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Tag: Inspiration of the BIble

Are There Contradictions in the Bible?

bible inerrancy

Millions of Americans believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. This belief is the foundation of much of the nonsense spouted by Evangelical culture warriors and Republican politicians. In their minds, the Bible is written by God and is perfect in every way, including matters of science and history. Blinded by lifetimes of Fundamentalist indoctrination, they believe that no one has ever proved the Bible has mistakes, contradictions, or errors. 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! Or so the popular Evangelical song goes anyway. No matter what other books say, if their words contradict the Bible, then they are wrong. God can never, ever be wrong, so that means the only book he ever wrote can’t be wrong either.

Those of us who are ex-Evangelicals turned atheists/agnostics/humanists/pagans/liberal Christians know how the belief that the Bible is inerrant negatively affects the ability to reason and think critically. What belief underpins creationism, flat-eartherism, hatred of LGBTQ people, and opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, birth control, family planning, socialism, gambling, drug use, alcohol drinking, women working outside of the home, women wearing pants, long hair on men, rock music, and Game of Thrones — shall I go on?  Without people believing the Bible is some sort of infallible religious text, most of these “beliefs” turn into personal opinions. It is only when the Bible is vested with inerrant divine authority that it becomes a dangerous weapon in the hands of preachers and congregants alike.

Of course, the Bible is not inerrant, nor is it infallible. Whether one believes the Bible is inspired is a matter of faith, not fact, so this aspect of belief is beyond empirical inquiry. Several years ago Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina, posted an article on whether the Bible has contradictions (behind paywall). Here are three of the four of contradictions Ehrman listed:

I start with one that may seem completely unimportant, but is, to me, a clear contradiction. In Mark 5:21-24 a man named Jairus approaches Jesus in distress.  His daughter is “very ill.” He wants Jesus to come heal her so she doesn’t die.  Jesus agrees to go, but before he can get to Jairus’s home, he is delayed by a woman who herself desperately needs to be healed (5:25-34).  While Jesus is dealing with her – it takes a while – someone comes from Jairus’s house to tell him that it is too late, the girl has now died (5:35). Jesus comforts Jairus, goes, and raises her from the dead. Matthew also tells the story (Matthew 9:18-26).  But in this case …Matthew also tells the story (Matthew 9:18-26).  But in this case Jairus comes to Jesus to tell him that “My daughter has just now died” (9:18).  He wants him to raise her from the dead.   Jesus goes and do so.

So the contradiction: when Jairus comes to Jesus: does he want him to heal his sick daughter, who unfortunately dies before Jesus can get there? Or does Jairus come only after the girl is dead, wanting Jesus to raise her from the dead?

Of more importance, but a famous one. Matthew and Luke both give a genealogy of Jesus that is strictly patrilineal: father to son, going back for generations (Matthew 1:1-16 starting with Abraham and bringing the family line down to Joseph, Jesus’ alleged father; Luke 3:23-38 starting with Joseph and taking the family line the other direction, all the way past Abraham to Adam).

Question: Who was Joseph’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and so on –all the way back to King David? Was it Jacob, Mathan, and Eleazar … (Matthew 1:15-16)?  Or was it Heli, Matthat, and Levi… (Luke 3:23-24).

In considering the question, note: both genealogies are *explicit* that this is the line of Joseph (not, for example, Mary; or the brother of Joseph; or someone else.  Joseph).  And note, these are not simply alternative names for the same people: most of the names are *completely* different from one another, all the way back to David. That’s because in Matthew Joseph is the descendant of David’s son Solomon; in Luke he is the descendant of a different son, Nathan.  Moreover, the genealogies are patrilineal – not traced through mothers but explicitly through fathers to sons.

More complicated. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-23), he is born in Bethlehem.  Nothing indicates that his parents came from anywhere else to get there: there is no story here of a trip from Nazareth to register for a census only to find there was “no room in the inn.” They simply are in Bethlehem. When the wise men come to worship the child, the King of the Jews, Herod, learns of Jesus’ existence, and he sends the troops to kill him (2:16-18). Joseph is warned in a dream, and he takes Jesus and Mary and they travel, on foot, to Egypt, where they remain until Herod dies (2:13-15, 19-23). When they return home, though, they cannot return to Bethlehem (presumably their home, since there would be no other reason to ponder coming back there), and so relocate in Nazareth. In Luke’s account (Luke 2:1-39) Joseph and Mary are from Nazareth and they end up in Bethlehem because of a census in which “the entire world should be enrolled” (Luke 2:1).  Mary is pregnant, full term, and happens to give birth while they are there.  After Jesus is circumcised (2:21), and brought to the temple (2:22), they perform the sacrifice required for women who have given birth in order to return to ritual purity (2:24). This is to follow the law laid out in Leviticus 12:2-8; the sacrifice was to happen 33 days after the circumcision (so 40 days after birth).  As soon as that is completed, they return straight to Nazareth (2:39).

There is no word in Luke about King Herod’s decision to have the child killed or of the flight of the holy family to Egypt.  And so, the contradiction:  if Luke is right that 40 days after Jesus’ birth, the family returned directly to Nazareth, how can Matthew be right that they instead went and stayed in Egypt until the death of Herod?

If you want to learn more about the text of the Bible and Christian church history, I encourage you to join Dr. Ehrman’s blog. The annual membership fee is $29.95, with all proceeds going to charity.

Video Link

Remember, it only takes one error, contradiction, or mistake to bring the inerrancy house tumbling down. Most educated Evangelical pastors know that the Bible isn’t what they claim it is, yet Sunday after Sunday they stand before their congregations and say, THUS SAITH THE LORD! These liars for Jesus know they would be unemployed and the pews would be empty if congregants ever learned the truth about the Biblical text.

I have had a number of Evangelical preachers and laypeople come to this site, certain that their Bibles (and beliefs) were infallibly true. As I always do, I asked them to read several of Bart Ehrman’s books. There is no value is trying to engage zealots if they won’t, at least, look at the evidence for the claim that the Bible is NOT an inerrant, infallible text. Over the past fifteen years, I have only had one person read Dr. Ehrman’s books and still believe the Bible is inerrant. Everyone else was forced to admit that the Bible was not what Evangelicals claim it is. Sometimes, this resulted in loss of faith. Other times, people held on to their faith, but moved on to religious environments that valued intellectual inquiry and facts. Want to destroy the hold Christian Fundamentalism has on our country? Disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that the Bible is some sort of perfect text, different from all other books. Once Evangelicals see that the Bible is not what their preachers and teachers say it is, they will be forced to determine whether they can trust anything their leaders say.

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

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 Inerrant?

inerrancy

Evangelicals believe that the Protestant Christian Bible is their God’s inspired, inerrant, and infallible words. “Inspired” is a faith claim for which there is no evidence. Either you believe the Bible is inspired by God or you don’t. “Inerrant” and “infallible” are claims, however, that can be investigated by Christians and non-Christians alike. Is the Bible actually without error? Is the Bible really infallible (incapable of error)?

As a student at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s, I was taught the transcription theory. Holy men of old, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote down, word for word in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, the words of God. Some professors believed that the inspired writers of the Bible fell into a trance as they put pen to paper, writing down the exact words of God. Other professors and chapel speakers were uncertain as to the actual transmission process. They just knew that the end product was the very words of God.

I was also taught at Midwestern that inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility applied to translations too. Well, actually one translation: the King James Version (either the 1611 edition or the 1769 revision). While there was some behind-the-scenes debate over whether the KJV was “inspired,” there was no debate over whether the KJV was inerrant and infallible.

Peruse the websites of churches pastored by Midwestern grads and you will typically find a sentence that says “_______ Baptist Church only uses the King James Version.” Some churches proudly advertise in their printed materials and on their signs their fealty to the KJV.

Some Midwestern pastors take a different approach. Take First Baptist Church in Milford, Ohio (pastored for many years by my best man, Bill Duttry). Their doctrinal statement states:

We believe in the authority of Scripture. We believe that the Bible is the plenarily and verbally inspired, inerrant, living Word of God. We believe that God has divinely and faithfully preserved His Word for all people today in the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Textus Receptus. We use only the Authorized King James Bible for faith and practice in English.

According to this statement, what is inspired, inerrant, and infallible is the Masoretic text (Old Testament) and the Greek Textus Receptus (New Testament), not the King James Bible. Does that mean that First Baptist of Milford believes the KJV is errant and fallible? No. Note carefully the words “God has divinely and faithfully preserved his Word.” Many Evangelicals believe that God has somehow, some way, over the past 2,000 years preserved his Words in the thousands of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and subsequent translations. Not all translations, of course, just those that were translated from certain manuscripts. Typically, such churches and pastors accept translations based on what is called the Received Text — a family of Greek manuscripts that were used to translate the King James Bible. They reject the Alexandrian (Wescott and Hort) line of manuscripts, believing translations that were translated from these manuscripts are inferior or even Satanic.

inerrancy test

First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, pastored by John MacFarlane, believes:

We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as verbally inspired of God, inerrant in the original writing and of supreme and final authority in faith and life. II Timothy 3:16-17.

We accept only the King James version for public instruction in the church.

First Baptist has an article on its site written by Pastor Michael Bates titled Why Do We Use the KJV?

The English translation issue has caused no small stir among conservatives and evangelicals today.  It is not our desire to be contentious about this issue, but we do desire to preach and teach with clarity.

It is our conviction that the whole translation debate hinges on three basic questions that must be answered in the following order:

1. Has God preserved His inspired Word? In fact, has He even promised to do so?  If God has not promised to preserve His words—and all of them, then all discussions regarding which Hebrew & Aramaic or Greek Text is superior and which translation is best is all academic, at best.

To this question we answer in the strongest affirmative possible.

….

2. If it is preserved, where is it preserved?  Is it preserved in any specific Text or in all the texts or in only the so-called “oldest and best manuscripts?”  One should expect to locate God’s words if they are preserved.

We believe that those texts often referred to as the Traditional Text, known more commonly as the Ben Chayyim Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, hold those preserved words.

….

3. Do the Lord’s churches in the English-speaking world have a faithful, accurate translation of that preserved Word that they can call reliable?

The last English translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts listed above was done in the seventeenth century by the translators of what has come to be called the King James Version of the Bible (known also as the Authorized Version), first published in 1611.  Most, if not all, of the modern versions have been translated out of a different Greek text in the New Testament called the Eclectic Text or the Critical Text.  We reject these texts as only containing the Word of God. Furthermore, the Hebrew text underlying these modern versions is different from that used by the KJV.

Therefore, a local church must make a decision guided by the Scripture as to which translation is in fact God’s words in their language based upon its underlying text.  We recognize that God did not breathe out English words, but the inspired words He did breathe out have been accurately and correctly translated into our language in the King James Version.

Once you move beyond King James-only churches, you find Evangelical congregations and pastors who believe certain English translations are faithful and reliable, not inerrant and infallible. These churches and pastors believe that it was the original manuscripts that were inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Of course, the glaring problem with this position is the fact that these manuscripts do not exist. All we have are copies of copies of copies, some of which dates centuries after their recorded events.

A Biblical Archeology Society article titled Dating the Oldest New Testament Christian Manuscripts states:

The New Testament that we read today in many different translations is not based on one single manuscript of the original Greek text. Why? There simply is no such thing as a complete text of the New Testament that we could date to the apostolic times, or even two or three centuries after the last of the apostles. Extant manuscripts containing the entire Christian Bible are the work of medieval monks. The modern scholarly editions of the original Greek text draw on readings from many different ancient manuscripts. As a result, the New Testament presented in any of our Bibles does not correspond to a single, authoritative ancient manuscript.

The oldest surviving examples of the New Testament come to us, instead, as fragments and scraps of papyrus excavated (mostly) in Egypt. How old are the oldest of these biblical fragments, and why does it matter whether they were written in the first or the fourth century?

At best, the extant manuscripts are errant, fallible approximations of the original manuscripts. If the manuscripts are errant and fallible, then the translations made from them are too.

Evangelicals preachers and professors who say the Bible is inerrant and infallible are either uneducated or deliberately misleading people. In my case, I was uneducated. I was thirty years old before I learned that the King James Bible was not inerrant. It would take many more years of study before I concluded that the Bible — both at the translation and manuscript level — contained errors, mistakes, and contradictions. While I still believed the Bible was the Word of God, I came to see and understand its human nature and fallibility.

Most educated Evangelical preachers know the Bible is not inerrant or infallible. Anyone who carefully studies the Bible, both in its original languages and in English — knows that there are textual problems that cannot be explained away. They also know that there are internal conflicts and contradictions that cannot be harmonized. Why, then, do Evangelical preachers not share these things with their flocks? Why do they hide the fallible human nature of the Bible?

the bible rock of gibraltar

Most Evangelical laypeople believe that the Bible they carry to church on Sundays and read during the week is without error. No one has ever told them the truth about the nature and history of the Biblical text. Evangelical preachers pride themselves on being truth-tellers. Why don’t they tell church members the truth about the Bible? One word: fear. They fear that if they did people would lose faith in God, the church, and the Bible. Imagine being called on to account for hiding the truth from their churches. People would leave, offerings would drop, and many preachers would end up looking for new employment. Not wanting turmoil and controversy, pastors, instead, try to maintain the status quo. This, of course, is getting harder to do thanks to the Internet. Evangelicals can easily find articles and books that challenge their beliefs about the Bible. Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books, in particular, have forced countless Evangelicals to rethink what they believe about the history and nature of the Bible. If you have not read any of Ehrman’s books, I encourage you to do so:

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

I am confident that if Evangelicals will openly and honestly read Ehrman’s books, they will be disabused of the notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Of course, there will always be Evangelicals who are so closed-minded that there is no hope of reaching them. Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, is a case in point. Thiessen recently wrote a blog post titled The Bible is Inerrant and Infallible:

If one wants to question the Bible, then they are questioning its author. There is no way to separate the two. Many unbelievers will say that science has disproven the Bible many times over. That has never been done.

What the people ignore or miss when making that statement is that there is no one or no thing in history that has appointed science to be an authority over the Bible and its content. Neither God nor Jesus has made that appointment or taught anywhere that the Bible is submissive to science, or any research field.

There are no other supernatural beings that can make that appointment either. Science is subject to the Bible and not its lord. No matter what scientific method you use, especially bible criticism, historical-critical thinking, and so on, these methods do not get to the truth nor are they superior to God and his word.

God does not make mistakes, he does not lie, he does not perform magic, he does not play games, and he does not mislead. What he has written in the Bible is without error and it is accurate and true.

In the book, Dr. Lindsell mentions that some of those who hold to the errancy and fallibility of the bible will also clarify their comments by adding that the Bible is inerrant and infallible when it comes to salvation but it is not when it comes to history and science.

But those people are trying to have their cake and eat it too. of course, they will say the parts about salvation are infallible, etc., because they want to go to heaven and not end up in hell. The Bible is either infallible and inerrant in all of its content or it is not.

There is no middle ground and all Christians have to make a choice here. That argument claiming only salvation is inerrant, etc., is like saying your wife is a little bit pregnant. Either she is or she isn’t. There is no middle ground.

You either believe God or you don’t.

Thiessen is a hardcore Fundamentalist — proudly so. He is certain that his beliefs are 100 percent right. His beliefs are every bit as inspired (by the Holy Spirit), inerrant, and infallible as the Bible itself. I have been reading Thiessen’s writing for several years now. I have yet to see him admit that he was wrong; that he made a mistake. Instead, he spends his time pointing out how wrong other people are — atheists and Christians alike.

There are lots of Thiessen-like preachers in the world; men who are either uneducated or who believe that it is more important to protect sectarian dogma than it is to tell people the truth. Thiessen began his post by mentioning Harold Lindsell’s 1976 book, The Battle for the Bible. Lindsell was an Evangelical author and scholar, one of the founders of Fuller Theological Seminary. Lindsell’s seminal book played an instrumental part in the battle for the soul of the Southern Baptist Convention. I read and re-read The Battle for the Bible several times in the late 1970s and 1980s, not because I doubted the Bible, but because I wanted to know how “liberals” viewed the Bible. At the time, I believed liberals were apostates or false Christians; tools of Satan who were destroying the faith of Evangelicals. I viewed these scholars as enemies of God. What I didn’t do is read their books. I had lots of books in my library that promoted and reinforced the Evangelical view on the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. It would take decades of study — including reading the books of authors I had previously deemed false prophets — before I finally saw the light. The only way to reach Derrick Thiessen and countless other inerrantists is to get them to read books that challenge their sincerely held beliefs. I remember asking Thiessen if he had ever read any of Bart Ehrman’s books. Thiessen tried to intimate that he had “read” Ehrman, but when pressed on the issue, I found out he had read articles and blog posts about Ehrman’s books, not the actual books themselves. Thiessen is hardly alone in this matter. Evangelical preachers are notorious for their opposition to all sorts of things without ever actually doing their homework. They just regurgitate what one of their preacher friends or favorite authors have said in their books or on their blogs.

Nothing in this life is without error, and that includes the Bible. One can still believe in God and be a Christian without an inerrant Bible. Sixteen centuries of followers of Jesus didn’t have an inerrant, infallible Bible. Were they True Christians? Of course, they were. I double-dog dare you to argue that salvation requires the right beliefs about the Bible. Oh, please, make my day by claiming that someone can’t be born again unless they hold to a certain viewpoint about the Bible. 🙂

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.

Evangelical Man Upset That I Didn’t Show Reverence and Respect for the Bible

bible made me an atheist

Several years ago, I had a brief comment section discussion with an Evangelical man about the Bible. I posed some questions to him that I thought would challenge his beliefs, but instead of answering them, he replied:

The words you use to speak about the Bible are far away from ‘adult level’ as you demand /expect in your blog policy from others.

I will not respond to your statements anymore. Not that there is not enough things to address but I will not communicate on such a demeaning language level and rather use my time differently.

What did I say that proved so offensive to this believer? Here’s what transpired (all grammatical errors in the original text):

Ronny: While it seems on the surface you are doing a good job defeating christianity, when one knows enough Bible it becomes evident that you are not right. Lets just say for example that ‘Christians live like the rest of us’. Which so called Christians did you get to know? Yes Christians sin acc. to 1 John. But they sin less and less as they grow in their faith. A REAL Christian IS different from the world. Those that you describe fall into the category of Mt 7. There is more to respond to you but my tram arrives in one minute so I say goodbye.

Bruce: The neat thing about the Bible is that it can be used to prove virtually anything. Actually 1 John says that those who sin are of the devil. Are Christians, then, of the devil?

The definition of who is a REAL Christian varies from sect to sect, church to church, and believer to believer. What makes you right and other Christians wrong? Why should anyone accept your peculiar interpretation over that of anyone else?

My observations about Christianity are both specific and general. I was a pastor for twenty-five years. I pastored a lot of people and knew many of their secrets. I stand by my observations.

Thank you for commenting.

Ronny: I am a bit surprised that you let me comment actually. I thought because I mentioned scripture that my response would have been deleted because of your policy. But how can we talk about christianity and not use bible verses acc. your policy…

Anyhow there is much to comment but if I e.g. take your statement that those people are of the devil – you have to look at the greek. And isnt poio/prasso speaking of a habitual lifestyle? And even if I am wrong here because I am not the biggest scholar, we ought to always take the full counsel of God and not one verse.

And I understand that you got to know many professing Christians, my point is that ‘many will say to me Lord Lord’ Mt7, and ‘broad is the way’ – people who profess Jesus but look like the world (James…) dont posess faith. And it saddens me that Gods name is put down because of such people. The fruit of the Spirit IS, yes, and it is seen in people like Paul, Jesus, John, and people of our day as well if you not just look for any professing people but Christians who do not play a game but take God and faith seriously.

I hope people who read this will not judge Christinity acc. to the majority of Christians who only are believers by name and not lifestyle.

Bruce: So let me see if I understand your argument:

1. We need to understand Biblical Greek to properly interpret the Bible; that the indwelling of the Spirit is not — contrary to what the Bible says — sufficient to teach and guide believers in truth.

2. The verses in question cannot mean what I say they do because they contradict your interpretation of other verses and don’t fit in your theological box.

3. And even if the verses mean what I say they do, they are talking about habitual sin, not one-off or infrequent sins. At what point does behavior become habitual? Using your logic, if a man only murders one person, that’s okay since it’s not “habitual.” Of course, the Bible says no murderers will inherit the kingdom of God. The Bible says the same about adulterers. Thus, anyone who divorces and remarries and anyone who lustfully looks at a woman won’t inherit the kingdom of God. The Bible is a real bitch, Ronny. By all means, dance your way out of the plain/rational interpretations and conclusions of the aforementioned verses.

4. You are a true Christian. The people I knew — numbering in the thousands weren’t true Christians. How convenient.

Do you sin? How often do you sin? How many sins does a habit make? The Bible says, be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Are you perfect?

As with all Christians, you have taken the Bible and shaped it into proof of the veracity of your beliefs and lifestyle. You are a true Christian. Why? Because your peculiar interpretation of the Bible says you are. Again, how convenient.

Here’s what I know. I took my faith seriously. I spent much of my life trying to live according to the teachings of the Bible. I was, in every way, a committed follower of Jesus. I was, at the same time, a sinner, yea, even a habitual sinner. The fruit of the Spirit was my goal, one that I never met. I’ve known countless dedicated followers of Jesus. They too strived to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Yet, they failed to measure up to the fruit of the Spirit standard. All these people, according to you, were false believers. Again, how convenient.

Bruce: The policy about Bible verses is the result of Evangelicals beating people over the heads with the Bible or suggesting that the people who frequent this blog haven’t read the Bible or don’t “understand” its teachings. Such behaviors are offensive, so I don’t allow them.

Evangelicals wrongly believe that the Bible is coherent in its presentation of theology and history. The Bible is, in fact, contradictory, often incoherent, and a source of endless debate. If the Bible is God’s Word, he must have been drunk or high when he wrote it.

As I told you previously, the Bible can be used to prove almost anything. For example, I assume you have a Trinitarian view of God. I can take Genesis 1-3 and show that God is not a triune being, that there are, instead, multiple Gods. The awesome thing about no longer being a Christian is that I no longer need to make the Bible fit a certain theological box. I can read the Bible and come to different conclusions than most Evangelicals. What if my interpretation is right? What if the Bible teaches polytheism, not monotheism?

Ronny: The words you use to speak about the Bible are far away from ‘adult level’ as you demand /expect in your blog policy from others.I will not respond to your statements anymore. Not that there is not enough things to address but I will not communicate on such a demeaning language level and rather use my time differently.

So, what did I say that was so offensive? I suppose the line, the Bible is a real bitch might be beyond the pale to some Evangelicals, but there’s nothing in my responses that were the least bit offensive. Perhaps Ronny didn’t like me suggesting that maybe God was high or drunk when he wrote the Bible (the Bible does say with God ALL things are possible). All I did was give my perspective and ask him questions. What seems far more likely to me is that Ronny couldn’t answer my questions, so he found something to be offended over, and this allowed him — in his mind — to justify ignoring and dismissing my questions.

This leads me, then, to this question: is the Bible worthy of reverence and respect? The short answer is “no.” Why should the Bible be treated differently from other books? Evangelicals have all sorts of rules about the Bible. Some Christians believe it’s a sin to write in the Bible, while other believers make copious notes and underline. In IFB churches, it was not uncommon for children and teenagers to have big-name preachers autograph their Bibles.  My pastor encouraged members to seek out the autographs of men “greatly used by God.” He also told us to record in the front of our Bibles the date, time, and place where we were saved. This way, we would never forget when it was that we were born again.

Some Christians believe it is wrong to put anything on top of the Bible. I attended Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio in the 1970s. Teenagers were encouraged to carry their Bibles to school; not under your books, but right on top so everyone could see it. I was one of a handful of a students who displayed my religion for all to see. One day, an acquaintance of mine took my Bible and started a hot potato game with it. Around and around my Bible went, until my classmates finally tired of tossing my Bible around. After a few weeks, I decided to leave my Bible at home. While I was still quite vocal about my beliefs, I didn’t like the attention carrying my Bible brought.

Regardless of what rules they might hold to, most Evangelical revere and respect the Bible. This makes sense, I suppose, when you consider that Evangelicals believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible book written by the Christian God. In their minds, the Bible is different from all the other books ever written. It’s a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. Thus, to say anything negative about the Bible is considered offensive.

However, I don’t believe the Bible is a supernatural text. It is, at best, a collection of ancient writings. Its words may at one time have had great significance, but they no longer do today. While the Bible remains a top seller, it is also a book that most people never or rarely read.  Evangelicals base so much of their life on what their pastor says the Bible says, yet few of them have read it from cover to cover. How can someone be a Christian, a Bible-believer, and not completely read through the Bible at least once? If the Bible is so damn important, why do Christians treat it like a museum piece; something to be looked at but not read?

Ronny is not the first person to feign offense as a way to avoid my questions. I know how Evangelicals think about the Bible. I am conversant in all things Evangelical. So, I can quickly distill what it is commenters such as Ronny are trying to say. The Bible remains a book that can be used to prove almost any belief. That’s why there are thousands of Christian sects and thousands of Evangelical churches. Each denomination and church believes that they have the truth, and any “truth” that contradicts theirs is false.

My objective is to point out that their certainty is grounded in arrogance and not facts, and that there are competing and contradictory narratives in the Bible. Within its pages, readers will find multiple Gods and multiple plans of salvation. The Bible is a wonderful book, especially for buffet Christians. Eat what you want, ignore the rest. And all the people of God said, AMEN!

Want to know more about the history and nature of the Bible? I recommend reading one or more books written by best-selling author Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina.

Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End (Release date March 21, 2023)

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Journeys to Heaven and Hell: Tours of the Afterlife in the Early Christian Tradition

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

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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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Quote of the Day: Reading the Bible as We Do All Other Books by Robert Ingersoll

robert ingersoll

Too great praise challenges attention, and often brings to light a thousand faults that otherwise the general eye would never see. Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque, and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure, and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all moral and religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature’s night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free unbiased soul is forced to raise the standard of revolt.

— Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses, 1879

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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.

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.

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
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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.

Thus Saith the Lord: The Sun Revolves Around the Earth

john jasper
Famed 19th Century Preacher John Jasper

If, as Christians say, the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God and is meant to be literally understood, shouldn’t Evangelicals believe the sun revolves around the earth? In the late 1800s, famed black preacher John Jasper preached a sermon titled ‘The Sun Do Move’. Here is some of what Jasper had to say (text edited for readability):

Now then, I have proved to you all these things as they are laid down in the Bible, chapter and verse. According to the text, Joshua showed in the sight of all Israel that The Sun Do Move, because he stopped it, by God’s command, for a whole day, as the text states. If he stopped it, that proves that the sun was moving, and moving over Joshua and the Amorites, and of course they were nowhere else than on this here earth, and consequently it was moving around the earth, and after the battle was over, it begun moving again in its regular course.

Therefore it is proved that the Sun Do Move around the earth. Now then, this great fact of the sun’s rotation may be illustrated by many powerful texts in the Bible : I will confine myself to the most striking ones. Notice Malachi, chapter 11, verse 2 — and that come from God’s own mouth, and their can be no properer authority than God’s authority. With His own lips he said, ” For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles.” What strikes us here is that the Sun Do Move ! ” My name shall be great among the Gentiles ” — (and we people of to-day is the Gentiles) — that, is an evidence that the Sun Do Move, for it’s God that says it. And take Ecclesiastes, first chapter, 5th verse : “The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” That’s an evidence that he arose, for if he had not done left the place, he could not haste to where he arose. Again, in Psalm l, verse 1 : ” The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.” I illustrates this as an evidence that the Sun Do Move, for the psalmist is the inspired writer, authorized by the Almighty to say this. The following texts I put in evidence : Psalm 113, Verse 3 : — ” From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” Isaiah, Chapter 38, Verse 8 : ” Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees which is gone down in the sun-dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward ; so the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.” And Judges, Chapter 14, Verse 18 : ” Before the sun went down—.”

Now, from the expressions of all these texts, that is evidence that the Sun Do Move, for they were all inspired and written of God, of the Holy Spirit of God, who authorized to write these things. See, also, Jeremiah, chapter 31, verse 37: “Thus saith the Lord, if heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.” Here is more evidence. No man can measure the distance from the sun to the earth, according to this text. Thus God says this distance can’t be found out, for it is impossible to measure the foundations of the earth. “In the firmament is the tabernacle of the sun ; he is gone forth as from one end of the heaven to the other, and his circuit is to the end of the earth,” saith the psalmist. That is, instead of the earth’s circling, the sun is circling the earth. Therefore the sun’s rotation can’t be overthrown.

The philosophers’ reasons to the contrary is a matter of impossibility. They say there is a nation that at 12 o’clock in the day has their foots opposite us : now it is an utter impossibility for them to know that there is any nation under there doing so, as, witness in Jeremiah, 31st chapter, verse 37, where it says the foundations of the earth can’t be measured.

Ken Ham, a defender of young-earth creationism, says that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Ham believes, for the most part, that the Bible should be read and interpreted literally. According to Ham, God spoke the universe into existence, using six, twenty-four-hour days to do so. Ham also believes Adam and Eve are the father and mother of the human race. Every crazy mythical story found in the book of Genesis — and the other 65 books of the Bible — is factual history. Why then doesn’t Ham embrace the geocentric model found in the Bible? In the aforementioned quote, John Jasper bathed his ‘sun do move’ belief in the waters of Holy Scripture. How dare Evangelicals deny the clear, unambiguous teachings of the Bible.

Just the other the day, Ham stated that the Bible is a science textbook that never changes, yet Ham holds to the heliocentric model espoused by modern science, and not the geocentric model believed by not only Jasper, but other Evangelicals today. Shame on Ken Ham for denying the Word of God and its infallible teachings. Why, this makes me wonder whether Ham is a closeted Bible-denying liberal!

Let me add in closing that John Jasper is widely revered in some corners of the Evangelical world. His biography and sermons have been republished. I owned a copy of Jasper’s biography for many years. What a great man of God, I thought at the time. Standing on the precious truths of the word of God! While I didn’t embrace Jasper’s geocentric view, I did believe that God did, in fact, miraculously cause the earth (and all other planets) to stand still. Such is the ignorance required to believe that what the Bible says about scientific matters is true.

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.

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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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.

Questions From an Evangelical Pastor

i have a question

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

Several years ago, Joel Yoon, the Covenant Theological Seminary-trained pastor of Gospel City Church in Seoul, South Korea, sent me a thoughtful email containing several questions. Since Joel was polite, I thought I would take a stab at his questions. Joel wrote:

I find your blog fascinating! I am a pastor and I stumbled across your website through a random google search. I would like to ask you a question and I believe it doesn’t fall in the category of any questions you wouldn’t want to discuss.

I read that your walk away from Evangelical Christianity was largely based on you understanding of Scripture. In addition, it seems that not only did your faith unravel due to your view of Scripture, but your blog also seems to reveal that you now have resentment towards Christianity. My question to you is twofold:

Are there parts of Evangelical Christianity that you still appreciate? If so, could you share why?

As an agnostic and practical atheist, is there any part of life that makes you question your views or at least makes you curious about a deity? If so, what would that be?

In order to better understand where I’m coming from, let me share why I ask this: Granted, my theological beliefs give me a bias, I’ve always found it hard to believe the world we have now was created simply by chance. I’m not even arguing against The Big Bang theory or evolution. I’ve just saying that in some sense, I’ve found it harder to be an atheist when I see and experience this world. For example, learning more about the complexities and the beauties of this world, or thinking about and experiencing love, or just even the whole idea of pregnancy, birth and life, these areas of life have made me feel like one needs more faith to not believe in God than to believe in him. So I was wondering, with your journey from being so deeply embedded in a Judeo-Christian worldview — and now a staunch agnostic/atheist —  is there anything that makes you even a little bit curious?

My abandonment of Christianity primarily rests on my rejection of the Bible as an inspired, authoritative text. I think it is impossible to be a Christian and not, to some degree, believe the Bible is God’s Word. Since I came to understand that the Bible was an errant, fallible, contradictory text, there was no possible way I could continue to call myself a Christian. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically reject all the beliefs that are the foundation of Christian orthodoxy.  I realize that some people are able to reduce the Bible to God is love and Jesus love me too, but I was unable to do so. Christianity is a text-based religion. I can’t imagine a Christianity without some sort of fidelity to the written Biblical text.

That said, my deconversion certainly had an emotional component. This was not clear to me at first, but I now can see that my loss of faith started when I began looking for a Christianity that mattered. Over time, I became disaffected, realizing that regardless of what name might be over the door, churches are all pretty much the same — social clubs focused on meeting the needs of their members and improving club enrollment. Does this mean, as Joel suggests, that I have resentment towards Christianity? Not in the least.

Not all Christianities are created equal. I generally think that liberal and progressive Christianity is benign, doing little to no harm to others. While I have a different set of problems with liberal Christianity, I don’t think being part of such churches harms people. I cannot say the same for Evangelicalism. Evangelical Christianity is inherently Fundamentalist, and Fundamentalism is a cancer that must be excised wherever it is found. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)  I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicalism is a broad tent, but I am of the opinion that Evangelical belief and practice can and does cause psychological harm and results in intellectual stagnation. Does this mean I am resentful? I don’t think so. It does mean, however, that I do have strong opinions about Evangelicalism. When doubting Evangelicals ask for my advice I usually encourage them to seek kinder, gentler forms of faith. There are sects and churches that promote diversity and tolerance. These sects often encourage unencumbered intellectual inquiry. Evangelical churches cannot do so because they are bound by their interpretations of the Bible. Since I place great value on reason and intellectual pursuit, I could never in good conscience recommend people attend Evangelical churches. Both McDonald’s and the local gastropub serve hamburgers, but that’s where the similarity ends. I view Evangelicalism as McDonald’s. If you have never eaten any other hamburger but a Big Mac, you will never know how good the burgers are down at the gastropub. Once people eat a real hamburger, they will never want to eat a Big Mac again. So it is for Evangelicals. Until they venture outside of the safe confines of their little box, they have no idea about the wonders (and dangers) that await them. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it  and What I Found When I Left the Box.) Once free of the constraints of their Bible box, people rarely return. They don’t necessarily become atheists, but they also don’t return, to use a bit of Biblical imagery, to Egypt — the land of onions and bondage. Once freed, Evangelicals realize that the potential paths to freedom, happiness, and fulfillment are many, so they rarely return to their former beliefs.

Joel asks “Are there parts of Evangelical Christianity that you still appreciate?”  I think what he means to ask is, are there aspects of Christianity that I miss? Professionally, I miss preaching and teaching. Personally, I miss the communal aspects of being part of a church —  things such as dinners, banquets, and social activities. As atheists, my wife and I are, at times, lonely. We are two pebbles in the Evangelical Sea. While my wife is quiet about her lack of faith, I am not. I regularly write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, challenging Evangelicals who write letters about evolution and creationism, homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Christian nationalism, or whatever “sin” is stuck in their craw. I am a public figure who is widely known as THE atheist. Local Evangelical outrage over my letters has proved to be quite an eye-opener, a reminder of the fact that Christian food, fun, and fellowship are predicated on right beliefs. Because we are unwilling to bow to Jesus, my wife and I must live with the fact that we are not going to have very many local friends. We are, however, grateful for the countless people we have met and befriended through this blog and social media.

I will assume that Joel is using the word “God” to signify the Christian God or the Evangelical God. Do I have any doubts or questions about my rejection of THIS God? No, not in the least. I have weighed this God in the balances and found him/her/it wanting (Daniel 5:27). I have been an atheist for almost fourteen years. During this time, scores of Evangelicals have tried and failed to show me the error of my way. I think I can safely say that I have heard every Christian argument there is for the existence of God and the veracity of Christianity and its supposedly supernatural religious text. None of these arguments has proved to be compelling. I have concluded that the Christian God is a human fiction, brought to life centuries ago by men attempting to explain their understanding of the world. Science has reduced the Bible to a Cliff Notes-sized book of interesting ancient stories and spiritual sayings. It has very little to say regarding life in the twenty-first century. I certainly would not use the Bible as some sort of road map or blueprint. Does the Bible have value? Sure, but having spent most of my life reading and studying the Bible, I can’t imagine what more I could possibly glean from its pages. Unlike Evangelicals, I do not think the Bible is an inexhaustible well of wisdom and truth. Having read the Bible from cover to cover more times than I can count, I think I can safely move on to other books. Evangelical Rousas Rushdoony once said, most books aren’t worth reading once let alone twice. So it is with the Bible.

I have numerous acquaintances and friends who are liberal Christians, universalists, and deists. I readily admit that I think someone can look at the biological world and the wonders of the cosmos and conclude that some sort of deistic God set things into motion. However, I fail to see any possible way to get from there being A GOD to that deity being the God revealed in the Christian Bible. Any attempts made to bridge these two only raise more questions. Why the Christian God and not any of the other Gods humans worship?  Perhaps some unknown God created everything. Maybe, just maybe, earth is some sort of lab experiment for an unknown advanced alien race. Why do Evangelicals so quickly shut off their minds to any possible explanations but the ones they hear Sunday after Sunday at their houses of worship? (Please see Why Most Americans are Christian.) As atheists such as myself point out, Evangelicals are every bit as godless as atheists when it comes to other religions. I will assume that Joel thinks certain religious beliefs are false — say Mormonism, Islam, or Buddhism. If so, doesn’t this mean that he is atheistic towards these no-God religions? The only difference between Joel and me is that I am atheistic towards one God more than he is.

Neither Christians nor atheists can give a satisfactory answer to the various questions that have plagued man from the first moment he looked skyward and pondered the question, where did THAT come from? Evangelicals believe that their God is the first cause of everything. They can provide no empirical data for this claim. Either you believe it or you don’t. Evangelicals, by faith (Hebrews 11), believe their God is everything. Atheists look to science to give them answers about the universe and human existence. As the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate made clear, science is willing to say, we don’t know, but we keep looking for answers. Evangelicals, on the other hand, appeal to the Bible. God said _______________, end of discussion. Ham repeatedly appealed to the Bible, a book that he believes teaches the universe was created in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,024 years ago. Science says the universe is billions of years old and that it likely came into existence through what we call the Big Bang. This, of course, is not a definitive, final answer. That’s what is so great about science: questions continue to be asked and theories are constantly being rejected or modified as scientific knowledge grows. I know of no better way to understand our world. Saying, God says or the Bible says no longer works. We now know too much to return to the ignorance found within the pages of the Bible. That Evangelicals continue to reject what science tells us about our world is troublesome and a hindrance to human progress.

I have often wondered how differently things might have turned out for me had I been raised in another manner. Suppose I had been raised a Presbyterian and went to Harvard instead of an Evangelical Bible college? What if I had been taught to value the sciences and rigorous intellectual inquiry? Would I still have ended up where I am today? I don’t know. Alas, little is to be gained from pondering what might have been. I am where I am and I am comfortable with the path that has led me to this point in time. I have many fond memories from the fifty years I spent in the Christian church and the twenty-five years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches. I am grateful for the many opportunities I had to help other people. In many ways, I am still a pastor, doing what I can to help others. The difference, of course, is that there are no threats of Hell or promises of Heaven. The humanist ideal now motivates me to help all living things. No longer concerned with what lies beyond the grave, my focus is on helping fellow travelers make the best of this life. As a father of six children and grandfather to thirteen munchkins, I want to use the time I have left to make this world a better place in which to live. Things such as global warming, climate change, war, and Donald Trump threaten my progeny’s future. I owe it to them to do what I can to leave to them a better world, one not ravaged by religious ignorance, hubris, and greed. I also want to leave for them a testimony of sorts; of a man who lived a good life without God; a man who was loving, respectful, and kind. If I accomplish these things, it will be said of me, he did what he could.

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