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Evangelical Dualism: It’s Not Me, It’s Jesus 

crucifying the flesh

Christians will tell you that the good works they do are all because of Jesus. Recently, an Evangelical woman by the name of Pam left several comments detailing her battles with perfectionism. It was only when she learned to let go and let God that she was able to find victory over her perfectionist tendencies. According to Pam, the flesh is the problem, and the only way Christians can live fulfilled, happy lives is to die to self and allow Jesus to have absolute control. It was Jesus himself who said to those who would be his disciples, let a man deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. It was the apostle Paul who said that without Christ he could do nothing. Paul reminded Christians that they must deny the flesh and give themselves over, without reservation, to Jesus. In First John, Christians are reminded that if they love the world and the things that are in the world, then love of the father is not in them. In fact, the writer of First John tells Christians that if they sin, they are children of the devil.

Now, everyone knows Christians sin. We know that Christians live lives that are, for the most part, indistinguishable from non-Christians. How then, do Christians square what the Bible says about how they should live their lives with how they actually live? Christians believe that humans are either bipartite or tripartite beings — body and soul or body, soul, and spirit. This dualistic understanding of human nature allows Christians to rationalize and reconcile conflicting teachings in the Bible about human nature and God’s demands. It’s the body that sins. It’s the flesh that Satan can take control of, resulting in Christians committing all sorts of sinful acts. The Bible teaches that Christians are to walk in the spirit and not the flesh. Over and over, the Bible reinforces the belief that Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are dualistic creatures that will spend their lives on earth in constant battle with competing desires, needs, and influences.

For 2,000 years, Christians have been practicing some sort of self-flagellation that is meant to crucify the flesh, rendering them dead to sin and alive to Christ. Over the years, I heard countless illustrations (and gave many myself) about the battle between the spirit and the flesh. I remember one pastor saying that this battle is like having two dogs — spirit dog and flesh dog. The strength of these dogs is determined by which dog we feed. If Christians want to live victoriously, then they must feed the spirit dog. Feeding the flesh dog leads to lives of sin, carnality, and the chastisement of God. This cosmic battle between good and evil can be illustrated many different ways. What most Christians don’t know is that this dualistic understanding of human nature comes from Gnosticism, a system of belief judged heretical centuries ago. In fact, if you listen carefully to what Christians say, you will quickly conclude that in 2016 Gnosticism is alive and well. This is no better illustrated than with the way Christians explain the constant tug and pull in their life between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, and the flesh and the spirit.

In Romans 7, the apostle Paul talks about this battle:

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

From these verses, and others, Christians include that their flesh (body) is sinful and that the good deeds they do are not their own works, but the works of God who uses them for his own purposes. This is why Christian zealots can ignore the commenting rules on this blog and post comment after comment filled with Bible verses, sermons, and other acts of Evangelical masturbation. You see, it’s not them saying/writing these words, it is Jesus. They are just conduits through which Jesus speaks to poor deluded atheists and other unbelievers. In many ways, these zombies for Jesus are not much different from Madam Zelda, who channels dead loved ones so she can give messages to those they have left behind. Evangelicals must daily crucify their flesh. The use of the word crucify reminds them to the degree they must be willing to go to be used by Jesus. Jesus was willing to be brutally, viciously beaten, ultimately dying on the cross, so that human sin could be atoned for. Wanting to be like Jesus, Evangelicals physically and psychologically flagellate themselves, hoping by their acts of self-denial that Jesus will find them worthy and use them for his purpose and glory.

Lost on Evangelicals is the fact that their very acts of self-denial are they themselves doing works. They are the ones dying to self. They are the ones crucifying the flesh. They are the ones taking up their crosses and following Jesus. No matter how far along the Christian experience you want to go, eventually human action will be found. This is why I have argued that Christianity, at its heart, is not a religion of faith/grace. It’s all about works, and it always has been. If God is the same yesterday today and forever, then he cannot and will not change. The Old Testament is clear, God had a prescribed way his chosen people were required to live, under the penalties of judgment, death, and eternal damnation if they did not. In the Gospels, Jesus made it very clear in the Sermon on the Mount that if people wanted to be his disciples they would have to live a certain way. Paul continues this works-based thinking in his epistles when he contrasts the works of the flesh and the works of the spirit. James says that faith without works is dead and the writer of First John spends five chapters listing the works that must be in the lives of those who say they are followers of Jesus. Even salvation is a work. For sinners to be saved, they must accept the gospel message, repent of their sins, and believe in Jesus Christ. They must put their faith and trust in Jesus alone. No one becomes a Christian by sitting at home and just waiting for it to happen. The new birth — being born from above — requires an act of volition. Christians will go to great lengths to explain why these acts of the will are really God’s doing, but the fact remains that it is unbelievers who are making  conscious choices to either accept or reject Jesus Christ.

Dualism, of course, is a theological construct that is used to explain the contradictory teachings of the Bible. There is no possible way to reconcile Jesus, Paul, James, and John without resorting to some sort of dualistic magic. Those of us who are atheists have an entirely different view of human nature. We recognize that our lives are affected by genetics, environment, personal choices and decisions, and being at the wrong/right place at the wrong/place right time (to name a few). We also know that luck plays a big part in who and what we are. Most of us would agree that choices and decisions are not made in a vacuüm and that every action results in a reaction. Choices have consequences,  and while we can look at the various reasons that people make the choices that they do, at the end of the day all of us are responsible for the choices we make.

My life is in admixture of good and bad works and good and bad decisions, with a healthy dose of neither good or bad. As a Christian, I ascribed the good that I did to Jesus and the bad that I did to Satan and/or the flesh. As an atheist, I accept full responsibility for what I do, and when I do good things I rightly accept the praise and approbation of others. After all, it is I, not God or some other person, who did the good work. While I may deflect the praise of others through humility, realizing that others often play a big part in the good things that I do, I now know that is okay for me to say (and for others to say) good job, Bruce. I also know that when I do bad things that I need to look no further than me, myself, and I. While my wonderful, loving, awesome, super, fabulous, beautiful wife of 38 years can irritate the hell out of me, if I respond to her in anger or impatience I have no one to blame but myself. I am in control of my actions, words, and, to some degree, my destiny. I can look back over my life, as I am wont to do, and see how the various decisions I have made have affected where I am today. While I know the reasons for my health problems are many, some of which are beyond my control, I also know that choices that my parents made and choices that I have made play a part. Who among us hasn’t said, I wish I had done __________. I believe it was George Foreman that said that his obituary will one day read that he died of one too many cheeseburgers. Foreman understood that connection between choices and consequences. Our lives are complex mixtures of many factors, all of which are rooted in naturalism and materialism. I need not look far to find the reasons and answers for who and what I have become. Voltaire was right when he said, “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich, stated, “You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.”  While I certainly don’t take Hill’s words as far as those who believe that by mere thinking and believing they can cause things to happen, I do understand that the life that I am now living is mine alone and that to a large degree what I do with it is up to me. Believing that a deity is the master of my universe and the controller of my rudder complicates things, so cutting him out of my life allows me not only to make my own decisions but also accept responsibility for what good or bad comes as a result of the choices that I’ve made. While I still have moments when I wish there were someone to blame — say the devil or the flesh — I know that when I look in the mirror I see the one person who is responsible for how Bruce Gerencser lives his life. To quote an oft used line, the buck stops here.

How did dualistic thinking affect your life as Christian? How have things changed for you now that you no longer believe? If you are a progressive or liberal Christian or the practitioner of another religion, how do you view your life and the decisions you make? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

18 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Monty

    It screwed me up! Everything good I did was because of “god” and everything bad I did was because of me. This alone is why I hate Christianity and how it messed me up.

    • Avatar
      Pam

      You didn’t like what I wrote so you took it down, that’s cowardly. It showed exactly how what you wrote is completely false. You certainly have Bible verses in your posts. Will be praying for you all. Love, Pam.

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        Pam,

        Quit acting like a toddler. You not only violated the commenting rules, you also have quickly become a broken record, saying the same Fundamentalist drivel over, and over, and over again. Thousands of your brethren have come before you, all saying the same thing. When you are ready to talk about the nature and history of the Bible and Christianity and your ignorant understanding of atheism, please email me privately and we’ll talk.

        As I told you in the email I sent to you, I will not approve any further comments from you.

        Now, let me go back to watching the Wizard of Oz.

        Bruce Gerencser

      • Avatar
        Geoff

        Pam, why not try and approach your case from a different angle? Instead of being preachy and quoting bible verse, try and put a logical argument forward for why you believe what you do. It’s what we do here all the time. If I have an opinion on something, say whether the banks should have been bailed out, I can approach it from any number of ways. I might start by quoting, for example, bank regulations with regard to liquidity. Then if someone tells me they don’t agree, I might start explaining the logic of why I think what I do, but I wouldn’t keep repeating my first point because that’s in dispute. If my argument makes sense then the logic will become evident, and if I’m wrong I’ll change my mind.

        So why don’t Christians do this with the bible? Why not step outside it and try and argue a case that isn’t circular? After all, if I tell you that I don’t think there’s a single word in the bible that I find convincing, reliable, or even inspiring then I fail to see the point in keep repeating from it as a basis for your case. Find something new.

        Until then I can well understand why Bruce says ‘enough’ and edits or deletes your comment.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Pam had ample opportunity to preach her gospel. Not only did she comment here, but also on Facebook (until I finally banned her). She is tone-deaf and disrespectful. I have little patience for such people.

  2. Avatar
    Brian

    “Christians will tell you that the good works they do are all because of Jesus. ”
    They also put their bad works in the dear, sweet garbage-can-saviour too. If they spill a perfect cup of coffee on the floor, they might say (as my brother did the other day) “I guess Jesus didn’t wnat me to have that perfect cup of coffee.”
    When they chastise their children, verbally and physically punish them, they refer to scriptures that suit them in their deeds. Jesus makes a loving parent spank their child, swat them, shame and blame them for being __________.
    Once you decide that you do not deserve to live because of your evil heart (words taught into you by Christians and other harmed people) then anything goes. Jesus died on the Cross for your sins so the least you can do is listen to Doug Wilson when he encourages you to hit your children. Or follow the mountain-man knife-thower for Jesus, Michael Pearl. Or humbly accept the shallow hatred exhiblted by Pastor Anderson of Tempe, a lover of memorizing the good (sic) book.
    Dualism is the medicine one takes to be able accept the evil self, the evil deed that is the self hanging Jesus on the Cross. Once you are lured into accepting that you are a fallen creature, a stumbling, bumbling, helpless creature, then the door is open to ‘anything goes’.
    How ‘teachable’ are you? Do have the spirit of contrition, a teachable belief that can be directed by God’s men of faith previously sampled? Or are you hard of heart and in need of more punishment, more shame? Here is another place Christianity in America shows is ugly side. Dull, damaged men like Steve Anderson spew their hatreds peppered with Bible verses and other damaged men come to their churches to hear what feels right to them, what they have always known in their damaged lives. Steve gives it a context and arms them with the Gospel of Hateful Peace so they can shout out their fearful paranoia: Homos should die! Thank God for killing the unrighteous in club fires! No queers will ever be welcome in my church!
    Evangelical Christianity in America has much to answer for as time goes on. In Canada, we have begun to accept as a culture how hatefully and how harmfully we punished the native peoples of our land. It takes a long time to fess up, to admit the state we were reduced to in times past; that we made horrible mistakes. And many of these horrible crimes were ordered by those religious authorities of the time. They were greedily proving to themselves how evil they were by destroying others, how much they needed sweet Jesus. It will all be out in the open as time goes on.
    We are not perfect, we human beings but we do not have to be so full of harm as evangelical Christians are… we do not have to actively harm one another to show subservience to the darkness of the caves we have come out of…
    I am very grateful to hear your words here, Bruce Almighty. Pam’s beliefs have done me some good here and now. You have taken them and given some free insight in return. I rather doubt she can find her way out of the dualism to appreciate what you offer but I sure do.

    • Avatar
      Becky Wiren

      Brian, I should have known I would eventually stop being a Christian. I had to leave the church to heal from some psychological stuff…that actually was related to my physical health. The Christian religion was tiring. I prefer my “religion” of trying to be kind to my fellow man. So much simpler and beneficial to myself and my fellow man.

      • Avatar
        Brian

        Becky, it took me almost a quarter of a century to realize I was even walking towards the exit door! I lived in a woo that had me going from one flavor of belief to another and then inventing my own flavor of woo to stay viable in ‘faith’.
        I have never felt such glorious release as when I finally realized I was looking back at the church, that I had found my way out of the dark pews. My senses started to return to me. I could smell and see for myself again. I could care about myself or not without permission!

    • Avatar
      Pam

      again, you ask for comments, but don’t like anything that shows the truth in love, deleting anything you disagree with. You prefer to stay in blindness Bruce, I pray the Lord opens your eyes before it’s too late.

      • Avatar
        sgl

        re: “… don’t like anything that shows the truth in love…”

        pam, you’ve confused your own personal opinion with the mind of god. the fact is, we’ve all heard everything you believe a multitude of times, many here once believed exactly as you do now, and daily/weekly someone just like you comes by to spout the same very predictable lines on bruce’s blog.

        you have so little insight into your own thinking, you have no clue what assumptions your belief system is built upon, and are completely unwilling to have a reasoned discussion of those assumptions, regardless of whether you ultimately change your mind or not.

        we all understand how and why you think as you do, but you have no idea how we think or why we think as we do. ie, you believe the bible is inerrant, and many/most of us believe it to have errors, and for very good reasons. can you even name 3 inconsistencies (or “alleged” inconsistencies if you prefer) in the bible? most of the people here can name quite a few, and the apologetic “answers” to those inconsistencies are found wanting by most of the people here. unless you’re willing to discuss this like a reasonable adult, there’s really no reason for us to talk with you, as it’s like talking with a wall.

  3. Avatar
    Sarah

    I left Christianity because it seems to focus more on judging than mercy. The more I read the scriptures, the more it brought out my inner control freak, and in my natural state I am sort of like an overgrown hippie.

  4. Avatar
    Brian

    This is taken directly from the Anderson blog, Sept. 6. Seems Steve thinks God is telling him to go to Africa to abuse the people there: The following words are dualism at full tilt… http://sanderson1611.blogspot.ca/

    “The media says we are coming to spread hate, when in reality, we are bringing a message of love. This is not some kind of anti-Sodomite protest or hate rally. We are bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ. People who are reprobates only want to talk about my preaching against Sodomy, which is not the focus of my ministry. I didn’t write the book of Leviticus or the book of Romans—God did. It’s God they hate.

    “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” John 7:7 ”

    You might choose not to see the clear as day dodge here but Pastor (sic) Anderson is obeying God and speaking as God on earth! Don’t blame him for the facts he shares from the black book.

    But, Pam would say, but but these people are not Christ and I am with Christ and nothing else. So it is with zealot believers. They are on their own and inventing THE WAY. They refuse to do anything about their own faith family spreading harm at home and abroad. God is doing it! Nothing to do with me and Jesus! Instead they come looking to bother people like me who have turned away publically, who have said, No Way! They bring me verses and testimonies that can only further confirm my joy in being outside the one door and only one.

  5. Avatar
    Suzanne

    It’s so lovely when Christians like Anderson confuse love and hate like that…./sarcasm.

    Seriously it is the tone-deaf judgmentalism combined with the nattering holier than thou attitudes that are turning off people from the church.

  6. Avatar
    Monty

    Pam is right; You do have bible verses in your writing but it’s all in context. I mean, don’t christians use that one all the time?
    I hate it when they say “I’m telling you the truth in love”. Bullshit……

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