and insight.

Instead we are to love God with all our minds as we faithfully read the Scripture daily, and run with what God – and not the world – has instructed us. Pulling texts out of context and ignoring the entirety of the biblical data is something Christians should repent of, and not exult in.

As mentioned, the cults get away with this sort of biblical illiteracy, moral fuzziness, and intellectual vandalism all the time. We expect it of them. That is why they are cults. But that should NEVER be the case for those calling themselves disciples of Christ. We should be biblically informed and biblically alert.

Please Lord, help your people to think and to be biblically discerning, so that you might be glorified aright.

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19 Responses to Biblical Illiteracy Is Destroying Our Christian Witness

  • I’m really sad when I hear people pray for the death of our state Premier even in supposed jest. Pray to change His heart and open his eyes, for God to bring a wiser and Godly state leader, yes. Yet to want him to die no, especially as God is in the business of changing pagans to Christian leaders like Paul, like Augustine, plus thousands of others too many to mention who are often the “quiet achievers” for Jesus Christ. I want as less as possible to die in their sins outside being born again though Jesus Christ as the consequences are horrific beyond any human thought. I struggle with my bible reading so your earlier words reflect on my own behavior too thank you for your continuing blogs & posts Bill Muehlenberg.

  • The state is to be obeyed up to a point (not slavishly or unquestioningly), as God put it there for a reason (Romans 13) ; but when “push comes to shove”, ie the state tells us to do something contrary to God’s clear will, we must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19, 5:29)
    Doing my little bit to eradicate Biblical illiteracy.

  • We are in the grip of sin and unrighteousness, immorality, perversion is ever growing, and it seems it is just winked at.
    Examples: Abortion is state funded and politically legislated, Same Sex Marriage, Gender Fluidity, destroying underaged, under developed children encouraged to transition to the opposite gender,Transgenderism pushed. These are clearly not supported by biblical teaching, but scriptural truth ignored even by so called Christian Political leaders. Sound biblical teaching of doctrines once held, watered down not to cause offence, or to hurt people’s feelings. There will always be opposition and division when individuals strongly stand on God’s word, rather than the new trends in society-Israel Falou, twice now. It is render unto Caesar what is Caesars, and unto God what is God’s. Obedience is better than Sacrifice.
    Thanks Bill.

  • Sadly our own Christian leaders have been complicit in defacto refusal to acknowledge God’s word re how we should live.

    E.g. in opposing the Same Sex Marriage campaign, many Christian leaders refused to mention evidence indicating that LGBT lifestyles resulted in worse outcomes for adults, children and for society itself. Twice I was twice asked to remove such evidence from my https://tinyurl.com/SSMYesOrNo? pamphlet. I was told that a leader did not want to defend such evidence on TV. Instead they followed secular argument that such discussion would cause angst and even suicide of LBGT individuals – despite evidence suggesting that acceptance of SSM lifestyles has not reduced the sad fact that LGBT people are over-represented in physical and mental health problems. Their decisions too often ignore the fact that truth sets people free (John 8:32) and ignores Romans 1:25-27 (NASB) and similar elsewhere:

    “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”

  • Bill the “?” is part of the link if that makes a difference.

  • Well said, Peter, and Bill, of course.

  • You go right to the heart of the key problem of the general “Vapid” character of 21st Century Christianity here, Bill et.al.!
    Consider the damage that the denial of Scriptural Male “Headship”has had on our society eg .Breakdown of Family, Divorce, marriage “equality” claims, Abortion, increased Homosexuality, unrealistic Feminism, Abortion, and now rampant “Gender “fluidity”!) as well as Euthanasia and widespread suicide.
    Yet Male Headship is established by Our Loving Creator Himself (as inscribed in His very creation of Mankind to be: “in His own image: male and female, he created them” (Genesis: 1.26-27), and is NOT just culturally-bound to Classical, Patriarchal times, but rather it is fundamental to our existence as one or other UN-CHOSEN,- but rather as being “given” gender, (despite occasional seeming exceptions….).
    We would do well, by way of method to take warning, and to pray in the words of the {Anglican & Catholic “Ordinariate” Advent 2 Sunday Kalendar “Collect”:

    “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
    Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ: who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.”

  • And look what the devil has accomplished with this Wuhan virus hoax (among so many they seem difficult to count) those churches still attempting to teach the Bible to children have stopped having Sunday School. Sadly the illiteracy is going to get worse. I began my church music ministry after seminary in the early 1990’s and saw the influence of 24/7 sports begin and begin to use time on Sundays and Wednesdays. I said back then that we were in for many problems when those children became adults as their parents participated in these secular activities (and the impact of divorce on the church). Those children are in their late 20’s and 30’s now. Sadly, I have been proven right. I wish I had been very wrong.

  • Another great article Bill.

  • Hi Bill
    The news here in the US is churches attempting to start assembling together again and some even going against their local government authorities. Do you have a piece written already about what the early Christians would have done and the church assembling together throughout history. Basically what does the Bible tell us besides in Hebrews about not forsaking the assembly. I just wonder what Jesus would tell the churches right now? There’s so much fear and criticism. How does the church unite as Christ prayed in John at a time like this with so many different opinions? When we unite we bring glory to God. I think many churches want to start meeting again in person but they also want to do that with love and compassion as there is so much fear. But if we believe that God answers prayers, should we fear anything if we are doing what pleases God? Should we have the courage Daniel and his friends had to do God’s will regardless of the outcome? I would appreciate your opinion on all of this. Thank you

  • Absolutely correct! God repeatedly sent prophets specifically to criticize leaders. The most famous cases are probably Moses, Jonah, Elijah and Samuel but there are numerous instances throughout the Bible.

    Not criticizing leaders would definitely be considered hiding one’s light under a “bushel”, if these people have any light to shed that is.

  • Regarding those saying “Christians should never criticise political leaders” or “Christians should never disobey the state,” are they consistent in their approach, or do they only hold that criticism or disobedience are prohibited when they support a particular government? Do they demand absolute support and obedience regardless of whether their premier is Dan Andrews, or their president is Trump?

    Perhaps I’m mistaken and they really do believe government above all, I just suspect there’s more to the claim than illiteracy.

    Side note: It isn’t merely Biblical illiteracy, it’s also historical illiteracy. Not that I’m claiming any great degree of knowledge – like others have said here, motivation is a challenge for various reasons, but at least I have acquired a modicum of knowledge over the years.

  • Good article Bill. When it comes to those “critics” and “corona alarmists” within christian circles, what we are seeing is the fruit of the shallow feel good teachings take effect that have poisoned the church.
    For many years now the church has been infiltrated with man centered theology and gospel lite messages, so, we should’nt be surprised, that many of those who will oppose us will come from within the church unfortunately. In a subtle way, they have been taught to love the world and obey man rather than God (of course they will fire back branding us arrogant, legalistic etc)
    I suppose God is making clear those who “hear” the shepherds voice and have built their house on solid rock, versus those who have built on shifting sand.

  • Dear Bill,
    My interpretation in all this is found ( as I’ve said before) Matthew 24 : 4 & Mark 5 :13. Watch out that no one deceives you.
    How much deceit need we tolerate, before we follow Jesus Christ.
    This one has been discredited all over the place, why would ‘good’ people bother?
    You be the judge.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR3O_82yP6o
    If this has not been blocked already.
    Cheers Mark Bryant

  • Prayer should be the first action but NOT the only one. It feels almost like if someone reported to them that soldiers were coming up the street these Christians would respond “I’ll be in my prayer closet praying for their defeat”. Prayer is always needed but so is action. I understand some are unable to do much because of disabilities but speaking out even on in the internet is something that everyone can do. The apostles didn’t change the world by staying in their prayer closets they spoke to people and did something about the problems of the world.

    If we don’t rebuke a leader how will he know his actions are incorrect?? If no one corrects you you can always say you didn’t know but once you have been told you can no longer claim ignorance. If a leader is open to criticism or is willing to learn a rebuke could be the thing that stops further unpleasant actions from happening. Caesar is but a man and men make mistakes and must be told of their mistakes in order to learn and in order to undo them. If nothing else rebuking creates a record that others can see and as it grows the record becomes undeniably. The American declaration of independence list a long list of abuses that forced there action. All things they tried to fix through talk and even rebuke but got nowhere but they had the record to show. A wise leader will listen to rebuke.

  • THE MASK OF OBEDIENCE – TO THE STATE, NOT CHRIST…
    And the washing of hands, as Pilate did, to be absolved.
    And social(ist) distancing, to separate people.
    The true church (ecclesia) – the body of Christ – manifests in such days as these, as the false church (the tares) does not bear godly fruit amidst the growing turmoil caused by the spirit of the god of this world.
    The tares buy in on the world system of scare & fear mongering, bow down in subservience to it & actually promote it or just abdicate to it & do its bidding.
    Examples of standing against the state in civil disobedience
    1. The midwives vs Pharao
    2. Moses vs Pharao
    3. The Judges vs their oppressors
    4. Shadrach, Mesach & Abednego
    5. Daniel
    6. Nathan vs David
    7. Elijah vs Ahab
    8. The prophets vs the kings
    9. Esther vs the king.
    10. Mordechia refusing to bow
    11. John the Baptist vs Herod
    12. The disciples in Acts
    13. The Apostles preaching the Gospel against state oppression
    14. The States vs England
    15. Rebels vs Hitler
    16. Corrie ten Boom
    17. Alexander Solzhenitsyn
    18. Lech Valesa in Poland
    19. Chiang Kai-shek vs Mao tse Tung
    20. Luther & the Reformers
    And more.
    Civil disobedience is a calling of the church as witness for Christ in certain circumstances, especially when the state is intimidating people & turning the PEOPLE into SHEEPLE (dumbed-down sheep without discernment).
    .

  • Jesus cleansed the temple. He turned over the tables for the money changers. This must have been very dramatic at the time! He would have been breaking the law. So Jesus himself broke the law where the law was wrong. There is also the situation with the Nazis. They conducted dreadful medical experiments. The doctors involved could have refused or transferred to different jobs. The German people may have refused to carry out Hitler’s orders. I realise this would have been difficult.

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