I often write about the extreme right of Evangelicalism, the end of the Evangelical spectrum inhabited by churches and sects that nice, friendly Evangelicals like to call fundamentalist nut jobs. However, as I clearly show in my post titled Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists, ALL Evangelicals are fundamentalists. Evangelical belief requires theological fundamentalism, a core set of beliefs that one must adhere to be a Christian and considered an Evangelical in good standing. Some who deny this fact are really liberal/progressive Christians living in denial. Raised in the Evangelical church and familiar with its worship and practice, these liberal/progressive Christians don’t want to abandon the only church they have ever known. Their theology puts them squarely outside of Evangelicalism, but they refuse to accept this and they dig their heels in when attempts are made to drag them into the liberal/progressive church. There’s not much anyone can do for these folks. In time, the keepers of Evangelical truth will expose and embarrass them and they will be forced to leave. For now, they play pretend Evangelical.
There’s another subset within Evangelicalism that thinks they are what I call a nicer, friendlier version of Evangelicalism. They are convinced that legalism, rules, moralizing, and the like are the problem, so they attempt to advertise their churches as places that are judgment free, places where sinners can come to find healing and deliverance. However, these nicer, friendlier Evangelicals hang on to theological fundamentalism. While their lifestyle or what they consider a sin might be different from their legalistic brethren, theologically there is very little difference between the two.
Here’s how you force a nicer, friendlier Evangelical to show their true colors. Forget this or that doctrine. Forget everything except what I share next:
Evangelical: The church I go to, First Church of the Most Awesome People in Town, is the nicest, friendliest church in town. We love everyone and I am sure if you come to our church you would feel right at home!!
Bruce: Let me ask you several questions. First, do you believe in a literal hell?
Evangelical: Yes, that’s what the Bible teaches.
Bruce: Who ends up in hell?
Evangelical: Well, I am not the judge, only God is, but the Bible does say that a person must know Jesus as their Lord and Savior to go to heaven when they die.
Bruce: So, since I am not a Christian and I refuse to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I will go to hell when I die, right?
Evangelical: (looks down to ground) Uh, well, um, yeah, if you don’t repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will go to hell when you die.
Bruce: How long will I be in hell? Is it like Catholic purgatory where I’ll suffer for a time and then be taken to heaven?
Evangelical: Well,uh….(long pause) if you die without knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will spend eternity in the torments of hell.
Bruce: Fire and brimstone and where the worm dieth not?
Bruce: Since this body I currently have would burn up if I was thrown into a pit of fire and brimstone, does this mean God gives me a new body that will withstand the torments of hell?
Evangelical: (silently praying the Rapture would happen)
Bruce: And doesn’t this mean that your God created me, killed me, and sent me to hell with a new body fashioned by him to withstand day and night torture for eternity?
Bruce: Is this the God you worship? Why would anyone want to worship such a horrible deity?
Forget all the other doctrines, this is the only one that matters. I don’t care how nice or friendly a church thinks they are, if they believe in hell then they are party to the savage, endless torture of billions of people. They might smile more or practice friendship evangelism, but the result is still the same; those who don’t repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ go to hell when they die. (please see We Love People and Are the Friendliest Church in Town)
The next time you run into a nicer, friendlier Evangelical, go for their jugular. Ask them point-blank if they believe in hell. Their answer (s) to this questions will tell you all you need to know. Personally, I have no interest in be a part of a group or being friends with anyone who thinks that I will burn in hell for eternity because I am not like them. This kind of thinking is no different from the thinking of the demented killers portrayed on Criminal Minds. Our God is an awesome God, the Evangelical says, and He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. And if you refuse to accept this, our God will some day torture you for all eternity.
Suppose a mother has a toddler who wants to play in the street. She know her son could be hit by a car if he does, but she wants to teach him a lesson, so she allow him to play in the street. Pretty soon a car comes down the street, hits her son, and he dies. Is she to blame for his death? After all, he is the one who wanted to play in the street. She just allowed/permitted him to do so. Yes, she could have stopped him, but she thought it important that he learn a lesson, so she let him have his way.
Does anyone think this mother is a good mother? Does anyone think, if this woman has any more children, that they should be removed from the home? Some Evangelicals think their God is just like this mother. According to fundamentalist Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, because the United States turned its back on God, God is allowing terrorists to attack the U.S. Here’s what Lotz had to say on Jan Markell’s Understanding The Times radio program. (you can listen to broadcast here):
In the days of Noah, they were eating, drinking, getting married. There is nothing wrong with any of that. All of those are normal everyday activities. But in Noah’s day they did it all apart from God,” There was no acknowledgment of God. God was irrelevant to them. … I think that is where we are today.”
“I look at some of the things that we get preoccupied with, whether it’s an entertainer or whose baby they are having, or on the red carpet, or footballs being deflated by a quarterback. We zero in on those things and talk about them and we have no idea that we are on the edge of the whole world collapsing around us.That is the strongest similarity of the days of Noah and our day.”
“Today, we are consumed by superficial things. Some of the areas of the world they are not. If you go to Syria or Iraq, those Christians over there, I will guarantee you, are very focused. In America, we are just neglecting God and ignoring Him. I just saw a piece about the rise of atheism, people walking away from the church. In fact, the Christian church is declining, according to Pew Research.”
“That is why God sends us wake-up calls. That’s why he allows the terrorists to strike or a tornado to rip through our city, because for whatever reason, we don’t seem to give Him our attention until we are desperate. If we don’t give Him our attention, then He is going to allow things to happen to make us more and more desperate until we do cry out.“…
…”We share the gospel because people whom we lead to Christ right now, it’s almost like we save them twice,” she said. “We save them from an earthly hell that is coming during the tribulation period, which I think we are very close to, and we save them from eternal hell, which is when you step into eternity. The second death is the worst of all when you are separated from God forever.”
9-11? Shooting in Charleston? Terrorist attack in Chattanooga? Tornadoes? Earthquakes? Tsunamis? All warnings from God. In Lotz’s Bible-saturated mind, since 2008 when the great usurper, Barack Obama, took office, there has been an unprecedented rise in sin and disobedience. Since we live in the Last Days®, it should come as no surprise that God is allowing all these things to happen. He is trying to get our attention. Time is short, repent and turn to Lotz’s God for salvation. Like the mother above, God is simply allowing these things to take place to teach us a lesson. And like the mother who is rightly held accountable for her son being killed, God also must be held accountable for what he allows.
Evangelicals, especially of the Calvinistic variety, think it is their duty to defend God’s honor. They rightly understand that saying God CAUSED these events makes God look bad, so they try to defend the Big Man’s honor by saying he passively allowed these things to happen; he didn’t cause them. Wait a minute. Isn’t God the first cause of EVERYTHING? With causality comes responsibility and culpability. Either God is in control of everything or he is not. If he’s not, then it is safe to conclude that this God is no God at all.
I could have taken another approach with this post. Lotz wrote that “In America, we are just neglecting God and ignoring Him.” I could have wrote about the petulant, infantile God who maims and murders innocents so Americans will pay attention to him. This God, the Evangelical God, he’s just a bad dude all the way around. Perhaps it is time to lock him up and throw away the key.
As soon as Christian fundamentalists read this headline they will shout at their screen:
You will be burning in hell!
You will know there is a God!
You will know I was right!
They will see my death as vindication of their belief system. I wonder how many of them will say to themselves, I bet Bruce wishes he had listened to me! I can hear a Calvinist saying, now we know Bruce was not one of the elect! They will speak of the preacher-turned-atheist who now knows the TRUTH (please read Christopher Hitchens is in Hell).
If they bother to read beyond the title of this post they will see this post is not about my e-t-e-r-n-a-l destiny. I have no concern over God, judgment, or hell. I am confident that hell is the creation of those who want to control people through fear. Fear God! Fear Judgment! Fear Hell! Since Christianity and the Bible no longer have any power over me, I no longer fear God or hell. I am reasonably certain that this is the only life I will ever have, and once I die I will be…drum roll please, d-e-a-d.
Here’s what I want to happens after I draw my last breath.
First, I do not want a funeral service. Waste of time, effort, and money. No need for fake friends or distant family members to show up and weep fake tears. No need for flowers. I want Polly to spend as little as possible on disposing of my dead carcass. Trust me, I won’t care.
Second, I want to be cremated. No special urn. A cardboard box will work just fine. If Polly wants to show her love for me, a Hostess cupcake box would be sweet. As I jokingly told my children, when I am cremated I will go from ass to ashes.
Third, I want my ashes to be spread along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Polly knows the place. I hope my children, daughters-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, and close family will be there. I want no prayers said and as few tears as possible. Perhaps those who are gathered will share a funny story, one of their many Butch/Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories. I hope they will remember me for the good I have done and forgive me for those moments when I was less than I could or should have been.
And that’s it.
Life is not about dying, it’s about living. Since I am on the short side of life, I dare not waste the time I have left. When death comes, the battery in my life clock will be depleted. Like the Big Ben clock beside our bed, the one I listen to late at night as it clicks off the seconds, I know there is coming a day when I will hear CLICK and that will be it.
How about you? As an atheist or non-Christian, what do you want to happen after you die? Have you made funeral plans? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Do you think the many Christian prayers for your demise will succeed?
Many Christians believe that God should get all the praise for the good things that happen and Satan and sinners should get blamed for the bad things that happen. This fact poses a conundrum for those praying for my demise. If God kills me, this means it was a good thing, right? But, if God is the giver of life, the fact that I am still alive is also a good thing. Perhaps God wants me to live so the Holy Spirit can regenerate me, effectually call me, and impart to me his wonderful irresistible grace. Or perhaps I am not one of the elect, not in the Lamb’s Book of Life; then I am an unregenerate, apostate reprobate. If I were God, I would kill someone like me, seeing that I do so much damage to the faith of others.
Some day, I will die. The way I am feeling as I write this post, it could be today. Or tomorrow. Or twenty years from now. Regardless of the date of my demise, there will a Christian somewhere who will see it as proof that their imprecatory prayer worked,;that God whacked me because they asked him to.
Several times a month, I get an email from an Evangelical who wants to let me know that they are not like “other” Evangelicals. They want me to know that there are Evangelicals who are nice, polite, decent, kind, and respectful. That’s great, their mother taught them well. However, I think these “nice” Evangelicals aren’t really as nice as they would have me believe. They desperately want to be viewed in a good light, thinking if I just knew that there are “nice” Evangelicals that I would fall on my knees and call of Jesus to save me.
If I am feeling up to it, I will respond to the “nice” Evangelical’s email with a few questions. Questions like:
Do you believe believing in Jesus is the only way for a person to have their sins forgiven?
Do you believe there is one true God?
Do you believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text?
Do you believe that a person must be saved/born again/become a follower of Jesus to go to heaven when they die?
Do you believe that a person who is not saved/born again/a follower of Jesus goes to hell when they die?
The answers to these questions will quickly reveal that the “nice” Evangelical is no different from Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Steven Anderson, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Bob Gray Sr, Bryan Fischer, James Dobson, or Franklin Graham. The “nice” Evangelical and the nasty, hateful Evangelical share the same beliefs. The former comes in a nicer package, but inside the package is the same abhorrent, vile beliefs.
Sometimes, the “nice” Evangelical will be coy about their beliefs. When pressed on the question of God torturing non-Christians in hell/lake of fire for eternity, they often reply that they leave such things up to God. They want me to know that they don’t judge, they just l-o-v-e others. However, if they believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, then they already know what God says on the matter. Non-Christians will go to hell when they die. Atheists, agnostics, secularists, and humanists will go to hell when they die. Most of the readers of this blog will go to hell when they die. Most of my Facebook friends will go to hell when they die. Most of Twitter followers will go to hell when they die. And, to make it quite personal, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and most of their children will go to hell when they die.
The “nice” Evangelical, if they are truly a Bible-believing, Jesus loving Evangelical, is boxed in by their beliefs. There is one God, the Christian God, one way of salvation, Jesus, and hell awaits all of those who reject him. This is why I respect someone like Fred Phelps more than I do the “nice” Evangelical. Someone like Phelps just tells non-Christians how it is. They make no effort to hide their beliefs. Their forwardness allows me to know exactly where I stand with them. No need for us to play the pretend friend game or make nice with each other.
Sometimes, the “nice” Evangelical will take a psychological approach. They view me as one who has been wounded by the nasty, hateful, judgmental Evangelicals. They read a few of my blog posts and determine that I have been hurt in some way and that this is the reason I am not a Christian. In their mind, they think if they are just really, really, really, nice to me that I will overwhelmed by their niceness and fall in love with Jesus all over again. Since they think Jesus is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l, they can’t imagine someone NOT wanting to become a follower of their Jesus. They see Jesus patiently knocking on the door of my heart, pleading for me to let him in. Isn’t this the same Jesus who says that if I DON’T open the door that he is going to torture me for eternity in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone, a place where the worm dieth not? Isn’t this the same Jesus who will fit me with a special body after death so that no matter how severely he tortures me I can never die?
While there is certainly a truckload of harm and hurt in my Evangelical past, the reason I am not a Christian is because I do not believe the claims of Christianity to be true. I don’t believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. I don’t believe Jesus was God, virgin born, a miracle worker, or resurrected from the dead. I don’t believe God created the world nor do I believe in sin. Simply put, I reject everything one must believe to be a Christian. No matter how “nice” an Evangelical is to me, I do not buy what they are selling. Salvation requires faith, a faith I do not and will not have.
Look, I am glad that many Evangelicals are nice people. I am glad they treat me and others like me with kindness, decency, and respect. Their behavior certainly make the world a better place. I suspect their behavior is a reflection of their training and culture more than it is their beliefs. I am glad someone taught them to be a decent, thoughtful person. I do, however, wish they would stop wasting their time by trying to “nice” me to Jesus. I have no interest and I think their time would be better spent teaching Evangelicals how to behave in public. As blog comments, news articles, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and personal emails show, there are a lot of Evangelicals who don’t the first thing about the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Instead of trying to save people who don’t want to be saved, “nice” Evangelicals should spend their time getting fellow Evangelicals saved.
Come on girlfriend (please say girlfriend with your best Valley Girl impersonation) , time to abandon all those dreamy-eyed guys you have a crush on and hook up with Jesus. Don’t want to? Fine, then Jesus is going to burn you up with his eyes and send you to hell.
Rebellion is a common word in the vocabulary of Evangelical Christian pastors, church leaders, husbands, and parents.
Here’s what the Bible says about God’s view of rebellion:
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23)
Those who practiced witchcraft were to be put to death (Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:9-11), so it is clear that God considered rebellion a serious matter.
God commanded a harsh punishment for a rebellious son:
If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them;Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
The Old Testament is the written record of how a Holy God dealt with a rebellious people, Israel. Page after page details God’s judgments against his people and those who got in his way.
When we get to the New Testament, the word rebellion is not used. Does this mean that God has changed? Of course not. How is it possible for a perfect God to change? Malachi 3:6 says:
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
The Bible says, speaking of Jesus:
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)
It is clear that God is immutable. He doesn’t change. (though there are a few texts that seem to suggest otherwise)
The Evangelical Church is a sect that accepts both Testaments as authoritative. (especially those Old Testament verses about tithing) Granted, Evangelicals are quite contradictory in their interpretations of the Old Testament, picking and choosing what they want to believe, but they do say all sixty-six books of the Bible are authoritative.
The key word is AUTHORATATIVE.
Evangelicals take seriously the matter of rebellion because they believe that the Bible is an authoritative text and from that text they deduce an authority structure.
It goes something like this:
The Christian God is the supreme authority over everything. He is the sovereign over all. He is the creator. He is in complete and absolute control. Even with salvation, no one can be saved unless God permits them to be saved. (both Calvinists and Arminians believe God is the final arbiter when it comes to salvation)
The Christian God has established authority in the church. Under Jesus Christ, pastors (elders, bishops) are the head of the church. They have been called by God to teach, correct, lead, and direct the church. They are to initiate discipline when necessary to ensure the church is a pure, holy body. (though many churches have a pretty low standard for pure and holy)
The Christian God has established authority in the home. Again, under Jesus Christ, the husband is the head of the home and his wife is to submit to his authority. Children are to obey their parents and submit to their authority.
The Christian God has established authority in nations. All nations are to bow to the authority of the Christian God. Their laws should reflect God’s law. Better yet, theocracy, God rule, is the best form of government.
The Evangelical Christian believes God rules over all. There is no King but Jesus and no God but the Christian God.
The problem here is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much like the rest of us. For all their praying and confessing sin, they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.
And that is a big, big problem.
You see the God of the authoritative Bible demands obedience. God expects Christians to implicitly obey his commands. All of them. God will have none of this picking and choosing that American Christians love to do.
So everywhere you look you have Christians in some form of rebellion against God, the pastor, their parents, or their husband. No matter how much they pray, read the Bible, go to the altar, and promise to really obey God this time, they continue to lapse into sin and rebellion.
This is what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5:48:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
It seems Jesus didn’t lower the standard. God expects and demands perfection. God will have none of this “I am not perfect just forgiven” cheap grace Christianity. Jesus expects his followers to walk in his steps. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they have been given everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)
But, let me say again:
The problem here is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much just like the rest of us. For all their praying and confessing sin they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.
The difference between the atheist and the Evangelical Christian is guilt. The Christian lives in a constant cycle of living right, rebelling, feeling guilty, repenting, and back to living right. This cycle can go on numerous times a day. The atheist can feel guilty at times, but since they are not encumbered by a long list of laws, commands, rules, regulations, precepts, or standards, they are less likely to feel guilty. With no God hovering over them and no pastor preaching at them, the atheist is pretty much free to enjoy life. The atheist tired to live by the maxim: don’t hurt other people, and when they fails they are likely to make restitution and ask for forgiveness from the person they hurt. No need for a God, Bible, church, or pastor. As a human, the atheist has all the faculties necessary to be a good person.
What makes it worse for the Christian is that they go to church on Sunday and their pastor reminds them, from the Bible of course, of how rebellious they are. He points out their sin and reminds them that God hates sin. He calls on them to repent. You would think that people would get tired of all this, but each week they dutifully return to church so their pastor can remind them about their sinfulness and need of repentance.
Children, especially teenagers, get this same treatment from their parents. When they don’t obey their parents they are chastised and reminded that God hates rebellion. But kids will be kids, as every parent knows, and in Christian homes it seems that children are either starting into rebellion or coming out of it.
Parents are commanded by God to beat the rebellion out of their children. God provides himself as a good role model to follow. Hebrews 12:5-10 says:
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
The Bible records how God goes about chastising rebellious Christians. He maims them, makes them sick, kills their family, takes away their possessions, starves them, and, if necessary, kills them. God goes to great lengths to make sure a Christian seeks after the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)
Here’s how God expects Evangelical Christian parents to respond to the rebellion of their children:
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13,14)
Let me tie this all together.
An authoritative text from an authoritarian God establishes authority structures for the church, family, and nations. Disobedience to authority is to be punished.
For those of us raised in this kind of Christianity (and all forms of Christianity have some of this, even liberal iterations of Christianity) we well know how this practically works out.The Bible, in the hands of God’s man, the pastor, is used to dominate and control people. Individuality and freedom is discouraged, and, in some cases, severely punished.
Pastors remind the church of pastoral authority. Parents remind children that they are to be obedient and threaten them with punishment if they don’t. Husbands remind their subservient wives that they are the head of the home and their word is f-i-n-a-l. Collectively, Christians warn government officials that Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and God demands they submit to the authority of God, the Bible, and his people. (this is the essence of the theocracy movement in this country)
Some readers are likely weeping by now. Their mind goes back twenty or thirty years to a time when they were teenagers. Their parents considered them rebellious. Often their rebellion was things like listening to rock music, smoking, getting pregnant, talking back, having sex, or smoking marijuana.Their parents, needing to show them that they were in charge, sent them off to group homes to get their “rebellion” problem fixed. What really happened is that they were cruelly misused, abused, and debased. Years later, their lives still bear the marks of the Godly “rebellion” treatment they received.
It is hard not to see cultism in all of this. I am sure Bible-believing Christians, people of the book, will scream foul, but the marks of a cult are there for all to see if they dare but open their eyes. Millions of people attend churches that believe the things I have written about in this post. This is what Bible literalism gets you. How could it be otherwise?
One of the most quoted verses from the Bible is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not!” Whenever someone speaks out against something that God calls sin, “Don’t judge!” can be heard coming from a thousand lips. People don’t like to have other people disapprove of the way they’re choosing to live their life.
I will speak to you a hard truth. I do not write this because I think that it will bring me popularity. It won’t. But it is Truth from the Word of God: the Bible.
To not tell people this is to hide the truth from them. To keep silent is to not care for their eternal destiny! I care about you, and this is why I am speaking out!
In this world, people have seared their consciences. The standard of what is “ok” or “permissible” in our society today, hardly reflects God’s standard.
People are content to live on in lying, cursing, pride, anger, bitterness, disrespecting of parents, lust, pornography, fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins– and if anyone tries to confront them, their attitude and response is, “You live your life, I’ll live mine. Don’t you tell me what to do! Only God can judge me!”
They don’t even realize what they’re saying. God’s judgement isn’t something to be taken lightly! It should scare you! Man’s “judgement” is a 1000x lighter… usually just a voicing of disapproval. But when unbelieving, sinful men die and stand before God, He justly condemns them to hell.
But people disregard the Bible, and instead use all kinds of human logic to try to justify their way of living:
Person #1: “I’ve been living this lifestyle for years, and I’m a ‘Christian.’ I don’t feel that God is angry with me. I believe in a loving God, not one who would send people to hell.”
The person speaking this is right– their god is not angry with them. He can’t be, because he doesn’t exist. They are not talking about the God of the Bible. They have created a god in their own mind to suit themselves. They have removed any notion of the Justice of God, and have created a god of their imagination that they can be comfortable with.
The Bible teaches that God is a Just Judge, and He must punish sin. Every one of us have broken God’s law, and hell is our deserved punishment. (Unless you’re reading some very distorted “translation” of the Bible, you cannot get around the fact that there is a hell).
Person #2: “I have a ‘peace’ about this, and I’m listening to my heart. God doesn’t seem to be judging me. If God didn’t approve, why wouldn’t He strike me dead right now?”
First off, our human hearts are bent toward sin and not righteousness. We shouldn’t follow the inclinations of our heart, but rather we know what is right and wrong according to what we find in God’s Word: the Bible.
Secondly, God isn’t slacking to fulfill His promised Judgement on sin–it’s coming. And the only reason you’re are alive right now is because He is merciful and has kept your heart beating for another day. He is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. But He will not hold back forever. The hours of your time here on earth are ticking away. You’re not promised another day, or even another breath. God’s Day of Judgement draws near. It will come as a thief in the night–when you least expect it. Everything that you have done in secret will be exposed. Nothing we do is hidden from God’s view. (1 Peter 3:9&10)
This should be concerning to you. I know it was for me! When I saw myself in light of God’s standard, and I knew that I fell short. But I found hope in the Gospel– the “good news” of Jesus Christ! I would still be lost today were it not for His grace!
Read what God has done so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and saved from the punishment we deserve:
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21
Repent! Turn away from sin, and to Jesus Christ today! Be saved from the wrath to come.
The believing man has Christ’s perfect record put to their account.
God gives him a new heart and new desires.
If you find yourself a sinner in need of Jesus, then open your Bible today and begin to read the books of John and Romans. Let the Word of God root out the sins of your heart. Do not let up until you have found Salvation for your soul!
Standard Evangelical scare tactics. God is gonna get you for sinning. He may not get you in this life, but, Duggar Seewald promises, he will get you in the life to come.
Duggar Seewald lists the following sins:
Disrespecting of parents
Other sexual sins
Four of these sins have to do with sex. It seems that the Duggar clan spends an awful lot of time talking about sex. Why is that? Why are Evangelicals, in general, obsessed with who is sticking what, when, and where? Inquiring minds want to know, what exactly is “o-t-h-e-r sexual sins”? Kissing before marriage? Copping a feel on a Friday night date? And why didn’t she mention the sexual sin above all sins, the sin Evangelicals love to call sodomy?
Here’s the good news. We all get to watch the Duggar children grow up. Some day, researchers and reporters will delve into the lives of the Duggar clan and I suspect they’ll find that the Duggar family is not quite as pure as the driven snow. Perhaps, as a commenter mentioned, we’ll find out one of the Duggar children is gay. Wouldn’t THAT be sweet? Or worse yet, we’ll find out that several of them fornicated (held hands, you know the way Martians have sex) before marriage. Perhaps one of the Duggar boys wills will finally admit to spanking the monkey/choking the chicken/beating the meat, depriving the world of potential little Duggars.
If there is one thing I know for certain it is this; those who pride themselves in being morally superior to the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the “world” will someday be exposed as hypocrites and frauds. As the Duggar family Bible says, Pride goeth before a fall.
And if it actually did, it is the one command every Christian breaks on a daily basis.
I am sure you have been in one of THOSE arguments, debates, or discussions; the one’s where you express your opinion about a matter and someone shrieks, YOU ARE JUDGING!
Why of course you are judging.
We all judge each and every day of our lives. Common sense tells us this is so.
People who use the stop judging line are trying to control the debate and stifle any opinion other than their own. If you agree with the person you are a wonderful person, but if you disagree with them you are judgmental.
I wish these don’t judge people would at least be honest when they open their mouth, post something on Facebook, write a blog post, etc. They need to preface each public pronouncement with:
I am not interested in what you think. If you disagree with me I will consider you to be a judgmental person, and if you continue I might even throw a fit, and if you really, really keep at it I will SHOW you…I will unfriend you on Facebook. TAKE THAT!
Let’s settle one thing here. You judge, I judge, we all judge. What matters is HOW we judge, what standard we use for judging.
And that, by the way, is exactly what the Bible says.
Christians, by far, are the whiniest people on earth when it comes to judging. With Bible in hand they make all sorts of judgments . They judge who is saved and who is lost. They judge what sin is and they really like to judge sexual sin (a sign that they have not gotten laid lately).
Yet, when others turn their judgment back at them, they protest loudly and say, the BIBLE says, thou shalt not judge.
Let’s look at what the Bible actually says:
Judge not, that ye be not judged.For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
Most people stop at Matthew 7:1. Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Seems pretty clear doesn’t it? Don’t judge others if you don’t want to be judged yourself.
This one verse is foundational for those who think we should tolerate any belief a person might have. The toleration at all costs crowd thinks every person is autonomous and has a right to say whatever he or she wants. Free speech reigns paramount.
The libertarian in me generally thinks toleration is a good idea, but when individuals or groups bring their ideas into the public square, any notion of toleration must be put aside. In a democracy like ours, we fight our battles in the public square. Citizens bring their ideas to the public square in hope of finding like-minded people to join with their cause. Often they do, but in the public square they also find those who oppose their cause. And so competing causes, ideas, and beliefs clash with one another and wage war against each other in the public square. Over time, it is hoped the best cause, idea, or belief wins (and I speak with gross generalization here).
It is likely the winner’s cause, idea, or belief will have been altered by those who challenged it. Through this bloody give and take, we progress and move forward as a people.
Religion does not play well in this kind of environment. Religion is based on revealed truth, on dogma. In the United States the dominant religion is Christianity, a religion founded on a truth that cannot be altered or changed. This is why Christians do not fare well in the public square. They have little capacity for change. To contemplate change, they have to consider that they or their God are wrong. Now we know, as we look through the lens of 2000 years of Christian Church history, that the Church has indeed adapted and changed. But, it should be noted that this kind of change takes a much longer time than it does with other people and groups. Christianity is nothing if not arrogant and intractable about its truth.
On the other hand, the scientific method fits well in this kind of environment. Scientist A says _____________________, and Scientists B, C, and D take exception and through the scientific method set out to challenge, refute, or modify what Scientist A said. It doesn’t take centuries to root out error.
Note what the Bible says in Matthew 7:2-5, the verses few Christians ever bother to read. (Many Christians subscribe to the ignore what doesn’t fit my agenda, worldview, way I want to live, rule of interpretation.)
Verse 2 says:
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
For WITH WHAT JUDGMENT YE JUDGE, ye shall be judged. The Bible is quite clear. It is a given, we all make judgments, so when we judge, whatever standard of judgment we use, that same standard of judgment will be used by others when they judge us.
The Bible even addresses the method we use to judge when it says with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. In modern vernacular the Bible is saying, however you dish out judgment, expect it to be dished back to you the same way.
Over the course of my seven years of blogging, people have left almost 30,000 comments on my various blog iterations. A small percentage of comments were left by Christians with nasty dispositions, Christians who were so filled with certainty that they had no tolerance for any differing viewpoint. (I can count on one hand the non-Christians who acted similarly) They knew the truth and their objective was to tell me that I was wrong, deceived, blind, lost, headed for hell, or an enemy of God. In their worldview there is no room for doubt or not knowing.
These know-it-all Christians tend to be arrogant, bombastic, and lacking in basic social graces. Of all the different types of people I have met on the internet, theirs is the type that really gets under my skin (perhaps because I was just like them at one time in my life). At one time, I responded “in kind” to this kind of commenter. Using Bible terms, I just meted out to them what they meted out to me. These days, I tend to follow another biblical admonition; don’t cast your pearls before swine.
Well, enough of chasing that rabbit trail. (The preacher in me still lives.) Back to Matthew 7:1-5.
Verses 3 and 4 say:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
The Bible teaches that we should first consider our own lives, our own faults, our own inconsistencies, and for my Christian readers, our own sins, before we consider the deficiencies of others.
As is often the case, we tend to be able to see the smallest of matters in the lives of others (the mote, the small sliver), all the while not being able to see the biggest of matters in our own lives(the beam).Before we judge others, we should carefully judge ourselves, engaging in self-reflection – taking an inventory of our own lives. As the old evangelist said, draw a circle on the floor, stand in the middle of the circle, and judge everyone in the circle. This kind of judgment will fundamentally change how we judge others. As we carefully plumb the depths of our own being, we will likely become more understanding of those with whom we disagree. This doesn’t make the disagreements go away, but it does help us to see we are ALL capable of embracing ideas that are faulty or dangerous.
Does this mean we shouldn’t judge others? Of course not. Notice what verse 5 says:
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
If we judge ourselves first, we will then be able to better judge the actions, words, ideas, and beliefs of others. The hypocrite ignores his own life and focuses on others. We see this all the time with Christian pastors. You know the type: they thunder against sin, most often sexual sin. They eviscerate all those who dare transgress the Bible’s sexual standard. Yet, in their own lives they do the very things they condemn. (Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Bob Gray, Jack Hyles, Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch, Jim Bakker, Eddie Long, and too many Catholic priests to count, just to name a few.)
I am of the opinion that those who shout the loudest over the peccadilloes of others often commit those very same sins in the privacy of their home, office, motel room, or back seat of their car. They are hypocrites of the first degree.
The Bible, from start to finish, clearly teaches that Christians are to judge others, It never teaches, thou shalt not judge. It DOES teach judging righteously. It does teach using a proper standard of judgment. It does teach a judgment that begins with self.
“But, Bruce, you are not a Christian.” No I am not. I wrote this post to tell those Christians who love to scream “DON’T judge” to shut the hell up. They need to read the Bible they say they believe. Better yet, they need to PRACTICE the teachings of the Bible they say they believe.
As an atheist, I can glean some helpful guidance from Matthew 7:1-5. It stresses the important of self-judgment before taking on the task of judging others and their ideas and beliefs. I need often to be reminded of my own shortcomings (sorry Christians, no sins for me) and motives. I need to be reminded that I am, as those I oppose, a fallible, frail human being. I can be w-r-o-n-g.
The comment section awaits your judgments of this post.
The two tools most often used by Evangelical preachers to keep people in the pews are:
The threat of God’s judgment
The threat of hell
As with Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Evangelical preachers warn parishioners of the judgment to come and the hell that awaits anyone who does not repent of their sins and become a follower of Jesus.
…The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment…
While few Evangelical preachers can turn a word and speak as eloquently as Edwards, their message is still the same: judgment and hell awaits those who do not repent of their sins and follow after Jesus.
Preachers often use what I call the carrot and stick approach. Every person has a choice to make about where they spend eternity. While Calvinists and Arminians argue endlessly over whether we really are free to choose, saving faith does require an act of volition. Every person must choose between heaven and hell. Become a follower of Jesus and heaven, the carrot awaits when you die. Reject Jesus, his salvific work on the cross and his death-defying resurrection from the dead, then hell, the stick, awaits you when you die.
Evangelical preachers impress on those under the sound of their voice that it is important to make a decision for Christ NOW! The Bible says in the last part of II Corinthians 6:2:
…behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.
According to Evangelical preachers, none of us has the promise of tomorrow. Proverbs 27:1 states:
Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
Evangelical preachers are like Larry the Cable Guy. Git ‘er Done! Today, right now, don’t delay.
Some preachers spice up their sermons with illustrations of people who died suddenly or who died after hearing and rejecting the preacher’s warning about God’s judgment and hell. These stories, true or not, are meant to elicit an immediate response. When I was a preacher, my goal was to press every person who heard my sermon to make a decision. I was of the opinion that there was no such thing as a neutral position. Once a person heard the gospel, heard my sermon, they had a choice to make. Heaven or hell, which will it be?
A regular reader of this blog sent me a Franklin Graham quote that I think will help illustrate what I am trying to say in this post:
“Death is serious, eternal business. Once our physical hearts beat for the last time, we will instantly find ourselves either in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His splendor, or in the pit of Hell away from His presence.”
There’s the carrot and the stick. Heaven or hell; choose now while your heart is still beating. The moment your heart stops beating, your eternal destiny is settled.
Think for a moment about what Graham said here about the heart stopping. So, if a person’s heart stops, his eternal destiny is settled? What if his heart is restarted using a defibrillator? Does this mean his eternal destiny is not really settled and he gets another chance to decide, heaven or hell? For those people who have heart transplants, does that mean that they need to decide again?
The bigger problem with Graham’s statement is that it is bad theology. According to orthodox Christian theology, when people die, they do not go to heaven or hell. Instead, they go to the grave and will remain there until the resurrection of the dead. Grandma is not up in Heaven running around, nor is she peering over the portals of Heaven watching her grandchildren play. Neither is Christopher Hitchens in hell, being tormented day and night for daring to mock the thrice holy God. They are dead, lying in the grave, awaiting the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.
After the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment will take place and every person will be sent to his or her eternal destiny. And even here, many Evangelical preachers, including Graham, get it wrong. Christians will not spend eternity in Heaven. Instead, they will spend it in the kingdom of God. Hitchens and the rest of us reprobates? We will not spend eternity in hell. Instead we will spend it in the lake of fire.
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
And here an even more interesting point. Isn’t our eternal destiny is settled by repenting of our sins and following after Jesus? These texts state that everyone is judged by their works, that it is works that determine whether Grandma, Hitchens, or anyone else goes to heaven or hell.
I wish Evangelical preachers would get together and figure out exactly where it is we are all going when we die. I wish they would determine if it is really up to me to decide? With so much confusion and lack of theological precision, how is a poor, lost atheist such as I am, supposed to determine in what hotel to make my final reservation?
The purpose of this post is to show how confusing and contradictory Evangelical preachers and their theology can be. If they are not precise and clear, can mere untrained, unwashed Philistines such as we are have any hope of finding THE Way, Truth, and Life?
What would Evangelical Christianity be without guilt?
Guilt, despite what preachers say, is the engine that powers Evangelicalism.
Often preachers will try to hide guilt by giving it other names like conviction. But no matter how they try to hide it, guilt plays a prominent part in the day-to-day lives of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.
Think about it for a moment. The Bible presents God as a righteous, holy, judging, wrathful, deity. In the Old Testament this God was unapproachable except by a few chosen people. People who got too close wound up dead.
Who can forget the story about the man who put out his hand to steady the ark of the covenant and God rewarded this man by killing him. Or the story about God killing the entire human race save eight people (and yet, Evangelicals say God is pro-life).
From Genesis to Revelation we see a God who gives no quarter to disobedience or sin. He demands worship and expects perfect obeisance. He is a God who not only hates sin but hates those who do it. (the-hate-the-sin-but-love-the-sinner line of thinking is not found in the Bible.) Evangelicals often remind people such as myself that someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Bow now or bow later, the thinking goes.
There are hundreds of commands in the Bible, commands that God expects every Christian to obey without question or hesitation. After all, according to the Bible, God himself lives inside every Christian. According to the Bible, the Christian has the mind of Christ. The Bible also says that Christians are to be perfect even as their father in heaven is perfect. Lest one doubt whether God is serious, the writer of First John reminds his fellow Christians that he who sins is of the devil.
The Bible message is clear, obey God lest you fall under his judgment, a judgment that could lead to your death. Put in words that any child can understand: do what God says or he is going to get you. Remember this is a God who killed two people in the book of Acts for lying. This is the same God who brutalized his son on the cross because of what other people did. This is also the same God that will someday savage the earth and its inhabitants and torture in hell for all eternity all those who are not Christians. The book of Revelation reads like Quentin Tarantino movie script. The vengeful God will pour out his wrath upon the earth, killing billions of people and destroying the earth in the process.
It should come as no surprise then that many Evangelicals live with a backbreaking load of guilt. They know what God expects and they fear him, but, in spite of all their hard work, they still can’t measure up to what God expects of them. What deepens their guilt is preachers who say they speak for God, adding more rules and regulations that God demands every Christian obey (also called church standards).
I spent most of my life in the Evangelical church. I desperately wanted to be a good Christian. I felt God had called me into the ministry and I wanted to be the best pastor possible. I was willing to sacrifice everything for God. And so that’s what I did. I sacrificed my family, my health, and my economic well-being for God. I held nothing back and I was willing to die for my God if necessary.
A while back someone made a comment on Facebook about my being an atheist. This person has known me for 37 years. He said that he was shocked that I was an atheist because if anyone was a committed, true blue believer, I was. Most people who knew me in my Christian days would give a similar account of my devotion to God.
As a pastor I gave 100% to the cause. I worked long hours without regard to whether I got paid. Most of the churches I pastored paid a poverty wage, but that didn’t matter to me. I would have gladly worked for free, and, in fact, I did work many weeks and months without receiving a paycheck. It was never about the money. It was all about faithfully serving God and fulfilling his calling on my life. It was all about being obedient to the commands and teachings found in the Bible.
One would think that someone as committed as I was wouldn’t have guilt, but guilt played a prominent part in my life. Striving for perfection quickly reveals how imperfect one is. Sometimes I envied Christians who could take a minimal, carefree approach to God and his commands. Why couldn’t I be nominal just like everyone else? I’m not sure I have an answer for that. All I know is this, I worked for the night is coming when no man can work and the more work I put into my Christian faith the more guilt I had.
I often pondered the work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus had given his all on the cross for me. Shouldn’t I give my all to him? I took seriously the command to walk in the steps of Jesus. I tried to pattern my life after the example of Jesus and the apostles. I wanted to be found busy working for the advancement of God’s kingdom with Jesus came back to earth.
I prayed in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night, and numerous times throughout the day, yet I feared I was not praying enough. After all, the Bible commands us to pray without ceasing. No matter how many people I witnessed to, there were always more people I needed to evangelize. There never seemed to be an end of souls that needed saving. How dare I spend one moment taking care of my own personal needs while countless souls were hanging by a bare thread over the pit of hell. I had no time for talk of heaven or eternal reward. There was too much to do.
I know some readers of this blog will read this post and say, no wonder you were guilty all the time. Look at how motivated and driven you were. Yes, this is true, but I ask you, where do I find in the Bible the laid-back, nominal, easy-come-easy-go, Christian life? While certainly such a life would have lessened the amount of guilt I had, how could I live such a life knowing what I did about the teachings and commands of the Bible?
Look at the examples given for us in the Bible of people who were devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Show me the nominal Christian. In every instance nominal Christianity is roundly condemned. God expects — dare I say demands — 100% devotion and anything less than that is treason against God.
So, for many years I lived with guilt almost every day. I felt guilty when I stopped to enjoy life. I felt guilty when I stopped to attend to my personal wants and desires. I felt guilty when I spent money that could have gone to the church or to missionaries. Why could I not be like the Apostle Paul? Or why could I not be like Jesus himself?
Of course the real problem was that I was a human being. A life of selfless devotion to God was an impossibility. Now that I’ve left the ministry and left the Christian faith, my problem with guilt still remains. I’m no longer guilty over my lack of devotion and I’m certainly not guilty over committing what the Bible calls sin, but I do lament the amount of time, money, and effort I gave in devotion to a God who does not exist. As the old gospel song goes, wasted years, oh how foolish.
I also regret leading people into the same kind of life. I regret causing parishioners to feel guilty over not measuring up to the commands found in the Bible. As I have often said, churches would be empty if it weren’t for guilt and guilt’s twin sister fear.
Perhaps my penance is this blog. I am sure there are many people who read this blog who know exactly what I’m talking about. Atheism and a humanist worldview have allowed me, for the most part — aside from what I have mentioned above — to live a life free of guilt (and fear). I no longer have to fear or feel guilty over not keeping God’s commands. No longer are my actions checked against God’s sin list. My actions on any given day are good or bad and when I do bad things I need to make things right if I can and try not to do them again. There is no need for me to be threatened with hell or promised heaven. All I want to do is be a good human being and be at peace with others. If my actions fail this standard then I need to do better.
How about you? Do you still struggle with guilt post-Jesus? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.