Preachers who don’t believe: The scandal of apostate pastors

The new report “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” gives cause to remove unbelieving ministers from the pulpit.

Q:What should pastors do if they no longer hold the defining beliefs of their denomination? Do clergy have a moral obligation not to challenge the sincere faith of their parishioners? If this requires them to dissemble from the pulpit, doesn’t this create systematic hypocrisy at the center of religion? What would you want your pastor to do with his or her personal doubts or loss of faith?

Are there clergy who don’t believe in God? That is the question posed by a new report that is certain to receive considerable attention — and rightly so. Few church members are likely to be disinterested in whether their pastor believes in God.

The study was conducted by the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, under the direction of Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola. Dennett, of course, is one of the primary figures in the “New Atheism” — the newly aggressive and influential atheist movement that has gained a considerable hearing among the intellectual elites and the media.

Dennett is a cognitive scientist whose book, Breaking the Spell, suggests that belief in God must have at one point served an important evolutionary purpose, granting an evolutionary advantage to those who had some belief in an afterlife as compared to humans without such a belief. The reality of death, Dennett surmises, might well have been the precipitating factor. In order to make life meaningful in the face of death (and thus encourage reproduction), Dennett suggests that primitive humans invented the idea of God and the afterlife. Now, he argues, we have no more need of such primitive beliefs.

Interestingly, Dennett also proposes a new interpretation of theological liberalism. Noting that many modern people claim to be Christians while holding to virtually no specific theological content, Dennett suggests that their mode of faith should not be described as “belief,” but rather as “believing in belief.”

Given Dennett’s own atheistic agenda, we can rightly assume that he would be thrilled to see Christian ministers and believers abandon the faith. Indeed, the New Atheists have made this a stated aim. Thus, this new research report, “Preachers Who Are Not Believers,” should be read within that framework. Nevertheless, it must be read. This report demands the attention of anyone concerned with the integrity of the Christian church and the Christian faith.

Dennett and LaScola undertook their project with the goal of looking for unbelieving pastors and ministers who continue to serve their churches in “secret disbelief.” Their “small and self-selected” sample of ministers represents a microcosm of the theological collapse at the heart of many churches and denominations.

In their report, Dennett and LaScola present case studies of five unbelieving ministers, three from liberal denominations (“the liberals”) and two from conservative denominations (“the literals”).

Wes, a Methodist, lost his confidence in the Bible while attending a liberal Christian college and seminary. “I went to college thinking Adam and Eve were real people,” he explained. Now, he no longer believes that God exists. In his rendering, God is a word that “can be used very expressively in some of my more meditative modes” and “a kind of poetry that is written by human beings.”

His church members do not know that he is an atheist, but he explains that they are somewhat liberal themselves. His ministerial colleagues are even more liberal: “They’ve been de-mythologized, I’ll say that. They don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead literally. They don’t believe Jesus was born of a virgin. They don’t believe all those things that would cause a big stir in their churches.”

Rick, a campus minister for the United Church of Christ, perhaps the most liberal Protestant denomination, was an agnostic in college and seems to have lost all belief by the time he graduated from seminary. He chose ordination in the UCC because it required “no forced doctrine.” Even as he graduated from seminary, he knew, “I’m not going to make it in a conventional church.” He knew he could not go into a church and teach his own theological views, based on Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann. He did not believe in the doctrinal content of the Christian faith from the beginning of his ministry. “I did not believe the traditional things even then.”

He does not believe “all this creedal stuff” about the incarnation of Christ or the need for salvation, but he remained in the ministry because, “These are my people, this is the context in which I work, these are the people that I know.” In the pulpit, his mode is to talk as if he does believe, because “as long as … you are talking about God and Jesus and the Bible, that’s what they want to hear. You’re just phrasing it in a way that makes sense to [them] … but language is ambiguous and can be heard in different ways.”

He doesn’t like to call himself an atheist, but: “If not believing in a supernatural, theistic god is what distinguishes an atheist, then I am one too.”

Darryl is a Presbyterian who sees himself as a “progressive-minded” pastor who wants to see his kind of non-doctrinal Christianity “given validity in some way.” He acknowledges that he is more a pantheist than a theist, and thinks that many of the more educated members of his church hold to the same liberal beliefs as his own. And those beliefs (or unbeliefs) are stated clearly: “I reject the virgin birth. I reject substitutionary atonement. I reject the divinity of Jesus. I reject heaven and hell in the traditional sense, and I am not alone.”

Amazingly, Darryl is candid about the fact that he remains in the ministry largely for financial reasons. It is how he provides for his family. If he openly espoused his beliefs, “I may be burning bridges in terms of my ability to earn a living this way.”

Adam ministers in the Church of Christ, a conservative denomination. After years in the ministry, he began to lose all theological confidence. After reading a series of books, he became convinced that the atheists have better arguments than believers. He has moved fully into an atheist mode, yet he continues to lead his church in worship. How? “Here’s how I’m handling my job on Sunday mornings: I see it as play acting. I see myself as taking on the role of a believer in a worship service, and performing.”

This “atheistic agnostic” stays in the ministry because he likes the people and, “I need the job still.” If he had an alternative source of income, he would take it. He feels hypocritical, but no longer believes that hypocrisy is wrong.

Jack is identified as a Southern Baptist minister who has primarily served as a worship leader. He was attracted to Christianity as a religion of love, but his pursuit of Christianity “brought me to the point of not believing in God.” As he explains, “I didn’t plan to become an atheist. I didn’t even want to become an atheist. It’s just I had no choice. If I’m being honest with myself.”

He is clearly not being honest with his church members. He rejects all belief in God and all Christian truth claims out of hand. He is a determined atheist. Once again, this unbelieving minister admits that he stays in the ministry because of finances. Amazingly, this minister even names his price: “If someone said, ‘Here’s $200,000,’ I’d be turning my notice in this week, saying, ‘A month from now is my last Sunday.’ Because then I can pay off everything.”

Early in their report, Dennett and LaScola point to a problem of definition. Many churches and denominations have adopted such fluid and doctrineless identities that determining who is a believer and who is an unbeliever has become difficult. Their statement deserves a close reading:

The ambiguity about who is a believer and who is an unbeliever follows inexorably from the pluralism that has been assiduously fostered by many religious leaders for a century and more: God is many different things to different people, and since we can’t know if one of these conceptions is the right one, we should honor them all. This counsel of tolerance creates a gentle fog that shrouds the question of belief in God in so much indeterminacy that if asked whether they believed in God, many people could sincerely say that they don’t know what they are being asked.

In other words, some theologians and denominations have embraced a theology so fluid and indeterminate that even an atheist cannot tell the believers and unbelievers apart.

“Preachers Who Are Not Believers” is a stunning and revealing report that lays bare a level of heresy, apostasy, and hypocrisy that staggers the mind. In 1739, Gilbert Tennett preached his famous sermon, “On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” In that sermon, Tennett described unbelieving pastors as a curse upon the church. They prey upon the faith and the faithful. “These caterpillars labor to devour every green thing.”

If they will not remove themselves from the ministry, they must be removed. If they lack the integrity to resign their pulpits, the churches must muster the integrity to eject them. If they will not “out” themselves, it is the duty of faithful Christians to “out” them. The caterpillars are hard at work. Will it take a report from an atheist to awaken the church to the danger?

Photo courtesy of Flicker, Deanster1983

  • NorwegianShooter

    Imagine someone in any other discipline besides religion, academic or lay, referring to a tract from 1739 and saying, “Yeah, that’s exactly right! We need to follow that advice.”And as for purifying your denomination, first, good luck with that. Second, what are the theological doctrines that are non-negotiable? For instance, what do preachers need to believe with respect to your namesake practice, baptism? How must they interpret Matthew 19:14? What if a preacher believed a person had to have an immersion baptism to be saved?

  • tsstroud

    “If they will not remove themselves from the ministry, they must be removed. If they lack the integrity to resign their pulpits, the churches must muster the integrity to eject them. If they will not “out” themselves, it is the duty of faithful Christians to “out” them.”Let the purge of the Body of the Faithful begin! Make the suspects swear upon The Holy Bible! Let the entire congregation, man woman and child, watch carefully and report back to the church any suspicious activity! This is a Holy Cause!

  • frigate32

    Mr. Mohler,Though I disagree with you about many things, you are unafraid to express your honest opinions to controversial subjects, which in itself is commendable.I have a controversial question for you. We read in this report that clergy have been influenced by “New Atheist” (a deplorably incorrect label!) writers such as Harris and Hitchens. In Anyone who thinks he knows for sure that Jesus was born of virgin or that the Qur’an is the perfect word of the Creator of the universe is lying. Either he is lying to himself, or to everyone else.I know that you do not believe that the Qur’an is the perfect word of the Creator of the universe, but are you lying when you say that you believe I think that you are lying about this, either to yourself, or to us.If you know fore sure that Jesus was born of a virgin, then where, for example, did Jesus’ Y-chromosome come from? Many such absurdities arise from the nonsensical doctrine that such-and-such deity was born of a virgin. What’s the difference between your belief in Jesus’ virgin birth and say, a Are Hindu’s lying about the virgin birth but you are not?If you are in fact lying about your belief in virgin birth superstitions, then how are you any different from these unbelieving clergy?

  • Rongoklunk

    As time goes on – atheism is becoming the default position on the god question. And rightly so. Of course thee is no god. And of course there is no heaven and no hell, they are just fairy tales from the infancy of our species. Inventing gods is what our ancestors did to help them cope with their total lack of knowledge about the real world.Today’s information highway is changing all that, and religion cannot survive as a source of knowledge when it is increasingly seen as just a silly superstition which contradicts everything we know about the real world.All things must die. There is no afterlife, no god in the sky. It’s just wishful thinking, just pie in the sky.

  • jiji1

    I wish to defend Mohler’s position from some of the criticism here—Mohler has honestly expressed a theologically consistent argument.The problem is that a consistent theological argument is not logically consistent. Mohler criticizes the “heresy, apostasy, and hypocrisy” of the atheist clergy, but does not, and indeed cannot, say that these clergy are wrong in their skepticism about scripture.Ironically, these clergy, who dishonestly profess a faith they do not have, have more honesty and intellectual integrity than clergy like Mohler who run away from hard questions about their faith. Christians are terrified of hard questions because they know these questions act like acid on their fragile faith.Mohler absolutely requires Christian belief in the virgin birth: “Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Savior, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.” But the virgin birth is absurd. You know that, and I know that, and Mohler knows that. Mohler doesn’t require believe in Jesus’ virgin birth because it’s true, but because it is necessary to conform to his Christian theology.Mohler’s

  • jiji1

    [cont’d]It is deeply dishonest for any Christian who has not confronted hard questions about their faith to condemn anyone who lost that faith by having the courage to face these questions. Mohler speaks of “authority of Scripture.” What authority? There is none. Ignoring the New Testament, take the claims of the Old. Has any Christian here tested their faith with the knowledge that modern achaeological findings show that the This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the fact that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, Jehovah, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.How does a Christian or Jew for that matter maintain traditional faith in light of these facts? By pretending that they don’t exist. That sort of dishonesty is worse than the dishonesty of professing faith in something you know ain’t so.

  • jiji1

    [cont’d]In one commendable example of intellectual honesty, William Dever, an evangelical archaeologist who devoted a good part of his career to finding scientific evidence for the Bible’s historical claims, When I was writing a master’s thesis on the revival of Old Testament theology, I got all excited because at last modern critical scholarship was going to prove the Bible true after all. … Then, about 15 years ago, in my archaeological work I began to write about ancient Israel. Originally I wrote to frustrate the Biblical minimalists; then I became one of them, more or less. The call of Abraham, the Promise of the Land, the migration to Canaan, the descent into Egypt, the Exodus, Moses and monotheism, the Law at Sinai, divine kingship—archaeology throws all of these into great doubt. My long experience in Israel and my growing uncertainty about the historicity of the Bible meant that was the end [of Christian faith] for me.

  • jiji1

    [cont’d]This is why Martin Luther properly feared reason—”the devil’s harlt”—as the enemy of faith. It is reason that creates the gnawing feeling of doubt of absurd beliefs. An honest person, like William Dever, confronts the reasons for these doubts. A dishonest person ignores them and retreats to hurling epithets like “heresy and apostasy.”

  • hakutsuru

    zmasdon, Is it really true that everyone expouses his or her own theology. I do not beleive the term ‘God’ as it is typically used refers to anything real. Likewise, I do not beleive that ‘leprechaun’ refers to anything real. If everyone must have a theology would it be fair to say that everyone must also have a leprechaunolgy. Please tell me, what is your theory of leprechauns? Suppose I decided that there is a leprechaun under my chair who governs the universe, would it be fair to say that I am basing that belief on just a little more faith than if I were to deny his existence?

  • chuckgoecke

    Pastor Albert,

  • zmasdon

    The logical fallacies of New (or Old) Atheism are humorous. The positions espoused and militantly defended by Atheists only provide philosophical stimulation for the Theist and reassures the educated person of faith that his position is cogent. I would charge that each Atheist examine their positions and realize that their position requires the same amount of faith (if not more) as the Theist position. Each person espouses a theology. The Theist recognizes the sovereignty of God. The Atheist recognizes the sovereignty of their God, which is the individual Atheist himself. The Atheist arrogantly assumes himself as an independent “knower” and center of his philosophical universe. I assume that not every person will come to a faith in Jesus, but I would love to see Atheists come to terms with the nature of their argument. The same faith faculty that Atheists condemn is the same faculty in which they dispense intellectual condemnation.

  • AAxis

    I wouldn’t say Dr. Mohler was lying because he believes that Jesus was born of a virgin. I would wager however that the crux of Dr. Mohler’s belief is Christ resurrection and not the virgin birth. That’s not to say he denies the latter, but that everything hinges on *that* miracle. It’s not hard to believe in Christ miraculous birth with the knowledge of His resurrection.

  • mammyyel

    The $200,000 payoff not a problem in the Chinese underground church. Maybe if you want honest clery, stop paying them. The dude under who’s ministry George Mueller came to faith wasn’t on a salary and was even restricted to a government-approved sermon to read for sharing the message(in his own home, might add).

  • WmarkW

    While the other panelists have expressed a nuanced view of what doubt means within a faith tradition, it should come as no surprise that the spokesman for Christianity’s most superstitious arm is horrified that anyone might now swallow dogma whole.

  • frederic2

    At least we should acknowledge the simple fact that Christianity, with Trinity, Immaculate Conception, eating flesh and drinking blood, the notion of scape goats to wash away other peoples’ “sins”, were established by sheer political reasons after much philosophical quarrel three hundred years after the alleged death of Jesus, who, by the way, has never been mentioned by any reliable historical source of the time. The Christian religion was not founded by Jesus (he tried to bring Judaism to a more human level), but by the then already rather powerful sect of “Christians”. (Islam is also very powerful today!).Then, the Roman emperor Theodosius, in the late 4th century, introduced it as a state religion, with everybody not following it must be killed. The rabid fanatics destroyed the library of Alexandria with all the already highly developed knowledge of Hellenism, and it took another 1400-1600 years to recover that lost knowledge again.Imagine a modern political or scientific or plain common sense system referring their eternal “truth” to the year 1650. Ridiculous. Of course, anybody who has retained or regained their common sense, in spite of the early brainwashing, must be “eliminated” (“ejected”), as our Christian friend Mohler suggests.

  • frederic2

    Counterww thinks that in Mary’s womb two female cells(!!), two eggs, produced a male human being, and he calls it “truth”.Religion has always depended on the stupidity of the illiterate masses.

  • missioneagles

    Greetings –Hebrews 4:12 says:The article mentioned that pastors who do not believe in what they preach are pretending in the pulpits.It was mentioned that some of the congregation members do not know that the pastors are pretending.It would be interesting to know how much time these non-believing people have spent seeking God through intimate devotion, prayer, and the daily reading of His Word. Seminaries certainly can serve useful purposes if they promote an intimate relationship with God – above all. If God is not sought in accordance with the Holy Bible, Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” than all it amounts to is dry motion. I agree that non-believers of God have no place in pulpits in Christian churches. What is needed is for righteous people to love them, counsel them, minister to them with the faith that God will give the increase. Indeed, all will not be delivered from deception but for sure, some will. The non-believers need to experience the real love, power, and manifestation of God as demonstrated by his holy servants. Could it be that some do not believe in God because they have yet to observe professing Christians who display the righteous powerful characteristics of God? Also, we need to remove our focus from the tradition of denominations. There is nothing in the Holy Bible that supports it. The only mention of Baptist is of John the Baptist. I am convinced that if we had more of the John the Baptist type holy devotion to God, there would be many more who do believe in our most high Lord God. Mark 7:9, “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark 7:13, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

  • jiji1

    You guys complaining about the doctrine of the virgin birth are hilarious. You’re talking about people who believe in a God who created the entire universe from nothing, and for you the hard part to believe is that the Creator of the Universe could make a single sperm cell or change an egg cell into a zygote? Bizarre.I think Jesus called that straining a gnat and swallowing a camel.

  • jlupfer

    It’s kind of funny that Al Mohler would like to be the final arbiter of who is a true believer and who is an apostate. Mohler, the Baptist seminary president… I thought Baptists were supposed to believe in the liberty of the conscience and the responsibility (“priesthood”) of the individual believer to work out his or her salvation. Seems like he would love a witch hunt – especially in the mainline churches.At least the mainline pastors have attempted – often through years of faithful struggle – to reconcile the old, old story with what we now know about the universe. Sometimes the cognitive dissonance is too much.Before inciting witch hunts in mainline pews, maybe he should continue dealing with the apostates in his own congregations, whose heresy he has already acknowledged:It must be nice to be Al Mohler. If only I could be so certain that I am right and everyone else is wrong.

  • Rongoklunk

    zmasdon Atheists simply do not believe in anything supernatural. We believe in the natural – and the real. It would seem likely that gods are all made up. Look at all the Hindu gods for instance; does anyone outside the Hindu religion believe that Rama and Vishnu and Shiva actually exist? I don’t think so. And who today believes that Thor ever existed? Or Woden or Zeus? Atheists aren’t persuaded that any gods ever existed.

  • Counterww

    To whoever made the comment about apostasy and put down the Mohler is just stupid…. it is a Christian church, and these pastors are lying to their congregation and to themselves. It is hypocritical for anyone to do this.The virgin birth is true , frigate….

  • barferio

    what are you going to do, Mohler, burn them at the stake?And using the word “integrity” and “religion” in the same sentence … wow.

  • Counterww

    Fredric-If you do not want to believe in miracles, just say so. .You just don’t want to imagine that god of the universe can’t make that happen.Idiotic.

  • frederic2

    You are right, counterww: I leave this up to the infants’ minds like yours. (Remember: “Unless you don’t become like children etc.”)Illiteracy always has been the default position of starting a religion.

  • nikosd99

    After the manner of “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” by Robert Herrick. 1591–1674 (Gather ye rosebuds while ye may)Gather, ye atheists, while ye may,The glorious Light of Heaven, the Son,The age is best which will be last,Be not fools, but redeem the time;March 21, 2010 ~ Composed and written by Nick Duliakas. If used, please give proper acknowledgment. May not be used for profit without permission. ([email protected])

  • jimfilyaw

    this is one former southern baptist who finally got a bellyfull of the smugness of the mohlers, robertsons, and falwells who now own the s.b.c. they’re welcome to it. as is clearly apparent from this little essay, mohler and his ilk are mightily offended by christians who presume to think for themselves. disagree with them over one jot or tittle and you are cast into outer darkness. its ironic that mohler ends his little tirade by accusing the subjects of this book of, among other things, hypocrisy. i’ll give him this–that’s one thing on which he’s an expert.

  • frederic2

    God, of course, can make EVERYTHING happen, for instance that 2+2=5.Once you give up your “god-given” reason, there is nothing left that cannot be explained away by your “miracles”.Idiotic?

  • frederic2

    All gods always were invented with every conceivable human property:Hate, love, murder, genocide, jealousy, revenge, corruption (“prayer for my football team, or army, to win”), greed, sadism, blood thirst, power greed (“Almighty”), control over others, pain, joy, lust, reward, punishment, knowledge, ignorance – you name it, gods have it.All gods always have been mirrors of the human psyche, for better or worse – nothing more.

  • tojby_2000

    Mohler commanded: If they (clerics born again into rationality) lack the integrity to resign their pulpits, the churches must muster the integrity to eject them.What little good your organized superstitions do for humanity will be undercut by your righteous piety. But, then, that’s always been the case, eh?

  • FarnazMansouri

    Mohler,You are a wretched man. I don’t even have to bother with the obvious, acknowledged fictions of the New Testament, since, they are irrelevant in your case.You are a fraud, and a dangerous one at that.

  • archyboi

    An honest human must answer only to his/her own conscience.Mohler, you honestly require the belief in real persons “Adam” and “Eve” in order to have faith? Poor man, you are doomed to extinction. There was no entitative actual personages “Adam or “Eve.” These are ancient Hebraic word plays on “Adamah.” It’s literary, never literal. This is the problem with theistic religion. It falls upon the weight of its own irrelevancy. You require the proof of your faith in the belief in untrue premises in order to avoid the reality of their stupitiy. I’ll take truth unvarnished. As the good Catholic preist said: “The bible is true, and some of it might have actually happened …” Mary was never a virginally pregnant women.Jesus’ corpse was never resusitated into a revived corporeal body.These things did not happen. The real question is what about Jesus caused the early movement authors to proclaim such thaumaturgical utterances? How might that speak meaningfully to us today? Get real. I struggle for a faith of integrity beyond thaumaturgy, magicalness, literalness, absolutism and quite seriously beyond belief. You reduce faith to a tired series of bromides quite literally beyond their usefulness. I couldn’t be less interested in you.

  • Counterww

    archybo-You said”I couldn’t be less interested in you. “164 words or so that you posted in this forum say otherwise. You seem very interested.Early Christians died knowing that Jesus died and rose again……they did it because they really, really believed it.YOU get real.

  • Counterww

    Farnaz-Why do Jews like you hate evangelical Christians so much?Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecies of the books in what we call the Old Testament…It is NOT fictional, but real.Christ is confronting you, and you don’t like it…What did it say somewhere… Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews…

  • nikosd99

    TO MR. MOHLER AND COUNTERWW:Mr. Mohler, Archyboi is one of John Shelby Spong’s little puppets. Actually, he may even be the little antichrist, Spong, in drag.COUNTERWW:Amen!

  • barferio

    what’s more fun than watching a bunch of silly primitives arguing over whose religion is real and whose is not?

  • James87

    “If they will not remove themselves from the ministry, they must be removed. If they lack the integrity to resign their pulpits, the churches must muster the integrity to eject them. If they will not “out” themselves, it is the duty of faithful Christians to “out” them.”AMEN DR. Mohler!For those who don’t know, the authority of the pastor is derived from the Scriptures alone. Not just some of the Scriptures, not just the happy parts of the Scriptures, The Whole Counsel of God.When the pastor departs from the Scriptures, he abdicates his Biblical authority. With this subjugation of the Scriptures, he is free to adopt commercial and psychological manipulation techniques to appeal to the emotions and felt needs of people. ( aka Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, et. al.) He may add some meditation and candles to enhance the spiritual experience, or play a movie, like ” The Passion of Christ” for Easter.He can even introduce teachings from other world religions.And it works. Just like it works for any other business on Main St.Dr. Mohler touches upon a matter that perhaps is more urgent…congregations not holding their pastors accountable to the Scriptures. Congregations themselves who are not in the Word, who want their ears tickled and their Sunday ticket punched so they can do lunch!Christ warned of false teachers and deception…”…you will know them by their fruits.” But only if you are in The Word and He is in you.

  • gimpi

    R. Albert Mohler Jr., if your church followed your advise and purged people with problems with belief, how will your ideas grow and develop? These people are the very ones you need the most. They are the ones who can point out the errors in your dogma, where you are becoming stale, where you need to let in a little fresh air. Cherish them. The researcher’s best friend is the one who catches his error. Perhaps your ideology could benefit a bit from the scientific method

  • garoth

    Oh, so “Southern Baptist!” The facts are, of course, that the scriptures give varied accounts of how God works and acts. That’s why we have so many denominations (not to mention the divide of Christians, Jews and Muslims). Over the many centuries, there have also been other “Christianities” now deemed heretical by most churches, but in their time, considered authentic expressions (and sometimes the major theological understanding) of Christian faith. The answer isn’t to do another witch hunt, expelling all who don’t believe “like us;” but to realize that many doctrines of the church are,in fact, limited in time and scope – expressing for one generation the heart of the Gospel. The atonement is such a doctrine, requiring a God who is vengeful, who must have someone to kill, to serve his own justice. The doctrine, although having seeds in the Gospel of John, was not fully developed until the second and third century. It was never proclaimed by Jesus. Nor was his deity, for that matter. The oldest layers of scripture, reflecting what he actually said, such as in Mark and the Q source, neither declare him to be God or the Messiah. These were understandings that the church came to, largely because of Paul (who didn’t seem to know anything of Jesus’ life, actually – his focus, like that of the Creeds, has little to do with Jesus’ teachings, and dwells instead on the meaning of his death and resurrection). The dictrine of most churches today actually has little to do with what Jesus taught – they are based on Paul’s theology concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus.After reading what they purportedly said – if it is true – that they are remaining in the pastorate for the money, I guess they are either deluded or crazy! Most pastors that I know (myself included) work hard for very little. Who would choose that? Maybe they have an underappreciation for their abilities? More likely, given the biases of the authors, we are hearing more of the authors’ biggoted opinions than that of actual pastors. As for pastors who struggle with faith: welcome to the club!

  • nikosd99

    Pertaining to GAROTH:Just what we need! Another worldly philosopher with a couple of PHDs. Where do they all come from? Sure doesn’t say much for our seminaries. They believe everything but the Bible.Garoth also posted on Dawkins thread and stated there also how little money he makes. Apparently he feels that, somehow, makes him humble and Christlike. He managed to get in a dig against us literalist/fundamentalist sorts. True religion, to these people, is measured by how little one knows about God and the Bible. I swear! The greater the mystery of God is to you, the more spiritual you are. How absurd!I guess I have to post my usual admonitions to these people:2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”Galatians 1:8,9 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”Mr. Garoth, you have been forwarned.

  • nikosd99

    ON GAROTH:Gargoth stated, “The atonement is such a doctrine, requiring a God who is vengeful, who must have someone to kill, to serve his own justice. The doctrine, although having seeds in the Gospel of John, was not fully developed until the second and third century. It was never proclaimed by Jesus. Nor was his deity, for that matter. The oldest layers of scripture, reflecting what he actually said, such as in Mark and the Q source, neither declare him to be God or the Messiah.”Jesus’ words which proclaimed His purpose and mission:John 3:14-15 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.Mark 14:21 “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.”Luke 9:44 “Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.”Matthew 26:53,54 “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”On His Diety:Matthew 16:15-23 “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”That last sentence, Garoth, can be applied to you as well. I hope you didn’t have to pay for your education. Two PHDs. WOW!