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God’s “Plan” for the Human Race

god loves you

Progressive Christians are fond of saying, “God is LOVE” — cue summer of love pop song. Finding the Old Testament God of judgment and wrath distasteful or offensive to their sensibilities, Progressive Christians excise the “bad” God from the Bible, choosing instead to focus on Jesus, the God of love. While I understand why Progressive Christians take this approach, it does do great violence to the teachings of the Bible and what Christians have historically believed about God. American Christianity is going through seismic changes and transformation. Beliefs once held dear by Christians are either revised or abandoned altogether. This is especially true with how Christians visualize God.

I wish every Christian held progressive beliefs and values. However, that doesn’t mean I find progressive hermenuetics and interpretations intellectually satisfying. While progressive beliefs make for a kinder, gentler world (and maybe that’s all that should matter), the Bible seems to be the odd man out. While Progressive Christians generally believe in the centrality of Jesus and his gospel, they are often sketchy on the details. Wanting to distance themselves from Evangelicalism, Progressive Christians jettison vast swaths of the Bible. No need to believe those things, Progressive Christians say. God is Love!

How do Progressive Christians know anything about Jesus or whether God is, in fact, love? What evidence do they have for these claims? Don’t they have to appeal to the Bible, much like their Evangelical brothers and sisters? Christianity is inherently a text-based religion. I have long argued: no Bible, no Christianity (not in any meaningful sense, anyway). If the Bible tells us that God is Love, should we not also accept what else it says about God?

Richard Dawkins had this to say about the God of the Old Testament:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

THAT God is in the Bible too. Why do Progressive Christians ignore this God? His works are found throughout the Bible, including the New Testament. As we do with each other, we must accept God’s goodness and badness — the sum of his nature and character. None of us is pure goodness. All of us can do bad things. All of us can be assholes. We are neither as good nor as bad as we think we are. We are . . . as God is . . . human.

Most Christians believe God created everything. As Creator, God is in control of his creation. He gives life, takes life, and nothing happens apart from his purpose and plan. And if God is not in charge, who is? If the creator doesn’t control his creation, who does?

If God is Creator and the Bible is an accurate account of God’s works and character, can we not know his future plans for the human race? Press the “God is Love” crowd with questions about the future, and few answers are given. I have often wondered if Progressive Christians are, at heart, universalists; that, in the end, everyone makes it to Heaven. While such a belief is appealing, one must ignore much of the Bible to reach such a conclusion.

Both the Old Testament and New Testament teach that there is coming a day when God will judge the living and the dead; that God will separate the saved from the lost; that only those who worshiped Jesus will spend eternity in Heaven (Eternal Kingdom of God). Those who didn’t worship Jesus — whatever the reason — will spend eternity in Hell (Lake of Fire).

If the Bible is an accurate record of the character and nature of God, then it is clear that those who are not Christians will one day face his judgment and wrath. On that day, the God of Love will be nowhere to be found. I know Progressive Christians want to believe otherwise, but as long as they appeal to the Bible for their beliefs, they must accept that their God of Love is also one mean son-of-a-bitch.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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19 Comments

  1. Avatar
    William

    I attended a progressive Christian service. The preacher was interesting, he was a good speaker. He spoke about which chapters of the Bible he thought were written after other parts, and he was open about the resurrection, to say it cannot be proven either way, and that no one will ever ‘know’ (so implying it might be made up but it still requires faith).

    I don’t think the congregation were fully cognizant. Like most Christians of all denominations, by in large they just turned up because going to church was something you do, or their partner wanted to go etc.

    To answer your question, if you were to ask them about the God of love, most of them wouldn’t have cared enough to get upset or give you an answer. They didn’t mind not knowing. But the service was pleasant and enjoyable 🙂

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    Well, prog Christians are picking and choosing what to believe. But ultimately, isn’t that what all Christians of any denomination do? I used to be in a denomination that claimed they believed in the WHOLE Bible, not just the New Testament. But there was still plenty of stuff in the OT that they ignored, or claimed it was only applicable to the Jews then, even though no one can point to any scripture that says so.

    The fundies pick and choose to believe that being gay is one of the most evil things. There isn’t really a huge emphasis in the Bible that being gay is worse than gluttony. There are a handful of texts (if you accept their interpretation) that seem to claim gayness is bad in one way or the other. But fundies skip all the other bad things highlighted by the Bible, and point to gayness as EVIL.* They fail the “mote in another’s eye, beam in your own eye” test all around. So progressive Christians are at least willing to eschew the evil in the Bible.

    *Gayness isn’t evil at all, period.

    • Avatar
      William

      I wouldn’t say that progressive Christianity rejects the Bible, it’s more intellectual than this. It’s more about that it takes the view that God reveals more of Himself as we progress. A man 2 or 3 thousand years ago was less able to understand the universe and the world than what we are now.

      The Bible and our view of it has always been evolving. The God of the NT revealed more of His nature than the God of the OT. Progressive Christians will take into account the politics and life of the people of that time period. For instance, in early Christianity, there was conflict between Jews and Gentiles over what it meant to be Christian. This in turn could influence what was recorded in the gospels and if particular chapters were to be added later than others. Fundamental Christianity would never be so nuanced.

      Progressive Christianity sees itself as part of the historical changes in how to view the Bible, whether that’s the reformation, the 2nd Vatican council, evangelical revivals, as part of the progression of a living faith. Fundamentalism is stuck on a bronze age interpretation and application (so in contrast one could say it’s a dying faith).

      I’m not a progressive Christian, I just felt the need to explain it more. From what I’ve seen so far I don’t think it poses harm. Sorry if that doesn’t fit in with the “attack religion theme’, I don’t think I have a right to have a problem with people who want to believe in God and try to be what we class today as generally good people.

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        I’m quite familiar with Progressive Christianity, so you don’t need to explain it to me. As I stated in this post, I don’t have a problem with Progressive Christianity. I just find their beliefs lacking intellectually. I find it interesting that this supposed “progress” has only happened in the last 100 years or so. Thus, it’s not true to say that Fundamentalists and Progressives are two separate lines through Christian history — I speak generally. That Progressives are different from and distinct from Fundamentalists today is true, but the question is why? And to what degree are they different? If Progressives are so evolved, why do they still hold on to 2,000 year old beliefs? Why not write a new Bible or invent a new Jesus? Instead, Progressives hold many of the same theological beliefs as Fundamentalists. The differences, then, are social, not theological (again, speaking generally).

        I’m not sure what point you are trying to make with “attack religion theme.” I’m certainly not attacking anyone. I am saying, however, that I don’t find Progressive Christianity intellectually satisfying. As I was deconverting, I tried to embrace Progressive Christianity, but I could not do so. Progressives give up so much theologically that I concluded, “why bother?”

      • Avatar
        clubschadenfreude

        “Fundamental Christianity would never be so nuanced.”

        It’s not nuance, it is inventing apologetics so they can cling to their belief that some magical being agrees with them and “loves” them.

        “Sorry if that doesn’t fit in with the “attack religion theme’, I don’t think I have a right to have a problem with people who want to believe in God and try to be what we class today as generally good people.”

        the problem is that they aren’t “genrally good people” if they continue to spread nonsense that harms people.

        • Avatar
          William

          Club, maybe your right. What I’d say is that early Christians reinterpreted the OT to be Jesus Messiah apologetics, so it’s not new

          As for your other point, if they are reinterpreting scripture based on current sociological and science knowledge, then I’ve yet to see the harm they are doing.

          I just have a problem with people attacking things they don’t understand, like Christians ignorantly attacking science, or atheists ignorantly attacking certain religious groups who aren’t doing any harm. It’s a principle thing. (Not saying Bruce is doing this, he’s not, but the post you replied to that I replied to 😀

          Having attended a prog service and having researched it before I went, I felt some qualification to talk about it.

          I probably won’t respond to our thread again on this thread, life’s too short.

          • Avatar
            clubschadenfreude

            Christians who claim that some magical thing will help people are harming people by causing an expectation that will fail. Then people are told that it is their fault this god failed, that they weren’t “good” enough.

            blaming the victim is part and parcel of apologetics.

          • Avatar
            William

            Club said,

            ‘Christians who claim that some magical thing will help people are harming people by causing an expectation that will fail. Then’

            All you’re doing is showing your ignorance. Something doesn’t have to be real in order to work. Look up placebo effect.

  3. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    I guess that makes me an agnostic Universalist, sort of. If there is a god, or gods, and an afterlife, I refuse to believe that there are people who will endure eternal punishment for not believing the right things about that god. At worst, I can believe in something like the Ancient Egyptian “weighing of the heart.” If you were too sinful for it to pass muster and get you into the afterlife, a monster ate your heart, and you ceased to exist. No punishment involved. I can’t be a Christian, considering what the Bible shows their version of God to be.

  4. Avatar
    William

    One more post on this 🙂

    A biblical reference against homosexuality is found in leviticus. In leviticus, Christianity has evolved to no longer follow the rule that disabled people were not allowed give offerings. One can reject one OT rule one can reject another. NT verses can also be reinterpreted.

    Paul says that ‘there is neither male nor female, Jew or Greek’, so here a verse could be reinterpreted to support transgender (neither male or female, we are one in Christ).

    Something I have came across a progressive Christian leader say is to quote a Calvinist minister and psychoanalyst who said, ‘tell me what you find in your bible and I will tell you what sort of person you are me what you interpret in the bible, and I’ll show you what type of person you are.’ Interesting how some people see a God of love and others a God of hatred.

    Anyway, enough from me I think 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I agree that Christianity coalesced early on into being a text-based religion piggybacking on what was back then the most unusual aspect of Judaism: it was a text-based religion. However, reading the Bible, or its predecessor documents, wasn’t even possible for most Christians until relatively recently. This has made it incredibly easy for people to extract what seems important to them and relevant to their lives, and discard the rest. That’s how human brains work; it’s a survival-enhancement feature from our evolutionary past.

    I suspect most Christians still don’t read much of their Bibles, though some Evangelicals like to memorize a bucketful of verses that support their Culture War beliefs, regardless of whether or not those are at all meaningful out of context. From the point of view of a former Evangelical preacher like you, Bruce, who knows and understands the Bible in depth, it must seem like a very important baseline document for the religion. I don’t think that’s the case, even within Evangelical Christianity, for most believers. They’ve learned to give lip service in the right places and haul that mental bucket ‘o verses around. As Captain Cassidy over at Roll to Disbelieve notes, Evangelical Christianity is fiercely performative. But for people not professionally connected to the faith, the Bible really matters a whole lot less.

    I grew up Catholic, the daughter of a Catholic mother and a Lutheran father. My parents accepted that there were whole scripts of things people had to adhere to for getting through life that really didn’t have much value, except to avoid being judged harshly by others (my dad’s take) or to use to harshly judge others (my mother’s take). So you say the words and do the rituals, it all keeps God and the judgmental humans around you off your back, and if you enjoy scolding the people who don’t adhere to the scripts as well as you do, it gives you a source of joy.

    Plus, prayer is a way of reiterating to yourself how you want the people around you to change to believe the things you think they should believe and do the things you think they should do, and by telling all of this to God, you can say it without pushback.

    And yeah, I’m just a little cynical. But all the same, if the people important to me find value in their belief system, and they behave well toward others, I don’t care if they decide to leave out milk for the fairies and oatmeal for the gnomes, let alone whether or not their expression of Christianity has even a passing resemblance to the Bible. Treat peers well, treat the grocery clerks well, treat your kids and grandkids well, be a decent human being with empathy and respect for others, and we’re good.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Christianity is rooted in oral traditions, but within 2 decades those traditions were committed to written form. Clerics controlled the flow of these traditions for centuries. This changed of course, when the printing press made the Bible widely available to the common man. I doubt the Reformation would have happened without the printed page. The same can be said today about the Internet. Free/cheap access to information is poison to organized Christianity.

  6. Avatar
    William

    @Bruce, my post was in response to BJW who said, progressives are picking and choosing what to believe. This isn’t the case it’s more accurate to say they are reinterpreting what to believe from existing scriptures. My response was for their benefit.

  7. Avatar
    Ozymandias

    Every Christian sect has a collection of verses they love and a collection of verses they have to explain away. After all, “let the Bible interpret the Bible.” It’s just a matter of using the verses you like to explain the verses you don’t. There’s no referee so this game can continue forever.

  8. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    I was reading today about the first temple. According to the article in wikipedia, until the reforms of King Josiah, there was also a statue for the goddess Asherah. There were priestesses wove ritual textiles for her. Does this have any meaning to modern abrahamian religions? It looks like women were kicked out very early in the bible. Christians come from this group. I certainly am no bible scholar but I wonder if for people like you who are this has any meaning for you? To me the bible seems like a mesh of just about anything and many people pick and choose.

  9. Avatar
    Debra Smith

    I really cannot reconcile “angry god” with “loving god” Sometimes, not always, at the end of the day I wish they would both go away. It is too much trying to understand it all.

  10. Avatar
    Obstaclechick

    I haven’t met very many Christians who have read their Bibles. I have met a lot of Christians who read guided devotionals which give select verses and comments so that Christians think they have read the Bible, but these folks aren’t reading the passages about dashing infants against rocks or Donkey sex organs and horse ejaculations (or maybe it’s the other way around).

    When I attended a progressive Christian church, it was all about being a better person and helping others. No hell, no angry God, not even discussions about whether any of the mythology was true. Evangelical church was the opposite – angry God, hell, culture war stuff, everything in the Bible is literally true, more hell, more angry God, Jesus sprinkled in, and oh yeah, God loves you, he just can’t stand you, but you better damn sure get saved, submit to God, and figure out his plan for you. Did I mention sin?

    Theology, history, etc, were not things most Christians I knew cared about. Most Christians cared about community. Evangelicals cared about fire insurance, and progressives cared about social justice.

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Bruce Gerencser