Evangelical Christians are predisposed to believe the unimaginable, impossible and improbable.
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” (Colossians 2:2-4)
This mindset stems from their theistic and inerrantist beliefs coupled with experientialism. Daily experience with a personal God is marked by feelings of joy, peace, strength, comfort, guidance, hope and love. This divine awareness is derived from and affirmed by the Bible particularly as regards their union with God through Jesus via the Holy Spirit.
Chess is governed by certain inexorable rules to which each player is bound and from which no player can deviate. A pawn moves a specific way under certain conditions as does every other piece on the board. Each player strategizes knowing his/her opponent must adhere to these predetermined patterns. Now suppose one player when maneuvered into a position of checkmate, picks up his/her king and nonchalantly moves it to another (safe) square. What would be the reaction of the his/her opponent? Outrage, confusion and a sense of disrespect?
Those of us who have engaged an evangelical in “dialogue” [the reason for quotation marks will be made clear later] know the futility of such an exercise. Evangelicals are not interested in compromise when it comes to the essentials of their faith. They have “the truth” and are not about to surrender it. They may concede on tertiary issues but the central tenets are sacrosanct and beyond refutation. Thus, their sole purpose in discussion is evangelistic. They want to convert the other person.
I have been locked in a verbal battle with evangelicals more often than I care to remember. Each time the result was the same: exasperation. All conversations invariable devolve into one of two default positions taken by evangelicals. Either they defer to the divine “mystery” argument which suggests certain things are unknowable and will never be known until “we get to heaven.” (Note: The Apostle Paul frequently deferred to this defense when faced with explaining Gentile inclusion. See Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 13:2; 14:2; 15:51, Ephesians 3:3,6, Colossians 2:2). So much of New Testament theology is irreconcilable with Judaism forcing these writers to delve beneath the surface of the text for an esoteric meaning discoverable only to the initiated. The other position is an unabashed retreat to the supernatural explanation. Herein goes argument:
A supernatural God (Yahweh) who supernaturally employed men (typically prophets and poets) via His supernatural Spirit (divine inspiration) to record supernatural events (miracles, signs and wonders) which He supernaturally preserved (infallibility or inerrancy) in a supernatural Book (The Bible), the most important being the miraculous resurrection of His eternal Son, Jesus who can and will do anything He pleases even the impossible and improbable regardless of how mortal carnal men view it.
This is a massive conceptual wall to breach extending up to the very gates of heaven and stretching as far as the eye can see.
Evangelicals are fond of using this argument whenever put in a position of rational checkmate. Evolution is dismissed despite a mountain of scientific evidence supporting it. Climate change is denied as inconsistent with God’s sovereign apocalyptic plan for earth’s final demise. Biblical miracles are posited based on sciences inability to prove otherwise, thus shifting the burden of proof. Anachronisms in the Biblical text are rationalized based purely on remote possibility. Contradictions in the gospel accounts are forced into bizarre distortions and unrealistic harmonizations to preserve the integrity of the text. Circular logic is accepted as inferential based on the assumption of inerrancy. Undo credence is given to tradition over sound logic and common sense. In short, the more outlandish the possibility of something happening, the more likely it did, because it is God’s desire to confound mortal man’s attempts to comprehend him.
“33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and i knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”” (Isaiah 40:13 as quoted from the LXX in Romans 11:33,34)
There is literally no argument against Biblical authority evangelicals cannot explain away using deductive reasoning or the indefensible presumption of divine inspiration. If extra terrestrials were to land on the earth and state there is no God, evangelicals would claim they were demons masquerading as aliens.
This article attempts to give insight into how some, not all, evangelicals think, based largely on my own years of experience immersed in the evangelical culture. While to the outsider this method of heavenly thinking (sometimes referred to as “magical thinking”) may seem absurd, to the evangelical it is perfectly consistent with their faith. Some evangelicals may feel sheepish about using this pseudo-logic due to their mild investment in the faith while others are unashamed to own it. In fact, they are emboldened by the privilege of defending God’s holy truth regardless of how absurd and ridiculous it appears to the non regenerate!
As an interesting side note, when I was an evangelical there existed a number of urban legends which circulated throughout the evangelical world as fact, e.g., Scientists had found sea fossils on Mount Ararat proving a universal flood. Alongside this was the purported discovery of the remnants of Noah’s Ark made of an unidentifiable ancient wood. Major airlines refused to have two born-again pilots on the same flight for fear of the Rapture leaving the plane without a pilot. Charles Darwin became a Christian on his deathbed (there is an endless list of notable atheists who underwent similar conversions). Astronomers had discovered a missing day in their galactic calibrations supporting the sun standing still in Joshua. Stories of demon possessed bikers bending iron bars when an evangelical shared the gospel with them, groups of men being unable to restrain a single demon possessed person usually a woman, people speaking perfectly in a foreign language or”tongue” they had never studied. This shows how willing evangelicals are to believe the unbelievable.
Some may be asking at this point why even bother attempting to penetrate this impregnable wall of faith. Two reasons: First, there was a time when I would never have heard these arguments. I was closed minded for Jesus. I pretended to listen to people’s attempts to destroy my trust in the Bible, but inwardly I felt sorry they were so blinded by sin. However, over time my doubts reached a tipping point, and I began to consider the possibility of another viewpoint. It is my hope these articles may plant seeds of doubt that one day may take root and bear fruit.
Second, it is critical society better understand the intractableness of evangelicals as they continue to grow in influence. I have read countless articles by those trying to decode the evangelical mind. Most get some things right but what they lack is personal experience as a devout evangelical for which there is no substitute. It is the difference between two gynecologists, one a man the other a mother. Both are highly qualified academically, but only one can boast of having actual experience with pregnancy and child birth.
Future posts will attempt to highlight further the supreme power of personal experience in the life of evangelical Christians. Evangelicalism’s predecessor Pietism’s genesis was subjectivism, a reliance of feeling as paramount to the salvation process and sustainer of daily life. This dimension will be explored in depth later.