Ending My Evangelicalism?

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I expected–and then heard–these questions: 1. “Where have you been?” 2. “Have you found a new church?” 3. “Will you be back?” I’m sure this question will come my way soon: 4. “Do you no longer believe?”

The answers are, in order: 1. Home and work. 2. No. 3. Not likely. 4. That depends (I’ll expand at the end).

After more than four and a half decades faithfully attending and even leading evangelical churches, I quit. Not the faith, but evangelical churches. Here’s how it happened:

Step One: I learned about annihilationism (also referred to as “conditional immortality”).

From the latter part of the first century (around A.D. 90) right on through to today, “orthodox” Christians have stubbornly held to the doctrine of eternal damnation for “the lost.” Throughout most of my evangelical tenure that doctrine bothered me. But I chose to accept “the bad” with “the good.” Then, finally, in 2015 I first heard the term annihilationism and began to study the concept. The more I studied, the more convinced I became that, for centuries, Christians have believed a lie. And that lie has hindered at least hundreds of thousands—more likely hundreds of millions—from accepting the good gospel.

How could a good, loving God send the vast majority of people who ever lived and ever would live to spend eternity burning in hell? Why would people be drawn to such a God? No wonder so many turn away.

As I re-read the Bible from the annihilationist perspective—setting aside those traditional lenses that insisted on the eternal damnation view—I saw Scripture in a dramatically different way. Some of the most basic passages—ones evangelicals commonly use to recruit converts—clearly contradict the traditional view of eternal conscious torment (ECT). And it’s so obvious, I can only guess why I didn’t see it before: tradition had blinded me.

Two of those passages evangelicals commonly cite in their evangelism (conversion attempts) are Romans 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” and John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Those two prominent verses—and many more like them —plainly state that the result of sin, any sin, is death (annihilation), not eternal damnation. They also teach that faith is the only antidote to sin.

Over the course of several months I studied and then prepared an extensive PowerPoint presentation to prove—primarily from the Bible—that God has no intention of sending anyone to eternal punishment in hell. Greeks brought that notion into the church; the concept is antithetical to the teachings of the Bible. Plato, for instance, taught, “The soul of man is immortal and imperishable.” Search the Bible as diligently as you like and you will never find the term immortal soul, or anything similar. Quite the contrary, the Bible repeatedly teaches that humans are not inherently immortal.* But once the early church accepted the notion of immortal (eternal) souls, it was just one more step to conclude that eternal lost souls must be punished eternally.

Meanwhile, the passages traditionally cited to teach eternal conscious torment have been grossly misinterpreted. But centuries-long traditions are not easily abandoned. Despite my persistent efforts, I was able to convert only a few to the annihilationist view.

Consequently, I will not spend time “worshiping” with people who hold a grossly distorted view of God—of a vicious God who seems to hold His created beings to a higher standard than He expects of Himself.

Step Two: Donald Trump exposed evangelicals’ true motives and characteristics.

At about the same time I was re-learning the Bible from my annihilationist perspective, I also was desperately-but-vainly trying to convince my evangelical friends and family members that Donald Trump was not their friend—and certainly not the savior many were proclaiming him to be. Those attempts proved to be even less successful than my efforts to change their views on eternity. Every time I tried to expose the lying, cheating con man, using undeniable facts, I was dismissed as a “hater.”

In the three years since Trump’s election, I’ve seen the same responses to every effort I’ve made to show my fellow evangelicals the many huge chinks in their new savior’s armor. I’ve watched helplessly and hopelessly as evangelicals have twisted themselves and their faith claims into knots as they invent new excuses for their leader’s bumbling mistakes and horrible misdeeds.

Even now, with volumes of undeniable evidence of Trump’s gross mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic’s assault on America, evangelicals have intensified their support for the bumbler-in-chief. Rather than admitting their lack of discernment in supporting an arrogant ignoramus, most evangelicals have shown themselves to be too proud to concede their mistake. Rather than obey the call of the “old” savior who told His followers to admit and repent of their incorrect notions, today’s evangelicals have chosen to follow and emulate their new savior who refuses to admit to making any mistakes. I’ve witnessed the regression of evangelical Christianity into the Trump cult; I have no desire to be a cult member.

Do I Believe?

So, as to point number 4, listed above: Do I no longer believe?

I still believe in most biblical doctrines, as properly interpreted. But I have lost faith in the perverted counterfeit Christianity that evangelicalism has become. I will return to church if the church returns to the Truth. I don’t foresee that happening any time soon.

* See Genesis 3:19; 2 Samuel 14:14; Psalm 22:29; Psalm 37:20-28; Psalm 90:3; Psalm 103:15-16; Ecclesiastes 3:19-20; Isaiah 40:6-7; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:53; 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (and these are but a few).

11 comments

  1. BRAVO! It’s always gratifying to hear of those who are able to look past the “traditional teachings” and discover for themselves the core essence of biblical teachings.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Here is what I find amazing about Christian theology on hell. Ready? Now first? Jews Christians and Muslims? All believe in the same god. The God of Abraham etc. You all just worship in different ways. The basic differences are?

    Jews do NOT believe that Jesus was their Messiah because if you actually studied their prophecies of their Messiah? Theirs was a warrior Messiah who was going to set them free from the bondage of slavery and create the Jewish state where they would reign forever.

    Christians? Told the Jews? They were wrong and that Jesus? Was their Messiah and they? Put him to death. How bold for Christians? To tell Jews? What their mythology was, that they were wrong and then? Invent their own version of the Jewish messiah huh?

    Muslims? Accept Jesus as one of the prophets, but Mo and Allah are their version of it all and again? Theirs is based on the original Jewish theology and they? Also told the Jews? They got their own mythology wrong.

    Again, Christians and Muslims? Took Jewish mythology and changed it and told the Jews? THEY WERE ALL WRONG. PRETTY DAMN PRETENTIOUS OF CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS IF YOU ASK ME.

    Now? Lets get onto the story of hell.

    Ever truly study the Jewish mythology of the afterlife? Well they do not speak of a place like you Christians do on hell. Their place of the afterlife? Is SHEOL .

    Here the dead meet (Ezek. xxxii.; Isa. xiv.; Job xxx. 23) without distinction of rank or condition—the rich and the poor, the pious and the wicked, the old and the young, the master and the slave—if the description in Job iii. refers, as most likely it does, to Sheol. The dead continue after a fashion their earthly life. acob would mourn there (Gen. xxxvii. 35, xlii. 38); David abides there in peace (I Kings ii. 6); the warriors have their weapons with them (Ezek. xxxii. 27), yet they are mere shadows (“rephaim”; Isa. xiv. 9, xxvi. 14; Ps. lxxxviii. 5, A. V. “a man that hath no strength”). The dead merely exist without knowledge or feeling (Job xiv. 13; Eccl. ix. 5). Silence reigns supreme; and oblivion is the lot of them that enter therein (Ps. lxxxviii. 13, xciv. 17; Eccl. ix. 10). Hence it is known also as “Dumah,” the abode of silence (Ps. vi. 6, xxx. 10, xciv. 17, cxv. 17); and there God is not praised (ib. cxv. 17; Isa. xxxviii. 15). Still, on certain extraordinary occasions the dwellers in Sheol are credited with the gift of making knowntheir feelings of rejoicing at the downfall of the enemy (Isa. xiv. 9, 10). Sleep is their usual lot (Jer. li. 39; Isa. xxvi. 14; Job xiv. 12). Sheol is a horrible, dreary, dark, disorderly land (Job x. 21, 22); yet it is the appointed house for all the living (ib. xxx. 23). Return from Sheol is not expected (II Sam. xii. 23; Job vii. 9, 10; x. 21; xiv. 7 et seq.; xvi. 22; Ecclus. [Sirach] xxxviii. 21); it is described as man’s eternal house (Eccl. xii. 5). It is “dust” (Ps. xxx. 10; hence in the Shemoneh ‘Esreh, in benediction No. ii., the dead are described as “sleepers in the dust”).

    So here is a full description and depiction of the Jewish mythology of their afterlife, Sheol. How is this even close to coming to what the Christians state with their heaven and hell? Christians? Literally changed the Jewish theology of the Old Testament and came up with their own on it. They created hell. Christians? Literally invented their afterlife of hell, because?

    THERE IS NO JEWISH MYTHOLOGY OR OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY THAT SPEAKS OF YOUR CHRISTIAN HELL.

    SO? HOW CAN CHRISTIANS? CHANGE THE VERY THEOLOGY OF JEWS, FROM WHICH? THEY USE THE OLD TESTAMENT OR THE TORAH OF THE JEWS AS THE VERY BASIS? FOR THEIR BELIEF IN THE ABRAHAMIC GOD?

    As an example?

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    1. Atheistmilitantrising, I agree with most of what you say. That was my whole point. Christians have grossly distorted much of Scripture, and most are too proud and stubborn to even entertain the thought that they might be mistaken. And on the points about which we might disagree, I hope we can disagree agreeably while working together to defeat Trump and his cowardly Republican stooges in Congress.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Grumpy.

    It’s not up to me to tell you, or anybody, what religious beliefs they should hold. I left Christianity long ago, because there was too much evangelical theology that seemed inconsistent with what I was reading in the Bible.

    My evangelical pastor never told me how to vote, but he did hint that I should vote for conservatives. I never understood that. The teachings of Jesus, as I understood them, seemed to contradict that position. Today, it seems even worse. The evangelical leaders of today seem more like the pharisees and the money changers that Jesus criticized.

    In their lust for political power, the evangelicals are seriously damaging Christianity.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I was speaking with a professor at a major university at a Sierra Club meeting. The purpose was to hear from multiple religious leaders how God or Allah asked humans to be good stewards of the earth.

    As we chatted, she mentioned a Multi-faith group she sponsors at the university. She noted out of the 42 (I remember this number) students who attended the meetings, the only faith not represented was evangelicals. This was not surprising as a Southern Baptist trained young boy. I was taught that all other religions were wrong. If they did not accept Jesus, they were going to hell.

    Like you, I do not believe that. I think that greatly diminishes what Jesus actually taught. Treat others like you want to be treated. Treat your neighbors well. Help people in need. I have a devout friend who uses the term “Cafeteria Christians.” They select passages from the bible to use as a weapon to exclude.

    To me, when churches preach a message of exclusion, they are self-fulfilling prophesies. Religion is at its finest when it includes, but is at its absolute worst when it excludes. Putting the US president up as a paragon has done more damage to evangelicals that could ever be done by atheists or agnostics. Quite simply, if he is your paragon, please do not ever lecture me again on how I should live. The lesson so terribly missed – your children see what this US president does. Is that the example you want for them?

    Many thanks, Keith

    Liked by 3 people

  5. When I taught Sunday school classes I always urged students to keep the big picture in mind as they examined the specifics. (I frequently told them to “use the telescope as well as the microscope.”) Isolating passages out of context almost always leads to confusion, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and misapplications. But, all too often, my warnings on that danger also went unheeded. It’s far too easy and convenient to, as you said, select passages from the Bible to use as a weapon to exclude.

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    1. I love the telescope and microscope analogy. I have written before about Jimmy Carter, who teaches a bible study class. In his book “A Call to Action,” which is a follow-up to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky,” women are denigrated or made second class citizens around the world, taken religious scripture out of context. The purpose of “Half the Sky” is a hard one, as it shows the maltreatment of women, but highlights the Chinese proverb women hold up half the sky. If you do not treat women as equals, not only is that wrong, but a community is competing in a world with only 1/2 its intellectual capital.

      Carter notes how women are maltreated in the US with sex-trafficking, domestic violence, rapes in military and colleges campuses and unequal compensation. He is notes some pull biblical verses to support some maltreatment, but when taken in context, that message cannot be gleaned. The other comment is Christianity survived after Christ and John the Baptist’s death because of women holding meals and services in their homes.

      I use these examples as it shows how the bible or any religious text can be misused for bad. That telescope is important, as the microscope can reveal more than a few inconsistencies in any religious text, which were written, edited, translated, interpreted, retranslated, and reinterpreted by “imperfect men.” Both those words are important. Keith

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  6. Good post … it gives me hope for the future, seeing that some have awakened to the myths of the evangelicals and seen the damage those myths can do. I was raised by a Jewish father and Catholic mother. I questioned both religions, for there were too many things that made no sense, but largely considered myself a Jew. I married a protestant, and shortly after, one of his uncles told me that as long as I would convert to “Christianity”, they would ‘forgive’ my Judaism. That was the final straw, the final break between me and religion. I respect others’ religions, as long as they don’t try to push their beliefs on me. Thanks for sharing your view, Jerry! You’re a good man.

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  7. Sadly, Christians have probably driven more people away from Christianity than have all the skeptics, atheists, communists, and autocrats combined.

    Liked by 2 people

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