Religion

The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right

persecution

As of today, there is NO religious persecution in the United States. Every citizen is free to worship any or no God. Every citizen is free to worship when, where, and how they wish. I know of no law that prohibits the free exercise of religion. The United States, when it comes to religion, is the freest nation on the face of the earth. Yet, despite the evidence, many on the religious right think they are being persecuted, and if Barack Hussein Obama has his way Sharia law will be instituted and Christianity will be outlawed. If the socialist, communist, Kenyan born Obama is not stopped, by the time of the 2016 presidential election, Christians will be persecuted, incarcerated, and possibly killed, just like Hitler did to the Jews in World War II.

Think I am kidding? I am on the American Family Association’s (AFA) mailing list. (know thy enemy) In today’s digest was an article written by Jim Shempert titled America’s Future: Christian Persecution. What graphic did AFA and Jim Shempert choose for the article?

prison camp survivors

That right, Shempert and AFA think that Christians will soon be treated just like the Jews, gypsies, and mentally handicapped were treated by Hitler and Nazis in World War II.

Here’s what Shempert had to say (link no longer active):

…This blog is intended for the Church. If you are not a Christian, and your only goal is to tear down Christianity, you can stop reading here.

Church, Christianity is under attack all across the globe. The persecutions of the Church are definitely not the same but they all have the same root. Imagine trying to be a Christian in Iraq/Syria/anywhere south of Turkey right now… Standing for your faith will be met with loss of property, threats, beatings, and death. These are common occurrences. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to go to Google. Type in “Middle East Christian persecution” and hit “search.” In literally half a second, Google will return to you 1.1 million articles/pages on persecution of Christians in the Middle East. To focus on a different area, go back to Google and search for “Christian persecution in Africa.” In .6 seconds, you are greeted with 2.5 million articles/pages that deal with Christian persecution in Africa.

Now, the current resident of the White House believes that the atrocities committed by Muslim terrorist groups are not indicative of all Muslim people. Here’s a potential fire starter: I happen to agree with him there. Personally, I believe the Muslim faith to be incorrect in its focus. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no man cometh unto the Father but by Him. As those Muslims must surely think that I am wrong in my focus. However, I do not think that all Muslims are terrorists, or that they are all on jihad. I also don’t believe the line that these extremist groups are not focused around Islam. I know that the resident of the White House likes to continue his crusade against Christianity by reminding us that at one time, horrible atrocities were committed by those who claim the name of Christ. His problem, and all those who claim moral equivalency, is that he is unable to call EVIL what it is: EVIL. He is able to quickly tear apart Christianity, and say that America was never a Christian nation, but he is unable to say that Islamic terrorism is evil.

I’ve had a long conversation with a friend on this, and we came to the conclusion that if any group that claims Christianity starts cutting off people’s heads while singing “Just as I am,” the first people to respond will be Christians. We will police our own. The soldiers sent to stop them will probably be Christians, at least in some part. Rest assured, the current White House, will seek great joy in touting that it is CHRISTIANS doing this. “See…they are doing it too!” A 5 year old child has more intellect and intelligence.

The point is… American is no longer a Christian nation. Those are hard words to hear. They were even harder to type. That’s not to say that it never was. America was built around Christian principles, with Christian men and women leading it. Those who claim otherwise are just repeating a Goebbels lie: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The nation that I grew up in, is no more. Being viewed as an evangelical Christian now, is to be seen as a leper. “Those close minded, bigoted, judging Christians.” “Why don’t you just love? That’s what Jesus did.” (That one usually comes from someone who hasn’t opened a Bible since grade school) “Judge not, that you be not judged.” That’s Matthew 7:1 for any of you that use it. You might want to continue down chapter 7 to verses 15-20. Might do you some eternal good…

…What’s the next step for those who only want their ears tickled? To silence those who don’t! Anyone who preaches the Light, will be resisted by the darkness. Offensive words will be created to describe them and shouted over and over and over until the masses begin to repeat them. They will be chastised in the media, lose their jobs, their businesses, their property, their ability to live their lives the way they choose. The assertion that they are ignorant will be constantly repeated. Their very freedom will be threatened. Oh wait, that’s already happened…

Martin Niemoller was a pastor in Germany during the Nazi regime and also a concentration camp survivor. He is remembered most for this quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Ronald Reagan is by far the greatest president of my lifetime. He said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Those words could never be truer than they are today. As Christians, we are at a crossroads in America. We can stand up, and let our voices be heard. We can fight at the ballot box for the rights that we were always guaranteed. Or, we can continue to allow our anti-Christian government to destroy the basic tenants of our faith. The choice is ours…

…What happens to those of us that resist? How long before we become “enemies of the State?” How long before we are sent to “camps” for re-education? Sound crazy? The German people in the ‘30’s would have said the same thing. In a few short years, millions would be imprisoned and executed for their faith…

…I live in relationship with Jesus Christ as my Savior. My life is forfeit. If it is His will that I must be sacrificed for my stand for His Name, then so be it. Even Jesus didn’t turn away from death when presented with it. He was obedient to the end.

American Christian, most of the rest of the world knows this already, from experience. But there is coming a day when to identify as a Christian in America will bring consequences…

I love it when groups like AFA use Martin Niemoller’s quote to suggest that what happened in Hitler’s Germany will soon happen here. Here’s the problem: no one has come for the socialist, trade unionist, or Jew. Yes, many on the political and religious right fight against socialism and trade unions, but no one would suggest that the religious right is persecuting socialists or union members. They most certainly are not persecuting the Jews. The religious right loves Israel, well at least until Jesus comes back and slaughters all the unbelieving Jews.

We live in a free country. While I think personal liberties are under attack by corporate, military-industrial complex, and surveillance-industrial complex interests, I have no fear of being persecuted or jailed if I oppose these interests. Like the Christian, atheists like me are free to write about, attack, critique, and make fun of religion. I don’t fear the government breaking my door down and arresting me for something I have written.

Unfortunately, when one lives in a country where freedom of belief and practice is ensconced in its founding documents and law, the slightest denial of freedom or the slightest inconvenience can be viewed as an attack on freedom and personal rights. The religious right thinks the move towards same-sex marriage and justice and equal protection under the law for gays is an infringement of their religious rights. Same-sex marriage really is THE issue that has the religious right foaming at the mouth. However, allowing same-sex couples to marry in no way infringes on a person’s right to believe and worship as they wish. If same-sex marriage was legal tomorrow in all fifty states, absolutely nothing would change for Christians. They would still be free to pray, read the Bible, evangelize, attend a house of worship, and, get this, forbid gays and same-sex couples from being members in their church.

No clergyperson will ever be required to marry a same-sex couple. Since marriage is a secular function of law, a pastor is free to choose who he will marry. It is the marriage license, not the ceremony that gives a marriage legal force. This is why, in states like Alabama, public officials must issue a license to heterosexual and same-sex couples. They are acting on behalf of the state, a secular institution. If they cannot, according to their conscience, fulfill their duty to issue a marriage license to all who request one, then they should resign. Their resignation is not persecution. All of us have beliefs and moral and ethical values that might, in some circumstances, preclude us from holding a certain job.

We are 20 months away from electing a new president. Our country faces many pressing and trying issues: war, threat of war, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, government debt, etc. Instead of whining and screaming about being persecuted, I wish the religious right and their representatives in Congress would reach across the aisle and meaningfully try to find a solution to the pressing issues of the day.

The American Family Association, and other right-wing religious groups like them, knows that their followers must constantly be poked lest they become apathetic. What better way to wake people up than to scream PERSECUTION!  Until Christians realize groups like the AFA are manipulating them for political and material gain, they will continue to be outraged every time they are told they need to be outraged. (the outrage machine One Million Moms is an arm of the AFA)  Until they are willing to actually think for themselves and throughly investigate the issues without checking in with Fox News first, there’s little hope of meaningful dialog.

But Bruce, same-sex marriage is wrong! Why? Without the Bible, please defend your position. I have yet to have someone successfully defend the prohibition of same-sex marriage without appealing to their religious beliefs and a sacred text like the Christian bible. Once religion is removed from the equation, there is no reasonable argument to be made for prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.

That said, I still believe in the American political process. Christians are free to work towards a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They have the same rights and privileges as I do. Let’s duke it out in the public square. Of course, the religious right doesn’t want to do this, knowing that they would likely never get enough states to approve a constitutional amendment.

The real issue here is that Christianity is losing its preferential place at the table. For most of our country’s existence, the Christian religion has been the centerpiece. This is natural, of course, since most Americans self-identify as Christian. However, more and more Christians are more to the left politically and religiously, especially young adults. More and more Americans no longer have any religion. Atheism, agnosticism,humanism, secularism, religious indifference, and “none of the above” continue to increase. Like it or not, right-wing Christians must recognize that they no longer have the political and social power and clout they once had. If they don’t like this, I suggest they get busy attracting new people to their cause.

It’s Time to End the Death Penalty in Ohio

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News, submitted on March 18, 2015

Dear Editor,

It’s time for Ohio legislators to put an end to the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 2003, 20 Ohio inmates have been removed from death row “through exonerations, clemency, or sentence reductions because of intellectual disabilities.” In December 2014, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer testified before  the House Criminal Justice Committee. Justice Pfeifer stated “The death penalty in Ohio has become what I call a death lottery…It’s very difficult to conclude that the death penalty, as it exists today, is anything but a bad gamble. That’s really not how a criminal justice system should work.”

Currently, Ohio legislators are working on bills that would prohibit the execution of those with severe mental illness, create an indigent defense fund, require crime labs and coroners to be certified, and prohibit the execution of anyone convicted solely on the testimony of jail house snitch. While these are great steps in the right direction, it is time for Ohio to altogether abolish the death penalty.

As Justice Pfeifer rightly noted, the death penalty has become a death lottery. Those of means have the ability to hire competent defense attorneys, often resulting in the death penalty being taken off the table. The poor, who can’t afford to hire an attorney, must rely on proper representation from a public defender. In many rural areas, the poor are often assigned an attorney with little capital case experience. While many public defenders do a great job defending indigent clients, there are times when they are not up to the task, lacking the necessary skill and time to adequately defend their client.

When a person’s life hangs in the balance, they deserve competent, aggressive representation. Attorneys who defend an indigent client are paid a pathetic fee and must often wait for months or years to be reimbursed by the state. If we are going to continue to use execution as the means to punish those convicted of a capital crime, then it is morally imperative that we make sure that those facing death have the same access to attorneys, expert witnesses, and crime labs, regardless of their ability to pay.

Currently, 140 men and 1 woman are awaiting execution in Ohio. Due to controversy over the drugs used  in lethal injections, it is unlikely that there will be any executions until 2016. I would encourage Ohio legislators to use this time to find a way to bring an end to executions.

Killing someone because they committed a crime is rooted in the barbaric eye for an eye justice of the Old Testament. While many Christian sects now oppose the death penalty, Evangelicals and conservative Christians continue to demand death for those convicted of a capital crime. I ask, what happened to following in the footsteps of Jesus? Would Jesus, the Prince of Peace, approve of a criminal system that disproportionately punishes the poor and people of color? If Evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican, would get behind abolishing the death penalty, we can end this abhorrent practice.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Is God to Blame for Weather that Kills People?

god in control of the weather

If you are a Christian and you believe the Bible is truth then the answer is an emphatic YES. People killed by tornadoes? God’s doing. The people killed by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy? God’s doing. Mudslides, floods, tsunamis, lightning, thunderstorms, blizzards, ice storms…all of these come from the hand of God and God is ultimately responsible for any death or injury caused by these weather events.

The Bible is clear:

And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. Exodus 10:19

And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. Numbers 11:31

For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: Job 28:24-26

But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Jonah 1:4

But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.  Jonah 4:7,8

He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.  Psalm 78:26

These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.  Psalm 107:24,25

He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. Psalm 135:7

And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! Matthew 8:25-27

Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Exodus 9:18

And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. Exodus 9:22

Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. Isaiah 29:6

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.Genesis 6:17

Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers. The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Psalm 74:16

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-6

For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. Genesis 7:4

And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Deuteronomy 11:13-15

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45

For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.  Job 37:6

There is no doubt about who is in control of the weather. The Bible makes it clear that God controls the weather. If God controls the weather then HE is responsible for the devastation and death that comes when bad weather comes our way.

Not happenstance.

Not Mother Nature.

God.

Not any God, the Christian God.

Dear Christian friend, the next time you are bitching about the weather please turn your bitching towards your God. He is the one to blame.

Several years ago, a Christian commenter left this gem:

The thing is you want a God in your own image. You are justifying yourself and bringing him down to a human level. Complain, mock all you want. Like a crybaby. He is God and is right and as God can make the rules, not you. He is truth, whether you like it or not. The creator has the right to impose what he deems correct on His creation according to His standards. I am sorry for whatever has brought you to the point that you have set yourself against Him so, but it is just pitiful that in the end you are going to find out that the reason He does what he does is for your good and final happiness also, not because He is a tyrant like you think. But you will have missed out, because all you think of is “poor me.”

According to the Bible, this commenter is correct. Basically, God is God and he can do whatever he wants to do. How dare any pimple on the ass of God human beings say anything about what God does.

Every day, somewhere in the world, the Christian God is using his control of the weather to bring devastation and death.

Who are we to complain?

Songs of Sacrilege: The Vatican Rag by Tom Lehrer

This is the seventh installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is The Vatican Rag by Tom Lehrer.

Video Link

Lyrics

First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Do whatever steps you want, if
You have cleared them with the pontiff.
Everybody say his own
Kyrie eleison,
Doin’ the vatican rag.

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional,
There, the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

So get down upon your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Make a cross on your abdomen,
When in rome do like a roman,
Ave maria,
Gee it’s good to see ya,
Gettin’ ecstatic an’
Sorta dramatic an’
Doin’ the vatican rag!

A Bible Study Program for Atheists and Christians Too

e-sword

If you are an atheist, agnostic, secularist, or liberal Christian and you often find yourself in discussions with Evangelicals/fundamentalists about the Bible, then I want to recommend you download the E-Sword Bible Study Program. The program is free. There are additional modules you can buy, but I think you’ll find the free program is sufficient for looking up Bible verses, reading commentaries, and looking at the Hebrew/Greek text.

The free version includes (not a complete list):

  • King James Version with Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance numbers
  • American Standard Version
  • English Standard Version
  • Contemporary English Version
  • Revised Standard Version
  • German, French, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian translations of the Bible (along with a number of other languages)
  • Hebrew New Testament
  • Hebrew Old Testament with Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance numbers
  • Greek New Testament Majority Text
  • Greek New Testament with Variants
  • Greek Old Testament, Septuagint with Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance numbers
  • Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament with Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance numbers
  • Commentaries by Albert Barnes, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Jamieson Fausett Brown, Keil & Delitzsch
  • Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions
  • Thayer’s Greek Definitions
  • Ante-Nicene Fathers-9 Volumes
  • Creeds of Christendom-3 Volumes
  • Josephus
  • John Calvin- Institutes of the Christian Religion
  • Bible Maps
  • Fox’s Book of Martyrs

You can download the program here.

There is also an iPad ($4.99) and iPhone ($1.99) version. I use the iPad version quite often when I need to look up a verse or study a particular passage of Scripture. Right now, the program is Windows only, but a Mac version is in the works.

Rebellion and How an Authoritarian God Deals With it

rebellion

Rebellion is a common word in the vocabulary of Evangelical Christian pastors, church leaders, husbands, and parents.

Here’s what the Bible says about God’s view of rebellion:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23)

Those who practiced witchcraft were to be put to death (Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:9-11), so it is clear that God considered rebellion a serious matter.

God commanded a harsh punishment for a rebellious son:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them;Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

The Old Testament is the written record of how a Holy God dealt with a rebellious people, Israel. Page after page details God’s judgments against his people and those who got in his way.

When we get to the New Testament, the word rebellion is not used. Does this mean that God has changed? Of course not. How is it possible for a perfect God to change?  Malachi 3:6 says:

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

The Bible says, speaking of Jesus:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

It is clear that God is immutable. He doesn’t change. (though there are a few texts that seem to suggest otherwise)

The Evangelical Church is a sect that accepts both Testaments as authoritative. (especially those Old Testament verses about tithing) Granted, Evangelicals are quite contradictory in their interpretations of the Old Testament, picking and choosing what they want to believe, but they do say all sixty-six books of the Bible are authoritative.

The key word is AUTHORATATIVE.

Evangelicals take seriously the matter of rebellion because they believe that the Bible is an authoritative text and from that text they deduce an authority structure.

It goes something like this:

  • The Christian God is the supreme authority over everything. He is the sovereign over all. He is the creator. He is in complete and absolute control. Even with salvation, no one can be saved unless God permits them to be saved. (both Calvinists and Arminians believe God is the final arbiter when it comes to salvation)
  • The Christian God has established authority in the church. Under Jesus Christ, pastors (elders, bishops) are the head of the church. They have been called by God to teach, correct, lead, and direct the church. They are to initiate discipline when necessary to ensure the church is a pure, holy body. (though many churches have a pretty low standard for pure and holy)
  • The Christian God has established authority in the home. Again, under Jesus Christ, the husband is the head of the home and his wife is to submit to his authority. Children are to obey their parents and submit to their authority.
  • The Christian God has established authority in nations. All nations are to bow to the authority of the Christian God. Their laws should reflect God’s law. Better yet, theocracy, God rule, is the best form of government.

The Evangelical Christian believes God rules over all. There is no King but Jesus and no God but the Christian God.

The problem here is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much like the rest of us. For all their praying and confessing sin, they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.

And that is a big, big problem.

You see the God of the authoritative Bible demands obedience. God expects Christians to implicitly obey his commands. All of them. God will have none of this picking and choosing that American Christians love to do.

So everywhere you look you have Christians in some form of rebellion against God, the pastor, their parents, or their husband. No matter how much they pray, read the Bible, go to the altar, and promise to really obey God this time, they continue to lapse into sin and rebellion.

This is what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5:48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It seems Jesus didn’t lower the standard. God expects and demands perfection. God will have none of this “I am not perfect just forgiven” cheap grace Christianity. Jesus expects his followers to walk in his steps. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they have been given everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

But, let me say again:

The problem here is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much just like the rest of us. For all their praying and confessing sin they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.

The difference between the atheist and the Evangelical Christian is guilt. The Christian lives in a constant cycle of living right, rebelling, feeling guilty, repenting, and back to living right. This cycle can go on numerous times a day. The atheist can feel guilty at times, but since they are not encumbered by a long list of laws, commands, rules, regulations, precepts, or standards, they are less likely to feel guilty. With no God hovering over them and no pastor preaching at them, the atheist is pretty much free to enjoy life.  The atheist tired to live by the maxim: don’t hurt other people, and when they fails they are likely to make restitution and ask for forgiveness from the person they hurt. No need for a God, Bible, church, or pastor. As a human, the atheist has all the faculties necessary to be a good person.

What makes it worse for the Christian is that they go to church on Sunday and their pastor reminds them, from the Bible of course, of how rebellious they are. He points out their sin and reminds them that God hates sin. He calls on them to repent. You would think that people would get tired of all this, but each week they dutifully return to church so their pastor can remind them about their sinfulness and need of repentance.

Children, especially teenagers, get this same treatment from their parents. When they don’t obey their parents they are chastised and reminded that God hates rebellion. But kids will be kids, as every parent knows, and in Christian homes it seems that children are either starting into rebellion or coming out of it.

Parents are commanded by God to beat the rebellion out of their children. God provides himself as a good role model to follow.  Hebrews 12:5-10 says:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

The Bible records how God goes about chastising rebellious Christians. He maims them, makes them sick, kills their family, takes away their possessions, starves them, and, if necessary, kills them. God goes to great lengths to make sure a Christian seeks after the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Here’s how God expects Evangelical Christian parents to respond to the rebellion of their children:

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13,14)

Let me tie this all together.

An authoritative text from an authoritarian God establishes authority structures for the church, family, and nations. Disobedience to authority is to be punished.

For those of us raised in this kind of Christianity (and all forms of Christianity have some of this, even liberal iterations of Christianity) we well know how this practically works out.The Bible, in the hands of God’s man, the pastor, is used to dominate and control people. Individuality and freedom is discouraged, and, in some cases, severely punished.

Pastors remind the church of pastoral authority. Parents remind children that they are to be obedient and threaten them with punishment if they don’t. Husbands remind their subservient wives that they are the head of the home and their word is f-i-n-a-l. Collectively, Christians warn government officials that Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and God demands they submit to the authority of God, the Bible, and his people. (this is the essence of the theocracy movement in this country)

Some readers are likely weeping by now. Their mind goes back twenty or thirty years to a time when they were teenagers. Their parents considered them rebellious. Often their rebellion was things like listening to rock music, smoking, getting pregnant, talking back, having sex, or smoking marijuana.Their parents, needing to show them that they were in charge, sent them off to group homes to get their “rebellion” problem fixed. What really happened is that they were cruelly misused, abused, and debased. Years later, their lives still bear the marks of the Godly “rebellion” treatment they received.

It is hard not to see cultism in all of this. I am sure Bible-believing Christians, people of the book, will scream foul, but the marks of a cult are there for all to see if they dare but open their eyes. Millions of people attend churches that believe the things I have written about in this post. This is what Bible literalism gets you. How could it be otherwise?

Beyond An Absence of Faith

beyond an absence of faith

Beyond An Absence of Faith: Stories About the Loss of Faith and Discovery of Self, edited by Jonathan M.S. Pearce and Tristan Vick, is an anthology of deconversion stories, including my own. In the book, you will find the deconversion stories of:

  • Sarah Sabella
  • Bud Uzoras
  • Saleha M
  • Sergio Paulo Sider
  • Alicia Norman
  • Arsalan
  • Vyckie Garrison
  • Counter Apologist
  • William Lucas
  • Tristan Vick
  • Mindi Rosser
  • No Cross No Crescent
  • Rebecca Bradley
  • Mike Doolittle
  • Bruce Gerencser
  • Beth Ann Erickson

Beyond An Absence of Faith is not a book written to defend atheism or attack religion. It is 263 pages of everyday people detailing their journey from belief to unbelief. Since I have a chapter in the book, and many of you know some of the people listed above, I thought I’d let readers know how they can get a copy of the book.

The book is available through Amazon, paperback or Kindle.

The Ken Ham Maxim: The Bible Says…

god said it

The Ken Ham Maxim, The Bible Says…

It is quite easy to predict how Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham will react to a new scientific discovery. It doesn’t matter what the discovery is, Ham will judge its veracity based on whether it bolsters his literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3. If it does, he loudly proclaims that the new discovery proves God created the universe in six literal 24 hour days, 6,019 years ago. If it doesn’t, Ham, filled with the righteous indignation of an Old Testament prophet, declares that scientists are wrongly interpreting the data, using wrong methods, or are secret agents working for secularists who want to rid the world of Christians.

Ham is upset about a recent study published by the Arizona State University Institute of Origin about a human jawbone discovered in Ethiopia in 2013:  The Guardian reports:

A lower jaw bone and five teeth discovered on a hillside in Ethiopia are the oldest remains ever found that belong to the genus Homo, the lineage that ultimately led to modern humans.

Fossil hunters spotted the jaw poking out of a rocky slope in the dry and dusty Afar region of the country about 250 miles from Addis Ababa.

The US-led research team believes the individual lived about 2.8m years ago, when the now parched landscape was open grassland and shrubs nourished by tree-lined rivers and wetlands.

The remains are about 400,000 years older than fossils which had previously held the record as the earliest known specimens on the Homo lineage.

The discovery sheds light on a profoundly important but poorly understood period in human evolution that played out between two and three million years ago, when humans began the crucial transformation from ape-like animals into forms that used tools and eventually began to resemble modern humans.

“This is the the first inkling we have of that transition to modern behaviour. We were no longer solving problems with our bodies but with our brains,” said Brian Villmoare at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

The new fossil, found at a site called Ledi-Geraru, has a handful of primitive features in common with an ancient forerunner of modern humans called Australopithecus afarensis. The most well-known specimen, the 3m-year-old Lucy, was unearthed in 1974 in Hadar, only 40 miles from the Ledi-Geraru site. But the latest fossil has more modern traits too. Some are seen only on the Homo lineage, such as a shallower chin bone…

…Other researchers agree. In a separate paper published in Nature, Fred Spoor at University College, London, reports a virtual reconstruction of a Homo habilis skull. “By digitally exploring what Homo habilis really looked like, we could infer the nature of its ancestor, but no such fossils were known,” said Spoor. “Now the Ledi-Geraru jaw has turned up as if on request, suggesting a plausible evolutionary link between Australopithecus afarensis and Homo habilis.”…

Ken Ham has a problem with any number that has more than four digits, that is unless it is a tax credit from the state of Kentucky, then he likes the number 18 with six zeroes. Since scientists are using numbers with lots of zeros to date the jawbone, Ham has published an article repudiating the recent find:

Headlines are buzzing with news about the oldest known human in the fossil record. The specimen—half a lower jawbone with five teeth—was found in the Ledi-Geraru research area in Ethiopia and has been recently reported in the journal Science. This jaw was found in 2013 about 12 miles from where “Lucy” was originally discovered. Lucy, of course, is an extinct ape called Australopithecus afarensis, and evolutionists believe Lucy was an important step in human evolution.

Officially dated at 2.8 million years, the Ledi jaw has been assigned a date midway between the “most recent” specimens of Australopithecus afarensis and the “oldest” examples of human fossils, Homo habilis. Researchers have not been able to determine the Ledi jaw’s species, but they are convinced it is a species of Homo. Its discoverers are touting it as a transitional form, a missing link between Lucy and Homo.

Now, we’ll post a more comprehensive article about the Ledi jaw next week. Our qualified AiG researchers will describe for you the anatomy of the new fossil and how it compares to the jaws and teeth of apes like Lucy and those of humans. But as much as the evolutionary community is raving about the convenient timeline connecting Lucy, the Ledi jaw, and later humans, many of their conclusions are based on the unverifiable dates assigned to it. And like all such millions-of-years claims, these dates are totally dependent on assumptions and worldview-based interpretations of radiometric dating methods. They are calling some of the Ledi jaw’s features “primitive” and others “advanced” because they assume that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors along this timeline.

You see, your worldview determines how you interpret the evidence. These scientists have a secular worldview, and they start with the assumption that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors so that’s what they see..

…But what does the Bible tell us? God made all kinds of land animals as well as Adam and Eve on Day Six of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. He made animals to reproduce and vary only within their created kinds. And this is confirmed through observational science. God made the first man, Adam, in His own image on that same day, from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7)—not through evolutionary processes and ape-like ancestors. He also made the first woman from the man (from Adam’s side). Obviously Christians cannot claim God supposedly used evolution as some try to do! No matter what evolutionary scientists claim about fossils like this, the truth is it is that while a fossil could be human or could be an ape, it could never be a transitional form…

matchbox

For Ham, it’s never about the science. The Bible says…end of discussion. No matter what scientists find, if the new discovery contradicts Ham’s literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3, “qualified AIG researchers” will find some way to discredit the discovery. Their entire worldview depends on their ability to keep modern science contained within the matchbox of young earth creationism. Scientists long ago lit a match and set fire to this box, but Ham and others like him, sit in the ashes of their ignorant beliefs and continue to pretend the box is still whole.

Is there any hope of reaching someone who is a creationist? Sure. Thousands of former creationists read this blog. They, at one time, had beliefs similar to those of Ken Ham, so they are a testimony to the possibility of change. But the only way for this to happen is to destroy the foundation these errant beliefs are built upon. Until creationists are willing to let go of literalism and the inerrancy of the Bible, there is no hope of reaching them. They have walled themselves off from anything that does not fit with their fundamentalist beliefs.

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Creationist Ken Ham and the Boiled Frog Story

ken ham and origen

Snark ahead. You’ve been warned!

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creationism Museum and a defender of young earth creationism, stated in a recent radio interview that the state of Kentucky is treating him like a second class citizen. According to Ham, by refusing to give him $18 million worth of tax incentives for his latest project, the Ark Encounter theme park, state officials are attacking his right to speak and worship freely.

Ham’s legal battle with the state of Kentucky over tax incentives is just the latest in a long string of controversies swirling around Ham’s creationism empire. Ham has spent most of his life being “persecuted” by scientists, secularists, humanists, atheists, liberal Christians…well by anyone who doesn’t think and believe just like he does. Ham gins up controversy so those who support him will be “righteously angry” and continue to support his moneymaking enterprises.

Last Monday, Ham was a guest on Janet Parshall’s radio program. (Parshall, a fundamentalist Christian, “is the host of the Christian talk show In the Market with Janet Parshall, which is broadcast on the Moody Radio network.”) During the program, Ham  stated:

“If we don’t do something about this it’s like the old idea of the frog in the water that you can boil it up and boil it to death and it doesn’t you’re doing it because it keeps accommodating to the temperature around it. If Christians just keep accommodating and allowing this to happen more and more, we will lose that free exercise of religion.”

I wonder if Ham, Parshall, or those who listened to the program on Moody Radio, know that the boiled frog story is bad science. Probably not. Since creationists jettison any science that doesn’t fit within the framework of a literalist interpretation of the Bible, I guess it would be too much to ask them to research the story before using it as a metaphor for Christian inaction and acclimation to culture.

In a 2011 article titled Frog Fable Brought to BoilDr. Karl S. Kruszelnicki wrote:

If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will slowly cook to death. So claims the myth. Indeed, everyone—from corporate consultants to politicians to environmental activists—cites the frog fable as proof that people often don’t see change happening and cannot deal with it in the aftermath.

So how did this myth begin? Maybe it arose because frogs are cold-blooded. We humans are warm-blooded: our internal thermometers measure the local temperature, and then we shiver or sweat to maintain a body temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius. But a cold-blooded frog maintains the temperature of its immediate environment. Perhaps somebody once wrongly thought that this meant frogs had an inferior or inadequate thermometer…

Dr. George R. Zug, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and Professor Doug Melton of Harvard University both agree on this point.

Second, a frog would notice the water getting hot. Dr. Victor Hutchison, a herpetologist at the University of Oklahoma, has dealt with frogs throughout his professional life. Indeed, one of his current research interests is “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles.” Professor Hutchison states, “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ [the maximum temperature an animal can bear] of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water.”

So real-life experiments show that the frog-in-boiling-water story is wrong. If only this fact could make it into real life, too.

The aforementioned article was adapted from Kruszelnicki’s book, It Ain’t Necessarily So…Bro.

After doing some reading on the boiled frog myth, I found a study that best describes Ham’s use of the myth:

As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C.

Frog…brain removed…Ken Ham…young earth creationism…

Hey, I’ve come up with a new metaphor for creationism.

Any day now, I expect Ham to come out with an Answers in Genesis defense of the boiled frog story. Like the voice of God speaking to Moses on the Mount, the utterances of Ken Ham are treated as infallible by his cult followers. Ken Ham, like the Bible and God, is never, ever wrong.

The easiest way for Ham to prove the boiled frog story is to conduct a frog boiling study. Oh wait, Ham doesn’t do research. He’s too busy preaching the Gospel of Genesis 1-3, also known as The Bible According to Hammy®, to take any time to conduct a study. With millions of dollars at stake, there is no time for bothering to speak scientifically when pretending to be a scientist on the radio. Souls are at stake. The future of America and Western Civilization depends on the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. If these beacons of ignorance are closed, what would Christian schools and homeschoolers do for science class field trips?

Perhaps one of Ham’s followers might say, yes, the science of the story is wrong, but the moral story behind the metaphor is correct. Oh, you mean like the B-I-B-L-E? Let the stammering begin…

Note

The boiled frog story has been used by people of every political, social, and religious persuasion. I even know one redheaded preacher who used it years ago in his sermons.

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Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God

darwin fish

Darwin Fish, yes that is his actual name. Fish is part of a church called A True Church in Oklahoma.

Recently, a man by the name of Wayne K sent me an email that contained a dare. He wrote:

Now be cautioned because there is a cultish group in America whose website called atruechurch(dot)info  – they may add your name to a list of false teachers? – probably not. I dare you write about them.

I thought, who the hell is atruechurch.info? Why should I fear them? Are they an assassination squad that whacks atheists and other nonbelievers? So, trembling with consternation and fear, I typed atruechurch.info into Firefox. What did I find? Darwin Fish. Darwin Fish, the truest Christian on earth, a fundamentalist on steroids.

I’ve known about Darwin Fish for many, many years. Fish was once a disciple of John MacArthur, trained at Master’s Seminary, and then he had a falling-out with MacArthur.  You can read Fish’s bio here.

According to Fish:

All of the religions of the world (e.g. Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Catholicism, Mormonism, JW’s, Seventh Day Adventism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, etc.) lead to nowhere but hell. Those involved in them are “unbelieving, . . . idolaters” (Revelation 21:8). Every single last one of them reject the truth of the Bible (Romans 1:18-25), and thus, the Truth of the Bible, God (John 14:6), will burn them forever in the lake of fire for hating Him so (Deuteronomy 32:39-41; Revelation 20:11-15).

If you are involved with the kind of Christianity that views Protestantism, or Catholicism, or the Orthodox church, or the “church of Christ,” or Billy Graham, or Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen, or James Dobson, or Pat Robertson, or John MacArthur, or Paul Washer, or Norman Geisler, or Tony Evans, or Greg Laurie, or Charles Stanley, or Chuck Smith, or Fred Price, or J. Vernon McGee, or Charles Blake, or Chuck Swindoll, or Gene Scott, or Harold Camping (Family Radio), or John Piper, or T. D. Jakes, or David Jeremiah, or Charles Spurgeon, or Dave Hunt, or Marvin J. Rosenthal, or David W. Cloud, or Perry F Rockwood, or Neil Anderson, or Robert Schuller, or Jack Hayford, or Benny Hinn, or Miles McPherson, or Ray Comfort, or Jim Cobrae, or Ron Luce, or Chuck Colson, or C. S. Lewis, or Hank Hanegraaff, or Paul Chappell, or Steven Anderson, or any of the like (or any of the likes on “Christian” TV or radio) as godly, you are not saved. Why? Because, you are on the broad way (Matthew 7:13; 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:3). You have not the characteristic of Christ’s sheep (John 10:5). And, men such as these are wells without water (2 Peter 2:17).

Fish really believes he is part of the one true church. In the FAQ section of his website he answers the question, Are you the only true church/believers?

We suggest you take a look at our Statement of Faith to understand why we say, we do not know. There was a church in Murfreesboro, TN, but that has since dissolved. Other than that, we have not yet, as of this date, found another church that is in the truth (1 John 4:6), and we have been to many. Will we find one? Actually, the real question is, will Christ find one?

Fish has what I call the Elijah syndrome. In I Kings 18, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a God-Off®. Maybe you remember the story from Sunday school:

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.

And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

This was one of my favorite passages to preach from. I Kings 18 is a story that illustrates God’s power when a person is willing to stand alone for God. Of course, I never preached on 1 Kings 19, you know the chapter that details Jezebel chasing Elijah into the hills threatening to kill him.

Of course, Elijah got the last laugh in 2 Kings 9 when, at the behest of Jehu, two or three eunuchs threw Jezebel out of a window, killing her as she hit the ground. Jehu then stomped on the body of Jezebel, leaving her corpse for the dogs to eat. When they came to bury her, all that was left was her skull, palms, and feet. Sounds like a hit series on HBO, yes?

People like Darwin Fish see themselves as a modern-day Elijah. They are THE remnant that God has left on earth to give testimony to the truth. Think about the Bible and its stories for a moment. Aren’t most of the big name characters in the Bible, men like Noah, Abraham, Elisha, Enoch, Joshua John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus, loners who stood against Satan, false religion, and secular power?

In every community there is a Darwin Fish, a preacher who thinks he is God’s messenger, a prophet whose name is Frank/Harry/Waldo/Bruce.  If you have read the comment section of this blog over the years, you know that there are plenty of people who think they have all the answers; that God is on their side and that their interpretation of the Bible is true. Such people are impossible to reach until they are willing to see that their foundation, the Bible, is not what they claim it is.

In A True Church’s doctrinal statement, there’s a section titled Controversial Issues. Fish and A True Church believe:

  • We believe drinking alcohol in moderation is not wrong (Deuteronomy 14:26; Psalm 104:15; John 2).
  • We believe those who commit suicide go to hell (John 15:1-6).
  • We believe gambling is not wrong, but to gamble, because you are not content and want more, is sin (Hebrews 13:5).
  • We believe Scripture does not condemn masturbation. Although it is typically done in wickedness (Matthew 15:19 “evil thoughts”), it can be done in godliness (Titus 1:15).
  • We believe the Bible does not condemn slavery (1 Timothy 6:1-5), even though it is illegal in the USA (Romans 13:1).
  • We believe smoking is not condemned in Scripture, but addiction is (1 Corinthians 6:12; Galatians 5:22-23).
  • We believe most debt is ungodly (Romans 13:8).
  • We believe the Bible does not condemn polygamy (Genesis 16:1-3), even though it is illegal in the USA (Romans 13:1), which illustrates America’s idea of what is moral or not is quite twisted (Isaiah 5:20).
  • We believe there are fire breathing dragons called Leviathan (Job 41).
  • We believe during the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20), God will bring back from the dead evil Levites of the past to serve in His temple (Ezekiel 44:10-14).
  • We believe sexual intercourse during menstruation is an evil practice (Leviticus 18:19-30).
  • We believe the answer to “eternal security” is both “yes” and “no” (Romans 8:31-39; 11:19-22).

This kind of thinking is the result of taking Evangelicalism/Christian fundamentalism to its logical conclusion. Perhaps Fish should be commended for really, really, really believing all that “God” wrote in the Bible. I know more than a few Christians who think like this. They may not take things as far as Darwin Fish or Fred Phelps, but they sincerely believe they are numbered with the few faithful Christians left on earth.

Note

And, in true fundamentalist fashion, there is a website that exposes Darwin Fish and his heretical beliefs. Best I can tell, the website is owned by Spurgeonite Phil Johnson, an elder at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California and a book editor for John MacArthur.  Phil was a friend of mine back in my Calvinistic days.

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