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The Evangelical Replacement Doctrine

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Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that the true followers of Jesus are to be IN the world but not OF the world. The writer of the book of 1 John wrote:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Notice what is being taught here:

  • Christians are not to love the world
  • Christians are not to love the things of the world
  • If any professing Christian loves the world, the love of God the Father is not in him (they are not a Christian)
  • All that is in the world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, does not come from God the Father but is from the world
  • The world and its lusts will someday pass away, but those (Christians) who do the will of God (not loving the world or the things of the world) will abide (live with God) forever.

Many Evangelical Christians I know live in constant turmoil concerning the “world.” They know the Bible commands them to not love the world or the things that are in the world, but dammit, they just so happen to LIVE in the world they are not to love.

What’s are Evangelicals to do? They don’t want to be Amish or withdraw into a cult-like Jonestown or Waco, so they try to make peace with the world by practicing what I call the “replacement doctrine.”

The Christian church has practiced the replacement doctrine for at least 1,700 years. The Roman Catholic Church appropriated heathen holidays and replaced them with a Christian version. Christmas and Easter, both pagan in origin, were replaced by Christian versions of the holidays. Throughout history, Christians have been quite willing to take what the world has to offer, repackage it, and call it their own.

Jesus Ween is a Popular Evangelical Replacement for Halloween

In the twenty-first century, Evangelicals are quite adept at practicing the replacement doctrine. There is a Christian version of everything;

Anything the world has, Christians have a replacement for it. The only problem is this: most of the Christian replacements suck. Anyone want to argue that Christian music, TV, radio, or movies are of better quality than what the world puts out? I know I sure don’t. Is Fireproof better quality than A Thief in the Night? Sure, but both movies are little more than evangelistic tools meant to win the lost and encourage the faithful. As their Redbox account or Netflix queue delightfully shows, Evangelicals love the world’s movies. They may watch Courageous, God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2, or Facing the Giants, but they secretly and guiltily love Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, and Westworld.

Instead of being counter-cultural and realizing that being NOT of the world means NOT indulging in the things of the world, Christians are heaven-bent on having their cake and eating it too. If a person is going to be a Bible-believing, Jesus-worshiping Evangelical Christian, then it means doing without what the world has to offer. If they are unwilling to practice what the Bible preaches, then perhaps it is time for them to stop saying “I am a Christian.” Remember, the Christian road is a straight and narrow way and few be there that find it.

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Let’s face it, the world is fun. The things the world has to offer are far beyond anything the Christian church can offer, and Evangelicals need to realize their attempts to replace the world with Christianized versions are embarrassing and silly. There’s nothing worse than watching Christians try to act hip and cool all the while saying they love Jesus. Get in or get out . . .

As a card-carrying atheist, I love the world and the things that are in the world. Yes, the world is dangerous and its allurements can hurt and destroy. World-walkers must be vigilant and tread carefully. That said, I have no desire to go back to the cheap illusions found in Evangelical Christianity. Why would I ever want to go back to the silly imitations that Christians use to replace the things of the world? No thanks.

I realize this puts me at odds with Jesus and John. They were wrong about the world. The world in and of itself is not the problem. Yes, the world is a wild, wooly place. I get it: play with fire and you might get burnt. However, avoidance and replacement are not the answer.

Discernment and maturity are well suited and necessary for the world-walker. Instead of a book that plots out the way people must walk, giving them a long list of thou shalt nots, the world-walker must investigate and judge every thing and every experience encountered while on the path of life. Rational, careful, reasoned thinking is required every step of the way.

It is far easier to be an Evangelical Christian: the Bible is clear, do this and thou shalt live. No need for judgment and discernment, the Bible covers everything and everyone in the world. Isn’t that great? No need to think, just do what Jesus the pastor/evangelist/elder/bishop/more mature Christians than you say and all will be well.

Many Evangelicals — because of the teachings of the Bible — attempt to avoid the common bond they have with other humans. We are ALL world-walkers, people of the dust. Instead of trying to avoid the world or replace the world with cheap imitations, the Evangelical church would be better served if they truly and completely embraced the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. Instead of an US vs.THEM way of thinking, how much better would the world be if we were all one, a oneness that would make a universalist shout?

Come on in Christian friend. The worldly end of the pool is warm and the company is grand (though you might be bothered a bit by the skimpy bathing suits). Once you try the deep end of the pool, you will never want to go back to the kiddie end of the pool. Really, who wants to listen to Christian rock when you can listen to the real thing? Stop worrying about what Jesus would do. Embrace your humanity, and enjoy the only life you will ever have.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    OK… WordPress, apparently not knowing that brevity is the soul of, well, all good writing, forced me to add fluff to get this comment to go through when all I really wanted to say was:


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    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    Evangelicals would do well to recognise our common humanity. We are all human beings and, if one accepts some of their theology, we are “created” in the image or likeness of a God of love, and so we should treat other humans with dignity and respect.

    As to so-called commands that suggest that Christians should avoid the “world”, I think I will do a Buddhist loving-kindness meditation or a Christian mindfulness meditation on compassion and peace, and that I will try to act more compassionately and peacefully IN THE WORLD today and tomorrow than I have yesterday, recognising that we are all fallible human beings, who often fail.

    I see this kind of thing as more helpful than trying to avoid the world through adopting/supporting inferior Christian substitutes. I’m hoping more Evangelicals will lay their bible’s aside (with the thousands of different interpretations that exist) and practice peace and compassion more than they sometimes do. Buddhist meditation might be helpful for some of them, though it’s not everyone’s “cup of coffee”.


    John Arthur

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    Once I realized how sick I was in belief, I kept looking for ways to heal. I tried new flavors of belief and then decided that the holy roller over me wanted me to invent my own copyrighted, true version. All of this was a slow turning, and then a final exit from faith, stage-left.
    Christ was an okay guy, at least I thought so. I met him several times along the way and I learned in one of my first encounters with him that he was much better on his own than in a group (where he would tend to philosophy and poetic discourse). Then his sort-of, exclusivity, was bit much, the follow-me stuff. He needed a lot of attention because his mom and dad both basically deserted him, as I understand it. Well, his dad was worse than his mom, as it turned out. Anyway, he seemed okay to me. The trouble began it seemed to me, when people started to mob up behind him and spout part of what he said out of context and with ill-intent. All hell broke loose and Baptists appeared all over the land.
    And that’s the truth….
    You know, I once tried, as a teen to conquer the word, fuck. It was a bad one that kept cropping up in my consciousness no matter how hard I held my pink elephants. I prayed and hurt my knees and prayed and believed but finally, What the fuck! (The religion sickness is an endless hatred of what is most naturally human and the churching has to do with continual self-hatred and woo-woo glorying in how Jesus makes it all okay. You can rid yourself of ‘fuck’ for a time but it is human and by golly, that is what we are!
    And remember: Without God there is no Ken Ham to endure. No son of Billy Just as I am Graham! Without God, Ernest ‘angles’ Angley is just more bad T.V. Without God, you can’t find the Devil! Life is hard enough without assaulting it further with delusion.

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    They actually make sense on this one. After all, what does nudity have to do with sexuality? You guessed it! Nothing!!

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    History is quite clear. Ostara became Easter, the Pagan tree is now a Christmas tree… but you know, to hear my parents talk, ‘the world’ has taken over all the Christian holidays.

    They were here this week, my folks. I’ll be spewing about it on my blog in the next few days.
    But finally, after 50+ years of being their daughter, I’ve learned to just smile and nod. Smile and nod. And just stfu and let them go. They’re old. Getting older. I can’t change their minds and wouldn’t want to.

    And the christian bathing suit? I kind of like them. Sure would hide all those “I am over 50” figure flaws, wouldn’t it? 😀

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    I lost 10 years of my life to Contemporary Christian Music, and I lost about two years and $200 to Left Behind books. Ugh.

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      Peter Stanbridge

      Erin, you might like to read Robert Price’s “The Paperback Apocalypse” if you haven’t already. Even as an atheist now, it appears as though he has some psychological fascination for these left behind genre (and often promoted by non-Christian film/book makers as Bruce has mentioned). On the back of this book (review by Hector Avalos) “There is no end in sight for the American obsession with the End Times. But Dr. Robert Price does put an end to many of the most absurd claims made by Christian writers who peddle their apocalyptic nightmares to the unwary buyers…”. As I said, you may already know it, but if not, it is a nice antidote.

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      Peter Stanbridge

      Bruce, I have posted a reply here to Erin suggesting Price’s The Paperback Apocalypse as an interesting read on this subject. I don’t want to be sounding like I am plugging Robert Price (but I have been reading some of his books lately as I am finding his books (amongst others) have helped. But on this subject here, the passage from 1 John, I note in Prices “The Pre-Nicene New Testament” that he considers this passage to be left over from one of the few docetic christology, thus a piece of gnostic leftovers found in 1 John from an otherwise ecclesiastical/orthodox workover. An interesting idea, since while we know evangelicals couldn’t even contemplate this idea, but for those reading outside the evangelical tradition, this may indicate a good response to this in the world but not of the world type of thinking. Of course, the existentialist theologians (John MacQuarrie has this idea somewhere) would suggest that the “in” is not (following Heidegger) not like something in a jar, but involvement and concern. Thus we really are concerned, bound up with, involved with the world in exactly the way the evangelical wants to deny from this verse. But we are not “of” also existentially in that our ultimate reality is God focussed and in service for God. I expect evangelicals wouldn’t like this either.

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    Christian replacements really do suck. There was a period of time when Catholicism was at its height when they got art and music right, but it’s all been downhill for for a few hundred years.

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    It strikes me as a piece of major cognitive dissonance that the right wing of Christianity can accept without question the proposition that “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. . .” alongside the dictates of John, that a Christian should “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” God loves the world, but Christians must not?. How can both things be true?

    I am not Christian, but if I had to choose a verse from the Bible to guide my life, it certainly wouldn’t be one about rejecting the things of the world, but Psalm 118:24

    ” This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

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Bruce Gerencser