Never underestimate the power of God’s word! It is far more powerful than any of us could ever imagine. Consider the spoken word of God. It is so powerful that God spoke the world into existence.
Consider also the written word of God. The written Old Testament was available in Jesus’ day. It was so powerful that by quoting the written word Jesus resisted the devil.
Let’s now look at the spoken word of Jesus. It is powerful enough to sustain the universe and keep it operating. He is upholding all things by the word of his power.
The written word of Jesus is just as powerful as his spoken word. The Scriptures make no distinction in the power of either. The written record of Jesus’ works was so powerful that John said one could have life by believing the written record of it.
Yes, the Word of God has the power to save! Trust it, believe it, obey it!
— Al Shannon, Church of Christ Preacher, excerpted from The Power of God’s Word
The words written by Al Shannon are a common refrain within the Evangelical church. According to Evangelicals, the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, and infallible book written by men as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16). While Evangelicals often debate how God inspired the Bible, all agree that the Bible is a supernatural book; that its words have the power to change lives and restore the broken relationship all people have with the Christian God. While the words of the Bible are just ink on paper, Evangelicals say that, if believed, those words can and will transform people, changing them from enemies of God into lovers of Jesus. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, people who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ become new creations. Old things pass away and ALL things become new.
Evangelicals assert, without any evidence, that the Bible is different from any other book ever written — a supernatural book penned or spoken into existence by God himself. Consider all the books ever written, from the great library in Egypt to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. None of them is like the Bible. Simply put, the difference is, humans write books, whereas God, through human instrumentation, wrote the Bible. This book that God wrote is inerrant — without mistake — and infallible — incapable of failure or error.
It is for these reasons that millions of American Evangelicals read the Bible, seeking spiritual power, insight, and direction. For them, the Bible is a Christian Ouija board. Just read the words and let God move and work in your life, Evangelicals are told. God can and will speak through the Bible IF you carefully listen for his voice! For many Evangelicals, the Bible is THE road map for life, a blueprint by which God’s people build their temporal, spiritual, and eternal homes. According to 2 Peter 1:3, God has given Evangelicals everything necessary for life and godliness. Of course, none of this would be possible if not for the Holy Spirit. It is the third part of the Trinity — who lives inside every Christian — that empowers the words of the Bible and makes it possible for Evangelicals to “hear” and “understand” what God is saying. 1 Corinthians 2:14 states, But the natural man [unsaved, unregenerate, non-Christian] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Evangelicals are fond of telling non-Christians that the reason they don’t “understand” the Bible is because its truths must be “spiritually” discerned. Since unbelievers are at variance with God, his enemies (James 4:4, Colossians 1:21), and the children of Satan (John 8:44), they can’t understand the true meanings of the Bible. Why then are unsaved people told to read the Bible? Good question. Evidently, the Holy Spirit opens the door of the Bible just enough for unbelievers to hear the gospel and be saved — that is if they are one of elect. This is why most Evangelicals reject much of what biology, archeology, physics, and cosmology tells us about the universe. Armed with inside knowledge given to them by God, Genesis 1-3 becomes not bronze age men trying to make sense of the world, but an exact blueprint for how God “spoke” the universe and life into existence. It is for this reason Ken Ham can build a $100 million replica of Noah’s Ark. Using Genesis 6-9 as the master template, Ham built a replica of the Ark, thereby reminding skeptics and rationalists that believing that the Bible is a supernatural book is a cancer that destroys the ability think and reason. Ham built the Ark Encounter because he thinks God told him to do so and that, thanks to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God he can know exactly what happened in an unknown Middle Eastern desert 4,000 or so years ago.
Sure sounds like Gnosticism, doesn’t it? The Gnostics believed that they had spiritual discernment that other Christians and nonbelievers did not have. The last part of 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that the things of God are spiritually discerned. Only those who have a special decoder ring given to them by God can understand the teachings of the Bible. Many Evangelical sects and churches divide Christians into two categories: immature and mature. This is why James Dobson was able to recently say — with a straight face — that Donald Trump was a “baby” Christian. Hebrews 5:12-14 states:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The reason that most Evangelicals are just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world is because they are immature —on the bottle — baby Christians. These Christians are saved, but barely so. They have had their tickets to heaven punched, but they struggle with the basics of what it means to be a Christian — often unable to discern good from evil. Other Christians are, however, mature, able to discern good and evil because they eat the strong meat of the Word of God. While some Evangelical sects and churches debate whether “true” Christians can be weak or immature, most believe that churches have an admixture of people who are spiritually immature and mature. While every Christian should desire to run the race set before them (Hebrews 12:1) and move on to maturity, many (most?) don’t. Their loss, mature Christians say, but at least they will get to go to heaven when they die!
Ask Evangelicals what it means to be a true Christian, an immature Christian, and a mature Christian, and well, you will get all sorts of answers. Many Evangelicals believe that a true Christian grows in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18). This growth can be charted and observed, with true Christians maturing in their understanding of the Bible and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Some Evangelicals believe that Christians can fall away, losing their salvation. Others believe that Christians can fall away, remain saved, but bring upon themselves the chastisement of God. And yet others believe that Christians must persevere (remain true) until they die. A failure to persevere until the end means the person never was a true Christian.
For those who have never been Christians or members of Evangelical churches, what I have written above sounds like nonsense, the ranting of Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. For those of us who were once considered mature Christians and devoted servants of the one true God, these words remind of us of the days when our minds and lives were saturated with the words of the Bible — along with sermon tapes and Christian books about the Bible. As mature Christians we so immersed ourselves in the “things” of God (1 Corinthians 2:10) that we thought or talked of little else but God, the Bible, and the works God called us to do on earth. It is for this reason many of us were willing to devote much of our time and talent and give our money for the proclamation and advancement of the Kingdom of God. (Though in retrospect, much of what we did now looks like building man’s kingdom, not God’s.) Believing that the gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth, we sacrificially gave ourselves to evangelizing the lost and building up Christians in the most holy faith.
For those of us who are Evangelicals-turned-atheists, it is hard for us to look at our past lives and not be filled with a sense of regret, shame, and loss. Despite what our detractors tell us about our true spiritual condition, we fully committed ourselves intellectually and emotionally to believing that the Bible was some sort of divine magic book; that it alone had the power to guide us and transform both the saved and the lost. Now, if and when we read the Bible, we find ourselves saying, how could I ever have believed this nonsense? And therein lies what I believe is the crucial point: for someone to believe the nonsense found within the Bible, one must first believe the Christian God exists and that the Bible is the very words of God. Unless one believes these presuppositions, the teachings of the Bible will never make sense. Unless people believe that God lives inside of them, they will never believe that there is some sort of divine entity tasked with teaching them Biblical truth.
The reason millions of people no longer believe that the Bible is a supernatural, God-inspired book is because they do not have the requisite faith necessary to suspend rationality and just believe. I am currently corresponding with an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher who has lost his faith. While he is not an atheist, he no longer believes the “truths” that guided him throughout his life, including a decade and a half in the ministry. When this man’s mentor found out about his wavering faith, he encouraged him to stop reading other books besides the Bible and to just, by faith, believe. I have had similar responses from former church members and pastoral colleagues. My problem, they said, was the fact that I read too many books besides the Bible. Just read the Bible, let God speak, and all will be well! In essence, they wanted me to just faith it until belief returned.
According to some of my former Evangelical acquaintances, once I said, I no longer believe and I am now an atheist, all the knowledge and understanding I accrued through fifty years in the Christian church and twenty five years in the ministry dematerialized and wafted out into the ether. Remember the Men in Black movies? You know, where they would take a neuralyzer and wipe someone’s memory clean? Evidently, when I deconverted, God used some sort of supernatural neuralyzer on me and wiped clean from my mind everything I once knew about the Bible. While fair-minded Evangelicals realize that such claims are absurd, others frequently remind me that until I repent and either get saved or come back to Jesus, I will never comprehend the wisdom and riches of the only supernatural book ever written — the Protestant Bible. Until I am born from above (John 3), I will remain an ignorant atheist who knows nothing. I could spend the reminder of my life studying the Bible, yet without having the special God-given seer stone, I will never be able to understand the Bible. It is for this reason that sold-out, bought-by-the-blood, super-sanctified, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Evangelicals can so easily dismiss people such as myself. If I was truly once a Christian, I would still be a Christian. If I was truly once a man of God, I would still be a man of God. And since I am not, many Evangelicals say, with a wave of the hand, Bruce, you don’t know Jack crap (or shit). (1 John 2:19)
Once people come to understand that the Bible is NOT a supernatural book, nor are its words able to magically change or transform lives, they are then able to see that the Bible is just one of many ancient religious texts. By all means, if people are so inclined, they should read the Bible and plumb the depths of its wisdom. Personally, I still value some of the teachings of Jesus, along with some of the Psalms and the book of Ecclesiastes. The rest of it? Fiction of the best/worst kind. Since I have read the Bible from cover to cover dozens of times and have spent over 25,000 hours studying the Biblical text, I am at a place in life where I can safely and authoritatively say: I know what the Bible says.
As Buzz Lightyear would say, to infinity and beyond! There are way too many unexplored books to read for me to spend my time pouring over a book that I have already read and studied more thoroughly than have ninety-nine percent of the people who claim to be followers of Jesus. Outside of checking verses for blog posts, I am content to let my leather-bound Oxford King James Bible gather dust on my bookshelves. Having exhausted its content, it is time for me to move on to new intellectual pursuits. As bibliophiles are fond of saying, so many books, so little time.
Does what I have written in this post sound like your former life as an Evangelical Christian? Do your one-time Evangelical friends now consider you ignorant of the Bible and its teachings? Please share your thoughts in the comment section. Let the ignorance flow, comrades!