If I Know the Truth, I Will Grow
“Christian” Beliefs that Can Drive You Crazy – Part 6
False Assumption — If I Know the Truth, I Will Grow.
Many Christians are taught that if they simply know their Bibles, their emotional problems will be cured. They are taught that knowing God’s Word is the all-sufficient cure for everything that ails them. Bible study and prayer, this camp believes, are the answers to emotional problems.
Proponents of this view point to Jesus’ words: “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32), as well as some of the descriptive passages about the Scriptures, such as Psalm 19:7-14, or Psalm 119. From such passages they build an entire system that relies upon Bible study and truth as the cure for everything.
This approach sounds good. What could sound more Christian than to stand up for the integrity of the Word of God? How could anyone even question such teaching? It sounds like heresy to even ask, “Is the Bible enough?”
We believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that its revelation is sufficient. What we question is its application. Is the cure simply reading the Bible and learning truth? The false assumption here is, “If I know God’s truth, I will grow.” Yet we believe that Bible study alone was never God’s remedy for emotional and spiritual problems. Healing takes work.
“You diligently study the Scriptures,” Jesus said to those well acquainted with the Scriptures, “because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). The Jewish leaders were so busy studying the minutia of Scriptures that they didn’t recognize the One to whom the Scriptures were pointing, the One who could lead them into the spiritual life that truly heals.
We are not saying that the Word is dispensable for spiritual growth. It is not! But neither is Bible study the entire picture. The Scriptures themselves teach that Bible study is necessary yet insufficient in itself for leading one into a healthy Christian life.
The Absence of Relationship
Truth alone saves no one. The Pharisees had all the truth they needed. What they didn’t have were relationships with God and with each other.
The essential problem is that we are alienated from God and others. These essence of the spiritual life is to be reconciled to God and have vibrant relationship with him (2 Corinthians 5:18,19), and then be reconciled to friends and neighbors in the same way: To love God with all your being and to love others as yourself.
God with Skin On
“Don’t be afraid of the dark, honey,” said a mother, calming her frightened child. “God is with you.” To which the child replied, “But I need somebody with skin on.”
We talk continually about how relationship with God is essential for emotional growth—but so do those who teach the false assumptions. Yet though they teach that prayer and Bible study are healing agents, their emphasis on Bible study (and relationship to God through Bible study) falls short of what the Bible actually teaches—an incarnational gospel. This means that for us to realize the grace of God, God had to put skin on. He had to become a man. Even now, he comes to be with us in bodily form through his church, which we call the body of Christ. The church is Christ with skin on. We feel the grace of God not only by studying about it in the Bible, but by experiencing it incarnationally, just as it was first revealed. This happens through deep relationships with people.
Healing Hands of Humans, Too
Truth without relationship sidesteps the healing God wants for us in his body. Christians are told to study the Bible for their growth and comfort, but the Bible they read instructs them to return to human relationships for healing: Go and abide with one another, comfort one another, weep with those who weep, confront one another, confess to one another, encourage one another, and build one another up. These relational elements are essential for growth and transformation in the soul.
“Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:15,16 – italics mine)
The teaching “If I just know the truth, I will grow” clearly contradicts the biblical mandate to go to the body of Christ for growth. You can’t read the Bible and think that it says that studying it is enough. It points to Jesus and a relationship with him and his people.
Doing the Truth
Another reason this false assumption is harmful is that it teaches against the very truth it says to study. God designed sanctification, which has several elements beyond Bible study and leaning the truth. These elements involve practicing the truth: putting the Bible down and going and doing what it says to do.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25)
People who are taught to get over their emotional problems by just reading their Bibles and praying are being taught to become hearers of the Word. There will be no genuine healing, however, until they become doers of the Word. Bible study alone has been lifted to a status the Bible never intended. God says the Bible is important because it points us to Jesus and tells us how to live out our relationship with God and others—in fact, it serves as a guide for living our whole life.
Real problems arise when people in counseling are doing the hard work of therapy and then one of their spiritual teachers condemns what they are working on, calling it “secular humanism.” They are then instructed to get back to “biblical” ways of healing—Bible study and prayer.
When they study their Bible, they find that it says to do the things they were doing in therapy—take responsibility for what is inside, uncover the darkness, grieve, forgive, reconcile, learn, confront, express feelings, confess, and support.
This is exactly what is so ridiculous about the false assumption “If I know the truth, I will grow.” It tells people to study their Bible yet prevents them from doing what it says.
Character change—to be transformed into God’s likeness—is the key to real healing for all of us (2 Corinthians 3:18).
But such transformation is hard work. It comes not by simply memorizing Scripture and trying to be inundated with truth. That is the Pharisees’ method. Real character change comes from practicing the truth not just hearing it. People who are actively involved in recovery and character change are doing the hard work of denying themselves. They should not be told to stop doing the truth, and instead just to study it or listen to it in sermons.
Learn the truth, study your Bible diligently, but don’t stop there. Take what it says and put it into action by practicing the healing process it points to—working out the truth in deep relationships. This will set you free (John 8:31-32).
This is the last article in this series of excerpts from 12 “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy. Next week…check back for our series on Safe People.
Taken from 12 “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy, © Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend, Zondervan 1995
12 “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy helps you find relief from 12 false assumptions that are commonly believed. Drs. Cloud & Townsend explain the origin of these false principles, show where they go wrong, and pressent a biblical path for resolving emotional and spiritual problems.
This is the final article in a series of Feature Articles adapted from 12 “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy.
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