Tag Archives: Bible

Ricky Gervais on The Bible

23 Mar

Dear Christian: Stop Tithing (and other assorted advice)

9 Jun

Dear Christian-

I know you think I’m just out to poke holes in your faith.  Sometimes I feel that way, but mostly I hate seeing good people, who happen to be Christians, taken advantage of by dishonest clergy who are only out for themselves.

Tithing

Tithing simply means a tenth, and it is a term used in the Old Testament for offerings of cattle, grain, food, and sometimes money.  These offerings of a tenth (10%) were used for the sacrifices of the Temple in Jerusalem and for special feasts throughout the year.  It acted like a type of National tax that funded the Governing bodies of ancient Israel.

As a Christian growing up, I was consistently taught that Christian were supposed to tithe to their local church, just like the Israelites.  I accepted this teaching at face value and began tithing in my late teens.  Once in my early years of marriage I faced some daunting financial situations.  Talking to my pastor at the time, his first question was whether I was tithing.  I told him we were tithing and he seemed pleased and instructed us to keep tithing-even though we were in dire financial straits.

After many years of tithing, I decided to study the topic myself and was surprised to find that tithing is not taught in the New Testament.  Not once are Christian believers commanded to tithe. I also realized that in ancient Israel, the tithe was more like a tax than a donation to a local body of believers.

Non-Profits

Some Christians I knew had come to similar conclusions about tithing, but still felt obligated to give 10% of their income to good causes (missions, feeding the poor, etc…).

The problem I’ve learned, is that many non-profits have loose accountability, and many of the funds can go to expenses totally unrelated to the cause they claim to represent.  So while you may feel good about giving to a poor child in another country, in reality, much of your donation may be going to the overhead of running a non-profit instead of helping out those in need. Not to say that there aren’t good non-profits out there-but do your research before turning over your hard earned money.

Take Care of Your Finances First

My own opinion on finances, is that you should always be able to take care of your own obligations before giving or tithing. What good does it do if you give money to the poor and then end up poor yourself?

Final Observation

It has been my experience, that church leaders who preach a hard and fast rule on tithing are abusive.  They typically are quick to line their own budgets with conferences, expensive offices and church buildings, multiple family vacations, and are often content to preach about giving to the poor and not much else.

If you care about where your money is going…then don’t give to these sort of people.

In my opinion-stop tithing….   Best Regards-CA

It’s Just Not That Way For Me

14 May

It’s Just not that way for me

The truths you hold self evident,

the things you believe, but can’t see

 

I used to hold my eyes shut so tight, raise my voice

and howl at the night-thinking I was being a light

 

But I was deceiving myself, and was deceived

Almost everything I was taught, thought, and believed,

didn’t hold up to honest scrutiny

 

Believe me, I tried to make a square peg fit

I tried to rationalize away all the beliefs that contradict

 

But it’s just not that way for me

I once was blind, and now I see

that faith was the blinding force

 

Keeping me in darkness, superstition and fear

keeping me in a perpetual state of uncertainity

 

But now….it’s just not that way for me

CA’s Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church

13 May

Ok…it’s not scientific by any stretch of the imagination.  But here’s my Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church.

Wait for it………….

You are attending an abusive church if you do not know the salary of the Senior Pastor.

Seriously, if your church does not publish an annual budget including the pastor’s salary, then run for the door.

Here’s the caveat, some churches may not publish the specific salary, but are more than willing to share specifics when asked by members or at an all church finance meeting.

But to my point, if you can not find out this information with relative ease, then you are most likely dealing with leaders who are not trustworthy and are abusive.  You’ll here all sorts of excuses as to why this information is not disclosed, but I’ve never heard an adequate reason to withhold this information from the people whose generosity has provided the church with it’s financial resources.

Without transparency, there can be no accountability.  And where there is no accountability, abuse is ripe.

So there you have it….don’t make say I told you so by ignoring this

Almost 100% Foolproof Way to Recognize an Abusive Church.

Peace-CA

Once Upon A Time (I knows a guy)-Part 1

21 Jan

Once upon a time there was a guy, actually he was three guys.  But he wasn’t exactly a guy like you or me, no he (plural-but not) has been around for just about forever.  And one day he decided to do something about being the only guy-I mean three guys-or whatever….

Though he (plural) wasn’t lonely, and had no needs, and was in absolute complete harmony with himself and his alter egos-he decided to create a whole bunch of stuff and fling  it out all over the universe.

After that, he decided to bring life to a whole bunch of creatures. Then he made a creature that looked a lot like himself and told him to a be the man for this whole planet.

Everything was perfect, because everything he does is perfect, because-you know-he’s perfect.

One day, not long after all this perfect stuff came to life.  Something went wrong.

No one really knows exactly why it happened, but it happened.   You’re probably asking yourself  “What happened?”  Well I (singular) am gonna tell you what happened.

The Incredible Talking Snake

One day, a guy (you know-the guy in charge of the planet) and his honey were out picking fruit together at a nudist colony.   Suddenly, this guy’s honey notices a snake approaching her.

She turns to the snake and he begins to talk to her about a special fruit tree that the guy (plural) told her not to eat from.  The talking snake tells her that the guy told her not to eat the fruit, because then she would know about good & evil.  And if she knew about good & evil, then she would be like the guy(plural).  She hesitated, because the guy(plural) told her she would die if she ate from the fruit tree.  But the talking snake swore to God that it was a lie and that she wouldn’t die.

Deciding she had nothing to lose and that the fruit looked really tasty-she ate some.  And guess what, it was tasty and she didn’t die.  So she took some fruit to her guy (singular) and he ate some too.  He didn’t die either….but they did became aware of good & evil and for some reason they realized that they were naked and decided to start sewing some fig leaves to cover their love parts.

Guy (Plural) Gets Ticked

The guy (plural) who is perfect, and made everything perfect, was pretty unhappy when he was taking an evening walk through the nudist camp and realized that the guy (singular) and his honey had eaten from his forbidden fruit tree.  He got so pissed that he kicked the nudists out and then made sure that they, and their children, would be scourged with, death, misery, war, and disease for thousands of years.  Every mother dying giving birth and every starving infant would be a reminder that the guy(plural) was still pretty ticked at how their ancestors had not listened to him.   For thousands of years, the guy and his honey’s ancestors would beg the guy (plural) to save them from their misery-but he just couldn’t bring himself to forgive what had happened.

To be continued…..

 

Some Good Questions From Chad

27 Mar
Question Mark Graffiti

Question Mark Graffiti (Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon)

A reader named Chad, recently left a comment on my About post.  I thought he asked some really excellent questions and thought it might make for an interesting post.

Here’s what Chad had to say:

ChristianAgnostic,

Had a chance to review your background and read some of your posts. Fascinating stuff. Never really met anyone who’s migrated from Christianity to agnosticism but seeing as how you had the misfortune of being involved with two cults (YoungLife and SGM) I find myself thinking, “Geez, no wonder this dude became agnostic.”

My question for you is: Isn’t there a part of you that’s even minimally concerned about the whole ‘hell’ thing? That’s not meant to be a rhetorical question or a preamble to some kind of evangelistic pitch or a “love bomb” or whatever. I’m genuinely curious.

You’ve been brutally honest about your assessment of Christianity so I’ll do the same. I’m a Christian and buy into the whole package. Young earth, Noah’s Ark, inerrancy of scripture. I’m totally on board. I’ve gotta say though, the whole concept of eternity, whether it be in heaven or hell, bums me out to no end. It haunts me every day.

When Christians talk about the weaknesses of the atheist and/or agnostic position, they always bring up the utter despair that atheists must feel about the finality of death. Even articles written by atheists acknowledge this despair. But between you and me, I’m thinking, “Why the sadness? This is one of atheism’s primary *benefits*! When you’re dead, your dead. What wonderful freedom. No need to think about the endlessness of heaven and the tortures of hell? Where do I sign up?” I can’t help but think that atheism, or at least agnosticism, would make me a more relaxed person overall. If it weren’t for the hell bit, I’m tempted to think I’d jump ship in a heartbeat. I totally see the appeal of the atheist perspective…

and yet…I have to think…

There must be some part of you that wonders if you made the right decision. You don’t think about hell at all? Seriously? It’s gotta be nagging at you at least a little bit, no?

So let’s jump in and I’ll do my best to answer.

First off, I want to be clear that I have no doubt that SGM is a cult.  When it comes to Young Life, I do not view them as a full-blown cult, but as an Evangelical Ministry that has engaged in some methods of outreach that are similar to tactics used by many cults.  I know this may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I do not think that Young Life is on the same level as cults such as the Moonies or Jim Jones.   Also, my involvement with these groups are not what led me to agnosticism.  Even after I emerged from these groups, I still was an active Christian seeking to better understand my faith.  It was my study of the Bible, the history of the Bible, and early Church History that led me to conclude that the Bible is most certainly not the inerrant word of God.

As for hell (whether I am worried about it or not) the short answer is no.  I have no reason to believe in a hell because I don’t find any evidence that convinces me that there is an afterlife, let alone an eternal place of torture where an All Knowing, All Loving God sends creatures to be Eternally tortured for his glory and good pleasure.  Besides the fact that hell seems to be contradictory to a God that is loving and Just, I just don’t find any evidence for such a place.  If you think I am uninformed or being cavalier, I can assure you I am not.  Not that long ago I still believed in a literal hell, Young Earth, etc…because I still viewed the Bible as the Word of God.  Not sure if you read my posts on the subject of hell, but here they are if you want to know some of my background on the subject.

Hell,  Hell of A Start,   Hell Hath No Fury,   Hell If I Care,   Hell (for babies?)

As for the despair that some atheists agnostics speak of…I can say I just don’t relate to it.  Sure, if I dwell on the fact that someday I will die and no longer be, it’s a bummer.  But it’s because I currently enjoy a full and satisfying life, surrounded by people I love and projects I enjoy.   I think the bigger bummer, is constantly obsessing whether or not my faith will be good enough or correct enough to please a Heavenly Ruler who will once and for all, bring me to Eternal Bliss or to Eternal suffering.  Since realizing that this is most likely not the case, I do feel free to live my life without the extra burden of wondering whether or not I am doing God’s will.  I still attempt to treat all people with love and respect, but I no longer have the guilt induced teachings of Jesus and the church hanging over my head all of the time.

As for your own struggles,  I assume they stem from the teaching of the Bible.  My only advice would be to study the evidence supporting the idea that the Bible is the true Word of God.  If you find the evidence compelling, then you should be worried.  But if you find the evidence to be lacking, then you should regard the Bible’s teaching on Heaven and Hell in the same way you currently regard the Egyptian’s Book of the Dead teaching on the afterlife.  In other words, in the realm of myths and dead religions that hold no relevance to today.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment and questions.

Best Regards-CA

Related articles

New Year, Daily Devotionals, and My Utmost For His Highest

8 Jan
Cover of "My Utmost for His Highest"

Cover of My Utmost for His Highest

Happy New Year!  I hope you had your fill of Christmas celebrations, picked over veggie trays, and white elephant parties.

In all seriousness, our family had a really great Christmas/ New Year’s break.  I hope yours was just as enjoyable.

New Years Resolutions….Daily Devotions

At my current workplace, conversations of new diets and more exercise could be overheard at every turn.  Hearing folks discuss their resolutions reminded me of the frenzy of daily devotionals that would fly off the shelf after New Years, at our local Christian book store.

There was an amazing array of devotional books designed to jump-start this spiritual discipline.  For the light-weights and newbies, there were devotionals like “My First Thirty Quiet Times” and the ever popular booklets “The One-Minute Devotional” series.  If the original “One Minute Devotional” didn’t suit you, than you could always purchase the One Minute Devotional for Men, Women, Children  Grandparents  Business people  etc….forever and ever Amen.

For the more experienced devotional reader, Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning & Evening” proved popular.  Popular authors such as Charles Swindol and Charles Stanley also penned popular devotionals.  (What is it about being named Charles and writing devotionals?).

Lastly, for the expert devotional reader who had exhausted Spurgeon and the like, there was the One Year Bible.  It was a Bible formatted into daily readings from the Old Testament, Psalms/Proverbs, and the New Testament.  My guess is, that the editors knew that anyone attempting to read straight through the Bible in a daily format would lose interest once they hit Numbers and Leviticus.  Hence the reason for splicing it into daily doses from both Testaments and the wisdom books.

The Mother Of all Devotionals-My Utmost For His Highest

In my opinion, the book that started it all was Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest”.  My Utmost was published after Chambers death, serving as a YMCA chaplain to British troops in World War I.

As a book, it was a one page per day devotional, that usually derived its teaching from a small phrase of Scripture.  And this is one of the reasons why I dreaded this book.

First off, often times the simple phrase chosen by Chambers would be ripped out of its Scriptural context to make its point.  Even if what the devotional taught was consistent with other parts of the Bible, why tear another phrase out of its context to make your point?  I simply hated this approach to the Bible.  It seemed like cherry picking at its worst.

The other thing I disliked about Chambers style, was a subtle tone of legalism.  I can’t exactly place why I felt this way, but I can honestly say that I never could get through the thing without feeling worse about myself.  A more appropriate title may have been “My Lamest for His Overbearingness”, or something along those lines.

The Oddity Of It All

In hindsight, I now view daily devotionals as odd.  They promise to help bring the Christian closer to God and help them in their obedience and love to God.  But if God is ever-present, then why would you need a human compilation of writings to usher you into his presence.

Secondly, if the Bible is truly God’s word and is sufficient to lead into all knowledge and wisdom, than why would you even need or want another book to read?  It’s like saying you need a supplement to help your diet of the Bible to be digested properly.  How come the Holy Spirit can’t help you understand all that is needed to be known?  It just seems silly to me now.  How could a human author supplement the infallible word of God?

What I think now, is that the Bible is hard to read and hard to understand.  Devotionals actually replace Bible reading because reading the Bible usually leads to questions, frustrations, and contradictions that are not easily reconciled.

Recommended Link:

The Powerlessness of Prayer

Dating the New Testament Writings

10 Oct

I may not be dating the church anymore (wink at Josh Harris), but I have continued my study on the New Testament and the historical dating of when the Scriptures were written.

I just came across a fascinating video series,by Xorosater, that attempts to answer when the New Testament Scriptures were written.  I like the series because the video clips are short, but very helpful in illustrating the difficulties of finding consistent evidence that the New Testament writings we have today are actually from the first century.

When I first started reading writings from the early church (over 12 years ago), I was fascinated by the diversity and a little unsettled at how much they actually muddled the water about the authority of the Bible and which books should be considered scripture and which ones should not.

If this is a topic that interests you, check it out and let me know what you think.  I still am a huge geek about the history of the early church and love the complexity and implications of this time period.

The Powerlessness of Prayer

24 Aug
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t believe in the power of prayer.  The reason why…because of God’s lack of answer to prayer.  In all honesty, God really does not answer prayer in the way it’s promised in the Bible.  The Bible claims that God cares for you and me and wants to answer our prayers.

Matthew 21:22 plainly states

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

But this does not seem to be true.  Millions of Christians have believed that God has the power to save and heal, have begged God to do so, and he has not done it.  Babies have died, beloved parents and relatives have wasted unto death, while God ignores the prayers of those who have asked him to heal those whom they love.

I know many will object that maybe God had a different idea, or maybe we just didn’t believe enough.  But I think, that deep down, even the most earnest Christian does not really believe in prayer as described in the Bible.  They might think God will tip the scales a little more in their favor, maybe send a specialist doctor to save the day.  But most have asked God to heal cancers, only to see the cancer prevail.  Lord knows I’ve pleaded for babies that still went to the grave and left their parents in dismal grief, despite my many prayers.

Most Christians have lived long enough to know that prayer will not save the day…it may bring a little relief, kind of like meditation or silent centering, but it will not result in God’s miraculous intervention in the Biblical sense.

Where the Rubber Hits the Road

We’ve all heard of the Christian parents that withhold life saving medical treatment for their children.  They trust God will heal, so they pray, wait, and watch as their children die or are seriously sickened from a condition that could have been prevented by human intervention.  Instead, they obey the Bible’s teaching to seek God for all their needs.  And in the end, many end up at a graveside, a court room, and some will even see the inside of a jail cell.

Why?

Because they took the Bible at it’s word about prayer.

But most Christians see this as extreme and would never do this to their children.  When the rubber hits the road, we say a prayer, but we pay a visit to the doctor.

Worst Case Scenario

Imagine an even more agonizing situation.

Imagine you are a middle aged mom whose elementary schooler has not returned home on time.  After ten minutes past the normal time your child arrives home, you wander next door to confirm that the bus is late.  When the neighbor’s child answers the door, you begin to worry.

Your neighbor confirms that the bus arrived on time, but your child was not seen exiting the bus.  A quick call to the school sends you into a panic. Your child was not seen at school all day.  In fact, the voice mail you ignored this morning was your child’s school calling to confirm that your child was sick and at home.

You slump to the floor sobbing as your neighbor dials 911….

Freeze Frame

Pausing this imaginary nightmare, ask your self this question.  Do you believe in the power of prayer to locate your child safely?

In other words, would you just call the prayer chain at church and trust God that he would lead you to your child?  What if the detective at the police station said they weren’t going to send out a description of your child, instead the officers were going to pray and wait on God to lead them to your child…would you really be ok with that response?

Of course you wouldn’t…you would be doing everything in your power to bring your child home again.  You would want to know that every stone in the county was being turned over in search of your child.  You would talk to anyone willing to listen and get the word out that something more precious than gold is lost and needs to be found.

This scenario reveals that when it matters most, prayer does little to no good when facing real world problems.  It doesn’t heal children who are sick.  It doesn’t save relatives that are dying.  It doesn’t bring children home who have been kidnapped or run away.

In short, prayer has no real power to change reality.

Stand Over There…And I’ll Throw Rocks Over Your Head

9 Jul
shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame

shot_through_the_heart_-_and_youre_to_blame (Photo credit: sillydog)

I was five years old and my friend Nate, who was only four, came over to my house to play.  It was summer time, and we found ourselves bored, with nothing much to do in my front yard.

We were hanging out around a recently planted tree that was surrounded by mulch and a ring of medium to large rocks.

An Idea is Born

As I looked down at the rocks, an idea was  born for our next round of fun.  I picked up a  heavy rock and surmised that if Nate stood about ten feet away, I should still be able to throw the rock over his head.

“Hey Nate!” I yelled over.

“Yes” Nate shouted back.

“Go stand over there, ” I pointed to about 10 feet away.  He dutifully moved to right where I pointed.

“I’m going to throw this rock over your head!” I shouted across the yard.

“Ok” said Nate, without any hesitation or doubt in his voice.

As Nate stood his ground, I picked up a large rock and heaved it with all my might.  I distinctly remember that I was 100% sure that the rock would simply sail far over his head, and that my superior rock throwing ability was about to be confirmed.

As the rock flew through the air I stood in awe…but then something happened.  The rock begun to descend sooner than planned and  it hit Nate square upon his mouth.

Shock, just utter shock descended upon my five-year old mind.

Shock, just utter shock is what I saw on Nate’s face, as he stared back at me.  It seemed like time stood still as we stared at each other, both shocked at what had just transpired.

Then…blood begun gushing down Nate’s face from his lip. It had been gashed open by my misfired rock and he was now bleeding all over his shirt and white shorts.  As the pain of his injury overtook him, he screamed and cried as he ran into my house to seek assistance from his mother.

The next few minutes are a blur, as I was vacillating between the shock of learning that my rock throwing abilities were not up to snuff and the thought that my injured friend my was probably going to get me in trouble.

My Mom stormed out of the house with a mild scolding, along with the unanswerable question of  “What were you thinking when you threw that rock?” coupled with “Were you trying to hit Nate with that rock?”.

The truth is, I had no intention of hitting him and I was having a hard time explaining what I was thinking, because I was still in shock over my poor estimation of my arm strength.

Unfortunately for Nate, our rock throwing adventure ended our play date prematurely, as he got a trip to the Doctor for seven stitches and I got a trip to my bedroom for a grounding.

It wouldn’t be the last time in my childhood that I had a hair-brained idea involving rocks…but that’s for another day.

And the Point of all of this?

Besides being a perfect example of why children should be taught to think about their actions before running headlong into adventure, it’s also an example of what happens when we believe ourselves to be infallible.

You see, the same mindset of my five-year old mind, is very similar to the many ministry leaders and pastors I have known in my life.  They are similar in that often times, they overestimate their abilities and in doing so put others at risk.

An infallible mindset never considers the question of  “what happens if I am wrong?”.  And this is dangerous.

Some Examples

“You have marriage trouble, no problem, set up an appointment I’ll explain to you the Biblical way to save your marriage.  Never mind that I’m only 28 years old and have only been married for 15 months.  Not to worry,  I’m a pastor and I graduated with a degree in Biblical counseling.”

“What do you mean your husband is ignoring you?  It may mean that you’re not submitting enough.  He hit you?  Well he wouldn’t have just hit you unless he was very frustrated with you and your behavior.  Here’s a book on submission.  We’ll read it together and I’ll meet with you weekly so that you can begin to have a Biblical marriage again.”

“You’re having financial troubles?  Can I ask you a question?  Do you tithe?  Have you considered that maybe you’re having financial troubles because you’re not tithing to God’s House?”

“What do you mean you’re having suicidal thoughts?  That’s demonic…think of your children and family and the sort of testimony that would be.  You need to commit to reading your Bible and praying every day.  Then the Joy of the Lord will be your strength.  You don’t need counseling, you need the Holy Spirit.”

I could go on with more examples, but I think it suffices to say, that many a Christian leader has overestimated their ability to help counsel people who are in serious trouble.  Often times with disastrous results.

Pastoral Disaster

I witnessed this first hand, as a pastor (who was also my neighbor) counseled a couple who’s twin babies were facing almost certain death.  As their health deteriorated in the hospital, my pastor friend encouraged the couple and their church to pray harder for healing.  One church member had even prophesied that the twins would live (which would have been a medical miracle) and the church encouraged the couple to blog, so that God’s goodness could be shared with the world (since they were 100% sure the babies would be healed).

Rock to the face…the babies died, the church was in shock, and the pastor was unprepared to deal with the crushing disappointment that his counsel had caused.  The couple left the church and was understandably angry.  Other members left the church.  Some of the elders remained but told me that they didn’t think that God answered prayers.  The whole church was bleeding like Nate’s gashed lip.  All because they had adopted an infallible mindset at the behest of the pastor in my neighborhood.

A couple of times during this episode, I had actually tried to convince this pastor to consider, if what he was doing was wise.  I even asked him, what he would do if he was wrong.  He didn’t seem to know, but he also seemed pretty sure that he wasn’t going to have to worry about being wrong.

After the deaths and funeral,what surprised me most, was how this pastor was more in shock that his counsel had not worked, than he was in grief over the loss of these dear children.  He was just like me at 5 years old, completely confounded that he wasn’t as good at this as he had thought.

So the next time someone tells you to “just do this” or “just pray that” to solve your problems.  Remember, people aren’t always as good as they think they are…

Just stand over there and I’ll throw a rock over your head, if you don’t believe me.