You are either 100% correct in doctrine or you are not correct at all

I believed this for a long time. A pastor I loved and admired once told me this. But if this is the case, we are all up creek skubalon –pardon my French. All of us have some things wrong. I am studying Romans right now and I am under the opinion that chapter 2:1-16 Paul is addressing self-righteous Jews and not self-righteous Gentiles. I might be wrong. It makes sense either way. But if I am wrong about this, does that really mean I am wrong about everything? Really? We need to be 100% correct only about those things that are the most important: Who is Christ and what did he do?

If its not in the Bibe, its not true

Sounds good, but has a terrible track record in real life. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture to equip us with spiritual truth. I also believe in the Scripture’s ultimate authority. But there are a lot of things that God expects us to know that are outside of Scripture. For example, and most fundamentally, you have to learn how to read before you can even know what the Scriptures say. The Scriptures don’t teach you about subject-verb-object relationships. God expects you to know these things beforehand. The same is true when it comes to the laws of logic, the physical benefits of eating and breathing, and how to walk (one foot in front of the other).

If you smoke, you must not be a good Christian

Really? Is it the addiction or health problems that cause us to say this? If it is the addiction, are we ready to give up coffee? If it is the health, are we ready to exercise daily and stop eating fast food? Otherwise, I think we need to calm down.

All sins are equal in God’s site

Really? Well then what do we do with John 19:11? Do I really believe going 36mph in a 35 is the same in God’s site as child rape and molestation? I think I better reconsider. Maybe I could put it this way, “While not all sin is equal in God’s site, all people are equally depraved; we just act it out in various degrees”? Where did I come up with such a notion?

Critical thought and questions are unspiritual and of the flesh

Don’t ask questions; just exercise “faith.” That sounds good. Well, it sounds dismissive. But how can this be? God expects us to relinquish our minds so that He can be honored? The less we use the minds God created, the more spiritual we are. Somehow we got this thing all twisted in the 20th century.

Converts make the best apologists

I don’t think this is true anymore. In fact, the more I engage in the world of theology, converts often seem to be the most likely to misrepresent the position from which they converted due to emotional scarring and lack of objectivity. I am not saying that converts are necessarily tainted. I just don’t put their posters on my wall so quickly anymore.

Christ’s physical pain was greater than the pain of all humanity combined

I never understood this even though I believed it. Now I am not so sure. Why would this be the case? Many people have been tormented on a cross. Is it his emotional pain? But it only lasted for six hours on the cross. I think most people with severe emotional pain would tell you that it is not the acute pain that is the problem, but the idea that it will never cease. And indeed, sometimes it does not cease until someone takes their own life. Ask my sister. While I think Christ’s pain was indeed more severe than most people ever experience, I don’t see why we feel obligated to make overstatements to legitimize our belief. Am I wrong?.

Information equates to understanding

No matter how much I know, this does not mean I understand. I used to think that if I read every book on such and such subject, I would be better prepared in that area de facto. But I have come to believe that reflection is the key. John Hannah once told me that people need to read less and reflect more. I think I agree.

Understanding equates to wisdom

So, once I understand something I will always make the wise and tactful decision? I wish. I have come to believe that wisdom grows out of understanding, but understanding does not necessarily produce wisdom. Wisdom is understanding coupled with reflective experience. That is the best I got right now.

The unbeliever’s skepticism is always unfounded

Many times unbelievers have great and sincere questions. These are often just the questions we have that we are too afraid to let surface. Therefore, we don’t really have any answers. Just because we are often afraid to deal with these questions does not make them unfounded.

God is on my side

I think the better question now is this Whose side am I on?

If one denies the inerrancy of Scripture, they are denying Christianity

If this is the case, then the historical events are grounded in Scripture, not the other way around. Doesn’t this seem backward? While I believe in inerrancy, I don’t think that inerracy is the linchpin of Christianity. The Bible does not need to be inerrant for the historic events of Christ’s death and resurrection to be true.

The unbeliever cannot understand truth

It seems right, but then I think to myself What is so hard to understand? It is acceptance that is the problem, not intellectual comprehension [1 Cor. 2:14]. In fact, in my experience, many unbelievers use their minds better than believers.

I can always understand and interpret the Bible without any help

Yes, I don’t need to worry about how the Body of Christ, both living and dead, that contribute to me understanding. God wants me to be a vigilante . . . no community responsibility, just me and Him right? Not so sure.

The Bible says it, I believe, it’s done!

Really? And my interpretation is most certainly correct even though good people disagree?

Speaking in tongues is of the devil

This was my easy way to dodge a difficult issue. I am sorry for thinking that . . . even though I don’t speak in tongues.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    34 replies to "Things I Used to Believe, but Now I’m Not So Sure"

    • Tony Byrne

      Most, if not all, of these earlier 16 beliefs of yours absolutely scream, “I used to be a narrow-minded, epistemically naive fundamentalist!” Many of your blog posts now urgently say, “I want you all to constantly know that I am no longer an anti-intellectual fundamentalist!,” or “I am opposed to bigoted fundamentalism!” This is why I’ve said before that your earlier bigoted fundamentalism, or anything akin to it, is the boogeyman you’re regularly reacting against in all your teaching; and I would further say that this reaction was reinforced by professors at DTS who in their earlier days suffered from the same ideological rigidity.

    • Marv

      Boy, wuz you messed up!

      100% correct or not correct at all!! Crikey!

      Now that works for spelling.

      “Bibe” for Bible, for example.
      Also, apparently God has a web site.

      Speaking of websites. You obviously included “Speaking in Tongues is of the devil” as a subtle seque to link to our fraternal interaction with your “Why I am not Charismatic post” at To Be Contintued ( Look for part 6 tomorrow. Meanwhile:




      5. hrep="

    • Darlene

      So good to see that you are taking a stand against Fundamentalist Christianity. I, too, began taking a route away from such thinking several years ago. The result is that I am now an Eastern Orthodox Christian.

    • ScottL

      Oh, for goodness sake. Marv beat me to it. 😉

      I hope part 6 is up tomorrow. Maybe Wednesday.

    • Ed Kratz

      Michael, you are giving away all the trade secrets. Is nothing sacred anymore? Sheesh

    • mbaker

      Some of this stuff could very well go on the other thread; ” Thirty Eight Things you Need to Know Right Now. 🙂

      Seriously though, we don’t want to throw out everything about our former beliefs. Although fundamentalism is now equated with legalism, it wasn’t always so. Back in the day, it simply meant sticking to the basic essentials of Christianity. Somehow the extremes of legalism got associated with that title.

      Now we have redefined it as ‘essentials’.

      The more things change the more they stay the same…..

    • Jim Kinnebrew

      Hmmmm . . .

      I’ve been a fundamentalist (in the theological, not cultural, sense) for 40 years, but I’ve never believed any of these things. Those comments that equate this list of false beliefs to fundamentalism need to reconsider what that label means historically.

      To reject these doctrinal distortions is NOT to reject “fundamentalist Christianity.” To move to an unbiblical position because you have rejected some other unbiblical views is an unfortunate but common move.

      In regard to the inerrancy issue, I would say that those who deny inerrancy ARE denying a historical Christian understanding of the nature of the Word of God even if they are not “denying Christianity.”

    • Tony Byrne


      Notice the several qualifiers I used in front of the term “fundamentalism.” 😉 They’re there because I understand and believe your point as well (though I don’t label myself a fundamentalist). Nevertheless, there is a “fundamentalism” that believes some of the 16 things Michael listed.

      My point was this: the main problems in the evangelical church and in our American culture *in general* is not so much a bent toward narrow-minded bigotry, but the opposite, i.e. excessive openness, compromise, doubt, relativism (both ethical and epistemological), ecumenism, and/or away from any hint of dogmatic convictions, particularly when it comes to essentials of historic protestant/evangelical belief. While narrow-minded theological bigotry is a problem, I’d say *the much larger problem* today is in the opposite direction, contrary to what Michael is continually reacting/drumming against.

    • Tim Petty

      I think people tend to focus too much on the physical pain of Christ on the cross. MANY people have endured far worse pain and humiliation than that. The real torment (at least in my opinion) that Christ had to endure for our sins, was the abandonment by God. Christ was burdened with the sins of the world and God, by nature could not look upon him. Getting beaten, and nailed to a cross is terrible, but having God turn his back on you is plain scary.

    • mbaker



      But a qualifer is: Why does American Christianity have to go such extremes one way or the other in order to ‘get’ it? I’ve missionary friends all over the world who tell me their largely uneducated audience understands the gospel message far better than our contemperary Christian culture does.

      Not saying we don’t need to use our minds to understand the gospel, because I once made that almost fatal mistake myself, but isn’t it, as scripture says, a matter of doing this with our WHOLE being? If our minds are all we are using, as well as our hearts and our emotions, aren’t we missing the forest for the trees? After 50 years of being a Christian, I see the specialization of Christianity, ie. the hyper- charismatics, the extreme legalists, and the emergent church, all as leading people way from Christianity instead of the other way around.

    • John

      We shouldn’t be judging other people anyway, whether the issue is smoking or something else. Anyone who judges someone else over smoking is almost certainly a hypocrite.

      That doesn’t mean smoking isn’t a sin though.

    • Brian

      Smoking won’t send you to hell — it will just make you smell like you’ve been there.

    • Michael T.

      Tony and Jim,
      There has been some talk here about whether the evangelical church is heading too much towards openness or (as some would argue) it is the opposite. My two cents. It seems like many things there is a pendulum that is continually swinging back and forth, rarely finding balance. In the late 70’s through the turn of the Century Evangelical’s in general became increasingly politicized (as strange as it seems evangelicals were largely apolitical and leaned democratic prior to the Moral Majority movement), increasingly dogmatic (issues which are generally considered non-essential such as dispensationalist, premillenial eschatology, became non-debatable), and anti-intellectual (academic inquiry was shunned).

      The result of this is that those who came of age during that period (like myself – born in ’83) are rebelling against this in large numbers. Many of course have abandoned the faith altogether. Many others have tried to swing things too far the other way (i.e. the Emergent Church types). And still others (though fewer in number) are more or less doubling down (am I allowed to use a gambling metaphor on this site?). It seems that very few are actually trying to bring Evangelicalism back to its roots which is why I appreciate CMP and this site so much.

    • Crystal

      “All sins are equal in God’s site” – This was something I was taught as a new believer. I accepted it, but it just didn’t sit well.

      True, all sin results in separation from God and all sin was paid for by Christ.

      That does not mean it’s all the same to Him. If John 19:11 is not convincing, do a quick survey of the OT prophets. You definitely get a sense that some things bother Him more than others. Some of the word pictures He chooses are pretty intense. Yikes!

    • Cadis

      I don’t know if this posts identifies these 16 things with fundamentalism. I hope not, because immature, misguided, unrefined thoughts exist everywhere about everything. They are held by every denomination. You can find stupid things said and held to by everyone. I know if I type long enough someone will catch me in one right now. That’s part of growing up. It’s the know-it-alls that teach this kind of stuff and refuse to relinquish it that are a pain and those you will find in all walks of life too. I know I have two such people in my immediate family and one is my mother-in-law and she is no fundamentalist, although she has all the qualities some say are identifing markers of fundamentalism.
      Pyromaniacs have a post up about a “Evolutionist Nazi” The description of that professor is the description that is supposedly that of a fundamentalist..?? fundamentalism gets blamed for everything because the outside critic has made sure to hold up the worst of the worst and constantly indentify them as true Fundamentalist. I wish you good guys would ignore them and just keep using the descriptive.
      Oh well, been down this road before.

    • Michael T.

      Perhaps the word Fundamentalist at one time wasn’t so ugly. But because of things people who call themselves fundamentalists have done, and the way the media and society has come to use the word, it is something I don’t think it is advisable to define one’s self as. To the extent that CMP is reacting to something in posts like this I think he is reacting more to what society thinks fundamentalist is and saying “this is not where true Christianity lies” then his past.

    • cherylu

      Michael T,

      Were you meaning to address your last comment to someone else? I don’t believe I have commented on this thread.

    • Michael T.

      oops sorry I meant Cadis – was just reading another thread where you commented and got mixed up

    • J.Frances

      Reconsidering Romans? Extra-Scriptural considerations? All sins not equal? Assessing interpretive authority?. . .

      I hear the Tiber is nice this time of year. 😉

      Don’t post much around here lately, but you are often in my prayers. Especially recently.

    • Sam

      “The Bible says it, I believe, it’s done!”

      I’m more familiar with the rendering, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it!”

      But I’m much more in agreement with the more recent rendering, “God said it. I interpreted it [as best I could in light of all the filters imposed by my upbringing and culture (which I try to control for but you can never do a perfect job)]. That doesn’t exactly settle it [but it does give me enough of a platform to base my values and decisions on].”

    • C Skiles

      How bout these for “I used to believe this but now I’m not so sure?”

      1) When Jesus was on the cross he had the ability to think of every human being that would ever be born

      2) If I would have been the only one Christ would still have died for me

      I don’t see anywhere in scripture where this is stated or implied (maybe I’m wrong)

    • Crystal

      C. Skiles– I don’t think the future exists yet, even to God, so I’m with you on number 1.
      I do think number two is implied at least, though. God seems to place premium value on just one redeemed soul. Think of the ratio of those who will choose eternal life to those who won’t throughout human history. Those relatively few were worth the risk of others rejecting the message of the cross. It seems likely to me that one redeemed soul for all eternity would have been worth the sacrifice to Jesus.

    • Tom

      All sin IS equal in respect to its effect on our nature. The reference to Christ calling a sin “greater” needs to be read in the intended context. In this case it carries a greater scope of consequences but it does not result in more Hell. Is betraying Christ a “greater” sin than going 36 in a 35? Of course. Will it result in a “greater” punishment from God? No. Will either be forgiven is asked? Yes.

      My fear in calling some sins “greater” is that the Church today (which is already filled with people putting on their best self-righteous faces) does not welcome the repentant drug addict, adulterer, criminal the way it welcomes the unrepentant smoker or gossip. We judge sin in a way God does not. It’s either confessed and repented or unconfessed and unrepented. It’s either forgiven or unforgiven.

    • C Skiles

      I should say in regards to my prevous post that I’m not doubting the son of God’s Omniscience or the depths of His love or that it is a personal love , it’s just that the statements that I mentioned seem to have a sentimental root instead of being rooted in scripture.

    • Hodge

      I use to say this same thing about smoking, and even now don’t, emotionally speaking, have a problem with it; but I actually think that, now that we know the effects of smoking, it should be seen as a greater sin than we have seen it to be in the past. First, it may be that we’re all sinning by abusing our bodies in eating too many cheeseburgers. One cannot argue that because we are sinning in area X, we shouldn’t say that sinning in area Y is a major sin. In other words, familiarity is no argument against condemnation of a sin.

      But my greater problem with smoking is not the sin against God through the self, but through others. One is not selfishly killing everyone else in the room when he or she eats a cheeseburger.

    • Scott

      “In regard to the inerrancy issue, I would say that those who deny inerrancy ARE denying a historical Christian understanding of the nature of the Word of God even if they are not “denying Christianity.”

      I’m sorry Jim but I think you have equated the very recent development of “innerancy” with being a foundational (original) Christian value. There are a number of problems with this assertion.
      1. The first Christians (even those after the death of the apostles) didn’t have any scriptures. They relied on the teaching of the apostles as it was passed on to them.
      2. Innerancy is only relevant to modernistic categorization of factual accuracy. In other words, the Bible can only be true if the Bible is without linguistic/grammatical error in anyway. Meaning that every word (in the original documents) down to each letter must be without error. Not even an extra iota here or there. One could simply deflate this argument by pointing out that we don’t have any of the original documents to test this and the documents we do have never attest to this so there is no reason to believe it. However, the real issue is not innerancy but whether the text is trustworthy; whether it is infallible. We need to be concerned with whether the stories we have are accurate descriptions of God’s redemptive story with his creation. We need to be concerned with whether the message will fail us or not. To argue innerancy is to argue something that is neither claimed nor defensible; but to argue infallibility one needs only to simply point to the stories of our faith, our own lives, and all the redemptive power in the history of Jesus’ church.

    • Taylor

      “All sins are equal in God’s sight.”

      This has always been a tough one for me. While I believe that different sins merit different consequences, I try not to view the words of Jesus from John 19 as the basis for dividing sins into “greater” or “smaller” categories (i.e. speeding 1 mph over vs. child rape and molestation), otherwise it becomes easier for us to justify “small sins.”

      In Colossians 3, Paul writes that if we have been raised with Christ we are to “put to death what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” In most spheres, these will be recognized as “big sins,” but in verse 8 he further demonstrates his point by saying “you must put them ALL away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth,” things that are viewed more as “little sins.”

      I just think we have to be careful to not put ourself in the “big sin vs. little sin” mindset. Though the consequences of some sins may be greater than others, it doesn’t justify that the Bible still classifies the “little” things as “sin.” We have freedom in grace, but Paul is clear that this is something that is not to be abused, regardless of how insignificant we might find one sin to be. Even if it is as petty as an angry thought I have towards someone, the Bible still labels it as sin and that cannot be undermined, otherwise we begin to diminish our daily need for the Spirit to help us put to death the deeds of our flesh. (Romans 8:13)

    • Lisa DeLay

      Thanks for these, Michael.

      Here’s one:

      I, more or less, considered God to be an American, and a Christian.
      Now I realize all too well, what a tiny framework that is!

      Thanks for showing us that spiritual formation (growth) and a deeper relationship with God is, oh so possible!

    • Curvy Catholic

      As a former “traditionalist Catholic”, I sympathize with a great many of these. There are still a lot of Catholics who believe that if you aren’t 100% ROMAN CATHOLIC, you are destined for hell no matter how much you love Jesus. I am still a Catholic but thank God, He has helped me realize that loving Jesus comes FIRST, always!
      (By the way, great blog! just discovered it this morning and I’m really enjoying it! Thanks for the hard work and time you’ve put into this – it shows!)

    • […] the lead from Michael Patton, beliefNet, have posed the question, what things did you used to believe, that you have left behind […]

    • […] Michael Patton has a post meandering through things he used to believe. But he isn’t so sure anymore. Like you are either 100% correct in theology or wrong. Or all […]

    • Marv

      Once again, we have a new installment of our reply to Michael’s “Why I am not Charismatic”

    • Marc McNab

      Every growing Christian has assumptions and questions they ponder over, and over time, sometimes decades we come to our own conclusion based Scripture and reason. Is it shocking to hear that not all in the evangelical world wrestle with the same questions? Nor are we all exposed to the same human and outrageous expressions of religious thought. God does indeed see our sin, aka depravity and thus we’re all deserving of an eternity in hell. But on the other hand, some individual sins Jesus reacted to with vigor (the money changers in the temple) and others were worse than a millstone tied to our necks. I can’t explain the difference, but I’m not losing sleep over it either. Yes, I accept God’s wisdom on faith and have done so for over 40 years. Likewise a child can be assured the schoolbus will arrive without the child’s understanding of combustion engines. No need to worry, just trust.

    • M J Spaulding

      This is for Darlene: I am a fundamentalist Christian and I do not believe any of these things and never have. They are not necessarily fundamentalist beliefs.

      The article is very good and important to keep in mind as any of us can go over the hill sometimes.

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