Tag Archive: Rationalism

It Only Works If You Believe

just believe

Of late, I have been watching the drama The Path on Hulu. Starring Aaron PaulMichelle Monaghan, and Hugh DancyThe Path portrays the lives of people involved with a religion called Meyerism.  While Meyerism is fictional, many of its core tenets and practices mirror those found in Evangelicalism. I found myself thinking, the only difference between Meyerism — a cult — and Evangelicalism is a matter of degree. This is especially true when Meyerism is compared to the extreme Fundamentalist corner of the Evangelical tent. I am not suggesting that Meyerism is the equivalent of Evangelicalism. It’s not. As Wikipedia makes clear,  Meyerism combines aspects of:

New Age philosophy, shamanism, Scientology, Christian mysticism and Utopianism with a few elements from the Shakers, Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism and Freemasonry ritual.

However, Meyeristic practices such as fidelity to a rigid set of commands and beliefs, obedience to leaders, progressive enlightenment, separation from the world, and the shunning of ex-Meyerists find expression in the practices of countless Evangelical churches.

Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) and Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan) are devoted followers of Stephen Meyer, the founder of Meyerism. Born into a Meyerist family, Sarah is what you would call a “true believer.” Eddie, on the other hand, has questions and doubts about the religious aspects of Meyerism. While Eddie embraces Meyerism’s commitment to family, environmentalism, and helping the poor and suffering, he comes to believe the rest of Meyerism is, in his words, bullshit. He has come to see that what he once considered “truth” was a lie. Eventually, Eddie’s crisis of faith leads to conflict with his wife, family, and Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy), the leader of Meyerist community in New York. Eddie is banished from the Meyerist community. Labeled a “denier,” Eddie tries to help his teenage son Hawk who recently took Meyerist vows. In episode three of season two, Hawk tells Eddie that he can no longer see him. Eddie desperately tries to reason with his son, but to no avail.

During his passionate plea to Hawk, Eddie tells his son, “it [Meyerism] only works if you believe.” Eddie goes on to explain that if you pull on that string, everything unravels crumbles into nothing. I can’t think of a better illustration of what many of us have gone through as we walked away from Christianity. Christianity, and in particular Evangelical Christianity, only works IF you believe. Dare to pull the string, logically, rationally, and skeptically evaluating sincere beliefs and practice, and everything unravels crumbles into nothing.

Evangelicalism requires the suspension of reason. No matter how vociferously apologists and zealots argue otherwise, Evangelical faith requires belief over truth and dogma over fact. Doubt and questioning the teachings of the Bible/church/pastor is viewed as a lack of faith, a sure sign that Satan is influencing someone’s thinking. Congregants are discouraged from reading books/blogs that will cause doubt. Dr. Bart Ehrman is pilloried as an “enemy of the faith,” and pastors routinely warn church members to stay away from his books. Claiming that they are only watching out for their souls, these men of God know that the facts and educated conclusions found in Ehrman’s books are kryptonite to Evangelical faith. These gatekeepers know that the only way to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates is to wall congregants off from exposure to the “world.”

Few Evangelical leaders promote unfettered intellectual inquiry. They know that such inquiries always lead away from what Evangelicals believe is the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Pastors know that once devotees question the inerrancy of the Bible, creationism, the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and other cardinal beliefs, it is only a matter of time before they will lose their faith. While this loss of faith may not lead to atheism, it certainly leads to an exodus out the back doors of Evangelical churches. When truth — not religious dogma masquerading as truth —  becomes the object of intellectual inquiry, it’s only a matter of time before the Evangelical house built on myth and supernatural nonsense comes tumbling down. Either science is right, or creationism is. Both can’t be right. Either virgins can have babies or they can’t. Either three-day old dead people can come back to life and eat dinner at Taco Bell or they can’t. Take every supernatural claim in the Bible and measure it by what you know to be empirically and experientially true. Both can’t be true. Knowledge-informed thinking and not cognitive dissonance should always be the goal.

Eddie is right: It only works if you believe. Once you stop believing and demand facts and evidence, it’s game over. Once you stop granting the Bible/churches/pastors authority over your life, you are on your way to true freedom. A recent letter writer asked me what was the biggest change in my life after deconverting. I told her that the biggest change was having freedom to follow the path of life wherever it leads. Evangelicalism, with its teachings on Heaven/Hell, eternal punishment, sin, and judgment, leads to bondage. Pastors go to great lengths to convince congregants that this bondage is actually freedom; that is, if you believe the central tenets of the faith. Evangelicalism becomes a bubble of sorts where everything makes perfect sense as long as you are in the bubble. That’s why many of us were committed followers of Jesus for so many years. It all made sense to us; that is until one day we dared to pull on the string, and then we realized that what we had really been believing was an elaborate construct of myths and lies. And in that moment, everything we believed crumbled away to nothing.

If you happen to be an Evangelical, let me encourage you to pull on the string. Dare to value truth over belief. Dare to question and doubt. Dare, to quote the Bible, to seek. I guarantee that if you will intellectually and passionately “seek,” you most certainly will “find.” Come join countless other freethinkers as they walk the path of life. Evangelicalism taught you that life is all about your destination: Heaven or Hell. I’m here to tell you that life is all about your journey, not where you’ll end up after you die. Embrace every day as if it is your last and humbly walk the path that is before you. If you will do that, I promise that you will end up exactly where you need to be.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Evangelical Mark Virkler Says Christians Need to Abandon Rational Thinking

mark virkler

Mark Virkler, an Evangelical pastor and founder of Christian Leadership University — an unaccredited online institution, recently wrote an article for CHARISMA titled, Tell-Tales Signs You Have Bought Into ‘Satan’s Truth.’ Virkler, who sports a “Dr.” in front of his name, believes that the biggest problem facing Christians today is that they use wrong approaches for determining truth. I suspect the word “truth” means something different to Virkler from what it does me, but that aside, I totally agree with him about Christians using wrong tools and methodology for determining what is factual and true. Unfortunately, the recommendations I would make to Christians, Virkler rejects, believing they are the Satanic tools used to lead Christians astray.

Virkler begins his post by listing several approaches to truth that he has abandoned — supposedly for the “truth” he is going to reveal later.  Virkler, at some point in his life, abandoned:

  • If dad said it was true, it was true.
  • If my teacher said it was true, it was true.
  • If my college professor said it was true, it was true.
  • If science said it was true, it was true.
  • If one or several double-blind studies said it was true, it was true.
  • If my doctor said it was true, it was true.
  • If my interpretation of the Bible said it was true, it was true.
  • If reason and logic said it was true, it was true
  • If my senses told me it was true, it was true.

According to Virkler, rationalism and humanism are methods Satan recommends to Christians as they search for “truth.” Virkler writes:

Figure it out yourself! Satan offered Eve his approach for discovering truth: You don’t really need these walks with God every day (in other words, you don’t need revelation knowledge or direct encounter with God), for “you can know” (see Gen. 3:5). That temptation has developed into two false philosophies for knowing:

“You” = Humanism: “Life centers in man’s human capacity”
“Know” = Rationalism: “Life centers in man’s reasoning capacity”

Following is an excerpt from John G. Lake’s article, The Power of the Name:

“In the beginning, man’s spirit was the dominant force in the world. When he sinned, his mind became dominant. Sin dethroned the spirit and crowned the intellect. But grace is restoring the spirit to its place of dominion. When man comes to realize this, he will live in the realm of the supernatural without effort.”

Rationalism and humanism are two false gods I worshipped and followed during the early years of my Christian life.

….

It was a tremendous battle to defeat these two false gods, as they were deeply entrenched in my life through my culture, my education, my natural disposition to be a thinker as well as my “Christian training” which taught me to work hard to keep God’s laws.

What, you might ask, does Virkler recommend in the place of humanism and rationalism? I am so glad you asked! Are you ready, boys and girls? Drum roll, please! Virkler recommends walking with God under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That’s right. Just let God lead the way and “truth” will be yours! Imagine a college student buying into Virkler’s logic. No need to study, no need to prepare. Just pray and follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership when you take your finals. God will show you the way!

Virkler sums up his God-approved approach to truth this way:

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, guides you into all truth (see John 14:17; 16:13).

So the Bible is clear: it is the Holy Spirit Who will guide us into all truth. It’s amazing how I had diminished the work of the indwelling, illuminating Holy Spirit and replaced His work with my mind, my theology, my brain and my understanding of Scriptures. I now set aside my false gods of humanism, rationalism and biblicism and honor what Jesus has said and modeled in Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit Who is continuing to reveal all truth to me. Everything the Holy Spirit reveals will be compatible with Scripture, even though it may not be detailed in Scripture.

Notice carefully what he says: the Holy Spirit … will guide us into all truth. Not some truth; not just Biblical truth; not just Christianity-related truth; no, he believes a mythical being who supposedly lives inside every Christian guides believers into A-L-L TRUTH — if they let her, anyway. Christians, then, don’t need reason or critical thinking skills. All they need is Jesus and his ghostly buddy, the horn player in the three-piece band, the Holy Spirit.

Virkler’s nonsensical (and dangerous) approach to truth (facts) is embraced by millions of American Evangelicals. Instead of using the brain the good Lord supposedly gave them to intellectually, rationally, critically, and skeptically study a matter, Christians just pray, maybe read God’s answer book, and trust that a non-existent poltergeist will lead them to all truth.

Virkler’s approach is more insidious and dangerous because he is running an online college (with his wife, daughter, and son) that purports to train adults for the ministry. Want to earn a doctorate in counseling?  Here’s the course list:

  • COU202 Counseled by God
  • COU203 Cornerstones of Communication
  • COU301 Prayers That Heal the Heart
  • COU305 Parenting for Success
  • REN103 Communion With God
  • REN105 Father Heart of God
  • REN204 Naturally Supernatural
  • REN206 Increasing the Anointing
  • REN207 Healing Anointing
  • REN310 Wisdom Through Dream Interpretation

Does anyone think by taking these classes (and I assume all the undergraduate Bible courses) that a recently minted Doctor is prepared and qualified to counsel anyone more than a pet hamster? Of course not. In fact, I seriously doubt this training qualifies a person to counsel said hamster. Now, with all that Holy Ghost power at his disposal, I suppose he could try to raise old George, the hamster, from the dead. Now THAT would be entertaining!

According to Virkler, his educational approach differs from that of the “world.” Instead of teaching students knowledge, Christian Leadership University trains students to sense God and live in the Spirit. Students are expected to NOT independently use their minds. Get your mouth off the floor. I am not exaggerating here:

We have a choice when we come to learning: We can eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or we can eat from the tree of life. Both trees were present in the Garden of Eden. One was forbidden and one was allowed. We were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and encouraged to eat from the tree of life.

What is the tree of knowledge? What is the tree of life? May I suggest that the tree of knowledge is the independent use of our minds, where we try to figure out for ourselves what is good and what is evil. Even if we use the Holy Scriptures in our pursuit of this knowledge, we can still run amuck. The Pharisees did. Paul did. But then he learned that he needed the revelation of the Holy Spirit to help him interpret Scriptures

….

As I was perusing Christian Leadership University’s website, I came across a local connection on their faculty page, “Dr.” Karen King. King pastors New Beginnings Ministry in nearby Fayette, Ohio. King actually has a degree from Defiance College — a nearby accredited institution. All her post-graduate work and degrees, however, came from — you guessed it — Christian Leadership University (CLU).  This is a common ploy by such institutions. Faculty members may have undergraduate degrees from accredited institutions, but their post-graduate degrees all come from CLU. Some CLU professors have done all of their post-high school work through Christian Leadership. Virkler has a bachelor’s degrees from Roberts Wesleyan College, but his two post-graduate degrees come from unaccredited Bible colleges.

Virkler will likely argue that human accreditation means nothing; that it falls under the humanistic, rationalistic approach Satan uses to deceive people. I would argue that CLU owes its students an education, one that teaches them critical thinking skills; one that values knowledge. Instead, students are taught to value supernatural revelation and God whispering in your ear. Is it any wonder that it is almost impossible to reach and reason with people who have been infected with this kind of thinking? Gnostic at its core, CLU teaches students that they possess an inside track with God; that the Holy Spirit will give them special knowledge and understanding, none of which the educated people of the world possess. Want to see what this baby looks like when its full grown? Take a look at Bethel Redding. No belief or practice is too extreme. When objectivity, rational thinking, skepticism, and critical thinking are deemed unimportant, why, anything is possible.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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