In the very early days of my religious zealotry, I invited a Southern Baptist friend to visit one of the charismatic services at my Word of Faith church.  Like every baby Christian I was red hot for Jesus and out to save the world.  We were on our way home, and I asked Theresa what she thought of the pastor’s sermon, and nearly swerved the car off the road when she answered with, “You know, I’m not even sure the Bible is true anymore.  I mean, who says it is?  How many different people wrote it?  We don’t even know who wrote bits of it.”

Blasphemy!  Those are words that strike fear into the heart of the Christian because they hit at the very root of their religious faith.  If the Bible isn’t true, then what is?  I was very proud of my reply.  “Theresa,” I said, “If God is powerful enough to set the earth in motion, I’m pretty sure he is powerful enough to get a book written.”  And that sad little argument against reason was powerful enough to keep me from considering her questions for another ten years.  That is why I was such an excellent Evangelical.

That is why politicians like Rick Santorum terrify me.

In order to have a conversation with an Evangelical, you must understand that the root of every argument will return to one point:  The veracity of the Bible.  No matter how well stated, logical, or factual your stand, and no matter how much he may agree intellectually, if it is at odds with either jot or tittle[1], the Evangelical will have no option but to disagree.  It is the fault upon which the entire house of cards is built.

Christians in general show a remarkable capacity for belief.  Basic tenants of the Christian faith in the New Testament alone include virgin birth, laying on of hands to heal sickness, resurrection of the dead, and ascension from earth in a physical body, into an astral plane.  Those tropes are X-Files enough on their own, but mean nothing without the firm, dogmatic belief that some 40-plus authors of 66 separate books, written in three different languages, over the course of 1600 years did so under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit, and were then translated into multiple variations without the first error in transcription or tone.  From the origins of Adam and Eve in Genesis, to the reign of the Alpha and Omega in Revelations, the Christian religion requires unquestioning faith in every word written.

Apologists like Josh McDowell, author of the Evidence That Demands a Verdict series, use a mix of citation, reason, and religious fervor in their efforts to prove that the Bible is a divinely inspired book of facts.  McDowell frequently cites 2 Timothy 3:16,17 which reads, “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.”

In his book with Don Douglas, Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, he says of that scripture, “The word inspired is a translation of the Greek word theopneustos, meaning God-breathed.  Thus, the origin of Scripture is God, not man; it is God-breathed.”[2]

Well that explains everything!  If the source itself tells you it is divine, then it must be.  McDowell also frequently points to his own conversion (achieved while he was on a quest to disprove the existence of God) as evidence of El Shaddai.  At least he is consistent.

It is rather ridiculous, but when you are talking to an Evangelical, you must understand that this is at the heart of every issue.  The man Moses did not write that men should not lie with men as they do with women[3], God did.  The man Peter did not write that women should be considered the weaker vessel[4], God did.  The man Moses did not command you not to kill[5], which is a good thing, since the god he was quoting turned around and sent Israel into Midian with the command to kill every male and every woman who was no longer a virgin[6].  If you are going to be inconsistent, it is very important that you be Divinely inconsistent, so that your shadow of turning might be explained away with the question of who has ever known the unsearchable mind of the lord, or been his counselor[7]?

As long as it is God inspiring the writing, who are we mere mortals to question?

So how do you talk to an Evangelical about the Bible?  Well, that all depends on your Evangelical.  If your Evangelical is open-minded (yes, those do exist) then you might start by asking them what they think of how all arguments for the divinity of the work fold back in on the work itself.  You might ask what outside sources also claim its divinity.  You might, if you’re feeling particularly puckish, ask which of the modern translations best captures the essence of the original languages, and find out what they think of the modern paraphrases.  You might begin to see a chink in the armor.

Don’t expect an immediate conversion.  Studied Evangelicals know that it statistically takes seven individual exposures to the message of Christ before a non-believer comes to a point of conversion.  For some sow, some water, and some reap.  If you are the Evangelical’s first exposure to reason after a lifetime of indoctrination, it is highly likely you will do little more than stir up dust in the Damascus Road of their thinking.  Be gentle.  They honestly don’t know better.  In fact, your Evangelical is going to think he is on the road to converting you.

Evangelicals, and many Christians, predicate their faith on feelings.  The hymnal refrain “my God is real, for I can feel him in my soul (and I’ve always partictularly enjoyed Jerry Lee Lewis’s version of that one),” is good enough for most, satisfying the Bible’s requirement for blind faith.  In Romans 10:17, Paul says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by the word of God. Asking for proof beyond God’s word is coming close to sin, verging on saying you require the physical to believe. Requirement of proof is proof of lack of faith, and lack of faith is proof of godlessness. You see the conundrum?

This is true, unless you are dealing with evangelism.  If you are out there evangelizing, lack of faith is exciting because it means you’re doing something right!

Pamela Dean, author of Tam Lin, a masterful retelling of the Scottish ballad of the same name uses a main character to write of Romeo and Juliet.  Her character describes them as believing their love is true because the course of true love never runs smooth.  Because their love is star-crossed, it must be real.  Evangelicals fall prey to this when it comes to dealing with non-believers.  Because Paul said that the message of Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews, who demanded signs in order to believe, and foolishness to the Greeks, who demanded logic in order to believe[8], Evangelicals are cow-eyed with delight at your request for proof or reason of their faith.  If you are confused or slow to commit, they are properly preaching Christ crucified—just as Paul did.  They will continue to pray for your eyes to be opened, and for you to convert, or they will pray that God let Satan have his way with you until you are forced to admit defeat and accept Jesus as your lord.

All of the above is why any politician with an evangelical agenda frightens me.  You cannot reason with an Evangelical because reason is the antithesis of faith.  An Evangelical cannot reconcile gay marriage, women’s rights, or a foreign policy other than Zionism with his conscience.  He may see your point about civil rights, or understand your desire for contraceptives, or feel a little sorry for Palestine, but he will just shake his head at you because you don’t understand that God’s Law is above man’s law, and contraceptives are gateway drugs to sin, and that Israel is God’s Chosen People.  And, that Evangelical will do everything within his power to force you to conform to his worldview, all the while sleeping soundly at night, knowing he is working toward the greater good and the salvation of your soul.

 


[1] Matthew 5:18 King James Version (KJV)

 

[2] McDowell, Josh, and Don Douglas. Stewart. “Introduction.” Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity. San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1981. 15. Print.

[3] Leviticus 18:22

[4] 1 Peter 3:7

[5] Exodus 20:13

[6] Numbers 31:17

[7] Romans 11:33-35

[8]1I Corinthians 1:22—24

 

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