Tag Archive: What if You Are Wrong

Questions: Bruce, What Was Your View on the King James Bible?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Richard asked: During your time in in the IFB what was your particular view on the KJV? Did you change this view prior to leaving Christianity?

I grew up in Baptist churches that only used the King James Bible. These churches weren’t King James-only per se. It just that the King James was the only Bible version these churches used. I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon on why church members should only use the KJV. This all changed with the publishing of the New International Version (NIV) in 1978 and the New King James Version (NKJV) in 1982. This forced Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches and pastors, along with IFB college and seminaries, to stake out positions on English Bible translations. The college I attended in the 1970s, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, was decidedly King James-only. Professors and students were required to use only the KJV, and chapel speakers were required to do the same. Using a different translation was grounds for immediate expulsion. At the same time, however, the KJV extremism of Peter Ruckman was also banned, I suspect out of trying to avoid the infighting that Ruckmanism tended to foment. (Please read Questions: Bruce, In Your IFB Days Did You Encounter Peter Ruckman?) That said, Ruckman’s teachings found fertile ground in which to grow, and more than a few Midwestern graduates are Ruckmanites. They proudly advertise their beliefs about Bible translations by displaying on their church signs and literature KJV 1611. (Back in the day when Polly and I were looking for a church to attend, we took KJV 1611 on a church sign to mean: Danger! Infected with incurable disease. Do not enter!)

I entered the ministry a defender of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God; “Word of God” being the King James Bible. While I was never a follower of Peter Ruckman — I despised his nasty, vulgar disposition and that of his disciples — I generally believed as he did: that the King James Bible was God’s perfect word for English-speaking people. I wasn’t one to spend much time preaching about Bible translations. Everyone knew that at the churches I pastored we ONLY used the King James Bible.

In the late 1980s, I read several books that called into question my belief that the King James Bible was inerrant. I concluded that no translation was without error, and that inerrancy only applied to the original manuscripts. I took the approach that the KJV was the best and most reliable translation for English-speaking people. I held this position until the late 1990s.

In 1995, I started a non-denominational church, Our Father’s House, in West Unity, Ohio. I would pastor Our Father’s House for seven years. It was here that my theology, politics, and social values began to change. In 2000, I decided to change which Bible translation I used when preaching. I had already been reading other translations in my studies, but using anything but a KJV for preaching was a big deal, at least for me. Congregants? They couldn’t care less. I used the New American Standard Version (NASB) for a year or so, eventually moving to the English Standard Version (ESV). I was still preaching from the ESV when I left Christianity in November 2008. Devotionally, I read Eugene Peterson’s masterful translation, The Message. I found great joy and satisfaction when reading The Message translation. It was a Bible that truly spoke the language of the common man.

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.

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For the Thousandth Time: Bruce, What if You Are Wrong?

i have a question

Recently, a commenter asked me three questions (slightly edited for grammar):

  • What if you die and find out you were wrong?
  • What if you find that Jesus (the true Jesus of course, not the religious/perverted Jesus) is the true God and you simply refused to accept his offer of eternal life?
  • What will you do?

For the seemingly thousandth time, let me answer these questions.

What if you die and find out you were wrong?

Well, this is most certainly a possibility. I am not infallible, nor do possess all the knowledge that can be known. As I continue to read, study, and understand, I add to my cumulative knowledge. Unfortunately, advanced age and cognitive loss fights against me increasing my knowledge. I do what I can to better my understanding of all that it means to be human. The questioner, of course, is only concerned about me being wrong about her version of Christianity.

As an atheist, I believe life ends the moment my heart stops beating and my brain ceases to function. That’s it, end of story. As such, there is no right-beliefs test after death, no did I believe in the true Jesus, not the religious, perverted Jesus? All I can do while I am among the living is attempt to intellectually, rationally, and honestly understand the world in which I live. For example, I know that most people are to some degree or another religious. Having spent fifty years in the Christian church, twenty-five years in the pastorate, and eight years studying why people are religious, I have come to several reasoned conclusions.

First, all religious belief can be explained from a sociological perspective. Find out where a person was born, who their parents and grandparents are, and what culture they are a part of, and you can determine, for the most part, which religious cult they embrace as the one true faith.

Second, the central tenets of Christianity are irrational. As Michael Mock often says, Christianity doesn’t make sense. Having spent thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible, theology, and church history, I can confidently say that Christianity (in all its forms) is false. Simply put, Jesus died, end of story. Without a miraculous birth, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus, the God-man from the dead, Christianity is little more than a social club. I see no evidence for Christianity being the one true faith.

I can then confidently say that Christianity is false. Thus, I have no fears or concerns about being wrong about Christianity. The same goes for all the other extant religions humans have concocted throughout the annals of history. Could I be wrong? Sure. I try to live my life according to probabilities. It is probable that I will die within the next twenty years. I have carefully examined the available evidence and concluded that sooner, and not later, death is coming my way. I can confidently say that I will likely be dead before 2036. When it comes to  Christianity, after carefully looking at the extant evidence, I have concluded that there is .000001 percent chance that the Christian God exists and that Christianity is the one true religion.

I suppose this commenter could say, but Bruce, are you willing to risk an eternity in hell, even if the probability is .000001? Yes, I am. The greater question is why Christians do the same. I suspect this commenter believes all religions but hers are false. How can she possibly know this? Has she studied these religions? Shouldn’t she play it safe and embrace ALL religions? Better to cover one’s bases than end up in hell because you failed to choose the one true religion, right? Christians are hypocrites, demanding of me what they are unwilling to do themselves.  Why is it that Christians continue to use Pascal’s Wager to evangelize me, when they are not willing, for safety’s sake, to embrace Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Hinduism, or any of the other countless human religions?

What if you find that Jesus (the true Jesus of course not the religious/perverted Jesus) is the true God and you simply refused to accept his offer of eternal life?

The previous answer adequately addresses this question.  I am certainly willing to believe IF Christians can convincingly show me that their religious claims are true. Quoting the Bible, giving a subjective personal testimonies, or making appeals to nature are not proof. Each one of these evidences can be satisfactorily overturned. Ultimately, Christianity rests on a foundation of faith, not evidence (Hebrews 11). Christians believe because they want or need to do so. By faith, they believe. And that’s fine — for them. However, I don’t have the requisite faith necessary to believe. I am unwilling to surrender my life to a fictitious God who wrote a supposedly divine book that is actually an offense to modern thinking. Filled with discrepancies, mistakes, and errors, the Bible teaches that there  are multiple Gods and ways of salvation. Thousands of religious sects appeal to the Bible as THE source of their beliefs. How is possible that each sect’s beliefs differs from that of others? The Bible says that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism — one Christianity — yet there are, if truth be told, millions of Christianities, with each believer shaping a God and Jesus in his or her own image.

If the commenter’s God is the one true God and the Bible is said God’s divine message to humanity, why did he write such a confusing, contradictory message? I’ve spent eight years poking holes in the Evangelical Christian narrative, coming to the conclusion that all the Christian sects are right. The Campbellites and Baptists are right. The Calvinists and the Arminians are right. The Catholics and the Lutherans are right. Every sect appeals to the Bible as the foundation of their faith. All of them can PROVE they are right, so I just agree with them. The Bible can be used as proof for almost any and every belief. Again, if God wanted his soul-saving message to be clear, he should have written it in such a way that no one could possibly doubt his words. That the Bible is a hodge-podge of nonsense is convincing evidence for Christianity’s sacred text being a human, not divine text.

What will you do?

Just for fun, let’s assume that I am dead wrong about this commenter’s God, and that when I awake in eternity I find myself standing before the Big Kahuna. What would I say?

  • Shit, I got that one wrong.
  • Hey God, why did you write such a contradictory and confusing book? Bad day? Too much to drink?
  • Hey God, did you see all the good works I did? Surely, my good works outweigh my bad works. After all, I was a Jesus Club® member for 50 years. The way I see it, Lord, is that I spent five-sevenths of my life doing good and believing all the right things. And even now, as an atheist, I do a lot of good works. My good works should at least be enough to get me a log cabin on the outskirts of Heaven. Surely Lord, you value good works far more than right beliefs.

I have no worries about what I will do because worrying about fictional things is a waste of time. This would be like me worrying that Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) might send her dragons to turn me into a roasted wiener. Not going to happen. Life is short. I choose to worry about things that matter, things rooted in reality. I have no interest in wasting my time wondering about whether I am saved or lost or whether my beliefs will land me a room at Trump’s Heavenly Hotel®.

[signoff]

Bruce, What if You Are Wrong?

what if you are wrong

Every Evangelical-turned-atheist has had a Christian zealot pose to them the question, what if you are wrong? Over the past seven years I’ve been asked this question numerous times. Devoted followers of Jesus genuinely fear for my soul and don’t want me to be tortured by their God in hell for eternity, so they hope by asking this question they can get me to reconsider my decision to give God, Jesus, and Christianity the heave-ho.

This question is often followed by some form of Pascal’s Wager. Of course, those  asking the question don’t realize the hypocrisy of their question. As a practicing Christian, shouldn’t they be joining the Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, and every other religion that says there is some sort of life after death? Shouldn’t they make sure all their bases are covered?  Christians wants to hold me to a different standard from the one to which they hold themselves. They are certain the Christian God is the one and only true God, so they see no reason to ask of themselves, what if I am wrong? Even among Christians, there are uncounted Christianities, with differing beliefs and practices. Which Christianity is the true Christianity? Is recent commenter Susan-Anne White’s Christianity true Christianity? Is Bible Believer’s (blogger at the Galatians 4 website, who just so happened to have mentioned me again on his blog) Christianity true Christianity? The Baptists think their version of Christianity is true Christianity, and the Church of Christ, Catholicism, and Greek Orthodoxy do too.  Two thousand years in the making and Christians can’t even agree on basic beliefs like salvation, baptism, and communion. Yet, rarely do any of them contemplate that they could be wrong.

pascals wager

Could I be wrong about God, Jesus, Christianity, the Bible, and the plethora of other Gods humans have created since they were able to walk upright and reason? Sure, and I could say the same about many of the things I consider factual or true.  As one who values science and the scientific methods, my belief in God or lack thereof is based on evidence and probabilities. While I self-identify as an atheist, I am agnostic on the God question. It is possible that a God of some sort could reveal itself to one or more humans at some future point in history. Possible, but not likely. As things now stand, I see no evidence that would lead me to conclude that a God of some sort exists.  While science has not answered the first-cause question and may never do so, it has built an intellectually satisfactory explanation of the world we live in. While this explanation frequently changes thanks to new evidence, I see no reason to retreat into the pages of an outdated, contradictory book written by unknown authors thousands of years ago. Just because science doesn’t have the answer to every question doesn’t mean that God is the answer. Scientists are willing to say, I don’t know, and then they go about trying to find out what they don’t know. When’s the last time a Christian theologian, Catholic Pope, Muslim cleric, or Evangelical preacher has done the same? Certainty breeds infallibility and ignorance, both of which lead to people accepting as fact the most outlandish of ideas. (i.e. virgin birth, resurrection from the dead, hell in the center of the earth, heaven in the sky, creationism, miracles, perfect religious texts)

When it comes to the Christian God, the Muslim God, the Jewish God,  or any of the other Gods that humans currently worship, I am quite confident that these Gods are no Gods at all. Is it possible that these gods exist? I suppose there is a minuscule chance, but the odds are so infinitesimal that it would be a waste of my time to even consider it. Life is too short to spend one moment of time considering the existence of Odin, Zeus, Lugh, Dagda, Haniyasu-hiko, Jesus, Kane, Pundjel, El Elyon, Shamayim, Guamansuri, Wakan-Tanka, Bochica, Lao-Tien-Yeh, Altjira, Loki, Atlas, Coyote, or any of the thousands of other Gods humans have at one time or another conjured up. (see God Checker: Your Guide to the Gods)

I live without fear of hell or fear of being judged by a God. The hell and judgment that I see on this earth comes from the hands of humans, not a God. If there is a God, he is definitely AWOL. Someday, I will die and I think that will be the end of it for me. What if I am wrong? What if there is a God waiting to settle the score with me after I draw my last breath?  I guess I will say, oops, my bad, and I hope she will look at my life and judge me accordingly. I hope she will judge me not by the things that I did or did not believe, but by how I lived my life.

Many Christians, especially those of the Evangelical persuasion, believe that salvation is secured by believing the right things. While they love to talk about love and grace, the true foundation of their faith is a commitment to certain beliefs and propositions derived from their understanding of the “infallible” Bible. Believe the wrong things and hell will be your eternal resting place. Virtually every Evangelical who stops at my blog to spar with me tries to get me to believe the “right” beliefs. Rarely, does any one of them say anything about how I live my life. BELIEVE THIS AND THOU SHALT LIVE, is their gospel.

If not believing Jesus is the virgin born, second person in the Trinity, who came to earth, lived a perfect life, worked miracles, died on the cross and resurrected from the dead, and ascended back to heaven, ends with my rendition to the Lake of Fire to be tortured day and night by the God who created me, so be it. I have no interest in such a religion, and I have no interest in such a God who is only interested in what I believed and not how I lived.

If, somewhere beyond my next breath, I keel over and die and I find myself in the presence of the Big Man of Upstairs, I hope he will judge my life by how I lived, and if he does so I am confident that everything will be just fine. And if not, if what I believed is what really mattered, then I guess I will burn in hell with a lot of other good people. Coming soon to a corner of hell near you, The Hitch and Bruce Almighty Show.

calvin eternal consequences

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