Traditions, Testing All Things, and the Truth
by Derrick Dean, New Castle, Pennsylvania

There are quite a few beliefs throughout Christianity that are based on errors. Over the years, people have believed many things that they "remember" the Bible says, but in actuality we are remembering what other people have said. Some of these "errors" are serious and some are not.

For instance, we all remember there being three wise men in the Christmas story. However, the Bible does not say how many there were (Matthew 2:1). We assume there were three because Matthew 2:11 mentions three gifts that were given to the Christ child. It does not necessarily follow from this verse that there were three: at least two, but maybe four. We have assumed three for so long, we have come to believe the Bible says so, albeit wrongly.

Many times you probably have heard people repeat that the Bible says the lion will lie with the lamb, but it is actually the wolf with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). Delilah did not give Samson his famous haircut (Judges 16:19). Nowhere does Exodus claim that Pharaoh drowned in the Red Sea crossing (Exodus 14:23-15:21). This clarification undermines the claim of skeptics that Egyptian histories do not list any pharaoh dying during this time frame. And the Bible does not say that Eve's "apple" was an apple at all (Genesis 3), but generically calls it a fruit.

These erroneous beliefs are fairly minor, yet they are often taught in Sunday schools and from the pulpit. However, they establish a disturbing pattern. Entire religions and belief systems have been created due to the lack of critical thought. Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith who claims to have received revelations from God in the 1800s. Mormons, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, insist they are part of the Christian orthodoxy (mainstream Christian churches that share the same foundational doctrines). Those churches disagree because the "revelations" of Joseph Smith, recorded in the Book of Mormon, are highly suspect. This book claims to reveal the history of ancient civilizations in America that had Hebrew and Christian beliefs.

No ancient copies of this book exist. No persons, places, or nations it lists have been found. There is absolutely zero historical or archaeological evidence to support Smith's writings and there have been 3913 changes in the book since its first printing. Smith, who claimed to be a prophet of God, made 64 specific prophecies. Only six were correct. Some of his prophecies included Jesus would return to earth by 1890 and the moon would be found to be inhabited by six-foot tall people. Should not a true "prophet of God" be 100% correct? In fact, Deuteronomy 18:21-22 provides that very test: If what the prophet says does not come to pass, he is not a prophet. Sounds like common sense.

Perhaps we should remember the biblical mandate "Test everything. Hold on to the good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Lamentations 3:40 and 2 Corinthians 13:5 reiterate this mandate. We are also warned about being taken in by deceitful teachings (1 John 4:1), human traditions (Colossians 2:8; Isaiah 29:13), emotions (Proverbs 28:26) and believing in myths (1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Titus 1:14). Most of the Book of Proverbs implores readers to search out wisdom. Also, the modern scientific method, another core of critical thought, can trace its roots in biblical study.

Peter also implores us to be able to give reason for what we believe (1 Peter 3:15). This is the basis for biblical faith as opposed to blind faith. In other words, our faith, Christianity, is to be based on reality, facts, and reason. We take a "leap of faith" with our heart first, but solidify it with our mind (Matthew 22:37-39; Romans 12:1-2). According to 1 Peter 3:15, it is not good enough to say "I believe because someone told me so." You must know why it is so. This also tells us that the mind, knowledge, and intellectualism is a vital and foundational part of Christianity.

To ignore these mandates is to invite aberrant theologies, cults, frauds, and deceptions. The inability to defend Christianity also turns people away and invites ridicule. We best review these important biblical mandates and not forget them.

[adapted from my book Is the Truth Out There? see]

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