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Pastor Luke Nagy, A Theological Anthropologist

adam sin aliens

Luke Nagy is the transitional pastor of First Brethren Church in Bryan, Ohio. I don’t know Nagy personally. Based on me stalking Nagy on Facebook, I’ve concluded that Nagy is a 36-year old white Evangelical, currently studying for a master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. He skews to the right politically, opposes the Black Lives Matter movement, and thinks Doug Wilson and John Piper are wonderful. Need I say more? Suffice it to say, he’s no fan of liberal/progressive politics or Christianity. Not a shocker, I suppose. This is rural northwest Ohio, the land of the Evangelical God, guns, and right-wing Republican politics. A month ago, I wrote MSNBC host Chris Hayes, detailing the political climate in Defiance County (which can be said of all of rural northwest Ohio). Here’s what I wrote:

I am a regular viewer of your show. In tonight’s episode, you mentioned protests in “Trump Country.” I live in rural northwest Ohio — Defiance County, population 37k. Rural northwest Ohio is white, Christian, and Republican. I’m a liberal Democrat and an atheist. (I was born here, lived here most of my life, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years before my deconversion 12 years ago.) I often feel like a vampire, only going out at night when I can be safe from attacks by Jesus-loving Trump supporters. 


In 2016, Trump won Defiance by almost  70%-30%.  Every local and state office is held by Republicans. It’s so bad here that many races don’t even have a Democratic opponent. Depressing. That said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by local protests against racism and police brutality. Most of the white protesters are young adults. I’ve long argued that progress in rural northwest Ohio requires two things: the death of my racist, bigoted generation and the mobilization of younger adults.

….

Be well, Chris. Keep up the good work.

Nagy is a homegrown boy, so it’s no surprise that his politics and theology reflect the status quo for the flatland of rural northwest Ohio. As a 63-year-old curmudgeon, I have learned to live with the fact that, compared to my overdressed neighbors, I am a naked guy standing on the corner of Main and High in Bryan.

I am a subscriber to the Bryan Times, a local newspaper published five days a week. The Times, surprisingly, is quite progressive when it comes to editorial content. I used to subscribe to the Defiance Crescent-News, but stopped after it reduced its news coverage to three days a week. I also became increasingly irritated by the paper’s right-wing, libertarian editorial/news slant. Its editorial page featured a cornucopia of local right-wing Christian nutjobs and syndicated writers. I simply could no longer bear reading the page. Its editorial content was better suited for the bottom of a birdcage than my newspaper rack.

The Times features a pastor’s column every Thursday on the church page. Yes, my preamble above has a fucking point, in case you are wondering where I am headed with this post. Some weeks, the columns are tolerable, even for the village atheist. Other weeks, Evangelical pastors use the column to preach Christian Fundamentalism and their peculiar version of the gospel. This week, Pastor Luke Nagy was the featured writer (behind a paywall).

Nagy’s column was titled An Anthropologists Dream. In the article, Nagy described himself as a theological anthropologist. I initially thought, WTF! Theological anthropologist? Actually, it really is a thing. Leave it to Christian apologists to bastardize a secular field of science. And yes, I know theological anthropology traces its history back to the writings Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine. That said, I spent 50 years in the Christian church and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 of those years. I have never heard of theological anthropology until today. Something tells me that theological anthropology is about as scientific and legitimate as creationism; a pile of Evangelical horse shit covered with a thin layer sciency-sounding words.

According to Nagy, theological anthropology is the “study of ‘man’ both as individuals and as a species, and primarily with respect to God.” Nagy adds:

Anthropologists try to answer a lot of questions and to do this Christian anthropologists begin with two unshakably certain data points.

First: humans are made in the image of God.

Second: Humans are sinful in every aspect of their personality and being.

No science here. All I see is presuppositional apologetics. In Nagy’s mind, these two Bible truths — data points, my ass — are unshakably certain. For Evangelicals, these “truths” might be certain, but for those of us, Christian or not, who reject such nonsense, these “truths” are nothing more than naked theological assertions. Believe them if you will, but their grounding is found in the Bible, not science or human rationality.

Nagy goes on to say that we humans are “unchangeably sinful and bad.” He then concludes his column with this:

The flower children thought that rampant godlessness, drugs, and casual sex would bring in the Age of Aquarius — were living in the Age of Apollyon [Satan]. As a pastor-theologian who focuses on anthropology, the daily news is making a much more profound proof of the perversity of people than I ever could. It’s an anthropologist’s dream. Too bad it’s a nightmare.

trump holding bible

Ah yes, blame baby boomers for the alleged moral decline of America. Our supposed godlessness, drug use, and casual fucking led to what Nagy calls the Age of Apollyon [Satan]. Is there no end to blaming baby boomers for the ills of society? I actually visited Nagy’s church a decade or so ago. I seem to remember seeing a lot of old folks. Are these not the same Christian locals who overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in 2016? Are these not the same people who turn a blind eye to the president’s perverse behavior and mockery of Biblical Christianity? “Hey, he’s anti-abortion and cuddles up to our mythical persecution, so we ignore his racism, bigotry, misogyny, immorality, and criminal behavior. Did you see the Bible picture? Awesome, right?”

Nagy desperately wants to find a boogieman to blame for what he perceives is the moral decline of Western civilization — especially the United States. Instead of looking in his own back yard, he blames secularists, non-Christians, unregenerate sinners, liberals, progressives, Democrats, socialists, Obama, et al. You know, the standard Evangelical blame list. Blame anyone and everyone rather than looking in the mirror. One need only read the Black Collar Crime Series to know that Evangelicals are every bit as perverse as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

As an atheist and a humanist, I reject the notion that we humans are created in the image of the Bible God and that we are inherently “sinful.” Sin is nothing more than a theological construct used by the purveyors of religion to control people. Promise Heaven, threaten Hell, and billions of people will — at least outwardly — deny self and natural, healthy human behavior. Sure, humans can do bad things, and when they do restitution should be required. However, many of the human behaviors deemed “sinful” by Nagy and other Evangelicals are anything but.

What “sins” are Evangelicals obsessed with? Mainly sexual “sins.” You know, things consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes, motel rooms, or back seats. The very “sins,” by the way, Evangelicals engage in too, albeit with a lot more guilt.

Science satisfactorily explains to us the human condition — no theological anthropologists needed. Who is it that is desperately trying to roll back the social progress of the past seventy years? Who is it that views the 1950s as the good old days? You know, the time before the free love and the rock-and-roll generation; the days when women were barefoot, pregnant housewives, homosexuals stayed in the closet, and birth control was illegal; the days before the Civil Rights Act, Gun Control Act, and the EPA; the days when there was law and order and everyone, especially Blacks, knew their place. Evangelical Christians, Mormons, and conservative Catholics, that’s who. Who is it that opposes same-sex marriage, LGBTQ rights, and a host of other civil and social justice issues? Who is it that screams ALL LIVES MATTER and says that systemic racism and police brutality are myths? And who is it that demands the establishment of a Christian theocracy, prayer and Bible reading in public schools, and the toppling of the establishment clause and the separation of church and state? Evangelicals Christians, Mormons, and conservative Catholics. (And yes, I am deliberately painting with a Bruce’s Wide Ass Brush®.)

At every turn, those standing in the way of social progress and science are Evangelical Christians, Mormons, and conservative Catholics. These are primarily the same people who gave us Donald Trump and a federal government dominated by anti-science Republicans. One need only to pay attention to the Trump administration’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic to see how deeply anti-science Christianity has infected the federal and many state governments.

Here’s hoping that the next revolution to sweep the United States is the age of science and intellectual inquiry. It’s time for us to relegate the Bible to the dustbin of human history. Progress remains impossible as long as we believe, as Nagy states, that “humans are made in the image of God and are sinful in every aspect of their personality and being.” When I look into the beautiful eyes of my thirteen grandchildren, I don’t see God and depravity. Instead, I see the wonders of biology and the prospect of a better tomorrow.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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10 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    Maybe if I had grandchildren I could hope for the future. I’m glad you have them. I would prefer my sons have a future, but at the rate the planet is going, I’m hoping for the next intelligent life form to do better than us.

    You know, there are some non-fundamental types here in NW Ohio. But we “evil” lay low, as the conservative types are so much more robust and assume everyone is like them.

  2. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    “Theological anthropology” – that’s a new one I hadn’t heard! For all their science denial, evangelicals sometimes try to sound like they have 2 brain cells to rub together (as my late mom would have said). Obviously theological anthropology comes from the supposition that the evangelical version of a deity is accurate, that their interpretation of the Bible is accurate, and that these suppositions are applicable to the entire human race. When I was a kid I got into trouble for asking about aliens – would their worlds be subject to Adam and Eve’s sin curse, and would they have to believe in Jesus to be saved. That really didn’t make sense to me as I already had trouble with the idea that people in India were accountable for learning the evangelical salvation story despite their lack of access to it. Of course, eventually I was told that our world was it, there weren’t aliens, and anything that people thought were aliens was actually demonic activity.

    I feel for you living in an enclave of monoculture. I remain hopeful that access to the outside world through media will help the younger generations create changes.

  3. Avatar
    Southern Lady

    Bruce, have you actually been attacked in any way by the conservatives who you live amongst? I’m curious to know if you have and also what you consider an “attack?” I live in a mid-size town now, but I’ve lived in Philadelphia and a college town before this. I’ve never lived in a rural area. I’ve heard that rural people tend to care less about what you are doing or thinking and mainly value “live and let live.” I would love to hear about your actual experiences.

    I’ve lived mainly in liberal areas as an adult. And I hate confrontations, so I would keep my conservative views to myself when amongst liberals. It seems like the natural thing to do either way, since we all value getting along and having good manners. I think it’s just human nature to be more inhibited when you’re in the minority and to be more relaxed and open when you’re around those who think like you do.

  4. Avatar
    Audrey Clarke-Pounder

    O Lordie. Another disgrace to us proud folks of of Hungarian origin. Not you Bruce; Nagy. Sigh, another jackass.

  5. Avatar
    Bob Felton

    “No science here. All I see is presuppositional apologetics. In Nagy’s mind, these two Bible truths — data points, my ass — are unshakably certain.”

    I recall my days as an undergrad engineering student, the slow and methodical construction of theories by the accumulation of tens of thousands of facts and endless analysis. Presuppositionalism is no more than a fancy word for intellectual laziness, and is why I refuse to take theologians of their pronouncements seriously.

    Theology has no more intellectual dignity than alchemy or tarot or astrology.

  6. Avatar
    Sarah

    Bruce
    I remember being confused about this in seminary. I was taking a course in cross cultural communication from a cultural anthropologist and theology which included theology proper, harmatology, study of God, study of angels and anthropology. Maybe when you had theology they called it the study of Man

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      We used Henry Theissen’s Systematic Theology book in college. It had a section on anthropology. Nagy’s two points were the focus of our study. My objection is to the idea that cultural anthropology is some sort of extensive subsection of theology, or a fuller understanding of secular anthropology. It’s not. Everything Nagy wrote smelled of apologetics, not science.

      Here’s how Nagy describes his understanding of theological anthropology:

      “The area of Theology that fascinates me is Anthropology — which I believe is the must underappreciated subdiscipline within Christianity today. My passion is human flourishing through Christ! I believe that Christ offers humans the Best Love — not only the Best Love we can experience, but through Christ we can offer God and others the Best Love.

      I am currently completing a Master of Theology Degree at Dallas Theological Seminary and am working on a Thesis which tries to integrate Theology, Psychology, and Neurology to understand Impulsive Behavior and Human Free Will.

      My interests are fairly eclectic, and perhaps esoteric. But that is crucial to me, as a person, and my theological method which is primarily dependent upon “synthesis”. The key to understanding ANY topic is to appreciate and attempt to reconcile the competing demands and implications which the topic presents. I believe that this is the best method because it appreciates the Triune God’s stamp of personality on the material, psychological, and spiritual realms. If God is unity in diversity, we ought to expect that all the issues of life involve unity in diversity.”

  7. Avatar
    Dave

    Let’s use logic here: Humans are made in the image of god; humans are sinful in every aspect of their personality and being; therefore god is sinful in every aspect of his personality and being. Make room for the free will argument which begs the question: why would an all knowing and powerful god create humans knowing what would happen? I could go on and on which many have done in the past. I’m Glad I’m done with these mental gymnastics

  8. Avatar
    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Bruce. Happy 4th of July. I am a professional anthropologist with an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in the subject. Here is the current faculty page for the department where I got my anthropology education:

    https://anthropology.utk.edu/faculty/

    I was there on campus for eight years, not just taking courses, but also spending a lot of that time working on major projects. I can honestly say that in all of that time, I never heard anyone (faculty or fellow student) mention the existence of anything called “Theological Anthropology.” I have never seen that term in any anthropology textbook or any anthropological research report. I would bet good money that most of my colleagues have never heard about it. It may be a real thing—as you say. However, I would like to suggest strongly that it lies within the realm of anthropological quackery and malpractice—-just like David Barton deals in the quackery end of the American history discipline.

  9. Avatar
    CarolK

    Charles, it’s good to see a professional anthropologist here. I remember the very first day of my intro to cultural anthropology class at UGA in the fall of ’73. Dr Olien told the class that at the most recent meeting of the American Anthropological Association that the definition of anthropology had been formally changed to “the study of human diversity” and was no longer the study of man. Yeah, “theological anthropology” does not exist.

    I have moments (many of them actually) when I wish I’d kept my study of anthropology up past undergrad.

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