Unlearning Jesus & the Bible (for the sake of our future)

Must read if you believe the Bible is the word of God or Jesus is the savior of mankind

If you think you know the Bible and Jesus, you almost certainly don’t!

When it comes to Americans knowing who Jesus and the Bible are, they are either grossly uninformed or greatly misinformed. Here’s a simple test: Who wrote the Bible? If you don’t know, you’re uninformed and if you think God did, you’re misinformed. Either the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God containing the miraculous resurrection of Jesus from the dead and we should all live in accordance to this “truth;” or, it is the product of ancient men’s imaginations and we should treat it as such. Pick a lane.

Were it not for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead upon which hundreds of millions of “believers” place their eternal hope, not a single rational nonreligious person would regard the Bible as anything more than a collection of ancient superstitions. However, the overwhelming majority of those just mentioned who place their faith in the biblical record of Jesus’ resurrection and the divine authority of the Bible, know almost nothing about the book in which they invest their future. Why?

Biblical ignorance is eternal bliss. Believing is the easiest things one can do as a Christian and the rewards are abundant. Unbelieving or unlearning about Jesus and the Bible takes enormous effort, time, commitment and resources which very few are willing to spend.

It will NOT come as a surprise to most people Christians are no different from non Christians and in some ways their hypocrisy makes them worse. How can people who claim to extol a book that explicitly teaches a higher moral standard fail to consistently meet it? Biblical ideals are in many ways incompatible with what most American value, such as the pursuit of happiness, wealth, achievement, pleasure, materialism, status and pride. Living as Jesus commands is inconvenient, uncomfortable and difficult. It requires personal sacrifice, discipline, self denial, humility, selflessness, moderation and compassion.

Let’s face it, being a biblical Christian is just unAmerican.

Back to our original point. What you don’t know, won’t make you feel guilty for not doing it. American evangelicals avoid their Bibles because spending time studying it makes them feel obligated to obey it. The alternative is to re-interpret it to fit your biases, prejudices and vices. The prosperity gospel is one such invention which is in every way contradictory to New Testament teaching. There are many others like worldliness (Read Americanness), personal happiness and accumulation of wealth.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is not Lord and Savior!

Heaven is a false hope based on an irrational belief. The small sliver of Christians who have advanced theological degrees are heavily invested in a faith making it almost impossible to muster the intellectual courage to confront the truth. Whether they have resigned themselves to remaining entrenched in a purely non evidentiary belief through compartmentalization or rationalization is hard to determine. There are the disingenuous televangelists and megachurch leaders who profit from their position and “fleece the flock” with impunity. They promote a false gospel which is attractive because it gives followers the same license to pursue wealth and personal gain they do. Self actualization and personal growth have replaced self denial and personal sacrifice as the marks of disciples of Jesus.

There is a lot wrong with American evangelicalism and from my perspective very little that is right or that could not be replaced were this insidious brand of Christianity eliminated from society. The only way to kill evangelicalism is from within. It is a matter of starving it to death by taking away its primary source of life — children.

The biblical model of evangelism is the conversion of adults who are outside the faith. The evangelical model is to convert your children to repopulate the faith. Children are indoctrinated and socialized into the faith through without choice or the intellectual capability to make a reasoned decision. Without this unlimited resource, evangelicalism would soon wither and die.

Children’s evangelism is another method employed by evangelicals to gain early converts. Vacation Bible school, camps, Sunday school programs, concerts, social events, revival meetings, after school programs, children’s literature are all tactics used to exploit this vulnerable segment of society.

Parents who think they are doing a spiritual service to their children by saving their souls are in fact doing a psychological disservice by crippling them intellectually and emotionally. They are making them dependent on hope girded by fear.

Evangelicals do have another group of potential converts. They are the desperate. I was one of these. Preachers and evangelists will target those who are easily exploited like shut-ins, the sick, the elderly, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the depressed, addicts and prisoners. They may claim they are helping all by providing a spiritual “cure” for their ailments, but they are simply preying on the vulnerable.

Evangelicals consider themselves the sole possessors of the cure for a spiritual disease that pervades all of society and the world — sin. They act as spiritual doctors diagnosing societies many ills and offering a guaranteed cure in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fear has always been Christianity’s chief weapon for gaining converts. The threat of death and an afterlife of eternal suffering has coerced many into believing especially when the Bible is held up as the authority behind it. Jesus warned of a coming judgment and Christians have continued this tradition of fear mongering.

Back to the Bible. Knowledge is truth’s best friend and faith’s greatest foe.

It defies comprehension how the Bible continues to exert such immense influence in people’s lives and every sphere of society without being seriously challenged. Evangelical leaders and politicians appeal to it as if its authority is incontestable. Non Christians dare not attack it either for fear of being branded atheist, accused of religious insensitivity or due to lack of knowledge. It is mostly the latter.

Nobody arrives at the conclusion the Bible is anything more than ancient literature except those who already believe it. Honest, unbiased and rational inquiry into the biblical text leads one to the inexorable conclusion it is the product the fantastical thinking of deeply religious men in a pre-scientific world. Period!

In biblical times, the perspective of these writers would be “reasonable.” There were few explanations other than God’s intimate interaction with his creatures and creation. Natural disasters, celestial anomalies, disease, sickness and the vagaries of life were the inevitable consequence of God’s sovereign control over everything.

The ancients had no choice for their naïveté. We do not have that excuse. The Age of Enlightenment emancipated mankind from the dungeon of ignorance and brought us out into the bright light of scientific inquiry. For the first time, the natural world was laid bare for all to see. The Bible was not exempt from science’s penetrating glare and soon it too fell from its vaulted pedestal. God would be reduced to a distant caretaker of his creation and the Bible stripped of its miraculous claims. However, not all were willing to depose God and extol reason in his place as sovereign. Many theists clung to their faith like debris in a sea after the tidal wave of science capsized Christianity’s absolutist claims.

The vast majority of Christians will choose to ignore or discount the mountain of data which renders their faith as anything but irrational and unfounded. All roads lead back to presuming the possibility of the supernatural. Until and unless science can definitively proof without question God does not exist, the possibility he does and therefore the miraculous is preserved. However, this is not where the debate lies.

Christians gleefully try to keep the argument metaphysical but the true nature of the issue is factual and logical. It is the authority of the Bible. We may not yet be able to plummet the furthest reaches of the universe, but we can certainly examine the biblical text in excruciating detail and with precise analysis. It is well within our reach.

The default position of Christian apologists to the authority of the Bible has never changed. The miraculous proves the miraculous. Predictive prophecy, eye witness accounts of the resurrection and mystical experientialism with the divine all support the Bible’s claims. Circular reasoning aside, the Bible is an inherently contradictory collection of writings containing countless factual errors, incongruences and implausibilities.

Any Christian who disagrees with the above assessment must have first and foremost undertaken a thorough investigation into these and be able to provide a cogent counter position before condemning them. This would disqualify perhaps ninety-nine percent of Christians. Presumptive inerrancy is unacceptable as a defense.

I have devoted an entire lifetime to this investigation. It has been my career. I began my journey as a naive teenager with a heart full of devotion to Jesus but an empty head. I would spend the next fifteen years acquiring as much biblical knowledge as I could and serving God in ministry at the same time. After seminary my evangelical faith was in shambles and I began the deconstruction and reconstruction of my faith keeping only Jesus as my foundation, or so I thought.

My journey has been unique because it was undertaken with the utmost sincerity and devotion. I thought if I approach the Bible without any preconceived ideas and used the skills and knowledge I had acquired, I could rebuild and restore my faith. I was enthusiastic and positive I would emerge a stronger believer, but in the end I abandoned Christianity altogether.

The moral of this story is when you approach the Bible without a faith bias, you will never arrive at Christianity’s conclusion. Faith clouds one’s perspective and makes them see what they want to see, not what is actually there. For me it was like reading the Bible for the first time even though I had studied it extensively for many years.

The prospect of giving up a free ticket to heaven when we die in exchange for intellectual honest and integrity is inconceivable for most Christians. It will be much easier to castigate me as a disgruntled former evangelical, which I was, or anti-god cynic, which I am not. I was simply someone who trusted his mind and God to lead him to the truth. When it was all over, if there is a god, he/she/it/them did guide me to the truth and that truth was: The God of the Bible is not God, and the Bible is not His Holy Word.

No one has to take my word for it. There is an enormous amount of information available to the one who is willing to invest the time and energy. The journey is not easy and requires supreme dedication to wanting to find the answers at any cost, even one’s hope. Most of all, one must be willing to suspend their preconceptions about Jesus and the Bible before beginning; otherwise, the truth will be tainted by faith. A believer can and will rationalize away or reinterpret facts to support their faith if determined to do so. Defaulting to the supernatural is easy especially when one’s beliefs are built upon the miraculous.

A word of warning: Finding non Christian material to study the Bible is almost impossible. Virtually every book written about specific biblical texts or themes is written by someone with at least some belief in its core message. Even a liberal Christian may still hold to the resurrection while rejecting all other miracles. Understanding the Bible in its historical and literary context is imperative for proper interpretation. Relying on the writings of evangelical commentators for objectivity is to subject yourself to cognitive bias and herd reinforcement.

The Christian faith provides its followers with many benefits including peace, comfort, strength, guidance, joy and of course hope. I am asking that someone consider committing spiritual suicide and give up all this for intellectual honesty. It is a huge price to pay. How many have the courage to take the first step — doubt?

At this point some may ask, “Why then attack a faith that provides so many with so much?” Evangelical Christians especially are adamant about protecting their own religious rights and freedoms while at the same time trying (and succeeding) at robbing others of theirs. The LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy groups, immigrants, minorities, environmental viability, global stability, science and the free press are among its favorite targets, and not without dire consequences (to be explored more fully in a later post).

In closing, lest anyone think I am asking them to take a trip I myself have not already taken, let me be clear. These many decades of research have come at a tremendous cost for me personally and professionally. I have sacrificed everything but my intellectual integrity in my quest. I have not profited a penny from my efforts and quite the opposite. I left behind a promising career as a minister of the gospel and with it friends, family and a wife. I spent ten of thousands on my education but perhaps the greatest sacrifice I made was my youth.

I returned home with my evangelical wife amid a severe recession. Having a couple theological degrees does not make one particularly hireable in secular society. I was forced to find employment where I could that had no relevance to my interests. Originally, I thought my research would be completed in a few years as my doubts were largely confined to evangelical theology. Once my entire Christian faith began to crumble under the slow erosion of critical scrutiny, I knew my journey would be much longer. During all this time I remained steadfastly committed to my research refusing to stop until I found the answers I craved.

Perhaps only those who have taken a similar path to mine know the psychological toll evangelicalism takes on those who decide to leave. The emotional pain one has to endure after departing is directly proportional to one’s degree of investment while in the faith. For me, I had been completely immersed and institutionalized as an evangelical. Entering the non evangelical world was like going to a foreign country. I did not know how to act or speak but wanted desperately to fit in as a “real” person.

The painful details involved in reintroduction to society can not detain us in this post. They are far too many and complex. The sum total of my efforts over these many years of restless nights and a singular obsession with studying the Bible, Jesus and Christianity have taken an immense toll. I hope my struggles and sacrifice have not been in vain. I would like to think of my work like a mariner who charts a course through unknown and difficult waters for others to follow. I have provided “a map” which others may use to explore the Bible. It may make their journey less perilous than mine but they still must embark on it if they hope to find their way to intellectual freedom.

Bon voyage!

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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