When Christians Are Wrong


A nun ready to slap your hand with a rulerI’ve been on the blogosphere since 2001 . My previous blog was called “The Boiled Frog Blog,” as in the old aphorism that you can kill a frog in a pot by turning up the heat in small degrees.

Matter of degree is something most Christians can’t handle. We have a tendency to make everything black and white and blame the Scriptures for the stark contrast. Few Christians would say that life works that way in practice, but we sure love it in theory.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about the basics here. Jesus Christ came in the flesh and was wholly Man and wholly God. This isn’t about Nicene Creed sort of stuff. It’s about the little things that keep us at each other’s throats.

C.S. Lewis talked about the increasing prevalence of “men without chests” in our society. Today, dad’s without chests have sons without chest in numbers rivaling the way rats breed. We’re awash in them.

We can all come up with a million faults that create men without chests, but one of the ones I never hear mentioned is an unwillingness to admit wrong. Those of us fed up with the culture of victimization will utter a hearty “Huzzah!” at the thought of making people live out the consequences of their own actions. But that’s a kid stuff kind of accountability.

You know what I would like to hear more often from individuals in our churches? I was wrong.

You know what I want to see written on a comment or post in the Godblogosphere, even once? I was wrong.

If we consider the Godblogosphere to contain some of the brighter people in the Western Church today—and I believe that may very well be true—shouldn’t we be seeing more admissions of wrongness? Smart people, by and large, should be acutely aware of when they’ve made an error. Or at least you would think they would be. So it’s curious to me to see all the pitched battles that occur every day in the Godblogosphere, missives filled with a massive numbers of characters typed onto a screen, yet the conversation eventually peters out with both sides claiming victory.

If the Bible is Absolute Truth, then it is True Absolutely. There’s only ONE WAY. As much as we say we’re for the inerrancy of the Bible, for most people it’s only as inerrant as it’s capable of being turned into a cunning argument that always wins. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t always work that way. The witness of a couple thousand years of wrangling over this doctrine and that should prove the truth of that statement. Has any Christian in the last two thousand years gotten the interpretation and praxis of ALL the Scriptures correct? Even Peter, one of the select apostles, was corrected by Paul on the matter of the Judaizers. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not arguing for a lax view of interpretation! Quite the opposite; I contend that there is only one interpretation that is correct.

The problem is that we’re not at that place of perfect interpretation, though we act like we are. Pick a topic within the Faith and see how many different views there are on that one topic. I studied sixteen different interpretations of the Book of Revelation, all from fairly orthodox views. But someone’s wrong. In fact, if only one of those interpretations is wholly correct (or in truth, possibly none at all), then the majority of Christians in the world have the wrong interpretation.

Just how narrow does the narrow road get?

We say things like “We agree to disagree agreeably,” but that doesn’t change the fact that from the standpoint of pure unadulterated Truth, someone has the wrong view. Paedobaptist or credobaptist? Supernatural gifts of the Spirit today or not? Dispensational or ready to toss another Darbyite on the barbie? Or maybe a smidgeon of each—or possibly neither. What’s the topic today and who’s right on it?

I guess this wouldn’t be so bad if we were more willing to say we’re wrong. How much better could our Christian community be if more of us fessed up to faulty doctrine in a couple places within our personal systematic theologies? Another gospel? If we were honest we’d have to admit that almost everyone of us has personalized the one Absolute Truth to the point that it’s no longer Absolutely God’s, but absolutely our own. And that’s an absolute mess.

Don’t get me going on translating doctrine into practice, either.

I always wonder what happens to those few flawed exegetes and self-deluded practitioners who see the light, admit wrong, and are restored to fellowship. We don’t hear about them too often. Maybe few actually complete the one-eighty. If so, I suspect the reasons are fear of failure and a rejection of grace. How about simple pride? We’re masters of saving face, aren’t we?

For a Christian to publicly admit wrong takes a real work of the Spirit. It takes no effort to stay stuck in error, but a lot of work goes into convincing someone of his or her misguided thinking.

You’ll know when real revival comes to America when you hear “I was wrong” uttered from the lips of every person who calls on the name of the Lord. Because in some way, by the standard of Jesus, each of us is.

Tags: Right, Wrong, Pride, Conviction, Church, Faith, Christianity, Jesus, God

17 thoughts on “When Christians Are Wrong

  1. Anonymous

    some renowned contemporary theologians fully respect one another’s hermeneutic and exegesis but arrive at different interpretations. God has, in His wisdom, chosen not to fully disclose certain mysteries through scripture. so they have been unable to prove one another ‘wrong’. therefore on some issues, there is a unanimous shrug followed by a “the way i see it…”

    I think what you warn of us is the situation where someone takes a hard line on something that God “…has been pleased to conceal within himself…sublime eternal wisdom which it is his pleasure that we should not apprehend but adore” -Calvin

  2. Steve Sensenig

    Personally, I’d be just as happy with a simple “I could be wrong” from time to time.

    Instead, it’s “I’m absolutely right, and I know it, and the rest of you are just imbeciles.”

    Thanks for writing this, Dan. I think it’s something that has been lurking in the back of my mind for a bit and never made it to actual articulation.

    steve 🙂

  3. Steve Sensenig

    (actually, that *sigh* belongs above the last paragraph. I added the last paragraph, but forgot to move the *sigh*.)

    steve 🙂

  4. I’m tracking with you on this one Dan. It would be refreshing to hear an “I was wrong” occasionally. I also wouldn’t mind hearing an “I don’t know” every so often!

    I enjoyed the post.

  5. The Christian Woman

    My husband and I were just discussing some of these issues this weekend. Not so much about doctrinal differences, but the smaller stuff where Christians disagree about what is right or wrong to do in their lives. I said the same thing as you – ultimately there is one truth. I think people let their love of the world cloud their judgment so much that they aren�t even willing to try and find the truth.

    As far as a person admitting they are wrong, I don�t think they can because they still think they are right. What bothers me more is that so many �Christians� seem so off-track with the basics and want to duck their heads in the sand rather than have a debate to try and find the truth. At first I thought it was just the women, but now that I have visited some of the �manly� blogs I see it�s there also.

    You�re right though. It would be nice to at least hear �I�m not sure�. There are many things I�m not sure of, that�s why I like to have the discussion.

    If it helps any: I was wrong. I don�t know about what but I know I�ve been wrong somewhere.

  6. I’ve argued all sorts of doctrines and points with countless people. But the one thing that hangs heavy on my heart right now isn’t, “Was I right or wrong?”, but, “What are you going to do about it?”

    If my beliefs about Jesus are correct, then I will be out ministering to the needs of the needy. I’ll be sharing the good news with those who are ready to hear it. I’ll be breaking bonds and loosing yokes.

    Who’s “right” in all these arguments? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. But based on Jesus’ words in Mt. 7, I think he who does the work of the Father is the closest of all of us. And that man is too busy DOING to be held back by ARGUING.

    My $0.02.

    God bless.

  7. Yes, the following are all helpful, too:

    “I’m not sure.”
    “I’ll have to check on that.”
    “I never thought of that before.”

    All show some humility, too, a quality lacking just about everywhere I go.

  8. Darla

    Last night the leader of our small group led us in a brief word study of the “one anothers” in the NT. Wow. If we would all REALLY hear and practice the “one anothers” then we would find it easier to say “I was wrong” and even avoid getting ourselves in the situation where we have to admit “I was wrong”.


  9. Larry Who

    I believe that the number one character trait that God is trying to instill into our spiritual makeups is humility. And sadly, this is the single point that we believers fight God the hardest on.

    A humble person will admit mistakes, but unfortunately, most Christians are just like me, filled with pride and mistake-free.

  10. Anonymous


    I’ve been wrong. I will be wrong again.

    There is one truth, and Jesus Christ is that truth.

    The Bible is a reflection of that truth. Yet because the Bible is words, people bring their own preconceived notions to the table with them, and read the Book through the lens of those notions.

    Many Christians believe that postmodernism states that there is no one truth. Yet many postmodernists agree that there is one truth, one reality – and a gazillion different views of it. None of us will ever have the same viewpoint on truth, at least not until we get to that point Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15. So why do we think that all of us must have the same viewpoint on truth “in order to be really Christian”

    Even the apostles in council in Acts 15 understood that Gentiles did not have to become Jews to become Christians. So why do so many of us insist that Gentiles become Presbyterians (or Lutherans, or Assemblists, or Pietists, or whatever you care to name) to become Christians?

    Yes, having a common point of view is a good thing – but is it better than doing what Christ said to do? (feeding the hungry, for example)

  11. R10B


    You lose me in paragraph 4-5. You lament that our culture is awash with “men without chests” who are unwilling to admit that they are wrong. I thought the common definition of a man w/o chest one who is frequently says “maybe”, “possibly”, I’m not sure”…? A consequence of having “chest” is the inability to acknowledge error. (e.g. GWB)

    So do we need more Christians who:

    1) study and come to convictions
    2) sit on doctrinal fences
    3) do 1 but “act” like 2
    4) keep their convictions to themselves.

    What’s your point?

  12. Ken Fields

    OK, I’ll say it,

    {shouting} I’M WRONG! (just ask my wife!)

    Great piece, Dan! Would you be available to preach this in churches?

  13. Jennifer

    Man, I admit I’m wrong all the time on my blog. Why deny the obvious? And I think nonbelievers need to hear us say it.

  14. Stingray

    Excellent piece, Dan. I have often feared that if I only knew Christianity through the history books, I would never ever become a Christian.

    A devout Orthodox Jewish friend of mine died several months ago and though he and I thoroughly enjoyed discussing faith-based matters, the memories of anti-Jewish pogroms in Europe were still strong in his family. Why should he become a Christian when all of his ancestors suffered at the hands of those who called themselves Christians?

    Excellent article, yes; but also very disturbing.

  15. r10b,

    Being a strong man of truth does not negate being humble, particularly when an adversary proves one wrong. It’s the men without chests who do not take responsibility when they are mistaken. Also, a real man knows when to speak and how.

    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
    —Proverbs 9:8 ESV

    A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
    —Proverbs 29:11 ESV

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