Morality in the Bible

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Biblical Conflicts with My Idea of Morality


I do not pretend to be an expert on the Christian faith, so I can not claim to be able to interpret every passage of the Bible. But in my (very) cursory research, I have already found some hard to understand teachings.

It seems to me that in the Old Testament God is a bit harsher than in the New. Admittedly, the New Testament mostly regards Jesus, and only covers a short time span in terms of history. Still, one doesn't find accounts of Him destroying cities in the New Testament, nor do you find in the Old Testament extended passages such as 1 John 4:7-21 which emphasize so strongly the love of God.

I've found, as I had expected, that almost all of the doctrines of the Bible seem reasonable and agreeable to my idea of Christian morals. At first I started with only the New Testament, thinking that it somehow superseded the Old. But one can find evidence that Jesus did not want or mean this:

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, ... (Matthew 5:18-19)

Biblical Conflicts with My Idea of Morality

Regarding the way women should worship:

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 2:9-14)

...As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)

Regarding the worth of a woman:
Set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; and if it is a female, set her value at thirty shekels. If it is a person between the ages of five and twenty, set the value of a male at twenty shekels and of a female at ten shekels. If it is a person between one month and five years, set the value of a male at five shekels of silver and that of a female at three shekels of silver. If it is a person sixty years old or more, set the value of a male at fifteen shekels and of a female at ten shekels. (Leviticus 27:3-7)
Regarding the woman's place:

... Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. (Genesis 3:16)

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. ... the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. (1 Corinthians 11:3-9)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2:3-5)

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, ... They [holy women of the past] were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master... (1 Peter 3:1-6)

Regarding the treatment of young women:

If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money. (Exodus 21:7-11)

"Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man." (Numbers 31:17-18)

The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man. (Numbers 31:32-35)

When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. ... After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)

They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan. (Judges 21:12)

Death for women who marry and are not virgins:
If ... no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of the town shall stone her to death. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)
Regarding divorce:

He [Jesus] answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." (Mark 10:11-12)

"I hate divorce," says the Lord God of Israel... (Malachi 2:16)

It's OK to leave one's family for God. Note this isn't necessarily abandonment, and that the scripture says that if one has to leave one's family, heaven will still be attainable.

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age ... and in the age to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30)

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18:29-30)

See also Luke 9:23-27.

Regarding marital sex:
What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; ... For this world in its present form is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29)

Paul thought that Jesus' second coming was imminent, and that's why he made these statements. Obviously he was wrong. (Does this make his divinity questionable? What about this Biblical decree?)

Adulterers must be killed (a wife with any man other than her husband):
If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. (Deuteronomy 22:22)
In one case the consequence of rape is not death (the girl must marry the rapist):
If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are both discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)

I've heard that in ancient Jewish culture, a woman who was violated is viewed as unfit for marriage, and thus has a very poor chance of living well. As a result, she may request to marry her rapist to insure herself a good life.

Polygamy is condoned:

Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels. (Genesis 31:17)

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters... (Genesis 36:6)

If a man has two wives, and loves one but not the other... (Deuteronomy 21:15)

Jerub-Baal ... had seventy sons of his own, for he had many wives (Judges 8:29-30)

After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem,... (2 Samuel 5:13)

King Solomon ... had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines,... (1 Kings 11:1-3)

In Jerusalem David took more wives... (1 Chronicles 14:3)

Rehoboam loved Maacah daughter of Absalom more than any of his other wives and concubines. In all, he had eighteen wives and sixty concubines,... (2 Chronicles 11:21)

But Abijah grew in strength. He married fourteen wives... (2 Chronicles 13:21)

Regarding slavery and treatment of servants:

That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. (Luke 12:47)

... Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; ... (Colossians 3:22)

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, ... (1 Timothy 6)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. (Ephesians 6:5-6)

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)

Slaves should endure harsh punishment from their masters:
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:18-21)

Note that Paul's letter to Philemon asks him to forgive the slave named Onesimus, and to treat him as a brother in the eyes of the Lord. And in 1 Timothy 1:9-11 Paul says that slave trading is contrary to God's message. (How does this compare to Exodus 21:7, where God describes rules for the selling of one's daughter?)

Regarding the acquisition of slaves:
"Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly." (Leviticus 25:44-46)
Slaves aren't people:

Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:12)

If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." (Exodus 21:20-21)

Christian response: Slaves were expected to be chastised. When a man strikes another man, it was assumed that it wasn't chastisment, but rather an attack.
Regarding gossips and the obeyance of children:

"Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death." (God speaking) (Exodus 21:17)

"If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death." (God speaking) (Leviticus 20:9)

"Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death." (Jesus speaking) (Matthew 15:4)

"Anyone who attacks his father or his mother must be put to death." (Exodus 21:15)

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. ... Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

... They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:18)

It is a Christian tenet that the degree of sin does not matter. From the last quote, one would be led to believe that the punishment for all sins would be death.
Cruelty to children:

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us -- he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137:8-9)

"Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." (1 Samuel 15:3)

Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. ... Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children. Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isaiah 13:16-19)

"The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open." (Hosea 13:16)

"... You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. ... I will strike her children dead." (Revelation 2:20-23)

God will cause children to be eaten:

"If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters." (Leviticus 26:27-29)

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, ... Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. (Deuteronomy 28:49-53)

The most gentle and sensitive woman among you ... will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For she intends to eat them secretly during the siege and in the distress that your enemy will inflict on you in your cities. (Deuteronomy 28:56-57)

"I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another's flesh during the stress of the siege imposed on them by the enemies who seek their lives." (Jeremiah 19:9)

"Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Therefore in your midst fathers will eat their children, and children will eat their fathers." (Ezekiel 5:8-9)

Children can be beaten with impunity:

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. (Proverbs 23:13)

Miscellaneous rules for living:

Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.
Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.
Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear. (Deuteronomy 22:10-12)

"Keep my decrees,
Do not mate different kinds of animals.
Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material." (Leviticus 19:19)

"... Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight." (Leviticus 19:13)

"Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard." (Leviticus 19:27)

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (2 John 1:10-11)

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,...? (1 Corinthians 11:14)

"And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." (Leviticus 11:7-8, likewise Deuteronomy 14:8)

"Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you." (Leviticus 11:12)

Christian response: Some Christians interpret Peter's words in Acts 11 to be a change in God's policies regarding this commandment:

Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, `Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' "I replied, `Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' "The voice spoke from heaven a second time, `Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'" (Acts 11:5-9)
Regarding worldly possessions and thievery:
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30, similarly Matthew 5:42, Luke 6:35)
Death if you work on the Sabbath:

Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. (Exodus 31:15)

Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, "These are the things the Lord has commanded you to do: For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. (Exodus 35:1-2)

In the New Testament, when the Pharisees see Jesus healing on the Sabbath, they question him, and he replies, "... it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12, likewise Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 6:1-11).

Death to people who disrespect judges or priests:
The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God must be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12)
Death to blasphemers:
Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death. (Leviticus 24:16)
Anger is a sin:
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:22)
People of other faiths must be killed:

If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" ..., do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, ... (Deuteronomy 13:10. See also 1 Kings 21:10)

If you hear it said about one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you to live in that wicked men have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. Destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. Gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt. (Deuteronomy 13:12-16)

This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them--the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 20:15-18)

People of other religions that use sacrifices must be killed:
Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed. (Exodus 22:20. See also Deuteronomy 17:2-7)
People who reject Jesus must be killed:
... I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them--bring them here and kill them in front of me. (Jesus speaking) (Luke 19:26-27)
I suppose a literal interpretation would be for the audience to bring a certain group of Jesus' enemies to death.
God asks for and allows human sacrifice:
"Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day." (Exodus 29-30)

In Judges 11:30-39 Jephthah vows to sacrifice whatever meets him at the door. As it turns out, his daughter meets him. He gives her two months to bewail the fact that she will never marry, and "After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin. ..." (Judges 11:39)

Morris says that we don't know if Jephthah carried out the sacrifice, but I think the passage "and he did to her as he had vowed" shows clearly that he did. He believes that Jephthah's daughter instead remained a virgin, thus insuring the death of his line (she was an only child according to Judges 11:34), and that he might have instead offered a ram instead as Abraham did in Genesis 22:13. Unfortunately, I see no reason to believe any of this.

Contradictions in the Biblical Teachings

I would say that most of these statements from the New and Old Testaments are quite disturbing. The Christians I know do not actively practice them, probably because they conflict with our morals (or the "Law of Human Nature" described by C. S. Lewis).

I can also think of a few contradictions in the teachings:
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16) Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." ... On the seventh day the child died. (2 Samuel 12:13-18)
At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. (Exodus 12:29)
Yet he did not put the sons..., in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where the Lord commanded: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins." (2 Kings 14:6, 2 Chronicles 25:4) "... Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. ..." (Ezekiel 9:4-6)
No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation. (Deuteronomy 23:2)
The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. (Ezekiel 18:20) The offspring of the wicked will never be mentioned again. Prepare a place to slaughter his sons for the sins of their forefathers; they are not to rise to inherit the land and cover the earth with their cities. (Isaiah 14:20-21)
You shall not bow down to them [other gods] or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5-6)
Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes--his own teeth will be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31:30) From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. (2 Kings 2:23-24)
"I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted." (Leviticus 26:22)
I've heard that the punishment for the sins of the father was overturned in the New Testament, but can't find the reference. One could also argue that certain diseases with a genetic component are the "punishment" for the sons of sinners.
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding. (Proverbs 3:13) For with much wisdom comes sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as menservants do. (Exodus 21:7) We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (emphasis mine) (1 Timothy 1:9-11)
Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. (Joel 3:10) They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
... It is good for a man not to marry. (1 Corinthians 7:1) but since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)
Paul says, "I say this as a concession, not as a command." (1 Corinthians 7:6).
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14) If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. (1 Corinthians 7:12-13)
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, ... (1 Peter 3:1)
I've had this explained to me that these words were written for people who had become Christian and their spouse had not. I accept this, but find it very suspicious that the text does not say that.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26) Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. (1 John 9:1)
Note that "brother" in John means "fellow man" (I think one's relatives fall in this category). This may not be a contradiction, depending if all Christians are disciples of Jesus (see below). I wonder why Luke was translated as "hate", but the Living Bible translation is "love less". In Matthew, we see a clarification:
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:37-38)
I've heard that the Greek word in Matthew is different than the one in Luke, which would imply that "hate" is the proper translation in John.

Are All Christians Disciples?

There also seems to be discrepancies between people who call themselves "true believers" and what the Bible says true believers should be able to do. Jesus said "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." (Matthew 28:19), which I interpret to imply that all Christians are disciples. And according to the Bible, disciples should be able to:

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. (Mark 16:16-18)
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brother and sisters -- yes, even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

I can think of two possibilities regarding the definition of true believers. Note that both could be true:

I choose the latter option, which seems to be also that of the Apostle Paul:
And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But greatly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:28-31)
The answer to all these rhetorical questions seems to be no, based on the last line.

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