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Tag: Inspiration of the BIble

You, Me, and the Bible

There’s You.

There’s Me.

And there’s the Bible.

You believe the Bible. You believe it is God’s Word. You believe it is inspired, inerrant, infallible, and supernatural.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is God’s divine road map.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is God’s moral and ethical rule book.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible gives us everything we need for this life.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is truth.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is the rule by which we are to measure all things.

I don’t.

You assume everyone thinks like you.

I don’t.

When you quote the Bible to me, please remember what I have written here.

I know what the Bible says.

I know Christian theology

I can quote the Bible.

In fact, I have likely read and studied the Bible more than ninety-nine percent of American Christians. My rejection of the Bible is not due to a lack of knowledge or understanding.

I am more than happy to talk to you about what the text of the Bible says.

I am more than happy to talk to you about theology.

But, please remember this is an academic exercise for me.

I don’t have your beliefs about faith, God, the Holy Spirit, and the afterlife.

What faith requires, I do not have.

I am a permanent resident of Missouri.

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

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

An Errant Inerrant Bible

inerrancy

Wander into your neighborhood Evangelical church on a Sunday . . .

You will likely find the pastor preaching from the Bible.

Pastor, is the Bible the Word of God?

Yes.

Pastor, is the Bible the truth?

Yes.

Pastor, are there any errors in the Bible?

No.

Pastor, is the Bible inspired by God?

Yes.

Hundreds of millions of Christians believe the Bible (translations) they hold in their hands or hear preached from on Sunday is THE Word of God. They believe every word is true because God inspired (breathed out) the words. Not one time have their pastors told them differently.

Come Monday, Evangelical pastors gather with fellow clergy and talk a different line. No one really believes the Bible is inerrant.

Come Tuesday, and throughout the week, Evangelical pastors prepare their sermons, consult commentaries, lexicons, and the like, hoping to find answers to the discrepancies, errors, and contradictions in the text. They say to themselves, how can we best explain this so church members will still believe the Bible is inerrant? Should we tell them the truth about the text?

All of a sudden, the Bible is not quite as perfect as these pastors lead everyone to believe on Sundays.

In other words, they lie.

Why do these pastors lie?

To tell the truth would bring down the Evangelical house of cards. The entire movement is predicated on an inerrant infallible Bible.

An inerrant Bible must be maintained at all costs.

So they obfuscate by playing word games. What do you mean by the word error? What do you mean by the word Bible? What is a “mistake?”

As Bart Ehrman showed in his debate with William Lane Craig, the basic question remains . . . are there any errors in the Bible?

Honest pastors must, privately, in whispering voices, say YES. In public however, they lie and tell their congregations, YES, the Bible is without error; the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God; every word of the Bible is true. And all God’s people said AMEN!

If Evangelical pastors can’t be trusted to tell the truth about inerrancy, why should he be trusted to tell the truth about anything?

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

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Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

The Myth of the Inerrant Originals

napkin religion

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Most Evangelical preachers and church members believe that the Bible they carry to church on Sundays is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. If you ask them if the Bible has any errors, mistakes, or contradictions, they will likely say, absolutely not! While they know that their Bible is a translation of ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, they assume there is a perfect word line from God to the writers of the manuscripts to the translations they use.

Ask college/seminary-trained Evangelical pastors if the Bible has any errors, mistakes, or contradictions, and they will likely not say anything at first, and then will say, well, you need to understand ___________________________ (insert long explanation). They will likely tell you that modern translations are faithful or reliable, or that there are no errors, mistakes, or contradictions on any matter that is important to salvation. If you press them hard enough, they will tell you that no translation is perfect. (Remember, inerrancy demands perfection.) At about this point in the discussion, Evangelical pastors will say, I DO believe the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts are inerrant (perfect, without error, mistake, or contradiction).

The next obvious question is this: so where are the original manuscripts? Well, uh, l-o-n-g pregnant pause, the original manuscripts don’t exist, the Evangelical pastor says. That’s right, the original manuscripts don’t exist. No one has ever seen or read the “original” manuscripts of the Bible. In fact, most of the extant manuscripts are dated hundreds and thousands of years after the events they record. According to Wikipedia, the oldest Old Testament manuscript (a fragment) dates back to the 2nd century BCE and the rest of the Old Testament manuscripts are dated from the 3rd century CE to the 11th century CE. Most of these manuscripts are NOT written in Hebrew.

old testament manuscripts

But what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Uneducated Evangelical church members erroneously think the Dead Sea Scrolls “prove” the Bible is the Word of God. Here is what Wikipedia says:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. They were found in caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. The texts are of great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.

The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment but with some written on papyrus and bronze. The manuscripts have been dated to various ranges between 408 BCE and 318 CE…

Due to the poor condition of some of the Scrolls, not all of them have been identified. Those that have been identified can be divided into three general groups: (1) some 40% of them are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible, (2) approximately another 30% of them are texts from the Second Temple Period and which ultimately were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible, like the Book of Enoch, Jubilees, the Book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 152–155, etc., and (3) the remaining roughly 30% of them are sectarian manuscripts of previously unknown documents that shed light on the rules and beliefs of a particular group or groups within greater Judaism, like the Community Rule, the War Scroll, the Pesher on Habakkuk and The Rule of the Blessing.

So much for the Dead Sea Scrolls “proving” the Bible is the Word of God.

new testament manuscripts
new testament manuscripts 2

The oldest New Testament manuscripts date back to the 2nd century CE. Most of the extant manuscripts are dated from 9th century CE forward. Here is what Wikipedia says about the New Testament manuscripts:

Parts of the New Testament have been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work, having over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian. The dates of these manuscripts range from 125 CE (the John Rylands manuscript, P52; oldest copy of John fragments) to the introduction of printing in Germany in the 15th century. The vast majority of these manuscripts date after the 10th century. Although there are more manuscripts that preserve the New Testament than there are for any other ancient writing, the exact form of the text preserved in these later, numerous manuscripts may not be identical to the form of the text as it existed in antiquity. Textual scholar Bart Ehrman writes: “It is true, of course, that the New Testament is abundantly attested in the manuscripts produced through the ages, but most of these manuscripts are many centuries removed from the originals, and none of them perfectly accurate. They all contain mistakes – altogether many thousands of mistakes. It is not an easy task to reconstruct the original words of the New Testament….”

As you can see, there are no originals. Any talk of inerrant originals is just a smokescreen that hides the fact the extant manuscripts and EVERY Bible translation is errant. Any Evangelical who says that the Bible is inerrant in the originals is making a statement that cannot be proved. Every college/seminary trained-Evangelical pastor knows this, but few of them are willing to tell their congregations. Why? Why not tell church members the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Preachers fear that their congregations will lose “faith” in the Bible and that the Bible will lose its authority if they tell them the truth. They would rather lie — and they ARE lying if they don’t tell their congregation the facts about the origin, translation, and text of the Bible — than have people doubt the Bible or God.

If there are no inerrant manuscripts, then there can be no inspiration. Most Evangelicals believe that God inspired (breathed out) the Bible. If you ask Evangelical church members exactly WHAT God inspired, they will likely point to their Bible. Ask Evangelical pastors the same question and they will likely start praying for the rapture to happen immediately. Why? Because the Evangelical doctrine of inspiration is based on the notion that the Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts. Since there are no original manuscripts, and there are thousands of variations in the extant manuscripts and translations, then there is no such thing as an inspired Bible. At best, all that Evangelicals have is a flawed, errant translation of a flawed, errant, ancient manuscripts. Inerrancy and inspiration, as defined by Evangelicals, are myths, lacking any proof whatsoever.

This does not mean that the Bible has no value, but understanding that the Bible is not an inspired, inerrant text keeps a person from giving the Bible supernatural, God-like power. It may be a good book, a useful book, an inspirational book, but it is not a book that is straight from the mouth of God to our ears.

Our culture is awash with men and women who say they speak for the Christian God. What is the one belief that these speakers for God have in common? That the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Every Sunday, Evangelical Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America, leads his congregation in this:

this is my bible

The culture wars that continue to rage in the United States are based on the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. When Evangelical culture warriors quote proof-texts from the Bible, they believe they are speaking the very words of God — in American English of course. What they are really speaking are the words of an errant, fallible text that may or may not be the words of God/Jesus/Moses/Paul/Peter/James/John — to name a few. Since the original manuscripts no longer exist, it is impossible to know if the words of the Bible are God’s words. And even if the original manuscripts did exist, how could anyone prove that they were the very words of God? Would there be an endorsement statement on the last page that said, This is God and I approve of these words? Of course not. 

The Evangelical Christian says, the pastor says, the denomination says, the Bible says, but there is no way of knowing what God said. And this is why the foundation of Christianity is not the Bible but faith.

Let me conclude this post by illustrating how pervasive is the belief that the Bible is inerrant/inspired. The following Gallop Poll charts tell a depressing story about how Americans view the Bible:

views of the bible

Gallup concludes:

The percentage of Americans taking a literal view of the Bible has declined over time, from an average of 38% from 1976-1984 to an average of 31% since. However, highly religious Americans — particularly those of Protestant faiths — still commonly believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible.

In general, the dominant view of Americans is that the Bible is the word of God, be it inspired or actual, as opposed to a collection of stories recorded by man. That is consistent with the findings that the United States is a predominantly Christian nation and that Americans overwhelmingly believe in God.

Perhaps it is time for Christian churches to stop studying the Bible for a year so they can focus on reading and studying a few of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. Of course, if pastors did this they might risk being fired because their congregations would know that they’ve been lying to them about the Bible — and it IS a lie to omit facts about the origin, nature, and history of the Biblical text.

Until Evangelicals are disabused of their errant beliefs about the Bible, they will continue to arrogantly think that they have THE truth, that their God is the one, true, living God, and that the words of the Bible are God directly speaking to them. Until they understand that the Bible is not what they claim it is, there is no hope of having rational discussions with them. The Evangelical position can be summed up like this: God said it, end of discussion.

Notes

Some groups take inspiration and inerrancy a step farther and say that the King James Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. The followers of Peter Ruckman even believe the italicized words added by translators to improve the reading and understanding of the King James translation, are inerrant and inspired. Ruckmanites believe the italicized words are an advanced revelation given to the translators by God.

Some Evangelicals believe that God has preserved his Words down through history. These Evangelicals admit that the original manuscripts do not exist, but they believe God, down through the centuries, has magically preserved (kept perfect) his Word, and that the King James Bible is the preserved Word of God for English-speaking people.

If you want a complete, detailed understanding of what most Evangelicals believe about the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, please read the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Here is a  Who’s Who list of Evangelical scholars who signed the Chicago Statement.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Why ‘THE BIBLE SAYS’ is Not a Good Argument

the bible says

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Back in the late 1980s, I did a lot of street preaching in places such as Newark, Zanesville, and Lancaster, Ohio. One day, while I was preaching on the courthouse sidewalk in Newark, two Mormon missionaries came up to me and wanted to talk. I said, fine, as long as we limit our discussion to the King James Bible. They told me they couldn’t do that because the King James Bible AND The Book of Mormon were both authoritative. Because I was unwilling to accept their assertion that The Book of Mormon was authoritative, there was no point in them trying to talk to me. These missionaries presupposed that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and the King James Bible were both God’s word.  Unless I was willing to accept their presuppositions, no meaningful discussion could take place. So it is with Evangelicals who demand that I accept the Protestant Bible as authoritative.

Over the years, numerous Evangelicals have come to this blog and tried to use THE BIBLE SAYS argument to show me the error of my way. Bruce, it says _________________ right here in John, Romans, Acts, James, Revelation, Genesis, Jude, or Concordance. They assume (presuppose) that I accept the Bible as authoritative; that I accept the Bible as the standard for truth. I don’t, and neither do most of the people who read regularly this blog. These defenders of the Holy Evangelical Faith® fail to understand that I have studied the history of the Bible and the claims it makes, coming to the conclusion that the Bible is not an authoritative book; that it is not in any way a supernatural or divine text. At best, it is a collection of books written by unknown authors trying to explain their understanding of the world. If Evangelicals understood this rather than asserting that the Bible is an inerrant, inspired, infallible book, we might be able to have a meaningful discussion. Instead, they pull the Bible out of the bookcase and demand that it be treated as THE book above all books. They demand the Bible be accepted as THE truth above all truth. I reject this assertion. The Bible is not superior to any other literary work. In fact, as far as literature goes, the Bible leaves a lot to be desired. 

No matter how loudly someone says THE BIBLE SAYS it carries no weight with me. Why should I grant the Bible the authority Evangelicals claim for it? Well, because THE BIBLE SAYS! Exactly. This is circular reasoning, and this is why it’s impossible to have thoughtful, rational conversations with Evangelicals. THE BIBLE SAYS lots of things modern Christians no longer believe. No Evangelical is really one-hundred-percent THE BIBLE SAYS. I don’t know of an Evangelical pastor, evangelist, missionary, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or pew warmer who believes and practices every word of the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God. All Evangelicals develop their own method of interpretation, and with this system inconvenient or difficult verses are explained away or reinterpreted. What Evangelicals really consider authoritative is their own personal interpretation and opinion. This is why I think there’s no such thing as the faith which was once delivered to the saints or one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, One God. Two thousand years removed from the death of Jesus, what we have is not Christianity in the singular sense, but Christianities, with every Evangelical having his or her own understanding of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.

If every Christian believed the same things, I might pause to consider the validity of Christianity. However, it is evident, at least to me, when Christians appeal to the Bible what they are really appealing to is personal opinion and interpretation.

Did you grow up in or attend a church that stressed THE BIBLE SAYS thinking? How did your pastor handle conflicts over what, exactly, the Bible said? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Should We Execute A Woman Who is Not a Virgin on Her Wedding Day?

stoning

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

According to Evangelicals, the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, timeless Word of God. The Bible is God’s road map for life, the divine blueprint for living. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the Bible is one long letter from God to us. While Evangelicals use various hermeneutics, interpretive tools, and schemes to interpret the Bible, all agree that the text is the words of God.

Evangelicals also believe that God is immutable, that he does not change his mind. Malachi 3:6 says, For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed, and Hebrews 13:8 says, Jesus Christ (God) the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Ask Evangelicals if God changes his mind and they will emphatically say NO! God is perfect in all his ways, Evangelicals say, and his Word, the Bible, is truth.

How then, based on what I have written above, should Evangelicals interpret Deuteronomy 22:13-21?

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, and give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: and the damsel’s father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; and, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; and they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

The gist of the story is this: if a man goes into his wife on their wedding night and has intercourse with her and finds out that she is not a virgin, then his bride is to be brought to the door of her father’s house and stoned to death by the men of the city. There’s no ambiguity in the text. The soiled bride is to be considered a whore and executed. (If you have not read Deuteronomy 22, I encourage you to do so. God prescribes stoning for a variety of sexual sins.)

What say ye, oh believer that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible words of God?

Well Bruce, the Evangelical says, this is in the OLD Testament, and we now live according to the NEW Testament. So, God changed his mind? Were his words in Deuteronomy 22 imperfect, lacking in some way? If God’s law is perfect and true, why change it? All would agree that Deuteronomy 22 is the law of God. If it is, wouldn’t God’s law be preferable to man’s law? If God’s law was good enough for Israel, shouldn’t it be good enough for the United States, a nation Evangelicals claim is Christian? Why would any Christian want to be governed by the inferior laws of man?

Evangelical hysteria over same-sex marriage is rooted in the belief that God’s word/God’s law has the final say on the matter. Shouldn’t God’s law also have the final say on female virgins having sex before they are married? Where can I find in the Bible the verse that says one law is applicable today, but not the other?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Jesus said that he did not come to destroy or do away the law. In fact, according  to Jesus, until heaven and earth pass away, the law of God is valid and in force. Till all be fulfilled, he said. Has everything been fulfilled? Has Jesus come back to earth? Has God made a new heaven and new earth as prophesied in Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3? No, no, and no. Thus, the law of God, particularly Deuteronomy 22:13-21, is in force.  Every Evangelical is duty-bound to support the execution of women who are not virgins on their wedding day. The unchanging holy God has spoken!

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Bruce, the Atheist Talks to James, the Pastor, About the Bible

bible made me an atheist

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Several years ago, a fundamentalist Christian by the name of James commented on several of my posts on this site and on Facebook. James, a seminary-trained Baptist, is convinced I hate God, hate Christians, hate the Bible, and live for the opportunity to mock and ridicule Christianity.

James describes himself this way:

I am a man “of the book.” I am a man of faith. My entire life is governed by my faith in an unseen God. Hebrews 11:6 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My entire life falls under the authority of the Word of God. No surprise there! And because my life is governed by God’s Word, I live a holy and godly life.

According to James, his entire life is under the authority of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. God said it, and that settles it, and the real problem with atheists such as I is that we refuse to bow before the power and authority of the Bible. “One day,” James warned, “there will be a day of reckoning and judgment by that man (Jesus) whom God hath appointed to be the judge. And on that day, you WILL bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”

I’m sure James really believes what he is saying. However, does James really govern his life by the word of God? Does he really believe every word in the Bible is pure and true? I’m sure if James reads this post he will shout from the rooftops, I BELIEVE EVERY WORD IN THE BIBLE . . . STRAIGHT FROM GOD’S MOUTH TO MY EAR  AND HEART!!!

What follows is how a conversation between Bruce, the atheist, and James, the pastor might have gone . . .

Bruce: Every book, every chapter, every verse, every word?

James: Yes, all 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses, and 788,258 words (King James Bible Statistics).

Bruce: Do you think homosexuality is a sin?

James: Yes, the Bible says in Leviticus 18:22 that homosexuality is an abomination.

Bruce: So, you support the execution of homosexuals? Leviticus 20:13 says homosexuals should be put to death. And Leviticus 20:10 says adulterers should be put to death. Do you support the execution of homosexuals and adulterers?

James: Well, you see . . . that’s in the Old Testament, so those verses are under the Old Covenant. We are under the New Covenant now. Praise God for his grace and mercy!

Bruce: What about the Ten Commandments?

James: Yes, I think the Ten Commandments are the inviolable law of God and are valid for today!

Bruce: But, they are in the Old Testament.

James: Well, you see, the Ten Commandments are the moral law of God and God’s moral law is in force today.

Bruce: All ten commandments?

James: Well, you see, the command to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy is no longer in force.

Bruce: Where does the Bible say it is no longer in force?

James: Well, you see, it doesn’t, but if you take this verse, that verse, and a few others, and put them together with these verses, and then interpret it through the proper theological grid . . . viola! the command to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy is no longer in force.

Bruce: Hmm. I thought the Bible says, I am the Lord and I change not. Doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever? If God is unchanging, why do his laws change?

James: Well, you see . . .

Bruce: Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” It seems to me that Jesus is saying the law of God is in force (valid, authoritative) until heaven and earth pass away. I just went outside and checked . . . heaven and earth are still here.

James: Well, you see, the Scripture must be rightly interpreted. You are interpreting it incorrectly and that’s why your beliefs are wrong. I interpret it correctly and that’s why my beliefs are right.

Bruce: I thought you were a man of the book, that you stand upon the B-I-B-L-E!

James: I do.

Bruce: Not really. If you were a man of the book, why would you need to interpret it? Aren’t you really saying that you are a man of a certain interpretation and that your interpretation of the Bible is the authority?

James: Pfft. You are putting words in my mouth.

Bruce: Let’s move on to the New Testament.

James: (under breath) Thank you, Jesus!

Bruce: So, you consider all the commands in the New Testament to be true and authoritative?

James: Absolutely!

Bruce: According to the Christian Assemblies International website, there are 1,050 commands in the 27 books of the New Testament. According to what you said previously, do you consider all 1,050 commands authoritative?

James: Yes, they are the Word of God.

Bruce: Do the women in the church you attend speak during the service?

James: That’s a silly question. Of course, they do.

Bruce: I Corinthians 14:34 says, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” This verse says women are not permitted to speak in the church.

James: Well, you see, you need to understand the historical and cultural context to properly interpret this verse.

Bruce: So, we are back to interpreting again. I thought you were a man of the book? Shouldn’t someone be able to pick up the Bible, read it, and understand it? If people wanted to be saved, could they just pick up the Bible, read it, and understand what they need to do to be saved?

James: Absolutely! I hand out tracts with Bible verses on them. If a person reads these verses, they will know all they need to know about being saved.

Bruce: Hmm . . . okay. Does a person need to be baptized to be saved?

James: Absolutely not! That’s works salvation. Salvation is by faith through grace, not of works, lest any man should boast. Praise Jesus!

Bruce: Doesn’t Mark 16 say he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved?

James: Well, you see . . .

Bruce: Does a person receive the Holy Spirit when they are saved?

James: Yes, they do. The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian. He is their teacher and guide! He is the third part of the Godhead.

Bruce: So there are three G . . . (stop, Bruce, stay on point) Sorry about that. If someone is saved, but not baptized, do they have the Holy Spirit living inside of them?

James: Yes, but they should be baptized as soon as possible. Baptism is an outward sign of what God has done on the inside.

Bruce: Doesn’t Acts 2:38 say: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”? This seems to say a person must be baptized before they receive the Holy Spirit.

James: Well, you see, the word “for” in the Greek is “eis” and it means “because of.” In other words, a person is baptized because their sins have been remitted, not in order to have their sins remitted.

Bruce: So, to understand the Bible you need to know Greek?

James: (silence)

Bruce: I thought a person could just read the English Bible and understand how to be saved? Now you are saying they need to understand Greek?

James: Well Greek is the original language of the New Testament.

Bruce: Wait a minute. There’s a Greek New Testament that came before the English New Testament?

James: Yes, and the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew.

Bruce: So, which words are the pure and perfect Word of God? The English or the Hebrew and Greek?

James: (launches into a long explanation about the original languages and translations)

Bruce: OK, where can I read these original manuscripts?

James: They don’t exist.

Bruce: What do you mean they don’t exist? Doesn’t this mean your faith is in a translation written by men, and not the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God?

James: Absolutely not! We can KNOW that the English Bible is the pure and perfect Word of God. God preserves his Word down through the ages.

Bruce: And you know this HOW?

James: The Bible says . . .

I could go on and on and on in endless directions with this fictitious dialog between James and me. As I have easily shown, James’ belief in the Bible requires him to interpret the text, so what is really pure and perfect is not the Bible, but his interpretation. Whatever translation James uses has the fingerprints of man all over it. Since the original manuscripts no longer exist, James can’t be certain that the extant manuscripts contain the exact words of God, and he can’t be certain the translation he uses contains in perfect form the exact words of God. Instead of saying THUS SAITH THE LORD, James should say, THUS SAITH THE IMPERFECT BIBLE, AS INTERPRETED BY JAMES, THE PASTOR.

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

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

Who Determines What the Bible Says?

the bible says

Repost from 2015. Extensively edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Two thousand years.

Two thousand years of Jesus.

Almost from the beginning, Christians put their oral traditions, teachings, and beliefs into writing. The Bibles used by twenty-first-century Christians all trace their authority back through history to Christian writings dating from around 50 CE forward. The original writings, the first edition writings, do not exist and any claim of inspiration for the “original” writings is nothing more than wishful, fanciful thinking. Every claim ever made by the Christian church rests on text of the Bible and how the church has interpreted that text. I am aware of the fact that the Christian church has been influenced by Gnosticism for most of its 2,000 year history, but for the most part, Christianity is a text-based religion that places the text of the Bible above personal experiences and revelations. Even when personal experiences and revelations are given weight and authority, they are almost always expected to conform to what is found in the text of the Bible.

Most Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. They believe the words of the Bible came from God or at least represent, in fallible human form, what God wants humankind to know about God, life, salvation, death, judgment, and the afterlife. Many Christians believe every word of the Bible is inspired by God, and some Christians even go so far as to say that a particular translation, the King James Version, is inspired by God. Christians who hold this extreme view believe that God has preserved his Word through time and that every word of the King James Bible is from the lips of God himself. And countless other Christians believe the text of the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Ponder that thought for a moment. Every word in a book thousands of years old is true, without error, and perfect in every way. To quote the Evangelical bumper sticker, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me.” Some Evangelicals say, “God said it, and that settles it for me. It doesn’t matter whether I believe it or not!”

Most Christians believe the Bible is truth. While they may not believe ALL the Bible is truth, every Christian, at some point or the other, says THIS is truth. A person who does not believe the Bible is truth is not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. There is a form of Christianity floating about these days that suggests a person can be a Christian and not believe the Bible.This kind of Christian says “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” He  embraces Jesus as his Savior and guide, but often has no connection with organized Christianity. However, even the “spiritual but not religious” Christian must, sooner or later, appeal to the Bible. Without the Bible they would have no knowledge of Jesus, the locus of their faith.

Other Christians are what I call cafeteria Christians. They pick and choose what they want to believe. Most cafeteria Christians believe in Jesus since they DO want their sins forgiven and they DO want to go to heaven when they die, but when it comes to the hard sayings of the Bible, the teachings that get in the way of the American dream and living the way they want to live, the cafeteria Christians dismiss such sayings and teachings as old, outdated relics of past that have no value or application today. Simply put, they want a Jesus divorced from anything else the Bible says. Cafeteria Christians become quite adept at explaining away anything in the Bible with which they disagree.

This brings me to the point of this post. Who determines what the Bible says? Who decides what this verse or that verse says? Who is the arbiter of truth? Who is the final authority?

Some Christians say GOD is the final authority. The Bible is God’s Word . . . THUS SAITH THE LORD! These well-meaning Christians think that the teachings of the Bible are clear and understandable, needing no explanation or interpretation. Why, then, do they go to church on Sunday and listen to a man tell them what he thinks the Bible says? Why do they read books and commentaries written by people telling them what they think the Bible says? If the Bible is a self-attesting, self-explanatory text, why all the middlemen?

Some Christians say the HOLY SPIRIT is the final authority. God gave New Testament Christians (Old Testament believers only got a part-time Holy Spirit who came and went at will) the Holy Spirit to be their teacher and guide. The Holy Spirit teaches them everything necessary for life and godliness. It is not hard to see the Gnostic influence in this kind of thinking. If there is ONE Holy Spirit who teaches and guides every Christian, why is there no consensus among believers on what Christians believe? Why does the Holy Spirit give contradictory instructions or lessons? Why are there so many Christian sects? Surely, if the Holy Spirit is on his game, every sect would believe the same thing and they would become ONE body with ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism.

Some Christians are what I call red-letter Christians. They give weight and authority to the “words” of Jesus in the gospels, the words that are in red in many modern translations. With great passion and commitment, they attempt to walk in the steps of Jesus (WWJD). Unfortunately, they rarely consider whether the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels are actually his words. Jesus didn’t write any of the books found in the Bible, which, in my opinion, is quite odd. Most Biblical scholars question who actually wrote the gospels, and many scholars have serious reservations over Matthew, Mark, Luke or John being the authors of the gospels that bear their name.  Since the gospels are, at best, stories passed down by those alive at the time of Christ and not put in written form until decades after the death of Jesus, the best a modern-day Christian can say about the gospels is that they are words written by an unknown person who recorded what a third, fourth, fifth or twentieth party told the writer Jesus said.

bible made me an atheistClaims that the Bible is some sort of inspired text require faith. There’s no evidence for the claim that the Bible is inspired outside of the text itself.  Either you believe the Bible is, to some degree or the other, supernatural truth or you don’t. I am an atheist today primarily because I no longer believe the Bible is truth. While it is certainly a book filled with entertaining and thought-provoking stories, it is not, in any way, a supernatural text. While it certainly contains maxims worthy of emulation, it also contains God-approved behaviors that we moderns now consider at odds with human and scientific progress.

Every Christian belief rests not on God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, but on the authority of a human being or a group of human beings. It is humans who decide what the Bible says. It is humans who decide what this or that verse means. Whether it is a denomination, the Pope, theologians, a pastor, or an individual Christian, it is a human who is the final authority. At best, the only thing a Christian can claim is THUS SAITH THE POPE, MY DENOMINATION, MY PASTOR, MY COLLEGE PROFESSORS, OR MYSELF! Any claim that it is God speaking or leading is a matter of faith, a matter that cannot be proved empirically. In other words, you are just going to have to take their word for it — or not.

Christians need to get off their Bible High-Horse and admit who the real final authority is. The fact that there are thousands of Christian sects shows very clearly that humans are the ones with the final say on what the Bible does and doesn’t say. It is humans who preach, write books, teach theology classes, blog, and debate. God may have said a particular something, and there is no way for us to know if she did, but it is humans who get the final say about what God actually said or what she meant to say. Every Christian statement of belief is an interpretation of the Bible. It is that person or group saying, this is what the Bible says. In other words, the person is saying I know what God said. (One of the purposes of this blog is to demonstrate that the Bible can be made to say almost anything.)

Can you name one Christian teaching that ALL Christians agree upon? Outside of the fact that Jesus was a real person, every other teaching of the so-called “faith once delivered to the saints” is disputed by some Christian sect or the other. If the Christian church was a married couple they would have long since been divorced for irreconcilable differences. Oh wait, that is exactly what has happened. The Christian church is hopelessly splintered into thousands of sects, each competing with the other for the title of God’s Truth Holder. Children in Evangelical Sunday schools learn to sing the B-I-B-L-E song. In light of what I have written above, the lyrics of the song should be changed:

The B-I-B-L-E, yes that MIGHT be the Book for me, I SOMETIMES stand alone on the WORDS OF MEN, the B-I-B-L-E. B-I-B-L-E!!

Until God shows up in person and says yes, I wrote this convoluted, contradictory book that makes me out to be a hateful, vindictive sadist, I am not going to believe the Bible is God’s Word. If a benevolent, loving God really wrote the Bible, do you think she would have written what Christians say she did? If God had control of the writing process, do you think she would have included her unsavory side? If God was involved in putting the Bible together, don’t you think she would have proofread it to made sure there were no mistakes and that the text was internally consistent?

Instead, Christians spend countless hours trying to harmonize (make it all fit) the text of the Bible. They put forth laughable explanations for the glaring errors found in the Bible. Well, you know Bruce, Jesus cleansed the Temple at the start of his ministry AND at the end of his ministry! Sure he did. I wonder if Christians know how foolish some of their harmonizing attempts sound to those on the outside of the church or to someone like myself, who has been on both sides of the fence? Of course, according to the Bible, the various harmonization schemes sound foolish because non-Christians don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of them teaching them how to make square pegs fit in round holes. And round and round the merry-go-round goes.

If Christians want to believe the Bible is some sort of truth, and worship God/Jesus/Holy Spirit based on what is written within its pages, I have no beef with them. If they want to believe the Bible and its teachings, who am I to say they can’t?  However, when they insist everyone acquiesce to their beliefs about the Bible and God, and that their peculiar belief system is the one true religion, then I have a problem. When Christians insist that the Bible and its teachings be taught to public school children or demand that their interpretation of the moral and ethical code taught in the Bible is applicable to everyone, they should expect pushback from people such as I. Since history gives us ample warning about what happens when any religion gains the power of the state, secularists like myself will continue to fight any attempt to enshrine Christianity as the official state religion.

Here’s what I am saying to Christians. Take the Bible, go to your houses of worship and believe and worship as you will. However, I expect you to keep your beliefs to yourself. If I don’t ask, you don’t tell. Stop all the theocratic, God-rule talk. Stop trying to turn the United States into a Christian nation. Stop demonizing everyone who disagrees with your beliefs. In other words, treat others with decency, love, and respect. Stop being a religious fanatic who thinks everyone should hear about your version of the Christian God and embrace your peculiar beliefs.

Do you think American Christians, especially conservative Catholics and Protestants, Mormons, and Evangelical Christians, can do what I mentioned above? Not a chance! They will continue to push, fight, and infiltrate until they have no more soldiers to fight with. They are like a disease that is only curable by death. The good news is that this brand of Christianity is slowly dying and, in time, long after you and I are dead, the American Jesus will have drawn its last breath. (Please see Why I Hate Jesus.)

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

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Bruce, If You Just Have an “Unbiased Mind and Open Heart” You will See and Believe the Truth

open mind

It’s usually Evangelical Christians who want to know if I have, with an “unbiased mind and open heart,” read the Bible. When I tell them that I was in the Christian church for fifty years, attended an Evangelical Bible college, pastored Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, Southern Baptist, Sovereign Grace Baptist, Christian Union, and nondenominational churches for twenty-five years, and read and studied the Bible for every day for most my adult life, they are perplexed and confused. How could someone devote themselves to inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God and end up an atheist? The very thought of this leaves many Evangelicals walking around like robots, saying “does not compute, does not compute, does not compute.”

Some Evangelicals are unwilling to accept “reality,” so they make up reasons for why someone such as myself could immerse himself in the pages of the precious, holy, wonderful pure Word of God and yet come away an unbeliever. In their minds, the Bible has magical powers. Former Evangelicals have heard preachers say countless times, “just pick up the Bible, read the gospel of John, First John, and Romans, and you will know everything you need to know to become a Christian!” “Read and believe” is the message. Evangelicals believe that if unbelievers will just honestly and openly read the Bible, the Holy Spirit will show them the truth about God, life, sin, judgment, salvation, death, Heaven, Hell, and eternal life. What they never say is, “Start at Genesis and read the Bible from cover to cover.” Taking this approach usually kills any hope of conversion by the time unbelieving readers get to Numbers or Chronicles. It’s important that unbelievers read just the “right” verses, and not get sidetracked by the “hard” passages that will be explained after they have purchased a membership. You know, the fine print that reveals that the true Evangelical gospel is “believe and do the right things and ye shall be saved.”

So, in the minds of many Evangelicals, I am an atheist today because I didn’t have an “unbiased mind and open heart” when I read the Bible — as if there is any such thing as an unbiased mind. Years ago, a former congregant wrote to me and said that my loss of faith was due to books. Yes, books. I had read too many books and that’s why I lost my faith. She suggested that I stop reading books and just read the Bible. If I would do so, she was confident that I would soon return to Evangelical Christianity and pastoring churches.

Every once in a while, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox zealots — both of whom believe that their club is the one true club — will contact me and ask me to study the teachings of Catholicism or Orthodoxy with an “unbiased mind and open heart,” believing that if I humbly do so, I will see the “truth.” Again, what I “hear” from such zealots is that their flavor of ice cream is the one true ice cream. However, when I look at the ice cream case, all I see is ice cream. Sure, I see different brands, ingredients, flavors, and packaging, but it’s all still ice cream.

Occasionally, I will a have a Muslim zealot contact me:

Peace be upon you Bruce,

Not sure how I stumbled to your blog, but I did. I like your style of writing. Direct and to the point.

I just curious to know if you are willing to (or maybe you have already) read the Qu’ran and put it to the test through your logical and analytical brain. The only requirements it demands, is an unbiased mind and open heart. I am not sure how you feel about these .

Anyway, I would appreciate an answer from you someday, if you find this of interest to you. If not, please disregard and I apologize for bothering you.

Thank you.

This worshipper of Allah asks me to use my “logical and analytical brain” to read the Qu’ran, testing whether its teachings are true. He asks that I use “an unbiased mind and open heart” in this endeavor.  What’s left unsaid in his email is that he is confident that if will do these things, that I will soon find myself bowing towards Mecca five times a day praying to Allah. That I don’t buy a prayer rug and devote myself to Allah and Qu’ran will, I am sure, be evidence to him that I did not use my “logical and analytical brain” to read the Qu’ran with “an unbiased mind and open heart.”

You see, the fact that I am not an Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, or a Muslim is proof to zealots of said religions that I am unwilling to honestly and openly accept, believe, and practice the teaching of their respective holy books. The books or the religions or the zealots are never to blame, I am. If only I would set aside my commitment to skepticism, rationalism, and intellectual inquiry, I would see and understand the “truth” — their truth. “But, Bruce, aren’t these zealots inviting you on a journey of intellectual inquiry?” On the face of the matter, it may seem that way, but really what zealots are asking me to do is go to the New York Public Library with its 53,000,000 books (and other items) and only select one book to read. True intellectual inquiry leads down many rows to different shelves, each containing a plethora of books that give light to my search for truth. Zealots want to box me in with only their divine book to read, warning me that failing to come to the proper theological conclusions will lead to eternal damnation. True intellectual inquiry says to me, “enjoy the journey.” I could no more limit my reading to one book than I could to limit my TV viewing to one channel. Think about all the wonderful programs I would have missed had I only watched CBS, and never watched HBO, Showtime, Starz, AMC, PBS, USA, Food Network, HGTV, History, Daystar, Nat Geo, FX, IFC, or SyFy. (One of these channels I NEVER watch. Can you guess which one?) We live in a golden age of TV programming. And so it is with books, websites, and blogs. So much awesome information is available to anyone willing to read. Why, in the name of Jehovah, Jesus, and Allah would I want to limit my inquiries to one book?

The path from religious bondage to freedom is paved with books. When Evangelicals want to quarrel with me over my contention that the Bible is not what they claim it is — a perfect supernaturally written text — the first thing I ask them is whether they have read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. Some Evangelicals will lie, saying that they have “read” Ehrman. This usually means that they have read blogs, websites, or book reviews that supposedly refute Dr. Ehrman’s claims. I am convinced his books are the single best antidote to Evangelical beliefs about the nature, history, and text of the Bible. Disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, they will never look at Christianity the same way again.

Books, be they in printed or digital form, remain the most powerful tools in our arsenal. Blogs and websites have their place, but get zealots to sit down and read books outside of their theological rut, and you will likely change them forever.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

If Jesus is the “Peace” That Passeth All Understanding . . .

peace of god

Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It’s not A BOOK, it is THE BOOK, a book above all others. All other books, except the Bible, are the words of fallible men. The Bible, on the other hand, is the WORD OF GOD. Written by men as they were moved (led/directed) by the Holy Ghost, (2 Peter 1:21) every word of the Bible is true. Evangelicals confidently (and arrogantly) believe that when they quote the Bible they are quoting the very words of God. (2 Timothy 3:16) Thus saith the Lord, right? I have engaged countless Evangelicals on this blog over the past five years. More than a few of them have told me, “Bruce, your argument is with God, not me! I just told you what God said!” In the minds of Evangelicals, quoting the Bible to me (or readers of this blog) is akin to God speaking directly to me. God said it, end of discussion.

Evangelicals believe that the Bible gives them everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) The Bible, then, is a roadmap, a divine blueprint for life. The truths of the Bible are unchanging and eternal, relevant and true for every generation. Just as Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so is the Bible. (Hebrews 13:8) Thinking this way, of course, forces Evangelicals to defend all sorts of antiquated, immoral beliefs. If God said it, that settles it, right? And therein is the problem. If the Bible is “God speaking” then we humans better be paying attention. However, if the Bible is the words of men, then we are free to accept or reject what is written. If the Bible is just a bunch of contradictory books written by unknown Bronze age writers, it’s just bad literature. It’s time for a rewrite or perhaps a new Bible altogether.

Of course, Evangelicals are never going to admit that the Bible is anything but the timeless, precious words of God. Since that’s the case, I try to engage Evangelicals within the pages of the Bible; to challenge their interpretations; to call into question their application of the Bible.

Take the subject “peace.” The Bible says:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. . . Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:1,27)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7)

 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalm 119:165)

These verses, and others, explicitly teach that Evangelicals should be the most peaceful people on the planet. Psalm 34:14 says the followers of Jesus should “seek peace and pursue it.” If Jesus is the “peace” that passes all understanding; if the Holy Ghost lives inside of every Evangelical, giving them peace and comfort no matter what comes their way, then why are so many Evangelicals anything but calm, cool, and collected? Eighty-one percent of white voting Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Are they a peaceful lot? Ponder, for a moment, the lives of Evangelical culture warriors, and how they rage against the “world.” Do they strike you as people who have “peace that passes all understanding?” Everywhere I look, I see hateful, angry Evangelicals. Evidently, they don’t love God’s law. If Evangelicals loved the law of God, Psalm 119:165 says that they would have peace and NOTHING would offend them. Tell me, do Evangelicals seem “offended” by virtually e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g these days? What happened to the peace of God which is to rule and reign in their hearts?

Fourteen years ago, Polly’s sister was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. (Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It’s Worth It All) Our family gathered at the hospital, hoping to find out about her husband, who survived the crash. I couldn’t help but notice the family patriarch pacing back and forth, praying and quoting Bible verses. In any other setting, such behavior might land you on the psych ward. This man was a well-known Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, with, at the time, 40 years in the ministry. I was a Christian, at the time, and I remember thinking how odd his behavior seemed. What happened to God’s peace? What happened to nothing happening apart from God’s perfect, sovereign will? Shouldn’t the family patriarch, along with every Christian in that room, accept that Kathy’s death was all part of God’s wonderful plan for her life? After all, as a child, she asked Jesus to save her. She was now in Heaven, praising Jesus for his love, mercy, and grace. Shouldn’t this “fact” have given all of us “peace”?

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I watched scores of Christians suffer and die. I watched others bear the death of loved ones, loss of livelihood, divorce, and numerous other tragedies. I can’t remember anyone who had “peace” like the Bible talks about. Instead, I saw a range of emotions, normal human expressions of pain, loss, and grief. Were these people bad Christians? Of course not. They were human. And it there’s one thing I know for certain it is this: when life turns to shit and the walls crumble and collapse, atheists and Evangelicals alike respond the same way. The difference being, of course, that Evangelicals, thanks to their commitment to the Bible, are expected to rise above the struggles of life and have “peace.” That they don’t is not a reflection on them as much as it is on their beliefs.

Bruce, what’s your point? Damn, do I always have to have a point? 🙂 Yes, I have point. Evangelicals often come off as people who think they are above the fray; people who, thanks to Jesus, are immune to the struggles faced by the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. When “life” dumps a load of shit on their doorstep, Evangelicals are expected to smile and claim the victory. However, that’s not what we see. Instead, we see people who are just like the rest of us. And THAT’S my point. The Bible says in Galatians 5:22,23, that the fruit (evidence of) the Holy Spirit (who purportedly lives inside every Christian) is (present tense) love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Based on the inviolate Word of God just quoted, how many Christians do you know who have the fruit of the Spirit? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is NONE. Certainly, the fruit of the Spirit is desirable for believer and unbeliever alike. However, all of us are feeble, frail human beings. Whether we are atheist, agnostic, pagan, Satanist, Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Evangelical, or liberal Christian, it matters not. All of us are one and the same. Thoughtful humanists understand this. It is our shared humanity that binds us together. While “peace” is a desirable behavior, at least for me anyway, none of us should feel we have failed when life overwhelms us like a tsunami and we lose our shit.

Make sense? I hope so. Please share your sage advice and thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Dear Evangelical, Just Because You Quote the Bible Doesn’t Make Your Comment True

abraham and isaac
Cartoon by Idan

I have been following and participating in a Facebook forum discussion about the recent move by Xperience Church (please see “We Accept Anyone No Matter What,” Local Evangelical Says) to an anchor store at the Northtowne Mall in Defiance, Ohio. The discussion has been lively, to say the least. One common theme throughout the discussion was the need for Evangelical Christians to quote the Bible, either by itself or as proof for their assertions. This led, of course, to Evangelicals arguing amongst themselves about what this or that verse “really” meant. Just another day on Facebook, right?

Evangelicals enter public forums with several presuppositions:

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God
  • The Bible is THE book above all other books
  • Every word in the Bible is true
  • The Bible is NEVER wrong
  • Doubting the Bible’s truthfulness is sin
  • The words attributed to Jesus in the gospels were actually spoken by him
  • The Bible presents a blueprint, manual, guideline for living

Armed with these “truths” about the Bible, Evangelicals wage war against anyone and everyone who disagrees with them. I am sure virtually every non-Evangelical reader of this blog has had a social media interaction with an Evangelical, and more likely than not, the discussion included the believer quoting the Bible. During the discussion about Xperience Church, one Evangelical took to preaching, complete with quoted Bible verses. (Loose transcript follows) When she said she was just engaging in friendly discussion, I replied, no, you are preaching. She responded, I only quoted one passage of Scripture. I replied, actually you quoted five Bible verses. She retorted, well most of them were paraphrases. While that was indeed true, for someone like me, it was easy to see that she was referencing specific Bible verses. In other words, she was preaching.

Evangelicals are encouraged to read, study, and memorize the Bible. Through Sunday services and various meetings throughout the week, Evangelical minds quickly become saturated with Bible verses. This saturation is so deep that Evangelicals often parrot Bible quotations without even knowing it. Taught that the Bible is the divine answer book for life, Evangelicals will often offer up this or that passage of Scriptures as THE answer to whatever is being discussed. No issue is beyond proof-texting. Sadly, Evangelicals think that by posting a “thus saith the Lord,” they are engaging in discussion, when in fact, they are little more than a parrot at the local pet store who repeats a handful of learned phrases.

Most Evangelicals fail to question or challenge the presuppositions their proof-texting is based upon. To quote my favorite Bible character, Lucifer, “Yea hath God said?” Is the Bible really the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God? Is the Bible really THE book above all other books? How can you be certain the Bible is NEVER wrong? How can you be certain the words attributed to Jesus are actually his? It is not enough to believe the Bible is a God-given supernatural book. Beliefs are not the same as facts or evidence. “Well, I believe these things by faith,” Evangelicals say. Fine, but why should I or anyone else accept what you are saying is true? If you cannot show that the Bible is what you say it is, why should any of us listen to a word you have to say? Personally, I am not willing to faith-it. I want facts, evidence, truth. Surely, Evangelicals “should” want the same.

I have been accused of being a Bart Ehrman fanboy. Maybe I am, or maybe, just maybe, his books are the single best way to disabuse Evangelicals of their beliefs about the Bible. If I can get an Evangelical to honestly and openly read several of Dr. Ehrman’s books, I know that it is likely that their sincerely-held beliefs about the Bible will crumble and crash to the ground. If Evangelicals truly seek “truth,” then they must be willing to lose their faith; or at the very least radically change their beliefs.

The Bible is not what Evangelicals claim it is. Educated Evangelical preachers know this, yet on Sundays they play make-believe, leading congregants to think that the Bible is the very words of God/Jesus. These preachers know this is a lie, but their identity and economic wellbeing are based on perpetuating this untruth Sunday after Sunday. They must not tell congregants the truth lest they find out the emperor has no clothes. Evangelical preachers know that if their charges question the purity and veracity of the Holy Bible, why, what’s next? Questions are the slippery slope that leads to liberalism and apostasy. For these preachers, better to lie than to cause people to lose their faith.

Years ago, I wrote a post about a dear friend and ministerial colleague coming to see me after he received Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. Titled, Dear Friend, I wrote:

I was also troubled by your suggestion that I not share my beliefs with anyone. You told me my beliefs could cause others to lose their faith! Is the Christian faith so tenuous that one man can cause others to lose their faith? Surely, the Holy Spirit is far more powerful than Bruce. (even if I am Bruce Almighty)

I am aware of the fact that my apostasy has troubled some people. If Bruce can walk away from the faith…how can any of us stand? I have no answer for this line of thinking. I am but one man…shall I live in denial of what I believe? Shall I say nothing when I am asked of the hope that lies within me? Christians are implored to share their faith at all times. Are agnostics and atheists not allowed to have the same freedom?

My ex-friend viewed my story as a threat to the faith of others. To protect them, he asked me to keep quiet about my loss of faith. In other words, he asked me to lie or deceive people. In his mind, protecting the flock was far more important than “truth.” So it is with the nature and history of the Bible. Evangelical preachers, out of fear of burning everything to the ground, shelter their congregants from “truth.” Better for them to go to Heaven blissfully unaware of the truth about the Bible than to risk them turning into Bruce Gerencser. In their minds, the end (Heaven) justifies the means.

Sadly, most Evangelical preachers act like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Remember the dialog between Nicholson and Tom Cruise? Nicholson said, “you can’t handle the truth!” Is this not what Evangelical pastors say when they withhold the truth about the Bible from their congregations? Perhaps it is time for full disclosure, letting the chips fall where they may. Surely, the Christian God is able to protect his sheep from the wiles of an ex-Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist or a book-writing professor. If he can’t, then perhaps it is time to question whether God is the all-powerful, all-knowing deity millions of American Evangelicals say he is. Perhaps, in the end, this God is just a character in a work of fiction.

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

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Every Word of the Bible Comes Straight From God

bible

It is also plain that the inspiration of Scripture extends to every part of it. Even its historic records must be treated in the same way as its doctrinal statements. In fact, we can draw no line of separation between the two here, for some of the most important views of divine truth which the Bible contains, are embodied in the incidents which it narrates.

If we may not, then, speak of inspired facts, it is nevertheless evident that divine wisdom was needed by those who record these facts, lest they should be so stated as to intercept or obscure the light of divine truth which was let in upon the world in this way.

Nor can it be denied that divine wisdom was also needed for the selection of the facts which were to be recorded. In one word, we must recognize, from the first page of Scripture to the last, the presence of the Spirit of God, not destroying the individuality of the writers, but superintending its actings, prompting the communications which it was needful to make, restraining them from those which would have marred the design of their revelations, letting mind meet mind in the sacred page, and yet so pervading every portion with heavenly wisdom and divine grace, as to make the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, a volume which is all given by inspiration of God.

— Alexander MacEwan, ‘The Revelation Embodied in Scripture Supernatural, as Contradistinguished from the Productions of merely Human Thought and Genius’ in Patrick Fairbairn et al., Divine Revelation Explained and Vindicated: A Course of Lectures for the Times, Delivered in Glasgow in the Spring of 1866

Quote of the Day: Bart Ehrman Asks, “Why am I an Enemy?’

bart ehrman

And so the personal question that I struggle with a good deal.  OK, this is really highly personal, it’s just me.   But I often feel sad about being seen as an “enemy” of the Christian faith.   People tell me I am all the time – both people who despise me and people who are rooting me on.   Yet the views I put out there for public scrutiny are almost NEVER things that I’ve come up with myself, that I’ve dreamt up, that I’m trying to push on others with no evidence or argument – just crazy liberal ideas I’ve come up with to lead people away from the faith.

So why am I an enemy?

Of course I know why, and my views were given additional support last week, at the international meeting of New Testament scholars I attended in Marburg.  I was talking with a German scholar about advanced training in biblical studies in Germany these days, and he told me that in German theological schools (in his experience), students simply are not as a rule very interested in the historical study of the New Testament per.  The kinds of historical issues we deal with on the blog are simply not pressing matters for them.  These are not why they are in theological training, either to teach or to minister in churches.

Instead, he indicated, the ONE question / issue that most of these students have is:  “How can I be Christian in this increasingly secular world?”

Of course they are interested in historical knowledge – but it’s not what’s driving them.  Instead it is an existential question about faith.  That makes so much sense.  It is what was driving me at that stage too.   But when this fellow scholar told me that, I realized even more clearly why I get so much opposition, even in some learned circles.

Most of the people who are in the business of studying the Bible are committed to faith.  That’s what generates their interest.  And these days it is very hard.  Christians are under attack.   From science, from philosophy, from the neo-atheists, from a society/culture that increasingly doesn’t care.   And the problem with someone like me is that I’m not helping the cause.  On the contrary, I’m not just someone from the outside taking potshots at this faith.  I’m someone who came from within it, and left it, with good reasons, and who argues views that are taken by people in the wider culture to be “evidence” that the faith has no good rational basis.  Even though I disagree with that assessment (since I know full well that people can be devout believers but still agree with everything I say) (not that anyone agrees with everything I say) (sometimes *I* don’t agree with everything I say…) – even though I disagree with that assessment, I get it.

Christians – even Christian scholars – want to cling on to their faith, to cherish it, and promote it, and what they see as negative assaults on the basis of their faith is threatening, especially – this is the key point – if it comes from someone who is *outside* the community of faith but who used to be inside it and understands the views of those who are still inside it extremely well, but who now rejects these views.  And says things that can lead others to reject them as well.

— Dr. Bart Ehrman, Who is the Enemy?, August 9, 2019