What is “Religious Scrupulosity” and
What Does the Bible Say About it?
by David J. Stewart | May 2017
1st Corinthians 6:9-11, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
This is a very interesting term and a common thing. Since we are all sinners, we all feel some degree of conviction and guilt over wrong doing, and we should. But the term means much more. It also refers to wondering if God will answer your prayers because you have some sin in your life. Or it can refer to worrying that you're going to Hell because of your sins. It also includes fears that you are not saved, perhaps because you didn't do something right. Did I have enough faith? What if I prayed wrong? What if, what if, what if? Religious uncertainty and guilt can cause overwhelming worry, depression and even health problems or suicide. The good news is that all of a person's worries can be alleviated with THE TRUTH. Jesus said in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” And that truth begins with believing “THE GOSPEL” my friend.
Here is a definition of “religious scrupulosity”...
Scrupulosity is characterized by pathological guilt about moral or religious issues. It is personally distressing, objectively dysfunctional, and often accompanied by significant impairment in social functioning. It is typically conceptualized as a moral or religious form of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), although this categorization is empirically disputable. The term is derived from the Latin scrupulum, a sharp stone, implying a stabbing pain on the conscience. Scrupulosity was formerly called scruples in religious contexts, but the word scruples now commonly refers to a troubling of the conscience rather than to the disorder.
This is what I went through as a teenager, when I couldn't settle the assurance of my salvation for 7 long and miserable years. Many people experience these type of religious feelings of fear, guilt and depression caused by it. In essence, religious scrupulosity describes the constant battle between good and evil, between faith and doubt, between knowledge and ignorance of the truth, in each of our lives. If you've ever wondered if God would answer your prayers because of sin in your life, you've experienced religious scrupulosity. Sure, we all have, because we're all big sinners. Thank God for the precious “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus is precious!!!
I have met many nice people, who were very concerned that they weren't good enough to go to Heaven. My friend, none of us are “good enough,” which is why God the Father needed to send His perfect only begotten Son into the world, to die on the cross for our sins. Only Jesus is worthy, because only Jesus is sinless and acceptable as a sacrifice for our sins (2nd Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 3:17; Hebrews 4:14-15).
A Heathen Mindset Toward Religious Scrupulosity
I went to Psychology Today to see what they had to say about “religious scrupulosity.” To no surprise, the writer of the article (Fletcher Wortmann) says that faith is never enough for OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Fletcher says...
For someone like me, no longer a true believer but still haunted by religious concerns from childhood, it meant cutting all ties with Christianity, willfully and deliberately violating any creed that didn’t agree with my personal values - consequences be damned.
...There are no definite answers to these questions. All I have are my own best guesses, wrought from reason and experience and faith – answers more flexible and more compassionate than those of the doctrine and the disorder that both told me, each in their own way, that I was damned for thinking the wrong thoughts.
Oh how wrong he is! (he's correct about being damned.) I say that kindly, but truthfully. There are definite answers to all questions, and those answers are found in the eternal words of God in our beloved English King James Bible. Fletcher says, “All I have are my own best guesses, wrought from reason and experience and faith.” Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Fletcher is relying upon human reasoning and experience. When he speaks of “faith,” he means faith based upon his own rational and experience, which is no faith at all. At least not faith in God.
So we already see that one of the biggest causes of religious scrupulosity is unbelief. John 1:5, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” Fletcher, admittedly, is still walking in darkness, because he has not comprehended the light. Fletcher is blinded spiritually, because he has admittedly rejected Christianity. John 12:35, “Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.” Kindly, Fletcher needs to get saved before it is too late. John 12:46, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.”
Worry Over Sin: A Common Cause of Religious Scrupulosity
I intentionally chose our text passage of Scripture from 1st Corinthians 6:9-11. One of the things that people worry about more than anything is that they won't make it to Heaven, because there are sins that they allow in their life. I'm talking here about Christians, religious people and the unsaved. These are three different groups. Obviously, only Christians are saved. Many religious people are good people (from a secular viewpoint), but they have never been born-again. John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” You get born-again by admitting that you're a guilty sinner in the eyes of a holy God and believing the Gospel.
False prophets like Evangelists' Paul Washer and Ray Comfort complicate the issue, placing a guilt-trip upon everyone if they still have pet sins in their life. I received two precious e-mails yesterday from two different people, who at one time were both deceived by Ray Comfort, fearful that they would go to Hell because they were still struggling sinners. But then they read some of my articles and learned THE TRUTH, that we are saved by God's imputed righteousness, and not our own. Folks, every Christians still sins. We ought not sin, but we do, because we are still in the flesh.
Romans 7:18-21, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”
Here is a very precious quote from Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001) that I heard yesterday from one of his sermons from 1987...
“You're not unsaved because you're bad. You're not unsaved because you're mean. You're not unsaved because you're a drunkard. You're not unsaved because you're an adulterer. You're not unsaved because you're a liar. You're unsaved for one reason—YOU HAVE NOT SUBMITTED YOUR SELF UNTO THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD! God offers to give you His righteousness, to put on your record in Heaven, to cover your sins—not to stop your sins, you'll still be imperfect after you get saved—but judicially God offers to put His record in Heaven on your record, and blot out your sins as far as God's sight of your sins is concerned. And that is the imputation of God's righteousness!!!”
SOURCE: Dr. Jack Hyles - A quote from the classic MP3 sermon, “The Mystery Of Godliness.”
THAT'S GOOD STUFF!!! It is not your holiness through which you'll see God, it is His holiness imputed to you, and given to you, and put on your record. Without that you won't go to Heaven! Susanna Wesley's (1669-1742) favorite Scripture was Romans 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Yes, that is one of my favorite Scriptures too! To no surprise, false prophet Ray Comfort doesn't even comment on this passage in his extremely popular The Evidence Bible. Mr. Comfort teaches that turning from sinful bad habits is necessary to be saved.
I want to show you one of the most precious truths you'll ever learn. I hear many people worry over the following passage of Scripture (which is very similar to Galatians 5:19-21)...
1st Corinthians 6:9-11, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
Ray Comfort likes to quote the preceding Scripture to scare the Hell into believers who still choose to keep some sins in their life. Folks, every believer chooses to keep some sins in their life, at times, because we are imperfect human beings. Now, here's the precious truth that I want you to remember from verse 11...
1st Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
Whew! Did you see it... BUT YE ARE WASHED!!! The Bible doesn't say, “And such were some of you, but ye have turned away from your sins...” It doesn't say that, does it? No, it says... BUT YE ARE WASHED!!! 1st John 1:7b, “...and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Revelation 1:5-6, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Praise God my friend (it's Ok to jump up and down in happiness), if you have believed the Gospel, YE ARE WASHED!!!
Perhaps you say, “But wait a minute Brother David, I'm still doing some bad things in my life, and I'm a really big sinner. I'm afraid that I may not go to Heaven.” My friend, if you still think that, you just missed the truth I just taught you. Salvation is not about you or the way you live, it is completely about Jesus and what He did to pay for your sins on the cross. We are saved by submitting our self to God's righteousness, which is solely through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
If you are still worrying after what I just taught you, it is a sin my friend, as one web visitors kindly testified that he learned years ago concerning his own salvation. Unjustified fear is a sin. It is Okay to be afraid if you don't understand how to be saved. But once someone shows you the clarity of the Gospel, there is no reason for you to doubt and worry anymore. Do you believe the Holy Bible? (I always mean the King James Bible.) Do you believe that God keeps His promises? Well, if you do, then you can rest tonight when you go to sleep, knowing that ALL of your sins have been “WASHED” by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The moment you get saved, by placing your faith in the Gospel, ALL of your sins (past, present and future) are all washed away forever.
NOTE: I admire Pastor Charles Lawson from the Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, but he teaches a heresy on the blood of Christ. (I expose this heresy toward the bottom of the preceding article link, under the subtitle, “Pastor Lawson's Confusing Theology.”) Dr. Lawson errantly teaches a confusing theology. On one hand he says that Jesus' blood cleansed away all our sins at salvation (which is correct), but then he goes horribly astray and says, “The cleansing is not a once and for all thing” (see my article for source). Oh my, that is so wrong to say! Dr. Lawson makes the continual cleansing conditional upon a believer walking in fellowship with the Lord. That is not what 1st John 1:7 means. It simply means that once you are saved, you are under grace, and Christ's blood has forever washed away your sins!!! Pastor Lawson doesn't understand Biblical repentance. Lest you think I'm barking up an empty tree, please read my full article, and read where Dr. Lawson accuses Dr. Hyles (quoting from Dr. Hyles' book) of leaving off repentance for salvation, calling it “cheap grace.” No Dr. Lawson, respectfully, you are a heretic on repentance!
Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with discipleship (following Christ). Believers who willfully continue in sin are 100% safe in the Lord, even though God will not be pleased with them as His child, as will discipline them (Hebrews 12:6-8). We are saved by the precious blood of the sinless Lamb of God...
1st Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
I have taken the time to delve into this subject about being washed in the blood of Christ, because this is the core root of religious scrupulosity. Once you KNOW 100% that you are saved and secure in the everlasting arms of God, you can “BE OF GOOD CHEER” as the Lord commanded in John 16:33. Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.” I love that Scripture!!!
I heard a great quote today from Pastor Steven Anderson, which is a great point...
“If you don't believe the Bible, if you don't believe in God, you can't really say that anything's right or wrong, with any real authority. ... Our morality comes from the Bible. Atheists just kind of make their own morality. It's just an objective morality that they make up. And then they try to impose it on you! Their morality!” —Pastor Steven L. Anderson; a quote from the YouTube video titled, "Eye For An Eye"; Full video titled, "Commandments From Exodus 6; published October 7, 2014).
I think a lot of people are messed up theologically, which creates unnecessary worry and as they call it “religious scrupulosity,” because they don't just decide that they're going to obey the Word of God. The King James Bible has all the answers! God's Word is not the last resort, it is our first line of defense. As my dear friend Pastor Max Younce says, “There is no controversy if you believe the Bible!” If you feel that you have “religious scrupulosity,” saturate your mind and heart with the Scriptures. John 5:39, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” God will comb the kinks out of your head if you give Him your heart.
Having said that, every believer goes through times of frustration, depression and melancholy, because it is on our nature as human beings. We are creatures of emotion. As Dr. Jack Hyles says, “I Am A Moody Person And So Are You!” (MP3). At one time in his early ministry, the mighty preacher Charles Spurgeon struggled with atheism. While in prison for preaching against Herod's adultery, John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He were really the Christ, or “do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). I don't think John doubted the Lord, I think he was frustrated. That's my personal opinion. Jonah fled from God's will. Jeremiah quit preaching. Abraham lied when scared. Peter cursed Jesus and denied even knowing Him, but later repented in bitter tears of sorrow.
Job certainly experienced religious scrupulosity, wishing he had never been born. Ah, but Job figured it out and concluded in Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” Whatever concerns, fears or issues that we may have, the Bible tells us what to do in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” In my humble opinion, there are only three causes of “religious scrupulosity,” which are: 1) Not knowing confidently that you are saved; 2) Not living for the Lord as His redeemed child; 3) Ignorance of the Scriptures.
These three things are all very important. No one can have God's peace who is walking in darkness without Christ. And no child of God who is living in unrepentant sin can ever enjoy sweet fellowship with the Lord. There is no feeling in this world as good as knowing that you are saved and living right, enjoying knowing that your heavenly Father's face is toward you in approval. And a good working knowledge of the Scriptures is invaluable, a strong defense in time of trouble. I could write a book on the subject of religious scrupulosity. But to simplify the matter, nearly all of our problems in life are caused by not obeying God's Word. Please listen to the life-changing sermon by Dr. Max D. Younce titled, “Human Wisdom Verses Divine Wisdom.”
of the child of God is that he loves everybody!”
(a quote from Pastor Jack Hyles' classic MP3 sermon, “FORGIVENESS”