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My incredible journey to find Jesus only to abandon him

Let the journey begin…

I was married to Jesus, but like many marriages, it ended in divorce.

This is the first of many posts detailing with what can only be described as an incredible faith journey of discovery and disappointment. It is imperative my reader understand I was madly in love with Jesus for about fifteen years. When I began my investigation into my evangelical faith it was with the purest of motives. I wanted to strengthen and deepen may relationship with God — not end it.

So why embark on this mission in the first place? I was dissatisfied with evangelicals and evangelicalism. For many years I had been completely immersed in the evangelical culture both academically and ministerially and had come to realize there were some fatal flaws in the system.

After graduating from seminary, I faced a major dilemma. What do I do now? I had spent over a dozen years in evangelical institutions. First shortly after my conversion I had attended Capernwray Bible Schools in England and Austria. There I was certain I needed more theological training so upon returning home, I enrolled at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Il., where I spent three years earning a BA in theology. This was still not enough. I then attended Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Tx., for four years earning an MA in theology. But upon graduating the many doubts concerning my evangelical faith prevented me from my original plan to enter the ministry. I had to resolve these before I could move on.

My wife and I moved to Toronto, Canada. She took a position in a private Christian school as a teacher. I found a job selling computer business forms during a deep economic recession. It was not what I had envisioned for my life. It was hard unrewarding work full of rejection and disappointment but I had no choice. In my spare time I worked feverishly researching the foundation of my faith beginning with the origins of evangelicalism.

If I am honest, I thought this would be a two year project. I wasn’t sure where it would lead, but I knew evangelicalism was definitely not reflective of original apostolic Christianity. The only question was, would I be able to rediscover the religion of the first Christians? Little did I know then, I was about to start on a long and arduous journey which would consume my entire life, destroying relationships, causing immense psychological torment and exhausting my time, energy and finances as well as hope of any career. In the decades I have devoted to my study, I have gained nothing but the satisfaction of having finally arrived at the truth about Jesus.

The time has finally come to tell my story. I have taken my research as far as I can. I have watched with increasing frustration on the sideline as evangelicalism has grown and spread in numbers and influence around the world. Now, under the Trump administration, it has found its greatest and most dangerous ally.

American evangelicalism is not a harmless religion. It is a pernicious ideology which carries many threats. These will be identified and explored. However, the focus of this blog will be the authority and credibility of the Bible as the Word of God. Drawing on my theological training and years of research, I will endeavor to offer a rational exposé of Jesus, the Bible, evangelicalism and Christianity as they relate to our overall thesis:

The Bible is the product of ancient mens imaginations and not the divine Word of God. Therefore it should not be used by groups such as evangelical Christians to dictate their view of morality on those unsympathetic to their beliefs.

I realize such a statement is bound to arose debate and anger. However, my experience as an evangelical, academic background and years of immersion in the evangelical culture uniquely qualify me to write on such a sensitive and controversial topic. Furthermore, I have paid the price and earned the right to be heard.

Literally, my entire adult life since I was seventeen has been singularly consumed with seeking to know the truth. From my conversion and throughout my life, this has remained paramount. I ask my reader to stick with me as I take them on this fascinating yet at times painful quest to find the truth.

Knowledge is truths best friend and faiths worst enemy.

Let me say in closing, I sincerely hope these posts serve as a path to intellectual freedom for those struggling to extricate themselves from evangelicalism. Fear and guilt are powerful forces which keep many psychologically imprisoned in it. For others it will serve to give them insight into a movement which is gaining momentum worldwide with potentially devastating consequences.

Religion offers its adherent immense benefits: strength, comfort, hope, guidance to name a few. Unfortunately, it also seeks to unfairly inflict its perception of truth on others even at the expense of their rights and freedoms. For this reason, it must be brought into the public square and forced to submit to objective, rational and critical examination. Then and only then, after it was been judged at the bar of human reason, can it be determined what if any influence it should have in society.

Thanks for reading and please join my on this epic quest to uncover the truth and expose the lies surrounding Jesus and the Bible.

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Did Jesus have to die on the cross?

Careful how you answer this.

If Jesus did not have to be crucified, the Jewish nation is to blame for their rejection of him and his subsequent death at the hands of Pilate. If Jesus’ death was foreordained to pay for sin, nothing anyone did or did not do could prevent it.

Full disclosure, we are dealing with the hypothetical not the actual. There is no right or wrong answer to this question because neither makes logistical sense.

The New Testament gospels depict Jesus’ path to the cross as inevitable and pre determined. Without his atoning sacrifice, mankind remains plunged in sin and death. But this suggests “if” the religious leaders had not turned Jesus over to the Roman authorities, he would not have died. Then what? Of course, theologically this is absurd, so we must suppose his death was unavoidable, but this required the all important participation of the religious leaders to be completed. Did they have free will in this matter? If not, why were they vilified by the early Christian leaders?

The alternative hypothesis is equally problematic. Had the nation accepted Jesus, the messianic kingdom would have arrived, as explicitly taught, Israel would have been restored and the Gentile nations judged. Is this believable?

When pressed Christians will invariably default to the “mystery” defense rather than wrestle with these questions. As an evangelical, I used this argument more often than I care to admit. It may appear as intellectual cowardice but I can assure you to an evangelical Christian it is iron clad logic.

Paul wrestled with a similar tension involving sovereignty and free will in Romans. His recourse was to essentially rebuke his audience for questioning what God did or why.

19One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ”[Isa. 29:16). 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?“(Romans 9:19-21)

Obviously, if you’re a Christian Jesus had to die but this exonerates the Jewish nation from culpability. But if this is true, why have Jews undergone the suffering they have not to mention being excluded from eternal salvation for two thousand years? According to American evangelicals, the only Jews who are the benefactors of salvation are those in the future who accept Jesus as messiah, roughly one third of the people. The rest like their predecessors are doomed to hell. Are they really prepared to own this?

Democrats’ Faustian Bargain: A conservative justice on the Supreme Court for Joe Biden?

Why wouldn’t Trump, in classic Trumpian fashion, hold off his appointee until after the election so he can leverage it to force voter turnout or risk losing the seat on the Supreme Court to a liberal justice? 

If I was a Republican who had soured on Trump and was considering not voting or voting for Biden, I would want nothing more than for Trump to cement his nomination before November so I didn’t have to vote for him. How does Trump not see this? 

The gambit: Democrats are going all in hoping to block the nomination and get Biden elected so he can choose a liberal justice. The risk is Republicans can use this ploy to whip up support among the undecided thus propelling Trump to victory and the loss of yet another Supreme Court seat to a conservative judge. Which is worse: Four more years of Trump and the potential long term damage he can do or a conservative Supreme Court bench for many years to come? 

If Democrats were given a choice of either kicking Trump out of the White House but having a conservative supreme court justice appointee OR four more years of Trump and a liberal supreme court justice, which would they choose?

The Republicans have put the Democrats in political check. They must surrender their queen, in this case a seat on the Supreme Court, in order to improve the odds of getting Trump out of office. Their strategy is clear. However, if they block the nominee, it will rally Trump’s base, paint them as villains and give Republicans a cause to fight for at the polls. 

From where I’m standing, if I was Trump, I would use his power of nomination as leverage to force his voters to the polls in November to better ensure he is elected so he can appoint a conservative justice. By electing one prior to the election, his party wins but he loses. They really have no need of him anymore. And remember, Trump really does not care about anything but his reelection. If you asked him would you rather be president for another term but it would cost the appointment of a liberal Supreme Court justice, or lose the election but elect a conservative judge, which do you think he would choose?

Trump is in danger of losing the election but if he delays his justice appointment, his odds rise. Here’s the strategy, he blames the Democrats for blocking his appointment and urges his voters to the polls so he can honor their wishes  AFTER the election. In this way, he makes the Democrats look like conniving babies and he gets reelected and picks a conservative judge thereby further cementing his legacy which is truly his only desire.

Democrats have a different tactic. They want it all! They want to block the nomination, win the election and have their political cake and eat it to. It is a risky gambit that relies heavily on voter turnout. Republicans will paint them as sinister operatives looking to introduce legislation to ban religion, take away their Bibles, eliminate Christmas, indoctrinate children with LGBTQ2 propaganda, promote secularism and humanism, unfriend Israel and institute national mandates on mask wearing and vaccinations, to name a few.

This fall election already promised to be politically contentious but now so even more with the death of RBG. The real question is which party will be more emotionally charged and therefore inclined to exercise their convictions at the polls? 

What happens in November will chart America’s course for the foreseeable future, but just what that future will look like remains unclear.

“52 Percent of Americans Say Jesus Isn’t God but Was a Great Teacher, Survey Says”

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/a-majority-of-americans-think-jesus-is-a-great-teacher-yet-reject-his-claims-to-be-god-301119281.html

Jesus was NOT a great teacher! He was a false prophet and fake messiah unless you believe he was literally resurrected from the dead. And if you truly do believe it, your life will reflect it. You cannot claim Jesus literally rose from the dead then live as if he did not. Proof of the resurrection begins with a radically changed life of holiness. The greatest evidence Jesus was not resurrected is those who claim he did but live sinful lives.

Jesus, “the great teacher” taught of an imminently arriving kingdom when God would pour out his wrath on all Gentile nations and unrighteous Israelites. Only God’s chosen, Jewish people, would be saved. He would not associate with non Israelites and all his teaching is couched in the context of Judaism where conformity to the law was assumed. In short, he was kinda racist. Still think he was a great teacher?

Jesus was most certainly not “God” nor was he divine. If we are being brutally honest and not blinded by Christian faith, he was a colossal failure. He preached a gospel of fear mongering in order to illicit faith in Yahweh and avoid his judgment which never came. His prophetic vision was to say the least obscured. In the final week of his life, he accepted the nomination, “King of Israel” but never flexed a single muscle of messianic might. He was a sovereign without a throne.

Christians today have no excuse for theological ignorance. It betrays their lack of seriousness in a faith most adhere to only for the promise of eternal life. They are not interested in the here and now only the hereafter. Aspiring to holiness and all it entails is foreign to the thinking of most evangelical Christians.

Here’s the bottom line. If you don’t think Jesus was God, you are not a Christian. Being a Christian means fundamentally believing in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If you believe this, you must also believe he was divine at the very least and God according to the Nicene Creed which is provided a standard for orthodoxy. Once you break from this, you are no longer a Christian but a heretic. Therefore, this 52% could be many things but Christian ain’t one of them!

Also, the 65% of evangelicals who think Jesus was the first and greatest created being are living in the pre Nicene world when this belief was prevalent, but again they fail to meet the prescribed standard of orthodoxy as dictated by the various ecumenical councils.

The assertion if Jesus claims to be God is false, he is either delusional or deceptive rests on the presumption Jesus ever thought himself more than human — he did not. The resurrection story was born out of the mystical encounters of his followers. The heavenly Christ narrative found in the gospels is an interpolation intended to give credence to Christian belief. Words are placed on the lips of the earthly Jesus in an attempt to validate the claims of this new sect of Judaism.

A careful and critical examination of the gospel record reveals glaring inconsistencies, implausibilities, and most crucially, contradictions. The biblical fact not a single follower awaited his resurrection and doubted when told of it by the women is incontestable evidence they were either the biggest morons ever to walk to earth or they had never heard of it.

Later Christian writers have packed the gospel narratives with teachings, visual reminders and parables about Jesus return as the heavenly son of man. He hung on the cross for six hours during which time his imminent glorious resurrection would have been reiterated. A detail of Roman guards stood watch outside his tomb to prevent tampering and claims of a resurrection. Jesus mother who knew most of Jesus messiahship would have assured his followers his death would be temporal. Yet despite all this, his tomb was deserted and the women came only to embalm him. Even an open tomb and missing body was insufficient to jog their memory. Why? Because they had never been told by Jesus he would rise from the dead.

There are two Jesus, the historical one who walked the earth and the mystical one envisioned by his followers. One is real, the other a figment of the religiously addled minds of his simple followers. Jesus was not God. He was a Galilean who thought he might be the messiah but in the end died on the cross disillusioned and distraught. His God had forsaken him.

The Dark Ages thinking of today’s Christianity

Biblical creationists speak boldly about God’s role in creation but become strangely silent when it comes to natural disasters in God’s world today. Why does God kill scores of people each day with sickness, disease, floods, landslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons etc…?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”(Genesis 1:1)

“So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to the Lord; and the thunder and the hail ceased, and rain no longer poured on the earth.” (Exodus 9:3)

“Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.”(Deuteronomy 11:17)


“For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
And to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong.’”(Job 37:6)

7″Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
9you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
11kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
12young men and women,
old men and children.” (Psalm 148:8, see also 33:7; 65:7; 89:9; 107:29)


“When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth;
He makes lightning for the rain,
And brings out the wind from His storehouses.” (Jeremiah 10:13)

These are only a few of what is implied throughout the Bible. It is almost too obvious for the writers to mention. In a pre-scientific world, God was literally the only explanation for the good and bad that befell mankind.

If you believe Jesus physically rose from the dead or any other biblical miracle, part of your mind resides in the Dark Ages. You may think this is a badge of honor but it is the tragic consequence of holding on to an ancient superstition. Jesus is dead. Get over it.

Now I say, “part of your mind” because Christians are reluctant to fully embrace biblical Christian belief for fear of embarrassment. Instead, the conveniently compartmentalize their faith into the spiritual and scientific. Yes, I said, “scientific.”

I have studied the Bible extensively from beginning to end for decades. One thing is particularly clear if you lived in Bible times. God controlled everything. Nature in all its expressions was carefully and specifically orchestrated by God’s hand. Wind, rain, lightning. crops, livestock, earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, celestial anomalies, disease, fertility, sickness all feel within the purview of God’s sovereign will. No exceptions!

If you are a consistent Christian, you have to take the bad with the good. When God blesses you with health, happiness and wealth, you gratefully acknowledge it (Watch the testimony of any awards ceremony or sports championship winners). So when a mudslide wipes out a mountain side village in India or disease ravages an African town, it is the work of God.

Floods and hurricanes that claim entire cities or a global pandemic that kills millions must be traced back to God. I know some groups like evangelicals will blame natural disasters on Satan though nowhere in scripture can this be supported. However, even if one wants to resort to devil blaming, he must still submit to divine decree. In other words, either God causes or allows every event no matter how big or small to occur.

Evangelicals and other Christians delight in resting under the comfort of Jesus’ resurrection. It is their eternal hope. They cling to the divine authority of the Bible especially in matter supernatural. If the Bible can’t be trusted on the miracles associated with the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt or God’s provision during forty years wandering in the wilderness or the conquest of the land of Canaan under Joshua or the mighty works of the prophets Elijah and Elisha or the signs and wonders performed by Jesus during his ministry, the resurrection is in doubt.

Where are the miracles today?

Many readers may be unaware of the debate over whether or not miracles still occur. One’s position has far reaching consequences. I was taught in seminary they “ceased” because the alternative is unacceptable.

Here’s the bottom line: There is no biblical justification for miracles ending.

8″Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness [‘telios’] comes, what is in part disappears.”(1 Corinthians 13:8-10, emphasis added)

Many non charismatic evangelical Christians build their case on this passage as evidence miracles ended in the first century. It is a flimsy defense that rests on the supposition that Pentecost marked the cessation of sign gifts except for the apostles who continued to perform miracles. However the natural reading of this text suggests the apostle had Jesus’ return in mind which he anticipated within his own lifetime.

So again we come to a theological crossroads. Non Pentecostals must find scriptural justification for rejecting a doctrine which other evangelicals enthusiastically embrace. Either charismatics are self deluded and dabbling in Satanic powers masquerading as God’s spiritual outworking, or a huge section of evangelicals are quenching God’s spirit and resisting his powerful manifestations. There is a more reasonable explanation.

To the unbiased natural mind, Paul was addressing a problem plaguing the Corinthian church. There was an abuse of spiritual gifts resulting in disunity and confusion. He wanted to make it clear Jesus’ imminent return would obviously eliminate the need for these gifts, so in preparation for that event the church was to focus on that which would never cease — love.

The implications of this if you are a Bible believing Christian is the kingdom has been in a perpetual state of “arriving” since Jesus said it had “already” begun to arrive.

15“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”(Mark 1:15)

No amount of hermeneutical chicanery can conceal the plain fact Jesus and his followers were persuaded they were standing on the doorstep of kingdom of God. The corpus of New Testament writings reflect this undeniable perspective. Then the focus was shifted to Jesus return to inaugurate the kingdom which also never transpired. Thus, without the arrival of “the perfect” the outpouring of God’s spirit has not stopped neither therefore have the supernatural expressions attending it.

I feel it necessary to pause and emphasize the blatant irrationality that pervades evangelical Christianity. Unwilling to accept the fallaciousness of their core belief, the resurrection of Jesus, despite having no reliable data to support it, the devise an argument based on the presupposition of the miraculous. When pressed to support this claim they default to the Bible which contains supernatural data but to accept its reliability requires one to grant it unfounded authority. For instance, using predictive prophecy as proof of biblical authority requires one first accord the writer/speaker supernatural ability. And then an esoteric interpretation is unquestionably accepted without previous warrant as proof of divine origin.

For centuries after Pentecost, Christians continued to believe in miracles. The advent of science put an end to that. While some Christians continue to maintain a belief in miracles as loosely defined, not a single independently substantiated miracle as ever been recorded. An against odds recovery from sickness or unexpected promotion do not constitute bonafide miracles.

We as a global community have witnessed a pandemic which can be traced with all probability to the consumption of an infected animal. Five hundred years ago, it would be regarded as an act of God as would any natural disaster. What has changed, God or man?

Rarely do you hear preachers stepping in front of the cameras when a typhoon kills hundreds of people on a remote Island. Clearly, God is the author of such a catastrophe as he is of every natural phenomena. So why don’t evangelicals stand up and defend God for his actions? They prefer to take shelter beneath a canopy of cowardice rather than accept responsibility on God’s behalf.

God is active in bring great success to Christian athletes, entertainers, politicians and business people, but nobody explains why he inflicts children with terminal cancer or watches them wither away from deprivation. Either God is active and intimate in the world or he is not. Pick a lane and stay there.

Evangelicals secretly or when talking amongst themselves do see the hand of God in ever drought, forest fire (by lightning strike), hurricane or affliction that befalls mankind and typically blame it on failure to recognize God’s glory. Some occasionally make their thought public and are vilified by the press for it. Homosexuals are a favorite target of blame but society’s general lack of compliance with New Testament ideals covers all sins.

Really none of this matters because as we stated at the beginning, evangelicals live in the realm of the irrational when it comes to their faith. They may be neurobiologists, historians, mathematicians, teachers, lawyers, bankers or anything else but they will reserve a section of their brain exclusively for irrational faith. The is what makes the evangelical so enigmatic. They live in two worlds, the spiritual and secular, at the same time but keep each separate from the other.

In conclusion, none of what I have said would matter were it not for their incessant intrusion into the lives of others who do not share their ideology. Evangelicals are not content to focus on their own personal piety, which is often ignored, but direct their attention on reforming society in accordance with their beliefs. The irony is the moral standard they hold others to they themselves are unwilling to aspire to.

Today’s American evangelical has become a moral crusader on a few pet issues while neglecting their own sanctification. To the casual observer, there is no appreciable difference between an evangelical and an unbeliever when it comes to biblical morality. Greed, pride, avarice, lust, hate, gossip, envy, anger and worldliness are found throughout evangelicalism despite being condemned throughout the scriptures. Attacking the LGBTQ community, secularists and liberals has become the defining difference between evangelicals and most of society.

As a former evangelical for fifteen years who spent a decade in formal theological training and ministry, I have seen the rampant hypocrisy that permeates evangelicalism first hand. It is discouraging to see so many aspiring to spiritual mediocrity despite clear biblical guidelines. Sexual permissiveness and materialism are so common as to be barely noticeable. Divorce, drunkenness and pornography are tolerated. While perhaps as little as ten percent truly endeavor to live out their faith, the rest remain mired in complacency paying lip service to ensure a free ticket to heaven.

The irrational basis of Christian faith: The Resurrection Experience (Part3of3)

Does seeing ghosts make them real?

The power of experience

Experience is a powerful force and can be used to validate science. For instance, science can tell us why a stove is hot and we can believe it intellectually; however, when we touch the stove, experience corroborates why we know to be true. Religious experience is different. It has no empirical basis.

Religious experience begins with the unknowable and without scientific evidence to contradict it, remains firmly fixed. In other words, for some not being able to disprove God, proves God. 

Those who are willing to make this concession must accept the existence of the countless gods who have been part of humankind since the dawn of time. 

Christians are quick to add their sacred scripture as independent proof of God’s existence as spelled out in the Bible (All other gods are non existent). As soon as the Bible is introduced into the discussion, the debate moves from the unknowable to the examinable. There is plenty of evidence to evaluate.

In the previous two articles we looked at how any Christian faith which presupposes the miraculous, specifically, the resurrection, is rationally baseless. Ultimately every Christian who adheres to a belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead must confront their own irrationalism. They have no choice.

The biblical accounts are fraught with contradictions, incongruences and implausibilities making all of the unreliable and incredible sources of truth. Defaulting to one’s own personal encounter with God is insufficient proof of anything but the experience itself since most faith groups have religious writings which generate similar spiritual awareness.

In this article I would like to offer the most plausibly rational explanation for what transpired Easter morning when Mary and the other women went to embalm Jesus for permanent burial.

When I was in Bible college students had to take a course called, “Apologetics” which taught one how to defend one’s faith from criticism. I have looked back at some of the main arguments conservative Christians use to “prove” the validity of their faith to nonbelievers. All rely heavily on sophistry which is reasoning that sounds good but it actually specious. Here is one classic example.

The resurrection had to have been real because the disciples would not have died to defend a lie.

I confess this made a lot of sense to me the first time I heard it in my Apologetics course but it is flawed reasoning. First, this presumes the same disciples who stole the body were his inner circle. Jesus had hundreds of followers any of whom may have taken his body for private burial. His core disciples would have been unaware of this act. Furthermore, those who did take Jesus’ body would keep it a secret.

I think Jesus’ most trusted and intimate followers were also the most likely to be willing to die for him. They were also the best candidates for having a vision of him. Who else would Jesus appear to if not them? They had an emotional bond which made them want to believe he was resurrected. Only these select few could hope to be the ones their master personally visited which would make them highly receptive to a mystical encounter. In other words, they alone would be the ones most likely to die for Jesus because they were the only ones privileged to have seen him.

Actual or spiritual encounter?

Does it make a difference whether the disciples had a vision of Jesus or an actual encounter? No, in fact the former would be preferred.

When examining the resurrection story, the only possibility is some of his closest disciples truly believed they were having a mystical encounter with the risen Jesus. Their experience was real even though its content was not. Judging from the gospel accounts, only Mary could claim to have seen a physical Jesus, while the disciples saw the glorified Jesus. In their minds, seeing Jesus in his spiritual body was more affirming than if they saw him in his physical body because it proved he was special. 

In the context of these first century minds, a heavenly vision transcended a mere physical sighting. Anybody could be brought back to life (Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son) but receiving a glorified body was unique.

Let’s revisit Mary. Her initial encounter appears to have been of the recently resurrected Jesus. The ascension concept had not been introduced yet because his followers thought he had been physically resurrected. The ascension tradition was necessitated by no further physical sightings and to explain his non corporeal form. This is pivotal because it cements her testimony as an eyewitness upon which all other sightings rest. But is she a reliable source?

We do not know a lot about Mary other than she was from a town called Magdala and Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. The second point is crucial because it gives us a window into her psychological state of mind. Unless you believe in demon possession, Mary was mentally unstable and prone to paranormal experiences. She was the ideal candidate for seeing what she thought was a physical Jesus.

Put yourself in her sandals. She has deep affection for her beloved master. She is confronted with an empty tomb and missing body. These two factors coupled with her mental state easily explain her perceived encounter with Jesus. Her conviction in this matter would carry great weight. Why wouldn’t it since she was among his closest followers? Her experience was the catalyst for the resurrection myth. However without the support of Jesus male disciples, the resurrection story would have sputtered and died.

I would contend the disciples first learned of the empty tomb and missing body on Easter morning before returning to Galilee. Mary at this stage had only had an angelic encounter telling her of Jesus’ physical resurrection. A couple of disciples hurried to the tomb and discovered it empty but did not see Jesus. They concluded Mary’s experience was “nonsense.” They returned home to resume their previous occupation as fisherman planning to return fifty days later for Pentecost.

Believing is seeing

During this time, Mary had at least one other encounter but this time with Jesus himself. When the disciples returned they were confronted with this new information and were forced to make a decision. They gathered for prayer to consider the possibility Jesus had in fact been raised. They may have revisited the tomb hoping to see Jesus but did not. While praying several of them began to have visions while others remained reticent (doubting). It is clear from the gospels Jesus was now in a spiritual body which could pass through locked doors and appeared as “a spirit.” This would give rise to the ascension theory to explain his physical absence from sightings and how he received his new body.  

The gospels unanimously describe Jesus’ appearance to his disciples as a collective experience with doubt being a key factor.

These narratives unknowingly support the idea they had no previous knowledge of the resurrection. They behaved exactly as one would expect they would if learning about the resurrection for the first time.

Luke records the disciples ignoring the women’s testimony. Even if we accepted they somehow “forgot” about the resurrection despite numerous reminders, for all of them to reject a verbal declaration by eyewitnesses is inconceivable. And Peter and John go to the tomb and find it empty yet still fail to recall all Jesus said, did and taught about his resurrection defies comprehension.

Matthew’s Olivet discourse contains a little phrase which seems entirely out of place. His disciples ask him specifically for “signs” that will signal his coming suggesting they are keenly aware of his return and therefore his resurrection. This section is full of references to his return which further brings into question its authenticity. It does however make perfect sense is a post-resurrection Christian addition intended to revive a moribund faith which had grown disillusioned with Jesus’ repeated failures to return.

27”And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”(Luke 24:27)

44”He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day…”(Luke 24:44-46)

Luke twice records Jesus making reference to the Hebrew Scriptures to validate his death and resurrection. I can state with absolute certitude, there is no text anywhere in the Hebrew Bible which mentions a future Messiah dying and rising from the dead. Isaiah 53 might be the closest but contextually it refers to a death already taken place (ca. 6th century BC). A thorough analysis of the entire passage reveals many details inconsistent with Jesus death. At best it could be used as a vague illustration but even then it strains at the original meaning which depicts a grossly disfigured man whose unjust execution was seen as redeeming those in Babylonian captivity. 

[In an earlier post, I have discussed in detail the contents of Isaiah 53. It is a eulogy offered by a Yahwist prophet who was complicit in the execution of this innocent man, aka, “The Suffering Servant.” Any disease was considered a curse by God and leprosy may have been the reason for this man’s death. The fact it occurred simultaneous to Cyrus’ edict releasing all captives was seen as proof of substitutionary atonement.]

One should remember, Jesus was not innocent. He was a potential insurrectionist who refused to rescind his claim as, “King of the Judeans” which was in direct violation of Roman law. The threat of a rebellion is as much a crime as starting one. Jesus’ new role as political messiah carried dire consequences in the eyes of Roman authority. If allowed to return to the mass of pilgrims, his gaining popularity could foment a full scale revolt. Jesus sealed his own fate when he accepted his messiahship.

We will close with a few observations from the John’s gospel. He records Mary visiting the tomb without angelic interaction and therefore knowledge of the resurrection. This would seem to place it before Matthew which is chronologically implausible. Trying to harmonize the four accounts while preserving plausibility and sensibility is futile. However, those predisposed to believe anything will believe anything no matter how outlandish.

Both John and Luke record the presence of Jesus’ burial clothes. Many Christians have seen this as evidence of the resurrection because they were neatly folded. I think this provides more evidence his body was stolen by some unknown disciples who carefully removed and folded these garments before anointing the body and wrapping it in clean cloth. It was an act of honor and respect.

John records the lengthiest meeting between Jesus and Mary which must be the first but this clashes with Matthew. Along with Matthew’s record, Mary is clearly the first to encounter the risen Jesus which somehow Paul fails to mention (see 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Perhaps we see here a hint of the misogyny found within his writings. The power of the Mary tradition would be impossible to ignore though Luke, Paul’s companion, also makes no mention of Mary’s sighting. It is however included in Mark’s shorter ending (Mk. 16:9).

Finally, the infamous story of, “Doubting Thomas” is found at the end of John’s work. While Thomas has been castigated for centuries for his doubting nature, he was likely the only sensible one of the bunch. His testimony also confirms he had no previous knowledge of a resurrection and refused to accept the testimony of his fellow disciples of a mystical Christ. Whether he ever believed is doubtful regardless of John’s text.

Thomas’ unbelief is used as a literary tool by the writer to challenge his readers to faith. He exhorts them not to be like Thomas and demand physical proof which they could never have. Instead they are to be like him who after seeing the empty tomb “saw and believed” (Jn. 20:8).

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:29) 

Interestingly, these words are intended to have been spoken by Jesus a week after his resurrection (Jn. 20:26) suggesting it is better to not see Jesus though he continued to appear for another thirty-three days (Acts 1:3) and was seen by more than five hundred of brothers and sister “at the same time” (1 For. 15:6). It was also a pre-requisite for an Apostle to have seen him so Thomas’ request was justified.

Challenging the resurrection

Challenging the resurrection in not an intellectual exercise for Christians, it is an emotional one. These conclusions will create a visceral reaction of anger because that is where faith resides — in the heart. Many Christians will simple resort to not caring what reason says preferring to leave the matter in God’s hands. Very few will confront their worst fears with honesty and integrity at the risk of losing their eternal hope. All this should set off alarm bells in the minds of Christians they have built their house on the sinking sand of irrationalism.

Many will discount or discredit these findings or disparage the author rather than invest the time and energy (and perhaps money to acquire the necessary skills) to make an informed objective decision. They will celebrate their refusal to bow to the demands of rationalism as tainted by sin and wear their indifference as a badge of honor. They will herald themselves as guardians of God’s precious truth. 

It is far easier to continue believing in ignorance than to make the laborious journey to achieve intellectual freedom. For evangelicals the choice is simple. 

Doubt is the first step toward intellectual freedom

Doubt is the only key that unlocks the door of faith and only the possessor of the faith holds it. 

I started my quest to find the truth by doubting what I had been taught in evangelical institutions in an effort to rebuild my faith relying on the knowledge and skills I had obtained. I did not begin thinking I would abandon Jesus and reject Christianity. I was only hoping to reconstruct by faith by first dismantling it theological brick by brick.

I approached the Bible without a preconceived bias believing as long as I held onto Jesus, I would emerge victorious in my pursuit. In doing so, I inadvertently let down my faith guard so I could achieve pure objectivity. It was like reading the Bible for the first time, seriously! It seemed fresh.

I have mentioned many times my primary focus was to eliminate pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalism, and everything associated with it. It had become clear to me in seminary this was a diabolical and noxious doctrine that had no place in Christianity. I had also undertaken a detailed study of the role of baptism in the salvation experience and concluded evangelicalism demotion of it to an ordinance from a sacrament was unfounded.

The deeper I dug, the more I discovered was wrong with my evangelical faith. I could no longer confine my objective scrutiny to a few teachings and began to expand my investigation. The doctrine of the Trinity had puzzled me from the start as I wondered how the Israelites had “missed” the Holy Spirit in their studies. I also knew the early Christians had no such concept and looked for its origins. Christianity’s departure from strictly monotheistic parentage played a large role in later Gentiles proposing a triple Godhead.

Inerrancy had been a stumbling block for me almost from day one. I attended a Bible school overseas before I was a year old as a Christian to gain some biblical foundation. I spent most of my free time in the school library in self study. My major project was to write out by hand my own harmony of the gospels to resolve some questions I had.

I had been told inerrancy meant every word of the Bible was divinely inspired and absolutely factual. Of course I believed it. However, reading through the gospels revealed many discrepancies within identical accounts of the same event. How could both be right if they were different? Words spoken by God at Jesus’ baptism or at his Transfiguration were not the same. While only a small detail, it meant one was “wrong.” It would be fifteen years before I revisited this issue but at a much deeper level. 

When it comes to comparative analysis of the gospels there are factual discrepancies but there is also plausibility issues. The nativity stories and the resurrection records abound with matters of “believability.” The most glaring one in our study is how ever disciple of Jesus missed the resurrection. Not one remembered his repeated promise to rise again after three days and keep vigil outside his tomb. While this detail does not fall into the factual category, it most certainly tests the limits of plausibility. It along with the many factual (if we assume inerrancy) contradictions leads the reasonable mind to reject the resurrection. 

The infallibility of experience

I have stated repeatedly, the overwhelming majority of Christians (99.9%?) do not know enough or have the skills to properly and thoroughly investigate inerrancy to make an informed decision. It takes years to work through all the historical, chronological, textual, archeological and theological data which can be found on almost every page of the Bible. One must resolve thousands of pieces of information before stating its validity unequivocally. It is a very high bar. 

Inerrancy is easy to believe but incredibly hard to substantiate. Instead, inerrantists rely on their God-experience via the Holy Scriptures as sufficient proof of their divine inspiration. It is therefore their experience which is infallible which is then transferred to the Bible.

Believing the Bible to be inerrant or infallible or divinely inspired in any way is a matter of faith not intellect. There are no inerrantists who are also nonbelievers. Inerrancy is either inherited or presumed before one really knows whether it is valid (It isn’t). Most Christians are taught inerrancy in some form as uninformed children by misinformed adults who were once uninformed themselves, and so on. 

I make this point to illustrate how difficult it is to make someone un-believe what they have believed most of their lives and from which they have derived benefit. Nobody wants admit to making this mistake. Un-experiencing God is almost impossible. I say, “almost” as one who has un-experienced God.

I consider my departure from Christianity rare and unique because I had no intention of leaving, but rather solidifying my faith. What began as an earnest quest for a deeper faith ended in a complete jettisoning of it.

One of the positives of knowing Christian belief is a fantasy is the realization that all the progress and growth you thought came from God was actually of your own doing. I had lived a Christian existence thinking I was a worthless sinner whose only good came from God’s spirit controlling my life. Becoming a Christian unlocked my potential and gave me the confidence I lacked within myself. Christianity freed me by imprisoning me.

Belief in a higher power is essential for some people to transform their lives. Many get to a place where they feel helpless and powerless to gain victory over drugs, alcohol, pornography, rage, sex or any other addiction. In this regard, religion can place a crucial role in helping people make change. So does this end justify the means?

I would contend it does not. The benefits religion provides, e.i., comfort, peace, strength, guidance, significance and hope do not outweigh the abuses and atrocities it causes. Most of the benefits could be replaced with humanistic efforts and those that cannot must find alternative methods. Perhaps the money saved funding churches or clergy could be better spent on mental health or substance abuse programs. 

Religion is becoming far too influential in society and politics to be allowed free reign. Two thousand years of history attest to its potential dangers and each day seems to bring more news of its abuse by those in leadership positions. But the threat can also be felt at the ballot box where groups like evangelical Christians vote their ideology which is often in contradistinction to political and social progressivism.

Apocalypticism is a highly dangerous concept deeply embedded within the American evangelical psyche. Proponents see the world in a vastly different way than the rest of society. Pessimism characterizes this belief which sees an expiration date on the world as it marches towards a cataclysmic culmination. Evangelicals who espouse this enjoy a false sense of security knowing they will be Raptured to heaven before things get too bad. In an effort to align themselves with God’s purposes, the view the Middle East as a place where strife and war are to be encouraged. Peace has no place in God’s divine plan until after Jesus returns.

A global pandemic, greenhouse gases, polar ice melts, nuclear war will not spell the end of the world. Only God can destroy his creation. Evangelicals goal is not to be a counter purposes to God which means backing a man like Donald Trump who is viewed as God’s unwitting pawn in bringing about the end of the world.

Embracing an irrational faith can have catastrophic consequences in every sphere of society, environmentally, socially and politically. These articles were intended to show just how baseless are the beliefs of Christians especially groups like evangelicals. We must stop indulging fantastical thinking. This begins with stripping the Bible of its aura of mystique by exposing its many flaws for all to see. 

As a society we should be ashamed at allowing a book of ancient superstitions to enjoy such a preeminent place of influence in people’s lives and society at large.

The irrational basis of Christian faith: The Resurrection (Part2of3)

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is founded on the mystical encounters of his closest followers. The only facts surrounding it was an empty tomb and missing body, everything else is conjecture.

In part one of, “The irrational basis of Christian faith” I argued it was primarily based on emotionalism and experientialism. While there are most certainly rational components surrounding Christian theology, largely thanks to the influence of Scholasticism, ultimately it is grounded in irrationalism. Which is to say, there is not a single piece of reasonable evidence upon which it is built.

In part two we will highlight some of the key inconsistencies, incompatibilities and implausibilities found when the four gospel accounts are compared. These findings render them unreliable as  evidence to support such a grandiose proposition as Jesus’ miraculous resurrection.

In a series of earlier posts, I examined the four gospels in detail. This article will be a synopsis of that material.

The first Easter

It is impossible to navigate the resurrection details of the gospels without constantly running aground on the rocks of contradiction. For instance, what did the first visit to Jesus’ tomb reveal? Three gospels are unequivocal in stating the women initially discovered a vacant tomb with the stone removed. Matthew, however, departs from this tradition.

In his account, the woman arrive as a large earthquake begins. Then an angel of the Lord descends to roll away the stone revealing Jesus’ missing body. He informs the woman Jesus has risen and gone before his disciples to Galilee. They are to go back and report this to them. Along the way Jesus himself intercepts them and reiterates this charge.

If every other detail of the gospels were perfectly aligned, it would still be difficult to reconcile Mathew’s details and preserve the integrity of biblical authority. However, this is but one of myriads of data which undermine the resurrection story.

Note to reader: I have resisted the temptation to provide textual citations as I have in previous articles. I leave it up to the responsibility of the reader to refer to the passages under review themselves. It is the purpose of this brief summation to “tease” those interested into a fuller study and analysis.

Some Christians will devise the most ludicrous explanations to resolve these disparities. One commentator suggests Jesus “snuck” out of the tomb undetected while the women and guards were distracted by the angel, thus explaining why they failed to see him officially depart the tomb.

The next detail Matthew includes is a personal encounter with Jesus as they leave the tomb which no other gospel mentions. John comes closest by describing Mary’s meeting with Jesus on her second visit to the tomb after telling the disciples.

The biggest departure from the other three gospels is the inclusion of a Roman guard detail carefully guarding the sealed tomb to prevent someone from stealing Jesus body and claiming he had been resurrected. This raises multiple issues when compared with the other accounts.

First, why would they leave out such an important detail which would clearly help substantiate the resurrection story? Second, if Jesus had left before the stone was removed, it suggests he was resurrected in a glorified body not a physical body since this is the only way he could pass through the stone tomb. Third, if neither the women nor his disciples were anticipating his resurrection (more on this later), why were the chief priests and Romans? It is strange they were aware of his promise but his closest disciples were not. Fourth, by including these extra details, Matthew makes his account chronologically first since the others record a stone already removed. But given Matthew describes Mary and the women encountering Jesus, how does one explain Luke explicitly stating they did not see Jesus or his body?

The writer of Matthew was clearly addressing the prevailing “stolen body” theory by creating a store to disprove it. He was very likely aware of Mark’s work and may have had something to do with the removal of its ending to prevent contradiction. Regardless, Luke and John provide ample details which call into question its veracity.

Matthew and Mark describe Jesus and/or the angels telling Mary to inform the disciples Jesus will meet them in Galilee, yet the other two gospels unapologetically keep the disciples in Jerusalem where they first meet Jesus. One must question why Jesus would first have to disciples trek sixty miles to Galilee to meet him only to return to Jerusalem to again meet him there?

Matthew also records the rendezvous on a mountain in Galilee with Jesus noting “some doubted.” Is it plausible at least two of his closest disciples who had been repeatedly informed of Jesus resurrection by Jesus himself would doubt with Jesus standing before their eyes?

Relative to the previous point, Luke and John mention doubts as well. Assuming the Galilean meeting already took place, who and why would they still doubt something of which they had previous knowledge?

If one attempts to flip flop the accounts, the same issue arises. Why would some doubt on the mountain after repeated visits by Jesus in Jerusalem?

The question of Jesus ascension is another problem requiring resolving. If we conflate all four gospels we would have to conclude based on Matthew, Jesus did not need to ascend to heaven to receive a glorified body since he obviously had one in order to escape the tomb. Why then do Luke and John make specific reference to his ascension? What was the purpose if not to receive his spiritual body? Furthermore, Luke explicitly describes Jesus ascension very late on the day of his resurrection while John implies it is in the morning after Jesus encounters Mary and before he visits his disciples. Why multiple ascensions?

John’s record treats Jesus’ return as a mini Pentecost whereby he breathes the spirit onto his disciples empowering them for ministry. Luke, as mentioned, suggests Jesus ascended the first day but then alters this in his second treatise, Acts, to accommodate a period of forty days before his ascension.

These are among the main discrepancies between the four gospels. However, I believe the far greater argument against the resurrection, which has been touched on briefly, is the complete lack of awareness and anticipation of their own master’s resurrection by his disciples, followers and especially Jesus’ mother, Mary.

The argument from common sense

I don’t think there exists greater evidence the resurrection was a myth than the sheer obliviousness exhibited by his disciples and those closest to him. If we believe the gospels, Jesus repeated informed his disciples of his impending arrest, death and resurrection. Then he arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey to publicly signal his role as king of Jerusalem. Next he offered a series of discourses detailing his role as, “the son of man” who would return in glory. He offered parables which only his disciples could understand containing warnings to be alert and prepared for his imminent arrival. He celebrated Passover with his disciples which depicted his death but also the promise of the coming kingdom when he would join them. He raised Lazarus from the dead as a poignant object lesson. Matthew records the resurrection of the “holy ones” after Jesus’ death. As noted earlier, the chief priests were so aware of Jesus promised resurrection they posted a Roman guard which provided a powerful reminder of what was to transpire. But this is only half the story…

Even with all this foreknowledge, object lessons and reminders, when the women told the disciples Jesus had been resurrected, they still did not believe, nor when they saw the empty tomb themselves.  In fact, when Jesus stood in front of them, they thought he was a spirit. How is it conceivable to think anything but they didn’t expect the resurrection because they had never been told of the resurrection?

There are two hypotheses. Either Jesus repeatedly told them about his resurrection or he did not. Everything contained in the gospels points to the latter. For obvious reasons, the writers had to present their information to support the former never imagining they would be compared and contrasted with intellectual rigor.

Where was Jesus’ mother? If anybody had no reason for not keeping vigil outside the tomb, it was Mary. Mary had intimate knowledge of her son’s identity, according the the gospels, which make her absence beyond comprehension. If she had the slightest inkling her son would be resurrected, she would have been there waiting for him. She was not!

In part three, I will offer an alternative theory which fully satisfies the biblical data, common sense as well as Christianity’s current existence. We will examine what really happened in the mind of Mary of Magdala Easter morning and how the resurrection story took flight. We will also explore how something which began as exclusively Judaistic in nature became entirely Gentile and outside Judaism.

The irrational basis of Christian faith: Experientialism and Emotionalism (Part 1of3)

Evangelicals are intoxicated by irrational faith rendering them intellectually impaired.

Taking your foot off the bag

During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, we can at least find some comfort in watching America’s national pastime, baseball, even though in crowd less stadiums. For this article, we will adopt a baseball expression to illustrate our main point.

Most Christians, especially evangelicals, profess to follow a reasonable faith, which is to say, one firmly supported by evidence and data. Appeals to history, archeology, science, logic and biblical data are given as proof. And while some may admit to an element of irrationalism, primarily it is a faith grounded in rationality. I would strongly disagree.

Evangelicals will debate the intellectual merits of their belief system maintaining all the laws of physics are God-given and therefore bolster their argument. But when pressed to reconcile the biblical text with counter claims, they step off the bag of rationalism to find themselves in a no man’s land of irrationalism. 

The primacy of feeling  

There was a time when evangelical Christians celebrated the primacy of emotions as the defining mark of a validated faith. It was a reaction against dry formalism which had permeated Christianity with the ascendancy of Deism. Many, not all, Christians saw this as dangerous to the very nature of salvation. Theological orthodoxy was insufficient for saving faith if bereft of its most vital element — assurance. One needed to identify a specific moment when assurance of salvation was gained. Experience did not replace knowledge but it certainly superseded it.

The age of reason was followed by the age of romanticism, the latter being a reaction against the former and for good reason. Many in society wanted an infusion of emotion which had been lost to the dispassionate objectivity of science.  God was depersonalized and with it mankind’s sense of worth. Superstition was the primary casualty of the Age of Enlightenment.

The birth of American evangelicalism must always be seen against the backdrop of the Age of Rationalism. Walking into most Christian churches was to enter a sanctuary where doctrinal precision and creedalism were highly valued. Churches were not filled with joyful choirs swaying back and forth while prisoners clapped their hands as tears streamed down their cheeks. There were no drums, electric guitars or synthesizers to raise the emotional temperature of the congregants. Church was staid and boring by today’s standards of evangelical gatherings.

Revivalism was the defining characteristic of American evangelicalism. It was charged with enthusiasm and ecstasy in its bid to reclaim men and women’s souls which had been forfeited to deistic thinking.

I have sat in many theology classes during Bible school, college and seminary. I know how tedious it can be to study Christian doctrine in agonizing detail. However, for me it was intellectually affirming and inspiring. I would compared it to building a house. I had laid the foundation when I converted knowing nothing about the faith I had enthusiastically embraced. 

My quest for biblical knowledge

After I converted I was painfully aware of my ignorance. When a speaker would refer to a specific book of the Bible other than one of the gospels, I was lost. I remember many times whomever was sitting beside me in church, Sunday school or Bible study reaching over and flipping the pages of my Bible to the correct place. It was embarrassing and I vowed I would dedicate my life to mastering biblical content, a promise I have kept for forty years.   

Knowledge is king while ignorance is a fool.

Despite conservative evangelical Christians vociferously declaring the Bible is the very Word of God, few study it as if they truly believe it let alone live by it. Throughout my evangelical experience I was constantly puzzled by the many young people I encountered who were determined to gain a secular education over a theological one. If Christianity is a dynamic daily experience with God through his living word, why calling could be higher than dedicating oneself to studying it and sharing it with others?

To put it bluntly: The vast majority of Christians place little value on having a solid theological grounding in the faith. They are content with a vague understanding of doctrine whether central or tertiary. So what serves as the basis for their faith if not theological knowledge?

As stated in the beginning, American evangelicalism is largely driven by emotionalism and experientialism. Even those who most adamantly assert the “reasonableness” of their faith, must ultimately defer to an irrational stance when backed into a rational corner. One is prone to appeal to a vibrant experience and awareness of God which offers substantial subjective proof. Others take a more apologetical approach in an effort to quell their own intellectual curiosity.

My evangelical dream was to become a Christian professor in a theological university so I could present the cogency of Christianity.  I thought most people had a distorted view of Christianity or inadequate knowledge which I could rectify. It was this thirst for knowledge which eventually led to the end of my faith. After seminary as I began to dissect my evangelical faith, it was with a goal to remove the “diseased” tissue, like pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalism. The more I looked, the more I cut away. I hoped this would save my faith but it instead resulted in its death. For the rationally minded Christianity has a terminal illness. 

Theologically no two Christians must be alike except in the matter of Jesus’ resurrection. Either he arose from the dead, and you’re a Christian, or he did not, and you’re not a Christian. Everything else is debatable. So here’s the fundamental question: “Is the resurrection rational or irrational?”

We have no independent records of this alleged event other than the New Testament gospels. Do they present a reliable or unreliable account of the resurrection? Do they satisfy the criteria for what we could conclude presents a rational defense?

The Bible on trial

If we consider this topic in the context of a courtroom, we would say the authority of the Bible is on trial. Is it a divine or human source. We must use words like “infallibility” or “inerrancy” in our examination and clearly define them before we proceed further.

On the spectrum of the authority of the Bible, some hold to the most idealistic position which posits every single word contained in the Bible (original autographs) is absolute and perfect in accuracy. At the other end of this spectrum are those who accept only the barest allegiance to divine authority. They only view the resurrection is incontestable while everything else is subject to possible fallibility. Whether you fall on either extreme or somewhere in the middle, your faith is primarily irrational.

I have spent more time immersed in studying the Bible than most. It has consumed an entire lifetime of full time dedicated and earnest scrutiny. My findings come at the end of decades of exhaustive research. My motive was exactly what one would expect God to reward. I wanted to find the truth to strengthen my faith. I began with the best intentions and the mind God gave me.

Those who discount my findings as those of a disgruntled or embittered apostate do so to alleviate their own insecurities. They cannot and most will not accept the possibility I might be right so they resort to personal attack. Here’s the test:

If the preponderance of evidence does not support Christianity’s claims, would you be willing to reject God and Jesus as your Savior?

The response to this question should be easy. If the data does not lead to Christianity’s conclusions, it is a false faith and should be rejected. Christians should be so certain of their faith they could easily accept this challenge. However, most will have a visceral reaction which resists even the thought of questioning it because it is a personal not an intellectual belief. It would be like abandoning your best friend, in this case Jesus.

This discussion will always come back to the beginning of that faith. How did one originally embrace a faith which has become so embedded as to be virtually irremovable? Was it through a thorough and objective analysis of all pertinent data? 

To properly vet Christian belief one would have to acquire a theological education first. Imagine going through a rigorous and formal theological education only to discover Christianity is a fabrication. Nobody goes to seminary to find the truth, they go to confirm the truth they already believe they have. The every day Christian does not possess the skills to properly appraise it leaving him or her at the mercy of others to tell them what to believe.

Christians: A bunch of backwards believers

Was your faith inherited or investigated? Ideally, every Christian should enter the faith as an adult after extensive research to ensure the validity of the faith. If such were the practice, Christianity would disappear.

Christian faith begins for most during childhood, at least in seedling form. Later as they get older it may grow and flourish into a full fledged faith but it was still “planted” in the fecund mind of a child. Nobody would contest a child is incapable of making informed decisions based on a keen ability to discern rational fact from fantastical fiction. Yet this is exactly how most begin their Christian journey.

I knew of many evangelical children who were basically scared into heaven with images of the Devil and hell contrasted with Jesus’ loving arms of forgiveness. Parents or some others evangelical leader or role model (Sunday school teacher, camp counsellor, youth pastor) evangelize children with graphic depictions of heaven and hell in order to illicit a conversion. Of course, it is all done with the best intention of saving a child’s eternal soul. This presumes it needs saving!

The road of desperation

The other path to salvation many take is along the road of desperation. They fall victim to the unscrupulous tactics of televangelists who prey on the weak, gullible, depressed, lonely and destitute of society by promising a spiritual panacea in Jesus. The elderly and sick, the psychological unstable, the unemployed, the desperate and substance abusers are all primary targets for profiteering. These hucksters offer promises of jobs, money, career advancement, healing, restored relationships and anything else imaginable to solicit funds. The catch is you must continue supporting them to keep the faith active and hence its benefits.

Young college students are also singled out by on-campus evangelistic groups because they are away from home, often lonely and intimidated by their new environment. These para church groups offer instant friendship and social support for this vulnerable demographic.

I have stated before that rational, educated, successful, healthy and happy adults do not become evangelical Christians. Jesus and his disciples, who were largely illiterate, also targeted the needy and destitute. When the educated and rich rejected the gospel it was because of their lack of faith not their wealth of knowledge.

Cognitive bias and herd reinforcement

What about the bulk of evangelical Christians who would claim they do follow a reasonable faith? It provides many answers to questions even science cannot answer. It offers a worldview which explains life’s uncertainties and complexities. Biblical prophecy seems to find fulfillment in current political events and offers a unique perspective which reinforces conviction in the Bible’s authority. 

Many evangelicals limit themselves to being exposed only to information that reinforces their beliefs not challenges them. They exist in a “bubble” of insular learning which gives the illusion of being a tested faith when it is not. Information is carefully crafted and presented in a way that seems to confirm the teachings found within the Bible. It is a powerful means of entrapping believers with their own minds. One need never be physically isolated, as many cults do, when one is imprisoned mentally.

So how much confidence should be placed in the Bible as a source? The only way to determine that is by a willingness to critically analyze its content for consistency, congruence, accuracy and plausibility, a step most won’t take. It is a vicious cycle of faith refusing to question itself. It is akin to committing spiritual suicide with little to gain and everything to lose.

This article began with the indictment Christianity is predominantly an irrational belief system with some believers displaying more irrationality than others. I hope those who disagree are willing to engage in a robust investigation to defend their position. Of course failure to do so confirms my position leaving them no choice but to participate. 

In order to confidently affirm the proposition one’s faith is on rational footing, requires a supreme commitment of time and energy and perhaps finances to acquire the necessary skills and tools. A mountain of textual data must be excavated, analyzed and resolved to settle this issue; otherwise, it is presumptive inerrancy which is irrational. 

At this point, many believers will default to the theological expertise of their pastor, teachers, professors and authors who have already undertaken this challenge. I assure you they have not, and if they have, it was done so with a strong faith bias. There is no rational road that leads to inerrancy.

How big is your investment?

One of the greatest psychological obstacles I had to overcome when I was questioning my faith was on this very issue. I pondered how my professors who had obtained advanced theological degrees could still be believers unless the evidence supported it. While an undergrad student it was easy to assume this but eventually as I progressed in my training, I devised another theory. It took some time for me to resolve this but it ultimately traces back to how much of one’s life one has invested in the faith versus how much one would be willing to give up?

All faith can be quantified on the sliding scale of sacrifice. Some devote little time, energy or money to their faith only hoping to one day get a free ticket to heaven. They are no different from unbelievers engaging in all the pleasures and pursuits the world has to offer. Others sacrifice an enormous amount building huge social and professional networks along the way. Family, friends and colleagues are all part of their evangelical culture. The thought of “blowing up” their lives for the sake of intellectual honor and integrity is unfathomable for most. It is much easier to continue enjoying the many benefits of belief and rationalizing away any doubts.

At the crossroads of a dilemma

In the final year of seminary I came to this crossroad. I was confronted with the possibility I had squandered my entire young adult life and thousands of dollars pursuing an education I no longer trusted leaving me without a career path. It would have been easy to “play at” Christianity and sweep all my doubts away, but I could not fake a faith I had serious doubts about despite having once been so certain of it. Interestingly, the further I advanced in my theological knowledge, the more doubts arose until they reached this watershed moment. 

I was never more content in my faith than when I knew the least about it. With more knowledge came more questions.

Ignorance is faith’s greatest friend and knowledge its worst enemy. 

I sacrificed my entire life when I became a born again evangelical Christian. I turned everything over to Jesus, my dreams, desires and goals. I denied myself every worldly pleasure in my commitment to follow him. I gave up comfort and happiness in exchange of discipline and commitment as his disciple. Every day I woke up with the singular goal of serving him. I prayed, studied, tithed, evangelized, discipled and ministered. Now I was about to acknowledge it had all been in vain.

The day I realized I had spent fifteen years chasing an illusion was disquieting. I was married and it was a severe recession. Neither I nor my then wife had any job prospects. We had both been trained for ministry. Yet despite the reality of my situation, I left Christianity (and my wife) and all it offered because rationally I could not justify it. Initially, I thought I would end up in a more traditional Christian setting but this was not meant to be.

I have earned the right to be heard and to question Christianity at its core. I have paid the price and have the scars to prove it. I will make one concession to appease those who cling to freedom of religion as their defense. Everybody has a right to believe or not believe whatever they want to or don’t want to believe. However, no child should be coerced into the faith through psychological manipulation and exploitation especially with a threat of eternal damnation. Also, those (adults) who are believers must keep their faith exclusively private and personal admitting its irrationality and baseless claims, otherwise, it should be dragged into the public square for unflinching scrutinization.

The presupposition of the miraculous

I would challenge any Christian to prove his or her faith can be established on a single pillar of rational evidence. One can begin with a presupposition in the supernatural and apply it to the Bible but this is only the start of the inquiry. Taking this as our fundamental hypothesis and examining the massive amount of data we have surrounding the Bible, only a gross abuse of reason can support it. Deductive reasoning is valid insofar as the data supports it. Simply using supernatural explanations to modify the data to support itself is unjustified. On the other hand, an inductive approach seems to yield the exact opposite conclusion.

Those who live by the rational sword must die by the rational sword. You cannot propose to be rationally minded only when it is convenient and then retreat to irrationalism when reason is no longer an option. Christians who switch back and forth as necessity dictates cannot boast a rational belief system. 

Groups like evangelicals are afraid not of not losing an argument as much as losing their salvation. At the root of every discussion is the defense of hope and the risk of confronting the fear of death. It is a personal fight for survival which dominates evangelical thinking thereby clouding their ability to engage in objective discourse. 

The resurrection myth: The catalyst of irrationalism

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the cornerstone of Christianity and basis of their hope. In our next article, we will offer a synopsis of why it is purely irrational to believe in it. We will use the gospel accounts contained in the Bible as our chief witnesses against its plausibility. I invite the reader to leave his faith at the door and examine the data in the glaring and unforgiving light of rational inquiry.

Is America ready to give up the God of the Bible? (I think they already have)

A recent article in The Christian Post entitled, “US Christians increasingly departing from core truths of Christian worldview, survey finds” offers some interesting though not altogether revelatory findings (see below).

https://www.christianpost.com/news/us-christians-increasingly-departing-from-core-truths-of-christian-worldview-survey-finds.html

If you could go hoarse from repeatedly writing about the same thing, I would have lost my voice decades ago. If hypocrisy is one side of the evangelical coin, ignorance is the other. The two are inextricably linked.

I have been seeing similar surveys pop up every few years with the same results. Bottom line: Christians don’t have any idea what it means to be a Christian, doctrinally speaking and therefore practically speaking.

I would bet my left arm if you randomly sampled a thousand “Christians” either going or leaving church, most would fail a simple ten question orthodoxy test. I’m not talking about the “Filioque” clause or iconoclasm. I referring to the relationship of the dual natures of Jesus, the nature of the Trinity, original sin, the procurement of salvation or divine inspiration. These core tenets once determined if you were an heretic or not. American churches are packed with unwitting heretics.

So what? Who cares whether a Christian can parse the complex interaction of Jesus’ human and divine natures? And does it really matter if one understand Paul’s teaching on the universal nature of sin and propitiation? What about unlimited atonement or efficacious grace?

I remember when I was first introduced to the wonderful world of theology. It filled my head and warmed my heart. It made me want to be a better Christian. The more I learned of the underpinnings of my Christian faith, the more appreciative I was and the more I wanted to tell others. Knowledge has a way of transforming oneself and when it came to biblical knowledge even more so.

Imagine if you believe you are learning God’s truth from his holy word. Think about how powerful it is to be fortunate enough to study the mind of God. I bathed in his word and not just in class. I took time each day, about an hour, to meditate and memorize his word so it would infuse me and transform me. This is the nature of the Christian life. If you are not living a victorious life over sin and the temptations of the world, you are not a Christian.

I have been monitoring the evangelical world with keen interest for three decades. I was immersed within it for fifteen years academically and ministerially. One thing that was painfully apparent was the lethargy that pervades evangelicalism. Generally speaking, most are “good” people who live “good” lives and try to be “good” to others. Very few are living extraordinary lives of righteous devotion and dedication to the service of God. For instance, how many live sacrificial lives, as commanded by Jesus?

Sacrifice, servanthood, selflessness and service are not words you associate with American evangelicals. Comfort, convenience, success and consumerism are however. How many evangelicals would rather study (not read) their Bibles than play on their smart phones? How many engage in cold or confrontational evangelism or practice intercessory prayer? How many would rather give up a meal to feed someone else or stop eating ice cream or drinking sugary drinks and reduce their “temple” footprint? What about pornography or premarital sex?

I pick on evangelicals because they more than any sect of Christianity boasts commitment to God’s sacred word and attempt to inflict their ideology on others. The truth is, they don’t submit to the very word they profess to be inerrant and morally binding. The disconnect between their words and actions is obvious.

My informed assessment after careful observation and analysis is most evangelical Christians are in it for the prize at the end — heaven. They maintain a vague semblance of faith to give them assurance of salvation when the die but their faith is weak. Why are so few willing to fully invest their time, energy and resources in their faith?

Answer: The Rapture

The Rapture theory is evangelical Christians get out of jail free card. It promises escape from future pain, suffering and of course judgment. Furthermore, attached to this noxious teaching is equally reprehensible doctrine of eternal security which guarantees salvation. American evangelicals have created this fast food style gospel which is cheap, quick, easy and certain. It is also lacks spiritual nutrition.

Spiritually speaking, American evangelicals are fat, lazy and lethargic. Churches are smorgasbords of pop psychology wrapped in Christian jargon. Words such as repentance and discipline have dropped from the lexicon having been replaced with self actualization and prosperity. Evangelicals have adopted a victimization mentality seeing religious persecution around every corner. Pain, suffering and persecution are meant to be badges of honor for a true disciple of Christ not a reason to whine and complain.

If an alien was told there are parts of the world where people believe in a God who demands righteous obedience from his followers, it would never conclude America was one such place. The most Christian nation on earth (statistically speaking) seems to be falling far short of the expectations associated with that title.

Deism was a wonderful compromise between the burgeoning world of science and theistic religion. It gave religious people an out. They could maintain a belief in a transcendent and impersonal God who did not meddle in the affairs of mankind nor expected much from mankind in return. One could embrace the discoveries of science and coronate rationalism as the new sovereign while still hoping in a blissful afterlife. Evangelicals have by and large made this transition in practice if not in theory. The fear of God is a powerful force in dictating how one lives. Evangelicals seem entirely bereft of such awareness perhaps because they think God isn’t really interested. They sure act like it.

My conversations with Jesus (Part 7: Jesus and Santa Claus)

Me: Today I would like to talk to you about Santa Claus because the two of you have many things in common.

Jesus: Who is Santa Claus?

Me: Santa Claus is a fictitious character based on a real person, St. Nicholas. Over the centuries multiple traditions have contributed to his transformation and the creation of a mythical legend steeped in wonder and mystery. He represents a spirit of joy, giving and good will toward mankind. However, he is best known for his ability to deliver toys to millions of children in a single night. He accomplishes this by riding in a flying chariot pulled by flying deer. This holiday coincides with the Christian celebration of your miraculous virgin birth.

Jesus: What does this have to do with me and Christmas? My life was about righteous living and the coming kingdom not gifts for children and a magic chariot.

Me: That is precisely the point of our discussion today. You’ll have to forgive me for saying, but despite St. Nicklaus being dead, the myth surrounding Santa inspires great joy in millions of children who await his arrival every Christmas morning. Belief he is alive has a profound impact on children. Eventually children grow up and realize almost everything about him is fictional but many pass this tradition on to their children and so on. Much like your resurrection, those who believe are genuinely filled with joy and hope. As you yourself would admit, almost nothing about the current version of Christianity reflects any of your actual teaching especially its emphasis on Judaism. 

Interestingly, Santa is also known to keep a “Naughty List” which contain the name of boys and girls who have been bad. Parents will use this fictitious list to coerce better behavior in much the same way Christians use the threat of judgment to illicit obedience. 

Jesus: I see where you’re going but there’s a big difference because my followers believed they saw me which generated their conviction in my resurrection. 

Me: In the history of Christianity, those who claim to have actually seen you represent an infinitesimally small number compared with the billions who believe in you but have never seen you. This is similar to children and Santa Claus.

Jesus: But he is a child’s fairy tale. Adults do not believe in Santa Claus because they know he is folklore.

Me: You are right of course, but why don’t they believe anymore? Children grow up and learn the truth about Santa Claus which moves him from fact to fiction. In the case of your resurrection, for fifteen hundred years there was no one to challenge the myth. People assumed you were alive and real because that is what they were taught from childhood with few exceptions. Then along came science and acted like the parent informing their child Santa was not real. It provided convincing proof which many “children” accepted while others refused to believe. The power to believe was stronger than the will not to believe because some did not want to abandon the gift of salvation. 

Jesus: How else are we similar?

Me: Mystery and the supernatural surround both of you. Santa is believed to live at a place called the North Pole where he, his wife and an army of elves are thought to make the toys for children in a huge workshop. On Christmas Eve, Santa’s sleigh carries these toys around the world to each home. It is pulled by a team of reindeer which can fly allowing Santa to visit each child in a single night at incredible speed. Santa is thought to have magical powers to be able to carry so many toys, to so many children in a single night. 

Jesus: But I did have power from the LORD to perform signs and wonders which were real unlike Santa’s.

Me: Actually, the original St. Nicholas was thought to have healing powers much like yours. Many believed he had power over demons, could control nature and even perform resurrections. Of course these stories gained popularity long after his death as did yours.

Jesus: Perhaps God was working through him.

Me: As we said in an earlier conversation, since the dawn of science, there has never been a single substantiated miracle. But there are multiple other supernatural details besides your actual resurrection which have been created to explain many discrepancies. You are thought to have been able to walk through locked doors, appear and disappear at will, ascend to heaven and bestow spiritual gifts upon your believers. 

Jesus: I see the comparison but why do Christians allow both to be celebrated on the same day if they know Santa Clause is a myth?

Me: I suppose it’s the confluence of the secular and sacred. The traditions of Christmas surrounding your birth are regarded by many as areligious and even many Christians do not consider Santa Claus an intrusion into their faith. Each sees the other as innocuous although some conservative Christians eschew anything not specifically linked to your miraculous birth. I don’t want to belabor the point but the bulk of Christians are not so committed as to care enough to try to eradicate Santa Claus due largely to the massive economic impact this tradition brings. Since almost all benefit financially, either directly or indirectly, from this aspect of Christmas, they are not about to try to stop it. 

Jesus: So Christmas is both a day of religious celebration and a celebration of monetary gain?

Me: Yes but I would say the financial aspect greatly overshadows the religious element. The blending of these traditions is evidence of the sacralism that pervades American society but it also reveals the fundamental greed which underlies it. Each year many decry this point but it falls on deaf ears. 

I would conclude this discussion with this observation. One of the most ironic things in America is some staunchly conservative Christians like evangelicals, vehemently oppose the promotion of Santa and Christmas because of the magic that surrounds it. Yet when it comes to you, they accept everything about your life as factual no matter how supernatural it is. You are thought to have walked on water and calmed a storm on command. You are believed to have turned water into wine and multiplied a few loaves and fish into enough to feed thousands. You are even credited with raising a man named Lazarus from the dead. All of these things many Christians accept without reservation but take offense at the idea of Santa. 

I can tell you Santa Claus has not been responsible for murders, child abuse and other untold atrocities committed in your name. In fact, Santa Claus represents the good in mankind. Each year at Christmas the spirit of kindness and generosity permeates society.  Santa does bring a little magic into the world and it has never harmed anyone. 

Merry Christmas Jesus 

Is your faith inherited or investigated?

Nobody accepts Christianity who doesn’t also embrace at least part of its faith — the resurrection of Jesus. It takes faith to believe Christianity, without which it is untenable.

The overwhelming majority of evangelical Christians, or any Christian for that matter, inherit their faith from one or more parents or family member. Rarely does one enter the faith through a sincere and objective investigation because such does not lead to the claim of Christianity. It is a religion that exploits the weak, young, vulnerable, desperate or depressed.

Often I feel I am stating the absolute undeniable truth and no one believes me or perhaps is listening to me. It is frustrating. But here we go again:

Christianity is a primarily an irrational belief system built on fear and fueled by false hope.

No rational person should disagree with this statement since it is perfectly accurate when thoroughly evaluated. Those who do either haven’t thought through the basis of their faith or don’t want to.

There are a hundred reasons why belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead is irrational and they all go back to whether the Bible is a reliable authority on it and the other things it affirms. After decades of exhaustive study and analysis, I can state with certainty it is not a credible source.

It then falls to those who disagree to support their claim beginning with a single piece of rational evidence. A presuppositional belief in the supernatural is a deductive argument that must be proven logical. However, when examining the biblical record, we find contradictions, incongruences and implausibilities among the gospel accounts which are the only evidence Christians have.

The so-called “eyewitness” defense which Christians most often cite is fraught with difficulties since not a single person actually saw Jesus physically walk out of the tomb. Furthermore, biblical scholars (not evangelical “scholars”) agree the four gospels were written by non associates of Jesus. The names they bear are traditional apellations not original autographs.

The deeper our investigation goes the greater one’s facility with literary and textual criticism must be. It has become much too easy for Christians to discount data that challenges their faith simply because they are unaware of it a never taken the time to learn it. It is convenient to dismiss and discount real scholarship as anti-God and anti-supernatural without first considering the alternative.

Being uninformed about the nature of critical biblical studies is the lifeblood of Christians especially evangelical protestants who adamantly profess belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the biblical text. In its place, is a wealth of misinformation which masquerades as rational faith. Intellectual inbreeding provides constant reinforcement of evangelical ideology giving believers the illusion of objectivity.

However, even the most biblically minded evangelical cannot escape the fact their faith boils down to experientialism as its ultimate defense. At some point every believer defaults to their own experience with God through his holy scriptures as proof of their divine authority. It is the only means to defend the myriad textual issues found throughout the Bible whether factual, chronological, scientific or logical.

Let’s use one simple example. There is no archeological support for the mass Exodus of enslaved Israelites from bondage in Egypt having died by the millions in the Sinai desert. Conservative Christians will defer to a miraculous explanation in defense of biblical integrity which leads one back to why the Bible merits such authority. Christians will claim because it is the inspired Word of God which begs the question, “Why do we accept it as God’s word?” The answer comes back, “Because it contains data which makes this claim.” Eventually this endless circle of fallacious reasoning must be broken with indisputable evidence upon which inerrancy rests.

The cornerstone of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. We should expect the only records (the gospels) of this momentous event to be unanimously consistent in the details surrounding it — they are not. My departure from Christianity is traceable to the many disparities among these accounts. To suggest God truly inspired these men to record an accurate account of His Son’s resurrection from the dead via His Holy Spirit is a gross insult to God.

In other posts I have taken considerable time working through all the material in exacting detail to show how utterly improbable and implausible belief in the resurrection is. I refer those interested in evaluating the material themselves to these earlier posts. Suffice it to say, an honest yet critical analysis leads inexorably to the conclusion these contain several traditions in conflict.

Lest the reader think this is the only evidence against biblical authority, it is only one of many but arguably the most important. The corpus of New Testament teaching when subjected to rigorous analysis yields the same conclusion. The resurrection of Jesus is an ancient superstition around which was built primitive Christian thought. It began as a sect of second temple Judaism and was eventually subsumed by Paul’s version of the gospel which operated outside the law and traditions.

Many Christians will naturally ignore these findings to preserve their faith. Evangelicalism from its inception has placed a premium on emotionalism over intellectualism considering the latter an enemy of faith. Tragically, this sentiment has remain embedded within the evangelical psyche throughout its history and to this day.