My personal sacrifice upon the altar of evangelicalism

Christians talk a lot about sacrifice. I know more than most what that means.

I sacrificed the best years of my life heavily immersed in a religious faith I discovered to be false. From eighteen to thirty I was the most devout, committed evangelical I could be. I invested thousands of dollars in tuition, dorm and books. I worked to be able to afford my education and used every dollar towards it in some way. I had no interest in fancy clothes, electronics, car or earthly possession of any sort. I was investing in heavenly things!

I graduated from Bible college and seminary with a 3.6 GPA average. I was newly married to a beautiful evangelical girl who also was deeply committed to Jesus. It looked to our many Christian friends we were destined (by God of course) to a wonderful life of full time ministry. I, however, was haunted by doubts about evangelicalism and it was hurting our relationship.

My marriage ended not long after leaving seminary. I took different jobs to make some money while I spent the bulk of my time researching my evangelical roots. After about two years of intensive study, I had come to the painful conclusion that not only was evangelicalism “unbiblical” but Christianity at its very core was a theological farce.

I would spend the next two decades pouring over the Bible in exacting detail looking for the truth. If Christianity was not the legitimate fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy, what was it and how did it come to be? This hypothesis would guide me through thousands of hours of exhausting and at times frustrating research as I tried to fit the pieces together. It is one thing to know something isn’t true; it another thing to offer a reasonable alternative explanation. This was my goal.

I cannot stress enough how hard and taxing this has been on me and those close to me. I have lost countless friends due to my obsession to uncover the truth. I have never had a moment of true peace or happiness since embarking on this mission. I have not had a single full nights sleep in over twenty years. I study before I go to sleep, I think and mediate on some aspect of the Bible, Jesus or Christianity during the night sometimes for hours. I wake up and spend the day engaged in study and writing. It has been seven years since I had a job which has only intensified my efforts. The emotional toll has been at times unbearable but I have told myself it will be worth it in the end. Now, is the end. Now, is the time to tell my story, hence this blog.

My wife and I used to live in Calgary, Canada. One of our favorite things to do was to head to Banff National Park and hike up a mountain. This was definitely “God’s country.” Here’s the thing about climbing a mountain. The reward is worth the effort. It can take hours of thigh burning, sweat dripping, lungs bursting work before you finally summit and are greeted with spectacular vistas. It is knowing what awaits you that propels you to the top. These many years have been similar. The other thing the top of a mountain provides is perspective. You see things you never could have seen at the bottom.

Asking an evangelical to join me in retracing my journey up a mountain is itself a monumental request. Why would someone want to take a trip that could very well result in the losing of their faith? It’s like sawing off the branch you’re standing on. Is it worth the risk of losing your hope for the sake of intellectual and emotional freedom? It may not be for them but what about the rest of us!

I will repeatedly make the point evangelical Christian is no longer entirely private or personal. Evangelicals are aggressively trying to impact society in the name of Jesus and exploiting the Bible to do it. The LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy group, immigrants and minorities are among their favorite targets — and they are targets. Climate science and Middle Eastern foreign policy are also in their sights stemming from an apocalyptic world view. And what about children born into an evangelical home. They are often socialized into the faith for years being told once they are adults they can decide if they want to stay. How could they possibly leave after that degree of indoctrination? Evangelicalism is not a victimless religion.

My main focus is on a particular subset of Christianity which is often referred to as “evangelicalism.” But my reach extends to any Christian of any denomination who uses the Bible as a weapon to inflict suffering on others and then justifies it as divinely mandated. We have seen the deleterious effects of Catholic dogma on the priesthood resulting in untold numbers of abuse cases. No Christianity, no priests. No priests, no opportunities to abuse this sacred trust. Do the holy math!

I have paid the price. I have earned the right to be heard. I have so far gained absolutely nothing for my sacrifice. My single greatest desire is to lead a national conversation on the place of the Bible in society. We have accorded the Bible a place of supremacy which is both unearned and undeserved. Almost everyone who studies the Bible does so as one invested in its central message — the glorious hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Churches, Bible colleges and seminaries are not in the least objective when it comes to disseminating its teachings. Rarely do scholarly finds about the inherent deficiencies in the Bible make their way to the public square. And if they do, they are too technical for the average person to decode anyway. My work attempts to be completely accessible for anyone who can read. That means you (:

Perhaps no better analogy exists than that of a courtroom. This journey will take some time. Like a court case where a mountain of evidence needs to be presented before a reasonable verdict can be rendered, I ask my readers, the jury, to patiently and above all non prejudiciously wait before deciding. It took me decades to get to this place but I have done all the hard lifting. I have taken the wrong turns so you don’t have to. Imagine a jury member walking into a courtroom and declaring they have made up their mind and do not need to hear any evidence. Do not prejudge the evidence but evaluate it as thought you were not a believer (if you are a believer that is). This is the only way to ensure objectivity.

I began this post with a reference to the sacrifice I have made and the little I have to show for it. I have been closely monitoring evangelicalism for a long time and I know there is a lot of dissatisfaction and disillusionment among its followers, especially the younger generation. Why? Because they are more globally aware than any generation before them. They are not restricted by their parents beliefs. They are free to think for themselves. And they have too much to lose if it’s wrong.

On the other hand, when you have one foot in the grave, you are not about to question what’s on the other side if you think it’s eternal bliss. Older evangelicals are not about to entertain the possibility they are wrong. If you believe your last breath on earth is your first one in heaven, nobody is going to tell you otherwise. They have invested far too much to look back now.

I started my evangelical life as a teenager. I have surrendered everything. Up to this point, it has been a wasted life. Only when people finally see the Bible and Jesus in the glaring light of reason will my efforts not have been in vain. The fruit of my labor will be the triumph of rationality over revelation.

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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