Read an Excerpt

What do I mean? Here are two of the tamer ones (cough):

Viola’s journey to the dark side is now complete. Writing this blog post is the equivalent of witchcraft. I wonder if he’s stopped torturing small animals too. Doubt it. Take me off his blog list immediately.

Your “shocking beliefs” series reminds me of Charles Manson. You’re a [expletive] and probably a closet serial killer too!

3) Some of the so-called shocking beliefs that I cover in this book are beliefs that I myself agree with. Others I find abhorrent. Consequently, just because a shocking belief is listed doesn’t reveal how I personally feel about it. It simply means that many evangelical Christians will find the belief to be shocking (at worst) or peculiar (at best).

Therefore, to those of you who are inclined to finish this book and proudly throw your chest out saying, “Good grief, I wasn’t shocked by any of those beliefs!” remember three things: You missed the point of the book; each person I feature had people who believed they were heretics during their day; and every one of them still have people raking them over the coals because of their viewpoints.

4) While I disagree with a number of beliefs that each person I feature held, I have respect for each of them. In fact, I cannot tie the laces of their shoes. Each individual was remarkable in his own right. I realize this means that people who don’t like Calvin, Lewis, Wesley, Augustine, and so forth will be turned off by that statement. And some may misuse this book as a frontal attack on each person it covers, completely missing the boat on those chapters and the intent of this volume.

If you ever find someone doing that, feel free to quote this paragraph to them to jar their memory.

5) To keep this book relatively short, I didn’t cover every shocking belief these figures from church history held.

I simply covered the beliefs I felt were sufficient to make my point. The source materials will give you further information about each individual and their views. So I’m sure you can uncover more of their shocking beliefs, if you desire to investigate. But again, how many peculiar views they held isn’t the point. The point is that some of their beliefs were imperfect, and hence, we should show more tolerance toward each other whenever we disagree.

On “Great” Christians

For the both of you who are apoplectic right now because I used the word “great” to describe fallen humans, let me point out that I’m merely following Jesus here (emphasis mine):

The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

Whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

So settle down, okay?

Note that I’m only covering eight “great Christians” in this book. In my study of church history, these are the people I believe shaped the evangelical Christian world the most. I don’t have a “shocking belief” entry for Billy Graham since I don’t think he fits into that category. However, I did feature seven surprising (perhaps even shocking) quotes by him.

You will find that no women are featured. That’s because in my research, the women who significantly shaped church history (such as Fanny Crosby and Amy Carmichael) didn’t appear to hold to any shocking beliefs.*

*Carmichael dressed like the Indian women she ministered to and allegedly kidnapped children who were being sold as sex slaves (in an effort to rescue them). She also didn’t accept donations. But none of these beliefs would be shocking or surprising to a twenty-first- century Christian audience.

I suppose that’s a compliment to them.

Finally, I’ve deliberately omitted the shocking actions of the great Christians, focusing instead on their beliefs (actions and beliefs aren’t the same).

It bears repeating: the purpose of this book is not to lower these individuals in your eyes. It’s actually the opposite. It’s to show you that despite their strange (and sometimes flawed) thinking on some issues, God still used them. Mightily, even.

The lesson, of course, is that God uses His people in spite of their strange or erroneous perspectives. And since that’s the case, let’s have more grace whenever we disagree with one another.

It’s time for us to regrace.†

†By regrace, I simply mean rethinking and rediscovery of God’s grace in relation to those with whom we disagree. In other words, to begin to be gracious toward all our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, especially when we don’t see eye to eye.

6/11/2021 3:48:13 PM
  • Frank Viola
  • frank viola author
  • About