Atheism is impossible because it falls into absurdity inasmuch as it lacks an ontic base for its epistemic rights; it is self-befuddling. Non-theistic worldviews lead to conclusions that are incongruous with their knowledge claims. A vital question: What will supply the a priori truth conditions that make reality intelligible? The logical actuality is, without the Christian worldview, formally, nothing can make sense. The true and living God is the truth condition for the intelligibility of reality and the understanding of all human experience; He must be presupposed for one to have adequate explanatory power required for the obligatory universal operational features of human experience.
Truth means nothing to leftists. The ends justify the means and they will literally say or do anything to achieve their aims. They’ll use violence—Antifa, BLM, rioting and attacking Trump supporters—and intimidation (doxxing public officials and confronting them in various public places) while calling conservatives fascists and blaming them for the unrest. They’ll rail against “racism” one moment and then excoriate a race (whites) the next. They’ll preach equality while practicing inequality and discrimination, as with quotas and affirmative action. They’ll claim to care about women victims (Kavanaugh/Ford affair) and then smear women victims (Rep. Keith Ellison case). They’ll say “Do it for the children,” using kids as human props, while abetting the brutal killing of children in the womb. They’ll preach tolerance but then insist this means “safe spaces” excluding conservatives and whites and that opposing views must be squelched. They’ll say it’s un-American to question election outcomes—as H. Clinton did prior to Nov. 8, 2016—but upon losing scream how an election was “stolen,” as leftists did after Nov. 8, 2016. Theirs is the ideology of Anything Goes.
In fact, leftists will swear that Truth (properly understood as objective) itself doesn’t even exist, that everything is shades of gray—but then turn about and sing blatant black-white tunes portraying their political opponents as evil. This is similar to Satan, who knows that God’s rules exist but doesn’t believe they should be considered “Truth.” Leftists will superciliously scoff at traditionalists’ moral positions and insist everything is relative. But they really want to play God and have everything be relative to themselves—like the Devil.
One difference between leftists and Satan is that the latter knows God exists. That’s where the differences end. Leftists hate everything great and good: God, family, country and even the idea of countries (attacks on sovereignty). They hate religion, especially Christianity; the Church; marriage; sexual propriety; and anything else reflecting God’s plan. Thus, they not only hated the Boy Scouts before they became the Gender Fluid Scouts, but hate the idea that “boys” and “girls” even exist in any pure sense; they reject the message that “male and female He made them.” They hate virtues (good moral habits) and do violence—directly or indirectly—to every single one, be it faith, charity, chastity, honesty, diligence, temperance, kindness, humility, fortitude, justice or something else.
Erin Davis, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe website, recently wrote one of the most astounding, delusional, and absurd blog posts I have ever read. Filled with assertions based on THE BIBLE SAYS, Davis’ post reflects how deeply and thoroughly Evangelicalism can negatively affect one’s ability to reason and think.
With giants (1 Sam. 17), strange creatures (Job 40:15), angels (Ps. 91:11), demons (Mark 5), and a God who is mysteriously three in one, sometimes the Bible reads like a children’s fairy tale or Hollywood screenplay. But it isn’t. It’s a history book of events that actually happened to real people. More than that, it’s a book about a very real God.
Every Word of God Proves True
Proverbs 30:5 makes this bold promise:
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
An easy way to prove the truth found in Scripture is through the genealogies. Let me show you what I mean.
Isaiah 11:1 declares this promise, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
There isn’t a person on the planet that God doesn’t love and care about.
That promise wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans without the genealogy found in Matthew 1:1–17 and again in Luke 3:23–38. This list starts with Abraham and ends with the birth of Christ. Smack dab in the middle we find this gem:
And Jesse the father of David the king (Matt. 1:6).
The branch Isaiah wrote about was Jesus. His words were written 800 years before Christ was born! If we skipped this genealogy, we would miss the wonder of seeing this prophecy fulfilled.
God Cares About the Little People
Ever hear of Mahalalel, Hezron, or Abijah? Probably not, but God has. He made sure their names were listed among the genealogies found in Genesis 5 and Matthew 1. Every single human since Adam has three things in common:
We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).
We are loved by God (Jer. 31:3).
We were designed to be with God for eternity (Eccl. 3:11).
There isn’t a person on the planet that God doesn’t love and care about. The genealogies read like lists of His favorite people.
God Is Faithful.
Here’s a question I love to ask Christians who are older than me:
“Tell me about that time God let you down.”
I’ve been asking that question for years, almost every chance I get to hang out with people with a gray hair or two. I’ve never met a single person with an answer. Instead they all gush about God’s faithfulness, telling me how time and time again He has shown up in their lives.
Evidently, Davis has not studied the history of the Christian Bible, nor has she read anything about the various textual contradictions and errors found in the Biblical text. I suspect that Davis grew up in and is still a part of a religious tradition that asserts the Bible is a God-given and God-written, inspired, inerrant, and infallible text. Whether the Bible is inspired is a metaphysical claim beyond the scope of rational inquiry, but assertions that the Bible is inerrant and infallible are evidentiary claims that can be investigated. Anyone who has honestly and openly looked at the text of the Bible cannot conclude the it is an inerrant text.
Well Bruce, I have studied this issue and I still believe the Bible is inerrant. To that I say, bullshit. If someone follows the evidence wherever it leads, he or she must conclude that inerrancy cannot be sustained on rational grounds. When people claim that the Bible is inerrant, I always ask them if they have read any of Bart Ehrman’s books. Most often, the answer I receive is no. For the handful of people who say yes, my response is this: you are letting your presuppositions keep you from seeing things as they are. Biblical scholars of every stripe have concluded that the Bible has textual errors and contractions; that the Bible is internally inconsistent. It is impossible for someone to read Bart Ehrman’s books and still hang on to the belief that the Bible is inerrant.
Davis believes the Bible is “true” because the Bible says it is. This is circular logic, a common problem in Evangelical Christianity. Countless people are Christians, all the while believing the Bible is fallible and errant. They recognize that the Bible is human-written book that points the way to God, not a divine rulebook or blueprint for life. These Christians readily admit that some of what the Bible says is not true, is outdated, or inapplicable for today. While I have problems with how they come to these conclusions, I do find that this view is more intellectually honest than parroting that the Bible is inerrant.
The key to reaching Evangelicals is to get them to see that the Bible is not what they claim it is. Until Evangelicals are willing to consider that they might be wrong; that the Bible might contain errors and contradictions, there’s not much anyone can do to reach them.
Davis states that God cares about the little people. She bases this statement on the fact that numerous unknown people are mentioned in the Bible and, since God wrote the Bible, this is proof that God cares about everyone. Davis sincerely believes that God loves and cares for everyone. She believes this because the Bible says so. Again, eyes-wide-open honesty does not bear out Davis’ claim. Look around. What do you see? Do you see overwhelming evidence for the belief that God loves and cares for everyone? Of course not. At best, we see a God who is indifferent to the plight of his creation. He steps in from time to time and help Nana find her car keys, but when it comes to big-ticket issues such as war, violence, sexual assault, starvation, oppression, and Donald Trump, the Christian God is AWOL.
Davis desperately needs to believe that God loves and cares about her. I understand WHY she believes as he does. God loving and caring for Christians is the glue that holds Christianity together. No matter what happens in their lives, Evangelicals believe that God is looking out for them and that “all things work together for good.” This thinking directly conflicts with reality — shit happens, life can suck, and all credit and criticism belong to humans. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is a fictitious middleman who keeps Evangelicals from seeing life as it is. That’s the beauty of religion. It gives people meaning and purpose, promising life after death. (Please read The Life-Changing Power of the Mythical Jesus and Never Underestimate the Power of Jesus) Believing such delusions allows Evangelicals to evade the harshness of human existence. Sadly, many people believe that it is better to believe a lie if it gives them peace and happiness. I don’t fault people who follow this path as long as they keep it to themselves. However, when they drag such nonsense into the public square and de-legitimize the lives of everyone who believes differently, I’m going to challenge, on rational grounds, their beliefs.
Davis concludes her post by saying that God (not any God, only the Evangelical God) is ALWAYS faithful. When Evangelicals talk about the faithfulness of God they mean that God always does what he says he will. If God says he will do ______________then he always does. Think of all the promises God supposedly made in the Bible. Has God infallibly kept every promise? Of course not. Any cursory examination of the lives of Christians reveals that God is NOT faithful, that he routinely fails to pay child support. When challenged on the God-is-Faithful claim, Evangelicals often respond that just because God hasn’t come through yet, doesn’t mean he won’t come through in the future. Ah yes, God will, someday, likely not today, come through. He’s God and he ALWAYS comes through.
One tool used by religionists is the promise of future rewards. According to Evangelicals, God promises believers life after death. This life after death will be one of no pain, suffering, or death. There is no proof for this claim other than THE BIBLE SAYS, but this is enough for millions and millions of people to lead them to believe that a room in Heaven awaits them after they die. So it is with claims that God is faithful. It may not, right now, seem that God is doing what he said he will, but as sure as the sun rises in the morning, God will infallibly do what he promised.
Evangelicals are much like a woman married to an abusive man. Her husband makes promises to love her more, not verbally assault her, or lay another hand on her, but never comes through. The wife stays with her man because she believes that he will, in the future, do what he promised. Fortunately, many women realize that their abusers will never change, and they file for divorce. Children often have parents who are much like the faithful God, making promises they cannot or never intend to fulfill. So it for many of us who have left Christianity. We finally came to a place that promises were not enough. We wanted action. We wanted God to act as he said he would in the Bible. We wanted our prayers answered and needs met. Our pastors told us to hang on, to keep believing, because God will, in time, come through. And if he doesn’t, he will certainly come through in the life to come. Such offloading of promise fulfillment to a future date no longer worked. We wanted a God who was, in the here and now, alive, present, and actively working in our lives.
Many former believers have said: sorry God, no more empty promises. Show yourself, and if you can’t — because you don’t exist — or won’t — because you are indifferent or don’t care — don’t expect us to live in the hope that you will, after death, fulfill your promises. One of the many reasons people deconvert is because they wake up one day and realize that what they believe is a lie; that their beliefs are based on irrational presuppositions; that God is nowhere to be found.
Several years ago, my wife and I made a detailed inventory of our past prayers. We were avid, daily, fervent prayers. We prayed tens of thousands of prayers in our lifetimes. Yet, after carefully examining our prayers, we concluded that 99.9% of our prayers went unanswered, and most of those that were could be ascribed to human instrumentation. We were left with a handful of unexplained events, and we concluded that these were not enough to justify us continuing to believe in the Christian God.
Nothing I’ve written here will likely convince heads-in-cement Evangelicals that their houses are built on faulty foundations. Certainty of belief, anchored in the notion that the Bible is an inerrant, infallible text, shuts Evangelicals off from reason. I know such a claim offends them, but I have yet to meet an Evangelical zealot who was willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads. In the minds of Evangelicals, they already have the truth. Blind to evidence to the contrary, they refuse to hear any voice but their own (a voice they often think is God’s). Unable to rationalize challenges to their beliefs, Evangelicals retreat to the safe confines of faith. Once secure, they chuck proof texts at their interlocutors, reminding these uncircumcised, unwashed Philistines that God will soon show them his mighty power by eternally torturing them in the Lake of Fire.
Contrary to what many Evangelical apologists think, scientists do not have (or think they have) answers for every possible question about the universe, life, and human existence. While science does answer many questions that humans deem important, there are yet many unanswered questions that scientists diligently seek to answer. Because science does not have ALL the answers, Evangelicals often say that religion is another empirical and equally valid way of determining and understanding truth. Of course, when science conflicts with religious truth what happens? Most Evangelicals reject that scientific truth, and put their faith in what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about the matter. This is why there are millions of American who believe the universe is 6,021 years old, Adam and Eve were real people, and the earth was destroyed by a flood 4,000 or so years ago. This is also why snake oil salesmen like Ken Ham can build million dollar monuments to ignorance such as the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter.
As Physicist Sean Carroll makes clear in the following two-minute video, scientists do not have all the answers, nor have they ever claimed that they do. But, regardless of the lack of answers, science still remains the best way for us to understand our world.
This is the one hundred and sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video of rapping puppets telling children that Christian ‘truth’ will set them free.
The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is based on the following progression of four steps, precursors of which stem back in time to many thinkers, including Anthony Flew, Robert Ingersoll, David Hume, and even Socrates:
People who are located in distinct geographical areas around the globe overwhelmingly adopt and justify a wide diversity of religious faiths due to their particular upbringing and shared cultural heritage, and most of these faiths are mutually exclusive. This is the Religious Diversity Thesis (RDVT).
The best explanation for (1) is that adopting and justifying one’s religion is not a matter of independent rational judgment. Rather, to an overwhelming degree, one’s religious faith is causally dependent on brain processes, cultural conditions, and irrational thinking patterns. This is the Religious Dependency Thesis (RDPT). From (1) and (2) it follows that:
It is highly likely that any given religious faith is false and quite possible that they all could be false. At best there can be only one religious faith that is true. At worst, they all could be false. The sociological facts, along with our brain biology, anthropological (cultural) data, and psychological studies, lead us to this highly likely conclusion.
The only way to rationally test one’s culturally adopted religious faith is from the perspective of an outsider, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject. They expresses the Outsider Test for Faith.
The OTF is based on the same kind of data that cultural relativists use when arguing that, because moral practices and beliefs do in fact vary from culture to culture as well as at different times in history, morality is not the result of independent rational judgment but rather is causally dependent on cultural conditions. All we have to do is insert the phrase “religious faith” in place of the world word morality, with one caveat. I’m not arguing that all religious faiths are false because of religious diversity or that they are completely dependent on one’s cultural upbringing. I’m merely arguing that believers should be skeptical of their own culturally inherited faith because it is overwhelmingly the case that one’s faith is dependent on one’s cultural upbringing.
The Outsider Test for Faith One More Time for Clarity
We are all raised believers. As children, we believed whatever our parents told us, all of us.
We were raised in our respective families and cultures to believe what our parents told us about religion.
Psychological studies have shown that people have a very strong tendency to believe what they prefer to believe. Cognitive bias studies show this.
Psychological studies have shown that most of us, most of the time, look for that which confirms what we believe rather than that which disconfirms it, even though the latter is the best way to get at the truth. This is known as confirmation bias.
Neurological studies have shown that people have a sense of certainty about the beliefs they have that is unrelated to the strength of the actual evidence, as Robert Burton argues in, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not.
Skepticism is not usually an inherited characteristic. We must acquire the capacity to doubt what we were raised to believe. Skepticism is the adult attitude.
When there billions of people who are certain of an inherited faith they all learned in the same manner, who live in separate geographical locations around the globe, who all prefer to believe what they were raised to believe, and who seek to confirm that which they were raised to believe, it should cause them to doubt what they were raised to believe.
All believers who are certain of their faith will fallaciously argue that this data allies to atheists, too. If that were the case, then which faith should atheists adopt — all of them? You see, this argument does nothing to solve the problem of religious diversity, since believers still have not come up with a method that can solve their own differences. Atheists are doubters. We are skeptics. Knowing this data causes us to require hard, cold evidence for that which we can accept.
Skepticism is a filter that adults use to help sift the wheat of truth from the chaff of falsehood. We cannot doubt that filter! There is no other alternative.
The Outsider Test For Faith is the best and only way to get at truth if you want to know the truth. Examine your own faith with the same skepticism you use when examining the other religious faiths you eject. We cannot merely say to people that they should be skeptical without offering a standard of skepticism. . Why? Because if we ask believers who are certain of their faith to test it with doubt then, to a person, they will say they have, and that their faith is sure. But ask them to test their faith with the same level of skepticism they use when examining the other religious faiths they reject, and that will get their attention.
A Few Questions
If anyone disagrees, I have five sets of questions to be answered:
Do you or do you not assume other religions shoulder the burden of proof? When you examine Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, Scientology, Mormonism, Shintoism, Jainism, Haitian Voodoo, the John Frum Cargo Cult, Satanism, or the many African or Chinese tribal religions, do you think approaching them with faith is the way to test these religions, or would you agree with the OTF that a much fairer method is by assuming they all have the burden of proof, including your own?
Do you or do you not think that a consistent standard invoking fairness is the best way to objectively come to know the correct religious faith, if one is?If not, why the double standard?
Do you or do you not think that if Christianity is true, it should be supported by the sciences to the exclusion of other, false religious faiths?
Do you or do you not admit that if you reject the OTF, then your God did not make Christianity such that it would lead reasonable people who were born as outsiders to come to believe it, and, as such, they will be condemned to hell by virtue of where they were born? If not, and if outsiders can reasonably come to believe, then why is it that you think the OTF is faulty or unfair?
Do you or do you not have a better method for us to reasonably settle which religious faith is true, if one is? If so, what is it?
Let the Debates Begin
If religious believers accept the OTF and claim their faith passes the test, then at that point we have an agreed-upon standard for debating the merits of faith. If the test does nothing else, that is a good thing.
Let the debates begin.
— How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist by John W. Loftus, How to Know Which Religion to Defend, pages 106-108 and 114-117
Purchase the books mentioned in this quote:
How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist by John W. Loftus
On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not by Robert Burton
Other books by John W. Loftus
The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True
A few weeks ago, a former Jehovah’s Witness sent me an email detailing how he had found Biblical “truths” that he was certain that I have never seen before. He wants to “share” these truths with me. No thanks. After, 2,000 years of being mined for the minutest of truths, the bible holds no more “new” truths. This man, once a card-carrying member of a Christian sect, supposedly reset his beliefs to zero and read the Bible in such a way that none of his past beliefs and biases played a part in him finding these “new” truths. Unless this man had a lobotomy or had his mind wiped in Men in Black fashion, I am quite sure he was unable to jettison past beliefs, biases, and hermeneutics. All of us are products of our environments. While I am now an atheist, I know that my Evangelical past still informs my thinking about the Bible, religion, and morality. While I now have other tools at my disposal as I “think” about the world and my place in it, it would be less than honest for me to say that my mind is now free of everything that I was taught and experienced over the course of 50 years in the Christian church.
I am sure this man “thinks” his mind is a clean slate, but it’s not. The “new” truths that he thinks he has found are in a book written, collated, and ordered by men. From translations to verse numberings, the Bible is a monument to the works of men. It is evident that this man thinks the Bible is some sort of divine book. He says that his path to “truth” began with Proverbs 2:2-6:
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
Saying that he is allowing GOD alone to teach him, this man is rereading the Bible. Shouldn’t he, first, determine if this God even exists? How about starting in Genesis 1-3 with its plurality of Gods? Regardless of how much mind-washing has been done, it is impossible to read the Bible and come to some sort of cohesive, unified “truth.” Christian sects have been trying to do so for two thousand years. Their work has resulted in the birth of thousands of Christian sects, each believing that their “truth” is THE truth.
Here’s an excerpt from this man’s email:
this may be a big god damn waste of time…but i feel compelled to reach out to you anyway.
i have similar background as you in that i spent a shitload of my lifetime wrapped up in an organized ‘christian’ religion where the mantra basically was, we’re right, everyone else is wrong. go out there and bring in those lost sheep to increase our numbers!
i was fully BRAINWASHED into their mode of thinking – and i was a ‘company man’ – staunch, exemplary and unmoving in its doctrines, so near their top ranking status of ELDER – my elderhood was imminent at any time.
but…then it happened…without going into all the gory details – my eyes were opened to the filth and corruption that made up this organization…full well knowing that if THIS organization had as much crap and outright debauchery contained within it, there is no fucking truth, there is no fucking right religion it’s all a fucking big load of stinking garbage in EVERY religion EVERYWHERE..
my wife and my kids walked away from it and anything else that smelled like IT or even slightly resembled IT. i was in IT as an adult for 22 years and i actually came to be within IT via my parent’s decision to do so – thought I bounced around doing everything BUT IT until i got married and started having kids.
the kicker is…there was something about the BOOK that I could not let go of. to me, it just seemed there was something WAY deeper than what any ‘christian’ religion had their wits of understanding around…and, it was surely EASY to see that no one religion was practicing what it truly said. because if one DID? well…for example, christ said unequivocally without exception – to: LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.
that bit right there? disqualifies EVERY FUCKING organized ‘CHRISTIAN’ religion out there. Every one of them. Period,
but – like I said – as I read it by myself or when I was in IT during a meeting (of course always seeing the way THEY would twist and take shit out of context to fit THEIR doctrine)…there was stuff that I could not just throw away.
i basically did a last-ditch ultimatum…and I did it to GOD, right to his FUCKING FACE…I said as I was in my office – sometime after the official denunciation and leaving of IT (Jehovah’s Witnesses by the way)…
i am going to start from scratch and read this one more time…one more time…and if i cannot get out of it anything that i can sink my life into? i am DONE. you WILL hate my guts. I WILL be a BAD nightmare and I will TRASH ANYTHING/EVERYTHING remotely resembling what is called ‘christian’…as to me IT WAS ALL BULLSHIT.
bible in hand..at my desk…with tears flowing from my eyes…I read Proverbs 2, honing in on verses 3 -6…
i said – i am starting from SCRATCH. I am coming into this book like i have never read it before. i will not take with me ANY of the doctrines/teachings/festerings of any religion i have leaned an ear to. i will do what it says…i will let GOD give me the understanding. I will NOT ask any pastor, preacher, commentary, book, scholar dipshit, fuckhead…i am going in ALONE…beliefs reset to…
I KNOW NOTHING.
well Bruce – in your website somewhere – I found this:
“Whatever you think God wants you to tell me, I have already heard it.”
I can fully guarantee – that what I have been shown – will line up with NOTHING you have ever heard. some of it is like hiding in plain sight – and upon going into the seeking of it as to hid treasure and found gold…well, that is what it is – i did have to do some work to pull things together … thing is Bruce…there is SO MUCH of it (and I mean NEW STUFF you will not have been exposed to)…I’ll have a hard time figuring where to start.
As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon in recent weeks.
30 minutes west of our home is a large Amish community — Cuba, Grabill, and Harlan, Indiana. In amoungst the Amish live Mennonites. On both Amish and Mennonite properties, it is not uncommon to find signs like the ones above. We know that this particular family is Mennonite because they have a power line running to their home.
The Church on Fire, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Joe Gutierrez, pastor. The Church on Fire, is affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church International. United Pentecostal churches are also called oneness or Jesus-only churches because of their denial of Trinitarian theology.
As with many sects, United Pentecostals believe that their peculiar beliefs are TRUTH — not just any truth, but THE TRUTH. For a person to be born again the United Pentecostal way, he or she must:
Repent, turning away from sin and towards God
Be baptized by immersion in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins
Speak in tongues-the outward demonstration that shows a person has been filled with the Holy Ghost
I did not know that Jesus was running for office this year. I wonder what these Jesus voters — code for we vote Republican — are going to do come November when their choice for President is either Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. If The Church on Fire really votes Jesus, how could they ever vote for the thrice-married, skirt-chasing, heathen Donald Trump?
I previously shared the following photographs of The Church on Fire:
For many people, being RIGHT is crucial. Evangelicals place a premium on being RIGHT. After all, THE Bible says, Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. Evangelicals, hanging their entire existence on a definite article, spend inordinate amounts of time making sure that their eternal destiny is settled. Life is viewed as little more than preparation for the life to come. No matter what happens, Evangelicals know that God will grant them a divine payoff the moment they die. Heaven is their goal, and reaching God’s Trump Hotel requires Evangelicals to believe the right doctrines. Right beliefs lead to heaven, wrong beliefs lead to hell.
No Bruce, Evangelicals say, we believe that salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life are gained through the merit and atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. It is through JESUS, not right beliefs that sinners are saved. While Evangelicals love to preach up salvation by grace, underneath all their talk about the freeness of salvation lies a rigid set of beliefs.
Evangelicals love to quote John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
However, what Evangelicals really mean when they quote this verse is this:
For God so loved the world, that he gave sinners the right beliefs, that whosoever believeth the right doctrines should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Ask former Evangelicals if being right was of any importance to them and the churches they attended. Ask them if significant time was spent making sure church members believed the right doctrines. If their experiences were anything like mine, they will say that there were certain doctrines which were considered essential to Christianity— inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, bodily resurrection of Christ, salvation through Jesus alone, heaven, hell, physical return of Jesus to earth, to name a few. Believe, and thou shalt be saved. Don’t believe, and thou shalt be considered heterodox, heretical, or unsaved.
Recently, an Evangelical sent me an email that contained one sentence: Bruce, what if you are wrong — again? The author assumes that atheism is my destination, that I have intellectually arrived and no further inquiry is required. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When I walked out of the doors of church seven years ago, I left behind being right on the church’s altar. From that day forward, my life has been one of seeking and exploration. My goal is not to be right as much as it is to drink deeply at the well of human existence.
Now, this does not mean that I don’t value truth. I do, but my search for it is no longer has as its goal some sort of metaphysical payoff. As an Evangelical, I diligently read and studied the Bible. The Apostle Paul spoke of KNOWING whom I have believed, and that is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to intimately know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords — Jesus Christ. I spent thousands of hours immersed in the Bible and prayer. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you, the Bible said, and I wanted to be a spiritual seeker and door knocker. These days, I still do a fair bit of reading and study — as my health allows — but I no longer feel pressed to make sure I am right. I want to be right, but I know that — unlike the Bible — the pool of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is so great that I will likely leave most of it untouched by the time I die.
I spent 50 years in the Christian church. While I am sure there are things that I do not know about this or that branch of Christianity, when it comes to Evangelicalism I have exhausted the subject matter. It has been years since Evangelicals have used original arguments in their attempts to woo me back into the fold. Most public Evangelicals-turned-atheists will say the same. Instead, Evangelicals trot out well-worn, easily refuted arguments, thinking that they have won the day. Sorry Evangelicals, until you come up with something new, I am content to ignore you and move on to new and exciting ideas.
While I have shut the book on Evangelicalism and Christianity, this doesn’t mean that I have all the answers. While I am certain that the Gods created by humans are no Gods at all, there could come a day when I am presented with new data concerning the existence of a God or Gods. Who knows, right? I doubt it, but I it certainly is “possible” that our alien overlords could make themselves known some day and I will have to admit that I was wrong — again. Until then, I plan to keep walking on the path of reason, science, and skepticism. And if I find out I am wrong? I will likely write a blog post detailing the data that turned my beliefs on their head.
How about you, Evangelicals? Are you willing to openly engage the vast bookstore of literature that challenges the truthfulness and veracity of Christianity? Are you willing to follow the path wherever it leads? Are you willing to call into question those beliefs you hold dear? Are you willing, if the path leads to such a conclusion, to abandon Christianity? Are you really a seeker of truth, or are you just looking for data that reinforces your beliefs? Are you willing to lose your salvation for the sake of intellectual honesty? Or does the comfort that comes from certainty trump intellectual pursuit?
If you answer NO to these questions, I understand. That said, don’t tell me that you are a seeker of truth. A truth-seeker is one who is willing to follow the path wherever it leads. You are not willing to do this. Until you are willing consider the possibility of being wrong, you will remain safely lodged in the Evangelical castle of certainty. Millions will join you in its safe confines, but I hope, some day, that you will venture outside of the castle’s secure walls, and enter the wild, woolly, and wonderful world of reason.
(in this post I use authority and expert interchangeably)
If you have spent significant time in Evangelical churches, you know the pastor is considered the pope of the church. He is the go-to guy about everything. The pastor takes seriously Paul’s statement, “I became all things to all men.” Not only is the pastor an expert on the Bible and theology, he is also an expert on current events, history, archeology, politics, science, sports, medicine, sex, construction, child rearing, meal planning, and auto repair.
If the pastor doesn’t know it, it ain’t worth knowing.
Now here is the truth.
Most pastors are barely proficient when it comes to their chosen profession. Many church members would be surprised to know how little actual Bible training their pastor received while attending an Evangelical college. It should never be assumed that any pastor is adequately trained in understanding and teaching the Bible. Personally, I am of the opinion that it is almost impossible, due to their ideological bent, for a pastor to get a proper education about the Bible in an Evangelical institution.
Most pastors know enough Greek to make them dangerous. Few pastors know any Hebrew at all. A parishioner would be mistaken to accept the pastor as the authority on the Bible without inquiring as to WHY he should be accepted as an authority. Should he be accepted as an authority just because of the position he holds or because the Bible says he must be accepted as an authority? Perhaps church members need to start asking their pastor, WHY should I listen to you?
No pastor is an oracle who knows everything. His office does not make him an authority. Becoming an authority on a matter requires work, hard work. There are some things I am good at. I work very hard to know what I know and to be able to do what I do. Granted, many of us are good at some things because they come easy for us, but no one should be faulted for that. For example, I am very good at being a pain in the ass. It comes easy for me.
Early in the ministry, I was flattered that people would come to me for advice. I was glad to be the answer man. For many years, I even had a “Ask the Pastor” question time one Sunday night a month. Parishioners could ask me any question they wanted. I answered every question, no matter what the question was. I came off as a man with a vast knowledge of virtually everything. In reality I was like a fart in a forty mile per hour wind. I was five miles wide and one inch deep. In other words, I was a pompous, arrogant know-little know-it-all.
In the latter years of my time in the ministry, I became less willing to answer questions that were not within the range of my expertise. I’ve had to learn that there is a difference between having an opinion about something and actually knowing about something. Since leaving the ministry and leaving Christianity, I have worked very hard to fill in some of the glaring knowledge gaps I have. As a pastor, I would pontificate about Darwin, creation, and evolution, yet I didn’t know a damned thing about science. In high school I took earth science and biology. In college I took one science class, a biology class that had no lab and a teacher who had no actual science training beyond being able to read the textbook. So science is an area where I am working very hard to fill in the gaps.
Years ago, a liberal Baptist pastor and I got into a discussion about psychology. At the time, I was an Evangelical. He brought up Maslow. I waxed eloquently about what I had read in a book opposing psychology. The liberal Baptist preacher could tell I didn’t really know anything, so he called my bluff and then he told me I was full of shit. He was right.
Pastors should stick to what they know. If their calling is to teach and preach then they owe it to their congregations to be educated about the Bible and to learn communication skills that will allow them to be the best preacher possible. Sadly, over the years, I’ve heard countless preachers preach that were illiterate concerning theology and who had little or no training in public discourse.
Want to talk about the Bible, church history, Evangelicalism, fundamentalism, tax issues in the ministry, photography, or Windows computers, I’m your man. If you want to talk about gardening, environmental issues, politics, or sports, I am “kinda” your man, depending on the specific subject. Most everything else, I am just a man with an opinion. An intellectual jack of all trades, master of none.
The next time someone speaks as an authority ask yourself, “WHY should I accept this person’s word on this matter?” Each of us should think critically about the people we grant authority to. In the 1960’s young people were challenged to question authority. The pastors of the churches I attended as a youth said, submit to authority. Their authority. I was raised in an environment that frowned upon, and sometimes punished, any challenge to authority. The college I attended had the same methodology. Imagine where we would be today if no one ever questioned or challenged authority.
The internet has brought us a vast store of information. No longer do we have to take someone’s word for anything. We can investigate a matter and determine if a person is being factual. Before granting anyone the vaulted position of an authority, it is always wise and prudent to fact-check their claims. Even then, a person we accept as an authority might not be equally authoritative on everything.
Here’s the bottom line. Be careful about who you allow to be an authority in your life. WHY should they be granted this noble position of authority? No person can be an authority on everything. Be wary of any man, especially a holy man, who passes himself off as a know-it-all. Such a person can not be trusted.
At the same time, we should not be guilty of showing no respect for authority at all. When a man or a woman give themselves to learning a particular discipline they should not be dismissed without reason or cause. I am always amused when people dismiss Bart Ehrman out of hand without ever engaging or understanding what he writes. He’s an agnostic, an unbeliever, why should I listen to him, they say. Regardless of his spiritual state, he IS an expert in the fields he writes about. Since I am NOT an expert, I must determine if I can trust his expertise. I do. Others don’t. Such is the nature of choosing which experts we will believe.
The same could be said of the science surrounding climate change. Few of us are experts. We must choose which experts we will believe. Personally, my money is on the 95% of climate scientists who say global climate change is real. I am aware of the other 5%, but I don’t think they are right. Granted, I am not a science expert, and I am willing to even admit I am poorly trained in science, but I can read. I do have a rational mind that still has a modicum of sharpness that allows me to make an educated choice about which expert I will believe.
How do you decide who to grant authority in your life? How do you determine which expert to believe? Have you ever been deceived by an “expert”? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
“Jeff, just to add to your thoughts in this, Bart Ehrman has a ready audience of people who want to hear what he’s saying. The world will view him as an authority on the matter, and accept his claims as truth. 1 Timothy 4:3 warns of something similar: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
Ehrman is a teacher who suits the passions of the world: to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Thus, even though someone who refuses to believe the Gospel might spot this hypocrisy of Ehrman’s, rebuking moralizing while doing the same himself, they will likely suppress that truth along with the Truth of the Gospel. Because it suits their passions to do so.
So if we ignored him, Bart Ehrman might “go away” in the sense that we don’t hear so much from him, but he hasn’t really gone anywhere. He wants an adoring audience to validate his unbelief with their attendance to what he teaches as much as they want him to validate their unbelief by him teaching what he does.”
“Very good points. Of course, “agnosticism” and “atheism” are just a smoke-screen for their suppression of the Truth in unrighteousness, and it shows in Bart Ehrman’s hypocrisy. Basically he wants people to believe him, not the Gospel.”
I always love it when Christians tell atheists, agnostics, and humanists the REAL reason they don’t believe. Instead of having to do a bit of intellectual heavy lifting, a Christian like Grant can dismiss a whole class of people with one wave of the proof text hand. According to Grant the reason atheists read Bart Ehrman is because his writing appeals to the fleshly desires. Atheists are unwilling to hear and understand the TRUTH, truth meaning the Bible, so they seek out writers who reinforce their beliefs and opinions about God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible. Of course, Christians don’t do that, right? (that’s sarcasm, BTW)
While Grant’s argument might have some merit when it comes to someone who never was a Christian, it falls flat on its face when it comes to people like me. I spent 50 years in the Christian church and I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years. I spent the majority of my life thinking the Bible was divine truth. Yet, here I am at age 57 an outspoken atheist and humanist. Could it be that the reason I know longer believe is because I intellectually found Evangelical claims about the Bible, God, and Jesus lacking?
Grant is upset because people like me believe Bart Ehrman and not the gospel. In his mind, if one believes the gospel then everything else falls into place. Because I do not believe the gospel, that means I am a Ehrman fan boy. My recommendation of Ehrman’s books couldn’t be because I find them intellectually persuasive, right? Of course not, if I just believed the Bible, well actually if I just believed Grant’s interpretation of the Bible, then I would understand that Ehrman wants to be god in place of the one, true living God.
In others words, atheists, agnostics, and humanists are stupid. They are being led astray by Bart Ehrman, a false prophet. The answer is to have an old-fashioned Bart Ehrman book burning. Then we can return to reading and believing the only book that matters, the B-i-b-l-e. What’s funny, at least to me, is that Evangelical zealots like Grant has shelves full of books that reinforce their beliefs and worldview. If the Bible is all the atheist needs to read, why do Evangelicals read so many books that purport to tell them what the Bible teaches? If the King James Version was good enough for the Apostle Paul and good enough for Bruce, shouldn’t it be good enough for Grant?