5 Christian truisms that aren’t true

Truisms are not just trite. Sometimes they can be toxic.

I wrote an article this week for RELEVANT Magazine’s website about some Christian truisms I’ve encountered. Check it out here.

And here are two bonus truisms:

I know that I am saved.

Sorry, but you just don’t have objective, 100 percent certain knowledge about this. You can trust that God will save you, but you can’t necessarily prove it for a fact.

Stained glassEnlightenment thinkers believed we could achieve rock-solid certainty about at least a few foundational facts, and lots of evangelicals have adopted this idea. Some Christians will disagree with me, but I don’t think we can be completely certain about anything. We are finite humans, not the omniscient God, and we are capable of deceiving ourselves. So how could we possibly be undoubtedly assured that our names are written in the book of life?

But we don’t necessarily have to doubt everything we can’t prove, either. Our ability to know things isn’t always reliable, but we can still be reasonably confident in plenty of things. Above all, we can be confident that God is gracious, and he keeps his promises if we trust him for salvation. It’s far more important to direct our attention to God and to believe that he is good and faithful rather than trying to obtain certain knowledge that we are saved.

Happiness is a feeling that comes and goes, but joy is something deeper than feelings, and it’s constant.

Joy is a feeling, too, and like all feelings, it comes and goes. You don’t have to, and you can’t, be joyful all the time. Mourning is part of being human. We are impermanent, changeable creatures who can’t always hold on to hope or peace, much less joy.

We can’t be constantly joyful until God establishes His kingdom on earth. We can experience foretastes of joy now, but it won’t be complete until Christ returns.

For further explanation of this, and for other truisms that are particularly destructive to our faith, check out “Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don’t Have to Do,” by Phillip Cary.

Special thanks to my friend Seretha Curry for serving as my philosophical and theological consultant on the subject of happiness.

What Christian truisms have you noticed lately?

7 thoughts on “5 Christian truisms that aren’t true

  1. Gr. The joy one is frustrating to me and I would thin to anyone who has struggled with depression. Come on ya’ll. If your faith isn’t based on feelings then why is saying you feel crappy not an option?
    Blessings on your journey!

  2. As I read the Epistle of 1 Jn. I will have to challenge your conclusion about assurance of salvation. While we should not be proudly presumptuous,First John does express a certainty that on the face challenges your ” Truism”.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ray. I’m not taking issue with assurance of salvation per se, but rather with the Enlightenment concept of “knowing.” I think the kind of “knowing” John talks about is based on knowing that God is faithful and merciful, and he will give us eternal life (I John 5:13). It’s a kind of knowledge that we have only by faith, not by sight. But I’m not so sure that this is the kind of knowing that some evangelicals have in mind if they’ve been unduly influenced by Enlightenment epistemology (philosophy of knowing). Some of them may be striving to achieve a kind of knowing that involves certainty, which I think is something we can only have by sight (not faith). Trying to be certain of our salvation in this way can lead to a lot of unhealthy anxiety about whether we are saved or not. So my goal with this point is to address people who struggle with this and tell them that they don’t have to if they reconsider what it means to “know.” Does that make more sense?

  3. Is Biblical Joy based in our feelings. I thought it was more a gift from the Spirit and response from us to God hence a rejoice. I agree that feelings, honest feelings are part of our being. Since sadness and depression are part of our condition, I am grateful that the Spirit can be the source and power for me to rejoice and have peace in my faith. Love your thoughtful writings.

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