Tradition, pride, and prejudice die hard

   March 10, 2017 by Dale

Private Christian schools, Bible Colleges and Universities, and Seminaries have instilled in us an approved Christian orthodoxy from the cradle to the grave. And woe be it to us if we depart from the accepted path. We’ve heard the same information and answers to all of our questions for so long that only certain conclusions seem reasonable and acceptable to us now.

Tradition, pride, and prejudice die hard. So said a popular minister in Dallas, Texas, this past Sunday (March 5, 2017). How true that is! But how little each of us believes it is true of us personally. I find it interesting that most of us think everyone else is bound by errant traditions, but we have somehow remained free from them. But the truth of the matter is we are all programmed by the messages that we’ve heard all our lives. Few have any interest in even looking into the possibility that they might need to correct some part of what they have been taught. Even though we all come from different traditions, we somehow think that our tradition is, without any doubt, the correct one, and everyone else must adjust to what we believe to be true.

To make my point I’d like to show you how good men, well-intentioned men, who have a heart to serve God, need to free themselves of this quagmire of presumed orthodoxy. The preacher who made essentially the comment given above in italics can serve as an example of what I am suggesting is universally present in all of our pulpits around the world.

The comments of the local pastor, that I would like to focus upon, are those he made in an attempt to supposedly expound the correct meaning of Acts 10:34-35 which says,

“… ‘I most certainly understand [now] that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation, the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.’”

By running to theologically acceptable verses and concepts which, eventually, focus upon the need to believe in Jesus to be saved (e.g., Mic. 6:8; John 6:28-29; Acts 4:12), this pastor rewrites Acts 10:34-35 in order to make it say,

“Unless a person believes in Jesus he cannot be acceptable to God.”

Assuming that no “unsaved” person can have any chance at being acceptable to God, and with a quick, forceful argument, the pastor replaces “fearing God and doing what is right” with “believing in Jesus.” Why does he do this? Because, as he admitted in his opening monologue, tradition, pride, and prejudice die hard. What he doesn’t realize is that his tradition has caused him to rewrite Acts 10:34-35 so that the verse fits with the presumed orthodoxy that he had been taught.

The shocking, even frightening, thing that is going on here is that the clear statement of Scripture is not allowed to stand on its own two feet and proclaim its own meaning to the reader: the man to fears God and does what is right is welcomed or acceptable to God. That is what the verse says, and that is what God wants us to believe. To use one Scripture to overrule another is to misuse the Scriptures and mislead God’s people. Every Scripture should be taken literally (either plain literally or figurative literally) and allowed to affirm the truth it was meant to set forth by the words, grammar, and syntax that are used. 

To justify rewriting the verse and making it say what his own tradition has deemed to be the message and point of the Scriptures, the pastor quotes several times Acts 4:12:

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

This is one of the most popular verses in the New Testament. And I must admit that I too had understood the verse, just as this pastor does, for over thirty-five years. But it has recently occurred to me, as I have been testing the things that I have been taught (better late than never I hope), that this verse has nothing at all to do with spiritual salvation. This verse is not equivalent to Eph. 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that [salvation] is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.”

Nor is it synonymous to Acts 16:30-31:

“and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, you and your household.’”

There is spiritual “salvation” by believing in Jesus (John 5:34; 10:9). That salvation is the reception of the life (John 3:16) that Jesus promises to those who believe He is the Messiah of God (John 6:47; 20:31). But this salvation is not by any stretch of the imagination what Peter is referring to in Acts 4:12. Peter is referring to a salvation from disease and sickness as the context of Acts 3:1—4:12 so clearly establishes beyond any reasonable doubt (unless, of course, the person is more locked into the theological traditions that he has been taught over the straightforward teaching of God’s Word).

In the context, the name referred to in Acts 4:12 is explicitly stated to be the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene (v. 10), which is repeated over and over in the previous chapter of Acts.

Not only does Acts 4:12 not “trump” Acts 10:34-35, but the point Peter makes in the home of Cornelius is a repeated motif that can be found in both the OT as well as the NT. Acts 4:12 was never meant to suggest that Christianity, especially as it is known today, is intended to be an exclusive path to God.

What Peter learned from the Holy Spirit on the day he visited Cornelius is still true today: “I most certainly understand [now] that God is not one who show partiality [which He would be if Christianity was the only way to Him], but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right (works righteousness!), is welcomed (or accepted) by Him.” That is what the verses plainly say. And we should not dismiss them because they don’t fit with what we’ve been taught.

Comments (5)

  • Susan Lumen

    March 31, 2017 at 03:50 pm

    But what about Jesus' words in John 14:6? "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". His words seem to say that there is only one way and that is through Him, the Lord Jesus. I would like to hear more on this, please.


    • Dale

      April 1, 2017 at 09:59 pm

      This has been a major reason that Christianity has not been very "world-wide" friendly. We have taken this verse out of its context and have read into it a meaning that is not in the verse. You have done, as I have for so very long, what most others have done: you have read into the verse what isn't there. Compare John 3:16 with John 14:6. Do you see the difference? John 14:6 does not ask a person to "believe in Jesus" in order to come to the Father. It just says that Jesus is, in fact, the way that everyone gets there, but belief in Him is not required. Jesus provided for all men a way to the father even though they may never have heard of Him. That is the universal love of both the Father and Jesus for all men. Praise God.


  • Susan Lumen

    April 2, 2017 at 02:07 pm

    I do see the difference. However, in John 3:16 is says that whoever believes will not perish but have everlasting life. If Jesus is the Way to the Father, what is the point of belief in Him? Isn't being with our Heavenly Father include everlasting life? I was taught right after I was born again, that when studying scripture, I should compare verses with other verses to gain proper insight. But honestly, in the almost 40 years since that time, there has been more confusion than light due to human intervention and my lack of trust in what my own heart told me was truth. Lots of confusion. Is there a shortcut through all of this maze of twisted understanding? There was a time that God led me away from fellowshipping with the church I was a member of and I even stopped studying the Word due to frustration. During that time I was often amazed how Jesus would use the scriptures I had read or memorized to guide me even though I was not even reading the Bible at the time. My husband often says that the Gospel is simple and humans make it complicated. How to uncomplicate what has already become complicated in me seems to be what my task is now. Thank you for your help.


    • Dale

      April 2, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      Susan, you are asking the right questions. And the reason all of Christendom has ended up where it is presently is also fairly simple. Think of it as looking through a window with distorted glass in it. You view of what you are looking at is only as accurate as the windowpanes will allow it to be. If we look through the wrong window, our view of what we think is reality is distorted and it is not really reality. If you want to take the time to get a good foundation on all these things, I've written five short books that will help you. The fifth book is presently going to press and will finish the series. You can find them on Amazon Kindle for about 1/3 the price or Barnes and Noble for the same price. But the big point here is that you must read them in order because later books in the series take for granted what has been proven in the earlier books to keep the material down to a minimum. They are also written for the lay person, the average reader. I am not trying to convince the scholar; I am trying to convince the person in the middle who simply isn't sure about what to believe. It is also good to have study partners. Maybe your husband could be yours. This new perspective for me came very very hard. I've spent over 10 years now working on it. I was trained in two of the best seminaries in the country, before I began my journey. Giving up what you once were absolutely sure of, mostly because of the quality of men who had taught you, is almost beyond one's ability. If God were not in it, none of us would be able to do it. Now to your questions:
      When John 3:16 says that the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life and will not perish, it is important to do your own homework on the words being used. What does "eternal life" mean? To what does it refer? YOU must determine that by using a good, complete concordance to look up EVERY use of the term (and should you find that the Bible actually gives you a definition, you know you're on safe ground! see John 17:3!!!). Theologians don't like that verse, John 17:3, because it doesn't say "enough" (i.e., it doesn't say what they want it to say). You should always compare Scripture with Scripture. BUT just because the same word is used, it may not mean in a given context what it meant in another context. Learn this: CONTEXT IS KING! If you will allow the context to determine the meaning of a term and guide you as to what is going on, you will be always guarded in what you are undertaking. So, as an example, see John 1:1 and compare it to Mark 1:1. The term beginning is used in both, right? And it is the same Greek term. But the context forbids the conclusion that the terms are referring to the same "beginning." What every Christian really needs is a good course on Hermeneutics (the principles for interpreting the Bible). If you are interested, you can find Dr. Earl Radmacher's book, reprinted by The Timothy Initiative out of West Palm Beach, Florida.
      Back to "eternal life" and "perishing." Eternal life is actually the life of Jesus Christ. Period. It has no reference to "eternity" or to anything "eternal" in the same sense that our English term does. The term means an indeterminate time frame. The Old King James version of the Bible used to translate it "everlasting" because, from the point of view of the person involved, it would go beyond need or issue he would have. It is commonly translated "age" which is more to the point. It is life that is given now but a life that will be completely experienced in a coming age ON EARTH. But it doesn't have anything to do with heaven or with going to heaven or with a promise of heaven. It is what every person needs now: the supernatural ability to handle life with all the trials that come with it. So Jesus calls it an "abundant life" in John 10:10b. Paul calls it Jesus' own life in Gal. 2:20 (so when you live by this life, it is the same as Jesus living in you). And the term for perishing? Well, over and over that same term is used in the New Testament (and frequently in the Septuagint -- the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, e.g., Ps. 1:6; 2:12; 9:3, 6, 18; etc.). King Herod the Great wanted to use the wisemen to find the baby Jesus in order to destroy/kill Him, right? Matt. 2:13. That is the same term used in John 3:16. Obviously, King Herod had no authority or power to send Jesus to hell. But he did have the power and authority to kill Him. The term perish in John 3:16 has no reference to hell just as eternal life has no reference to heaven. All these things are covered in my books. The confusion you speak of is actually a blessing for you! It has made you sense that something was not right, and that is a very good sense. But the road will be arduous and it will take a lot of work and perseverance among people who have been taught exactly like you have been, but who don't see a problem. As I end, let me also say that your experience of God using the Scriptures that you had already learned to guide, encourage, and support you is the way it should be and the way God intends it to be for all of us. Be encouraged! God is showing you that He is right at your side. And your husband is SO CORRECT! The Gospel/message of the Bible is so simple and we have made it complex and confusing. There are books, short ones, that have already been written by others on the terms of the Bible. Robert Wilkin's The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible is a very good start. I have been able to take what he has done and go a bit further in some areas. But we are all on a journey, trying to relearn the Bible. May God bless your efforts. DRT


  • Susan Lumen

    April 3, 2017 at 06:40 pm

    Thank you for your encouragement! I have read George MacDonald for decades and his words have always encouraged me to question doctrine where it didn't agree with scripture or what the Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart. The confusion caused me to doubt my ability to be correct in my understanding as well as a fairly low opinion of my abilities as a student. I was expelled from the Holdeman Mennonites for disagreeing with their doctrine of the one true visible church being them and also questioning any inconsistencies that I saw. I was not considered submissive enough. But I felt this driving need for the Truth to be just that, True to the Word and the Spirit. And God and Jesus were faithful and proved to keep me safe and guide me even when tempted or sinning, always bringing me back to the place of peace and joy and love. Trials are meant for our education and strengthening, I believe, not for our downfall. So as I go forward I will use those references you listed and at this time am studying out of Curtis' book, damn Shame and finding it so enlightening and encouraging! I am not alone in my feelings about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit! Now I will have knowledge of the Bible that will support what my heart has told me all along! Thank you Lord Jesus! For all the ways you have held me close and providing brothers and sisters that seek the truth! And thank you, too, Dale, for taking the time to write me and give me something to work with. God bless you in your outreach to others for the sake of the Truth! Susan Lumen


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