I thought it perhaps a worthwhile thing to explain why it is I no longer hold to biblical authority and further, what information I came upon that set me on my present path.
UN-Christian Behavior From "Christians."
One of the most damning things about the Christian religion are the Christians themselves.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." Such a simple statement and a world of truth within.
My experience with Mike Vinson and his IWWB sect was truly the "final straw" for me in this regard. While most Christians are fairly accepting of others and will allow for some leeway when it comes to contentious doctrines, Vinson's approach was another one entirely. Instead, Vinson wanted to maintain that he and his group alone had "THE" truth and that all other groups, denominations and sects were in-fact, designed by God himself to deceive people into following Satan. Vinson saw nothing as a "grey area," to him it was all black and white.
So if that was the case, if I did actually believe that, that Vinson's IWWB sect was the actual body of Christ to the exclusion of all others, then the behavior and conduct of this group had better be exemplary right? I mean, if they have the exclusivity on biblical truth, then it stands to reason that their lives and conduct would be so far above other denominations - correct?
Here's the truth: The behavior demonstrated by this group and the individuals within was no different to any other Christian group I had been involved in. Within the context of this group alone I was witness to: Obesity and gluttony (yes, there are fat people in IWWB), selfishness, a celebration of ignorance, rudeness, gossip and slander, lies, half-truths, apathy, a lack of concern for a fellow man and much, much more. If it's by the fruits of Christ's disciples we will know them, I would love to know just where "they" are because it certainly isn't the sheeple of IWWB.
Since leaving the group, I have exposed the underbelly of this sect. I have videos on my YouTube channel where you can hear and see Mike Vinson lying and discrediting his own family, IWWB elder Mitch Kuhn backstabbing and gossiping about former members and many more such carnal displays of so-called spirituality.
Old Testament Depravity
Upon being stonewalled out of the IWWB fellowship and lied about behind my back, I had begun to question the basis of Mike Vinson's approach to life and his overall M.O: the bible itself. I had long had some issues with the barbarism of the Old Testament and when Vinson was questioned about this, he simply shrugged it off and said that these acts were spiritual parables and that: "we're just that important to God."
In hindsight, I pondered his answer and upon reflection, this appeared to be an incredibly ego-centric thing to say. It's all about me? Really? Babies, pregnant mothers, young boys and teenage girls had to be horrifically killed so "I" could learn some spiritual truth? Really?
Did Vinson realize that such a doctrine teaches that the death of Christ alone is not sufficient? Probably not. Apparently, countless lives had to be shed, and wiped out within the context of the Old Testament so some good ol' boy from the 20th Century could learn a poignant spiritual truth at the hands of Mike Vinson. Arrogant doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of such a position.
I went back and revisited many of these barbaric passages and looked at them with a fresh set of eyes. God orders entire nations to be wiped out. Slavery is endorsed. Killing is just a matter of fact. There are laws on not wearing mixed fabrics, as apparently, that will offend the sensibilities of God but somehow, slashing open the throat of baby from an offending nation is not only acceptable, it is a direct order from God himself. Capturing virgins so you can bang em later on? It's all good according to the good book - Numbers 31:18 if you don't believe me.
And yes, I've heard all of the apologist arguments about these issues. Sorry, not a single one cuts it with me. It amounts to gross textual twisting and ludicrous notions, including of course, Vinson's lame "spiritualistic" fall-back position. And why? Because the Christian is forced to bend the bible into uncanny and unrealistic shapes when faced with the plain simplicity of the text.
It's just a case of folks being far too invested with their good book to look at the plain truth rationally. If God is a god of love, then none of this makes any sense whatsoever. And what about our loving savior Jesus? Well, our Galilean messiah may have had some "loving" things to say but did he once condemn slavery as the depravity and shit-stain upon humanity that it truly is? No, he did not. Not a single time. Did you know that pro-slavery advocates actually quoted the bible in order to sway the opinions of abolitionists?
New Testament Anonymity
As I tried to grapple with the issue of Old Testament depravity, I started asking myself: "Who wrote the bible?" It's not an unreasonable question, given the claims the bible makes. Did the apostle Mark, actually write the gospel bearing his name? What about Luke? Matthew? John? More to the point, apologists and zealous Christians always refer to the bible as "the word of God." So if it is the word of God, then surely it can stand up to some scrutiny?
Well, as it turns out, my naivety all those years being a good Christian and accepting what I read "on faith" was about to come crashing down. The gospel accounts were not written by "eye-witnesses" as you'll hear apologists arrogantly declare. They can say it as often and as loud as they like but it makes not one bit of difference. No. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Here it is: there is no evidence that Matthew, Mark, Luke or John wrote anything in the bible at all. Researchers don't know who wrote these works because they are anonymous. The author never takes the time to name themselves. So where do the names come from? Good question. Church tradition. Yup, good old church tradition ascribes these books with authorship of 4 of the supposed 12 disciples. Do you believe it? You can if you want, I certainly used to, but how about you think about it for a second? Unlearned men (Acts 4:13) who were most likely illiterate wrote the gospels in not their native Arabic, but Greek? And they forgot to sign their names?
Looking at this objectively, there is no good reason to believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke or John wrote the gospel accounts bearing their names. Moreover, many of the alleged events recorded within cannot have been "eye-witness" testimony. For instance, how could Matthew have recorded the birth of Jesus? Was he there for it? I don't think so. What about when Jesus went alone to pray in the garden of Gethsemane? Were not the disciples sleeping at this point? So how could they simultaneously be able to record the words of Jesus anguished prayer or recollect what he said after-the-fact? It's simply not possible, nor plausible to believe this. Historians and scholars assert that the gospels are anonymous and that they were written some 50-70 years after the alleged events took place.
And on the same point, nobody has as yet uncovered the original manuscripts of these accounts. All that exist are copies of copies with many differences between the copies.
So God, who apparently made the earth in 7 days, wasn't able to oversee that the account of Jesus life, in order that the hallowed "word of God" could be preserved?
It seemed the further I looked, the more I uncovered. Not only are the 4 gospels anonymous, many other books of the bible (including Old Testament works) are as well. Further, authorship is questionable or outright dismissed on many other books. Forgery was common in the ancient world and it seems that those with an agenda to push could simply name-drop their doctrines way into being accepted. Gee, I wish Paul had of said such and such... Say, how about I write a letter and sign it "Paul..." Hmm...
More turds in the punchbowl of Gospel authenticity:
- Paul NEVER ONCE quotes from the gospels. Why is that?
- Not a single historian at the time mentions a "Jesus of Nazareth" even though the scriptures claim his "fame spread abroad" (Mark 1:28). Sure, a "Chrestus" is mentioned but that is an honorific - a title and not a name. There were many "anointed ones" who may have been referred to as such.
- John's gospel writes of the "Logos" (the word made flesh) which is a concept he (or rather, the author of John) plagiarized from Philo, who wrote approx. 50 years prior to Christ's death.
- How can the gospels can't be construed as "witnesses" as the authors don't even name themselves? Anonymous testimony is commonly referred to as "hearsay" and holds very little weight. Secondly, when we have only 1 gospel saying something the others don't, how does that accord with the principle of: "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses..." (2 Corinthians 13:1) Ouch. Looks like Paul just defeated the
testimonyhearsay of the gospel accounts there.
So not only was I uncovering a veritable rabbit warren of information about authorship and authenticity within the bible, I also came to see that the claim of Vinson: "there are no contradictions in the bible" is one of the most absurd things to believe about this book.
There are MANY contradictions in the bible, many of which are still unresolved. Here are just a few that stood out loud and proud to me. I should note, I wrote to Vinson and his elders about these contradictions. Did they reply? You kidding me? No way. These weak minded men aren't interested in truth, merely in propogating their own version of biblical reality.
The Resurrection Narrative
There are many discrepancies and contradictions in the gospel accounts and this is congruent with oral traditions, which change in the telling.
Atheist Dan Barker has what he calls "The Easter Challenge" where he asks apologists to write a single flowing narrative of the resurrection account that harmonizes the 4 gospel accounts along with 1 Corinthians. The only criteria is that one cannot omit any details.
If you've ever read the resurrection accounts back to back and have tried to reconstruct what "actually" happened it can be rather perplexing. Several Christian scholars have said about attempting such a project -
- Dr. Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary: "No plausible solution has presented itself..."
- Dr. J. Lyle Story, of Regent University: "I do know that it’s next to impossible to provide the sequence of events in the post-Resurrections; there’s no way that they can all be harmonized..."
- Dr. Donald Hagner of Fuller Theological Seminary: "...the problem is a notorious one..."
On What Day Was Christ Crucified?
In Mark's account, the disciples eat the Passover meal and they go out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Judas Iscariot brings the troops and performs his act of betrayal. Jesus is taken to stand trial before the Jewish authorities.
He spends the night in jail, and the next morning he is put on trial before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who finds him guilty and condemns him to death by crucifixion. We are told that he is crucified that same day, at nine o'clock in the morning (Mark 15:25). Jesus, then, dies on the day of Passover, the morning after the Passover meal was eaten.
In John's account, in contrast to Mark, the disciples do not ask Jesus where they are "to prepare the Passover." Consequently, he gives them no instructions for preparing the meal. They do eat a final supper together, but in John, Jesus says nothing about the bread being his body or the cup representing his blood. Instead he washes the disciples' feet, a story found in none of the other Gospels (John 13:1-20).
One also wonders how one one-ff events such as this recorded by John and John alone accords with 2 Corinthians 13:1 "...In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established..."
Anyway, after the meal they go out. Jesus is betrayed by Judas, appears before the Jewish authorities, spends the night in jail, and is put on trial before Pontius Pilate, who finds him guilty and condemns him to be crucified. And we are told exactly when Pilate pronounces the sentence: "It was the Day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon" (John 19:14).
Noon? On the Day of Preparation for the Passover? The day the lambs were slaughtered? How can that be??? In Mark's Gospel, Jesus lived through that day, had his disciples prepare the Passover meal, and ate it with them before being arrested, taken to jail for the night, tried the next morning, and executed at nine o'clock A.M. on the Passover day. But not in John. In John, Jesus dies a day earlier, on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, sometime after noon.
Where Was Christ The Day Immediately After His Baptism?
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the so-called Synoptic Gospels) Jesus, after his baptism, goes off into the wilderness where he will be tempted by the Devil. Mark especially is quite clear about the matter, for he states, after telling of the baptism, that Jesus left "immediately" for the wilderness. Mark 1:12 "...And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness..."
FYI, immediately is Greek "Euthus" (Strongs number 2117) which is used 16 times in the NT writings. It is defined as: straight, level, straight forward, upright, true, sincere, straight-away, immediately and forthwith so it appears to be translated correctly based on it's usage throughout the NT.
But now, what about John? In John there is no account of Jesus being tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. The day after John the Baptist has borne witness to the Spirit descending on Jesus as a dove at baptism (John 1:29-34), he sees Jesus again and declares him to be the Lamb of God (John is explicit, stating that this occurred "the next day"). Jesus then starts gathering his disciples around him (1:35-52) and launches into his public ministry by performing his miracle of turning water into wine (2:1-11).
So where was Jesus the next day?
After His Conversion, Where Did Paul Go?
Paul himself recounts, in Galatians 1:16-20, what happened after his conversion: "...I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)
This emphatic statement from Paul that he is not lying should give us pause. He is completely clear. He did not consult with others after his conversion, did not see any of the apostles for three years, and even then he did not see any except Cephas (Peter) and Jesus' brother James.
However, according to Acts 9, immediately after Paul converted he spent some time in Damascus "with the disciples," and when he left the city, he headed directly to Jerusalem, where he met with the apostles of Jesus (Acts 9:19-30).
"...But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out..."
On all counts Acts seems to be at odds with Paul. Did he spend time with other Christians immediately (Acts) or not (Galatians)? Did he go straight to Jerusalem (Acts) or not (Galatians)? Did he meet with the group of apostles (Acts) or just with Peter and James (Galatians)?
Realizing I Had Been Lied To / Logical Fallacies of the Elect
Once you take the "facts" in hand and leave your life-long biblical investment at the door, it becomes painfully obvious that you have been thoroughly lied to on so many fronts. Coming to grips with this was painful and difficult, made worse by the fat that I attempted to share my concerns with some others who had recently been estranged by the cult of IWWB. One brother told me straight up: "Whenever I see someone taking this line of questioning, it's almost always a front to conceal a secret sin..."
Such "black and white" thinking was a result of years of brainwashing, in my opinion. Suffice to say, I never bothered to air any concerns with this brother again and he never bothered to give me the time of day any more either. At least we can agree on that!
In the process of speaking with many others during that time, I became all too aware of the logical fallacious of the religious minded. Once you become aware of this, you begin to see it everywhere. I have seen Mike Vinson throw up time and again his "false dilemma" fallacy, in-fact, he seems to be the master of it.
Engaging with other die hard IWWB-ites, their reasoning skills and method of critique was stunningly poor and only served to reinforce to me that these people, although genuine, are genuinely deluded in their beliefs. They seem to celebrate their ignorance and relish in their lack of education. Amazing to me that such people will then claim to have "the truth" and yet, cannot see fit to logically and intelligently present their case! Anybody can thump the bible and emotionally plead their case. But the bible is the claim, it is not evidence. I guess that fact hasn't dawned on some?
If we claim to have "truth," then of necessity, we must follow where it leads. Mike Vinson and his IWWB cult don't have the "truth." They hide from it when they are confronted by it, using derogatory terms and throwing up their stonewall of silence. These men and women are sad excuses for "truth seekers."
Any honest "truth-seeker" can only be true to themselves and the information they come upon. After all, that's what prompted me to leave more orthodox streams of Christianity in the first instance. So who has the "truth?" In my opinion, we all have an element of it but no one person, or body of people can lay claim to possessing the entirety of it. That's ridiculous.
Life to me is a gift, a wonderful thing to behold. To be healthy, to be able to live and work and share your life with others, these also are gifts. To be able to love another person, to have a home with them, to have children and see them grow, these are all amazing gifts. I thank the universe every day that I am able to learn, to grow and to share this planet with others. Sure there are struggles, but these can make us better people, if we will learn from them.
And how disgusting it is to me that the bible calls these gifts "vanity" and instead, wants to insist that this life is nothing and to die is gain. How ludicrous it now is to me to see other people so completely invested in a one-sided relationship with the baby-killing god of the Old Testament.
If there is anything I am thankful for, it is that I no longer build my life on superstition and half-truth.