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Half-Hearted Evangelism

One of the interesting differences I have found between formerly Christian atheists and currently Christian believers is, the former Christians among us often took our religious beliefs more seriously. That is, we took them seriously enough to look long and hard at whether or not the things we believed were actually true.

We looked into the origins of the Bible, and, like many Bible scholars, concluded that they are highly suspect, even from a Christian perspective. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about God endorsing the modern Bible canon, so upon whose authority was it assembled and declared to be the, “Word of God”? Hmm? The answer turns out to be, these books were selected not for their factual or “spiritual” accuracy, but for their popularity within the church at the time they were selected. As such, the Bible is as much a product of Christian doctrine as a source.

Not only that, those of us who studied the whole Bible–not just the carefully selected snippets children are permitted to hear in Sunday School–discovered that its contents are, to put it politely, morally questionable. See Genesis 38, Numbers 31, Judges 11, and numerous other Bible chapters extolling the virtues of deception, prostitution, theft, genocide, rape, human sacrifice, and worse. As Isaac Asimov put it, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

We also prayed, and discovered that prayer is just another superstition, and that the efficacy of prayer that we thought we saw in all of those testimonials was merely an illusion.

Yet, for some reason, Christians continue to cling to the belief that prayer and the Bible support their beliefs better than they support our lack of belief. Consider the following essay I recently received from a believer:

Read the Bible and Pray

Editorial #2 by Joseph Yosuk Lee

Introduction:

If you are a non-Christian, please let me warn you that this editorial is a band-aid solution in order to help you become a Christian. This editorial cannot help you become a Christian. Only God’s efficacious grace can save you. There is no way you can earn God’s grace by praying or by reading the Bible. However, reading the Bible and praying to God can help.

My Band-Aid Advice:

Whenever I talked to other non-Christians, they bitterly complained that Christianity is a religion such that the pastor brainwashed the congregation to believe in God. I told them that they should read the Bible, and they said that they have already read it. As I tested their knowledge about the Bible, they were not able to answer the important questions such as being born again and many important stories mentioned in the Bible. I told them that they did not read the Bible carefully. Many non-Christians complained that they already read the Bible, and yet they fail to notice the important messages in the Bible. This is proof that many non-Christians do not read the Bible very carefully.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans
10:17

Of course, there are many religious studies professors, who read the Bible very carefully and can recite more verses than the pastors, and yet they still do not believe in Christ. The reason why most religious studies professors fail to believe in God is that they probably fail to pray.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of
thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

When I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, I met a physics major, who told me that he read the entire Bible twice, and yet he did not believe in the Bible. I asked him whether or not he ever prayed. Of course, he never did pray, and I told him, “Not praying for a Christian is as same as not doing an experiment for a physicist.” The reason why I mentioned the importance in doing an experiment is that most physicists do not like to do experiments and want to be like Albert Einstein by reading their physics textbooks to find some theory how the universe works. So, how can you make a discovery in physics without doing an experiment? Most world renown physicists, who won the Nobel Prize, are experimentalist and are not theorists. In fact, Albert Einstein did not win a Nobel Prize for thinking about relativity. He won a Nobel Prize in setting up an experiment of the photoelectric effect. To win a Nobel
Prize in heaven, you should read the Bible, but you need to pray. Some people find a way to accept Christ by only reading the Bible. However, a person who prays has a greater chance of accepting Christ as his savior because it shows an attitude of submission.

Of course, my dad told me that he read the Bible and that he did pray, and he said, “If I prayed and read the Bible, how come I still do not believe in the Bible?” So, I told my dad about my physics friends at Berkeley, who tried to calculate the acceleration of gravity. There were about 30 physics and engineering majors in my physics class, and I told my dad that the average acceleration of gravity was calculated to be 6.0 m/s2 in our course when the acceleration of gravity is 9.8 m/s2 . So, did my physics friends at Berkeley discover the new acceleration value for gravity? My dad said, “They did not perform the experiment correctly.” I said, “You answered your questions, dad. You did not pray correctly either.” I can tell that my dad was very frustrated with me, and he just does not want to read the Bible carefully or to pray according to God’s will. My dad prayed that I get into Harvard and MIT, and he never prayed again when I did not make it to those schools. Despite my dad’s good intentions in praying for me, he never prayed that I would be like Jesus Christ. Prayer allows to conform our will to that of God’s will, but we do not take control of God through our prayer.

Last of all, there are probably some people, who did pray according to God’s will, read the Bible carefully, and yet their hearts were hardened. In order to be a Christian, God has to soften and open your heart to the gospel. Other words, there is no way that you can be a Christian by praying or reading the Bible. You become a Christian by God’s efficacious grace. Although he may not believe in God now, he can still believe in God in the near future.

Please share this editorial to your non-Christian friends by forwarding this e-mail.

Well, here I am, sharing it all. Does anyone feel like converting yet? I sure don’t. What a lame effort. It’s a bit disappointing, really. Band-Aid advice, indeed. Maybe God’s grace just isn’t efficacious enough, or something.

The author goes on with a boilerplate statement of how to become “saved”:

Steps in becoming a Christian.

1. You need to know that you are a sinner.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The Hebrew translation for ‘sin’ is ‘missing the mark (of perfection in terms of thought and action).’

2. You need to know is that there is a price on sin.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.”

3. You need to know is that Jesus paid the price.

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

You must trust his death on the cross as the sacrifice for your own sins.

4. You need to know is that you must call upon the Lord in order to go
to Heaven.

Romans
10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

‘Whosoever’ means everyone-it includes you. ‘Calling upon the name of the Lord’ means to cry out to God in prayer and ask Him to save you. Being ‘saved’ means to be saved from your sins and from Hell. You must believe that Jesus Christ is full God and full man in order to be saved. See John 3:16, John 20:28-29, and Colossians 2:9.

5. Last of all, Jesus will sanctify (to purify or make you holy) you as time progresses.

Hebrews 13:12 ‘So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.’

*Just pray and call out to God through this simple prayer like:*

Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, who deserves to go to hell, but thank you for paying the price for me. I invite you to come into my heart right now and forgive me for my sins that nailed you to the cross. Save me and take me to Heaven when I die. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the son shall not see life;’ John 3:36.

I lost track of how many times I prayed that prayer or one like it as a child and adolescent, often a little fearful that I didn’t follow the formula just right, or say the little prayer with enough sincerity, despite literally being in tears. Yet, when I asked this fellow his opinion of my case, he insisted that in order for me to become an atheist, I must never have been a “real” Christian in the first place. So much for sincerely believing and following the prescribed protocol! Shucky darns, I guess nobody is a “real” Christian, then!

Christians, if you want to understand why I and many other former Christians lost our faith in God and the Bible, just try, for once, to take your own beliefs seriously!

Comments

  1. tracie harris says

    Oh, you read the Bible, but you’re not a Xian? Then you must not have prayed.Oh, you prayed AND read the Bible? Then you must not have prayed sincerely.Oh, you were crying when you prayed? Well, somehow your heart must have been hardened against true belief.Oh, you _did_ believe, but you don’t any more? Your belief must not have been the belief of a “Real Christian”The Real Christian, that most elusive of creatures. Every Christian, and yet, no Christian. Whoever the Christian, there is another Christian willing to call him “not a REAL Christian.” And for the Christian labeling his fellows a fake–a dozen others labeling _him_ a “not a REAL Christian.”When physicists wanted people to believe in their view of atomic structure–things like electrons–they didn’t ask others to “believe REAL SINCERELY” in order to make it so. They went that extra mile and–apologies for differing with the view of the essayist you’re quoting–did experiments to PROVE atomic structure. They showed how electrons could be isolated. And anyone who doubted atomic theory needed look no further than Hiroshima or Nagasaki.Rather than telling me that I should believe in god, and then explaining that the path to believing in god is asking god–whom I obviously don’t believe in already (or we wouldn’t be having this dicussion)–with a sincere heart to help me believe…why not _prove_ his existence?Oddly, the essayist quoted in this post seems to hold low esteem of physicists who make claims without following up with the proper experimentation to _prove_ their claims–and then proceeds to launch into his own claim of god’s existence–saying we all should believe without any proof. Just believe it–and it is so. What could be easier? And more nonsensical?Thanks for posting this–it was interesting.

  2. AmberKatt says

    Last of all, there are probably some people, who did pray according to God’s will, read the Bible carefully, and yet their hearts were hardened. In order to be a Christian, God has to soften and open your heart to the gospel.Well, there’s why your Sinner’s Prayer For Salvation never worked! God didn’t soften and open your heart! It’s all God’s fault!

  3. says

    Oddly, the essayist quoted in this post seems to hold low esteem of physicists who make claims without following up with the proper experimentation to _prove_ their claims–and then proceeds to launch into his own claim of god’s existence–saying we all should believe without any proof. Just believe it–and it is so. What could be easier? And more nonsensical?Like many believers, this guy has a real penchant for this sort of double-think. In another thread with him, he actually tried to argue that I should believe in God without any evidence whatsoever, because I have “faith” in the existence of electrons without having access to pictures of them. So I showed him a picture of an electron orbital. His response? “It is a computer simulation, not a picture.”If he applied even a fraction of that skepticism to religion, he’d be an atheist already. But of course, when it comes to his own preconceived notions, he only applies “faith”, and expects everyone else to follow suit.Hmm.

  4. says

    Well, there’s why your Sinner’s Prayer For Salvation never worked! God didn’t soften and open your heart! It’s all God’s fault!You laugh, but that’s actually Biblical. See Romans 9:14-23. So much for “free will”!

  5. says

    One can spend a lifetime in the circular arguments of the bible. I was talking to my pastor about my skepticism. I still am, sort of. We both don’t have a lot of time. We never got to the point of real reasons to believe. My pastor is unique, His father is an atheist and his wife is a fundy Christian. I have never known how he kept his together. I want to know how he keeps it together, or if he does at all.His father is a nice guy. I met him one day at church. His wife has always been friendly to me. However, I have heard plenty of complaints about her from other people. …. I don’t know this is all so emotional for me. Mentally, everything becomes tense and confused. ……

  6. Prup (aka Jim Benton) says

    It might be fun to set up a ‘Bible Challenge’ on your show. Invite several Christians, ideally preachers, to take on a group of ex-Christian atheists on a quiz on Biblical knowledge. The difficulty would be finding someone relatively unbiased to set the questions, but I am sure there are people who could do this. My bets are that you would win, if the questions were truly at random.Hmmm, have him prepare maybe 500 questions, and choose — at random — 50 of them.Btw, thanks for including Genesis 38 in your list of biblical absurdities, it’s one of my favorites too. It doesn’t ‘extol the virtues of prostitution’ exactly — and I’m not sure it would deserve criticism if it did — rather it accepts hypocrisy in Judah’s action, having him condemn Tamar for her (one, deliberate) act of prostitution until she demonstrates that HE was her client — and note she didn’t ‘solicit’ him but simply sat at a crossroad he would pass, knowing he would solicit her. Then the verse condemns him not for hypocrisy, but because he’d refused to let his youngest son marry her — after God had whacked his two older sons after they married her.And for pure raving lunacy, what about God’s advice on mildew?

  7. says

    “thanks for including Genesis 38 in your list of biblical absurdities, it’s one of my favorites too. It doesn’t ‘extol the virtues of prostitution’ exactly — and I’m not sure it would deserve criticism if it did — rather it accepts hypocrisy in Judah’s action”This is a fine point.When it comes to questionable sexual morality, I think Genesis 19:30-38 may be a better example. (See also the Illustrated version.) Lot gets drunk, and his daughters allegedly rape him! (Imagine trying to use that excuse in court!)God’s purported reaction is a bit perplexing, given that he just dumped lava and hot ash on the “wicked” children and nursing infants of Sodom and Gomorroah, and turned Lot’s wife into a salt lick for looking in the wrong direction at the wrong time. Rether than doing something wrathful and vengeful like that, God supposedly rewards the drunken, incestuous rape of Lot and his daughters with two venerable nations, the Moabites and the Ammonites, much as he promised a nation to Abraham as a reward for his righteousness a couple of chapeters earlier. (Both nations are mentioned many times throughout the Old Testament. Ruth, for example, was a Moabitess.)Those who claim to believe everything the Bible says have to take this at face value. They have to accept that, at least in some cases, drunken, incestuous rape is not only morally permissible, but righteous in the eyes of God.It seems more likely to me that a few Israelites with a Jeff Foxworthy sense of humor made up the story for a cheap chuckle at the expense of a couple of rival nations. But hey, I guess God’s grace just hasn’t been efficacious enough to help me understand the piety of incestuous rape!

  8. Darrell says

    Listening (or reading) crap like this makes my teeth ache. I have never been able to understand how anyone could believe this kind of shit. Christians seem to think that their myths are especially grand. I just don’t understand how they can read their bible, or listen to their pastor/preacher/pope/whatever, and not perceive that their mythology is just as silly as any other ancient mythology.

  9. says

    Christians seem to think that their myths are especially grand. I just don’t understand how they can read their bible, or listen to their pastor/preacher/pope/whatever, and not perceive that their mythology is just as silly as any other ancient mythology.Most, in my option, do perceive the many problems with Christianity.

  10. Patrick Quigley says

    The whole argument regarding the inaccurate measurement of g sounds really familiar. Interestingly I actually was an atheist physics major at Berkeley, and at that time I had read the Bible at least twice. I wonder if this fellow is one of the many confused theists I debated during my undergraduate days in the late 90’s.

  11. says

    Stephen-You’ve got to watch out for guys that think that science only exists and can be “experimentally” confirmed when it only suits their goals. In all likelihood, he’s typing his rhetoric on a CRT monitor without noting the irony of “faith in electrons.”When you come across these types that have it in for mathematicians or theoretical physicists, they always cite Einstein and General Relativity as “number theory.” Little do they know that Einstein’s mathematics have been experimentally verified, such as gravitational redshift, the advance of the perihelion of Mercury, and the deflection of starlight. Other predictions, such as gravitational waves, have been indirectly proven, and projects such as LIGO and VIRGO are underway to directly measure them on Earth.Just remember to hang tough. Overwhelming evidence can only slap someone in the face long enough before it hurts. Hence the war on science to begin with.

  12. Patrick Quigley says

    Oops, I meant to say I was at Berkeley during the late ’80’s not the late ’90’s. (’87 to ’90 to be precise.)

  13. Anonymous says

    The pastor at the church I still attend (family reasons) was talking about salvation a few weeks ago and actually said straight out that the “road to salvation” (as it’s often called) is difficult to figure out if you just read the Bible, which is why witnessing to people and telling them how to do it is so important. If I hadn’t already been an atheist, that would have been the last nail in the coffin. So, God wrote the book, but he couldn’t do it well enough to make it self-explanatory?

  14. Anonymous says

    he insisted that in order for me to become an atheist, I must never have been a “real” Christian in the first placePlaying non-devil’s advocate, I’ve heard Christians of a certain stamp argue that baptism/conversion engenders basically irreversible changes in you, so using that logic (and yes, I do use that term loosely) the fact that you were able to lose your faith means that you in fact weren’t a “real” Christian.

  15. Anonymous says

    Does love exist? If love exists since God is love then God exists. If love doesn’t exist then I guess you win the argument, but would seem a pyrrhic victory to me to have announced the Love Delusion. No care for a child by its parents, no bond between siblings, no selfless mercy for those in need. And as for lifelong devotion among couples that would need to vanish like smoke. Its a big ask to utterly deny the existence of love: are you up to it?

  16. Martin says

    God is love? This would be the God that tortures people for eternity who don’t love him back? You have a strange idea of what love is.Really, anon, you are an amateur at this, aren’t you? Why don’t you learn how to make an argument in the first place before blundering in here and embarrassing yourself with vapid nonsense? I mean, for all your statement said anything at all meaningful, you might as well have written, “Do Skittles exist? If Skittles exist since God is Skittles then God exists.”They don’t educate you well at Sunday School, do they?

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