Evangelicals: THIS IS the hill to die on!

Reclaim the moral high ground you surrendered when you supported Donald Trump for President and sit out this election or vote Democrat. The world will thank you and may even respect you again.

FINALLY, THE HILL TO DIE ON FOR EVANGELICALS

Evangelicals have been given an incredible opportunity to reverse four years of a Faustian bargain with the devil himself, Donald J Trump, a sort of moral mulligan if you will (By the way, in secret he would relish being compared to Satan).

Rarely does someone have the chance to redeem themselves after committing something horrendous. However, occasionally even an egregious act can be covered up with an equally or better righteous act. With another federal election looming on the horizon, evangelicals find themselves at a crossroads. The big question is: Will they take the low road and support Trump despite ignoring and in some cases condoning four years of pathological lying, unquenchable narcissism, shocking sexism and racism, unparalleled pettiness and despicable flouting of law and justice, all coming from the man occupying the tightest office in the land and one of the most respected in the world? Or will the seize the opportunity to marshal their collective voices and in unison denounce Donald J Trump in the name of their God and either abstain from participating in this election or vote for the Democratic nomination?

There is no reasonable excuse for supporting Donald Trump if you are a New Testament Christian. I understand perfectly well why evangelical Christians support Trump and truth be told, if I was still an evangelical I would too, but that doesn’t make it right.

I know these words will mostly fall on deaf ears. Evangelicalism is a faith of deductive rationalization. Christianity itself began with a presumptive truth in Jesus’ literal resurrection from the dead and proceeded to prove this theory by pulling isolated Hebrew texts, regardless of their intended meaning, and applying them to Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with employing deductive reasoning as a tool of logic to determine or refine truth claims. The issue arises when the evidence does not support the hypothesis, in this case Hebrew prophecy does not predict the resurrection of the messiah and later (much later) return to establish the messianic kingdom. At this point, early followers of the resurrection story should have abandoned it and gone home which ALL of them did!

TEASER ALERT

As will be discussed at length in an upcoming series of articles on the resurrection narratives, NOT A SINGLE FOLLOWER OF JESUS WAITED AT THE TOMB FOR HIS “PREDICTED” RESURRECTION. In fact, if you believe the gospels, Jesus repeatedly reiterated his promise to rise from the dead after being arrested and crucified. Then with multiple audio and visual aids (a posted guard at his tomb to discourage would be attempts to steal his body and claim he had risen, riding a donkey as king, talking angels and a vacant tomb) his disciples still were incredulous. On top of this he told repeated parables which stressed his return as “the son of man” and the need to be “alert and prepared.”

Mary Magdalene and some other women came to the tomb to bury Jesus not welcome him back from the dead. And despite repeated efforts to persuade his most intimate followers including the testimony of angels and a visit from Jesus himself, they still doubted.

Experience. Experience. Experience.

THE PRIMACY OF EXPERIENCE

The resurrection story began as a mystical encounter with the risen Jesus. Jesus did not pre-warn his disciples or predict his death and resurrection in spite of what the gospels record. An exhaustive study of the four gospels will show the preponderance of evidence highly favors Jesus’ death was not expected, most of all by Jesus himself (The resurrection story will be rigorously explored in minute detail in the following weeks).

Mary’s spiritual visitation by Jesus and an angel(s) provided the initial spark which ignited belief in Jesus’ resurrection into a raging fire which spread throughout the Jesus community of Jews (Israelites). At this time, it was belief in his immediate return that fanned these flames. Fear among some Jews of falling under God’s righteous fist of judgment literally scared them into believing. At this early stage of the resurrection story, there was absolutely no textual evidence to support it. Given the immediacy of his return, there was no need for scriptural proof. Days, weeks, months and years went by without an sign of Jesus coming back…

Fortunately for Christianity, Paul of Tarsus, a converted Pharisee, had his own mystical encounter with the risen Jesus which launched his own ministry. Initially beset by suspicion among Jewish Christians, he was forced to take his version of the gospel to uncircumcised Gentiles. Paul did appeal to the holy scriptures to justify this change of tack in God’s program of salvation. But whatever Paul’s method of scriptural interpretation might have been, it most certainly was not literal, contextual and historical. These three laws must govern any legitimate attempt to extract the meaning of a text, and Paul violated them all.

We should note, the allegorical method of exegesis was considered legitimate at the time because it was in keeping with the idea of a deeper or esoteric meaning in the text. It followed, if God’s spirit was crafting the text, he would be able to “hide” some mysteries below the surface which would be otherwise unseen for generations. Such thinking also elevated the Hebrew writings in the eyes of the Hellenistic world where literary profundity and sophistication was celebrated, if not encouraged.

The point of all this is to show how Christianity arrived unexpectantly. Briefly when Jesus walked the earth (the final week of his life during Passover), the possibility of his being the messiah was entertained by some. The religious leaders by and large determined he was unqualified and rejected his bid for the throne. It was among the poor and uneducated Jewish population that Christianity first took hold. It was experiential not theological with emphasis on charismata, the promptings of God’s spirit.

For a generation Jewish Christianity languished in the hope of Jesus return as messiah while Gentile Christianity flourished under the leadership of Paul. Jewish Christianity would experience a revival when the Jewish revolt and fall of Jerusalem (66-70AD) seemed to signal the Last Days, but this too was short-lived. It would continue to wither on the vine while its counterpart having no allegiance to Messianic expectations grew stronger and more independent of Jewish parentage.

For those willing to invest the considerable time and energy into researching the origins of Christianity, they will discover a religion lacking authentic theological bonafides. Nothing in the Hebrew writings would lead one to what Christianity profess. Christians have so Christianized the Hebrew writings purporting to see Jesus on every page. This is unconscionable from an objectivity standpoint.

If it were fact Jesus was who Christians claim he was, I guess you could make the Bible say whatever you want it to say and it would be justified. The problem is how do you prove this without using the Bible to do it. And how do you prove the Bible is reliable except by what it claims about God and Jesus and miracles?

One thing about circular reasoning. It makes you dizzy!

The missing ingredient in evangelical’s circular reasoning is emotion. They are blinded to pure reason because of a morbid fear of eternal damnation which has been replaced with hope in heaven. They will rationalize away any attempts to rob them of this promise no matter how far fetched, outlandish and ridiculous. As long as they maintain a belief in a supernatural God via his supernatural spirit used ordinary men to record supernatural events which have been preserved in this supernatural book (Bible), they will believe anything.

We have touched on several major issues which require and deserve much more space. In the following weeks leading up to Easter, we will devote a great deal of time to working through the resurrection narratives found in the four gospels. It is an amazing and fruitful journey to take but one that demands patience and dispassion. I urge the reader to withhold judgment until all the evidence has been examined and weighed.

Faith is easy. Knowledge takes effort. Few things are worse than being intellectually lazy and claiming to “know” the truth. I was never more brash and arrogant in my faith than when I knew nothing about the Bible. The more knowledge I gained, the more doubts appeared until finally they reached a breaking point.

UNINFORMED VERSUS MISINFORMED

It is not surprising given most evangelicals are biblically illiterate. Faith has a way of preying on the ignorant. In a faith which is largely non creedal or confessional, and where sermons are devotional not doctrinal, knowledge of core beliefs is foggy at best. On the other hand, the so-called theologically educated are misinformed. They see the world with god-goggles which blur and obscure truth. And even if they begin to entertain faith destroying doubt, they are usually too invested to pursue it. The result is complacency and hypocrisy. They compartmentalize their lives so they can enjoy the pleasures of life without sacrificing too much. Other leaders such as we see on tv are gaming the system. They masquerade as evangelicals (which anybody can do) and fleece their flocks for their own financial gain and personal glory. This travesty goes unchallenged by most evangelicals because they too want to believe God wants them to be wealthy and happy rather than living a life of suffering and sacrifice.

Serious criticism is seriously lacking among evangelicals except when directed at non evangelicals. It is time they turn this glaring light around and point it at themselves. Historically, evangelicalism grew out of the Pietist and Methodist movement which focused on personal sanctification not societal reformation. It was always believed change must begin in the House of God among his people then filter out into society. The onus was placed squarely on individual Christians to live out their faith as shining beacons of goodness, kindness, generosity, love and servanthood. Today’s evangelicals has replaced this with a vacuous faith concerned only with inflicting their ideological brand of “Christianity” on the unsympathetic while ignoring their own hypocrisy.

Until evangelicals prove to the world they are genuine and earnest seekers of moral uprightness, their words will continue to ring hollow and fall on deaf ears. The first step is decrying the Trump presidency, repenting of this crime against humanity and begging God and the world for forgiveness. Then and only then, will we ever listen again.

This is what Jesus would want you to do! Will you do it?

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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