Across the Pastor’s Desk: Beware half-truths about religion

Published 7:52 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Kent Otterman

Kent Otterman


Christian writer Joe McKeever recently wrote an article about half-truths. What is a half-truth?  It is a statement that contains some truth but not the entire truth. The half-truth that he writes about is the following statement: “Christianity is not a religion; it’s a relationship.” This was a popular saying when I was a teenager, which was a long time ago!  McKeever writes that it is true that the heart of being a Christian is having a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

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However, Christianity is also a religion. Even the Bible says so. James writes, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you (James 1:27). Christianity is one of the major religions of the world. One dictionary definition of religion is “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices.” This certainly applies to Christianity. It would be more accurate to say that Christianity is a religion that is based on a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins to be forgiven and rose from the grave.

McKeever writes, “Without that relationship with Christ, what we have is a religion only and nothing more, a shell without the kernel, form without content, a place to go on Sundays and meaningless rules to follow.”

Another half-truth that I came across recently was in a criticism of Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen. You see, Karen Pence returned as an art teacher in a Christian school where she used to teach. In order to be a teacher in this school, one must sign a Christian code of conduct. Parents are also required to sign a pledge that they and their children will not act in opposition to the biblical lifestyle the school teaches. Examples of inappropriate lifestyles include “participating in, supporting or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity.” Teachers and parents must affirm that marriage has only one meaning: “the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive covenant union.”

The Pences were criticized by several defenders of modern culture, including Lady Gaga. She addressed Mike Pence and said, “You are the worst representation of what it means to be a Christian. I am a Christian woman, and what I do know about Christianity is that we bear no prejudice and everybody is welcome.” Lady Gaga may be a good singer and a flashy dresser, but an expert on the Bible and Christianity she is not. Her statement reveals a common half-truth about Christianity in our culture. The true part of her statement is that Jesus welcomed everybody, which he clearly did. He loved everyone! But what did he welcome them to do? He called them to turn away from their sin, believe in him and obey God’s will as revealed in Scripture. He said, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:32, NLT). It is very clear in the Bible that although God loves all people, not all people are going to heaven. Regarding this, you may read passages like I Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:8.

When it comes to the topic of sex and marriage, an honest reading of Scripture will bring a person to the following conclusions: Sex is for marriage, and marriage is for a man and a woman. People, of course, can choose to live however they want to live, and we are to love all people. But that does not mean that God approves of all the choices we make. 

When you hear a statement by someone that seems right but also seems like it is missing something, you may be hearing a half-truth. Go to God’s word for the whole truth.

Kent Otterman is chaplain of Good Samaritan Society of Albert Lea and pastor of Round Prairie Lutheran Church of rural Glenville and Faith Lutheran Church of London.