Today I started asking questions...
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12-07-2015, 12:58 PM (This post was last modified: 12-07-2015 01:03 PM by Tonechaser77.)
Today I started asking questions...
As many of you know, I am a closeted atheist. I still attend church with my wife and kids. However, today I took my first step out to start asking questions. After hearing the sermon I heard today (Comparative religions and why Christianity is correct but the others are not; in this case Catholicism) I decided it was time to start bringing inconsistencies to light to our church pastors.

Below is an email that I sent which will hopefully spark healthy conversations that will lead to my coming out of the closet, so to speak. Here we step at a time.


Hey man, I hope you've been well! I was hoping you could help me out. I had some questions and thoughts about the recent sermon series regarding the comparisons of religion. I thought I would come to you about them first and go from there. The most recent week 7-12-15 was taught by Ryan and the focus was the differences between Catholicism and Christianity. The 10,000 foot view was that Catholicism is incorrect because the bible only teaches that salvation is brought by faith in Christ and grace alone. When further study is done though, this really isn’t the case. In fact, it is much less black and white, and much more confusing. And it really seems that this message is being spun to support the beliefs that Grace Church holds, rather than identify what the bible TRULY says. I understand confusion needs to be minimized in order to bring people to Christ etc and if they see confusion it brings doubt and rationalization. Most lay-believers are not biblical scholars (and I am in no way claiming to be one neither). If people find conflicting views in the bible then the bible is not the inerrant, infallible word of God and people will see it for it is…a human book written by human people prone to mistakes and differing viewpoints. But I digress….let me get back on track.

There are actually several views on salvation and in fact the views can very plainly be seen to have evolved in the four gospels.

Let me dive in further to explain my point with a simple lesson in biblical criticism (the scholarly study and investigation of biblical writings that makes discerning judgments about these writings.) You may certainly be aware of all this but I don’t want to take that for granted.

The first three Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke are termed the Synoptic Gospels and are regarded by Biblical scholars, both Christian and secular, to be older than John. (The dating of the Gospels is not known but most scholars tend to place the dating of the Gospels after 70 AD though.) Mark is regarded as the oldest, followed by Matthew and Luke, then by John. Now the central theology doctrine of Christianity today teaches a salvation by faith through grace, by believing that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the grave. This doctrine is central and fundamental to the Christian Gospel and it’s the doctrine that GC holds. Understandable. However, this form of salvation is not taught in Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are the oldest of the Gospels. The basis for the Christian Gospel of salvation by faith and the atonement comes from the book of John, which is the newest of the Gospels.

The first three Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke have a different Jesus and a different Salvation theology than the Gospel of John does. This logically indicates that the Salvation concept we have today, central to Christianity, evolved through mankind after Jesus supposedly left Earth. Therefore, it is a human concept which unintentionally puts a stick in the spoke of the bike that fundamentalist churches teach about sin, salvation, and redemption.

In the Gospel of Matthew, there is not one word about having to believe on Jesus in order to go to heaven. In fact, there is not one word about having to "believe" in anything at all to get to heaven! There is no mention of the atonement or of salvation by faith. In fact, Jesus says that all you have to do for God to forgive your sins is this:

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:" (Matthew 6:14)

Later in that Gospel, when someone asked Jesus directly what he had to do to be saved and have eternal life, Matthew clearly records a salvation by works:

Matt. 19:16-21: "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."

Jesus in this account never said here that you have to believe that he died on the cross for your sins for God to forgive you! In the same Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also preached the famous beatitudes, which emphasize that those with good hearts, attitudes and character will inherit the kingdom of God.

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

That's it! He didn't say that you had to believe that Jesus died for your sins in order for you to be forgiven. The verses that say that are in the book of John, which came about 50 years after Matthew.

Now take a look at the book of Mark. He doesn't mention that you have to believe in Jesus to be saved either, except for a verse in the last chapter of Mark: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16). However, most scholars know that that verse is an interpolation, or a forgery, since the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not contain that verse, and furthermore it does not fit into the overall context of Mark since the rest of it doesn’t teach salvation by faith. Therefore, Mark probably never wrote anything about having to believe that Jesus died for you, in a salvation by faith, or the atonement concept. Likewise, the Gospel of Luke is also like Matthew and Mark in that it doesn't mention belief in the atonement or in salvation by faith either! Therefore, it is likely that the original Jesus, if he existed, probably never preached such a doctrine either.

Next comes the Gospel of John, and we have verses that require you to "believe" in Jesus to be saved, such as:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:18 “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

John 8:24 “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

John 11:25 “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”

Of course, some Christians will respond by saying that you have to add up all the Gospels together to get the complete story. However, the key point here is that if Jesus actually said that you had to believe in him in order to be saved, then Matthew, Mark and Luke would have at least mentioned something about that somewhere. If it was central to Jesus' teachings that you need salvation by faith, then why didn't they mention it at all in the first three Gospels? The logical reason is that they never heard of, or in the least, didn’t supported that idea, because it didn’t evolve until later when the early Christians decided to add that doctrine, as in the Gospel of John. So we can logically conclude that if Matthew, Mark and Luke were with Jesus when he was on earth (assuming they are even eyewitnesses which isn’t even claimed), then Christ probably never said anything about faith, belief, or the atonement either.

The Gospel of John was a result of the developing theology of the Church at that time. That book is where the verses about salvation by faith, being "born again", the atonement, and having to believe that Jesus died for your sins came from. On many pages in it, you will find Jesus saying something about having to believe in him. When Christians cite Gospel verses about being saved, they always refer to John. When they quote Jesus, they usually refer to this book. Yet this book did not come for at least 50 years after the first three Gospels. Therefore, logically whatever Jesus actually said would have been recorded more accurately in the earlier Gospels, which emphasize good works and charity instead.

From this it is apparent as to how the Salvation theology evolved in the Church while the New Testament books and letters were still being written. Another fact that indicates this as well is that according to Mark, Christ was a man. But according to Matthew and Luke, he was more like a demigod, while John insists that he was God himself. That also shows an evolution of the concept of Jesus from a man gradually to a deity status. This is common with religious founders throughout history, because no matter what they claim themselves, their followers eventually try to deify them and make them into a God to worship.

Of course, Christians also quote verses to support their Salvation by atonement theology from the epistles of Paul too. This is where Ryan mainly kept his focus. However, there’s a problem here too. Paul never met Jesus Christ (at least not physically) in his lifetime. He never wrote anything about what Jesus did either. In fact he claims everything he received about the gospel was given to him by revelation and by scripture (Old Testament). And since he was not with the historical Christ, he obviously doesn't know nor is he qualified to tell us what the historical Christ had taught when he was on earth. In fact, there are many discrepancies between Paul’s idea of Salvation and Jesus’ but they aren’t worth going into detail in this email.

So this brings me to my conclusion and I am in no way trying to point fingers in an accusatory tone but rather one that yields real questions that need real answers. Why is the church teaching these ideas when in fact they seem to contradict what the bible REALLY says? Is it because they have to adhere to a sort of party line within Grace Brethren Community? I’m just curious as to why the messages are portrayed from only one viewpoint that seems to be disregarding other doctrinal viewpoints that are clearly found as mentioned above.

Maybe some answers could help me here or at least give me more to go back and study.


**Crickets** -- God
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12-07-2015, 01:10 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
Prepare for some serious twisting and sugarcoating of passages. I had conversations such as these with my pastor. They are trained to shut you down and bring you back into the faith when you start asking questions. They will probably refer you to a book such as Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions by Ken Ham, or will give you similar types of reasoning.
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12-07-2015, 01:18 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
On a side note, I would suggest getting a book like Ham's so you are prepared for what they are going to throw at you. And of course, I would prepare your rebuttal. They are going to try and catch you off guard and use fear tactics. That is how they work. Knowing what they are going to say ahead of time makes it easier to shut them down and more than likely, they will not be expecting it.
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12-07-2015, 01:20 PM
Today I started asking questions...
Thanks Jennybee. I'll keep you posted.

**Crickets** -- God
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12-07-2015, 01:21 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
Good luck TC Smile
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12-07-2015, 01:27 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
Oh dear, this is what happens when the church doesn't keep people from reading the actual bible. Tongue

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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12-07-2015, 02:17 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
Please let us know what the reply is...if anything.

I'm curious.

But as if to knock me down, reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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12-07-2015, 02:41 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
Best bet -- they'll ignore completely that their religion CAME from Catholicism.......


I'm a double atheist. I don't believe in your god or your politician.
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12-07-2015, 02:45 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
You're out of the closet now. Phrases in your email such as "supposedly" and "if he existed" are clear giveaways. Good luck with that, and nice job on the email.

Check out my now-defunct atheism blog. It's just a blog, no ads, no revenue, no gods.
Atheism promotes critical thinking; theism promotes hypocritical thinking. -- Me
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12-07-2015, 03:26 PM
RE: Today I started asking questions...
If your church is a literalist one (6,000 year-old Earth, etc.), he may believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the actual authors of those books and reject out of hand any questions that rest on a historical or literary foundation.

What is your intention in opening the dialogue with him? Is it mostly to make your own views and feelings clear, or are you trying to undermine his beliefs, or are you trying to change the tone of the sermons you hear on Sunday? To me that's a point to consider because it will help steer your communications in the most useful direction.

I hope the outcome of your note isnt an awful lot of visits by people who are going to be praying for you, trying to shake the devil's hold on you, etc.
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