Why Biblical Inerrancy is Not Intellectually Sustainable

Editor’s Note: Check out the convincing arguments against Evangelical Christian pastors’ insistence on biblical inerrancy. However, in my experience, Evangelicals are not alone in using specious arguments to defend scripture. Progressives do it too! They just try to be more sophisticated about it.

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By Bruce Gerencser

One of the cardinal doctrines of Evangelical Christianity is the belief that the 66 books of the Protestant Bible are inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Every word, every syllable, every letter is without error. The Bible, according to Evangelicals, is different from all other books, in that it was divinely inspired and written by the Christian God.

  • Some Evangelicals believe that God directly dictated the words of the Bible to the original writers.
  • Other Evangelicals believe that God directed the writers to write in such a way that every word is without error.

Thus, when Evangelicals say the Bible is inerrant, they mean that the text is internally consistent and without discrepancy, mistake, or error. In other words, every word of the Bible is true.

Ask Evangelical pastors exactly WHAT is inerrant, and they will likely give one of the following responses:

  • The original manuscripts are inerrant.
  • The sum of extant manuscripts is inerrant.
  • Certain extant manuscript families (i.e. Byzantine, Majority, Textus-Receptus) are inerrant.
  • The __________ (fill in with appropriate version) translation is inerrant. (One Evangelical colleague told me that ALL translations are inerrant.)

Some Evangelical pastors believe that God has preserved his Word without error down through history, right down to a particular translation — namely the 1769 revision of the King James Bible. Some of these pastors might say that the 1611 edition of the King James Bible is inerrant, but most of them use the 1769 revision, not the 1611. The fact that there are textual differences between the two means that one or the other isn’t inerrant. Other Evangelical pastors believe the King James Bible is inspired by God, right down to the italicized helper words inserted by translators.

Evangelical pastors, as they are wont to do, go to great — and often comical — lengths to explain the doctrine of inerrancy. Serving up theological word salads, these defenders of inerrancy wow congregants with their Trumpian theological prowess.

Donald_Trump_August_19,_2015_(cropped)

Church members come away believing that whatever translation they are using is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Asking these members if their Bible contains errors, mistakes, or contractions brings a swift and emphatic NO! However, privately ask educated Evangelical pastors the same question and they will dance all over the place as they attempt to explain that translations are not inerrant, but they ARE faithful, trustworthy, or reliable. Some pastors, realizing that defending inerrancy makes them look like an imbecile, will say that the Bible is inerrant in matters of faith and practice. For these pastors, it doesn’t matter if the Bible is wrong about history and science. The Bible was never meant to be used as a science or history textbook. All that matters is what the Bible says regarding beliefs essential to Christian faith. Good luck trying to pin down pastors on exactly what beliefs are essential.

The original manuscripts of the Bible do not exist in any shape or form. There are thousands of manuscripts from which the various Bible versions are translated. These copies of copies of copies of copies disagree with each other in thousands of places. Granted, most of these discrepancies are minor, but remember, the standard for Biblical inerrancy — WITHOUT ERROR. This means if these manuscripts contain one error, they cannot be considered inerrant. The same can be said for translations. If it can be shown that a particular translation has mistakes or internal inconsistencies — and it can — then the text cannot be considered inerrant. Whatever the Bible is or isn’t, one thing is for certain: the Bible is not inerrant. I can’t think of an intellectually honest way to argue that the text of the Protestant Bible in any of its varied forms is without error.

Knowing the Biblical inerrancy cannot be intellectually or rationally sustained, many Evangelical pastors turn to sleight of hand trickery to make it seem that the Bible is inerrant. One popular trick used is harmonization. Bart Ehrman recommends reading each book of the Bible on its own without making attempts to harmonize that book with other books of the Bible. Let each author — whomever he might be — speak for himself without reading into his words what other Biblical writers said. Of course, doing so leaves readers with books that contradict each other, with Jesus, Paul, Peter, and James each having gospels different from the other, and the gospel authors contradicting each other on matters of historical fact. This is why Christian pastors teach congregants to harmonize the Bible. Harmonization makes disparate verses “fit,” supposedly providing a cohesive, consistent text. By doing this, all the alleged textual errors and contradictions disappear — at least in the minds of Evangelical preachers.

Many Evangelical pastors know the Bible is not inerrant. Privately, they will bitch and complain about Bible thumpers such as Ken Ham, David Barton, Jerry Falwell, Jr, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, James Robison, Jim Bakker, and Bob Gray Sr. They wish these men would shut the darn, freaking, heck up. *   *Approved Baptist curse words used. (Please read Christian Swear Words.) However, when these very same swearing preachers enter their pulpits on Sunday, they sing a different tune, leading congregants to believe that the translations they hold in their hands are the inspired, inerrant, infallible Words of God. These liars for Jesus know that telling people that the Bible contains errors, mistakes, and contradictions would lead to conflict, unrest, membership loss, reduced offerings, and perhaps even unemployment. If there is one thing I learned as an Evangelical pastor it is this:

Congregants want certainty.

When they read their Bibles, church members want/need to feel/know that what they hold in their hands consists of the very words of God. Without this assurance, people will lose faith in the Bible/God/Jesus/Church. Can’t have that. There is a kingdom to build, an empire to maintain. Doing so requires people of great faith, even if their faith is built upon a lie.

If you are interested in reading further about Biblical inerrancy, I encourage you to read one or more of New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s books. Countless Evangelical pastors have done so and now know, if they didn’t know already, that inerrancy is a house of cards. They may not admit this publicly, but when safely meeting behind closed doors with their ministerial colleagues, these men of God speak great lamentations of woe over the pervasive ignorance found among those who believe the Bible is inerrant. However, until they tell their congregations the truth about the Biblical text, what do they expect? Congregants look to their pastors to educate them about the Bible. Most Evangelicals go through life with a borrowed theology — often whatever their pastors believe. Knowing this, Evangelical pastors should speak the truth concerning the Bible and encourage people to study the inerrancy issue for themselves. What better way to do this than starting a Bart Ehrman Book Club. Let me suggest several of his books that will drive a stake in the heart of the brain-sucking doctrine of Biblical inerrancy:

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) 

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why 

Forged: Writing in the Name of God — Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior 

How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee 

Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament 

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

** Editor’s Question:  What examples do you have of clergy of any persuasion using scripture to make specious arguments? **

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bruce gerencser 2015-002Bio: Bruce Gerencser lives in rural NW Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have 6 grown children and 10 grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. He left the ministry in 2005 and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. He is also one of the original members of The Clergy Project, which began in 2011. He blogs at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, where the above post originally appears.  It is reposted with permission.

>>photo credits:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Gutenberg_Bible.jpgBy Michael Vadon – https://www.flickr.com/photos/80038275@N00/20724666936/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42609338

 

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  • Kevin K

    You know what else is inerrant? Harry Potter. Gone With The Wind. Catch-22. Slaughterhouse Five. Bleak House. And on and on.

    All works of fiction are “inerrant”. The bible is no exception — though it badly needs an editor to fix some of the howlingly awful internal discrepancies.

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      Yep. The Bible is in need of some serious editorial revision. :)

      • Kevin K

        This is what happens when you self-publish instead of going through a reputable publishing house.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Also, Esop’s fables, Grimm’s fairy tales and Paul Bunyon. All worth reading, some with important lessons; all fiction.

      • Kevin K

        Precisely so.

  • MystiqueLady

    I plan to read up on the specific errors/contradiction — and plan to have them ready for the fundelgicals in my life. 😉

  • Mark Rutledge

    This is a really nice analysis–thanks! I have one question which i can’t answer for myself easily and simply: what is the difference between inerrant and infallible on one hand and literalism on the other? Do they mean the same thing–i somehow don’t think so. Written by God–i guess that comes close to literal. But then is there more than one kind of “truth” implied in these categories? Can a poem (psalm) or parable be literal? I appreciate the distinctions you’ve identified and described Bruce, but where does literalism fit into these? And supernaturalism i guess is assumed in all of the above? Sheesh what a mess we have inherited from our pre-enlightenment forebears who were just trying to do their best with what they had. Trying to unscrew the inscrutable!
    And finally, aren’t there different kinds of non-fundamentalist, and/or non-literalist, evangelicals, some of whom are are not literalists, inerrantists, of infallibilists? I don’t usually waste my time on these kinds of questions, but they are in the air today and relevant. I like the clarity of your distinctions and descriptions.

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      All literalists believe in inerrancy, but not all believers in inerrancy are literalists. Some educated Evangelicals take a more nuanced approach to the Biblical text — what I call literalism-lite. They will wax on and on about the various literary methods found in the Biblical text, yet regardless of how educated their arguments seem, these defenders of the faith still believe the Bible is inerrant.

      Inerrancy defines the nature of the text. Infallibility defines how that inerrant text is put into practice. For Evangelicals, the Bible is their Pope and their interpretations are that Pope’s infallible pronouncements.

      I am of the opinion that inerrancy is a foundational Evangelical doctrine. You can certainly find Evangelical scholars and pastors who refuse to use the word inerrancy — most often because they are embarrassed by the stupidity and ignorance associated with the word — and I am sure there are more than a few Evangelicals who reject inerrancy altogether. I tend to view Evangelicals who reject inerrancy as liberal/progressive Christians who don’t want to give up the cultural/religious trappings of Evangelicalism.

      Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist. I make the case in https://brucegerencser.net/2015/01/evangelicals-fundamentalists/ that all Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists and many/most Evangelicals are social Fundamentalists. Over the years, countless Evangelicals have objected to me tarring Evangelicalism with the Fundamentalist label. These whiners of the faith will share stories of how they were NOT legalists, so this meant that they were no longer Fundamentalist. However, when pressed, these Evangelicals will almost always reveal that they still hang on to many of Fundamentalism’s social practices. Just ask them how many sexually active LGBTQ people are members of their churches and in leadership positions. :)

  • TC Howitt

    I was once an atheist, but now I’m found. It took over 40 years in my case. I now see that it was impossible — read again: impossible — for me to properly understand God’s infallible word using my intellect and humanist worldview.

    Thank God He intervened on my behalf and gave me the Spirit of truth. I didn’t ask for it and I never saw it coming. It’s humbling.

    “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Co 2:14).

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      Your argument is fatally flawed (which you should have picked up on in my post). I was a Christian for most of my life. I spent 25 years of my life pastoring Evangelical churches. I spent over 20 hours a week reading and studying the Bible and theological books. I bathed my study in prayer, asking God to direct my thoughts. From this study of the Bible came thousands of sermons. I knew the Bible inside and out, and even today I can still quote scores of Bible verses from memory (though I can’t remember what I had for dinner). Do you seriously believe that the moment I said “I no longer believe in the Christian God” that three decades of Biblical knowledge and understanding disappeared; that God did some sort of mind wipe ala Men in Black? Surely you see how absurd such an argument is. The only way around the facts of the matter is for people such as yourself to say that I was never a Christian, that I had a “head” knowledge, not a “heart” knowledge of God. This too is absurd.

      • TC Howitt

        I didn’t put forth an argument. I just plainly described my experience and how it accords with biblical truth.

        The question is, are you a prodigal son or a son of Belial? That is, either you will return to the good shepherd, for which I pray, or you were never among His sheep in the first place.

        I suspect you were never born again and you continue to walk around dead in your trespasses and sins — a zombie who occupied a pulpit for 25 years, sadly.

        And it’s not I who say that you were never a Christian — it’s the Bible. I can’t read your heart. Also, I don’t use Christianese phrases like “heart knowledge.”

        “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (Jhn 10:27-28).

        “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1Jn 2:19).

        • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

          If I was never born again, I was one hell of an actor. Just think, I deceived thousands of Christians who heard me preach. I also deceived my pastors, college professors, my wife, and my colleagues in the ministry. I was surrounded by people filled with the Holy Ghost, yet not ONE of them ever doubted I was a follower of Jesus. Yet, you come along, read a blog post and you know that I was never a follower of Jesus (I wondered when Godcwas going to show up. Little did I know his name was TC.) Again, your reasoning is absurd.

          Well, enough of this discussion. Nine years in, I no longer have the patience necessary to engage people who refuse to see things as they are (were) because doing so conflicts with their theology. Who better to say whether I was a Christian than me? After all, it is my life, my story. I accept your story at face value. I wish Evangelicals would grant me the same courtesy. Alas, the Bible gets in the way of Evangelicals being thoughtful, decent human beings.

          • TC Howitt

            You don’t have the patience to continue a discussion started by a post you published? That seems a bit intellectually flabby.

            I only conveyed my hunch that you were never saved. Like I said, I don’t know your heart. No need to fight a straw man here.

            It’s possible that you’re saved, and in that case I know you’ll come back to Jesus.

            But if you were never saved, shame on you for deceiving thousands.

            Having been blessed with faith later in life, I must ask if you can reveal what precipitated your turning away from God. Not having known God all my life, and feeling very satisfied and smug about that state of affairs, then having received the truth in Jesus Christ, it appears plain to me that my condition is vastly better than yours.

            If I were to guess — and I hesitate to do so, since it’s just that — I would venture that you became disillusioned with some people. Hypocrites, naysayers, overly-judgmental prudes, legalistic buzzkills. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

            Could it be that this is all a matter of opinion? Could those Christians just be wrong because they’re dumb, and you’ve finally found peace and truth in a community of atheist intellectuals?

            “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom 3:4a).

            Maybe you resent the concept of a God who would restrict your absolute freedom as an autonomous being. Is that it? Do you fashion yourself as an autonomous being?

            I searched for truth all my life, but I never sought after God. In the end, I got both. You’ve abandoned both for the pride of life, which isn’t eternally sustainable.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I have a widely read blog that keeps me quite busy. Other sites such as this one are always free to use my writing, but I don’t have the time (or physical wherewithal) to engage in long, drawn out discussions that are usually futile. While I am quite patient with people who have doubts about Christianity, and I expend significant amounts of time helping people who have left Christianity, I have no time or patience left for theological mud wrestling. People are free to love/hate, agree/disagree with my writing. Regular readers of this site might remember a recent discussion over morality that went on for days. And to what end? The man claiming non-theists have no basis for morality and ethics, remained deaf to any argument that suggested otherwise. That’s the problem with Evangelical certainty. Once embraced, Evangelicals lose the ability to hear any other voice but their own. The Bible (or better put, their personal interpretation of the Bible) gets in the way of them seeing things as they are (as you have done with your comments).

            Yes, Christianity is filled with hypocrites. In fact, I’d suggest anyone who says they are a “Bible-believer” is a hypocrite. I don’t know of a Christian who actually believes and then practices every word of the Bible. As I stated in a blog post today, Evangelicals are buffet Christians. They pick and choose what to believe and practice and then use theological arguments to hide their disobedience. If God and the Bible is who and what Evangelicals say he/it is, shouldn’t every waking hour be spent worshiping and serving Jesus? After all, Jesus said his true followers were those who deny self, take up their cross, and follow him. Jesus also said that his true followers must hate their families and NFL football in relation to their love for God. :)

            Having said that, no the fact that the Christian church is filled with hypocrites is not ultimately the reason I left Christianity. The reasons for my acrimonious divorce from Jesus are many, but the primary reasons are intellectual in nature. I came to the conclusion that the Bible was not what Evangelicals claim it is. Once the Bible lost its control and authority over me, I was then free to carefully study and investigate the claims of Christianity. I concluded that the central claims of Christianity could not be rationally sustained. When I came to this conclusion, I stopped saying I was a Christian. This was almost nine years ago.

            I can’t resent a being that doesn’t exist. Christians often charge that I hate God or that I am angry with the Big Kahuna. Such charges are silly. One must believe God exists in order to hate him, and I don’t. Same goes for my “love” for Satan. I no more hate the Christian God than I hate Santa Claus because he didn’t bring me a new BMW last Christmas. I reserve my hatred for beliefs and practices that harm others, not the myths attached to them.

            I have written extensively about why people are religious and why people find value in religion. I may be an atheist, but I recognize that many people emotionally benefit from believing in the existence of a God, especially one that orchestrates their lives, answers their prayers, and promises them an eternal home in the sweet-by-and-by. These beliefs need not be true for people to benefit from them. One need only to view religious belief from a sociological and economic perspective to see why most humans “believe.”

            You might find some of the posts on my WHY page helpful in your attempt to divine my true spiritual condition. Shoot me an email if you have any questions.

            https://brucegerencser.net/why/

            You also might find https://brucegerencser.net/why-i-hate-jesus/ helpful. This post is the most read article on my site.

          • TC Howitt

            I don’t know why you keep saying “Evangelicals,” since the term is meaningless today. I certainly don’t identify as such. The concept of biblical infallibility goes back to the Bible, and I identify as a biblical Christian.

            You’ve complained that Christians just can’t hear any other voice but their own, but I’ve already pointed out that I was a proud humanist-atheist for most of my life. I know your worldview. You can’t be saying that I won’t hear your side of things, can you?

            You know, someone could forcefully argue that once atheists get locked into their worldview, they won’t hear any other voices but their own. I can think of one guy who doesn’t even see a reason to have a discussion with people who disagree with his atheist worldview. “To what end?” he asks. Unfortunately, I’d have to agree with his frustration: from the humanist perspective, To what end are we doing anything? To what end are we living? To propagate? If that’s all you’ve got, then you’ve reduced your meaning of life to that of a virus.

            Face it: you now belong to a death cult.

            The fact that everyone fails to obey the letter of God’s law is a key component of the gospel, “pastor.” We all come short of the glory of God. Thanks be to Jesus for fulfilling the law and serving as a propitiation for our sins, which are deserving of death. Maybe you should read Romans 3. And no, the message of the cross is not up for varied interpretation.

            This is the gospel with training wheels, man. Hearing the way you interpret the Bible, I’m more and more convinced that you were never saved.

            In order to understand what Jesus meant when he said you must hate your family, as He does in Luke 14:26, you need to read the rest of the Bible. Matthew 10:37 clears it up: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” In comparison to the love Jesus calls to Himself, your love of this world — that includes your family — would be considered hate. The emphasis is on the extraordinary degree of love you should have for Jesus because of the love He first had for you. Or do you think Luke (or Jesus) was unclear about the commandments to honor parents, love the brotherhood, love your enemies, love your neighbor? Do you really think he slipped up and started preaching hate?

            This illustrates why your criticism of gospel harmonization is unfounded. The different narratives combine as an organic whole to convey the truth of matters. It’s amazing and quite beautiful.

            You sound like a life-long atheist who’s never picked up a Bible, not a former “pastor.” If that’s a goal of yours, congratulations — you nailed it.

            You don’t need to believe in Satan to follow him and believe his lies. That’s been true since the beginning.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            *sigh* Thank you for proving my point.

            I wish you well.

            Bruce

          • TC Howitt

            Which point of yours did I prove?

            And thanks for the well-wishes. I love you.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I’m not gay, by the way.

          • TC Howitt

            “I’m not gay, by the way.”

            Well that’s a peculiar thing to say. Is it a non-sequitur or is it a semi-homophobic rejoinder to my “I love you” statement? Do you think my love for you is homosexual in nature?

            You’ve repeatedly asked why I bother to comment here, and it’s because I love you and anyone else who may read this conversation.

            Also, you didn’t answer my question: Which point of yours did I prove?

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I assumed you were gay since you said you loved me. I was, of course, being sarcastic. I am not interested in the least in your “Love.”

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            Did you love everyone while you were “pastoring” for 25 years, or did you skip that commandment because you assumed it was “gay?” Serious question. I want to know if you were always a false teacher or if you once believed in loving everyone and then changed your mind when you fell back on your pride.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I sarcastically said what I did because I think you are an ass**le for Jesus. Linda has been gracious in allowing you to hijack the comment section and use it as a pulpit. I am not so gracious these days. I’ve spent almost a decade dealing with your sort, so I have little tolerance or patience (and certainly no love) for Evangelical/Catholic/Muslim zealots.

            That said, your “love” for me did result in me writing a post on “Do Christian Apologists Really “Love” Atheists and Other Non-Christians?” So, thanks!

            Did I love the people I pastored? Yep, I sure did (even though I now question my motivation for doing so). Of course, I am human, so I did love some people more than others.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            So how does a scientific rationalist determine whether or not someone loves someone else? Do you have a lovemeter for measuring love waves? How do you quantify the quality of love? Did you take a poll, or did you just go by your feelings?

            Are you sure love even exists, skeptic? If love can’t be measured by scientific instruments — measuring brain activity of “love” would rely on arbitrary correlations that could be due to any force other than love, such as the influence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on all matter — why are you so confident it exists?

            I suspect you’re inconsistent, since you haven’t been consistent here: you’ve stated multiple times that you don’t have the patience for this discussion, yet here you are. I think you’re interested in knowing more about the good news (you seem confused about some basic biblical principles), and I’m happy to oblige.

            I don’t expect you to change your mind right this minute, or tomorrow. I don’t expect you to even remember this discussion if you do repent and come to the Lord someday. Witnessing you being saved is not really important to me, so I don’t share your frustration here.

            “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1Co 3:6).

            Do you think you’re a kinder person now, or more intolerant and abusive now that you’ve fallen back on your own judgment for everything rather than relying on God’s perfect judgment? Does King Bruce even really care about anyone who doesn’t serve him well?

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            Sorry, Todd, but I’ve forgotten more Bible than you’ll ever know. I respond to your comments because Linda thinks it best that writers respond to commenters. If you were commenting on my blog, your first comment would have been your last. I have no tolerance for people of your ilk.

            And this really is my last response to you.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            You’re on the run from my questions, and that’s okay. My questions aren’t what you should fear.

            You boast impressively. You’ve forgotten more Bible than I’ll ever know? What a peculiar thing to say to a stranger!

            I also appreciate your ability to make censorship threats while acknowledging you have no power to do so. Very creative. So if you had stones to pick up, you’d be casting them my way by now, but seeing as you have no stones, you’ll just run.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            You’re on the run from my questions

            Probably he is trying to be polite or nonrepetitive. How many times can you tell someone that they are an ***hole and that their questions are stupid and trite?

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            You think personal insults and swearing is “trying to be polite?” Not only is that counter to common sense based on the evidence, but it illustrates how unbelievers will congratulate their own good behavior and worthiness (the root of the word “worship”).

            So yes – running from my questions.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            Thank you. I tried to engage Todd at first, but it quickly became clear that he is here to preach, not engage in thoughtful discussion or dialog. He makes it clear on his Facebook page that his goal is evangelization. I will readily admit that I have little tolerance for people like Todd. I’ve spent the last decade dealing with his ilk. After dealing with hundreds and hundreds of Todds , I have come to realize that interacting with them is a waste of time. I will still engage Fundamentalists if I think my readers with benefit from the discussion. Most of the time, I let them say their piece and then send them on their way.

            Todd thinks I’m running, but that’s hard to do in a wheelchair.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            This is a post about my gladness.

            I’m glad you refrained from swearing and lashing out too much, but you should hardly find in that restraint grounds for congratulating yourself. Your thoughts matter, including your wicked ones. Of course, without God you can only embrace and revel in your wickedness – and encourage others to do likewise.

            “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom 1:32).

            I’m glad you managed to communicate with me through a surrogate. If that gives you courage to interact with the truth, I’m all for it.

            You didn’t need my FB profile to tell you that I’m here to preach — you need only to remember some Bible verses you must have forgotten. Start by reading this prayer of Jesus from John 17:15-18:

            “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

            But I’m glad you looked up my profile. Also check out my blog at http://oilforlight.com.

          • ThaneOfDrones

            … but I’ve already pointed out that I was a proud humanist-atheist for most of my life.

            Oh but you weren’t a true atheist, or you would not have deconverted. You must have been insincere in your lack of belief.

          • TC Howitt

            Belief in atheism is a matter of personal confidence, while belief in Jesus Christ is a matter of regeneration through grace from God. Losing confidence in atheism doesn’t mean the belief never existed, or was insincere. Contrariwise, one cannot fall out of God’s grace, once given. There’s a big difference: atheism, and every other false belief system, relies on personal conviction, while Christian belief relies on conviction of the person by God. (I’m playing on the two meanings of the word “conviction” there.)

          • Linda_LaScola

            Atheism is not a belief system. It is a lack of belief in the supernatural.

          • TC Howitt

            Atheists will assert that their belief in the non-existence of God doesn’t constitute a worldview or a spiritual perspective. In other words, they will claim that their belief is not a belief but a lack of belief — like you just did. I’d say it’s sophistry, but it’s not sophisticated enough to warrant that epithet.

            The defenders of atheism tend to bring up the multitude of false gods like Thor and false beliefs like Santa Claus to compare them to the Christian God, and they will say they only believe in “one less God” than Christians. This is an argument put forth by Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine. In a debate against Shermer, Christian apologist David Wood countered that argument by comparing it to vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is a positive assertion about abstaining from eating all meats; it is not an apathetic decision to eat “one less meat” than a carnivore who only eats beef. Likewise, atheism is a positive spiritual affirmation and a worldview based around a faith in materialism alone.

            These sorts of discussions usually end with the atheist-skeptic dismantling his or her own argument down to nihilistic absurdism: “I don’t truly believe I can know anything — and neither can you — and I’m sure about that!” That’s probably the boldest truth claim one can make and refute at the same time. It’s an intellectual suicide bomb.

            “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22).

            Look: Any cause of nature to come into being out of absolute nothingness must be, by definition, a supernatural cause. If you deny the existence of the supernatural, then you must assert an eternally-existing natural universe. Want to take that route?

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            No one, including you, knows how things began. Those of us who value reason and science are fine with living with ambiguity. Science continues to investigate how things began. Science may or may not answer this question, but I’m fine with that. You, on the other hand, think you have already found the answer. You are certain that you are right. The source of your knowledge? A Bronze Age religious text written by unknown writers who had no understanding of science. At best, their writings were their attempt to explain their understanding of the world. The Bible has nothing to offer when it comes to our modern, scientific understanding of the universe. According to the Bible, the universe is 6,022 years old. A God (or Gods) created the universe in six 24 hour days. Is this the position you are arguing for? A position, by the way, that must reject virtually everything science tells us about the universe.

            I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish here? This is an atheist/agnostic site. Repeatedly quoting the Bible and vomiting forth inane theological arguments accomplishes what? You think the readers of this site haven’t heard bullshit like yours countless times before? You are reaching no one, so I assume your goal is to hear yourself talk.

            Your comments on this post are a perfect reminder of why it is a colossal waste of time to enter into discussions with Evangelicals.

          • Linda_LaScola

            If I had listened in to more of this kind of discussion, I probably would have become an atheist much sooner. But I wasn’t interested enough in religion to do so.

          • TC Howitt

            Listening to a discussion would have made you an atheist? I think you’re too easily swayed by the so-called wisdom of men.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I understand – you are listening to heavenly voices, which I think of as voice in your head.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            No, you do not understand. I listen to the word of God, which is written in the pages of my Bible.

            Naturally born, I’m an anarchist and an atheist. Left to my own opinions, I would choose what you have chosen, which is death. That man has now died, which was inevitable anyway, and I drag around his corpse like old rags.

            Born again, the Holy Spirit illumines scripture and now lights my path. I check the wisdom of man, including my own, against the wisdom of God, and I endeavor to act according to the will of God.

            It is you, not I, who listens to voices in your head. You are the ultimate arbiter of truth for yourself — you inform yourself of what you would like to believe and what you would like to discard. You fumble in the darkness, living in ambiguity and doubt, trusting only yourself and the people who agree with your worldview. Those are the voices in your head — the spirit of the world.

          • Linda_LaScola

            My life, according to you, sounds awful. But maybe you weren’t writing specifically to me, but were hoping a vulnerable atheist was listening in who would be swayed by your words.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            No, you’re still missing it.

            I assume your life is not awful, and in fact you probably find it quite gratifying, ambiguity and all. Satan is the ruler of this world, and he rewards his children richly here and now. It’s simple coercion, bribery. Psalm 73 is all about how the wicked prosper in this world.

            My life is much more burdensome now that I’m saved and preaching. I’m burdened by the awful prospects for the lost who mock God in their arrogance, and I struggle to share the gospel with them while they scoff and hate.

            And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I received a notification for your last comment, but I can’t find it here. I don’t know everyone who reads this blog. That said, I got a pretty good idea who generally reads it.

            I get it, you think you have a calling/duty to preach the gospel. I once was just like you, so I understand your motivations. Having said that, I’m not sure your time is well spent preaching to people who know the Bible inside and out. You haven’t said anything that most readers of this blog haven’t heard countless times before. Hell, a lot of us once used the very arguments you are now using. Christians-turned-atheists have an advantage in that we have been on both sides on the debate. Our “problem” isn’t a lack of knowledge or understanding. We have weighed the claims of Christianity/Bible in the balance and found it wanting. Had it been otherwise, we’d still be Christians. Nothing you have said in your sermons has caused me to change my mind. Yeah, I know…this is because my foolish heart is darkened — Romans 1. I’m quite happy to wear the apostate/reprobate label. I consider it a badge of honor.

            And with that I must bow out of any further discussion with you. Priorities….seek ye First the kingdom of Bruce.

            Bruce

          • mason lane
          • mason lane

            Reality check TC: the Jehovah-Jesus cult is the gold standard for sadomasochistic blood sacrifice familicide religions. Take pride in your blood cult belief, but have the courage to acknowledge it’s essence and blood thirsty and tortuous nature. The biblical Lucifer is a far more noble character in mythology than the religiously https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/25a14c426062a0e1972755fca37b62739c90c397cf46ca1cf0bceb02362188df.jpg genocidal Jehovah & Son Inc.

          • TC Howitt

            “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (2Pe 3:3).

            There are a few possibilities here:

            1. I’m a blood-sacrificing sadomasochist.

            2. You’re confusing me for a Roman Catholic who believes in transubstantiation.

            3. You’re projecting. I know for a fact that unbelievers have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Darwinist evolutionism gives rise to eugenics, demonstrably making it a racist death-cult.

            4. You’re mistaken about the true biblical teaching and I’m just a disciple of Jesus Christ, Jesus who loved the world enough to give Himself to save those who would believe in Him, and the world hates my message because they first hated Him (Jhn 3:16, 15:18).

            To help you figure out which one of these possibilities is in fact the truth — since I don’t believe you know — consider the following account.

            Jesus spoke in parables to those who couldn’t see (Matt 13:13), and he had a knack for giving out enough rope for the wicked to hang themselves. Case in point:

            John 6 recounts Jesus preaching to a multitude and saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (Jhn 6:53).

            (Whenever Jesus says, “Verily, verily,” you better listen up.)

            The Jews began to argue and grumble amongst themselves at this, and His disciples said, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”

            Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life… Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (Jhn 6:63-65).

            He’s saying that you need the Holy Spirit to understand His words. You simply can’t get to the truth, who is Jesus Christ Himself, unless you are given to Him by the Father.

            And then the Bible says, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” and Jesus was left with his 12 disciples who said, “we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ” and Jesus said, “Have not I chosen you twelve?” (Jhn 6:66-70).

            I pray that God has mercy on your soul and shows you the truth.

          • mason lane

            You’re just lagging a bit behind Bruce’s intellectual fortitude and evolution.
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bca76327591da5f49a7466fdb8a91ae37dbb87e38573c6d14418010dcfee8022.jpg

          • TC Howitt

            “Intellectual fortitude?” Jefferson was a deist, by the way. Are you a deist?

        • mason lane
          • Iron Chariots

            And even more bizarre considering the cosmic Jewish zombie planted the magical tree in the first place and made the talking snake, while being all knowing.
            The craziest story ever and a massive tragicomedy that so many people think it makes sense.
            Discussions with T.C reminds me of Darrel Rays book ‘ The god virus.’
            Those infected have an immunity to reason.

        • Iron Chariots

          I find it hard to believe you where an actual card carrying atheist. Maybe you just never gave any particular sky wizard a thought.
          Why I find it hard to believe is from my perspective going from actual atheist to christianist is akin to realizing Santa is not real then one day reading a Santa book and start believing in Santa again. Almost impossible without a brain injury or other mental trauma.
          Maybe you just never realized what nonsense god belief is and have under developed reasoning skills and so were still vulnerable.
          Agnostic to Christian. Yes
          But while there is live, there is hope. :)

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            You say you find it “hard to believe.” You’re hard of believing in God like a deaf person is hard of hearing.

            It wasn’t a decision on my part. Left to my own wits, I would have chosen to remain in my sins.

            Being saved is not a reasoning activity, but there is much reason behind it.

            “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Mat 19:26).

          • Iron Chariots

            I said I find it hard to believe you realized Santa wasn’t real and then one day decided that Santa was real again.
            I’m not deaf to your god, or any god, just find their is no evidence, just empty bizarre claims. But then the god of the bible is a complete scumbag ( please read yours honestly and with both eyes open) so even if it was real it certainly wouldn’t be worthy of worship by any self respecting person with a functioning moral compass.
            “It wasn’t a decision on my part.” So you have no ability to make decisions on your own, the cult made it for you.
            Anyway, the concept of sin is a crock. Your god planted a tree knowing what would happen, Your god creates and delivers ‘evil’. Your god planned failure.
            One does not have to be saved from something that doesn’t exist.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            I know where you’re coming from. You hate God. Good thing for you that He’s patient and merciful, because you deserve hell right here and now for hating your maker.

            I don’t expect you to believe that, of course.

            It’s funny to me that you claim you’re not deaf to God, and in the same sentence, that you find no evidence for Him. Way to smack yourself in the face. What do you think it means to be deaf and blind to God, anyway? It means you can’t hear or see any evidence of Him, of course.

            “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2Co 4:3-4).

            I’ll leave it to you to figure out who “the god of this world” is. Hint: he hates you and God alike.

            Without God, you have no moral basis for judging Him. Who gives you the knowledge and authority to know good and evil, what is right and what is wrong?

            Moral compass? You’ve got a moral compass all right — it’s called common grace, and we all have it — but you deny the giver of that knowledge using that very gift! Again, way to smack yourself in the face.

            I have the ability to make all kinds of decisions and choices. Everyone is free to make choices, but nobody is free to make the consequences of those choices. Can you comprehend how that works? Prideful people think they’re autonomous, but they’re not. The law of God exists whether you like it or not — and as a wicked, unregenerate sinner, of course you don’t like it. You’ll get exactly what you ask for.

            That said, my salvation wasn’t a decision I made according to my fleshly desires which formerly ruled my life. I was made alive by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit and shown a clear offer I couldn’t refuse. I was drawn to God’s glory, by His grace. It was impossible for me to decide to believe before, and now it’s impossible for me to resist. I was a slave to my sin before, headed to destruction, and now I’m a slave to Christ Jesus, already born again into newness of life — fact.

          • Iron Chariots

            I hate god like I hate pixies on flying pigs. Actually I don’t hate anything.
            You remind me of a picture of someone with their fingers in their ears going lalalalalalala.
            NB: “Your god planted a tree knowing what would happen, Your god creates and delivers ‘evil’. Your god planned failure.” Think.

            I see you have some moral issues and while your fantasy hell is your imagination it shows a massive lack of morals to think someone deserves to go there, as you say.
            I can now see why you need a childish carrot or stick to be a good person, because otherwise you are not, but even then still aren’t.
            Although Christianity is a cancer on society, a cancer on thought, it seems that some are still not all that far from the trees.
            Despite technology you show much of the human race to still be quite primitive, not really knowing what the right thing to do is. So following a wizard guilty of more crimes than anyone in fact or fiction and warp it to be called love.

            “It’s funny to me that you claim you’re not deaf to God, and in the same sentence, that you find no evidence for Him. Way to smack yourself in the face. What do you think it means to be deaf and blind to God, anyway? It means you can’t hear or see any evidence of Him, of course.”
            May I call you delusional?
            Yes I’m not deaf to pixies either. Understand? I find no evidence. Understand?
            Pretend evidence isn’t actual. If always thought over the top religious types should be barred from jury duty.

            Just before you threaten me with your imaginary hell again, I’ll tell you a very short story of a conversation between me and a believer and what went right over their head.
            Believer: … ” but aren’t you afraid of hell?”
            Me: “As afraid of hell as you are of being eaten by a dragon”
            Beliver:” But dragons aren’t real”

            And there it goes, flying straight over …
            Again another reason too not wasted to much time talking to people that are infected with the god virus and it’s inbuilt immunity to honest evaluation.
            Much more to be gained from wising up those non religious people that are infected by 2000 year of pro religious propaganda and imagine Christianity is a good thing.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            It’s telling that atheists like to talk about pixies, Santa Claus, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, dragons, Thor and magical sky fairies. The fact that they need to bring up these hyperbolic fantasies demonstrates that God is not one of them! If it were self-evident that God is just another imaginary figure, atheists wouldn’t need to rattle off the trite recitation of other imaginary figures — they could just say God, and everyone would realize that it’s just as silly as Santa Claus. But they don’t. Everyone knows God is real, but some people suppress that knowledge even within themselves. It’s natural.

            I also find it funny that atheists revert to fairy tale comparisons like little children. They also like to post cartoons. Atheists are the biggest fans of cartoons, sci-fi and fantasy.

            Did you really intend to say, “Actually I don’t hate anything?” If so, wow. I’ll bet you don’t lie or steal, either. You might be the only good person on earth.

            I need to remind myself not to underestimate atheists. They come across as puffed up imbeciles, but when I least expect it, one of them might come at me with a coherent argument worth serious consideration and careful examination, and I could get set back on my heels in shock.

            So far, no signs of sound reasoning found — just an empty string of assertions upon opinions upon assumptions upon unfounded confidence in themselves (Latin: “with” + “faith”). Surrounded by blind and arrogant dullards taking themselves to be wise with their pedestrian philosophy, it’s hard to stay alert.

            But I must stay vigilant!

            You were made for greater things, atheist. You don’t have to be stupid. Quit your drooling and pawing at created things and lean on the Creator of all things for understanding. You can have the mind of Christ if you’re willing to set aside your prideful foolishness and follow Him.

            “Those of us who value reason and science are fine with living with ambiguity,” says one pathetic soul with an irrational death-drive, who appears to have suffered a spiritual lobotomy. Are you building your house upon a rock or upon the sand?

            You can love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength — and still value reason and science. Take a hint from Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Kepler. You get into trouble when you love your own ability to reason God out of your life. God gave you that ability to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and He clearly told you not to eat of it.

            Go ahead and hate God because He made you free to choose to do the wrong thing — I certainly can’t stop you, and I know not everyone will be saved. If you insist on going to the outer darkness — where you will finally understand and accept your just punishment for hating your Lord — that’s exactly what He’ll grant you. With God, you get exactly what you ask for.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            It’s interesting to me that atheists like to talk about pixies, Santa Claus, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, dragons, Thor and magical sky fairies. The fact that it’s necessary to bring up these fantasy creatures demonstrates that God is not among them! If it were self-evident that God is just another imaginary figure, atheists wouldn’t need to rattle off the trite recitation of other imaginary figures — they could just say God, and everyone would realize that it’s just as silly as Santa Claus. But they don’t. Everyone knows God is real, but some people suppress that knowledge even within themselves. It’s natural.

            I also find it funny that atheists revert to fairy tale comparisons like little children. They also like to post cartoons. Atheists are the biggest fans of cartoons, sci-fi and fantasy.

            Did you really intend to say, “Actually I don’t hate anything?” If so, wow. I’ll bet you don’t lie or steal, either. You might be the only good person on earth.

            I need to remind myself not to underestimate atheists. They come across as puffed up imbeciles, but when I least expect it, one of them might come at me with a coherent argument worth serious consideration and careful examination, and I could get set back on my heels in shock.

            So far, no signs of sound reasoning found — just an empty string of assertions upon opinions upon assumptions upon unfounded confidence (Latin: “with” + “faith”). Surrounded by blind and arrogant dullards taking themselves to be wise with their pedestrian philosophy, it’s hard to stay alert.

            But I must stay vigilant!

            You were made for greater things, atheist. You don’t have to be stupid. Quit your drooling and pawing at created things and lean on the Creator of all things for understanding. You can have the mind of Christ if you’re willing to set aside your prideful foolishness and follow Him.

            “Those of us who value reason and science are fine with living with ambiguity,” says one pathetic soul with an irrational death-drive, who appears to have suffered a spiritual lobotomy. Are you building your house upon a rock or upon the sand?

            You can love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength — and still value reason and science. Take a hint from Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Kepler. You get into trouble when you love your own ability to reason God out of your life. God gave you that ability to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and He clearly told you not to eat of it.

            Go ahead and hate God because He made you free to choose to do the wrong thing — I certainly can’t stop you, and I know not everyone will be saved. If you insist on going to the outer darkness — where you will finally understand and accept your just punishment for hating your Lord — that’s exactly what He’ll grant you. With God, you get exactly what you ask for.

  • Keulan

    One of the most ridiculous claims I’ve heard from Christians is the claim that the Bible is inerrant. Anyone who’s ever bothered to read it knows the Bible is full of contradictions.

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      That’s why billions of dollars are spent on maintaining Bible colleges and seminaries and training ministerial students. These students learn how to make a square peg fit in a round hole. They take hermeneutics, a class that teaches them how to properly interpret the Bible (make it say what your sect wants it to say). These young men of God learn how to “harmonize” the plethora of internal contradictions found in the Bible. Once trained, they can confidently stand before their congregations and profess that the Bible is a supernatural text inspired by God; and that every word between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 is the very words of God.

  • ctcss

    ** Editor’s Question: What examples do you have of clergy of any persuasion using scripture to make specious arguments? **

    Linda, I’m a little disappointed that you are using this as a question. It seems to focus entirely on the notion that specious arguments are all that are to be expected in religion. Why not broaden it to include non-specious arguments, at least as to how a thoughtful teacher may approach the Bible in the attempt to convey something about the area of thought the narratives in the Bible are likely focusing on?

    Bible inerrancy is often thought of as Bibliolatry, since it appears to suggest that followers blindly worship the book rather than making the effort to grow closer in thought and action to God as a way to understand more about God. So, picking on people who approach the Bible in an inerrant or literalist manner (whether as pastors or parishioners) is going after the low hanging fruit, at least IMO.

    Anyone can critique something being rather shallowly or poorly done because the target in question is so broad. But isn’t that also likely to be a rather ironic undertaking since doing so uses rather low-level thinking (that is, idling one’s brain by going after the easy-to-spot low hanging fruit) in order to criticize another person’s low level-thinking on a subject?

    IMO religion is rather non-trivial when approached in a more serious and thoughtful manner because it demands a lot of any student trying to earnestly wrestle with the subject (and hopefully to be transformed in a positive manner by the effort), rather than just blindly accepting someone else’s thoughts on the matter. It would be refreshing, once in a while, to hear something about more serious approaches to the subject of religion on your blog. I know that there are more types of believing religious thinkers out there than just evangelicals, fundamentalists, and dogmatists (ex or current). So why not occasionally invite one of the deeper thinking believing types to politely, respectfully, kindly, and non-judgmentally hold forth?

    Bruce’s post was perfectly fine (and he is a nice guy), but he was really just pointing out why a shallower approach to the Bible isn’t very logical or useful. But I am quite certain that there lots of religious thinkers out who also consider such a shallow approach to be lacking. And even though he hinted that Progressives engage in specious arguments as well, he didn’t even mention anything about their approaches in his post, although he finally touched upon it in his reply to Mark. But I am still not sure if Bruce thinks that all varieties of religious believers are engaging in specious thinking about the Bible, or just the ones who have a literalist bent to them?

    Any thoughts about any of this? (You too, Bruce.)

    • Linda_LaScola

      I asked the question based on the subject of Bruce’s essay.

      This is a blog by and about non-believing clergy. As a group, they are aware of the various points of view about the Bible, having studied it and taught it. They have chosen to reject religion.

      People who looking for the points of view of various types of believing clergy can read any one of the many Patheos blogs written by believing clergy or other dedicated Christians or they can read some of the many books on Christian apologetics that have been written over the centuries.

      • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

        No matter how minimalist the approach, sooner or later we end up with a set of things that must be believed. That’s the essence of religion — shared beliefs. And for the Abrahamic religions, those shared beliefs come from the Bible. The difference between Evangelicals and the Liberals is how much of the Bible they believe matters. Do they take a Billy Graham or a Thomas Jefferson approach to the text.

      • alwayspuzzled

        “so why not occasionally invite one of the deeper thinking believing types”

        Modifying CTCSS’s suggestion, an essay by an atheist on atheist fundamentalism would be interesting. If the title of this site accurately reflects the intent of the site, rational doubt would be suspicious of the fundamentalist mindset in all of its iterations – religious and atheistic.

        • Linda_LaScola

          How do you define atheist fundamentalism? and is that your personal definition or is it from some broader definition that you’ve seen?

          • alwayspuzzled

            Much more interesting and relevant than my definition would be an atheist’s definition and analysis.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I ask because I’ve never heard an atheist talk in terms of atheist fundamentalism. To me, t sounds more like a term a religious person would use in a disparaging way.

          • alwayspuzzled

            “a term a religious person would use in a disparaging way.”
            People disparage. Religious people disparage atheists. Atheists disparage religious people. It is human nature. A fundamentalist mindset is also one iteration of the diversity of human nature.

            Putting aside disparagement, counter-disparagement, and mutual paranoia, the question can still be asked. Do some members of the atheist community have a fundamentalist mindset, just as some members of the religious community do?

            Since atheism claims to be driven by reason, and since one of the earliest practitioners of reason said that a primary use of reason is to “know yourself”, again the question. Atheists seem to know all about the fundamentalists in the religious community. What do atheists know or think about the fundamentalists in their own community?

          • Linda_LaScola

            you are making assumptions that there are atheist “fundamentalists” and that other atheists have thoughts about them. This whole idea is foreign to me.

          • Iron Chariots

            You are right of course. Saying there is such a thing as atheist fundamentalism is a unsuccessful attempt use use the term fundamentalism as some sort of derogatory term. yet fundamentalism is for the religious. Similar to how religious types will say atheism is a religion, as some attempt at insult when the insulting part is all theirs. Very clear that many religious people do not understand atheism at all.

          • alwayspuzzled

            Nice avoidance and evasion, spiced with a little paranoia.

          • Iron Chariots

            Only in your imagination, which of course is the default setting of the religious type.
            I don’t need to ‘avoid or evade ‘ a nonsensical claim such as ‘atheist fundamentalism”, just leave it in the gutter to wash away with all the other baseless religious imaginings.
            Paranoia? Your over rating religion. As I said, the religious often use their own terms as an attempted insult, which while being unhinged is not surprising. But you ‘think’ it’s paranoia? It would appear are you just picking things out of a hat, hoping something makes sense. Have a nice day.

          • alwayspuzzled

            I am sorry you are not able to rise above mutual disparagement and mutual paranoia. I thought that is what reason is supposed to do. Evidently not. But I do admire your expertise at disparagement and paranoia. You have a nice day too.

          • Iron Chariots

            Sorry, but it’s impossible to have a conversation with you if you going to not listen but instead repeat baseless claims & continue to imagine things are true just by claiming they are because you want them to be.
            Typical of a religious type and these days I tend to avoid. Much more benefit can come from discussions with people that aren’t outright victims of religion, but while being not religious, are still victims of 2000 years of religious propaganda that lies to people that it’s a good thing.
            I can wise up 500 people to the evolutionary retardation that is religion in the same amount of time it would take to talk to one victim of religion that was indoctrinated from birth. At least most of the 500 will have some critical thinking skills to work with, where as with the religiously affected, the god virus shields itself from honest evaluation.
            The key to the dismantling religion is not to take on the highly deluded victims of religion directly, but those in society who are not but still think Christianity is a good idea.
            “Disparagement”? When folks have been making bizarre supernatural claims for 2000 years but never once provide evidence, it’s times up.
            Christians used to kill people that questioned them, now they hide in persecution fantasies.
            Christianity, Islam and Judaism have as much validity as pixieism, and need to be treated as such.

          • alwayspuzzled

            “This whole idea is foreign to me.”
            Exactly.

          • Linda_LaScola

            “Iron chariots” below has helped me articulate a response. I can’t describe atheist fundamentalism because there is no such thing. If you think there is, perhaps you could describe your perception of it, so we know what you mean.

          • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

            I have used the descriptor Fundamentalist atheist several times over the years. I used the label to describe certain behavior. I have been savaged by a handful of atheists who deemed me not atheist enough, secretly still a Christian, or too sympathetic towards religion. Their bombastic, arrogant behavior was very similar to that of some Fundamentalist Baptist preachers I knew — thus my use of the label Fundamentalist atheist.

          • Lerk!

            When I was a Christian I was a fundamentalist, and would have described myself as such. What I would have meant is that I believed the Bible to be 100% true and 100% consistent throughout, and that “the LORD” made sure there were no mistakes and that every word conveyed the meanings that he wanted it to. What I didn’t realize at the time is that such a posture — fundamentalism — required starting with the assertion of the book being the perfect revelation of “the Father” and then “interpreting” (or twisting) everything in the Old Testament to fit what I read in the New Testament. It took a lot of thought and work to do that, even given that the apologetics were already well developed over the centuries. But if someone had called me a fundamentalists, I’d have proudly owned the title.

            So what is an atheist fundamentalist? Is it someone who starts with the conclusion that there are no such things as gods and then tries to… well, tries to what? There are certainly non-believers who have never thought deeply about the subject, but there’s nothing “fundamental” about that.

            Are there atheists who just take the word of a scholar whom they prefer as golden? I suppose, but that doesn’t really correspond to a true fundamentalist Christian.

            Are there atheists who treat believers of any religion as idiots? Yes, there are. But, again, that doesn’t correspond to fundamentalism in Christianity.

            Perhaps you’re thinking of atheists who are internet trolls. Such certainly do exist, just as fundamentalist Christian internet trolls, but if that’s who you’re talking about then I don’t think there’s much point in blogging about them or taking them seriously. And I don’t know why you’d call them “fundamentalists.”

            The confusing thing here is that you suggested that an essay by an atheist fundamentalist might be interesting reading, and then when Linda asked you what that meant you asked what atheists know or think about fundamentalists in their own community. We still don’t know what sort of people you’re talking about.

            Fundamentalism is a way of looking at the Bible (or other religious text) that assumes the text to be so authoritative that questioning it is, well, out of the question. While there may be atheists who treat Dawkins like a god, they’re few and far between, and not influential enough to be worthy of attention. And we still don’t know if that’s the type of person you’re talking about.

          • skl

            alwayspuzzled. It is quite simple, there are no “fundamentalists” of atheism, there are agnostics etc that are different, however you are just simply an atheist if you comply strictly to the atheist meaning detailed below. Theists always use religious terminology when referring to atheism because they do not know what it means.
            1. Atheist, noun a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods. “he is a committed atheist”
            Synonyms: non-believer, non-theist, disbeliever, unbeliever, heretic, sceptic, doubter, doubting Thomas, agnostic, infidel, irreligious person, heathen, pagan, freethinker, libertine, nihilist.
            2. Fundamentalist, noun a person who believes in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture in a religion. “religious fundamentalists”
            Adjective, relating to or advocating the strict, literal interpretation of scripture. “a fundamentalist Protestant preacher”

          • ThaneOfDrones

            Much more interesting and relevant than my definition would be an atheist’s definition and analysis.

            Why would an atheist have a definition for a term they never use?

          • alwayspuzzled

            Nice avoidance and evasion.

          • ElizabetB.

            Hi alwayspuzzled! Is Bruce’s description upstream what you are thinking of? …when he said he’d used the term on a few occasions —
            “I used the label to describe certain behavior. I have been savaged by a handful of atheists who deemed me not atheist enough, secretly still a Christian, or too sympathetic towards religion. Their bombastic, arrogant behavior was very similar to that of some Fundamentalist Baptist preachers I knew — thus my use of the label Fundamentalist atheist”

          • alwayspuzzled

            His comment does capture the two defining characteristics of a fundamentalist mindset.
            1) The fundamentalist mindset is absolutely convinced of the rightness of its own opinion(s).
            2) The fundamentalist mindset is absolutely convinced that those not fully committed to its opinion(s) are deficient – intellectually or morally or spiritually or whatever, depending on the context.
            If there are atheists with this mindset, they would be the “true believers” (to use Eric Hoffer’s phrase) in the atheist community. Human nature being what it is, it would be surprising if there were not some “true believers” in the atheist community.
            Since atheists seem very defensive about the term “fundamentalism”, perhaps “absolutism” would work better. “Atheist absolutism” does have a ring to it.

          • ElizabetB.

            Somehow I’ve missed reading Eric Hoffer, tho his name is very familiar — thanks for the tip! Whew — timely. Sadly, that “true believer” category is wreaking havoc in the U.S. now. Yes, “absolutism” might work — worth a try downstream! Thanks for the reply

          • ElizabetB.

            Hi again, puzzled…. Remembering belatedly to read the Religious Naturalism sermon Bruce referenced somewhere, I see two more candidates to replace “fundamentalist” (“dogmatism” and “fanaticism”). But I think your “absolutism” is much better — less pejorative. The sermon, to a UU congregation, is a pretty interesting read, if you didn’t check it out —
            https://brucegerencser.net/2017/10/religious-naturalism-bob-tucker/

          • alwayspuzzled

            Thank you for the link. As you said, it is a good read. A couple of takeaways I especially like:
            1) “their certainties, either in their piety of belief or in the reductive certainty of science.” This connects with Richard Rohr’s observation that the opposite of faith is not doubt but rather the psychological need for certainty.
            2) “coming to terms with the religious language we inherited” Perhaps Wittgenstein applies here – “Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we should be silent.” But that will never happen.
            Again, thank you for the link.

          • ElizabetB.

            You’re welcome for the link — thanks to Bruce for it!! Thanks too for Wittgenstein. I haven’t read him (keep hearing his name; need to read!), but that appealing quote reminds me of the podcast I’m in the middle of that’s talking about apophatic mysticism, with Daniel Coleman
            https://homebrewedchristianity.com/2017/11/14/process-thought-and-contemplative-christian-practice-with-daniel-coleman/

            Maybe there’s hope for fewer words, more sense : )

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      I don’t agree with the notion that liberal/progressive Christians are deep thinkers and Evangelicals are not. The Fundamentalist must often think harder about the Biblical text because he must defend its truthfulness. The liberal/progressive Christian generally doesn’t have to make such defenses of the text. While those more of a liberal persuasion tend to take a minimalist approach to the Bible, they too, sooner or later, must defend absurdity. If there is no absurdity to defend, is it still Christian? Let’s say everything is reduced to Jesus. What are the non-negotiables concerning Jesus? His virgin birth? Resurrection? Blood atonement? Miracles? His deity? Or is Jesus just a good teacher and example? ( And I’m fine with this reduction.)

      I would have to know a lot more about a person’s beliefs before I could talk intelligently about them. How do they view the Bible? What are their core beliefs? Do they believe humans are sinners in need of redemption? Do humans go to heaven/hell after death? If Christianity is just a religious philosophy we live by because it gives us meaning and purpose and is a vehicle for good works, that’s fine. If all roads leads to the same place, that’s fine too. I have a fair number of readers who are progressives/liberals — thoughtful people who are generally concerned with making the world a better place to live. To them, the Bible and it’s stories are more inspirational than instructional. Universalists at heart, hell is a horrible fiction. The problem comes when they try to engage in textual (the Bible says) discussions. I’ve found in these instances that pinning down what liberals/progressives believe can be like nailing Jello to the wall.

    • ElizabetB.

      Hi ctcss! This makes me think of Mark Rutledge’s posts on Rational Doubt, a very non-“fundamentalist,” non-dogmatic TCP member, and Associate Member of the Jesus Seminar — like last November,
      “Christianity is Much More Than “Supernatural Belief”
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt/2016/11/christianity-is-much-more-than-supernatural-belief/

      And his post this September —
      “My Credo – Locating Myself Religiously And Spiritually”
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt/2017/09/credo-locating-religiously-spiritually/

      Fellow TCP member Chris Highland’s response in the comments is intriguing —
      “…wouldn’t it be great if more of us (TCP’ers and beyond) could teach classes together? Maybe online? (Linda, are you listening?)”

      That would be a deep exploration indeed!

  • Mark Rutledge

    So what is the “bible” anyway? Here is a very brief description of how I see it, which I just prepared for a course I’m teaching next term at Duke’s Life Long Learning Institute with an open-minded evangelical as a co-teacher. Course title: a liberal and a conservative in religious dialogue for respect and understanding. I could not engage in dialogue with a fundamentalist. So here are a few sentences describing how i will open my part of our friendly conversation on the topic of the Bible:

    The Bible is a human library, not a divine product. The Enlightenment changed everything about how we see it.
    Its stories and poetry contain more truths than facts.
    “All history is story but not all story is history.”

    “It’s not that those ancient people were dumb and told literal stories that we are now smart enough to take symbolically and metaphorically; no–
    they knew they were writing symbolically and metaphorically and we’re now dumb enough to try to take them literally.” (John Crossan)

    Inspiration is revealed within this world, not from beyond it.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Thanks, Mark — if you’d like to write an essay about the course , it would be welcomed here.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      Its stories and poetry contain more truths than facts.

      I see this as wordplay, not a serious statement. I really dislike the use of the word truth for things that are not actually so. Perhaps you could get a hold of a thesaurus and find other words that would fit, such as perhaps relevance or resonance.

      What “inspiration” is revealed in the instructions for slave owners on procuring and treating slaves?

      What symbols and metaphors were involved in that statement that pi = 3?

      • Mark Rutledge

        Is social justice a truth? Is love a truth? Are human discoveries of meaning in life “true?” Is beauty true? what criteria does it take to be actually so?
        Comment about inspiration was directed toward those literalists who say the text was “inspired” by god. Not to those who abuse the text for their own prejudices and evil practices. pi is a scientific statement–not relevant for metaphorical designation. Is a poem “true?”.

        • Linda_LaScola

          be that as it may, many people conflate the terms facta nd truth, so if you want to be clear, it’s best to separate the two. However, if you don’t want to be clear, then, by all means, use them interchangeably.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          Is social justice a truth? Is love a truth? Are human discoveries of meaning in life “true?” Is beauty true?… Is a poem “true?”

          The last might depend on the specific poem, but in general I do not consider any of these to be truths. It appears to be a confusion of aesthetics with epistemology. I would suggest spending a bit of time with a dictionary.

  • Mark Rutledge

    for those of you who don’t subscribe to the wall street journal, here is the full story if you want it and couldn’t open the link:
    Mark

    Can Evangelicals and Academics Talk to Each Other?

    A professor and evangelical Christian on the pervasive misunderstandings between the two groups and how to correct them

    By Alan JacobsOct. 20, 2017 / Wall Street Journal

    Last year,
    as the fire and fury of the presidential election were intensifying and
    people all around me were growing more and more hostile to one another,
    I was struck by the familiarity of the situation. For all my adult
    life, I’ve been dealing with the kinds of hostilities and
    misunderstandings that now dominate American politics, because I belong
    to two very different and mutually suspicious groups. I am an academic,
    but I am also an evangelical Christian.

    When I hear academics talk about Christians, I typically think, “That’s
    not quite right. I don’t believe you understand the people you think
    you’re disagreeing with.” And when I listen to Christians talk about
    academics, I have precisely the same reaction.

    I have spent decades trying to figure out how these pervasive
    misunderstandings arise and looking for ways to correct them. But they
    are very hard to combat, because academics and Christians (like the rest
    of us) treasure their enmities. And where your treasure is, there will
    your heart be also.

    Thirty years ago, when the anthropologist Susan Friend Harding began
    doing field research on American fundamentalist Christianity—resulting,
    eventually, in her remarkable book, “The Book of Jerry Falwell :
    Fundamentalist Language and Politics”—she discovered that her colleagues
    were deeply suspicious of her interests. Why would someone want to
    investigate such weird and obviously unpleasant people? “In effect,” Dr.
    Harding wrote in an essay about her experience, “I am perpetually
    asked: Are you now or have you ever been a born-again Christian?”—an
    echo of the question posed to hundreds of suspected communists by the
    House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.

    But, Dr. Harding wondered, aren’t anthropologists supposed to be
    interested in cultural structures and practices that are different from
    their own? Why would they be repelled by the idea of studying such
    differences right next door, among people who vote in the same elections
    they do? The title of her essay is “Representing Fundamentalism: The
    Problem of the Repugnant Cultural Other,” and the phrase “repugnant
    cultural other” (RCO) neatly describes one of the most common
    impediments to thinking rationally about those with whom we disagree.

    ‘Outgroup animosity is more consequential than favoritism for the ingroup.’

    For many academics, evangelical Christians are the RCO; for many
    evangelical Christians, academics play that role. And having an RCO is
    one of the best ways to form and maintain group identity. Recent
    research by the political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood
    indicate that, in terms of social belonging, “outgroup animosity is
    more consequential than favoritism for the ingroup.” That is, it’s more
    important to hate the RCO than to affirm and support the people who
    agree with you. How do I know you’re One of Us? Because you hate the
    right people.

    Many academics would be surprised, I think, to discover how many
    evangelical Christians are political moderates or simply apolitical and
    how much they do to help the poor and needy in their communities with no
    spiritual strings attached. Similarly, many evangelicals would be
    surprised to learn how hard many academics work, whatever their
    political views (and many of them are apolitical also), to be fair to
    all their students, regardless of the students’ beliefs, and how much
    they worry about not being as fair as they should be.

    Are there academics whose professed commitment to fairness masks deep
    prejudice and hostility toward social or political conservatism? Indeed.
    Might there be evangelicals whose professed commitment to charity masks
    a selfish desire to control the means of generosity? No doubt. But
    these are human frailties, not the property of any group. As the writer
    Katherine Anne Porter was fond of saying, “There is no such thing…as an
    unmixed motive.”

    All of us have good impulses and bad, and even with a lifetime of
    self-scrutiny we can scarcely understand our own motives, much less
    those of others. But because of the pressures to hate the right people,
    each group continues to insist that the other group is moved by
    something deeply impure—insists, that is, that there is a strong
    correlation between someone’s political positions and their basic
    decency.

    Given this distressing state of affairs, and given the world of social
    media, it becomes easy to cherry-pick tweets and posts and stories that
    confirm one’s belief in the nastiness of the outgroup while ignoring
    anything that points in the other direction. And when we are
    confronted—as often happens on social media—with denunciations from
    people who can speak to us without knowing us, it becomes tempting to
    give up on self-defense and say, “You think I hate fundamentalists (or
    transsexuals)? Fine. You’re right. I do.”

    Many years ago C.S. Lewis gave a talk to university students called “The
    Inner Ring.” In it he said, “I believe that in all men’s lives at
    certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy
    and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to
    be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.” The era
    of social media has amply confirmed Lewis’s argument and has taught us
    that the most effective way to stay “inside the local Ring” is to police
    its boundaries and thrust others outside.

    Most of us like to think of ourselves as shining exceptions to this
    impulse to exclude. And maybe a few of us are. But even the great
    psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who has spent half a century studying
    cognitive biases and errors, concedes that his research has done very
    little to rescue him from those biases and errors—that’s how deeply
    embedded in our brains they are. They can only be overcome with great
    effort.

    In the face of today’s bitter cultural and political divisions, that
    effort must include finding ways to get to know people whom we never
    encounter naturally in our daily lives. That ought to be a prime
    function of social media, but too many of us, alas, can’t resist the
    urge to make our social media selves are our worst selves.

    So the path before us, if we wish to understand our neighbors better and
    have more compassion for them, is not obvious. But there is a first
    step that all of us can take in resisting the hold of our Inner Rings
    and the reflex to push away our “repugnant cultural others.”

    Some years ago the entrepreneur Jason Fried wrote
    of attending a lecture and not liking what he heard. With every passing
    minute his disagreements piled up, and as soon as he could talk to the
    speaker he rushed in with his refutation. The speaker listened to him
    for a little while and then said, “Man, give it five minutes.”

    Mr. Fried was stopped in his tracks—and then so taken by the speaker’s
    request that he adopted “Give it five minutes” as a kind of personal
    watchword. It ought to be one for the rest of us too. But before that
    can happen, we need to reflect on the ways that our informational
    habits—the means (mostly online) by which we acquire and pass on and
    respond to information—strongly discourage us from taking even that much
    time.

    Am I exaggerating the problem or just casting easy blame on social
    media? Could be. Maybe you’re confident that you’re not driven by the
    desire to belong to the Inner Ring, that you are indeed that shining
    exception. That too could be. But before you dismiss the possibility,
    why don’t you just give it five minutes? You have nothing to lose but
    your RCO.

    —Dr. Jacobs teaches in the honors program at Baylor University. This
    essay is adapted from his new book, “How to Think: A Survival Guide for a
    World At Odds,” published by Currency.

    • Linda_LaScola

      A subscription to wsj is not needed to read this article. Some of their articles are available to the public and this is one of them. I know because I found the link, clicked on it and read the whole thing.

  • See Noevo

    You know what’s not intellectually sustainable?

    Protestants’ sola scriptura.

    • Iron Chariots

      Instead of nit picking just be honest and say god belief is not intellectually sustainable

      • Bernie Burnbaum

        Right on. A creator does not exist anywhere in the vast universe. I know because I am but one person among billions on one planet among uncountable planets. Therefore, what I think is true.

        • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

          No, there is no evidence that supports the idea an intelligent being created the universe. There is no evidence that, even if there were, it was your pet God, Yahweh, who was responsible. Assessing evidence (and probabilities) is not a matter of ‘belief’. That’s all that you’ve got.

  • HpO

    The bible, being a combined corrupt invention of Babylonian Rabbis and the Early Church Wolves I mean Fathers, can’t possibly be inerrant – no “darn, freaking, heck” way! And yet here I am, a gospels-and-epistles-and-revelation-believing and thumping, Jesus-centered, born-again Christian – no problemo. And there you are, brother Bruce Gerencser, doing exactly as how Israel’s Messiah Jesus had once described it: “casting pearls before The Oink Oink.”

    With or without the bible, Christ Jesus remains the Word of God. Thankfully, although He can do without the bible, the latter can still bear witness to what God’s saying through the Word of God that is Christ Jesus Himself. Which understandably is a freak-of-nature impossibility for you now, given what you are. A Religious Nones-Sensical Atheist. Now whose fault is that, really, hmm?

    • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

      The Bible gave us Jesus. Without the Bible there is no Jesus. Remove the Bible from the equation, and what’s left? Several obscure references to a zealot named Jesus. The Abrahamic sects are text-based religions. No Bible? No Christianity. Christianity as we know it today was founded not by Jesus, but the Apostle Paul (primarily). Without the Bible, exactly where would Paul’s baby be?

      If you want to adopt some sort of Gnostic understanding of Jesus, that’s fine by me. I have readers who have done just that. They are spiritual, not Christian. I don’t necessarily understand how they make this work, but I don’t need to. Any move away from killing effects of Evangelicalism is a good one.

      • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

        There’s more manuscript evidence attesting to the veracity of the Bible than for any other work of ancient literature, by orders of magnitude. Why don’t you cast your doubt on the transmission accuracy of Homer’s Iliad, or Plato’s Republic — or all of history itself?

        You say, “Christianity as we know it today was founded not by Jesus, but the Apostle Paul (primarily).”

        First, it’s interesting to me that Paul teaches over and over that Jesus Christ is the creator of everything and head of the church. Yet you seem to know otherwise — I wouldn’t call your insight divine, but I do think it comes from a spirit.

        Paul worked closely with the other apostles and the church in Jerusalem. They were all very much co-workers in the conveyance of New Testament scripture and doctrine, speaking as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

        You say, “The Bible gave us Jesus. Without the Bible there is no Jesus. Remove the Bible from the equation, and what’s left? Several obscure references to a zealot named Jesus.”

        Michael Grant, a classicist, says, “No serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.” Even John Dominic Crossan, an NT scholar and former priest who denies the heart of the gospel says, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus … agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.”

        Do you fashion yourself as a scholar who can succeed in disposing of the very abundant evidence for Jesus?

        But you won’t find me downplaying the crucial role the Bible alone serves in bringing the gospel to our eyes and ears! Without the Bible, we’re left to the whims of men.

        It’s not that you’re a skeptic — you’ve just exchanged the truth of the almighty God for lies. That’s just pitiful, and you have my pity.

        You ought to check out this debate where Bart Ehrman gets skewered by James White. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moHInA9fAsI

        • HpO

          Wow. Spoke like a man, yes, sir. And I mean man of God. Time’s coming already, brother. For speaking up. Because Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Messianic Jews, have stopped speaking up because they’re now whoring after the powers-that-mustn’t-be and their hearts are no longer in the right place. So speak up to them too wherever thou art, ‘bra. I’ve tried and left the church scene. I’m now on a permanent laity-sabbatical. Better than returning to my old vomit, if you know what I mean. Brother Bruce Gerencser sure doesn’t get that.

        • http://brucegerencser.net/ Bruce Gerencser

          I didn’t say that I didn’t believe in the historicity of Jesus. Yes, there likely was a man named Jesus who lived and died in Palestine two thousand years ago. Yes, he likely was viewed by some as a teacher or prophet. And yes, he died. And that’s where the historical narrative ends. Anything else has no historical foundation outside of the Bible. If you want to believe the myths about Jesus found in the NT, fine. but don’t claim these myths have historical foundation — they don’t. Virgins don’t have babies and dead people don’t reurrect from the dead. Jesus, whoever he might have been, lived and died — end of story. Does the Bible contain records of historical people, geography, and events? Sure. Good luck figuring out what is and isn’t history. Again, Todd, been there, done that.

          And James White? Please child. (Look it up) I know James, end of discussion. David Wood, by the way, is no better,

          I thought it important to answer your latest nonsense since it skews what I actually believe. Mission accomplished. Time to get my wheelchair rolling so I can return to running (or should I say rolling) from your Trumpian intellect. I’m going to unsubscribe from the comments, so don’t expect to hear from me further. Sorry, Linda but _______________ (fill-in with expletive of choice) like Todd wear me out.

          Bruce

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            I didn’t say you were denying the historicity of Christ.

            This is what you said: “Remove the Bible from the equation, and what’s left? Several obscure references to a zealot named Jesus.”

            And I provided a quote (and put it in bold, and repeated for clarity) from a respected historian saying there is “very abundant evidence” for Christ.

            It’s a matter of scale. You say “obscure references to a zealot,” and history says an abundance of evidence testifying of a man crucified by the court of Pontius Pilate.

            It was a simple refutation of your howling mischaracterization of historical documentation.

            You’ve got nothing to back your disparaging remarks toward the Bible, believers in the Bible or God Himself.

            Do you consider “Please child (look it up)” to be an adequate, intelligible point? Do you think “I know James, end of story” is in the least bit cogent? And regardless of your personal opinion of White, the facts presented by him in that debate destroy Ehrman’s position. What about David Wood “is no better?”

            Are you capable of responding to these questions intelligently? Let me guess: you don’t have the patience to answer these questions, and you cannot tolerate people of my ilk. You’re real busy with your blog, right?

            I think you whine too much. Buck up, champ! Put on your big-boy pants and try to conduct yourself with reason and equanimity for a change (Job 38:3).

            You can start by responding to my points above, or answering any of my questions. Without that, you’re just blowing hot air.

            Perhaps blowing hot air is your only intention — atheists do like to feel their hair blowing in the warm breeze of a fellow unbeliever. Me, I can hardly stand the smell of halitosis.

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            ‘there is “very abundant evidence” for Christ.’ Wrong. There is no evidence whatsoever for Christ; for Jesus maybe, but for Paul’s mythical spiritual-being, none at all.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            That was unintentional. I’m in the habit of using “Jesus” and “Christ” interchangeably.

            The evidence for Christ is not historical — it’s spiritual — and that evidence is indeed abundant for those who believe.

            “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:1-3).

            You, however, don’t understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God because you have no faith, so you have no evidence for things you can’t see. That’s called blindness.

            The evidence of things not seen is shown to the believer, not the unbeliever. When Jesus was asked why He speaks in parables to unbelievers, He said, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (Mat 13:11-12).

            This is why it’s impossible for you to bring Jesus to yourself under your own power — you must be called.

            A question for you: Who told you that Paul made it all up, and why do you believe them? You make that claim with such confidence, such faith in your own understanding! For such an important matter, you ought to have authoritative and substantial evidence, you know.

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            So the abundant evidence for the existence of a spiritual being is… spiritual? That’s a neat tautology.

            What you are really saying is that feelings (your own, St Paul’s, other Christians’) are evidence of the spiritual. They are not.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            You didn’t answer my question: Who told you that Paul made it all up, and why do you believe them?

            [On spirit vs. feeling]

            The spiritual sense is not “feeling.” Spirituality is more akin to seeing, or rather, being shown. Also, there are good spirits and bad spirits, such as your natural spirit, the spirit of this world and the Holy Spirit.

            [On tautologies]

            Some tautologies are meaningful and others are not. For example, this tautology is meaningless because the qualifier merely restates the premise:

            “Survival of the fittest.”

            There’s no qualification of “fittest” besides survival, so it’s equivalent to saying “survival of the survivors.”

            But when I make statements according to this verse:

            “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Co 2:14)

            I’m giving you more information than “the blind cannot see” or the “dead do not live” (though I am saying that too). I’m telling you that man is naturally deprived of the Holy Spirit. I’m telling you that man naturally cannot know anything spiritual. I’m telling you that, lacking spiritual knowledge, man naturally thinks the wisdom of God is foolishness. This is because, naturally, man himself is prideful, foolish and wicked.

            Logically speaking, tautologies aren’t bad if they convey meaning. Wittgensten famously declared that all mathematics is a tautology, and he wasn’t dissing it.

            [On circular reasoning]

            I’ve been asserting that you need the Holy Spirit in order to believe in Jesus Christ, and since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, you could say that my reasoning is circular. Is that what you meant — that I’m using circular reasoning?

            I’ll affirm that the spiritual reasoning for God’s existence (and the inerrancy of scripture for that matter) is circular if you’ll affirm that the closed system of mathematics is circular. At least the ancient skeptics were consistent enough to suspend judgment on the truth of mathematics for this reason (see Sextus Empiricus, Diogenes Laertius, Agrippa, etc., etc.). Do you have the guts to join them in their skepticism of mathematics? It’s pretty dark out there.

            “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22).

            These sorts of discussions usually end with the atheist-skeptic dismantling his own argument down to nihilistic absurdism: “I don’t truly believe I can know anything — and neither can you — and I’m sure about that!” That’s probably the boldest truth claim one can make and refute at the same time. It’s an intellectual suicide bomb.

            A proposition can be true and also follow from circular reasoning. Math and God have that attribute in common.

            Allow me to play the skeptic for a moment. Let’s call this scenario Alice in Stupidland…

            Alice says that 1+1=2, and I say, “Prove it.”

            “Okay,” she confidently begins. Alice holds up an apple in her hand and says, “I’ve got one apple in this hand” and I stop her right there.

            “Hold on,” I say. “What’s this ‘one’ you claim to have in your hand?”

            Do you see how that works? A skeptic doesn’t need to believe anything you say about invisible propositions, starting from word one. It’s an anti-intellectual approach to knowledge masquerading as intellectual.

            You actively suppress the knowledge of God in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). The invisible attributes of God — his eternal power and divine nature — are clearly seen by the things that are made, so you have no excuse (Rom 1:20).

            When it comes to God’s law and judgment, denying that He really said what He said is a very attractive option for the natural man. The devil knows this better than anyone. The first question in the Bible was posed by the serpent, and he was questioning the word of God:

            “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said…?” (Gen 3:1).

            [On blindness, physical and spiritual]

            Prove to a skeptical blind man that you can see the moon. Prove to this blind man not that the moon exists in theory, say, according to your scientific instruments, but that you can actually see it with your own eyes, that you’re a witness to the light of the moon.

            If this stubborn blind man doesn’t accept the testimony you’ve provided — you can describe the moon you see, you can get corroboration from all the other people who can see it, the historical record indicates abundance evidence that people have seen it, etc., etc. — does that mean the blind man is thinking clearly and you’re deluded and naive — that you’re literally seeing a moon that doesn’t really exist?

            Why trust the blind man’s opinion on such matters?

            It is not until this blind man gains the ability to see the moon for himself that he will finally believe.

            Believers don’t see God with their eyeballs, of course, but they see Him. Believers see God in spirit, word and deed.

            This life’s dim windows of the soul
            Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
            And leads you to believe a lie
            When you see with, not through, the eye.
            — William Blake

            [On rebellion]

            This analogy of the blind moon-doubter (the “alunist,” if you will) is contrived because I needed to invent a very unreasonable blind man, one who insists you can’t see the moon, and one who insists that such talking of seeing the moon is foolishness. What would motivate a blind man to doubt that you can see the moon?

            On the other hand, I know why the atheist rejects God. That’s not contrived or unreasonable. In fact, it’s natural to feel this way because we like ourselves and want to preserve the illusion of our autonomy. We like the pleasures that come with no ultimate consequences. We like being the rulers of our own lives, determining what’s right and wrong for ourselves. Who would volunteer to put themselves under the rule of a righteous judge when they can easily rebel as if that judge didn’t exist (say, by reason that this righteous judge is in fact not righteous at all, according to their own judgment).

            But when you’re born again into new life, the spirit within you testifies to the actuality of the true and living righteous God. Temporary rebellion in this world is just not a reasonable option in that case. That would be the stupid move.

            Regardless of your rebellion, you will be brought to justice soon enough. Here’s a preview: you will find out then that your short and wicked life wasn’t worth the enormous cost.

            [On love and sacrifice]

            Speaking of evidence and proof, it’s interesting to consider love. Are you loved by anyone? Prove that you’re loved by this person and not just deceived. You might say this person says they love you, and they do nice things for you, but that hardly proves love. This person could be a very good liar — a sociopath, not a lover.

            But if you tell me this person has sacrificed for you — further, has voluntarily and deliberately given the ultimate sacrifice of their own life to save yours — then I will believe they love you!

            This is the crux, if you will pardon the pun, of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

          • Bernie Burnbaum

            Your feelings are not evidence of an intelligent argument either.

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            That’s right, which is why I don’t involve them. On the other hand, you and other believers (including St Paul) offer only feelings and subjective, inner experience as evidence of the ‘spiritual’. How about presenting us with evidence for the existence of the spiritual realm and its attendant spiritual entites (Christs, angels, seventh heavens and the like) that doesn’t rely solely on the human imagination? Show us that these things exist independently of human emotion and make-believe. Oh, that’s right – you can’t. It’s all about faith, which brings us right back to my original point.

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            Yes, you’re right, which is why I didn’t involve them. There is no evidence of a spiritual realm – with its Christs, angels, heaven and all manner of supernatural beings – that exists independent of human emotion, feelings and imagination.

            Your belief that there is is just that – belief. All you need to do to silence skeptics like me is provide evidence that this realm and its attendant entities exist separate from internal, subjective ‘experience’.

            Science removes human subjectivity, as far as is possible, from its demonstration of how things are. So do that for your ‘spiritual’ realm and demonstrate to us, without recourse to how you feel or how superstitious zealots 2000 years ago imagined things to be, that it exists in its own right. And then demonstrate your Christ is part of it.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            People are marking my posts as spam, which reflects poorly on the structural integrity of their spines.

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            This addresses my point how?

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            Why is this a reply to me?

            So, to sum up your argument: the evidence for Christ (as opposed to Jesus) is your own feelings plus the strange psychotic experiences Paul relates that he believed must be this Christ.

            Might I put it another way? The evidence that your fantasy is real is that other people have experienced versions of the same fantasy – some of them thousands of years ago – and those who don’t share your fantasy are ‘blind’.

            Not very convincing, is it?

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            When comments are marked as spam, they disappear. Poof. My original reply to you is now gone, so I don’t feel like putting much effort into future commentary here.

            You didn’t answer my first question (Who told you that Paul made it up, and why do you believe them?), so I hesitate to ask further questions, but here goes.

            Can you give me a good reason why you limit yourself to materialistic evidence when examining transcendent truths? Your method is woefully insufficient for investigating matters of the spirit and heart such as God, love, morality, justice. I wonder if it bothers you that your worldview doesn’t allow you to think consistently about these issues — you must steal from my worldview in order to grapple with these subjects.

          • ElizabetB.

            T.C., it’s pretty often that people here say that their posts disappear. Once I received an email containing a reply to me but I could not see it on the blog — I thought the writer had discovered a way to email privately, but after all the recurrent but relatively infrequent comments about disappearing comments, and the Moderator writing that she had not caused it, I think there is a glitch in Patheos. Hope they fix it!!

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            I can still see my missing posts from my profile on Disqus – and they’re marked as spam. I’ve selected “This isn’t spam” and now they say “Thanks, we’ll work on getting this corrected.” I’ve tried reposting some of these, and sometimes they stay visible, and sometimes they get set back to spam. I don’t think it’s coincidental that Bruce, the author of this article we’re commenting on, said, “If you were commenting on my blog, your first comment would have been your last. I have no tolerance for people of your ilk.”

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks, T.C.! This is the first mention of a “spam” designation that I’ve heard. May be a good clue! I haven’t had posts disappear on Rational Doubt, but I have on the PBS site — where I realized that the problem was that I included too many links. I guess that made me look like a bot to their algorithms, but it was a disappointment because I like to provide evidence for my arguments.

            The reply that I received via email but didn’t show up online, however, included no links — and was, I thought, a very thoughtful post — so who knows why it didn’t post?!! ….actually, it’s mindblowing to me that any of this works at all! Thanks for the information!

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            Paul himself tells us he made it up (Galatians 1.12-24). He interprets his psychotic episodes (sorry, ‘visions and revelations’) to be communication from a supernatural being who bears little relation to the Jesus who walked and talked with the disciples. It’s possible, I guess, to believe Paul really was spoken to by a spiritual entity who gave him a completely different message from that of the earthly Jesus. But as there’s no evidence the supernatural realm exists (you side-step my question here) then that seems more than unlikely.

            But still your assumptions, and arrogant presumptions, continue: I don’t steal, or even need to, from your ‘worldview’, nor do I have to ‘grapple’ with love, morality or justice. I understand them insofar as my culture defines them and experiences them. I have no need to steal from an irrelevant mythology in order to do so. That you do tells us much about your morality, not to mention intellectual capacity.

            You present no evidence that there is such a thing as ‘transcendent’ truths nor do you define your terms. What do these truths transcend exactly? Logic? Evidence? Human experience? Reality? If this is the case, then these ‘truths’ are not ‘truths’ at all. They’re just another part of your fantasy.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            I praise God that you cited Galatians 1:12-24, since it affirms that Paul, being at enmity with God and persecuting the church, was brought to preach His word by the revelation of His Son, even to the Jews — the apostles in the church in Jerusalem who eventually glorified God in him (v. 24)!

            It’s a tremendous testimony to the salvific power of Christ, that He would save a terrorist and make him an apostle.

            It’s astounding to me that you will take biblical testimony and reinterpret it according to your own presuppositions, deliberately transposing revelations for “psychotic episodes,” based strictly on the testimony itself! Could you be any more wrapped up in your own socio-cultural biases?

            To say that Jesus, who blinded Paul on the road to Damascus, “bears little relation to the Jesus who walked and talked with the disciples,” carries no weight unless you can show those discrepancies in scripture. You’re suggesting that you’re comparing scripture to scripture — which I encourage! — but you’re just throwing out unsubstantiated assertions.

            You say, “there’s no evidence the supernatural realm exists (you side-step my question here).” You think it’s side-stepping to point out that the natural sciences cannot reconcile the supernatural?

            Perhaps you’re ignorant of categories here. Love, morality and justice are not merely cultural and experiential constructs. That’s a cop-out. You face the burden of explaining how these things come about from the perspective of your materialistic worldview (you know, that everything is just molecules banging together). Saying your “culture defines them and experiences them” acknowledges that you sense the existence of these transcendent truths — my worldview affirms that you know God’s moral law by grace (Romans 2:14-15) — but you cannot explain them in a manner consistent with your naturalistic worldview.

            Yes, you steal from the Christian worldview. It’s theological larceny. That’s not an arrogant presupposition, but quite the opposite: before I was saved, I thought as you think. I have the intellectual capacity to imagine a godless universe in order to suppress the truth as you do, but by God’s grace I’ve been saved from such foolishness.

            You say, “You present no evidence that there is such a thing as ‘transcendent’ truths.” It means that these truths transcend the limits of materialism. Logic itself transcends your materialistic limits.

            You limit yourself because it serves your temporal desires.

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            Yeah, whoop-de-doo, Praise the Lord and shovel up so more word salad. Let’s take a look at that ‘biblical worldview’ morality you mention yet again, shall we?

            You argue that ‘God’s moral law’, the only true (‘transcendent’ and absolute) morality, derives from the bible. Which must mean you feel free to keep slaves, and stone to death those who have sex when the woman is menstruating; that you are obliged to murder homosexuals, uppity teenagers and those who worship other gods; that you don’t work on the Sabbath (Friday evening to Saturday afternoon), and so on and so forth.

            Aah, you say, but this is Old Testament morality – Jesus did away with all that (so much for it being transcendent and absolute!). Forgive me, but then you have been banging on biblical morality when you really only mean New Testament morality – they’re not the same thing, you know.

            So, New Testament morality as laid down by your Lord and Savior: You constantly go the extra mile, do you? Sell all you have to give to the poor? Turn the other cheek? Give to everyone who asks? Hand over your shirt when your jacket is demanded of you? Love others, including your enemies, as yourself?

            If you don’t comply with these stipulations – and I’m betting you don’t because no Christian I’ve ever encountered does – then you’ve no business telling others they’re without foundation for their morality without ‘stealing’ it from this mythological ‘worldview’ of yours.

            So, T.C., safe to say you don’t meet the New Testament’s transcendent moral standards – ‘God’s moral law by grace’, as you call it. So, please, attend to the log in your eye, my friend, because it’s blinding you, and let the rest of us attend to the speck in our own.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            You atheists sure have a hard time following a line of argumentation. We were talking about proof, evidence and the existential viability of spirit from a materialist perspective — and now you’ve jumped to the well-worn hobbyhorse of questioning God’s righteousness based on Mosaic law.

            Maybe your wandering has something to do with your spiritual blindness, or maybe you just don’t feel beholden to any particular point, willing to abandon a weak train of thought in search of something fitter.

            We’ll go ahead and follow this new direction, though, since it may edify others.

            Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17).

            Consider what it means to fulfill the law. It certainly doesn’t mean Jesus “did away with all that.” So put away your straw man (I’m sure you beat him regularly without cause) and pay attention to what the Bible says.

            I happen to be a Christian, which means I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Mat 5:18).

            I follow all of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, not just the New Testament. Jesus quoted often from the Old Testament and used it for correction, rebuke and instruction in righteousness.

            The laws given to the Jews were to set them apart as a holy nation (Exo 19:6). All of the Mosaic laws were meaningful, then and now, and all of them were shadows of things to come in Jesus Christ (Col 2:17). Those laws were a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith (Gal 3:24).

            So let’s consider what your schoolmaster is trying to teach you.

            First, nobody can follow God’s laws perfectly because no one is righteous (Rom 3:10, 3:23).

            The wages for sin — what you rightfully earn for yourself by sinning — is death (Rom 6:23). This poses a dilemma, since it would seem our just God would need to punish everyone’s wickedness according to their sin.

            The Son of God became flesh and dwelled among us, lived a sinless life and provided His own body as a sacrifice to atone for our sins (Rom 5:8). This is how God shows His love for us.

            The Old Testament laws and priesthood of the tabernacle and temple (the ceremonial laws I mention below) teach us how blood sacrifice worked for atonement in Israel. It was never sufficient, though. Thank God that we now we have a better covenant in Jesus Christ, legally enacted on better promises (Heb 8:6).

            You mentioned a number of Old Testament civil laws given to Israel and Israel alone. Let’s consider the ones you railed against.

            The Jews had been slaves in Egypt, and they would be taken into captivity again by Assyria and Babylon. As Jesus would teach his disciples later, God instructed the Jews through Moses to obey their masters, to not rebel and cause strife. They shouldn’t avenge themselves, but instead rest in God’s ultimate justice. God promised that He would repay, saying “Vengeance is mine” (Deut 32:35). The Lord will vindicate His people. All of this is reasserted by the ministry of Jesus Christ, and you already know that part: love your enemies, turn the other cheek, etc.

            Slavery in Israel itself, and in the Roman empire, was instituted for civil order. It did not in any way resemble the chattel slavery of the early United States. Rather than going to prison to rot for life, criminals were put to work for other people to repay their debts and propitiate the harm caused by their crimes. People could also enter themselves into servitude for guaranteed support for them and their families, resembling the contractual corporate employment we have today.

            The fact that God regulated slavery in Israel to curtail abuse does not mean Christians ought to embrace slavery today. One doesn’t follow from the other. Yes, it’s possible to abuse scripture to support any wicked behavior — that’s a testimony to our God-given freedom — but such abuse is easy to identify. Scripture is clear.

            The Israelites were given many laws regarding clean and unclean things, and yes, the menstruation of a woman was declared unclean for them. The word “holy” means to be set apart from unclean things for a sacred purpose, and the holiness ordained for the nation of Israel applied in a literal sense to what all Christians are to follow today in a spiritual sense.

            The prophet Isaiah said, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). The Hebrew word translated as “filthy rags” would be menstrual cloths.

            It is just as true today that we’re all unworthy to approach God on our own merits because we’re unclean. Only in Jesus Christ can we be treated as righteous before our holy God.

            The death penalty for homosexuals applies to today insofar as all sin deserves the death penalty. Thank God we’re not all going to hell as we deserve, but some will be saved by repenting and believing in Jesus Christ.

            The same goes for “uppity teenagers” and idolators. The same goes for liars, thieves and drunkards.

            In addition to the civil laws, God gave ceremonial laws to Israel to prescribe their rituals and patterns of worship in the priestly order of the tabernacle and temple. All of these laws give insight into the ministry and rule of Jesus Christ, who is our perfect high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and exalted above the heavens (Heb 7:26). When Jesus yielded up His spirit, he tore the veil of the temple that separated the people from the Holy of Holies, allowing every believer to boldly enter into the presence of God (Mat 27:51, Heb 10:19).

            You misunderstand basic covenant theology, but you also grossly mischaracterize Jesus’ commands to His disciples.

            You said, “You constantly go the extra mile, do you? Sell all you have to give to the poor? Turn the other cheek? Give to everyone who asks? Hand over your shirt when your jacket is demanded of you? Love others, including your enemies, as yourself?”

            Jesus said that if your right eye causes you to lust, pluck it out (Mat 5:29). Do you really think He was speaking literally? You can still lust with your left eye, you know.

            I really hope you can step back from your hostility against God and consider what I’m saying here about reading the Bible with an honest heart. It’s clear when Jesus is speaking in hyperbole and parable, and it’s clear when He’s speaking literally.

            With the following statements, I don’t intend to boast, but like Paul said, since you’re putting me in a situation to boast, I’ll take advantage of your challenge (2Co 11:16-21).

            Do I constantly go the extra mile? Not constantly, but I’m burdened to try, and I repent when I fail.

            Do I sell all I have to give to the poor? No, not all that I have. I also need to provide for my household. But I do give away much that I have.

            Do I turn the other cheek? Yes, often.

            Do I give to everyone who asks? Not all the time: for instance, when someone brings up this point online and then demands that I give them my car or all my money, I do not.

            As for loving my enemies as myself, this one can only be accomplished in Jesus Christ. I preach because I was saved, and it’s only love that compels me to preach so that my enemies may be saved.

            You said, “If you don’t comply with these stipulations… then you’ve no business telling others they’re without foundation for their morality without ‘stealing’ it from this mythological ‘worldview’ of yours.”

            That doesn’t follow. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength — and no human has ever obeyed this commandment. Not for one second. But Jesus does it without ceasing. This understanding is core to the Christian worldview. The fact that I fail, as a man, does not impugn the truth of matters. I’m not justified in myself, but only in Jesus Christ. I’m treated as righteous, even though I’m far from it. That’s called imputed righteousness, given by the substitutionary atonement of Christ. You can call that “word salad” all you like, but words have meaning, and these legal descriptions come with real meaning. Claiming to be unable to understand what I’m saying, or that I’m jabbering, will not save you.

            It stands that you’re stealing from my worldview for posit a moral code for yourself. If you claim any understanding of what it means to “do the right thing,” then you’re stealing. Your atheistic worldview offers a void, a cold and dark realm of meaninglessness from which you assume sprang all life and the culminating coming of You into consciousness. That worldview does not offer morality of any sort. Again, you know this morality in your heart, because God has given it to you by grace, but you cannot square it with your own worldview.

            Ask yourself, “Why am I disputing that I steal from this guy’s worldview?”

            Is it because you think stealing is wrong in any way? If so, you’re stealing from my worldview to reach that conclusion.

            Is it because you think you’re not stealing according to the definition of “stealing?” If so, then you claim to value the truth, and again you’re stealing from my worldview to assert the value of truth. A consistent materialist would not care.

            At any rate, you’re a thief many times over. Have you ever stolen anything? How about a pen from the office? Yes, you’ve stolen, and you’re a thief. And a liar. And so am I.

            But the difference between you and me is, I’ve been washed, I’ve been sanctified, I’ve been justified in the name of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God (1Co 6:11).

            And being clean, according to Old Testament law and the new covenant, I can approach God and be in His presence for eternity. Without Jesus Christ, you’ll be cast into outer darkness.

            I love that you’re referencing biblical teachings and saying things like, “please, attend to the log in your eye, my friend.” Since I’ve been saved, I’ve removed a forest full of lumber from my eye that would put Weyerhaeuser to shame, and there’s always more clear cutting to do.

            That said, you’re misapplying these teachings about refraining from hypocritical judgment. I raised the point about God’s moral law not to point out that you’re not following it, nor to assert that I do follow it perfectly, but that your atheistic worldview doesn’t give rise to it. It’s spiritual, and it comes from God.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            4/4

            It stands that you’re stealing from my worldview in order to posit a moral code for yourself. If you claim any understanding of what it means to “do the right thing,” then you’re stealing. Your atheistic worldview offers a void, a cold and dark realm of meaninglessness from which you assume sprang all life and the culminating coming of You into consciousness. That worldview does not offer morality of any sort. Again, you know this morality in your heart, because God has given it to you by grace, but you cannot square it with your own worldview.

            Ask yourself, “Why am I disputing that I steal from this guy’s worldview?”

            Is it because you think stealing is wrong in any way? If so, you’re stealing from my worldview to reach that conclusion.

            Is it because you think you’re not stealing according to the definition of “stealing?” If so, then you claim to value the truth, and again you’re stealing from my worldview to assert the value of truth. A consistent materialist would not care.

            At any rate, you’re a thief many times over. Have you ever stolen anything? How about a pen from the office? Yes, you’ve stolen, and you’re a thief. And a liar. And so am I.

            But the difference between you and me is, I’ve been washed, I’ve been sanctified, I’ve been justified in the name of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God (1Co 6:11).

            And being clean, according to Old Testament law and the new covenant, I can approach God and be in His presence for eternity. Without Jesus Christ, you’ll be cast into outer darkness.

            I love that you’re referencing biblical teachings and saying things like, “please, attend to the log in your eye, my friend.” Since I’ve been saved, I’ve removed a forest full of lumber from my eye that would put Weyerhaeuser to shame, and there’s always more clear cutting to do.

            That said, you’re misapplying these teachings about refraining from hypocritical judgment. I raised the point about God’s moral law not to point out that you’re not following it, nor to assert that I do follow it perfectly, but that your atheistic worldview doesn’t give rise to it. It’s spiritual, and it comes from God.

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            How can you tell when someone has lost the argument? They merely repeat their original, discredited, point over and over again. Good one, T.C.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            How can you tell when someone’s posts are being marked as spam? Only section 4 of 4 (4/4) appears.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            Here’s my full response: http://oilforlight.com/atheist-patheos-1

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            And thanks for reading my full response, Bruce. You don’t have anything to say about it?

          • http://www.rejectingjesus.com Acalibre

            Right, got it. (I’m having to reply here as you don’t allow comments on your blog – too insecure in your faith, I guess.) Here’s what I’m taking away from your post:

            1) Being a slave in OT times was just fabulous, even for those bought from another, ‘pagan’ nation (Lev 25.44) and forcibly circumcised (Gen 17.12); who could be beaten to death or to within an inch of their lives (Exodus 21.20-21) and/or used for sexual purposes by their master (Exodus 21:7-11). What’s not to like about that?

            2) When you don’t like what he’s telling you to do, you can always say Jesus is speaking metaphorically.

            3) You can’t be expected to follow Jesus’ more unreasonable demands because you’re not perfect and you’d need God’s help to come up to standard. Except, of course, Jesus tells you you must be perfect (Matt 5.48), and you already have God’s help (or so you claim) in the shape of the indwelling Holy Spirit. So that excuse isn’t going to go down very well on judgement day, now is it.

            Nice try Top Cat, but really, all you’re doing here is defending the indefensible, making excuses and cherry picking your scripture. Who’d’a thought that of Christian?

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            If you’d like to split up this discussion and continue on my blog, I’ve enabled comments there. I’m happy to serve you in that way.

            Who said slavery in OT times was just fabulous? By all accounts, it was miserable. And getting stoned for bad-mouthing your parents? That’s terrible too.

            Thank God Jesus came and fulfilled the law for us.

            If men are able to live perfectly without sin, we make the sacrifice of Jesus of no effect.

            You failed to respond to anything I said about the New Covenant in Christ, which nullifies your line of argumentation.

            There’s nothing Jesus said that I don’t like. The fact that I read His words in context, understanding His meaning according to the whole Bible rather than dumbly taking literal commands (that would be cherry-picking), doesn’t mean I’m being slippery. You say some of His demands are unreasonable, not me. Nothing new there — John 6 shows how thousands misinterpreted Jesus and turned away.

            Top Cat? That’s pretty childish of you, but that’s okay with me. I’m glad you’re engaging with the Bible.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            3/4

            You misunderstand basic covenant theology, but you also grossly mischaracterize Jesus’ commands to His disciples.

            You said, “You constantly go the extra mile, do you? Sell all you have to give to the poor? Turn the other cheek? Give to everyone who asks? Hand over your shirt when your jacket is demanded of you? Love others, including your enemies, as yourself?”

            Jesus said that if your right eye causes you to lust, pluck it out (Mat 5:29). Do you really think He was speaking literally? You can still lust with your left eye, you know.

            I really hope you can step back from your hostility against God and consider what I’m saying here about reading the Bible with an honest heart. It’s clear when Jesus is speaking in hyperbole and parable, and it’s clear when He’s speaking literally.

            With the following statements, I don’t intend to boast, but like Paul said, since you’re putting me in a situation to boast, I’ll take advantage of your challenge (2Co 11:16-21).

            Do I constantly go the extra mile? Not constantly, but I’m burdened to try, and I repent when I fail.

            Do I sell all I have to give to the poor? No, not all that I have. I also need to provide for my household. But I do give away much that I have.

            Do I turn the other cheek? Yes, often.

            Do I give to everyone who asks? Not all the time: for instance, when someone brings up this point online and then demands that I give them my car or all my money, I do not.

            As for loving my enemies as myself, this one can only be accomplished in Jesus Christ. I preach because I was saved, and it’s only love that compels me to preach so that my enemies may be saved.

            You said, “If you don’t comply with these stipulations… then you’ve no business telling others they’re without foundation for their morality without ‘stealing’ it from this mythological ‘worldview’ of yours.”

            That doesn’t follow. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength — and no human has ever obeyed this commandment. Not for one second. But Jesus does it without ceasing. This understanding is core to the Christian worldview. The fact that I fail, as a man, does not impugn the truth of matters. I’m not justified in myself, but only in Jesus Christ. I’m treated as righteous, even though I’m far from it. That’s called imputed righteousness, given by the substitutionary atonement of Christ. You can call that “word salad” all you like, but words have meaning, and these legal descriptions come with real meaning. Claiming to be unable to understand what I’m saying, or that I’m jabbering, will not save you.

          • Priya Lynn

            “Can you give me a good reason why you limit yourself to materialistic evidence when examining transcendent truths”

            You haven’t proven these are “transcendent truths”.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            And you haven’t even conceptualized how they could be mundane.

        • Pastor Disaster

          To which “Bible” did you refer when you wrote:

          “There’s more manuscript evidence attesting to the veracity of the Bible than for any other work of ancient literature…”?

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            I’m speaking of the 66 books of Christian scripture comprised of the Old and New Testaments. In English, today we’re blessed with many versions based on solid manuscript evidence. You can read a range of translations from literal (KJV, NASB, NKJV) to paraphrase (NIV) or something in between (ESV). They all convey the same message of man’s sin and redemption by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. No confusion there.

            Due to the interpretive nature of language, which is a unique gift given by God to man to convey His truth, we must be careful to read the text honestly and with due diligence to context and literary intent. In other words, with sound hermeneutics and care, we can understand God’s word and depend on it for all matters of faith.

            Language is not a mathematical construct rigidly denoting logical symbols and relationships. Rather, language is dialectical, involving the listener or reader in bringing it to bear on his or her mind.

            Consequently, a listener or reader who fails to give the word of God a fair chance of making sense — either out of ignorance, incapacity, insouciance or indignation — will render it of no use for themselves. You’ve got enough rope to either hoist up your sails or hang yourself. Your choice.

          • Pastor Disaster

            “I’m speaking of the 66 books of Christian scripture comprised of the Old and New Testaments.”

            This answers my question T.C., but thanks for all the rest… especially the bit about “enough rope to hang yourself.” Your compassion, graciousness and meekness is quite overwhelming (I’m sure Jesus, himself, must be pretty impressed too). I’ll consider myself duly warned.

            The reason I ask is because Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians over the centuries have often embraced different canons of the NT. And, of course, this yields different “bibles.” Specifically, books deemed non-canonical or even apocryphal by some groups are deemed Biblical apocrypha or Deuterocanonical or even fully canonical by others.

            That said, why have you landed where you have regarding what constitutes the “bible?” Are the others wrong? If so, why?
            Are those who have a different “bible,” as noted above, christians?

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            You ask me questions, you get answers. You’re welcome.

            Regarding my “enough rope to hang yourself” comment, I’m speaking figuratively of your God-given freedom to reject His love and perish in your sins. A lot of people know John 3:16, but not many know the verses that follow it.

            “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (Jhn 3:19-20).

            Jesus said that it would be better for you to kill yourself than to lead a child away from believing in Him (Mat 18:6). He’s not suggesting suicide, as I’m not suggesting suicide, but it stands that it would be better than spouting off blasphemies and leading the unwary astray.

            Jesus spoke harshly at times, rebuking unbelievers and literally cursing them (Mat 23:27, 12:34).

            He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Mat 10:34).

            That’s a spiritual sword, the word of God. It causes division and conflict, not peace on earth.

            Yes, Jesus is merciful, compassionate and gentle, but He’s also honest, forthright and just. If you’re dying in your sins, you’ll hear about it from me and any other disciple preaching God’s word. The world will tolerate your wickedness — it will even celebrate it — but God does not. Tolerating your wickedness is hate, because it will end in your suffering and destruction, and to deliver a corrective message is love. As an unregenerate sinner, you will probably hate that message of love like a rebellious kid rejects the loving but at times stern direction from adults, but the truth still stands.

            Now as for your biblical questions, I’m happy to answer because they’re good ones. I believe only the 66 canonical books are inspired by God because of overwhelming manuscript evidence, internal coherence (such as Jesus quoting from them, etc.) and the Holy Spirit Himself. Conversely, I reject the apocrypha, the pseudepigrapha and various gnostic forgeries for opposite reasons — lack of manuscript evidence, intractable internal contradictions and insight given by the Holy Spirit.

            The Bible, as it stands as 66 books, may pose some paradoxes, but it contains no contradictions or errors.

            Are people who believe in extracanonical books Christians? I believe someone can be saved by reading a well-written greeting card. The crucial point is to understand the gospel and believe in Jesus Christ as your savior, and all of that ultimately rests on the Bible as the word of God. The rest comes later.

            The gospel is simple but not simplistic: you’re a sinner according to the law of God, your crimes against God deserve eternal punishment, you’re unfit to pay the penalty yourself, God the Son became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus Christ took on our sins and sacrificed Himself as the spotless lamb to atone for our sins, He was buried and raised in three days and now sits at the right hand of the Father as King over all, and you can be redeemed only by repenting and believing in Him.

            You know all that, right? That’s why you have no excuse.

            Anyway, there’s nothing in the gospel that says “believe in the biblical canon like I believe in the biblical canon.”

            Let me be clear. Apostate churches and cults like the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses practice idolatry and preach a false Jesus. They all explicitly contravene clear biblical teachings. That said, individuals within these groups can be saved, under rare circumstances, precisely because they don’t believe the lies taught by their group leaders.

            Also, I don’t identify with the term “Protestant.” That’s a Roman Catholic epithet. I’m not protesting the Vatican any more than I’m protesting Salt Lake, or Hollywood for that matter. I strongly reject their lies against God, but I’m with God and they’re the rebels vainly protesting His true word.

        • Matt Cavanaugh

          Do you fashion yourself as a scholar who can succeed in disposing of the very abundant evidence for Jesus?

          Boldfacing something doesn’t make it so.

          • http://oilforlight.com T.C. Howitt

            As I explained, I “put it in bold, and repeated [it] for clarity.” Those words from an historian directly contradict the assertions made by Bruce “fine with living with ambiguity” Gerencser, who said the evidence consisted of “several obscure references to a zealot.”

      • HpO

        I knew it. Having learned 0 from your dumb sunday school PhD’s, you now confounded us all with – wait for it – “The Bible gave us Jesus”! That self-destructive compilation of the likes of Paul-vs-James contradiction and porn-addict Solomon’s, well, porn, was predesigned by Babylonian Rabbis and Early Church Wolves I mean Fathers and released 4 centuries after “Paul’s baby”. Jesus was pre-biblical as far as what the proto-Catholics stewed together. No, sir, prior to their invention, the Word of God was alive and well, appropriated by the 1st apostles and disciples of Israel’s Messiah Jesus. “Gnostic”, my foot. Name-dropping like that and in every other way, stinks and you know it. I’m just thankful that the truth got to be inserted here, there and everywhere in the gospels, epistles and revelation. Otherwise, everybody – not just The Religious Nones-Sensical Atheists – ends up lost. Like me when I was in uni. Until I learned about the ransoming Fatherly love of God through the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of His own beloved Son, Israel’s Messiah Jesus. So destroy the bible, I don’t care; just save the gospels, epistles and revelation for me and idiots like me for underground generations of believers to come.

  • Bernie Burnbaum

    Keep tearing down Christianity. You are on a sacred mission from your god. Destroy it for good.

  • LeekSoup

    “Evangelicals go through life with a borrowed theology” – I think this is very true. Those of us who go deeper become Ex-vangelicals.

    You notice it in the comments on posts like this. “But so-and-so respected scholar says there aren’t any contradictions in the Bible. Who are you to argue with a respected Bible scholar?”

    It’s the old argument from authority. Thing is I could probably produce a dozen scholars with a dozen different viewpoints.