The Jesus Puzzle (“Who do people say I am?”)

The question asked by Jesus to his disciples two thousand years ago is no different now. His true identity has continued to capture the interest of many for two millennia. Ironically, the majority of those who think they have the answer to this question, do not. Christians are the most deluded of all in understanding who Jesus really was — and was not.

As I reflect over these many years of painstaking research and intensive analysis which have consumed my life, I struggle to find a way that best describes both my journey and my task. Often I come back to a puzzle analogy. This seems most fitting to capture the essence of my work.

Imagine if during your entire life you had a picture puzzle of Jesus and his disciples. The scene depicts them gathered around their master as he preaches perched atop a rock. You have become very familiar with all the details of this picture, Jesus’ face, color of his eyes, length of his beard and wave of his hair, what he was wearing, the looks on the disciples faces and their garments, the sea in the background and a few scattered clouds and a bird in flight. You like your picture and are comforted by Jesus’ soft eyes and outstretched hands beckoning all to come to his gentle care. Now suppose someone, like me, comes along and tells you that is not what Jesus looks like. I hand you a ten thousand piece puzzle which contains an accurate picture of Jesus and his followers. All you have to do is take the time to put it together. Would you?

The catch is the puzzle we are talking about is a hypothetical puzzle composed of theological pieces. You have to construct it in your mind.

The puzzle of Jesus Christians have created is a few hundred pieces. It is a simple puzzle composed of a literal, unquestioned reading of the New Testament writings. Each verse is considered factual and part of the big picture including his miraculous virgin birth, baptism, divinity, miracles, transformation, resurrection, Second Coming and so on. All the pieces fit neatly together with no irregular or “extra” pieces. Paul’s Jesus is perfectly compatible with the Jesus of his disciples before and after his death and resurrection. This is a lovely picture of Jesus but it is mostly fabricated.

The biggest challenge I face is persuading the world to stop thinking the picture of Jesus to which they have grown accustomed is representative of the Jesus who walked the earth two thousand years ago. It does not, not even close. This Jesus has been painted over with two thousand years of Christian tradition making the original portrait almost unrecognizable.

I would add, anyone is entitled to believe this mischaracterization of Jesus provided they concede it is based on an unquestioned acceptance of Christian tradition and not an honest, critical and rational appraisal of New Testament teachings. 

Before you stop reading, ask yourself these questions:“Do you really believe this is who Jesus is and upon what do you base your conclusion? If you answered yes, are you living your life consistent with this belief? In other words, if you truly believe the picture of Jesus as the eternal Son of God, Savior and Judge of mankind, it should drastically effect how you live. You are bound by this truth to unquestioned obedience and a life of service. Anything less would be inconsistent with the initial conviction. Still think you have an accurate picture of Jesus?

My picture of Jesus is different, very different. Here are some of the main “pieces” of my puzzle of Jesus.

1. He was a staunch follower of the law who stressed personal piety over mere external formalism. He advocated allegiance to the ancient traditions but one must also practice inner righteousness. It was a form of hyper-Judaism.

2. Jesus did not care about Gentiles. His ministry was exclusively to, “The lost sheep of Israel.” He looked forward to the day when the nations (‘goyim’) would be severely judged under the wrath of God for their mistreatment of Israel. This theme is repeated throughout the prophets. The uncircumcised were lawless and wicked and did not have the Mosaic Law to guide them because they were not, The Chosen race. Peter’s conflict with Paul over the latter’s efforts to incorporate Gentiles reflects this antipathy which he and the disciples learned from their master.

3. Jesus was born in Nazareth to Mary and Joseph not to a virgin in a manger in Bethlehem. No Christian text does more theological heavy lifting than Isaiah 7:14. It is foundational to Jesus’ dual natures (human and divine) upon which rests the critical doctrine of his substitutionary death for all mankind as its perfect representative. However, a closer inspection of this text in its original literary and historical context reveals its blatant misuse. In fact, there does not exist a single prophecy found in the New Testament which has not been either misinterpreted or commandeered to build a story around to bolster and validate his messianic credentials. Therefore the prophetic link employed by Christians to legitimize Christianity’s origins cannot be established.

4. Jesus ministered for just over a year spending most of it in Galilee. During this time he saw himself as a special prophet of the Last Days. He was convinced the kingdom had already begun to arrive as evidenced by signs and wonders. His role as prophet was endowed with God’s anointing which gave him the power to exorcise demons. Like John the Baptist, this was to prepare the way for the Lord, an unmistakable reference to Yahweh.

5. Jesus’ accepted the title, “King of the Jews (Judeans)” during the final week of his life at the behest of some Passover pilgrims, perhaps Zealots. It was the first time he was regarded as Messiah, a political title. Jesus was in a state of messianic limbo being a king without a throne and a potentate without power. A reign that never came.

6. Jesus was the victim of his own popularity which led to his death. As the newly nominated king of the Jews, his ministry took a dramatic turn toward potential revolt. The peaceful prophet had been replaced by a political insurrectionist. Neither Rome nor the Jewish leadership could risk a rebellion and tried to force Jesus to rescind his position. He refused and sealed his own fate. The answer to the question: “Who killed Jesus?” He did.

7. The resurrection myth is factual fiction. It is based on the very real experiences of Jesus’ followers. It is unquestionable Mary and his disciples had profound mystical encounters with whom they thought was the risen Jesus. That this was actually Jesus is highly contestable based on a complete analysis of the gospel literature. Mary’s questionable mental stability and a missing body was the genesis for the first resurrection encounter and served to prompt Jesus’ disciples to seek similar experiences.

8. Despite this initial fervor over Jesus’ resurrection, “Christianity” should have soon withered and died when Jesus failed to perform his Messianic responsibilities. A messiah who did not return soon was not going to return at all. Expectation of an imminent appearance was the focus of this Judaistic sect and would be its demise.

9. The synoptic gospels were Jewish Christianity’s final desperate effort to save their floundering faith. Written not long after the fall of Jerusalem, when Jesus having again failed to return, these writers urged their readers to be alert and ready promising his coming within their generation. It was now or never.

10. The introduction of Paul and his ministry to the Gentile nations secured Christianity’s salvation. After the catastrophic event of 66-70AD, the death knell had sounded for the Jewish branch of this movement. However, it revived and reinforced Gentile Christianity who saw the destruction of Jerusalem as divinely ordained for the nations rejection of their messiah. 

11. Free from its Judaistic parentage, Christianity could now assert its independence and find its place in Roman society. It would encounter many trials and tribulations from within and without which threatened to extinguish it. However, the fortuitous experience of Emperors Constantine and Theodosius in the fourth century would guarantee its survival. Christianity would consolidate and chart its official theological course through a series of Ecumenical councils which defined it.

12. Time and space prevents disclosing the many more pieces of data which contributor to the overall picture of who Jesus really was. A detailed examination of the many “messianic” texts demand vigorous scrutiny. A comparison of the gospel narratives on key topics such as the nativity, Jesus’ baptism, arrest, death and resurrection require careful analysis. The birth of Gentile Christianity and Paul’s role in redefining the gospel are also important in our understanding of why Christianity survives to this day. 

Evangelicalism: The most puzzling of all Christian sects

American evangelicalism is a vague representation and theological perversion of traditional Christianity’s central tenets. If Jesus were alive today, there is perhaps no subset of Christianity which he would find more reprehensible than the one which boasts being the most authentic to his teachings. Paul too would be appalled given how evangelicals have butchered his theology.

At the root of the problem is a belief system lacking incentive for holy living beginning with the Rapture theory.  According to this view, not a single evangelical Rapturist believes Jesus Second Coming is for them but solely for Tribulation converts. In this regard all the warnings for preparedness and alertness for his return is empty rhetoric yet to find an audience. Remarkably, they believe the overwhelming number of Christians throughout history have mistakenly interpreted these exhortations as intended for them when they are not.

So pervasive is this theory, and for good reason, many consider it a core doctrine and test of authentic Christian belief regarding those who don’t hold to it as less biblical. This provides indisputable proof evangelicals are imprisoned by their own belief system. They are too dogmatic to be theologically responsible and abandon a doctrine that hangs on a single misinterpreted verse and goes against the tenor of New Testament teaching. The promise of exemption from future pain, suffering and judgment renders them theologically blind as they wallow obliviously in complacency. 

Full confession, I was a product of American evangelicalism. I graduated from Moody Bible College (Chicago, Illinois) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Texas), among the most authentic representations of American evangelicalism. After fifteen years of immersion within the evangelical culture, I had grown increasingly disillusioned with evangelicalism, both theologically and practically. I found its teachings inconsistent with an honest literal, grammatical interpretation of the biblical text and the history of Christian doctrines. Pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalism was an affront to honest hermeneutics. Also, the salvation experience, aka, “Accepting Jesus into you heart,” devoid of baptism contradicted the New Testament, Church Fathers and all of Christian history where water baptism was indispensable to salvation. 

Evangelicals have promoted a fast food style gospel. Salvation is quick, easy, cheap and convenient. One simply asks to be saved by a simple formulaic prayer and, “presto!” instant salvation guaranteed forever no strings attached. Conversion is stripped of repentance and one need not demonstrate righteous “fruit” as evidence redemption has occurred. Such teaching would be anathema to first century Christians and most of Christendom. 

My original goal was to deconstruct and reconstruct my faith from Jesus, my foundation, up. I was immensely satisfied in my relationship with God, but I knew I could not remain an evangelical in good conscience because of its many flaws. The rampant hypocrisy I saw around me was easily attributable to evangelicals following an imperfect faith. Why else would they exhibit such lethargy? They were unwitting dupes trapped in an ideological prison which robbed them of spiritual vitality. I would not allow my faith to be similarly smothered. I knew if I used the tools, skills and knowledge I had acquired, I could rebuild my faith stronger and more vibrant than before.

Back to the Jesus puzzle. At the risk of torturing this analogy, let me say I slowly began to remove pieces of the puzzle until only the picture of Jesus remained. However, by this time I was beginning to have serious doubts about more critical “pieces” like the doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Jesus himself. I would challenge the cornerstone of Christianity.

Almost from the day I became a born-again Christian and started reading the gospels, I began to have questions. As a “baby” Christian, I was told doubts were normal and would be resolved in time as I matured in the faith. After extensive theological training and Christian ministry these doubts only grew. The most persistent had always been why the Jesus of the gospels seemed incompatible with evangelical theology. 

If you believe what evangelicalism teaches, Jesus was being somewhat disingenuous. Because he had not yet died on the cross to forgive sins nor been resurrected to provide eternal life, he had to talk in the context of Judaism even though he knew in a short time God’s entire redemptive plan would change. You almost would expect him to say one thing and then whisper, “But it’s all going to change when I am crucified so don’t take it too seriously.” Evangelicals meekly demure to their dispensationalism period of law mixed with grace defense.

It begs the question, “Why didn’t Jesus just tell everyone of his impending death and resurrection?” Why bother teaching and preaching about obedience to the law as necessary for eternal life when the crucifixion will render the law obsolete? Why keep your messiahship a “secret” considering how vital it is? Obviously not a single follower of Jesus expected his resurrection since none awaited it, not even his own mother, Mary, who was privy to everything according to Matthew and Luke.

At this point, the two Jesus traditions clash, the earthly Jesus and the heavenly Christ. The first is historical, the second is theoretical based on speculative theology engendered by mystical experientialism. The resurrection and ascension were assumed absolutely true resulting in trying to reconcile the actual words of Jesus, contained in oral tradition, with what later believers presumed he must have said. For instance, even though there was no record of Jesus speaking of his death and resurrection publicly, he must have told his disciples (who were now dead or banished) privately of his fate.

Christianity would take another sharp turn when Paul wrangled it away from Judaism. Unknowingly, Paul would save it from extinction by emancipating it from the ancient promises which were considered carnal and incompatible with the invisible heavenly realm. The expectation of a literal messianic kingdom and king had been replaced with a spiritualized version of the kingdom and a heavenly king who ruled in the hearts of his followers. 

When we step back a vastly different picture of Jesus emerges. One which is fiercely tribalistic and legalistic and one who was certain he was living in the shadow of the soon to arrive kingdom of God. His final words on the cross borrowed from a Psalm depicting David’s plea for God’s deliverance went unanswered. God had indeed forsaken his prophet/messiah as he hung hopelessly on the cross. 

In conclusion, as a former evangelical let me say I fully understand the evangelical mindset. Evangelicals are emotionally locked into a theological track which prevents them from straying too far from their beliefs. It gives the illusion of intellectual freedom when in fact it is ideological imprisonment. After years of being evangelically institutionalized, I had been conditioned to see the world through a very narrow ideological grid I had spent fifteen years constructing. It gave me perspective, direction and confidence. My world seemed understandable and navigable as God’s obedient servant.

Trying to dismantle an evangelical worldview from the outside is impossible. They will kick, scream and resist at every turn. It provides too many benefits such as eternal hope to be easily taken. I left the faith because I tricked myself into letting down my faith guard thinking I was reinforcing it. A believer must begin the process from within starting with honest doubt not guarded faith.

Evangelicalism is an irrational faith fueled by fear and false hope.

Most adherents to evangelicalism would bristle at this statement, but it is true. They are on a merry-go-round of faith with no rational beginning. Most enter the faith as children when most vulnerable before being capable of informed reasonable decision. Those who continue after adulthood have been intellectually crippled and emotionally dependent on Christianity’s promises. I would contend this is a form of psychological or spiritual abuse. I mention it only to awake some evangelicals to this fact.

Evangelicalism like most religions is repopulated from within by its children. Parents often instill their values and beliefs this way out of genuine love and concern, after all a child’s eternal destiny may be at stake. However, the end only justifies the means if the end is provable. Not only is the afterlife beyond scientific verification, it is also beyond the Bible’s reach unless the Bible can be demonstrated to be a reliable source of fact.

Evangelicalism is irrational because it can offer no substantive evidence to support any of its claims. It rests on a deductive approach which begins with belief in the supernatural and then uses false reasoning to support it. The danger is when one defaults to supernatural thinking there are no logical boundaries, anything is possible, probable and plausible when God is the orchestrator.

Debating with an evangelical is like playing chess with someone who thinks cheating is permissible even advisable. Evangelicals will engage in a reasonable discussion until they are placed in rational checkmate at which time they pick up their magic king and move him to a safe place on the board. When accused of violating the rules, they merely default to their God who invented the law of the miraculous. 

Many people think when it comes to the Bible and who Jesus is, it is a rational stalemate. I disagree. The biblical text is well within our rational reach for intense scrutiny. For half a millennium it has mostly escaped the kind of criticism to which we subject everything else. For too long, groups like evangelical Christians have controlled the narrative when it comes to the Bible and a largely biblically illiterate public has allowed it. Evangelicals traffic in misinformation and obfuscation when it comes to the Bible and Jesus whether they are aware of it or not. Very little accurate and unbiased information makes its way to the public square because Christians staunchly resist it. Appeals to religious liberty and personal rights are often cited in defense.

Religion in America is no longer just private and personal, it is public and political and therefore deserving of the full weight of critical scrutiny. Sacralism is now the norm of American politics and it has deleterious consequences which must be met with a robust counter-offensive. We can no longer sit back and indulge the religious sensibilities of those whose moral, political and environmental agenda endanger our rights, freedoms and future.

Among evangelicals favorite targets are the LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy groups, the scientific community, secular educators, minorities, other religious groups and immigrants. Evangelicals also unabashedly embrace and promote apocalypticism which carries specific consequences inconsistent with political peace and environmental stewardship. Last, as previously mentioned, is the next generation of children who are subjected to indoctrination and socialization within the evangelical community ensuring its continued survival. Until we as a society arrest this unfair behavior, evangelicalism will continue unabated and exert its influence on a world unsympathetic to its stringent yet insidious worldview. 

“Knowledge distancing”

We are all tired of hearing about “social distancing.” It is essential to separate from others to slow the spread of the pandemic. Evangelicals practice another form of separation called, “Knowledge distancing.”

Knowledge distancing is when groups like evangelicals deliberately “distance” themselves from information in order to prevent it from harming their faith. Science and facts are shunned as being anti-God and a threat to the health of one’s faith in Jesus as the eternal son of God.

Each year science grows stronger and reaches deeper in the cosmos. Each year society progresses and evolves in its understanding of social justice and human rights while evangelicals stubbornly resist in the name of New Testament ideals. Tragically, science and reason are being vilified while a book of ancient superstitions is championed as God inspired. On what grounds?

Evangelical Christianity has no rational basis whatsoever. It is built on a cloud of irrationalism masquerading as reasonable faith. As one who has been on both sides of the faith debate, I can state unequivocally that evangelicals have deluded themselves into believing this to preserve their own sense of intellectual integrity.

I spent fifteen years acquiring “knowledge” to give my faith intellectual respectability for me and others. I was certain those who were not evangelical Christians lacked sufficient knowledge about the Bible which explained their unbelief. I was sincerely mistaken. Evangelicals obscure facts to make it conform to their supernatural worldview.

I think a lot of non evangelicals fail to appreciate the influence of this dualistic perspective. When you believe in a supernatural God, who supernaturally inspired men to write a supernatural book, containing supernatural events culminating in the supernatural birth of a supernatural messiah whose death supernaturally paid for the sins of humanity and whose supernatural resurrection guarantees eternal life for all who believe and will be supernaturally resurrected to heaven when Jesus supernaturally returns (twice), ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE AND PROBABLE.

Here is a window into the mind of an evangelical. The odds of tossing a coin in the air and it coming up heads one thousand times in a row from the first toss is astronomically low unless God is doing the flipping in which case it is certain. No matter how outlandish and far fetched evangelical belief seems, to an evangelical who has a daily encounter with the God of the universe and a personal relationship with Jesus his son, it is perfectly reasonable.

Evangelicals will never stop attacking “knowledge” because it is the greatest enemy of faith while ignorance is faith’s best friend. Anytime science encroaches on evangelical belief, it is villainized as containing anti-supernaturalists scientists which it does not. Science is excruciatingly objective and unbiased in all it does. The moment a miracle occurred that contradicted the known laws of physics and could be independently verified, science would accommodate this new fact.

Evangelicals also practice obscurantism which is more sinister because it has the look of rationalism. The question is whether evangelicals are being deliberately misleading or are simply the victims of their own delusion. I think both.

I have met many sincere and godly evangelicals who were persuaded the rest of the world had been blinded by Satan to God’s obvious truth. I have also met many more evangelicals who were hypocrites and bigots. They made little attempt to practice what their sacred and inerrant scriptures commanded them to do. Of course, those we see on television or in politics are clearly abusing the Bible for their own personal gain whether wealth and/or power.

Currently the world awaits a vaccine for the Coronavirus whether for treatment or prevention. Until then we must all continue to social distance. For the “sickness” which pervades evangelicalism, there is already is a cure. It is knowledge.

Knowledge is the greatest remedy against falsehoods while ignorance traffics in lies. We as a society are quickly losing our ability as critical thinkers by allowing others to dictate what we believe based on what “feels right.” The power of a visceral reaction to something has replaced cold calculated thought. Somewhere along the way we decided we no longer needed facts and data to drive our opinions instead opting for anecdotal evidence and emotional attachment to be our guides.

There is simply no substitute for knowledge and no easy way to obtain it. It is not osmotic nor transferrable. One must take the time to carefully mine it from reliable sources and critically interact with the data to determine one’s opinion. In the world of truth, knowledge is king.

Evangelicals are no strangers to critical thinking. The problem is they apply it to everything but their own faith specifically the Bible and Jesus Christ. Is it they are afraid of what they may find? Or perhaps it is because they don’t think there is anything to find.

I have stated repeatedly in other posts, and I am made aware of it almost every day, I spent fifteen years intensely studying the Bible and never for a moment doubted its core message. I had many doubts about the validity of my American pre-tribulation premillennial evangelical dispensationalism (It truly is grossly flawed theologically, I am ashamed I once followed it), but my core conviction in Jesus as the son of God was solid. Only when I was willing to let down my faith guard and reexamine my faith did it all come crashing down.

This is the lesson for evangelicals. You will never see the truth because you think you already have it. You don’t see what you’re not looking for and you most certainly don’t look for something you don’t expect to find. The first step is doubt with a healthy dose of skepticism followed by a determined and diligent effort to ignore preconceived ideas about Jesus and let your mind unfettered by faith guide you to discover the truth.

Evangelicalism: A baseless faith, but who cares?

We all should even if evangelicals do not!

If evangelicals are brutally honest with themselves, they follow a baseless faith. Subtract experientialism, which is unreliable as the sole source of truth, and hope of heaven and you are left with a Bible riddled with errors, contradictions, incongruences, inconsistencies, implausibilities and textual problems. Anybody who disagrees with this statement has not spent considerable time studying the Bible in precise detail. And those who have, a minute percentage, have persuaded themselves (like I did), such issues are beyond human understanding and reserved for heavenly disclosure.

Evangelicalism like most every other belief system on earth starts from childhood. It is cultural and also part of the national identity as in the case of American evangelicals or “Apple Pie” Christians. There are no stats on inherited faith versus investigated faith because the latter is so rare as not to warrant evaluation. I, however, believe this phenomenon of evangelicalism has directly contributed to the current lethargy which seems to be its most salient feature. Kiddie conversions or baby baptisms are the norm not the exception for entrance into the faith. Devoid of a life changing salvation experience breeds a faith that is more one of general moralism than a dynamic outworking of New Testament ideals.

Nobody arrives at evangelicalism’s theological conclusions after an independent, honest, critical investigation of the New Testament teachings. Most enter the faith backwards, which is to say as children. Then they struggle to find cognitive consistency between the scientific world where rationalism rules and the biblical world where revelation is king. Some try to poke holes in scientific theory to legitimize a literalist view of the Bible but most remain ignorant of the mountain of data that undermines belief in inerrancy. A very small minority who have theological degrees are so invested in the faith as to be blind to the truth and lack the intellectual courage to confront their many doubts.

Any belief in the Bible which includes Jesus resurrection from the dead as its foundation is irrational. There simply is no evidence which does not begin with an assumption of biblical authority which is based on its own claim, and so on. The theory of inerrancy is a merry-go-round of illogic.

I have no qualms with anyone who wants to claim belief in Jesus’ resurrection and everything that goes with it, so long as they admit it is a baseless irrational belief. Furthermore, they should keep it to themselves and not infect others with this nonsense especially children and the vulnerable. Ignorance is everyone’s prerogative except when one tries to force it on others.

The Jesus puzzle

Many years ago an evangelical asked me — on the spot — to persuade him Jesus was not the eternal son of God. I remember being overcome with anxiety as my mind raced to find the right words to convince him. Where to begin and what to say? The pressure was enormous.

I mention this to make an important point which needs to be stressed. There is a reason two thirds of the world profess to be Christians. It is much easier to remain a believer than to unlearn your faith. Most are born into Christianity either through baptism or a childhood conversion experience. Even if they don’t learn much about Christianity or practice it as adults, most will maintain allegiance to the faith even if in word only in order to be assured of eternal salvation. Admittedly, this group poses little threat to others unlike American evangelical Christians who have weaponized the Bible to advance their pernicious ideology. It is this group of whom we must be wary.

Most of the world’s Christians are woefully ignorant of the Bible, and they know it. American evangelicals, on the other hand, are dangerous because they think they know the Bible and therefore justify its use against others such as the LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy groups, environmentalists, social justice proponents, immigrants, Hollywood, liberal elites, secularists, scientists and other religious groups. Evangelicals are unwitting victims of ancient Christian propaganda based on the superstitious belief in Jesus’ physical resurrection.

It is a truism to state you can’t argue someone out of their beliefs. This is especially true of evangelicals whose faith is primarily emotional and irrational, hence, “The Jesus puzzle.”

It has taken me a lifetime of total commitment to researching and painstakingly analyzing and thinking through the biblical text to arrive at the conclusions I have. To say it has been an obsession would be an understatement. It has consumed my life, day and night for four decades. During this time, I have tested dozen of hypotheses against the biblical text and Christian theological tradition starting with the Church Fathers. I have examined the Hebrew texts upon which Christianity is built and rigorously studied the New Testament texts to uncover the truth about the man turned prophet, turned messiah, Jesus. I have taken an honest yet critical look at the beginnings of Gentile Christianity and Paul’s role in reinventing the gospel to suit his theological purposes. I have traced the origins of American evangelicalism and compared it to traditional Christianity. On top of all this I have been closely monitoring evangelicalism and its growing influence globally over this time.

How does one condense a lifetime of research into a brief conversation? You cannot. It is like trying to describe a picture puzzle by explaining each piece in detail and how it fits into those surrounding it, but first one has to “disassemble” one’s previous concept of who Jesus was.

Only those Christians who are searching for a means to extricate themselves from the faith will have the motivation and commitment to dismantle their faith. For the evangelical skeptic who is predisposed to think nonbelievers have a conspiratorial motive, due to their fallen nature, to debunk Jesus and the Bible, the task is enormous.

I have stated in repeated posts, my mission to expose the many misconceptions about Jesus and the Bible, is twofold. First, to make those unsympathetic to evangelicals’ moral and political agenda aware of the inherent dangers in allowing this to go unchecked and unchallenged. Second, to address the need to prevent the continued indoctrinating of the children of evangelicals which can have an intellectually crippling effect on their ability to rationally discern fact from fantasy.

Without the next generation of evangelical children to replace their parents, American evangelicalism would soon wither and die. This fact bares striking testimony to the anemic nature and many inherent weaknesses of evangelicalism. Were it not for faith inbreeding and preying on the desperate, depressed and vulnerable, evangelicalism would not survive. Rational, healthy, educated adults do not independently convert to evangelicalism because of its many intellectual flaws and scientific incompatibilities.

Who Jesus was is not puzzling when examined without a preconceived faith bias. The New Testament writings are religious propaganda embedded in an ancient superstition. It would be unfair to judge those who subscribed to them in a pre-scientific world where beliefs in the paranormal world were popular and “reasonable.” Mankind had few other options than to subvert their minds to the possibility of the unseen world of spirits, angels, demons and other gods.

It is reprehensible and an affront to rationalism to continue indulging such fantastical thinking based on allegiance to a collection of ancient religious texts. To ascribe divine authority to the New Testament gospel records which are replete with contradictions, inconsistencies, incongruences and implausibilities is irrationalism at its finest. Defaulting to the presuppositional position of belief in the supernatural without basis and then altering facts to support it is preposterous and reckless. Furthermore, to subject children to this ideological impregnation is socially unjust and irresponsible.

Evangelical Christianity is a hope based and fear fueled faith that holds out the threat of eternal condemnation and the promise of heavenly bliss to attract and imprison converts. Many are then forced to adopt and promote the teachings upon which these are based regardless of how antiquated, unscientific and socially offensive they are.

My conversations with Jesus (Part 6: The God of science)

Me: Hello again and thanks for joining me for another conversation about the religion you unintentionally started.

Jesus: I have nothing to hide. I think divulging what I know and don’t know will be helpful to many. I also recognize the dangers of a false religion.

Me: That’s interesting, why is it dangerous?

Jesus: Because if God isn’t behind it, Satan is.

Me: A substantial portion of the America population would agree with your assessment. While I may entertain a vague hope in someone or thing beyond, I am reluctant to concede the existence of a malevolent being named Satan.

Jesus: How else do you explain all the evil, sickness, disease and suffering in the world?

Me: Science has determined the source of sickness and disease. Almost all have organic causes which can be treated or cured without exorcism through medical advancements. On the question of evil, things get more complicated. It may have something to do with each persons inherent biological drive to survive. Criminal activity has both social and biological factors which science continues to try to unravel. But here again we are learning a great deal about why people do bad things and ways to help prevent these actions.There are multiple other considerations which are beyond our discussion. The point is we no longer are in the dark about these things. A natural explanation seems far more plausible than a spiritual one. 

Once again, I would concede without the benefit of scientific knowledge we would have few other conclusions to draw than either God was punishing someone or Satan was tormenting them. We also touched on how every anomaly of nature like earthquakes, drought and volcanic eruptions has traceable causes. I cannot emphasize enough how simple the world has become since science began exploring all its “mysteries.” I don’t mean to offend you, but the God of the natural world has become obsolete and has been replaced with the “God” of science.

Jesus: Yet most people believe in him as we keep coming back to. That must prove something.

Me: It proves most people believe in a God or gods but differ on their definition and responsibilities to that God(s). I will agree on that but this only demonstrates mankind’s insatiable desire to hope in something bigger and beyond to help alleviate their fears. Belief in God is purely selfish. Believers want something in return. For Christians it’s eternal life which most think is guaranteed regardless of how tepid their faith is. Judaism operates on the basis of obedience brings blessing, disobedience brings punishment, right?

Jesus: It makes sense a righteous God rewards righteousness and punishes wickedness.

Me: If you could prove a causal relationship between immediate reward or punishment based on an individuals level of obedience, I would agree. However, after studying the Hebrew writings, I find no specific evidence of such causality, in fact, the opposite. Sometimes there is immediate retribution and sometimes there is not. Sometimes an evil king enjoys a long prosperous reign while a good king does not. Many times the entire nation is punished for the sin of the king even if they were forced to obey the bad king. This is a general principle employed by a writer(s) who has rewritten Israel’s history to advance and promote Yahwism. 

I would add by way of personal testimony, I completely understand how faith alters one’s perspective of their world. When I was a believer, I saw the hand of God is even the most minute detail of my life. Every thing I did or that befell me, good or bad, had divine purpose behind it. It was as if God was carefully orchestrating every thing which made life exciting and meaningful all the time. It also reinforced my belief in God’s existence in spite of what anybody said. It also crippled my ability to be objective and made me stubbornly resistant to outside influence.

I appreciate how these writers could only see the hand of the Lord in Israel’s history from their perspective. These are not historical records but theological works which borrow historical data to support them.

Jesus: You are forgetting about divine inspiration which ensures their authenticity and accuracy.

Me: I think we both would agree, God does not make mistakes. He is perfect, if he exists.

Jesus: Of course is are his holy writings.

Me: That’s where we differ. Until the advent of science, both the Hebrew and Christian writings went virtually unchallenged for fifteen hundred years. Then civilization changed as mankind evolved and invented things that changed how we perceive our world. The Bible was not immune to scientific inquiry. The same methods it applied to the natural world were applied to the biblical text. And like our understanding of the world changed, so too did our understanding of the Bible.

Jesus: I think you are referring again to the unprovability of the supernatural but isn’t it equally unquestionable? There is no evidence such spectacles did not occur.

Me: You’re appealing to the burden of proof argument which is a common defense. To this we turn to the question of predictability. Today we are able to investigate many of the Bible’s miraculous claims with the tools of science. The divine credibility of the Bible rests upon the supernatural, otherwise it is just an empty book of fiction, false promises and empty threats. There is nothing as important as this issue which is why it is vital we keep addressing it. If even a few of the alleged miracles found throughout the Bible could be verified by science, things would be different. Based on what the Hebrew writings teach, science can predict what it should find in places like the Sinai or Canaan to corroborate the text. To date, there is no persuading evidence to support a single biblical claim that relies on the miraculous but the opposite. 

Let’s take one very important example. Moses claims a massive number of Israelite slaves escaped bondage in Egypt and fled into the desert. The number according to the text is about six hundred thousand men plus women and children which could be easily two to four million people. Forgetting about the sheer logistics problem of so many people and livestock escaping, there is no trace of evidence that number of people died in the wilderness or why the Lord would punish thousands of children for their parent’s sin. Proponents default to a supernatural explanation for virtually every inconceivable detail as if that makes it believable. It may make for great storytelling to impart traditions and values to children but it is incompatible with science and plausibility.

I want to mention science does not only debunk myths, it hypothesizes alternative explanations. The evidence we now have suggest only a small group escaped and camped outside the land of Canaan. They were able to recruit a sizable number of Canaanites from within the land to join their confederacy under Yahweh’s banner as the God of war. Slowly and methodically they began to acquire more and more native Canaanites who had been displaced by puppet kings under Egyptian control. There was resistant especially among these vassals which resulted in armed conflict, but the movement to repossess the land from their Egyptian overlords grew in size and power. Eventually most of the land was re-taken and settled as Egypt was unable to hold on to its foreign holdings due to internal strife and coastal invasion. All of which was embellished and recast for theological effect.

Jesus: All of this is strange to me and I must reserve my opinion until I know more.

Me: I think that is a reasonable response but it is Christianity and particularly American evangelicalism which should stay our primary purpose. Judaism does not pose nearly as significant a threat as evangelicalism. 

Jesus: Very well, where were we?

Me: I closed our last discussion with stating Christianity is baseless. Let me expound a little. Christianity absolutely exists as a religion grounded in historical fact starting with you, a man named Jesus who lived in Nazareth two thousand years ago, the son of Mary and Joseph. He had a band of followers who thought he was a Last Days prophet and the Messiah. He was crucified by the Roman authorities for this claim as a potential insurrectionist. An empty tomb and the mystical encounters of a handful of his followers was the genesis for the resurrection story which began to spread. While deeply connected to Judaism and messianic expectation, this fledgling faith soon drifted away after repeated failures of you and the kingdom to appear. However, because decades earlier, a converted Pharisee named Paul had begun his own “gospel” for Gentiles and Jews outside the law, Christianity’s survival was ensured in spite of what would befall Jerusalem in 70AD. 

Jesus: I find it remarkable the story of my resurrection became as popular as it did without a single persona actually witnessing me in the living flesh.

Me: The distinction is between knowing the difference between fact and fiction not reality and fantasy. To someone who believes in spirits, a vision of an angel is as real if not more as the sight of a tree. 

Jesus: The unseen world is real. Even if we can’t see it we can see its effects. Take the wind for example. It is real but unseen and could only come from God.

Me: While we can’t see it, we can identify its source and measure it. But let’s get back to how your resurrection became so believable.

Originally, you were not considered divine but only to have been raised back to life. I think Mary thought she saw you in the flesh but it was likely due to her mental state.  She had trouble sorting fact from fiction because her mental condition likely prevented it. Regardless, whatever she heard or saw was real to her experience. You did cast seven demons from her?

Jesus: She was one of my closest followers and strongest supporters. I did heal her of demonic affliction.

Me: Today she might be considered to have suffered from a mental disorder of some kind that impaired her ability to distinguish reality and fantasy. In her mind, a spirit could be a physical person. 

Jesus: How does this explain widespread belief in my being raised from the dead if no one actually saw me to confirm it?

Me: It only took one person to persuade others she had seen you for them to believe her. Her certainty was enough to persuade others thus planting the seed in the possibility of your resurrection. The gospels suggest it was believed you had ascended and returned in a glorified bodies the day of your resurrection. Thus, your disciples experiences were of a spiritual encounter not a physical one. Paul who did not know you personally claimed himself to have “seen” you in a vision and it put him on a path that would lead to his eventual death.

Jesus: Belief in the spirit world was very popular at this time. It would explain how they would believe in a resurrection which never took place.

Me: I have devoted most of my life to this consideration. Early in my investigation, I wondered how without an actual physical encounter they would devout their lives to propagating a myth to the point of death.

Jesus: Obviously, their mystical encounter was powerful enough to persuade them.

Me:. Today’s world is largely bereft of supernatural encounters but as you said, in your time, not only were they common but they were considered more “real” than the natural world. Throughout the history of Christianity there have been martyrs who were far removed and who could not profess to have seen you resurrected. I think this point is critical for understanding the resurrection myth. It is impossible to overestimate the power of one’s personal encounter with God.

Jesus: I couldn’t agree more as you know. 

Me: I would like to conclude this conversation by say, for most American evangelicals believing is easy and offers great rewards. It take incredible effort to disbelieve something you “think” you believe in and perhaps have been raised to believe in. It took me years of intensive investigation to dismantle my faith theological brick by theological brick. Some can reject God in an instant if they feel he has let them down or brought pain and suffering into their lives. The death of a child or incurable disease often cause a person to question God. However, for those comfortably contented in their faith, no amount of argumentation will work.  

The problem is many will adamantly claim their faith is rational and those who do not agree with them are somehow less enlightened or blinded by sin. Herein lies to folly of evangelicalism. 

Until our next conversation.

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!

The irrationalism of biblical creationism (Reason versus the ridiculous)

I just finished watching, Bill Nye debates Ken Ham Youtube video. Yes, I was late to the party but for good reason. For those who have taken the time to watch the video, I commend you. For those who have not, I encourage you to do so. Why? Because it is a painful wake up call to the tragedy that is the evangelical mind in America today. 

I avoid watching debates between creationists and scientists because it’s like a bad magic trick. Creationists are trying to create a diversion so you don’t focus on the real issue: The reliability of the Bible as a scientific document.

Let’s put all the cards on the table. Mr. Nye has a degree in science. Mr Ham has an engineering degree. Neither are theologians. I have two degrees in theology. While the focus of the debate “appeared” to be science, it was actually the authority of the biblical record specifically Genesis which was critical. Both men appeared as fish out of water with Nye not asking the right questions and Ham not providing the right answers to these wrong questions. 

Only biblical inerrantists believe in literal creationism. Nobody embraces creationism who is also a scientist and atheist just because it “makes more sense” than scientific findings. Faith leads to creationism not vice versa. Creationists are defending the book that promises salvation. They only care about Genesis because the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is part of the same “Book.” 

Bill Nye was up against a lot more than whether the earth is four thousand years old or not. He is challenging the personal faith of millions and everything it provides. It is a matter of the heart not the head. He is bringing a scientific knife to a theological gun fight. He cannot win. 

Here’s where I come in. My life’s work has been an exhaustive study of the Biblical text from a skeptical rational perspective. Or to be more precise, the credibility, or lack thereof, of the Bible as anything more than a collection of ancient religious literature heavily propagandized by its writers. To a rational, informed, non biased, educated adult this conclusion is incontestable. Its content makes perfect sense in the context of the ancient pre-scientific world where belief in miracles and the supernatural was not only common but in many ways necessary.

By the way, for about fifteen years I would have sat in that audience with my arms crossed every time Nye spoke.

EVIDENCE. EVIDENCE. EVIDENCE.

Evangelical creationists like Ken Ham will exert enormous energy and time trying to poke holes in scientific theory. They will practice the most rigorous scrutiny on science’s findings where they impinge on biblical inerrancy and literalness. What they won’t do is flex a single muscle when it comes to turning the same searing spotlight of inquiry on their own holy scripture. They venerate a book infinitely more unreliable and unworthy of respect as a scientific document than the excruciatingly well tested and vetted fields of science. 

Evangelical faith means not having to know the truth, or wanting to know it.

Evangelical Christians are fond of declaring how “reasonable” or “rational” or even “logical” their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible is. It is not. The only word one can ever appeal to in support of this claim is, “Experiential.” The Bible may be used as “evidence” to support its claims, only insofar as when placed under intense scrutiny and objective analysis, it satisfies the necessary criteria to support this claim.

Evangelicals may be conveniently split into two camps. The first camp is by far the largest comprising perhaps ninety-five percent or more of all adherents. These are the uninformed. The second camp are the small percentage of those who have advanced degrees in theology beyond a year or two of Bible college. The nature of faith rests upon trust in Jesus which unfortunately the first group willingly and unconditionally places in those who instruct them. This group is either so indoctrinated as to be incapable of seeing the obvious weaknesses supporting their belief or so invested as to be unwilling to even consider challenging it for fear of what they might discover. A third group are those who simply don’t care because they are in it for political or personal gain. It seems there is no end to these leaders who are frauds, hucksters, charlatans, grifters and sexual predators who prey on the gullible, vulnerable and desperate. Televangelism and megachurches are among their favorite arenas to practice their craft of exploitation.   

I have devoted my entire life to analyzing the Bible as a divine book containing predictive prophecy and miracles. I have examined it historical reliability and chronological accuracy. I have vigorously investigated key events like the Exodus from Egypt, Conquest of Canaan and most importantly the resurrection of Jesus for logical consistency and plausibility. I can state with unwavering certainty the preponderance of evidence weighs heavily against any element of the supernatural. And if we take the opposing hypothesis that the source of these are myths, legends, hero stories and sagas devised by human imagination as an attempt to understand the mysteries of the natural world and promote faith in one’s own religion, they make reasonable sense.

There is a mountain of data available to those courageous enough and capable enough to work through it to determine the Bible’s veracity. Few take advantage of this opportunity despite their insistence on loving God and His Word or to achieve intellectual integrity.

I would assume most who are reading this cannot claim to have invested thousands of hours researching the many contradictions, incongruences and errors in the biblical text. Most have not developed skills in textual criticism to dissect the text at its most basic level. Most have not made a thorough analysis of literary criticism as it pertains to predictive prophecy, historical records and poetic content. Most have not availed themselves of archaeological findings relative to those stories in the biblical narrative that purport supernatural intervention. It takes an incredible amount of time, effort, expertise, discipline and desire to properly understand the biblical writings in their context and render a sound interpretation of authorial intent. Reading a few books written by Christian apologists, or going to a Bible study on creationism versus evolution does not constitute theological proficiency.

One could not wander into most businesses and apply for a management job without a formal business degree. An airline pilot has to undergo specific training in order to fly a jetliner. Most people would not go to a dentist who had not gone to dental college even if he said he was an avid student of dentistry. Yet America is full of Sunday school theologians who profess to understand the Bible. Politicians wax eloquent on the Bible as if they were experts. Many evangelicals make outlandish and unsubstantiated interpretations on biblical prophecy purporting to have a monopoly of God’s view of mankind and world events. 

When I became an evangelical Christian, I knew almost nothing about the Bible. I was not raised in a Christian home. My mother had an old Bible which I found in a cupboard and tried to read a couple times but it may as well have been written in Martian. Soon after my conversion I started telling everyone I knew about the “good news” so they could share my joy (and escape hell). Of course I received a lot of resistance by those who tried to tell me the Bible was not the inspired Word of God. Science was the most oft used weapon against my faith. I pushed back based on nothing more than the strength of my convictions which were experiential not intellectual. All I knew was, “Once I was blind but now I see.”

I spent the next nine years in theological training because I was certain by mastering the Bible I could defend my faith to anyone. My motivation was an ardent love for Jesus and desire to share the message of salvation. I applied myself wholeheartedly to my theological training (in the best evangelical institutions) but began to have serious doubts about many aspects of evangelicalism. I graduated from seminary and immediately began a deconstruction and reconstruction of my faith using the tools and skills I had acquired to preserve and strengthen it. Ready for the irony? I had no desire to abandon it but unknowingly would because I decided to study the Bible with pure objectivity.

Whether you study the Bible as a devout believer or unbeliever, you should arrive at the same conclusion whether you accept it or not. You do not.

I let down my faith guard for the first time as a believer because I had no reason to think I needed it up. I approached the Bible with the sincerest and most honorable motive of deepening my faith. I had grave reservations about many evangelical dogmas like, The Rapture, dispensationalism, the ordinance of baptism and easy believeism (repentant-less baptism). As I began to destroy each of these  “sacred cows” of evangelical teaching, I began to experience a sense of theological liberation and confidence. What I never anticipated was my inability to restrict my objectivity to only certain doctrines. The more I looked, the more I saw and soon other tenets of the faith began to crumble like predictive prophecy, inerrancy and the trinity until eventually Jesus was under the microscope of rational scrutiny. 

I never thought for a second when I began my journey to find the truth, I would ultimately abandon Jesus. If I had, I would never had begun. Rationally, this makes no sense. Emotionally, it makes perfect sense. My faith in Jesus was rooted in an emotional connection, a dynamic personal relationship, not in objective fact. I had decided long ago nothing could ever shake my supreme confidence in God. And had I continued in my faith after discovering what I had, it would have qualified as an irrational belief and intellectual compromise.

Most evangelicals do not know enough about the Bible to realize how irrational their faith is. Ignorance masquerades as reasonableness because they do not have the information to suggest otherwise. They sincerely believe the rest of the world is deluded not them. If others were in their religious shoes, they would understand is what they tell themselves and each other.

At some point, evangelicals must face the facts, literally. Far to much is at stake for them to hide behind the wall of faith like cowards while lobbing “Bible bombs” at those who don’t conform to their beliefs. It is time to bring Jesus and the Bible into the unforgiving light of rational scrutiny to be subjected to the most rigorous examination.

An evangelical who devotes most of their time to rebutting science mistakenly believes their own faith does not demand equal scrutiny. Why? It may be they are afraid to confront their own fear of knowing the truth and thereby losing hope for eternal life. It may be they have allowed themselves to be misinformed by other evangelicals through blind trust assuming no Christian would deliberately mislead them. It may be they have too much invested in their faith, e.i., friends, family, career, to even consider challenging it and being socially ostracized. It may be they, like me, have been immersed within the evangelical culture for so long as to not realize they are a product of its powerful institutionalizing. I as well as anybody knows how comfortable it is to remain within the cocooned environment evangelicalism can provide free of the dangers and temptations of the secular and liberal world. 

Creationism is one of the many by-products of believing in verbal plenary inerrancy. There are others like miracles, prophetic fulfillment, the resurrection of Jesus and so forth. All of which are historical fantasy. They are stories crafted around actual people and events or myths borrowed from oral tradition as in the case of the Genesis cosmogony. They are all contained in a collection of religious writings fraught with scientific errors and irrationalism. It is tragic we cannot appreciate them for their immense literary value as ancient religious texts because they have been coopted by groups like evangelical Christians who have weaponized them to advance their own moral and political agenda.

If we were to distill Christian belief to its most basic element, fear is what we would find. Evangelicals would protest and profess it is love but this is only because their fear has been subsumed by hope. They have the luxury of no longer having to fear death and the afterlife. However, this is the only explanation for unquestioned allegiance to a baseless faith in a world dominated by science. Evangelicals embrace every benefit of scientific advancement like medicine and technology but suddenly turn skeptical when it comes to those branches which impinge on religious belief. Then they think scientists form a collective conspiracy to deliberately deny God’s role in the creative order. I used to be one of them.

On a practical level, if evangelicals are so passionately committed to the Bible as the absolute inerrant Word of God, why don’t their lives reflect it. The exact same authority ascribed to the creation account of Genesis, which they vehemently defend, is also found in New Testament ideals. Why are evangelicals not equally determined to shun worldliness and its pleasures, or speak out against divorce, pornography, materialism, premarital sex, greed, pride, immodesty and hate? Jesus implored his followers to resist the temptation of wealth and to give generously, not sparingly, to the poor and needy. What about gentleness, humility, meekness and servileness? Where are the preachers exhorting their followers to be more like Jesus in this regard? 

The plain fact is, evangelicals pick and choose what they want to emphasize and what they want to ignore based largely on what is convenient and comfortable to them. It is easy to attack homosexuality until your son comes out. It is easy to decry abortion until your teenage daughter gets pregnant. It is easy to attack immigrants, minorities and the homeless but turn a blind eye to buying a new car, bigger house, nicer clothes, expensive jewelry, the latest smartphone or going on expensive vacation. When did God promise Christians prosperity? Evangelicals indulge their own secret vices or re-interpret scripture to condone them in the name of “Christian liberty.”

Hypocrisy is now the hallmark of American evangelicalism. Whatever moral high ground or respectability they might once have had was traded in a deal with the devil when they unequivocally supported the Trump presidency in exchange for political access and influence. Nobody disputes this except for those who try desperately to convince themselves political greed was their only choice. They traffic in the twin lies of victimization and persecution where neither truly exists to somehow sublimate their moral compromise.  

Evangelicals are victims of their own ideological prison. Fear locks them in and hope keeps them there. When one considers the enormous number of Americans who profess to be Christians yet churches are sparsely attended each Sunday, one must wonder. Why even bother to call yourself a Christian if you are not going to act like a Christian?

The answer is simple: Heaven. 

A Christian will give up many things but the possibility of going to heaven when one dies is not on the table. Evangelicals especially have bought into the unbiblical doctrines of easy believeism and eternal security which they see as a free golden ticket to heaven. Nothing they do or say on earth can jeopardize this future eternal bliss except denying Jesus as their Savior and Lord. With this in mind, they will cling to being a Christian even if in name only to secure their prize. The unfortunate result is a religion that breeds complacency and hypocrisy. 

Evangelical Christianity is no longer a personal and private affair. It is public and political with consequences in the lives of everyone. Also at risk is environmental viability and political stability at home and abroad. We must expose Christianity for the fraud it is regardless of the fallout from those who embrace it. The day evangelicalism ran for public office, it became fair game for rational attack. 

If it was proven beyond any doubt there was no God or heaven, American society wouldn’t devolve, it would improve. Evangelicalism is not about making the world a better place, it is about giving believers peace of mind. It is time to remove the Bible from its pedestal and replace it with social justice. Mankind not God is at the center of our universe. 

Humanism not theism is the future of the planet. God had his chance and squandered it.

My conversations with Jesus (Part 5: The irrational evangelical)

Me: Hello, once again Jesus, today’s conversation will be a little different.

Jesus: How so?

Me: I probably should have mentioned this earlier but I think the subject today dictates full disclosure. I used to be a devoted follower, an evangelical Christian.

Jesus: Our conversations make more sense now, although I must admit I suspected your interest was personal.

Me: Our conversation today will address some important topics, so before we go any further I want to mention a few things. First, we will assume those who decide to listen to our conversation may have missed one or more past discussions which contained important data. Therefore, we will at times briefly restate something already covered for clarity and reference. Second, for the purpose of this and other discussions we should clarify a few key terms.


The first is, “The Bible,” which Christians use to refer collectively to both the Hebrew writings and their Christian or, “New Testament” writings. They believe the New Testament to be perfectly compatible and prophetically validated by the Hebrew writings thus seeing the two as one whole. The use of “new” implies rather condescendingly the Hebrew writings are now obsolete. Christians refer to these as the, “Old Testament” with this in mind. For the record, I think the two are mutually exclusive but will use the term as they do for the purpose of our discussion.


Related to this are the, “Gospels” which are four separate writings that provide varied details about your birth, life on earth, death and resurrection.


The next phrase is, “American evangelicalism.” We have made repeated references to evangelicalism but must differentiate a particular brand which finds expression in the country of America. While evangelicals exist throughout the world, none are more influential or distinct as those in America. Their close connection with the nation of Israel has had profound consequences which relates directly to their interpretation of the Bible.

Jesus: I do find it preposterous a religion exclusively Gentile without any attachment to Judaism claims to be a product of it. And how a relationship could exist between the two. Back to your departure from the faith. I would also like to know how devoted you were.

Me: Looking back, in terms of sacrifice and commitment to following what I thought were your teachings, I was deeply devoted, willingly giving up my time, energy, desires and future to serve you. I lived a life of self denial, discipline and dedication but considered it an honor in light of what you had done in my life.

Jesus: What happened to make you change your mind?

Me: The loss of my faith was a slow erosion not a decisive point in time. In the end it was a matter of whether to trust my God experience and the Bible or rationalism as the most reliable guide to truth.

Jesus: By rationalism you mean you choose men’s thinking over God’s revealed truth?

Me: I choose my own findings which were the product of honest critical thinking over unquestioned allegiance to the Bible.

Jesus: The mind is an unreliable source for truth especially when it contradicts God’s revealed truth. Are you sure you made the correct decision.

Me: Sorry to keep mentioning this, but that is a pre-scientific perspective and not one which carries much weight except with Theists who reject scientific findings or compromise their view of God. Putting aside the reason we’re having these conversations in the first place, I know with absolute rational certainty I made the right choice. Maybe for a little while I had my doubts. It takes a lot of courage to give up the things in which you once invested your entire life. At first I suffered a lot of emotional anguish but gradually things became clearer. In the end, I wondered how I had not seen what was now so obvious to me. I was blinded by emotional devotion. When I did have doubts I cast them aside since my experience of God was so powerful and life changing.

Jesus: So God transformed your life but you still doubted him?

Me: Not at first, it was the particular brand of Christianity we have talked about, evangelicalism, which caused my initial intellectual discomfort. To be honest, I was perfectly content with you and God in my life. My goal was to find a better expression of Christianity and deepen my faith not lose it. After an honest and heartfelt investigation which ended with rejecting your resurrection and you as God, I abandoned Christianity altogether.

Jesus: While I have no choice to agree with you on rejecting Christianity as a false religion, why didn’t you convert to Judaism and follow the statutes and ordinances of the law? I think we both agree my disciples and Paul got it wrong about my resurrection, but that doesn’t mean the Hebrew prophets are wrong. When the messiah does come, you will want to be prepared.

Me: There are religious Jews who would agree with you that another messiah will come and fulfill all the prophetic promises. For the same reason I left Christianity, I could never embrace any religion. I don’t believe Judaism is any more valid than Christianity. As I stated in an earlier conversation, historically its view of God and rabid tribalism seem inconsistent with who God would be. Also, much of the writings are myths, legends and folk tales. Unless and until you appreciate how fundamentally different we see the world and religion through the lens of science, you can never understand the reasons humans first believed in God or gods and why those reasons no longer exist.

Jesus: I can’t imagine things could be that different.

Me: Surprisingly, you are not alone. More people believe in a God or gods than do not despite all the evidence contrariwise. After decades of research and observation it seems abundantly clear to me the reason is primarily not intellectual but emotional. Faith provides people with answers to some of life’s most troubling and terrifying questions which science does not. Fear of death paralyzes reason and hope is a powerful motivator. We also have talked about other intangibles like comfort, peace, strength, guidance and love. Science, on the other hand, has allowed humans to live longer and better. It offers cures for disease and treatment for other ailments. It invents ways to grow more food, provide cleaner water, make the world safer and healthier. It, however, like religion can be used to harm and hurt others but almost no one would want to get rid of science.

Jesus: Why can’t you have both since each has tremendous yet separate benefits?

Me: You can but it really is a question of which is the greater authority in one’s life: Faith or science?

Jesus: Ultimately one must choose faith in God over faith in man, I think.

Me: Again, that is a determination easy to make two thousand years ago but one this side of the scientific revolution, things look much different. I don’t think I could ever convince you of my choice unless you were standing where I am and had been exposed to the information currently available.

Jesus: If you don’t believe in God, in what do you believe?

Me: I haven’t ruled out the possibility in something or someone greater than ourselves beyond our world. However, in this world I suppose I would say I place my faith in myself and mankind’s ability to evolve, progress and improve the world. While this may sound egotistical to you, really everyone, yourself included, believes mostly in themselves whether they admit it or not. You believed in your ability to discern God’s calling for your life. You trusted you were doing what God wanted you to do even if you thought God was telling you to do it.

Jesus: I was guided by his spirit not my own desires. I had no choice.

Me: You chose to believe it was God’s spirit not your own. You trusted in your ability to make that determination. It is funny evangelical Christians will claim to trust their own ability to not trust in their own abilities by referring to writings they claim to interpret accurately with theses same minds. It is an endless circle of absurdity. At the end of my journey I realized the changes I had made in my life were not the result of God working in me through his spirit but through my own efforts. Faith unleashed a confidence in God I lacked in myself.

Jesus: I don’t think we’re getting anywhere here. I saw the power of God in my life and so did others, nobody can prove otherwise.

Me: Let’s approach it from another angle. I too witnessed the miraculous power of God in my life. For many years my experience with God was my main argument against those who tried to dissuade me. Though I knew nothing about the Hebrew or Christian writings upon which my faith was based, my relationship with God sustained me. Eventually as I spent more and more time studying the scriptures doubts began to creep in and I had to make a choice. Either to continue denying what my mind was telling me or investigate my doubts. Only reason can dismantle faith.

Jesus: I still don’t understand why if your experience with the Lord was real, how could you question it?

Me: One word: Skepticism. I read a book about the unreliability of religious, spiritual or mystical experience. For thousands of years people have been having euphoric and ineffable encounters with various gods, spirits and unseen powers. Think of the Zeus and Apollo. All of them are dynamic and affirming to those experiencing them. All of them can’t be true because many are contradictory and mutually exclusive to one another. Therefore at least some must be untrue, but which ones? It is easy for an adherent of a religion to discount the experiences of others and their belief systems as being manufactured and contrived. Isaiah famously decried belief in any God but the Lord. But who is to say whose God is superior and how does one prove it? These questions opened a door of doubt. I needed more evidence than a subjective experience which is a universal constant.

Jesus: You are forgetting the ancient writings are divinely inspired and older than any other. The record miracles only God could perform especially Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. Also, the prophets spoke of events before they happened and performed miracles through the Lord’s spirit. I think Isaiah was right.

Me: We are entering into a complicated and controversial area now. I am certain you believe every word of what you have said. But if I told you we now possess the ability to investigate all these claims to determine their accuracy, and except those with a vested interest in these writings, nobody else believes them to be accurate.

Jesus: I would say their accuracy is self evident and any investigation would surely prove it.

Me: We know of writings older than those of Israel’s from Sumer, Egypt and India. Does that make them superior to the Hebrew writings? Much study has been devoted to investigating these claims in the Hebrew writings and nothing miraculous can be definitively proven. Did you perform or witness any miracles?

Jesus: Yes, many times, mostly healings.

Me: Has the Lord God always performed miracles and will he continue to perform miracles?

Jesus: Yes especially now since the kingdom is here. When you see a miracle, who do you think performed it?

Me: I have never witnessed a miracle from God. In fact, no one has that can be independently verified or not explained easily by science. Only those who believe in miracles claim to have seen one. Science can test whether something “miraculous” happened and it has yet to find a single case of an incontestable miracle. Do you think casting out demons or healing the blind is a miracle?

Jesus: If someone is being tormented by an evil force and it is cast out by the power of God, what other explanation is there?

Me: We now know demon possession does not exist. It is a mental sickness or disorder which can be treated by medical science. Did you ever walk on water or feed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and fish?

Jesus: I read about that in the gospel writings but I never did those things. I did many of the other things though.

Me: If people believed you had been raised from the dead, all the other sign and wonders you were thought to perform are more believable. Consequently, people still believe you did those things. However, if it can be established you did not rise from the dead, it calls into question the accuracy of all the other supernatural occurrences.

Jesus: All it does it disprove my resurrection. The other things are still true like the miracles I performed and the divine origin of the ancient texts.

Me: It seems we have reached an impasse and must pause our conversation and spend a bit of time talking about science.

Jesus: Do you really believe it is that critical to this conversation.

Me: I think it is indispensable and impossible to have a conversation about God or miracles without it. You have to understand from your perspective, you cannot possibly understand the impact science made on the world. It changed how mankind literally saw everything. The invention of devices allowed us to see things which before were invisible to the human eye because they were so small or too far away. One is called a “microscope” which allowed one to see the basic building blocks of atomic matter. Another device called a “telescope” allowed us to peer into the farther reaches of the universe and see things previously too far away.

Jesus: Are you saying you could see whether God exists?

Me: Not exactly but for the first time man was able to see what God was thought to have done but didn’t. I realize we are entering into a dimension completely unfamiliar to you with language which has no meaning. It is only to make you aware of why much of what you are saying is no longer accepted. Let me illustrate. Why does the wind blow or it rains? What causes the tides to rise and fall?

Jesus: God controls the wind and rain in the same way he orders the sea, sun, moon, planets and stars.

Me: What if I said, there is a natural explanation for all of this and many more wonders which does not include the need for God?

Jesus: What do you mean, “It does not include God?”

Me: There are things today most children learn in school like gravitational pull causes tidal rise, temperature and pressure changes cause the wind and rain is a water cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, none of which have anything to do with God. We know why volcanoes erupt or what causes earthquakes. We understand why people are blind, or crippled, have diseases or seem possessed by a demon. And none involve God. These are just a few of countless other things we now understand that people did not for thousands of years. Let me ask you what is the shape of the earth upon which you walked?

Jesus: Flat but I have heard some Greeks believed it was round.

Me: It is most certainly round which almost every person who is alive or has lived in the last five hundred years knows. In fact, a few men have flown to the heavens in something called a rocket ship and looked with their own eyes from a great distance and some have even stood on the moon and observed its shape. I have another simple question: “Where does the sun go at night?”

Jesus: Each night the sun dies and a new sun is born each morning. This is easy to observe by anyone.

Me: It is known by virtually every person on earth the sun you saw has never significantly changed. It is exactly the same one that Moses saw each day or you or me. It only seems to move when actually the earth is moving, actually slowly spinning as it moves around the sun. This makes the sun appear to disappear or die when it is not.

Jesus: All of this is far too strange and foreign to me. I struggle to understand these ideas. But despite so many people knowing what you are telling me, most still believe in God if I understand you correctly.

Me: I suppose if everyone has always believed in the same God or gods without variance, it would be a strong argument in favor of his existence, but this is most certainly not the case. Throughout history belief in god(s) has been vastly different from culture to culture and age to age which continues today. Who these gods were and their involvement in the known world widely varies. There has never been a consensus about God. However, you have raised an important point which deserves investigation. Let me begin first by saying, belief in gods has been around a lot longer than science. Many defer to this as a reason to believe but for the reasons just stated, I think argues against God. Second, religious belief is often closely connected to culture making religion part of the national fabric and almost impossible to transfer without changing or damaging it or the culture to which it is introduced. Third, while science has answers for most things, it cannot answer one of life’s most vexing questions, “Is there anything beyond this life?” Fourth, Religious belief is deeply rooted in fear and hope not intellectual rigor. People embrace religion primarily to satisfy emotional not mental needs, although many claim the latter after having first fulfilling the former.

Jesus: It sounds like you are making an excuse for people believing in God.

Me: Consensus about who God is and his role is in this world and people’s lives is varied. When it comes to God and science almost everybody chooses both. They desperately want the benefits of each and many are willing to modify God to conform to science.

Jesus: It sounds like God is being given a reduced role. Is he seen as submitting to science?

Me: We talked about the dawn of science and the age of Enlightenment as redefining our understanding of God. The sovereignty of reason may have displaced God from his throne but it did not render him impotent. In answer to your question, many religious people of different faiths see the both as compatible with each occupying its own place of prominence either in the natural or spiritual world. Some even suggest God “created” science and is content to sit back, figuratively speaking, and watch his creation from a distance.

Jesus: I don’t have to tell you this is not how I see God. God is intimately acquainted with every aspect of his creation.

Me: Many today still agree with you. Science is multi disciplinarian, reaching into every corner of the natural world and covering every topic. Since its inception, it has suffused society providing answers to almost all of life’s questions with one exception. Conclusive proof God does or does not exist still defies our finite understanding and sciences limitations. It is within this tiny sliver of uncertainty most religions live. God has been given a reduced role by many that allows them to find compatibility between religion and science. Their God is distant and largely impersonal perhaps occasionally answering prayers. He dwells in the heavens and awaits those who believe in him. Others refuse to diminish the role of God in their lives or the world. As I mentioned in an earlier conversation, science confronted religion and religion lost although many religious people choose to ignore science’s findings in favor of irrationalism.

Jesus: You have mentioned irrationalism before with regard to religion. Can you elaborate.

Me: Before modern science entered the natural world belief in a supernatural God who interacts with the physical world through miracles and prophecy was considered a legitimate means of understanding complex phenomena like the weather, natural disasters, sickness, disease, planets and cosmic anomalies. God was “trans-rational” because he was thought to operate “beyond” the realm of rational inquiry. He was non-rational and metaphysical. The primary reason religious belief existed then was it was the only explanation available to man’s limited understanding of his world. It made sense out of a world of mysteries. In today’s world, all of these “mysteries” are now easily explained without appealing to the supernatural. In other words, before science, religion was the only “reasonable” explanation for life’s complexities and uncertainties. After science, traditional religious belief became irrational in that it contradicted the uncontradictable. Those who espoused religion had basically two options, either modify and modernize their beliefs to conform to these new findings or reject these discoveries by appealing to a supernatural realm which exists in direct contradiction to the natural world.

Jesus: Is there no other option which preserves the best of both?

Me: Groups like evangelicals have created a pseudo-third option. We spoke in our last conversation about evangelicals propensity to compartmentalize the spiritual and the secular world. Today many devout religious people are unable to ignore the every expanding and penetrating reach of science, nor do they want to. At the same time they are unwilling to concede the existence of an imminent personal God in their lives, the possibility of the miraculous and all this provides. Faced with this dilemma they simply separate them into two distinct parts which prevents science from encroaching on God and religious belief, while still allowing them to take advantage of all the benefits of scientific findings such as medicine and technology. However, this dichotomizing only makes sense in the delusional mind of the religious. There is no place for the God of the holy writings, or Bible, in the world of science. Either he is the unchanging God
who causes earthquakes, famines, plagues, drought, sickness, disease and every other disaster that befalls mankind or he is distant impersonal. You must choose one or the other.

Jesus: Again, I feel I am at a disadvantage by being unable to challenge the very thing you claim is religions greatest enemy. Are you suggesting if I knew what you do, I would stop believing in God because science demands it?

Me: Not necessarily, and you would not be alone. It depends on how determined you are not to give up that belief and how powerful your experience with God is. While knowledge is available to all, not all choose to avail themselves of it. Those in a scientific world who believe in God or gods have figured out a way to preserve their faith in spite of science. Most evangelical Christians fall into two distinct categories when it comes to their understanding of science and religion. Either they are uniformed or misinformed about one or both. The uninformed do not possess the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision while the misinformed think they have sufficient knowledge but in fact have fallen victim to religious propaganda which obscures facts and truths. As we mentioned before, very few people are willing to give up the promise of eternal life if there is any possible way not to, even if it means ignoring their own intellectual promptings.
We have spent a lot of time talking in the theoretical I think me and every other non religious person would happily make this concession: If religious people, especially Christians who are the biggest faith group, lived out their faith, their God would be welcome.

Jesus: I agree believers are called upon to help the needy and suffering and oppose injustice. God has no patience for those who ignore the plight of others while themselves basking in riches and comforts. Without God commanding his creatures to treat one another better, do you not think men would take advantage of the weak and vulnerable?

Me: I think the issue of whether we need “God’s Laws” in order to function as a just society is definitely worth exploring. It is a regular and wellworn argument used by the religious. They postulate society would devolve into anarchy and moral depravity without a divine “higher” standard to restrain mankind’s propensity toward violence, thievery and immorality. The counter point to that is we currently live in a world which predominantly believes in God yet there is little evidence if his influence were removed society would worsen. I would staunchly argue most societies would improve immeasurably if religion were removed. There may have been a time when belief in God brought order to society, perhaps when you lived, but that time has long passed. Men needed to be told not to kill their neighbor or steal his wife because God prohibited it which was beneficial and necessary to societal harmony. But this same God was said to tell one tribe to slaughter another tribe who had a different God. It may have been necessary for survival long ago but it continues even today.

Jesus: How can you be sure removing God and his statutes would not destroy society?

Me: Today most civilized countries have a strong legal system in place and those who enforce it. Men and women are dissuaded from breaking the law because of this deterrent. Punishment awaits those who choose to commit crimes in the form of fines or removal from society and forced containment. I should add, most people willingly submit to these rules and regulations because it makes for a better and safer society not because of belief in God. I think the Roman society in which you lived demonstrated this.

Jesus: Surely Christians and those who believe in God are more law abiding than the non religious of society.

Me: The evidence would strongly suggest the opposite. There is no difference between these two groups. Prisons which contain the most serious offenders of the law are not full of atheists but those claiming some religious faith.

Jesus: I would question the authenticity of their faith to begin with. Perhaps they were false believers.

Me: We are entering another important area of discussion concerning what constitutes true faith, how it is attained and whether those who claim the promise of eternal life are bound to live in accordance with the biblical teaching that offers it.

Jesus: I don’t understand why someone who has been promised life after death based on obedience to God would not strive to be righteous to ensure they keep it.

Me: I place the blame on evangelical leaders who promote the false teachings of the pre-tribulation Rapture theory, easy salvation and eternal security, and a population of evangelicals who follow them out of blind trust rather than honest inquiry. I think I have made the point before how incredibly attractive American evangelicals version of Christianity has become. It offers all the world has to offer in the name of, “God wants us to prosper,” as well as easy and instant salvation without fear of judgment. What could be better so why question it?

Jesus: I never taught salvation was easy, in fact I stressed the cost of discipleship was high. It began with a repentant attitude followed by the fruit of that repentance as proof true repentance had been initiated. Furthermore, a believer had to maintain a righteous life until the kingdom fully arrived or risk falling under divine judgment. How any Christian arrives at any other teaching contradicts my message.

Me: I would blame Paul but that would be unfair. Despite Paul’s insistent the law was no longer binding, he still advocated a virtuous lifestyle reflective of the law. God’s righteous moral standards were still in effect outside the law. Not being circumcised or attending the festivals did not make one better but justice and love did. Paul emphasized righteousness was the mark of a true believer thus assuring him his salvation was guaranteed. A believer must exhibit the “fruit” consistent with salvation to prove his salvation.

Jesus: I agree in principle though I will always argue the promises were for Israel alone and those who converted as taught in the prophets. At least Paul was trying to make Gentiles better members of society. I’m surprised Christianity has moved away from his teachings given his prominence in Gentile Christianity.

Me: Evangelical theology has drifted so far from traditional Christian belief as to be in many cases unrecognizable. When a breakaway sect of Christianity, such as evangelicalism, decides it will chart its own course based on a strictly personal interpretation of the New Testament, anything is possible. Evangelicals will ignore centuries of ecclesiastical tradition whenever it deems it has erred from orthodoxy and profess an uncontaminated interpretation of the New Testament devoid of man’s theological missteps. While no doubt an idealistic and romantic notion, it is nevertheless a fantasy. It proposes Christians have followed an inferior version of Christianity for hundreds of years until evangelicals appeared on the stage of Christian history and rescued the faith by reclaiming and purifying it. Somehow they have been able to interpret the Bible in a way previously unknown.
This may sound ridiculous yet evangelical Christians unapologetically and unabashedly claim they are following the New Testament as originally intended while the bulk of Christendom adheres to a substandard version.

Jesus: What percentage of the overall Christian population is evangelical?

Me: It is hard to answer that since what an evangelical is has become indefinable. Remember the cloud analogy? Because Christian belief is so variegated, and has become more so among evangelicals in recent years, it is difficult to quantify. Roughly, one-third of the world’s population identifies as “Christian” covering the spectrum from fanatical to nominal. Of these perhaps one quarter to one-third adhere to conservative Christian beliefs, but there is so much overlap among denominations as to be virtually impossible to accurately gauge. Here is another example of why Christianity could not be God ordained. It is the most fractious and divisive religious group on earth and has been since it began but especially in about the last five hundred years when it suffered a major upheaval and split. Christians disagree on almost every topic imaginable from the mundane to key doctrinal issues such as your two natures we talked about earlier and how one procures salvation. I have always said, Christians are the best argument against Christianity. If Christianity were true, the world would be a much better place. In fact, if Christianity disappeared today, the world would be a better place tomorrow.

Jesus: That’s quite an indictment

Me: It’s well deserved and few nonChristian would contend it.

Me: I will end this part of our conversation with this statement. The best evidence God does not exist is one of pragmatism not idealism. Despite the world being filled with those who believe in their gods, evidence of it making the world more peaceful, just, compassionate, caring and generous does not exist and never has in recorded history. In fact quite the opposite because people use their beliefs as weapons to harm others. I should be clear, Christians and other religious people are often good people who perform acts of kindness and charity but no more than non religious people. And who is to say what their motives are? Christianity is notorious for profiting from its humanitarian work as well as abusing its spiritual authority. It’s long and storied history contains many atrocities against non Christians. These ethical blotches are well documented and persist to this day.

Jesus: What about the history of Israelites who have been under the requirements of the law? Have they committed similar acts against others.

Me: The Jewish people sadly have most often been on the receiving end of others injustices against them. It has been less than one hundred years since they were regathered as a people to their homeland. It is mostly a secular nation with only a few ardent followers of the Mosaic law. My issue is more with what we read about in their ancient writings as I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation. In defense of Judaism, many non religious scholars or experts consider much of these depictions to be grossly exaggerated for religious impact. The merciless slaughter of Canaanites as described was more likely fiction. It is believed Joshua’s massive army was grown from within the land and not the product of those from the Exodus. But the historical accuracy of the prophets and writings is best left for another conversation.

Jesus: We began with your testimony as being a former evangelical. How did we end up here?

Me: I think it always comes back to what each person allows to be the premier authority in their life, either a divine book or science and reason. We have discussed how most people find room for both and defer to one or the other as necessity or desire dictate. I personally think it dangerous if the Bible is ever accorded supreme authority that overrides scientific findings for the simple fact the Bible has basis for its absolute claims. Science is purely evidentiary, highly scrutinized, widely investigated and endlessly skeptical of its own findings. Religion claims exemption from all the above preferring to default to divine validation based on nothing more than the vague and unreliable experiences of its devotees.

Jesus: Perhaps our next conversation could be on why you are so certain evangelical Christianity is baseless.

Me: I’ll give it some thought.

My conversations with Jesus (Part 4: Paul’s “other” gospel)

Me: I hope you are enjoying these chats as much as I am. I am gaining a lot of clarity on many matters, so thanks.

Jesus: They have definitely contained some startling revelations.

Me: Care to elaborate?

Jesus: Hard to know where to begin. I think the most shocking is how belief in my resurrection escalated to equality with God. But we have explored that already. A close second is how a religion so entrenched in Judaism, which incidentally I vigorously propounded, could be completely removed from it while still professing to be inextricably linked to it and me.

Me: As you know, I have no vested interest in Christianity whatsoever, so it is easy for me to explain this. Christianity should never have made it beyond the first century let alone as a purely Gentile faith. It is only due to Paul’s efforts that we are having these conversations; otherwise, Christianity would have been thought of as a short lived sect spawned by first century Messianic fever.  When you and the messianic kingdom repeatedly failed to appear the death knell sounded for Jewish Christianity. Even Paul was persuaded he would witness your return in his lifetime and his writings reflect this belief. But his efforts unknowingly ensured Christianity’s survival as a newly emerging Gentile religion independent of Judaism.

Jesus: Yet two thousand years later with Israelites still completely indifferent to it, Christians still claim a close association with the nation of Israel and its people. Why if not reciprocated?

Me: It hasn’t always been like this. Judaism legitimized Christianity. It was unfathomable for Christians to sever this link without destroying their own religion until Christianity was strong enough to survive without this association. After it had established its own independence it no longer needed Judaism. At that time, most believed Christianity had replaced Israel as the church and were the recipients of God’s blessings. Often they would engage in aggressive attempts to coerce conversions of Jewish people to Christianity. There was no other option for Jews. For much of history, this relationship has been strained. The resurgence of Christian Zionism is a recent phenomenon caused by those who took a literalist approach to the Hebrew writings and concluded God wasn’t finished with Israel. The caveat is Christians are still insistent all Jews will convert to Christianity eventually, which means belief in you as God and heavenly messiah regardless of prophetic traditions.

Jesus: Of course this is preposterous especially my role as God which we’ve discussed. It undermines everything contained in the sacred writings. The only means whereby Gentiles could participate was through full conversion including circumcision. To force Israelites to abandon their religion for a law-free Christianity is repulsive. From what I’ve read in the gospels, Israel figured prominently in all my discourses. By the way, “Christian Zionism” sounds like an interesting topic to explore. It obviously means Christians who support the sacred city and its future promises.

Me: It is extremely relevant to our discussion and we will revisit it at a later time. I do not disagree with you about the centrality of Israel in your ministry and that of your disciples after your death. They continued preaching the gospel of the kingdom except your role changed dramatically as we have reiterated. Forgiveness of sins was offered now in your name and your return would inaugurate the kingdom.

Again Paul must be blamed for persuading Gentiles and Jews they could inherit the promises only by rejecting Judaism and embracing grace apart from the law. I think once Gentiles got a taste of the promise of eternal life, they were not about to surrender it no matter what did or did not transpire. Instead they revised their understanding to accommodate Israel’s perennial rejection. The fall of Jerusalem seemed to be a readymade explanation perfectly suited to their viewpoint. Centuries of Jewish persecution and dispersion has only reinforced it. We must also remember Christianity was losing its appeal to Israelites so there was no pressure from within to challenge it as in its early stages. Jews were scattered abroad and had little power or interest in challenging a rapidly burgeoning and powerful religion once it gained Rome’s endorsement. Today Christians vastly outnumber Israelites who are currently benefiting from evangelical’s view of Israel. 

Jesus: Two thousand years without any sign of the kingdom and Israel’s displacement from the land seems strong evidence against Christianity regardless of Pau’s teachings. 

Me: It is equally strong evidence against your message wouldn’t you say?

Jesus: I think we have established that point.

Me: Christianity has persisted for so long in spite of the things mentioned for many reasons. First, it began as a sect of Judaism which gave it its original grounding. Second, Paul made it immensely attractive and approachable for Gentiles allowing for a huge influx of converts. Third, Christianity owes its life to man’s  desire to minimize fear and optimize hope. The prospect of escaping death and gaining eternal life was irresistible. Fourth, being a Christian is heritable. The overwhelming majority of Christians have always been born and raised into the faith. Once Christians started to have children, it was natural for parents to impart their faith to this new generation of believers. This cycle has never stopped. The impact on Christianity has been an endless supply of predisposed believers to repopulate the faith. Children were socialized into Christianity without a choice. Last, Christianity has been virtually unchallenged for most of its history.

It should be stressed it has only been in the last four to five hundred years that significant opposition to Christianity’s absolutist dogmas has been mounted. Until then it was considered incontestable as an historically founded religion rooted in Judaism. It had both credibility and respectability until dawn of modern science and the Age of Reason when for the first time its legitimacy was severely challenged. We touched on this earlier as you will recall. I mention it now only to address your question.

Once science and rationalism were applied to Christian authoritarianism, many either vacated the faith or modified it to conform to these “new” truths provided by science. It was a battle of reason versus revelation with no decisive winner and both sides claiming victory. Tragically, this fight continues to this day.

The point is no amount of evidence will sway those who have already embraced the hope Christianity provides and have done so for two millennia. And since this often begins before adulthood when a strong emotional bound is formed, few will abandon it even despite being presented with overwhelming evidence against it. It is easier to turn a blind eye to reason and default to the supernatural and irrational.

Jesus: So Christians are not interested in facts as much as the promise of one day being resurrected?

Me: Christians are masters at compartmentalizing their lives into two worlds. They have been conditioned from childhood to believe in a literal heaven which they will one day inherit because they believe in you. The same New Testament also teaches about a vibrant spiritual world which now exists that is antithetical to the natural world in which they live. You more than anyone know about the unseen world of angels and demons.

Jesus: The focus of my ministry was thwarting Satan and his evil forces in preparation for the arrival of God and his kingdom. Until this time, Satan had unfettered reign in the lives of those constrained by sin. By delivering them from the power of sin in their lives, Satan was forced to release his grip on them. Exorcisms brought deliverance from all manner of sickness and disease which were the product of sin.

Me: Many Christians believe this world is as active now as it was when you walked the earth. Their challenge is what is their role and responsibility in these two worlds and how to reconcile both. Some believe this spiritual realm contains separate truths from those of this world which only believers understand and appreciate. They consider it more important to live in accordance with these spiritual standards than those of the carnal world. However, as previously mentioned, this involves sacrifice which many others are reluctant to make. They believe in the prospect of a future life but don’t want or feel they have to give up the pleasures this world has to offer. They think a lukewarm faith still is enough to gain them entrance to the next life so why deprive themselves of anything in this one. They want the best of both worlds despite the New Testaments making it an either or choice. 

Jesus:  How do they determine what is true and not true or what to obey or not obey?

Me: Of course it depends on one’s definition of truth and how that truth is ascertained. Truth is never an option when it doesn’t have to be. Many proponents choose not to challenge their faith for fear of what they might discover and because it provides them with so many things like comfort, peace, joy, strength, guidance and hope. Second, as the world has changed so has its views on morality and Christians have been forced to adapt or risk losing adherents due to irrelevance or too high standards. Rejecting the faith is not an option so they customize it for their own purposes. Third, as just mentioned, because they inherit their faith, it is much easier to rationalize its truthfulness from within than determine its validity from without. Truth is subjective not objective because the spiritual world has no boundaries. It is its own source of “truth.” Last, and here again this is the crux of the matter, ultimately most Christians do not want a faith which emphasizes sacrifice, discipline and commitment. They want comfort and convenience if possible.

Jesus: I always taught faith comes with a price, and it is sacrifice. But those things you mention faith provides are good things to have regardless of how you acquire them?

Me: Of course but only if they are based on reasonable verifiable truth or at the very least not irrationality. And as we must discuss at some point, beliefs have consequences not just in the lives of those who are believers but also those who are not.

Jesus: Can you give me an example of irrationalism within Christianity?

Me: Paul based his entire theory on the assumption of an afterlife. Physical death was inevitable but could be avoided by eternal life. Those who were, “Dead in Christ” would achieve the same glorified resurrection you did. He had no basis for his position other than his own anecdotal experience and the fledgling Christian movement. Furthermore, he used fear as his primary tactic warning those who did not believe their sin would result in divine condemnation. I find it astonishing Christianity bases its entire philosophy on something it knows is unverifiable. It exploits this unknown by magnifying the fear with the additional threat of eternal condemnation all of which are baseless. 

Jesus: I suppose my having a conversation with you supports his view in an afterlife.

Me: Not exactly, you are an elaborate hypothetical construct for the purpose of defending the opposite position. I should add your own ministry utilized fear in the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God and his attending wrath to generate response to your message of repentance and the need for forgiveness. Christians have never stopped using this same method primarily on their own children and the gullible, vulnerable and desperate of society. Evangelicals are notorious for exploiting these groups for financial gain or to illicit conversions. That too is for a later conversation.

Jesus: So let’s talk more about these evangelicals to which you keep referring.

Me: I thought you’d never ask.

Jesus: What’s an “evangelical?”

Me: That’s like asking, “What’s a cloud?” There are some basic characteristics which identify a cloud but there are also many differences. And the most salient feature of a cloud is that it is constantly changing. It’s the same with evangelicals. 

Jesus: Intriguing but why?

Me: What is unique about evangelicals is their ability to change to conform to the current situation and justify it as divinely ordained. They lack a central authority or religious body to maintain orthodoxy. They pride themselves on being autonomous and solely reliant on God’s word. They appeal to the New Testament writings which traditionally have had a broad and varied history of interpretation. To illustrate, an evangelical one hundred years ago would have considered divorce among the worst sins but today it is widely practiced and tolerated among evangelicals. There are many other examples such as materialism, violence, sexual promiscuity, premarital sex, gluttony, pride, greed, immodesty and many more.  

Jesus: How is that possible?

Me: Evangelicals are no different from anybody else. They want to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. They are an experientially drive belief system undergirded by fear and take their cues from personal encounters with God through the Bible. This gives them the freedom to invent or change ideas and then profess them to be divinely sanctioned. The pick and choose what is binding and what is culturally mandated largely based on their own biases, prejudices and vices. Think of it like you would a prophet only every evangelical thinks they have “prophetic” ability that entitles them to private personal revelation. Many appeal to an inner voice or prompting from God’s spirit as validation. The downside to this is this method is often used to justify behavior which seems antithetical to New Testament writings. 

For most evangelicals, their sole interest is going to heaven when the die. They have no viable incentive to live holy lives because they don’t believe they will ever be judged. They are exempt from judgment and eternally secure no matter how they live. This refers back to an earlier point that most evangelicals don’t feel a real obligation to God to live holy lives because they have been raised in the faith.

Jesus: It is impossible to come to that conclusion based on the Hebrew writings which make righteous obedience to the law the sole criteria for salvation. And from what I have read in the Christian writings, a premium is placed on virtuous living to assure deliverance. The gospels about me describe the necessity of being prepared for my arrival or face the consequences.

Me: Speaking of “being prepared,” I have always wanted to ask you about your baptism experience. What happened that day when you met John the Baptizer.

Jesus: It revolutionized my life. I had always been a faithful Israelite going to synagogue, visiting Jerusalem for the festivals and doing my best to keep the sacred laws. I was not perfect but I tried to be obedient. I heard about John’s ministry concerning the coming kingdom and his offer of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin or face the possibility of God’s wrath. I worried I might not have done enough so I made the journey in the hope of getting baptized and obtaining forgiveness.

Me: From what were you repenting?

Jesus: There was not one thing. It was more a question of not doing enough good which I vowed I would change.

Me: Do you mean you intended on beginning a ministry to help the needy before your baptism?

Jesus: Yes but I had no idea to what degree. My baptism experience was so liberating and transformative, I felt God wanted me to serve in the role of a prophet of the Last Days similar to John. I sensed his anointing spirit upon me. I had hoped to learn from John but he was arrested not long after I arrived so I returned to Galilee fearing I might suffer the same fate. 

Me: That clears up a lot of confusion. When you were on earth you were confronted with Israelites who refused to live by the dictates of the law, right?

Jesus: My ministry was to the, “Lost sheep of Israel” to bring them back to the fold through repentance. 

Me: You also were harangued by the religious leaders who you deemed hypocrites. Yet they believed God would grant them entrance to the kingdom.

Jesus: Some were sincerely endeavoring to fulfill the requirements of the law while others were using their office for financial gain and personal glory. I tried to warn them God’s standards were higher and unless they repented they too would be judged alongside wicked Gentiles. Christians still should fear punishment and aspire to the highest standard of righteousness.

Me: You would think so but they have devised something called,  The Rapture theory. I think this doctrine more than anything helps explains so much of what plagues evangelicalism. It teaches you will secretly return “to snatch away” all believers from the earth simultaneously given them new glorified bodies. Then you and they will return to heaven for a period of seven years. During which there will be a time of great suffering and tribulation on the earth after which you will again return but this time in dramatic fashion for all the world to see. Now here’s the key, because believers are now in perfect sinless bodies they cannot be judged when God pours out his wrath on all mankind.

Jesus: I read about times of great distress in the gospels but I do not recall a secret return.

Me: That is not surprising since it is not a biblical doctrine but an invention based on the misinterpretation of a single verse. Yet this teaching is so engrained in a segment of evangelicalism as to be almost as authoritative as belief in your virgin birth. This teaching is so insidious even if Christianity isn’t true. It breeds complacency and hypocrisy giving believers a false security and lack of incentive to aspire to New Testament ideals. If it were true, most “Christians” would be surprised at your Second Coming to be judged as unbelievers for failing to be adequately prepared.

Jesus:  I still do not see how Israel fits into this rapture idea? I return secretly for Christians but not Israelites. Then after the seven years expire, I return to judge unbelievers who would seem to include Israel from everything about which we have talked. It still seems to be primarily a religion focused on Gentiles. What about Israel and the kingdom?

Me: This is where it gets very complicated. I should preface this by saying there is more controversy than consensus among Christians regarding Israel’s place in future events. For certain evangelicals it is all part of a system of interpretation called, Pre-tribulation premillennial dispensationalism. Its primary characteristic is a view which sees Israel and the Christian church as distinct but complementary. Jews are currently in a state of suspended animation awaiting reactivation. When the Rapture occurs they will awaken, or be awakened, from failing to recognize you as their messiah and turn to you in abject contrition. 

Jesus: But if the Rapture is a secret, how will they know I have come?

Me: Evangelicals suggest the sudden disappearance of hundreds of millions of Christians will be sufficient to jolt them into realizing their error. Some believe it will drive them to the New Testament where they will discover the necessary information about you for salvation they have neglected for so long. There also is a view God will supernaturally remove their spiritual blindness which he imposed for the sake of the Gentiles.

Jesus: This is not much of a connection to Judaism? It seems Christians and Judeans are two separate groups with the Lord favoring Gentiles for all but seven years? 

Me: For most of Christian history, the prevailing thinking has been Israel was replaced by Gentile Christianity because of the nations failure to recognize you as messiah. The indisputably fact the Jewish nation has not been in their homeland and have suffered great persecution throughout most of their history seemed to support this. 

Jesus: I’m still baffled by this fact. I can only conclude it is because of their refusal to follow the law. It was the same reason why the city fell to Babylon almost six hundred years before I was born. The prophets have promised a glorious restoration which is still pending in spite of Christianity.

Me: I’m not sure I agree, but in terms of Christianity no such justification for Israel’s future as they see it exists since it is a religion based on a myth.

Jesus: So what do evangelicals believe is their current and future relationship to the nation of Israel.

Me: As we have said they believe the Jewish people have been in a state of perpetual spiritual blindness for two thousand years which will end at the Rapture. At this point Israel resumes her role in God’s program. Currently American evangelicals have shied away from trying to convert Jews by leaders who maintain the nation is under God’s sovereign care. 

Jesus: What about the countless Jews who have not recognized me for the last two thousand years?

Me: I would like an honest answer to that question myself. It is unpopular today to suggest all these souls will be cast into eternal damnation, but any other explanation tugs at the very fabric of the doctrine of salvation explicitly discussed throughout the New Testament. It is a thorny issue and one we could not hope to settle in a short span of time. It impinges on the sovereignty of God issue Paul addresses in Romans. We must reserve this for a later discussion on something called Christian zionism.

Jesus: Okay, so let’s assume the nation of Israel accepts Jesus as messiah, then what happens?

Me: At the completion of seven years, you return with every Christian who has ever lived to carry out judgment on all those who still do not believe in you. This is the beginning of your reign in the Millennial kingdom, or kingdom of God as you referred to it on earth, for one thousand years.

Jesus: I’m struggling to understand this. So I will return to establish the physical kingdom on earth which will consist of glorified Gentile Christians from the Rapture and non glorified Jewish Christians who are on earth because I will have destroyed everybody else?

Me: Basically

Jesus: What happens at the end of the thousand years?

Me: Satan will be released to wreak havoc on the nations of the earth before being cast into the Lake of Fire.

Jesus: But I thought I had already judged these nations?

Me: You’re right and this is one of many inconsistencies in the evangelical viewpoint. It is surmised despite indisputable evidence of your visible, glorified presence and that of hundreds of millions of saints, the battles of Armageddon and all the other supernatural dramatic occurrences, some will still choose not to believe. 

Jesus: After Satan has been judged what happens next?

Me: According to evangelicals, this is the Final Judgment after which the current heavens and earth are destroyed and a new heavens and earth are created. This is the beginning of eternity for all who have believed in you.

Jesus: What amazes me more than anything is nothing remotely resembling this teaching can be found in the Hebrew writings, yet Christians claim their religion is based on these texts? The kingdom of God was to be earthly and physical although glorious and beautiful and composed exclusively of Israelites and converts perhaps. 

Me: Christians utilize a method of interpretation called, “Spiritualizing” which allows them to take a literal text or concept and turn it into a “Christianized” version that fits their perspective. It has sustained Christianity for centuries, no time more so than today.

Jesus: I must ask what is their incentive to accommodate Israel in such a makeshift way? Why even include them if in doing so they are seen as more of an afterthought?

Me: A fundamental precept of evangelicalism is the belief God warned Abraham those who do not treat Israel with the utmost care will suffer his wrath. But those who support and defend Israel will be richly rewarded by God.

Jesus: I cannot say I totally disagree

Me: What would be your proof?

Jesus: The Lord has promised in the prophets to punish all those nations who have persecuted and mistreated his people. In the Last Days he will execute severe judgment and only the righteous will be spared.

Me: Does he mention Gentile Christians?

Jesus: No but if they are living righteously and supporting the nation, it sounds somewhat reasonable.

Me: I must remind you, these same people are also insisting Israel worship you as supreme God and reject Judaism and all its traditions especially circumcision as no longer effectual. They consider obedience to the Mosaic Law as one of the most grievous affronts to grace one can commit.  Do you still think they qualify for God’s blessings?

Jesus: It is hard to defend anyone who rejects the sacred traditions especially the Law. I guess we have Paul to blame for that.

Me: That’s right, Paul set the precedent which Christians have followed for two thousand years. When you think about it, Christians worshipping you is the greatest sin anyone can commit since it violates the first commandment, “You will have no other gods before me.” 

Jesus: I suppose that is true. 

Me: And to be perfectly honest with you, evangelicals are generally considered hypocrites especially in America.  America is the most powerful country on earth and where most evangelicals reside.

Jesus: The most powerful country on earth is governed by evangelical Christians?

Me: No but they do have considerable influence with the government especially in the last few years.

Jesus: It appears we are entering into a new area of discussion.

Me: Let’s call this, “Part 2” of our conversation on evangelicals and resume it at another time.

Jesus: Agreed

My conversations with Jesus (Part 3: How a man became God)

Note to Reader: These dialogues are no more or less fictitious than those of any Christian who claims to have “actual” conversations with God or Jesus. I would claim I am more qualified than most to speak on Jesus’ behalf given the decades of painstaking research I have committed to this topic.

Me: First, I would like to say how grateful and honored I am to be having these conversations with you Jesus.

Jesus: I think it helps dispel misconceptions about me which may have unhappy consequences. I must tell you I have had the chance to read some of the Christian writings about me and they contain some inaccuracies and disturbing things.

Me: I’m glad you have. It will make our discussions much easier. I think at this point I should emphasize that while we will not agree on many things, the goal of these conversations is to expose our differences and the reasons for them.

Jesus: On that note, what is your biggest disagreement with me?

Me: I do not share your view on God. I don’t think God favors one race over another, if he does exist. The Hebrew writings representation of God seems excessively tribalistic and bellicose. It is hard to reconcile a God of love with the God who indiscriminately endorses the slaughter of anyone who does not worship him. The only thing of which the Canaanites were guilty was not being born an Israelite. It seems unfair and unjust to judge them on this factor.

Jesus: I would argue the evidence for His existence is overwhelming. The writings you mention are full of miracles he performed to demonstrate his superiority over all other gods. The prophets he inspired to write of future events attest to his sovereign knowledge. Moses explicitly describes how he created the world in its majesty for which there is no other explanation, as well as Adam and Eve, who were the first people created and the reason sin exists. The holy law which Moses was given is the standard against which everyone is measured. What other explanation for all this could there be?

Me: That is most certainly what I would believe if I were in your sandals but the world has changed immensely in the two thousand years from when you were born. I have the advantage of a perspective which you could not possibly know or appreciate from where you are. We know a great deal more about everything you have mentioned. The world and everything in it and beyond is not the mystery it was when you lived. Given limitations in your understand which you cannot begin to imagine, it is impossible to have this discussion. While I can sympathize with your views, I must reject them. But let’s set aside our differences and do our best to talk about those issues where we have common ground.

Jesus: I believe we were going to talk about my being God and man in a single body, though it seems inconceivable and unfounded even from the Christian writings I read.

Me: Again, let me point out your disciples would not have thought this nor those who composed the New Testament. They had a much more constrained and realistic view of your divinity. It was only when Christianity broke free of Judaism that its view of you expanded. If you were to study the intervening centuries you would discover there were powerful influences which led to this and many other doctrines which cannot be substantiated from the New Testament or Hebrew writings.

Jesus: From what I have read, there is no question the writings have an exalted view of who I was and am. My resurrection alone which is assumed throughout is the clearest example of my divinity and elevates me beyond mortal status.

Me: The writers were essentially working backwards trying to piece together who you were prior to your birth. Because you were raised from the dead and ascended to heaven to be in God’s holy presence, you had to be more than a man. But did you become more than a man because of your resurrection? Or, because you were chosen from birth and anointed, God raised you from the dead?

Jesus: I got the impression from reading through the gospels, I had a pre-existence that was divine but it stopped short of my being God. The holy writings are explicit there is only one God so I could not possibly be God no matter what anyone thought or said. It is absolutely contradictory to every facet of Judaism. Anything suggestion otherwise is indefensible.

Me: I cannot begin to tell you how confusing and complex this topic became centuries later. Christianity began to be seen as an aberration independent of Judaism, thus the many writings in circulation were anything but uniform lending to many varied ideas about you. There is not the slightest evidence, however, your Jewish disciples or the early Christians entertained the blasphemous view of you being equal to the supreme God of Israel. But belief in your divinity would later be used to construct this concept more due to political exigency than theological honesty.

Jesus: That looks like a different conversation. As I indicated before, my closest descales alone knew who I was. In all our time together, I never indicated I was more than a humble Galilean whom the Lord choose to anoint as his holy prophet. I was a servant, though I did briefly serve in the role of king of the Jews at the behest of a large number of Passover pilgrims, it was in an entirely human capacity. Much of what is recorded I said and did is completely untrue. I found the story of my birth particularly odd and confusing.

Me: What about it was most puzzling?

Jesus: That I was conceived without a human father. The verse in Isaiah the writer cites this is based on has nothing to do with me. It is as though I am reading about a different person born in Bethlehem. There are many strange details in the stories like angelic visitations, magi and king Herod’s desire to kill me but let’s start with the virgin birth.

Me: Every year sometime around The Feast of Dedication, Christians around the world celebrate your birth. It is called, “Christmas,” and is based on the belief your mother Mary would become pregnant by God’s holy spirit while still a virgin and engaged to your father. Your birth would therefore be miraculous. It is claimed this text in Isaiah you mentioned supports it.

“The Lord himself will give you a sign, Behold, the virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son and you will call him, with us is God.”

Jesus: I am familiar with this text thought I remember it differently. It refers to a specific situation when Judah was under attack from Israel and Aram. The child, Immanuel, was to signal Assyria’s involvement which would mitigate Judah’s suffering by forcing the retreat of the two besieging nations. The use of the word, “virgin” is somewhat confusing. I think it refers to the prophet’s wife who had already had a child.

Me: The reason you remember the verse differently is because the writer who quotes it did so from the Greek and not the Hebrew version of the prophet. The original Hebrew uses a word for a woman of marriageable age not specifically a virgin, and suggests she is currently pregnant when Isaiah identifies her. The source of Matthew’s work reads into this verse an esoteric meaning which completely changes its intent.

Jesus: It was not uncommon to believe God could anoint a child even in the womb but what you’re suggesting is unheard of.

Me: The theory he introduces maintains you had a human mother and a divine Father which accounts for your dual natures. It also supports the claim your birth were evidence of prophetic fulfillment, thereby validating it and your messiahship. Christians unjustifiably place more theological weight on this verse than any other single verse in all of Scripture.

Jesus: Do they believe the child Isaiah is describing had a heavenly father as well?

Me: That’s a good question. If Isaiah meant a virgin birth then, it would require a miraculous conception similar to yours the product of which would be a divine child. Of course this is unacceptable. Therefore, either they have to change the word “virgin” back to “young woman” or claim this child was never born during Isaiah’s time but was in reference to your future birth eight hundred years in the future.

Jesus: If the former, then it no longer can refer to me as direct prophecy since it is changed significantly, so it must be the latter. However, this completely nullifies its significance for Isaiah’s audience and contradicts the purpose of the “sign.” It was this which specifically signaled Judah’s succor. How do Christians explain it?

Me: For the most part they don’t. Few take the time to investigate the origins of these texts because either they don’t want to know the truth, don’t have the time or knowledge to investigate its intended meaning or trust its validity as a matter of faith in the New Testament writing. It all goes back to putting implicit confidence in the authority of these writers.

Jesus: Theoretically one can make almost any claim one wants to, but how does one explain it on a practical or theological level? I was shocked to read about many miracles I was said to have performed which I never did. I can only assume these were attempts to show me as having supernatural powers consistent with my alleged deity. However, it still stops short of me being God.

Me: As I said before, the fault really falls upon Christians many centuries later who took your divinity and raised it to its ultimate level making you co-equal with God. They were unbound by any authoritative writings or official “church” position to reign in their ideas. Using some of these early writings, they were able to make outrageous claims since they alone had the power of determining what would be the official teachings of Christianity. The most divisive topic was the question of your two natures. How you were simultaneously God and man, to what degree of each and how they interacted either independently or as one were hotly debated. It was all extremely complex and confusing.

Jesus: So if I was considered more than man but less than God prior to this, what exactly was I?

Me: Theories abounded because as I said there was no one piece of authoritative writing to contain speculation. From some of the earliest writings contained in the New Testament, it was commonly thought you were the pre-existent ‘Logos’ who emanated from God as a separate, personal entity who created all things. This made you eternal because you were part of God’s divine essence but not equal since God created you as a distinct personality at a point in time. Then you were incarnated or “enfleshed” as a baby. You grew up fully aware of your divinity but it was subsumed by your humanity. You “chose” to hide your deity and function purely as a human, in order to identify with mankind in every way. You lived a perfect sinless life the purpose of which was so you could die in place of all people for their sin, thereby giving man access to eternal life.

Not to belabor this point, but originally the benefits of your death and resurrection was limited to Israelites and proselytes alone according to the book of Acts. In a bizarre theological twist Paul made his case your death and resurrection rendered the law obsolete which meant all Jews had to abandon it completely to partake of the salvation you offered. As we touched on before, he was not content to work within Judaism but advocated a complete departure from it.

Jesus: It is a wonderful theory if it were true. It sounds completely foreign to Judaism and more like a Greek style of religion.

Me: One of the benefits of the “Logos doctrine” was it combined elements of Greek and Hebrew thinking giving it philosophical respectability in a Hellenistic culture which celebrated a more sophisticated approach to religion.

Jesus: I still maintain if it were true, I would have informed my disciples at least. It is unfortunate everything written about me was by those who did not intimately know me. If Christianity had remained closely connected to Judaism, it would have turned out much differently. At least one of the Christian writings describes me as less than God.

Me: I think the book to which you’re referring is Hebrews. It describes you as the highest in the created order. But while on earth as a man you had to assume a role “inferior to angels.” Your death was seen as your crowing achievement. Christians should have been content with this understanding if they wanted to remain true to how your first followers perceived you.

Jesus: The gospels repeatedly suggest my death was pre-determined. I was never supposed to be an earthly messiah even though I am portrayed as one.

Me: Yes, you were, “A lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”

Jesus: If that’s the case, it was part of the Lord’s sovereign plan and my arrest and death were no accident. This raises a big question of culpability. How could my fellow Israelites be guilty of rejecting me as messiah if God intended me to die so I could be resurrected? And, had my people not rejected me, according to Paul, Gentiles would never have had the opportunity to accept me as their Savior. In Paul’s book to the Romans he builds an incredible theory around the Lord deliberately and sovereignly ordering his entire ministry to the Gentile nations at the expense of Israelites. I came to help my people yet according to Christians all I did was bring them harm.

Me: There are many unanswerable questions surrounding Christianity which are often considered unknowable mysteries reserved for God alone. It is a convenient way for Christians to avoid confronting the many logistical implausibilities and inconsistencies of their faith. I would add, had you returned in the first century, when expected, Christianity would have made a lot more sense as described in the writings.

Jesus: Why is that?

Me: The link to Judaism was undeniable and essential for Christianity’s legitimization especially when it became primarily Gentile. Paul made the argument this “temporary” hardness, to which you just referred, allowed for the infusion of Gentiles until your imminent return at which time “all Israel” would recognize your messiahship. In his mind, the spectacle of you descending from heaven in your glorified body with the resurrected bodies of all those who had believed in you, would result in the nation unreservedly accepting you as their messiah. But two thousand years later, justification for this delay is extremely thin and almost impossible to reconcile with the New Testament writings not to mention the Hebrew writings.

Jesus: Exactly how do Gentiles account for the restoration of Israel when Israel has rejected Christianity from the beginning?

Me: Remember in our last conversation when I mentioned there was a specific sect of Christians called “evangelicals” who had contrived a theory to explain Israel’s role in the Lord’s sovereign plan?

Jesus: Yes, we were going to explore this topic more fully.

Me: I think we will save it for our next conversation because it is involved and complicated meriting a separate discussion. I will say like almost everything, Christians differ widely on this subject as well.

Jesus: I look forward to our next conversation.