Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the inspired (God breathed), inerrant Word of God. They believe that the text of the Christian Bible is without error and they are certain that every word in the Bible is the very words of God. (either spoken by him or inspired by him)
While many Evangelical pastors and professors don’t really believe the Bible is inerrant, they continue to preach the inerrancy myth from the pulpit and in their college classrooms. These Evangelicals, late at night, get out a flashlight, pull the covers over their head, and secretly read one of Bart Ehrman’s books. They will never tell anyone about this lest they lose their job.
When it comes to the people in the pew, I have never met an Evangelical Christian who didn’t believe every word in the Bible is true. They are certain that the leather-bound Bible they carry to church every Sunday is the very words of God.
Evangelical Christians are told from their youth up that the Bible can be understood by anyone, even a child. Why then are there so many theology books if the Bible is so simple it can be understood by a child?
The fact is, the Bible is anything BUT a simple book. It is a book that must be interpreted and this is where Evangelicals get themselves into trouble. They think, The Bible is God’s Word, it is so simple a child can understand it, I have read it, and I understand it, thus my interpretation of the Bible is exactly what God said.
This kind of thinking leads to arrogance. When a person is absolutely convinced they are absolutely right, they no longer have to consider competing ideas or interpretations.
This kind of thinking is at its worst in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. All Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists. The doctrine of inerrancy requires the Evangelical to have a Fundamentalist view of the Bible. In the case of the IFB church movement, not only are they theological Fundamentalists but they are also social Fundamentalists.
Social Fundamentalists take their inspired, inerrant Bible, often the King James Version, and strictly apply it to every aspect of their lives. They believe that everything in their lives is governed by what the Bible says. This is why IFB churches have strict codes of conduct, often called church standards. Everything, from what clothes they should wear, to what they should listen to on the radio, is determined by their peculiar interpretation of the Bible.
IFB pastors are known for being hellfire and brimstone preachers. They scream and holler, step on toes, beat church members with the sin stick, all because they think they are divinely called by God to tell people exactly what God says in the Bible.
As a God-called man, no women need apply, the IFB pastor thinks he has a special relationship with God. God speaks to the IFB preacher and the IFB preacher then speaks to the people in the pew. Just like the Pope, the IFB pastor, stands between God and church member.
Though the IFB pastor will deny what I have written above, saying, WE BELIEVE IN THE PRIESTHOOD OF THE BELIEVER, the truth is they only believe in the priesthood of the believer when the believer’s interpretation of the Bible agrees with theirs.
In the IFB church, as it is in most Evangelical churches, diversity of belief is discouraged. In many churches it is forbidden. After all, if the Bible is inerrant then there can only be ONE correct interpretation of the Bible.
Eleven years ago, we saw Fundamentalism at work in the George Bush administration when they decided to wage war against Iraq. George Bush and his administration were certain their beliefs about Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and weapons of mass destruction, were infallibly right. And here we are a decade later, and hundreds of thousands of deaths later, trying to extricate ourselves from another failed war. Yet, to this day, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, refuse to admit they made any mistakes. They are certain that their beliefs were/are correct, and, in the case of George Bush, the Christian God was/is on our side.
Most IFB church members are not only theological and social Fundamentalists, they are also political Fundamentalists. They are certain their Bible is God’s words and that their interpretation is infallibly true. Since they apply the Bible to the minutest details of their lives, it should come as no surprise that they have exacting beliefs about politics.
I have never met an IFB pastor or church member who was not a Republican or a Libertarian. I am sure there are a few IFB church members who are Democrats, but they, like gay or bisexual IFB church members, are way in the back of the closet. IFB church members are told to vote their “conscience” but everyone knows that voting your conscience means voting exactly the way God the pastor tells you to vote. To vote differently means going against the man of God, the Word of God, and God himself, and no one want to do that. right?
Disobedience and rebellion are not permitted in IFB churches. Those who think for themselves or believe differently than the pastor, are told they are not right with God or that they are backslidden. They are told their “discerner” is broke and that they need to listen to their pastor.
Those who refuse to conform end up marginalized, disciplined, or asked to leave the church. IFB churches are notorious for turning over their memberships, and generic Evangelical churches are not much different. There is a constant stream of people going out the back door as new people come in the front. (with most new people coming from other churches)
Is it any wonder that this kind of thinking turns people into haters? Is it any wonder that people raised in this kind of environment lack the necessary skills to make sound, reasoned judgments about the world they live in?
Everything is, THUS SAITH THE LORD. Everything is black and white. Nuance or gray areas are called compromise and God HATES compromise.
It is this kind of thinking that breeds the nasty, hateful comments you read on this blog. It is what causes people to send me nasty, hateful emails. Rarely does a day or two go by that I don’t receive a nasty, hateful email from an Evangelical Christian.
Just today, the husband of Jeannie Williams, (see here and here) David Williams, an IFB pastor, took it upon himself to email me and tell me about some blog posts he had written about morality. I wrote him back and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I was not interested in reading anything he had written, he replied:
I did not attack you so if you don’t want to read truth, they that is your choice. The moral law is a law of choices. It is the law of love. The only way to truly love is to know God. If you don’t know Him you are immoral. No one that is immoral can point their finger at anyone else. That is all!
In a follow-up email he wrote:
Here are some points to consider. You may not like me, you may hate Jack Hyles but you have a duty to be moral as well as any other being in the universe. It is a law that applies to all. Moral law is not the command of God or a product of the will of God. It is a priori, something that every living person knows is just and right. It is the law of love.
To sum up what David Williams is saying…anyone who disagrees with his view of morality is immoral. Like Matt Nye, James Spiegel, and countless other Evangelicals who have written me, atheists are immoral.
Most decent, thinking people believe that Fred Phelps, the Phelps clan, and the Westboro Baptist Church, are arrogant, bigoted, nasty, hateful people. However, there is little difference between the beliefs of Fred Phelps and Matt Nye, James Spiegel, and David and Jeanie Williams.
While Matt Nye, James Spiegel, and David and Jeanie Williams put a better “face” on their beliefs and don’t go to the extremes that the Phelps’s do, their beliefs are pretty much the same. It is their belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God that leads them to the conclusions they come to.
The only only way to reach people like this is to attack their foundational belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. If they can be brought to see that the Bible is not what they claim it is, there is hope for them.
Don’t count on it. Most people who believe in inerrancy keep this belief until they die. When you take a high road position like inerrancy it is hard to back up. To admit that the Bible is not inerrant is to admit you are wrong and Evangelicals rarely admit they were wrong. Those who do, do so on their way OUT the doors of the Evangelical church.
While I am not an evangelist for atheism, I do encourage people to leave Evangelicalism. Any religion that demands conformity and fidelity to a certain interpretation of a religious text is certain to harm people intellectually and emotionally. Any church or pastor who demands everyone think the same way and who considers doubts and questions to be a challenge to their authority or a work of Satan are not places where a personal can intellectually and emotionally thrive.