Debate Analysis: The Resurrection (Craig vs. Ehrman)

18 June 2006

On March 28, 2006 William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrman debated the question, “Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?” The debate transcript can be found Here.

Opening Statement

For his opening statement, Craig used his usual approach of defending four relatively uncontroversial historical facts and constructing a case for the resurrection. The evidence he uses to establish each fact is fairly persuasive, although the debate format prevents him from delving into a detailed defense of the four facts. Craig used his remaining time to argue that supposed inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts do not undermine the case for the resurrection.

Craig’s opening statement was very impressive and highly persuasive, but could have been improved in one way. Craig should have briefly discussed the nature of the New Testament books as historical documents and the role of oral transmission in the first century. For example, he could have pointed out that the Gospels are written closer to the events they describe than many other ancient texts that historians use to confidently rebuild the past. And he could have pointed out that the early Christians lived in an oral culture with a high premium on memorization and accuracy. Throughout the debate, Ehrman tries to establish skepticism about the value of the New Testament books as historical sources. When a lay audience hears that these books were written 30-60 years after the events they describe, it is likely to have a big impact. Most lay people are simply unaware that this time span is perfectly acceptable for ancient historical sources. Moreover, the audience is likely to be troubled by the fact that much of Christian teaching in the beginning was transmitted orally. They are not aware of the fact that the culture in which Christianity arose was one in which memorization of teachings and facts would not be overly difficult, and in which those who were spreading the message would have been very concerned with accuracy and truth. But since Craig does not discuss oral transmission or the historical value of the New Testament, Ehrman is able to instill skepticism in the lay audience.

Ehrman begins his presentation by instilling doubt about the Gospels as historical sources. He claims that they are late, anonymous, inconsistent, and biased. However, even if he is correct about all of these points, the Gospels are still relatively good historical documents. Although they are written after the event, they are written closer than many other ancient documents. Many ancient writings were written anonymously, like Tacitus’ highly regarded Annals, and this is not a problem for establishing historical fact. Inconsistencies are practically inevitable in independent accounts, and all ancient writers were biased because nobody ever wrote without some big reason to do so. Despite this, Ehrman’s strategy here is very good and is likely to be very persuasive.

Next, Ehrman attempts to show that there cannot be historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection, as Craig predicted. Unfortunately, Ehrman is unaware, both here and apparently throughout the debate, that he is using the Humean argument against the possibility of establishing a miracle. He incorrectly believes that Hume argued against the possibility of miracles, whereas Hume actually argued against the possibility of establishing miracles, for the same reasons that Ehrman provides. In any case, Ehrman’s argument against the possibility of establishing miracles is unpersuasive for the same reason that Hume’s argument is unpersuasive, and as Craig shows in his first rebuttal.

This is especially crucial since Ehrman’s case rests almost entirely upon his argument here. In his opening speech, he offers a potential alternate account of early Christianity, but he admits himself that the account is very unlikely. Therefore, his account cannot really be taken seriously unless his argument against miracles goes through.

First Rebuttal

Craig, recognizing the importance of the argument against miracles to Ehrman’s case, spends almost the entire first rebuttal showing why his reasoning is fallacious. Craig points out that Ehrman fails to consider factors other than the intrinsic probability of the resurrection. Moreover, Craig contends that the intrinsic probability of the resurrection may not be low anyways, unless the probability of God’s existence is low. Since Ehrman himself argued that historians cannot say anything about God, Ehrman cannot show that God’s existence is improbable. Here, Craig perhaps could have mentioned that the religio-historical context in which Christ’s resurrection took place increases the probability that God would raise Christ from the dead. Obviously, it may seem inexplicable why God would randomly raise some person from the dead- but Christ was not a random person. In light of Christ’s radical self-claims and extraordinary ministry, it is more likely that God might raise Jesus from the dead in order to vindicate him and his teachings.

Craig raps up his first rebuttal by arguing that Ehrman’s skepticism about the historical value of the Gospels is unfounded, since no ancient document lives up to the expectations Ehrman mentions. Craig also argues that there is a solid core story of Jesus which is agreed upon by all four Gospels. His refutation here would have been much easier had he mentioned the reliability of the Gospels in his first speech.

Ehrman really drops the ball in his first rebuttal. He demonstrates his complete ignorance of Craig’s refutation, by claiming that he will not be persuaded by “mathematical proof for the existence of God.” Of course, Craig hadn’t even discussed evidence for the existence of God- Ehrman was just completely dumbfounded by Craig’s explication of probability theory.

Since Ehrman has no way of responding to Craig’s main point, he raises a number of peripheral issues instead. First, he claims that Craig makes dubious use of authorities. However, Craig backed up most of his authority citations with evidence. Amazingly, Ehrman objects that some of the authorities he cites don’t agree with his position! However, it is obvious that this is actually a strength rather than a weakness. It is a common strategy to cite as authorities those who disagree with your overall position. Thus, Craig cites Gerd Ludemann, an atheist, for his belief in the appearances of Jesus Christ. Since Gerd is an atheist, he is more likely to have a natural disposition to be skeptical of Christ’s appearances. Therefore, one is likely to give a citation from Gerd more credibility than from an evangelical believer in the resurrection like Gary Habermas. Additionally, Ehrman fails to realize that Craig never attempted to demonstrate that his position was a majority position, only that belief in the four facts he presents is a majority position.

Ehrman objects to Craig’s use of Paul to establish a burial by Joseph of Arimathea. He claims that Paul was writing 25 years after Christ’s death, but this claim is either deceptive or reveals Ehrman’s ignorance, since Craig is obviously referring to the creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 which virtually all scholars date within 8 years of Christ’s death, many dating it within a year. He makes a valid point that Paul does not mention Joseph and could have been referring to a communal burial, although Craig was probably unable to explain the connection between Paul’s mention of a burial and Joseph’s role due to the time constraints of the debate format.

Ehrman states:

“In his own writings [Craig] indicates that Mark has a sparse narrative of Jesus’ being buried and since it’s an unembellished narrative, as he calls it, it’s more likely then to be historical. Because if that is true, then I want him to tell us whether he thinks that Matthew’s more embellished tradition is unhistorical.”

Ehrman makes a fairly big deal of this supposed problem throughout the debate. However, this is an obvious case of black and white thinking. Craig’s point is that an unembellished tradition is more likely to be historical than an embellished one, but of course it is still possible for an embellished tradition to be historical as well.

Ehrman makes a good point that Mark may have invented a story of women discovering the tomb because Mark wanted to point out that it was the marginalized who really understood Jesus. This is actually one of the better skirmishes in the debate, as Craig and Ehrman both go back and forth on the issue and both raise good points.

Ehrman claims that Craig wrongly equates appearances of Jesus with a physical appearance. However, Craig’s position is that a resurrection entails a physical body, as he mentions in his second rebuttal.

At the end of his first rebuttal, Ehrman asks three questions which have, in my opinion, very little relevance to the debate. He first asks whether or not Craig holds to Biblical inerrancy. He implies that if Craig believes in inerrancy, then it undermines his credibility as an objective historian. However, Craig’s status as an objective historian is simply irrelevant to the debate; even if Craig were an awful historian, the arguments he offers may well be good ones. However, belief in inerrancy does not necessarily make one a bad historian- they may believe in the Bible’s accuracy based on philosophical, theological, or other reasons. Or, historical analysis may lead one to accept the absolute accuracy of the New Testament.

Second, Ehrman asks Craig whether he is willing to discuss the evidence for miracles from people other than Christ. But he offers no actual evidence for these miracle claims, let alone evidence comparable to that which Craig provides for the resurrection.

Third, Ehrman asks, “How is it that the faith that [Craig] adopted as a teenager happens to be the only one that is historically credible? Is it just circumstance that he was born into a religious family or a religious culture that can historically be shown to be the only true religion?”

I don’t see how this question is relevant to the debate. It seems that Ehrman is implying that Craig simply looked for historical evidence to support his belief in Jesus Christ. But this is simply an example of the genetic fallacy- it does not matter what Craig’s motivation is for looking into the historical evidence- it only matters whether or not the evidence is good.

Second Rebuttal

Craig defends himself against the charge of a dubious use of authorities, pointing out that he provides evidence for all of his points. He also points out Ehrman’s mistake with regards to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Against Ehrman’s claim that Mark may have invented women followers due to a literary motif, Craig counters that the women were followers of Jesus, particularly Mary Magdalene who is one of his disciples. He also claims that multiple attestation increases the likelihood of the women’s discovery.

Against Ehrman’s argument that Paul’s exclamation of Jesus’ appearance may not imply an empty tomb, Craig claims that first century Jews would have inevitably understood Christ’s resurrection to be physical. Furthermore, Craig points out that Paul distinguished between resurrection appearance and mere visions of Jesus. Here Craig makes a strong point- other than distinguishing between intra-mental and extra-mental appearances, Paul’s differentiation is inexplicable.

Craig offers three further refutations of Ehrman’s claim that historians cannot have access to God as an explanatory entity. First, you do not need direct access to explanatory entities in your hypothesis- such as in contemporary physics were scientists postulate things to which we have no direct access. Second, historians do not have direct access to any objects of their study, since the past is already gone. His third and best point is that a person can rationally believe in the resurrection on the basis of the evidence even if the historian is blocked by a methodological restriction from postulating the existence of God. Therefore, even if Ehrman is right about the limits of the historian, it is of no bearing to the truth nor to rational belief.

This brings up an interesting point, because even if Ehrman is right and the resurrection is extremely improbable due to its miraculous nature, the resurrection is clearly much more likely if God’s existence is more likely. If the theist can develop a strong natural theology and demonstrate the likelihood of God’s existence, then the initial implausibility of the resurrection is reduced greatly. Unfortunately, Craig didn’t have to time to argue for the existence of God, nor was it relevant to the debate. However, if Craig were able to establish a high likelihood of God’s existence, then almost all of the force of Ehrman’s case would be drained.

Craig wisely decided to delay answering Ehrman’s irrelevant questions until the Q&A period.

To start off his rebuttal, Ehrman criticized Craig’s failure to deal with his historical alternative to the resurrection. This strikes me as odd- Ehrman already admitted that his explanation was unlikely and that he didn’t believe it. The only reason Ehrman even mentioned the scenario was because he claimed it was more plausible than a miraculous story. That’s why Craig spent the majority of his time undermining Ehrman’s arguments for the supposed improbability of miracles. It doesn’t seem that Craig should feel the need to rebut hypotheses that Ehrman himself admits are unlikely.

Ehrman once again believes that David Hume argued against the possibility of miracles- but this is just an embarrassing mistake. In fact, Hume’s argument was almost identical to Ehrman’s and it is fallacious for reasons that Craig has already mentioned.

Ehrman offers an even more unlikely and implausible scenario for the beginning of Christianity- the twin of Jesus hypothesis. One has to wonder exactly why Ehrman is spouting off historical “possibilities” that he himself knows to be highly unlikely. If his point is that he can reconstruct a natural origin of the Christian faith, then so what? Of course it is possible to construct a naturalistic scenario. The point is, he must construct one that is somewhat plausible, or at least not wildly implausible.

As it is, there are many problems with the twin Jesus scenario. Although he points out that there are Syriac Christian traditions in which Jesus has a twin brother, these are in the second and third centuries, and we really have no good evidence whatsoever that Jesus actually had a twin. Moreover, even if Jesus did have a twin, it is exceedingly unlikely that he could fool people, intentionally or unintentionally, to think that he was the risen Christ. According to Ehrman’s tale, some of Jesus’ followers saw his twin brother “at a distance” and thought it was Christ. But wouldn’t some of these followers know that Jesus had a twin brother, and avoid jumping to an absurd conclusion on the basis of a distant sighting? And wouldn’t Jesus’ brother mention something when people began preaching that Jesus had risen, or did he conveniently die before he got the chance? Ehrman’s account also shows no respect for oral transmission- he seems to think that the stories could evolve from a distant sighting to what we have today in the Gospels, including the story of the empty tomb. But the ancients weren’t participating in a game of telephone when they spread sacred teachings and beliefs, they were meticulous and dedicated to preserving truth. Moreover, Ehrman’s hypothesis must dismiss the evidence for the discovery of the empty tomb that Craig mentioned in the debate and has defended elsewhere- including independent multiple attestation and the criterion of embarrassment. Finally, a distant sighting is unlikely to reverse the lack of Jewish expectation for a dying and rising Messiah. Additionally, Craig pointed out that Jewish beliefs precluded anyone’s rising from the dead to immortality before the general resurrection at the end of the world. Are we really to believe that a distant sighting could inspire the followers of Jesus to jump to the extremely counterintuitive notion that Christ had raised bodily from the dead?

In short, Ehrman’s scenario is so fanciful that it barely deserves refutation, even if we could prove that Jesus actually had an identical twin brother.

Next, Ehrman claims that Craig failed to deal with the inconsistencies. Craig did try to deal with them, but he was under a tough time constraint. His main point was that the core story is remarkably consistent throughout all four Gospels, a point which Ehrman fails to take into account. Ehrman once again raises the issue of unembellished verses embellished accounts. As I pointed out earlier, he is guilty of black-and-white thinking- unembellished accounts are more likely to be historical, embellished accounts are not as likely to be but still may be historical or largely historical.

Ehrman points out that he did refute Craig’s point that Mark would not mention women discovering the tomb, again asserting that Mark’s Gospel has a theme of the marginalized understanding Jesus. This is a solid response and I actually think this may be one of Ehrman’s victories throughout the debate, although he does not deal with the fact of multiple attestation which vindicates the discovery of the tomb by women followers.

Ehrman also claims that first century Jewish sources demonstrate that a Jew could feasibly believe in an appearance of Jesus without a physical body. However, I don’t believe this directly addresses Craig’s point, for Craig has elsewhere admitted that Jews could readily believe in a phantasmal body appearance- in fact he points out that Paul distinguished between extra-mental (bodily) and intra-mental (phantasmal) appearances. Craig’s point, rather, is that no Jew would hear Paul say “he was buried and then was raised” and still wonder if the tomb were empty. It is a resurrection which was necessarily physical in the minds of first century Jews, not appearances which could be intra or extra-mental.

Conclusion

In the conclusion, Craig offers some objections to the original alternative historical scenario offered by Ehrman. He points out that Ehrman’s tale lacks motive, overlooks details of the account, and fails to explain the appearances and the origin of the Christian faith. Next, Craig simply reiterates some of his points about the improbability of miracles.

Finally, Craig wraps up his conclusion by discussing the experiential avenue to knowledge of Christ, and giving his own account of how he came to faith. As far as the debate goes, this is a questionable strategy, because it is not really germane to the issue of the historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection. Furthermore, it may cause some audience members to question Craig’s objectivity- a point which Ehrman fallaciously tries to exploit. Finally, it takes up a good deal of time and does not allow him to really seal the deal against Ehrman. However, since Craig’s ultimate goal is to convince others to come to faith in Christ, this may be a good way to end his debate. Thus, I don’t have a problem with this strategy.

Ehrman opens up his conclusion by questioning Craig’s goal:

“Well, I appreciate very much the personal testimony, Bill. I do think, though, that what we’ve seen is that Bill is, at heart, an evangelist who wants people to come to share his belief in Jesus and that he’s trying to disguise himself as a historian as a means to that end.”

Apparently, many people were quite impressed by this point- one internet commentator claimed that this sealed the win for Ehrman. In fact, I think that this is Ehrman’s biggest mistake, technically, since this is a textbook example of the genetic fallacy. It matters not what Craig’s motives are nor what strategies he uses- it only matters whether or not the historical evidence supports the resurrection of Christ. Personally, I think Craig is at heart an evangelist, and I think that this is a good thing. As a sincere believer in Jesus Christ, he should be passionate about bringing others to faith. But even if this damages his credibility as a historian, Ehrman still has to deal with the evidence that Craig provided for his position. So, while Ehrman’s charge here may be very persuasive, it is in fact a fallacious ad hominem attack.

Ehrman tries to defend his first historical alternative against Craig’s criticisms. Ehrman’s hypothesis must reject a guard at the tomb and the grave clothes without any particular reason. Ehrman says that his family may have wanted Jesus buried in the family tomb- which is implausible because his family members were not believers during Jesus’ lifetime; moreover, as a condemned criminal Jesus’ family would not want to put his body in a family tomb for fear of disgracing the bodies that were there. Ehrman contends that his hypothesis explains the visions of Jesus since people have visions “all the time.” Perhaps so, but hallucinations require a special psychological state that the followers of Christ simply would not have, and since a resurrection was so counterintuitive given first century Jewish beliefs (as mentioned earlier), they likely would not have come to believe in Christ’s bodily resurrection even if they had hallucinated.

Ehrman concludes the debate by discussing what he “really does think about Jesus’ resurrection.” I have to wonder- why is it we are now, for the first time, hearing what Ehrman actually thinks about Jesus and the rise of Christianity? This should have been a contentious issue in the debate, not something that is mentioned in the conclusion. This may be a good strategy, since Craig is not given an opportunity to refute Ehrman’s actual position, but it seems borderline deceptive. There is no excuse for Ehrman to raise a couple of fanciful tales throughout the debate, and then end with, purportedly, the most plausible alternative to the resurrection hypothesis.

In any case, Ehrman’s opinion that Jesus’ followers turned to the scriptures after his death and found scriptures which told of the Messiah’s suffering is inadequate to account for the belief in Christ’s resurrection. As Craig points out later in the Q&A session, the Old Testament passages are too obscure and ambiguous to allow the disciples to come to a belief in the resurrection, particularly since the idea was so foreign in the mind of a first century Jew. Furthermore, Ehrman’s hypothesis is undermined by the solid historical evidence for the four facts that Craig defends. We have good historical evidence for an actual burial and an actual empty tomb, Ehrman’s theory notwithstanding. But these very facts show that Ehrman’s view is untenable, since he must deny the actual discovery of the empty tomb by women followers. Furthermore, Ehrman’s account still fails to give any realistic account of oral transmission. Once again, the Jews in the first century were an oral culture with a high premium on memorization and accuracy. Since these beliefs were so important, they would not simply pass stories on in a carefree manner, changing them in significant ways to serve their purposes. These were people that literally memorized the Old Testament, and they were very serious about religious doctrine and belief. Ehrman’s account is simply too anachronistic.

The Debate: An Analysis

It seems pretty clear that Dr. Craig won the debate, at least technically. Unfortunately, it seems that Ehrman was able to establish unrealistic skepticism about the New Testament documents and illegitimately attack Craig as an evangelist rather than a historian. However, Craig completely smashed Ehrman’s argument against the identification of miracles, and it was pretty clear that Ehrman didn’t even understand what Craig was talking about, let alone offer any good points of refutation. He attempted to dismiss Craig’s explication of probability theory but never offered any arguments against it, incorrectly asserted that his argument was distinct from Hume’s, and merely repeated ad nauseam his claim that the historian cannot identify miracles. Almost the entire debate hinged on Ehrman’s argument against the probability of miracles, since he never offered a likely alternative naturalistic explanation (until the conclusion, which in any case is not actually plausible.) Ehrman did make some good points against Craig’s argument for the women’s discovery of the tomb, but many of Craig’s other points remained unaddressed. With the lack of a convincing alternative, and a lack of refutation of the four facts Craig explicated, Ehrman failed to support his case.




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  1. “he could have pointed out that the Gospels are written closer to the events they describe than many other ancient texts that historians use to confidently rebuild the past.”

    I keep seeing this argument toted out, but it’s got a major hole in it.

    the age of a particular manuscript says nothing as to whether it contains truth. We have copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” that date from the year it was written. Many many people believed it to be true, some still do. It is, however, entirely a fraud.

    whether you can ‘confidently rebuild the past’ using ancient texts depends on what sort of information is in a text. There are plenty of ancient texts mingling historical fact with myth, with fallacy, with the superhuman goings on of gods and goddesses. historians do not automatically decide a text represents a literal truth solely based on its age, there are other factors, like whether the information is corroberated elsewhere, or whether the sort of events described seem likely to have really happened.


    kurt    Jul 13, 01:55 PM    #
  2. It’s true that considerations of the age of writings or nearness to their purported events cannot prove that they are reporting truth or falsehood. However, the fact that they are written close to the events they describe does indeed give us increased confidence. After all, Ehrman himself mentions the supposed lateness of the Gospels as evidence against their testimony. But if the lateness of the documents is considered evidence that they are unreliable, then evidence that the documents were written early will tend to show that they are reliable.


    Kyle Deming    Jul 14, 12:23 AM    #
  3. It’s a sad state of affairs when one reads that debate and sides with Dr. Craig. Do yourselves favors and read the debate again. A debate cannot be won by subscribing to faith over fact.


    — Jeremy    Nov 28, 12:02 PM    #
  4. Frankly, I think they both lost the debate. I was not satisfied with either side of the story…


    Brett    Feb 1, 03:26 PM    #
  5. This is an excellent analysis of the debate. Your criticisms of Craig and Ehrman is sharp and to the point. I would add the point that despite having every motive to do so, the Jews’ inability to refute the burial, the empty tomb and the claims that there were indeed people walking around claiming to have seen the resurrected Christ very soon after the crucifixion strongly suggests that these are irrefutable facts. Nevertheless, your analysis is indeed a high quality piece of work and I think both Ehrman and Craig should take a look.


    Andrew    Feb 2, 01:42 PM    #
  6. It is things like these that make me gape in wonder at the inability of humans to communicate. A random example of how far of the mark this analysis is: “since Ehrman’s case rests almost entirely upon his argument here. In his opening speech, he offers a potential alternate account of early Christianity, but he admits himself that the account is very unlikely. Therefore, his account cannot really be taken seriously unless his argument against miracles goes through.”

    Bart’s point is not that the account should be taken seriously, but that he can produce on a whim a more likely explanation of the ‘facts’ Craig provides than the resurrection. It has nothing to do with whether Ehrman supports it or not, he has a provided a better explanation than Craig! As someone quite near to completion of a degree in mathematics (and another in anth. of religion) I can say that the probability business was sheer nonsense. The “probability calculus” employed by ‘philosophers’ only resembles real (i.e. mathematical) probability theory. So Ehrman is quite right in is incredulousness that Craig would employ such a thing. Furthermore, Craig’s preparation of insulting slides before the debate even occurred did not reflect well on his character. (not that that has anything to do with the argument)
    sven    Mar 26, 10:59 PM    #
  7. sven,

    Frankly, I’m confused about your criticism of my article. My point in the passage you quote was simply that, since Ehrman’s account is inherently implausible (admitted by Ehrman and also, apparently, by you), then he must have some sort of strong argument against Craig’s explanation (the resurrection) to be taken seriously at all.

    Obviously, Ehrman does (try) to provide such an argument to show that miracles are inherently improbable and therefore, his own implausible account is more plausible than Craig’s account by virtue of the fact that Ehrman’s account does not involve any miracles. But without this philosophical claim, Ehrman is dead in the water with a historically implausible scenario.


    Kyle Deming    Apr 16, 09:27 AM    #
  8. A well-balanced analysis! Kudos for being spot on concerning Hume and what kind of arguments Ehrman actually used.


    Erik    Jun 13, 01:56 PM    #
  9. It saddens me that there are people who actually think that Ehrman provided cogent arguments against the historicity of the resurrection. The reviewer is absolutely right that Ehrman’s major insistance was that Craig can’t argue for the historicity of a miracle. This, I think, is a controversial question and is (of course) debatable; however, Ehrman’s job was to demonstrate that there was no historical evidence for the resurrection and he simply did not meet this expectation. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Ehrman’s sagacity is what “won” him the debate, but it certainly wasn’t by any responsible analysis of the historical evidence. He certainly used ad hominem statements in which he tried to undermine the credibility of Craig and his methodology, but this is simply a fallacy and is not a demonstration of good debating.

    I go to UNC and have taken classes by Ehrman. I was certainly expecting more out of him than this as I tended to think (despite my obvious disagreement with his views) that he was a pretty rational guy when it came to his historical methodology. This debate has shown me that when it comes to tackling the serious historical issues concerning Early Christianity, he is more interested in “winning” than in being academically honest and impartially objective.


    Curtis Bond    Jul 11, 12:22 AM    #
  10. Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus;
    I am Paul and as I endure day to day with, hope, fear, love and persistent desire for blessings that lead to growth in faith and greater understanding of God’s truth, I’ve observed what appear to be some disturbing trends in contemporary Christianity. Though an the imperfect born again disciple myself but faithfully being transformed (Romans 12:2) like any other repented baptized believer in the flesh; I’m finding believers with conflicting biblical interpretations, behavior and even churches without Bibles. So I was compelled to embark on a “seek and edify mission” if you will, to find out what’s going on? Having browsed the Internet for various Christian websites, I’ve also been sending this letter to hundreds of believers and church leaders in North America expecting it would be an ideal opportunity to open a genuine dialogue and edify with believers that were previously unknown to me. Though well-considered, this frequently edited missive is lengthy so you might want to set it aside to read when you have more time and please keep in mind that I do not have all the answers either. Far from it but God willing, perhaps our interaction may reveal blessed mutual edification?

    However, I’m not sure that most Christians even know what “edification” is. Indeed, I’m noticing more of an aversion to “edify” among other ailments of Christendom? So how does God intend for us “to edify” and what other disturbing things are there? Well, for starters, just take a look at these statistics I found posted on one church’s website:

    Quote:
    In America, it is estimated there are over 200 million people who do not have a personal relationship with Christ!
    Since only China and India have larger populations than this, the U.S. is the 3rd largest mission field in the world!
    Nearly 74% of all Americans have no meaningful church relationship!
    One-half of all the churches in America did not add one new member through “conversion” growth during the last year.
    No county in America has a greater percentage of churched people today than a decade ago.
    Evangelical churches have failed to gain an additional 2% of the American population in the past 50 years. In other words, we are not even reaching our own children!
    North America is the ONLY continent where Christianity is not growing!

    According to Barna Research, of the 350,000 churches in America:
    80% have reached a plateau or are declining
    15% are growing because of transfer growth
    5% are growing because of conversion growth

    Canada: A Sobering Reality Check
    Approximately 85% of all Canadians have no meaningful church relationship!
    Churches are closing more rapidly in Canada than in any other country in the Western world!
    According to Outreach Canada demographic research, only 16% of Canadians attend church regularly. In urban centers
    like Toronto, only 5% of the population can be categorized as consistent church attendees!
    Close to 250,000 new Canadians have immigrated annually during the last decade. The majority are Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist or Confucian. The United Nations called Toronto, “the most ethnically diverse city in the world.”
    The mission field is here!
    Unquote.

    If those stats are anywhere near true, America is mostly ungodly and becoming more so. Yep, that’s right folks. Canada and the U.S. are not the God-fearing/God-loving countries as perhaps most believers used to presume. Gee I wonder why? Could it be that in The Land of the Free, there are at least five murders every day, hundreds of shootings every day, thousands of assaults every day, thousands of burglaries every day, countless thousands of homeless people without hope every day and thousands of drunk-driving deaths every year and 1.6 million Runaway children every year who are exploited and many killed? That is the “society” we boast about to the world as The Best Place to live? A “culture” that pays Pro Football Players many more times the salary of Doctors who save lives. A “society” which sees Corporations give away millions of dollars to Game Show Contestants instead of building housing for the poor and homeless. This makes “us” the envy of all nations on earth? Well I, for one, am embarrassed just to admit being part of “that delusion” for so long but grateful now that God shamed me into finally being embarrassed. Not to mention, that Christians are not the majority in America either, according to those statistics and perhaps they never were? Now instead of singing “God Bless America”, perhaps we need to be crying out: “God Please Save America!”?

    If those statistics weren’t alarming enough, that may be only the tip of the iceberg? We find churches that promote the love of Money, condone homosexual behaviour, adultery and doing all kinds of things which are contrary to the teachings of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The Catholic Church pays out over $600 Million to hundreds of parishioners that are victims of sexual immorality perpetrated by their Clergy; a blatant sin which is certainly prevalent in other denominations too. This, among other observations, tends to indicate that many believers are not only ignoring the Fundamentals of Christianity but they may not “get it” at all? It’s disconcerting to know that we’re still finding rampant corruption and perversion in today’s churches. I’m even finding that many believers don’t even want talk about God and church leaders who think they are beyond reproach and pastors that seem to be auditioning for “Last Comic Standing” instead of Standing for Christ.

    Not to mention the abomination of God I witnessed in a few Internet “Christian” Forum websites. There was so much ignorance, paranoia and deception going on in those forums; they might as well have been called “False Brethren” forums and all but certainly orchestrated by the devil. The EVIL in those forums was palpable! There was outright brutal rage against strangers especially Catholics, anti-Semitism and the hypocrisy was off the scale. It was a chaotic feeding frenzy of hostility and judgment. Hypocrite bible-bashers exalting themselves while assaulting anyone that might have a differing biblical interpretation or opinion. Despicable; the pure hatred toward thy neighbor literally sickened my heart.

    Though certainly no surprise the Internet is full of deadly poison, I wasn’t expecting quite that level of evil from a so-called “Christian” forum but I’m sure that is precisely what God also wanted me to “learn” about Satan’s Internet and perhaps witness to others? Indeed I believe the Internet may be the devil’s greatest work of deception perhaps second only to the antichrist that will dupe the entire world?

    So beware because these Christian forums make other websites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. seem angelic. The first Red Flag which exposes the hypocrisy of these forums begins with the Rules and Regulations or the Terms of Service (TOS). Some, if not most of the owners of these sites are such Judgmental Control Freaks that they post regulations as bizarre as this, quote: “You will not harass, threaten, embarrass or distress members, either in the community itself or via personal email, phone, physical mail or in person. You will not engage in name-calling or personal attacks in the course of discussion or debate. You will not post inflammatory remarks simply for the purpose for evoking reaction or starting fights with other community members (Often referred to as “trolling”). Overall, promoting a spirit of divisiveness in the chat and forums community will not be tolerated.”

    Duh! Aren’t Christians supposed to already know that God doesn’t want us to “harass, threaten, embarrass or distress” your neighbor? :) You can also see that the rules of that website even attempt to go beyond the realm of their own website. Whereby the owners are warning that also, if any members engage in private dialogue apart from their “forum community” either by “personal email, phone, physical mail or in person” and someone complains to a moderator about a member they encountered outside the forum community, they could be banned from that forum. Absurdity! Though the tyrannical nature of those TOS may be a red flag in and of itself, it is not the “first” red flag I was referring to.

    The first Red Flag comes from knowing the biblical passage James 3:8 “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Any Christian worth their salt perhaps should know that trying to regulate behavior in an anonymous Internet forum is as pointless as trying to legislate morality in society. Forum rules are merely window dressing inadvertently designed to lull people into thinking they are joining with a collective of God-fearing/God-loving individuals. Except the rules simply give the owner and moderators of these forums license to Judge Others with Impunity and so deceive themselves as being self-righteous and dear God I pray for “them” because I don’t think they have any idea what they’re doing and because they’re also dragging in naïve people into their web of deceit.

    Another Red Flag of course was the fact that almost everyone hides their true self behind an alias Username. Thousands of so-called “Christians” so bravely proclaiming their biblical wisdom but they can’t even use their First name? :) Well most don’t of course because the website guarantees “anonymity” and so they take full advantage of this to spew their diatribe without having to “take responsibility for what they say”. But regardless, forum members can’t even be certain if they are speaking to a male or female or if the person is 12 years old or 65 years old or the devil’s own minions for that matter. So if you must venture into such forums or you are already a participant, extreme “caution” is recommended to say the least!

    My goodness, what has Christianity become since Christ walked on earth? As one Christian author describes Today’s believers; saying. Quote: “They are hiding behind a mask of Christian activity, going through the motions and keeping the surface rules that give the appearance of loving God. A life of loving God and honestly and joyfully wanting to do His will from the heart; is a mirage in the spiritual desert wilderness in which they live.”

    Sadly, it is my experience too that most believers may actually fit that description? Hope that is not the case but if those statistics are true, we’ve got to start becoming very concerned about Christian Churches on earth today? I study about this and discuss with brethren and church leaders whenever I can. In fact, to me this is of such significance, that I have prepared the following Prayer for those who wish to read further:

    Father, I confess to you, I have seen churches without Bibles. I have spoken to believers who denounce water baptism for the repentance of sins. I have seen believers wearing and displaying physical idols depicting your Son; our Savior Christ Jesus. There are clergy that call their self “Father” and there are even believers who call themselves Christians yet deny Jesus is your Son. I’ve seen a so-called Christian church that forbids the speaking and interpreting of tongue and a Christian Religion that baptizes dead people. Dare I say Father, there seems to be deception in so-called Christian churches on earth of such proportion that the false believers may actually vastly outnumber Christ’s true followers? O’ God, I pray that for those who read this document, please grant them holy discernment and empower “us” to grow abundantly in Christ so we may endure to the end. For surely anything I write has no holy purpose without your blessing. Amen.

    Continuing; is there deception in the Church? No question and the enemy may also be “the believers themselves” in oblivious orchestration with the devil? Is Christianity more about Money than miracles? Are Evangelists merely Entertainers? Is Christendom hopelessly divided by Denomination? Do today’s Sermons really serve God’s will or is sermonizing merely part of a preacher’s job description? Please tell me what You believe and here are some of my thoughts and concerns to share with you and in no particular order of importance but first, how would you answer the following question.

    If someone accused You of not being a Christian, could you prove them wrong?

    What would Your answer be? I first heard that type of question come up in a sermon and I thought to myself. What a great question! I think it’s a question that every believer should be asking themselves and their brethren. Indeed it is perhaps the “essence” of this letter if you will and please keep that in mind as you look at the issues being raised.

    Anyway, since I’ve been presenting this document to believers associated with many different religious sects, let’s start with the issue of “Denomination”. You don’t even have to be a believer to notice that Christian religions are categorized by Denomination. Whether they’re baptized or not, Christians want to voice a differing opinion about what the Bible says too. Rather than simply accepting what the bible says, they need to put their own spin on it. If the bible says one thing; some believers want to believe it means something else. One cleric says faith means this; another says faith means that. One pastor says fear means this; another says fear means that. Christians of the world can’t even agree on who Christ is for heaven’s sake which is likely why believers began differentiating themselves by Denominations in the first place? Who knows but “division” of Christendom is not a Modern Day dilemma. It began many centuries ago.

    Though I believe the devil might be responsible for most of what affects Christianity negatively, I also think believers themselves shoulder some responsibility too. Because today’s Christianity appears to be more divided than united. Need proof? Try this on for size. Just ask someone what Church they belong to and what do they usually say? Most often they will say: I am Baptist or Lutheran or United or Catholic or whatever religious “denomination” they are. Why don’t they just say; I belong to God’s Church or say I am a Christian or I am a disciple of Christ or I am born again?

    No, they instinctively refer to their man-named Denomination. You have to dig a little deeper to find out if they also consider themselves to be “a Christian”. Clearly this suggests that even so-called Christians insist on being “different” from each other, rather than being unified under One Faith. Think about that. Would a Baptist feel just as comfortable attending a Catholic church? I don’t think so; nor will you find a Catholic attending a Lutheran church service etc. etc. etc. It just doesn’t happen because Christians have now “separated” themselves from one another to such an extent that it may be irreversible? Indeed, today there is so much division among believers that nobody knows Who the real Christians are or where to find them?

    Indeed, the “terms” Christendom and Christianity are obscured. If asked to make a List of all the true Christian churches on earth, could anybody do it? I doubt it and so perhaps the problem is just that obvious? Pick a church, pick a city, pick a Country; your guess is as good as mine and so, God willing, perhaps all I’m doing is making believers aware to start becoming aware? Aware that believers need to start getting their act together and ask God to unite us instead of perpetuating division by denomination because, in essence, Christians have divided and conquered “themselves” and Satan must be enjoying every moment of it. Here’s another quote from someone who speaks at churches. He says, quote:

    “Many godly men have tried to bring unity to the body of Christ. Unity abides among the spiritually mature and cannot be achieved by the sole effort of any one man. Luther tried, as did Calvin, Zwingli, Wycliff, Tyndale, Wesley, Williams, Knox, Spurgen, Moody and many, many others. Each contributed new light but failed to bring any greater unity to the body of Christ. Controversy and contention followed each ray of new light and with it came further division. Again and again unity was sought but remained elusive; it soon became obvious that something was missing; we had failed to lay a foundation where unity could survive. What was lacking?

    Unity can only survive among those few brethren who are yielded and mature enough to let God have His way. If we allow our doctrine to freeze in place, there remains no further opportunity to grow; we become the “frozen chosen”. Too many of us have become pillars of the church. We believe that our doctrines are the very standard of biblical truth. We become unwilling to examine our beliefs any further or to seek any truth yet unknown. We’ve become un-teachable and, like the pillars of the church, we can no longer be moved.” Unquote.

    Is this happening in your church?

    Well, I don’t know about You but I could no longer sit idle if there is even a remote chance that things have gotten this bad. The Red Flags are raised and I won’t indulge the devil’s fancy! If we believers are all supposed to be united as One Church under God, then it is time to start “doing” something about that. Heh folks, I’m not making this up. These are the facts. We have different Christian denominations and each Denomination has a different doctrine and these “differences” are preventing us from becoming a truly unified Christian force to be reckoned with. Am I wrong? One could only imagine that if Denominations made the effort to set their differences aside and came to agreement as the Bible says; what an awesomely holy power this would be, God willing. Unfortunately it is the Believers who are not willing and so why would God bless any church that seeks to be separate and unique from others?

    But sadly, “today’s generation” of so-called Christians do seek distinction from their brethren and they are oblivious to even notice any Red Flags. Denominations have carved out their territories over the millennium and now zealously guard their autonomy from other churches. In fact, even individual churches within a denomination insist on “autonomy”. So isn’t the concept of “unity” therefore defeated even before it might be addressed?

    I think so and how can believers divide themselves in this manner yet feign to be of one mind and purpose in the Body of Christ? I’ll give you another example of “division”. If you are a Catholic family and moved to another city, isn’t it pretty much a certainty that you will look for another “Catholic” church to attend? Except, if Followers are all of one faith and hope in Christ, it shouldn’t matter which Christian church building they attend; right? But it does matter. A Catholic wouldn’t be caught dead in an Anglican church. Why not? Probably because they don’t trust that any other denomination shares the same beliefs and truth as theirs. Which means; believers from different denominations obviously feel different from other Christians too. You don’t need a degree in Psychology to notice this. Believers might even feel they are a better Christian than another denomination? Who knows for sure but the fact remains. Christian religions of the world are divided and not just divided by Name either.

    Indeed, some Christian religions may actually have nothing to do with God? This only adds to the dilemma and fuels the fires of confusion among believers. Indeed, I don’t think God intended for “true Followers” to separate into denominations. Doesn’t Christ do the separating? Isn’t that what our Saviour is returning to do? Isn’t Jesus going to finally “separate” His sheep from the rest of the world?

    Nonetheless here we are! Completely divided by denomination, doctrine, bible versions, symbols, biblical interpretation, race and God only knows what else? And those are just the Christian faith-based religions. So how do we go about becoming more unified in accordance with God’s Plan or does it even matter now? After all, if these are the end times, maybe things are as holy as they’re ever going to be on earth before Judgment Day? Sorry, don’t look at me for those answers. I’m just a messenger perhaps and I have no idea whether or not God’s Plan is to unite so-called physical Christian Churches under One Name. It will likely never happen but God willing, if “that” was a desirable undertaking, I do have a suggestion or two, for what it’s worth.

    One suggestion might be. If you believe division in Christendom does more harm than good, then pray to God about it. Then probably the best place to start is by talking to your Community church Leader(s). In turn, these leaders then contact their church Headquarters to let them know that their Parishioners want to start the process of Unifying Christian Denominations by faith, doctrine, deed under One banner. Then your Headquarters can contact the Headquarters of the other Denominations until a consensus might be reached. This process will undoubtedly be agonizingly slow and so you might also send your concerns to church Headquarters individually as well. Just to let them know “you are serious” because change of this magnitude will almost certainly be met with strong resistance. But ironically perhaps, this “resistance” may serve to sort out the Pretenders from the true Followers in the process?

    But those believers whom God wants connected and working together on earth will unify no matter what the resistance. So don’t give up by thinking that “it’s too late or too big an undertaking”. All we can do is “our part” as God planned for us perhaps? Isn’t that how it works? If so, then don’t be led to believe that you are “different or better Christians”. Ask God to guide you into unity with his elect on earth, wherever they may be. It may turn out to be the best prayer you ever made? Do I think we’ll see a significant Unification of Christian Denominations in my lifetime? No, in fact the bible indicates that things will get much worse rather than getting better but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying does it?

    On the other hand, the bible also seems to indicate there will be a Unification of all Nations and Religions brought about by The antichrist and now the famous TV minister Jack Van Impe, has prophesied and told the world that the Next Pope is The antichrist. Yet at the same time, Impe also praises many Catholic clerics and writers as being great Christians. Anyway, if the antichrist does come in our generation, that will essentially nullify any efforts toward true unification anyway? Doesn’t get any easier does it? :)

    Whether you agree or not though, I find the issue of “Denomination” beguiling. Because clearly there are more so-called “Christians” on earth than ever before but what good are such “numbers”, if divided? Correct me if I’m wrong but probably as many humans have been slaughtered in the last 100 years as during the previous 1900 years combined? There are more Wars going on nowadays than at any time in history and Super Powers stand ready to annihilate the entire planet at a moment’s notice and in a variety of ways. Is this is what having the greatest numbers of Christians than ever before has accomplished? This is what we call a more Christian world? More Evil and Suffering and preventable Death than ever before and this Greatest Force Ever of so-called Christians is actually losing ground? It’s no wonder God will be putting an end to life on earth as we know it, when you look at the plight of the human species “that way”. Just like God told the Israelites; that many of “them” would not remain obedient to God himself and isn’t the same thing happening now with Christians of Today not being obedient to Christ?

    Let’s face it? The human species isn’t more civilized now. The savagery of man has never left us. We just try to disguise it better nowadays and Christ is returning to Judge the world because Christianity succeeded in converting most of earth’s population into kind and loving followers? No, as I interpret, the Bible clearly indicates that the majority of the world’s people become deceived and remain apart from God. But even though the “Last Days” may be upon us and things will be inevitably bleak, don’t Christians still continue to fight the good fight of their generation? But the “statistics” indicate that Christendom may not have much “fight” left and Christianity has stopped growing. If so, don’t we need to figure out why and start fixing it or perhaps one day we might wake up and find that Christianity itself is illegal in America? If you find that hard to imagine, just remember Hitler and there was a time when it was forbidden to use any “profanity” on television. Nowadays, you have to buy special devices for your TV to “protect” children from hearing the F-word and from seeing sexually explicit content on television. Otherwise, it’s pretty much Anything Goes on TV, in video games and movies now and in our society “violence” has reached grotesque proportions and believe me. I never thought I would be one of those people who would be saying that.

    “Those People” being; “righteous Christians” shall we say? Perhaps “those people” used to be more commonly referred to as the Religious Moral Majority but in case you haven’t noticed, the Moral Majority has gone Bye-Bye. It doesn’t exist anymore! Maybe “it” ever really did? Maybe the moral majority was more Political than religious and why aren’t Christians gathering by the thousands at the White House and Parliament Hill calling for decent moral standards on Television and in other aspects of society? I mean c’mon folks. When is enough; Enough?

    People don’t even have the common sense to ban guns in their own society but guess what People? If there are no guns; you can’t shoot people! Hello! Even a child can tell you that. But we are so blatantly naïve and enamoured with violence, corruption, hero worship, the right to bear arms and killing; that to call ourselves Moral Hypocrites would be to pay us a compliment at best perhaps? I included myself in that statement for decades I’m embarrassed to say. Our moral scruples are so misguided, that our favourite television entertainment glorifies Murder and Vengeance. Our favourite Sports are Violent. Music is Violent. It has gone way beyond the ridiculous and I think believers need to wake up and do it soon.

    Not to mention, there are even perhaps millions of Christians in America who actually want guns in their society. What are “they” thinking? How does having a gun make you walk in peace with humility in Jesus’ name? In about 40 U.S. States, it is now legal to carry a concealed weapon! Jesus didn’t tell you to bear arms. What’s wrong with those hypocrite Christians? Isn’t “God’s love” supposed to be the weapon true Followers use and if there are millions of disobedient Christians who believe it’s okay to have a gun, then God only knows how many other ways believers in America are being disobedient? It’s pathetic and so maybe the Christian Picture we see really is a “mirage”? Because it sure looks like most Christians don’t practice what the Bible preaches and so maybe most Christians in America are not really Christians at all? They just wish they were.

    Because the figures and events are telling us that Christians in America are ineffective and the facts are telling us the real story. Our culture condones killing and our unwillingness to do anything about it, proves that most people really don’t have a sense of morality and apparently, even so-called Christians are just “going along to get along” too. Most Christians appear to have blended into our immoral society instead of opposing it. We have given the Immoral majority free reign. A majority that allows the manufacture of weapons which only makes criminals more powerful and able to rob and kill us more efficiently. We can hardly wait to watch the evening News to learn how many people were murdered today and all we do is say: “what’s for dessert?” We have become almost completely insensitive to “killing”. The only time we become outraged is when it happens to us personally but we still don’t do anything to get rid of guns to stop the “shootings”? But like the saying goes; “you get what you ask for”. You asked for guns and so you got thousands of people being threatened, injured and killed by guns every year in America, including children and the Police trying to protect You. Does it get any Dumber?

    The solution doesn’t get any more obvious either. Ask for no guns in your society and eventually you will have almost no guns in your society. Again, even a child knows this. Yes it will cost a lot of money and yes it will take many years to rid our Countries of guns but it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and a safer society don’t you think? It also means giving up the right to bear arms in favour of the “privilege” to live in a culture without guns and if you make it Law that only Police and Armed Forces have guns, eventually even the Police won’t have to carry firearms to do their job either. Of course, the criminal element will always look for ways to get guns but this too could eventually become a very rare occurrence if citizens have the courage to demand an end to firearms and other similar weapons. However you might have to also pass a Law which says the penalty for using a firearm or weapon to commit crime in Our Society, means Life Imprisonment Without Parole? This would almost certainly make gun crimes a thing of the past. It would also practically eliminate the allure of joining a Gang in America because it is “the gun” that gives the criminal element its power and the ability to wreak fear in our culture. But without a gun, Gangsters are just angry people that will have to learn how to control their anger just like the rest of us or Go To Jail for a long time?

    Provided such laws were passed of course and I’m no expert on that either. Who knows for sure if God even wants his elect to be protesting Guns and other societal issues which are not directly related to spreading the gospel and baptizing? Many believers don’t believe God wants Christians to fight in wars either. There are also those I’ve heard say: “Even if you eliminate guns from society, people would just use knives and other weapons instead.” Well of course they would use other weapons BUT most humans don’t have the nerve or the kind of evil it takes to kill up close and personal like you would have to do with a knife or a baseball bat. Ergo, it is almost certain that 1000 gun killings will not be replaced with 1000 knife killings. Indeed, it is more likely that the vast majority who would have killed with a gun, would probably not kill at all. So lives will be saved by having no guns or almost no guns in society. No question and this doesn’t even include the certain added benefit which is that all those people who die each year from gun accidents will be saved too. However, the gun probably won’t be eliminated until Judgment Day? So perhaps Christians that keep guns, need to ponder which is more likely? Is the Lord more likely to save Followers with guns or without? Care to bet your soul on it?

    Though the world’s “moral causes” may not be high priority, if God compels you to address certain causes, then it would be relevant to building God’s Church? Be that as it may, the inability of so-called Christians to influence and establish even minimal moral standards in America has diminished significantly. There aren’t even Christian Marches to protest much of anything anymore. Birds and animals are getting more attention from Christians than are the lost souls and in the world. Maybe most believers think that as long as their church sends a couple of members to Godless foreign Countries and they pray for them while all safe and cosy at church on Sundays, that their work for God is done? Or that raising money for Boy Scouts and having Bingo night and barbeques at their church is all part of being an obedient Christian? Who knows for sure but there is evidence to suggest that Today’s Christianity may not be what God wants at all?

    We still hear of pedophile Clergy all the time and some Churches don’t even fire their perverted pastors. They just move them to another city. Even when a church knows about a suspected or convicted pedophile, they don’t even inform member churches of their own denomination or any other Denominations, to be on the alert in case the pedophile tries to get hired at another church. This scenario is another obvious sign of deception in Christian churches. It has been going on for centuries and churches today still aren’t responsibly communicating these harmful elements to each other. This sort of inexcusable oversight emphatically indicates that many so-called Christian Churches of Today, if not most, may actually be unaware of what they should be thinking and doing?

    So please Lord, help me remind Christians of 1 John 2:15 saying; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”. Perhaps, in a sense, this verse is reminding believers to stop pretending the world is a wonderful place to live and expecting the Lord will provide them with a long safe and happy life with lots of money? But rather, it’s telling them to start asking how “they” can serve the Lord and to remember what God has already done for all of humankind by the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We talk about this every week in church but talk is cheap. Indeed I’ll go out on a limb and say that God probably wants Do-ers; not yappers and not 20-million-dollar church buildings with rock bands and digital light shows? That kind of money could be used to feed, clothe and shelter the needy I believe. We don’t need Mega Church Buildings with all the bells and whistles. It’s nothing but pure sensationalism. If you need a fancy church building to entice attendance, then you’re probably not part of God’s Church anyway?

    Speaking of “reminding”, probably most Sermons serve as reminders too. How a typical sermon will have a preacher talking about faith, love, grace and mercy etc.; along with quotations of biblical verses but there is no discussion. Even at the end of the service, you seldom hear a pastor say: “If you have any questions about today’s sermon, let’s get together and discuss”. Why isn’t that? Everyone just presumes the minister knows what they’re talking about. Do you? Well, one reason why many pastors don’t offer and don’t have discussion on Sunday is because they purposely schedule another service immediately following the first service. Therefore it’s convenient for the preacher to use the excuse that they don’t have time. Yet, most ministers don’t offer discussion after the last service of the day either. Why not? That’s something you would have to ask Your pastor but I suspect there is no discussion because most preachers simply can’t be bothered discussing much of anything with their congregation and/or they perhaps don’t want anyone to question their authority?

    Not only that, but how do you know if the pastor is interpreting the Word of God correctly? Especially when there is no discussion and you aren’t allowed to ask any questions. Well guess what? You don’t know. Do we believe a preacher because they have a Theological Degree or because they are the one standing at the pulpit? Truth is though, in most churches, doesn’t it go something like this? Pastor Speaks. You Listen. You go home. That’s it! And if God didn’t touch you, it’s tough bananas and try again next week.

    Which really means that the Congregation is left to go home and figure it out for themselves, doesn’t it? How is that a good thing? So what is a “pastor’s role” nowadays? Is it mostly to just preside over funerals and weddings and baptisms and talk for an hour or two on Sundays? Is this how Your church operates? Is this what you pay your preacher for? To just talk and then maybe shake your hand as you leave if you’re lucky? Fair enough then and perhaps that is okay and may God bless all clergy for trying their best.

    But what if the leader of Your church doesn’t really know any more about God’s Plan or the Bible than you do? Or maybe knows even less than you? Or, heaven forbid, they are not sanctified at all by God? You probably never thought of your Church experience that way before but perhaps it’s time you did? Especially now that we know Christianity is not even thriving in the land of the democratic and free but what can we or should we do about it and what are the problems? Are Clergy not doing their job properly or is it that, for many preachers, it is just “a job” rather than a calling? Or perhaps clerics no longer know what their role is? Seems strange the notion that clergy might not know what they’re doing but you might think differently after reading this document? That is not to malign Clergy in general whatsoever. I have the utmost respect for learned church Leaders and Elders and I presume most are working to the best of their ability. But I wonder if many are merely a product of Man’s religious dogma handed down through the centuries? Right or wrong, pastors might be simply adhering to a historically established code of conduct set forth by their peers but are they really doing what God wants them to do? I’m not so sure anymore and especially after some of the church experiences I’ve had.

    I think most pastors honestly believe they are doing a good job and far be it for me to question their integrity. Only God knows their heart but we certainly can and are perhaps “obligated” to at least test their authority and interpretation of the Bible because I’ve heard sermons that don’t jive with my biblical interpretation and probably you have too. But even if a preacher is talking nonsense, nobody questions them. Why not? Well, as I mentioned, it’s probably because the pastor has finished their sermon and you will not see him or her again until next Sunday. It might also mean that the pastor is purposely avoiding scrutiny for some reason? I’ll even give you a personal example. Not long ago, there was a small church I attended a couple of times and also met and spoke with the pastor. One of the pastor’s sermons didn’t ring true to me, so I emailed the pastor later expressing my concerns about the sermon. Well I guess the pastor didn’t like that and he actually told me not to attend his church anymore without giving any reason whatsoever. So this so-called Teacher of God not only avoided being tested, he refused to be questioned at all and also committed the sin of hating his brother for doing so. He refused to meet with me and reconcile too but this kind of behavior by clergy is neither surprising nor unusual. It’s happening everywhere. More often than not, I think pastors deem themselves beyond reproach and it’s a miracle if you find them spreading the gospel away from their church building or doing more than sermonizing two or three hours a week behind the pulpit.

    But didn’t Jesus spend hours and hours at a time spreading the gospel and doing this perhaps almost Every Day? Do you know any preachers doing this? I sure don’t. So as the saying goes; it might be fair to ask: what’s wrong with this Picture? Is Today’s Pastor now just a once-a-week Sermonizer, instead of a full time teacher of God’s Word? But if we pay them to be Full Time, why are they only preaching once a week? That’s a fair question to ask isn’t it? :) Besides presiding over the odd Wedding, Funeral or Baptism, what else is the Preacher doing all week to serve God? And Jesus didn’t even ask “us” to perform Weddings and Funerals did He? And Colossians 3:2 says: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Yet almost every church is preaching both. They’re telling sinners and believers alike that, a life in Christ means they can expect both earthly mammon and the gift of salvation. This deeply concerns me too. Beginning to “get the Picture”?

    Ah but Jesus did command us to preach the gospel and baptize. So it certainly appears that the “role” of a preacher has changed very much indeed over the centuries. Since they are not preaching every day, their time is filled in by performing weddings, funerals, delegating church activities and just running the “business end” of a church. Which is why in most cases, even if you wanted to talk to the preacher about something after their sermon, the best you can do is make an appointment if you’re lucky and don’t even think about approaching Celebrity Evangelists because many of them have body guards and you might get tackled or shot, just trying to get close enough to ask a question?

    But You will have to decide for your self whether or not Your pastor is actually doing and knowing what they’re supposed to according to God’s Plan. This is simply pointing out a “pattern” of behavior which may or may not always be in accordance with God? Because the pattern seems to be that the vast majority of believers do an awful lot of talking and listening but only a tiny fraction are actually “out there” doing the spreading or being persecuted. Is that how the Lord wants Christians behaving?

    Back to sermons though; perhaps many of us have heard preachers ramble on about things that have nothing to do with God and we’ve all seen famous TV Evangelists being exposed as crooks. So you do the math. If there is this much deceptive behavior in churches which can’t even escape the Media, then God only knows how rampant “deception” may be all over the world? So in this regard, there does appear to be increasing evidence to suggest that Today’s Clergy have moved away from what their “true calling” is supposed to be? One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is why do we pay clergy a salary above and beyond their basic requirement of food and clothing? Show me in the Bible where it says believers are to be paid for serving God? Most believers probably don’t think about that but 1 Corinthians 9:18 says: “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.” In fact, didn’t the early Disciples work for their food and lodging so they wouldn’t be a burden to anyone while they were spreading the good news and healing etc.? Not only that but they spread the gospel while also being under the constant threat of being killed.

    What percentage of Today’s Clergy operates under the same circumstances as the early disciples? Safe to say perhaps, not very many and most clergy in North America for example, work under no threat whatsoever. Isn’t this contradictory to the teachings of Christ? Did Jesus say that his “disciples” get to keep themselves nice and safe in a warm cozy church building every Sunday and collect a salary as well? I don’t think so and what if God blesses only Ministers who support themselves financially? Who knows; but how many preachers and evangelists in the world do you think would fulfill their “role” without pay? Would you? I doubt it.

    Speaking of Money, the love of which is “root of all evil” is perhaps the worst ailment in Christendom. If you don’t believe that, just ask your pastor to work for nothing but their food and clothing and see what happens. This letter has gone out to scores of clergy and only one paid-pastor has responded and claiming that he deserves a salary. Which perhaps speaks for itself but how does one know they’re getting a bonafide pastor/teacher? Simply put, perhaps you don’t know for sure. Many people with the gift of gab can recite biblical verses to crowds of people but that doesn’t necessarily make them a teacher approved by God. But if you believe you’re getting the Bang for your Buck from “the Person who speaks at the pulpit”, then Hallelujah for that and I hope it works for you but if you’re actually being led inadvertently down the wrong path, Who is to blame? The answer would be: You; wouldn’t it?

    You; are the one who decides whether or not you believe your “church experience” is the real thing or if it’s just a bunch of feel-good folks gathering on Sunday going through motions and thinking they might be Christians. Cautioning; about a church where the pastor does all the Talking and the congregation does all the Listening and one doesn’t question the other because this leaves the congregation just hoping what they heard is true and the pastor just hoping what they’re saying is true and the pastor doesn’t ask if anyone understands what they’re hearing and the congregation doesn’t ask if the pastor knows what they’re talking about. If so, when and how does the realization of God’s Truth become evident in “that kind” of Pastor/Congregation relationship? If neither the congregation nor preacher is tested on what they think is “true”, the entire church could be on the wrong path for all “they” know?

    So if you are one of those believers that just assumes the pastor knows what they’re talking about and you assume that everything is okay, then welcome to your own delusion perhaps? Because many of us have seen the tragic examples of people who follow other humans blindly and Hitler was a glaring example. An entire Country didn’t question what Hitler was saying until it was too late. So it’s certainly not unreasonable that a Church or even an entire Religion might be false but when it comes to Your Salvation; “too late” is not an option. Because if You were just “following” a pastor blindly and just being in a church building instead of truly following Christ, then you will perish and never find heaven. Which is why I began asking questions about physical churches on earth that I might wish to attend because one’s Salvation may be at stake if you join up with the wrong crowd of believers?

    Don’t kid yourself because when you start coming across Churches without Bibles and Pastors that become belligerent if you question their understanding as I have experienced, there is no doubt of deception and so it simply becomes a matter of how much deception? So how does one tell if a Church is legitimate? Well, ideally of course, we hope God convinces us by his power what is true or false and perhaps you can look for biblical factors to help determine a church’s legitimacy too. Things like; how many Baptisms are performed at the church and whether or not the members also meet away from the church building and not just on Sundays or even evidence of healings and other holy manifestations of God’s power mentioned in the Bible. Or you just might question a church which doesn’t have any Bibles? As well, you might expect the pastor to be humble with a passion to talk about God anytime and is easily accessible and eager to interact spontaneously with members of the Congregation but also a preacher who can properly interpret “every verse they quote from the Bible”? Or even a Pastor that still makes house calls is perhaps a good sign of a legitimate Church? Boy you don’t hear much about “them” anymore.

    Nowadays, most pastors are seen only at Sunday Services? You can’t talk to them about God during the service, after the service because they’re too busy and if you’re having a spiritual crisis Monday to Saturday, they are nowhere to be found. So even though a church “appears” to be functioning normally by having a Sunday service and a preacher giving a sermon etc., it may be misleading at best?

    So what’s a believer to do? How could it be that it might be almost impossible to find true brethren in a physical church and truly sanctified by God? But there it is! So-called “Christian” churches with different doctrine, different beliefs, different titles, different prayers, different psalms, different denominations and even different Christs. There are others who write about “this stuff” too and I certainly won’t be the last to do so but why are so many “Christian” faith-based churches different in so many ways? It’s not as though I am looking for differences among Christian Churches either. On the contrary, it’s more a matter of finding Two Christian Churches which are actually the same. That’s what I find shocking but it doesn’t matter what I think. A more relevant question is; what does God think about it? Because ultimately, God does the “choosing” of those whom he is saving and therefore, isn’t it by God’s power that each believer knows whether or not they are convicted in Christ? That’s the way I feel properly convicted to believe, as well as reading the Bible of course and the only way to find out the health of your church is to take note of your surroundings. But also, if what you read in the Bible doesn’t jive with what’s being preached in your church, then Speak Up and ask why or why not? God willing, you may be glad you did question your spiritual surroundings because if all you do now is show up on the Sundays which are convenient for you, it might prove to be no more “spiritual” than staying home and watching the football games or shopping at the mall?

    Not to mention, there are also about 14 different versions of the Holy Bible too which has also led to differing opinions among believers. But the doctrine of many churches today seems to be based on these differences of biblical interpretation and interpretive theory so how can there be unity in a faith system that has so many “differences”? Trust humankind though to turn the gospel into several different interpretations. :) But 1 Corinthians 4:20 says: “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power”. So I believe it is God’s Power that enables teachers to teach, and pastors to preach, and brethren to edify and in turn, the same power which enables our words to mean what God wants them to mean when interacting with others. So you should also carefully scrutinize what I say too and what anyone says and writes about God and do so in conjunction with prayer. Because I’m finding an awful lot of talk from so-called Christians but precious little evidence of power in Christians. I’ve met and know believers that have studied the bible for decades. They love to quote verses from the bible, give godly advice and think they are very spiritually wise and blessed but when you test their understanding of the bible, they have differing opinions just everyone else.

    “Preach what you know, not what you wish you knew.”

    That is perhaps very sound advice for all believers when it comes right down to it because anybody can quote the bible and all too often, believers try to talk about things they do not truly understand. Myself included and perhaps James 3:8 conclusively affirms this; stating: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison”. So it’s no wonder that we find believers carelessly flapping their gums spewing nonsense because biblically speaking, we all have diarrhea of the mouth. That is why I confess at the beginning of this missive that I don’t have all the answers either nor do I claim to be Expert about anything.

    I’m also well aware that much of what I’m writing here probably sounds gloomy and most believers reading this might even call it anti-Christian rhetoric because a Christian should be talking about God’s love and joy in Christ Jesus etc.? But James 4:9 says: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” and I don’t see a lot of mourning and weeping Christians. In fact, I’m seeing the opposite. Most churches I’ve attended, the parishioners are sporting their reserved smiling faces and usually act happy when you talk to them. But I seldom laugh anymore and my heart is always heavy so that is a real puzzler for me. Supported also by Ecclesiastes 7:3 which says: “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” So again, “what’s wrong with this picture” I’m wondering? But again it doesn’t surprise me because I’ve only found two believers with heavy hearts and only one of them was also willing to edify about it. I see mostly church-goers heading straight for the exit doors after service and “edifying with their brethren” is probably not even on their mind? And the reason you won’t find much talk of God’s love in this letter is because loving God, accepting Christ and baptism of the Holy Spirit is a given. If you don’t already have zeal for God and a yearning for his love, then you’re probably not a Christian yet anyway. In which case, ask God and Ye may learn why the world is a gloomy place to live and will pass away?

    Nor do I see many suffering Christians but rather believers who are insufferable. Or believers that love to talk the talk but cannot walk the talk in His Name or powerless Christians if you will. Romans 8:36 reads: “As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Don’t know about You but I have yet to meet a Christian pertaining to this verse. Although, I’m almost certain I have read about them and seen them on television such as the Christians who venture into foreign Countries to preach the gospel and are subsequently persecuted or jailed or tortured or killed. Surely those disciples must be considered as sheep to be slaughtered as well as the few Christians fighting the good fight in America’s crime filled urban jungles. Ergo, if you think that just going to church on Sunday and singing songs and eating a rice wafer with a sip of wine or juice is somehow “Your way” of facing death all day long in Jesus’ name, then again, welcome to your own delusion perhaps and what lets the rest of us off the hook for “facing death all day long as sheep to be slaughtered”?

    How does this apply to contemporary preachers that so boldly proclaim the gospel to worshippers from behind a pulpit in the safety of a church building but ‘they’ have no intention of “facing death all day long as sheep to be slaughtered” either? Yet, even in relative safety, it must surely be God’s plan too that so many preach and hear the gospel in so many churches around the world, right? Which is not to say that only Christians who have faced severe persecution or death will find heaven but what if? Oh Oh! Now there’s a scary question and regardless, I have no idea how many people God is saving nor what risks he has planned for them but the bible does say: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Again, don’t know about You but I’m not seeing a heck of a lot of “persecuted” Christians in America. In fact, it’s against the Law to persecute anyone in America. So where are God’s elect in America who are being persecuted? We already have the freedom of belief and speech (at least on paper anyway) so who is persecuting You for preaching the gospel in America? Does your Boss at work persecute you for your faith? I doubt it; otherwise you wouldn’t be working there? Are you persecuted where you shop or where you recreate or when you go for a walk or go to a Ballgame? For most believers, the answer is a resounding No! So I ask again. Where are all Ye Persecuted Christians in America besides the few who serve God in ungodly countries and in the dangerous neighbourhoods of America and me perhaps? Or like most believers, are you just leaving “the spreading the gospel stuff” up to your pastor on Sundays?

    How am I persecuted you might ask? Well, first of all, I actually do hateth my life in this world, as Jesus commands us (John 12:25) and I confess this to others and I have actually been persecuted for doing this too by both believers and non-believers. Why? Because some people consider it to be pessimism and “hating your life” is a defeatist’s attitude. You’re considered to be a Loser to feel that way about life and yet I pray that it may be God’s will to put me to sleep rather than live another moment being tempted in the flesh on earth and without knowing that you’re truly serving God. Not only that but to this very day, of all the believers I have encountered including clergy, I know of only one other brother who confessed they “hated their life”. So I’m beginning to surmise that maybe one of the main reasons why we aren’t finding many “persecuted” believers is perhaps because most still love their lives and actually haven’t or cannot take that leap of faith?

    As well, my immediate family (none of whom are baptized) rejects my Christian declaration as nothing more than a personal choice to believe in something and just as the Bible says, you have no honor among them and they choose to think that God might be something or someone of their own imagination. It’s okay though because “we” are supposed to consider ourselves to be less than everyone else anyway. So I’m right on track there too according the bible but I also suffer over my family and other acquaintances because they refuse to believe there can be salvation and because I know what the bible says about those who deny Christ. So I pray for people in darkness because they do not understand yet but it doesn’t mean God won’t save them too? It simply means they will probably never believe anything “I might say” about God in my lifetime.

    However I certainly do not consider my perceived persecution to be severe but I don’t take it for granted either. Because I do not know for certain if God considers “those things” to be true and holy suffering/persecution in Jesus’ name but it sure feels this way to me and if looking at your family members as perishing people is not “suffering”, then I don’t know what suffering in His name is yet I guess? That kind of suffering is probably not what God considers as “facing death all day long in Jesus’ name” either which perhaps begs the questions: Did only the earliest disciples have to face death all day long but we are off the hook? For some reason, did God extra bless most Christians born in modern times? We; having all the comforts and luxuries of modern technology and that maybe all Today’s Christians have to do is go to church and help someone in need once in a while when it suits them? Or is just having the wisdom of knowing you could be harmed or killed for declaring your faith, a form of persecution? I don’t know but that’s not what the Bible tells me.

    Because there is a “Cost of Being a Disciple” as described in Luke 14:25-35 and this passage seems to be directly related to John 12:25 and goes even further, commanding that we must also hateth our parents, wife, children, and siblings. I’m not very intelligent and surely may be the least in his kingdom God willing but that verse seems to be opposite other passages in the bible which command us to “love”, doesn’t it? Hmmm, let me check? Yep, I checked my Thesaurus and it does say that love is an antonym of hate and my dictionary says that antonym is a word meaning exactly the “opposite” of a given word. I’ve never heard a sermon telling the congregation to hate their parents, wife, children, and siblings either. But, THERE IT IS! Another Elephant in the church which most believers can’t see but maybe Luke 14:25-35 is not cited in many or any sermons for concern that children might take it the wrong way or something? Who knows but I suspect it is more likely that most of us don’t really have a clue how to properly interpret Luke 14:25-35?

    I’ve come across several passages in the Bible which seem to be paradoxes that perhaps other believers wrestle with too concerning their faith? One of the those paradoxes is Luke 14:26 which says: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple”. Yet doesn’t the bible also teach that we are to love our neighbor and even our enemies? So just Who are we supposed to love or hate and When and Why?

    I don’t see many Christians confessing their trespasses to one another either. This is probably because people are naturally inclined not to admit weakness and perhaps also why believers are hesitant to admit to one another they are helpless without Christ? People don’t mind being told in a sermon they are helpless without Christ but they sure won’t admit any weaknesses to their brethren away from church because, again, it is a sign of weakness to admit you’re weak. However, James 5:16 says: “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” To me, this passage is an essential element of what the bible means to “edify”. That’s what I’m looking for in a church but haven’t really witnessed “that kind” of fellowship yet. Let’s be real; you’re not going to find a doctor confessing their trespasses to a person whose profession is picking up garbage or the CEO of a huge Corporation confessing to a person that shines shoes for a living which implies, sadly, that in today’s churches it is still “business as usual”? The same biases; the rich don’t associate with the poor nor white with color nor the talented with the untalented but the garbage man, CEO, shoe-shiner and doctor are all helpless without Christ too and as such, I think true mutual edification in Christ among most believers is ignored and/or avoided?

    True story, I even posted this letter on those Christian forums and not one responded offering to edify even though I entitled it: “Edification in Christ”. ‘Nuff said? :)

    It should make no difference though what your social status is and any true Christian should be able and more than willing to edify with brethren whom they’re not acquainted with yet, even doing so away from Sunday church service gathering. Oh sure, there are Cell groups formed by churches and some of them may be functional but all the cell groups I’ve attended were little more than social Cliques. Because most cell groups usually consist of believers who work together and/or are friends and neighbors perhaps. So by that definition, a complete stranger doesn’t even get invited to join a cell group and the cell groups I did attend, I wasn’t invited to either. I had to find them myself and then meet with the group leader to be screened and judged to make sure I was good enough to be allowed into their homes? Well no surprise and even though I passed their scrutiny, I felt like a stranger in their house and they made me feel like a stranger too. Hardly a holy edifying experience and there was little talk about God. It was mostly “them” socially interacting about their normal daily lives and I stuck out like a sore thumb. They did have a prayer and sang a bit which was nice and I expected that would ensue as part of the evening’s agenda. But they didn’t have a sheet of paper to offer me so I couldn’t sing along too and when it came down to talking about God, they really didn’t have a c
    Paul    Apr 30, 12:05 PM    #

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