Tag Archive: Literalism

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.

The Danger of Bible Literalism

the bible says

I recently watched a miniseries on David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and the horrific loss of innocent human life at Waco. The miniseries was a poignant reminder of the fact that bad things can happen when people believe the Christian Bible is the Word of God and is meant to be read literally and taken at face value.

Koresh was considered a cultist, but were his beliefs about the Bible that much different from countless Evangelical churches who say the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God; that every word of the Bible is to be obeyed and practiced; that God said what he means and means what he said (and in some sects continues to say in prophecies and dreams)? Think about the American religious landscape for a moment. Look at how Bible literalism affects (infects) everything from public discourse to governmental policy. Everywhere we look — IF we dare to do so — we see the tragic consequences of Bible literalism. Never mind the fact that the Bible is an ancient religious text of sketchy provenance and is chock full nonsense. That the Bible plays such a vital part in the ebb and flow of American life should frighten us. Why? Because if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that ruthless, conniving men can use the Bible and naivety of Christians to advance their agendas, leading to everything from slavery and war to colonialism and genocide. It is Bible literalism that lies behind efforts to criminalize homosexuality, ban birth control, make abortion illegal, and constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. It is Bible literalism that fuels the patriarchal movement, causing untold spousal and child abuse. It is Bible literalism that leads people to demand creationism be taught in public schools.

Just look at how often Bible literalism affects government at every level. A hundred years after the Scopes Monkey Trial and a decade after the Kitzmiller v Dover decision, and we still have Evangelicals clamoring for creationism to be taught in public schools. Worse yet, local and state governments gave the Profit of Creationism, Ken Ham, millions of dollars to build and operate a replica of Noah’s Ark. Without Kentucky politicians believing in Bible literalism, Ham would have been laughed out of the room. Instead, they gave a con artist millions of dollars so he could pick the pockets of the taxpayers of Kentucky and the visitors to his monuments to Evangelical ignorance.

Here in Ohio, Republican politicians who are Bible literalists are working as hard as they can to make abortion illegal. And unless the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts intervene, it is likely they will succeed — even though most Ohioans believe abortion should be legal. Why are legislators ignoring their constituents? Bible literalism.

donald trump bible

Donald Trump caused quite a stir when he announced that the U.S. Embassy in Israel was going to be moved to Jerusalem. Countless Evangelical preachers got an eschatological boner when Trump said this. Why? Bible literalism. And herein lies the biggest danger of Bible literalism. Trump — who has Evangelicals kneeling before his unzipped pants day and night — is more than willing to use Bible literalism to advance his agenda. Trump is a deranged narcissist who wants to return the United States to its so-called glory days. What’s Trump’s slogan? Making America GREAT Again. In his mind, the United States needs to reassert itself as a singular world power, and use any means necessary to do so. This is why his proposed budget gives the U.S. military billions in increased funding while cutting spending on everything from the social safety net to the EPA. Trump plans to dominate the world or die trying — taking the human race with him.

Proponents of Bible literalism see Trump as man who has been raised up by God for such a time as this (much like Esther). Believing that the rapture and the second coming of Christ could happen at any moment, Evangelicals are giddy over how Trump’s decisions could provoke Armageddon, the end of the world, and the return of Jesus to earth. Making Jerusalem the home of the U.S. embassy and following through with the move will most certainly result in violence, bloodshed, and death. As I write this post, Bible literalism fuels political and religious embers in the Middle East, embers that could turn into flames that engulf the world in World War III. Trump wants war because he thinks the United States, with him as Commander-in-chief, can whip anyone who dares to trifle with God’s chosen nation. Evangelicals, believing that Biblical books such as Daniel and Revelation are histories that have yet to happen, see God in Trump’s dick wagging. And when Israel, a proxy state for American imperialism, attacks Iran and the Persians retaliate with nuclear weapons, what then? When millions of people are killed and the earth is rendered uninhabitable, what then?  When life as we know it disappears with a push a few buttons, what then?

evangelical love for israel

What then? Why, Evangelicals will remind us that the Bible says ________________________; that everything that happens is according to God’s purpose and plan; that there is life after death, so no need to worry about dying if you know Jesus; that God, in the near future, plans to make a new heaven and new earth. Surely anyone with more than an ounce of sense can see how dangerous Bible literalism is. It’s all fun and games when we are talking about a big boat in Kentucky, but when Bible literalism influences and drives governmental policy and decisions, it should frighten us. This is why we must continue to wage war against Bible literalism. Such thinking must be driven from our governmental process and schools. Treating Bible literalism as nothing to worry about is every bit as ignorant as Bible literalism itself. We must never forget that history is replete with accounts of massive violence and death that were perpetrated because people believed what a religious guru or religious text said was true.

But Bruce, most Evangelicals don’t really believe in Bible literalism. Look at how they live, how they pick and choose what to believe and practice. Sure, but let their tribe be threatened, and all of a sudden what the Bible says (or what their pastors say it means) becomes vitally important. Watch how Evangelicals become prayer warriors the moment calamity strikes them. Do you think it will be any different when smart political operatives use the Bible to justify their military responses to perceived threats from North Korea, Iran, or Syria? Remember, George W. Bush believed the Iraq War was a holy war, a battle between good and evil. Where did he get such ideas? The Bible. We err in our thinking if we believe Americans can’t be manipulated as Germans were by Hitler. Look at how a sizeable percentage of Americans are impervious to facts about Trump and his nefarious agenda. Facts simply don’t matter. Trump was right when he said he could murder someone in the middle of the street and people would still vote for him. And who was it that gave the pussy-grabber-in-chief the White House? Evangelicals. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for the Trump-Pence ticket. What’s even scarier is the fact that if Trump is indeed impeached, a card-carrying Evangelical extremist, a true-blue believer in Bible literalism, Mike Pence, will become president.

Want to see what happens when religious literalism is wed to political power? Look at the Muslim world and the currents violence that has engulfed the Middle East and parts of Africa. Don’t think for a moment that a Christian version of this can’t happen in the United States. It can. I, for one, intend to do all I can to make sure that Bible literalism dies the swift death it so richly deserves, taking Fundamentalist Christianity with it. I would love to be the person who holds the pillow over the faces of Bible literalism and Evangelical Christianity as they draw their last breaths. I fear, however, due to my advanced age, that I will not have that opportunity. Maybe a Gerencser in the future will have this privilege — that is if Bible-believing Christians and their political operatives don’t destroy the world first.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Women Are the Property of Their Husbands by Larry Solomon

traditional marriage

God made wives the property of their husbands.

There are some relationships in Scripture where the submission of one to another does not involve the ownership of one by the other. Examples of this would be the Biblical admonition to citizens to submit to civil governments and for church members to submit to their church leaders.  God does not give governments ownership rights over their citizens and he does not give church leaders ownership rights over their members. These two spheres of authority are limited in their powers and jurisdictions.

But God established some spheres of human authority where ownership of human property is either allowed (such as slavery under certain circumstances) or ownership is simply implied such as the relationship between a father and his children or a husband and his wife.

The ownership of the wife by the husband is confirmed in the 10th commandment where a man’s wife is included in a list of his possessions:

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.“ Exodus 20:17 (KJV)

Again in the book of  Deuteronomy a man’s wife is included in his possessions:

“And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her.” Deuteronomy 20:5-7 (KJV)

These possessions all belonged to the man and he had the right to make use of them.  In fact he was encouraged to make use of these possessions.

There are many that falsely attack the Bible based on these and other passages saying that the Bible makes a woman a possession that is no more valuable than cattle(Exodus 20:17) and a peace of land (Deuteronomy 20:5-7).

Another way of saying their argument is “If a woman is owned by her husband then she has no value as a person”.

But this could not be farther from the truth.  While it conflicts with our modern values a person can be owned by another and yet have great value. The Bible says “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.“ (Proverbs 31:10). I don’t know about you – but I think rubies are far more valuable than a house, cattle or a vineyard!

Also the Bible calls on husbands to give “honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel“(I Peter 3:7).  So just because women are the property of their husbands does not mean husbands can treat them the same as their cattle.  This a false argument proposed by those who do understand the Biblical concept of human property verses the world’s concept of human property.

— Larry Solomon, Biblical Gender Roles, Does God Want a Wife’s Beauty Hidden From the World?, July 11, 2014 (Recently updated)

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Christianity is Like Playing Monopoly by Michelle Lesley

michelle lesleyThe Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.

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Have you ever played Monopoly? If you have, you know that you’re supposed to use a Monopoly board, two dice, the and the game pieces and Chance and Community Chest cards that come with the game. You also know that there is a standard set of Monopoly rules that are supposed to be followed.

Suppose a friend invited you to play Monopoly but wanted to use a checker board instead of a Monopoly board. Or wanted to create a new rule that you would get $500 for passing Go instead of $200. Or that you could get out of jail without rolling doubles.

Monopoly was created in 1903 by a lady named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips. Magie created the game to teach people the consequences of having large or valuable tracts of land controlled by private monopolies¹. Each piece of the game and each rule was created with that teaching goal in mind. To alter the rules of the game is to, at best, be out of alignment with Magie’s intentions and purposes, and, at worst, to not be playing Monopoly at all. If you want to truly play Monopoly, learn the fullest extent of the lesson Magie was trying to teach, and respect Magie as the creator of the game, you’ve got to play by her rules. All of them. Even the ones you don’t like or particularly understand.

Many of the same principles apply to Christianity. God set Christianity up a certain way with His own intentions and purposes. If we alter His rules, we’re, at best, not lined up with those intentions and purposes, and, at worst, not practicing Christianity at all. If we really want to honor God, grow in Christ to the greatest extent and truly be practicing biblical Christianity, we’ve got to play by His rules. All of them. Even the ones we don’t particularly like or understand.

But what many Christians are doing today is taking their “Monopoly game” of Christianity and assuming it’s for their own entertainment, better quality of life, or positive feelings. And because they’re largely ignorant of the Creator of the “game” and His purposes and intentions behind said game, the players start tossing out His rules whenever those rules don’t fit the purposes and intentions of the players.

God created you and me and the world and Christianity and the church for His glory. He gets to make the rules. We follow the rule book (the Bible), not because those rules will make us personally happy or successful, but – simply and ultimately – because they are given by God and glorify Him. What He says goes, and we honor Him by our obedience. We need to remember that our role in the game is player, not Creator. Players submit to the authority of the Creator.

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When it comes to Christian beliefs and practices, your experiences don’t matter either. It doesn’t matter what kind of so-called supernatural experience you had where you babbled incoherently or “heard God speak” or saw a “vision” or whatever. If your interpretation of your experience conflicts with the written word of God, your interpretation of your experience is wrong. Something may have happened, but it wasn’t God. (And if something supernatural happened and the Bible says God doesn’t work that way, there’s only one other option.)

When you decide what you’re going to believe and do based on your own opinions, feelings, and subjective personal experiences rather than the written word of God, what you’re doing is saying, “I know better than the almighty, all-knowing God of the universe.” You’re setting yourself up as judge over Scripture. You’re in charge, not God. Doesn’t sound much like a slave[Lesley believes Christians are God’s slaves, Romans 6:22], does it?

— Michelle Lesley, Michelle Lesley ~ Give me church ladies, or I die, Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority, February 17, 2017

Thus Saith the Lord: The Sun Revolves Around the Earth

john jasper

Famed 19th Century Preacher John Jasper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Secular Scientists are Con Men

science neil degrasse tyson

The church has a problem. It has been invaded by those who take the words and methods of the unbelieving world who use those deceived ideas to alter God’s word and teach what God has not taught. They also misrepresent God casting a different picture about him, one that God does not paint of himself.

Sadly, these people are respected and held in high esteem and many in the church are led to alternative beliefs which are not of God and not Biblically taught. In this piece we are going to look at some of the favored ‘tools’ used by secular and alternative believing people as well as two theories, which are also held in high esteem.

There is an old saying, ‘when confronted with printing the truth or the legend, you print the legend.’ That is what secular science does. It prints the legend, the best explanation, not the truth. As Dr. Del Ratzsch recorded in his book, The Battle of Beginnings, and many other authors have done so as well, secular science does not want God as a part of their work and when you remove the truth from guiding you then you have no hope of coming upon the truth.

Yes they do get bits and pieces of truth but every con man knows that if your con is void of any truth it will not hold up. Some truth has to be included in order for the lie to sound convincing and work.
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Observation: Many in the secular scientific field place a high regard on this very inferior tool as they think observation is a key to understanding any given situation. Unfortunately for them observation can only lead to a multiple reasons for any action observed and the multiple choice they are left with only includes the truth as one possibility.
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Observation alone cannot ferret out the truth and it needs the help of other sources providing the correct information to get to the truth. Observation merely puts a person on the path to getting to the truth and if the observer makes an error or decides to go after false information then their work is worthless as any claims made from faulty conclusions could hurt innocent lives, just like interpretation does.

Prediction: This is pseudo-science dressed up to be factual science. There is no other term for this as predictions come from fortune telling not scientific, rational thought. There is no objective authority that states we are to use prediction in any of our investigations. In fact, in criminal investigations predictions are frowned upon and consider unjust and unfair.

Why secular science has adopted this as a lynch pin in its work can only be answered by the fact that secular science is evil influenced and led not God led or influenced. The fact that secular scientists only proclaim the predictions that work shows how dishonest they are. The many unfulfilled predictions that so many scientists encounter are ignored as the secular scientist tries to present an ideal picture of their field of research even though those failed predictions would disqualify the secular scientist from achieving any credibility and demonstrate that their theory does not work and is not true.
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You will notice that the Bible does not teach the use of predictions but does state to thoroughly investigate a matter. Predictions are not part of a thorough investigation but a lazy, cheating way to avoid the truth and get one’s pet theory a hearing. These also allow for injustice to take place as well as teach people to accept lies over God’s truth.
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Secular Scientists: The believer needs to remember one very important fact about secular scientists. They have not been redeemed by Jesus, they have not been made a new creature nor has the old man been removed from their lives.

These people are deceived, blind and under the influence of evil thus their ideas, theories, conclusions, etc., will not be the truth. Though they may contain elements of the truth, this is merely a trap to deceive believers into leaving the truth for the lies of evil.

No amount of education, no amount of experience, no amount of conducted experiments will overcome this fact. The secular scientist remains in sin, a prisoner of evil and blind to the truth. At no time does the Bible teach that we are to follow the unbelieving world and at no time are we taught anywhere in scriptures that we are to adopt or adapt their theories, ideas or conclusions.

The choice is you either believe God or you believe secular scientists (evil) There is no middle ground.
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The believer is NOT anti-science, they are against the lies told by secular science and scientists. A guideline to this is if science disagrees with the Bible then it is not the Bible that is in error.
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Science, any variety, does not know more than God or the Bible.

— David Tee, TheologyAcheology: A Site For the Glory of God

The Christian God Has an Optics Problem

richard dawkins quote on the nature of god

Stacy Long, a writer for the American Family Association, admits that when taking the Bible at face value, the Christian God comes off looking more like a murderous psychopath than the loving, doting father Evangelicals say he is. Long writes:

Often we read the Bible and have a hard time making the connection between God’s role in the Old and New Testaments. How do we reconcile Jesus’ teachings of God’s love and longsuffering, of kindness to our fellow man, of redemption and sacrifice for all people with the Old Testament instruction to pillage and conquer the Canaanites with instant death for one who so much as laid a careful hand on the Ark of the Covenant with stoning an entire family because one man went astray.

The Christian God’s optics problem is one of the reasons often given for people leaving Christianity. If the Bible is taken at face value (literally), especially the Old Testament, God is a vindictive, petty, petulant, narcissistic son-of-a-bitch deity who doesn’t deserve one second of obeisance and worship. From the Father God perspective, the Christian God is a father who neglects his children, refuses to meet their basic needs, and physically abuses them when they fail to meet his exacting, perfectionist standard of living.

Even in the New Testament God has an optics problem. What kind of father allows his son to be brutally tortured for the crimes of others? While the Christian God certainly is viewed in a better light in  much of the New Testament, he returns to his Old Testament self in the book of Revelation, a 22-chapter story of God’s slaughter of the human race and the destruction of earth. Perhaps God suffers from multiple personality disorder or is schizophrenic. Perhaps from Matthew to Jude God is well-medicated and refrains from returning to his murderous ways. In Revelation, tired of the calming effects of anti-psychotic medications, God goes off his meds and makes up for lost time by slaughtering billions of people.

While Long recognizes that God has an optics problem, she attempts to rehabilitate God’s psychopathic resume by suggesting that God operates according to a different moral and ethical standards than sinful humans. Long writes:

And so, God’s ways are not our ways. But even when His ways seem strange to us – unlike what we know of Him – His ways are still the same, and He is still good.

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So, maybe it is not so much that God’s actions are inscrutable, as our understanding of them is precarious. Not that we lack some secret key to biblical exposition, but simply because we are not God. He’s looking at the picture from a whole different angle, and what He sees may be very different from what we see. What He knows and understands may be completely unknown to us. In short, what we may misunderstand and call bad, He may call good.

Over the years, as I have attempted to challenge Evangelical beliefs by pointing out God’s immoral behavior, Christians have reminded me that it is impossible for us to judge God using human reasoning. According to Evangelicals, God’s ways are not our ways. Where do they get such a notion? Right out of the Bible:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

According to Evangelicals, God’s behavior can never be questioned because his ways are beyond human reason and understanding. In other words, God can do whatever the hell the wants because he is God. The Apostle Paul, when questioned about God choosing to save some people but not others, wrote:

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:17-21)

Simply put, Paul is saying, Shut up!  How dare you question God! God is God and he can do whatever he wants to do.

Long concludes her defense of the Christian God’s immoral behavior with the Biblical story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

Take the birth of Jesus for instance. Looking at the story from a human viewpoint, it is a completely tragic affair. A girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, her fiancée is compelled to marry her against his own inclination, they are forced into an arduous journey through unfriendly terrain, they are destitute and homeless when it comes to the time for childbirth, and the whole thing ends with a lot of innocent infants being massacred and Jesus’ parents having to flee for their lives to a foreign land not knowing if they will see their home and families again. For a sad tale of a couple who really get their lives messed up, that beats Romeo and Juliet hollow. Oh, and then that baby who came into the world through so much trouble and pain ends up being horrifically executed as a criminal and denied by His closest friends. And yet, from our retrospective understanding of God’s purpose, we celebrate His birth as the sweetest, most joyous event of all time.

Long, as every Evangelical, reads the Bible selectively. When Evangelicals read the story of the conception and birth of Jesus, all they see is the wonderful babe in the manger — God incarnate who came to earth to save sinners. While rose-colored-glasses wearing Evangelicals know that there are morally perplexing and contradictory aspects of the incarnation story, they shut their minds off from reason, believing instead that their God would never do anything that was not for their good.

So then, God raping a virgin teenage girl and making her the surrogate for Jesus is okay because these heinous behaviors led to the birth of Jesus, the savior of the world. Is this not why many Evangelicals believe that there should be no abortion exceptions?  According to Evangelicals, if a woman is violently raped and impregnated by a psychopath, she still should be forced to carry the fetus to term. Why? Well, look at how things worked out for Mary. She carried her fetus to term and that fetus became a miracle-working prophet, a God-man hybrid, who was violently tortured and executed so his blood could be used to wash away our sins. Amazing and wonderful, right?

God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, could have chosen to impregnate Mary another way (by having Joseph impregnate her and then supernaturally turning the fetus into Jesus, the son of God).  In fact, he could have provided a different method of salvation. But, he didn’t. Evangelicals often focus on the heathen ruler who massacred all the male babies in Bethlehem and the surrounding area under the age of two. What an awful, murderous man, Evangelicals say.  Wait a minute, couldn’t God have stopped Herod’s slaughter?  Shouldn’t God, who is the creator of the universe and the divine human puppet master, be held accountable for what happens on his watch?

Evangelicals argue that God cannot do wrong, and that he is morally pure.  When confronted with Bible stories that suggest otherwise, Christians rush in to defend their God from charges of immorality. I get it–the Christian narrative must be protected at all costs. If God is shown to be culpable for his behavior, why that would mean that he is not a deity worthy of human fealty, fidelity, devotion, and worship. And this is exactly what Evangelicals-turned-atheists such as I believe. Even if the Evangelical God exists, and he doesn’t, he would not be a deity worthy of our devotion and worship. We refuse to bow in worship to a God who has spent the last 6,020 years murderously working its way through human history. We refuse to bow in worship to a God who considers sickness, disease, starvation and war “good.” We refuse to bow in worship to a God who had stood on the sidelines of human history doing nothing as blood flows in the world’s streets.

I know all the excuses Evangelicals give for their God’s behavior. I used them myself in sermon after sermon, and they were little more than defenses of the indefensible. God has the power necessary to radically change life on earth, yet he does nothing. Outside of helping Granny Louise find her car keys and helping Tim Tebow keep his virginity, God is largely AWOL.  When will Christians realize that their God is not who they claim he is? Anyone with a modicum of reason and basic observation skills can conclude that the God being peddled by Evangelicals is a work of fiction.

Evangelicals are forced to ignore or reinterpret vast portions of the Bible in order to main the Christian narrative: that God is a kind, loving, long-suffering deity who desires to save people from their sins, that he is a God personally involved in the affairs of the human race, right down to giving each of us the breath to breathe. I ask, dear Christians, where is this God of yours? Outside of your minds, where can I find this God? Better yet, based on what I read in the Bible, why should I devotedly worship the Christian God? What is there about your God that deems him worthy of my love and devotion? From my seat in the atheist pew, if I knew of someone who behaved in a fashion similar to the Christian God, I would advocate for his immediate incarceration and execution. Such a loathsome creature does not deserve life. In every way, the Christian God is worse than the most vile of humans. Why would I ever want to worship such a God?

Simple, Bruce, if you don’t, God will torture you in hell for eternity after you die.

Thank you for making my point.

Jesus is Coming Soon: The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast

jack chick tract the beast

From Jack Chick tract, The Beast

Growing up in the Evangelical church, I was exposed to eschatological preaching which purported to divine the future. Based on a literalistic interpretation of the book of Revelation, Evangelical preachers tell of a day when Jesus will come to rapture (remove) Christians from the earth. After the rapture, God will, for seven years, pour out his wrath on the earth.  This period of divine slaughter and judgment is called the Great Tribulation.

During the Tribulation, the Antichrist, a powerful figure who wages war against God, will rise up and exert dominion over the earth. While Evangelicals have multiple interpretations of who and what the Antichrist is, all agree that he is one of the central figures of the Tribulation drama. According to the book of Revelation, the Antichrist will ultimately be defeated by Jesus and cast into the Lake of Fire.

Most Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is a real person. This belief has led to speculation about this or that person being the Antichrist. Some Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is alive today and could be someone such as Barack Obama or Pope Francis. What is interesting about these predictions about who the Antichrist might be is that the potential Antichrist always has political views opposed by Evangelicals. This is why some Evangelicals find it quite easy to label President Obama as the Antichrist, even more so of late since it has been reported that Obama might head the United Nations after he leaves office. (Many Evangelicals believe the United Nations will be used by the Antichrist to take over the world.)

According to many Evangelicals, during the Tribulation the Antichrist will take control of the world’s economy. No one will be able to buy or sell anything without having the mark of the Beast. The Biblical basis for this belief is found in Revelation 13:16-18:

 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Prior to the modern technological era, many Evangelicals believed that the mark of the Beast was a tattoo of the number 666 on the hands or foreheads of the followers of the Antichrist. In recent decades, Evangelicals have suggested that the mark of the Beast could be some sort of bar code, a mark that can only be read by using a certain type of light, or an embedded chip. I remember one preacher who was certain that supermarket scanners were paving the way for the Antichrist and the mark of the Beast.

While the character of  the mark has changed over the years, the importance of it has not. Anyone receiving the mark of the Beast will be doomed forever. Revelation 14:9-11 states:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

According to these verses, anyone who takes the mark of the Beast will face the fury of the wrath of God. Suffering and painful death await all who take the mark.

The 1970s and 1980s were the heyday for literalistic interpretations of the book of Revelation. Evangelical pastors regularly preached sermons on the end-times, featuring subjects such as the rapture, the Great Tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, and the great white throne judgment. Filled with illustrations from newspapers, these sermons inflamed the passions of Evangelical church goers. As the headlines changed, so did the sermons, but the focal point remained the same: Jesus is coming soon.

end of the world

After the 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 debacle, Evangelical passion for future events cooled. I am of the opinion that the rise of the religious right, a political movement with plans to take over America for Jesus, turned Evangelical attention from the future to the present. Instead of seeking after the kingdom of heaven, Evangelicals began to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth. Gone, for the most part, are prophecy conferences and literalistic sermons from Revelation and Daniel. Instead, pastors focus on felt-needs and personal fulfillment. There are certainly Evangelicals pastors who continue to preach newspaper headline sermons, but such preachers are on the fringes of Evangelicalism (most often found in charismatic, Pentecostal, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches).

As I came of age in the 1970s, I heard frequent end-time sermons. Preachers warned that we were the last generation, those who would see the second coming of Jesus Christ. Men such as Jack Van Impe predicted Russia would invade and take over the United States, thereby ushering in the Great Tribulation. Many preachers believed that the rapture and the second coming of Christ would take place sometime between 1984 and 1988. The thinking went something like this: Israel became a nation in 1948, a generation is 40 years long, thus, at the very latest, Jesus would return to earth in 1988.

In the late 1970s, I was a pastoral assistant to Jay Stuckey, pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church, a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation. Stuckey, as many preachers of his era, was obsessed with prophecy, the Illuminati, and numerous other conspiracies. Calls to evangelize were driven by Stuckey’s belief in the imminent return of Jesus; imminent meaning, at any moment. Forty years later, Stuckey and I are no longer in the ministry, Montpelier Baptist, a church that one time had over 500 in attendance, is closed, and those who were once obsessed with the soon-return of Jesus have turned to more earthly matters such as marriage, children, jobs, houses, and economic prosperity. While these people still tacitly believe that Jesus will someday return to earth, their lives are no longer dominated by eschatological thoughts. In other words, they grew up.

Were you once part of a church that was obsessed with the end-times? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Note

I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicals are not in agreement about how the books of Daniel and Revelation should be interpreted. That said, it is not hard to find Evangelical blogs, websites, and news services promoting the eschatological beliefs mentioned in this post.

You can read the complete text of 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 here.

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

bible vs evolution

Recently, Tim Gilleand wrote a blog post titled How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? In his post, Gilleand argues that creationists and scientists both have the same data and that the difference is how that information is interpreted. Gilleand writes:

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

Let’s look at a couple examples…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

….

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

For creationists like Gilleand, their interpretation of the world begins not with what they can see and know, but with what unknown authors wrote in an ancient religious text thousands of years ago. Creationists are less than honest when they say that the issue is how the scientific data is interpreted. No matter WHAT science says, creationists will always retreat to faith and their literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Non-creationists know that the universe is billions of years old. How do we know this? Science. While scientists continue to study the universe, creationists have no need to do so. Their minds are made up: God created the universe in six literal 24 hours says, 6,020 years ago. None of what science tells us about the universe ultimately matters to the creationist. Why? To put it simply, the BIBLE SAYS.

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Beliefs

daniel dennett quote

One of the hardest things for me to admit is that I, at one time, believed things that I now know to be untrue. These fallacious beliefs had a deleterious effect on not only my life, but the lives of my wife and children. While everyone concerned would agree that we have escaped the consequences of my beliefs relatively unharmed, I can’t help but think how life might have been different had I not fallen for the greatest con game of all time – Evangelical Christianity.

On one hand, if I had not been raised in the Evangelical church nor attended a Fundamentalist Baptist college, I never would have met my wife. Perhaps, in an alternate timeline I might have met a woman with the same beauty, charm, and kindness as Polly. Perhaps, I say. I remember another woman I dated before Polly. I was madly in love with her, yet, as I look back on our tumultuous relationship, I know that had we married, we likely would have killed each other. Choosing a different path doesn’t necessarily bring a better outcome. The old adage isn’t always true: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

This I know for sure: I spent most of my life believing things that are not true. And not just believing these things, but putting them into practice. It’s one thing to believe the Christian God exists, but it a far different thing, based on that belief, to devotes one’s life to serving this God. And not just serving him on Sunday, the day when he demands fealty from his followers, but like a devoted slave, I served this God day and night; day after day, year after year, for almost 50 years. This God, found only within the pages of an ancient religious text, promised that he would care for me in this life, and after death he would grant me eternal life in a pain-free, glorious Heaven.

Daniel Dennett is right: There’s no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to folly. Indeed, a life of folly. While I can, if given sufficient libations, cry over the spilt milk of my life, I choose to use my past life as a soldier for Jesus as a cautionary warning to all who dare to follow in my steps. I stand on the road of life waving my arms, hoping to turn sincere followers of this God away from the bridge-less chasm that awaits on the road ahead. Take another path, I passionately warn. Sadly, most of this God’s slaves will ignore my warnings, thinking that I am the one who is deceived and in need of saving.

There are others similar to myself, who, due to their blind devotion to religious belief, have squandered the best years of their lives. How can we not regret giving the years when we were strong, healthy, and full of life, to a mythical deity? And worse yet, how can we not regret giving our time, talent, and money to the human-built religious machine that drives over all who dare to get in its way?

Like other survivors of the Evangelical con, I have made an uneasy peace with my past. I have many regrets over how I spent most of my adult life. I know there’s nothing I can do about the past. I choose to learn from it, use it to fuel my writing, in the hope that I can, in some small way, play a part in bringing Evangelicalism to an ignominious end. While I will not live long enough to see its demise, I hope that one day one of my descendants will be the person who holds a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face and finally smothers him to death.

What follows is Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Beliefs. Most former Evangelicals will certainly find this list to be quite similar to theirs. I’ve ranked these beliefs based on how they materially affected me and my family.

  1. The Bible is a God-inspired text, inerrant and infallible
  2. The universe was created in six days and is 6,020 years
  3. God talks to me
  4. The story of the supernatural Jesus – all of it
  5. There is an unseen spiritual dimension inhabited by angels and demons
  6. There is a shadow government, a cabal that runs the world
  7. Demons possess people and inanimate objects such as toys
  8. Satan uses certain styles of music to control the masses
  9. Mental illness is caused by sin
  10. Government schools destroy the minds of students

My Evangelical journey began and ended with the Bible. My devotion to God was fueled by the belief that the Bible was a God-inspired text. This text was inerrant and infallible, and the God who wrote it meant for me to obey its commands and teachings.  Not only did this God expect me to obey, he also commanded me to teach others to do the same. And so I did. Thousands of people sat under the sound of my voice, hearing me declare that loving, serving, and worshiping the Evangelical God was the way to peace, blessing, the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting.

Everything in my life flowed from my commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. As Baptists are fond of saying: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me!  My journey out of Evangelicalism was complete when I came to realize that what I once believed about the Bible was not true; that my worldview was built on a delusional foundation. Once the Bible lost its magical power over me, other beliefs, like the ones mentioned above, quickly unraveled. When my mind was unfettered from the Evangelical delusion, I was then free to seek truth wherever it may be found. No longer was I boxed in by a set of beliefs that forced me to embrace irrationality. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box) And like most ex-Evangelicals, I am grateful that reason, knowledge, and understanding have set me free.

 

Once Again, Ken Ham Denies the Sufficiency of Scripture

ken ham

I previously wrote about that fact that Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis, doesn’t really believe that the Bible is all-sufficient.  (Please see Ken Ham’s Ark Project Shows He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture.)  Evangelicals like Ham supposedly believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. I say supposedly, because upon closer examination of their orthopraxy (correct practice), Evangelicals are quite willing to ignore the Bible when it suits them.

Take Ham’s latest monument to Fundamentalist ignorance, the Ark Encounter: a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark. The Bible records in Genesis 6-9 the mythical story of Noah and the flood. According to the Bible, God, sickened and angered by the sin of human race, decided to use a global flood to kill everyone, save Noah and his family. Out of the millions of people on the face of the earth, only Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives, were deemed worthy of God’s grace (evidently Noah’s grandchildren didn’t make the cut).

God told Noah to prepare a big boat, by which he, Jehovah, would save Noah and his family. In Genesis 6:13-16, God gave Noah strict engineering plans to follow when building the ark:

And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

God told Noah to use gopher wood for the Ark’s construction. The word gopher is used only once in the Bible. Some English translations leave the word untranslated, while others, especially modern Bible versions, translate the Hebrew word as cypress or cedar. Knowing these things, imagine my surprise when I read that Ken Ham is using spruce trees (Englemann spruce) to build his replica of Noah’s Ark. Ham writes:

When you visit the Ark Encounter next year, one of the things that will just blow you away is the massive scope of the Ark and the colossal size of the trees that were used to construct it. We’ve heard people ask what type of trees they are and where they came from. The trees were standing dead Englemann spruce that were over 200 years old.

….

They were responsibly harvested from a forest in Utah. There are select forests managed by the forestry service where dead trees, before they begin to rot, are harvested and repurposed; then the forest is replanted for future harvests. What’s really nice about these gigantic 66 foot tall logs that are 50 inches in diameter is the fact that they are already dry, so they won’t move or twist once in place.

Why isn’t Ham using gopher wood? Surely, God meant what he said when he told Noah exactly what wood and dimensions to use in constructing the Ark. Evidently, Ham doesn’t really believe that the Bible is all-sufficient. If he did, he would either scour the earth looking for gopher wood or he would use cyprus/cedar to build the Ark. Instead, Ham chose a wood that met project engineering and cost requirements. In other words, he allowed modern science and mathematics to dictate the construction of his modern-day Ark. It is too bad that Ham can’t do the same when it comes to the creationist story of Genesis 1-3. Why does Ham demand a literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1-3, yet ignore this hermeneutic when choosing which wood to use for building the Ark? Ham demands that modern scientists bow to the authority of the Bible, yet he is quite willing to ignore it when it suits him.

Ham presents the Ark project as one that is environmentally responsible. Ham says the project’s spruce trees were “responsibly harvested from a forest in Utah.” What he fails to tell readers is why these trees were available for what Ham calls the “largest timber-frame structure in the world.” According to the The Salt Lake Tribune, spruce beetles have destroyed the state’s once burgeoning Englemann spruce population. In 2011, Brandon Loomis, a writer for The Tribunewrote:

Some three-toed woodpecker in these woods is pleasantly plump on beetles, but the buffet can’t go on forever. It lasts only as long as the trees.

The gluttony is written on and around a stocky spruce that looks green and mostly healthy to the untrained eye, except for the fact that it’s pecked nude from the waist down.

No bird harmed the tree, though. The damage was already done.

“These trees are loaded with bugs,” said Liz Hebertson, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist, down from Ogden to survey this year’s spruce-beetle infestation in south-central Utah. Peeling back a neighboring spruce’s bark confirms that larvae are maturing, readying for the short flight of their lives in search of new pine prey.

It’s nothing new to her. Mountains of Utah’s verdant spruce slopes are gone. If climate scientists are right, they might never be back.

After a rain, Utah’s high spruce forests evoke the misty Pacific Northwest — unlikely lush islands rising from redrock desert and olive chaparral. Now a complex set of threats conspires to take them down.

One is natural — the beetle with a taste for older trees, aided by a decade of tree-stressing drought. Another is a century of fire suppression that built up fuels to the bursting point. Aiding both those killers is a rising thermometer.

Even if a warmer climate can again support Engelmann spruce — the state’s dominant commercial-grade tree — it will be 200 years or more until they grow back to the towering sentinels that 20th-century Utahns knew. In the meantime, subalpine firs may spring up in their place, replacing green for green but not with dollars. Subalpine firs are more brittle — not lumber material.

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It’s been a losing battle so far, and science suggests it’s a long-run lost cause.

First, there’s the insect’s physiology and its response to increasing warmth. The cold-blooded spruce beetles in these hills once took two years to mature from the egg and fly on to breed in new trees. In the early 2000s, Hebertson said, forest scientists documented a switch to one-year cycles here, which boosted the population and primed a disaster.

Beetles have taken 2 million acres of Utah forest in roughly that time, the largest share of it spruce. The outbreak started in the 1990s around Cedar Breaks National Monument in southwestern Utah, where Hebertson has seen no evidence of spruce regeneration since.

The Forest Service has found that higher temperatures aid and speed beetle production. The Utah Climate Center at Utah State University finds that since 1970 the mercury has risen swiftly when it counts most — more than 3 degrees on average during bug-killing winter lows at a monitoring station at Capitol Reef National Park in southern-central Utah.

A decade of beetles-gone-wild might not spell doom in normal conditions. Big outbreaks have shown up before, and the spruce have rebounded. This time, though, computer models based on society’s carbon emissions aren’t looking good. They show Engelmann spruce practically blinking out in Utah by 2090, limited to a strand in the High Uintas.

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Global warming is the reason Ham found reasonably priced spruce trees for the Ark project, the very climate change Ham denies is materially affecting the earth. Rod J. Martin, a self-described independent researcher with no stated scientific credentials, explains Answers in Genesis’ official global warming position this way: (link no longer active)

The Bible does not speak directly about what we call global warming. It does, however, provide a framework for evaluating the merits of global warming claims. To reiterate, the global warming discussion centers on CO2 (the atmosphere) and trees (plants). The Bible, of course, addresses the atmosphere and plants. The biblical framework for evaluating global warming is primarily found in Genesis. The RATE study mentioned above established that Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 (the Creation account) was narrative. The study also determined that the Flood account (Genesis chapters 7 to 9) is also narrative (Vardiman et al. 2005, pp. 661 and 667). This paper will also briefly reference the dispersion of the nations at the tower of Babel in the summary. Although the RATE study did not evaluate the Tower of Babel, I believe that if the creation and the Flood passages are narrative then the tower of Babel passage is narrative also. These passages describe real events and real people. The following sections briefly discuss passages related to the atmosphere and plants.

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The biblical history of the earth, contained in the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, provides a useful and sufficient framework for evaluating the current global warming issue. As we have seen, CO2 is a natural atmospheric gas that is essential for man’s existence. It is not a pollutant. The atmosphere is likely deficient in CO2 compared with the original created atmosphere. Reducing CO2 would definitely create problems, but increasing it will not. Burning fossil fuels merely returns CO2 to its place of origin. Forests are to be used for man’s benefit. They are not needed to produce O2 and they have no intrinsic rights, but should be managed responsibly and effectively.

Basic science is consistent with the biblical history and argues strongly against the global warming hypothesis. Melting glaciers and changing climates are not an indication of man-made global warming. These natural phenomena have been operating for thousands of years. Temperature histories are imprecise and unreliable. Global warming is built on an evolutionary earth history and an evolutionary time scale. Anything built on a faulty foundation cannot stand. Global warming is an offshoot of evolutionary thinking and is needlessly creating mass hysteria. God is in control of the earth, not man.

It can be expected that several trends evident since the Flood, however, will continue: sea level will rise as polar glaciers continue to melt, and deserts will expand. These trends, as we have shown, have little to do with CO2, they are a consequence of a God ordained event, the Flood. Governments with either ocean boundaries or deserts should consider how to efficiently and economically address these trends. There is no viable justification either biblically or scientifically for limiting the generation of CO2 or restricting logging of forests.

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When it comes to the type of wood to use for his colossal tinker toy project, Ham ignores the Bible and, instead, buys a wood that is affordable thanks to global warming. Yet, when it comes to the warming of the planet and what problems rising global temperatures will cause, Ham, Martin, and the “astute” scientists at Answers in Genesis, demand a return to a strict, literalistic reading of Genesis 1-3. Simply put, global warming is much ado about nothing, because…drum roll please, the BIBLE says. While Ham uses modern engineering practices and cost studies for building the Ark, he reverts to knuckle-dragging, young-earth-creationist talking points when it comes to global warming.

I wish Ken Ham would make up his mind about the sufficiency of the Bible. Either it’s God’ divine science textbook or it’s not. Either God did or he didn’t tell Noah everything he needed to know about building a large boat in the desert. Which is it? Or perhaps Ham, like all Evangelicals, gives lip service to the sufficiency of the Bible. When it suits him he demands literalism, but when necessary Ham is quite willing to abandon the all-sufficient Bible in favor of modern science and technology.

Martyn Lloyd Jones Asks, Is Jesus Lord of Your Intellect?

bible literalism

Drawing by David Hayward

Or to put it another way, do you parse every thought you have through the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God?

Martyn Lloyd Jones, a 20th century Reformed pastor, who is quite popular among fundamentalist Calvinistic/Reformed Christians, had this to say on the matter:

‎”My thinking, if I believe that Jesus is the Lord, must be governed entirely by the Bible. In other words, I am not governed by modern thought. If I am governed by that, then Jesus is not the Lord of my intellect. So I cannot be governed by modern thought or by recent knowledge or by the latest discoveries of science. The moment I begin to be governed by those things, then Jesus is no longer Lord to me. I am putting myself in a superior position. I am making myself the lord.”

It should come as no surprise that Lloyd Jones rejected evolution. In his book, What is an Evangelical? , Lloyd Jones wrote:

‘We accept the biblical teaching with regard to creation and do not base our position upon theories of evolution, whichever particular theory people may choose to advocate. We must assert that we believe in the being of one first man called Adam, and one first woman called Eve. We reject the notion of pre-Adamic man because it is contrary to the teaching of the Scripture.

‘Now someone may ask, “Why do you care about this? Is this essential to your doctrine of salvation? Are you not falling into the very error of over-particularization against which you warned us at the beginning?” I suggest that I am not, and for these reasons. If we say that we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, we must say that about the whole of the Bible, and when the Bible presents itself to us as history, we must accept it as history. I would contend that the early chapters of Genesis, the first three chapters of Genesis, are given to us as history. We know that there are pictures and symbols in the Bible, and when the Bible uses symbol and parable it indicates that it is doing so, but when it presents something to us in the form of history, it requires us to accept it as history.

‘We must therefore hold to the vital principle, to which I have referred earlier, of the wholeness and the close interrelationship of every part of the biblical message. The Bible does not merely make statements about salvation. It is a complete whole: it tells you about the origin of the world and of man; it tells you what has happened to him, how he fell and the need of salvation arose, it then tells how God provided this salvation and how He began to reveal it in parts and portions. Nothing is so amazing about the Bible as its wholeness, the perfect interrelationship of all the parts.’

Let this be a reminder of how the Evangelical doctrine of inerrancy and Bible literalism cripples a person’s ability to think and reason. When inquiry begins with an inerrant, infallible, inspired text there can be no hope of a satisfactory answer. Every answer must be fit into the Bible box and anything that doesn’t fit in this box is rejected out of hand. This kind of thinking breeds ignorance and keeps a person from seeing the world as it is.