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Tag: Infallibility of the Bible

Alf Cengia Thinks He Knows Why People Reject the Bible. Hint: He Doesn’t

bible inerrancy

Another day, another Evangelical who thinks he is Carnac the Magnificent when it comes to knowing what atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, and other unbelievers really believe.

Alf Cengia recently wrote an article for the Evangelical website Sharper Iron titled Why Do People Reject the Bible? Cengia gave several reasons why people (non-Christians) reject the Bible:

  • People reject the Bible because they suspect the Bible contains truth, and if it does they would have to change their lives
  • People reject the Bible because they don’t like what the Bible says about itself
  • People reject the Bible because they don’t want it to be true
  • People reject the Bible because it’s seen as an imposition on the lives they want to live for themselves

Cengia goes on to make two overarching statements:

  • People know the truth and suppress it
  • The Bible is self-attesting

Cengia uses the late Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber (both Christians) as examples of people who justify the premise of his post:

A classic example is Nadia Bolz-Weber. Chapter 2 of her book Pastrix begins with citing 1 Timothy 2:11-12. At its conclusion, she thanks her parents for blessing her desire to become a pastor. Sorry Paul, Nadia did what she wanted to do.

The same can be said of Rachel Held Evans. She wrote Inspired in order to introduce her readers to an un-inspired Bible, which she insisted ought to be loved despite imperfections—perhaps like a dithering beloved family member with dementia. I guess RHE felt she needed to maintain a foot in Christianity; hence, couldn’t totally abandon it.

Bolz-Weber, RHE and a slew of deconstructionists didn’t reject Scripture because it is a fallible outdated document. They know the truth and suppress it because they refuse to submit to God’s authority.

Cengia is a presuppositionalist. In his mind, the Bible is true because it says it is true. Further, people know the Bible is true because the Bible says they know it’s true. Got that? Non-Christians, or even some Christians such as Bloz-Weber and Held-Evans deliberately, and with full knowledge, reject some of the Bible’s truth claims. Cengia believes the Bible is inerrant and infallible, so, for him, whatever the Bible says is absolute truth. People who reject Cengia’s claims do so because they reject what they know to be true. This claim, of course, is patently false.

Presuppositionalists such as Cengia think they can ignore demands for evidence for their claims because, in their minds, the truthiness of their claims is self-evident. Of course, as an atheist and a materialist, I reject such claims out of hand. If Cengia wants to convince me (and others) of his claims, he is going to have to do more than say, “it’s true because I (God/Bible) says it is.” Cengia sees no need for providing evidence for the claims he makes about the Bible. We know the Bible is not inerrant or infallible (neither translationally or in the non-existent original manuscripts). Further, I have yet to see evidence for the claim that the sixty-six books of the Protestant Christian Bible are God’s Word or written by mostly unknown men who were supernaturally inspired by God. Those are faith claims.

Cengia concludes his post by making by this fantastical claim:

One cannot find a comparable work of non-Christian faith which spans thousands of years, with multiple authors, yet telling a cohesive non-contradictory story.

The Bible tells a “cohesive non-contradictory story”? Really? In what universe? As someone who spent 50 years in Evangelicalism, pastored churches for twenty-five years, and spent over 20,000 hours (on average, 20 hours a week) reading and studying the Bible, I can confidently say that Cengia’s claim cannot be rationally sustained. I understand “why” Cengia believes what he does. After all, I once believed the same things. And as long as I only read Evangelical authors, my beliefs were safe and secure. However, once I started reading authors such as John Shelby Spong, Bart Ehrman, and other scholars, I quickly learned that my beliefs about the Bible were not true.

As far as the Bible being a cohesive narrative, if that is so, why have Christians been arguing nonstop about that “cohesive” narrative for 2,000 years? Why are there thousands and thousands of Christian sects, each believing they are absolutely right? Why can’t Christians even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion? Every sect sees a cohesive narrative, as, of course, interpreted by them. Landmark Baptists look at the Bible (and church history) and see an unbroken line of Baptist purity. Roman Catholics do the same. Some sects start their narrative in Genesis, others start with the Gospels. The claim that there is a “cohesive narrative” in the Bible simply cannot in any meaningful way be rationally sustained.

In 2008 I walked away from Christianity. While the reasons for my deconversion are many, one simple fact brought my house down: the claim that the Bible is inerrant and infallible was untrue. Once the Bible lost its authoritative hold over me, I was then free to re-investigate the central claims of claims of Christianity. I concluded that these “truths” were, in fact, myths. None of Cengia’s claims played any part in my loss of faith. Will he accept my story at face value? Probably not. Why? The Bible is true because the Bible says it is true. End of discussion.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Why Should I Care What the Bible Says?

the bible says

Imagine if I went to an Evangelical preacher’s blog and left comments quoting text from the Harry Potter books. Imagine me saying, Harry Potter says ____________ or the path to salvation and eternal life and happiness and peace is through the miracle-working power of Harry Potter. Imagine me telling this preacher that he needed to read and practice the teachings of Harry lest he die and face eternal damnation. I suspect he would rightly say to me, Why should I care what the Harry Potter books say? Why should I pay any attention to what Harry says? These books are just the words of one person, JK Rowling. They carry no weight or authority with me.

Yet, when this preacher and other Evangelicals do the same with the Protestant Christian Bible, they claim that the Bible is “different”; that there’s no book like the Bible; that the Bible is a supernatural book written or inspired by a supernatural God; that its words are magical and powerful. As presuppostionalists, Evangelicals expect nonbelievers to accept their claims about the Bible without providing any evidence and support for them. In their minds, the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible, a divinely written book that is TRUTH. When atheists, agnostics, and other non-Evangelicals reject these claims due to a lack of evidence, they are accused of having hardened hearts; people who are deliberately blind to what is right in front of them. Yet, when I take the same approach with them concerning the Harry Potter books, Evangelicals demand evidence for my claims. Why the double standard? Shouldn’t all claims be judged by the same evidentiary standards? Just because you say something doesn’t mean it’s true.

While I am more than happy to discuss or debate the Bible with Evangelicals, when they start making supernatural claims, then I expect them to provide evidence and support for their claims. Of course, no evidence will be forthcoming. Why? There’s no evidence to be had. Evangelical claims for the Bible are based on faith, not facts. And I am fine with that as long as Evangelicals admit that their beliefs about the Bible rest on faith, not evidence. When it comes to faith, either you believe or you don’t. I don’t, and until you can provide empirical evidence for your claims, I cannot and will not believe.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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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 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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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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, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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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, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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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, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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 Most Powerful Book on Earth?

power of the bible

Never underestimate the power of God’s word! It is far more powerful than any of us could ever imagine. Consider the spoken word of God. It is so powerful that God spoke the world into existence.
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Consider also the written word of God. The written Old Testament was available in Jesus’ day. It was so powerful that by quoting the written word Jesus resisted the devil.
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Let’s now look at the spoken word of Jesus. It is powerful enough to sustain the universe and keep it operating. He is upholding all things by the word of his power.
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The written word of Jesus is just as powerful as his spoken word. The Scriptures make no distinction in the power of either. The written record of Jesus’ works was so powerful that John said one could have life by believing the written record of it.
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Yes, the Word of God has the power to save! Trust it, believe it, obey it!

— Al Shannon, Church of Christ Preacher, excerpted from The Power of God’s Word

The words written by Al Shannon are a common refrain within Evangelical churches. According to Evangelicals, the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, and infallible book written by men as they were moved/directed by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:212 Timothy 3:16). While Evangelicals often debate how God inspired the Bible, all agree that the Bible is a supernatural book; that its words have the power to change lives and restore the broken relationship all people have with the Christian God. While the words of the Bible are just ink on paper, Evangelicals say that, if believed, those words can and will transform people, changing them from enemies of God into lovers of Jesus. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, people who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ become new creations. Old things pass away and ALL things become new.

Evangelicals assert, without any evidence, that the Bible is different from any other book ever written — a supernatural book penned or spoken into existence by God himself. Consider all the books ever written, from the great library in Egypt to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. None of them is like the Bible. Simply put, the difference is, humans write books, whereas God, through human instrumentation, wrote the Bible. This book that God wrote is inerrant — without mistake — and infallible — incapable of failure or error.

It is for these reasons that millions and millions of American Evangelicals read and study the Bible, seeking spiritual power, insight, and direction. For them, the Bible is a Christian Ouija board. Just read the words and let God move and work in your life, Evangelicals are told. God can and will speak through the Bible IF you carefully listen for his voice!  For many Evangelicals, the Bible is THE road map for life, a blueprint by which God’s people build their temporal, spiritual, and eternal homes. According to 2 Peter 1:3, God has given Evangelicals everything necessary for life and godliness. Of course, none of this would be possible if not for the Holy Spirit. It is the third part of the Trinity — who lives inside every Christian — that empowers the words of the Bible and makes it possible for Evangelicals to “hear” and “understand” what God is saying. 1 Corinthians 2:14 states, But the natural man [unsaved, unregenerate, non-Christian] 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. Atheists can’t and don’t understand the Bible because the Holy Spirit doesn’t live inside of them — or so Evangelicals say, anyway.

Evangelicals are fond of telling non-Christians that the reason they don’t “understand” the Bible is that its truths must be “spiritually” discerned. Since unbelievers are at variance with God, his enemies (James 4:4, Colossians 1:21), and the children of Satan (John 8:44), they can’t understand the true meanings of the Bible. Why then are unsaved people told to read the Bible? Good question. Evidently, the Holy Spirit opens the door of the Bible just enough for unbelievers to hear the gospel and be saved — that is if they are one of elect. This is why most Evangelicals reject much of what biology, archeology, physics, and cosmology tells us about the universe. Armed with inside knowledge given to them by God, Genesis 1-3 becomes not bronze age men trying to make sense of the world, but an exact blueprint for how God “spoke” the universe and life into existence. It is for this reason Ken Ham can build a $100 million replica of Noah’s Ark. Using Genesis 6-9 as the master template, Ham built a replica of the Ark, thereby reminding skeptics and rationalists that believing that the Bible is a supernatural book is a cancer that destroys the ability think and reason. Ham built the Ark Encounter because he thinks God told him to do so, and that, thanks to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, he can know exactly what happened in an unknown Middle Eastern desert 4,000 or so years ago.

Sure sounds like Gnosticism, doesn’t it? The Gnostics believed that they had spiritual discernment that other Christians and nonbelievers did not have. The last part of 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that the things of God are spiritually discerned. Only those who have a special decoder ring given to them by God can understand the teachings of the Bible. Many Evangelical sects and churches divide Christians into two categories: immature and mature. This is why James Dobson was able to say — with a straight face —  that Donald Trump was a “baby” Christian. Hebrews 5:12-14 states:

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

The reason that most Evangelicals are just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world is that they are immature —on the bottle — baby Christians. These Christians are saved, but barely so. They have had their tickets to Heaven punched, but they struggle with the basics of what it means to be a Christian — often unable to discern good from evil. Other Christians are, however, mature, able to discern good and evil because they eat the strong meat of the Word of God. While some Evangelical sects and churches debate whether “true” Christians can be weak or immature, most believe that churches have an admixture of people who are spiritually immature and mature. While every Christian should desire to run the race set before them (Hebrews 12:1) and move on to maturity, many (most?) don’t.  Their loss, mature Christians say, but at least they will get to go to Heaven when they die!

Ask Evangelicals what it means to be a true Christian, an immature Christian, and a mature Christian, and well, you will get all sorts of answers. Many Evangelicals believe that a true Christian grows in knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18). This growth can be charted and observed, with true Christians maturing in their understanding of the Bible and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Some Evangelicals believe that Christians can fall away, losing their salvation. Others believe that Christians can fall away, remain saved, but bring upon themselves the chastisement of God. And yet others believe that Christians must persevere (remain true) until they die. A failure to persevere until the end means the person never was a true Christian.

For those who have never been Christians or members of Evangelical churches, what I have written above sounds like nonsense, the ranting of Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. For those of us who were once considered mature Christians and devoted servants of the one true God, these words remind of us of the days when our minds and lives were saturated with the words of the Bible — along with sermon tapes and Christian books about the Bible. As mature Christians, we so immersed ourselves in the “things” of God (1 Corinthians 2:10) that we thought or talked of little else but God, the Bible, and the works God called us to do on earth. It is for this reason many of us were willing to devote much of our time and talent and give our money for the proclamation and advancement of the Kingdom of God. (Though in retrospect, much of what we did now looks like building man’s kingdom, not God’s.) Believing that the gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth, we sacrificially gave ourselves to evangelizing the lost and building up Christians in the most holy faith.

For those of us who are Evangelicals-turned-atheists, it is hard for us to look at our past lives and not be filled with a sense of regret, shame, and loss. Despite what our detractors tell us about our true spiritual condition, we fully committed ourselves intellectually and emotionally to believing that the Bible was some sort of divine magic book; that it alone had the power to guide us and transform both the saved and the lost. Now, if and when we read the Bible, we find ourselves saying, how could I ever have believed this nonsense? And therein lies what I believe is the crucial point: for someone to believe the nonsense found within the Bible, one must first believe the Christian God exists and that the Bible is the very words of God. Unless one believes these presuppositions, the teachings of the Bible will never make sense. Unless people believe that God lives inside of them, they will never believe that there is some sort of divine entity tasked with teaching them Biblical truth. (The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.)

The reason millions of people no longer believe that the Bible is a supernatural, God-inspired book is that they do not have the requisite faith necessary to suspend rationality and just believe. I am currently corresponding with an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher who has lost his faith. While he is not an atheist, he no longer believes the “truths” that guided him throughout his life, including a decade and a half in the ministry. When this man’s mentor found out about his wavering faith, he encouraged him to stop reading other books besides the Bible and to just, by faith, believe. I have had similar responses from former church members and ministerial colleagues. My problem, they say, was the fact that I read too many books besides the Bible. Just read the Bible, let God speak, and all will be well! In essence, they wanted me to just faith it until belief returned.

According to some of my former Evangelical acquaintances, once I said, I no longer believe and I am now an atheist, all the knowledge and understanding I accrued through fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five years in the ministry dematerialized and wafted out into the ether. Remember the Men in Black movies? You know, where they would take a neuralyzer and wipe someone’s memory clean? Evidently, when I deconverted, God used some sort of supernatural neuralyzer on me and wiped my mind clean of everything I once knew about the Bible. While fair-minded Evangelicals realize that such claims are absurd, others frequently remind me that until I repent and either get saved or come back to Jesus, I will never comprehend the wisdom and riches of the only supernatural book ever written — the Protestant Christian Bible. Until I am born from above (John 3), I will remain an ignorant atheist who knows nothing. I could spend the reminder of my life studying the Bible, yet without having the special God-given seer stone, I will never be able to understand the Bible. It is for this reason that sold-out, bought-by-the-blood, super-sanctified, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Evangelicals can so easily dismiss people such as myself. If I was truly once a Christian, I would still be a Christian. If I was truly once a man of God, I would still be a man of God. And since I am not, many Evangelicals say, with a wave of the hand, Bruce, you don’t know Jack crap (or shit). (1 John 2:19)

Once people come to understand that the Bible is NOT a supernatural book, nor are its words able to magically change or transform lives, they are then able to see that the Bible is just one of many ancient religious texts. By all means, if people are so inclined, they should read the Bible and plumb the depths of its wisdom. Personally, I still value some of the teachings of Jesus, along with some of the Psalms and the book of Ecclesiastes. The rest of it? Fiction of the best/worst kind. Since I have read the Bible from cover to cover dozens of times and have spent over 25,000 hours studying the Biblical text, I am at a place in life where I can safely and authoritatively say: I know what the Bible says.

As Buzz Lightyear would say, to infinity and beyond! There are way too many unexplored books to read for me to spend my time pouring over a book that I have already read and studied more thoroughly than have ninety-nine percent of the people who claim to be followers of Jesus. Outside of checking verses for blog posts, I am content to let my leather-bound Oxford King James Bible gather dust on my bookshelf. Having exhausted its content, it is time for me to move on to new intellectual pursuits. As bibliophiles are fond of saying, so many books, so little time.

Does what I have written in this post sound like your former life as an Evangelical Christian? Do your one-time Evangelical friends now consider you ignorant of the Bible and its teachings? Please share your thoughts in the comment section. Let the ignorance flow, comrades!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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It Only Takes One Errant Word to Destroy the Inerrancy of the Bible

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

According to most Evangelicals, the Bible is not only inspired (breathed out) by God, it is also infallible and inerrant. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Since the Bible was written by men moved by the Holy Spirit or dictated by God, it stands to reason — God being perfect in all His ways — that the Bible is perfect, without error. Some Evangelicals take the notion of inerrancy even further by saying that the King James Version of the Bible is without error. And some Evangelicals — the followers of Peter Ruckman — take it further yet by saying that even the italicized words inserted by the translators of the King James Bible are divinely inspired. Other Evangelicals, thinking of themselves as more educated than other Christians, say that the “original” manuscripts from which English translations come are what are inerrant. Translations, then, are reliable, but not inerrant (even though pastors who believe this often lead churches that are filled with people who believe their leather-bound Bibles are without error). The problem with this belief is that the “originals” don’t exist. Over the years, I ran into countless Christians who believed that these so-called “originals” existed “somewhere” and that they are safely stored “somewhere.” Recently, one such ignorant Evangelical told me that I should read the Dead Sea Scrolls. In doing so, I would see that Christianity is true. Evidently, he didn’t know that the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t mention Jesus, and those who “see” Jesus in the Scrolls are either smoking too much marijuana or are importing their biased theology into the texts. Such is the level of ignorance found not only in pulpits, but in church pews.

Is the Bible in any shape or form inerrant? Of course not. Such a belief cannot rationally or intellectually be sustained. It is nothing more than wishful thinking to believe that the Bible is inerrant — straight from the mouth of God to the ears of Christians.

Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and professor at the University of North Carolina, answered a question on his blog about whether believing the Bible has errors leads to agnosticism/atheism. Here is part of what Ehrman had to say:

I have never thought that recognizing the historical and literary problems of the Bible would or should lead someone to believe there is no God. The only people who could think such a thing are either Christian fundamentalists or people who have been convinced by fundamentalists (without knowing it, in many instances) that fundamentalist Christianity is the only kind of religion that is valid, and that if the assumptions of fundamentalism is flawed, then there could be no God.  What is the logic of that?  So far as I can see, there is no logic at all.

Christian fundamentalism insists that every word in the Bible has been given directly by God, and that only these words can be trusted as authorities for the existence of God, for the saving doctrines of Christianity, for guidance about what to believe and how to live, and for, in short, everything having to do with religious truth and practice.   For fundamentalists, in theory, if one could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that any word in the original manuscripts of the Bible was an error, than [sic] the entire edifice of their religious system collapses, and there is nothing left between that and raw atheism.

Virtually everyone who is trained in the critical study of the Bible or in serious theology thinks this is utter nonsense.  And why is it that people at large – not just fundamentalists but even people who are not themselves believers – don’t realize it’s nonsense, that it literally is “non-sense”?  Because fundamentalists have convinced so much of the world that their view is the only right view.  It’s an amazing cultural reality.  But it still makes no sense.

Look at it this way.  Suppose you could show beyond any doubt that the story of Jesus walking on the water was a later legend.  It didn’t really happen.  Either the disciples thought they saw something that really occur [sic], or later story tellers came up with the idea themselves as they were trying to show just how amazing Jesus was, or … or that there is some other explanation?  What relevance would that have to the question of whether there was a divine power who created the universe?  There is *no* necessary relevance.  No necessary connection whatsoever.  Who says that God could not have created the universe unless Jesus walked on water?  It’s a complete non sequitur.

The vast majority of Christians throughout history – the massively vast majority of Christians – have not been fundamentalists.  Most Christians in the world today are not fundamentalists.  So why do we allow fundamentalists to determine what “real” Christianity is?  Or what “true” Christianity is?  Why do we say that if you are not a fundamentalist who maintains that every word in the Bible is literally true and historically accurate that you cannot really be a Christian?

While I question how someone can be a Christian and not believe all that the Bible says is true (perhaps this is the result of a Fundamentalist hangover), I know, as Dr. Ehrman says, that hundreds of millions of people believe in the Christian God, perfect Bible or not. I am not, contrary to what my critics suggest, anti-Christian. I am, however, most certainly anti-Fundamentalist. I am indifferent towards the religious beliefs of billions of people as long as those beliefs don’t harm others. Unfortunately, many Evangelical beliefs and practices ARE harmful, and it is for this reason that I continue to write about Evangelicalism.

Inerrancy is one such harmful belief. Believing that every word of the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and true leads people to false, and at times dangerous, conclusions. Take young earth creationism — the belief that the universe was created in six literal twenty-four days, 6,024 years ago. Men such as Ken Ham continue to infect young minds with creationist beliefs which, thanks to science, we know are not true. The reason the Ken Hams of the world cannot accept what science says about the universe is because they believe the text of the Bible is inerrant. According to inerrantists, the Bible, in most instances, should be read literally. Thus, Genesis 1-3 “clearly” teaches that God created the universe exactly as young earth creationists say He did. This kind of thinking intellectually harms impressionable minds. While little can be done to keep churches, Christian schools, and home schooling parents from teaching children such absurdities, we can and must make sure Evangelical zealots are barred from bringing their nonsense into public school classrooms.

Peel back the issues that drive the culture war and what you will find is the notion that God has infallibly spoken on this or that social issue. Think about it for a moment: name one social hot button issue that doesn’t have Bible proof texts attached to it. Homosexuality? Same-sex marriage? Abortion? Premarital sex? Birth control? Marriage and divorce? Prayer and Bible reading in public schools? Every one of these issues is driven by the belief that the Bible is inerrant and that Christians must dutifully obey every word (though no Evangelicals that I know of believe, obey, and practice every law, command, precept, and teaching of the Bible). Removing the Good Book from the equation forces Evangelicals to contemplate these issues without appeals to Biblical authority and theology. As a secularist, I am more than ready and willing to have discussions with Christians about the important social issues of the day. All that I ask is that they leave their Bibles at home or stuffed under the front seats of their cars. In a secular state, religious texts of any kind carry no weight. What “God” says plays no part in deciding what our laws are. Evangelicals have a hard time understanding this, believing that their flavor of Christianity is the one true faith; believing that their infallible interpretation of a religious text written by their God is absolute truth. It is impossible to reach people who think like this.

While I at one time believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, it was not until I considered the possibility that the Bible might not be what I claimed it is, that I could then consider alternative ways of looking at the world. This is why I don’t argue about science with Evangelicals. I attack their foundational beliefs — that the Bible is not inerrant; that the Bible is not what they claim it is. Once the foundation is destroyed, it becomes much easier to engage Evangelicals on the issues they think are important. Given enough time, a patient agnostic/atheist/rationalist/skeptic can drive a stake into the heart of their Fundamentalist beliefs. As long as Evangelicals hang on to their “inerrant” Bibles, it is impossible to have meaningful, productive discussions with them. All anyone can do for them is present evidence that eviscerates their inerrantist beliefs. Since Heaven and Hell are fictions of the human mind, I am content to let knowledge do her perfect work. I know that most Evangelicals will never abandon their faith (the one true faith), but some will, so I am content to continue fishing for the minds of women and men. Using reason and knowledge is the only way I know of to make the world a better place. Part of making the world a better place is doing all I can to neuter Fundamentalist beliefs. Inerrancy is one such belief.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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