On moderate and liberal Christians

Update: I’ve submitted this post to the Carnival of the Godless, partially in hopes of getting more feedback. I’ll be honest that I’m not entirely happy with how the post turned out (I don’t know that it fits the title, for instance, and I never really got to the point), but I also think it’s an honest examination of my somewhat-muddled and uninformed thought process on the matter. My point is that I’d like to get as many corrections, elaborations, and other responses as possible, so feel free (nay, encouraged) to leave comments.

The comment thread on this post at the Atheist Experience blog got too long, too fast, for me to weigh in on the subject there. It’s something I’ve given some thought to (but not enough to keep this post from rambling, I’m afraid), so I’m going to write about it here.

Conventional wisdom says that the fundamentalist, conservative, literalist Christians have the more legitimate claim to the label of Christianity–that they are more the “True Christians” than the liberals and moderates. Conversely, conventional wisdom says that the moderates are the more reasonable Christians, recognizing that the Bible is the product of humans at a particular time, and thus tailoring their beliefs to a changed (and changing) society.

I don’t think either one of these is quite the case–at the very least, I don’t think that’s the whole story.

First, there’s the conservatives’ claim to being the “True Christians,” interpreting the bible “literally” and trumpeting mantras like “God said it, I believe it” and so forth. This notion–like the notion that conservative Christians have a monopoly on “family values” and are “traditional”–is one that the fundamentalists have worked very hard to cultivate. The “tradition” of modern conservatism, though it clearly has earlier roots, is really only about a century old–kind of gives the lie to “True Christianity,” I would think. Wouldn’t the Catholics have the most legitimate claim to that? Or the Greek Orthodox church?

As I mentioned before, there’s no such thing as a “literal” interpretation of any text. The nature of communication makes it damn near impossible. The truth is that fundamentalist Christians and moderate-to-liberal Christians both approach the Bible in basically the same way: picking and choosing passages to cite in order to prop up their pre-existing beliefs. That particular bit reminds me of that Anne Lamott quotation: “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” That applies on a broader level–each Christian has a different concept of God, based on some mish-mash combination of what they believe from (and about) the Bible, what they believe from their church and pulpits, what they believe from the culture, what they believe from personal experience, and what they think ought to be the case. Fundies tend to center on believing that God punishes the wicked, rewards the virtuous, and that the events and teachings in the Bible are more or less accurate–at least, the Old Testament, Revelation, Acts, and the bits written by Paul, anyway. Moderate and liberal Christians tend to seize more on the “loving God” motif, and believe that the “core” teachings of the Bible are valuable, even if some of the more specific bits are the products of outdated politics, dogma, and prejudice. This “core” is largely summed up in the Sermon on the Mount and some of the other red-letter bits, and such Christians use this to handwave away much of the Old Testament (except Psalms, Proverbs, and selected other bits) and some of the Pauline books (mostly the more misogynistic and homophobic parts).

I don’t feel entirely informed enough to make this distinction, but I’m going to give it a try anyway. For the Dispensationalist Christian (like Tim LaHaye), it seems that the focal point of the Bible is Revelation, and the primary Gospel is Matthew–because it’s the one written to claim thatwhere Jesus fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies. Consequently (or perhaps the other way around), they read the Bible the way Nostradamus’s fans read his works–as a book of otherwise unrelated words and phrases that can be strung together to form accurate prophecies. If you haven’t read anything Fred Clark has to say about the Dispensationalist mindset, you should. They’ll twist, pull, cut, and reinterpret phrases from all over the Bible to create their Rapture/Antichrist/Armageddon narrative. In arguments, this type of Christian tends to pull out the “fulfilled and to-be-fulfilled prophecy” card, citing Jesus’s fulfillment of OT prophecy, prophecies in Isaiah which were said to have been fulfilled in Isaiah, and vague prophecies of the End Times, which have been coming “any day now” for at least a century (and in earlier configurations, two millennia). Things that don’t fit are ignored as applying to a future ‘dispensation,’ whereas things that other Christians would recognize as directed at specific people are almost always talking to the current generation, no matter when that current generation exists.

For the general conservative fundamentalist, I’d think that the focal book might be Genesis or Exodus (insert snarky comment here about how they never got any farther), but it’s far more likely that their favorite book of the Bible is actually “The Case for Christ” or “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” Their primary Gospel is John (of which they’ve really only read one passage). Alternately, the preferred Gospel might be Mark, since that’s the one that talks about all the miracles that believers can perform (or even post-Gospel Acts, with Pentecost and speaking in tongues), but again, it depends on the fundie flavor (which I imagine is a lot like Bertie Botts’ every-flavor beans, except without the good ones). These fundies more often in arguments pull out the standard cards–Pascal’s Wager, “look at the trees,” “your God is evolution,” and so forth. I’m pretty sure that these folks are the source of bumper-sticker Christianity–their beliefs are mostly easily summed up in pithy phrases, their arguments for those beliefs are equally pithy, and their knowledge of Christian dogma comes mostly secondhand, from preachers promoting a particular interpretation. They’re casual believers; they haven’t put much thought into why they believe what they believe, or even the details and conclusions that follow from what they believe, but they know that they believe it, and they do so passionately. They can tell you that abortion should be illegal, but not what should happen to mothers who get illegal abortions. They can tell you that homosexuality is a sin, but aren’t familiar with similar sins like shellfish-eating and wearing blended fabric. They’re prepared to defend their beliefs and spread the gospel, so long as they don’t have to answer any follow-up questions. Watch most Atheist Experience episodes to get a feel for this kind of Christian*.

The moderate Christians tend to be the recipients of the “casual Christian” label, though they certainly aren’t the only ones who deserve it. The conservative fundamentalists generally have shallow, unexamined beliefs, but they believe them fervently; the moderates have similarly shallow, unexamined beliefs, but they are fairly apathetic about it. They might go to church occasionally, or go to a moderate church, and they’ll probably put up some kind of show of faith at Christmas and Easter. Their central Bible book is Psalms, or more likely, “Mere Christianity,” and their favorite Gospel is split between the bits of John that they know (3:16, probably 1:1) and the bits of Luke that they know (mostly the stuff from Luke 2:10-12, or more famously, from Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”). In arguments, these folks often pull the same standard cards as the conservatives, at least to start–Pascal’s Wager, “look at the trees”–but usually end up going down the “well, you can’t know for sure” and “what’s the harm” path rather than the more threatening route of their conservative counterparts. They have their bumper stickers too, and billboards, but they’re more of the simple “God is love” sort of thing.

I’m going to pause for a moment here to draw a bit more distinction between the conservative and moderate Christians. While I think both groups seize on the same common, popular Bible verses, I think they put different emphases on them. John 3:16, for instance; I’d say that conservatives read it as

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

Moderates and liberals, on the other hand, I think read it as

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

** Incidentally, I think Catholics read it as

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

Those wacky Catholics and their guilt.

The liberal Christians, as I said before, look primarily to the Sermon on the Mount as their focal point for the Bible. There’s a gospel-centeredness to this, which makes it difficult (with my limited knowledge) to speculate on the gospel of choice; my guess would be John, since it’s the pretty one, but it’s possible that (at least among the more historically-savvy ones) it’s Mark, the earliest. They look for what they see as the “core message” of the Bible, which involves as much (if not more) picking and choosing bits as the Dispensationalists, though the bits they pick and choose and twist and reinterpret, obviously, are different ones. The liberals tend to be more informed–directly or indirectly–about the thoughts of various church fathers, classic theologians, and religious philosophers. Or perhaps they’re just informed about different ones; I suppose the average Dispensationalist might know as much about Scofield and Paley as the liberal knows about Weber and Augustine. Liberals generally accept the conclusions of historians and scientists, and they generally adhere to the moral codes of the modern age. They seize onto Jesus’s message of love and acceptance, apply it as much as they can to the rest of the Bible, and handwave away the rest. For Dispensationalists, the stuff they disagree with applies to some other dispensation; for liberals, the stuff they disagree with was mortal flaws that made their way into the book, or matters that applied in another day and time, or just don’t fit with the core message of the Bible. They tend to be less ostentatious with their faith. This is in part because they go with the flow of society, and thus aren’t trying to hold back or turn back progress, so they aren’t constantly waging war on modernism; in part, this is because they actually read the bit where Jesus said not to pray as the hypocrites do, but in the closets, and so they live and let live; in part, this is because they follow some variation of the Protestant ethic, in that they recognize that the best way to glorify God and to win converts is to live well and be a good example for others. I have had very few arguments with such Christians, and I’ve found that they’re most likely to agree with you on most points; they may pull out some theological arguments that propose a Deist god (i.e., any Cosmological or Transcendental argument); they may tell you that the Fundamentalists aren’t “real Christians,” that they “follow Jesus, not the Bible,” and that the Bible was written by people, but they’re just as likely to quote G.K. Chesterton for some reason.

I think it’s a mistake to think that any of these groups has any claim to the title “True Christian;” in fact, I’m not even sure what such a person would be. Jesus and the Biblical authors wrote so many conflicting things that it’s impossible to pull any coherent philosophy of life from the book without ignoring large swaths of it, and we’re only helping the fundamentalists if we don’t recognize that they’re ignoring just as much of the book as the liberals are. For every “it is an abomination” that the liberals ignore, there’s a “judge not” that the conservatives discard. They’re all “salad bar” Christians, they’re just on different sides of the bar, and the Liberals are willing to say “that cottage cheese has gone bad,” while the fundies will say “that cottage cheese is perfectly fine, but I’m going to let someone else try it.”

Part of the problem, part of why this is so widespread (I think), is that we’ve gotten to the point where even the liberals and moderates seem tacitly to accept the fundamentalists’ claim to the term. Perhaps it’s just because the liberal position is more complicated and more difficult to communicate; when push comes to shove, the fundies can point to the passage in the Bible and say “God says it, I believe it, no more questions.” At that point, the liberal has to explain that the Bible isn’t meant to be taken ‘literally,’ or that Jesus said otherwise, or that they’re ignoring the context, or something, and I think to the casual viewer, that’s tantamount to them cutting off the branch they’re sitting on. I can see very few good ways for a liberal Christian to easily call into doubt the Fundamentalist positions on most things without undermining their own position and making them look like wishy-washy quasi-believers. There are some matters on which the liberal position is more clearly the correct one, dogmatically and textually–once again, see the Dispensationalist End Times narrative–but it’s hard to argue that the Levitican and Deuteronomian laws against homosexuality don’t apply in light of one verse in Galatians and Jesus’s general message of love. I think, to some degree, the liberals recognize this difficulty–and perhaps even internalize the fundamentalists’ claims to some degree, causing some measure of self-doubt and insecurity–and that combines with their general non-confrontational stance regarding their faith to prevent them from speaking out against the loud fundamentalists in large numbers.

Which moves us on to the problem of which position is the more reasonable one. The conventional wisdom is that the liberal position has that claim, but I don’t know that I agree. I imagine the people who make this claim are the people who consider themselves most rational, and so we assume that “reasonable” means “generally comes to the same conclusions we’ve come to.” But we have to remember that reason can take you to any conclusion depending on what your premises are. Through one method or another, both the left and right wings of Christianity have come to*** the same basic premise: the God of the Bible exists, came to the Earth as Jesus Christ, then died on the cross for the sins of humanity, and promises Heaven for some and Hell for others****. Following from this premise, though, they end up at wildly different courses of action.

The right-leaning Christians take this premise, realize that the Bible is their only source for what God thinks, what Jesus said, and what the secret password into Heaven is, and conclude that they ought to be following what’s in the Bible as closely as they can in order to avoid Hell. There are a number of different logical avenues which can lead from this point to the belief that the Bible is a true, accurate, and perfect representation of what God wants, but I think it boils down to the point that, since it’s the only source for what God says, they have to treat it as perfect even if it isn’t. Christians of this sort will sometimes admit (usually when condemning Christians of the more liberal variety) that if you treat any part of the Bible as metaphorical or symbolic or otherwise not-true, then you might as well toss out the whole thing: either it’s all true, or none of it is true. This is a fallacy, to be sure, but underlying it is a valid concern and criticism for their liberal brethren: if it’s not all true, then how do you know what parts of it are true? The fundamentalist (ostensibly) never needs to face this quandary, since they (ostensibly) accept all of the Bible as “literally” true.

Their other traits follow from that conclusion. Knowing the threat of Hell, they work tirelessly to convince others that Hell is real and that they know how to avoid it. They’ve been saved from its fiery jaws, and they’re going to try to make sure that everyone else gets saved too (and the ones they can’t save–the ones working against them–are already in its grip and beyond their help). They dedicate as much of their lives as they can to praising and glorifying God with all the energy and volume of a castaway trying to signal a passing cargo plane, as though trying to draw the attention of the omnipotent and earn his approval. They’ve saturated their lives with worship and work to wedge it into everyone else’s lives, through sermons and tracts and street-corner preaching and legislation and education and media punditry and social mores and any other outlet they can find, in hopes that doing so will demonstrate their devotion, glorify their deity, increase their numbers, and protect them from annihilation and damnation should God decide that America looks an awful lot like Gomorrah.

On the other hand, you have the liberal and moderate Christians. Again, they’ve arrived at the same basic premises as the conservatives with regard to God’s nature and existence, and the importance of Jesus. There’s a chicken-and-egg situation with the next bit, though, where I’m not sure what precedes what. Moderate and liberal Christians have somehow come to a largely different set of premises in addition to the ones they share with the fundies, the sort of premises that I imagine we’d consider average for people in the 21st century western world: they value freedom and equality, they think science and senses are generally reliable, they generally accept the morals of the society around them, and so forth. They also have a different take on the Bible; though it’s the only primary source that discusses (with any authority) the mind of God and the story of Jesus, they think that it’s only somewhat reliable and accurate–certainly not the icon of perfection that the fundamentalists elevate it to. They read the Bible for its ‘core message’ and justify or ignore the parts that don’t fit. In addition to the Bible, such Christians tend to accept another source for their beliefs: alternately called “faith” or “a personal relationship with God/Christ,” who typically speaks to them “in their heart.”

Like I said, there’s a chicken/egg issue here: did the belief in the God relationship come first, allowing them to decide what parts of the Bible no longer apply and what God’s real opinions are, or did the acceptance of modern morals and science and such lead to the belief that such conclusions were the result of a personal connection to the divine? I can’t say, though I suspect it’s not a simple causal relationship.

Anyway, this connection to God makes each liberal Christian his or her own Pope, able to update the canon and dogma as necessary, on a personal level. Each claims that their pronouncements have some divine weight behind them, though they may come to different conclusions, but that’s certainly not a problem faced by liberals alone. They are able, through their relationship with God, to determine what the “core message” of the Bible is, what that means for the other parts, and what God’s message for the modern age must be. God, apparently, is pretty cool with the trappings of modern society that the fundamentalists reject; he thinks that believers shouldn’t be ostentatious about their faith, he sees virtuous living and skillful craftsmanship in his followers’ vocations as glorification of him, and he might even accept other routes to Heaven than through Jesus. He puts some emphasis on works as a key to salvation, loves his creations, and encourages them above all things to love one another. Consequently, they generally adopt a live-and-let-live philosophy toward people of other faiths, rather than the obvious and constant proselytization of the conservatives. They don’t see the need to enact their beliefs into law, since religion is a personal thing, to be done in the closets and not out in the open as the hypocrites. God said “love thy neighbor,” not “force thy neighbor to act in accordance with thy beliefs.”

Anyway, back to the main point of all this: who’s more reasonable? While the liberal position is the one most in line with what modern society would consider reasonable, I’m not sure how well it logically follows from their beliefs. It’s easy to see the logical progression of fundamentalism; if you believed in the sort of God that they do, you’d want to make sure that no one–particularly yourself–got on his bad side. The liberals have a more difficult progression, and I think it’s here that some of the fundamentalist criticisms hold water. The Bible is, for better or worse, the closest thing we have to a primary source on the life and teachings of Jesus. It is also the only generally-agreed-upon testimony of the morals, acts, and commandments of the Christian God. And yet, the liberals actively dismiss parts of it as metaphor or parable or mistake or outdated teaching, in favor of impressions and feelings they get internally, which they believe to be divine. This poses a problem: do they assert that the fundamentalists, conservatives, and others who come to different conclusions lack a personal rapport with the divine? By what right and authority can they make such a distinction? Wouldn’t such an argument boil down to diametrically-opposed shouts of “God told me I’m right”? Or do they recognize the legitimacy of the conservatives’ claim to personal relationships with God, but acknowledge that he’s telling them different things?

Moreover, how do the liberals know that their relationship is with God at all? The fundamentalists are likely to say that any voice speaking in their hearts things that contradict the Bible must be the trickery of Satan; how do the liberals know that this voice which tells them things they want to hear but conflict with the Bible is the voice of the divine and not the damned?

Those would be the criticisms from the fundamentalists, and I’m not entirely sure how the liberal Christian would respond to them, except to cite again the “core message” of the Bible. I don’t think that would convince the fundamentalists; their approaches to the Bible are vastly different, and any response about the “core message” is going to fall well outside of the fundamentalists’ framework. But I have another criticism, one which others (both atheists and theists) have leveled: if you have a personal relationship with God through which he shares his teachings and prescriptions, and if much of the Bible is flawed and outdated, then why do you need the Bible at all? Having God give you the straight scoop on his up-to-the-minute revised revelations makes the Bible an outdated edition, several generations removed from what’s currently available, and not even particularly useful for the end-of-chapter questions. Why would liberal Christians assign any significance to the Bible at all? Sentimentality? Why justify any part of it? Why use it as an authoritative reference? If you’re acknowledging that it was written and assembled and translated by flawed people, and if you’re asserting that your personal revelation trumps theirs, then why even consult it? Or at the very least, why give it any more prominence than the writings of the similarly-inspired theologians, poets, and other writers who inform your faith?

Or, to unite this with the fundamentalist critique: if you don’t believe all of the Bible, why believe any of it?

Now, lest we think that the fundamentalists have the monopoly on criticism here, their devotion to the Bible opens them up to a criticism from the liberals. The liberals accept the history of the Bible, the sordid tales of copyists and committees, of discarded books and dogmas past that are attested to by all the available evidence (not that that would be convincing for some). They accept–even assert–that the book is not perfect, that it was transcribed, copied, and translated by imperfect humans who may have even been imperfectly interpreting their divine inspiration. I think the liberal, in general, would be likely to say that no human’s interpretation of the divine is perfect, that no human work is perfect, and that their own apprehension of both divine and mundane may be imperfect. They’d be likely, I think, to say that only God is perfect, and that elevating the Bible (or anything else of this mortal world) to the status of perfection is idolatry. Were they particularly savvy, they might point out that even if the Bible were perfect, the people reading and interpreting it are not, and thus the fundamentalist is not merely asserting the Bible’s perfection, but their own as well. They are engaging in self-idolatry, declaring themselves perfectly able to sort out the will and mind of God from the imperfect writings of first-century preachers. I’m not sure, but I don’t think most liberal Christians pretend to the kind of certainty approaching personal infallibility that the fundamentalists so often do.

And you’d think that the fundies would be all over this, what with their general acceptance (and promotion) of the idea that this Earth is fallen, tainted, imperfect, and potentially even ruled by Satan. Why is the Bible excepted from this assessment? Accepting its history should fit perfectly into their worldview. Instead, not only will they deny it, defend its unity, and proclaim its perfection, but in many cases they’ll claim that one particular arbitrary version is the only perfect one, above all others. They accomplish this through an amazing display of compartmentalization, denial, and Olympic-level quality gymnastics, when they’d only have to apply their worldview consistently to make the whole mess fit.

So I think there are significant failures of reason on both sides, some more fundamental than others. Inasmuch as the beliefs and practices follow logically from the premises, I think the edge might indeed go to the conservatives, though I think both sides have some pretty distinct fallacies to deal with. Both, as far as I’m concerned, are dealing with unsound premises–and I think the unsound premises of the conservative position are far more fundamental–and the other problems spiral out of that. Either way, I know which group I’d rather associate with.

I recognize that all of this is a mishmash of speculation, subjective experience, armchair psychology, barely-informed theology, and broad generalizing, but I think there may be something to all this. I won’t say that these categories are entirely distinct, accurately named, or all-inclusive. I’m drawing very vague lines here, between very large and overlapping categories, and if I’m making some obvious errors, feel free to correct me. But what I’ve tried to accomplish with this overlong screed is a fairly fine and simple response to the two common claims I mentioned above. To say that either the liberals or conservatives has a more legitimate claim to the term “True Christian” is problematic at best, and tends to fallaciously favor the fundamentalists. To say that either conservative or liberal Christianity is more “reasonable” entirely depends on whether you mean “reasonable” in a casual sense of “not crazy,” or “reasonable” in the more specific and accurate sense of “well-reasoned.” In that case, it really relies upon counting the fallacies leading from unsound premises to invalid conclusions, and I’d have to see a side-by-side array of the different specific arguments, with premises and conclusions laid out specifically, in order to make such a distinction (though my inclination is that the conservative position may follow more directly from the flawed premises).

In other words, neither claim is accurate, and we (atheists and moderate/liberal theists alike) should consider being more careful with the assumptions we make and the assumptions our language betrays with regard to who are the real and reasonable Christians. To do less risks granting prestige and legitimacy to those who haven’t earned it.

*I think the modern conservative Christians have a lot in common with the medieval Catholic laity and the 17th Century Protestant laity. In all three cases, the vast majority have read little, if any, of the Bible; the old Catholics weren’t allowed to, the early Protestants were largely illiterate, and the modern group is a little of both, with apathy, short attention span, and arrogant ignorance mixed in. Like those early protestants, the modern conservatives get their beliefs mostly from popular reinterpretations–four hundred years ago, if a family owned two books, they were the Bible and “Pilgrim’s Progress,” which uses tortuously obvious metaphor to turn the Christian experience into a narrative. Today, I suspect that “Evidence that Demands a Verdict,” “The Case for Christ,” “Mere Christianity,” and “Left Behind” (among other books) have supplanted Bunyan in most conservative Christians’ homes. Like those lay Catholics of the middle ages, conservative Christians tend to often look to God and the trappings of Christianity as a source of magic. This theme comes up repeatedly in Fred Clark’s analysis of “Left Behind,” particularly toward the end. Where the medieval laity would steal communion wafers and use corrupted versions of Latin phrases to try to conduct more-or-less Pagan magic rituals, the modern conservative seems to view prayer as something akin to calling upon a finicky genie, and being saved binds God to the believer, forming a magical shield which protects them against Chaotic Evil. As long as you say the right magic words, God will reveal himself to you and protect you, but only if you do it right (see also: the Sinner’s Prayer).

And if the conservatives are modern-day Catholic or Protestant laity, then the Dispensationalists are modern-day Gnostics. I wrote a historically and theologically inept paper to that end in undergrad, but that thesis only becomes more and more apparent as I look into the blatant exclusivist Manicheanism practiced by the likes of Tim LaHaye.

**It’s even more nuanced than this, I think–Dispensationalists and other End-Timers, with their fixation on the Rapture as an (otherwise indistinguishable) alternative to death, would put even more emphasis on the “shall not perish,” while the other conservatives (with similar fears but different fixations) would emphasize the “have everlasting life.”

***I say “come to” because these beliefs aren’t (necessarily) axiomatic. Some Christians of either bent may consider the premise that God exists and loves us to be foundational, axiomatic, transcendent, or something along those lines, but they still initially arrived at that premise through some other method–being told by parents, being convinced by arguments, etc. That method of first convincing had to follow some other path of reasoning, relying on other axioms–Mommy is always right, if a belief is comforting then I should believe it, if an argument is convincing then it must be true, etc.

****Of course, there are Christians with different takes on this–non-Trinitarians, universal salvationists, folks who deny that Hell is a real place, and so forth. I’m drawing broad generalizations again.

10 Responses to On moderate and liberal Christians

  1. Anonymous says:

    The NEWEST Pretrib Calendar Hal (serial polygamist) Lindsey and other pretrib-rapture-trafficking and Mayan-Calendar-hugging hucksters deserve the following message: “2012 may be YOUR latest date. It isn’t MAYAN!” Actually, if it weren’t for the 179-year-old, fringe-British-invented, American-merchandised pretribulation rapture bunco scheme, Hal might still be piloting a tugboat on the Mississippi. roly-poly Thomas Ice (Tim LaHaye’s No. 1 strong-arm enforcer) might still be in his tiny folding-chair church which shares its firewall with a Texas saloon, Jack Van Impe might still be a jazz band musician, Tim LaHaye might still be titillating California matrons with his “Christian” sex manual, Grant Jeffrey might still be taking care of figures up in Canada, Chuck Missler might still be in mysterious hush-hush stuff that rocket scientists don’t dare talk about, John Hagee might be making – and eating – world-record pizzas, and Jimmy (“Bye You” Rapture) Swaggart might still be flying on a Ferriday flatbed! To read more details about the eschatological British import that leading British scholarship never adopted – the import that’s created some American multi-millionaires – Google “Pretrib Rapture Diehards” (note LaHaye’s hypocrisy under “1992”), “Hal Lindsey’s Many Divorces,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers)” and “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun),” “LaHaye’s Temperament,” “Wily Jeffrey,” “Chuck Missler – Copyist,” “Open Letter to Todd Strandberg” and “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “X-Raying Margaret,” “Humbug Huebner,” “Thieves’ Marketing,” “Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal,” “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “The Real Manuel Lacunza,” “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism,” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Pretrib Rapture – Hidden Facts,” “Dolcino? Duh!” and “Scholars Weigh My Research.” Most of the above is written by journalist/historian Dave MacPherson who has focused on long-hidden pretrib rapture history for 35+ years. No one else has focused on it for 35 months or even 35 weeks. MacPherson has been a frequent radio talk show guest and he states that all of his royalties have always gone to a nonprofit group and not to any individual. His No. 1 book on all this is “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books online, etc.). The amazing thing is how long it has taken the mainstream media to finally notice and expose this unbelievably groundless yet extremely lucrative theological hoax!

  2. Ty says:

    Is that what happens when someones keyboard explodes?

  3. Doubting Tom says:

    You know, I’m tempted to think that’s spam, but it’s sort-of on-topic, and it doesn’t link to anything, so I have no idea.And Ty, I’m not sure if you’re referring to that comment or my post :). If the latter, it was kind of like the Cambrian Explosion, happening over an extended period of time.

  4. Ty says:

    The comment, not your post.

  5. Russell says:

    Mr Tom,You write in biblical proportions about Christians: as many words as Exodus without all the begatting. Fundamentalists seeks certainty, liberals seek reason. Who is a ‘true’ Christian? I think that it is someone who died for their beliefs. 10/10 for commitment

  6. Jon says:

    Sounding a little apologetic there, Russell. Surely, I don’t need to point out that the begats are in Genesis, not Exodus.

  7. Doubting Tom says:

    Russell: You write in biblical proportions about Christians: as many words as Exodus without all the begatting.Yeah, yeah, it’s rambling and wordy. Hence why I didn’t post it in a comment section.Fundamentalists seeks certainty, liberals seek reason.I don’t think I agree with that. Who is a ‘true’ Christian?I think that it is someone who died for their beliefs.I’ll agree that those certainly are committed Christians; doesn’t really help sort out which Christian doctrine is the supposedly right one. It also means that the number of True Christians has decreased steadily since Constantine’s conversion.

  8. nolrai says:

    This is fascinating stuff!really makes me think!

  9. Will Staples says:

    Fundamentalists seeks certainty, liberals seek reason.I’d say liberal Christians seek comfort more than reason. When I speak to liberal Christian friends and family about their religion, they tell me they believe because it makes them feel better about their lives and don’t bother trying to rationalize it.

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