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Tag: Matthew Henry

Avoiding the Appearance of Sin

hear see speak no evil

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:22:

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Eighteenth-century theologian Matthew Henry explains I Thessalonians 5:22 verse this way:

Corrupt affections indulged in the heart, and evil practices allowed of in the life, will greatly tend to promote fatal errors in the mind; whereas purity of heart, and integrity of life, will dispose men to receive the truth in the love of it. We should therefore abstain from evil, and all appearances of evil, from sin, and that which looks like sin, leads to it, and borders upon it. He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of sin, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to sin, will not long abstain from the actual commission of sin. (E-Sword Bible Program)

For those of us raised in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) or Southern Baptist churches, we likely heard numerous sermons about abstaining from the appearance of evil. These sermons often included lists of things we should abstain from because the pastor, uh, I mean God, declared them to be sinful/evil. Sometimes, Ephesians 4:27 would be quoted: Neither give place to the devil. Not abstaining from the appearance of evil meant you were giving the Devil place in your life.

In the churches I grew up in, the IFB college I attended in the 1970s, and the churches I pastored in the 1980s and 1990s, abstaining from the appearance of evil meant not doing anything that looked like you were sinning. As you will see in just a moment, this kind of thinking led to all sorts of laughable and bizarre behavior.

As a pastor, my interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 evolved quite a bit over the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. As a young preacher, I was quite the literalist. I obsessed over being seen doing something that others might view as sinful. In particular, I made sure that church members never saw me doing anything that would lead them to conclude that I was sinning. Baked into this thinking was the notion that what could be seen was the problem. If I wanted to do something that might be perceived as sin, I just made sure no one saw what I was doing. Let me share two stories that should illustrate my point.

From 1983 to 1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church, a thriving IFB congregation in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. The congregation was dirt poor. Though most of the men in the church were gainfully employed, poverty was common, and that included Pastor and Mrs. Gerencser and their six children. It was not uncommon for me to preach the Puritan work ethic and trusting God for all your needs from the pulpit. Congregants were expected to trust God, not the government, to meet their daily needs. Of course, this was an impossible standard for many of the church families to live by. When God failed to provide, families turned to the government for assistance. Many of the families were on food stamps — now called SNAP. There was a sense of guilt in the church over this, but when given a choice to go hungry for Jesus or have food on the table, church families turned to the government for food.

The church went through a difficult spell financially in the late 1980s, and I went unpaid weeks on end. During this time, we applied for food stamps. Boy, were we embarrassed. At the time, we thought that we were letting God (and the church) down by accepting government assistance. I suspect my pride played a big part in how I felt at the time, but with a family of eight to feed, my pride had to take a back seat to meeting our needs.

Thanks to our family size, we received a huge food stamp allotment each month — more than we could actually use. After we received our first food stamp coupon booklets, I told Polly that she was NEVER to use them at local grocery stores. We had to avoid the appearance of evil/sin, and in IFB circles, accepting government assistance was indeed considered sinful. Instead of buying groceries locally, we would drive an hour to Columbus to buy groceries. Twenty minutes away, Zanesville had several groceries, but since many of our church members shopped at these stores, we couldn’t do our shopping in Zanesville.

Polly’s uncle, James (Jim) Dennis, pastored the Newark Baptist Temple in Newark, Ohio. The Baptist Temple was a strict IFB congregation, with rules and regulations governing virtually every aspect of life. Congregants were not permitted to attend the movies. Doing so meant you were supporting evil Hollywood. Even lingering around the entrance of a movie theater was viewed as giving the appearance of evil.

As a child, Polly and her parents would vacation with the Dennis family in Florida. Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:22? Abstain from all appearance of evil. Well, this verse took on a whole different meaning in Florida. With no church members around, the whole family would go to the movies. That’s right, a Baptist preacher who preached one thing but did another!

During the almost twelve years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist Church, I developed an elaborate code of conduct fueled by avoiding the appearance of evil at all costs. I never wanted church members to see me doing something that could be construed as sin/evil. Of course, what they didn’t see couldn’t hurt them. Polly and I became experts at playing the game. We could be having a big row as we drove to the church house, but as soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we put on our “Oh, How I Love Jesus” faces. You see, appearance was everything in my book. Lest someone come to the wrong conclusion, I had a deep love for Jesus and sincerely desired to walk in his steps. Unfortunately, I was human AND a Fundamentalist — a sure recipe for failure. Sure, I wanted people to see me in a certain light — who doesn’t, right — but I also loved the Lord, my God, and wanted to follow his commandments.

I should mention in passing the Biblical idea advanced by the apostle Paul that Christians should not do anything that would cause another Christian to “stumble.” Even if a particular behavior was not sinful, if a weaker Christian thought a behavior was sin or it could cause him to fall, you should not do it in his presence.

Let me conclude by illustrating how avoiding the appearance of evil/sin worked out practically in my life. I know these illustrations will seem absurd, but former Fundamentalist Christians will likely shake their head and say, “yep, been there, done that.” I hope readers will come away from this post understanding how Bible literalism and Fundamentalist thinking can deeply affect one’s life.

The following illustrations all took place from 1983-1994.

One day, I received a letter from the Somerset Ministerial Group asking me to join them for their monthly meeting at the Little Phil Restaurant. The letter was signed by the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church. Unbeknownst to these clergymen was the fact that IFB pastors were hyper-separatists who didn’t fellowship with anyone but their own kind. How could I break bread with pastors I believed were preaching a false gospel and leading people to Hell?

I wrote the Lutheran pastor a scathing letter, point by point, telling him why I would never join them for their meeting. Besides, the Little Phil served alcohol, and I didn’t eat at restaurants that served booze. The Lutheran pastor sent me a short reply, gently trying to show me the error of my way. He concluded by asking me to reconsider. “Just remember, Bruce, even Jesus ate with sinners.”

I refused to eat at any restaurant that sold alcohol. This meant that my idea of a good steak was Ponderosa (pound-a-grossa), and I ate far more fast food than was good for me. This also meant that we didn’t buy groceries at stores that sold booze or buy gasoline from gas stations that sold alcohol (or porn-lite magazines such as Playboy). This made life quite challenging for us at times, but I sincerely believed God wanted me to abstain from ALL appearances of sin. How could I preach against drinking alcohol if I was giving my money to businesses that sold the Devil’s elixir?

My views began to change after I left Somerset Baptist, and the last decade of my time in the ministry was very different lifestyle-wise from the first. As anyone who has carefully read my story knows, my beliefs and practices bumpily moved over the course of twenty-five years from Bruce, the Fundamentalist to Bruce, the generic Evangelical to Bruce, the progressive Christian. Intolerance begat tolerance, and in the end, I no longer believed that I was accountable for how people lived their lives. My preaching moved from thundering sermons on sin to emphasizing the two great commands: loving God and loving others. Now, this doesn’t mean I didn’t preach against sin, I did. But my sin list changed, becoming smaller and smaller over time.

I want to think that the cancer of Christian Fundamentalism has been excised from my life, but I know better. I still battle the notion that appearance is everything, that I always want people to see me in the best possible light. As a social construct, I suppose this is fine, but it does, at times, get in the way of me being my authentic self — warts and all.

As a Christian, how did you interpret the verses mentioned in this post? Did your pastors preach about abstaining from the appearance of evil/sin? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Evangelical Swear Words

foxtrot cussing

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

At one time, Christians seemed to all agree that saying swear words was a sin, especially uttering blasphemous phrases like God dammit or go to hell. These days, in many corners of the Christian ghetto, swearing is now accepted. Even preachers are known to show their coolness and hipster cred by using choice words, not only in their conversations with others, but also in their sermons.

I came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the Baptist churches I attended, saying swear words was definitely considered a sin against the thrice-holy God. Most of the preachers of my youth would quote Exodus 20:7: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, as justification for their prohibitions against cursing. These preachers never did explain how saying “shit” was “taking God’s name in vain.” I later came to see that this commandment had little to do with saying certain words. According to 17th Century Presbyterian theologian and pastor Matthew Henry, taking God’s name in vain meant:

We take God’s name in vain, [1.] By hypocrisy, making a profession of God’s name, but not living up to that profession. Those that name the name of Christ, but do not depart from iniquity, as that name binds them to do, name it in vain; their worship is vain (Mat_15:7-9), their oblations are vain (Isa_1:11, Isa_1:13), their religion is vain, Jam_1:26. [2.] By covenant-breaking; if we make promises to God, binding our souls with those bonds to that which is good, and yet perform not to the Lord our vows, we take his name in vain (Mat_5:33), it is folly, and God has no pleasure in fools (Ecc_5:4), nor will he be mocked, Gal_6:7. [3.] By rash swearing, mentioning the name of God, or any of his attributes, in the form of an oath, without any just occasion for it, or due application of mind to it, but as a by-word, to no purpose at all, or to no good purpose. [4.] By false swearing, which, some think, is chiefly intended in the letter of the commandment; so it was expounded by those of old time. Thou shalt not forswear thyself, Mat_5:33. One part of the religious regard the Jews were taught to pay to their God was to swear by his name, Deu_10:20. But they affronted him, instead of doing him honour, if they called him to be witness to a lie. [5.] By using the name of God lightly and carelessly, and without any regard to its awful significancy. The profanation of the forms of devotion is forbidden, as well as the profanation of the forms of swearing; as also the profanation of any of those things whereby God makes himself known, his word, or any of his institutions; when they are either turned into charms and spells, or into jest and sport, the name of God is taken in vain.

Sure, in point number five, Henry mentions swearing, but what about points one through four: being a hypocrite, breaking a vow, rashly making an oath, and lying?  On Sunday, each of the churches I pastored gave parishioners and visitors an opportunity to come forward during the public invitation and get right with God, either by getting saved or confessing sin. I witnessed plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth as people covered the altar rail with their tears (and snot). Oh God, I’m so sorry I lusted after Sister Susie this week, please forgive me. Dear Jesus, please forgive me for looking at porn. I promise to never, never look at a naked woman who is not my wife again. Dear God, I know that YOU know that I really didn’t stop smoking like I told the preacher I did. I’m so sorry for lying. I plead the blood of Jesus over my life and I promise to never, ever smoke another Marlboro. And, in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, the penitent church members would return to their “sin,” thus requiring a new round of weeping and wailing. Their vows to not sin were, according to Matthew Henry, taking God’s name in vain.

Many of us who use curse words use them when we are angry or upset. Sometimes, we use swear words to ameliorate a serious pain that we are having. I’ve learned that, after hitting my finger with a hammer, saying “God dammit!” really loud tends to lessen the pain. According to research presented to the British Psychological Society, swearing is an emotional language, and using it can make a person feel better. Perhaps the use of 506 expletives in 179 minutes as actors did in the movie Wolf of Wall Street is a tad bit excessive, but I know firsthand that cursing can, and does, have a cathartic effect on a person. While certainly those who swear must be aware of proper social conventions, swearing at the referee on TV who just hosed your favorite football team can be emotionally satisfying, and I highly recommend it.

A dear friend of mine from back in the days when we both were part of the Trinity Baptist Church youth group, laughs every time she hears me utter a swear word. She often replies, “I never thought I’d see the day when Bruce Gerencser said a swear word.” From the time I was saved at the age of 15 until I left the ministry, I never uttered one swear word, outwardly anyhow. I thought plenty of swear words but never verbalized them. To do so would have branded me as a sinner and as a man who didn’t have his emotions under control.

Evangelicals are every bit as emotional and angry as their counterparts in the world. Knowing that telling someone to “fuck off” would bring them rebuke and shame, Evangelicals have developed what I call Christian swear words. Christian swear words are expressions such has:

  • Shucks
  • Shoot
  • Darn
  • Dangit
  • Freaking
  • Crap
  • Gosh darn it
  • Son of a gun
  • Frigging
  • Shucky darn

As you can easily see, these words are meant to be replacements for the real swear words. This way, angry or emotionally upset Evangelicals can express themselves without running afoul of God’s FCC.

Years ago, a preacher who considered himself totally sanctified (without sin), was known for using the phrase, taking it to the hilt. He and I were quite good friends, and one day when he repeated his favorite phrase, I told him, you know that taking it to the hilt can be used as a sexual reference for sticking the penis all the way into its base (hilt). He was indignant that I would dare to suggest such a thing. He later learned I was right and apologized (Do you suppose it ever dawned on him that he had sinned by using this phrase after he said he no longer was a sinner?)

Swear words are just that: words. Social conventions dictate their use. I am a card-carrying member of the Swearers Club. I make liberal use of curse words, especially when speaking to officials from afar on a televised sporting event. Even Polly, sweet, sweet Polly, my wife, has devolved to my level. While I am careful when using swear words in public or around those who are easily offended, I refuse to be bullied into submission by the word police. I rarely use swear words in my writing, but I do so on occasion. It’s up to the individual readers to decide if a well-placed malediction is offensive enough to stop them from reading.

Sometimes, when responding to the emails persnickety Evangelicals love to send me, I deliberately use swear words that I know will euphemistically cause urine to flow from their genitals. They will respond with outrage as did fundamentalist Baptist preacher Jeff Setzer during a “discussion” on the post, The Legacy of Jack Hyles. When Jeff first commented on the Jack Hyles post, he was polite and respectful. However, during his last round of comments he decided to get more aggressive — a common ploy used by Evangelical zealots. When I determined that Setzer hadn’t taken the time to actually read my story, I responded to him by writing, “I encourage you to take the time to read my writing. The answers you seek can be found there.” And here’s the dialog that followed:

Setzer, in response to Brian, a former IFB pastor’s son: You can be wrong too, right along with all of the molesters. And like the victims of physical abuse, you are a victim of spiritual and intellectual abuse…that which is many times more difficult to overcome than mere physical abuse. Since the physical realm regularly confirms the Bible to be true, as well as other realms of evidence, I KNOW the Bible is truth. There is NO doubt whatsoever.

Bruce: Ah, now there’s the Christian asshole that every Fundamentalist eventually morphs into. This is your last comment.

Setzer: Do you know what profanity is? How about what kindness means? Or intolerance? “Last comment”? Can you not reason and share where your supposed point of rejection was, or perhaps you have built a wall, making a skin of a reason based upon woefully fallible men who set up themselves as authoritative? I’ll look up the posts to which you refer, but I haven’t seen any logic on here yet but rather emotion. You’ve come to a conclusion out of emotion and not logic. I’d be glad to communicate further with you if you’re open to logic and evidence and not being outright dismissive. Thanks for being willing to dialogue.

Bruce: After your first comment you were taken to a page that had the comment rules. You have violated the commenting rules and this is why I will not approve any further comments by you. My asshole comment is in response to your last approved comment. If you don’t like being called an asshole, don’t act like one.

You can read the rest of the sphincter-muscle stimulating comments here.

I am of the opinion that if a person doesn’t want to be called an asshole then he shouldn’t act like one. Setzer, ever the clueless Fundamentalist, was more concerned over me using profanity than he was how his words were being perceived by myself and others. Instead of becoming outraged over a word, perhaps God’s anointed ones should pay attention to how their own words and behaviors reflect on the good news they purportedly want everyone to believe.

As Setzer surely would have known had he bothered to spend time reading my writing, I rarely use curse words, and in the comment section I reserve their use for when Fundamentalists — and it is ALWAYS Fundamentalists — are showing how little fruit is growing on their spiritual trees. You know, the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Sometimes, preachers I mention by name in one of my articles write asking me to remove their name from my post. They don’t like being called out by name. My thinking on this goes something like: if you didn’t want to be cast in a poor light you should have treated me better. After all, the Bible does say, you reap what you sow, right? One offended preacher was upset that I mentioned that he impregnated and married his first wife when she was 13. Here’s a man who travels the countryside telling others how to live, yet he had, and may still have, a thing for young girls (and pastors who are still having him come to their church to preach need to know this).

Well, I think I’ve run out of words to type on the computer screen. I’ll see if I can refrain from offending Fundamentalists with my salty language. Nah, fuck that . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Abraham and Isaac: God Has a Right to Command You to Kill Your Child 

abraham sacrificing isaac

Recently, Petrus Klopper, a writer for the Isaiah 53:5 Project and Solid Rock Apologetics, attempted to answer the question, How Could God Command Abraham to Kill His Son? I say “attempted,” because Klopper miserably failed at his task, just as every other Christian apologist has failed when attempting to do the same. According to Klopper, God had every right to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Notice that I used the word “sacrifice,” not “kill,” as Klopper did in his title. God, in no uncertain terms, asked Abraham to put his only son Isaac on an altar and sacrifice him. Someone is sure to ask, “don’t the words sacrifice and kill mean the same thing?” Yes and no, and I will demonstrate in a moment Klopper’s sleight of hand by using the word sacrifice.

For those not schooled in the mystical stories of the Christian Bible, here’s the text, Genesis 22:1-13, that tells the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac:

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

According to seventeenth century Baptist theologian John Gill, God commanded Abraham to:

… offer him (Isaac)  there for a burnt offering; this was dreadful work he was called to, and must be exceeding trying to him as a man, and much more as a parent, and a professor of the true religion, to commit such an action; for by this order he was to cut the throat of his son, then to rip him up, and cut up his quarters, and then to lay every piece in order upon the wood, and then burn all to ashes; and this he was to do as a religious action, with deliberation, seriousness, and devotion… (John Gill Commentary, E-Sword)

According to eighteenth century Anglican John Wesley, God wanted Abraham to not only kill his son, but also offer him as a burnt sacrifice. Wesley wrote:

…offer him (Isaac) for a burnt offering – He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, with all that sedateness and composedness of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt – offering. (John Wesley Commentary, E-Sword)

Eighteenth century theologian Matthew Henry, chiming in agreement with Gill and Wesley wrote:

 …offer him (Isaac) for a burnt-offering. He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, kill him devoutly, kill him by rule, kill him with all that pomp and ceremony, with all that sedateness and composure of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt-offerings. (Matthew Henry Commentary, E-Sword)

Nineteenth century Presbyterian theologian Albert Barnes called Abraham’s potential sacrifice of Isaac  a “human sacrifice.” Recognizing the moral issue raised by human sacrifice, Barnes writes:

The only solution of this, is what the ease itself actually presents; namely, the divine command. It is evident that the absolute Creator has by right entire control over his creatures. He is no doubt bound by his eternal rectitude to do no wrong to his moral creatures. But the creature in the present case has forfeited the life that was given, by sin. And, moreover, we cannot deny that the Almighty may, for a fit moral purpose, direct the sacrifice of a holy being, who should eventually receive a due recompense for such a degree of voluntary obedience. (Albert Barnes Commentary, E-Sword)

Based on the aforementioned references, we can conclude that God, as a test, commanded Abraham to take his only son Isaac to Mount Moriah, and kill him so he could be offered as a human burnt sacrifice to God.

Klopper makes clear in his post that there are three things God is NOT doing in this story:

  • God was not tempting Abraham
  • God was not instituting or condoning child sacrifice
  • God was not telling Abraham to do wrong

Christian apologists like Klopper will go to great lengths to justify God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. Klopper used the word kill in the post title because he doesn’t want readers to confuse what God is asking Abraham to do with human sacrifice. However, it is clear from the text that a human sacrifice of Isaac is EXACTLY what God is asking Abraham to do.

Is Isaac human? Yes. Does Abraham build an altar to be used for sacrifices? Yes? Did Abraham place Isaac on the altar, preparing to offering him as a human sacrifice to God? Yes. Does Abraham implicitly obey God’s command to sacrifice his son? Yes. Then, pray tell, how is what God commands Abraham to do NOT child sacrifice? Any fair and honest reading of the text shows that God clearly intended for Abraham to kill (murder) his son as a flesh and blood sacrifice.

Similar stories can be found in other tribal cultures, and Evangelicals are quick to label these stories as murderous and barbaric. Evidently, according to Evangelicals, there is some sort of difference between stories of human/child sacrifices to false Gods, and the God/Abraham/Isaac story. Try as I might, I can’t find the difference.

Klopper, perhaps realizing that his, this is not child sacrifice argument is intellectually vacuous and lame, goes on to say that God is not commanding Abraham to do wrong. Really? In what universe is child/human sacrifice not wrong? Every civilized society in the world condemns child/human sacrifice. Even atheists consider such murderous actions wrong. Yet, somehow, according to Klopper, God asking Abraham to slice, dice, and sauté his son is not, in any way, wrong.

Klopper makes one final argument which, according to his Fundamentalist-infused mind, should silence every critic. It is the one argument, next to faith, that Christians will turn to when no other argument will work: God is God and he has a right to do/command whatever he wants to. Klopper states his argument this way:

God has the right to take human life and could therefore authorize Abraham to do so in a particular case. Note that had Abraham decided of his own accord to sacrifice Isaac, he would have been wrong and his act would have been condemned by God (as were other human-initiated sacrifices).

According to Exodus 20, murder is a sin. Thou shalt not kill, right? But, according to Klopper, if God authorizes (commands) someone to commit a murder (human sacrifice) then it is okay. Hmm, so then, Christians who have, in the past, said that God commanded them to kill their children or spouse, these murderous behaviors are okay, right? I’m sure that Klopper will object to my line of inquiry, but is this not exactly what he is saying? Or is he making a distinction between murderous stories in the Bible and those found on page one of the newspaper? Evidently, if a God-sanctioned murder is recorded by an unknown author in a so-called divine religious text, that makes the slaying moral. However, if a devout twenty-first century Christian — a person we can see and talk to — says and does the same, it is not a God-approved murder. This makes “perfect” sense to me.

human sacrifice
Comic by Scott Maynard

Surely we can all agree that a God, ANY God, commanding someone to commit murder is wrong. It matters not whether it is Abraham or Victoria Soliz, a woman who tried to drown her 3-year-old son in a puddle because Jesus told her to do so.  While Evangelicals will attempt to make a distinction between God speaking to Abraham and God speaking to someone like Soliz, there is no difference between the two. Both are hearing voices in their heads that are telling them to murder their children. And hearing voices in one’s head commanding immoral, unethical, or dangerous acts is always a sure sign of mental distress or illness. Despite knowing this, Klopper is determined to present Abraham as a great man of faith who was willing to do whatever God commanded him to do.

It is too bad that Klopper is boxed in by his belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. Such a belief requires Klopper to accept the Abraham/Isaac/human-sacrifice story as factual history. While Klopper does make numerous spiritual applications from the Genesis 22 text in his post, he is hamstrung by the requirement to accept the text as history. Jews, on the other hand, treat this text as an allegory or a metaphor. They understand, along with everyone else except Evangelicals, that no one in his or her right mind should accept Abraham sacrificing Isaac as literal truth.

And here’s the thing, IF Abraham had actually murdered Isaac, twenty-first century Evangelical preachers would be preaching sermons about Abraham’s great faith and his willingness to explicitly obey God, even if it meant murdering his own son. Praise Jesus!! (And how is this any different from the Muslim who believes God is commanding him to kill in Allah’s name?)

Notes

Any God who demands his followers to murder as a test of obedience is not a deity worthy of our worship.

Bruce Gerencser