Although people do not realize it, they may embrace beliefs that are simply not true. How is that possible? It's because their views have been formed as a result of tradition, hearsay or information not based in fact or properly researched.
Furthermore, people will often adopt the beliefs of their family, group or religion with little or no question. If or when those positions are challenged, people will defend them even if their position doesn't match the facts. An example of this reaction is described in the following true story.
Elizabeth Kenny and infantile paralysis
In the early 1900s Elizabeth Kenny served as a nurse in the remote Australian outback. She diagnosed and treated people who could not get to a doctor. For example, in 1911 she was called to a farm to help a young girl who was in severe pain and whose legs were seriously impaired.
In a telegram to Aeneas McDonnell, a physician at the Toowoomba, Queensland, hospital, Kenny described the symptoms and asked for a treatment method. Dr. McDonnell thought the symptoms indicated poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis. Although there was no known cure, he advised Kenny to do what she could to deal with the symptoms.
She then treated the girl with applications of moist, warm towels so as to ease the pain and relax the muscle spasms in her legs. Kenny then gently stretched and massaged the muscles. However, the now-relaxed leg muscles would not function. Kenny then worked at retraining them so they could again operate normally.
Not only did the little girl recover completely, but Kenny administered her treatment to five other children in the vicinity who suffered from the same affliction. Each of them regained normal mobility.
Method in conflict with accepted practice
Kenny's innovative procedure conflicted with conventional medical practice, which was to immobilize affected limbs with casts and splints. She believed that the routine method of treating the disease actually generated its deformities and paralysis. Although Kenny's new technique was not a cure, it offered significant relief from pain and severe crippling.
Kenny's treatment brought her into sharp disagreement with many Australian medical authorities. They found it inconceivable that such a simple method, originating with a nurse and not a trained medical doctor, could produce such positive results.
Nevertheless, the resistance Kenny faced did not discourage her from working to help children in need. Although it took nearly three decades, her technique gained some recognition in Australia, where she set up treatment clinics in several cities.
In 1940 the government of New South Wales sent Kenny to the United States to introduce her treatment. Although many American physicians were opposed, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis found it credible.
In June 1940 she demonstrated her method at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Minneapolis General Hospital. The medical personnel at these institutions recognized Kenny's procedure as a new model in treating polio. During the 1940s many Kenny treatment centers opened across the United States.
Kenny retired to her home in Toowoomba in 1951. Two years after her death in 1952, a vaccine was developed that led to a rapid decline in the number of polio cases. Kenny's principles of muscle rehabilitation left an important mark in the medical world. Some have called her the founder of modern physical therapy.
Conventional wisdom often seems correct
Elizabeth Kenny's story is remarkable in terms of the thousands of children she helped. A larger point however, deals with the intense opposition she encountered for many years from the medical establishment. It is a prime example of what happens when people's beliefs are challenged by competing facts.
Such beliefs are often described as "conventional wisdom," which the dictionary defines as "the body of ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the public or by experts in a field" (emphasis added throughout). People often feel comfortable with such beliefs because other people feel the same way, including perceived experts and authorities.
For example, through most of the 19th century epidemic illnesses such as cholera and the plague were commonly thought to be caused by poisonous mists in the night air. Also, until the early 20th century, a common way to treat disease was bloodletting. Even though these ideas were later proved wrong, generations of people believed they were valid.
Conventional wisdom is pervasive
Conventional wisdom can be a snare. People of all ages can be held in its grip. It can begin as early as childhood. If, for example, parents and relatives are members of a particular political party, union or religion, children simply assume the views of those organizations are correct.
Even though conventional wisdom is pervasive in both secular and religious society, it's often faulty. True knowledge comes only from the Creator God and is inherent in the laws He has set in motion to guide people's lives (Psalms 32:8). It's each person's responsibility to carefully examine what they accept as true (John 8:32).
Where does conventional wisdom come from? To understand, we must go far, far back in time.
One of God's angels, referred to in the Latin translation of Isaiah 14:12 as Lucifer, meaning "light bringer," was an honored cherub the Bible describes as "the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty" (Ezekiel 28:12).
This archangel allowed his heart to be filled with pride. It corrupted his character and judgment. Afterwards he led a third of the angels in rebellion against God and attempted to take over God's heavenly throne. Being no match for Him, they were cast down to the earth (Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:4).
In their rebellion these angels became evil spirits or demons. And Lucifer became Satan—meaning "adversary." He has ever since incited rebellion and strife in the lives of human beings (Revelation 12:9; 1 John 5:19). He seeks to especially prevent people from understanding God's marvelous truth by insidiously promoting counterfeit knowledge and wisdom (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; James 3:13-14).
The devil is skilled at corruptly influencing humanity because people do not naturally want "to retain God in their knowledge" (Romans 1:28; Romans 8:7; see also Jeremiah 17:9). This leaves them easy prey for the devil's unrighteous influence.
The apostle Paul aptly described Satan-inspired, human wisdom as foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19). He urged people to conduct themselves "not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God" (2 Corinthians 1:12). He cautioned them not to be held hostage to "the commandments and doctrines of men," which falsely offer "an appearance of wisdom" (Colossians 2:22-23).
Conventional Christian doctrines vs. the Bible
Perhaps you are a Christian and feel you understand the seriousness of what Paul said. You also need to be aware that the apostles and Jesus Christ Himself repeatedly warned about counterfeit Christianity. They also warned of ministers who, being unwittingly motivated by the devil, would promote seriously flawed doctrines (Matthew 7:15; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 Corinthians 11:15).
These wrong teachings are often filled with half-truths. That means they appear reputable to many people, but they don't accurately reflect what the Bible teaches (John 17:17; Luke 4:4; 11:28).
Here are some conventional beliefs you need to look at, each followed by what the Bible actually teaches:
• Conventional doctrine: "Once saved, always saved," also known as "eternal security." Biblical truth:An individual can receive salvation from sins through Christ and still, through neglect, ultimately come to reject God, thereby losing salvation (2 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 2:1-3; Hebrews 6:4-8; Hebrews 10:26-38).
• Conventional doctrine: The reward for a good life is going to live as a disembodied consciousness in heaven at the time of death. Biblical truth: The dead are not conscious, and no one has ascended consciously to heaven following death except Jesus Christ—after He was resurrected from the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10; John 3:13; Acts 2:29, Acts 2:34).
• Conventional doctrine: You have an immortal soul. Biblical truth: You do not have an immortal soul. A soul can die, and again there is no consciousness in death. Death is compared in Scripture to a lifeless sleep from which people must be awakened in a resurrection (Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:20; Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10; Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:18).
• Conventional doctrine: Sunday is the Sabbath. Biblical truth: The seventh day of the week, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, is God's Sabbath (Genesis 1:31 - Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-10; Isaiah 58:13; Mark 2:28).
• Conventional doctrine: Jesus was crucified on a Friday and resurrected on Sunday morning, being dead for parts of three days. Biblical truth: Jesus was in the grave for three days and three nights, which cannot fit between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning (Matthew 12:39-40).
These are just a few examples of many long-established, conventional Christian teachings contrasted with true biblical understanding. Do you see why it's so important for you to thoroughly challenge what you read, hear and accept as truth?
Jesus Christ resisted conventional religious ideas
Jesus Himself was the best example of challenging the status quo. His teachings and actions persuasively corrected accepted religious notions (Mark 1:22; Matthew 5:21-44). Jesus told His followers to carefully scrutinize what they were taught and to avoid following the wide, easy way that would lead to their destruction (Matthew 7:13).
The apostle Paul also encouraged people to "not be conformed to this world" but to "prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). You also need to question your religious beliefs by honestly comparing them to scriptural truth (Acts 17:11).
True understanding comes from being willing to look outside traditional Christian teachings to what is actually written in the Bible (Isaiah 55:8-9; Isaiah 66:2; 1 Corinthians 1:19-21).
Of course it may be difficult to accept what you learn because you will have to unlearn deep-seated ways of thinking. Discovering that something you believe is wrong can, at first, make you feel uncomfortable. Admitting you have been wrong is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Nevertheless, if you sincerely desire to please your Creator and follow His way of life, you will strive to reject all error and love the truth (3 John 11; 1 Peter 1:22).
Living by every word of God
Elizabeth Kenny developed a revolutionary method to treat polio. Although many ridiculed her successful procedure, she never gave in to their criticisms. Kenny rejected conventional wisdom and lived by what she knew to be correct. You should also honestly compare traditional Christian doctrines with the Bible. Prove what's really true!