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Tag: Inerrancy of the Bible

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: The Bible is ALWAYS Right

bible inerrancy

1.“Our basic assumption: God rules the world.” — God is a personal God, He can act in exceptional ways (“miracles”) if he chooses.

2. “God is consistent.” — God cannot contradict Himself, what He reveals through Scripture and how He chooses to act are eternally consistent.

3. “The Bible is the word of God.” — The Bible declares itself trustworthy and inspired by God Himself, we can rest on its inerrancy and authority.

4. “God gave human beings dominion, so scientific investigation is legitimate.” — Modern science was berthed in assumptions of a biblical worldview.

5. “Scientists’ formulations are not the word of God, but human reflections concerning evidence in the world.” — Unlike the Bible, science does not claim to be unchanging and even well-established theories are fallible in principle.

6. “Though the Bible is infallible, all later human interpretations of the Bible are fallible.” — There is a critical distinction between what the Bible says and what any human interpreter believes it says.

7. “Apparent discrepancies between the Bible and science are discrepancies between fallible human interpretations of the Bible and fallible scientific pronouncements, based on fallible interpretations of evidence from the world.” — Human fallibility, extends to interpreting both the Bible and scientific findings.

8. “An apparent discrepancy needs further investigation.” — When we do come across something that appears to contradict, it can be attributed either to a mistake in biblical interpretation, in scientific reasoning, or both.

9. “The Bible has a practical priority, because of its design by God.” — The Psalms speak of a real impact of the word of God on our daily lives, not just abstract theology.

10. “When there is an apparent discrepancy, we should see whether there are competing explanations from scientists or from Bible interpreters.” — Not unlike theology, science is rarely limited to a lone scientific opinion.

11. “The Bible gives us sufficient instruction for the next practical step in obeying God, even when we have many unanswered questions about the apparent discrepancies.” — Ultimately, God’s grace helps us settle into those questions we have that we do not find explicitly answered in His Word.

— Vern Poythress, author and professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, The Christian Post, Miracles, scientific irregularities may point to biblical truth, theologian says, May 16, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Self-Authentication of the Bible

the bible says

Most Evangelicals believe that the Bible is a self-authenticating text; that the Bible proves the Bible. No matter what external sources might say about the Biblical text, the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Even when confronted with the glaring contradictions and mistakes in the Bible, Evangelicals have a knack for explaining away these things. Take the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books contradict each other in countless places, yet Evangelicals through the use of “harmonization” somehow, some way make the narrative fit (at least to believers).

For people outside of the Evangelical bubble, this sounds irrational. In their minds, it is impossible to build a coherent narrative from the Biblical text. Too many errors, mistakes, and contradictions for the Bible to be a consistent, logical, lucid text. Haven’t Evangelicals read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books? Surely you jest. Evangelicals are discouraged from reading books by outsiders, authors who might cause people to have questions and doubts. I was in my mid-forties before I read a book that challenged in a meaningful way my Evangelical beliefs about God’s perfect Word. By that time, I had been a pastor for almost twenty years.

Evangelicalism is a bubble, a place where every belief and practice makes sense. When you are in this bubble you think your beliefs are rational and consistent. And even when you have questions and doubts, they are quickly dispensed with trust (of God) and faith. As a pastor, I never questioned the veracity and truthfulness of the Bible. When I read things I didn’t understand, I appealed to my faith. I believed God was perfect in all his ways; that he would never lie; that the Bible was his very words, inerrant and infallible in every detail. Thus, the contradictions and internal inconsistencies I read were waved off with me saying, “Someday, God will make this clear to me. And if he doesn’t, I am still going to trust him.”

In 2008, I found myself outside of the bubble looking in. What once seemed perfectly logical and internally consistent looked, to put it bluntly, bat shit crazy. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) Learning that the Bible was not inerrant and infallible dealt a death blow to my faith. My house of faith was built upon the Bible. Without a perfect Bible, my faith came tumbling down. Without the Bible holding some sort of authoritative power over me, I was then able to take a careful, critical look at the central claims of Christianity. I concluded they were not true; that they couldn’t be rationally and intellectually sustained.

When interacting with Evangelical zealots, I avoid and ignore discussions about philosophy and science. I have little interest in discussions about the existence of God or evolution. My preferred mode of attack is to challenge their beliefs about the authority and historicity of the Bible. Successfully taking a sledgehammer to their beliefs about the nature of the Bible will force them to question their sincerely held beliefs. Once the Bible loses its power over believers, it becomes possible to challenge their core beliefs. The goal, at least for me, is to help Christians move away from Fundamentalism, not turning Evangelicals into atheists. Fundamentalism kills, so I am more concerned about saving lives than I am making converts. The best way, then, to “save” Evangelicals is to counter their beliefs about the Bible itself. This approach can and does work, as many of the readers of this blog can attest.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bible Thumpers: Dealing with Evangelical Bible Bullies

bible thumper 2
Graphic by GlamorKat

Most churchgoing Evangelicals are nice enough people. They may have irrational beliefs and, by their attendance and financial support, lend their names to social policies we progressives find offensive and harmful, but meet Evangelicals at local football games or restaurants and they will act very much like the rest of us. A small percentage of Evangelicals are Bible thumpers — people who live and breathe the Bible, Christian doctrine, and evangelization. Many of the Evangelicals-turned-atheists/agnostics who read this blog were, during their Christian days, Bible thumpers. I know I was. Evangelicals who stumble upon this blog and comment are usually members of the Bible thumper club. Bible thumpers might be a minority within the broader context of Evangelicalism, but they have a larger-than-life presence on the internet, television, and radio. Most Evangelicals are Sunday-go-to-meeting Christians — people who love Jesus and their fellow man. Bible thumpers, on the other hand, love doctrine and hearing themselves talk far more than they do other people. Bible thumpers are quite willing to psychologically eviscerate those deemed enemies — liberal Christians, Catholics, non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and even Evangelicals who aren’t as “committed” as they are.

Several years ago, I tried to engage a Bible thumper in a thoughtful discussion on the Rational Doubt blog. (Our discussion is no longer available.) I should have known better. I ALWAYS should know better. It’s been years since I have had a lengthy discussion with an Evangelical that turned out well. By the time I figured out I had made a huge mistake, this Bible thumper, sensing emotional blood in the water, turned to attacking me personally, suggesting that I was intellectually inferior and a whiner. This man’s words cut to the quick, opening up wounds that lie buried deep in my being. It’s been almost eight years now since I have returned to blogging. People who have been following my writing for years know that I quit blogging several times in the past because of vicious assholes for Jesus. A little voice in my head kept telling me to tell this Bible thumper exactly what I thought of him and move on, but since I was a guest on Rational Doubt (which periodically publishes my writing on their site) I decided to refrain from giving the Bible thumper the Bruce Gerencser Treatment®. I finally threw in the towel, much to the delight of the Bible thumper. According to him, his superior “Biblical” arguments caused me to flee. He even suggested that deep down I knew that his arguments were correct.

Readers who frequent this blog know the kind of man I am. They also know of my physical struggles and my decades-long battle with depression. Had they been following the Rational Doubt debacle, I am sure I would have gotten emails, instant messages, and texts asking me if I was okay. When a major depressive state sets in — as it did when I had this discussion — life gets quite dark for me. It is easy for me to lose sight of what matters. What doesn’t matter is a piss-ant Evangelical who uses the Bible to bully people. This particular man is just one more of the thousands of Bible thumpers who have come before him. I knew what kind of awful man he was, so why did I engage him anyway? I knew he described himself on his website as:

T.C. Howitt writes at the gospel crossroads of truth and reality, using the Bible to illuminate our benighted culture. He considers no subject sacred in this fallen world, relying on the power of God’s word alone to boldly declaim the shocking wickedness surrounding us in the forms of secular humanism, scientism and technological idolatry.

I knew that his Facebook page said: “I’m on Facebook to preach God’s word. Don’t be surprised when you hear it.” I knew his Medium profile said: “Writer, preacher of God’s word, destroyer of idols, giver of fair warning.” These three statements set off a warning in my mind that said, WARNING, BRUCE! BIBLE THUMPER AHEAD. Yet, despite knowing all I needed to know about what kind of man Todd Howitt is, I decided to engage him anyway. The fault, then, is mine, not his. Rabid dogs act like rabid dogs. I shouldn’t expect them to act like lovable puppies. Bible thumpers act the way they do because they believe the Bible is the answer to every question, and that they know everything. Every morning, these zealots arise and sing:

The B-I-B-L-E,
Yes that’s the book for me,
I stand alone on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E.
BIBLE!

bible thumper 4

They have read countless books that reinforce their educated ignorance. Bible thumpers believe they have life figured out, and that if everyone would believe as they do, all would be well. Many of these Bible thumpers are Calvinists, adding another layer of arrogance and certainty to their behavior. I KNOW all of these things, so why, then, did I bother to engage Howitt? My counselor tells me that I wrongly think that if I just share with people my story and explain my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism, Bible thumpers will understand. Dr. Deal had told me several times, Bruce, you think these people care about what you think. They don’t! They don’t give a shit about you or what you think.

Doc, of course, is right. I KNOW he is right. I have known for years that he is right. I know, I know, I know, yet every so often the “just explain yourself” Bruce nags me, demanding to speak, and so I let him. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, the moment I do, I realize I have made a big mistake. I am not talking here about explaining myself to the regular readers of this blog. I owe it to readers who have invested their time (and money) in reading my writing to explain things that aren’t clear. Fortunately, regular readers rarely need an explanation. They understand my writing methodology and usually know what I mean when I say this or that.

Several years ago, I read a Washington Post article about the turmoil in Spain over Catalonia’s attempt to secede from Spain. Speaking of the supposed dialog between the parties, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said:

The word dialogue is a lovely word. It creates good feelings. But dialogue has two enemies: those who abuse, ignore and forget the laws, and those who only want to listen to themselves, who do not want to understand the other party.”

I thought as I read it, Rajoy’s statement fits well with my recent “dialog” with Todd Howitt. Howitt is an enemy to open and honest dialog because his Fundamentalist religious beliefs have turned him into an abusive bully. He may smile and say Praise Jesus! while he is doing it, but Howitt and other Bible thumpers can and do cause psychological harm to people with sensitive sensibilities (which Bible thumpers view as weakness). Howitt had no interest in understanding where I was coming from. He stated from the get-go that he was a former atheist (doubtful) and he was there not to dialog or converse — already knowing how atheists think — but to preach the Word. In other words, he was only interested in hearing himself talk. Those of us who are former Evangelicals are quite familiar with people who only want to listen to themselves talk. Our pastors were people who believed they were men supernaturally chosen by a supernatural God to preach the inspired, inerrant supernatural Word of God. Our duty as hearers was to submit to the pastor’s — I mean God’s — authority and explicitly follow the laws, precepts, commands, and examples found within the pages of the one book that is different from all the books ever written — the Protestant Christian Bible. As an Evangelical pastor, I did the same. Since I had been called by God to preach and teach at whatever church I was currently pastoring, I expected congregants to listen and obey. (Hebrews 13:17)

Bible thumpers believe they are plugged into God 24/7 — that is, except when they, under the cover of darkness, behave in ways that make them entries for the Black Collar Crime series. Bible thumpers believe that their knowledge of the Bible is superior to that of the vast majority of people on earth. Some of them think that they are so right that no church is good enough for them. They are infected with what I call A.W. Pink disease. Pink was a famous early-twentieth-century Calvinistic writer who secluded himself on an island because he couldn’t find a pure enough church to attend.

Having risen to the level of being worthy to enter the inner temple of Biblical truth, Bible thumpers, girded with self-righteousness, fan out across the internet seeking forums to dispense their Trumpian-level knowledge. Scores of such people over the years have made their way to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. These days, Bible thumpers are rarely permitted to sell their faux-gold plated turds on this site. A decade spent dealing with Bible thumpers has taught me that engagement is futile. While I, at times, forget this maxim, I am getting better at just letting Bible thumpers tilt at windmills.

I originally wrote this post in 2017. Over the past five years, I have come a long way in learning how to deal with Evangelicals who only want to cause harm. Life is too short — literally — for me to waste time trying to engage people who only want to viciously, violently, and hatefully attack me and the readers of this blog. On the rare occasions I do engage such people, I do so for entertainment purposes or to provide graphic illustrations of the ugly underbelly of Evangelical Christianity. Such people do a wonderful job turning people away from Christianity.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Family Driven Faith — Part One

bruce-and-polly-gerencser-1981
Bruce and Polly Gerencser with son #2, 1981, at Bruce’s mother’s home. Gotta love that porn stache. 🙂

This article was first published in 2011 on the blog No Longer Quivering. Corrected, revised, and updated.

For seven months in 2004, our family attended Faith Bible Church in Jersey, Ohio, a vibrant, growing, family-oriented church in central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly, my wife, was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day, and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.”

In a split second, everything changed.  You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises, but they were not to work outside the home. From that day forward, the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.

In the 1990s, I co-pastored Community Baptist Church, a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Elmendorf, Texas (please see I am a Publican and a Heathen — Part One). A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily, candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony of salvation before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman because her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.) She wanted to give a public testimony, but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. This standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and counseled her to disobey her husband. She was baptized a short time later.

This church also believed that “church business” was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings, women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question, they had to whisper their question to a man, and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing, but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.

While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the aforementioned churches, I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to male rule and authority. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to their parents and obey every command given to them.

I believed the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course, what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible, there is no Christianity (in any meaningful sense of the word). As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. The Bible was the final rule and authority for everything, the blueprint for life.

IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything, but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement, is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under-shepherds of their churches, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching their churches what the Bible says (or better put, what his interpretations are). These pastors, divinely called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, are the mouthpiece of God.

Practically speaking, the pastor is the final authority in the church. He is the law-giver, and he alone has the final say on virtually everything. The Bible is clear, the pastor is to rule the church, and church members are to submit to his rule. Pastors spend significant time reminding the church that God says he, the pastor, is the boss. The common phrase used to define this is pastoral authority.

Pastoral authority, IFB style, leads to dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members’ lives. Some churches recognize the problem with one man having so much power, so they have a plurality of elders or a board of elders or deacons. Sadly, all this does is make a group of men dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members’ lives

In a hierarchical system, God and the Bible come first. Underneath God and the Bible is the pastor. Church members are taught that submitting to the pastor’s teaching and authority is pleasing to God, and, if practiced, will bring the blessing of God.

As an IFB pastor, I taught church members that God and the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children. In my mind, the Bible was clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Much like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them is marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all, why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home? I taught men that God’s highest calling for them is to be a leader. Men are called to lead the church, home, and government. In my mind, the strength or weakness of any culture, church, or home depended on whether men were fulfilling their divine calling to lead. Children, of course, are at the bottom of this hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother (and according to my three younger sons, their oldest brother). 🙂 Children have one divine calling in life, obedience!

Polly and I have been married for almost forty-four years. We have grown six children, ages forty-two to twenty-eight. Our older children went to a public or Christian school for a few years, but for the next seventeen years, we homeschooled our children. For the first twenty years of marriage, we followed the hierarchical system detailed above. For the most part, Polly didn’t work and I was the breadwinner. I pastored churches full-time, but, due to the notoriously low pay in IFB churches, I also worked a number of secular jobs. For years on end, I worked sixty to eighty hours a week, and in doing so, neglected my wife and children. Regardless of the neglect, I was still the authority in the home. I was the final answer to every question. I ruled our home with a rod of iron and my family feared me. Of course, I never called their fear fear. I called it a healthy respect for authority. I gave the orders and they obeyed.

For many years, my wife (I don’t like using phrases like my wife and my children. While most people see these phrases as harmless, they are a reminder of the past, a past where Polly and the children were treated like slaves and property. I try to avoid using these phrases, but in some instances, they cannot be avoided) and I followed the general tenets of the Quiverfull movement. In the early 90s, we embraced Calvinism and became persuaded that using birth control was a sin. We believed that God was sovereign and He opened and closed the womb. Who were we to stand in the way of God blessing us with more children?

Our first child born under the “let God have his way” form of birth control was a beautiful redheaded girl with Down syndrome. Two years later, almost to the day,  we were blessed with another beautiful redheaded girl. Twenty months later, our youngest child, a son (should I call him beautiful too? Momma says yes!) was born.

Before we could blink, we had three more children, all in diapers. Polly was known in the family as Fertile Myrtle. I was persuaded that if I looked at her, she would get pregnant. I have no doubt that we would have had twenty children if we had continued to abstain from using birth control.

Fortunately, Polly’s doctor intervened and told us in no uncertain terms that Polly’s last pregnancy had taken a huge physical toll on her and any future pregnancies could kill her. We decided, God’s will be damned, that we were not going to have any more children. I was considered a hypocrite for not trusting God in this matter, but I had no desire to be wifeless with six children. Several years later, Polly had a tubal ligation and no more rabbits died.

In part two of this series, I plan to write about how the thinking mentioned in this post affected the churches I pastored and how it affected my family. I want to detail how this kind of thinking almost destroyed my marriage and how abandoning such thinking transformed my relationship with Polly and our children.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce, Who Do You Think Wrote the Words Attributed to Jesus in the Bible?

bible literalism

Recently, a reader sent me the following question:

Hello Bruce. Who do you think wrote the red-letter words allegedly spoken by Jesus in the bible and do you think he actually existed at all?

Thanks

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was a college-trained Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. Saved at the age of fifteen and called to preach two weeks later, I believed the Protestant Christian Bible was the inspired (God-breathed), inerrant (without error), infallible (authoritative) Word of God. I believed every word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 was the very words of God (through the instrumentation of men).

I entered the ministry in the 1970s believing in the preservation of the Bible. God, throughout history, preserved his Word, making sure that humans always had the very words of God. For English-speaking people, the preserved Word of God was the King James Bible — 1769 revision. All translations contained the Word of God, but the KJV was the pure words of God.

In the late 1990s, I started preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV), believing it was a faithful translation of the extant Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts. I used other translations in my studies. I also read The Message devotionally. According to my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) colleagues, I had become a stinking, filthy liberal, when, in fact, I had simply adopted twentieth-century scholarship regarding the Bible. Instead of seeing one particular translation as THE Word of God, I came to see that ALL translations were the Word of God, faithful reflections of the truth God wanted to convey. In my mind, the most important thing was for people to actually READ the Bible, regardless of the translation. Sadly, most practicing Christians rarely, if ever, read the Bible. And those who actually study the Bible? A small percentage of church-going followers of Jesus ever carefully and thoroughly study the Biblical text. Most Christians get their fill of the Good Book on Sundays, toss their Bibles in the back windows of their cars, in their trunks, or stuff them under their seats until the next Lord’s Day.

Many Bible translations print in red the words attributed to Jesus found in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). I believed for the first fifty years of my life, that the words printed in red were actually spoken by Jesus Christ himself. That said, as a pastor, I never elevated the red words to a higher, more important status than the black words. Why? Jesus, as the second part of the Trinity, was God, the author of the Bible. Jesus “spoke” all of the words found in the Bible, not just the red words.

My beliefs about the Bible, of course, were shaped by my IFB and Evangelical upbringing and training. Unfortunately, I was not told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the nature and history of the Biblical text. It was only after I left the ministry in 2005 that I began to carefully reexamine my beliefs about the Bible. I found books written by Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina, to be extremely enlightening and helpful (and no, Ehrman was not the only author I read). By 2008, I had concluded that the Bible was not inerrant or infallible. Thus began the collapse of my faith. I continued to reexamine the central claims of Christianity, concluding that they could not be rationally sustained. In November 2008, I walked out of the door of the Ney United Methodist Church, declaring that I was no longer a Christian. In early 2009, I embraced the agnostic atheist moniker.

I learned that the gospels were written by unknown authors decades after the death of Jesus. I learned that the authors of Matthew and Luke likely used Mark as the basis for their books. I concluded that it was impossible to believe that the words in red were actually spoken by Jesus himself. All we have are unknown authors saying Jesus said this or that. We have no written texts by Jesus himself. Any beliefs to the contrary are assertions, not facts. Is it possible that Jesus spoke the words in red? Sure. But it is also possible that the authors of the gospels were just writing down decades-old oral stories or writing out-and-out fiction. It’s impossible for us to know if Jesus did or didn’t say the red words.

The emailer asks if I believe Jesus existed. If the question is whether I believe the miracle-working, divine Jesus of the gospels is real, the answer is no. I do, however, think a man named Jesus lived and died in first-century Palestine; that he was likely a rabbi or apocalyptic preacher. I am not, in any way, a mythicist. I see in the gospels a historical figure lurking in the shadows of a work of fiction. Simply put, Jesus existed, but the miracles and supernatural events attributed to him are fiction.

Thanks for the questions!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Using Mormonism to Explain to Evangelicals the Reasons Why Atheists Reject Christianity

double jesus

Several weeks ago, an Evangelical man named Don Camp left the following comment on the Rejecting Jesus blog:

I will take a look at your [Neil Robinson’s] blog posts, but honestly I don’t expect anything more than I have read in many atheist apologies. And you probably would say the same of my brief appeal to the classic cosmological and teleological arguments. So we are at an impasse. But since you have a background in literature, I will add this one.

The Bible is a book made up of 66 books (Protestant). They were written over about one thousand years time, and probably include pieces that are older than the oldest OT book. There are more than 20 different authors. Yet the Bible has one THEME and a COHERENT PLOT and is UNIFIED with no rabbit trails or strands of thought that are unconnected to the central theme. 

If the Bible were written by one author, that would be remarkable in a book that ranges so broadly across history. Written by multiple authors, it is more than remarkable. Even given that there were editors and a selection of books from among a larger number, that is remarkable. 

The INTRODUCTION in Genesis 1-6 and particularly in Genesis 3 is so necessary to the larger narrative that it is inconceivable that the plot could be created apart from that background because it includes an introduction to the primary characters and the first and underlying CONFLICT for the whole book. And that is to say nothing of the DENOUEMENT in Revelation that ties together the narrative in a conclusion that resolves all the conflicts. 

It does this while being comprised of pieces in many different genres written in styles that even now are recognized to be some of the best of all literature written, ancient or modern. 

As a student of literature, I cannot imagine how that can have happened. It has no equal in all of literature. I can only explain it by divine superintendency. And that implies a God.

Yesterday, Neil Robinson, the CEB (chief executive blogger) of Rejecting Jesus, responded to Camp. His response is posted in full below.

— begin article —

Dear Don,

Why are you not a Mormon? I mean, you appeal to the evidence of consistency across the 66 books of the bible, claim that the gospel writers remained true to an oral tradition (despite John’s gospel being markedly different from the other three) and insist there is no difference between the original apostles’ gospel and Paul’s (when Paul is adamant there is.) In fact, there is even better evidence that Mormonism is true.

First off, Joseph Smith saw the resurrected Jesus in person! Not only Jesus but God the Father too. And they spoke to him! He relates the story himself, so unlike the gospels, this is no second hand reportage:

I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

Following this, young Joseph was instructed to translate the Book of Mormon from some golden plates. We don’t have to take his word for it that these plates existed because Joseph had witnesses:

Eleven official witnesses and several unofficial witnesses testified to the existence of the golden plates and, in some cases, to dramatic supernatural confirmation of their truth. Meticulous research on these witnesses has confirmed their good character and the veracity of their accounts.

Impressive, don’t you think? We have no such affidavits for the gospel writers – we don’t even know who they were!

Also like the Bible, the Book of Mormon had multiple authors (Joseph Smith was only translating, remember):

Furthermore, in recent years, rigorous statistical analysis strongly indicates that neither Joseph Smith nor any of his known associates composed the English text of the Book of Mormon. In fact, research suggests that the book was written by numerous distinct authors.

And yet, the Book of Mormon tells a story even more consistent than the Bible’s!

Better still,

the Holy Ghost affirms the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, just as he does the Bible: the conclusion of the matter is that much modern evidence supports the more powerful witness of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith, who translated it, had to be what he said he was, a prophet of God.

Finally, the growth of the Church of The Latter Day Saints demonstrates its truth and saving power. Its early expansion was greater than that of the first-century church.

Amazing, don’t you think, Don?

I expect like me, you reject all this so-called evidence and regard Mormonism as so much bunk. But on what basis? What causes you to dismiss the teaching of the Latter Day Saints while embracing the equally incredible, magic-infused stories of the Bible? As the Mormon church says (sounding not unlike yourself when talking about the Bible):

Persons who choose to dismiss the Book of Mormon must find their own ideas for explaining it and the mounting evidence for its authenticity.

When you arrive at the criteria you apply in rejecting Mormonism, you’ll have arrived at the reasons I and many others reject your beliefs.

— end of article —

In classic, predictible presuppositionalist fashion, Camp rejected Neil’s response out of hand:

There are multiple reason for rejecting Mormonism. The primary reason is similar to discerning between a fake $20 bill and the real thing. The fake just doesn’t feel like the real thing. Of course, that test requires that one knows what a $20 bill feels like. Anyone who does not know is easily fooled.

In fact, if you don’t know what the real thing is like, it is impossible to identify a fake. You might notice an ink smudge and a difference in paper, but who is to say one is fake and the other is not?

But since you have a knowledge of literature, Neil, why not apply those standards? Is the Bible and the narrative in the Bible coherent? Does it stick together and develop a single theme across the whole? Do you know what the theme of the Bible is, Neil?

Remember that the Mormons tell us that the Book of Mormon is an extension of the Bible and that the people of the Americas were related to the Jews and held to the basic truths of the Jews. (Remember also the Mormons believe that Jesus appeared to these people in the New World shortly after his resurrection.) So if you put the Torah and the Book of Mormon together, is the narrative coherent? Does it develop a single theme? The Old testament and the New Testament are a coherent whole, but I do not think the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon are.

That lack of coherency becomes even more obvious when we compare God in the Old Testament with God in the Book of Mormon. The person of Jesus is also inconsistent in the Book of Mormon with the Bible.

Of course, the standard explanation by Latter Day Saints is that the Bible has not been adequately translated, though I know of no place where they can demonstrate that claim.

Finally, there is a matter of provenance. We know in very good detail where the Bible came from. There are many copies, especially for the New Testament, and there are many commentaries of both the OT and NT from very early in the their history. What is the provenance of the Book of Mormon? It apparently appeared magically out of nowhere pretty recently. No mention in any other literature of its existence. No copy is available to examine.

That is not to speak of the total lack of any archaeological evidence for the Mormon claims of Jews in the Americas.

So, I would say the Book of Mormon fails on all levels.

Camp’s Evangelical presuppositions keep him from seeing the evidence staring him in the face: that Mormonism is every bit as credible as, if not more than, Christianity. Further, atheists reject Christianity for some of the very reasons he rejects Mormonism.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Is the Bible the Answer to Everything?

joshua 1 8

According to Joseph Parker, director of outreach and intercession for the American Family Association and host of the “Hour of Intercession” radio program, the Bible is the answer to E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Not just questions about God, Christianity, or faith, but E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  Parker, like every Fundamentalist who spouts such nonsense, doesn’t really believe this, but it is a great slogan to rally the troops around. In Parker’s Bible-saturated mind, secularists, atheists, humanists, evolutionists, homosexuals, abortionists, socialists, communists, Democrats, liberals, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden work day and night to destroy Christian America, and the only way to combat this onslaught is to return to a steadfast, ignorant belief that the Bible is some sort of divine answer book. All we need to do is check page 34 or some other page and we will know exactly how the Christian God wants us to live.

Parker writes (link no longer active):

Who decides what is right and what is wrong?  The Government?  Men? Women? White people? Black people?  Hispanic people?  Asian people?  Wise people?  Rich people?  The majority?  The minority?  Who?

Who decides what is true and what is not true?  Would it be any of the above mentioned people?  What do you think?  Well, does truth vary from one person to another?  Does it vary from one group of people to another?  Is it relative to the situation and the group involved?

Truth is not relative.  Truth is God.  Truth is Jesus Christ.  Truth flows from the mind and heart of God.  And truth does not change.  Truth is what it is.  Truth is right and good and fruitful.  Truth is good for us. Truth sets people free.

The Word of God is truth.  It teaches us what is right and what is wrong.  It teaches us what is good and what is evil.  It teaches us about reality.   It teaches us about life, people, and human nature.   The Word  of God teaches us and helps us understand the laws of nature, the laws of the universe, what is correct and what is false.   The Word of God is our instruction manual for life.

When people or governments or societies try to ignore God and the Word of God, they get in trouble.  When men and governments avoid the wisdom of God’s Word and try to make up their own rules, it will lead to disaster one hundred percent of the time.  We as human beings, often think we know what is good for us, what is in our best interest, and what will “make us happy”.   Often, we think that behavior that we want to carry out, though it may go against the Word of God and the wisdom of God, should be okay.  Behavior that goes against and violates God’s Word is sin.    And, the truth is that sin, sooner or later, will lead to death.

The Word of God is good for you.  The Word of God is good for your marriage, and it is good for your family.  It’s good for your children’.   It’s good for you physically, mentally, spiritually, etc.  The Word of God is full of grace and truth.   The Word of God is anointed.  God’s Word is PREGNANT with the ability to bless.

So, because God’s Word is all of this, we must be very serious about reading and meditating on and studying God’s Word.   God’s Word has wisdom, counsel and insight, in direct statement or in principle, about everything, every situation and every matter…

…there are many other topics and issues anyone could look at and find out what the Word of God has to say about them.  But , basically, there is simply a great need for us to read the Word of God and listen to its wisdom and counsel.   Once, again, we should be mindful that in direct statement or principle, God’s Word speaks to every issue, every topic, and every concern in life.

We are wise to make a habit of reading the Word of God daily.  Reading at least three or more chapters a day is a good spiritual “diet” to help us grow in our understanding of God’s Word consistently.    And the fact is, we NEED to be faithful students of God’s Word.  It is a guide book for life and it is a source of spiritual nourishment that we desperately need  every day of our lives.

Equip yourself daily by spending time reading the Word of God.  Parents, help to equip your children daily by having them to read the Word aloud to you every day.   Encourage others you know to make it a habit to spend time reading God’s Word every day.   Nothing will prepare and equip you better for the challenges and issues of life than – the Word of God.

fred flintsone and barney rubble
Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, authors of Genesis and Exodus?

There is absolutely no way to reach people who think like this. Their minds are walled off from reason and reality, in bondage to the ancient ramblings of unknown authors from the era of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. If this belief is taken to its logical conclusion, it can result in emotional and psychological harm, and in some cases child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, and murder. Think I am being hyperbolic? Consider this news report about Rob and Marie Johnson:

21-year-old Indiana woman has accused a couple who she lived with in Port St. Lucie, FL of physically and sexually abusing her for five years and using scripture from the Christian Bible’s Old Testament to justify it.

WPTV News reported that the accuser says that she was sent to live with Rob and Marie Johnson after the death of her mother nine years ago. The then-13-year-old was sexually abused by Rob Johnson virtually from the day she arrived in the home.

Detective Daniel Herrington of the Port St. Lucie Police Department told WPTV that the woman first went to the police in Indiana where she lives now.

“She ended up hearing stories of other women who had come forward, hearing also the stories of women who did not come forward, to tell about their abuse,” said Herrington.

Rob and Marie Johnson reportedly believe in Old Testament law regarding marriage, under which a man can have many wives who are ultimately his property. The girl was ordered to call Jeff “Master” and to submit to his and Marie’s sexual advances whenever they ordered her to.

The Johnsons reportedly preyed on the young girl’s fear of being abandoned by telling her that if she wanted to be part of their family, she had to have sex with them…

While I certainly think the Bible can provide *some* spiritual value and moral instruction, it is filled with behaviors and practices most of us consider barbaric and immoral, and when in the hands of a literalist it can be deadly. While many Christians do their best to perfume the manure pile, a shovel and five minutes quickly reveals God-approved immorality and abuse. From incest to polygamy and from rape to genocide, God’s answer book rightly deserves every bit of the scorn we skeptics heap upon its God-inspired, inerrant pages.

bible literalism
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: The Bible Has One Theme, One Coherent Plot, and is Unified Throughout

bible head vice

I will take a look at your [Neil Robinson’s] blog posts, but honestly I don’t expect anything more than I have read in many atheist apologies. And you probably would say the same of my brief appeal to the classic cosmological and teleological arguments. So we are at an impasse. But since you have a background in literature, I will add this one.

The Bible is a book made up of 66 books (Protestant). They were written over about one thousand years time, and probably include pieces that are older than the oldest OT book. There are more than 20 different authors. Yet the Bible has one THEME and a COHERENT PLOT and is UNIFIED with no rabbit trails or strands of thought that are unconnected to the central theme. 

If the Bible were written by one author, that would be remarkable in a book that ranges so broadly across history. Written by multiple authors, it is more than remarkable. Even given that there were editors and a selection of books from among a larger number, that is remarkable. 

The INTRODUCTION in Genesis 1-6 and particularly in Genesis 3 is so necessary to the larger narrative that it is inconceivable that the plot could be created apart from that background because it includes an introduction to the primary characters and the first and underlying CONFLICT for the whole book. And that is to say nothing of the DENOUEMENT in Revelation that ties together the narrative in a conclusion that resolves all the conflicts. 

It does this while being comprised of pieces in many different genres written in styles that even now are recognized to be some of the best of all literature written, ancient or modern. 

As a student of literature, I cannot imagine how that can have happened. It has no equal in all of literature. I can only explain it by divine superintendency. And that implies a God.

— Comment by Don Camp, Rejecting Jesus, Slippin’ and Slidin’, February 3, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser