Is America ready to give up God?

A rumbling has begun among the populace and is growing with those who have decided enough is enough — God is dead, or at the very least mortally wounded.

While the notion of abandoning God may seem shocking and even disturbing to many, it really comes down to honesty. How much does belief in God impact one’s life? Is America a nation of devout theists living each day in the fear of God? Hardly!

The vast majority of Americans may espouse a theoretical belief in God but few make an earnest attempt to practice a Christianity reflective of New Testament ideals. They champion an intransigent belief in the inerrancy or divine inspiration of the Bible but fail to make a concerted effort to implement its teachings in their daily lives. Explicit teachings against divorce, materialism, pride, worldliness, premarital sex and greed are treated with mild displeasure rather than the contempt accorded them by the New Testament writers. While mandates to love unconditionally and feed and clothe the poor and disenfranchised of society are largely ignored.

After being immersed and largely psychologically sequestered in the evangelical culture from age seventeen until my early thirties, my entrance into the real world was an eye opener. I expected women to be vixens, sexually manipulating men like Eve did to Adam (as I was taught), and men to be rabid sexual predators bent on exploiting women. I thought I was entering an environment fraught with immorality and wickedness where God was maligned and Satan worshipped. I truly feared whether I would be able to cope in this world I had left so long ago. To my shock, I found non evangelicals no different from evangelicals, except perhaps in rhetoric.

I realize my experience is atypical because I chose to spend a decade in evangelical institutions. Also, I was totally invested in my faith abstaining from watching television to avoid being tainted by its low moral standards. Furthermore, I was repeatedly disheartened by the rampant hypocrisy among evangelicals I encountered at school or through ministry. But I never imagined the disparity between the sinful and redeemed would be so small if any at all.

I would like to suggest, apart from church attendance and verbal declarations, a general goodness at best pervades much of evangelicalism and passes for godliness and holiness. Many aspire to The Golden Rule as their moral guide. So the big question is what’s the point of believing in God if you are not going to live up to the standards he has clearly revealed throughout the Bible, especially the New Testament?

The answer: Being an evangelical has little to do with the here and now and everything to do with the here-after.

Evangelicals are in it for the promise of heaven. The fear of death and the uncertainty of the afterlife locks them into this belief. Evangelical teaching stresses an easy, instant and permanent salvation which is guaranteed. The only caveat: A complete rejection of God is a final step most are unwilling to take. The risk of losing this hope is unfathomable for many. For this reason, evangelicalism breeds half hearted believers reluctant to make significant personal sacrifices. They have one foot in heaven and one on earth.

Another phenomenon of this bland style of faith is an over emphasis on external societal reform to the neglect of personal piety. Instead of focusing on righteous living, evangelicals turn their attention to forcing others to conform to their version of biblical morality. This conveniently absolves them from their own moral responsibilities by substituting social, political and environmental issues for personal sanctification.

The exalted position the Bible has enjoyed in Western Civilization for two millennia is unquestionable. Why it continues to occupy so prominent place in politics and people’s lives can be reduced to ignorance. Society as a whole is either biblical illiterate or biblically misguided, the latter being far more dangerous.

It seems everyday misconceptions about who Jesus was grow and become more entrenched in our psyche. Space prevents us from delving into this issue other than to say, the world in general sees Jesus as portrayed by non Jewish Christians. The man from Galilee would be aghast at how he is represented by Christians.

The Bible is quite simply religious propaganda or to soften this term, religious advertising. It was written by religious fanatics who were convinced the God they wrote about was the only God or the only God worthy of worship in the case of ancient Israel. Unfortunately, what should never have made it beyond the Middle Ages continues to exert great political influence. Herein, lies the problem.

One’s religious faith should be immensely private and personal. Today, it is neither. The sacralism of politics and faith have created a cancerous climate which threatens the health of society, the environment and political stability abroad.

As long as we continue to indulge a faith of irrationality and fantasy that takes priority over science and reason, we are in danger of succumbing to its ancient prejudices.

All major religions have one thing in common — inherited faith. Because region is often rooted in a cultural context, passing on the faith of the parents to the children in not solely about transferring religious beliefs but also cultural identity. There is a nationalistic component as well. In America these believers might be described as Apple Pie Christians where patriotism and faith merge and blend into one.

Conservative Christians will often appeal to, “A nation founded on Christian principles” defense to justify the extolling traditional family values. This is evangelical speak for their interpretation of biblical virtues and specific moral causes they choose to champion such as abortion, gay rights or social justice.

Hypothetically, “What would America look like tomorrow if it gave up God today?”

I can tell you evangelicals and conservative Christians believe society would devolve into anarchy and moral debauchery if religious constraints (read absolutes) were removed. People would marry their pets, sexual predators would cruise children’s bathrooms, school curricula would push the homosexual agenda, Satanic worship would increase, transgenderism would burgeon and the institution of family would disintegrate. Also Israel would be abandoned to her foes and as a result of failing to defend her, God would enact the curse of Genesis 12:3 and America would spiral into financial chaos having lost God’s blessing.

Narratives such as this are pushed on American evangelicals daily to coalesce support for right wing leaders who pledge to defend their religious freedoms and values. Creating the monster of secularism and liberalism is a favorite ploy to frighten their constituents into a lockstep conformity. The fear of surrendering cherished American exceptionalism helps motivate and solidify support which is then channelled where needed.

Everything goes back to the role biblical authority plays in influencing the direction policy and legislation take. Can we really afford to allow an untested book of ancient superstitions dictate anything meaningful in our lives or that of the government? The Bible deserves to be heard but it equally deserves to be challenged at the highest level of rational scrutiny. If it passes the test of critical analysis and logical consistency performed in an unbiased and objective forum, it should be allowed a preeminent position in people’s lives and perhaps politics. If, however, it fails to satisfy the criteria of rationalism, it must be demoted as a divine guidebook and relegated to an inferior place in society.

I sincerely believe many “believers” are looking for an excuse to give up God but fear holds them back. As long as we allow the Bible to hide behind the wall of religious protectionism, thereby exempting it from the most rigorous inspection for fear of offending its adherents, it will continue to exercise unchecked power wherever evangelicals and conservative Christians deem expedient.

The battle for the hearts and minds of America may well be fought on the sacred ground of biblical authority. God’s days may be numbered as more see the futility in subscribing to an irrational faith that serves as a delivery system for racism, sexism, bigotry and anti-intellectualism.

The path to truth is paved with knowledge. Lies hide in the dark shadows of faith, while truth basks in the glaring light of reason.

Rationalizing versus emotionalizing, or when feelings “Trump” facts

Nobody wants to be accused of relying on emotions over intellect . Nor do people want to be thought of as those governed by feelings more than facts, but this is the heart of evangelical belief.

The majority of President Trump supporters are white evangelicals as statistics continue to show. The world has puzzled over this phenomenon for more than three years. Why this faith demographic over all others? But should we really be surprised?

My perspective as a former evangelical and graduate of several evangelical institutions may uniquely qualify me to answer these questions.

One glaring flaw among evangelicals is the propensity to believe in contradistinction to the rest of society, a quality in which they revel. This stems form a clear biblical distinction between believers and unbelievers, light and dark, righteous and unrighteous, spiritual and carnal and the forces of goodness and the forces of darkness. Evangelicals are in the business of trafficking in the realm of the unseen. So what does this have to do with Donald Trump?

Evangelicals are not constrained by logic, reason or facts. They are only bound by the teachings of holy scripture (as they see them). Evangelicals have always had a healthy appetite for Apocalypticism, or the culmination of this temporal world in a cataclysmic finale called Armageddon. The problem is they are always in need of “players” to fill the necessary roles to see this end achieved. Enter Donald J Trump, forty-fifth president of the United States.

Many evangelicals see Trump as their ticket to heaven, so to speak. He will finally help usher in the End Times, thereby, initiating “The Rapture” of evangelicals where they will watch the unfurling of Tribulation events from the safety of heaven. All of this is based on an emotional connection to the Bible.

Belief in the Bible as the divine and perfect inspired Word of God begins with the presupposition in the supernatural. With this conviction firmly lodged in place, evangelicals construct a massive edifice supporting inerrancy using science and reason wherever and whenever convenient, and rejecting it when it impinges on this doctrine. The problem is appealing the the supernatural gives one boundless freedom to modify and reinterpret “facts” to fit their theological model. Everything can potentially be made to conform to their beliefs because a God who delights in confounding the scientific community is behind it all.

I am not saying evangelicals are or cannot be immensely rational and intellectual. I am saying, however, when it comes to their faith, heart always wins over head. They pick and choose when science and reason are their friends or their enemies. For instance, there is no evidentiary proof or rational basis for the Christian faith. Belief in the miraculous resurrection is embedded in trust in the biblical accounts which in turn is rooted in an emotional belief in Jesus as the eternal son of God. Unflinching objectivity suggests doctrines like this and the Trinity are later Christian inventions devised by men with no biblical justification.

Evangelicals avail themselves of scientific advancements as much as non evangelicals except when it “oversteps” its authority and makes incursions into the realm of faith. Evangelicals entertain a conspiracy theory the scientific community contains those who allow a personal bias against the miraculous to dictate their investigation. They begin with the presupposition miracles do not exist which is identical to evangelicals’ presupposition miracles did exist and will one day resume. Scientists refuse to incorporate the possibility of the supernatural in their work. This of course is not true, unless and until their is such evidence to lead to this theory.

A point which needs to be emphasized is evangelicals default to this position to blur the real issue. The existence of God is not in question. It is the credibility of the Bible as the source of absolute authority to affirm the belief in God. God’s existence is ultimately non rational but a study of the Bible’s reliability is well within the scope of rationality.

Press any evangelical hard enough and ultimately they will default to a personal God experience as irrefutable proof of the Bible’s divine authority. Trusting in a book that contradicts science, logic and common sense must find its source in emotional conviction.

I have been there many times as a former evangelical. I did not think I was being unreasonable or emotional whenever I deferred to my personal experience with God for my assurance. My relationship confirmed what the Bible taught, therefore, my faith was ultimately fact based, I reasoned. It made perfect sense to me.

Trying to get an evangelical to readjust their thinking is no small task. Forcing them to confront their own dependance of a mystical encounter with God which is transferred to the Bible which a believer then rationalizes to be supported by archeology, history, science, logic and so on, is a herculean feat. You are asking a person to deny the reality of a profound faith experience.

I offer only one challenge to those who think this is enough. What about the hundreds of millions who have had equally powerful divine or spiritual experiences from hundreds of other belief systems? Does their experience validate their faith?

A final brief word about the history of American evangelicalism. Regardless of what modern day evangelicals may think about the origins of their faith, it began as a reactionary movement against the cold formalism that pervaded Christianity in the early eighteenth century. Deism had supplanted theism as the Age of Enlightenment reduced God to an impersonal distant superintendent of the universe. Men like Theodorus Frelinghuysen, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and George Whitfield called into question the salvation of many Christians who lacked a distinct discernible emotional conversion experience. Thus, began the need for assurance as the hallmark of true saving faith. Today a conversion or born again experience remains a defining and essential characteristic of American evangelicalism.

Evangelicals are relishing their place on center stage. The eyes of the world are upon them because of their affiliation with Trump and the power and influence it has brought. The excitement of believing they are in the final days of history due to this unholy union reinforced their commitment to Trump. It makes no difference whether Trump meets biblical standards for righteousness because God uses those least likely to be thought of as his instruments for good.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.“(1 Corinthians 1:27)

As much as the world thinks Donald Trump is shamelessly exploiting evangelicals for political support, evangelicals are equally using him to achieve their theological goals. Both have an agenda they want to push at any cost. What is frightening is the stakes are incredibly high and neither seems to care (evangelicals) or be aware (Trump) of what the fallout may be, and by the time they do, it may be too late.

Evangelicalism: Following a fake faith

The word “fake” has gotten a lot of press in the last three years. Ironically, few words have ever been so misused as this one. It would be comical if it were not so tragic that we live in a society where lies are trumpeted as truth and truth is vilified as false. I would like to make the connection evangelicals traffic in falsehoods making them easy and gullible targets for championing fiction over fact.

Imagine for a moment Jesus did not rise from the dead. All of Christianity crumbles if this is true. Now imagine if he did rise from the dead. If true, the world would look a lot different than it does particularly because, one third of the population is living with God’s supernatural Holy Spirit residing within their bodies (“Temples”).

Either Christianity is completely true or completely false. There is no middle ground or grey area. We as a civilization are either bound by this divine proposition or we should abandon it altogether as ancient superstition. Pick a lane!

I as well as anyone know what it means to invest your entire life in a faith only to discover after a rigorous rational examination it is false. I entered the faith with my heart but left with my head.

I am not picking on evangelicals. I used to be one and I sacrificed everything I had and was from age seventeen to thirty. That’s a lot of years to remain sexually pure, eschew materialism, devote to theological training in Bible schools, college and seminary, minister to others, abstain from worldly pleasures and dedicate myself to righteous living. It was my supreme devotion to studying the Bible that inevitable led to the dismantling of my faith. I loved Jesus and was trying to deepen my commitment to him not abandon it.

I have spent thousands of hours researching, studying, analyzing and critiquing the Bible with unflinching honesty. I had nothing to gain by embarking on a critical evaluation of my evangelical/Christian faith. But I did have a lot to lose. I was committing spiritual suicide.

Simply put: Evangelical Christianity cannot stand up to honest and objective scrutiny. However, since evangelicals are unwilling to examine their faith, evangelicalism continues to enjoy an uncontested reign in believers’ lives and society. Personal religious liberty is enshrined in the Constitution giving it tacit protection from among other things rational attack which is seen as religious persecution.

The time to expose Jesus and the Bible for who and what they are is long overdue. We are so afraid of offending the religious sensibilities of the faith community, we continue to indulge a baseless and irrational belief system called evangelicalism. We allow a rich tradition of Christian heritage (The founding of a nation on Christian principles) to override sound reason and common sense. It is like a doctor being afraid to excise the cancer for fear of killing the patient.

Evangelicals scoff at the idea they are a sickness and not a cure for societies’ ills. They think they act as moral buffers preventing society from sliding into anarchy and chaos. “Without absolutes, society spirals into the abyss of immorality” they proclaim. Liberalism and secularism are tools of the devil to infect society with all manner of wickedness.

If the Bible is literally true in everything it teaches, Christians might be right and we should take every step to ensure Jesus, the gospel and the Bible are given prominence in our lives, education, law, politics and every other sphere of society. BUT, we better be absolutely certain they have earned and deserve this place of prominence.

I do not have the slightest doubt Jesus was merely a misguided and disillusioned Israelite who mistakenly thought himself a prophet and messiah for a kingdom that never came. I do not have the slightest doubt the Bible it the product of ancient mens’ religious imaginations and deep seated faith in God/Yahweh. I do not have the slightest doubt, Christianity is a religion based on fear and not fact. I do not have the slightest doubt Christians cling to the faith more for the hope of heaven than rational honesty.

I arrived at these conclusions through countless hours of research, study and reflection unhampered by faith. It takes a great deal of courage to be willing to surrender the prospect of a blissful afterlife in exchange for intellectual integrity. I realize the vast majority of evangelicals and Christians would rather live in blissful ignorance than face their worst fears. Since Christianity can never be satisfactorily disproven or proven, because nobody who dies can verify its claims one way or another, it will continue to exist. Only those brave enough to trust their own mental capabilities over the assertions of biblical writers can ever hope to find true personal freedom.

Religious faith is not an excuse for ignorance.

Evangelicalism: A baseless faith, but who cares? (We all should)

Evangelicalism is a faith firmly planted on the shifting sands of experientialism and fear.

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 thousands of hours studying the Bible from beginning to end. 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 evangelical nationals. 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 a moral lifestyle than a dynamic outworking of New Testament ideals.

The dangers of inheriting your parents or grandparents’ faith are a preadolescent is it can compromise objectivity later on. Years of socialization and indoctrination within the evangelical culture has a profound effect on one’s psyche. Once an evangelical reaches adulthood, and is exposed to rational and scientific challenges to their faith, e.g., secular university or non evangelical acquaintances, gaining intellectual non bias can be a challenge. The result is either rejecting, compromising or reinforcing their faith. Most opt for the latter two.

A small number of converts enter the faith through the door of personal crisis. Fear of death later in life, a terminal sickness, mental health issues, depression, loneliness, financial distress, relationship struggles or a search for meaning in life are some of the paths taken to salvation. Evangelicalism offers a remedy for any and every problem facing mankind since all are ultimately rooted in sin and alienation from God.

In short, those comprising evangelicalism are the most gullible and easily exploited. Faith is deeply embedded in emotional dependance not reasonableness. As such, evangelicals fiercely defend the thing that brings them peace, comfort, security, guidance, joy, strength, meaning and hope. Attempts to challenge the faith with rational or scientific arguments are minimized or rejected outright as the product of sinful mans attempts to reason God away.

Religion has already outlived its usefulness and needs to be excised from society. It is an ideological virus infecting the lives of those least sympathetic to its dogmas. LGBTQ, women’s advocacy rights groups, immigrants, minorities, children, the environment and Middle Eastern stability are those most threatened by its pernicious teachings. Ironically, evangelicals themselves seem to be the only ones immune to their own noxious ideology. Their cure — hypocrisy.

The Irrational Evangelical: I dare you to prove me wrong!

Here is the plain unvarnished truth: The resurrection of Jesus was a mystical experience not an historical event. All evidence and common sense support this conclusion. Those who “think” otherwise are relying on their own spiritual relationship not a shred of reliable data, as I will laboriously show to those willing to objectively examine the biblical test.

My sacrifice for Jesus

I can guarantee you have never met nor will ever meet anyone who has spent more time studying the Bible than I have — nobody. I would further add, anyone who has devoted their lives to studying the Bible as a believer, has no idea what the Bible(s) is/are.

You could memorize every word of the Bible but that would only mean you know what the biblical writers want you to know. I would argue, reading the Bible as a Christian makes one a victim of ancient propaganda.

I tried to calculate the cumulative hours spent studying (never just reading, always critically interacting with each verse), cogitating and writing about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity in the last forty years. I would estimate it is about eight hours a day conservatively (probably closer to ten hours when you factor in two to three hours each night). That comes to over one hundred thousand hours. It’s a lot of time to devote to a single subject.

Why do I mention this? To brag? No, to convey how personally invested I have been to my research. I can honestly say, the most productive hours spent have been in the middle of the night. I used to resent not being able to sleep for hours on end until I realized it is then I have the most revelatory thoughts and break throughs. While I see other people absorbed with their smart phones listening to music, texting or checking emails and social media, I am thinking about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity. It never stops.

There is no such thing as leisurely anything in my life. Books are history, philosophy and theology. I took up mountain biking and snowboarding to force myself to stop thinking about these things. It was a mental reprieve from all things biblical. Yet I still found my mind wandering back to Jesus. Vacations are never relaxing. Socializing is awkward. Bike rides and walks afford me more time to ponder what I’m working on. Nothing seems to matter as much as studying and thinking. It’s mentally exhausting.

My mother used to say I was a perfectionist. I had to master whatever I did. I would practice nonstop until I got good at something, typically sports. Before my conversion, the one thing I had no interest in was education. I never did homework, study or read a complete book. That all changed after I became a born-again evangelical Christian.

When I was an evangelical I was consumed with studying the Bible and meditating on it constantly. I had a library of over six hundred books mostly reference material. At Bible school in England, I spent most of my spare time in the library meticulously pouring over commentaries trying to acquire as much information as I could. I wrote a harmony of the four gospels so I was forced to read every word. This compulsion continued in Bible college and seminary. I was determined to master the Bible. It was to me the highest and most noblest of callings.

After leaving the faith my study only intensified. I felt betrayed by those in whom I had placed my trust. I was desperate for answers. Once I began to realize the Bible was actually two Bibles containing religious propaganda and revisionist history for three different faiths (Yahwism and Jewish and Gentile Christianity), I found myself questioning the accuracy of what I had learned the last dozen years. Had I been guilty of falling victim to unquestioned allegiance to the Christian faith without properly examining its veracity?

I want to clarify. Viewing the Bible as religious propaganda is not pejorative. The writers were devout believers concerned their fellow Israelites might incur God’s wrath if they did not conform to the Law. Likewise, Jesus and his followers were persuaded, “The Day of the Lord” would soon arrive and all unrighteous Israelites would be judged. Later, the Christians would attach Jesus as the heavenly messiah to this event. Tribalism and sectarianism was very much in vogue and essential for survival especially for the early Israelites.

If every Christian could live in my head for a day, there would be no Christians in the world. What I have discovered about Jesus and the Bible makes faith impossible. The challenge is how to communicate what I have learned to my reader? Think of it as a leak in a dam. I can’t just release all the “water” onto someone. I have to do it in a slow stream which takes an immense amount of time to empty the reservoir of information I have accumulated. But what choice do I have?

These articles are an attempt to synthesize and summarize my major findings, think of it as a bird’s eye view, a macro perspective. I realize very few will invest the time I have in mining the data, but perhaps these articles will help spawn a curiosity to investigate these claims. The bulk of my work will be directed at the four gospels portrayal of Jesus and the Hebrew texts appealed to in support of these claims. I figure if a Christian would be willing to spend considerable time studying anything, it would be the life of Jesus.

When I began to suspect Jesus was not who his disciples or Paul thought he was and most importantly who he thought he was, I was driven to find the truth. It was like trying to solve a huge mystery. I started discovering more clues which spurred me on. It has been an immensely rewarding quest, intellectually speaking. It has also been emotionally devastating. My obsession has not been without tremendous cost. I have spent most of my life locked in the solitary confines of my mind. It is here I retreat from the world in hopes of finding answers and the solace I crave.

Here is not the place to disclose the harm done to me and others during these many years of painstaking research. I have never felt more alone. I have sacrificed relationships, a career, all my energy and time, sleep, peace of mind and personal happiness in this quest. Was it worthwhile? Time will have to answer that question but at least my findings are being exposed.

Why I stopped believing

There are literally hundreds of reasons why one should not believe Jesus rose from the dead, but it all begins and ends with the authority of the Bible. That is The source of faith, not one’s experience. Without a Bible there is no Jesus.

I have devoted my entire life to studying the Bible proving the irrationality of belief. Twenty years ago it was obvious Jesus was not who Christians claim nor who Jesus himself thought he was (Yes, there is a big difference)

My research has taken me places I never knew existed in the world of biblical/literary criticism. For those brave enough to explore these areas, there is a wealth of information to support a naturalistic interpretation of the Bible.

For me the theological straw that broke the back of Christianity was Hebrew prophecy. Jesus legitimacy as the heavenly messiah depends on being able to establish an irrefutable link between the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible. It was the umbilical cord of early Christianity. Without it Christianity dies.

I analyzed with painstaking precision all the so-called “proof” texts upon which Christianity rests. All were found to be either already fulfilled, in part or full, manipulated, misinterpreted or completely fabricated.

For those who accept the literal reading of the Bible, especially the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, they do not have a single, uncontested, verifiable fact upon which to build the faith. Christianity is a mammoth superstructure with no foundation. I challenge anyone to provide “the cornerstone” which supports Christian belief.

One’s personal God experience, no matter how “real” and affirming it is, does not constitute objective evidence; otherwise, every religion, belief system and experience generated faith would be validated. As powerful and dynamic as a spiritual or mystical encounter might seem, it alone is unreliable. It must be laid aside and another piece of verifiable evidence which can be independently corroborated must be put forward as proof.

After I left the faith, I came to a stark realization. The source of the remarkable change in my life (“Once I was blind but now I see”) was not God but me. The power of believing in a personal God within me (the holy spirit) unleashed the potential I did not have the confidence to. Though at the time I gave God all the credit and it seemed inconceivable at the time it could be anyone else, let alone me, I just needed someone to believe in me.

When I think of how many Christians give “God” credit for their own ability to change their lives, it is unfortunate. It feeds the Christian idea we are all hopeless, debased creatures in need of redemption. Any good in us immediately is attributed to God who places within us his divine spirit.

20”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”(Galatians 2:20,21)

A fundamental characteristic of Christianity is its pessimistic outlook of mankind. It renders a believer hopelessly dependent on God. Without Jesus, each person is dead in their sins and destined for eternal damnation. Only by believing in Jesus is one delivered from their sinful desires (“Crucified with Christ,” Gal. 2:20) and set free to live righteous lives through God’s spirit.
Christians sum it up this way: The only good in me is Jesus, everything else is sinful.

It is time to bury God in the past and resurrect mankind and womankind. Human potential does not reside in an invisible God but ourselves. Unlocking our latent capacity to rise above our weaknesses and struggles should be the goal of every person. If God were real, as Christians maintain, this world would be much better than it is, human suffering would be less, natural disasters would not exist and Christianity would not be fractured into hundreds of “independent” churches and denominations and Christians themselves would be the marvel of all for their unsurpassed charity, generosity, kindness, humility, uprightness, joyfulness and love. Instead many, like evangelicals, represent the worst that humanity has to offer because of their hypocrisy, bigotry and self righteous smugness.

There are hundreds of reasons why the Bible is not divine and Christianity is a fabrication, but none more so than those who profess to follow it. I think Jesus said it best.

18”A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”(Matthew 7:18-21)

ADDENDUM

The New Testament standard for true believers: How do you stack up?

5“But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”(1 John 3:5-9)

“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. Romans 6:13

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, Romans 8:12-13

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-25

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

“… and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:10

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:14-16

Building a case against Christ: Let reason be the Judge: The Christmyth story (pt.3)

The focus of this article will be on the context of Matthew and Luke’s record of the birth and infancy of Jesus.

The Christmas story in context

Overview:

Most of us know the Christmas story. Most people, especially Christians, don’t realize there are two separate and distinct stories which are factually and logically irreconcilable. One records the birth (Luke) of Jesus while the other the infancy (Matthew) of Jesus. One starts in Nazareth and moves to Bethlehem (Luke). The other starts in Bethlehem and moves to Nazareth via Egypt (Matthew). In one, Jesus is born in obscurity in a lowly manger and announced to shepherds (Luke). In the other, Jesus birth is heralded by a star and celebrated by magicians from the East.

If Christianity had died out before the end of the first century, and we were examining these stories as ancient superstitions (which they are), nobody would have any qualms about seeing these as two separate incompatible Christian traditions about Jesus’ birth. To an objective eye, it is obvious. To the evangelical* eye, they must be made to harmonize for the sake of inerrancy and the analogy of scripture.

*The term “evangelical” is loosely applied with the understanding those who subscribe to this term have widely differing views some of which are inconsistent with classical evangelicalism. Others have vacated the term but still hold to classical evangelical beliefs such as the divine inspiration or inerrancy of Scripture and the need for a personal conversion experience for assurance of salvation.

A Myth is born

Throughout this book we will make a basic assumption in biblical infallibility. We will treat all details as absolutely factual because this is the claim of inerrancy by evangelicals. The moment one begins to pick and choose what is and isn’t inerrant, everything empirically unverifiable becomes suspect.

Most of the Bible is historical fiction. Any great myth is anchored to some event(s) or person(s) known to be historical. Around this kernel of truth a fiction is wrapped. The intention is the story assumes the validation of the historical person or event bolsters the myth. In the case of Jesus’ miraculous birth, this event is set in the context of Herod the Great’s reign which we may assume was contemporaneous. This, Mary and Joseph and the hometown of Nazareth is probably the only actual true detail about Jesus’ birth.

The nativity story of Jesus was essential to establish his messianic pedigree, the most important detail being his birthplace. The Messiah will not come from Nazareth, he will come from the place David was born — Bethlehem.

40”On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.”(John 7:40-43).

It is important to note in the above passage neither Jesus nor his disciples contested or corrected these words suggesting Jesus did in fact have no connection to Bethlehem by birth or otherwise. Furthermore, throughout his ministry he spoke and acted like a prophet not a messiah (Matt. 16:14, Mk. 6:15, Jn. 1:23). It was only the final week of his life, according to the gospels, he chose to announce his role as king of the Jews.

Whose son is the messiah?

I imagine most readers of the Bible gloss over this verse unaware of the deep and complex meaning given to it by the originator of this text. It is the most quoted text from the Hebrew writings by New Testament authors.

41”While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42“What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44“ ‘The Lord [‘Yahweh’] said to my Lord [‘adonai’]:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.” ’ [Ps. 110:1]
45If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”(Matthew 22:41-46, also Mk. 12:35f., Lk. 20:41f.)

The author is suggesting, David “speaking by the spirit” has recorded a conversation in heaven between Yahweh and Jesus.
Somehow David has assumed the prophetic role and has been made privy to what could only be described as a dialogue within the godhead between Father and Son. There are multiple issues to discuss.

At first glance, it begs the obvious question, Why if Jesus was born in Bethlehem, of Davidic lineage and conceived by the Holy Spirit, as Matthew and Luke demonstrate, would he need to make this argument? The writer is attempting to establish the pre-existence of the heavenly messiah making physical birth by David impossible and unnecessary. In effect, Jesus is referring to himself in the third person as the “Lord” to whom Yahweh, his father, is addressing as future messiah.

Secondly, the Messiah’s Davidic lineage is a belief beyond dispute among Israelites. It is a bedrock teaching and not subject to question (2 Samuel 7:12–16; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5–6; Micah 5:2). The only reason to explain this tradition is Jesus’ true lineage and birthplace (Nazareth) was common knowledge. After the heavenly messiah story took root, Christians were forced to create teachings to override his physical background. Ironically, the nativity stories take an opposite approach by explicitly showing Jesus did descend from David.

The writers appeal to Psalm 110, quoted within this text, is a classic example of Christian misinterpretation. It reveals a fundamental technique employed by early Christians to build Jesus’ messianic credentials. They would scour the Hebrew writings looking for texts to support their claims. In some cases, as we will see with the nativity stories, “facts” were invented by selecting key texts and building a narrative around them.

It must be stressed this was not done to deceive. These Christians believed they were writing under the influence of God’s spirit who was revealing to them heretofore hidden truth. Evangelicals are fond of saying New Testament writers took excessive liberties with the Hebrew text because they were creating new scripture and were therefore not bound by rules of interpretation.

26”But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”(John 14:26)

13”But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”(John 16:13-15)

It is difficult to know whether they were following the traditional view David was the speaker or had decided to build this idea into the verse as the esoteric meaning. Regardless, they took the traditional Judaistic interpretation which suggests either Yahweh is taking to Solomon, David’s son, about establishing his kingdom. Or Yahweh is taking to David about his kingdom. The heavenly context is entirely Christian.

The compelling argument Jesus is said to put forward, “No one could say a word” is nonsense. Simply stated on the most basic meaning, any son who takes over his father’s throne is called, “Lord” by his ex-king father out of respect for the office. The rank of king/subject and the biological relationship of father/son are separate and do not invalidate the other.

Final textual note: Many Psalms have the superscription “ledawid” attached to them. The preposition “le” in Hebrew typically is interpreted as “to” or “for” implying the psalmist had dedicated it to David. Christian translators have forced the meaning “by” David following the lead of the New Testament making David the author instead of the recipient for whom the Psalm was intended. As discussed above, this dramatically alters the meaning and opens to door for interpretive abuse.

Conclusion

Our purpose in this article has been to show Jesus’ messianic qualifications were disputed invalidating the Christian message. Undeterred by their own conviction, these Christians viewed the prophetic writings of the Hebrew canon as opportunity to unearth the many hidden gems detailing Jesus’ life. Since they and the writings were both under the influence of God’s prophetic spirit, the literal, historical surface meaning was often ignored in favor of the deeper truths. While we may forgive their naiveté and romanticism, it is remarkable evangelicals continue to follow in their primitive footsteps.

A growing pandemic of ignorance among evangelicals

Evangelicals the world over are becoming increasingly resistant to facts and knowledge which is the only cure for ignorance. Science and reason are viewed with skepticism as enemies of God and the supernatural. Mankind’s rational capacity is tainted by their sin nature and at “enmity with God.” Paranoia and mistrust are quickly becoming the hallmarks of evangelicalism.

Evangelicals are fiercely dualistic. They see two worlds in opposition to one another: the material and spiritual. Satan and his evil henchmen roam this world seeking to thwart the righteous purposes of God beginning with his people — evangelicals. The unregenerate sinners of this world, you and me, are unwitting pawns in Satan’s evil hands. When we attack irrationalism, such as belief in the resurrection from the dead, it is Satan attempting to undermine the gospel.

I know all too well what it is like living in the ivory tower of evangelical ideology. It is comfortable, safe and meaningful. It gives one an immense sense of significance in this world as an ambassador of Christ. It offers protection from all future harm with a promise of deliverance (The Rapture) when things go from bad to worse. It exempts one from global responsibility for facilitating political peace or promoting environmental viability because this world has an expiration date. God has promised a new and better “heavens and earth” so why take care of this one?

America currently has the most evangelicals of any country but this is rapidly changing. China may already have more but statistics are unavailable. Brazil will soon overtake America. Evangelicalism is growing rapidly in places like Africa and South Korea. Trends have shown over the last few decades while most Protestant denominations are experience a drop in membership, evangelicalism is surging.

Many American evangelicals have been quick to condemn the many polls declaring the death or dying of evangelicalism maintaining it is simply purging itself of “dross.” I disagree. I believe many evangelicals are going to ground and customizing their faith via social media and the internet.

Historically, evangelicalism got its start by being effective at adaptation. The American Revolution was fueled by the pioneering spirit of men and women who longed for independence and freedom from British tyranny. It fostered an ethos of self determination and rugged individualism. Throughout its two hundred years evangelicals have prided themselves at being able to change with the times as expediency dictates.

A century ago it would have been incomprehensible for evangelical churches to embrace the gay lifestyle or allow divorce under most circumstances. Premarital sex among evangelicals is hardly condemned to the same degree as abortion. The celebration of materialism or the prosperity gospel would have been staunchly resisted. Evangelicals engaging in “worldly” pleasures like wearing seductive clothing, ostentatious jewelry and hairstyles, erotic dancing, sports betting, drinking or going to sporting events on Sunday would be considered carnal and unspiritual. Today they are the norm.

After the Revolutionary War, British political rule was not the only casualty. So too was ecclesiastical rule. The Christian denominations especially Anglicanism were regarded as further extensions of British control needing eradication or at least alteration. Evangelicals crafted their own brand of Christianity. This style for the most part threw off the shackles of clericalism, sacramentalism and liturgy in favor of religious self determination. Without central authority or rigid creedalism to keep it in check, evangelicalism was free to flourish and adapt to its new environment.

Many attempts have been made to define evangelicalism. The Bebbington Quadrilateral seems outdated and fails to accommodate the vast spectrum of evangelical beliefs particularly experientialism and subjectivism. One thing most evangelicals have in common is not having anything in common. Socially, morally, ethically, politically and doctrinally, evangelicals are more variegated than any other subset of Christianity. Yet all believe their interpretation of the scriptures is God sanctioned.

I think individualism rooted in subjectivism defines most evangelicals more than any singular trait. Their view of the Bible’s degree of authority and interpretation. The person and nature of Jesus and the Trinity. How one procures salvation. What constitutes Christian commitment. One’s social, political or environmental responsibility. These and many corollaries to them differ widely among evangelicals to varying degrees with many being oppositional.

Evangelicals reliance on their own personal spirit guided interpretation of the Bible is a breeding ground for indulging and justifying personal biases, prejudices and desires in the name of divine endorsement. From the leadership down to the rank and file believer, God told me or led is a common refrain. How can one argue with a God experience?

To put this into perspective. An evangelical with no education will oftentimes take their opinion over science, rationalism, the media, common sense or any other reliable source of authority, if they believe the Bible teaches thus. A disparaging of formal education even if theological is nothing new. Many believe they possess a spiritual intelligence which only God’s spirit can give.

14″The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” [Isaiah 40:13] But we have the mind of Christ.”(1 Corinthians 2:14-16)

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”(John 16:13a)

On the flip side of the educational coin, many highly educated and successful evangelicals (many who currently occupy cabinet seats in the Trump government) openly admit to being influenced by the Bible to make decisions and policy. It should concern us, if not horrify us, to think a book of ancient superstitions carries more clout than rationality.

Is this alarmist propaganda from a disgruntled ex-evangelical with a philosophical ax to grind? Only if that ax is reasonable truth.

Facts, knowledge and critical thinking are becoming precious commodities in today’s marketplace of ideas where lies masquerade as truth and truth is considered “opinion.” Unless people rediscover the art of critical thinking and stop absorbing knowledge unconditionally because it reinforces their beliefs, we are all in danger of being infected with ignorance, whether we want to or not.

Ask members of the LGBTQ community or women’s advocacy groups whether evangelical ideology has affected them? Ask immigrants and minorities if they have suffered under the perniciousness of evangelical thinking. What about political stability in the Middle East or environmental safeguards? Does freedom of religion transcend freedom of no religion when it comes to the children of evangelicals who are socialized and indoctrinated into a faith without choice? Should we allow a single faith group to promote itself as “the only way” to heaven? What is the basis for this unwavering, uncompromising conviction in the divine authority of the Bible and exclusivity of evangelicalism?

Irrational faith rooted in fear of death and hope in a blissful afterlife validated by experientialism.

Evangelicals who argue otherwise are blinded by their own investment in the faith. Those who seek to defend evangelicalism as reasonable, logical and consistent with various branches of science have no choice but to do so. To scrutinize their faith objectively and critically is to run the risk of “blowing up” their lives.

Educated evangelicals who offer a biblical defense have devoted years of theological study which they are unlikely to surrender. Add to this years of networking within the evangelical culture, friends and family who are evangelicals and perhaps a career within evangelicalism and the prospect of throwing it away for the sake of intellectual honesty is remote. On the other side, the average evangelical relies on the opinions of their leaders to inform them. Lacking the necessary knowledge and expertise to interact critically with mountains of data makes them victims of the evangelical propaganda machine.

The problem is most evangelicals are willing to ignore any rational urges to critique their faith because they don’t want to give up the promise of eternal life. As long as they have a “reason” to view science with skepticism, most will to allay their existential fears.

I have said this before. I never believed more than when I knew the least. Conversely, the more knowledge I acquired (within evangelical institutions!) the more doubts I had. By the time I completed eight years of theological training I was at a crossroads. Do I continue sweeping my doubts under a carpet of faith or bring them into the glaring light of rational inquiry? I chose the latter.

My motive was sincere and untarnished by bitterness or anger toward God or Jesus. I simply wanted the purest form of biblical faith an honest evaluation of the Bible could provide. In doing so my faith unravelled. Once I took off my “Christian glasses” and examined the biblical text without preconceived biases, I saw everything clearly and sensibly, nothing more so than Jesus.

The road to truth is paved with knowledge and brightly lit with reason, while the dark path of faith is one of irrationalness and ignorance.

Building a case against Christ: Let reason be the Judge (pt.2)

Confessions of a former evangelical, Bible nerd and Jesus junkie

I may be an outsider now but there was a time when you would have happily fellowshipped and worshipped with me. You would have let me teach you or your children the Bible or shared a meal with me. I also think you would have considered me a “fine young Christian man” and a good catch. I had spent many years in Bible college and seminary and was planning on a full time career in the ministry. I was enthusiastic and genuine as a believer with no secret life or pet sins. My personal devotional life was vibrant and robust. I regularly engaged in evangelism, discipleship and Christian service.

Here’s the point: I was no different from you. I loved Jesus with every bit of my heart and tried every moment of every day to live a consistent Christian life. When it was hard and trials and temptations came my way, I preserved joyfully. I did not have a single regret in how I conducted my life. If Christianity were true, I would have been prepared to meet God, back then.

It’s not personal, it’s ideological

It will be easy for faith minded people to see this material as a personal attack on them, specifically their intelligence. The biggest challenge I face is trying to get the reader to separate the “ideology” that fuels their faith from the “person” who holds the belief.

The nature of religion, especially evangelicalism which touts itself as “a personal relationship with God” as opposed to “a religion,” makes it impossible not to become emotionally invested in one’s faith. Therefore, when someone like me begins to challenge the core tenets of the faith, a person begins to feel they are under attack.

During my own faith journey as an evangelical, I would have felt this way as well for these reasons. Mostly because the Bible teaches me unbelievers will persecute me “for righteousness sake” (Mt. 5:10). Evangelicals are taught the world will hate them because it hated Jesus first (Jn. 15:18).

It is my goal to try to bring some helpful perspective before a reader discounts my work as that of a bitter apostate.

In almost every article I write, I make reference to the beginning of the end of my faith because understanding this moment is crucial.

I lost my faith trying to find it.

Admittedly, as a born-again Christian, I had become very disenchanted with a faith I once embraced on two levels. On a practical level, the hundreds of evangelicals I interacted with were not living extraordinarily victorious lives over sin nor seemed concerned about it. They were happy with the status quo and were not willing to invest more of their lives in the faith. They were not much different from non Christian believers except in word only.

Jesus accused the Pharisees and teachers of the law of the same hypocrisy.

8“ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”(Matthew 15:8,9 quoting Isaiah 29:13)

On a theological level, as I progressed through my training, I began to acquire knowledge and skills allowing me to question and validate what I was being taught. As I began to do this it was clear many of the doctrines undergirding my evangelical faith seemed contrived and unbiblical.

At this point, it was clear what I had to do. I would simply rebuild my faith. First I had to dismantle it piece by piece to make sure I didn’t throw away something essential. A wrecking ball approach would not work. The only thing I knew for certain I could keep was the foundation — Jesus as the eternal son of God.

Any Christian would agree this seems like an admirable and healthy exercise to strengthen one’s faith, just as I did. Doubt is good. It forces us closer to God. I began my quest with enthusiasm and optimism confident I would emerge a stronger believer with a deeper faith. So what went wrong (or right)?

People use the term, “Blinded by faith” to describe religion. I have as well. A more accurate phrase would be, “Clouded by faith.” Evangelicals see things “differently” from others and often through the cloudy lens the Bible provides.

Evangelicals* have an automatic default “switch” when it comes to their faith. It is a built in defense mechanism (built by specific biblical conditioning) that prevents someone or something from harming it. For instance, when science reveals a finding that directly challenges biblical “truth,” it is rejected as finite mans’ attempt to explain away God or reduce his place in the universe. Unfortunately, it is not a reliable indicator of what is true and what is not.

*Note: Not all evangelicals are the same. It is a vastly diverse belief system. The term is used generally to describe a significant number who practice or believe a certain way.

When I started my deconstruction of evangelicalism, my intentions were pure. I had no qualms with God or Jesus. It was completely logical to me, at the time, the reason evangelicals were ineffective in their faith was because they were not practicing a biblically based version of true Christianity. It made perfect sense. It further explained why some traditional mainline Christian denominations seemed to practice a more authentic, genuine and lofty version of Christianity. I truly thought I would become an Anglican in the end.

Remember I mentioned those evangelical specific doctrines that I knew were unbiblical and contributed to the complacency I saw all around me. Pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalism (PPD) was one of the biggest culprits of all.

To many evangelicals this belief is sacrosanct and a test of inerrancy. Some would question a person’s salvation for not holding to it. We will touch on many elements of this teaching throughout this and other articles, but for the time being I want to mention only one — the Rapture.

The Rapture: The Great Escape

The Rapture theory is an incredibly powerful teaching packed with significance as to how a Christian is to live each day of his life. It carries immense comfort and dictates how one reads much of the New Testament. It has a colossal impact on one’s view of the world now and where the world is headed. It is also almost exclusively held by Americans evangelicals.

I was taught the Rapture theory at the bastions of PPD teaching, Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary. I am no stranger to the theological intricacies of this cherished doctrine. It was only in my fourth year of seminary I began to question it.

The Rapture teaching in the wrong hands (read minds) can result in an apathetic approach to personal piety, promote global irresponsibility and militate against political peace especially in the Middle East. It removes any incentive to live each day with acute vigilance by eliminating any threat of divine judgment or punishment. And it promises exemption from future “Tribulation” and tacitly encourages political strife. Attempts to improve the earth or encourage peace are seen as working at counter purposes to God’s apocalyptic plan and timetable.

The Rapture is pure escapism. It reduces the many teachings (mostly in parables) concerning Jesus’ Second Coming to an event only for Christians converted during the Great Tribulation because all Christians, living and dead, are “raptured” immediately preceding this event; hence, “pre-tribulation.”

Now you might think evangelicals would simply take the teachings about the Second Coming and apply them to the Rapture and exercise the same degree of “readiness” and “preparedness.” Except there is one key element missing with the Rapture that dominates Christ’s Second Coming — judgment!

It should not come as a shock to anyone the threat of severe punishment is a powerful motivator. If you read for instance, the parable of “The Sheep and the Goats” (Mt. 25:31f.) knowing you could potentially be “a goat,” might change how you conduct your life. “The Wise and Unwise Virgins” (Mt. 25:1f.) parable warns against drowsiness at “the bridegrooms” being gone for “a long time.” For many non evangelical Christians, the fear of not being ready for Jesus sudden return is what drives them “to live lives worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1).

The Rapture was one example of a fictitious teaching that has contributed to the moribund style of American evangelicalism. It explained to me one of the fundamental flaws in evangelical dogma. This realization pushed me forward to pursue other questionable teachings like the inefficacy of baptism and the symbolic nature of the Lord’s supper.

Note: These and many other teachings will be explored in more depth in subsequent articles, e.g., the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity and inerrancy. Some have already been discussed in previous articles, e.g., abortion, divorce, homosexuality and Paul’s “other” gospel.

I am just as passionate about not believing as I was as an ambassador for Christ. My motive was never malicious like someone who felt betrayed or wronged. Though I had become disillusioned with evangelicalism, I was positive my efforts to reconstruct my faith would be immensely rewarding.

Before we begin, a personal plea

Like any court case, the jury is implored to keep personal feelings and biases from consideration of the evidence. Furthermore, they are cautioned not to rush to judgment but wait until all the evidenceI has been presented. I would beg the same.

This is intellectual not personal which simply means I am asking the reader to trust their minds and not listen to what “their heart” might be telling them. A emotional response should alert a person to resist letting feelings cloud one’s judgment. Logic is our most reliable resource even if emotion feels more authentic and compelling.

The end of my faith was a slow steady erosion not a short sudden collapse. It took years before I realized Jesus was not who I thought he was. By then, I had gained enough mental confidence to trust this final finding. I was not emotionally distraught. I felt intellectually liberated.

Lawyers always talk about “reasonable doubt.” Perhaps some evangelicals at the very least will begin to consider the possibility they have entered a faith without thoroughly examining it. Perhaps there is an alternative more reasonable perspective.

I suppose you could say, I have seen as much of the evidence as anyone ever has. I have dedicated four decades to researching and analyzing as much biblical data as I can. There is more to learn, but most of the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place. It now falls to me to present this picture of Jesus in a clear, concise and compelling way to persuade the reader.

Let’s begin: Opening statement

The evangelical faith is an illusion grounded in feeling and based on a mystical encounter/relationship with an unseen deity. It is this spiritual experience which cements one’s confidence in the divine inspiration of the Bible and it’s the basis for belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

When and how does it all begin?

An inherited versus an investigated faith

The majority of Christians, like evangelicals, practice an inherited faith not an investigated faith. Most were baptized and/or converted as children or young adults. What this means is faith came first then confirmation of the faith afterwords, rather than a critical inquiry leading one to it. The implications of this are profound.

Despite claiming to passionately and wholeheartedly belief the Bible is God’s “love letter” to His people, evangelicals in general have a poor understanding of Christian theology, tradition and history. A superficial awareness of basic biblical stories and themes passes for biblical knowledge.

I make this point to stress the fact, evangelicals assume inerrancy and biblical authority. Very few engage in a thorough evaluation of the doctrine they claim is irrefutable. It goes back to a feeling not fact based faith.

Many adopt an untested unsubstantiated faith out of coercion. Second, it can intellectually cripple a person by obscuring fact and fiction. Third, the threat of divine judgement and promise of hope can make a person psychological dependent. Fourth, those who do leave the faith can suffer guilt, shame and social ostracizing.

Entering the faith as a pre-adolescent, or worse, a child, is not only unbiblical but unfair. When did it become acceptable to force one’s faith on their child? Of course, parents think they are doing the ultimate service for their children in leading them to salvation. But this assumes a “fact” that is completely unproven, improbable and irrational.

Lest someone think I am unfairly singling out evangelicals, I think it reprehensible any religion foists its beliefs upon the next generation. I understand it was once essential for a cultures survival, but those days have long passed. Religion has become a delivery system for a parents ideological bigotry and prejudice.

The current population of evangelicals is composed mostly of those who are generational believers. Most have been socialized and indoctrinated in the evangelical culture through evangelical friends, associates, social media, church and para church programs from an early age. Teaching about heaven and hell, sin and forgiveness, God and Satan, angels and demons, Christians and non Christians are main courses in the ideological diet of evangelicals. If a child resists or rebels, parents often force them to remain in the church until adulthood when they are then “free” to leave.

One does not need a psychology degree to know the damaging that can be done during those formative years. A child who is coerced into a faith before having the intellectual capacity to evaluate abstract concepts locks them into it emotionally.

I have participated in child evangelism many times. Though done with the best intentions, it is an abuse of trust. Children are not capable of challenging authority figures like Sunday school teachers and camp counsellors much less mommy and daddy. Christians teachings are presented as indisputable fact by those children trust the most.

Christians might counter Jesus tried to convert children. He did not. He used them a living visual aids as the standard for entering the kingdom of God. They were exempt from judgment because of their innocence and meekness.

2”He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”(Matthew 18:2-5)

13”Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
14Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”(Matthew 19:14,15)

I understand it is unrealistic to ask evangelical parent or sincerely religious parent not to instill their faith into their children. That is why until there is a major paradigm shift in how we view Jesus and the Bible, it will never happen.

There is another group who are attracted to the evangelical faith — the vulnerable. These include the elderly, depressed, lonely, sick, distraught, desperate and fearful. Knowing this is why cable television shows target the infirmed and those easily exploitable by offering them exactly what they want to hear.

The social gospel

From its inception, Christianity has always billed itself as a religion for the downtrodden and oppressed. In a parable called, “The Great Banquet,” Jesus tells the story of a man who throws a great feast. He tells his servants to inform those he has “pre-invited” to come but each has an excuse for not coming.

21“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’”(Luke 14:21).

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he devoted his energy to those who responded to him most. He found a receptive audience among those in greatest need. A cynic might suggest, he preyed on the most vulnerable of society: the poor, sick, lame and ignorant. But whatever his motive, the core of his message was social justice not financial compensation. The early Christian Church carried on this tradition.

Today there is a ferocious battle among evangelicals concerning the so-called “social gospel.” The progressive wing of evangelicalism sees helping the poor and needy as a Christian responsibility. More traditional evangelicals see it as a temporary solution to a deeper problem — sin. They believe it undermines the gospel by providing temporary relief thus masking the far greater spiritual need.

If all the evangelical Christians were gathered together in a room and told to stand. Then those who entered the faith before age eighteen were told to sit down, approximately seventy to eighty percent would take a seat. Then if those who entered the faith out of desperation, fear of death or some sort of personal crisis, were also told to sit down, there would not be many evangelicals left standing.

*Important note: The percentage of evangelicals who have inherited their parent(s) faith or that of a family member or friend is staggeringly high. Yet in twenty years of reading dozens of polls, it is never specifically mentioned. Rather, it is assumed to be the norm. Very few become evangelicals through a “cold conversion” as an adult, which is to say, having had no previous religious connection.

In spite of what evangelicals have persuaded themselves is true to maintain “intellectual respectability,” only those already in the faith or those ignorant about it think it is rationally viable.

Evangelical belief resides mostly in the heart not the head. This in no way means evangelicals are anti-intellectual (at least not more so than society in general) or anti-science. It simply means they earnestly believe their faith at times transcends rationalism . Until and if it can be proven God definitively does not exist, miracles are possible. And if miracles are possible, so too is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and therefore the Bible is divinely inspired.

Here’s where evangelicals compartmentalize rational science and non rational faith. The Bible is an historical book that contains the miraculous. Insofar as science supports biblical data, it is trusted. When it challenges biblical data, it is rejected. Revelation always supersedes reason.

“The Divine Coin Toss” analogy

To a rational mind, it should always comes back to plausibility. What is the likelihood of the Bible being absolutely accurate about those things it affirms are true but science and rationalism do not, such as miracles? To answer the difficulty in penetrating evangelicals’ wall of biblical authority, we turn to “the divine coin toss” analogy.

If you took a coin and continuously flipped it until “heads” appeared ten times in a row, it would take you probably between one thousand and two thousand flips. If we increase the number to one hundred “head” flips in a row, the odds rise astronomically.

A scientist might say the probability of Jesus rising from the dead, or the sea parting or someone walking on water or turning water into wine is infinitesimally small (I would argue the same but for the inerrancy of the Bible which affirms this event). Those who believe in Jesus’ resurrection would counter, “What if God is flipping the coin?” Now it’s a matter of factuality not probability because God is perfect and omnipotent. He can make a coin come up heads a zillion times in a row if he chooses.

Invariably discussions of this sort result in a stalemate with neither side conceding their position. Only by dissecting the Bible itself can we hope to expose the many fallacies of inerrancy.

Evangelicalism: A fear subsumed by hope

I used to think as a naive evangelical teenager, all Christians were motivated by a supreme love for Jesus at what he accomplished for them on the cross. I know I was. The longer I was a believer and the more evangelicals I encountered, the more I realized fear not love lay quietly lurking beneath their faith. It was not fear of God though but fear of death.

Here is the paradox of evangelicals. On one hand they vociferously declare their profound trust in the Bible as the literal, verbal inerrant word of God, and therefore morally binding on all creatures. But on the other hand, most evangelicals live as if it is more a book on God’s opinion of right and wrong. How can this be resolved.

The story of “The Sinful Woman and Pharisee”

The lesson Jesus teaches is one’s degree of love is proportionately related to one’s depth of gratitude.

In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus illustrates this relationship in a story about a sinful woman he forgave and a righteous Pharisee who didn’t need much forgiveness. The woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair while the Pharisee scoffed. Jesus rebuked him for his failure to show any gratitude towards him and made this statement.

47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”(Luke 7:47).

Simon did not consider himself nearly as “sinful as this woman because he was a righteous Pharisee.

31Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”(Luke 5:31,32)

We have to remember, the earthly Jesus was offering physical not spiritual deliverance. Theoretically, if Jesus was an “End Times” prophet and the physical kingdom of God was soon to arrive in full, many righteous Israelites would qualify for entrance without Jesus’ services (forgiveness).

24”He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”(Matthew 15:24)

His ministry was to exclusively to “lost” Israelites. This word carries far more weight than simply something misplaced. It has the added force of people or things destined for destruction unless rescued. For instance, like a lost sheep who may be devoured by a wolf.

For our purposes, the story demonstrates a phenomenon among evangelicals. Most have not experienced a dramatic conversion experience whereby they left a life of sin (which may mean simply not believing in Jesus as their personal savior and being enemies with God). Like Simon, they have only experienced a little forgiveness.

Personally speaking, the power of this event in launching one into a life of grateful devotion cannot be overstated. I was not motivated so much by the prospect of dying and going to heaven (not many seventeen year old are). I wanted Jesus to save me from my present life and when he did, no sacrifice was too great.

My experience is relatively rare among most evangelicals.

The fast-food gospel of evangelical: The ultimate in convenience

Evangelical preachers like the late Billy Graham popularized and promoted a “fast-food” style gospel. It was quick, cheap and easy. And America loved it.

Common sense tells us, if you can get something for free, you might not appreciate it as much as if it costs a lot. The evangelical gospel offers free, no strings attached salvation. It is so convenient, you can literally be saved in the quiet comfort of your own home. No church, no minister, no test of faith and no repentance needed. “Come as you are,” was the hymn Billy Graham played at all his crusades welcoming sinners into the glorious kingdom of God.

A word like “repentance,” although found throughout the New Testament as the necessary attitude accompanying faith has been removed from the salvation process. John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and Paul made it a requirement. Evangelicals think it obstructs the doctrine of grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8,9). They are wrong. These men didn’t say you had to produce repentant acts before you could be saved. They said you had to have a repentant attitude to be saved. And the test as to whether a prospective convert had the “right attitude” was if after their profession of faith, they produced “the fruit of repentance.”

The test of genuine saving faith: No fruit, no faith, no exceptions.

Like so many of these early doctrines, evangelicals are promoting a slick gospel to attract as many converts as necessary by making it as convenient and easy to become a Christian as possible. The result: A barren landscape of fruitless “Christians.” America is the land of fake Christians. Goats who think they are sheep.

Early Christians approached conversion with humility and contrition. Many were catechumens who were instructed on the tenets of the faith. They had to demonstrate over time (sometimes a year), they adequately understood the decision they were making. When it came time for baptism and their profession of faith, believers were prepared. Some choose to forego their conversion until such a time as they were ready or not at all.

Jesus placed a premium on being his follower. He demanded those who wanted to be his disciple to be willing to give up everything.

27”And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”(Luke 14:27)

He followed this statement with two illustrations. He told of how a man planning to build a tower first has “to estimate the cost” so he doesn’t run out of money halfway and is ridiculed.

30”…‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”(Luke 14:30)

Jesus next talks of a king going to war but is outmanned two to one. He must decide before the two armies meet if he can be victorious. If not, he must ask for terms of peace.

Both stress the need for one contemplating following Jesus to realize it is a massive undertaking like building a tower or going to war against the odds.

33In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”(Luke 14:33)

Salvation for most is a simple the “sinner’s prayer” which unlocks the door to heaven. Baptism is optional and symbolic usually reserved for post salvation. One need only confess a few basic biblical truth and he or she is instantly saved — forever.

Evangelicals cling to a doctrine called “eternal security” or perseverance of the saints which has as its motto: “Once saved, always saved.” It guarantees a believer a one-way ticket to heaven no questions asked, no strings attached. It’s a licence for compromise. The one condition is never denying who Jesus is or what he did; otherwise, one’s faith is in question.

Evangelicalism is full of closet Christians who no one would ever suspect of being a believer. They talk and behave like a non believer but maintain quiet allegiance so they can be assured of heaven.

Questioning your faith equals spiritual suicide

Evangelicals defend the divine authority of the Bible because it teaches the resurrection of Jesus (and many other miracles). Questioning the Bible’s credibility undermines the reliability of the resurrection which it alone contains. Surrendering the authority of the Bible is like committing spiritual suicide. All hope is lost.

17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”(1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

Evangelicals promised hope in eternal life subsumes fear of death. From this we may deduce, their faith is rooted in spiritual angst not intellectual conviction. It is here, therefore, we direct our attention. By probing the original source of belief — the Bible — we will attempt to expose its inherent flaws and show it undeserving of unquestioned allegiance.

The over two billion Christians in the world have very few things in common other than Jesus Christ as their Savior. His resurrection from the dead is the cornerstone of faith without which Christianity crumbles to the ground. The historicity of this momentous event is only recorded in the New Testament. We have no other sources to confirm or deny its factuality. But we do have four separate sources (the gospels) which attest to this event.

Back to our courtroom analogy. If we treat each gospel as a separate eyewitness account or record of eyewitnesses accounts, we can analyze and compare them with one another for consistency and congruence. In natural cases we would expect minor inconsistencies among witnesses given the fragility of memory, perspective etc; however, when it comes to an absolutely infallible Bible, we hold it to a much higher standard.

Evangelicals can’t have their cake and eat it too. If you live by inerrancy, you die by inerrancy. If you are going to claim you believe Jesus is the eternal son of God because the Bible claims it is so, the Bible must demonstrate its absoluteness to make such a definitive incontestable statement.

For decades I have watched as evangelicals have muddied the theological water with talk of the existence of God and evolution. It is as if finding some flaws in this theory somehow validates their own. Our attention will be on whether a perfect God, using his perfect spirit to inspire imperfect men to write a perfect book stands up to perfect unbiased scrutiny.

Conclusion

In the next articles we will begin to interact more fully with the various biblical texts surrounding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. At this time we will also vigorously explore the many Hebrew texts used by New Testament writers to support their claims about Jesus and the gospel. The doctrine of inerrancy will be assumed and tested against the standards which support it like non-contradiction, congruence and plausibility. If it fails to satisfy these criteria, its credibility may reasonably be called into question, and with it those things it affirms, the most important being the resurrection of Jesus.

Building a case against Christ: Let reason be the Judge (pt.1)

Allegation: the Bible is not the divinely inspired, inerrant Word of God. It was produced solely by humans who believed they were inspired. Therefore, it is NOT a reliable and credible source for those things that contradict science and rationality.

Evangelicals are notorious for using a courtroom analogy to prove Jesus rose from the dead. They toss around words like “evidence” and “eyewitnesses” to support their defense. Having been on both sides, I can tell you unequivocally either they know they are intentionally misleading people or they themselves are deluded.

There is no independent unbiased evidence to support the claim of the resurrection. If this was a trial, and evangelicals appealed to the Bible as their “key witness,” the judge would not allow it. However, for the sake of argument, we will treat the Bible as a “perfect” source and subject it to vigorous cross examination.

The question some might ask is, “Why put Jesus or the Bible on trial?”

Christianity has a long and storied history rife with atrocities which continue to this day. American evangelicalism, a subset of Christianity, boasts an unwavering trust in the Bible as the inerrant or infallible word of God. With this conviction lodged firmly in place, they use their interpretation of the biblical text to justify moral, social and political action. Since their affiliation with the Trump presidency, their influence and reach has only grown and strengthened.

The fact evangelical Christians have infiltrated so many levels of government and influenced so many spheres of society is both astonishing and disheartening. Favorite targets include the LGBTQ community, women’s advocacy groups, Feminists, minorities, immigrants, political stability in the Middle East and the environment. Where did we go wrong?

Christianity, and most religions for that matter, prey on our deepest, darkest fears. It offers a remedy for the thing that terrorizes us the most –death. Hope in a blissful afterlife free of pain and sorrow is a powerful promise, and one which when embraced is hard to let go.

Evangelicalism in particular is primarily a fear based faith which puts a premium of experientialism over intellectualism. I’m not saying evangelicals cannot be intelligent, but when push comes to shove, most evangelicals will reject science, reason, logic and common sense it it means preserving their faith. And what is it that is so compelling to make them reject all these authorities and elevate the Bible to supreme status as The Word of God? A living, dynamic and personal relationship with the God of the universe. How can you argue against that!?

I am under no false illusions when it comes to the immense challenge facing those of us seeking to dethrone God and coronate rationality as supreme ruler. God or divine revelation has enjoyed an uncontested reign for all of history in every part of the world. It will be no small feat to topple him.

I believe it is more a question of chipping away at his throne until it crumbles. It begins with the source of authority upon which belief in him depends — the Bible. Our interest does not lie in the fruitless debate of God’s existence which seems to date unproveable definitively either way. Rather our focus will be an objective, critical, unflinching analysis of the person of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible.

Taking the same hypothesis as most evangelicals, we will assume divine verbal inspiration (inerrancy) and test this theory against internal consistency, factuality and plausibility. In short, we will use biblical data to prove (or disprove) itself. The Bible will serve as its own witness, reason will be its judge and the court of public opinion will be the jury who ultimately decides the verdict of true or false.

I will keep these articles relatively short due to the immense volume of data to sift through. I challenge those readers who espouse the Bible as having divine authority to carefully ponder the evidence objectively before making a decision. One must resist the faith reflex that automatically discounts or ignores arguments which challenge it. Emotionalism has no place in the search for the truth.

Let the trial begin.

The Rapture: The greatest lie Satan ever told… (hypothetically speaking)

If you remove the Rapture, the world becomes instantly bleaker for evangelicals.

Newsflash: All peoples, Christians and non Christians, will undergo the Final Judgment — No exceptions!

Note to Reader: All articles are written with the assumption the Bible is the inerrant word of God for the sake of argument. I do not believe in the Judeo-Christian God or Jesus divinity which is not to say I do not reserve the possibility, albeit remote, of the existence of something/someone(s) greater or beyond. My intention is to expose the flaws of evangelical thinking — as they see it —from a biblical perspective.

Evangelicals conviction they will never be harshly judged as unbelievers or unfaithful believers hangs entirely on the flimsy theory of The Rapture. It they are wrong, the ramifications are devastating. Many who thing they are saved, will be thrown in hell. And many who are saved will be severely punished and barely survive the flames.

10”By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”(1 Corinthians 3:10-15, cf. Isa. 48:10, Mal. 3:2,3)

(Note: All texts quoted are NIV. Bold and underlined texts have been added for emphasis)

Every Christian who reads this passage should examine their hearts with sobriety and fear. It and many others make the case, any Christian who is less than fully committed runs the risk of severe punishment or worse — eternal damnation — with one glaring exception. Many American evangelicals, otherwise known as Pre-tribulation Christians, believe they will be exempt from both because of the Rapture!

Note to Reader: The term “evangelical” will be employed throughout this and other articles to refer to ANY Christian who subscribes to pre-tribulation, premillennial dispensationalism whether they adopt the evangelical moniker or not.

The following text is considered by evangelicals to describe a “non judgmental” event; whereby, rewards are bestowed (and not bestowed) to already glorified sinless Christians after the Tribulation.

1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7For we live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”(2 Corinthians 5:1-10)

Evangelicals are constrained to place this “judgment” at the Second Coming of Jesus separate from the Final Judgment of Revelation 20 though no such bifurcation exists in the minds of the New Testament writers.

These passages in Revelation are considered by evangelicals to be The Final Judgment at the close of the Millennium and are intended for all unbelievers, dead and alive, as well as Millennial converts.

11”Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”(Revelation 20:11-15)

12“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”(Revelation 22:12-15)

In a previous post, we discussed the Rapture theory espoused by most American evangelicals. It’s most important and popular feature is escapism. Evangelicals are miraculously “plucked” from the earth just before the Great Tribulation begins and glorified in heaven. In so doing, they are obviously already in so there is no fear of eternal damnation. Also, they are in perfect sinless bodies which implies they can’t suffer or feel pain. Therefore, “The Judgment Seat of Christ” is one of receiving rewards and not of being punished.

There was a time I embraced this doctrine because I honestly thought I was living my life in a way that God would one day be proud of. I saw this judgment as positive because I was seeking to please and obey him each day of my life. The thought of receiving a “crown(s)” (see 1 Cor. 9:24,25, 2 Tim. 4:8, 1 Pet. 5:4, Re. 2:10) for my service and then giving them back in gratitude for what Jesus had done for me was exciting, although now I would argue they are symbolic not literal crowns. Striving to earn as many crowns as possible is not why most evangelicals cling to the Rapture theory.

The bulk of evangelicals revel in the freedom the Rapture affords. They are free of fear and judgment. Their eternal hope is secure and God will never punish them (Great White Throne) no matter how lackadaisical and lackluster is their devotion. The worst that can happen is perhaps a feeling of shame for not earning more crowns to give to Jesus.

Contrast this with the doctrine of the Second Coming of Jesus. Nothing creates more committed and faithful believers than believing a day is coming, “Like a thief in the night” when all Christians will have to give an account of their lives. What will be most surprising is many who thought they were “saved” will be cast into the lake of fire. The judgment will expose the many fraudulent Christians who subscribed to the faith to escape hell but end up going there anyway.

In a previous article we examined the difference between saving faith and asking faith. It boils down to attitude, specifically repentance. Unless one demonstrates a mental state of contrition which necessitates a radical change in behavior (an about face), saving grace is not bestowed. Asking isn’t enough if change does take place. This is referred to as “fruit in keeping with repentance”(Mt. 3:8). It is the by-product of genuine saving faith.

5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”(John 15:5-6)

For years as a devout follower of Jesus, I struggled with the evangelical teaching believers had never fear divine judgment at the Rapture. I saw so many Christians living compromised lives without the slightest fear of divine retribution. The Bible seemed to scream at believers to consistently demonstrate good fruit or risk being punished. The parables Jesus taught rang out with exhortations for faithful vigilance lest one be caught unprepared. Why was there such a disconnect among evangelicals between these warnings and tepidness?

Evangelicals have been conditioned to believe you are completely exempt from judgment simply because you “accepted Jesus into their heart.”

Anybody who has studied eschatology knows how dizzying and confusing “End Time Charts” depicting the chronological breakdown of future events can be. No matter how many courses I took, I never seemed to fully grasp it until I stopped being an evangelical. Then everything fell neatly into place.

36“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”(Matthew 24:36)

This text is bewildering for evangelicals since it refers to the Second Coming of Jesus not the Rapture. How could Jesus not know when he himself is returning especially since it is seven years after he comes to claim his church at the Rapture?

13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”(Matthew 7:13,14)

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”(Matthew 7:21-23)

14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”(Matthew 22:14)

If I were an evangelical, I would be petrified at these verses unless I was living in total obedience to God. At face value they seem to suggest only “a few” will find the “road that leads to life” and that is based on doing “the will of [God].” But few seemed concerned.

Evangelicals automatically disassociate from the Parable of The Sheep and The Goats and many others describing Jesus return. They will loosely apply it to themselves as showing the importance of being generous and helpful to those in need, but they do not believe it was intended specifically for them. In fact, it is for yet future Christians.

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”(Matthew 25:41-46)

This passage must be analyzed with textual, historical and theological precision to divine its intended meaning.

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”(Matthew 25:31,32)

The clear contextual context is events leading up to the coming (‘parousia’) of “the son of man.” In light of the previous chapter (Matthew 24), his coming follows the Tribulation but not immediately.

In the parable preceding, Matthew describes a man giving his servants bags of gold and then going on a journey and being gone “a long time” (Mt. 25:14,19). He returns to take account of what his servants have done with his money. In the parable before this one, ten virgins go out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom who is “a long time coming”(Mt. 25:19).

Both stories emphasize the dangers of not being prepared for Jesus’ return with a twist. Historically, this material was written not long after the fall of Jerusalem (70AD). Expectations for his return were at a fevered pitch no doubt stoked by men like those who wrote the gospels. In order to restore confidence and arouse faithfulness among those who had become disillusioned and despondent, fear of punishment became the literary tool of choice by these writers.

But who are “the sheep and the goats?” It would be difficult to read Gentile Christians into this passage given Matthew is alleging a period of time before Gentile inclusion had taken place. Jesus’ audience would have been baffled by such a suggestion. Jesus is pictured as delivering this message when Jerusalem was swollen with Passover pilgrims. These were Israelites from throughout the Roman Empire who had converged on the Holy City for the festival.

The key point is: Matthew is describing Jesus prophesying forty year in the future when Jerusalem will fall after Jerusalem has already fallen. Matthew is witnessing the repercussions of Jesus’ failed return on the Jerusalem/Judean church. He is seeking to address these critical issues in his writings.

Many Jewish Christians having abandoned messianic hope are returning to Judaism taking with them their financial support, while those who remain are desperate and in need. The siege has taken a tremendous toll on the city and surrounding area. Virtually every piece of wood, whether tree or structure, was confiscated by Titus and his army to fuel his war machine. The city and economy are in ruin, the Temple destroyed and ten of thousands of Israelites are dead, enslaved or have been sold as slaves, imprisoned, banished or consigned to the gladiatorial ring.

There had never been a “better” time in recent history for Jews to come to the aid and support of each other than in the aftermath of 70AD. Matthew places these words on Jesus’ lips for authority. It is to instill fear of divine judgment in believers for leaving the faith or becoming lethargic, indifferent or irresponsible because when Jesus returns, it will be too late.

Jesus will gather “all the nations,” Jews, Gentiles and Christians for judgment and begin separating them as a shepherd separates his sheep and goats. The single determining factor is whether you are “righteous” (vs. 37) which is described as performing acts of charity for others.

Matthew chapter thirteen also records several parables about, “The kingdom of heaven” (or ‘God’) where the contrast between “the righteous” and “the wicked” is also stressed.

41”The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”(Matthew 13:41-43)

49”This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.”(Matthew 13:49)

30“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth [or, “all the tribes of the land”] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”(Matthew 24:30,31, cf. use of “elect,” vs. 22,24)

14”And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”(Matthew 24:14)

As previously mentioned, Gentile Christians are not part of this teaching because in Matthew’s mind, the Gentile branch of Christianity was illegitimate. Therefore he is describing the judgment of all Gentiles without exception, Jews who have not accepted Jesus’ messiahship and Jews who had accepted Jesus’ messiahship but had lapsed in their faith.

Various textual clues found throughout this discourse alert us to Matthew’s exclusive Jewish emphasis. For instance, Matthew has chosen to couch Jesus teaching before his death and before Gentile participation in the gospel was remotely considered. Second, “The elect” (vs. 22,24,31) are a Judaistic term and was later coopted by Paul after persistent Jewish rejection of the gospel. If intended here, Jesus’ audience would be bewildered. Furthermore, it is clear from the convening of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), Jesus disciples, including Matthew, were oblivious to the concept of the Gentile gospel outside the parameters of the legal system and stringently opposed Paul’s perversion of the original gospel.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”(Matthew 25:34)

It is inconceivable this text which is packed with messianic imagery (king, kingdom, inheritance) would not resonate with a Jewish audience. Gentiles are not in Matthew’s mind.

The phrase, “All the peoples of the earth” is an interpretive decision by Christian translators injecting a doctrinal bias. It is more accurately rendered, “All tribes of the land” denoting the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew is here suggesting a collective sense of regret among Israelites for rejecting Jesus and conspiring in his death when he returns as “the son of man.”

Failing to consider the sense of desperation the floundering Jewish wing of Christianity was under when interpreting these texts is a disservice to sound hermeneutics. These evangelists had but one last excuse to make on behalf of their absentee messiah to save the Judean church.

They proffered his protracted delay was a test of faith. His followers were to see him reflected in those who were most needy and desperate, and attend to them as if they were helping Jesus himself. In this way, although Jesus was gone in body, he had never left in spirit. Those who failed in their obligation to the needy would be faced with a harsh reality when Jesus, “The king” (vs. 34), returned.

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”(Matthew 25:41)

So for evangelicals, these texts are good news, bad news. The good news is they are meant exclusively for the Jewish nation in light of the coming Messianic kingdom and their obligation to the needy. Those who ignore the plight of the destitute will themselves be judged by eternal fire along with the Gentile nations. The bad news is, according to Matthew, all Gentiles regardless of whether you’re part of Paul’s Christianity will inherit the same fate as “the devil and his angels.”

Evangelical’s attempts to insert the Rapture into these texts create an eschatological quagmire of confusion. Early Christian understanding of Jesus’ return was simple and straightforward. He could come back at any time so one had better be ready. The events (Tribulations) of 70AD first seemed to signal his return but resulted in yet another delay. The gospel writers offered one final promise of Jesus appearing within their lifetime and died never having seen it. The book of Revelation, written several decades after these would revive interest again in the language of apocalypticism. “John’s” work was sparked by Roman persecution and the exaltation of its emperor and perhaps the return from the dead of Nero.

Meanwhile Gentile Christianity was drifting further apart from its Jewish parentage leaving behind most of the carnal Judaistic nature of the messianic kingdom. These Christians were unfazed by a non returning messiah or restored kingdom. In fact, they saw it as evidence of divine disapproval for rejecting the messiah they gladly received. With no anticipation of a literal kingdom by many Christian leaders, the concept of a spiritual kingdom was conceived. Yahweh had abandoned his people and chosen a new people who are the spiritual descendants of Abraham through Christ and benefactors of all the ancient promises.

26”So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”(Galatians 3:26-29)