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Category: Evangelicalism

Questions: Bruce, Which Bible Translations Did You Use?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

This is a follow-up question from the post Questions: Bruce, What Bible Do Evangelicals in Non-English- Speaking Countries Use?

I grew in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the 1960s and 1970s. I attended an IFB college in the mid-1970s. I married an IFB pastor’s daughter. After leaving college in the spring of 1979, we moved to Bryan, Ohio. I became the assistant pastor of an IFB church in nearby Montpelier. I later helped my father-in-law start an IFB church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. From there, I spent eleven years pastoring an IFB church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. It was six years into my tenure at Somerset Baptist Church before I used any other Bible but the King James Version (KJV). For thirty-two years, I believed the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I read the KJV, studied the KJV, and preached from the KJV. Only the KJV was used in the churches I pastored. No sermon from other than the KJV was preached from the pulpits of the churches I pastored.

I believed that there were no errors, mistakes, or contradictions in the KJV. I also believed the 1611 and 1769 editions of KJV were virtually identical; that the only differences between the two were corrections of typographical errors. Then, in 1989, I stumbled upon a list of word differences between 1611 and 1769. These differences were far more than typographical error corrections. OMG, there were word changes, meaning that my belief that the 1611 KJV was inerrant was untrue. Further study led me to conclude that the KJV was not inspired, inerrant, or infallible, and neither was any other Bible translation. For the next eight or so years, I believed the KJV was faithful and reliable; that it was the preferred Bible for English-speaking people.

In the late 1990s, I preached my first sermon from a non-KJV Bible, the New American Standard Bible (NASB). In 2001, I started exclusively preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV). I was still using the ESV when I preached my last sermon in 2005. I believed the ESV was a reliable translation, but not inspired, inerrant, or infallible. God inspired the original manuscripts, but not any Bible translation.

After I left the ministry in 2008, I started reading THE MESSAGE for my daily devotionals. For the first time in my life, the Bible spoke to me in my own language — the everyday language of commoners. I still used the KJV and ESV (and other translations) in my studies, but I found THE MESSAGE a delight to read.

Today, the only Bible in our home is my KJV preaching Bible — an artifact from a life lived long ago. I also use the E-Sword software program to look up specific verses when writing posts for this blog. Every atheist should have E-Sword installed on their computers, smartphones, or tablets.

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

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Questions: Can a Mixed Marriage Between an Evangelical and Atheist Succeed?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Michael asked:

Based on your deep learning and long experience, what do you see as the primary obstacle(s) in a marriage involving an evangelical (who came to the faith well after marrying) and an atheist/agnostic? And, given the scriptural warnings against such a union, how would you evaluate the chances for such a union to succeed? Thank you.

How often have you heard the statement “opposites attract”? Polly and I are very different from one another. She was a wallflower when we met, while I was, on the other hand, outgoing and talkative. Forty-three years later, Polly is still quiet and reserved, while I am, well, not that. 🙂 Over the years, an interesting thing has happened. Polly and I each developed hobbies and likes different from those of the other. But, we also developed hobbies and likes we share.

Both of us were Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Christians when we married. Twenty-nine years later, we walked hand-in-hand out of the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. Today, I am an out-and-proud (and vocal) atheist. Polly is an agnostic who rarely talks about her unbelief. I can say this: her dislike of organized religion is much stronger than mine. I know, I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. I may be the outspoken atheist, but if I ever said to Polly, “let’s go to church today,” she would blister the paint off walls with curse words her IFB mother has never heard her say. 🙂

Our marriage has survived all these years because I am awesome. Or maybe I am delusional. 🙂 That was a joke, by the way. We share many common goals and ideals. We enjoy one another’s company. Our politics and religious views are similar. But, ultimately, it is the things we hold in common that are the glue that keeps our marriage together.

It is commonality, not differences, that typically attract one person to the other. This is why I recommend that people marry men or women who hold similar values, morals, and beliefs. Sure, all of us know couples with disparate values, morals, and beliefs who have been married for years. Such couples find a way to make things work. However, we also know numerous couples who divorced over dissimilar values, morals, and beliefs. No couple wants to spend their days arguing about politics, religion, or any of the other things that people argue about. And no couple wants to compartmentalize their lives, unable to talk with their spouse about certain things. (I deliberately paint with a broad brush. I know there are exceptions to the rule.)

I would never, ever recommend that an atheist marry an Evangelical Christian. The risk of conflict is too great. I am not suggesting that an atheist should never marry someone religious. It depends on the religion, how devout the person is, and the likelihood the person will become more religious over time. I know atheists who are married to mainline Christians. Their marriages seem to be successful and happy. Typically, the mainline Christian spouse is a universalist, so there are no worries about threats of Hell or evangelization. I have had two atheist friends die over the past two years. Both of my friends were outspoken atheists. What did their Evangelical families do after they died (one person was married, the other was not)? They ignored their final wishes and had funeral services for both of them. I have no doubt my friends were screaming and rolling over in their graves.

What about marriages where one spouse becomes an atheist or an Evangelical years later? Can such marriages “survive”? The short answer is yes. I know that some of the readers of this blog are in “mixed” marriages. They entered marriage equally yoked together as followers of Jesus. Then, years later, one of them lost their faith and deconverted. Some of the people I am talking about are “secret” atheists. Many of them even attend church on Sundays with their spouses and children.

That said, I have corresponded with numerous atheists who were/are married to Evangelical Christians. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to receive another email from them months or years later that says they have either separated or divorced. They either found they couldn’t make their mixed marriages work or decided that they didn’t want to spend any more time in a relationship where their significant other didn’t share their interests, values, and beliefs.

I have written several posts on this subject:

Let me conclude this post by addressing the “Scriptural warning against believers marrying unbelievers.” While I don’t care one wit about what the Bible says on anything, I do recognize that the Good Book occasionally offers sage advice. In the case of mixed marriages, the advice given in the Bible is generally sound.

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

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Questions: Bruce, What Bible Do Evangelicals in Non-English- Speaking Countries Use?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Kate asked:

One of your recent columns made me wonder about something, and now that you’ve asked for questions, here it is. In non-English speaking countries, what do evangelical fundamentalists use for their guidebook? An ‘approved’ translation of KJV, or some other version of the bible?

There was a time when American Evangelicals (who are inherently Fundamentalist — please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) primarily used the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible (1769 edition). A small percentage of Evangelicals used the Revised Standard Version (RSV) or the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Beginning in the 1960s with The Living Bible, Evangelicals began using non-KJV translations: the New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), The Message (MSG), and the English Standard Version (ESV), to name a few. This ushered in the Bible translation war. Personally, I used the KJV, NASB, and the ESV at different points in my ministry. The more right-leaning sects, churches, and pastors are, the more likely they are to use the KJV.

The Bible translation war has been going on for almost seventy years. While I was unable to find any study on which translations Evangelicals use, I will venture an educated answer to this question: fewer Evangelicals use the KJV than ever, while Christians on the far right of the Evangelical spectrum have turned using the KJV into an unwavering article of faith. I candidated at one Southern Baptist church in Weston, West Virginia that wanted me to become their pastor. I used the ESV in my trial sermons. The pulpit committee told me that they really wanted to call me as their next pastor, but an influential family in the church had objected to me using a non-KJV Bible. Not wanting to upset this family, the committee asked if I would only use the KJV. Knowing how cantankerous KJV-only adherents could be, I said no. As a result, the church declined to call me as their pastor.

Evangelicals spend billions of dollars of years evangelizing, through missionary endeavors, non-English speaking people. This includes providing these people Bibles in their native languages. (Most major people groups already have Bibles in their respective languages.) For example, my wife’s cousin and her husband, Toree and James “Jamie” Overton, are Bible translation missionaries in India for Worldview Ministries. Their objective?: translating the Scriptures into the heart language of a people is required for effective church-planting movements and discipleship . . . a focus on unreached people groups and a purposeful strategy to reach them is required if we are to be in complete obedience with the Great Commission.

Some Evangelical Bible translation ministries use the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic (and other) manuscripts to produce Bibles in native languages. This is long, hard, arduous work, as any linguist can tell you.

Some translation ministries, however, only use certain manuscripts to translate the Bible into native languages. Take Worldview Ministries. Here’s a screenshot of their translation methodology:

worldview ministries bible translation

Got all that? Lurking behind this world salad is King James-onlyism and the idea that only certain Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts are the divinely preserved and authoritative Word of God. Other manuscripts and translations are rejected out of hand and considered corrupt. These claims are patently false, but are common in certain corners of the Evangelical world.

In Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) circles, it is not uncommon to find Bible translation ministries using the KJV as the foundational text for translation. Instead of translating the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts into native languages, the 1769 revision of the King James Bible is used for translations into native tongues. Such translators believe the KJV is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. Yes, an inspired translation. Evidently, God speaks KJV. Thus, it makes “perfect” sense to translate the English KJV directly into other languages. The problems with this approach are beyond the scope of this post. Needless to say, I can hear my linguist friends banging their heads on the walls of their offices. Translation is hard work, and this KJV-to-Native-Language approach is a shortcut that leads to inaccurate translations.

The goal of these translations is evangelization. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year are spent translating Bibles into native languages. Evangelicals seek out people groups without a Christian Bible in their native tongue. Then they spend years learning the languages so they translate Bibles into native languages. Once completed, these Bibles (usually the New Testament or the Gospel of John) will be “freely” distributed and used to save “sinners.” Personally, I view such efforts as con artists selling unwary people that which they don’t need. In the case of my wife’s cousin and her husband, why do native Indians need Christian Bibles? Why not leave them alone? Why try to turn them into Western Christians? Wouldn’t money be better spent feeding, clothing, and housing people? Instead, such ministries “prey” on non-English speaking natives. Evangelicals like nothing better than a missionary story about third-world heathens being saved. Open come the pocketbooks and out come the credit cards to finance what I call Evangelical busy work; unnecessary efforts to conform native people into the image of white American Christians.

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

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Questions: Bruce, Why Can’t You Let Evangelicals Make Their Own Decisions?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Theologyarcheology/“Dr.” David Tee/David Thiessen asked:

Since it is your decision to walk away from the faith, why can you not let evangelicals make their own decisions?

I did not know that I was such a powerful person; that I have it within my power to keep Evangelicals from making their own decisions. I have no ability to force someone to change their opinion about Jesus/Christianity/Bible. Nor would I want to.

I am just one man with a story to tell. Yes, thousands of people read this blog, including many Evangelicals. That’s not my fault. Evidently, there’s something in my writing that resonates with people. That said, compared to the countless Evangelical blogs, websites, and social media accounts, this blog is but a gnat on the proverbial elephant’s ass.

I have never attempted to evangelize or convert one Evangelical to atheism or agnosticism. Have people deconverted as a result of reading my writing? Sure. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, worship leaders, and church members have told me that my writing played a part in their deconversion from Christianity. I spent many years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. People from an IFB background, in particular, find my work helpful. You see, I dare to talk about what goes on behind closed doors. I know the secret handshake, and I know where the bodies are buried. People appreciate me telling the truth.

If the telling of my story results in people leaving Christianity, that’s not my fault. I have a passive relationship with readers: I write, they read and respond accordingly. If readers email me or comment on social media, I respond to them. I am friendly and available. However, I make no effort to evangelize. Sure, I will answer their questions, offer advice, or befriend them. But, evangelize? Absolutely not. I despise proselytization — be it atheist, Christian, Muslim, new age, or Cleveland Browns fans.

Do I find a sense of personal satisfaction when readers deconvert or move away from Fundamentalist Christianity? Sure. Every writer wants his work to be read and appreciated. If my writing results in a transformation in the lives of people, that’s awesome. If not, I am fine with that too. I was going through old blog comments, emails, and Facebook friendships over the weekend. I couldn’t help but notice that more than a few people no longer comment on this blog. Some of them have died — five in the last three years. Others have likely moved or don’t feel a need to comment anymore. I am sure some readers became bored with my writing. And I suspect other readers were offended by something I wrote. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that I could help them for a time. I know that not everyone will be with me until the end — though I expect some of you to be my virtual pallbearers. 🙂 I am content to play whatever part readers allow me to play in their lives.

I am not the Wizard of Oz; I am just Bruce. Bruce Almighty, that is. 🙂

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

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser