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Tag: Inerrancy of the Bible

Is the Bible a “Simple” Book?

bible made me an atheist

Evangelicals love the Protestant Christian Bible. Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Every word in the Good Book is straight from the mouth of God. Thus, when seeking “truth,” where do Evangelicals turn? The Bible. 2 Peter 1:3 states:

According as his [God’s] divine power hath given unto us [Christians] all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.

Through the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and conscience, God gives to Christians everything that pertains to life and godliness. Unbelievers, of course, lack this knowledge and understanding. Their minds have been darkened by the God of this world, Satan. While unbelievers have the intellectual ability to read, their depravity keeps them from truly “knowing” what the Bible says.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches. I read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times, spending tens of thousands of hours studying its pages. I had a deep, passionate love for the Bible. As a pastor, I preached over 4,000 sermons — all from the Word of God. I am not bragging, then, when I say that I know and understand the Bible.

According to many Evangelical apologists, I don’t really “know” the Bible. The moment I said I was no longer a Christian, all my Bible knowledge magically disappeared — àla a Men in Black mind wipe. This argument is absurd, ranking right up there with the belief that I am still a Christian. Why do Evangelicals refuse to accept that I “know” the Bible? Simple. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Let me translate this verse for you:

Unsaved people do not understand the things of the Spirit of God [the Bible] To unbelievers, the Bible is a foolish book. Its teachings cannot be understood by non-Christians because the Holy Spirit does not live inside of them as their teacher and guide.

If, as Evangelicals allege, the Holy Spirit lives inside [where?] of every Christian, why are so many [most?] believers ignorant of the Bible’s teachings? Why are there so many Christian sects, each with its own interpretations of the Bible? Why can’t Christian churches and pastors even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion?

Ephesians 4:4-6 says:

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

This text tells us that there is:

  • One body [church]
  • One Holy Spirit
  • One hope
  • One Lord
  • One faith
  • One baptism
  • One God and Father

Pray tell where can we find what these verses speak of? Sectarianism, division, and internecine warfare abound. It seems, then, that having the Holy Spirit living inside of you doesn’t do much, if anything, knowledge-wise. Ask one hundred Christians a theological question, and you will be given one hundred answers. I have written numerous posts over the past thirteen years detailing the various Christian systems of beliefs and hermeneutics. All roads better lead to Heaven. If not, a lot of Christians are going to land in Hell when they die. Why? Wrong beliefs. Evangelicals love to preach up salvation by grace, but what really matters is right beliefs. It is right beliefs that determine one’s eternal destiny, not faith or grace. Believe the wrong things, and you are going to fry.

atheists read the bible

Now to the subject of the post: is the Bible a “simple” book? Based on what I wrote above, you would think that that answer to this question is no! Understanding the Bible requires God living inside of you. This same God darkens the minds [hearts] of unbelievers so they cannot understand the Bible’s teachings. Unless God, through regeneration, gives unbelievers faith, it is impossible for them to savingly believe and understand the Bible. Or so Evangelicals — especially Calvinists — say, anyway.

Yet, many Evangelicals encourage unbelievers to read the Bible. “The Bible is so simple, even a child can understand it,” evangelizers say. Often, unbelievers are told to start reading the gospel of John (never mind the fact that this gospel contradicts Matthew, Mark, and Luke in numerous places). “Just read John, and God will reveal himself to you!” If the Bible is such a “simple” book, why do preachers and theologians own countless books that tell them what the Bible says? If the Bible is such a “simple” book,, why do pastors attend BIBLE colleges and seminaries? It seems to me that the Bible is anything but “simple.”

Most Evangelical laypeople (and many pastors) believe the Bible is a “simple” book. Pastors reinforce this false notion in their sermons. Many churches encourage congregants to follow daily Bible reading schedules such as Our Daily Bread (most Christians never read through the Bible one time). These reading schedules present Christians with a truncated, sanitized reading of the Bible. I quite certain that none of these pastor-approved Bible reading schedules covered Ezekiel 23:18-21 (The Message):

I turned my back on her just as I had on her sister. But that didn’t slow her down. She went at her whoring harder than ever. She remembered when she was young, just starting out as a whore in Egypt. That whetted her appetite for more virile, vulgar, and violent lovers—stallions obsessive in their lust. She longed for the sexual prowess of her youth back in Egypt, where her firm young breasts were caressed and fondled.

The New Living Translation (NLT) renders Ezekiel 23:18-21 this way:

In the same way, I became disgusted with Oholibah and rejected her, just as I had rejected her sister, because she flaunted herself before them and gave herself to satisfy their lusts. Yet she turned to even greater prostitution, remembering her youth when she was a prostitute in Egypt. She lusted after lovers with genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse. And so, Oholibah, you relived your former days as a young girl in Egypt, when you first allowed your breasts to be fondled.

Imagine the discussion during family devotions (another practice Evangelicals love to talk about but rarely do) over this passage of Scripture. “Mommy, what does it mean to have genitals as large as a donkey’s and emissions like those of a horse?”

The Bible is many things, but “simple” it is not. That’s why Evangelicals should invest time in actually reading and studying the Bible. Doing so is a good way to turn people into atheists.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Is the Bible “What God Says”?

bible literalism

Grace Fellowship in Kokomo, Indiana, describes itself this way:

The teaching at Grace is perhaps the best part of our time together. We are a church that believes that What God Says, [sic] Matters, and Pastor Ray is uniquely gifted at teaching about what God says.

I want to focus on two statements made by the church:

  • We are a church that believes that “What God Says Matters.”
  • Pastor Ray [Tetrault] is uniquely gifted at teaching about what “God says.”

Sunday after Sunday, for twenty-five years, I stood before congregations in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan and taught them what “God says.” I believed, at the time, that I was a God-called preacher whose calling in life was to preach the words of God to others. I believed that the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. When I read the words of the Bible and, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, preached from them, I believed that God was speaking through me. Thus, to the degree that my words aligned with my interpretation of the Bible, my words were God’s words. I expected congregants to submit to my teaching and preaching obediently, to embrace my words as God speaking to them.

As I look back on the 4,000+ sermons I preached from the ages of fifteen to forty-eight — thirty-three-years — one thing is clear: the words church members heard were mine, not God’s; that the words I read from the Bible were the words of its authors, not God.

Preaching, from start to finish, is a human endeavor. Why, then, did I believe that God was speaking through me and that the Bible was the very words of God?

First, these beliefs were modeled to me by my pastors and the churches I grew up in. When my pastors preached their sermons, I believed I was hearing from God himself. I can recount sermons that were delivered in what I thought were demonstrations of the power of God. It was as if Jesus himself was standing behind the pulpit preaching the words of his Father. Of course, I heard countless sermons by men who were hopelessly incompetent speakers. I still tried to look beyond the man and “hear” what God was saying. Instead of focusing on the messenger, I focused on the message. That said, I was human. I heard more than a few forty-minute sermons that were forty-one minutes too long. I thought, “can we please get to the benediction?”

Second, my beliefs were built upon and sustained by numerous presuppositions:

  • God exists, and that deity is the God of the Protestant Christian Bible, as interpreted by the pastor.
  • The Bible is inerrant and infallible, written by God through human instrumentality.
  • God chooses to speak to humans through men called by him to preach and teach the words of the Bible.
  • God, at times, speaks to humans through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, but when he does, what the Holy Spirit says perfectly aligns with the words of the Bible, as interpreted by pastors.
  • The Bible was big T Truth, the ultimate source of wisdom and knowledge.
  • God’s favor and blessing were dependent on people hearing, applying, and practicing the words of God.

Knowing these things, is it any wonder that my sermons were ventriloquist shows of sorts? That I was a dummy that the triune God of the Bible used to speak to both Christians and unbelievers alike?

As an Evangelical-turned-atheist, I now see that my past presuppositions were irrational nonsense. I assumed so much, never challenging whether what I believed was true. It wasn’t until I read books written by men such as John Shelby Spong and Bart Ehrman that I was forced to confront the fact that what I believed about the nature and history of the Bible was false. It was only after my beliefs about the Bible came crumbling down that I was free to question other beliefs, including whether the Christian God exists.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Inerrancy Means “Without Error” Until it Doesn’t 

inerrancy

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) posted an interview of Dr. D.A. Carson. Carson is the president of The Gospel Coalition and a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity SchoolIvan Mesa, an editor for TGC, conducted the interview. Mesa begins the interview by defining what he believes has been the historic Christian belief on inerrancy. Mesa writes (link no longer active):

“Scripture cannot be broken,” our Lord Jesus said without qualification (John 10:35).  Throughout history his followers have believed the Bible, as a divinely given book, is fully trustworthy and contains no error. To use a more specific term, it’s inerrant.

Carson repeats this well-worn Evangelical belief:

The word “inerrancy” simply means without error; the doctrine of inerrancy is nothing more than the affirmation that the Bible always tells the truth.

Based on what Mesa and Carson have stated, it is easy to conclude that Evangelicals believe that the Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, is without error. This article of faith is the foundation of Evangelical belief, and the vast majority of church members believe that the Bible they hold in their hands is without mistakes. On Sundays, countless Evangelical pastors will remind parishioners that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Evangelicals will leave church on Sunday believing their precious KJV/NIV/NASB/ESV Bible is without error, mistake, or contradiction.

Yet, these very same preachers will go to a pastor’s meetings on Tuesday and participate in discussions over lunch about the errors and contradictions in the Biblical text. These men of God KNOW that there is no such thing as an inerrant translation, yet they deliberately deceive church members about the nature and history of the Bible. These preachers know that doubting the Word of God is the first step out the door of the church. Better to cross one’s fingers behind one’s back when saying the Bible is the inerrant Word of God than have church members doubting the infallibility, perspicuity, and veracity of the Bible

While both Mesa and Carson unapologetically claim to believe in inerrancy, they are less than honest about what they REALLY mean when they say the Bible is inerrant. Mesa asked Carson, “If the word ’inerrancy’ requires so much careful definition and discussion, is it still the best word to use today?”  Why does the word “inerrancy” require “much careful definition and discussion”? If the Bible is “inerrant,” what further explanation is needed?

Carson goes on to state:

a) Inerrancy is not to be confused with precisionism. We expect more precise statements only where the context demands them. “It took him three hours to walk home” may be a true statement, even if it took him two and three-quarters hours, provided the context leads the reader to expect rounded-off figures.

(b) Inerrancy does not refer to grammatical irregularities. To think otherwise is to misunderstand how language works: usage drives change, and in every culture the degree of conformity between usage and a somewhat artificial grammar-book ideal varies with different strata.

(c) The Bible includes countless passages where its “truthfulness” is not the controlling issue. Consider, for example, the anguished laments of Scripture—for example, Jesus’s anguished lament “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is true, of course, that Jesus said this, but as for the words themselves, the focus of interest is less on their truthfulness than on their meaning. By contrast, the assertion that Ehud was left-handed (Judges 3:15) makes a factual claim that is either true or untrue. This is one of the reasons why inerrancy is a useful expression. It is potentially misleading to say “all Scripture tells the truth” if we thereby convey the impression that “Scripture is nothing more than factual expressions.” But to say “all Scripture is inerrant” is to affirm that it is without error, and this negation of untruthfulness covers all of the Bible indiscriminately.

These and similar discussions of inerrancy may seem like nitpicking to some conservatives, while many liberals infer from such discussions that the term itself is useless if it requires so much “careful definition and discussion,” as your question puts it. But the obvious riposte is that once a word or concept is challenged, there is no important term that does not require “careful definition and discussion.” God? Love? Justification? Truth? Spiritual? Trinity? Messiah? Inerrancy is no different. Like the other words, and countless more like them, it can serve as a useful one-word summary, even while it needs unpacking with care and with great attention to what Scripture says.

In other words, Carson’s “inerrant” Bible is not without error after all. And what neither Carson or Mesas state in the interview is that, for Evangelicals, inerrancy applies only to the original manuscripts — the original texts that no one has ever seen. There are no original manuscripts so, strictly speaking, inerrancy is a myth. It is a derivative belief based on the notion that since God is perfect in all his ways, somewhere in the process of giving his Words to man, there must have been perfect texts.

It is time for Mesa, Carson, and Evangelical pastors to admit to their congregations that the Bibles they hold in their hands (or read on their iPads) are not inerrant. They need to frankly confess that there are no original documents, and all that Christians have are cobbled-together Bibles littered with errors, contradictions, and internal inconsistencies. The so-called “inerrant” Bible is an Evangelical urban legend, believed only by those lacking training in theology and the Biblical texts. The man shouting THUS SAITH THE LORD, on Sunday? He doesn’t really believe what he is saying. At best, all he can say is this: THUS SAITH THE LORD, MAYBE.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Never Doubt Your Bible, No Matter How Far-Fetched it Seems

never doubt the Bible

Several years ago, in an article titled Watching Bible Prophecy Fulfilled, Fundamentalist Michael Pearl detailed the so-called prophecies found in Ezekiel 38-39. Evangelicals like Pearl believe that this passage of Scripture predicts the establishment of the Jewish state and war in the Middle East before the rapture of the church and the seven-year Tribulation.

As Pearl was unpacking his theories about the future, he told the story of a Church of Christ preacher who had written a book in 1946 attacking the premillennial view of future events. The author of the book reminded his readers that “for premillennialism to be true, the Jews would have to occupy their ancient land of Israel.” The author believed such a claim to be absurd, yet in 1948, Israel became a nation. Pearl remarked, never doubt your Bible, no matter how far-fetched it seems.

Spend any amount of time around Evangelicals, and you will find out that they have many — to use Pearl’s term — far-fetched beliefs. Evangelicals believe that the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. While this God used human instrumentation to write the Bible, its authors, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, wrote down exactly what God wanted written. The Bible, then, contains the very words of God.

Once people buy into the myth that the Bible is God’s Word, it is easy to get them to accept the most outlandish of beliefs. Evangelicals accept them as God-uttered truth no matter how crazy these beliefs might sound to people outside of the Evangelical bubble. No amount of reason or common sense will persuade them to believe otherwise. A world created 6,023 years ago in six literal 24-hour days? Noah building a big boat in the middle of the desert, and a flood destroying the entire human race, save eight? Fallen angels having sex with human women resulting in hybrid children? A virgin woman being impregnated by God so she could give birth to a baby who was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent human? This same baby, as an adult, healing the sick, raising the dead, turning water into wine, walking on water, dying and coming back to life three days later, walking through walls, and ascending back to Heaven, promising to return in the future? All of these fantastical claims, and more, are believed by Evangelicals. Remember, never doubt your Bible, no matter how far-fetched it seems.

Ask Evangelicals if they think the foundation stories of religions such as Mormonism or Scientology are absurd, and they will, to a person, say yes! Yet, Evangelicals seem incapable of seeing their own beliefs in the same light. This is because Evangelicals have been indoctrinated, often from birth, in mythic Christianity. Evangelicals gather together every Sunday to hear a supposedly educated man remind them that the Christian myths are true. Evangelicals are expected to swallow every fantastical Bible story hook, line, and sinker. As fishermen know, let a catfish swallow a hook, and it is almost impossible to retrieve the hook without killing the fish. So it is with Evangelicals. Once they have swallowed the hook of Bible literalism, it is almost impossible to deliver them from God said it, I believe it lunacy.

The only hope for people locked up in the Evangelical padded room is for them to have doubts about the Bible’s veracity. Once Evangelicals dare to entertain the thought that the Bible might not be what their preachers say it is, they are opening the door of their mind to skepticism and reason. Preachers fear church members who dare to doubt, knowing that the path out of the church is paved with questions and doubts. Preachers remind church members that Satan caused Adam and Eve to doubt the words of God. When tempted to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve reminded the serpent that God had commanded them not to eat the fruit. Satan replied, yea, hath God said (in perfect King James English)? Adam and Eve ignored the words of God, ate the fruit, and plunged the human race into sin. See what happens when you doubt the words of God?, Evangelical preachers say. NEVER doubt your Bible, no matter how far-fetched it seems.   

This is why Evangelical leaders consider authors such as Bart Ehrman dangerous. Ehrman, like Satan in the Garden of Eden, says to readers, yea hath God said? Ehrman, a widely published and respected New Testament scholar, confronts Evangelical readers with evidence that thoroughly destroys the notion that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Focusing on the New Testament, Ehrman exposes ignorant Evangelicals to the facts about the Biblical text’s transmission and history. This evidence is so overwhelming that honest Evangelicals are forced to admit that the Bible is not what preachers claim it is. While it is certainly possible for Ehrmanated Evangelicals to hold on to some semblance of Christianity, they will never view the Bible in the same way again.

When Evangelicals stop by this blog to challenge this Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist, I always ask if they have read any of Bart Ehrman’s books. Invariably, their answer is no. Often they see no need to read his books. Their pastors have either told them to stay away from Ehrman’s books, or they have read their favorite Fundamentalist blogger’s posts about Ehrman’s heretical beliefs. No need to investigate further. Since truth is always wasted on a closed mind, I rarely engage Evangelicals who refuse to read Ehrman’s books. Long-time readers have watched me tell Evangelical zealots repeatedly to read Ehrman, and then we will talk. Few do so, preferring to remain safe and secure in the Evangelical bubble. Until they are willing to entertain doubts and questions about the Bible, there is no hope for them. Until Evangelicals are willing to reject the irrational parts of the Bible, the parts Michael Pearl calls far-fetched, they will remain enslaved to their literalistic interpretations of God’s “perfect” words.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Hello Bruce, I’m a “Nice” Evangelical

hell

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several times a month, I get emails from Evangelicals who want to let me know that they are not like “other” Evangelicals. They want me to know that there are Evangelicals who are nice, polite, decent, kind, and respectful people. That’s great, their mothers taught them well. However, these “nice” Evangelicals aren’t really as nice as they would have me believe. They desperately want to be viewed in a good light, thinking if I just knew that there are “nice” Evangelicals, I would fall on my knees and call to Jesus to save me. As if my entire deconversion hangs on how I was treated while I was an Evangelical pastor.

When I am feeling up to it, I respond to the “nice” Evangelical’s email with a few questions. Questions like:

  • Do you believe that humans are inherently “sinful”; that humans are broken and in need of fixing?
  • Do you think believing in Jesus is the only way for people to have their sins forgiven?
  • Do you believe there is one true God, and that all other deities are false?
  • Do you believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text?
  • Do you believe that a person must be saved/born again/become a follower of Jesus to go to Heaven when he dies?
  • Do you believe that a person who is not saved/born again/a follower of Jesus goes to Hell when he dies?

The answers to these questions will quickly reveal that the “nice” Evangelical is no different from Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Steven Anderson, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Bob Gray, Sr., Bryan Fischer, James Dobson, or Franklin Graham. The “nice” Evangelical and the nasty/hateful Evangelical, both share the same beliefs. The former comes in a nicer, more pleasing package, but inside the package are the same abhorrent, vile beliefs.

Sometimes, a “nice” Evangelical will be coy about his beliefs. When pressed on the question of God torturing non-Christians in Hell/Lake of Fire for eternity, he often replies that he leaves such things up to God. A “nice” Evangelical want me to know that he doesn’t judge, he just unconditionally l-o-v-e-s others. However, if he believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, then he already knows what God says on the matter. Fact: non-Christians will go to Hell when they die. Fact: atheists, agnostics, secularists, and humanists will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of the readers of this blog will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of my Facebook friends will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of my Twitter followers will go to Hell when they die. Fact: and, to make it quite personal, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and most of their children will go to Hell when they die.

The “nice” Evangelical, if he is truly a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Evangelical, is boxed in by his beliefs. There is one God — the Christian God; one way of salvation — Jesus; and Hell awaits all of those who reject him. This is why I respect someone like the late Fred Phelps more than I do a “nice” Evangelical. Phelps just tells non-Christians how it is. He makes no effort to hide his beliefs. The forwardness of such Evangelicals allows me to know exactly where I stand with them. No need for us to play the pretend-friend game or make nice with each other.

Sometimes, “nice” Evangelicals will take a psychological approach. They view me as one who has been wounded by the nasty, hateful, judgmental Evangelicals. They read a few of my blog posts and determine that I have been hurt in some way, and that this is the reason I am not a Christian. In their minds, they think if they are just really, really, really nice to me that I will be overwhelmed by their niceness and fall in love with Jesus all over again. Since “nice” Evangelicals think Jesus is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l, they can’t imagine someone NOT wanting to become a follower of Awesome Jesus. A “nice” Evangelical sees Jesus patiently knocking on the door of my heart, pleading for me to let him in. Isn’t this the same Jesus who says that if I DON’T open the door, he is going to torture me for eternity in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone, a place where the worm dieth not? Isn’t this the same Jesus who will fit me with a special body after death so that no matter how severely he tortures me I can never die?

While there is certainly a truckload of harm and hurt in my Evangelical past, the reason I am not a Christian is because I do not believe the central claims of Christianity to be true. I don’t believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. I don’t believe Jesus was God, virgin-born, a miracle worker, or resurrected from the dead. I don’t believe God created the world, nor do I believe in “sin.” Simply put, I reject everything one must believe to be a Christian. No matter how “nice” an Evangelical is to me, I do not buy what he is selling. Salvation requires faith, a faith I do not and will not have.

Look, I am glad that many Evangelicals are nice people. I am glad they treat me and others like me with kindness, decency, and respect. Their behavior certainly makes the world a better place. That said, I suspect their behavior is a reflection of their tribal training and culture more than it is their Evangelical beliefs. I am glad someone taught them to be decent, thoughtful people. I do, however, wish they would stop wasting their time by trying to “nice” me to Jesus. I have no interest in Jesus, and I think their time would be better spent teaching Evangelicals how to behave in public. As blog comments, news articles, blogs, social media,  and personal emails show, there are a lot of Evangelicals who don’t the first thing about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Instead of trying to save people who don’t want to be saved, “nice” Evangelicals should spend their time getting fellow Evangelicals saved.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Ken Ham Maxim: The Bible Says . . .

creationism

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

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 the book of Genesis. If it does, Ham loudly proclaims that the new discovery proves God created the universe in six literal 24-hour days, 6,023 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 Evangelicals

Several years ago, Ham’s hemorrhoids became inflamed over a study published by the Arizona State University Institute of Origin about a human jawbone discovered in Ethiopia in 2013.

The Guardian reported at the time:

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 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…

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 reading of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, “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.

god said it
The Ken Ham Maxim, The Bible Says…

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. 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 — the Protestant Christian Bible. 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.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

A Comment from a Canadian Christian Seminary Student

email

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, I received a Facebook message from a Canadian seminary student by the name of Matt. I assume he is an Evangelical. Here’s some of what he had to say:

You don’t know me. I am a seminary student at a school in Canada. One of my professors passed around your article entitled “Know it all Evangelicals” and asked the class to post a response in the class forum.

As I considered my response, I felt that if I wanted to take the assignment seriously, I should also post my response in the comments on your article . . .

. . . If you are not interested in this I completely understand and will bother you no more. I wish you all the best as you battle through your health issues. Thanks for considering my request.

Here’s the comment Matt posted to the class forum page:

Dear Bruce,

Thanks for a thought provoking article. I’ll admit that my first reaction was indignation and the inner protest that while this may refer to most Christians, it certainly doesn’t refer to me, don’t lump me in with everyone else.

I suspect that just about any Christian reading the article would feel similarly at least initially. Perhaps others would jump on the bandwagon and say, “Yeah, that is the problem with the church, they are so arrogant and they know nothing.” as though they themselves are somehow apart from and therefore better than the church.

Then I tried to think more about what you are really saying. It seems that the main problem that you outline in the article is the arrogance Christians tend to have based on their knowledge which in reality often amounts mostly to ignorance. I wonder if I really can be lumped into that category.

Perhaps in your years as a pastor you had the experience of having kids from your church go off to Bible College and then come back after a year armed with a new knowledge and a great zeal to correct the areas where you were in error in your leadership. The reality is that I was one of those kids. I recall as a Bible School student zealously inserting myself into a church conflict in the church where I grew up.

I made sure to point out to the pastor the areas where he was wrong and clearly warned him of the dangers of his behaviour. He was a man who was struggling in life, he had a teenage daughter causing a great deal of grief in his home and a church in turmoil around him and I am sure that in my great wisdom and discernment I caused far more harm than good. I look back on that incident with no small regret and hope that I have learned something since then.

Now, years later I find myself with a role of leadership and influence within the church and your article is a challenge to me. I can ask myself, “How can I be an influence for good in the church? Can I challenge the young people around me to get into their Bible, to study the scriptures and to think about what they are reading?” I think I can. The reality is that if the scriptures are true (and I believe that they are) they are worth studying and knowing. If they are truly a way to know God then this is what I should devote my life to learning and I want to influence the next generation of the church to change the reputation that we have of being arrogant and ignorant.

Thanks for your challenge.

Matt

I’m am not sure which post (s) Matt was referencing, but I do remember what I wrote. (Please see Know-it-all Christians and Why Do Evangelical Pastors Think They Know Everything.) I focused on the arrogance of many Evangelicals when it comes to them thinking they know everything. In truth, most Evangelicals know very little about theology, the Bible, the history of Christianity, and the transmission and historicity of the text they claim is divine. Even among preachers, the lack of knowledge is astounding.

I think Bart Ehrman’s books should be required reading in Evangelical churches — even more so in Evangelical Bible colleges and seminaries. Evangelicals should know where their Bible and beliefs came from and how much these beliefs have changed over the centuries. They should know that many of the claims they make for the Bible are not only laughable, but ignorant. If they are going to say that the Bible says ____________, then they should, at the very least, learn to defend and explain their assertions. In the process of learning how to defend themselves, they should expose themselves to authors and scholars outside of their sect, men such as Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, John Shelby Spong, N.T. Wright, and even secular, non-Christian writers of the ilk of Bart Ehrman, John Loftus, and Robert M. Price. And that’s just for starters.

I take the Bible seriously, and those who say they believe it should do the same. I hope, in the advice that Matt gives to future congregants, he will encourage them to read outside the rut of their peculiar sect. Any belief worth having will stand examination and critique. Now, if it is really all about faith, then future Evangelical preachers such as Matt need to make that clear. They need to state that their beliefs are faith-based, and not evidence-based. This we believe, then becomes an article of faith, a shared faith, that may have some facts attached to it, but such facts are not required.

I want to thank Matt for his comment. I always appreciate it when Evangelicals make attempts to engage me on a thoughtful, professional, and intellectual level. Rarely does this happen, so I am all the more pleased when it does. His kind message to me is a reminder that my writing is often discussed far beyond the pages of this blog.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Evangelical Literalism: A Day is a Day Except When it Isn’t

bible literalism

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

All young-earth creationists are literalists, that is except when they aren’t. Let me illustrate this for you.

Six times in Genesis 1 the Bible says, the morning and even were the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth day. Young-earth creationists are emphatic that these days were literal 24-hour days.

In Genesis 2:1, the Bible states that on the seventh day God ended his creative work. According to other verses in the Bible, God rested on the seventh day. So God only rested one literal 24 hour day? I don’t know of any young-earth creationist who believes this.

God gave Adam the following command in Genesis 2:15-17:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Did Adam eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Did Eve? Of course they did. Did they die on the very day they ate the proverbial apple? Nope. According to Genesis 5:5:

. . . and all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Do you see the point I am making? Young earth creationists are literalists until it contradicts their interpretation of the Bible, then all of a sudden Adam dying on the day he sinned is meant to be taken metaphorically, or the word “day” really means a period of time.

I will repeat what I have said countless times: no one, not even Ken Ham, takes every verse in the Bible literally. Whenever it suits them or whenever it will bolster their arguments, Evangelicals are quite willing to abandon literalism.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.