Imagine an evangelicaless society. It’s easy if you try.
Introduction and overview
This article explores what an #evangelicaless society might look like. But first we will look at the every growing dangers of evangelical ideology and what drives their militancy to force society to conform to evangelical ideals. We will identify its dualistic world view and the moral superiority accompanying it. We will explore the logical fallacy that atheism is amoral and leads to immorality. Finally we will propose humanism as an alternative philosophy and the most reasonable and equitable system of governance. But first why consider the prospect of a society or world where evangelicalism does not exist in the first place?
Evangelicalism: A ticking time bomb
For the first time in its history, evangelicalism* is poised to lead to the potential degradation of society and demise of the planet. By opposing social and environmental initiatives, seeking legislative change concerning the rights of women and the LGBTQ community, implementing immigration restrictions and attempting to influence foreign policy, they are having an adverse affect which is causing serious repercussions in people’s lives, global health and political stability home and abroad. In many ways, evangelicalism is retarding social, moral, political and environmental progress.
* [Throughout this and other articles (See especially my article entitled, “Are you a “Most,” “Not all” or “Not sure” Evangelical Christian?”) we will use the term “evangelical” or “evangelicalism” in a general sense to refer to those to whom the current content applies. I acknowledge this changes from believer to believer making a specific designation impossible. Furthermore, many times the nature of the topic extends outside the boundaries of what we would consider evangelical dogma and would include other subsets of Christianity, conservative and otherwise. Therefore, the responsibility lies with the reader to keep this imperfect generalization in mind throughout this and other articles unless specified.]
Apocalypticism, pessimism and the doomsday scenario
God has begun the countdown to the end of the world. And evangelicals couldn’t be happier.
Evangelical ideology is fueled by a theologically flawed interpretive system called pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalism. Embedded within this is apocalypticism, a belief in the inevitable decline and destruction of the world in a cataclysmic battle called Armageddon. This pessimistic theory celebrates wars, conflicts, natural disasters, famine, disease and catastrophes as signs heralding the End Times or Last Days of earth.
It is a cowardly and irresponsible outlook whereby true Christians (evangelicals) are supernaturally rescued or “raptured” from the earth, thereby, escaping the coming judgment. The effectively become heavenly spectators to the rest of the world’s pain and suffering. This noxious teaching permeates much of American evangelicalism and is considered irrefutable and a test of one’s belief in inerrancy by those who hold to it.
Evangelicals have been emboldened as never before since affiliating themselves with Donald Trump’s presidency. Recent policies like the moving of the American embassy to Jerusalem and allowing Israel to annex occupied territory help to foment anger and fuel conflict which satisfies their End Times scenario.
Many evangelicals do not have the slightest interest in improving this world such as environmental improvement initiatives or strategies for peace in the Middle East. These are seen as running contrary to God’s global plan. Instead they seek to do what they can to align themselves as participants in his will. President Trump is considered a chosen instrument albeit a morally flawed one; therefore, they will support him regardless. In short, if you’re not on God’s side, you’re against him. Interestingly, while evangelicals are content to watch the world spin out of control abroad, domestically they have chosen a different strategy.
Evangelicals believe they are the moral stopgap in what would be an otherwise godless and secular society devolving into anarchy and chaos. They think without the righteous restraining influence of God’s spirit-indwelling believers, society would spiral into an abyss of moral decay and debauchery. Attempts by evangelicals to implement Christian Dominionism or Theonomy (a society governed by evangelical Christian values and the Mosaic law) in part or full is based on a double fear.
First, some evangelicals believe failure to curtail the moral collapse of society (as they view it) could jeopardize America’s continued exceptionalism in the world. America currently enjoys its position as the richest and freest country in the world directly because of its advocation of Christian values. If these are compromised so too will be America’s current state of divine favor. This thinking breeds a dangerous blend of nationalism and evangelicalism. God may chastise the nation for failing to uphold his decrees by bringing upon it hardship and suffering in various forms such as financial or natural disasters, terrorist acts, moral** decline, the profusion of secular humanism the stripping of religious freedoms, all which cause a slow and steady erosion of the American way of life.
** [“Morality” as defined by evangelicals is subjective. Homosexuality and abortion rights are regarded as immoral to them. Historically, they have abandoned the very things evangelicals used to define as immoral: swearing, gambling, dancing, breaking the Sabbath, immodesty, divorce, gossip, obesity, idleness and drinking. Evangelicals are regularly guilty of breaking most of these.]
Second, evangelicals fear the intrusion of liberalism and secularism into their lives and especially that of their children. Charter schools, home schooling and evangelical colleges are attempts to provide an academic counter influence to this concern. Apart from potential long term threats to society (see above paragraph), evangelicals have perceived an attack on their sacred values and them personally in the form of religious persecution.
Evangelical leaders are guilty of inciting paranoia and fear by warning of an America where Bibles are confiscated, the homosexual and transgender agenda is promoted in schools, the theory of creationism is expurgated from school curricula, co-ed bathrooms become the norm creating a potential environment for the sexual exploitation of children and other doomsday scenarios if current trends continue.
What’s wrong with atheism?
To illustrate. Newt Gingrich, while speaking at the Ave Marie School of Law, denounced radical secularists and atheist philosophy as equal to or more dangerous than terrorism. This tired old theory goes something like this: If there are no moral absolutes, who’s to say what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, people are free to do whatever they want, e.g., marry farm animals, go on a rape spree, steal your neighbors car, because morality is relative.
Such inflamed rhetoric resonates with conservative Christians like evangelicals because it makes them moral crusaders and defenders of America’s tradition of family (Read: Christian) values. It also gives them an air of moral superiority as God’s holy warriors in the fight for America’s soul.
But equating “no God” with “no morals” when it comes to atheism is a mischaracterization which is both unfair and untrue. According to this argument, Christians should be the most morally upright people in society, yet they are hardly that.
Let’s face facts, Christianity is not exempt from its share of moral atrocities past, present and most certainly future as any student of church history can attest. Once Christianity achieved status as the official state religion of Rome in the fourth century it began to flex its imperial muscle. As Christianity consolidated its beliefs in the next few centuries and determined what was orthodox (largely for political expediency), dissenters or heretics were summarily persecuted. The Edict of Thessalonica issued by Theodosius I (380AD) effectively legislated persecution of Christians holding nonconformists views such as Arianism. This would be Christianity’s official beginning of ecclesiastical bullying of those who opposed her.
Today Rome’s role as moral watchdog has disappeared. It has become largely impotent assuming more of a defensive position when it comes to policing morality and orthodoxy around the globe. Its reputation has been so tarnished by past transgressions and on going scandals within the priesthood that papal power is largely directed toward making atonement for past wrongs. Words from the Vatican largely fall on deaf ears.
Neither time nor space permits a rehearsal of past atrocities committed throughout the centuries of Catholicism. The Crusades, inquisitions, gunboat evangelization, holy wars, Catholic-Protestant wars, anti-semitism and slavery mark its history like dark stains on a white cloth. Suffice it to say, they are not alone in abusing their ecclesiastical power.
Evangelical churches in America have also been rocked by accusations of sexual impropriety and financial irresponsibleness among its leadership. The start and growth of the #churchtoo movement attests to decades of unresolved misconduct by men in leadership. Evangelical women are sharing their stories of marginalization and denigration in a predominantly male hierarchical system which often places blame on the accuser (women) while excusing the accused (men). Evangelical men have been biblically conditioned to think God has placed them in leadership position over women which has made exploitation not only easier but in some cases justified in their eyes. Women can be regarded as innately driven to tempt men (like Eve), while men are vulnerable to seduction (like Adam).
Note to Reader: The biblical position on gender differences and how it has contributed to the subjugation of women within the Christian subculture will be discussed in a future article.
Televangelism and the Prosperity Gospel are flagrant attempts by evangelical leaders to prey on the vulnerable. They (ab)use their positions as God’s “servants” to manipulate and guilt viewers into sending them money, many cannot afford to give, with promises of monetary rewards or other forms of blessing. Many do so out of fear and desperation hoping to secure God’s help and favor. Each day many are victimized by these holy hucksters who live in luxury off of their pain and misery which is presented as a “test of faith.”
Yet in spite of all this and the flagrant hypocrisy demonstrated by allegiance and unwavering support of Donald Trump, evangelicals continue trying to legislate their brand of morality on a unsympathetic public. Whatever moral high ground they used to occupy has long been ceded in exchange for access to the White House. Herein lies the danger. In the past evangelicals had political clout but it never went so far and had as much impact as now. They have a voice and a President willing to listen and act to keep their support.
Back to Newt’s argument. It is preposterous to think Christianity, which operates on moral absolutes and the fear of God, is some kind of beacon of goodness. Nothing in my studies of Christianity has proven its absence would undeniably improve society. Second, where is the evidence without it, society would lose its moral compass? I do not doubt religion did once occupy a vital role in society. It may well have provided much needed structure and stability. It has provided peace, comfort, strength and hope to untold millions for centuries and will continue to do so if left unchallenged. It has left pain, suffering and death in its wake. The days of religion occupying a central place in society are long gone. Science and rationality are the new “gods.”
A final word on the absurdity of Newt Gingrich’s insipid argument. The only way society would spiral out of control would be if civil law disappeared. And it does not come from God. It comes from a utilitarian approach to life.
When the Ten Commandments were written, there was no law of the land. It was essential the Israelites viewed these statutes as having originated from God in order for them to have the necessary authority for obedience. Furthermore, those who invented them (sorry, they were not inscribed on stone tablets by the finger of God) did so to ensure an orderly community. It was imperative the Israelites functioned as a cohesive unity and not one marked by lawlessness causing strive and division. Ultimately, people living in a hostile environment beset by enemies on all sides needed moral guidelines to ensure their survival. It would be no different today if suddenly all laws were rescinded. Society would soon collapse from within and be vulnerable to outside aggression.
A humanist manifesto
With God gone, let’s consider an alternative. What about humanism? Could this not replace religion and offer all the benefits without the negatives? It might do a much better job because it transcends culture, gender, race and social class, the things to which an ideal society aspires. The principles which underpin humanism are common to every geographical location where people exist.
Let’s face it. Except for lip service and occasional Christian activities (church, prayer, Bible reading, tithing), Christians have a flaccid faith at best. Embracing humanism is a very small step.
Humanism seeks to put men and women —not God— in the center of the universe, figuratively speaking. The value of each person’s rights and freedoms are cherished, championed and defended regardless of social class, gender, race or literally anything else. Science, reason and common sense dictate what is right and wrong not an ancient book of superstitions. Nobody uses God as a heavenly weapon against those with whom they disagree. The laws of the land rule not cultural bigotry and short sightedness from millennia ago.
Humanism voids God as an imminent personal being and elevates each person as of inestimable value and worth. Ultimate authority resides in scientific inquiry, rational scrutiny and the common good of all.
An evangelicaless society
Incidentally, conservative and evangelical Christians are the only ones who entertain the romantic notion of their indispensability to maintaining world order. In fact, not only would a world without evangelicalism be preferable; it would be exceedingly better! Imagine if evangelicalism (not evangelicals) disappeared today along with all its influences. What would society look like tomorrow? Perhaps like this.
Imagine a society where men and women are not judged or challenged about their sexual orientation or gender identification based on an ideology rooted in ancient superstitions and cultural bigotry. Imagine a society where women are free to decide what to do with their bodies without being labelled child murderers or promiscuous. Imagine a society where serious environmental concerns are taken seriously and not dismissed as scientific hokum. Imagine a society that sees political instability in regions like the Middle East as a grave concern and not a sign of a coming apocalypse to be celebrated. Imagine a society where the poor, persecuted and displaced are welcomed and not shunned as unwanted criminals, job stealers and welfare cases. Imagine a society where social justice is seen by all as the mark of a healthy and progressive society and not a bandaid solution to a spiritual sickness to be ignored. Imagine a political system divided by reasonable differences of proper governance and not bipartisanism due to noxious sacralism.
Religion is a deadly force in much of our world and has been since its start. This is obvious. The Hebrew Bible reads like war propaganda which much of it is. It is pure sectarian rhetoric intended to illicit faith in Yahweh alone, justify past atrocities and inspire hope in a restored Israel.
The prospect of a religionless world is appealing but sadly a long way off. I have made the case in other posts, as long as mankind is ruled by fear of the afterlife, religion will always occupy a prominent place in its heart and that of the world.
A plea to stop believing and start thinking
The goal of these articles is quite simple: to expose the reasons why the Bible should not be trusted. It is a gradual chipping away at the foundation of Christianity, the credibility of the Bible. I hope by bringing the Bible out from the shadows of faith and into the bright light of rational scrutiny, more will see it for what it is — the work of men and not the Word of God.
Ignorance is indeed bliss but that doesn’t mean it is right. Faith is no excuse for being biblically misinformed. Those who proudly embrace the Bible as inerrant must be willing to admit to its many shortcomings. It should not be publicly paraded as if its infallibility were beyond dispute. Unfortunately, evangelicals and conservative Christians by and large control the dissemination about Bible which the public receives. Chances are if you are not a Christian, you are not a serious student of the Bible. And if you are a Christian, you tow the party line when it comes to who Jesus is and what it means to be a believer. While there may be differences among denominations, the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus is the one constant which unites all Christians.
Imagine going to a trial where the judge is married to the defendant, the jury members are all relatives, the defense attorney is his brother and there is no prosecutor. Would this be considered a fair trial where truth would prevail?
There are very few voices in a crowd of millions presenting a reasonable argument for why the Bible should be tried for impersonating the Truth. While it may contain some truth, its central premise as the divinely inspired Word of God is false. It is a book of internal contradictions, historical, archeological and chronological inaccuracies, logical inconsistencies and scientific absurdities. Only the most devoted or ignorant would subscribe to its inerrancy.
Knowledge is the currency of truth
Faith is not wanting to know the truth or bothering to look for it because you already think you have it.
There is a reason why the advent of the Age of Enlightenment brought the first serious challenge to revelation as a source of truth. For almost two thousand years, the Bible enjoyed the luxury of being untested, unchallenged and unapproachable. Most, even priests, could not read it.
Making determinations about the Bible’s value from the position of an invested believer is ludicrous. Entering the faith never having conducted a thorough and objective evaluation from a non Christian perspective seems backwards but inevitable. If the majority of evangelicals are socialized in the faith, where is the counter balance? These children are warned of the secularistic viewpoint of their unsaved teachers thus unfairly prejudicing truth when it is presented.
Adult believers are also insulated from exposure to a rational perspective. Those who do offer anything resembling an objective viewpoint are quickly dismissed as disgruntled ex-believers, anti-God scientists, liberal minded scholars or self-seeking outsiders. The voice of reason is rarely heard and listened for even less.
I spent a decade in evangelical institutions where it was assumed without question, the pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalist viewpoint was the most biblical and one that honored God, Jesus and the Bible. Anything else was theologically inferior if not heretical. As students we were never encouraged to think critically on essential doctrines only on tertiary ones. Alternative or competing theories were presented more as straw men to be used to bolster our own dogmas. This is true in evangelical churches throughout America. You go to church to reinforce your belief not question it.
It falls entirely to the believer to make the effort to suspend belief, no matter how difficult, weigh the evidence dispassionately without the encumbrance of faith. One must take on the role of a truth seeker guided only by an unwavering devotion to factual analysis and logic. One must not allow themselves to be swayed by an inner compulsion or faith reflex to resist anything which feels like betraying God or Jesus. Here again is the emotional element which drives faith and makes it immensely personal. Evangelicals often describe it as a relationship with God not a religion about God.
Faith can be blinding. Ask Paul (see Acts 9:3-9, where Paul is blinded by a “flash” of heavenly light). Once faith has become experiential, it is personal. The complexities of a spiritual experience which touts itself as relational to the divine make questioning it almost impossible. How do you deny feelings which are thought to be generated by God himself either directly or through His Word, the Bible? How do you deny the sense of peace, strength, comfort, joy and love that accompany this awareness of the divine? It is insurmountable for most unless countered by a profoundly negative experience such as the sudden loss of a loved one, terminal sickness, relationship or financial crisis etc… The depth of one’s negative experience must approximate the satisfaction of one’s God’s experience for them to consider doubting him.
I know from my own experience the sense of guilt which is triggered when one strays outside the prescribed boundaries and entertains thoughts contrary to the fundamentals of Christianity. These prevent most evangelicals from even considering the unthinkable — rejecting Jesus as Lord. Some believe this to be the only way to lose eternal security. It is like a psychological prison. Built in safeguards like this have protected Christianity from imploding since the beginning.
My faith in who Jesus was a slow and steady erosion over a few years of intensive study until one day it collapsed. I never saw it coming. This is what made my departure from evangelicalism and Christianity so profound and honest. I began my journey with the best intention. I wanted to deepen and strengthen my faith, not lose it. This is why I encourage others to do the same.
If someone had challenged me to critically examine who Jesus was, I would have got defensive and perhaps not undertaken such a quest. But if someone had challenged me to thoughtfully and honestly evaluate at all the data which led to this conclusion, I would have done so believing it would lead me to the truth. It did just that except it was not the truth I expected.
Giving up heaven for truth is an unfair trade for most. It is much easier to ignore the evidence and hope for a blessed future. To these believers I ask of them two things.
- Take a break from your faith to undertake a serious and critical evaluation of it free of bias, prejudice or preconceived ideas no matter how emotionally painful. Truth can defend itself. It doesn’t need help. This is precisely how I began my journey to discover the truth. Only I lost what I had thought was irreproachable. Until then…
- Keep your faith to yourself. Stop infecting others with it, especially children who are critically vulnerable to parental and adult influences. They should be exempt from indoctrination and socialization into evangelicalism until and unless they decide as adults to embrace it. Giving them the choice after adulthood is like breaking someone’s legs then telling them to leave. Evangelical ideology is psychologically crippling for those who try to escape its grasp later in life.
- Stop voting your faith so the reasonable segment of society does not suffer because of it. Too much is at stake for individuals to decide how others can live their lives and the fear of legal repercussions. It is absurd to think in this modern age, some are able to dictate the rights and freedoms of those who do not share their “values.”
The good, the bad and the ugly: The offspring of dualism
Human beings are vile depraved creatures prone to lawless wickedness while Christians are regenerated children of God with unlimited capacity to do good. Christians are controlled by the Holy Spirit while the rest of us are controlled by our sin nature. Is it any wonder why evangelicals look down on the rest of us poor sinners? I did.
I have said this a lot (and I’ll say it again now). If you have never been immersed in the evangelical culture, you have no idea what is said privately among evangelicals versus publicly to non evangelicals. You would be shocked!
I think it is fair to say when groups of like minded people get together, whether religious or ethnic, they say things in a closed environment they would not otherwise say in an open environment. Those of the same tribe tend to express rawer feelings when huddled together than if around those who do not share their opinions or beliefs for fear of rebuke. Evangelicals take this to extremes.
Walk into most evangelical churches (not those with television cameras) on a Sunday morning and you may be surprised by what you hear. Sermons are peppered with dualistic themes concerning good and evil, God and Satan, angels and demons, believers and unbelievers, light and darkness and the material and spiritual. The “us” versus “them” mentality pervades evangelicalism.
When I was an evangelical I was acutely aware of these dichotomies. It made life exciting and scary at the same time. Every time I encountered a non Christian, I was impressed with my own responsibility to share the gospel. If it was someone I knew, I put up my faith guard so they could not make me stumble. I was fed a steady diet of paranoia and mistrust when it came to the “secular liberal” world.
It should again be noted, not all evangelicals share the same degree of investment in the faith. Many merely dabble experiencing little or no spiritual anxiety. They are not much different from those they meet, nor try to be. Theirs is a purely mental ascent to a belief which rarely touches their lifestyle or their emotions.
The New Testament is no stranger to fear mongering. It highlights the dangers of the non the unseen world of sin, Satan and evil forces.
10”Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)
8”Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8,9)
These are two classic passages which drive this fear and feed the spiritual warfare narrative. To those who believe in the literalness of the Bible, this battle with Satan and his demonic forces is as real as you and I am. As I said earlier, it does not only stoke mistrust in all things non Christian (secular education, Hollywood, the liberal media, science, Muslims and other religions etc…), it makes life invigorating.
Evangelicals get up in the morning and engage Satan and his dark forces for control of righteousness in an otherwise mundane world. Evangelicals are to be in a constant state of battle readiness wherever they go and whomever they meet. This heightens one’s sense of divine purpose and significance.
Trump has helped make being an evangelical sexy. He made the votes of those commonly ignored and marginalized matter. They see his actions as their desires. They occupy center stage and command the world’s attention and respect. Like it or not, we have to placate them or risk the consequences of offending them.
Recently a poll was taking asking Christians if they thought they could “speed up” God’s program in the Middle East and the coming Apocalypse. Almost all said, no. It was neither surprising nor the right question to ask.
Had the question been, “Do you think it important to align yourself with God’s purposes in areas like the Middle East?” The response would have been far different. In truth, there is no difference between these two statements because evangelicals are persuaded their actions are in accordance with God’s plans. Thus they behave as if they do help “speed” them up even if they don’t. It is a matter of semantics. Act as if they are because anything less is disobedience.
Evangelicals are notoriously cagey when it comes to baited questions. They cleverly sidestep them by saying, “Only God knows the answer to that question” or “It’s not up to us to decide who’s going to heaven or not.” In the privacy of their peer groups, they will tell a different tale.
Jews and Evangelicals: Strange bedfellows
I distinctly remember the first time I met a Jewish person. I was nineteen years of age attending Moody Bible Institute. There were a group of Jewish students perhaps four in number called “Jews for Jesus.” I never spoke to any of them because I was too intimidated. After all, these were Jesus’ descendants. I subscribed to their newsletter while at Moody and was fascinated by their evangelistic efforts among their own people.
Throughout my theological studies I don’t remember meeting any more Jewish Christians. I heard the leader of the aforementioned group once but that was the extent of my exposure to Jewish Christians.
As a premillennial dispensationalist, I had a very specific understanding of the Jewish nation which at the time seemed entirely biblical. It seemed to explain the current state of Jews towards Jesus as well as satisfying Hebrew prophecy concerning the promised restoration of Israel. I never remember being taught not to evangelize Jewish people. Why would I? This flies in the face of clear biblical teaching. When I began to hear men like John Hagee of “Christians United for Israel,” absolve Christians of Jewish evangelization, I was more than a little shocked.
Upon listening to him speak and listening to his message, it was apparent he wasn’t getting his teaching from the Bible. Here is a man of sparse theological training professing to be an expert exegete. He is not. He is a charlatan preaching false teaching with questionable motives.
I think it fair to say, if men like Hagee were consistent with the New Testament doctrine of salvation, he might be forced to do some downsizing. His charade has garnered him immense wealth, power, glory and influence. He is not the type of man to give this up for the sake of biblical accuracy.
The only choke point issue which required resolving was preventing evangelical tourists from trying to evangelize resident Jews. This demanded a solution if both sides were to benefit from this partnership. But how do you get around the clear New Testament command to evangelize all non believers, whether Jew or Gentile? If you’re a man like Hagee who is short on exegetical skill but long on “motivation,” you make the Bible say what you want it to say. You rip three little Greek words out of context, apply some theological sophistry and, “Presto” you have invented a teaching that runs contrary to the entire corpus of New Testament teaching. With this nasty annoyance out of the way and a mutual understanding in place, Israel welcomes their “best friends” with open arms.
I know Israel walks a tight rope of political expediency when it comes to evangelicals. It would be hard for any country fighting for its survival in a hostile region to bite the hand that feeds it. In exchange for political and monetary support, Israel only has to indulge evangelical naivety when it comes to their views on salvation and Israel’s future redemption. I’m certain all the tourist dollars and political support received help to avenge and assuage centuries of anti-semitism carried out by Christians.
Jews, as previously mentioned, are willing to accept this ridiculous notion so long as evangelicals don’t try to convert them. It’s not as if they believe it has any merit. I’m sure they find it comical and unless evangelicals suddenly cut off their support will continue to tolerate it.
Evangelicals seem oblivious to the fact despite showing more support to Israel than anybody even Jews themselves, and providing millions in tourist dollars and donations, Jews have shown no interest in converting. Doesn’t this make them curious as to how they see them?
Evangelicals continue to be the laughing stock of the world, although behind their backs by those who use them for their own political ends. It is a faith for the gullible and naive who are so entrenched in the promise of heaven, they refuse to even consider any other possibilities.
Ignorance is indeed bliss but perhaps dangerous too.
“All Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25)
These five (three in Greek) little words have been so completely misinterpreted by evangelical leaders as to throw their entire understanding of Israel’s future into disarray not to mention their doctrine of soteriology.
This passage and indeed Paul’s entire treatment of this subject in chapters nine through eleven must be viewed in a realistic historical context. Only then does the interpretation neatly unfold.
Paul like every Christian anticipated Jesus imminent return. He believed God had given him a brief window of opportunity to evangelize Gentiles for inclusion into God’s program of Israel’s restoration/redemption. I can imagine as Paul wrote these words, he wondered how many days or weeks he had before that window closed and Jesus returned.
Paul’s words are offered in the context of this anticipation. When Jesus does descend from heaven with “all eyes upon him” it is obvious every Jew who had previously rejected him will acknowledge him as their messiah. What Jew wouldn’t? The evidence would be undeniable! With this in mind, Paul could say with conviction, “All Israel will be saved.” I could not agree more… except for one major problem.
Jesus did not return. We know Paul desperately wanted to be alive for Christ’s return (see 2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Instead he died a martyr’s death perhaps thinking this would usher him immediately into his presence (see Philippians 1:20-24, esp. vs. 23). I imagine Paul believed his own death as Apostle to the Gentiles would initiate Jesus’ return and the mass conversion of “all Israel.”
Unfortunately, his failure to appear (because he was dead) renders this verse moot today. If Paul were alive today, he would be the first to admit he was wrong. If Jesus were alive today, he would be aghast Paul had made him Savior of Gentiles. This verse has no relevance today yet evangelicals try to wrench it out of context and force it into their eschatology.
Two thousand years later and the death of millions of “unsaved” Jews renders this text absurd and incompatible with the Christian doctrine of salvation. Paul in this and other epistles states unequivocally everybody is saved the same way. He even stresses their is no difference between Jews and Gentiles.
Evangelicals must admit (to Jews especially) that only Jews who convert to Christianity by accepting Jesus as their messiah Savior will be saved. Everybody else is going to hell. Therefore, millions and millions of Jews who have died in the last two thousand years are in hell (or will be). Only those fortunate to be alive when Jesus’ returns will be saved. Evangelicals are sheepish about admitting this because it would be seen as anti semitic. This is one doctrine evangelicals sweep under the “mystery” rug to be sorted out in heaven.
A much more detailed discussion on the origin and teachings of pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalism and Paul’s teachings on Israel must await a future article.
Of course evangelicals much less most Christians cannot admit Jesus entire messiahship was a farce the moment he died on the cross. His followers invented the “heavenly Christ” theory based on nothing more than mystical encounters of a mentally unstable woman named Mary and a handful of illiterate fishermen.
The homosexual strategy for evangelicals
It wasn’t long ago when evangelicals would staunchly refuse to accept homosexuals into their churches. This was unthinkable, until it wasn’t.
Evangelicals reversed seemed to reverse their position on homosexuality. They have begun to openly welcome homosexuals into their churches. On the surface this sounds progressive and in keeping with Christianity’s commitment to welcome everyone. It isn’t. There is an unscrupulous motive behind it.
All people (Read: Sinners) are allowed in their churches. It is hoped by hearing the gospel, they will be convicted of their sins and convert. Alcoholics will give up booze. Adulterers will give up adultery. Drug addicts will give up drugs. And homosexuals will give up their sinful gay lifestyle. It all falls under the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra.
Publicly evangelicals want everybody to flood into their churches so they can be hear the gospel of God’s love, be saved and become righteous people like themselves. Privately, they despise the sin of homosexuality more than most. The first step is getting them into the church.
Humanism: Replacing God with humankind
Atheism sounds like a scary word for many though that number is falling. It used to be synonymous with amorality. It was once associated with the evil communist regime of the former Soviet Union. The prospect of a President of the United States being an atheist was once unthought. A recent poll shows 60% of Americans would now vote for an atheist president, a figure once at 18% (1958). This trend is encouraging and promises a bright future in American politics and perhaps portends the death of sacralism.
Fundamentally, atheistic humanism places man not God at the centre of the universe and elevates him/her to the supreme position of worthiness. Man is not a fallen depraved sinner incapable of goodness unless regenerated as the New Testament explicitly teaches. Humanism extols the value of each human being as deserving of happiness and freedom. It does not use religion as a bludgeon to beat those who fail to measure up to its standards.
Men such as Newt Gingrich have recently denounced atheism and secular humanism as morally bankrupt, going so far as to equate it with terrorism. His assumption is without an external absolute standard like the Bible, society will devolve into immorality and social chaos. It’s the tired old theory that without divine guidelines, men and women are free to and will engage in all manner of debauchery. Like a ship which has broken free from its moorings, society will drift in to an endless sea of corruption and wickedness. One can’t help wonder how he missed the Bibles absolute teaching on divorce.
Humanism at its core elevates the individual and stresses the value and dignity of each member of society regardless of gender, race, religion or social class. Unlike Christianity which believes all being are fundamentally flawed and incapable of true righteousness until saved. This is the exact opposite of humanism.
Romans chapter three supports Paul’s basic theology of human depravity. It is foundational to his central argument of mankind’s need for the redemption only Jesus’ sacrificial death can provide. Christianity’s stress, particular among evangelicals, on the inherent sinfulness of each individual helps justify this negative view of society in general and their own spiritual elitism in Jesus in particular. It is a convenient way to explain the moral decay they see around them and use the Bible to blame groups like the LGBTQ community.
“There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10b-12, quoting from various Hebrew texts)
When I was in Bible college I was taught, the moment a baby enters the world and cries, it is displaying its selfish sin nature. Babies are not innocent in Christian theology. Everybody inherits Adam’s sin nature. You don’t choose to sin, you sin because you have a sin nature which only can sin. Add to this the doctrine of election which most evangelicals believe whether they realize or not, and things get very complicated. According to divine predestination which takes place in eternity past, God knows everyone who will be saved before they are born. Therefore, if a baby dies at one month, it is not guaranteed a place in heaven. Who’s to say if God chose that baby or not?
This is all hypothetical conjecture usually reserved for seminary classes but because evangelicals cling so tenaciously to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy they have to reconcile it with reality.
A final note on election and predestination. This doctrine has been a thorn in the side of the church for centuries and for good reason. It is a festering theological wound that never heals. It presupposes every single person who is a (true) Christian had no choice. Even their decision was initiated by God (prevenient grace). It is spiritual fatalism. In one sense it absolves Christians of having the eternal destiny of anyone in their hands. They only participate in a process God alone controls. It’s counterpart, Arminianism, is equally nonsensical because of the opposite perspective. Individuals control their own eternal destiny. Thus those not fortunate to be born in non Christians nations are more likely to spend eternity in hell.
This doctrine certainly made sense when Christianity first appeared since it grew out of Judaism. The sovereign election of Israel as God’s chosen people is well attested in Hebrew prophecy. Paul co-opted this teaching and adapted it to incorporate a Gentile faction of believers (“the wild olive branch,” see Romans 11:17). For the ancient Israelites and their national God ,Yahweh, such a view was well suited.
A future article will be dedicated entirely to an exegetical analysis of pertinent passages in Acts, Romans, Galatians and Ephesians regarding the rise of Gentile Christianity and the decline of Jewish Christianity. But for now, we will direct our focus to election as it pertains to current attitudes among evangelicals concerning the world of the unsaved and unregenerate.
It is a marvelous thing to think God loves you and selected you before time began. It fills one with appreciation and gratitude knowing you have been forgiven and will spend all eternity in heavenly bliss. However this doctrine is fraught with problems.
First, if we step back and take a global perspective, we see something strange. It seems God is unable or unwilling to transcend cultural and religious boundaries in places like the Middle East. Where are all the Christians in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, Yemen etc… ? Why has God concentrated his electoral efforts mostly in America? Keep in mind, evangelicals will default to the, “God only knows those who are truly saved” defense but if pressed they have to admit there is only one way to heaven.
Soon after my own conversion, I was often puzzled by the term “Christian” when discussed on television or in the news. I would ask my evangelical friends if these were “real” Christians or fake Christians. Many might not be aware of this differentiation among evangelicals. It is sneaky and underhanded but has served as one of its most effective marketing tools.
My mother was an extraordinary woman who raised seven children, one of whom was special needs. This article isn’t about her other than to say, her example of a loving, kind, selfless and patient woman contradicted what evangelicalism taught me about the unsaved. She was Lutheran.
After becoming a Christian, I was eager to tell my family about my new faith in hopes they would follow. I began with my mother who was delighted I was going to church (the only one of her children). I tried to convert her because I did not think she was a Christian, after all, she never read the Bible, went to church or told me about Jesus. She said she was a Christian and had been baptized as a child. I was puzzled. This led to an awkward conversation with me trying to tell her baptism was futile unless you accepted Jesus into your heart and her countering with baptism is how you become a Christian. I would soon learn evangelicals considered themselves to be the only ones in possession of the secret to eternal life — a personal conversion experience.
I have seen evangelicals waffle on this point many times when pressed. Historically, Protestantism gained its start by questioning the Catholic position on the requirements of salvation. Ironically, the father of Protestantism, Martin Luther, was a staunch sacramentalist advocating the necessity of baptism (infant) in the salvation process. If anyone would have removed any entanglements to salvation, it would be Luther.
A new doctrine would surface among anabaptists which maintained only adults should be baptized. This would later morph into the belief baptism was ineffectual and unnecessary for salvation, and stemmed from an overreaction to the by faith through grace alone central pillar of protestantism.
It is remarkable evangelicals consider Martin Luther a great man and theologian and the one who introduced the idea sola fide, but disagree with his insistence on water baptism’s primary role in securing salvation. This amounts to implying he wasn’t truly saved because he relied on baptism which is a form of works, an insanely preposterous idea.
Here again evangelicals will shuffle their feet and pretend they don’t think this but if they stick to their ideology they do.
This conveniently circumvented ecclesiastical responsibility thereby negating clerical involvement making salvation quick and easy. It was justified as the ultimate example of a workless salvation which relied solely on a simple confession of faith in Jesus, and presto you’re saved!