Evangelicalism

Millions of People are Christian so Christianity MUST be True

one true religion

One of the arguments Evangelical Christians use to “prove” the exclusivity of Christianity is this:

 “Bruce, millions of people are Christians. Surely, they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived.”

This seems to make sense, doesn’t it? The sheer number of Christians makes it highly unlikely that Christianity is untrue, right? However, history is replete with examples of people sincerely believing things that were later found to be untrue. Millions of people have been slaughtered by zealots sincerely committed to a belief that was untrue.

In the political realm we see this all the time. President Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that drew us into the Vietnam War. President George Bush and his lackeys lied about weapons of mass destruction and used this lie to start a war with Iraq. Adolph Hitler, a Christian man, along with his fellow Nazis, spun a lie about the Jews and the superiority of the Aryan race. Germans embraced this lie, resulting in the death of millions of people. In each of these illustrations the lie was believed by the masses.

What does Christianity offer to people? It purports to answer the “big” questions of life, especially the question of life after death. There is no question that Christianity gives hope, meaning, and purpose to millions of people. However, just because millions of people find hope, meaning, and purpose in Christianity doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

Christianity is an exclusive religion. Some sects within the Christian tent (i.e. Catholicism) claim exclusivity for their particular sect. Some churches take this exclusivity a step further and claim that they are one of the few true churches. (i.e. Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God)  A Christian is a follower of Jesus and his teachings. At some level the Bible must be embraced as truth. Otherwise, how can a person know they should follow Jesus or what the requirements are to be a follower?

Since Christianity is an exclusive religion, all other religions are considered false. All other gods are no gods at all. According to the Christian, their God, the God of the Bible, the God who reveals himself through creation and conscience, is the one true and ever existing God.

It is this certainty about God, the Bible, sin, salvation, and life after death that draws millions of people to Christianity. On April 5th, millions  will gather together to proclaim their belief in a God-man named Jesus. In him they find the forgiveness of sin and life eternal. Surely, the sheer magnitude of the worldwide Easter gathering stands as proof that Christianity is true!

There’s just one BIG problem with this seemingly insurmountable “fact.” There are other sects that have millions of worshippers too. There are millions of Hindus, Muslims, Jews,and Buddhists who believe their God is the true God or one of the many gods in the universe. Take a look at the numbers for the major religions of the world:

top 15 religions in the world

Let’s play fill in the blank:

Millions of people are __________.(fill in with one of the above religions) Surely, they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”

 I hope you see that the number of believers/followers doesn’t necessarily mean a religion is true. It is quite possible for a religion to be totally manmade and yet have millions of adherents. This is easily proved.

When I think of a manmade religion, I can think of no better example than Mormonism. Joseph Smith invented the Mormon religion, yet 15+ million people are practicing Mormons. There are over 29,000 Mormon congregations in the world and over 88,000 Mormon missionaries go from place to place making disciples for their God. Surely, this is proof that the Mormon religion is the one truth faith and the Mormon God is the one true God, right?

Wikipedia gives a concise summary of the how the Mormon religion started:

Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening. Founded by Joseph Smith, the faith drew its first converts while Smith was dictating the text of the Book of Mormon from golden plates he said he found buried after being directed to their location by an angel. The book described itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas, portraying them as believing Israelites, who had a belief in Christ many hundred years before his birth. Smith dictated the book of 584 pages over a period of about three months saying that he translated it from an ancient language “by the gift and power of God”. During production of this work in mid-1829, Smith, his close associate Oliver Cowdery, and other early followers began baptizing new converts into a Christian primitivist church, formally organized in 1830 as the Church of Christ. Smith was seen by his followers as a modern-day prophet.

Smith later wrote that he had seen a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ in spring 1820 in answer to his question of which denomination he should join. Sometimes called the “First Vision”, Smith’s vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate beings was reportedly the basis for the difference in doctrine between Mormonism’s view of the nature of God and that of orthodox Christianity. Smith further said that in answer to his prayer the Lord instructed him to join none of the existing churches because they were all wrong. During the 1820s Smith reported having several angelic visitations, and by 1830 Smith said that he had been instructed that God would use him to re-establish the true Christian church and that the Book of Mormon would be the means of establishing correct doctrine for the restored church.

Mormonism is a wonderful example of American entrepreneurship. Founded on the lies/delusions of Joseph Smith, they are now one of the largest religions in America. There is no truth to their founding story, yet millions of people believe it. This is clear evidence that it is possible for millions of people to believe something and it be totally false.

How do you know that Christianity is any different from Mormonism or any of the other religions of the world?  As I have clearly shown, the number of people who believe is not proof that any particular religion is true.

The Intractability of Christian Fundamentalists

intractable

If you have not read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? please do so. This will help you understand my use of the word fundamentalist.

Thanks to this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and breathing air, I come into contact with Christian fundamentalists every day. They comment on my blog, send me tweets, leave Facebook comments, and send me email. I’m like a human shit pile on a warm summer day. The fundamentalist flies are drawn to me and there’s little I can do about it. As an out-of-the-closet atheist and a writer, I know that dealing with Christian fundamentalists is part of my job description.

I’ve been blogging for more than seven years. I started and stopped several times, and every stoppage was predicated by the behavior of Christian fundamentalists and how their actions affected my health and mental wellbeing. Over the years, I’ve gotten mentally and emotionally stronger, my skin has thickened, and I am pretty much impervious to the petty, childish, boorish, ignorant behavior of fundamentalists. When I am up to it, I might engage them a bit, but most of the time I let them piss on my doorstep and I ignore them. When they don’t get the desired response from me, they usually head off to another fire hydrant they can whiz on (yes, I am full of metaphors today).

Some fundamentalists have upped their game and turned to electronic means of bullying. Readers may remember all the problems I had last year with spam bots. At one time, I was receiving 1,500 spam comments a day. This was a concerted effort by someone to frustrate me and cause me grief. During this same time period, I had someone trying to access the blog login. Now this happens routinely a dozen or so times a day, but this time was different. They attempted to login thousands of times a day. The good news is they failed. My login remained secure and no spam made it to the live site.

Currently, I am receiving about a hundred spam comments a day. Quite manageable. In most cases, it’s drive-by spammers wanting to either infect my computer with a virus or make my penis larger. In the case mentioned above, it was a directed attack. Someone deliberately wanted to cause me problems, perhaps even cause me to stop blogging. A great victory for Team God, yes? Yea God!

Yesterday, someone decided to set up a fake Facebook account in my name. They then gained access to my Friends list (my fault since I had it set to “public”) and sent them a new friend request. About 25 of my friends friended the fake Bruce Gerencser, and after they did they got a private message from the Fake. The message? A Christian one, meant to witness to them. Fortunately, several dozen friends contacted me about the fake account and in less than an hour Facebook shut it down. For future reference, I am the only Bruce Almighty Gerencser in the world. If we are already connected through social media, any other Bruce Almighty is a false one.

The one thing I have learned from this is that Christian fundamentalists, for the most part, are intractable. Intractable is not a word used very often, so let me give you the dictionary definition:

intractable

This word perfectly describes most of the fundamentalists I come in contact with through this blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Certainty has turned them into nasty, arrogant, hateful individuals who have forgotten what their Bible says about the fruit of the spirit and how they are to treat others. Safe behind their digital shield, they violently brandish their word sword, caring little about what damage they might do. Worse yet, they fail to realize that they are pushing people towards agnosticism and atheism. Why would I ever want to be a part of a religion that allows and encourages maltreatment of others?

As a pastor, I always taught church members that our actions spoke louder than our words. How we treated others determined how our beliefs would be judged. While I may have been a fundamentalist for many years, I never treated people like I’ve seen fundamentalists treat myself and others. As I mentioned in the comment rules, they are people who haven’t learned to play well with others. They are the school-yard bullies, demanding all bow to their God and their interpretation of the Bible.

I know there is no use trying to shame Christian fundamentalists into acting like they have graduated preschool. If seven years of blogging has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can’t change how a fundamentalist thinks or acts. But, Bruce, you were a fundamentalist as were many of the people who read this blog, and you changed! True enough, but I also know how hard it is to change.

The majority of fundamentalists will believe what they believe until they die. Why? Because their entire life is wrapped up in their belief system. They are in a self-contained bubble where everything makes sense. If you have not read, The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It andWhat I Found When I Left the Box, please do so. I think you will find both posts helpful in explaining the fundamentalist bubble. Until people are willing to at least consider that there is life outside of the bubble, there is no hope for them.

I am convinced that inerrancy — the belief that the Bible is without error — keeps people chained to the fundamentalist God. Armed with an inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible, given to them by the supernatural God who wrote and autographed it, they go into the “world” and wage war against all who disagree with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. If you want to see this belief in action, read the recent comments on The Bob Jones III Non Apology ApologyIf You Don’t Believe the Bible You Can’t be Saved, and Family Driven Faith Part Two. One commenter was so certain he was right and smarter than the rest of the class, that he had no need to read a book or any of my other blog posts. He was right, end of discussion.

Those of us who were once Christian fundamentalists understand the fundamentalist pathology. After all, we wuz one of them. We know how certain and arrogant we once were, full of God and shit. We would have remained this way had it not been for an event, life circumstance, book, website, or blog. When one of these things poked a tiny hole in our bubble, we tried our best to patch the hole. But, try as we might, we could not get any of the patches to stick, so our bubble deflated. In rushed the “world” with its knowledge. From that day forward, we knew we could no longer stay in the bubble that had been our home for as long as we could remember.  Our fundamentalist Christian friends and family, along with our pastors and colleagues, tried to patch and re-inflate the bubble; but it was too late. Like the horse escaping its pen, we were free, and once free we were not coming back.

My purpose in life is NOT to debate, fight, and argue with Christian fundamentalists. It is a waste of time to do so, and since I have so little time left on this earth, I don’t want to squander it casting my pearls before swine. I’d rather spend my time helping those who find themselves outside of the fundamentalist bubble. For the confused, hurt, looking for help and answers, I want to be someone they can turn to for love and support. I also want to help and be friends with those who have already transitioned away from religion. They want to know what a post-God life looks like. Through my writing, I try to be a help. A small help, a temporary help, whatever they need from me I try to provide.  I am not a guru, nor do I have all the answers. At best, I am a bartender, willing to spin a yarn, provide entertainment, and listen to the woes, cares, and concerns of others.

Through this interaction, I gain something too. Not another church member or notch on the handle of my gospel six-shooter. I have no church or club, I am just one man with a story to tell. But, I do gain support and strength from those who make this blog part of their day-to-day routine.  Sometimes, this blog is a cheap form or therapy; other times it is a raucous Friday night at the bar with friends. As people ride along with me on the Bruce Gerencser Crazy Train®, they have gone from acquaintances and readers to friends. Perhaps, this has become another bubble for me, but if it is, I do know there is an entrance and exit that allows me the freedom to come and go as I please. Freedom — a word I never really understood until I saw God, the church, the ministry, and the Bible in the rear view mirror.

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Dear Family and Friends: Why I Can’t and Won’t Go to Church 

no church

To those who call me Bruce, Butch, Dad, or Grandpa:

In November 2008, Polly and I attended church for the last time. Since then, I have walked through the doors of a church three times, once for a baby baptism, and twice for a funeral. All three experiences left me angry and irritated.

The first service was a baby baptism at a local Catholic church. I thought, Bruce, ignore the bullshit, you are there to support your children. I was fine until the priest began exorcising the devil out of my granddaughter. I wanted to scream, but  I didn’t. After the service, I made up my mind that I would never again attend such a service. No baptisms, no confirmations, no dedications, no nothing. Nada, zero, zip. All of my children and extended family know this. Polly is free to attend any or none of these services, but I can’t and I won’t.

The last two services were funerals. One was the funeral of my sexual predator uncle. The local Baptist preacher preached my uncle right into heaven. (I wrote about that here: Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell) The second service was for Polly’s fundamentalist uncle. Nice guy, but the service was all about Jesus, complete with a sermon and call to salvation. Again, I wanted to scream, but I reminded myself that I was there to support our family.

I’ve decided I can suck it up and endure the Jesus talk for the sake of family. I know there are a lot of funerals in our future, that is if the rapture doesn’t take place. I wish it would so there would be no Christians left to bother me.  I’ll do my best to support my family in their hour of grief. Anyone that tries to evangelize me does so at their own risk. I refuse to be bullied by sanctimonious Bible thumpers who think they are salvation dispensing machines.

I’ve decided that I will walk through the door of a church for two events: funerals and a weddings. That’s it. I don’t do church and the sooner family, friends, and local Christian zealots understand this the better. If the event doesn’t say funeral or wedding, I ain’t going. I can’t and I won’t. If this causes someone to be angry, upset, or irritated, there is nothing I can do about it. That’s their problem.

You see, eight years ago I said to my family, you are free. Be who and what you want to be. Be/stay a Christian, choose another religion or philosophical system, or choose nothing at all. With freedom comes choice. It seems the religious love their choice. They find great benefit, purpose, and meaning, through their particular religion. That’s great. If it makes them happy, then I am happy. But, shouldn’t I be afforded the same freedom and happiness? Why shouldn’t my wife and I have the freedom to NOT participate in church services, rituals, and the like?

Suppose I worship the Cat God Purr. Once a year, all the Purrites get together at my house for a very special service. Part of our ritual is the sacrifice of a female cat. Like the Israelites in the Bible, we offer up a cat as our sacrifice to Purr. Afterward, we roast the cat and eat it, and in doing so we are taking into our body and soul the blood and body of Cat God Purr.

Now imagine me inviting my Christian family to the service. I let them know when the service is and how important it is to me for them to be there. I also let them know that I would like them to partake of the roasted cat so they too could have inside of them the blood and body of Cat God Purr. Can you imagine how they would respond?

First, in their eyes Cat Purr God is a false God. Second, the cat roasting ritual is barbaric and offensive. While I may invite them to the service, I would certainly understand if they didn’t come. Why? Because my God is not their God and I respect their right to believe whatever they want to believe. I would never want to offend them.

It seems if one is an atheist, they are not afforded the same decency and respect. Did Polly and I become less of a person, parent, or grandparent the moment we stopped believing? Does our relationship with family and friends hinge on us sitting our ass in a pew for ten minutes or an hour? Frankly, I refuse to let any one circumstance harm a relationship. If someone asks me to go to a church service or a ritual and I say no and they never ask me again, it’s no big deal. However, once someone knows that I do NOT attend such services and they continue to ask me anyway, this tells me that they do not respect me.

I spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the ministry. I’ve had enough church to last me ten lifetimes. The best way for the religious and the nonreligious to get along is for both sides to compartmentalize their beliefs. I don’t talk about religion/atheism/humanism with my Christian family and friends unless they ask. If they ask, I will gladly give my opinion or share my viewpoint. I am not going to invite them to hear Sam Harris speak, nor am I going to give them Bart Ehrman’s books. If they ask or want to know, that’s different, but if they don’t then I choose to focus on the other things we have in common and leave religion/atheism in the closet. Christian family and friends need to do the same. If I ask, then by all means tell me. If not, let’s focus on the things we have in common. Life is too short to have conflict over religion.

I subscribe to the when in Rome Do as the Romans Do rule. When I am at a Christian’s home and they offer up a prayer to their deity, I respectfully bow my head. It’s their home and they are free to do what they want. Yes, I have an opinion about God and prayer, but their home is not the place to share it.  The same goes for my home. We are not religious, we are not Christian. We don’t pray over our meals, nor do we give the gods one thought before we eat. While we do allow Polly’s dad to pray over the meal when he is here, that is out of respect for him. No big deal, just one more prayer hitting the ceiling. Thousands are already embedded in the paint, what’s one more.

When Christians come to my home, they shouldn’t expect me to change how I live or how I talk. I shouldn’t have to change the music I am listening to, change the TV channel, or remove books from the bookshelf. This is our home, and anyone, even family, who walks through the door is a guest. And the same goes for the Christian’s home. If I visit there, I don’t expect them to do anything different from what they normally do. I respect their space, their freedom.

Freedom is supposed to be a two-way street. Unfortunately, for many Christians it is a one way street called Their Way. They want the freedom to worship their God and practice their faith, but they don’t want to grant others the same freedom. Of course, I know why. They think they have the truth and Polly and I are on a false path that leads to judgment, hell, and eternal punishment. They don’t want us to continue driving on the highway to hell. But, here’s the thing…we don’t think we are on the highway to hell. Since we don’t believe there is a God, it naturally follows that we don’t believe in hell, judgment, heaven, or eternity. It’s up to us to determine what road we want to travel, and for Polly and I, we are quite happy to drive on the road named Reason.

Let me conclude this post with a personal thought about church services in general and why I can’t and won’t attend them.  First, I know the Bible inside and out. I have a theological education, an education that began at a Bible college and continued through the 25 years I spent pastoring churches. So, when I hear preachers and priests preach, I can spot the bullshit from a mile away. I also have little tolerance for preachers who lack the requisite skills necessary to craft a good sermon and deliver it. In my opinion, there’s lots of anemic, pathetic preaching these days. Second, I find many of the rituals offensive. Casting the devil out an infant? Washing away sin with water? Services that are all show and no substance? Vows that are uttered and become lies before the service is over?  Wine and wafers turning into real blood and flesh? Magic wand rituals and practices that pretend to make the past go away and make the present brand new? Preachers, pastors, bishops, and priests touching a person and conferring some sort of divine power? All of these things are offensive to me. They are reminders to me of the bankruptcy of religion and why I want nothing to do with it.

I know that I can’t force people to accept me as I am, but I can choose how and when I interact with them. Years ago, I was listening to Dr. Laura and a grandmother called up complaining about her daughter-in-law. Dr. Laura told her to quit her bitching. If she didn’t, she risked not being able to see her grandchildren. That was good advice and I remembered it years later when my fundamentalist step-grandmother called me. I wrote about this in the post Dear Ann:

…For his seventy-fifth birthday you had a party for Grandpa. You called a few days before the party and told me that if I was any kind of grandson at all that my family and I would be at the party. Never mind Polly would have to take off work. Never mind the party was on a night we had church. All that mattered to you was that we showed up to give Grandpa’s birthday party an air of respectability.

I remember what came next like it was yesterday. The true Ann rose to the surface and you preceded to tell me what a terrible grandson I was and how terrible my family was. You were vicious and vindictive.

Finally, after forty years,  I had had enough. I told you that you should have worried about the importance of family twenty years ago. I then told you that I was no longer interested in having any contact with you or Grandpa. Like my mother, I decided to get off the Tieken drama train…

That’s what can happen when we push, badger, and cajole. I am an atheist, not a Christian and I suspect I will remain so until I die. My family and friends need to come to terms with this, and if they don’t then it’s on them if they ruin our relationship.

When our children married, we vowed that we would NEVER be meddling parents/grandparents. If we offer our opinion on something, we do it once. That’s it. Unless someone asks, we don’t say another word. Every person in my family has the right to live freely and authentically. Yes, they make decisions that I think are foolish, but it’s their life and they are free to live it any way they want. Whether it is Polly’s parents, our children, our daughter-in-laws, or our grandchildren, we don’t meddle in their lives. We want them to be happy. If they are happy, then we are happy.

All that I want is the freedom to live my life authentically. Surely, that’s not too much to ask.

What Pastor Doug Wilson Thinks of Feminists and Homosexuals

screen shot christ church website

Screen shot from the Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho Website

Doug Wilson is the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow Idaho, a professor at non-accredited New Saint Andrews College, and editor of Credenda Agenda magazine. Back when I was a Calvinist with theocratic leanings, I read Credenda Agenda religiously.

Today, a friend of mine sent me a quote from Doug Wilson’s book, Southern Slavery, As it Was. (his co-author was Steve Wilkins) Here’s what Wilson had to say:

“Sodomites parade in the streets, claiming that if we do not appropriate more money to study why people with foul sexual habits get sick, we are somehow violating their civil rights. Feminists, in rebellion against God, invert the order of the home established by God. They do so in a way that seeks to rob women of their beauty in submission and their security in being loved. For two decades, we have seen millions of unborn children slaughtered in abortion clinics. How did we get here, and what is the way out? The question cannot be answered fully without careful study of the War Between the States and the controversies surrounding it. Slavery was one of those controversies.”

You can read the entire book online.

Let this quote serve as a reminder that this kind of thinking is not the exclusive domain of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps clan. Bigots can be found in almost every sect, with the number of bigots growing increasingly larger the more conservative a sect is.

Wilson asks, which morality will it be, but same-sex marriage has nothing to do with morality. Allowing same-sex couples to marry affords them equal protection under the law and grants them the same civil rights as heterosexuals. Each of us have a right to privacy. Consenting adults have the right to engage in whatever sexual conduct that floats their boat without the government regulating the behavior. Theocrats like Wilson desire and demand that their interpretation of the laws found in the Bible be codified and made the standard for everyone.

I find it hard to see how this is any different from Muslims who want to institute Sharia law. As the quotes below will show, Wilson is quite willing to use the power of the state to enforce his version of Biblical law. Wilson also thinks that there may instances when execution is the rightful punishment for someone breaking his God’s law.

Such thinking should cause all of us to shudder. While Islam is center stage in our culture, proponents of God rule are working behind the scenes to destroy America’s secular foundation and legislate and enact a Christian version of sharia law.

Notes

Here’s a Wilson quote I found on The Wartburg Watch:

“You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery. … I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”

Here’s a Doug Wilson quote about rape and marriage I found on the Love, Joy, Feminism blog:

A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

Here’s a Doug Wilson quote about slavery I found on the Are Women Human blog: (link no longer active)

Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, [slavery] was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates…

The [WPA Slave] Narratives consistently portray an amazingly benign picture of Southern plantation life. Affection for former masters and mistresses is expressed in terms of unmistakable devotion. Testimony to the good treatment, kindness, and gentleness of many so-called “heartless slave holders” abounds. Many of the old slaves express a wistful desire to be back at the plantation.

Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care. In the narratives taken as a whole, there is no pervasive cry of rage and anguish.. abuses came from a distinct and very small minority.

Here’s Wilson’s take on the Boy Scouts allowing gay scouts:

I believe that certain unspeakable things will be going on in Boy Scout tents within about five years — with our current tolerance pimps making it all happen — and they will be things that could best be addressed by a judicious use of the strongest form of disapproval a culture has. While I believe that the judicial law of Moses ceased when the nation of Israel ceased, as the Westminster Confession teaches, I also believe the general equity of the law remains. I believe that the general equity of the law includes this strong rejection of homosexual behavior. I also believe that the law of the Old Testament was the model for our common law system, and our system should work in the same way.

By the way, no need for any comments saying that I have confounded homosexuality and pedophilia. I haven’t, and am just giving an example of the kind of same-sex behavior I could see supporting the death penalty for.

But look what I just did. I cited an application of Leviticus 20:13 that could still have broad societal consensus, even in these jaded days. This being the case, what you will have to do is bookmark this page, wait about ten years, and send your outraged cries up to the skies then. By that point, a large number of boys will have been ushered into the fellowship of these men, and there will have been at least two HBO series exalting the lifelong friendships that resulted, and it will then be obvious and apparent to all (in 2023) that I am an incorrigible hater.

Doug Wilson’s prepared remarks for his debate with gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan.

The American Family Association Runs Ad That Says Only God Can Define Marriage

protecting the sanctity of marriage

The American Family Association (AFA) ran an ad today in the Washington Post detailing their view on same-sex marriage. The full-page ad stated:

Marriage was neither manmade nor created by any law or Constitution. It was God’s plan and purpose for civilization from the beginning. He created man and woman as distinctly separate but inherently compatible; each unique yet sexually complementary – providing both the means for and the ideal relationship within which to raise children from that union.

Before you now is a great question: Will you bend what God designed merely to suit the desires of man, knowing that you do so at the expense of children, perhaps even civilization itself? If you decide to affirm marriage as between one man and one woman, you breath life into the natural order and stand as an example to generations that will arise after your decision. But if you decide differently, you are choosing a path that will put the state on a legal and administrative collision course with hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices who believe only God can define marriage. You would say by such a decision that mothers and fathers together are no longer relevant in the lives of children, and that religious expression about the sanctity and purpose of marriage would now become illicit. You would be saying that God has no place in our public square and, in a nation founded to secure freedom for those being persecuted for their faith, such a decision would be a tragic irony. In so doing you would not only risk another Roe v. Wade tear in our cultural fabric, but also effectively delegitimize the very power of the court itself to rule justly.

Before you now is a great challenge: If your decision to resolve this matter forces same-sex marriage on America, you will have settled nothing. We urge the Court to adjudicate rightly that which is God’s alone to decide.

Let me break down the AFA’s position:

  • Only God can define marriage and he defined marriage as one man and one woman
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage means bowing to the desires of man
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm children
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm civilization
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage says that mothers and fathers together are no longer relevant in the lives of children
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage says that religious expression about the sanctity and purpose  of marriage is illicit
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage says that God has no place in the public square
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will risk another Roe v. Wade tear in our cultural fabric
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will delegitimize the power of the  Supreme Court to rule justly

In other words, legalizing same-sex marriage with destroy the United States and Western Civilization. The AFA ad is fear mongering at its best.

I find it interesting that  the AFA, a fundamentalist Christian group, trots out the generic God when it suits them. Last month, in an article titled Evangelicals and Their Duplicitous Argument for the Generic God, I wrote:

Evangelicals are quite specific when it comes to God. There in ONE God, their God, the triune God revealed in the Christian Bible. All other gods are false gods. While it is increasingly common for Evangelicals to embrace Catholics as fellow Christians, it was not that long ago that most Evangelical churches and pastors believed the Roman Catholic church was the harlot of Revelation 17 and worshipers of a false God.  While it is encouraging to see some Evangelicals consider the thought that Catholics and Mormons might worship the same God as they do, the overwhelmingly majority of Evangelicals believe their God is the one, true God. No other gods need apply.

What I find interesting is how duplicitous Evangelicals can be when it comes to the mentioning of God in the founding documents of the United States, on our money, and in the Pledge of Allegiance. Evangelicals, knowing that the constitution forbids the establishment of a state church, argue before congress and the courts that the founding fathers spoke of a generic god, that the God mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance is no god in particular.  And since the documents, laws, and the like use the word god in a generic sense, they do not violate the establishment clause or run afoul of the separation of church and state…

…Why is it that Evangelicals run from this fact when they speak before congress or the courts? Why do they argue that these mentions of God are generic and not a reference to any specific god? Again, the answer is quite simple. They know admitting that these documents use the word God is a specific sense weakens their argument for their continued use. If the Pledge of Allegiance or In God we Trust on our money reference a non-specific God, then it makes it harder for atheists and secularists to argue that these things are unconstitutional. (harder, not impossible)…

Wildmon’s and the AFA’s God is the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian God. All others Gods are false Gods. While their ad implies they support religious pluralism, behind the scenes they are working towards the implementation of a Christian theocracy. Wildmon and others like him are the Evangelical version of Muslims who want to see sharia law enforced throughout the world. In their mind, there is one law book, the Christian Bible. Think for a moment, what would America be like if the Bible was the law book? (Please check out Right Wing Watch to find out what Tim Wildmon really believes.)

The American Family Association, founded by the late Don Wildmon and now controlled by Tim Wildmon, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Here’s some of Tim Wildmon’s statements about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, courtesy of the SPLC website:

“What we reject is the idea that you can take homosexuality, which in the Bible is defined as a sin … it’s unnatural, it’s immoral, it’s unhealthy, and laud it and call it wonderful and say this is the same as heterosexuality. It is not. … We know this is a destructive lifestyle and behavior… .” Sandy Rios in the Morning,” AFA Radio, Oct. 2, 2012

“Our president is promoting the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and queer agenda like there is no tomorrow. God says homosexuality … should be repented of, not embraced and celebrated as a valid ‘alternative lifestyle’… . The Scripture shows us that God sometimes destroyed nations for their rebellion against his moral standards and their lack of repentance. It will happen to us as well if we continue down this path.” AFA Journal, July/August 2014

“Putting a man like [Michael] Sam, who says he is sexually attracted to men, in with all that beefcake seems unfair to the straight players and a distraction to Sam. … Would you put a heterosexual man in the locker room/showers with all the female cheerleaders?” Fundraising E-mail opposing Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, being allowed to play professional football, July 25, 2014

“They have these effeminate, a lot of them, actions. They walk like a girl, a lot of them. … [I]t makes you wonder, how did that develop, where does that come from?” “AFA Today,” AFA Radio, claiming he can recognize gay men by their mannerisms, as reported by Right Wing Watch on Jan. 31, 2014

Tim Wildmon also stated:

“The very idea of the entire nation sitting around and waiting to see if a handful of judges overturn traditional marriage with a nonchalant wave of the hand is absurd. We need to anchor marriage in a constitutional amendment, and we need to do it soon.”

On this point, I totally agree with Wildmon.  Since people like Wildmon are offended by the very thought of a gay person enjoying the same civil and legal rights as they do, they have the option of making their viewpoint the law of the land through a constitutional amendment. Doing so would Supreme Court proof the “sanctity” of heterosexual marriage. Why don’t Christian fundamentalists pursue this path of redress? Simple. They know that such an amendment would NEVER survive the ratification process. Article 5 of the US Constitution states:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

If the American Family Association is so certain that “hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices…believe only God can define marriage”, then is should be quite easy to get 38 state legislatures to ratify such an amendment, right?

Here’s what Tim Wildmon and other culture warriors know. According to a February 2015 CNN poll:

63% of Americans say that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry and have their marriages recognized by the law as valid. That’s up from 49% in August 2010. Over that time, the share who see marriage as a constitutional right has climbed 15 points among Republicans to 42% and 19 points among Democrats to 75%

So much for  “hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices…believe only God can define marriage”.

As of today, no Evangelical, Mormon, or Roman Catholic has made a convincing argument showing religious or personal freedom would be reduced in any way if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. Churches would still be open, pastors would still be free to preach against fags, queers, and sodomites, and no church or pastor would be required to perform a same-sex marriage.

The feigned offense of Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association is little more than the shrill, pathetic objections of a group of people who are losing their power and clout. America has evolved and they haven’t. There’s little that can be done to reach people who think like this. Armed with an infallible Bible given to them by a supernatural God, they are certain they are right. In their world, being right is more important than equal protection under the law and equal civil rights for all.

louis CK same sex marriage

Mark Biltz Accuses John Hagee of Stealing Four Blood Moons Revelation

blood moon

John Hagee, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, recently released a movie based on his book Four Blood Moons. Charisma News reports:

Four Blood Moons is a theatrical one-night event exploring a rare lunar phenomenon that over the centuries has accompanied both tragedy and triumph for the Jewish people. From Pastor John Hagee’s New York Times best-selling book of the same name (750,000 copies in print from Worthy Publishing), Four Blood Moons is in theaters March 23.

“The heavens are ‘God’s billboard.’ He’s been sending signals to earth, and we haven’t been picking them up,” Hagee says. “Two blood moons, in 2014 and 2015, point to dramatic events in the Middle East and, as a result, changes in the whole world.”…

…Four Blood Moons combines Scripture, science, history and big-screen live action spanning centuries, including previous similar lunar occurrences and the earth-shaking changes around them. It also examines our current four-blood-moon cycle—and its possible meaning for Israel, the Middle East and the world.

An array of historians, religious scholars and commentators appear in Four Blood Moons and offer their insight—filmmaker, speaker and author Dinesh D’Souza; radio host and author Dennis Prager; and noted author and historian David Barton to name just a few.

“A blood moon occurs at a lunar eclipse when the earth comes between the sun and the moon,” Hagee said. “As the sun shines through our atmosphere, it throws a shadow on the moon, making the moon look red.”

Only three times in the past 500 years have four of these blood moons (or tetrads) occurred back to back and on major Jewish holy days. The fourth tetrad began April 15, 2014, on Passover. In October last year, the second blood moon appeared on the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as Sukkot). Blood moons in 2015 land on the same holy days…

…Four Blood Moons examines the biblical passages seemingly connected to these events—in Joel and Acts—where it says the “sun will be darkened” and the moon will appear as blood in advance of God’s world-changing action on earth.

Hagee points out that during this four blood moon cycle, all of which touch on Jewish holy days, a solar eclipse also will occur—a combination of events that will never repeat.

Whatever the results, audiences at Four Blood Moons will see a compelling and entertaining exploration of these spiritual, celestial and historical events. And they will leave the theater convinced that something is about to change that could impact us all.

World Net Daily (WND), home to every right-wing conspiracy writer on the planet,  is accusing Hagee of stealing the Four Blood Moons revelation. One Christian is accusing another Christian of stealing God’s revelation. Shocking! According to WND,  Mark Biltz, pastor of Church of All Nations in Tacoma, Washington, a Christian ministry taking the Torah to the Nations, is the one God gave the revelation to. On March 24, 2015, WND sent Hagee a Demand Letter. In the letter, WND demanded Hagee publicly retract his statements about being the receiver of the Four Blood Moons revelation and reedit the film giving Biltz proper attribution.

Joseph Farah, head wing nut at World Net Daily, had this to say on Sunday:

…Then in 2013, I learned that San Antonio mega-pastor John Hagee was coming out with a book called “Four Blood Moons.” I discussed it with Biltz and learned that the previous year he had entertained Hagee as a speaker at his church, El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Washington. Hagee had founded an organization called Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, and Biltz was the Washington state chairman. At that event, Biltz briefed Hagee on the “blood moons phenomenon” and gave him a DVD teaching about it.

When the book came out in 2014, I was eager to read it – as was Biltz. Hagee had consulted with Biltz on the subject after the 2012 event at his church. We were both disappointed that Biltz was nowhere credited with the discovery of the phenomenon, though Hagee did recount his meeting with Biltz and explained, in a roundabout way, that the pastor had inspired the book by asking a question: “Have you ever considered the sun, moon and stars in the study of prophecy?” Hagee never mentioned that Biltz had thoroughly researched the blood moons phenomenon, presented on it over a period of four years on Christian television, spoken at conferences and produced DVD teachings. It had become Biltz’s most well-known accomplishment – his identity, if you will, around the world.

I suggested to Biltz that he write a book on the subject himself. After all, he was the expert. He was the discoverer. We also decided to make a documentary movie about the phenomenon. Both the book and the movie are called “Blood Moons.” Both came out in early 2014.

That would have been the end of the story had Hagee not decided to produce a movie of his own that debuted nationwide in theaters Monday in which he made the following statement: “The thing that compelled me to write the ‘Four Blood Moons’ was when I discovered the scientific fact NASA was pointing out that it happened in 1492 and it happened in 1948 and it happened in 1967 and it was going to happen in 2015.”…

…Biltz was interviewed for the movie and told the story of his own discovery of the blood moons phenomenon, but it was not included in the film. Instead, to any casual viewer of the movie, it seemed to me and Biltz, Hagee was representing himself as the discoverer.

One of my reporters was already assigned to do a story on the “Four Blood Moons” movie and had set up an interview with Hagee to discuss it. I asked him to change the direction of the questioning to focus on how Hagee got to write about and produce a major movie about the phenomenon. I also specifically asked him to explain Biltz’s role in his interest.

Hagee told the story of meeting Mark Biltz at the CFI event in his church in 2012 in a way that was shockingly similar to his explanation in the book – avoiding any mention of Biltz’s voluminous research on the subject and the fact that he had discovered it and thoroughly chronicled it over a four-year period prior to their meeting. In fact, Mark Biltz had become known alternately as “the blood moons pastor” and “Blood Moons Biltz.”

Pressed for more details on whether he or Biltz discovered the phenomenon, Hagee said he got the idea by studying the Bible and researching NASA’s historical charts of blood moon tetrads. There was no further mention of Biltz, and Hagee again used the “discovery” word: “It dawned on me that God is using the heavens as a billboard. And when I got on the Internet and discovered these four blood moons that had happened and would happen, I literally levitated out of my seat.”

Biltz and I decided it was time to clear the air with Hagee. It seemed to both of us that he was moving closer and closer to hijacking Biltz’s discovery with his immense audience and impressive marketing machine.

According to Charisma News, they have a copy of a letter sent to WND by Hagee spokesman Ari Morgenstern. In the letter, Morgenstern detailed the following errors:

…the errors are: (1) an allegation that Hagee asserted he was the “discoverer” of the four blood moons phenomenon; (2) an allegation that Hagee does not credit Biltz for his relevant efforts; (3) an implication that Hagee took the term “God’s billboard” from Biltz; (4) an allegation that Hagee used inaccurate dates in his discussions of previous tetrads (5) an implication that Biltz is not prominently featured in Hagee’s Four Blood Moons film; and (6) an allegation that Hagee supports so-called dual-covenant theology.

Based on these errors, Morgenstern is asking WND to correct the errors in the aforementioned articles. Morgenstern stated:

“Under normal circumstances, given their complete inaccuracy, I would expect both pieces to be removed with the publisher’s apologies, but as [Joseph] Farah is the driving force behind this narrative, the publisher of the outlet that posted the pieces, and WND has not even bothered to provide readers with the name of the author of the pieces, we’ve strayed quite far from normal circumstances.”

“While these facts clearly call into question WND‘s objectivity, they pale in comparison to the conflict of interest associated with Farah’s apparent financial stake in advancing this false narrative. Not surprisingly, in the piece, WND repeatedly advertises and links to purchase options of Biltz’s relevant book and film—which as the WND piece mentions, Farah is, respectively, publisher and producer (relevant screenshots are available upon request).”

As I read this story, I found myself having a vision of dueling prophets, each certain God gave to them the Four Blood Moons revelation. Prophets, walk forty paces, turn and fire. May the best prophet win. Of course, this story has little to do with revelations or prophets and everything to do with PROFIT and PREEMINENCE.

I ask, what would Jesus do?

Just another amusing day in the Evangelical Christian Ghetto. Personally, I am looking forward to the next blood moon, or what we call here in the Midwest a full moon or harvest moon. The next time the moon is large and orange in the sky, I plan to be outside with my camera and tripod hoping to shoot the moon in all its glory. Too bad Hagee, Farah, and Biltz will be too busy arguing over who owns the rights to the show to enjoy it.

John  Piper Says Holding Hands with God More Pleasurable than Getting Laid 10,000 Times

john piper

John Piper

John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, and the father of Christian hedonism, had this to say at the 2015 Desiring God Conference for Pastors:

“Look around in your life, in your church. How many Christians do you see bent with all their powers to know God more and more — more truly, more clearly, more sweetly? Or, rather, do you see thousands fighting graduate school sins with a grammar school knowledge of God?”

Some of you might say, ‘Wait, there are as many PhDs in theology who commit adultery as less-educated people.’ To which I would say, ‘Probably more.’ Why is it that people with PhDs in theology commit adultery? They don’t know God.”

“You can read theology 10 hours a day for 40 years and not know God as beautiful and all-satisfying — as the highest treasure of your life. Who cares about knowing God the way the devil knows God? He hates everybody. His knowledge of God helps him hate people.”

“We’re talking about knowing God here in 1 Thessalonians. They don’t know God. They don’t know God for who He is — infinitely valuable, infinitely beautiful, infinitely satisfying — why your soul was made. There are more pleasures at His right hand, more eternal joys in His presence, than you could have in 10,000 sexual trysts.

“The question is, do you know that? If you know that, sin will have lost its dominion in your life,”

No commentary from me. The headline is what came to my mind as I read the news story about Piper’s sermon. I know…so depraved.

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If You Don’t Believe What the Bible Says You Can’t Be Saved

word of god

An anonymous commenter left the following comment on the Galatians 4 blog:

if the Bible is not truth; the Word of God – then NO ONE can be saved. If we do not believe the Bible, we cannot be saved.

This comment was left on a post titled, The IFB Pastor Turned Atheist: Those Who Fall Away. The post is about my defection from Christianity. The author of the blog post agrees with the anonymous commenter’s view that if we do not believe the Bible we cannot be saved.

Here’s the problem with this view:

First, it makes salvation dependent on reading the right words and believing the right things.

Second, the first century Christian church had no Bible.  They had the Old Testament, a text that makes no mention of Christian salvation and Christian oral traditions.

Third, the gospels were not written until decades after Jesus Christ died and resurrected from the dead. The writings of Paul were written first and they are quite sparse when it comes mentioning Jesus and clearly articulating the Christian gospel. Paul’s writings need the gospels for the Christian/Pauline gospel to make sense.

Fourth, the printing press was invented  1500 years AFTER the death of Jesus. What Bible did people read before the invention of the printing press?

Fifth, illiteracy and the cost of a printed Bible meant that most Christians did not own a copy of the Bible. They relied on others to read the Bible to them or pass on the oral stories of Christianity.

Sixth, it took centuries to complete the canon of the Christian Bible. Prior to this, Christians had “incomplete” Bibles, often containing onlt a few few books of the Bible.

The anonymous commenter does what a lot of Christians do: he takes how things are now and reads it back into Church history. You know, if the Oxford, Calf-Skinned KJV Scofield Bible was good enough for the Apostle Paul it is good enough for me.

Most Christians have little knowledge about the long, complex, and contradictory history of the Bible and the Christian church. This lack of historical knowledge allows them to make statements like the anonymous commenter made on the Galatians 4 blog.

The bigger problem is the way fundamentalists read the Bible. When they read the phrase “word of God” they assume it means “the Bible.”  This, however, is not the case.  Most of the instances in the Bible where we find the phrase “word of God” refer to spoken words or to Jesus Christ himself.

The phrase “word of God” appears 49 times in the Bible. As you can easily see, the phrase has several different meanings:

  • 1Samuel 9:27 And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may show thee the word of God.
  • 1Kings 12:22 But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,
  • 1Chronicles17:3 And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying,
  • Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
  • Mark 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
  • Luke 3:2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.
  • Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
  • Luke 5:1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
  • Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
  • Luke 8:21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear theword of God, and do it.
  • Luke 11:28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
  • John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
  • Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
  • Acts 6:2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
  • Acts 6:7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
  • Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
  • Acts 11:1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
  • Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
  • Acts 13:5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.
  • Acts 13:7 Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
  • Acts 13:44 And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
  • Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
  • Acts 17:13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.
  • Acts 18:11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
  • Acts 19:20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
  • Romans 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
  • Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
  • 1Corinthians14:36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
  • 2Corithians 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
  • 2Corinthians 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
  • Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
  • Colossians 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
  • 1Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
  • 1Timothy 4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
  • 2Timothy 2:9 Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.
  • Titus 2:5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that theword of God be not blasphemed.
  • Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
  • Hebrews 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
  • Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
    Hebrews 13:7  Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
  • 1Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
  • 2Peter 3:5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
  • 1John 2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
  • Revelation 1:2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
  • Revelation 1:9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
  • Revelation 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
  • Revelation19:13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
  • Revelation 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

The word scripture appears 32 times in the Bible. Most of the time, the word scripture refers to the Old Testament, a text that is devoid of any mention of the Christian gospel.

The Bible states in John 1:1-2 that Jesus was the Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. (the rest of John 1 makes it clear that the Word  John 1:1-2 is speaking of is Jesus)

With this thought in mind, that Jesus is the Word, let’s look at Hebrews 4:12-14:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

Raise your hand if you have heard Hebrews 4:12-13 quoted in reference to the Bible, the Word of God? Anyone raised in a Baptist church has heard this countless times. However, look closely at Hebrews 4:12-14. Is the word of God here the Bible or Jesus? Notice the male pronoun in the phrase manifest in HIS sight? Verse 14 makes the “who” of the text very clear when it says, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…”

The whole point of this exercise it to show that it is important to NOT read preconceived ideas and beliefs into the text. Pastors breed ignorance when they quote verses to “prove” a point and not actually conveying to the congregation what the text actually says. They also breed ignorance when they refuse to say, not the Bible says or God says, but our Church says, or I say. Far too many preachers are like Alfred Shannon, Jr, a 40 year member of the Church of Christ. Shannon says about himself:

I adhere to the principle of speaking where the bible speaks, and remaining silent where the bible is silent.I do not add to or take from God’s Word nor do I go beyond that which was written. I prove all things by the scripture, and by no other source. This site is designed to preach the gospel and doctrine of Christ unto all the world.

This kind of thinking is common in every sect that believes the Bible is an inerrant, infallible text. They think THEIR interpretation is the one, true, exact interpretation and they alone are preaching the pure word of God. They are naïvely or deliberately ignorant about the influence of culture, upbringing, and tribal affiliation on what one believes. In their mind, they believe exactly what was written on parchment 2,000 years ago. In  Shannon Jr’s sect, many of the churches have a building cornerstone that says AD 33. That’s right, like the Catholic and Landmark Baptist sect, they believe they are the one true church, established by Jesus to propagate the gospel to the ends of the earth.

This kind of intransigence closes the mind off from any other belief or idea. Until a person can dare to think that they might be wrong, that their sect might be wrong, or that the claims they make for the Bible might be untrue, there is no hope of reaching them. They are intellectually walled off from any voice but their own.

Luke 16: The Rich Man and Lazarus

rich man and lazarus

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 

But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:19-31)

Anyone raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church has heard numerous sermons from Luke 16:19-31. Over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I preached from this passage many times.

The first question this passage raises is whether it is meant to be taken literally. Many Christians, increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of hell and sinners being tortured for eternity, say that this is a parable. However, it is clear from the text itself that Jesus did not mean for this to be taken as a parable.

In all the other parables uttered by Jesus he never mentions anyone by name. In this parable, the three main characters are:

  • A certain rich man (Dives?)
  • A certain beggar named Lazarus
  • Abraham

Jesus tells us the rich man was:

  • Clothed in purple and fine linen
  • Fared (ate) sumptuously every day

Lazarus, however, was:

  • A beggar
  • Crippled
  • Afflicted with sores that the dogs licked
  • Fed with crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table

Both Lazarus and the rich man died:

  • The rich man went to hell and was tormented by the flames of hell without a drop of water to drink
  • Lazarus was carried by  angels to Abraham’s bosom and was comforted

Generally, the Evangelical Christian church believes hell is in the bowels of the earth. In this passage of scripture, hell is a place separated from Abraham’s bosom by a fixed, impassable, great gulf. This gulf is not so great though that a person in one part cannot see the people on the other side of the gulf. The rich man was able to look across the great gulf and see Abraham.

This story details the concern the rich man had for his five brothers who were still alive. He wanted to make sure that they didn’t end up in hell.  He begged Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about hell. Abraham refused and told the rich man his brothers had the Word of God (Moses and the Prophets). If they wouldn’t heed the Word of God they would perish. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them, but Abraham told the rich man that if his brothers wouldn’t heed the Word of God they would not heed someone who rose from the dead.

I find it interesting that Abraham says the living brothers should heed Moses and the Prophets, yet the Old Testament says little to nothing about hell or heaven. I also find it interesting that Abraham told the rich man that his brothers would not be persuaded even if a resurrected dead man, Lazarus, came to them to warn them about hell. Isn’t the linchpin of the Christian religion the resurrection of a man named Jesus from the dead? What better way to authenticate the Christian religion than Jesus physically revealing himself to the world. Think how much better it would be for Christians if every 20 years Jesus could make a brief appearance to remind people that he is still alive and kicking and is still busy building them mansions in the New Jerusalem.

Instead, we are told we must believe what the Bible says about the living, dead, now living Jesus, the son of God. As Luke 16 makes clear, the Abrahamic religions have always been text-based religions. The Bible says is not just the mantra of Evangelical Christianity, but also Liberal Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism cease to exist without their respective religious texts. Simply put, no Bible, no Christianity.

According to many Christian sects and pastors, when Jesus died he descended into hell. 1 Peter 3:18-20 says:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:  By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Ephesians 4:7-10 says:

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Many Christian sects and pastors teach that hell and Abraham’s bosom were in the bowels of the earth. These were temporary holding places for the just and unjust. When Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven he took the just with him. Those in hell remained there.

The early church believed Jesus descended into hell. The Apostles’ Creed says:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

A Third Century Syrian creed says: (link no longer active)

“who(Jesus)  was crucified under Pontius Pilate and departed in peace, in order to preach to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the saints concerning the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead.”

Luke 16:19-31 raises all kinds of sticky questions for Christians.

  • Why did the rich man end up in hell? The text seems to imply it was because he was rich. The New Testament makes it clear that few rich people make it to heaven (Luke 18:24-25)
  • Why did Lazarus end up in Abraham’s bosom? The text seems to imply it was because he was poor and suffered. Jesus reinforces this belief in the Beatitudes.
  • Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment.  How then, could the rich man see and know Abraham and Lazarus and Abraham and Lazarus see the rich man?
  • If, as some Christians believe, it is the soul or spirit that goes to the heaven or hell to await being united with a resurrected body, then, according to Luke 16:19-31, the soul has corporeal properties. Why then can we not see the soul of a person when they die?
  • How was the rich man able to withstand the flames and torments of hell without being burned up? This is a question many Christians run from since it suggests God specifically fits non-Christians with a soul/spirit and body that is specially suited for endless torment in the flames of hell. (this is the where the praise band begins to sing, Our God is an Awesome God)
  • The Word of God, (Moses and the Prophets) teaches that salvation is through obedience to God’s law and not by grace. If this is the case, what ultimately determined where Lazarus and the rich man ended up?  If Jesus (God) is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why is salvation in the Old Testament and the gospels different from salvation in the post-gospel New Testament?

The easy (and lazy) answer to these questions is to say that Luke 16:19-31 is a parable  and is only meant to be an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. However, I think it is intellectually dishonest to suggest that this story is a parable. When compared to the parables uttered by Jesus, it has little in common  with them.

Do you have a story to tell about a sermon on Luke 16:19-31? Was preaching on hell a prominent part of your or your pastor’s preaching?  Please use the comment section to share your experience

The Midwestern Baptist College Preacher Who Became an Atheist

bruce and polly gerencser 1976

Freshman class, Midwestern Baptist College, Pontiac, Michigan 1976, Polly is first row on the left, Bruce is third row, eighth from the left.

From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College , an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution in Pontiac, Michigan. Polly also attended the college, as did her father, and uncle. While not as large or as prestigious as institutions like Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson, Tennessee Temple, or Pensacola Christian College, Midwestern is known for turning out men who are church planters and fierce defenders of the Word of God. Started in 1953 by Dr. Tom Malone, Midwestern once had an enrollment of over 400 students. These days, the enrollment is less than a hundred and in 2010 the college moved its location to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan.

At one time, Midwestern advertised itself as a character building factory. Over the past 62 years, this factory has graduated hundreds of men and women, each devoted to the fundamentals of the faith. While some of the students who attended Midwestern no longer wear the fundamentalists label, I do not know of one Midwestern attendee who is a liberal. Best I can tell, there is only one man who became a liberal and that is me. Certainly, many churches pastored by Midwestern-trained men are Evangelical and to the left of the fundamentalism taught by the college, but none of them, as far as I know, are liberal or progressive. Even more amazing, as far as atheism is concerned, I am the only person who attended Midwestern and entered the ministry as a Midwestern-trained preacher who is now an atheist.

i am special

I am soooo special.  From time to time, I see in the logs  search strings like “the Midwestern Baptist College preacher who became an atheist.”  Google? This site is #1. Bing? #1. I am as rare as real science exhibit at the Creationist Museum. I am sure there are others who attended Midwestern who no longer believe, but I am the only person who has dared to poke his head above the hole and say so.

The Bob Jones III Non Apology Apology

bob jones III

Recently, thanks to a petition by the gay rights activist group BJUnity, Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University, was forced to apologize for saying that homosexuals should be stoned to death. In 1980, Jones III told  the Associated Press (link no longer active):

“It would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”

According to WXLT, Jones III made this statement while “attending a meeting at the White House with other fundamentalist leaders to deliver a petition to protest extending the protections of the Civil Rights Act to homosexuals.”

While Jones III indeed apologizes for what he said, have his beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex marriage changed? Of course not. While this is certainty a small, hard-fought victory for BJUnity, the apology is meant to a be band-aid covering up the bigotry that is prevalent on the Bob Jones University campus. I am quite certain that, belief wise, the Jones’s and the administration of the University believe just like they always have. I am certain that they do not support equal protection under the law for gays. They remain steadfastly opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

BJUnity had this to say about the statement:

“This means a lot to us because it represents the beginning of a change in the rhetoric and conversation.”

I really wish this was true, but alas it is not. Bob Jones III, like his father and grandfather, remains a hateful bigot. He will certainly pay closer attention to what he says and where he says it, but any thought of the Jones’s or the University moving away from their beliefs about homosexuality is naïve. They remain unabashedly fundamentalist. They remain committed to inerrancy and literalism. In their mind, the Bible is THE standard for morality, and the Bible is clear: homosexuality is an abomination and the mark of a reprobate mind.

IFB Preacher Bob Gray Says “Buy My Book if You Really Care About Souls”

passion for souls

Snark ahead, you’ve been warned!

I ask you dear reader, do you care about lost and dying souls? If so, Bob Gray Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, has a book or two he’d like to sell you. According to his blog, these books are so important that NOT buying them will result in more souls being lost for eternity. According to Gray:

…There are 400,000 plus churches of all types in our nation. If the Bible believing local churches would sharpen their soul winning tools and organize a strong Sunday School system we would see a reversal of our outreach to our worlds. Jesus is coming soon and we must have a second mile kick in order to finish our portion of the race for souls.

You can call xxx-xxx-xxxx or xxx-xxx-xxxx or email xxx@juno.com or xxx@me.com to order.  Do not put this off. The longer you delay the more souls we will lose. This one-two punch will help your local church in your outreach in your world.

Gray warns fellow Independent Fundamentalists Baptists (IFB) about the soon return of Jesus. Isn’t this same sorry trope IFB preachers have been using for decades in an attempt to light a fire under complacent church members?  Evidently, IFB churches are in a race and these books will help them start running faster so they “finish their portion of the race for souls.” Who are they racing against? Satan? Catholics? Muslims? Southern Baptists? Or is this just a Madison Fifth Avenue ploy to sell self published books?  Guilt+fear=more book sales.

The first book is written by David Hyles. Yes, THAT David Hyles. Titled, Jack Hyles’ Passion for Sunday School: Philosophies and Principles that Shaped His Pastoral Ministry, this book is all about the importance of having a Sunday school. And not just any Sunday school, but a Sunday school just like Jack Hyles had at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. (Please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles if you are not familiar with him) I think it is safe to say that this book will NOT mention Jack Hyles’ passion for his secretary or David Hyles’ passion for anyone wearing a skirt.

The second book is written by Gray. Titled, Passion for Souls: The Motivation, Message, and Methods of My Life as a Soulwinner, it details Gray’s soulwinning passion and methodology. Jeff Fugate, pastor of Clay Mills Road Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, had this to say about the book:

“This book is in my opinion the BEST book I have ever read on the matter of personal soul winning. It is encouraging, instructive, enjoyable and convicting. I recommend this book to new Christians as well as to seasoned soul winners. Thank you Dr. Gray for your example of personal soul winning and for putting your life’s work into this book.”

Evangelist John Hamblin adds:

“I’m thrilled that you are holding in your hands right now, this tremendous bound volume, “My Passion For Soul Winning” by my dear friend, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr.

I’ve said, as Andrew was the Apostle of Personal Workers in the days of the early church, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr. is the “Apostle of Personal Workers” in the present church”

Here is a principled fundamentalist, powerful preacher, published author and proficient soul winner, who has not only lead tens of thousands to Christ but also has trained and tutored tens of thousands of personal soul winners.

In this bound volume you will find the drive, desire, duty, determination and demeanor, of one, without question, of the most successful personal soul winners of our day.

The IFB church movement is dying on the vine. Countless churches have closed their doors and others face steep attendance decline.  IFB colleges that once had burgeoning enrollment now have a hard time keeping the doors open. You’d think that someone, anyone, would stop and ask WHY this is? Some IFB preachers blame worldliness, a catch-all phrase for church members who love HBO more than they love Jesus. Others develop a persecution complex, thinking that liberals, Obama, socialists, Democrats, Catholics, Southern Baptists,other IFB preachers who aren’t in their camp, and a host of other groups and people they demonize, are actively working against them.

The fault lies with everyone but them. Instead of recognizing that their “motivation, message, and methods,” no longer work, they just keep doing the same thing over and over and over hoping for a different outcome. They continue to preach against the same “sins” they were preaching against 40 years ago. The difference now is that it is harder to find people who are willing to be assaulted week in and week out with the King James bible.

Gray will surely sell some books. The IFB church movement is quite incestuous, so big name IFB preachers preach for one another, give each other doctorates, and buy each other’s books. It is a wheel that keeps on spinning…

If you are interested in buying a copy of Gray’s books, you can purchase them at Solve Church Problems.