Evangelicalism

John 3:16, The Simplest Verse in the Bible, Right?

john 3 16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Christians tout John 3:16 as the simplest verse in the Bible. They revel in the simplicity of the message. It is often the first verse children are taught to memorize.

Is John 3:16 really the simplest verse in the Bible?  What if we looked at  John 3:16 through the lens of the plethora of theological beliefs within the Christian church?

First, we would have to settle who wrote the gospel of John in general and John 3:16 in particular.  We know chapter and verse numbers were added fifteen centuries after the  writing of John. There’s a lot of debate about who wrote John, when it was written, and whether it should even be considered a gospel or a part of the canon of Christian scripture.

Once we settle the legitimacy issue, we would then have to decide who is actually doing the speaking in John 3:16. The author of John?  Jesus?  Did the author actually hear Jesus speak these words? Is John 3:16 a verbatim quote of what Jesus said?

Now to the verse.

For God

Right away we are forced to decide which God the Bible is talking about. Christianity is hardly unified on the God question. Witness a Baptist and an Apostolic fight over whether the trinity is taught in the Bible. Is God one? Is God three in one?

So Loved the World

It would seem that this part of the verse is pretty straight forward. God loves the world. World means God loves everyone. However, as millions of Calvinists will quickly tell you, all doesn’t necessarily mean all, and world doesn’t necessarily mean world. First, you have to take the verse and push it through the Calvinist sieve and then you can interpret John 3:16 correctly. World doesn’t mean everyone. It means out of every kindred, tribe and tongue God has people he loves and people he intends to saved. In other words, God doesn’t savingly love everyone. It is right there in the verse, can’t YOU see it?

At about this point Calvinists launch into a discussion about  the difference between God’s love for everyone (common grace) and the love he has for those he has chosen from before the foundation of the world. Of course, Arminians have a far different view of the scope of God’s love and grace.   Let the never-ending debate begin.

That He Gave His only Begotten Son

We will assume that son means Jesus. This raises an issue right away, an issue that many Christians have fumed about over the years. Was Jesus always the son of God? One side adamantly says yes. The other side says he became the son and there was a time when he wasn’t the son.

Then we have to deal with the only son issue. Did God have more sons or daughters?  As Mormonism becomes a mainstream American religion, what about their belief that Lucifer (the devil, Satan) is Jesus’ brother?

The next issue we have to deal is “how” Jesus was begotten. Did Jesus have a sperm donating father?  If the Holy Spirit  “begat” Jesus, how did that happen?  Did God have sex with Mary? Virgin birth? What a laugher, many liberal Christians say. Everyone knows virgins can’t be pregnant. Besides, the word virgin means young woman. Liberals and fundamentalists battle back and forth, each certain their view is correct.

That Whosoever Believeth in Him

Whosoever. Once again does this refer to everyone? No matter who you are, where you are, if you believe in Jesus you will have everlasting life? What about reprobates? Does whosoever apply to them?  The Calvinist, the party of the exception, says whosoever doesn’t mean everyone. Only the elect will savingly believe in Jesus. Everyone else, even if they wanted to, cannot savingly believe in Jesus. If you are not elect, predestined, chosen you are bound for an eternity in the Lake of Fire. God decided before you were even born that you would burn forever.

What does it mean to believe? What do we have to believe? Here is where the whole issue becomes every religion for itself. Every flavor of Christian ice cream has its own take on what it means to believe and what it is a person must believe to be saved. Even among churches of the same denomination there are differences about what it means to believe and what one must believe  to be saved.

Should not Perish

What does it mean to perish?  Death? First or second death? Hell? Lake of fire? Purgatory? Eternal punishment? Temporary punishment? Annihilation?

But Have Everlasting Life

When it comes to life after death, all Christians believe that they will go heaven after they die.  No matter what road they take, what theology they have, every sect/church believes everlasting life is the prize for those who believe.  Though … I do remember a debate among preachers about the difference between eternal life and everlasting life. It goes something like …

Here’s my point.  Even the simplest verse in the Bible can be interpreted different ways. Each interpreter believes their interpretation to be the correct one.  There is no such thing as Biblical truth. All we have is Individual sects/churches/pastors/individuals saying their interpretation is the truth. Armed with study bibles, concordances, and dictionaries, many Christians believe they are ready to emphatically tell anyone who will listen what the Bible teaches.

Imagine a person who has never heard about any of the religions of the world.  He has lived his life in isolation. One day he comes upon an inscription on a cave wall that says:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

What conclusions would he come to?  Would he naturally come to the conclusions I mentioned above? Not likely. Perhaps he would start a religion. What is the likelihood that it would resemble any of the Christian sects? Once again, not likely.

This is why I don’t involve myself in long debates or discussions about the Bible. Such discussions become like ten students looking at a Monet, each giving their own interpretation. Then the teacher says, NO! NO! NO!, all of you are wrong. The picture is saying ________________.

After all, the Bible does say,  Let every man be persuaded in his own mind …

052717

Praise and Worship Music: Banging Jesus on Sunday Morn

praise and worship music

Warning! Snark, sarcasm, humor and offense ahead.

When I started attending a Christian church in the late 1950’s, hymns, hymns, and only hymns were the songs of the church. In the 1960’s southern gospel music started to influence what was sung on Sunday morning. From there came the Gaither era, the contemporary Christian era, and finally the praise and worship era. Drums, guitars, praise teams, and worship leaders are standard fare in churches now. Seniors tend to not like it, millennials think it is boring, and baby boomers say, FINALLY, rock music in the church.

Over the last eight years I spent in the ministry, the churches I pastored used a blended worship approach. We’d sing hymns, but we also sang a lot of praise and worship songs. My three oldest sons played bass and guitar, so they became the church band. At the time, I thought it was wonderful, but now that I am years removed from singing love songs to Jesus, I have a far different opinion.

Just for fun, I clicked the Praise and Worship channel on Rdio. I listened to many of the songs we sung years ago, mixed in with new praise and worship songs. As I listened to the instrumentation, I couldn’t help but notice how the songs stirred my emotions. It’s the instrumentation that gives the syrupy, Jesus is your boyfriend lyrics their sexual appeal. I thought, these songs are love-making songs. And that is exactly why so many Christians love them. Hymns generally appealed to the intellect. Praise and worship music makes no pretense of appealing to the intellect. The music is meant to agitate the emotions, putting the listener in a frame of mind that makes it easy for Jesus to  have sex, commune with the believer.

Many praise and worship songs are little more than aids for spiritual masturbation. Often the lyrics are shallow and repetitive, focusing on self and not God. Some of the lyrics are so shallow that just by changing a few words you can change the song from a love song to Jesus to a love song to your boyfriend or girlfriend. Take the song (Trading My Sorrows) Yes Lord by Matt Redman. The next time you are making love to your significant other, speak or sing these lyrics, changing the word Lord to the name of your partner:

We say yes lord yes lord yes yes lord
Yes lord yes lord yes yes lord
Yes lord yes lord yes yes lord amen

Make sure you sing it loudly so the neighbors will know it is your lucky night.

The draw of praise and worship music is its emotional appeal. Visit a local we are the hippest church in town and observe the effect the music has on parishioners. All around you will be people lost in the love of Jesus. Some will be so enthralled that they begin making love to Jesus, not caring a bit that they are participating in the equivalent of a YouPorn video. It’s emotional sex with your clothes on.

On one hand, the effect this music has on parishioners reflects the power of music to move our emotions. When Polly and I attended a Darius Rucker concert last year, both of us noticed the emotional connection attendees made with the music. Both of us were stirred emotionally by the music. The problem with praise and worship music is that it is sold as a way to get closer to God. Uncounted Evangelicals go to church on Sunday to get their emotional fix. Forget the sermon. They are there to wrap their arms around Jesus and do a slow dance with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is in this highly emotional state that parishioners are open to whatever their pastor is selling that day. While worship leaders will likely object and say that the music prepares the believer to hear from the Lord, I am convinced the music is used, whether purposely or ignorantly, to weaken defenses and make it easier for parishioners to “hear” what  the pastor, uh I mean God is trying to tell them.

The music puts the parishioner in an altered state. This is by design and any pastor or worship leader who tells you differently is lying. Even with hymns, it is possible for the songs to elicit a specific emotional response. The ebb and flow of the average worship service is a highly designed and scripted affair meant to achieve a certain goal. If this is not so, why don’t churches start their service with the sermon? Instead, the music is used to open the heart (mind) of the listener to whatever the pastor is going to say. By manipulating emotions, the pastor has a greater chance to get those under the sound of his voice to do what he wants them to do. Again, if this is not so, why do most pastors and worship leaders choose songs that perfectly dovetail with the sermon? Why not take requests from the floor if what song is sung doesn’t matter?

But it does matter. And it is not just the music. Modern church services have turned into tightly scripted affairs. Sound, lighting, and program structure is used to set the mood, no different from me coming home and finding the lights dimmed, candles lit, rose petals on the floor, and the sweet voice of Karen Carpenter quietly wafting through the air. The former is meant to help the parishioner get lucky with Jesus. The latter is meant to remind Bruce that sometimes the ballgame doesn’t come first. 🙂

Even in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, a sect known for hating contemporary music, certain songs are used to elicit an emotional response from the congregation. The goal is the same regardless of the style of music. Through emotional manipulation the words of a man are more easily received. In most cases, little harm is done. But, sometimes, by manipulating the hearer’s emotions, they are led to make decisions or do things they wouldn’t have ordinarily done. Those slobbering IFB preachers were right about secular music. Certain “satanic” songs can lower inhibitions and pave the way for a romp in the sack with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Such evil! But, what they don’t tell you is that certain “godly” songs can lower inhibitions too and pave the way for a romp in the sack with Jesus.

Jason Lisle Says There is No Such Thing as an Atheist

atheist foxhole

Imagine, for a moment, that every time someone told me they were a Christian I told them that they weren’t really a Christian because there is no such thing as a Christian. It says right here in the Book of Bruce Almighty® that everyone knows that Bruce Almighty exists and that anyone who says they are a Christian is suppressing their knowledge of the existence of Bruce. The Christian would likely say that they know they are a Christian because Jesus saved them and they believe the teaching found in the Bible. Imagine if I REFUSED to allow the Christian to authentically tell their own story.  Can you imagine how outraged Christians would be if I refused to accept their story at face value?

Yet, this is EXACTLY what fundamentalist Christians like Dr. Jason Lisle do. Last week, Jessa Duggar and her husband Ben Seewald Duggar visited the  “Institute for Creation Research in Texas, where they spoke to members of the self-described leader in scientific research within the context of biblical creation.”  When Seewald asked Institute scientist Dr. Jason Lisle if he could prove the existence of God, Lisle replied:

“The evidence of God is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. In fact, Roman 1 tells us that God has revealed himself to everyone, and what that means is, there is really no such thing as an atheist.”

According to Lisle, humans are hardwired to believe in God and God reveals himself to everyone, so there is no such thing as an atheist. Lisle went on to say:

“So I don’t really have to give new evidence to a professing atheist. All I have to do is expose his suppressed knowledge of God.”

Lisle is a perfect example of an educated idiot. No matter how much scientific knowledge Lisle has, the words of the Bible are the final arbiter of truth. For example, in a game I have often played with people like Lisle, I willingly accept the premise that creation reveals to us that there is a God. I then ask them to give me evidence from creation that the God creation gives testimony to is the Christian God. Discussion over, because the fundamentalist is forced to retreat to the safety of THE BIBLE SAYS! You see, it’s not creation that reveals that the Christian God exists, it’s the Bible. At best, creation reveals that a deity, a divine being, or an advanced species created the earth and its inhabitants. If it is abundantly clear just from creation that the Christian God of the Christian Bible is God, why do other cultures and religions claim that the creator God is a different deity? Humans, over their long history, have worshiped a plethora of Gods. If creation makes it clear that the Christian God created everything, why do billions of people worship other Gods? Perhaps God has a marketing problem and should hire Don Draper to write a God advertising line that every human will know and understand. As soon as anyone hears it, they will say, Oh, that’s the Christian God jingle.

Ben Seewald, showing his deep understanding of science said:

“I know there is also a lot of scientific evidence, we are here at the Institute for Creation Research, and there is a lot of — really, all science points to the validation of the Genesis account,”

It’s true…you can’t argue with stupid.

One more quote that I am sure my fellow atheists will love. Lisle said:

The atheist is like a little child sitting on his father’s lap, slapping his father and spitting on him, and insulting him, and so on. He are only able to do it because his father is supporting them. And the atheists are like that. Their using God’s laws of logic, their using a sense of morality that God gave them in order to argue against the very God who makes such things impossible.

To which, Ben Seewald said, WOW, that’s really amazing!

Yeah, my thought e-x-a-c-t-l-y.

Here’s the video of Ben Seewald’s “discussion” with Dr. Jason Lisle.

Video Link

One Millions Moms Says a Boy is a Boy Even if She is a Girl

 

girl scouts

One Millions Moms (OMM), the outrage wing of the American Family Association, issued an action alert today condemning the Girl Scouts’ policy on transgender youth. The action alert states:

A new Girl Scouts of the USA policy states it will extend membership to boys who identify as girls…

…This means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle. Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk.

Adults are willing to experiment on our kids – both the boys who are confused and the girls who will wonder why a boy in a dress is in the bathroom with them…

Here’s the Girl Scouts policy that has OMM upset:

Girl Scouts is proud to be the premiere leadership organization for girls in the country. Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority. That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.

Simply put, if a child is recognized as a girl by their family and school and lives culturally as a girl, the Girl Scouts will allow the child to be a part of their group. OMM refuses to admit that matters of sexual orientation and sexual identity can be fluid and complex and that biologically sexuality is nuanced and complex. In their mind, God made male and female, end of story. If you are born with a penis you are a male and if you are born with a vagina you are a female. However, if you have done any reading on sexual orientation and sexual identity, you know that, thanks to science, matters orientation and identity are complex. These days, to be conversant on these issues, one must understand terms like heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual,pansexual,polysexual, androphilia, gynephila, intersex, cisgender, transsexual, transgender, etc. In the simplistic world of the OMM, God, through genetic voodoo makes humans male or female. However, God’s genetic voodoo act can result with in a child being born with the “wrong” genitals or other chromosomal aberrations. God must have been having a bad day, eh? ( Transgender, Intersex, Sexual Orientation)

As with seemingly every American culture conflict, Christian fundamentalism and literalistic interpretations of the Bible are the primary agitators. Science continues to undermine and discredit fundamentalist beliefs. Christian fundamentalists have two choices: they can grudgingly accept the findings of science or they can ignorantly and blindly wage war. Sadly, most fundamentalists choose the latter. Until the light of reason finds a way into their mind, there is no hope of reaching them. All we can do is keep them from hurting others. Like children with scissors, we need to make sure that OMM’s scissors have blunt ends so they can’t hurt themselves or others.

You Can’t Judge Christianity by the Product it Produces

love with actions not words

You can’t judge Christianity by the product it produces.

Or so I am told.

Even though we judge the veracity of virtually of everything by the product it produces, Christians think that Christianity should be exempt from such examination.

Raise the issue of the disconnect between the way Christians live and the truth they say they believe, and you’ll be told the only issue is the truth of the gospel.

“Christians are hypocrites”

So what. The gospel message is what matters.

“Christians live lives that are not any different from their non-Christian neighbors.”

So what. The gospel message is what matters.

Christians go around with bumper stickers that say “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” and  expect non-Christians to understand.

Non-Christians are told time and again that Jesus is the answer to what ails them.

Jesus will change their life if they will  trust him as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus fixes the broken, heals the hurting, and make every follower of him a new creation.

Jesus forgives sin, wipes the slate clean, and the Holy Spirit lives inside every believer to teach and guide them.

The Bible says Christians have the mind of Christ.

The Bible also says that Christians are to be perfect, even as their Father in Heaven is perfect.

Christians are even told in the book of James their lives must be sinless and 1 John says anyone who sins is of the devil.

The Bible also says they are to be holy just like God is holy.

The same Bible that tells us the gospel message that we are told we must accept as truth also presents a Christian lifestyle radically different from how Christians live today.

A lifestyle, it seems, that despite having their sins forgiven, being made a new creature in Christ, and having God live inside them, Christians are unable to live it.

We live in a nation inundated with Christian churches, Christian books, Christian TV and radio. Christianity is the professed religion of 78% of Americans. One out of four Americans are Evangelical. The United States is the most Christian nation on earth.

Yet, for the most part, those who profess they are Christian live are no differently than their non-Christian neighbor.

They preach Jesus is the answer, but the non-Christian looks at the Christian and says “how’s that working out for you?

If Christians truly want to impress the world, if Christians want to give the world a reason to pause and consider the truth of the gospel, then live like it matters.

Stop preaching and start living.

In other word put up or shut up.

While I believe the Bible to be an errant, fallible, non-inspired work of men, if Christians truly lived their lives according to the words of Jesus, it might make me pause for a moment to consider the message of Jesus.

But, I know I am safe. Christians love money, food, power, sex, pleasure, entertainment, material goods, etc just like the rest of us. For all their talk of heaven, they seem to want to stay alive right here on earth with the rest of us.

The product produced shows that the advertising is false.

Change the product and people might start believing the advertising.

I see nothing within Christianity that says to me “come home.”

I like my new  residence.

And I can sleep in on Sunday.

Bruce, What Do You Think of Russell Earl Kelly and His Position on Tithing?

tithing

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Byroniac asked:

Bruce, have you ever heard of Russell Earl Kelly and his book, “Should the Church teach tithing?”. And if so, do you plan to blog about it? I promoted it as much as I could, and got ZERO attention for it, probably because I was not important enough to be noticed or because wherever I go I seem to become the proverbial black sheep. Considering that I have lost every single popularity contest I have ever been in, both inside and outside the church, I suppose this is not surprising. Anyways, even as a freethinker now, I still agree with the majority of what this guy teaches about tithing, to the best of my memory.

For readers who are unfamiliar with Russell Earl Kelly:

Russell Earl Kelly is an American Christian theologian, apologist, author, speaker and blogger. He writes nonfictional theological books. Russell is best known for evangelizing and debating why tithing 10% to one’s church is not a Christian obligation…

Russell graduated Cum Laude from Sprayberry High in 1962. From June 1962 until June 1966 he was in the U. S. A. F., received 22 semester hours in Chinese Mandarin at Yale University and was soon promoted to the Transcription Department while serving in Taiwan. Russell graduated Cum Laude from Southern Missionary College in Tennessee in 1976, now called Southern University Of Seventh Day Adventist, and served two churches in Georgia, four in North Dakota and one in South Carolina.

Although legally blind since 1989, Russell subsequently completed a Th. M.. and a Ph. D. at independent Baptist-oriented Covington Theological Seminary in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia in August 2000. His dissertation was on the subject of tithing. From that dissertation came his first book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. His second book is Exposing Seventh-day Adventism, published in 2005. His third book, From Gethsemane to Ascension, An Ultimate Harmony of the Gospel, Easter and Resurrection Plays, February 2008, is in conversational style…

You can check out Kelly’s horrible looking Front Page/Windows 95 era looking website here. According to Sitemeter, the site averages about 500 page views a day. You can read his blog here.

Kelly is a 70-year-old New Covenant Independent Baptist who loves to put PhD after his name and talk about tithing. One would think that Kelly has a degree from a respected university, but he doesn’t. He earned his PhD at Covington Theological Seminary, an unaccredited Independent Baptist institution in Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia. Want a doctorate? It will cost you $2,395. Work required? 40 credit hours and a 25,000 to 50,000 word thesis. You can check out Covington’s catalog here.

I have made my view of unaccredited IFB doctorates quite clear in the post IFB Doctorates: Here a Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor. That said, education aside, Byroniac’s question is about Kelly’s view on tithing. While I have not read Kelly’s book, I do think his view on tithing is generally correct. Kelly states:

New Covenant giving is: freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, regular and motivated by love for God, fellow Christians and lost souls. Do not burden or curse God’s poor who struggle to feed and shelter their family. Although there is no set percentage for Christians to give, all should give sacrificially or lower your standards of living in order to further the reach of the Gospel.

Kelly, like many Independent Baptists, is a dispensationalist. There is no possible way for one to be a dispensationalist and still believe tithing is for today. There’s nothing in the New Testament that remotely teaches that Christians should give 10% of their gross income to the church (the storehouse). Preachers who believe in tithing must use Old Testament proof texts to prop up their beliefs. IFB preachers pretty much ignore the commands of the Old Testament except for the verses on tithing, women wearing men’s clothing, and sodomy. Many preachers added to the tithe requirement demands for special offerings and Faith Promise missionary offerings. It is not uncommon to see poor IFB church members giving 10-20% of their income to the church, believing that if they did so God would open the windows of heaven and pour them out a blessing. Like their faith healing counterparts, IFB preachers promise wonderful blessings from God if people will just open their wallet and give an above 10% offering to God.

While I think that Earl Kelly, based on what I have read on his blog and website, is full of himself, I do think he is essentially correct when it comes to tithing and what the New Testament teaches about giving. His teachings haven’t caught on because, for many churches, abandoning the tithe would bankrupt them and force their preacher to get a real job. Preachers have a vested interest in maintaining good cash flow and the tithe is the best way to do so.

When Polly and I were first married, we were tithers. We also gave a lot of money to missions and every time the church took a special offering we gave liberally. I would preach sermons on tithing, rebuking those who were stealing from God. I would preach from Malachi 3:8-10 sermons about those who robbed God:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

As my theology began to evolve and I was influenced by New Covenant theology and Calvinism, I came to see that tithing was an Old Testament command no longer in force. This change in belief was helpful because it allowed me to put an end to me receiving a pittance of a salary and then making it even more of a pittance by giving a tithe and offering. It made no sense for me to tithe when the church was not even paying me a living wage. Now, in the end, we often gave more than 10% of our income to the church or to parachurch ministries. Instead of seeing the church as the bank through which all funds must go, we gave some money to the church and then helped ministries and individuals as God led us to do so. Buying a homeless man a meal was just as important as giving the church $20.

Generally, I think most churches have way too much money and are poor stewards of what they do have. I had a banker in Somerset, Ohio tell me one time that I would be shocked if he told me how much money many of the local churches had on deposit. He told me this because he thought the church I pastored was different, knowing that we rarely had a $100 checking account balance.

I was of the opinion that money was meant to be spent. Yes, take care of the church building, fund ministries, and pay the preacher. Anything above that should be spent on ministering to others. The last church I pastored was sitting on a pile of money and the first thing I did was help them spend it. They had so much money in the bank that they hadn’t balanced the checkbook in years. I balanced the account for them and found that they had $5,000 more than they thought they did. In the seven months I was there, I had the church spend money on remodeling the building. Quite frankly, it was a dump. Of course, the church was fine with spending the money. Doing the actual construction work? A handful of men did all the work. Most of the members were quite happy to let others do the work. They were too busy bitching about the remodel to help, complaining about everything from wall and carpet colors to lighting. I lasted seven months and was so glad “God” led me elsewhere.

Do you have a tithing or giving story to share? I’d love to hear it. Please share your story in the comment section.

Note

You can download Kelly’s book here.

Paul Cohen thinks Kelly is a false prophet.

Bruce, What Do Think of the Marjoe Gortner Story?

young marjoe gortner

Marjoe Gortner

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Geoff asked:

Hi Bruce .. what do you think of the Marjoe story?

For those not familiar with Marjoe Gortner:

Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner (generally known as Marjoe Gortner; born January 14, 1944 in Long Beach, California) is a controversial former evangelist preacher and actor. He first gained public attention during the late 1940s when his parents arranged for him at age four to be ordained as a preacher, due to his extraordinary speaking ability; he was the youngest known in that position. As a young man, he preached on the revival circuit and bought celebrity to the revival movement.

He became a celebrity during the 1970s when he starred in Marjoe (1972), a behind-the-scenes documentary about the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching. This won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. This documentary is now noted as one of the most vehement criticisms of Pentecostal praxis…

…Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner was born in 1944 in Long Beach, California, into a long evangelical heritage. The name “Marjoe” is a portmanteau of the biblical names “Mary” and “Joseph”. His father Vernon was a third-generation Christian evangelical minister who preached at revivals. His mother, who has been labelled as “exuberant”, was the person who introduced him as a preacher and is notable for his success as a child. Vernon noticed his son’s talent for mimicry and his fearlessness of strangers and public settings. His parents claimed that the boy had received a vision from God during a bath, and started preaching. Marjoe later said this was a fictional story that his parents forced him to repeat. He claimed they compelled him to do this by using mock-drowning episodes; they did not beat him as they did not want to leave bruises that might be noticed during his many public appearances.

They trained him to deliver sermons, complete with dramatic gestures and emphatic lunges. When he was four, his parents arranged for him to perform a marriage ceremony attended by the press, including photographers from Life and Paramount studios.Until his teenage years, Gortner and his parents traveled throughout the United States holding revival meetings,[7] and by 1951 his younger brother Vernoe had been incorporated into the act. As well as teaching Marjoe scriptural passages, his parents also taught him several money-raising tactics, including the sale of supposedly “holy” articles at revivals. He would promise that such items could be used to heal the sick and dying. He was however for the majority of his childhood unknown and “relatively insignificant” as an evangelist, as he found fame much later from his documentary…

…Gortner spent the remainder of his teenage years as an itinerant hippie until his early twenties. Hard-pressed for money, he decided to put his old skills to work and re-emerged on the preaching circuit with a charismatic stage-show modeled after those of contemporary rock stars, most notably Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. He made enough to take six months off every year, during which he returned to California and lived off his earnings before returning to the circuit.

In the late 1960s, Gortner experienced a crisis of conscience about his double life. He decided his performing talents might be put to better use as an actor or singer. When approached by documentarians Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, he agreed to let their film crew follow him during 1971 on a final tour of revival meetings in California, Texas, and Michigan. Unbeknownst to everyone involved – including, at one point, his father – he gave “backstage” interviews to the filmmakers between sermons and revivals, explaining intimate details of how he and other ministers operated. The filmmakers also shot his counting the money he had collected during the day later in his hotel room. The resulting film, Marjoe, won the 1972 Academy Award for best documentary…

If you have not watched the documentary Marjoe, I encourage you to do so. While it is over forty years old, it still provides a behind the scenes look at what goes on in pentecostal and charismatic tent meetings, revivals, and healing services.

Video Link

Video Link

As a Baptist, I had a healthy mistrust and hate for all things pentecostal and charismatic. I saw their preachers as charlatans and false prophets. A good friend of mine and fellow non-believer was a charismatic pastor for twenty years. We never could have been friends while we were in the ministry because I thought people like him were being used by Satan to deceive the masses.

When it comes to stories like Marjoe, the question I have is whether the person was sincere. Were they a true blue believer? Did they really believe they could heal people? Did they really believe God used them to work miracles? In Marjoe’s case, he was conditioned and indoctrinated by his parents to believe that he really had these gifts. Were his parents true blue believers? That’s the bigger question. Were they just passing on the gifts to their talented, precocious son or were they con artists, Elmer Gantry-like hustlers for God?

Thanks to modern technology and dogged investigative reporters, we now know that many of the pentecostal and charismatic evangelists are frauds. People like Peter Popoff, Ernest Angley, Robert Tilton, WV Grant, Leroy Jenkins,Bob Larson, and Benny Hinn are hustlers out to fleece the flock of God. Many of the prosperity gospel preachers are con-artists who have found a way to become fabulously rich off the pain, suffering, and poverty of others. One quick way to judge an evangelist or ministry is to look at their checkbook. Where’s the money going? Whose being enriched by the “ministry” of Bro Heal Them All? In the case of Marjoe, not only did he make quite a bit of money, so did his parents. The family business was hustling for Jesus and it paid quite well. In the end, Marjoe’s father ran off with the cash and left his son and wife behind.

When I was in college, I cleaned a local Sweden House restaurant. One night, a couple of pentecostal evangelists had rented one of the banquet rooms for a healing service. After the service, not knowing I was standing around the corner, I heard the evangelists bitterly complaining about how poor the offering was. This was my first taste of money driven Christianity. As I would learn later, Baptists had their own problem with money-grubbing con-artists, men who preached up a storm only so it would rain twenty-dollar bills. I think the average Christian would be shocked to find out how many of the preachers they love, trust, and support are in it for fame and money. I know of several well known IFB preachers who retired from the ministry as millionaires. Ain’t God good?

In the mid 1970’s, I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked for a local grocery store. Every week, several van loads of Pentecostals would come into Food Giant to shop. They were from Miracle Valley, Arizona, the home of evangelist AA Allen. Allen, an alcoholic died in 1970 after a heavy drinking binge. He was 59. The van loads of long dressed women were from one of the Miracle Valley pentecostal ministries or colleges. This was my first exposure to Pentecostals. At the time, I thought, nice looking women, too much clothing. My girlfriend, at the time, wore skirts and dresses that were in keeping with style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s In other words, I could see her legs.

As I was doing some research for this post, I came upon an interesting story on Wikipedia about one of the pentecostal groups that took up residence in Miracle Valley:

In 1978-80 approximately 300 members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) moved from Mississippi and Chicago. They purchased property in the subdivision on the north side of Highway 92 across from the bible college. Thomas was a former disciple of Allen’s at MVBC and attempted to purchase it after his death. Over the following two years numerous conflicts arose between the church and its members, and the local community and law enforcement on the other. Tensions escalated when it was discovered that five young children of church members had died over the previous year, with one and possibly four due to the church’s refusal to seek medical attention. Faith healing was a major component of the church’s teachings. Conflicts also arose when the church refused access to parents and law enforcement in retrieving he children of at least two families who had been illegally transported to the Valley against their parents’ wishes. Racial tensions arose between the African American church members and the mostly white residents. In late 1982 a variety of incidents with law enforcement culminated when local sheriff deputies, with backup by state law enforcement, attempted to serve bench warrants for the arrest of 3 members of the church. A large group of church members confronted the officials and in the ensuing “shootout” two church members were killed and seven law enforcement officers were injured. One church member and one sheriff’s deputy would later die of their injuries. The church and its members departed Miracle Valley in early 1983.

My brother lives near Miracle Valley in Tombstone. He was, at one time, the marshal of Tombstone. He can tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of crazy that went on in out-of-the-way places in Cochise County, Arizona.

I attended a charismatic healing service in the mid 1980’s at the Somerset Elementary School in Somerset, Ohio. At the time, I was pastor of the Baptist church and I want to see firsthand what went on at a healing service. The show was quite intense and towards the end the evangelist started going down the rows laying hands on people. Next to me was an old scruffy woman with dirty and greasy hair. When the evangelist came to her, he looked at her head and kept his hand a few inches above it. Right then and there I knew that this guy was a con artist. What, a bit of greasy hair going to keep you from healing someone? When he came to me, I gave him my keep on moving look. I wonder, did I miss out on God healing me? Am I cursed with sickness to this day because I didn’t let Elmer Gantry’s cousin lay hands on me?

Here’s my take on Marjoe, pentecostal evangelists, and faith healers. I think some of them are true blue believers. Indoctrinated from an early age, they sincerely believe what they are preaching. When it comes to the money they make, they view it as God blessing them. But, I also think that a large number of preachers, evangelists, and faith healers are scam artists, frauds who have found a way to make lots of money without doing much work. They are, at best, entertainers, at worst they are predators who prey an ignorant, gullible Christians.

1972 Roger Ebert Interview with Marjoe.

Marjoe Gortner by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman

Note

If you happened to watch the videos above and see the emotional craziness that went on at Marjoe’s meetings, I should let you know that I saw similar behavior at Baptist revival meetings, preacher’s meetings, camp meetings; especially those held south of the Mason-Dixon line. The only difference? Everyone spoke in English. I’ve seen aisle running, pew jumping, flag waving, shouting, and screaming at countless old-fashioned revivals or camp meetings. I’ve seen churches and preachers collect Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets of cash; thousands of dollars collected for “the Lord”,

Bruce, Did You Encourage Church Members to Think for Themselves?

think for yourself

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to ask. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Appalachian Agnostic asked:

When you were a pastor, did you encourage church goers to think for themselves or did you prefer that they accepted everything you preached without measuring it against their own perceptions?

If I had been asked this question when I was a pastor, I would have answered YES! I encouraged people to read and study the Bible. I recommended books that I thought would be helpful in their walk with God. Some of the fundamentalist churches I grew up in discouraged intellectual pursuit. In their mind, all a Christian needed was the Holy Spirit, a sound Bible preaching church, a God-called pastor, and a Scofield King James Version Bible. Church members were encouraged to be people of the book. Better to know THE one book well than to have read thousands of books and not thoroughly know and understand the one book that matters.

By the time I started pastoring churches, I had begun reading orthodox theological books, never straying beyond safe, theologically correct authors. So, I recommended church members read and expand their theological horizons, but I made sure they only read books that were written by Evangelicals. I was encouraging them to “think” but only within the box I provided for them. So the real answer to the question is NO!

I never would have recommended books written by liberal Christians or people like Bart Ehrman. According to the Bible,  I was to watch and care for their souls, making sure they weren’t led astray by false teachers. In doing so, I kept them safe from the wolves that roamed outside the door of the church. I wrote about this in The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box.

While I expected people to check my preaching by the Word of God, I also expected them to trust me. After all, I was the man of God, the one God had appointed to be their teacher. And quite frankly, when it came to knowing and understanding theology, I was at the head of the class in every church I pastored. As is the case in most churches, members took my word for it. Their theology was actually my theology. At one church, I became quite Calvinistic in my theology and began aggressively teaching the five points of Calvinism. Only one family had a problem with what I was preaching. Everyone else? Sure preacher, we’ll take your word for it.

Generally, I found that most church members were not interested in diligently studying the Bible or reading theology books. One reason for this is that they had a life and very little time to devote to such pursuits. I was paid to study the Bible and read books. A great gig for someone like me, but it is unfair for a pastor to expect church members to spend the same amount of time he does studying the Bible and reading theological books. When church members did read, they read light Christian romance novels or fiction. This used to drive me crazy. I was, and still am, a non-fiction reader. I very rarely read fiction. My thinking  is, why read fiction when you can read TRUE stories? I now know that church members often read fiction because it allows them to escape or to fantasize. Fiction allowed them to check out from the grueling grind of life and enter a world of suspense, intrigue, and temptation. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion were no match for Erica Jong.

Dear Evangelical, If The Christian Gospel is True

sharing the gospel

Dear Evangelical,

I have some questions for you.

  • Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?
  • Do you believe the Bible is true?
  • Do you believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?
  • Do you believe salvation is found in Jesus alone?
  • Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to be saved?
  • Do you believe a person must put their faith and trust in Jesus to go to heaven after they die?
  • Do you believe the unsaved/non-Christian/unbeliever will go to hell when they die?
  • Do you believe death could happen at any moment?
  • Do you believe this life is preparation for the life to come?
  • Do you believe the church has the obligation to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person?
  • Do you believe you can tell what a person believes is important by how they spend their time and how they spend their money?

Pretty straightforward questions. Not much room to wiggle, debate or excuse.

Most Evangelicals would say yes to most, if not all, of these questions.

Now, if I  really believed that hell was real, death was certain, and Jesus was the only hope for humanity, I would spend every waking hour telling this to others. I would live simply and spend my money  on making sure this message got out to the world. I would not waste one moment of my time with the frivolous things of this world, using that time to witness to others.

Surely, if what Evangelicals say they believe is true, the message JESUS SAVES is the most important message ever given to humanity.

Easter is the Christian proclamation that Jesus, the son of God, died on the cross for our sin and on the third day rose again from the dead conquering death and hell. Truly there is VICTORY IN JESUS.

And all the people said, Amen.

So, explain something to me. Be honest.

Why is it most that  Evangelicals LIVE like what I wrote above is a complete falsehood?

Most Evangelicals never share their faith with anyone.

Many churches go years without adding one new convert to their membership.

Most Evangelicals live, behave, and die just like their non-Christian neighbors, family, and friends.

It seems that Evangelicals don’t really believe what they are preaching.

I am not pointing a finger at you.

I am just asking for you to be honest.

If Jesus is the answer to all life’s questions.

If Jesus satisfies every longing a soul has.

If Jesus will clean up and change  sinners.

If hell is real.

If heaven is real.

If death is certain.

Why do you live like none of this is true?

How many people did you share the gospel with last week? Last month? Last year? Since you have been a Christian?

How about your pastor? For all his talk about the gospel, how many people has he personally witnessed to this week? Last month? Last year? Since he entered the ministry?

How many new members have joined  your church because they were witnessed to by a member of your church? (transfers from other churches don’t count)

How many new convert baptisms took place at your church last year?

My point in this little exercise is this: talk is cheap.

You want others to become a Christian.

You want others to follow Jesus.

Why should they?

If you don’t really believe the gospel, why should you expect anyone else to?

Here is my take on that matter.

Religion is a personal matter.

Even though the Bible says it is not, you live like it is, so you must believe it is.

Since it is a personal matter, each of us should be free to worship or not worship.

One thing we all agree on..

We all are going to die.

Let’s agree to leave the afterlife to the afterlife.

I am willing to settle up with God after I die.

Life would be so much better for everyone if each of us had the liberty to live life freely without being evangelized or coerced into making a religious profession. (and let’s be honest, a lot of the evangelistic techniques used by Evangelicals is coercion.)

This does not mean we can’t talk about religion. This doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the Bible.

But, let’s talk as fellow citizens of earth. Let’s talk as people who have in common humanity.

If we do this, you are relieved of the burden of witnessing and I am relieved of being an evangelistic target.

Let’s just be you and me.

Is Living By Faith an Excuse for Irresponsibility?

faith

The Bible commands Christians to live by faith. According to Hebrews 11:6, without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.

Christians are saved by faith, through grace. Ephesians 2:8, 9 says: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

According to the Bible, no one deserves salvation. God, a gracious, kind, loving and just deity, purposes to save some sinners out the mass of sinners called the human race. God doesn’t have to save anyone, but he chooses to save some. We all deserve judgment and hell, so no one can charge God with favoritism because he chooses to save some but not others.

Those who are saved by the wondrous grace of God become a new creation in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Since the Christian is a new creation in Christ, they are commanded to live a life of faith. The Holy Spirit indwells (comes to live inside of)  every Christian, teaching them everything that pertains to life and godliness.  The Christian doesn’t have to go to church to find God, God is with him 24/7. God has promised to never, ever leave the Christian.

According to the Bible, the essence of the Christian life is FAITH. Romans 1:17 says:For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faithRomans 5:1,2 says: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church that Christians walk by faith, not by sight.

From beginning to end, the Christian life is one of faith  There is no work a Christian can do to gain favor with God. God gives the Christian the gift of faith and commands them to live a life totally dependent on him.  To live a life according to the flesh or according to the philosophies of this world is to deny that Jesus is your Lord and Savior.

Let me repeat, the Bible makes it clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. IMPOSSIBLE!

How does this life of faith work out in the day-to-day life of the Christian?

The Christian is taught to tune into God’s radio channel. Through prayer and reading the Bible, along with regular attendance at public worship, the Christian can divine the will of God. God has a perfect will for everyone. Since God  is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, he knows exactly how the Christian should live their life. The Christian is called on to live a life of self-denial, a life where the only thing that matters is God’s will. The Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, through prayer and reading the Bible, can determine exactly what God wants him to do.

It would seem that, if the premise above is correct,  all Christians would believe the same thing and live their lives in similar fashion. But, as anyone familiar with Christianity knows, the Christian church is hopelessly fractured. Sectarian splits and internecine wars are quite common as a denominations and churches slug it out to see who has THE truth. It seems that God has a hard time making up his mind about what the “faith once delivered to the saints” is. It seems God is uncertain about how the Christian should live the life of faith. One Christian says ________ is a sin and another Christian says no it is not.  Both appeal to the Bible as the authority for their belief and practice.

I have sat through countless church business meetings filled with people who had prayed about the matters that were going to be discussed. One would think that everyone in the business meeting would come to the same conclusion, but I never experienced a business meeting where everyone was in agreement. I’ve seen plenty of business meetings where everyone seemed to be in agreement, but two or three weeks later, after the church gossip line had run its course, I found out that there were people not in favor of what we voted to do. It seems that the Holy Spirit changes his mind quite often.

I spent most of my adult life intimately involved with the Christian church. As I’ve said many times before, I know what really goes on behind closed doors and I know where the bodies are buried. While Christianity likes to paint itself as a unified body of people who are in love with Jesus and follow him wherever he leads,  the truth is there is little or no unity, and quite often, if Jesus is headed one way they are headed in the opposite direction.

Christians who are  serious about their faith work very hard at trying to know what God wants them to do with their life. They listen intently to the pastor’s preaching hoping to hear and feel that little nudge from God. They diligently read their Bible hoping that one of the verses will jump out at them, and with blaring sirens alert them to what it is God wants them to do. The Christian will spend a significant amount of time in prayer. Prayer is where the Christian talks with God and hopefully God responds.

I’ve heard countless Christians say, and I have said it many times myself, God has laid ____________ on my heart. How does the Christian know that God has laid something on their heart? They just know it. It’s that spidey sense, that feeling that one gets when all is well and everything is at peace. It is not uncommon to hear a Christian say “I have peace about this matter.” Of course there is no way to know that it’s God. How  could a Christian ever PROVE that God is laying something on their heart?

Many Christians realize the danger of living a life solely dictated by faith. They read their Bible, pray, seek the counsel of other people, yet they still have nagging doubts about what God is asking them to do. Sometimes, the Christian cannot bring themselves to do what they believe God wants them to do, and at that moment they become a person that is commonly known in the church as someone who is “out of the will of God.”

There are two labels that no Christian wants attached to their life: out of the will of God and backslidden. Preachers spend a significant amount of time preaching to those who are considered out of the will of God or backslidden. These sub par Christians are blamed for a lot of things. The church would have revival or the blessing of God or have their financial or spiritual needs met if only backslidden Christians would get right with God. It is a tremendous weight to feel that you are not right with God and that you are the blame for all the bad things that are happening.

I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Christian church. I was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I was intent on following the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) wherever he went. I attempted to live my life according to the premise “what would Jesus do?” Every day I purposed to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. Most every day, I failed at this impossible standard, but I kept trying, trying, and trying.

I was taught, and I taught others, that every Christian has a cross to bear. Every Christian has a weight in their life that weighs them down, a burden they must carry. In my life I thought my weight was living in poverty. As an act of self-denial, I believed God wanted me to live a life of poverty and he wanted my wife and kids (collateral damage) to do the same. Of course,  pastoring poor churches made it a lot easier to live a life of poverty.

As I look back on this time in our life, I realize how foolish it all was. Good intentions perhaps, but nonetheless very foolish. I was so focused on the work of the ministry and getting sinners saved that nothing else mattered. Retirement? I had no plans to retire. I planned to die with my boots on. Savings? Why save money when you can give it away to the church and those in need. Disability insurance? Who needs that? God will protect me and give me the strength that I need.

My family and I did without so that the work of God could prosper and God would be pleased. Church members found great pleasure in telling other people about how their pastor and his family lived a simple life unencumbered by material things. Of course, the same church members that praised us rarely had any desire to live the same life we were living. While they saved, planned for retirement, bought their home, and had insurance, my family and I lived in poverty.

I’m sure by this point someone is going to suggest that I should have done things differently. (Ya think?)  Family and financial security come first. I certainly believe that now, but at the time I believed I was doing the will of God living the way I did. I knew God has called me to preach and pastor churches, so the fact that I only pastored one church that paid me a living wage was immaterial. Here I am Lord, use me, was all that mattered.

I now realize that I made a lot of mistakes. My college professors and mentors taught me that my wife and family were secondary to the ministry. If I had to make a choice between family and the church, God wanted me to choose the church. I wrote about this in the post It’s Time to Tell the Truth: I Had An Affair. I now know my family comes first. I now know that the first priority must be to provide for the material well-being of my wife and family. I wish I had come to this revelation while I still had strength of body, but now it is too late. My body is wracked with pain and I have found it  impossible to find gainful employment that will accommodate my disability.  I realize there are no do overs, so I must move forward with what I have. Fortunately, my wife has a good job, and through careful planning and budgeting we can live a decent life.

Eight years ago we bought our first home. In the past, we owned a couple of mobile homes that sat on rented property. Now we own not only the house, but the ground underneath it. It still thrills us to know that we own our own place and can do whatever we want.  In recent years, we have purchased several new cars. Our last new car purchase before now came in 1984, a Plymouth Horizon that I put 100,000 miles on in 2 years.  Between 1984 and 2010, Polly and I drove everything from cars bought at Buy Here-Pay Here lots to $300 clunkers. There are some cars that we have owned that if I brought them home today Polly would likely do a reenactment of the Burning Bed.

I’ve come to the conclusion that faith was an excuse for irresponsibility; that waiting for God to provide was an excuse for doing without. If I had to do it all over again, I would have been a bi-vocational pastor. I would’ve worked a secular job. I would’ve made sure that my family was provided for, that we had insurance, that we had money saved, and that we had adequately planned for the future. As with all things in the past, it is what it is. All anyone can do is learn from their mistakes and hope that the same mistake is not repeated.

You Say You Speak for God

preacher

Millions upon millions of voices all clamoring at the same time, all uttering the same thing.

God says…

The Bible (God) says…

God is leading me to say…

God is telling me to tell you…

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, right?

Get a Baptist and a Catholic in the same room and let them duke it out over One Baptism.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost and these three are one. Surely everyone agrees? Not me says the Oneness Pentecostal.

Baptism saves. It doesn’t save.

Communion is the Lord’s Supper. is the Eucharist, is really the body of Christ, is kind of the real body of Christ, or a memorial?

Pre, Mid, Pre-wrath, Post rapture and tribulation.

Pre, A, Post millennial reign of Christ.

Dispensationalism. Non-dispensationalism. Hyper-dispensationalism.

Calvinism.

Arminianism.

Pelagianism.

Cessationist. Non-cessationist.

The Old Testament is for today. No it’s not.

The gospels are for today. No they’re not.

New Perspective. Old Perspective.

Pauline or Peterine.

The OT law is still for today.

No it’s not.

Yes it is, but only the Ten commandants.

No, only Nine commandments. (No rest for me) and maybe the verses on tithing. Got to pay my salary, you know.

Only the words in red matter.

Only what Paul writes matters.

Did Paul write Hebrews?

Eternal Security. No, perseverance of the saints.

Losing your salvation. No. falling from grace.

Can I get my lost salvation back? Yes! No!

Hell.

Annihilation.

Sixty six books in the Protestant Bible. Catholics, and Orthodox count differently, but they aren’t Christians, so who cares how many books are in their Bible.

So you say:

God says…

The Bible (God) says…

God is leading me to say…

God is telling me to tell you…

Pray tell…why should we believe you?

Can you even answer the most basic questions?

What is salvation? How is a person saved?

By grace?

By faith?

By works?

By faith, plus works?

By faith, plus works, and staying true to the end?

I can choose?

I can’t choose?

God chooses me?

I choose God?

Baptism saves?

Baptism doesn’t save?

You argue endlessly among yourselves, like toddlers fighting over a toy.

The Bible SAYS!

God SAYS!

Our church SAYS!

Our confession SAYS!

The Pope SAYS!

The Pastor SAYS!

There is one TRUE church and it is ours, hundreds and hundreds of denominations say.

With us and heaven is your home. Against us and you fry. Choose right, lest ye burn forever!

Your lack of unity is the indictment against you.

Your lack of a singular voice is clear to all who can see beyond the threats of hell and  promises of heaven.

You should not then be shocked when you try to tell non-Christians that God says or the Bible says and they smile and turn a deaf ear.

Oh wait, they are deaf because God made them that way.

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. (Luke 8:10)

It’s God’s fault.

Ken Ham’s Ark Project Shows He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture

ken ham

Ken Ham is the CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. Ham is also working on a project called The Ark Encounter, a Noah’s Ark theme park. Ham is a Bible literalist who believes the universe is 6,019 years old. Ham believes that Genesis 1-3 accurately and completely explains how the universe came into existence. In his mind, evolution is a lie spawned by Satan to deceive the masses. If asked if he believes in the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture, Ham would reply with a resounding YES!  But, I have conclusive proof that Ken Ham does NOT  believe in the sufficiency of the Christian Bible. I know this is shocking, but it is time for me to expose young earth creationist Ken Ham as a Bible-denying liberal.

ark plans

In a recent blog post, Ham had a picture of engineers going over the plans for the Ark Encounter project. WHAT?, I thought to myself. Why does Ham need plans for the Noah’s Ark replica? Isn’t God’s word sufficient for the building of the Ark?  God made it very clear how he wanted the Ark built, from its composition to its size:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:14-16)

Surely this is enough information for a 21st century engineer and construction company to build the Ark? Surely they don’t think their knowledge is superior to that found in the inspired, infallible, inerrant, Word of the thrice Holy God who said in the book of John the Revelator, chapter 22:

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

How dare Ken Ham go against the authority and sufficiency of the Words of God!! How dare he make up his own plans and ignore the plans of God, the divine architect!  I am calling Ken Ham out on his Bible-denying Noah’s Ark plans. I am calling on  One Millions Moms,  American Family AssociationFamily Research CouncilFocus on the FamilyHSLDABob Jones UniversityLiberty UniversityOhio University and all the other colleges on the Ken Ham approved list of creationist colleges, to cut ties with Ham over his denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.  I am calling on Evangelical Christian schools and homeschoolers to stop buying Answers in Genesis materials and stop taking field trips to the Creation Museum. For God’s sake man, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!  What’s next? Building a replica of the New Jerusalem and ignoring God’s architectural and engineering plans? Ham must be stopped lest others follow in his pernicious ways!

Note

For the Bible literalists who read this post and are outraged, please look up the word satire in the 1828 edition of Webster Dictionary.

 

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