September 25, 2008

Bible Under Attack-- from both Sides!

"...more than 60% of the nation's 60 million evangelicals believe that the Bible is literally true, every last word of it, and more than a third believe the end of the world will occur in their lifetime."

The above quote from a recent web article encapsulates the crux of a dilemma affecting both Christians and non-Christians in today's world. While 36 million evangelical church-goers in America reportedly believe that the Bible is literally true, the huge problem-- one that is largely unknown-- is that their understanding of the scriptures is almost completely wrong! It would be one thing (and even beneficial) if they believed the Bible was true, and correctly understood what it contained. It becomes a horror-show when they believe in biblical truth, but pervert the words into grotesque distortions to justify the evil lusts of their souls. That's the dilemma I refer to.

Hence, the attacks are coming from two sides: 1) the 'outside'-- those who do not recognize the authority of scripture as the revelation of God, and 2) the 'inside'-- those who pay lip service to the authenticity of the Bible, but warp its meaning in service to their preconceived, earthly desires.

The antipathy of non-religious people towards the Bible is understandable. Like extremists in the other, scripture-based faiths (Judaism and Islam), Christian fanatics have all too often extracted selected phrases from their book and weaved them into a weapon for attacking this or that group they happen to hate at the time. In this way, the fanatics have provided the skeptics and atheists with exactly the ammunition they need to denounce belief in the Bible. Not only do the zealots bring disrepute onto the whole of Christendom, but by proclaiming their false beliefs, they create quite false impressions in the minds of the non-religious about what the scriptures actually teach (since the majority of scoffers are not likely to read it for themselves to verify). Even for those non-believers who have taken the time to read the Bible (or portions), it is very easy for them to obtain a faulty understanding of just what this book really teaches us, due to the torrent of nonsense billowing from the false prophets.

As I have explained elsewhere, the deep significance of the Bible cannot be found by a cursory reading. This is because, in my analysis, the scriptures have been inspired by God in both details and structure, to be purposely opaque to the profane reader, especially as regards prophecy. As Jesus himself told his disciples, 'I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.' In other words-- and this is important-- prophecy is often given in a way that cannot be discerned until the event has come to pass. Instead, today's fast-talking religious salesmen tell their flocks that the Bible predicts this event and that one, when, in truth, they have no real idea what the words really mean. Many Bible teachings are divinely dispersed in the skein of scriptures precisely to prevent their conscious distortion by evil-minded men for self-seeking purposes. Does that mean that no-one can interpret the Bible? No! Any prayerful or sincere seeker of biblical truth can discover it, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The trouble is, so few people are willing to put in the time to let the scriptures enlighten our mind.

Of course, when one refers to evangelicals or fundamentalists, it is clear that they did not all arrive at a distorted view of Bible teachings by applying themselves to diligent study of the scriptures they claim to esteem. Far from it. The vast majority of bench-warmers in any Christian church simply sit there and listen to the snake-oil salesmen up on the platform, with a microphone in one hand and a Bible waved in the other. These preachers, too often, employ every technique of persuasive demagoguery and psychological manipulation to instill church doctrine in their innocent listeners. It is quite astounding, seen in the light of history. For long centuries during the Dark Ages, the Christian Church (which was the Roman Church) jealously restricted access to the Bible, keeping it away from the laity, and directing the clergy in what must be taught from it. Many true believers were persecuted or executed because they read 'underground' copies of scripture. Once the invention of the printing press came along, playing the role of the Internet in today's society, and 'vernacular' translations of the Bible became widely available, the religious controllers had to adopt a new plan. Taking advantage of the Bible's very expansiveness, its span of time, thought, and themes, they convinced the laity, the ordinary church member, that they couldn't fully understand the scriptures without the guidance only they could provide. This is why exclusivity became so important to all the splinter churches spawned in the wake of the Reformation. They each want their members to be convinced that only they have the truth, and everyone else is a heretic. To the unchurched mind, this kind of indoctrination sounds ludicrous in the modern, Western world, yet it is a reality that is becoming all too threatening, as (for example) the candidates for president of the USA must now demonstrate their fealty to a so-called Christian assembly in order to appeal to the burgeoning 'Christian Right.'

What is the agenda for these fundamentalist churches, anyhow? It appears to be bound in a curious, theological word, 'eschatology,' meaning the study of 'end times.' That's right, the churches are jockeying for position to be in the forefront when Jesus returns. Maybe some proponents honestly believe that they are somehow 'helping God' by forcefully creating the conditions they think are specified in the Bible as if they were prerequisites for divine action. This kind of thinking in itself is bizarre and non-scriptural, yet it doesn't stop the promoters from raising their shrill and dire warnings. Why? Because it brings in lots of money from their terrified sheep, that's why. Using current events, which their lobbying helps create, they paint frightful pictures of events to come for which only they are capable of warning their followers about, and how to deal with. That emphasis on eschatology is the main reason for the unholy and uneasy alliance between the evangelicals and the Zionists, and the constant lobbying these church spokesmen conduct inside the offices of the White House for support for Israel and its ambitions in the Middle East. Each side is using the other for its own ends, but that doesn't stop them from wreaking havoc.

How, you may be asking, am I so sure that the fundamentalists are wrong in their Bible interpretations? Well, for some of you, it doesn't matter what they believe about that book, because it is a hoary, fairy tale in any case. But bear with me a while, because it's possible it may be more than myth; the skeptics are merely surmising out of disbelief, mainly. Let us assume that the Bible does contain truths, but is being abused by extremist factions for ulterior motives. In fact, even if the Bible proves to be 'wrong,' (which I don't believe), the point is that the fundamentalists are still not correctly understanding what it contains!

There are several reasons why I am convinced that the self-proclaimed fundamentalists are promoting doctrines that are seriously in error. Consider the following:

  • 1) When presenting their arguments, they begin with flawed 'hermeneutics;' that is, their analytical paradigms are unsound to begin with, therefore their conclusions are necessarily highly suspect. E.g. they observe current events in, particularly, the Middle East, and starting with a pre-conceived notion of what's 'supposed' to happen, they then impose an interpretation on ancient prophecies.
  • 2) The purpose (spirit) behind their arguments is not in keeping with Godly principles in the first place. That is, they are trying to achieve worldly, political, secular, tainted objectives, and using scripture as a justification. Scripture was never intended to be used as a rationale for human actions, especially to justify questionable ends.
  • 3) Their arguments are founded on modern, non-traditional understandings that are not in harmony with time-tested interpretations of scripture. E.g. the foundation of the Rapture theory lies in the Scofield Reference Bible (of 1909), that reflects one unorthodox view of eschatology, called dispensational premillennialism. (I won't get into that theory here.)
  • 4) Their exegesis (scriptural analysis) is clearly wrong when they abandon the explanations supplied within the pages of the Bible in order to allow another interpretation that better suits their desired agenda. E.g. Hal Lindsey's famous book of the 1970s, The Late, Great Planet Earth, made all kinds of unequivocal predictions that were supposed to take place within a few years. Even allowing him 25 years of history, none of his scenarios transpired the way he described. Another clear example: the evangelical zealots are always talking about 'the Antichrist,' as if it's a specific, unique individual to appear in only these end times... when the Bible speaks of many antichrists, and moreover, indicates that the 'beasts' of eschatology are not individuals, but rather 'kingdoms,' or as we call them today, nations.
  • 5) Their exegesis depends on collecting a few, isolated texts and juxtaposing them into a m┼Żlange that allows them to reach (stretch for) certain desired conclusions. E.g. the doctrine of the 'secret rapture' appears nowhere in the Bible, but it is 'proved' on the basis of a couple of unrelated verses taken out of context and forced to agreement.
  • 6) Some of the more egregious misunderstandings of the Bible (such as the nature of the true Israel) can be deconstructed in a few minutes of honest, disinterested Bible study, where the words of Jesus himself often contradict today's populist teachings. E.g. Jesus stated he is the 'way, the truth, and the life;' yet Hagee and others present a new 'truth' that, while Christians need Christ, the Jews will be saved in another manner!
  • 7) Their most basic understanding of the essential mission and accomplishments of Jesus is, itself, flawed. This error needs a lengthy explanation, but in order to be brief here, I can state that most organized churches do not understand the difference between the 'Old Testament' and the New, and how the covenant instituted by Jesus supercedes the covenant mediated by Moses. If they can't get the fundamentals right, how can they claim to be fundamentalist?

Each of the above points could be elaborated on in separate essays, but the salient point for the reader to obtain is that the rabid, war-mongering religionists who label themselves Christians (or more often as hyphenated Christians) bear little resemblance to true followers of the Prince of Peace. And, they certainly are not basing their doctrines and actions on sound Biblical understanding. So, my message to both non-religious and religious readers is this: don't react to the evangelical/fundamentalist adherents of 'churchianity,' who follow politically-motivated masters, as if they were representative of genuine believers in Christ and the Bible. The phonies have hijacked the name of Christ, but have gutted the principles he stands for, and invented a new message that replaces the gospel with a legalistic, bellicose, convoluted recipe for global, social chaos. If there were a core of authentic believers still alive and active in the USA today, the country would not find itself in the mess it is in. Because so many Christians prefer to sit in a pew and allow themselves to be mesmerized by their clergy, they are willingly ignorant pawns of unscrupulous men who will eventually lead them to destruction.

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