Frequently Asked Questions
How Christians Live
What did Jesus mean when He said “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions” in Matthew 6:7?
Stated briefly, some religions would have you state some “stock prayer” to solve various problems. For example, a priest in the Catholic Church may tell someone they need to do five “Hail Marys” and two “Our Fathers” to be forgiven of some sin. If you ever heard (or performed) such “repeated prayers,” Jesus’ words should become clear. The point is to not recite something to God—especially over and over—but to tell Him what is in your heart. We discuss prayer in greater detail on our Talking to God page.
Is it a sin to live with someone who you will marry if you are not
intimate with them, and do I still have the right to be married to this
person in the church in the eyes of God if I do?
Although the Bible does not specifically address the first part of this question, there are at least five biblical principles that must be considered. First, this arrangement will put enormous temptation before both of you, yet Romans chapter 13, verse 14 tells us to make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Matthew chapter 5, verses 27-30 makes some very strong statements about lust, and living together would create this scenario. 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 11 warns us to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. Therefore, we need to expect that Satan will use this as a scheme to destroy usand 2 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 11 says that Christians are not to be ignorant of his schemes, so he cannot take advantage of us. Additionally, if you plan to follow Jesus with your life, 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 22 tells us to Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Regarding having the right to get married in a church, each church will decide whether they will accept this situation. Churches that closely follow the Bible would not accept this. People who wish to be married in a church run solely on biblical principles would have to separate (and quit sexual involvement, if applicable) before they could be married.
What does the bible say about getting married by the justice of the
peace and not in a church?
A justice of the peace is acceptable and binding before God. God accepts the law of the land in which we live. Romans chapter 13, verses 1-7 states our need to be under the authority of our government as long as they do not ask us to violate Gods laws. Therefore, getting married by a justice of the peace would be fine.
What does the Bible say about cremation and burial?
The Bible refers to burying people that are both good (Genesis 23:19,20 and 50:4-8; John 19:38-42) and bad (Deuteronomy 21:22,23; Acts 5:9,10). Similarly, the Bible refers to burning (cremating) people as a good act (in 1 Samuel 31:11-13 they burned the bodies and then buried the bones), a bad act (in Joshua 7:24-26 they did essentially the same thing), or somewhere in the middle (Amos 6:9,10). Therefore, the Bible does not express any preferencealthough more of the people in the Bible are buried than cremated. (Still, people may have been buried more often due to following a customsee John 19:40than fulfilling a requirement of God.)
What would happen to someone was unfortunate enough to die in a building fire, and consequently had their ashes spread all over the place? Although there is no Bible passage to support this directly, based on the nature of God as revealed in the Bible, we believe that a person who was cremated this way and had their ashes separated like that should not lose their relationship with God.
Bringing all of these observations together, it appears that both being buried and being cremated (with the ashes kept intact or separated) are OK according to the Bible. Therefore, this issue becomes a matter of conscience and people can prayerfully make their own choices. You can grasp the concept of matters of conscience by reading Romans 14:1-15:6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6). It discusses matters of conscience, using food as an example.
Is it wrong to read or watch Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?
Like observing Halloween, it may be a matter of conscience for people since it is conceivable that it can lead to an interest in the occult. We do know that the Christian world at large reacted negatively because they felt that the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings trilogy cast some witchcraft and magic in the "white-magic" or good category.
Certainly, we need to be careful of the things that our families see and hear. We also need to know when things are simple entertainment and when they are dangerous. Learning to be discerning and how to view and deal with things that God disagrees with has benefit as well. A parent might prepare their child for what they are about to read or watch, then use what they saw as a teachable moment to explain the truth from God's perspective.
As a side note, please notice that many nursery rhymes and fables deal with some of these same issues, yet Christian parents often read these to their kids. Many cartoons are similar. What about those blasts from the past "I dream of Jeannie" and "Bewitched?" In each case, discernment is necessary. Some shows on TV deal with occult issues as very real and try to place the occult in a positive light. It is hard to see how a Christian would justify watching those.
Is it OK for Christians to celebrate Halloween?
The Bible does not specifically refer to Halloween. However, unlike other holidays with a pagan origin (like Christmas and Easter), Halloween has kept much of its original focus. Even today, Halloween is the most important holiday for a variety of satanic groups and witches' covens. (For that reason, many animal shelters will not let people adopt black cats before Halloween to reduce the likelihood of their being used in some sacrificial rite.)
Since Halloween is not specifically forbidden in the Bible, but involvement with witchcraft, spiritists, and so forth is; the celebration of Halloween becomes a matter of conscience. Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example. Some Christians avoid the holiday altogether, make the evening a family night, and go out to dinner or a movie. Some churches hold special activities with games and prizes at the church on that evening, calling it a Fall Festival. Other Christians give out a Christian tract along with candy, using that opportunity to spread some information about Christianity. Comic book style tracts published by Chick Publishing are well received by kids of all ages. (If people come to your house seeking free treats, it is reasonable that you can give them something that is much better for their future.) If you choose to follow this route, we recommend choosing tracts appropriate for two age levels. For example, the Chick tracts Best Friend, Charlies Ants, or The Little Ghost are good for young trick-or-treaters, with the adult tracts being OK for the teenage visitors. (Remember, if you give a child nightmares with an adult tract, you will have only alienated that parent toward you.) Also, try to keep the tracts from being too religious or using too much church talk, since most visitors would not be Christians and would be put off by such language.
I have trouble overcoming a certain sin. What can I do?
Click this sentence for help on overcoming sin.
I desire to pray more effectively for others and myself. How can I get started?
Click this sentence for help on praying more effectively.
Is it a sin to gamble (like in the casino)?
1 Timothy 6:9,10 (chapter 6, verses 9 and 10) was written around 62 A.D. It states:
It is interesting that evidence revealed by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in June 1999 demonstrates a direct link between problem and pathological gambling and divorce, child abuse, domestic violence, bankruptcy, crime, and suicide. The driving force behind gambling is the lure of pain-free riches. Does this sound like the Commissions findings confirmed 1 Timothy 6:9,10? It does to us.
Are all gamblers problem and pathological gamblers? Only 10% or so, according to the report. Therefore, although gambling is certainly a dangerous temptation, it is not a sin for the 90% who are not at risk. For them, it is what we call a matter of conscience. Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example. If people ask themselves am I doing wrong? in the first place, we suspect that their conscience is telling them that it probably is a sin for them. Of course, gambling is a sin (greed) for anyone who is a problem and pathological gambler.
I have many close friends who are very strong Catholics. It seems they pray to Mary more than to Jesus. When I say prayers at night I address the Lord Jesus or God Himself, not Mary. Is this wrong?
Since we are talking about the Catholic belief system, we must make it clear that our comments are directed toward the official teachings of the Catholic Church as outlined in their Catechisms and other documents. Individual Catholics do not have the authority to speak for the church or what it believes. (The Pope and the councils like Vatican II do, but not other people.) Here is a passage taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church Part Four, Section One, Chapter Two, Article 2 - THE WAY OF PRAYER: 2677, explaining this practice:
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the Mother of Mercy, the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender the hour of our death wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her sons death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.
That said, lets consider Mary. She was a wonderful woman, specially chosen by God to give birth to the Christ (Messiah). For that we owe her respect. However, she needed a Savior like everyone else (see Luke chapter 1, verses 46 and 47) and therefore she can not help us. Further, she is not God and must not be worshiped or prayed to. Numerous passages, such as Philippians chapter 4 verse 6 and Psalm 86, verses 6 and 7 tell us to pray to Godnot to anyone else.
Incidentally, any prayers made to Mary while bowing down before her statue would be idol worship. Reading Exodus chapter 20, verses 4-6 makes it quite clear that we should not do that.
What does the Bible say regarding interracial marriage?
Click this sentence to learn what the Bible says about interracial marriage.
What does the Bible say about Gods view on tattoos and body piercing?
Click this sentence to learn what the Bible says about tattoos and body piercing.
What does the Bible say regarding divorce and remarriage?
Click this sentence to learn what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage.
Do we still need to honor the Sabbath to get right with God?
In Exodus chapter 20, verses 8 to 11 (one of the Ten Commandments) we are told to take this day of rest. As you may know, the Jews (those people God talked with in the Old Testament) take their Sabbath from Friday at sunset through Saturday at sunset. Christians take their Sabbath on Sundays. Although some people disagree, there is not any strong evidence that one day is better than another. The key is to take one day of rest.
We hasten to add that keeping the Sabbath will not get you right with God. There is only one way to get right with God, and that is through Jesus. The Bible makes this perfectly clear. We recommend reading our page Getting Right With God to find out how that works.
Christ kept the Sabbath on Saturday. Should we do the same?
First, to avoid confusion we should state that going to church is not the same as observing the Sabbath (a day of rest dedicated to the Lord). That said, it is true that Jesus and His followers observed a Saturday Sabbath (actually sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) because they were still under the Old Testament Law. After the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, things changed. (If you think they did not change, you need to be Jewish. )
It is true that there is no commandment in the New Testament that moves the Sabbath to Sunday. Similarly, there is no commandment stating that the Sabbath remained on Saturday. Still, it helps that the New Testament contains three references to the Christian observance on Sunday:
1 Cor 16:1,2
Since some people may not interpret these verses as clear teachings that Sunday is the Sabbath, this question can be considered a matter of conscience. Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience. (Things that are not completely clear in the Bible, yet that cause people to ask themselves am I doing wrong? often fall into this category.) Notice that chapter 14 verses 5 and 6 addresses this issue specifically:
Therefore, if you asked yourself this question, we would guess that you should consider keeping a Saturday Sabbath. The only problem is that most religious groups that observe a Saturday Sabbath are cults. Please understand that the problem is not observing a Saturday Sabbath. The problem is the other false ideas that these groups pass on.
Regarding church attendance, there is nothing to keep you from personally observing the Sabbath on one day and going to church on another. (Remember, going to church is not the same as observing the Sabbath.) For example, here in Tucson, the Tucson Community Church has both Saturday and Sunday services. That way, people can attend the service that they feel most closely follows the Bible. The key is to take a Sabbath Day of rest.
Again, we remind you that keeping the Sabbath will not get you right with God. There is only one way to get right with God, and that is through Jesus.
I was told that when we pray out loud Satan can hear us, and that we should pray silently as only God can read our minds. Is that true?
We have heard that statement also, which does not come from the Bible. Several passages such as Matthew 12:34b-37 (chapter 12 from half way though verse 34 to the end of verse 37), tell us of the importance of the words we speak, so it makes sense to pray out loud. Further, most peoples minds wander less when they pray out loud.
We should also avoid being intimidated by Satan to the point that it affects our prayershe is an enemy to be resisted. As James 4:7 puts it, Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. For that reason, feel free to pray to God out loud if you wish. (Of course, you should use your judgment and pray silently if you are in the middle of a library, for example.) Although Satan should not be directly challenged (Jude 9), we must not cower from praying to God because we are afraid Satan might overhear us. Satan is not in charge of Christian lives, Jesus is.
A minister told me that if I did not believe that I could be perfect in this lifetime, that I dont have true faith in God. Is this true?
Colossians chapter 3 reveals how the Christian should behave, yet it never says that we can become perfect in this lifetime. Further, to be perfect means that we do not sin. Look at the following passage, written to Christians by the apostle John.
1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Notice that the even numbered verses (8 and 10) show that Christians will struggle with sin. (It also clearly shows that anyone who says they do not sin is a liarand worse.) Even the apostle Paul stated he was not perfect in Philippians chapter 3 verse 12. If he did not attain perfection, what chance do we have? Although we may become perfect in heaven, that is different from what the minister told you.
Fortunately, there is a way around this dilemma. The odd numbered verses in the passage above (9 and 1), show that we have Jesus help for the few times we do sin. The key is that we must consistently try to live like Jesus, and He will be the mediator between God and us when we fail. Of course, this is not a license to sin, as the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians chapter 6 verses 9 and 10), and Christians will be judged for their actions (2 Corinthians chapter 5 verses 9 and 10).
What are the views on tolerance in the Christian religion?
This is an especially important topic for this page, since we will probably write something here that someone will take as being critical. It is important to understand that our comments on this page are not our opinions, but answers based on the Bible. (We supply adequate proof throughout our site confirming that the Bible is a completely reliable and consistent source of truth.)
That said, the Bible clearly and repeatedly states that the only way to be saved is through accepting Jesus Christ as your savior. So, when it comes to tolerance of other teachings that reveal other ways of getting to heaven, Christianity is not tolerant (and should not be).
That does not (and should not) mean that Christians look down on or hate people who have other beliefs (or who are members of various races and cultures). The apostle Paul made this clear in the opening verses of Romans chapter 9, where he said (our paraphrase) that he would be willing to go to hell if his sacrifice would save his Jewish brothers (who are following a false religion and are therefore doomed).
Knowing the truth (especially if they can prove it) makes many Christians want to inform others who are following the wrong spiritual path. When replying to people who are obviously not Christians, we (at Clarifying Christianity) often use the phrase I am not trying to convert you in our response. We still tell people the truth, which is not compatible with cults, other religions, atheism, or agnosticism. They are then free to make their own decision. We believe this can be classified as tolerant.
When it comes to tolerating individuality within the Christian community, Christianity is very tolerant. (1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 12 through the end of chapter 13 is a good guideline here. Some groups do not follow the Bible very well and bicker with each otherto their shame.) As a very simple example, if the only Christian law was do not murder, would that leave Christians free to do almost anything they wanted? Obviously, it would. There is more than one law in the Bible, but reading through the New Testament will reveal that most of them are built in values anyway. So, while people follow Christian laws (one of which is following civil laws), they still can pursue the hobbies they like, wear the clothes they wish, eat the food they prefer, and so on. This is also tolerant.
Is it ungodly to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol (not in excess)
First, if you are not able to legally do these things, the Bible clearly forbids violating the law, when the laws do not conflict with those of God. (See Romans chapter 13, verse 1.) Therefore, if you can not drink or smoke legally, even 1 drop of alcohol or one puff of a cigarette is a sin and you will be judged for that.
Secondly, cigarettes and alcohol fall under the area of matters of conscience. Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example. If the answer is not clearly stated in the Bible, anything that would cause you to ask yourself am I doing wrong? would fall into this category. If you asked yourself this question, we would guess that it probably is a sin for you.
Is it ok to use a contraceptive with your spouse?
We are not aware of any passage in the Bible that can be taken to forbid using contraceptives. This is another matter of conscience that each Christian can decide for themselves. Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example. Still, anyone who decides to use contraceptives should ask their doctor about how the contraceptive works. Then, one should be chosen that is a barrier to fertilization, rather than one that causes the fertilized egg to abort or die in the womb. If the contraceptive simply prevents the creation of life in the womb, then we are allowed to decide as individuals whether we want to use it or not.
However, if the method of contraception causes the fertilized egg to abort or die in the womb, then we have destruction of life, which is wrong. (We do not have to dig too deep to find that in the Bible. It is one of the ten commandments handed directly to Moses from God, written in stone.) It is easy to see the ugliness of destroying life through methods like partial birth abortions and other similarly gruesome procedures. But some contraceptives deny nourishment to the new life (formed when the seed and egg unite), resulting in its destruction. It is very subtle, but has the same result as a partial birth abortion. Therefore, those who want to follow God and the Bible should not use the kinds of contraceptives that cause this to happen.
That said, when making the decision about whether or not we should bring children into this world, it is good to remind ourselves that the Bible states repeatedly that God loves children and wants His creation to reproduce (Psalm 137:3,5). He commands His creation to be fruitful and multiply, and He created Adam and Eve to do the same thing (Genesis 1:22). While we are not specifically commanded as individuals to have children (as some have suggested), we can see the high value God has for new life and procreation. When individuals consider the options and then decide they do not want to have children, that is OK as a matter of opinion. But campaigns for zero population growth, which imply that reproducing is somehow bad for humanity, go against the Bibles principles.
If bible says thou shall not kill why do people eat meat, wear furs, experiment on animals, and exterminate bugs and vermin?
Correctly understanding verses like this is one of the main reasons we encourage people to read the Bible. When taken in context, it is clear that Thou shalt not kill refers to murdering people. Murdering people is forbidden because people are made in Gods image (among other reasons). See Genesis chapter 9, verse 6.
People are allowed to eat meat because God said it was OK in Genesis, chapter 9. Wearing furs or animal skins is acceptable, since God clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins just before driving them out of Eden (Genesis chapter 3, verse 21). By the way, that does not condone the cruel way some humans, driven by greed, get those animal skins.
The Bible does not talk about experimenting on animals. However, the question everyone should ask themselves is are all the people who experiment on animals Christians? We do not expect people who are not Christians to follow the Bibles teaching.
To the best of our knowledge, exterminating bugs and vermin is neither endorsed or forbidden by the Bible. Again, everyone should ask themselves if only Christians exterminate bugs and vermin. For Christians, this would be a matter of conscience, where each Christian should make a decision based on their own conscience. Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example.
Are there any foods a Christian can not eat?
This is a question that falls into the area that Christians refer to as matters of conscience. Romans 14:1-15.6 (chapter 14 verse 1 through chapter 15 verse 6) discusses matters of conscience and uses food as an example.
In the days the book of Romans was written, people would pray to statues and sacrifice food to them. The priests or workers at the temples (where these false gods were) then sold the leftover food in the marketplace. Some early Christians were afraid to eat this food, because they felt that eating it was almost like worshiping these statues (false gods). As it says in the passage in Romans, eating that food is not wrong, because the statues are just blocks of wood (or some other material). Still, if the peoples conscience made it seem wrong to eat that food, they should follow their conscience and not eat the food.
Acts 15 includes a discussion of the things people are expected to do as Christians. This started because some Jewish converts wanted everyone to be circumcised (which Christians do not have to do). Acts 15:20 mentions two things that we are not supposed to eat: the meat from strangled animals and blood. We guess that you would not eat these anyway, so that should not be a problem. If you buy some food in the market, think of Romans 14stay away from it if you know there is something wrong, but otherwise eat and enjoy any normal food.
What does the Bible say about marriage and family life?
Ephesians 5:21-6:4 (chapter 5, verse 21 through chapter 6, verse 4) is one of several passages that gives us family guidelines. Basically, the wife is to respect her husband and the husband is to love his wife. The children are to obey their parents and the parents should treat their children well and instruct them (in life and Christianity). Read the whole passage for a more complete understanding.
What does the Bible say our attitude should be toward people in need?
The Bible states that we should help family members and other Christians (spiritual brothers) in need. They must be in needwe do not have to help lazy people. (See Ephesians 4:28 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12.) Most beggars (and some family members and Christians) are lazy and should be ignored for their own good. Of course, if you want to help them anyway, you shouldas a matter of conscience. (Romans 14:1-15.6 discusses matters of conscience.) The amount we should help someone (either by doing something for them or by providing money) is also a matter of conscience. 2 Corinthians, chapter 9 provides some guidelines about giving money. The key to this passage is verses 6 and 7.
The Bible says that God gave man dominion over the world. Does that mean that humans can exploit the world or does it convey the idea of responsible stewardship?
As you might suspect, this question contains the answer. Mankind was given dominion, yet they promptly lost it through the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 3). Since that time, the devil (Satan) has taken that dominion for himself. Although God controls Satan to the extent that he places limits on him (see Job chapters 1 and 2), it is obvious that Satan is allowed temporary dominion of this Earth. (That may explain why wicked people often do so well, and why the Earth is so messed up.) Notice that Jesus did not deny Satans claim that the kingdoms of the world were his to give in Matthew chapter 4, verses 8-10. Additionally, we know from 1 John chapter 5 verse 19 that the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
When discussing responsible stewardship, we must realize that Christians do not run this world and therefore have no direct control of the ethics and morals of business and government, or whether our environment is exploited. It is true that we try to influence people (as we do at Clarifying Christianity), yet it is clear that much of the evil in this world can be attributed to others who follow their own desires (possibly influenced by Satan and his demons).
Christians are commanded to manage themselves as responsible stewards, not as exploiters. Some of the many examples of this in the Bible are Matthew chapter 18 verses 23-34, chapter 24 verses 44-51, and chapter 25 verses 14-30.
Copyright © 1998-2007 by Clarifying Christianity (SM).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All information contained in Clarifying Christianity is a resource for questions dealing with Christian issues. It is not to be taken as Christian counseling. Seek a qualified Christian counselor for help with all such issues. If you choose to work with a Christian counselor, it is your responsibility to ask pertinent questions before you begin, to assure yourself of their qualities and abilities.1226