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Why Do Evangelical Pastors Think they Know Everything?

know it all

Several months back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Scott asked:

More of a philosophical/mindset question. I subject myself to the local “Christian” Radio station from time to time and I’m curious as to why pastors preach on/think that they know “everything” once they become a pastor. I’ve heard a number blather on about science when I know 8 year olds with deeper knowledge. One radio show seems unable to have A) hosts who read more than the “Drudge Report” and watch Fox “News” and B) Show absolutely no interest in wanting to learn science, even at the “Buck Rogers” level. I know that I, like you, have a voracious interest in learning new things, old things and different things. What kills the curiosity in them?

I doubt you can find an Evangelical pastor who will admit they know everything. In fact, they will likely strenuously object by saying that they are but a humble servant of the Lord, and only God knows everything. However, in many Evangelical churches, the pastor is viewed as an oracle, a divine answer machine, always ready to spit out the correct answer to every question.

When’s the last time you’ve heard an Evangelical pastor answer a question with I don’t know. Church members expect their pastor to know everything. They expect him to be able to answer any and every question. Pastors routinely counsel church members on spiritual matters and beliefs. If they stopped here, all would be well. However, many pastors are quite willing to answer questions and give advice on virtually any subject.

How does an Evangelical pastor get to the place where he arrogantly thinks that he is some sort of super-duper, always right answer machine?

The Evangelical believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God.  The Bible is a divine book breathed out by God and is meant to be read and understood. When a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells them (lives inside of them) and is their teacher and guide. Indwelt by the Spirit, the Evangelical reads and studies the Bible, finding everything necessary for life and godliness.

Some Evangelicals are called to be a pastor.  This calling (some sects call it an anointing) comes from God. Every God-called pastor has been gifted by God to preach, teach, and lead the church. While most Evangelical pastors will tell you that they are first among equals, in real life the pastor is considered the king of the hill.  He is the hub around which everything turns. No matter how many elders, deacons, or church boards a church might have, the pastor stands above them all. He is God’s man, chosen to lead the church.

Evangelicals value those who are successful, those who do great exploits for God. Go to a Christian bookstore and see how many books focus on success. Most church members don’t want to hear about their pastor’s failures. No one wants to hear their pastor confess that he looked at porn on Saturday night, drank two too many beers, or had a bitter fight with his wife. They want a man who is a pillar of virtue and righteousness, a man who is a shining example of what a successful Christian should be.

Having said these things, I want to now answer Scott’s question. The reason many Evangelical pastors think they know everything is because a supernatural God wrote a supernatural book and gave it to a man who has a supernatural calling to speak supernatural truth to Evangelical church members. The pastor is the mouthpiece of God, one chosen by God to speak on his behalf.  Since the church wants assurance of belief, the pastor is quite willing to give it to them. Since doubt is of the devil, the pastor papers over the doubt with the answers he finds in the Bible. As a pastor ages, reads more books,  and studies the Bible thoroughly, he is more likely to answer a wider array of questions with “Biblical” answers.  As the church sees he is capable of answering their questions, they continue to bring the pastor more and more questions.

Evangelical church members wrongly believe that because their pastor went to a Bible college or a seminary they are uniquely qualified to answer their questions. Rarely do they ask what the pastor studied in school. Member go to the pastor for counseling, not thinking for a moment about whether he is qualified to counsel them. Just because a man is a pastor doesn’t mean he is qualified to counsel people having mental health issues or sexual problems. In fact, the average Evangelical pastor doesn’t even have a through education on the Bible. Go take a look at a Christian college/seminary catalog and see what classes a prospective pastor takes. You will be shocked at how little they study the Bible before they graduate. Yet, when they starting pastoring a church, they are expected to KNOW what the Bible says and be able to answer EVERY question a church member might have.

Years ago, I preached several times for a friend of mine who pastored a Baptist church in Utica, Ohio. Every Sunday he would pass the plate, collecting an offering from the 20 or so people sitting in the pews. One Sunday, he told me that when he didn’t have any money to put in the offering he would fold over a blank piece of paper and put it in the plate. He thought it was important to give church members the appearance of giving. As many former Evangelical pastors will tell you, perception is everything. My friend wanted to be perceived as a giver even when he had nothing to give.

So it is with pastors and questions. They want to be perceived as knowing everything. Older pastors become expert question-answer game players, often giving shallow, bullshit answers to any question they don’t have an answer for.   Sometimes, pastors deflect hard questions by appealing to faith or saying God’s ways are not our ways. Most often though, Evangelical pastors are ready and willing to answer what questions come their way.

I am not saying that Evangelical pastors are not experts or knowledgeable about some things. They are, but my challenge is to the breadth of their expertise and knowledge. Rather than worrying about perception, pastors would better serve their congregations by saying I don’t know or referring them to experts that do.

Scott asks, what kills curiosity in many Evangelical pastors? The short answer is…THE BIBLE. When a pastor views the Bible as the answer to every question, there’s no need to be curious. GOD SAID IT, I BELIEVE IT, AND THAT SETTLES IT FOR ME!  No need to study science because God mapped out the creation of the universe in Genesis 1-3.  History becomes HIS-story.  Instead of trawling the depths of human knowledge and experience, many Evangelical pastors stick to a handful authors that reinforce their beliefs. This breeds intellectual laziness.

Notes

Granted, many Evangelical church members are lazy and can’t be bothered with searching things out for themselves. They view the pastor as a divine Google, ready to spit out the correct answer to any search input.

Should We Execute A Woman Who is Not a Virgin on Her Wedding Day?

stoning

According to Evangelicals, the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, timeless Word of God. The Bible is God’s road map for life, the divine blueprint for living. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the Bible is one long letter from God to us. While Evangelicals use various hermeneutics, interpretive tools, and schemes to interpret the Bible, all agree that the text is the words of God.

Evangelicals also believe that God is immutable, that he does not change his mind. Malachi 3:6 says, For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed and Hebrews 13:8 says, Jesus Christ (God) the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Ask an Evangelical if God changes his mind and they will emphatically say NO! God is perfect in all his ways, the Evangelical says, and his Word, the Bible, is truth.

How then, based on what I have written above, should an Evangelical interpret Deuteronomy 22:13-21:

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, and give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: and the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; and, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; and they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

The gist of the story is this; if a man goes into his wife on their wedding night and has intercourse with her and finds out that she is not as virgin, then his bride is to be brought to the door of her father’s house and stoned to death by the men of the city. There’s no ambiguity in the text. The soiled bride is to be considered a whore and executed. (If you have not read Deuteronomy 22, I encourage you to do so. God prescribes stoning for a variety of sexual sins.)

What say ye, oh believer that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible words of God?

Well Bruce, the Evangelical says, this is in the OLD Testament and we now live according to the NEW Testament. So, God changed his mind? Were his words in Deuteronomy 22 imperfect, lacking in some way? If God’s law is perfect and true, why change it? All would agree that Deuteronomy 22 is the law of God. If it is, wouldn’t God’s law be preferable to man’s law? If God’s law was good enough for Israel, shouldn’t it be good enough for the United States, a nation Evangelicals claim is Christian? Why would any Christian want to be governed by the inferior laws of man?

The recent Evangelical hysteria over same-sex marriage is rooted in the belief that God’s word/God’s law has the final say on the matter. Shouldn’t God’s law also have the final say on virgins having sex before they are married? Where can I find in the Bible the verse that says one law is applicable today, but not the other?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17,18:

 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Jesus said that he did not come to destroy or do away the law. In fact, according  to Jesus, until heaven and earth pass away, the law of God is valid and in force. Till all be fulfilled, he said. Has everything been fulfilled? Has Jesus come back to earth? Has God made a new heaven and new earth as prophesied in Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3? No, no, and no. Thus, the law of God, particularly Deuteronomy 22:13-21, is in force.  Every Evangelical is duty bound to support the execution of woman who are not virgins on their wedding day. The unchanging God has spoken!

Pastor Bo Wagner Says A World Governed by the Bible Would be Wonderful

atheists read the bible

Bo Wagner, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Mooresboro, North Carolina, thinks the world would be a great place if everyone would just read the Bible and put it into practice:

The guidance found in the Bible does not work. Not because it is flawed, but because it is no longer even known. Society seems to have latched on to exactly two words from the Bible — “judge not” — and appears fairly oblivious to everything else within its pages.

That is a shame, because the counsel of Scripture actually does work when it is known and applied. And that brings my mind to an intriguing question: What if everyone knew about and applied the actual words of Scripture?

What if, for instance, every time someone is offended over a flag or a symbol or a mascot or some unintentional slight, we taught and applied the words of Psalm 119: 165: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Can you imagine the blessing of a society that is no longer professionally offended at almost everything?

What if each and every time a white who is racist against blacks or a black who is racist against whites had people of their own color quoting the words of Acts 10:34-35 to them: “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Can you imagine how quickly racism would go away if people used the words of Scripture to confront racists of their own color?

What if nations, especially ours, were forced to live within their means by a country full of people demanding adherence to sound scriptural principles of money management, such as having to live on a budget rather than on credit? Jesus said in Luke 14:28-30: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

If people of every creed and color and political party refused to ever elect anyone who ran a nation on credit, imagine the fiscally sound country we would have to leave our children and grandchildren.

What if every preacher suddenly remembered that one of his jobs is to do as God commanded Isaiah in Isaiah 58:1: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”

Every preacher in the Bible, Old or New Testament, Jesus included, preached against sin. Jesus told a woman involved in sexual sin to “sin no more.” Imagine how clean and right our society could be if preachers stopped behaving as celebrities and instead started crying aloud against sin again.

What if every Christian started obeying Psalm 101:3: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” What if they turned off every filthy commercial and refused to shop at business who use them? What if they ceased to look at any form of pornography? What if they refused to allow impurity in their hearts through the eye gate? How much more power of God would be upon us.

And what if every Christian started living as if he believes that Jesus actually could come back today? He told us in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” How “Christ-like” would Christians actually be if they lived every day with the realization that it could be today?…

Wagner, a professor at Carolina Bible College, an unaccredited King James only institution, thinks the Bible is the cure for what ails us. If we would just start reading and obeying the King James Bible, all would be well. Wagner thinks the controversy over racist mascots, the confederate flag, and the black lives matter campaign could easily be solved if those who are offended would just stop being offended. In other words, let the racists do what they want.  Wagner thinks that if more preachers preached against sin there would be less sin. How’s that working out? In uncounted Baptist churches known for their stand against sin, accusations of sexual misconduct, theft, and child molestation have been levied against pastors, choir leaders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and every day, run of the mill Christians. It seems that the word of God provides no inoculation from sin. If Christians can’t/won’t live by the teachings of the Bible, why should the rest of us?

I seriously doubt Wagner wants non-Christians to just pick up the Bible and start reading it. Doing so would likely lead people to believe things that Wagner and his fellow Evangelicals consider heretical or sinful. Incest, rape, polygamy, murder, genocide, and slavery, to name a few, find support in the book Wagner wants everyone read. I suspect what he really means is that he wants everyone to read the Bible through his Evangelical interpretive grid. Just reading the Bible without of wearing Wagner Interpretive Glasses®  is not advised.

I actually agree with Wagner. I wish EVERY Christian would take the time to read the Bible from cover to cover, With a skeptical, critical eye, every Christian should read every word in the Good Book. Don’t ask a religious leader to guide you. Just read it. Don’t try to parse it though a particular sect’s interpretive grid. Just read it. Make a list of the things you didn’t know were in the Bible. Make a list of things that don’t make sense or offend your moral sensibilities. When finished, take your double sided ten page list to your pastor and ask him to answer your questions. Tell him you want answers not faith.

And let the fun begin…

Notes

Carolina Bible College is affiliated with Macedonia Baptist College and Bright Light Baptist Church. I found the websites for these entities not only to be poorly designed, but quite confusing. While Carolina Bible College does offer a handful of on site classes, everything else is done through correspondence and online.  Undergraduate work is $15 a credit hour, postgraduate work is $30. The school offers up to 64 credit hours for life experience. The fee for life experience is $7.50 per credit. You can find the college’s handbook/catalog here.

Word of Mouth Publishers, is the publishing ministry of Bo Wagner. According to the ABOUT page, Wagner has a doctorate from Carolina Bible College.

Bo Wagner Twitter.

Friendly Atheist article on Bo Wagner.

Roll to Disbelieve article on Bo Wagner.

2012 Shelby Star article on Bo Wagner.

Why Catholic Millennials are Leaving the Church

catholic church

Millennials, those born between 1981-2000, (there is some debate over the exact time frame) now ages 15 to 34, are less religious than their parents and grandparents. Why they are remains a subject of intense debate. Regardless of the reasons why, millennials are less likely to be a part of an organized religion than earlier generations. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, nones, those who are not affiliated with any religion, continue to increase numerically. 55 million Americans are now a none.  Granted, this is still a small percentage of the total U.S. population, but 34-36% of millennials are a none, compared to just 17% of their parents and 11% of their grandparents.

While the media tends to focus on millennials leaving Evangelical sects and churches, the Catholic church also has a millennial problem. Kaya Oakes, a writer for Religion Dispatches and a one time atheist who returned to the Catholic church of her youth,  had this to say about the Catholic church and millennials:

A new survey from Catholics for Choice on the opinions of Catholic millennials as regards doctrinal issues might make the church’s traditionalists want to brace themselves. But its findings are also somewhat unsurprising to anyone who spends time around younger Catholics, whose political and social leanings mirror the open-minded stances of their increasingly non-religious peers.

Birth control and abortion, arguably the Catholic church’s most contentious issues, are not always perceived in a negative light by young Catholics. Among those polled, more than half say abortion should be legal in “almost all” or “most” cases, and 31 percent say it should be legal in “just a few” cases. Only 17 percent say it should be illegal. 78 percent say birth control should be included in insurance coverage, no matter where a woman works.

In spite of the widely mocked Catholic Vote video of young people “coming out” as believing that marriage is between a man and a woman, marriage equality is embraced by Catholic millennials. 69% “strongly” or “somewhat” support legal same-sex marriage.

In the wake of the firing of multiple Catholic school teachers who are openly gay or lesbian or married to a same-sex partner, and the ensuing grappling over Catholic teacher contracts that explicitly prevent teachers from being open about their sexuality, younger Catholics have chosen the side of the teachers. 71% say Catholic schools should not be able to fire teachers for being LGBTQ. On gender in the church, Catholic millennials follow similar thinking, with 75% supporting women having an equal role in the church.

Pope Francis is popular among young Catholics, with only two percent having a negative view of him. But the American church hierarchy is not looked on so kindly, and there is an increasing emphasis on a separation between politics and religion. A full 80 percent of respondents said they felt no need to follow the bishops’ advice when it comes time to vote, and 77 percent said Catholic politicians were under no obligation to follow the bishops either.

They are also opposed by a wide margin to bishops withholding communion to the divorced and remarried, those who support legal abortion, and those who support marriage equality.

What’s missing from this survey, however, is the question of church attendance. How much are these Catholics who disagree with and question church teaching are actually showing up? Christian Smith, the head of the National Study of Youth and Religion at Notre Dame, says the situation with Catholic millennials participating in church culture is “in fact, grim.” Only 16% of millennials self-identify as Catholic according to Pew. That 16% is the group the church is struggling to hold on to.

So if they are increasingly choosing the liberal side in the culture wars, are they really still Catholic?…

…What is clear, however, is that the more young Catholics start to embrace marriage equality, safe and legal abortion, access to contraception, and the liberal side on many other issues in the culture wars, the more of those same Catholics will also drift away from a church they perceive as incapable of change.

Perhaps they’ll attend mass on occasion, and perhaps they’ll still call themselves Catholic, but in many ways, their faith will be a loose garment rather than a straightjacket.

growth of religiously unaffiliated 2014

age breakdown nones 2014

Songs of Sacrilege: Jesus is My Friend

This is the fortieth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Jesus is a Friend of Mine by Sonseed, an American Roman Catholic pop band formed at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1970s.

Video Link

Lyrics

Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
I have a friend in Jesus.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.

He taught me how to live, my life as it should be.
He taught me how to turn my cheek when people laugh at me.
I’ve had friends before, and I can tell you that, He’s one who will never leave you flat.

Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
I have a friend in Jesus.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.

He taught me how to pray, and how to save my soul.
He taught me how to praise my God and still play rock and roll.
The music may sound different but the message is the same.
It’s just the instruments who praise His name.

Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
I have a friend in Jesus.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is a friend of mine.

Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is a friend of mine.

Once I tried to run, I tried to run and hide.
But Jesus came and found me and He touched me down inside.
He is like mountie, He always gets His man, and He’ll zap you any way he can.
Zap.

Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
I have a friend in Jesus.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.

He loves me when I’m right, He loves me when I’m wrong.
He loves me when I waste my time by writing silly songs.
He loves me when I’m quiet and I have nothing to say.
He’ll love me when I’m perfect if I ever get that way.
Whooo!

Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
I have a friend in Jesus.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
Jesus is my friend.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
I have a friend in Jesus.
Jesus is a friend of mine.
J-J-J-Jesus.
Jesus is a friend of mine.