Are You Being Duped?
People have strange and funny ideas about biblical Christianity!
This is the serialization of a book of the above title published jointly by Evangelical Press and Earthen Vessel Publishing, in 2004. It deals with those ideas people have in an apologetics format, aimed at stimulating critical thinking when it comes to false and/or distorted ideas that people commonly have regarding Christianity, the Bible, and the nature of God.
You have been duped, if...
- You think you are the “master of your fate and the captain of your soul"
- You think the grave is the end
- You think God must be “fair”
- You think all that matters is your happiness
- You are convinced that whatever you believe must be true
- You think you are good enough
- You think you can ignore your conscience, the Bible, or the Church
- You think Jesus is merely another spiritual master
- You think you are a Christian but don’t love Jesus
- You think being very religious earns points with God
- You think sin is inexpensive
- You think the Bible is untrustworthy
- You think God is merely a “higher power” and, You settle for a God you can understand
- You think you can’t be tricked by the devil
- Five Short Subjects: You have been duped if…
- First: You think aliens are going to prove Christianity is a fraud
- Second: You no longer care about yourself
- Third: You think you will be happy in hell
- Fourth: You think God is too busy to notice
- Fifth: You think things can’t change in a New York minute
I have been duped; that is, I have been deceived, lied to, tricked, conned, and scammed. The question is: Have you been duped, too?
The duping I am speaking of goes to the core of our existence; it is by no means trivial. This helps explain why I might be so bold as to use the word "duped."
Jesus was also confrontational
I take my cue from Jesus. He directly confronted people and without compromise told them they had been duped. For instance, Jesus frequently used the phrase, "Woe to you" and "woe" was a serious word back then. The "woe" statements did not come from anger on Jesus part, though He did get angry on several occasions. Rather, Jesus attempted to break down walls, because eternal life and death was at stake.
I am hoping to do a little something of the same. A few people helped me to see that I was blind, deaf, lost, and rebellious. They helped me see I had been duped, and they were not often polite about it. Of course, I have nothing against politeness, but I was the kind who would not be moved by sweet, kindly little sentimentalities and moralizations.
Jesus did not exactly break new ground. The Old Testament prophets had also been confrontational. Consider this from the prophet Jeremiah: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) The “heart” he said, which in the Jewish view is the center or core of us, is deceitful and desperately corrupt.
How strong can you get? Then knowing that few if any would welcome his message, he asked, "Who can understand it?" We don't understand how it is that our hearts can be deceived, and in this book I hope to explain something of how and why this works.
Headed down the wrong road
To briefly summarize, we are deceived and delusional, because we are blind, dead, duped, and headed down the wrong road. Like the man of wisdom said: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death" (Proverbs 14:12).
Avoidance in my younger years
In my younger years I would not likely have been able to write a book like this. (The book began with a series of sermons I preached in the summer of 2001 at Miller Avenue Baptist Church in Mill Valley, California.) Early on I would not have had the courage to be so forthright, worrying too much about people's reactions. Now, somewhat saltier in my sixty-first year, I worry less about being rejected by people and more about doing my job as a Gospel preacher. Throughout most of my ministry I wanted everyone to appreciate me, so I preached like the grandfatherly/therapist/fuzzy-warm comforter most people wanted in a minister, telling everyone they were okay and I was okay and everything will be all right.
This book has nothing to do with "good" and "bad.” It has to do with being tricked, and good or bad, we are all vulnerable. The best, the wisest, and the purest of us can be deceived and duped.
Is this arrogance?
Perhaps some might think I am being arrogant. Christians are sometimes accused of being arrogant with their declarations that Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Arrogance is the making of unwarranted claims with a superior kind of attitude. Jesus did not do so, He merely spoke what is true, and those who love and follow Him hope to do the same, with love and humility.
So I say again, I do not come to this as one who has not been duped. And I did the biggest con job on myself. I don't blame my parents, the government, the schools, the devil, nor anyone or anything else. The fact is that I wanted to justify my self-centered ways and rebellion; I wanted to live a "free" life without restraint, think my own thoughts, and all the rest. But there was someone out there who saw the stupid, hopeless little sheep I was and sought after me, found me, and has been opening my eyes ever since to the incredible extent to which I had been duped.
With hindsight I realize I did not know what I was doing, I did not see I was acting against my own best interest, I did not see I was engaged in a struggle against my Creator. And this is the way it is with us all--we are engaged in a process of spiritual suicide. Therefore, I hope that the tenor of this piece reflects those gracious words of Jesus, who while nailed to the cross, said: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23: 34).
This is a ministry project of Miller Avenue Baptist Church, with suggestions and help from our publishing partner, Evangelical Press of England.
Throughout the book, I refer to San Quentin Prison. For the past twenty-one years, I have been a volunteer in various chapel programs and for the last seven years, I have coached the prison’s baseball team.
The Bible version used is the Revised Standard Version, though in recent years, I have been preaching with the ESV. I like the RSV’s classical style and excellence in translating the best Greek manuscripts. No translation is perfect, which I have discovered over the years, and the RSV has its problems. Yet, overall I find it a useful translation. An apparent inconsistency must be noted. The RSV does not capitalize He or Him when the pronoun references the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, but I do. Therefore, when the Bible is quoted these pronouns are in the lower case while in the body of the book I use the upper case.