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If Jesus is the “Peace” That Passes All Understanding . . .

peace of god

Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It’s not A BOOK, it is THE BOOK, a book above all others. All other books, except the Bible, are the words of fallible men. The Bible, on the other hand, is the WORD OF GOD. Written by men as they were moved (led/directed) by the Holy Ghost, (2 Peter 1:21) every word of the Bible is true. Evangelicals confidently (and arrogantly) believe that when they quote the Bible they are quoting the very words of God. (2 Timothy 3:16) Thus saith the Lord, right? I have engaged countless Evangelicals on this blog over the past ten years. More than a few of them have told me, “Bruce, your argument is with God, not me! I just told you what God said!” In the minds of Evangelicals, quoting the Bible to me (or readers of this blog) is akin to God speaking directly to me. God said it, end of discussion.

Evangelicals believe that the Bible gives them everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) The Bible, then, is a roadmap, a divine blueprint for life. The truths of the Bible are unchanging and eternal, relevant and true for every generation. Just as Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so is the Bible. (Hebrews 13:8) Thinking this way, of course, forces Evangelicals to defend all sorts of antiquated, immoral beliefs. If God said it, that settles it, right? And therein is the problem. If the Bible is “God speaking” then we humans better pay attention. However, if the Bible is the words of men, then we are free to accept or reject what is written. If the Bible is just a bunch of contradictory books written by mostly unknown ancient writers, it’s just bad literature. It’s time for a rewrite or perhaps a new Bible altogether. I would be glad to help write a new one. God saith to Evangelicals, “don’t be judgmental pricks and assholes. 🙂

Of course, Evangelicals are never going to admit that the Bible is anything but the timeless, precious words of God. Since that’s the case, I try to engage Evangelicals within the pages of the Bible; to challenge their interpretations; to call into question their application of the Bible.

Take the subject “peace.” The Bible says:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. . . Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:1,27)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7)

 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalm 119:165)

These verses, and others, explicitly teach that Evangelicals should be the most peaceful people on the planet. Psalm 34:14 says the followers of Jesus should “seek peace and pursue it.” If Jesus is the “peace” that passes all understanding; if the Holy Ghost lives inside of every Evangelical, giving them peace and comfort no matter what comes their way, then why are so many Evangelicals anything but calm, cool, and collected? Eighty-one percent of white voting Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Are they a peaceful lot? Picture January 6th, if you need your memory refreshed. Ponder, for a moment, the lives of Evangelical culture warriors, and how they rage against the “world.” Do they strike you as people who have “peace that passes all understanding?” Everywhere I look, I see hateful, angry Evangelicals. Evidently, they don’t love God’s law. If Evangelicals loved the law of God, Psalm 119:165 says that they would have peace and NOTHING would offend them. Tell me, do Evangelicals seem “offended” by virtually e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g these days? What happened to the peace of God which is to rule and reign in their hearts?

Nineteen years ago, Polly’s sister was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. (Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It’s Worth It All.) Our family gathered at the hospital, hoping to find out about her husband, who survived the crash. I couldn’t help but notice the family patriarch (please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis) pacing back and forth, praying and quoting Bible verses. In any other setting, such behavior might land you in the psych ward. This man was a well-known Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, with, at the time, 40 years in the ministry. I was a Christian, at the time — having just left the ministry — and I remember thinking how odd his behavior seemed. What happened to God’s peace? What happened to nothing happening apart from God’s perfect, sovereign will? Shouldn’t the family patriarch, along with every Christian in that room, accept that Kathy’s death was all part of God’s wonderful plan for her life? After all, as a child, she asked Jesus to save her. She was now in Heaven, praising Jesus for his love, mercy, and grace. Shouldn’t this “fact” have given all of us “peace”?

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I watched scores of Christians suffer and die. I watched others bear the death of loved ones, loss of livelihood, divorce, and numerous other tragedies. I can’t remember anyone who had “peace” like the Bible talks about. Instead, I saw a range of emotions, normal human expressions of pain, loss, and grief. Were these people bad Christians? Of course not. They were human. And if there’s one thing I know for certain, it is this: when life turns to shit and the walls crumble and collapse, atheists and Evangelicals alike respond the same way. The difference being, of course, that Evangelicals, thanks to their commitment to the Bible, are expected to rise above the struggles of life and have “peace.” That they don’t is not a reflection on them as much as it is on their beliefs.

Bruce, what’s your point? Damn, do I always have to have a point? 🙂 Yes, I have point. Evangelicals often come off as people who think they are above the fray; people who, thanks to Jesus, are immune to the struggles faced by the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. When “life” dumps a load of shit on their doorstep, Evangelicals are expected to smile and claim VICTORY IN J-E-S-U-S! However, that’s not what we see. Instead, we observe people who are just like the rest of us. And THAT’S my point. The Bible says in Galatians 5:22,23, that the fruit (evidence) of the Holy Spirit (who purportedly lives inside every Christian) is (present tense) love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Based on the inviolate Word of God just quoted, how many Christians do you know who have the fruit of the Spirit? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is NONE. Certainly, the fruit of the Spirit is desirable for believers and unbelievers alike. However, all of us are feeble, frail human beings. Whether we are atheist, agnostic, pagan, Satanist, Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Evangelical, or liberal Christian, it matters not. All of us are one and the same. Thoughtful humanists understand this. It is our shared humanity that binds us together. While “peace” is a desirable behavior, at least for me anyway, none of us should feel we have failed when life overwhelms us like a tsunami and we lose our shit.

Make sense? I hope so. Please share your sage advice and thoughts in the comment section.

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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    The peace I’d strongly believed was mine was tested 10 yrs ago when I suddenly faced major surgery after decades of robust health. I was puzzled why my heavenly father let this happen at that point in time. I’d just done courses qualifying me to train others in children’s evangelism in the diocese. My church was held up a shining example of success, most others had no Sunday School at all and our gang of four leaders ran a flourishing one. We were already devastated that one had just left when her good x-tian husband cheated on her. So our plans were falling apart….like god didn’t want converts, he was blocking the one evangelistic effort that was about to start in the diocese. Why would he do that? It made no sense to remove me and the other woman after so much training. I sat in pre-op scared to death. Hubby and I prayed. Others in the ward spoke – joked even – about taking a great holiday when this was over, or cracking open the champagne….whilst I pleaded with god to show up, just this once to help me. I was confused, my fundy brainwashing told me others would see my jesus-aura of peace and want it too and we could tell them about him. I asked god to give me that peace so I could be ‘a good witness’ there.
    I thought of inadequate dads I knew as a teacher in a poor area. One turned up at his small son’s hospital bedside with some shoplifted chocolate, another child wore shoes with holes in till he came in a new pair one day. I worked out the dad stole them en route to school, the boy was shuffling in a pair two sizes too big…..but they cared in their twisted way, provided for their kid when they needed things…..and my father-god was supposed to be a billion times better than that…. and I realised he wasn’t showing up cos he didn’t exist and I was now deconverted.

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    MJ LIsbeth

    Matilda–I worked with handicapped and chronically and terminally ill kids for a time. Even the worst and most absent human fathers showed up for their kids more than the one who supposedly watched over them from his aerie.

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    I am watching from afar on social media my cousin’s family going through a horrible time with their 9-year-old family member’s cancer. The grandma is my 2nd cousin, and it’s her granddaughter. They’re all devout evangelical Christians – the grandchildren all attend a Christian school not unlike the one I attended, complete with a student handbook outlining belief in inerrancy and loteralism, support for complementarianism, anti-LGBTQ statements, etc. The usual stuff you associate with evangelicals. This poor child is in the hospital struggling to survive, and my cousin’s family and friends ate posting prayers, complete with instructions on how to pray (the name it and claim it method), and they’re trying to show SO HARD that they have faith in God and that those poor child who is suffering will be healed and will proclaim the testimony and power of God for the rest of her life. Can you imagine as a child being told that God let you suffer to the brink of death to show everyone his great healing powers? I hope I would never be so arrogant a deity as to do that to others. I really do feel for my family members who MUST show faith but are scared and hurting. I don’t see any peace that passes understanding.

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    Talk about some serious puffery there. Interestingly, most of the drivel quoted comes from Paulianity. I suppose Paul’s experience of an epileptic seizure of the temporal lobes might have inspired this belief in a “peace beyond all understanding”. If I was going to edit down the Bible, “Dear Appy” would be the first part to go.

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Bruce Gerencser