Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

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.)



Nov. 28th, 2004 07:39 am (UTC)
One of the things that drives me to madness about American Christianity is the way "morality" has been fucked with. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked? Not moral. Communist redistribution of wealth, and we all know the commies are godless. Gay marriage? Godless.

American Christianity today puts forth a morality based not on doing good but on not doing evil; instead of saying "Be this!" it says "Don't you dare do this!" And it's not even consistent- God gives a lot more fashion restrictions than admonitions against homosexuality. I still think it'd be fun to go to a service given by a virulently antigay pastor and "stone him to death" with foam rocks for the crime of wearing a cotton poly blend.
Dec. 6th, 2004 08:59 pm (UTC)
Well, yes, but... Jesus didn't tell people "See that rich guy over there? Take everything he has and give it to the poor." i.e. if you steal from someone else, including using the coercive power of government to do so, to do good, I question whether your actions are Christian.
Dec. 7th, 2004 08:30 am (UTC)
The purpose of government is to provide coercion to moral behavior when individuals refuse to act morally. Every law which proscribes or compels a behavior is based on that idea. Ultimately, it is simply the question of what, specifically, is moral. The Dominionists would say that being non-Christian is immoral, while a labour unionist would tell you that low wages and unsafe working conditions are immoral.

The idea that redistribution of wealth is theft is pretty much a capitalist one, anyway. If you're concerned with your material possessions, Christianity probably isn't for you.
Dec. 7th, 2004 11:14 am (UTC)
Morality and legality
One could easily make the argument that the governments role isn't supposed to be about morality, but fairness...

Murder isn't illegal to keep people from killing, murder is illegal so that the victims of the crime (Friends, Family, exceter) may find retribution for their loss.

Theft isn't illegal because its naughty, its illegal becuase it unfairly changes ownership of items, and making it illegal allows us to punish those who act unfairly.

it could also be argued that fairness IS a morality of sorts, but fairness can be judged from a distance, and be observed and agreed apon by two opposing moral forces.
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
Both amusing and foolish
Perhaps, o wise one, thou couldst expound upon the sins of Sodom, as expressed in Ezekiel 16:48 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

Sep. 15th, 2010 11:53 pm (UTC)
And if the rich guy got his by stealing or deceiving or contriving to get the govt to steal and deceive, what then? Bonk him on the head and take it back, you're a thief. Get together with fellow victims and change the govt's behavior legally - shame on the rich guy for even complaining.
Rich guys rarely have any shame.
Dec. 6th, 2004 09:03 pm (UTC)
"One of the things that drives me to madness about American Christianity is the way "morality" has been fucked with. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked? Not moral. Communist redistribution of wealth, and we all know the commies are godless."

As a Libertarian Catholic, the point I make when approaching this issue is not that feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is immoral when done on an individual level, but is entirely immoral on a governmental level. We are taught that if we have two coats, we ought to give one to the man who has none. We are not taught to pass laws that forcibly deprive another man of a coat in order to give to the one who has none. That's a fairly unsubtle distinction, I think.

Further, I think the government is incapable of providing true charity. It's very easy to vote to spend other people's money on whatever moral crusade comes along. It's a lot tougher to give from your own coffers. Also, government has no real incentive to get people off their charity rolls. That's pretty well a guaranteed vote for whatever politician implemented the handout, and if the money every runs thin, well they can just get more by raising taxes, or whatever. A private charity faces the reality that TANSTAAFL, and so they've got more incentive to help the needy get to a point at which they are no longer needy. That, to my mind, is true charity.

Admittedly, this is my own viewpoint, and not necessarily that of every Christian, nor even every Catholic. As for homosexuality, it doesn't concern me overmuch since I learned that the language that condemns it is the same language that condemns the eating of shellfish. (And here's where my memory gets shakier, but I believe the condemnation language merely indicated that a person who'd done such was ritually impure until properly cleansed.)

At any rate, I've joined this group because the people who make my faith look bad need to be stopped. Hope to be a reasonable contributor.
Dec. 7th, 2004 08:58 am (UTC)
Of course you're a libertarian. Only a libertarian or a fiscally-minded conservative would have said

>>>>> It's very easy to vote to spend other people's money on whatever moral crusade comes along.<<<<<

because it pretty well ignores the fact that one also pays taxes. It's a pretty cute little way of trying to frame the debate.

And then there's

>>>>>Also, government has no real incentive to get people off their charity rolls. <<<<<

which exposes what from my experience talking to libertarians is a fairly common idea: poor people are lazy. If you feed them once, they'll keep coming back, just like a stray dog. You ignore the fact that most people don't want to be on public charity, don't want food stamps and TANF. Ever actually used food stamps? I was on that program for awhile a couple of years ago and it's humilitating and degrading. To cap that off, welfare doesn't really make you comfortable, it makes you just capable of surviving and providing for your family. You have every incentive to get off welfare if you're actually on it.

>>>>>A private charity faces the reality that TANSTAAFL, and so they've got more incentive to help the needy get to a point at which they are no longer needy.<<<<<

Yeah, and what if they're incorrigible? Will you let them starve? I don't see where Jesus said "help only the deserving."
Dec. 7th, 2004 11:18 am (UTC)
Wasnt the quote....
Wasn't the quote 'you can feed a man for a day, but teach him to fish, and you've fed him for his life'?

The problems with charity isn't that the basic 'free money' argument, but there is a significant problem with charity given out as if it is a solution. The "Free Money" argument is a simplistic version of that argument, thats usually said either to save time or because the speaker is inept in his philosophy, either way, the background of the thought process is still reasonable, even if the phrasing isnt.
Dec. 7th, 2004 11:23 am (UTC)
>>because it pretty well ignores the fact that one also pays taxes.<<
The primary reason that one's own taxes aren't taken into account here is that the typical tax burden of any one person is less than the typical spending done for various charity programs. Your own position seems to ignore the fact that when public assistance programs increase, private charities experience a drop in dontations.

>>what from my experience talking to libertarians is a fairly common idea: poor people are lazy<<
Actually, that was not my point at all, nor is it what I believe. My point is that the politicians have very real incentives to keep poor people poor and on their dole. I, myself, am in a position where I am barely scraping by - and have people asking me why I haven't gone on various gov't programs to get money/what-have-you, and it's because I don't believe in those programs when I was on the contributing side, and I don't believe in them now that I am in a position to be on the receiving side.

>>what if they're incorrigible? Will you let them starve?<<
This is a harder one to answer, because on the surface, it would be inhuman to just let them starve, but on the other hand, it's unfair to be expected to provide for someone who is capable of providing for themselves.
Dec. 8th, 2004 07:02 pm (UTC)
There's a bible verse somewhere that says if a man will not work, neither let him eat.

Dec. 8th, 2004 10:04 pm (UTC)
2 Thessalonians 3:6-12. Read it. Fascinating stuff. Does Pat Robertson have a real job, or get paid for being a busybody? How about Jerry Falwell? How about nearly every pastor of the false church? How many pastors do you know who have real jobs?

What's even more fascinating about that is that he also says to turn down private charity. How do you reconcile that with Jesus' command to give private charity? I'll tell you how: you're not supposed to want to get paid not to work. You're supposed to want to work. And you know what? Nearly everybody does. But Jesus, unlike the false Christians in the Republican party, recognized that sometimes people just can't work, and there's no shame for them in taking public or private charity; there's only shame in refusing it to them. (And then, considering the threatened penalty for refusing it to them, the word "shame" doesn't spread far enough to cover the trouble you'll be in on Judgement Day if the Bible is true.)
Aug. 18th, 2007 02:17 am (UTC)