Several days ago, I received two emails from a Baptist pastor named Stacey. What follows is my response to his emails. My response is indented and italicized. I appreciate Stacey’s polite, respectful tone — a rare experience for me with Evangelical preachers
I was raised in a Christian home and have been preaching for 18 years. I pastor a small congregation in Arkansas. I came across your blog about a year ago and it has intrigued me greatly.
Thank you for taking the time to actually read my writing. Far too often, Evangelicals read a post or two and then go into attack mode. Their goal is not to learn. I am viewed as their enemy, one unworthy of kindness, decency, and respect. I have received thousands of comments and emails from Evangelicals over the years. Few have been respectful and polite. Their goal seems to be to discredit me or deconstruct my life instead of genuinely trying to understand my story.
I can empathize with all of the things you went through as a Christian and especially as a pastor of a church. Sometimes church people can be downright ignorant, mean spirited and even cruel. I will not make excuses for these people or try to explain it away. People are people even when they become religious.
By far, the worst people have been Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and professors. And then there’s Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB) They are in a class all their own –overwhelmingly nasty, arrogant, and violent.
I only want to ask how you explain the historical accounts of Jesus. I know you are well educated with not only the bible but other historical accounts of his life. I may have missed this explanation in some of your other blogs and I have read most of them. I am sure you know of Lee Strobel and his Book, The Case for Christ, if Jesus did exist in history, then what do you say about him? Was he just a good man? Was his death and supposed resurrection a hoax? Just curious what you believe or better yet think on it.
We have very little evidence for the existence of Jesus. I am not saying we have no evidence. The Bible certainly contains history, but the challenge is decoupling myth and exaggeration from history. I take a minimalist approach to Jesus. He lived and died in first-century Palestine. We have no evidence for the miraculous claims found in the Bible, including Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.
Non-Biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus is scant, especially when you carefully examine the sources. I am of the opinion that if Jesus was all that Christians say he was, there would be a lot more evidence for their claims than what we have. We have no first-hand accounts, including the gospels.
I am aware of all the “evidence” for Jesus, I just don’t find it persuasive; not enough for me to bow down and worship him or devote my life to serving him. Christianity requires “faith,” a faith I do not have.
If you have not read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books, I encourage you to do so. Ehrman is a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina. I found his books helpful when trying to understand the history and nature of the Bible. I would be glad to recommend several book titles if you are interested in checking them out.
I read Strobel’s book years ago. As an Evangelical pastor, I found it persuasive. Now that I have all the evidence at my disposal, I find his book unpersuasive and “simple.”
I sent an email asking what your thoughts were on the historical accounts of Jesus were. I have read what you think of the western Jesus, you hate him I know.
The post Stacey is referencing is titled, Why I Hate Jesus — a polemical article about the Jesus of Evangelical Christianity. It is the most widely read post on this site six years running.
I want to know what you think of the Jesus that history records. Was this historical Jesus just a really good hoax that fooled believers then and is still fooling believers today?
Jesus was a flesh and blood person who lived and died. The religion that came to life after his execution for crimes against the state was primarily shaped by the Apostle Paul. I would argue that Jesus’s Christianity is very different from Paul’s; that there are at least five plans of salvation taught in the Bible: blood sacrifice, obedience to the law found in the Old Testament, and Paul’s Jesus’, James’ and Peter’s plans of salvation found in the New Testament.
Christian’s are taught to harmonize the books/texts of the Bible; that there is some sort of grand story and theme running through the pages of the Bible. I encourage people to read the Bible vertically, taking each book and author(s) as stand alone texts. Doing this will present a very different picture from the one painted historically by Christians. Take Genesis 1-3. Evangelicals typically read Trinitarian theology into the text. Reading Genesis 1-3 as a stand-alone text reveals a very different picture — one with multiple deities.
I know you are thinking, how could it all be a myth? Consider Mormonism for a moment, a religion you likely believe is false or a cult. Look at the foundation myths of Mormonism and its rapid growth and ask yourself how this is any different from the foundation and expansion of Christianity.
I can fully understand hating the Jesus that you have described but will you take a moment to tell me what you think of the historical Jesus that many history scholars say did exist. The Jesus that I have researched historically is the one that keeps me from doing as you have done and renouncing my Faith as well. I have found enough evidence in historical writings that make me believe in him. Unless those writings have been compromised and tainted as well. What are your thoughts?
At the end of the day, every person must look at the extant evidence and decide accordingly. For me personally, I do not find the evidence persuasive. And even if I did, I doubt I would worship the God of the Bible. I find the God of the Bible to be reprehensible, a violent, genocidal deity undeserving of my fealty.
I hope I have adequately answered your questions.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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