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Tag: The Bible Says

“I Only Speak What the Bible Speaks,” Evangelical Preachers are Fond of Saying

bible literalism

Go to your average Evangelical church on Sundays and you will hear pastors say things such as:

  • I only speak what the Bible speaks
  • I only speak when God speaks
  • Thus saith the Lord . . .
  • I didn’t say it, God did
  • Your problem is with God, not me

Those raised in non-Evangelical traditions are likely saying right now, “What the fuck, Bruce. This is nonsense.” Nonsense, it is, but when you believe a supernatural God saved you from eternal death and lives inside you as your teacher and guide; when you believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible; when you believe God literally speaks to you through the words of the Bible and a still small voice in your head, it’s not hard to confuse your personal beliefs and interpretations with the voice and words of God. Worse yet, Evangelical preachers believe that God supernaturally calls them to preach the inerrant, infallible words of the Protestant Christian Bible. As a result, preachers think the words they utter during their sermons are straight from the mouth of God. THUS SAITH THE LORD!

“Bruce, how could Evangelicals believe these things?” I know, I know, but if I am honest, I held similar beliefs for almost fifty years. I know what religious indoctrination and conditioning can do to your ability to think skeptically and rationally. God hath spoken, how dare I doubt his Word, right? It wasn’t until I learned that the Bible was not inerrant and infallible; and that the central claims of Christianity lacked evidence, that I began to question my sincerely held beliefs.

In Genesis 3, we find a story about Adam, Eve, and a walking, talking snake. (By the way, nowhere in the Old Testament does the Bible say the serpent was Satan.) In verse one, the snake says to Eve: Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? God had warned Adam and Eve that if they ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they would die. Not eventually, immediately. Of course, we know God lied. Adam and Eve went on to have children and live for hundreds of years before they died. The snake was right when he said in verses four and five: Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

The serpent rightly challenged God’s claim, saying “yea, hath God said?” According to Evangelical apologists, the serpent was Satan himself, and he was challenging the very Word of God. Talk about reading your peculiar theology back into the text. According to the Bible, Adam was 930 years old when he died. Eve likely lived a long life too, though the Bible does not record her age at death. This means, contrary to what God said in Genesis 2:15-17:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Adam and Eve did not die on the day they ate the forbidden fruit. God lied, so the serpent was justified in questioning God’s truthfulness. Of course, the Bible was written by men; contains the words of men; and is fallible and errant from table of contents to concordance. It is not surprising, then, that there are mistakes, errors, and contradictions in the text (especially before printing presses and copy editors).

People have every reason to question whether God actually spoke the words recorded in the Bible. Investing time in studying these issues will show that the Bible is a human book written by fallible, frail, contradictory men — most of whom are unknown. And if the Bible is a human book, that means words uttered by preachers from church pulpits are human too. The Bible may have spiritual value for those who need it, but it is in no way a supernatural text written by a supernatural deity. And if you object to what I have written in this post, it is up to you to provide evidence for your supernatural claims. “Bruce, the BIBLE says _________!” And I should care why, exactly? If you want me to believe the Bible is a God-inspired, inerrant, infallible collection of ancient religious texts, you must provide evidence for your bald assertions.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

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Why do Evangelicals Flee One Cult, Only to Join Another?

cult of apple
Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

One of the hardest things I had to come to terms with was the fact that my parents raised me in a cult; that I was a member of a cult; that I attended a college operated by a cult; that I married a girl who was also a member of a cult; that I spent twenty-five years evangelizing for a cult and pastoring its churches. Worse yet, as devoted cult members, my wife and I raised our six children in the way of the cult, in the truth of the cult, and in the life of the cult. All religions, to some degree or the other, are cults. The dictionary describes the word “cult” several ways:

  • A system of religious beliefs and rituals
  • A religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extreme, or false [who determines what is unorthodox, extreme, or false?]
  • Followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader
  • Followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices

As you can see from these definitions, Christianity is a cult. In particular, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and Evangelicalism, in general, are cults. I rarely use the word “cult” when describing Evangelical beliefs and practices because the word means something different to Evangelicals. In their minds, sects such as The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unification Church, and the Roman Catholic Church are cults. Some Evangelical churches bring in cult specialists to teach congregants about what is and isn’t a cult. Countless Evangelicals have read Walter Martin’s seminal work, The Kingdom of the Cults. Martin’s book was considered the go-to reference work when it came to cults. Martin defined a cult this way: a group of people gathered about a specific person—or person’s misinterpretation of the Bible. In Martin’s mind, any group of people who follow a person’s misinterpretation of the Bible is a cult. Of course, Martin — a Fundamentalist Baptist — was the sole arbiter of what was considered a misinterpretation of the Bible. Written in 1965, The Kingdom of the Cults included sects such as Seventh-day Adventism, Unitarian Universalism, Worldwide Church of God, Buddhism, and Islam. Martin also believed certain heterodox Christian sects had cultic tendencies. I am sure that if Martin were alive today, a revised version of The Kingdom of the Cults would be significantly larger than the 701 pages of the first edition. Martin and his followers, much like Joseph McCarthy, who saw communists under every bed, saw cultism everywhere they looked — except in their own backyards, that is.

Over the years, I have heard from numerous college classmates and former parishioners who wanted me to know that they had left cultic IFB churches and joined up with what they believed were non-cultic Evangelical churches. These letter-writers praised me for my exposure of the IFB church movement, but they were dismayed over my rejection of Christianity in general. In their minds, I threw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater; if I would just find a church like theirs I would see and know the “truth.” I concluded, after reading their testimonies, that all they had really done is trade one cult for another.

Take, for example, my college classmates. Most of them were raised in strict IFB homes and churches. Some of them had pastor fathers. Later in life, they came to believe that the IFB church movement, with its attendant legalistic codes of conduct, was a cult. As I mentioned in my post titled, Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? there are two components to religious fundamentalism: theological fundamentalism and social fundamentalism. Most Evangelicals are both theological and social Fundamentalists, even though some of them will deny the latter. My college classmates, in leaving the IFB church movement, distanced themselves from social fundamentalism while retaining their theological fundamentalist beliefs. They wrongly believe that by rejecting the codes of conduct of their former churches, they were no longer members of a cult. However, their theology changed very little, and often they just traded a “legalistic” code of conduct for a “Biblical” one. These “non-legalists” revel in their newfound freedoms — drinking alcohol, going to movies, wearing pants (women), saying curse words, smoking cigars, having long hair (men), listening to secular music, using non-King James Bible translations, and having sex in non-missionary positions, to name a few — thinking that they have finally escaped the cult, when in fact they just moved their church membership from one cult to another. When the core theology of their old church is compared to their new church, few differences are found.

I can’t emphasize this enough: regardless of the name on the door, the style of worship/music, or ecclesiology, Evangelical churches are pretty much all the same. Many Evangelicals consider Westboro Baptist Church to be a cult. However, a close examination of their theology reveals that there is little difference between the theology of the late Fred Phelps and his clan and that of Southern Baptist luminary Al Mohler and his fellow Calvinists. Ask ten local Evangelical churches for copies of their church doctrinal statement and compare them. You will find differences on matters of church government, spiritual gifts, and other peripheral issues Christians perpetually fight over, but when it comes to the core doctrines of Christianity, they are in agreement.

Calvinists and Arminians — who have been bickering with each other for centuries — will vehemently disagree with my assertion that they are one and the same, but when you peel away each group’s peculiar interpretations of the Bible, what you are left with are the historic, orthodox beliefs expressed in the creeds of early Christianity. There may be countless flavors of ice cream, but they all have one thing in common: milk. So it is with Evangelical sects and churches. During what I call our wandering years, Polly and I attended over one hundred Christian churches, looking for a church that took seriously the teachings of Christ. We concluded that Evangelical churches are pretty much all the same, and that the decision on which church to attend is pretty much up to which kind of ice cream you like the best. No matter how “special” some Evangelical churches think they are, close examination reveals that they are not much different from other churches. This means then, that there is little to no difference theologically among Christian cults. Codes of conduct differ from church to church, but at the center of every congregation is the greatest cult leader of all time, Jesus Christ. (See But Our Church is DIFFERENT!)

Go back and read the definitions of the word cult at the top of this post, and then read Walter Martin’s definition of a cult/cult leader. Is not Jesus a cult leader? Is not the Apostle Paul also a cult leader? Is not the sect founded and propagated by Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Paul, and propagated for two thousand years by pastors/priests/evangelists/missionaries a cult? Is not the Judaism of the Old Testament a blood cult, as is its offspring, Christianity? Surely a fair-minded person must conclude that Christianity is a cult. Regardless of denomination, peculiar beliefs, and different codes of conduct, all Christian churches are, in effect, cult temples, no different from the “pagan” temples mentioned in the New Testament.

Disagree? By all means, use the comment section to explain why your Christian/Evangelical/IFB sect/church is not a cult, but other sects and churches are. Why should your beliefs and practices be considered truth and all others false? Hint, the Bible says is not an acceptable answer (nor are worn-out presuppositional tropes). All cultists appeal to their religious texts for proof that their beliefs and practices are “truth.” Why should anyone accept your sect’s book as “truth?” Why should anyone believe that Jesus is the way, truth, and life or that the Christian God is the one true God?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.

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Why ‘THE BIBLE SAYS’ is Not a Good Argument

the bible says

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Back in the late 1980s, I did a lot of street preaching in places such as Newark, Zanesville, and Lancaster, Ohio. One day, while I was preaching on the courthouse sidewalk in Newark, two Mormon missionaries came up to me and wanted to talk. I said, fine, as long as we limit our discussion to the King James Bible. They told me they couldn’t do that because the King James Bible AND The Book of Mormon were both authoritative. Because I was unwilling to accept their assertion that The Book of Mormon was authoritative, there was no point in them trying to talk to me. These missionaries presupposed that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and the King James Bible were both God’s word.  Unless I was willing to accept their presuppositions, no meaningful discussion could take place. So it is with Evangelicals who demand that I accept the Protestant Bible as authoritative.

Over the years, numerous Evangelicals have come to this blog and tried to use THE BIBLE SAYS argument to show me the error of my way. Bruce, it says _________________ right here in John, Romans, Acts, James, Revelation, Genesis, Jude, or Concordance. They assume (presuppose) that I accept the Bible as authoritative; that I accept the Bible as the standard for truth. I don’t, and neither do most of the people who read regularly this blog. These defenders of the Holy Evangelical Faith® fail to understand that I have studied the history of the Bible and the claims it makes, coming to the conclusion that the Bible is not an authoritative book; that it is not in any way a supernatural or divine text. At best, it is a collection of books written by unknown authors trying to explain their understanding of the world. If Evangelicals understood this rather than asserting that the Bible is an inerrant, inspired, infallible book, we might be able to have a meaningful discussion. Instead, they pull the Bible out of the bookcase and demand that it be treated as THE book above all books. They demand the Bible be accepted as THE truth above all truth. I reject this assertion. The Bible is not superior to any other literary work. In fact, as far as literature goes, the Bible leaves a lot to be desired. 

No matter how loudly someone says THE BIBLE SAYS it carries no weight with me. Why should I grant the Bible the authority Evangelicals claim for it? Well, because THE BIBLE SAYS! Exactly. This is circular reasoning, and this is why it’s impossible to have thoughtful, rational conversations with Evangelicals. THE BIBLE SAYS lots of things modern Christians no longer believe. No Evangelical is really one-hundred-percent THE BIBLE SAYS. I don’t know of an Evangelical pastor, evangelist, missionary, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or pew warmer who believes and practices every word of the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God. All Evangelicals develop their own method of interpretation, and with this system inconvenient or difficult verses are explained away or reinterpreted. What Evangelicals really consider authoritative is their own personal interpretation and opinion. This is why I think there’s no such thing as the faith which was once delivered to the saints or one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, One God. Two thousand years removed from the death of Jesus, what we have is not Christianity in the singular sense, but Christianities, with every Evangelical having his or her own understanding of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.

If every Christian believed the same things, I might pause to consider the validity of Christianity. However, it is evident, at least to me, when Christians appeal to the Bible what they are really appealing to is personal opinion and interpretation.

Did you grow up in or attend a church that stressed THE BIBLE SAYS thinking? How did your pastor handle conflicts over what, exactly, the Bible said? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser