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Questions?

Is there a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about ? If so, here’s your chance. If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about , please leave your request in the comment section. Any subject…ask away.

Doing this from time to time helps me understand what is important to the readers of this blog. I have plenty of subjects to busy myself with, but I would love to hear from you,

Thanks in advance for helping me improve  this blog.

An IFB Pastor’s Passive-Aggressive Response to a Doubting Church Member

ifb preacher phil kidd

IFB Preacher Phil Kidd

A regular reader of this blog, a former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church member and preacher, who trained for the ministry at Clarence Sexton’s  The Crown College, sent me the following response from his pastor:

Dear Harry (not his real name),

Thanks for answering the first part of my letter.  I realize that you were about 17 when you allowed the devil to have you question God’s Word  and that you doubt God’s Word and even deny His Word.  Proverbs 23:7 says as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.

Harry, I know you know enough about God’s Word that nothing I say to you will convince you if the Holy Spirit Of God doesn’t make God real to you, I can’t.  I do not know if you and  Louise  have ever been saved.  I know that a person has to be convicted of the sin of unbelief before they can be saved.  It is not an emotional feeling.  It is conviction of the sin of unbelief.

Time will tell because you will experience God’s chastisement if you are saved.  I fear what it might take for God to get your attention.  If you don’t experience God’s chastisement then you will know that you were never saved to begin with according to God’s Word.

You really don’t see the seriousness of sin.  It put My Savior on the cross of Calvary for my sin.  There will be no one in hell for telling a lie or stealing.  If anyone goes to hell it will be because of the sin of unbelief.

Your children have to hear the truth before they can believe the truth.  So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  Please give them a chance to hear God’s Word like you had.  If you and your wife don’t want to come to church, will you give your children  a chance by allowing them to come to master club and watch God work in their tender hearts.

Harry, I encourage you to do all the research on Jesus you can find and see if he is a liar, lunatic, or He is who He says He is.  Your whole family’s destiny depends on who Jesus is and what you do with Him.

I am here for you if you need me.  Remember God loves you.Thanks for taking time to read this.

Your Friend,

Pastor God’s Man

Those of you who have left the IFB church movement are quite familiar with the tactics and approach used by Harry’s pastor. This passive-aggressive approach is used any time an IFB church member thinks about leaving the church or has doubt about the teachings of the church and pastor.

The pastor appeals to their relationship, and even goes so far as to tell Harry he is still his friend. He reminds him that God loves him and that he, the pastor, is there for him if he needs him.  All well and good, right? If this is all the pastor had said, few of us would have found fault with his words. But, like the true IFB pastor he is…with the carrot comes a big stick.

The pastor tells Harry:

  • He is influenced by the Devil
  • He doubts his salvation
  • That God will chastise him IF he is a really is a Christian
  • Everyone in hell is there because of unbelief
  • He is ignorant, having failed to do all the research on Jesus (I thought the Bible was all we needed?)

And then he plays the children card. He appeals to Harry on the familial level. After all, their eternal destiny depends on them coming to this pastor’s church.  What he fails to realize and understand is that as a person raised in the IFB church, Harry would most certainly want to keep his children away from the pernicious IFB church and its teachings and practices. If he is breaking free, why would he want to expose his children to these things?

I hope this post illustrates for readers the challenges people face when they decide to walk away from the IFB church. By leaving they are cutting themselves off from everything they have ever known. This young family man is to be commended for being willing to walk away. It took great courage to do so. May there be many more just like him.

The Christian Music Business

david meeceI am sure someone will object to the title of this post and say, Christian music is not a business, it is a ministry, it’s ALL ABOUT J-E-S-U-S!  It’s a ministry when the musician is willing to go anywhere for a love offering. It is a business when they have contracts, riders,  and demand a certain amount of money. For the most part, the Christian music business stopped being about Jesus a long time ago.

Years ago, I contacted the booking agent for the contemporary Christian group FFH about holding a concert at our church. I had checked their calendar and noticed that they had a few off days and would be near our church in West Unity, so I thought I would see if they were willing to come and sing at our church.

Not a chance. The booking agent told me that they had a $5,000 minimum. I was astounded by this. I thought, if I promoted the concert right we would likely take in about $2,000. Surely this would be enough money for FFH, especially since it was on a weekday. The booking agent proceeded to lecture me on the Christian music business, about how groups like FFH only have a limited window of opportunity to make their money. He then asked me how would I like to preach for just a love offering. I then got to school him about how I had spent my entire life preaching with no monetary expectation in return.

All told, I preached for 33 years. Not one time did I say to a church or to someone who wanted me to hold a meeting, I must have X amount of dollars. I never said no, and I preached more than one meeting over the years where it cost me more to drive back and forth to the meeting than I received in the love offering. This was never a problem for me, and according to some of my friends and family, I SHOULD have made money more of an issue.

I asked the booking agent for FFH to take my request to the group. He told me that he would not do this. Why? Because, he said, they would likely say Yes! If I let them, they would sing for free.

Over the years, I booked many musicians to come sing  at the church I was pastoring at the time. As a result, I learned a lot about the “business” side of Christian music. I met a lot of wonderful people who were willing to come and sing for little more than a promise. As a small church pastor, I did my best to promote the concerts and the church usually supplemented the love offering to make sure the musician (s) were given a decent offering.

In the late 1990’s, I decided to use concerts as a way to promote the church. I thought if outside people attended a concert that they might be interested in our church and start attending. While the concerts did draw large crowds, not one person ever became a part of our church as a result of attending a concert.

sierraI put on a concert at Hilltop High School in West Unity, Ohio featuring the group contemporary Christian group Sierra. I decided to sell tickets for the event, advertised it heavily, and sold 400 tickets, at 8.00 a piece. Sierra charged us $4,000 plus expenses to come sing for us. All told, the church lost $2,000.00 on the concert.

Another time, I put on a Southern Gospel concert at Hilltop Middle School, featuring The Sojourners Quartet from Kentucky and a local group called The Overcomer’s. This concert was well attended by what I call the blue-hair crowd. They loved the concert so much that their love worked out to about $2.00 a head when the $400 love offering was counted. Again, the church lost a substantial amount of money. I quickly learned that elderly people were of the not a bad show for a buck’ giving mindset.

I pastored Grace Baptist Church, renamed  Our Father’s House, in West Unity for seven years. In addition to the above concerts, the following Christian groups came to our church to sing:

David Meece

Annie Herring (formerly of Second Chapter of Acts)

The Mast Brothers

The Toney Brothers

NIA

along with a handful of local groups.

The Mast Brothers, a southern gospel group, were the easiest to work with and Annie Herring, by far, was the hardest. When Herring came to our church, it was quite evident that she was put out at having to sing at such a small venue, even though there were more than a hundred people crowded into our little storefront church. David Meece? Eclectic, strange, and he borrowed a Bible of mine and permanently highlighted and underlined verses in it. He didn’t ask me if he could do this, and had he asked me I would have said no. As a result, I had to buy a new Bible.

I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in SE Ohio for 11 years. During this time, a number of southern gospel groups came to the church and sang. One group, The Songsmen Quartet, a local group from the Lancaster area, was a church favorite, holding at least one concert a year for many years. The group broke up (and may have later started up with different people) after two of the group members got friendly with each other and committed adultery.

robbie hinerMy favorite concert while at Somerset Baptist Church took place in the mid-1980’s when Robbie Hiner came to sing for us. At the time, Hiner worked for Jerry Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Hiner was a regular on Falwell’s nationwide TV program, The Old Time Gospel Hour.

Several hundred people from all over SE Ohio, came to hear Hiner sing. The building was packed. Hiner made no demands or requests, sat down at our old, beat up church piano, and just started singing. In between songs, he shared funny stories, and from start to finish, this was the best Christian concert I ever attended. After the concert, Hiner hopped into his car, I believe it was an old, high mile Mercedes, and drove on down the road.

There is a certain group of Christians I call diesel sniffers. These kind of people don’t support a local church, and they travel from church to church listening to their favorite  Christian singing groups. They throw a few dollars in the plate and walk out the door of the church blessed! They subscribe to the Singing News so they can find out when their favorite groups with be near where they live. These kind of people wouldn’t walk across the street to share their faith, but they would drive two hours to hear their favorite quartet sing.

There is a lot of fakery in the Christian music business. I suppose this inevitable due to the fact that they travel from church to church, venue to venue. They develop a routine, a shtick. Where they get into trouble is when their routine or shtick extends to their spirituality or their emotional responses. Years ago, I went with a church member to hear The McKamey’s sing.  There was one song where one of the female singers kicked off her shoes and had an emotional, supposedly spiritual, outburst. I thought, God just touched her heart. A week later, the church member and I heard The McKamey’s again at a huge gospel sing. Same song, and at the exact same point in the song, the female singer kicked off her shoes and had an emotional, supposedly spiritual, outburst. The woman wasn’t being “blessed.” Her display was rehearsed and meant to elicit an emotional response from the audience.  Reason? Stirred emotions lead to open wallets.  I saw this kind of rehearsed, fake, insincere, emotional manipulation countless times at southern gospel, contemporary Christian, and Christian rock concerts. They used the same tactics and manipulations that I did as a pastor. Sincere? Perhaps, but it is still emotional manipulation and it often results in people doing things they wouldn’t normally do, things like giving large sums of money, running the aisles. going to the altar, etc.

kingsmen quartet

Over the years, I talked to several people who were Christian music industry insiders. One man traveled for a time with The Kingsmen Quartet. He told me that I would be shocked if I knew what really went on behind the scenes at southern gospel concerts; from musicians getting liquored up before taking the stage, to Christian groupies willing to bed their favorite gospel singer. These concerts are so man-centered, hey look at me, I am singing for Jesus, that it should come as no surprise that people got caught up in all kinds of illicit behavior. In other words, they were human.

Late into my time as a pastor and as a Christian, I realized that Christian concerts were entertainment. As much as the musicians tried to sell me on their music being a ministry, I realized it was just religious oriented entertainment, no different from the Darius Rucker concert Polly and I attended last year. Once I came to this conclusion, I was free to just sit back and enjoy!

Someone is  going to ask who my favorite Christian groups were/are. Here is my Top Eleven List:

and Steve Camp before he turned into a first-rate, blowhard, asshole Calvinist.

This list, BTW, is a great way to view my path through Christianity, from fundamentalism to the questions and doubts of musicians like Derrick Webb. I still listen to Christian music from time to time. I don’t believe a word of it, but I do enjoy it, a relic from my past. Polly? Won’t touch the stuff…hates it! I usually wait until she is at work to play it.

Reformers Unanimous: Is This Where Josh Duggar is Getting ‘Treatment’ For His Sex Addiction?

duggar family reformers unanimous

Is Reformers Unanimous where Josh Duggar is seeking treatment for his porn addiction?

I originally wrote this article in October 2013. Since it is rumored that Josh Duggar is seeking addiction treatment at Reformers Unanimous (RU) Residential Recovery Center in Rockford, Illinois, I thought readers might be interested in what I have written here. Since I originally wrote this article, RU has changed their website and some of the links no longer work.

Reformers Unanimous is the Fundamentalist Baptist version of a self-help group for church members who have addiction issues and “life” problems. Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio, Monclova Road Baptist Church in Monclova, Ohio, and High Street Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio,  have a Reformers Unanimous chapter.  According to the Reformers Unanimous (RU)  website, RU has 680 chapters in the United States and twelve foreign countries.

The Newark Baptist Temple website describes the purpose of RU this way:

Stories of Victory: RU tired of hearing the “war stories” of people who have no real freedom in their life? If so, try RU! Every week, our students share how God has changed their lives through real-life, relevant stories.  This weekly 40 minutes of encouraging testimonies will get your weekend started off just right.

Great Teaching: RU tired of talking about problems and doing nothing about them? If so, try RU! Every RU class ends with a 30-minute teaching lesson that will explain valuable principles from the Bible that are integral to your recovery process.

Complete Curriculum: RU tired of being told what’s right and not being given the tools to determine what is right? If so, try RU! We have one of the best comprehensive curriculums in America.  It is one of the best-selling, too!  Thousands of people have used our curriculum to learn the truth about addictions and Christian apathy.  For more information see the back cover for our personal recovery curriculum.

Motivational Awards: RU tired of trying to find the stamina to do the right thing in the face of mounting adversity? If so, try RU! We will not only encourage you and help you to do the right thing, but we will also motivate you to do so.  Though an award system is just a small way of doing this, it is evidence of a program that believes in acknowledging accomplishment and rewarding participation.

Free Personal Counseling: RU tired of having to get advice from people who know little about your struggles, or RU tired of having to pay hourly fees to hear yourself talk? If so, try RU! We offer free group and individual spiritual counseling on a wide variety of topics from addiction, to marriage, to finances, to family, and many other areas.  You will have a leader, a helper, a director, an even the pastor.  The pastor of this hosting church could make himself available to support your many needs in life.

Well-trained Local Leadership Staff:  RU tired of attending programs where the leaders and volunteer workers have the same problems as you? if so, try RU!  Our leaders have been set free from the power of sin and can speak openly about it.  They do not seek anonymity.  They proclaim earnestly that Jesus is the reason for their freedom, and they have been well-trained to use our program and its tools to get that salvation message to you and to those whom you love.

Exciting Children’s Program: RU tired of trying to find someone to help you with your child’s issues while you are still trying to deal with your many issues in life?  If so, try RU! We will not only care for your children while you attend our class, but we will entertain, teach, and develop your children to help them avoid the same pitfalls that ensnared many of us.  They will enjoy games, prizes, snacks, play time, awards, great teaching, and many other things.  Our “Kidz Clubs” are the weekly highlight of most every child that attends.

Residential Treatment Centers: RU tired of trying to find residential treatment that is effective and affordable? If so, try RU! We operate a beautiful 100-bed facility for men and a gorgeous 40-bed facility for women at our headquarters in Rockford, Illinois.  We are also aware of many RU type transitional homes that may be available for your use.  To learn more, visit ruhomes.org.

Local Church Support: Steven Curington believed, as does the pastor whose church hosts our meetings, that the local church is God’s support group.  It is designed by God to meet the spiritual needs of all people.  When the spiritual needs of people are met, then other needs fall in line and become easier to manage.  We as a program, strongly encourage you to visit the church that hosts this meeting for addicted people.  Something must be different about this church if they are so willing to have this program for you.  Why aren’t others?

Reformers Unanimous also operates treatment centers they call Schools of Discipleship. According to RU’s Schools of Discipleship website, the treatments centers offer:

…a six-month intensive discipleship program for men and women with troubled lives. We provide a reconstructive learning atmosphere where the non-functioning person can be trained in a supportive environment of discipleship consisting of: study, mentoring, Bible education, and work place training.

RU’s website states that the Schools of Discipleship program has a 80% success rate after one year and 79% of those who are “victorious over addictions” are gainfully employed after one year.

Reformers Unanimous is operated by North Love Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois. Dr. Paul Kingsbury (calling himself Dr. because he has an honorary doctorate from Ambassador Baptist College, a college founded by IFB pastor Ron Comfort) is the pastor of True Love.  Kingsbury was called to preach under the ministry of Jack Hyles, attended Maranatha Baptist Bible College, and graduated from Hyles-Anderson College.

RU has a medical staff that  (link no longer works):

advise Pastor Kingsbury, and the North Love Baptist Church on decisions that arise in the ministry related to health care for the addicted, mental health, communicable diseases, and medical liability.

The medical staff doctors are Dr. Morris Harper, Dr. George Crabb, Dr. Timothy Gaul, and Dr. Maureen Gaul.  Crabb is located in Florida, the other three doctors are located in Pennsylvania. (as far as I could ascertain from a cursory web search)

RU also has an advisory board made up of nine men, including Illinois State Senator Dave Syverson.  There are no women on the advisory board.

Until a few years ago, I had never heard of Reformers Unanimous (RU). My former drug-addict son asked me if I knew anything about RU. He had  attended a RU meeting with his cousin at the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio. I told him I had never heard of RU. He then told some “interesting” stories from the RU meeting he attended.

After hearing this, I decided to take a closer look at RU. The rest of this post will focus on a booklet published by RU titled DSM One: Diagnostic & Spiritual Manual. This booklet provides a birds eye view of RU’s addiction philosophy.  DSM One is written by RU medical staff advisory doctor George Crabb.

On the copyright page, Reformers Unanimous attempts to stop people like me from reviewing their literature by stating:

Any written or published critique, whether positive or negative, may not quote any portion of this book without written permission of the publisher to avoid any discrepancies in context.

After contacting my crack legal team, I am confident that RU’s attempt to scuttle a review of their materials has no legal basis and is contrary to the doctrine of fair use. (See Electronic Frontier Foundation FAQ) This review is done on a non-commercial basis and is meant to be a critique of the teachings found in DSM One.

According to the back cover of DSM One, the purpose of the book is:

Churches today, along with Reformers Unanimous (RU) chapters around the world, are filled with hurting people struggling with serious personal problems. Many church and RU leaders find they are unprepared to deal with these people that have very serious non-physical problems because the psychiatric world has proclaimed themselves to be the master of this domain. As a result, psychiatric terminology has invaded the church and their RU programs. Most Biblical counseling training provides little to no education regarding these terms and little to no training on what the Bible says about these non-physical problems. Dr. Crabb’s desire in writing this booklet is to help the Christian leader understand the practical implication of these terms and what the Bible says about these non-physical problems of life. Dr. Crabb takes the mystery out of these terms and clearly presents the Biblical viewpoint.

The purpose of Reformers Unanimous and the DSM One is to help IFB church members (virtually all the RU chapters are sponsored by IFB churches) who are hurting and struggling with serious personal problems. Crabb and RU is concerned that the psychiatric world and its terminology has invaded IFB churches and the RU program. The DSM One book is RU’s attempt to give pastors the tools necessary to help church members who have “serious non-physical problems.”  Crabb wrote the DSM One to help pastors and church leaders “understand the practical implication of these terms and what the Bible says about these non-physical problems of life.”

According to the back cover, the DSM One book, “takes the mystery out of these terms and clearly presents the Biblical viewpoint.”  While it is “slightly” encouraging to see IFB churches admit they have the same problems that the “world” has, it is their methods and desired outcomes that I have a problem with.

The DSM One has sixteen chapters and three appendices. The book covers:

  • Philosophy of Psychiatry
  • Abnormal
  • Addiction
  • ADHD
  • Bulimia
  • Codependency
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Kleptomania
  • Multiple Personality Disorder/Disassociated  Identity Disorder
  • OCD
  • Pedophilia
  • Phobia
  • Shame
  • Tourette’s Disorder

The appendices cover:

  • Seven Biblical Things to Do on a Daily Basis
  • The Best Way to Study Your Bible
  • Reformers Unanimous Ten Principles

If I had to sum up RU’s position:

  • The Bible has the answer for every problem you are facing
  • The reason you are _______________________ (fill in with one of the disorders/problems mentioned above) is because you are unwilling to submit to God and the authority of His Word, the Bible
  • True, lasting victory over ______________________ can only come through submitting oneself to the teachings of the Bible (as interpreted by RU, George Crabb, and the local church pastor)

Dr. George Crabb, the author of DSM One, has little to no training in the field of psychiatry. He is an osteopathic internist and states he is a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. When I originally wrote this post Crabb was not listed as a member, but he is now listed as a member in good standing. Crabb is an IFB pastor’s son. His father was the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Warren Michigan.  When I originally wrote this post I was able to find active web links for Antioch Baptist Church and Antioch Baptist Academy. Those links no longer work. (I did find that there was a sex scandal that resulted in the pastor, Christopher Settlemoir, being arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 7-15 years in prison for child sexual assault. The victim sued the church and you can read the sad, sordid story here and here.)

The lack of psychiatric training is not surprising for those of us raised in the IFB church movement. The psychiatric and psychology community are routinely demonized by IFB pastors and are considered tools of Satan used to keep people from submitting to the authority of God and the Bible. Crabb is pretty much like the actor in the Holiday Inn commercial. He is not a psychiatrist, but he is a Bible-believing Christian with a medical degree. Since Crabb believes virtually all mental health problems are a problem of not submitting to the authority of God and the Bible, there is no need for any serious training in the mental health field.

Notes

Gawker article on Josh Duggar and Reformers Unanimous

Entertainment Tonight article on Josh Duggar and Reformers Unanimous

Rockford Register Star reports:

The Duggars have a history with Reformers Unanimous, speaking at its national conference in Rockford in October 2014. But, Brad Woodbury of the organization’s development team would not confirm that Duggar entered treatment in the Forest City.

Woodbury went on to say that the residential program, which costs $7,500, is voluntary and work-based. Members are responsible for tasks like cooking and construction. Reformers Unanimous in Rockford has men’s and women’s residential treatment programs, with room for 40 men and 20 women. The length of stay in its long-term addiction treatment center is approximately eight to 10 months.

“The residential program is for people who need to be in a place where they can grow in their relationship with Christ,” Woodbury said. “We do not focus on the addiction. It’s about your walk with Christ.”

Songs of Sacrilege: Your God

This is the fifty-fourth 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 leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Your God by Cheryl Wheeler.

 Video Link

Lyrics

Is your God the same God who’s working with the Pope?
Is it the same God suspicious of Tinky Winky?
Is it the God corralling virgins into herds of 72,
deciding where to send them when the glorious martyrs are through?

Is your God the same God who’s burning the science books
and trampling lives to hoist the right to life signs?
Or is he running the breeding program from the Temple by the lake
till one big in-bred family will be an entire state?

Are they his priests who can’t keep from buggering little boys?
Is it your cash retaining their attorneys?
I guess he had to overlook the nastiness with the tykes,
to keep the grace of marriage from the clutches of fags and dykes.

Is your God the same God who won the Superbowl?
I hope it’s not that loser God the Eagles had.
Or is your’s the God decreeing all the women wear a sack,
and presiding over stonings and beheadings in Iraq?

Is your God commanding you
to tell everybody what to do,
to kill your brain and praise his name
and bury the bastard who’s not the same,
and spew your heinous and hateful shit
like something holy was driving it
to take over all the earth and skies above?
Oh mercy, whatever happened to the GOD of love?

Songs of Sacrilege: One True God

This is the fifty-third 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 leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is One True God by The Austin Lounge Lizards from Austin, Texas.

 Video Link

Songs of Sacrilege: Sunday in Reality

This is the fifty-second 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 Sunday in Reality by Cynthia Carle.

Video Link

 

Songs of Sacrilege: Wages of Sin

This is the fifty-first 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 Wages of Sin by The Rainmakers, a Kansas City, Missouri-based original rock band.

Video Link

Video Link

Lyrics

I was praying last night when an angel broke the line
She said “I’m gonna have to put you on hold for a time”
I said “Hold like Hell, let me talk to the Boss”
She said “Sorry sucker (sinner), it’s the Boss’s day off”
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was two bucks an hour and working weekends

I was ignoring the thief who was lashed to the cross
He cried “Help me get this son-of-a-bitch off”
I said “I would if I could, I can’t so I won’t
Well I wouldn’t want you messing your hair up, so don’t”
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was all the lumber you can carry, all the nails you can bend

The wages of sin, the price that you pay
Is worrying and fretting every second of the day
If Heaven is guilt, no sex and no show
Then I’m not sure if I really want to go, Oh

The wages of sin, the reward of fear
Is worrying and fretting every second of the year
The Church and the State, your God and Countrykind
One gets your body, the other gets your mind

Mary, Mary Magdalene, how ’bout a date?
You’ve been wasting your time staying up so late
Your boyfriend’s dead, the word is you’re a whore
Just about then I heard a knock on the door
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was a bad reputation and too many friends

The wages of sin (repeats)

Are You a Christian?

what is a christian

JC Ryle, a 19th century Anglican Bishop, wrote a tract about the marks of a Christian:

But still after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God. Here is an inspired Apostle writing one of the last general epistles (1 John) to the Church of Christ, telling us that a man born of God, Does not commit sin, Believes that Jesus is the Christ, Does righteousness, Loves the brethren, Overcomes the world, and Keeps himself. I ask the reader to observe all this.

The Bible basis for what Ryle says is found in I John:

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Denominations, pastors, and individual Christians explain, or should I say explain away, these verses in a variety of ways. Some take the verses exactly as they are written, even though their lives are a direct contradiction to what the verses say. Others go to the Greek text and say that these verses say one thing in the English text but another thing in the Greek text. They do a lot of explaining to get away from what the English text clearly says. It seems to me that the writer of 1 John (and keep in mind some scholars think 1 John is a fraudulent text) is very clear. You SAY you are a Christian? Here is the standard to judge yourself by. Do you measure up? If not, you are NOT a Christian.

1 John contradicts other books of the Bible. 1 John and the book of James set a very different standard for what a Christian is than Paul does in his writings. Christians go to great lengths to harmonize, smooth over, and mediate the conflict, but since I am not a Christian I have no need to make everything “fit.”

I ask myself, if a person who had never had any contact with Christianity was stranded on an island and only had the book of 1 John to read, what conclusions would they come to? Would they say that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works lest any man should boast? I doubt it.

So much of what is called true, orthodox “Christianity” is actually someone’s interpretation of what the Bible says.  As the centuries click by, the interpretations become more complex and varied. It is almost impossible to get a Christian to see that what they call true, orthodox Christianity is actually a man-made religion, shaped and molded over centuries.  For the most part, modern Christianity is Paul’s version of Christianity and not Jesus’ version. I suspect the essence of the Judaistic Christianity of Jesus has been irretrievably lost.

Some may ask, since I am an atheist, why do I bother with matters concerning the Bible and Christianity? First of all, I like talking about these things. Second, our culture is deeply influenced and sometimes controlled by Christianity, and how Christians interpret the Bible affects our culture. Third, Christians tend to evangelize and preach at non-believers, so it is fair to hold them to the same standard they hold others to. Based on the verses above, it is quite evident that no Christian measures up to the Bible standard of what it means to be a Christian. Thus, no Christian is a true Christian.

I also know there are a lot of readers who are somewhere between leaving Christianity and agnosticism/atheism. They are still struggling with what they believe or don’t believe. Do they still believe the Bible, and if they do what parts? Do they believe Jesus existed at all? If they do, do they believe what the Bible says about him? Post like this one are meant to help them settle some of the issues they are struggling with.

For those of you who are or were a Christian, how did you or your pastor explain the 1 John verses mentioned above?

Repost, revised and corrected