Tag Archive: Inspiration of the BIble

My First Steps Towards Believing the Bible Was Not Inerrant

bible inspired word of god

I grew up in a religious faith that taught me the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. The word “inspired” meant that that the Bible was the word of God; that holy men of old who wrote the Bible were told by the Holy Spirit exactly what to write. Some of my pastors believed in the dictation theory. The authors of the Bible were mere automatons who wrote what God dictated to them. Other pastors believed that men wrote the Bible, thus their writing reflects their personality and culture. God, through some sort of supernatural means, made sure that human influence on the Bible was in every way perfect and aligned with what he wanted to be said.

The inspiration got complicated when dealing with the question of WHAT, exactly, was inspired. Were the original manuscripts alone inspired? If so, there’s no such thing as the inspired Word of God because the original manuscripts do not exist. Were the extant manuscripts inspired? Some pastors believed that the totality of existing manuscripts made up the inspired Word of God, and some pastors believed that certain translations — namely the King James Version — were the inspired Word of God. Regardless of how they answered the WHAT question, all of them believed that God supernaturally preserved his Word down through the ages, and the Bibles we held in our hands were the Word of God.

The word “inerrant” meant “without mistake, contradiction, or error.” Some pastors, knowing that every Bible translation had errors and mistakes, said they believed the original manuscripts were inerrant, and modern translations were faithful, reliable, and could be depended on in matters of faith, practice, morality, and anything else the Bible addressed. Of course, these men were arguing for the inerrancy of a text they had never seen, and there is no evidence for its existence. Whatever the “original” manuscripts might have been, their exact wording and content are lost, never to be found.

The word “infallible” meant incapable of error in every matter it addressed. Thus, when the Bible spoke about matters of science and history, it was always true, and without error. No matter what scientists and historians say about a particular matter, what the Bible says is the final authority. That’s why almost half of Americans believe the Christian God created the universe sometime in the past 10,000 years.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution that prided itself in turning out preacher boys. My three years at Midwestern reinforced everything I had been taught as a youth. Every professor and chapel speaker believed the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I was a seedling and Midwestern was a controlled-environment hothouse. Is it any wonder that I grew up to be a Bible thumper; believing that EVERY word in the Bible was straight from the mouth of God? If ever someone was a product of his environment, it was Bruce Gerencser.

I left Midwestern in 1979 and embarked on a ministerial career that took me to churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.  I stood before thousands of people with Bible held high and declared, THUS SAITH THE LORD! For many years, I preached only from the King James Bible. I believed it was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God for English speaking people. Towards the end of my ministerial career, I started using the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and after that I began using the English Standard Version (ESV).

Many of my former Fundamentalist colleagues in the ministry and congregants trace the beginning of my unbelief back to my voracious reading habit and my abandonment of the King James Bible. One woman, after hearing of my loss of faith. wrote to me and said that I should stop reading books and only read the B-I-B-L-E. She just knew that I if I would stop reading non-Biblical books, my doubts would magically disappear. In other words, ignorance is bliss.

As I pondered my past and what  things ultimately led to my loss of faith, two things stood out: a book on alleged Bible contradictions and the differences between the 1611 and 1769 editions of the King James Bible.

As I studied for my sermons, I would often come across verses or passages of Scripture that didn’t make sense to me. I would consult various commentaries and grammatical aids, and usually I was able to reconcile whatever it was that was giving me difficulty.  Sometimes, however, I ran into what could only be described as contradictions – competing passages of Scripture. In these times, I consulted the book on alleged contradictions in the Bible. Often, my confusion would dissipate, but over time I began to think that the explanations and resolutions the book gave were shallow, not on point, or down-right nonsensical. Finally, I quit reading this book and decided to just trust God, believing that he would never give us a Bible with errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I decided, as many Evangelical do, to “faith” it.

For many years, the only Bible translation I used was the 1769 edition of the King James Bible. I had been taught as a child and in college that the original version — 1611 — of the King James Version and the 1769 version were identical. I later found out they were not; that there were numerous differences between the two editions. (Please read the Wikipedia article on the 1769 King James Bible for more information on this subject.)

I remember finding a list of the differences between the two editions and sharing it with my best friend — who was also an IFB pastor. He dismissed the differences out of hand, telling me that even if I could show him an error in the King James Bible, he would still, by faith, believe the Bible is inerrant! Over the next few months, he would repeat this mantra to me again and again. He, to this day, believes the King James Bible is inerrant. I, on the other hand, couldn’t do so. Learning that there were differences between the editions forced me to alter my beliefs, at least inwardly. It would be another decade before I could admit that the Bible was not inerrant. But even then, I downplayed the errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I continued to read about the nature of the Biblical text, but I kept that knowledge to myself. It was not until I left the ministry that I finally could see that the Bible was NOT what my pastors and professors said it was; that it was not what I told countless congregants it was. Once the Bible lost its authority, I was then free to question other aspects of my faith, leading, ultimately, to where I am today. My journey away from Evangelicalism to atheism began and ended with the Bible.

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.

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 Has a Dream: Evangelical Calvinist Tim Challies Says the Bible is WRONG!

the bible says

Recently, Evangelical Tim Challies wrote a post titled If the Bible Is Wrong, I’m So, So Wrong. Here’s an excerpt:

If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about the origins of this world. The Bible tells me that it was created by God over the course of six days and not nearly as long ago as the millions of billions of years other people claim.

….

If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about the origins of humanity. The Bible tells me that the first two human beings were created by God and placed on this earth as complete, grown human beings, not that they evolved slowly from lesser organisms.

….

If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about the purpose of humanity. The Bible tells me that mankind was put on this earth to bring glory to God. We exist to do good for others which in turn shines a spotlight on our ultimately good God. This stands in the face of a mission of personal empowerment or human achievement.

If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about the purpose of family. The Bible tells me that marriage exists to serve as a miniature of the relationship of God to his people through the complementarity of husband and wife.

….

If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about the great problem and the great need of human beings. The Bible tells me our great problem is that we’ve sinned against a holy God, become rebels against him, and desperately need reconciliation. We are not good people who make the occasional poor choice, not innocent people who sometimes act ignorantly, but evil people who hate God and our fellow man. Our great need is not self-esteem or tolerance or new forms of politics or economics, but the forgiveness that comes by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about the future. The Bible tells me that history will culminate in the return of Jesus Christ who will come to judge the living and the dead. The world will not end with ecological catastrophe or nuclear holocaust, but with the re-appearance of the glorious Christ.

….

If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about today’s most pressing cultural issues: homosexuality, gay marriage, transgenderism, abortion, climate change. If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong about today’s most pressing theological issues: the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the nature of same-sex attraction, the authority and sufficiency of scripture. If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong in how I relate to money, how I honor my body, how I use my time. I’m wrong over and over, again and again, through and through. I’m poor, pathetic, pitiable, and blind.

Challies says, “If the Bible is wrong, I’m wrong over and over, again and again, through and through. I’m poor, pathetic, pitiable, and blind.” Thank you Tim for finally admitting this. Rare is the believer who can openly and honestly admit that the Bible is not what Evangelicals say it is; that it is not in any way the inspired, inerrant, infallible World of God.

Bruce, Bruce, Bruce, wake up you are dreaming . . .

Damn, it was all a dream . . .

You see, Challies concluded his post with this:

But I’ve made my choice. I’ve examined the evidence and have chosen to believe it’s not wrong, but right. I’ve chosen to believe it’s good and pure and true, infallible and inerrant and sufficient. I’ve chosen to take it on its own terms, to believe it all the way, to live by its every word. I’ve chosen to be in—all-in.

bible literalism

Challies says he has “examined the evidence,” but no one who has genuinely examined the facts about the nature of the Biblical text can, with a straight face, say it is “pure and true, infallible and inerrant.” Tim’s Evangelical theology obstructs his vision, keeping him from seeing that the Bible is nothing more than an ancient religious text written by fallible men. Errors and contradictions abound. One need only to read a few of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books to know that inerrancy is a pig in a poke.

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.

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.

Are There Contradictions in the Bible?

bible inerrancy

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

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

Of course, the Bible is not inerrant, nor is it infallible. Whether one believes the Bible is inspired is a matter of faith, not fact, so this aspect of belief is beyond empirical inquiry. Yesterday, Dr. Bart Ehrman posted an article on whether the Bible has contradictions. Here are three of the four of contradictions Bart listed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to learn more about the text of the Bible and Christian church history, I encourage you to join Dr. Ehrman’s blog. The annual membership fee is $24.99, with all proceeds going to charity.

Video Link

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

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

Books by Bart Ehrman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Questions: Bruce, How Did You Make Your Final Break From Religious Belief?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Mary asked: Bruce, how did you make the final break from [religious] belief? I still vacillate quite often and struggle w/the emotional turmoil that follows. thanks for taking time to answer the questions we are posting.

As an Evangelical, I could point to the date, time, and place Jesus saved me. I know when and how I was saved because I was there when it happened. For most of my life, I had what Evangelicals call a know-so salvation. The Apostle Paul had a know-so salvation too. In his letter to a young preacher by the name of Timothy, Paul wrote:

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)

Being a Christian, then, was all about “knowing”; about certainty of belief. The same cannot be said for my current state of unbelief. I have written tens of thousands of words about my deconversion and how I went from a preacher of the gospel to no longer believing the “truths” I once preached. I can point to the date when I attended church for the last time, and I remember the day when I said to myself (and to my wife), “I am no longer a Christian.” I can point to the 2009 letter I wrote to Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners as my equivalent of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. Yet, I haven’t had what I call a born-again atheist experience, and I don’t know many unbelievers who have.

The path from belief to unbelief is often long, arduous, and littered with stops, reversals, collisions, and a host of other things that complicate deconversion. In my case, I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches. Days, months, and years were spent devotedly worshiping and serving Jesus Christ. Tens of thousands of hours were given to reading and studying the Bible, reading theological tomes, praying, preaching, teaching, evangelizing the lost, and ministering to the needs of congregants. I was as deeply immersed in Evangelical church life as anyone could be. I was a sot in a religious sense, drinking in all that Christianity had to offer. Becoming an unbeliever, then, required detoxification. My mind was, and still is, filled with knowledge about Christianity, the Bible, and the experiential aspects of faith.

Unbelief is a frontal assault and challenge to a life of religious belief. For decades, I said I believed this or that. I was sure of my beliefs, having no doubt whatsoever that what the Bible said was absolute truth. It was only when I allowed agents of unbelief a seat at the table of my life that I began to have questions and doubts. These honorable, thoughtful voices of doubt and unbelief asked of me what the Devil asked of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Yea hath God said? Answering (and continuing to answer) this question caused doubt and further questions. Questions begat questions, to use King James vernacular. This steady stream of questions ultimately led me to conclude that what Christians believed about the Bible was not true, and that the Christian narrative could not be rationally or intellectually sustained (at least to my satisfaction). I came to see that believing the Biblical story about God and Jesus required faith, a faith I did not have.

So, I can point to the last Sunday in November 2008 as the last time I attended church, but I can’t, even today, say that all vestiges of Christianity are gone from my mind and life. I suspect, thanks to my deep immersion in Christianity, that my life will never be totally and completely free of Christianity. What’s gone, though, is the hold religious belief had on my intellect; on critical thinking skills; on my thought processes. Belief and unbelief are more like two ships passing in the night. The farther I journey away from belief, the more comfortable I am with unbelief. Of course, Evangelicals will tell me that what is really happening is that my heart is growing cold and dark and that I am becoming a reprobate — one who passes a line of no return when it comes to the Christian God. I am far enough along in my journey that I can dismiss out of hand all such denunciations as the masturbatory verbalizing of people who can’t figure out my story and fear that they too could lose their faith. Feeling cornered, zealots lash out at Evangelicals-turned-atheists with cheap, shallow, worn-out apologetical arguments or turn to lambasting them in blog posts, forum comments, social media posts, and sermons. None of these things bothers me in the least now. I see such reactions from believers as their attempts to square with their theology how it is possible for such a devoted follower of Christ as myself to totally abandon the beliefs he once held dear. Baptists, in particular, have a big problem with trying to square their soteriological beliefs with my storyline. Finding themselves unable to square things theologically, they conclude, absurdly, that I am either still a Christian or I never was one.

I remember the near-constant emotional turmoil I experienced during the early days of deconversion. Long-held beliefs were demanding attention. Bible verses flooded my mind, reminding me of what happens to those who reject Christ. Christian friends and family members and colleagues in the ministry piled on in their attempts to stop me from sliding further down the proverbial slippery slope. All of these things, along with more late-night wrestlings with doubt than I care to remember, caused quite a bit of emotional upheaval.  But, over time, these things began to fade into landscape in my rear-view mirror. All I can say to Mary is this: be patient. Deconversion takes time. To quote a well-worn cliché, life is a journeynot a destination. The destination for one and all is the same: death. What matters, then, is the path we walk among the living. Here’s the advice I give on my About page:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

I have found that the more I focus on the things mentioned above the less I find myself bothered by doubts and questions about the rightness of my decision to walk away from Christianity. I suspect that I will always have niggling doubts about the matter, but I no longer fear being wrong or worry about eternal damnation. As the old gospel song goes, I have gone too far to turn back now. I have weighed Christianity in the balance and found it lacking in every way. While another deity of some sort may yet appear on the horizon — and when it does I will weigh its claims as I did the claims of Christianity — I am confident that the God I once served is no God at all. Coming to this place took time, so to Mary I say, relax and enjoy the journey. You likely intellectually already know that Christianity (along with other religions) is false. All that remains is for your emotions and psyche to sync with what you know to be true.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Bob the Baptist Says: I Don’t Interpret the Bible, I Just Read It and Believe What it Says

you might be wrong

Countless Evangelicals claim they believe that every word of their inspired, inerrant Bible is absolutely true. In their minds, every word in the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible is straight from the mouth of God. Thus, when they read the Bible, there’s no need to interpret it. God said it and they believe it! End of discussion.

If this notion is true, why, then, do Evangelical believers have such differing beliefs? Not only do their beliefs conflict with those of non-Evangelical Christians, their “infallible” beliefs are often at odds with the beliefs of their fellow Evangelicals. If there is ONE Lord, ONE Faith, and ONE Baptism, and all believers have God, the Holy Spirit, living inside of them acting as their teacher and guide, why all the differing beliefs? If all one needs to do is to read the Bible to find God’s truth, why do Christians hold a cornucopia of contradictory beliefs?

Suppose, for a minute, that a person living on an island came upon a copy of the Bible. This man has never been exposed to Christianity. He has never heard about the Christian God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Would this man naturally come to the same beliefs as Evangelicals? Surely, if all one needs to do is read the wonderful, matchless Holy King James Bible to find God’s truth, shouldn’t this man come to the same conclusions as a Bible college-trained Evangelical preacher?

If all one needs to do is read the Bible to find “truth,” then why the need for pastors, teachers, and Bible college professors? If a man just needs to faithfully and diligently read the Bible to find truth, then why do pastors spend three to seven years in college learning how to properly study and understand the Bible? Why do pastors buy Bible commentaries and other theological books to help them with their studies? In fact, why do pastors preach sermons at all? If the Bible is truth, why not just read the Biblical text to congregants? Straight from God’s mouth to their ears, right?

The fact is, the moment a person starts reading the Bible, he is interpreting the text. There’s no such thing as just reading and believing. The mind of every Bible reader is conditioned by the religious beliefs held by his culture, family, and church. So, when he reads the Bible, he is filtering its words through the beliefs, teachings, dogma, and interpretations of others. There’s no such thing as naked truth, especially when it comes to the Bible. Its text has been interpreted and reinterpreted for thousands of years. What one generation of Christians believed is often not what a different generation believed. Evangelical preachers love to think that their churches are just like the churches of first century Christians. These promulgators of ignorance believe that First Baptist Church in Podunk, Mississippi is exactly the same as the churches founded by the apostles two thousand years ago. To the uninitiated, this kind of thinking sounds absurd, but having grown up in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, I can tell you that such thinking is common. IFB preachers love to think that their churches are “old-fashioned” congregations. In their minds, “old-fashioned” means their churches are patterned after early New Testament churches. What it really means, however, is that their churches are like congregations were in the 1950s.

Here’s the truth: God’s “truth” is actually man’s interpretation of an ancient religious text. Beliefs are, at best, educated opinions. At worst, beliefs are opinions of poorly educated dunces who think of themselves more highly than they ought. I am at the place where, when a Fundamentalist Christian says to me, THE BIBLE SAYS _________, my response is, So what? All you are doing is expressing your opinion.

This is why the best way to engage Evangelicals is to attack the nature of the Biblical text itself. When Evangelicals speak authoritatively, their foundation is not as strong as they think it is. This is why they need a plethora of presuppositions to prop up their house of cards. The Bible is God’s Word, Evangelicals say, because the Bible says it is. The Evangelical deity is the one true God because the Bible says he, he, and he is. The Evangelical God created the universe 6,023 years ago because the Bible says he did. Humans are sinners by nature because the Bible says they are. All these “truths” are KNOWN by unbelievers, so there is no need to prove them. Atheists and their ilk live in denial of these “truths.” In fact, there’s no such thing as an atheist because everyone KNOWS the Evangelical God is the one true God. Atheists suppress what they know to be true, or so the thinking goes anyway. The only way to effectively reach Evangelicals, then, is to challenge their infallible interpretations of the Bible. We must become like the Devil in Genesis when he said to Adam and Eve, Yea, hath God said? Are you sure God said what you believe he said, Baptist Bob? Once doubt is sown in their minds, then, and only then, are they ready to critically examine the Biblical text.

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Questions: Bruce, What Did You Learn About the Bible as a College Student?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

ObstacleChick asked, “What did you learn about the Bible as a college student?” Specifically, ObstacleChick wants to knows what I was taught about the origin of the Bible, the existence of “other” texts, and why the Apocrypha was excluded from the Protestant Bible. ObstacleChick also asked what I taught congregants about these things.

Most Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. The college I attended. Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, believed the Bible was a divinely written, supernatural, one-of-a-kind book; a text by which all things were to be measured. My professors took one of two approaches to how the Bible came to be:

  • God dictated the exact words of the Bible to its authors.
  • God used fallible humans, with their cultures and experiences, to write the Bible, and supernaturally, through the Holy Spirit, made sure that what they wrote was exactly what he intended for them to write. (2 Peter 1:21)

Of course, appeals were made to the Bible itself to “prove” that the Bible was indeed what my professors claimed it was. In other words, the Bible was a supernatural book because it said it was; the Bible was inerrant because it said it was. There were no errors, mistakes, or contradictions in the Bible because its author, God, is incapable of making mistakes.

These presuppositions were laws that students were expected to obey without question. Questioning the nature of the Bible brought swift, certain expulsion. Midwestern was also King James-only and it only used certain Greek texts in its Greek classes. The premise upon which every class was taught was the belief that the Bible was inspired, inerrant, and infallible.

I can’t remember a time when one of my professors talked about non-canonical texts or variants. Many of my classes were little more than glorified Sunday school classes, a common problem found in Evangelical colleges to this day. The goal was teach minsters-in-training how to properly preach and teach the Bible. The Bible, then, was viewed a book of divine knowledge, an instruction manual for life.

The IFB church movement is inherently and proudly anti-Catholic. To many IFB preachers, the Catholic church is the great whore of Babylon described in Revelation 17; a false religion that will one day be used to by the Antichrist to control the masses. Thus, the Apocrypha was rejected because of its inclusion in the Catholic Bible. It was not until much later that I learned the 1611 version of the King James Bible included the Apocrypha and that the men who put together what is now the Bible were Catholics. Facts that didn’t fit the approved narrative were ignored or banned.

Most of the students at Midwestern came from IFB churches that had similar beliefs as those of the college. Thus, college classes reinforced beliefs students brought with them from home. The New International Version (NIV) came out in 1978, and students were not allowed to have a copy of it in their possession. Midwestern was a King James school — no corrupt, Satanic Bibles allowed. I remember having a discussion with the Greek professor’s son who was home on break from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. He had a brand spanking new copy of the NIV. I remember thinking of how “liberal” he was and that if word got out about his use of the NIV it could cost his father his job. By the next academic year, the Greek professor was gone. Rumor had it he was dismissed because he refused to toe the party line on the King James Bible. (Keep in mind the Greek professor was Fundamentalist in every other way — and still is today — but his refusal to use only the King James Version of the Bible branded him as a heretic.)

I carried the aforementioned beliefs into the ministry, and I wouldn’t question them for many years. I expected congregants to embrace without question the belief that the Bible was a God-inspired, inerrant, infallible text. At the churches I pastored, we were people of the BOOK! Questions and doubts were viewed as tools used by Satan to lead Christians astray and to render churches powerless. Alleged contradictions were “explained” and those that couldn’t be were relegated to the land of Trust God. He never makes mistakes.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I came to see that what I had been taught about the history and nature of the Bible was a lie; that all translations had errors, mistakes, and contradictions; that there were no such things as inerrant manuscripts. My exposure to higher textual criticism forced me to conclude that the Bible was very much a man-made book; a fallible book used by God to convey truth. I believed then that God could use human means to convey his truth, even if the Bible itself was fallible.

As far as the churches I pastored were concerned, I never said anything from the pulpit that would cause people to doubt that the Bible was the Word of God. Towards the end of my time in the ministry, I would mention variants in the Greek texts and why some Biblical texts might not say what we Christians have traditionally thought they said. No one seemed to have a problem with these admissions. As is often the case in Evangelical churches, congregants trusted me. They believed that whatever I told them from the pulpit was the Truth. Of course, the truth I was preaching was shaped and molded by my presuppositions about the Bible. Telling congregants the REAL truth would have resulted in conflict and loss of faith. Can’t have that! Remember, most people attend church so they can feel affirmed, so they can have their felt needs met. No one wants a pastor who casts doubt on the Bible and its teachings. Congregants want cheerleaders, not truth tellers.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Questions: Bruce, As an Evangelical, How Did You Handle the Differences Between the OT and NT God?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Dave asked, As an Evangelical, How Did You Handle the Differences Between the OT and NT God?

The short answer is, I didn’t. As an Evangelical, I viewed God as this monotheistic whole; that the Old Testament characterization of God was one side of his nature, and the New Testament portrayal the other side of his nature. God, unlike humans, was able to love and hate at the same time. He could be the carrot or the stick. God was this perfect balance of emotions, never wrong, always acting according to his purpose, will, and plan. In those moments where I had a hard time reconciling the God of the OT and the God of the NT, I reminded myself that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and God’s way are not my ways. Who was I to object to anything that God did?

Believing the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, of course, boxed me in as to what I could or couldn’t believe. I believed the words of the Bible were straight from the mouth of God. Thus, when God commanded cruel, violent, or genocidal behavior, I had to say, God had his reasons. We have to trust God, believing that he knows what he is doing.

One of reasons I left Christianity is because I could reconcile the OT and NT God. Either they were two different deities, or the Christian God was a loving, kind madman. I knew that Christians deny the former, so I concluded that the God of the Bible was not a divine being I wanted to worship. Over the years, I have dealt with liberal Christians who only see God as a God of love, mercy, and kindness. They love the NT God, but even here is God really all that loving and kind?  I concluded that he is not.

In the NT, we have the violent death of Jesus on the cross. According to Evangelicals, God, the Father poured out his wrath on Jesus, his Son, to satisfy a longstanding debt: human sin. Everything that happened to Jesus came from his Father’s hand. What kind of father treats his son this way? What kind of father punishes his son for what someone else did? God, the Father, then, comes off looking like a serial killer who loves to inflict pain and suffering on his victims before he kills them.

We also have the book of Revelation. Evangelicals believe Revelation is a record of past history and future events. Someday soon, Evangelicals say, Jesus and his Father are going to unleash a house of horrors upon the Earth such as never has been seen. The earth will be destroyed and billions of people will die, including little children, unborn fetuses, and the developmentally disabled. The bloodshed, according to the Bible, will be so great that blood will flow through the streets the height of a horse’s bridle.

Once God is finished with the earth and its inhabitants, he will resurrect everyone who ever lived on our planet and divide them into two groups: saved and lost. The saved will live forever in God’s kingdom on a new earth. The lost will be fitted with bodies capable of enduring endless suffering and pain, and then cast into the Lake of Fire. Most of the people in the Lake of Fire will be there because of geography — living in places where people worshiped the wrong deity.

It seems to me, then, that the Christian God has always being capricious and violent; that he has always resorted to bloodshed to prove a point or get his way; that the OT and NT Gods are really one being with a split-personality disorder. What the Christian God needs is psychiatric help.

What Christians need to do is write a new Bible, excising the genocidal God from the story. Evangelicals, of course, would never approve of a rewrite. They need the violent God to justify the culture war and their belief that that they are the gleam in their Father’s eye. Imagine all the smug, self-righteous Evangelicals on Judgment Day. They want God to make non-Evangelicals pay for their unbelief. Open a can of whoop ass, Lord, and give it these filthy, reprobate sinners. They deserve an eternity of pain and suffering for not believing in the right God and not living by book, chapter, and verse. Pour it on, Lord. You are worthy!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Is the King James Bible the Inerrant Word of God?

king james bibleSeveral readers have asked me to explain the belief that the King James version of the Bible alone is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God for English-speaking people. With this post, I hope to shed some light on what is commonly called King James-Onlyism; the belief that the only true Bible for English-speaking people is the King James version. While this system of belief is absurd and irrational, millions of Americans believe that the King James Bible is the one true Word of God. These same people, by the way, tend to be anti-evolution, young earth creationists. I grew up in King James-Only churches, attended a King James-Only Bible college, and believed, for many years, that the King James Bible was the perfect Word of God.

Engage in discussion with adherents of King James-Onlyism and you will hear all sorts of theological-sounding verbiage. Some preachers will tell you that the Bible that they use is the 1611 King James version, when in fact the version they actually use is the 1769 revision. There are numerous differences between the 1611 and 1769 editions. These alone destroy the notion that the King James Bible is inerrant. All that it takes to defeat King James-Onlyism is one error, mistake, or contradiction. Inerrancy demands perfection, and that perfection does not exist. Bruce, what about the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts? These original manuscripts do not exist either, so there is no such thing as “inerrant in the originals.” That’s a faith claim, one that has zero evidence to back it up. Despite this fact, promoters of King James-Onlyism say that there is a pure line of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from which the King James Bible was translated. You might hear preachers say that the underlying Greek text for the New Testament is the Textus Receptus (Received Text) or the Majority Text. All sorts of arguments are made for one manuscript family being inerrant and all others being errant, false, and Satanic. Again, remember that it only takes one error, mistake, or contradiction for the doctrine of inerrancy to collapse. This is why I promote Bart Ehrman’s books as I do. I know if Evangelicals will honestly read his books, they will be disabused of the notion that the Bible is inerrant, be it at the manuscript level or the translation level.

king james bible 2

Imagine translating a book from French to English and, when doing the translating work, you only use some extant French manuscripts for determining the meaning of certain words or terms. Wouldn’t a competent translator want to use all the manuscripts at his disposal? Why would he ever want to limit his translating work to only a few manuscripts. So it is with the King James Bible. Translators ignored numerous manuscripts, choosing instead to use previous English and Latin translations and certain Greek New Testaments as the foundation of their translation work. According to Wikipedia:

The translators appear to have otherwise made no first-hand study of ancient manuscript sources, even those that – like the Codex Bezae – would have been readily available to them. In addition to all previous English versions (including, and contrary to their instructions, the Rheimish New Testament which in their preface they criticized); they made wide and eclectic use of all printed editions in the original languages then available, including the ancient Syriac New Testament printed with an interlinear Latin gloss in the Antwerp Polyglot of 1573. In the preface the translators acknowledge consulting translations and commentaries in Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, and German.

The translators took the Bishop’s Bible as their source text, and where they departed from that in favour of another translation, this was most commonly the Geneva Bible. However, the degree to which readings from the Bishop’s Bible survived into final text of the King James Bible varies greatly from company to company, as did the propensity of the King James translators to coin phrases of their own. John Bois’s [sic] notes of the General Committee of Review show that they discussed readings derived from a wide variety of versions and patristic sources; including explicitly both Henry Savile’s 1610 edition of the works of John Chrysostom and the Rheims New Testament, which was the primary source for many of the literal alternative readings provided for the marginal notes.

King James-Onlyism is, at best, magic and trickery. For example, one argument that King James-only believers make is that because the King James Bible has more words in it than other translations, that means modern translators are guilty of “taking away from the word of God.” After all, the Bible says in Revelation 22:18,19:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Countless other similar arguments are made to defend the inerrancy of the King James Bible. Some Evangelicals take King James-Onlyism one step farther when they say the italicized helper words put in the King James Bible are inspired and inerrant too. People who believe this are often followers of the late Peter Ruckman. Ruckmanites, as they are often called, believe that the italicized words are some sort of advanced revelation from God; that God moved the translators of the King James Bible to put the exact helper words he wanted in the text. Amazing, right?

King James-Onlyism is widespread among Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christians. It is not uncommon to read church doctrinal statements that state unambiguously that the King James Bible is the only Bible translation allowed in the pulpit and in the various ministries of the church. All other translations are considered errant and, in many cases, Satanic.

Readers may note that I use the King James version when quoting the Bible. I do this for several reasons. First, I love the poetic flow of the King James Bible. Second, my head is filled with memorized verses from the King James Bible. I spent much of my Christian life immersed in the pages of the King James Bible. Third, I use the King James Bible in my writing because a sizeable number of visitors to this blog come from King James-Only sects, churches, and colleges. You know, when in Rome …

Were you raised in a King James-Only church? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: The King James Bible is Inerrant Says Shelton Smith

Tking james biblehis Book that I have in my hands, I read each day. When I stand to preach, I preach this Book – this is the Bible!

It is the Word of God. It is a Book so spe­cial that we treat it with the utmost respect. We hold it dear and precious to our hearts.

It is not a Book like any other books which men have written. This Book came to us in a unique way. God Himself gave it to us. When I read its message, it is not the mere musings of a sage, a prophet or an apostle. It is instead the revealed Word of God.

….

It [the Bible] is not the words of men but the Word of the Almighty God, who is the Creator of the world. The human penmen were employed of God to write His very words.

When we say it was given by inspira­tion of God, we mean that God Himself gave us His own words. That is why we use the terms verbal and plenary to describe what it is. Verbal has to do with His actual words. It is not just His ideas or concepts, but His words. When we say plenary, we mean inspired fully. It is not somewhat of God with the rest of it being man-made. It is in every sense a God-made Book.

….
Is the King James Bible the Word of God? Absolutely! Let us stop the quibbling. Either you have the Word of God or you do not. If your Bible is the Word of God, then you have something totally unique and very, very special.

What is your problem? Why do you feel the necessity to dismember, dissect and dilute the text? Why can you not just say, “My Bible is the Word of God; I believe it, I trust it and I honor it to the fullest?”

….

God has preserved His inspired Word for us. It is preserved in the Hebrew Masoretic text and in the Greek Textus Receptus. It is also preserved for us in the English in the King James Bible. What He at first inspired, the Lord God has now preserved. Therefore, when I hold the King James Bible in my hand, I hold the inspired text. It was inspired and now that inspired Word has been protected, preserved and provided for us!

….

What Is It That God Preserved? It is His Word, nothing more and noth­ing less! Remember Psalm 12:6-7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, puri­fied seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shall preserve them from this generation for ever.”

….

Is the King James Text Reliable and Trustworthy? It is indeed! About your King James Bible you can say it is authentic, accurate and authoritative. It is God’s Word preserved for us in English. It is true and trustworthy. The inspired text has been preserved for us; therefore, it is inerrant and infallible.

— Shelton Smith, Independent Baptist, Why I Only Use The King James Bible

Smith is the editor of the Sword of the Lord — an IFB newspaper.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Fundamentalist Woman Proud of Her Ignorance

bible thumper 4

What follows is an excerpt from a blog post written by a Fundamentalist Christian woman named Sue Botchie. Botchie has no interest in intellectual pursuit outside of reading the inspired, inerrant, infallible King James Bible.  Botchie takes great pride in her ignorance about the text and historicity of the Bible. I remember thinking this way back in my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) days. I considered the Bible to be a flawless, perfect book. Anything that didn’t square with my peculiar interpretation of the Bible was wrong. Of course, when people challenged my assumptions and assertions, I responded, hey your argument is with God, not me.  I later learned that the God and me in this story were one and the same.

Here’s Botchie words in all their wondrous kindergarten glory:

Well, help yerself! And yeah, i know you [Bart Ehrman] went to big-time colleges, and published numerous thick books…i get that! Still, i also get the fact that, throughout the ages, smart men (men, smarter than you, who wrote volumes with quill pen AND by candle-light…) [a common false assumption that the men who translated the King James Version of the Bible were more educated and smarter than scholars today. This is patently untrue.] stayed the faith. Ya’ know, they didn’t have so much as a manual typewriter.

And yeah, reading the Scriptures does often leave a person with more questions than answers. Oh, but could it be, because the Lord is ultimate smart, and we’re all wetards! I.e., His ways, as compared to our ways…yeah, that’s one bitter horse-pill to swallow! Anyway, to go on claiming that the Lord’s Book is erroneous, is [factual, according to the information at hand, a rational conclusion reached by using critical thinking skills] to defame His character. Not smart! [How does Botchie knows Ehrman has defamed the character of her version of the Christian God? Did he tell her? Send her a text or an email?]

Call me a typical fundie moron [self reflection is good]. Have at it, fella. Frankly, i don’t give a flying royal rip what you think. In conclusion, i have ZERO respect for high-end professors who intellectually-bully  20 year-olds. My age talking, but 20 year-olds are kids.

– Sue Botchie, NoWonderPeopleWalk, Hey Bart! So ya’ think the Bible is one big error-factory, June 22, 2018

Quote of the Day: Are Evangelicals Wrong About Inerrancy?

bart ehrman quote

If there are contradictions in a book found in the Bible that means that the common fundamentalist understanding that the text is inerrant is almost certainly wrong.  I have tried to word that statement carefully.  I’ve noticed that often in these kinds of discussions, people don’t listen carefully to wording that is careful.  So let me stress what I am saying, by highlighting the key words:  The common fundamentalist understanding that the text is inerrant is almost certainly wrong.

Contradictions would show that ONE way of understanding the inspiration of the Bible is probably wrong – the common fundamentalist understanding of the inspiration of Scripture is probably (not certainly; though I would say almost certainly) wrong.   That does NOT necessarily mean that the Bible is not inspired.  It means that the common fundamentalist understanding of inspiration is probably wrong.

This common fundamentalist understanding is that the Bible has no mistakes of any kind.  No scientific mistakes (the earth was created in six days; there really was an Adam and Eve; God really did make the sun stand still in the Book of Joshua; and so on); no historical mistakes (there really was a Tower of Babel, Moses really did lead millions of Israelites out of Egypt at the Exodus; there really was a census of the entire Roman world for which everyone had to register in the ancestral home during the reigns of Caesar Augustus in Rome and Quirinius in Syria; and so on) — no actual contradictions or discrepancies of any kind.

In this view, anything that seems like a mistake or a contradiction only seems to be.  It’s not really a mistake.  There is an explanation for everything, because God made sure that the Bible would be completely without error, a perfect revelation of the past and of his will to his people.

There are different ways various fundamentalists have gotten to this understanding of things over the years.  For example, to pick just two options: some think that God actually dictated the words of Scripture to the various authors; others think that God dictated the thoughts of the authors and made sure that even if they wrote things down in their own words none of the words were in error or contradiction.   There are a number of ways to explain inerrancy, but the basic point, in this common fundamentalist understanding is that the words – however they got on the page – are without error.

— Bart Ehrman, Are Contradictions the Real Point, June 27, 2017

If you want to read the entire article on Dr. Ehrman’s blog, you will need to have a membership. Cost? $24.95 per year, with all proceeds going to charity. I am a member, and I find the regular blog entries by Dr. Ehrman to be enlightening and helpful.

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

Do Evangelical Beliefs Cause Suffering?

skunk

I paint with a broad brush in this post. If you are not one of “those” Evangelicals, then feel free to ignore what I have written. Or better yet, please explain to me why you are still an Evangelical. Surely, you don’t believe you can rescue Evangelicalism from itself.

My two favorite preachers are Jesse Custer (played by Dominic Cooper) on AMC’s hit series Preacher and Sidney Chambers (played by James Norton), an Anglican priest on Grantchester, a British period drama rebroadcast on PBS. Both men are doubters, preachers who understand the temptations of the flesh, and even, at times, give in to their wants and desires. In other words, unlike many of the self-righteous Pharisees who claim they speak for God, Custer and Chambers are worldly and quite human.

Both men question God’s existence, whether he answers prayer, and they wonder out loud if faith in God does more harm than good. Recently, I watched the four latest episodes of Grantchester. A repeating theme in Sidney Chambers’ struggles with faith is whether certain religious concepts (beliefs) cause suffering. Chambers is romantically involved with a woman, yet struggles with the vows he made to God and the church. This tension between desire and religious belief causes what Chambers calls suffering. It’s religion that says, thou shalt not have, yet supposedly the very God who says thou shalt not is the same God who created us with the desire for sexual intimacy and fulfillment. Chambers wants what he wants and, ignoring his beliefs, carries on a torrid affair. In the end, though, his commitment to the church and his desire to help others cause him to end his relationship with his lover. Whether Chambers will stay true to his calling until the end remains to be seen.

As I watched Grantchester, I pondered the notion that certain religious beliefs cause suffering, not only for ourselves, but for those who are close to us. I am an atheist, yet I readily admit that religious beliefs can and do provide many people with a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction. Viewed from an economic/cost-benefit perspective, Christians benefit from being part of a church and holding beliefs in common with their fellow congregants. As long as the benefits outweigh the costs, people will continue to engage in religious activities. It’s when the costs outweigh the benefits that people walk/run away from organized religion. When Christian faith becomes more of a hassle than it’s worth, people stop attending church; they stop giving their money to religious causes; they stop devoting time to religious exercises and activities.

Suppose you have a hamburger joint you love to frequent. You love their hamburgers, and their fries are awesome. Several times a week, you eat lunch at this hamburger joint, always using the drive-thru. One day, the restaurant staff messes up your order. You think, well, that happens from time to time. However, as time goes on, the staff continues to mess up your order — often putting cheese on your burger, even though you ask them not to. You complain to the manager, who says, I will make sure your order is made correctly. Here are a few coupons to compensate you for our mistakes. Great, you think. Problem solved. Unfortunately, the restaurant staff continues to mess up your order. And not only that, drive-thru wait times have doubled. One day, you wait fifteen minutes just to get your order, only to find out that for the millionth time they have put cheese on your hamburger. That it! you say. I am not going to eat here anymore. And off you go, searching for a new “best” hamburger in town. What happened? The costs (the wait time, wrong orders) outweighed the benefits (the “best” hamburger in town).

So it is with people and Christianity. For an increasing number of Americans, the costs of believing outweigh the benefits. Many Americans want to be viewed as kind, compassionate, thoughtful people. Who among us doesn’t want to be liked and respected? The problem for Evangelicals is that their commitment to Bible literalism and inerrancy forces them to defend behaviors and beliefs that are now considered immoral or indecent. In particular, younger Evangelicals have a big problem with how their pastors and churches treat LGBTQ people. They also have a problem with the increased politicization of the pulpit. Evangelical leaders are now calling for the abolishment of the Johnson Amendment — a regulation that forbids churches from partisan politicking as long as they are tax exempt. Taken as whole these things. and others, cast Evangelicalism in a bad light. Non-Evangelicals believe that Evangelicals are hateful bigots, even though many of them are not. Not wanting to be tarred with the same brush, many Evangelicals leave their churches — and some pastors leave their jobs, seeking out friendlier, more accepting churches.  For these Evangelicals, the cost of believing outweighs the benefits.

The fastest growing sector of belief is that of the NONES — people who are atheists, agnostics, or who are indifferent towards religion. Evangelicals, in particular, are hemorrhaging younger adults. Evangelical talking heads are frantic over this generational loss. Well, except hardcore Fundamentalists. In their minds, quality is better than quantity. Sure it is. Just wait until the church pews are filled with aging, white-haired senior saints. You know, the Southern Baptist Convention. Once these people die off, then what? Without young adults, death is certain.

Gen X’ers and their parents love to bash Millennials; the snowflake generation they are called. Whatever shortcomings Millennials might have, one thing is for certain: they don’t have much love for organized religion. Why is this? Why are Millennials anywhere but church on Sundays? The blame squarely rests on the shoulders of Evangelicals and their cohorts in the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other conservative religious sects. These sects generally speak with one voice when it comes to issues such as premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion, same-sex marriage, and the matters affecting the LGBTQ community. It is this group who put Donald Trump in office, and most of the Millennials I have spoken to hate the President. They hate his treatment of undocumented immigrants, women, and LGBTQ people. They see his racism, bigotry, and support of the rich. And smack dab in the middle of this mess, Millennials see Evangelical Christianity.

Everywhere thoughtful people look, they see the suffering caused by religious beliefs. Evangelicals tell all who will listen that their God is the one true God and the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It is in the Bible that God — not man — sets forth how humans are to live. Never mind the fact that the last words of the Bible were written two thousand years ago. In the minds of Evangelicals, the words of the Bible are as fresh and relevant the latest New York Times bestseller. They have convinced themselves that the Bible is unique, that it is different from all other books. Its words are inexhaustible. According to Evangelicals, someone can read the Bible from cover to cover hundreds of times and never exhaust the wealth of materials found within its pages. If you only own one book, Evangelicals say, let it be the B-i-b-l-e.

What suffering, you ask, is caused by Evangelical religious beliefs? Beliefs are benign, hurting no one, many Evangelicals think. Tell that to LGBTQ people who have been hounded and attacked by Evangelicals, all for demanding equal protection under the law and the same civil rights heterosexuals have. Tell that to Transgender people who have faced attack and ridicule over which bathroom they use. Tell that to pregnant women who want to terminate their pregnancy  but can’t have one because Evangelicals have closed down clinics and defunded Planned Parenthood. Tell that to people who want to die with dignity but can’t thanks to Evangelical opposition to euthanasia. Worse yet, Evangelicals are generally war-mongers, supporters of the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, anti-immigrant, and anti-social safety net. It seems that the only lives Evangelicals care about are those still in the womb. Perhaps it would be better for me to point out which Evangelical beliefs don’t cause suffering and harm. Certainly there are teaching the Bible worthy of emulation and practice. The Sermon on the Mount comes to mind and does Matthew. Imagine how differently non-Christians might view Evangelicals if they dared to actually walk in the footsteps of the Jesus they say they love and follow?

Twenty-first century Evangelicals are quite free with their pronouncements about morality. Not content to just express their opinion, Evangelicals preface their moralizing with, THE BIBLE SAYS or GOD SAYS. In their minds, when God speaks, all discussion is over. There’s nothing worse than an Evangelical armed with certainty — a surety that breeds arrogance, bigotry, and hatred.  In the 1970s, thanks to Moral Majority, Evangelicals got a taste of what could be accomplished with political power. Now drunk with this power, Evangelicals are demanding the United States be returned to its Evangelical roots. A people who once believed in a strict separation of church and state now act as if such a thing does not exist. President Trump, knowing that eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for him, goes out of his way to give God’s chosen ones the desires of their hearts. His cabinet is stocked with Evangelicals, most of whom have little experience in government.

Yet, despite their gain of political power, Evangelicals helplessly watch as their churches decline in attendance and their congregations age. Instead of asking why this is, Evangelicals double down on their moralizing. Life begins at fertilization! Abortion is murder. Homosexuality is against God’s order! It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Marriage is between a man and a woman!  God is anti-LGBTQ! God is pro-death-penalty, pro-war, and pro-gun! Whatever the Republican talking point is for the day, you can be sure Evangelicals support the matter. GOP=God’s Only Party! God is a Republican! God! God! God! God!

Well, God dammit, how about we start paying attention to how much suffering these beliefs are causing? Millennials are paying attention, and that’s why they are exiting churches stage left and right. If Evangelicals have their way, abortions will, once again, be performed in back rooms and alleys. If Evangelicals have their way, LGBTQ people will be driven to the utter darkness of the closets from whence they came. If Evangelicals have their way, atheists will be silenced and God returned to his “rightful” place in public school classrooms. Yes to school prayer! Yes to Bible reading is the classroom! Yes to creationism being taught in science classes! Yes to churches, pastors, and parachurch groups having ready access to public school students! What Evangelicals want is a return to the glory days of the post-World War II 1950s. No matter how much suffering such a move causes, all that matters is that Evangelicals (and ostensibly, their God) get their way. Unwilling to pray and wait on God, Evangelicals have turned to politics to gain their desired objective. In doing so, they have forsaken whatever moral ground they once held. The moment Evangelicals voted President Pussy-Grabber into office, their moral authority was gone.

All that’s left now is a bloody political struggle for the future of our Republic. Key to this struggle is making sure Millennial and Gen Xers’s alike see the suffering cause by religion. Evangelicals are supposedly having their own #metoo moment. It’s hilarious (and oh so sad) to watch Evangelicals attempt to find final their moral voice. Evangelical sects, churches, and leaders have been covering up sexual misconducts for as long as I can remember. And now, all of a sudden, they have found their conscience? I don’t think so. Their current self-flagellation is all about appearance, about showing the public just enough contrition to make people think that Evangelicals are serious about sexual assault and sexual harassment. They are not. If they were, Evangelicals would, with great haste undo the huge mistake they made the first Tuesday in November 2016.

That’s not going to happen. Evangelicals are addicted to political power, and the only way to undo the suffering and damage caused by their beliefs is to strangle the life out of their churches and centers of power. Evangelical beliefs must be driven out of the public square, onto the fringes of American life. Evangelicals are free to preach their beliefs in the public square, but their sermons must not be given a pass. The suffering they cause must be exposed and preached from the mountaintops. Our future is at stake. Millions of Evangelicals support bombing Iran, nuking North Korea, and deny the existence of global climate change. Left to their own ways, Evangelicals will turn the world into Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, The Road, or the latest sequel of the Mad Max movies. In their minds, no worries! Jesus is coming soon! Who cares what happens to the world. For those of us without such deranged eschatological ambitions, we must continue fight against anything that increases suffering. And from my seat in the atheist pew, Evangelicalism is a religious form of BDSM, with the only difference being the pain and suffering caused to others is not consensual. Evangelicals despise multiculturalism, and if truth be told, many Evangelicals are out-and-out racists. What they want is a white monoculture where their religion reigns supreme. Those of us who want the world John Lennon spoke of in Imagine only have one choice: we must push back and fight until the enemy to vanquished. We must no longer give our silent consent to ignorance and bigotry. Picture for a moment what the lyrics of Imagine might say if Franklin Graham, James Dobson, John Hagee, or Robert Jeffress wrote them. Is that the kind of future we want to leave for our children and grandchildren? I know I don’t.

As I re-read this post, I thought, people who don’t know me might conclude that I really, really, really hate Evangelicals. Let me be clear, I don’t hate Evangelicals as people. It’s their beliefs I hate. I love polecats. Cute critters. But, get too close to one and up goes the tail and you’ll soon be covered with N-butlymercaptan — an awful-smelling chemical spray that is very hard to get off your skin and clothing. Evangelicals are like pole cats. Nice people, as long as you don’t get too close to them and let them spray you with their N-Godsays beliefs. And it’s not even the beliefs, per se. If Evangelicals want to follow their peculiar interpretation of what they believe is God’s infallible Word, so be it. Think abortion is a sin? Don’t have one. Think same-sex marriage is a sin? Don’t marry someone of the same sex. Think adultery is a sin? Fine, keep your dick in your pants or put an aspirin between your legs. Think _______________ is as sin? Don’t do it! No one, I repeat NO ONE, is keeping you from being the most holy, sanctified person since the man, the myth, the legend, Jesus, the Christ. (There is ZERO persecution of Evangelicals in America, contrary to the hysteria preached from pulpits.) That’s how it works in a secular state. Evangelicals are free to be the best little Jesus-lovers they can possibly be, and atheists are free to live, lust, luxuriate, and love until death comes calling. How atheists or Evangelicals conduct their private lives does not materially affect the other. Again, that’s what’s so great about living in a secular state, one that places great value on freedom of and from religion. It’s when Evangelicals demand preferential treatment for their religion or demand that the Bible be codified into law, that people such as myself have a problem. I cannot and will not idly sit by while religious extremists turn the land of the free and home of the brave into a theocracy. Don’t tell me that’s not your intent; I know better. True-blue Evangelicals will not rest until King Jesus sits on the throne, not just in America, but across the world. I remain your neighbor, Evangelicals. You are indeed a pretty sight. But as the wind blows, I get a whiff of your smell. Then I know I must not rest, lest polecats take over the world.