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The first principle of Biblical fundamentalism is that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) In other words, every word of the Scripture in its original language is 100% precisely the word that God Himself intended to be there. The Holy Scripture is the primary and only 100% reliable means by which God communicates with mankind. This is not a ridiculous thing to believe. I believed it once, from early 1976 through mid 1983. Biblical literalists believe that when God has chosen to amend His word, He has ratified that change by a time of miracles. In between those times, He has miraculously intervened to protect His word, so that those who didn't live in times of divinely inspired prophetic writers could also receive His word ... and be judged thereby. It may seem odd to you to believe that God subtly intervened over thousands of years of time, moving men's hearts in subtle ways, actingly only and continuously to protect the integrity of one collection of books. If it does seem odd to you, then I can only assume that you (like me) do not believe it, and assure you that whatever it is that you do believe, it looks just as silly to someone else.

Nonetheless, this belief is sincerely held by somewhere around 45% of the American population, so let us take it seriously for a moment. Like a lot of ex-Christians, I know a lot of Scripture. I made a serious, dedicated study of it, at schools dedicated to the teaching of it. I narrowly escaped a career in the Christian ministry. I am so sure that I know what I am talking about that I am willing to debate anyone who says other than I do about what the Scripture actually says and what it doesn't actually say. And here is what I say that it says: The gospel that is being taught in almost every evangelical and fundamentalist church in America is a false gospel, and it has condemned tens of millions of people to eternal damnation in the fires of Hell.

And what's worse, I am not the only one who knows this. Many of the pastors who preach this false gospel know it to be false. They went to academically rigorous seminaries. In those seminaries they studied God's word as I did. They were then carefully told what they could and couldn't say to their congregations if they wanted to hold a job in the ministry. In so doing, they were told certain passages to gloss over, to skip as much as possible, to obfuscate and misdirect whenever they came up. Instead, they were told which verses to emphasize, which explanations to give. Those who stray from their denominations' line on these matters find themselves unemployed; the false churches that fill this land don't want to hear the true gospel. In rare places around the country, some churches do cling to ministers who proudly call themselves Biblical literalists and who, nonetheless, preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ, not the false gospel of the majority of the fundamentalist churches. But when those leaders and those they save from the fires of Hell seek leadership posts in the major fundamentalist denominations, such as the Assemblies of God or (especially) the Southern Baptists, they find themselves ruthlessly and totally purged. Jimmy Swaggart knew this. He was preaching about it from time to time, before the prostitution scandal conveniently brought him down. He used to say on a regular basis that "Satan is very good at twisting the Church into a position of being directly opposed to God." And Satan, and his satanic ministers in almost every evangelical pulpit in America, will not easily let go of what those who would be God's people hear. Donald Miller has written several books about his search to find the true gospel inside so-called gospel churches; those so-called gospel churches condemn him and won't let him speak to their so-called faithful, and so his words go mostly unheard.

What is the false gospel? The false gospel is summed up in Campus Crusade for Christ's "Four Spiritual Laws," four laws that appear nowhere in the Bible itself: "Law 1: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Law 2: Man is sinful and separated from God, therefore he cannot know and experience God's love and plan for his life. Law 3: Jesus Christ is God's only provision for man's sin. Through Him you can know and experience God's love and plan for your life. Law 4: We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives." To this end, they provide this "suggested prayer" as the magical ritual that will absolve you of all sins and guarantee you an eternal life of Heaven, not Hell: "Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be." They and those like them preach that this is all that you need to do in order to guarantee that your name is written into the Book of Life, the list of those who will go to heaven on Judgement Day. Hundreds of millions of people all around the world believe this right now. Hundreds of millions more of them have believed it since it began to be preached in this way about 45 years ago. Many tens of millions have died believing that by performing this little ritual, they have saved their souls from damnation. A very large percentage of those who did so will find themselves burning in Hell for all eternity, and completely baffled as to why. Why? Because they were lied to.

You see, Judgement Day is described in three places in the Bible. In the false churches of the false gospel, they teach and preach extensively on one of them, 1st Corinthians chapter 15. They talk about Revelations chapter 20, but they don't quote it completely or accurately. But there's a third place where Judgement Day is described, and in rather more detail than in either of those places. What's more, it's described by the one who's going to do the judging. Wouldn't you think that that would be the interesting place to study Judgement Day? I'd certainly be more interested in the explicit, complete description of how the dead shall be judged that comes from the Judge Himself than one that came from any apostle, however inspired. And indeed, they can't completely make this description go away. But they have a false and fatuous explanation of it, one that encourages people to forget what they just read and go back to believing that lie about how all they had to do was pray, "God have mercy on me, a sinner." Here's what Jesus had to say, in His own words, in Matthew 25:31-46, when His followers asked him what the end was going to be like:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
And at the end of his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, this is what Jesus, the Judge of all the dead, said about the Four Spiritual Laws and similar false gospels, in Matthew 7:15-23:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Now, those who want to defend the false gospel will accuse me of preaching a false gospel myself, one of "works, not faith." They point out that Jesus said that He was the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Jesus. Piffle. If you hear anyone who's a seminary graduate make this attack, then you know that they're not merely deceived, but actively lying to you. Why? This is first-year stuff, first semester stuff; easily and trivially disposed of by the Church Fathers almost two thousand years ago and taught to every halfway serious Bible student in his first month or two of classes. Yes, the scripture teaches that no amount of feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty and clothing the naked and visiting prisoners will save you without Jesus' sacrifice. Yes, the Scripture teaches submission to Christ in faith. But it also clearly and unambiguously teaches that the only true way is neither pure faith nor pure works, but faith that works. If you think that your faith is in Jesus Christ but that faith allows you to callously neglect, feel contempt for, or actively despise the poor and unfortunate, then yours is not a gospel of Jesus Christ, but of the Devil himself. If you allow that urge to neglect to influence you, if you show that contempt, if you actively spite the poor and unfortunate because that false gospel taught you that it was OK to do so, then Jesus Himself says that you will burn for it.

(Next: How did so many seminaries and so many preachers and so many authors get converted to this false gospel? What deal did they make with Satan himself, and why? What did they think that they were doing? These aren't rhetorical questions. I've met one of the people who "signed" that deal and helped enforce it. He was quite proud of his achievement, and years later told many of us about the meeting where that decision was made. It is only recently that I came to understand just who the other side in that deal really was, as opposed to who the fundamentalists in that room thought they were dealing with. But this is already too long for one day. Tune in tomorrow.)

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Comments

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lostshaman
Dec. 9th, 2004 02:33 pm (UTC)
Very well written!

I agree on almost all points.

My sumation of Christanity is this: The people who are "Christians" could not and would not want to live the life that Christ put forth in his teachings. Honestly I believe that Christ undid all the rules and laws that his father put forth. Making a new way for people to find redemption. This created two paths. One being the laws of the Old Testement, and one being the laws of the New Testiment. In fact one could take it further than that - What if every faith was simply a different path to spiritual enlightment? What if it is the people that have bred hatred into their faith - thus tainting the original ideal. I mean, that is what people do, isn't it? Twist ideals?

Either way, well done sir.
pggmilltn
Dec. 12th, 2004 09:08 pm (UTC)
Very interesting indeed. I think at least one friend would get some good use out of this point of view. I hope you don't mind my reading this, a friend of a friend linked me to it.
pggmilltn
Dec. 12th, 2004 09:11 pm (UTC)
What place is there for a person determined to live an upright and moral life with faith in humanity but difficulties with accepting Christianity as the true religion or as anything more than a valid religion among many other valid religions?
solaine
Dec. 24th, 2004 03:52 pm (UTC)
This is a wonderful piece. I've seen your great love for people passing on your work, so that's what I'm going to do. I wish my former roommate would read it, because she was somewhat stifling with her fundamentalist Christianity.

What raises my hackles more than anything is the 'read the letter, ignore the spirit' attitude that so many people have, that roommate included. If an unmarried man and woman are prohibited from 'sleeping together,' so to speak, wouldn't that mean that a fundamentalist Christian couple are bending a few of their own purported rules by sleeping together in the same bed, wearing minimal clothing, and doing 'anything but,' thus causing the present roommate great distress? Of course, in that case, I'm greatly biased -- like most people, I enjoy uninterrupted sleep.

I'm inclined to side with those who say governmental charity is much less desirable than private charity, although looking through this particular essay (I am unfamiliar with whether you've covered such things in another one) I see absolutely no mention of or reference to governmental charity, especially in light of the supposed American separation between church and state. However, the state of non-administrative public organizations (not just the school system) can be pretty horrible -- at one point when I was 14, I was placed in a children's shelter for three-and-a-half agonizing days. During that time, I was strongly discouraged from having any natural inquisition at all, and quite literally forced to spend 'academic hours' doing first or second grade level math worksheets that left me in tears from boredom and frustration. They mistook it for severe depression and tried to have me institutionalized.

I mention that incident because one or two of the staff, one blonde woman in particular, spent those days attempting to convert me to Christianity. Until that point, my experience with the religion had been (aside from what I was taught growing up as a Baha'i) limited mostly to the occasional visit to a friend's Sunday school and to friends' parents telling me that because I didn't share their religion, I was going to go to hell. However, what they were saying to me -- that I should pray, and develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and things would get better -- didn't ring true to me on any level. While they were attempting to evangelize, I was wondering why they didn't realize that faith in and of itself doesn't make everything better.

Sorry for the tangent.. it's just what came to mind.
library_cherub
Jun. 28th, 2005 03:38 am (UTC)
Exactilly
I too came here from a friend's page (which shows that many people think your words must be shared, and that's gotto be good).
I've always been of the opinion that we should take the Gospels (ie. those things reported to have been said by Jesus himself (not through intermediaries) as the basis for our faith (oh, ps, I am a practicing Christian, see not all of us follow the false gospel) and look long an hard at all the other stuff (like the letters of Paul) to try to discern how much is Jesus talking through him and how much is the writers own prejudices creeping in (Such as Revelations and the Number of the Beast (666? 616?)(which seems to indicate (according to many sources) that he's been and gone and was a person that the writer of Revelations had issues with himself (whether or not God did).
So this just supports my belief.
It's always good to read the views of those who have studies religion who haven't bought into the 'party line'.
jeezushchrist
Oct. 30th, 2005 03:18 pm (UTC)
You humans are funny. I can't wait for judgement day.
neonchameleon
Feb. 26th, 2006 09:58 am (UTC)
The first principle of Biblical fundamentalism is that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

Just to add fuel to the fire, "Given by the inspiration of God" (which translation are you using btw?) does not mean that every word was handed down directly from God. It means that God inspired all the writers of scripture who then wrote down what they then believed. Dante was inspired by the Beatrician Vision - this doesn't mean that Beatrice is directly responsible for Dante's work. (Pick any other artist/muse combination you like...)

(And did Saul of Tarsus believe himself to be actively writing scripture? He certainly and explicitely
ethesis
Feb. 27th, 2006 01:03 am (UTC)
I'm enjoying this sequence and may link to it, though you do seem emotionally engaged.
bradhicks
Feb. 27th, 2006 01:46 am (UTC)
If I weren't emotionally engaged, I wouldn't have gone to the effort of writing something that long. It's an emotional subject to me, yes -- but for what seem to me to be good and sufficient reasons.
(no subject) - ethesis - Feb. 27th, 2006 02:39 am (UTC) - Expand
topazandrose
Jul. 30th, 2006 09:41 am (UTC)
May I link in my personal journal? This is brilliant; thank you for munitions against my fundamentalist relatives just in time for the reunion.
bradhicks
Jul. 30th, 2006 09:51 am (UTC)
Of course.
pyat
Sep. 20th, 2006 11:18 am (UTC)
It's interesting that Theocratic politicians in Canada and Britain produced socialist democracies, while theocrats in the U.S. produce conservative capitalism.

The reason being that the theocrats in the Commonwealth were Social Gospel supporters, who believe that Christ would not return until mankind had cured his own social ills and prepared Heaven on Earth. That belief never really got anywhere in the states.
bradhicks
Sep. 20th, 2006 11:24 am (UTC)
Social Gospel did have a long run in the US, and was the dominant theology of this country for about a hundred years. But it wasn't on post-millenialist eschatology grounds, but on the substantially more unambiguously Biblical viewpoint that if being born again didn't make you substantially more helpful to all of the world's poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, downtrodden, and even those in prison, then your sinful soul tricked you into thinking you had repented and accepted Jesus Christ as your savior while clinging determinedly to a life of sin. That any anti-social gospel would put you, on judgement day, amongst those who said that they preached Jesus' gospel, praised his name, and did miracles in his name, but ended up disowned by him and condemned to Hell.

Any theology that hangs the validity of its interpretation on millenalist eschatology, whether pre-mil or post-mil, strikes me as unnecessarily complex at best, dubious under most circumstances, and not infrequently as spin-doctoring aimed at distracting people from the plain language of the Bible itself.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 18th, 2007 04:40 am (UTC)
I like the point of the article, and I tend to agree that there are some versions of Christianity that contain more of the 'love' message than others, but it's also deliciously ironic. We again have Christians condemning others to eternal damnation (isn't that what Christianity is really all about.. let's just consider its history for a minute).

In reality there are two views in Christianity that are always in opposition. We have the God of wrath whose anger must be appeased by a sacrifice, and we have a loving God who cares about humanity. Different denominations place more importance on one and others on the other. In the same way we have an apocalyptic Christianity, whose proof lies in a resurrected man and we have a Christianity in which a god comes to earth, dies and rises and achieves a salvation for mankind. Again, a picture of an angry God who wants to destroy the world, vs a loving God who wants to save mankind.

The opposition is integral to the religion. There is no _right_ interpretation.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 18th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
what? won't post my comment?

bah, tired of this propaganda and apologetics. I personally hope you don't make it to Valhallah.
bradhicks
Aug. 18th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
Other than this one, I'm not showing any unapproved comments, so I don't know what comment of yours I'm supposed to have not allowed to be posted. Unless you mean one that hasn't been made yet, unless you're attacking my policy of screening comments from people who aren't logged into LiveJournal or any other OpenID server? That's a spam control mechanism more than anything.
(no subject) - bradhicks - Aug. 18th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Aug. 20th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
Truth
this is only the Truth as it must be told,before it's too late.
ramik
Nov. 1st, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)
Hey, Brad. Just to let you know, I posted a link to this series over at http://www.amptoons.com/blog .

If you were so inclined, it would be great to have you drop by and join the discussion!
(Anonymous)
Jan. 13th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
You are a fool.
pope_guilty
Jan. 24th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
Aww, you're cute!
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