The Latest from Bruce

PayPal and Patreon Account for Covering Monthly Expenses

thank youIf you have not read I Need Your Help, Please do so.

As numerous people have suggested, I have set up a Patreon account for those who would like to support what I do here on a monthly basis. My goal is to raise $100 a month to cover managed WordPress service with Flywheel and software plugin costs. Patreon is for readers who want to commit to a monthly donation.

For readers who would like to make a one time donation or make a monthly donation through PayPal, please click here. There is also a donation link on the sidebar.

I also plan to work on an Amazon Bookstore that will feature books I have reviewed and other books I think readers might be interested. Amazon will pay me 2-6% for the purchases made through the bookstore.

The goal is to cover expenses. Any help you  can provide is greatly appreciated. Thanks to my Evangelical past, I am hesitant to ask for financial help, but I know I must if I intend to keep writing. Readership numbers are at the level where I can no longer cover the costs. The $100 a month I mentioned above will cover service up to 100,000 visitors per month. According to Flywheel, I am currently averaging 50,000 visitors per month.

As always, thank you for reading and supporting my writing. I am humbled by your kindness and friendship.

Bruce

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.

Fundy World Tales Part 6

gary keen bruce mike fox greg wilson midwestern baptist college 1978

Gary Keen, Bruce Gerencser, Mike Fox, Greg Wilson, Midwestern Baptist College, 1978

Midwestern Baptist College, Pontiac, Michigan was started in 1954 by Tom Malone, the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, to train Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB)  preachers for the ministry. Men from all walks of life came to Midwestern to train for the ministry. Since Midwestern was a non-accredited, private religious institution, students were not eligible for government student aid. Most students worked full-time jobs while attending Midwestern. There were a number of older, married men taking classes. My father-in-law was in his mid-thirties when he attended Midwestern. He worked at GM Truck and Coach for four years while preparing for the ministry.

The academics at Midwestern were substandard. Most professors taught at an adult Sunday School class level. In fact, some adult Sunday School classes I have taught over the years were much more challenging than many of the classes I took at Midwestern.  Many of the teachers were graduates of Midwestern. The Bible classes were most often taught by pastors who had graduated from Midwestern. Tom Malone, that the founder of Midwestern had a earned doctorate from Wayne State University,, but most of the professors with Dr. in front of their names had an honorary doctorate. (see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor)

bruce polly gerencser midwestern baptist college 1977

Bruce Gerencser, Polly Shope 1977

I wonder if it could have been otherwise. With a large number of older students, and with most students working full-time jobs, a rigorous academic program would have resulted in a large number of failures and dropouts. As it was, freshman classes often lost 75% of their enrollment by the time they reached their senior year. This loss of students was spoken of as God washing out those who were Momma called and Daddy sent. Midwestern only wanted those students who knew they were called by God.

The man who taught English  was a closet homosexual. He was single and lived in the dorm. He and I did not get along very well. I knew what he was (remember  I was quite homophobic at the time) and we clashed repeatedly. He finally told me to stay out of his class. If I would do that he would give me a passing grade. Worked out great for me.  I got a passing grade without doing the work and I got to shoot baskets during the time I should have been in English class.

The man who taught business classes at Midwestern was a schizophrenic. Great guy. Single. Lived in the dorm. As long as he took his medication he was fine.  But, he didn’t like to take his meds, preferring to Go with God.

One night, he drove his car to the black section of Pontiac, got out of the car, and handed his keys to the first person he saw.  He then walked back to the dorm.  It took us a week to track down his car and retrieve it. Another time, I remember seeing him in the middle of the field next to the dormitory on his knees begging God to deliver him from his schizophrenia. God didn’t, and by the time the next school year started he was gone.

The man who taught missions was a former missionary. I really enjoyed his class. Lots of stories. Very personal. He was passionate about missions and his passion infected everyone who took his class.  He only taught one year.

World History was taught by a pastor’s wife who literally read the textbook to the class. She spoke with a monotone voice. The highlight of the class was when someone farted.

The Bible and doctrine classes  were taught by pastors. Most of the classes were taught  in a devotional manner.Since the King James Version of the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible, preserved Word, we never discussed textual variants or alternative explanations or understandings of a text.  God said it and that settled it.  I learned very little Bible in BIBLE college.

Biology class was the biggest joke of all. No lab. All lecture. The teacher was a racist and he spent a few classes talking about why we should only marry  our “own kind.” The teacher was a pastor with no meaningful science training.

I have come to see that Midwestern did not exist for the purpose of giving me an education. It existed for the purpose of indoctrinating me in the Independent Fundamentalist Independent Baptist (IFB) faith. Difference and dissent was quashed. Troublemakers were thrown out. (also known as shipped) Academic freedom did not exist. Either a teacher taught the party line or they were fired.

The College had a library. It had very few books and most of the books it did have were castoffs from pastor’s libraries. I only used the library a handful of times.

What learning I now possess I do not owe to Midwestern.  A few years into the ministry I realized that the education I received at Midwestern was academically inferior.  I began to buy books and started the long, arduous task of learning the Bible. Over the years, I ended up with a library of over 1,000 theological books. (all of which I have since sold on EBay)  More than once someone would come into my study, and upon seeing the books, ask me if I actually read all of them.  Yes, was the answer.

I know of more than a few fundamentalist pastors whose whole library would fit on two shelves. No need to read or study. The Bible is all we need.

Ignorance among Independent Fundamentalist Baptists is far too common. Winning souls is the priority. One noted IFB evangelist, Dennis Corle, told me that I should not spend much time studying for my sermons. My time would be better spent winning souls. I know of IFB pastors who pride themselves in not reading books or having only a Bible, a dictionary, and a concordance in their library.

Note

One peculiarity about Midwestern is that they accepted divorced men into their ministerial program.

Evangelical Hypocrisy When it Comes to Science

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Guest post by Sarah.

Disclaimer: I can only speak of MY life experiences.

The fact that many Christians (& many other theists) are hypocrites is a well-known topic to people who have the left the faith. Maybe some still engrossed in the church feel twinges of hypocrisy mixed with guilt from time to time, but these are swept aside & buried to be dealt with another time (if at all; maybe I’m giving too much credit).

I was raised Baptist. Any of you who have read Bruce’s blog for any length of time can pretty much guess what the household was like: church services twice on Sunday & Wednesday night, revival/missionary meetings, vacation bible school <shudder>.  On top of God’s commandments: no cussing, premarital sex, drinking, drugs, no non-Christian friends, dresses only. Hellfire & brimstone. Oh…and no biology degree for you young lady!

On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the following shows would be playing on TV: Law & Order SVU, Forensic Files, The First 48, DateLine Mystery. Any crime show was binge-watched until bed time. As long as there were no F words flying, it seemed to be perfectly suitable viewing. People being murdered isn’t entertainment in my book, but I lived there so I couldn’t say anything.

While many of these shows are interesting, I started noticing a pattern. My parents would say they liked seeing how they caught the bad guys. Guess how they did it? Three magic letters: DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

OK, I had and have a huge problem with this because of the underlying attitude of what I presume to be a largely Christian audience (according to ABC News, 83% of Americans are Christian).  Here’s what the underlying attitude is: science is only useful when it catches criminals or something else worthwhile. Generations of hard work by many different scientists have gone into the study of genetics. Entire textbooks have been written by biologists holding PhD’s in their respective fields. Researchers have found specific genes that cause certain diseases. Hell, there’s even a procedure called an amniocentesis that can help a pregnant woman find out if her baby will have Down Syndrome.

Great stuff right? Well, not really, as long as these wonderful geneticists/biologists keep their mouths shut about HOW MUCH they know. If they try to give a basic lesson on genetics & how entire genomes have been mapped, showing all life on Earth is connected….NO, STOP!! That’s not what God’s word says! MAYBE YOUR GREAT GRANDDADDY WAS AN APE BUT I WAS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GAWD

This has to be the biggest case of  hypocrisy/cognitive dissonance I know of. Remember that episode of the Simpsons where a supposed angel skeleton was found  and Lisa was the only skeptic? I haven’t watched that episode in a long time, but the bartender Moe was rioting with everyone else about how science sucks or whatever and a mammoth tusk falls on his back. He says “Oh! I’m paralyzed! I just hope medical science can cure me!”  Yes, that’s exactly what they think and feel but won’t admit it.

Here’s a thought experiment: Go to your refrigerator, open it and look for anything in the fridge that religion has given you. Nothing there right? Now look again in the fridge at what science has given you; for one, the fridge itself. Running water to the freezer for ice cubes, milk that has been pasteurized. Fruit & vegetables found in any grocery store when it’s not their growing season. Are you diabetic? Your insulin is there too.

Science has given humankind many thing,thinks like:

  • Air conditioning
  • Indoor plumbing
  •  Electricity
  • Cell phones/Computers
  • The internet
  • TV/Movies
  • Radio
  • Medicine of all kinds
  • Pain-free childbirth
  • Anesthesia/Surgery
  • Dentistry/Orthodontics
  • Cameras/Photography/Videography
  • Contact lenses/glasses/Laser Vision correction
  • Flea/Tick treatments for your dogs/cats.

Yes, it’s even benefited our pets. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Now to be fair, it has been said that science has given us some bad things, like gas in both World Wars, the atomic bomb, etc. But was it science itself, or was its “use by humans” that was bad?

Where would we be without science? Still in the Dark Ages as peasants trying to scratch the lice off our heads while being told by the clergy we’re suffering and hungry because we’re sinners & God is angry with us

Do You Tremble Before God and Fear Him?

fear of God

Christians talk a lot about love. Indeed, throughout the entire Bible, especially the New Testament, we find a lot of verses that talk about God’s love us and our love for God and our fellow-man.  The most oft-quoted verse in the Bible is John 3: 16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Christians are convinced that God loves everyone. Well, most Christians anyway. Calvinists don’t believe that God loves everyone, According to them, God’s love is reserved for the elect, those chosen by God before the foundation of the world. But everyone else believes in the indiscriminate, unconditional love of God. Most people, at some time or the other, will be told that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life.

Certainly a God of love is a great idea, but unfortunately when we take time to carefully read the Bible we find that the love of God of love pales considerably when compared to God’s  wrath, judgment, hate, and fury.

While a case can be made from the New Testament for the God of love, when it comes to the Old Testament,  the God of love is largely absent. I’ve often wondered if some Christians secretly wish that the Old Testament had never been written.  Their case for God being a God of love is much easier to make without the Old Testament.

When I read the Old Testament I see a God that any sane human being should fear. From the very first pages of the Bible we see a God that hates sin and has little tolerance for the foibles and faults of humans. According to the Bible, God created Adam and Eve and gave them one command to obey: don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So what did Adam and Eve do? They ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. How did God respond to their transgression? He cursed them and condemned them to death. Not only that, but every human being after Adam and Eve are also cursed and condemned to death.

Someday all of us will die, and, according to the Bible, we will die because Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit. A piece of fruit? Yes, a piece of fruit. God so hated their transgression that he cursed every human being that would ever live on the face of the earth. This God is one not to be trifled with and one that we should fear.

Adam and Eve had two sons named Cain and Abel. I’m sure you know the story well, a story of two wonderful boys frolicking in the woods until one day, in the midst of an argument, one kills the other, After Cain killed Abel, God cursed him and put a mark on him. As a boy I was taught that the mark God put on Cain was that he made him black. Again, a God to be feared.

Six chapters into the book of Genesis we find that God is already sick and tired of the human race. God is so upset that he wishes he hadn’t created humans. How did God deal with the sin and rebellion of the human race? He killed everyone, save eight people. Think about this for a moment. God killed men, women, children, and unborn babies. Kind of hard to make a pro-life case for this God. Again, a God to be feared.

Throughout the Bible, God commands his chosen people to slaughter others. Anyone who got in the way of the Israelites or refused to worship the one true God, God commanded that they be killed. Even among God’s chosen people, God had no tolerance for disobedience. When God had Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt he got upset over their lack of faith and obedience. So what did God do? He made them wander in the wilderness for forty years and he killed everyone over the age of twenty. Again, a God to be feared.

From Genesis to Malachi the message is clear, mess with God and you die. The Old Testament God is a God to be feared.

It should come as no surprise that some people decide that there are two Gods in the Bible, the Old Testament God and  the New Testament God. Personally, I think there are multiple gods in the Bible. These people rightly understand that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are incompatible. Christians have spent two thousand years trying to make the Old Testament God and the New Testament God compatible with each other. Perhaps God has a split personality and that explains the difference between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. Regardless of the reason, OT God and NT God are dissimilar.

Even in the New Testament there are events that tell us that the God of love has a real mean streak. What are we to make of the death of Jesus on the cross? According to the substitutionary atonement theory, Jesus died on the cross for sinners. The Arminian says Jesus died for everyone and the Calvinist says Jesus died for some people, but regardless of the breadth of the atonement, Jesus suffered a painful, awful death on the cross because of the sins of others.

Who punished Jesus on the cross? None other than his father, the wrathful God of the Old Testament. God the father poured out his wrath on his son, ultimately killing him. Think about this for a moment. Think about a father brutally killing his son because of what someone else did. Would we think such a man to be worthy of our admiration or our love? I think not.

The death of Jesus on the cross at the hands of his father is a poignant reminder that God hates sin and those who do it. In fact, if it wasn’t for the atoning work of Jesus, God would pour out his wrath on us right this moment. This is a God to be feared.

In the book of Acts we are told a story about two people who told a lie. Ananias and Sapphira lied about selling some property and God killed them on the spot. The Bible says that great fear came upon the people. I too would fear a God willing to kill over the price paid for a piece of property.

And then there’s the book of Revelation. From start to finish the book of Revelation is all about God killing and destroying. God uses the most deplorable methods possible to prove that he is the meanest, baddest son of a bitch in the universe. I’m surprised that a movie has not been made about the book of Revelation. This movie would make Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ look like a G rated kids flick.

While many Christians want to focus on the good stuff found in the Bible, things like love and forgiveness, we must not forget that far bigger than God being a God of love is the fact that God is a God of wrath and he should be feared. Hundreds of times in the Bible we are told to fear God. In the churches I grew up in, the college I went to, and in my own ministry, the wrathful God, the sin hating God, the violent God, played a prominent part. It should come as no surprise then that I had a healthy fear of God. In my mind, God always seemed to be lurking in the shadows waiting for me to stumble and fall so he could chastise me or kill me.

I am sure that some readers of this blog will suggest that I have a warped view of the Christian God. I contend however, that those who preach up the love of God at the expense of the wrathful God are giving people a truncated view of the God of the Bible. Most of what we read in the Bible reveals a God of wrath not a God of love.

The conclusion I have come to is this. I find little about the God of the Bible that is worthy of emulation. Why would anyone want to be like the God of the Bible?

Many Christians have learned to compartmentalize the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. Yes, they are aware of the Old Testament God of wrath, but they prefer the New Testament God of love. The Old Testament God is kept in reserve, only to be trotted out for raining judgment upon homosexuals, abortionists, atheists, Barack Obama, Democrats, and St Louis Cardinals fans.

fear of god clarence Darrow

Fortunately, the God of the Bible does not exist. Imagine what the world would be like if the God of the Old Testament existed? I can only imagine that few of us would escape the death penalty. Even Christians would likely be killed by the God who hates sin and those who do it. If the God of love really existed one would think that the world would be in much better shape and that peace and goodwill would fill the land.

If you’re Christian, I ask you, how do you reconcile the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament? If you used to be a Christian, did the Bible picture of God play a part in your deconversion? If you are a liberal Christian who focuses on the love of God, how do you square your belief with the fact that most of the Bible talks about a God of wrath and not a God of love?

For me personally, one of the reasons I left the Christian faith was because I could no longer square my view of what God should be with what the Bible said he was. When I stopped believing the fear went away.

Freedom without Jesus

jimmy carter lust quote

According to Evangelicals, we live in world inhabited by fallen, broken people. Every human is a sinner, from the moment they come forth from the womb speaking lies to when they draw their last breath. Numerous Bible verses reinforce the notion that there is something seriously wrong with everyone of us. We have a disease called sin and it is killing us.

According to Evangelicals, we are helpless, hopeless, and empty. We lack purpose, direction, and meaning. Simply put, we are fucked. There is no hope for any of us. From the first man and woman to the baby born just a moment ago, all of us are hopeless, helpless wretches in bondage to our wants, needs, and desires. Sure sucks to be us, yes?

But wait, Preacher Billy Mays says. All is not lost. God sent his son Jesus to earth to die on the cross for sinners. Through his shed blood sin is expiated, and by putting faith in him we can have our sins forgiven and find purpose, meaning and direction. And as an added bonus, at no extra charge, those who pray and ask Jesus to forgive them will be given eternal life and a home in God’s Holiday Inn after they die.

Millions and Millions of people call the 1-800-salvation number only to find out that there is a catch. Yes, the salvation is free; yes, the eternal life and motel room is free, but there is a small shipping and handling charge. How much, you ask?

Just your life. If you buy what Preacher Billy Mays is selling, the cost is your life. Every moment of every day will belong to Jesus until you die. Your life will be governed by an ancient text called the Bible. This text has hundreds of laws, rules, regulations, and precepts that you will be expected to obey. While technically you can still get eternal life and a motel room after you die even if you don’t obey, surely you don’t want the room at the back of the motel, the room where the plumbing never seems to work.

Sold a fantastical story about sin, brokenness, and emptiness and forgiveness, healing, and fulfillment, the Evangelical gives the operator his credit card number and orders God’s Eternal Life Package, free, just pay shipping and handling. This shipping and handling charge, as they will find out later, will be charged to their credit card every month until they die.

The Evangelical loves to point out the awesome freedom they have now that they have bought God’s Eternal Life package. Are they really free, the non-Evangelical asks? Bound to the words of an antiquated book, is the Evangelical really free?

According to the Evangelical, God created everything, including every human. God gave us sexual desire, the Evangelical says, but the Bible says we can only act on this desire if we are married to someone of the opposite sex. Acting on our sexual desire outside the boundaries of a heterosexual marriage is a sin, a sin that some verses in the Bible say will result in us forfeiting our Eternal Life Package and room at God’s Holiday Inn. Instead, we will get Satan’s Eternal Death Package and a room in Beezlebub’s Motel Six.

Not only does the Bible condemn any sexual behavior except married heterosexual intercourse, it also says that if we look at a person and desire them sexually we are sinning against God; so much so, that God calls it committing adultery in our heart. Don’t touch, unless it is your spouse and don’t look lest you burn in hell. And Evangelicals call this freedom?

Earlier today I was watching a rerun of an NFL football game. As the camera man panned the sidelines the camera slowly focused on the cheerleaders. Next to the cheerleaders was a 40 something year old attractive woman wearing a Denver Broncos jersey. I thought nice, and I hit the replay button so I could confirm my observation. Yep, nice.

No guilt.

No fear.

No quick prayer asking forgiveness.

Like a road trip on a beautiful fall day, I was just enjoying the scenery.

And then it hit me, here’s the difference between the “freedom” the Evangelical thinks he has and the true freedom I have as an atheist. The Evangelical has to feel guilty over being a healthy, normal heterosexual man. He dare not hit the replay button lest he lust and  commit adultery in his heart. If he does hit the replay button then he must confess his sin to God and promise to never, ever, fingers crossed, do it again. And come football season, because he is a man with a normal, healthy libido, he will once again, with one eye covered, gaze upon the cheerleaders comeliness. And like every time before, he will claim 1 John 1:9 and promise God to never, ever, fingers crossed, do it again.

Me, the godless atheist? I am free to enjoy life without feeling guilty over being a normal, healthy heterosexual man.

The IFB House on the Sand

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A guest post by Richard. He blogs at RichardMarlowe236.

In Matthew 7:23-27, Jesus compares a wise man to someone who builds his house on a rock.  Then he compares a foolish man to someone who builds his house upon the sand.  In the account he mentions the rain falling and wind blowing (a storm).  The wise man’s house survives while the foolish man’s did not.

It will probably not surprise anybody reading this blog that the leaders of the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement fall into the foolish category!  As such they have built their house upon the sand. The storms have come and now the IFB house is crumbling. In this blog post I want to discuss some of the blocks that make up the IFB’s shaky foundation and the storms that are tearing the house down. The following may not be applicable to all IFB churches, but I think it represents the majority.

Fundamental Building Blocks

I. Saturday Soulwinning

Drive by most IFB churches on a Saturday morning and there will be cars in the driveway. Members pile in dressed semi-casual. Just dressy enough to be deemed professional, but not dressy enough to come off as “preachy”.

After a few refreshments and a short devotion, they hit the streets. They go two by two with pockets padded with gospel tracts and a pocket New Testament. Door by door they invite people to church and offer them eternal salvation. At 100 Anywhere St, they encounter John Doe (referred to as John hereafter). “Are you 100% sure you would go to heaven if you died?” is a question they inevitably ask. John says “No.”, but is willing to listen. They begin their one, two, three repeat after me routine. John says a prayer. The soulwinner declares John saved forever from the fiery torments of hell.

The soulwinner is happy! This is another number he or she can announce to the church. And numbers are what the IFB is all about!

II. Friendly Folks

After this prayer, the soulwinner convinces John that he needs to be baptized. The soulwinner suggests he come to church the next day to enjoy some promotion happening that Sunday. When he gets to church he is greeted by friendly smiling folks. They shake his hand, and offer to sit with him. The people seem genuinely happy to see him. The members make John feel really special. The church members introduce him to the pastor. While this is the first time they met, he knew already knew the pastor’s name because it was on the tract he received, the church sign, the church bus, and bulletin.

III. A Pure Passionate Pastor

The pastor is dressed in a dark suit with a nice white shirt, plain tie, and parted short hair. Let’s call him Pastor Joe. After the singing concludes, Pastor Joe goes to the pulpit to preach. He opens his Bible and reads one verse. Then he prays and tells everyone to close their Bibles and look at him. He never goes back to the Bible verse again. Pastor Joe preaches with intensity and conviction. The sermon is ended with an altar call. Then John gets baptized and joins the church.

IV. Bible Believers

John begins attending services regularly. Every service Pastor Joe puts a big emphasis on the Bible. He preaches what he does because that is what the Bible says not his opinion. The Bible he preaches from is not just any Bible, it is the King James Version. Pastor Joe makes a point to remind the congregation of the evils of all other translations. John feels as though he has found the truth. Who can argue with the Bible, right?

V. Strict Separation

John enquires from the other members as to why all the women wear skirts. John is given an Old Testament verse and then a New Testament verse about being separate from the world. Pastor Joe gives a long list of things that are not permitted. John gets a haircut and fresh shave. John begins to distance himself from family members that are deemed worldly by the church.

John is completely won over to the pastor, church, and it’s work. Everything is great. John works on a bus route, sings in the choir, and takes up the offering. He tells everyone he encounters about his church and pastor. This lasts for a while. It may even last years. Then things begin to change. The IFBer’s will say it is the work of the devil.

The truth of what’s happening is a storm is coming. The winds and rain begin to expose the cracks in the IFB’s weak foundation. Soon, John will realize that the truth of the IFB house.

The following are the storms that will knock the IFB house down.

1. Sales Strategies

John goes to Saturday Soulwinning. He even takes a class offered by the church to teach him how to “win a soul” to Christ. It does not take John long to realize that this “soulwinning” is nothing more than a sales pitch. Overcome objections as quickly as possible, give a few verses, and get down to the praying. The church needs numbers to post! It has nothing to do with conviction, repentance, or salvation. It’s about saying a prayer to be able to add a number to the chart. John sees the shallowness of the whole charade. They are no different from any other door to door salesman.

2. Fake Folks

As John gets closer and more acquainted with the members, he sees that they don’t live the way they portray. They say “Amen!” to preaching about wrong music. Then they listen to that music in their cars. The friendliness of the folks depends on his willingness to comply. There’s no room for individuality. The church demands John to give them all. Of course they disguise this as giving Jesus all. Family must be neglected for the ministry. John’s eyes are slowly starting to open.

3. Corruption and Cover Up

Another member of the church tells John that he suspects the pastor of embezzling money from the church funds. John rejects this out right. “My pastor could never do that.”, he thinks. This allegation does make John more inquisitive about the church finances. John notices inconsistencies in the financial spread sheets. John confronts the pastor. Pastor Joe is outraged at the mere mention of his immoral behavior. Joe throws John out of the office and claims the devil is just trying to hurt the ministry. “You cannot question the man of God!”, he shouts.

John convinces himself that the allegations are false even though more evidence of guilt is discovered. He observed the leaders of the church demonize the ones making the allegations and cover up the truth.

John searches the internet and finds that the IFB movement is known for the immorality of its leaders. He reads about Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and Bob Gray from Jacksonville, FL.

John continues to attend the church although he has become more disillusioned with the IFB house he once loved.

4. Differing Doctrines

John believes that the IFB house has some problems. Even so, he feels they are the closest to the Bible. Then John runs into various people from many different denominations. Each one claims to follow the Bible exclusively. “How could this be so?” he wonders. He begins to study for himself.

John sees that even the IFB disagrees with itself. For instance…he studies the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. “Were the KJV translators inspired or just the original writers? Is the KJV the best translation or word for word perfect? What about other languages? Can a person be “saved” using another translation? If not, what about everyone before 1611?”. He is confronted with these issues and many more. He finds IFB pastors on both sides of the question.

John decides to ask Pastor Joe about some of the issues. Pastor Joe gives him his explanation. When John disagrees or asks more questions, he is met with resistance. John is called “divisive” and told just to believe Pastor Joe.

5. Silly Standards

Often John hears preaching about separation. As he starts to question more, he sees the hypocrisy of the standards and the logic used to support. Members tell him it is wrong to go to the movies. When asked, “Why?”. They respond, “God tells us to abstain from all appearance of evil. You go to the movies to see a family movie. Yet, there is an ‘R’ rated movie playing too. If someone sees you go in, they may assume you are going to the bad movie. As such you have not abstained from an appearance of evil.” John discovers that this same member has no problem going to a video store or owning a television. John thinks if the same logic is applied, these would also be an appearance of evil.

John encounters other IFB people who argue about whether men can have facial hair, the length of a man’s hair, whether preachers should wear colored dress shirts, and the list goes on. John realizes the silliness of all these debates. John wonders, “Doesn’t the world have bigger problems?”.

A short time later, the whole IFB house he was brought in to cane crashing down all around him. John survives, leaves the IFB, and lives happily ever after.

While this is just an example of one person and one church. I think it represents the IFB movement as a whole. The house is falling down and the IFB leadership can’t stand it. Let us all huff and puff until we blow the house all the way down!

The GOD IS LOVE Myth

god is love

1 john 4:8 states:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

This is the one verse most Christians hang their hat on. God is love. He is the embodiment of what love is. When pressed to explain exactly what this love is that God is, most Christians will quote the most familiar verse in the Bible,  John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

According to most Christians, God’s love for humanity is demonstrated by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus took upon himself all the sins, past, present, and future, of the human race. Through his death on the cross, human sin is atoned for, and if we put our faith and trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, our sins will be forgiven, we will be given a new life, and when we die we will have a guaranteed room in Hotel Heaven.

Rarely do Christians take a hard look at the back story behind the belief that God’s love is demonstrated in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Why do our sins need to be atoned for? How did humans become sinners? Who is responsible for humans becoming sinners?

According to orthodox Christian belief, God is the first cause of everything. He is the sovereign ruler of all. All orthodox sects believe, be they Arminian or Calvinist, that God is in control of everything. There is nothing that escapes his control. It is rightly posited that if there are things that God is not in control of then God ceases to be God.

If God is the first cause of everything then God is the author of sin. Most Christians are repulsed by the very thought of God being the author of sin, but if God is the first cause of everything, EVERYTHING includes sin.

Many Calvinists understand this and are not ashamed to state that God is the author of sin. Other Calvinists, the squeamish type, develop lapsarian views to distance themselves from the view that God is the author of a sin.  The graphic below illustrates the various lapsarian views Calvinists have:

lapsarian views

Arminian sects roundly reject the notion that God is the author of sin. They fail, however, to adequately explain how God can be the first cause of EVERYTHING and yet not be the author of sin.

Arminians believe that God created humans with freewill. However, when pressed on whether humans have naked, autonomous freewill, most Arminians will say No.  Like the Calvinist, the Arminian believes that salvation is God’s choice of a sinner not a sinner’s choice of God. No one is saved unless God saves them.

Arminians believe in what is called prevenient grace. Prevenient grace is:

It is divine grace that precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin, prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer.

Calvinists and Arminians savage one another over freewill, yet when it come to salvation, it is in the hands of God and no human, unaided by God, can be saved. Both agree:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8.9)

So then, the love that God demonstrates to humans through the merit and work of Jesus Christ on the cross is needed by humans because God caused them or allowed them to be marred by sin. God made us sinners so we would need his love. Wouldn’t it have been better for all of us if God had not made us sinners?

When these kind of questions are asked, Christians often reply:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Romans 9:19,20)

Simply put, God is God, and you are not God, so shut the hell up. How dare you question God’s purpose and plan.

One the biggest obstacles to the notion that God is Love, is that the God of the Old Testament is anything but a God of love. Many modern Christians realize that the God of the Old Testament is problematic, so they distance themselves from this God and emphasize Jesus, the God of the New Testament.

Recently, a commenter on another blog told me that the God of the New Testament is a more mature God or that perhaps our understanding of God has matured. I reminded this commenter that the Bible says:

For I am the Lord, I change not…

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

All orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus was God, is God, and will always be God. Let me chase a rabbit for a moment. Is the Bible really clear about the notion that Jesus will always be God? Consider 1 Corinthians 15:24-28:

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Few Christians are even aware of this verse, and they can go a whole lifetime without ever hearing a pastor or a Sunday school teacher talk about it. According to this passage, when all of God’s enemies and death have been destroyed, Jesus, the Son, will be subject to God the Father. To be subject to someone means that the person you are subject to is superior to you in rank, power, and authority.  If the Trinitarian God, the Great Three in One, are each equal with the other, why then is Jesus shown to be inferior to God the Father in the passage above?

Ok, rabbit trail ended.

Many Christians know that the Old Testament God is antithetical to the Christian message of God is love, so they focus on Jesus’s  hypostatic  union, fully man and fully God.

While a case can be made for Jesus God being a huge improvement over the God of the Old Testament, how can the Jesus God be split from the Old Testament God and any sense of Christian orthodoxy retained? Wanting something to be so doesn’t make it so. Wanting to present to the world a kinder, gentler God is commendable, but it is theologically untenable.

Many Christians suggest the Old Testament God and the Jesus God of the New Testament are two-sides of the same coin. Yes, God is love, but God is also a bad-ass that carries a Buford Pusser sized stick that he uses to beat and kill all those who oppose him or get in his way.

This brings us to the book of Revelation. Whatever kind of God Jesus really was in the gospels is swept away, and Jesus, in perfect acting form, behaves like God the Father, the God of the Old Testament. Let me give readers a few examples.

In Revelation 5, we find Jesus, the Lamb, opening six seals on a book.

  • Seal one:behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
  • Seal two: And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
  • Seal three: lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
  • Seal four: behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
  • Seal five: I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held…and white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
  • Seal six: there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth…and the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

Revelation 5 ends with this statement:

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

men of mayhem

In the hit TV show Sons of Anarchy, a show about a motorcycle gang, the Sons of Anarchy refer to death as being Mister Mayhem. When a club member sheds blood in the interest of the club he is given a Men of Mayhem patch.

Speaking of Jesus, in Revelation 1:18, the Bible states:

I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Based on this verse and Revelation 5, Jesus, the supposed God of Love, is Mister Mayhem. While he may be on a temporary mayhem vacation, Mister Mayhem will return and go all Buford Pusser or Sons of Anarchy on those who are not Christians.

In Revelation 19 we see Jesus the Loving God returning to earth on a white horse to exact judgment on those who survived all the previous judgment he poured out on the earth. When Jesus is finished, no one will be left. All the Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Hindus, Gnostics, Animists, Homosexuals,Pagans, Democrats, and St Louis Cardinal fans will be dead.

Praise be to Jesus, the God of Love, yes?

While I will certainly admit that God, as presented in the Bible, does love, it is a warped, self-serving conditional love. God says to humanity, believe the right things, live a certain way, and I will love you. If you fail to believe the right things and live a certain way, I will judge you, kill you, and judge you in this life and the life to come. (see Does God Love Us Unconditionally?)

How is this love? If any human acted towards another like God does towards humans in the Bible, we would rightly conclude that they are an immoral psychopath. Decent, loving people do not treat fellow humans the way God treats those who don’t believe the right things or live a certain way. God even abuses and misuses those who say they love him and want to serve him.

God is Love is a myth that helps loving, kind, caring Christians reconcile the God of the Bible with how they think people should be treated. They are guilty of compartmentalizing God, ignoring any divine character trait that does not mesh with their view of God. While I understand WHY many Christians do this, such compartmentalization turns the Bible into an incoherent text that is little more than a poorly written horror story. This is why, for many of us, we decided that whatever God there may or may not be, the Christian God is not a God we wanted to worship.

But, Bruce, I WANT to believe God is love…I NEED to believe God is love. Fine, that is your prerogative.  Personally, I think progressive and liberal Christians do a wonderful work in the name of the God of Love. However, once a person appeals to the Bible, such a belief about God is impossible to rationally and theologically sustain. Just stay away from the Bible and all will be well.

Why Christianity Matters

guest-post

A guest post by Ian

Since telling everyone that I was no longer a Christian, I have been able to look at how Christianity affected my life; and, more importantly, why. Understanding why it was affecting me so drastically gives me a better understanding of how it was controlling me. In the end, Christianity is about control; control of our actions and our thoughts. This control is exerted by telling people that almost everything they do is a sin that keeps them from God. The good things that are done can only be done through the control of God, or they are selfish and, ultimately, a sin (the pride of life).

Christianity matters to people for many reasons. A few of the most prevalent reasons are fear of eternal torment, loss of community, and self-worth issues, in no particular order. There are countless other reasons and minor variations of these reasons. In the end, if a Christian is pressed hard enough, these are the three that will be the main reasons.

The first reason, fear of eternal torment, is a powerful motivator. People are told that, without the sacrifice of a murdered savior, they will die (like everyone else on earth) and will be tormented forever in a place of fire and brimstone. By looking at this idea honestly, you can see that this makes no sense. The basic premise for this idea is that an all-powerful God created the universe and perfect people to inhabit it. These mortal, insignificant people were able to do something so egregious that caused the all-powerful God to condemn them, and all of their offspring, to an eternity of torment, unless they believe in the aforementioned savior. Not just punishment for the two who broke the law, but a punishment, for all humans, that has spanned 6,000 years of Bible history and will continue on forever. Punishment that consists holding a dead person’s immortal soul into a place of fire and torment until a final judgment can be made. This judgment is a foregone conclusion, since a soul is unable to receive salvation or forgiveness from this all-powerful God. After the final judgment, everyone being held in this fiery place of torment will be cast into an eternal Lake of Fire. The fact that one person has suffered for 6,000 years and another person has suffered for a day before being thrown into this eternal fire has no bearing on anything. This is the work of a petty God, one who acts childish and holds a grudge.

This idea of eternal torment keeps people in church and pacified because it is such a fearful thing. The truth is that people don’t really want to do good to honor God, they want to do good to avoid eternal fire. This is not to say that some people don’t want to sometimes do good deeds for others, but the fear far outweighs the promise of a reward. Some people have called this fear irrational, since eternal fiery torment doesn’t exist; but if you are a Christian, this is a totally rational fear. (The eternal punishment idea never came from where Christianity claims its origins. The Christian idea of hell and eternal torment are easily traceable to Greek and Roman ideas of the afterlife, among other religions.) A rational person would be well advised to do everything they could to avoid such a punishment. The truth is that everyone dies and that is all there is. The fact that some evildoers in life get away with their crimes is remedied by having a place of eternal torment. The only way to escape this eternal torment is to be a Christian (of some sort).

Even Christians are affected by eternal torment. I have heard several people over the years say that they had doubts of their salvation. Usually this occurs late at night or when there is personal turmoil. Many people “get saved” more than once—I did this myself. In the back of our minds, there is no way to be 100% sure that you will miss out on eternal torment. We have been told that you can; but, until you die, there is no way to know for sure; so, people will cling to any chance they have of missing torment. And this is one of the reasons that it matters if you are a Christian.

The second reason Christianity matters to people is the community it forms. Many people are born into families that are Christian, or at least have roots in the church. Growing up in this environment means that most of the people you know are Christians and leaving Christianity means leaving family and friends behind.

Leaving behind everyone you love means two things. First, you separate yourself from them. You are no longer in close contact, or fellowship, with them. You miss out on many of the things you used to do together and you grow apart. Secondly, many types of Christians will shun you for leaving Christianity. In practice, this means you are worse than a regular unbeliever and deserve to be ignored by them. You are told, initially, that Christians are praying for you; but, when you are resistant to their prayers and pleadings, they treat you as though you are worse than a rapist or child molester. This is because you have once experienced the goodness of God but now trample it underfoot. They believe there is no redemption for you. They believe that for a person to renounce Christianity means you were never saved and you will be condemned to eternal torment.

Leaving behind all of you friends and being shunned is a strong motivation to keep people in Christianity. Being an ex-Christian opens a lot of doors and places you into unfamiliar territory. Leaving likeminded people and a pastor who tells you what to do and think means that you will have to make your own decisions, which is something many people don’t want to do. This community has been your stability, so leaving it is hard to do. You can feel as if your whole world is upside down. Many people stay, even when they aren’t particularly happy or satisfied with their situation, because they fear this shunning and loss of relationships.

Finally, self-worth issues keep people in Christianity. Christians are told that they are sinners and deserving of eternal torment. They are told that, without Jesus, all of their good deeds are nothing but filthy rags and there is “none righteous, no not one”. Being told these kinds of things for many years makes you believe that you have no self-worth outside of Christianity. No one wants to feel worthless, especially when eternity hangs in the balance.

Christians are told to be humble and to only “glory in the cross” of Jesus; the cross where a man was murdered because he was falsely accused of sedition, according to the New Testament. By keeping people enslaved to the idea of embracing low self-esteem, they feel that they are worthless. Their only value comes through Christianity and the affirmations of their pastor and church. When these affirmations are taken away, many Christians become depressed and feel that God has forsaken them. They then start a spiral into self-destruction, which they believe is because God is punishing them for not being true to Christianity. When these people “get right with God”, they were able to put away their “sins” because their self-worth was restored. This shows how insidious and powerful these self-worth ideas are.

Ultimately, these three reasons are intertwined. As I have shown, the overlap in these mindsets is a powerful tool for keeping people in bondage to Christianity. Understanding why Christianity matters to people is an important step in finally freeing yourself from its lingering grip. It will also help you understand why people are so upset when you finally announce your deconversion.