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No Bible No Christianity: Why Do Many Christians Distance Themselves From the Bible?

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If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. St.Augustine

Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. St. Jerome

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. Irenaeus

This seal have thou ever on thy mind; which now by way of summary has been touched on in its heads, and if the Lord grant, shall hereafter be set forth according to our power, with Scripture proofs. For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures. Cyril of Jerusalem

The generality of men still fluctuate in their opinions about this, which are as erroneous as they are numerous. As for ourselves, if the Gentile philosophy, which deals methodically with all these points, were really adequate for a demonstration, it would certainly be superfluous to add a discussion on the soul to those speculations. But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings. Gregory of Nyssa

Enjoying as you do the consolation of the Holy Scriptures, you stand in need neither of my assistance nor of that of anybody else to help you comprehend your duty. You have the all-sufficient counsel and guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead you to what is right Basil the Great

There is no Christianity without the Bible. Bruce Almighty, Bishop of Ney

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

I am becoming increasingly weary of attempting to interact with Christians who refuse to see that the Bible is central to their faith. It seems that an increasing number of American Christians are uncomfortable with the teachings of the Bible. They think by saying I don’t worship the Bible, I worship God, or I am a follower of Jesus, not a follower of the Bible that they are somehow free of the Bible and its uncomfortable dictates.

No Bible Christians like to remind me that the early church operated according to oral traditions, as if this is somehow the end-all answer to my criticism. The problem with this line of thinking is that the oral traditions were codified in the letters that make up the New Testament, and this was completed within eighty years of the death of Christ. Go ahead and focus on the oral tradition of the church, but that has not been the standard for 1,900 years.

Take a look at Jewish temple practice during the lifetime of Jesus. Were they people of a book? Sure. The Scriptures were central to their religious practice. The first converts to Christianity were Jewish. They were very familiar and comfortable with the propagation and use of religious texts. For those who continue to disagree with me on this subject, I have several things I would like for you to consider.

When you attend church this Sunday, how much of your religious practice will be according to what your particular denomination/church/pastor believes the Bible teaches concerning the proper way to worship God (whether you believe in the normative or regulative principle)? When you recite the Lord’s Prayer or the creed of your church, what is their foundation? Oral traditions or the Bible? When your pastor stands up and preaches, what will he be preaching from? Oral traditions or the Bible? Would it be okay for your pastor to set the Bible aside and spend his time talking about this or that oral tradition, with you having no way of knowing whether he is telling the truth? What is your church’s objective standard of truth?

When a person claims to be a Christian, he or she is claiming they are a follower of Jesus Christ. By their profession of faith, they are willingly submitting themselves to the teachings of Christ. Where are his teachings found? How does one become a follower of Jesus Christ? Where do we find the necessary steps for becoming a Christian?

Your church has certain practices and beliefs because it believes that the Bible clearly teaches them. Even people who love to sit on the three-legged stool of Bible, reason, and tradition seem to forget, as they are busy extolling how reasonable their church is, that ONE of the legs IS the Bible. Even tradition-oriented churches like the Roman Catholic Church appeal to the Bible as a rule and standard.

Imagine for a moment a world without the Bible. Would you naturally come to the same beliefs about God, Jesus, Christianity, etc.? Of course not. There is little historical evidence apart from the Bible that Jesus ever existed, and no evidence that a person named Jesus was born of a virgin, worked miracles, or was resurrected from the dead.

For those who contend they can have Christianity without the Bible, please tell me how that is possible. Without Jesus, there is no Christianity and without the Bible, there is no Jesus. The foundation of the Christian church is the Bible, or perhaps better put, what the Bible says about God, Jesus, and salvation is the foundation of the church. Evangelicals go to churches that proudly say “Thus saith the Lord.” The Thuses are codified in the Christian Bible. Every Sunday, Christians gather together to worship their God, and in doing so they prove that the Bible is central to their faith.

Even liberal Christians are held captive by the Bible. Every liberal Christian, at some point or another, must say this or that part of the Bible is truth. No matter how much some liberals try to distance themselves from the Bible by appealing to tradition, reason, common sense, or their theology training, sooner or later they must return to the Bible as the ground of their faith. It is the Bible that tells them of Jesus. They can’t get that information anywhere else but the Bible.

It is quite amusing that I believe in the Bible more than many Christians do. I don’t see it as a divine text nor do I think any deity had anything to do with its writing, but I do recognize that the foundation and hope of the Christian church are found within its pages. Either you believe the Bible is truth or you don’t. Either it is your rule for faith and practice or it is not, Either you embrace the God and Jesus of the Bible or you don’t.

I get it, the Bible is a book hopelessly out of touch with the twenty-first century. It is a book that endorses things we now consider immoral and criminal. It is a book that glorifies a God who is mean, vindictive, violent, and petty. The problems with the Bible are legion. It has errors, mistakes, and contradictions, but it is still the foundation of Christianity. If a person is not willing to embrace the Bible, then it is time for them to admit they are not Christian. They might be spiritual or think Jesus was a great teacher, prophet, or example, but they are most certainly not Christian.

For twenty centuries, the standard of the Christian church has been the Bible. Regardless of what part reason and tradition played, the central focus of the church is the teachings of the Bible, particularly the teachings of the New Testament. Those attempting to jettison the Bible while still claiming to be a Christian are actually promoting a new religion, a religion that is not found in the history of the Christian church.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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19 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Marlowe

    The thinking of these “No Bible” Christians is so foreign to me. During my time in Christianity we firmly believed the Bible was our sole authority for faith and practice. Once my belief in the Bible as the inerrant word of God crumbled, so did all the other beliefs associated with it.

  2. Avatar
    Kerry

    Oh Great Bishop and Soothsayer! This is so true. I was involved with “The Family” in Washington, DC for a number of years….NO not THAT Family as in mafia…the Family that puts on the National Prayer Breakfast each year. They have a “ministry” called The Fellowship and all you have to do is google the family washington DC to get a little information. They try very hard to say it is all about Jesus and not the Bible, yet their training manuals are filled with scripture. This is as cultish as any organization I was ever a part of.

  3. Avatar
    Texas Born & Bred

    Totally disagree … “Without Jesus there is no Christianity and without the Bible there is no Jesus. ”

    There was belief in Jesus before the New Testament was even written down.

    I have a very progressive bent on the bible. I actually enjoy hearing John Shelby Spong preach. He seems so wise.

    However, I suppose I belong to a church with only one member?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Correct, and I admitted as much. But this argument only works, at best, for the first 80 years post Jesus. Besides, it is irrelevant. Ask any Christian where their beliefs came from they will have to say, the Bible. Even if they argue that their beliefs came from the oral traditions of their family, sooner or later, the oral tradition traces back to the Bible. I can not envision any form of meaningful Christianity without, to some degree or the other, an appeal being made to the Bible.

      For one to say that their Christian beliefs are not rooted in the Bible, they will have to show a line through history of oral tradition being passed down through 20 centuries. I will gladly retract this point if you can show me this. 🙂 I suspect one of the reasons the Bible was written was to put an end to the oral traditions and provide uniformity of belief.

      That said, I have no objection to whatever belief you hold. But, if you or any other Christian is going to argue a point of doctrine or belief about the life of Jesus, then that necessitates going to the text to find the answer. A subjective, ethereal Jesus or a this is what Jesus means to you? There is no way to have a meaningful discussion because there is no objective basis for the discussion.

  4. Avatar
    Aaron

    I have to disagree. I can conceive of a Christian church that doesn’t treat the Bible as any sort of authority (I’m not saying such a church exists). They would still believe that many things in the Bible are true, but not that the Bible is infallible or God-inspired. It would be more like a history text written by imperfect men. Such a church would believe in Jesus and whatever else is central to their belief system, but they could dispense with everything that conflicts with modern knowledge and values. Without being bound to a text, such a church could adapt just as rapidly as the rest of society. After all, being bound to an immutable text is the main reason why religion is such a scourge. Again, I’m not sure if anything like this exists, but just because every church and theologian for the past 2000 years has been rooted in the Bible doesn’t mean every future church and theologian has to be.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Ok, sure. I guess we can play the if I can think it, it is possible game, but this post focuses on how things are. And even in your scenario, the Bible still holds some authority, if nothing more than the repository of the collective wisdom and stories of the sect.

  5. Avatar
    Aaron

    I forgot to mention, there are many cults today which have mythologies just as elaborate as Christianity, but without any canon text. Some of them believe in things like Atlantis, Egyptian gods, Nephilim, dolphins from outer space, UFOs, and higher planes of consciousness. But they have no scripture.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Yes, but my post was about Christianity, not religion in general. I think any move away from text based religions is good. Texts tend to breed fundamentalism, the source of much of the suffering in the world.

  6. Avatar
    Ian

    Reading some of the quotes that started out this post gave me a headache. Since deconverting, I have not been a daily reader of my KJV Bible. Reading the KJV maked it easier, at least for me, to read and understand aincent Christian writers. Extremely long sentences, unfamiliar word order, the list goes on. Call me a lazy reader, but I don’t enjoy having to work that hard while reading.

    When I turn to the KJV for reference, I find it more difficult to follow, since it is much less familiar to me. After reading it for a bit, I get back into its groove, though. I never understood why people complained about using the KJV, back when I believed it was THE BIBLE, for all of eternity. Now, I understand the frustration they felt.

  7. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    No bible, no church. no preaching, just meditating on compassion, peace and kindness is my kind of ‘Christianity’ today.

    Of course, this is NOT what most Christians would call Christianity, especially when I think that Jesus probably made mistakes.

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

  8. Avatar
    Rebecca

    Hi, Bruce,

    My experience has been that most Christians do not want to lightly dismiss the Scripture. It is an authority for the faith and practice of the church. But, what many question is how to come to the right use and interpretation of the Scripture. For instance, is it necessary to believe that the Bible is inerrant, and to be always interpreted literally in order to take the Scripture seriously?

    Also, what do we do when portions of the Scripture appear to contradict the plain teaching of Jesus to “love our enemies,” for example. In the light of the incarnation, can we consider all Biblical texts to be of equal truth and value? Or, does the Bible also reflect a progressive understanding of the nature of God? Are parts of it conditioned by the culture of the time?

    . Which portions of Scripture should be given priority, and what is the overarching hermaneutic? NT Wright has recently written a book called, “The Day the Revolution Began,” which begins to address this question from his perspective. It should be interesting.

    For me, this is a very complex topic, and I know I certainly don’t have all the answers. That’s for sure.

    Bruce, did you ever struggle with this issue as a pastor, and Christian believer? Or, did you feel that all of the various Biblical texts that even appear contradictory could be harmonized in some way?

    Becky.

  9. Avatar
    BJW

    These people who want to be whatever kind of Christian they are, must be more susceptible to Qanon and other such cults. It’s kind of strange, but as contradictory as the Bible is, people who sincerely want to follow it wouldn’t be glorifying human idols.

  10. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    The sentiments expressed above aside, I think you can put the idea to bed through a simple experiment. Take the statement of faith of your church and then scramble the order of the statements. Put a questionnaire in a clip board and make up the name of a Christian umbrella organization, use words like ecumenical and faith in the org’s name. Tell people you are doing a survey for that organization of Christian beliefs. Then read each statement and ask if they believe that statement or not. (You can even allow for “Don’t Knows” if you wish.

    Now everything on your list are things that members of that church are required to believe to be members. But I think you will find that having a person say “Yes, I believe that.” for every statement is very, very rare.

    It is not far from the truth to claim that there are as many Christianities as there are believers. Everyone seems to pick and choose, as was reviled by the divine above.

  11. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I do feel that one needs to h Bible to center their Christian is all, at least th New Testament, since the instructions for conduct ,plus prophecy, are in that book. I’d read it ever day to build up my faith, aneven the creepy stuff in it. I wonder if it’s just the Christians trying to rely on memory, for recalling verses, so they don’t have to actually sir down and read it o be somewhere and listen to it being read. Of cours the Creed and the book go together. Whether one reads it daily, weekly, or never.

  12. Avatar
    Steve D

    I suppose you could jettison the Bible in favor of the non-canonical gospels and still come up with a religion that could be labeled as Christianity. I’m sure that would be branded as heresy by most Christians though.

  13. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    When I was a Christian, there were definitely large swaths of the Bible I wanted to jettison. Evangelicals jettison Jewish law by claiming that Jesus fulfilled the law, therefore we can eat bacon-wrapped shrimp. Kidding aside, how many Christians have read the Bible all the way through? Probably not a lot. Most prefer daily devotionals that provide carefully curated passages and commentary so Christians can feel connected to their sacred book. But have they read all those genocides with God commanding people toast infants against rocks or to keep virgin girls for themselves and slaughter ever other living being? Have they read the LSD show that is the book of Revelations?

    • Avatar
      Steve D

      Reading the Bible all the way through was one of the most useful exercises I have ever gone through. It turned me into an affirmed atheist in my last year of high school. Now, a few decades later, I recently reread the five books of Moses and it reaffirmed my atheism. I would recommend reading the Bible all the way through to any Christian who really wants to understand their religion.

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Bruce Gerencser