Book Review:

“Ten Things I Learned Wrong from a Conservative Church”

by John Killinger

Why consider this book?

Since the very beginning, the teachings of Christianity have always been attacked and defended. In the early 300's Arius denied the deity of Jesus; in the 400's Pelagius denied the total depravity of man in spiritual things; even in the first century the apostles Paul and John were defending against similar attacks. The attacks that we see today are not new. They are as old as the world itself. Does that mean we should give up – or worse yet – give in? Not at all! At times we may become discouraged by the false notions and absurd premises being touted. But we need to remember that it has always been this way, and will continue until the Lord returns. That being said, we should not sit back and do nothing. Just as John and Paul were used by the Lord to defend the truth of His word in the first century, so He will use us in the 21st century!

The assertions that are made by Killinger in his book (and others like it) are becoming more common and widespread in our society. They are blatant attacks against the teachings of Christianity. Our purpose in this study in not to give credence to his beliefs, but –

        to help you become familiar with some of the false views of Christianity that are becoming more common, and

        to enable you to be prepared to defend the truth as Peter exhorts: “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

As we consider Killinger’s points we will compare his comments with the Scriptural teaching on these doctrines so that you will be armed with the Truth of God's Word and prepared to make a thoughtful defense of your faith in Christ.

A brief biography of John Killinger:

The Rev. Dr. John Killinger lives with his wife, Anne, in Warrenton, Virginia. A former pastor in Baptist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches, he also taught for fifteen years at Vanderbilt Divinity School and was Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Samford University in Birmingham. He is the author of over 50 books, among them God, The Devil, and Harry Potter. Because Dr. Killinger's interests are broad, his writings have touched on many subjects: Christian history, personal spirituality, world religions, preaching, worship, church politics, a female Christ figure, the Gospels as devotional literature, secular writers and artists, the nature of pastoral ministry, and the relationship between theology and contemporary culture. His prayers and utterances often find their way into Sunday church bulletins and other ministers' sermons. You will find inspiration and spiritual sustenance within. (Source:

The Ten things...

      The Bible is the literal, inerrant Word of God

      God is a Moral Judge therefore Jesus had to die for our sins

      Jesus is the only way to God

      There is no salvation outside the (Conservative) Church

      Worship is proclamation before anything else

      Spiritual people don’t drink, dance or come out of the closet

      Religion is a man’s business

      Faith is always truer than science

      When bad things happen to good people, there is always a reason

      Conservatives want everybody to be free

First wrong teaching:

The Bible is the literal, inerrant Word of God

Some quotations for discussion:

On the Author of Scripture -

“The Bible... should be seen as a dynamic record of countless people over a span of thousands of years trying to break through the veil of mystery and comprehend enough of the being of God to reorient their lives and reposition their culture. The Bible’s authority... rests in the very ingenuity and irresistibility of the experiences it describes, not in having God as its author.” - p. 20

   Romans 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:19-21

On the Use of Scripture:

“I was struggling for an understanding of the Bible that would make it more preachable in our time. I wanted... to make meaningful contact with the hearts and minds of their hearers, not merely announce in their presence the mandates of an irreproachable book from antiquity.” - p. 20

   What is more preachable and more meaningful than the message of forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus? Genesis 3:15; Micah 7:18-19; 1 Cor. 1:18-25; 2 Peter 3:15-16

On the Contradictions of Scripture:

“People put themselves in an unnecessary bind when they insist on the absolute, literal truth of the Scriptures. It means they forswear all human knowledge that doesn’t agree with the Scriptures, including the evidence that the earth is round, not square, and must perform a lot of mental gymnastics to defend obvious textual differences within the Bible itself.” - p. 21

“How much richer the Bible is, in my estimation, when we allow it to be imperfect, a flawed record of people’s intimations of immortality, their chance encounters with God, their earnest search for the meaning of life and the presence of the holy. God doesn’t need an infallible Bible, and neither do we.” - p. 23

   Numbers 23:19; Psalm 19:7-9; Proverbs 30:5; John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:10-12

   Cf. Arndt’s “Bible Difficulties and Seeming Contradictions”

On the Textual Criticism of Scripture:

“There are so many differences of lettering or wording that enormous scholarship and patience are required to try to collate them into a reasonably accurate rendering of what the first writers of the books of the Bible intended.” - p. 24

   If the sounds and syllables themselves constituted the essence of the Word of God, translations would be impossible. Translations can and do reproduce God’s truth in another language. We can be confident that we have the Word of God (without the original manuscripts) because these differences are generally easily solved, and no doctrine is affected.

On the Holiness of the Book:

“Much as I wanted to mark certain ringing passages I came across in the Bible... I never did, for I regarded that book as too holy for my inscriptions.” - p. 14f

   The Book itself is not holy. The Words that are recorded within the Book are the important part. We should not be afraid to make notes in our Bibles. Notes recorded in our Bibles can be a wonderful aid in our study of Scripture.

The (Bad) Example of the Lutheran Reformation:

“Just as the Reformation produced new light and energy in the history of the church by rejecting the church’s imprisonment, it is important for us to discover new light and energy in our own time by repudiating the biblical views of the fundamentalists.” - p. 29

Note: This study was prepared for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew.

If you would like more information about this study,
please contact Pastor Mayhew