Menu Close

Tag: Inspiration of the BIble

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

bible literalism

Recently, a reader sent me the following question:

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

Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the questions!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Is the Bible the Answer to Everything?

joshua 1 8

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

Parker writes (link no longer active):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bible literalism
bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Is the Bible the 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.
….

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.
….

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.
….

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.
….

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Tim Gilleand Asks: How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? 

bible vs evolution

Several years ago, Tim Gilleand wrote a blog post titled How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? In his post, Gilleand argued that creationists and scientists both have the same data and that the difference between them is how that information is interpreted. Gilleand wrote:

I believe that the scientific method requires that all evidence must be interpreted before a conclusion is drawn.  My issue is not with the evidence itself, it is with the interpretation stage.  I believe that scientists interpret the evidence through a worldview filter.  Their worldview filter includes their personal beliefs about how the world does or does not operate.  For example, if I believe there is no supernatural influence in the world and everything continues on the way and the rate at which it always has, then I am going to interpret something like radiometric decay or geology much differently than someone who believes God has intervened in this world at various points in our early history.

Let’s look at a couple examples…

If God really created Adam on the literal sixth day of creation – how old do you think he might look on day 7?  Was he a full grown man?  30… maybe 40?  But the truth is he is only one day old.  He was created fully mature and able to sustain himself.  Now apply that concept to the rest of creation.  If God really created the world in six days fully mature and self-sustaining – how might that affect the apparent age of the earth?  And how might that affect our research if we left out that concept?  Might we come to a much different conclusion?  I think so.  The point is evidence like radiometric dating the age of the earth doesn’t rule out a special creation because things still might appear older than they truly are and yet that would still be in line Biblicaly (sic).

But isn’t that a deceptive God??  I hear this all the time.  No, it’s not.  Perhaps God never intended us to study the age of the earth while ignoring his revelation about how He did it!  Not God’s deception, human ignorance.

As for geology, we have to look at what might have happened had Noah’s flood actually covered and destroyed the whole world as the Bible seems to imply.  Take the layers at the Grand Canyon.  Two schools of thought: either a little bit of water (the Colorado River) over a long period of time (millions of years) OR a lot of water (the flood) over a little period of time.  The same evidence, different conclusions based on different interpretations that are dependent on our worldview assumptions.

Is the difference between creationists and scientists really a matter of worldview? Is it, as Gilleand says, a matter of how one interprets the world? Creationists would love for this to be true, but doing science requires no particular worldview. Some scientists are devout Christians, yet they come to the same conclusions as their non-Christian colleagues. It is the creationist alone who allows his worldview to radically alter his view of scientific data.

The argument Gilleand is trying to make is that creationists and scientists alike have a starting point from which they begin their investigations While this is, to some degree true, let me demonstrate the difference between the starting points of creationists and scientists. Scientists begin with what we know, the collective body of knowledge we call science. This body of knowledge changes often, as scientists continue to make new discoveries and test currently held scientific ideas. Any student of the modern scientific era knows that science has radically adapted and changed as new information is brought forth. Things that were once considered settled facts are later, thanks to the diligent work of scientists, shown to be wrong. This is why the scientific method is vitally important to our understanding of the universe and the future of all life. It is a self-correcting way of explaining and understanding the world.

Creationists, on the other hand, do not start with the collective body of knowledge we call science. Their starting point begins not with science at all, but with a literalist, Fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible. Gilleand admits this when he says:

As a Christian, I believe God does and has intervened in our world.  I also believe the Bible is a historical, reliable account of the creation of the world.

….

We believe we have additional information in the revealed word of God – therefore we see our starting assumptions as more reliable than fallible human intellect because it comes straight from God who was there, observed it, and doesn’t lie.

For creationists like Gilleand, their interpretation of the world begins not with what they can see and know, but with what unknown authors wrote in an ancient religious text thousands of years ago. Creationists are less than honest when they say that the issue is how the scientific data is interpreted. No matter WHAT science says, creationists will always retreat to faith and their literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Non-creationists know that the universe is billions of years old. How do we know this? Science. While scientists continue to study the universe, creationists have no need to do so. Their minds are made up: God created the universe in six literal twenty-four hours days, 6,024 years ago. None of what science tells us about the universe ultimately matters to the creationist. Why? To put it simply: the BIBLE SAYS.

For these reasons, I have long suggested that it is generally a waste of time to argue matters of science with creationists. The issue is not one of science, but theology. This is why when creationists comment on this blog, I ignore their anti-science rants and instead attack their beliefs about the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Once inerrancy and literalism fall, the argument for creationism is over. This is why, a few years back, when Gilleand stopped by this blog to wage war with the Evangelical preacher-turned-atheist, I challenged his view of the Bible. Gilleand ultimately retreated to the house of faith, safe from the assault of the evil, Christ-denying atheist.

If creationists want their understanding of the world to be accepted as the prevailing scientific view, then they need to start publishing studies in non-Evangelical peer-reviewed scientific journals. Why don’t creationists do this? Surely, if it is self-evident that creationism is true and just a matter of properly interpreting the scientific data, science journals should be filled with studies and papers by creationist scientists. Yet, year after year no studies or papers are forthcoming. The creationist answer for this is that there is a conspiracy by non-creationist scientists to keep creationists from publishing. Their evidence for this? None. If the evidence for creationism is overwhelming, then the science community will grudgingly admit they were wrong and embrace the creationist interpretation of the data. Of course, the creationist, at this point, responds, right, these scientists are unsaved. They don’t believe in the existence of the Christian God, nor do they believe that the Bible is a supernatural, authoritative text. So then, it is clear, the real issue is theology, not science.

Gilleand describes his apologetics ministry this way:

. . . a new apologetics ministry based in Northern Indiana.  Our mission stems from the verse found in Colossians 4:6 (NIV) – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” We have formed this ministry to combat modern secularist tendencies to pull people (often times including Christians) away from the accurate original Biblical message. We will discuss hot topics ranging from creation vs. evolution, homosexuality, abortion, modern politics, the supposed separation of church and state, often-cited inaccuracies in the Scriptures, end times, and much more.  We aim to make our posts informative, researched from both sides of the aisle, and considerate of opposing views (grace) but firm in our stance (salt).

You see, even for Gilleand, it is not about the science. It is all about apologetics, the defending of the Fundamentalist Christian view of the world. In Gilleand’s eyes, everything begins and ends with the Christian God and the Protestant Christian Bible. Gilleand’s literalistic interpretation of the Bible becomes a box in which everything must fit. (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.) While Gilleand has convinced himself that he has “researched from both sides of the aisle” and considered “opposing views,” his “firm stance” never changes. This is Fundamentalism at its finest: No matter what, I believe. While Gilleand thinks of himself as being open-minded, the fact is he is only willing to consider data that neatly fits within his box. Any data outside of this box is rejected, labeled as being contrary to the Christian God and the Bible.

There is no hope of reaching people who think like this. Try as you might to reach them, their minds are walled off from anything that contradicts or challenges their worldview. For them, the lines are clearly drawn, and no amount of argument will change their minds. Until Fundamentalists are willing to venture past the lines they have drawn, there is no possible way for someone like me to move them away from their ill-informed, ignorant view of the world.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Evangelical Christians Believe the Bible is the Words of God

bible word of god

Let it therefore be held as fixed, that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit. Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own judgement or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human judgement, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our judgement, but we subject our intellect and judgement to it as too transcendent for us to estimate.  (John Calvin)

I wish Evangelicals would be honest about this instead of trying to “prove” the Bible is true, reliable, accurate, scientifically correct, historically precise, etc., etc., etc.

Evangelicals believe the Bible is the words of God because the Holy Spirit tells them it is. The Bible is truth because God tells them it is. Their belief is a matter of faith. If it is not, then they are guilty of using circular reasoning; the Bible is truth because the Bible says the Bible is truth.

Evangelicals embarrass themselves and their religion when they attempt to “prove” that the Bible is truth. One either accepts the claims of the Bible as truth or they don’t. It has always been about faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-6)

I am an atheist today because I do not have the requisite faith necessary to believe that the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. I do not have the requisite faith necessary to believe that the Bible is in any way truth or God’s message to humankind. While I can competently discuss, argue, and debate the intellectual reasons why I think the Bible is the errant, fallible work of men, the reason I am not a Christian is because I am unwilling to set reason and rationality aside to accept, by faith, that the Bible is an authoritative text straight from the mouth of Jehovah.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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

want truth read bible-001

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Bible is Not a Fairytale, Every Word is True, and God Cares About the Little People

erin davis

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

Erin Davis, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe website, wrote one of the most astounding, delusional, and absurd blog posts I have ever read. Filled with assertions based on THE BIBLE SAYS, Davis’ post reflects how deeply and thoroughly Evangelicalism can negatively affect one’s ability to reason and think.

According to Davis:

The Bible Is Not a Fairy Tale

With giants (1 Sam. 17), strange creatures (Job 40:15), angels (Ps. 91:11), demons (Mark 5), and a God who is mysteriously three in one, sometimes the Bible reads like a children’s fairy tale or Hollywood screenplay. But it isn’t. It’s a history book of events that actually happened to real people. More than that, it’s a book about a very real God.

Every Word of God Proves True

Proverbs 30:5 makes this bold promise:

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

An easy way to prove the truth found in Scripture is through the genealogies. Let me show you what I mean.

Isaiah 11:1 declares this promise, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

There isn’t a person on the planet that God doesn’t love and care about.

That promise wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans without the genealogy found in Matthew 1:1–17 and again in Luke 3:23–38. This list starts with Abraham and ends with the birth of Christ. Smack dab in the middle we find this gem:

And Jesse the father of David the king (Matt. 1:6).

The branch Isaiah wrote about was Jesus. His words were written 800 years before Christ was born! If we skipped this genealogy, we would miss the wonder of seeing this prophecy fulfilled.

God Cares About the Little People

Ever hear of Mahalalel, Hezron, or Abijah? Probably not, but God has. He made sure their names were listed among the genealogies found in Genesis 5 and Matthew 1. Every single human since Adam has three things in common:

We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

We are loved by God (Jer. 31:3).

We were designed to be with God for eternity (Eccl. 3:11).

There isn’t a person on the planet that God doesn’t love and care about. The genealogies read like lists of His favorite people.

God  Is Faithful.

Here’s a question I love to ask Christians who are older than me:

“Tell me about that time God let you down.”

I’ve been asking that question for years, almost every chance I get to hang out with people with a gray hair or two. I’ve never met a single person with an answer. Instead they all gush about God’s faithfulness, telling me how time and time again He has shown up in their lives.

Evidently, Davis has not studied the history of the Christian Bible, nor has she read anything about the various textual contradictions and errors found in the Biblical text. I suspect that Davis grew up in and is still a part of a religious tradition that asserts the Bible is a God-given and God-written, inspired, inerrant, and infallible text. Whether the Bible is inspired is a metaphysical claim beyond the scope of rational inquiry, but assertions that the Bible is inerrant and infallible are evidentiary claims that can be investigated. Anyone who has honestly and openly looked at the text of the Bible cannot conclude it is an inerrant text.

Well, Bruce, I have studied this issue and I still believe the Bible is inerrant. To that I say, bullshit. If someone follows the evidence wherever it leads, he or she must conclude that inerrancy cannot be sustained on rational grounds. When people claim that the Bible is inerrant, I always ask them if they have read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. Most often, the answer I receive is no. For the handful of people who say yes, my response is this: you are letting your presuppositions keep you from seeing things as they are. Biblical scholars of every stripe have concluded that the Bible has textual errors and contractions; that the Bible is internally inconsistent. It is impossible for someone to read Ehrman’s books and still hang on to the belief that the Bible is inerrant. And it is for this reason many Evangelical scholars and pastors say the Bible is inerrant in the original writings (which do not exist).

Davis believes the Bible is “true” because the Bible says it is. This is circular reasoning — a common problem in Evangelical Christianity. Countless people are Christians, all the while believing the Bible is fallible and errant. They recognize that the Bible is a human-written text that points the way to God, not a divine rulebook or blueprint for life. These Christians readily admit that some of what the Bible says is not true, is outdated, or inapplicable for today. While I have problems with how they come to these conclusions, I do find that this view is more intellectually honest than parroting that the Bible is inerrant.

The key to reaching Evangelicals is to get them to see that the Bible is not what they claim it is. Until Evangelicals are willing to consider that they might be wrong; that the Bible might contain errors and contradictions, there’s not much anyone can do to reach them.

Davis states that God cares about the little people. She bases this statement on the fact that numerous unknown people are mentioned in the Bible and, since God wrote the Bible, this is proof that God cares about everyone. Davis sincerely believes that God loves and cares for everyone. She believes this because the Bible says so. Again, eyes-wide-open honesty does not bear out Davis’ claim. Look around. What do you see? Do you see evidence for the belief that God loves and cares for everyone? Of course not. At best, we see a God who is indifferent to the plight of his creation. He steps in from time to time and helps Nana find her car keys, but when it comes to big-ticket issues such as war, violence, sexual assault, starvation, oppression, and Donald Trump, the Christian God is AWOL.

Davis desperately needs to believe that God loves and cares for her. I understand WHY she believes as she does. God loving and caring for Christians is the glue that holds Christianity together. No matter what happens in their lives, Evangelicals believe that God is looking out for them and that “all things work together for good.” This thinking directly conflicts with reality — shit happens, life can suck, and all credit and criticism belong to humans. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is a fictitious middleman who keeps Evangelicals from seeing life as it is. That’s the beauty of religion. It gives people meaning and purpose, promising life after death. (Please see The Life-Changing Power of the Mythical Jesus and Never Underestimate the Power of Jesus) Believing such delusions allows Evangelicals to evade the harshness of human existence. Sadly, many people think that it is better to believe a lie if it gives them peace and happiness. I don’t fault people who follow this path as long as they keep it to themselves. However, when they drag such nonsense into the public square and de-legitimize the lives of everyone who believes differently, I’m going to challenge, on rational grounds, their beliefs.

Davis concludes her post by saying that God (not any God, only the Evangelical God) is ALWAYS faithful. When Evangelicals talk about the faithfulness of God they mean that God always does what he says he will. If God says he will do ______________ then he always does. Think of all the promises God supposedly made in the Bible. Has God infallibly kept every promise? Of course not. Any cursory examination of the lives of Christians reveals that God is NOT faithful, that he routinely fails to pay child support. When challenged on the God-is-Faithful claim, Evangelicals often respond that just because God hasn’t come through yet, doesn’t mean he won’t come through in the future. Ah yes, God will, someday, likely not today, come through. He’s God and he ALWAYS comes through.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser