While I was preparing my book I wandered around the net a bit to see what issues atheists used to criticize Christianity so I could address all their criticisms in my book. It was then I ran into this book by Joe Holman, a former minister with the Church of Christ. Joe is a good writer and his book is interesting in several ways.
Most of the book consists of the typical criticisms of Christianity that you get from atheists and this material just goes to show that Joe and atheists don't understand Christianity at all. The really interesting part is Joe's life story. After high school he is depressed about life. Now this is what he says of himself back then:
Nowadays, I refer to myself back then as a loser. (page 3)
But becoming a Christian cured all that. He became a Christian zealot and set out to convert everyone. He went to ministry school and then went out ministering in several churches in the Church of Christ denomination. As time goes by in his story, Joe finds more and more problems with Christianity, no one can give him the answers to these problems and eventually he turns into an atheist. To his credit, Joe decided that the understanding of Christianity that he and many, many other people have is ridiculous. If I thought Christianity was what Joe says it is I would reject it too!
The first important thing to notice about Joe's story is what being a Christian zealot does for him. It makes him a somebody rather than a nobody, or in other words it makes him proud. Take note: pride is a sin. It is the worship of yourself! We can see the pride showing up in Joe's own words:
I was a living, breathing, scripture-quoting, evangelizing machine and ever so proud of it. (page 6)
In one case while trying to convert a friend, Joe says the following which shows what a high opinion he had of himself:
My mouth opened up with scriptures and my mind almost seemed to envision God, Christ and the Holy Spirit sitting next to me and nodding at my words with heavenly approval. (page 6)
In another case Joe goes outside at night to look at the stars and ends up
... contemplating God's place for me in the cosmos. It is almost as if they would speak back to me God's will, saying "You are my chosen servant to proclaim my word". (page 16)
I pictured myself as becoming an apologetics master, sent by Jesus to eradicate his godless enemies. (page 20)
When Joe gave up on Christianity he says how:
... you just changed the view of your destiny and estimation of self-worth from being worth your weight in gold "beyond the clouds," to actually claiming your value here. You once hoped to be great in the eyes of heavenly onlookers, but now you can make yourself highly valued by serving yourself, your society and your species. (page 54)
So all in all, Joe was in it for his own glory. The extremely important lesson here is that a lot of people who think they are Christians and who think they are working for God are not Christians at all! In Matthew 7:21-23 we have Jesus mentioning how there are people like this, here is what He says:
21 "Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' 23 But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'
Note that pride like Joe's shows up in other places in the world as well. For instance, we have politicians and Hollywood stars who love to make a show of how much they care about the poor or the polar bears or the trees or ... . Then we have the global warming zealots who know so much, they care so much and they're trying to do something about it all of which makes them superior to those other selfish people who don't know and don't care. Then there was a TV series called The 4400 where over the course of time 4400 people were kidnapped from the Earth and later on all of them were sent back to Earth where they develop all sorts of special abilities. A scientist then discovers a way that other people can also acquire the same special abilities even though the treatment kills 50% of the people who try it. Many people take the treatment anyway because they want to be special, they want to be somebodies, not nobodies.
So there are a lot of people in this world wishing they were somebodies rather than nobodies. Joe is an example. But it doesn't stop there of course. Joe goes on to write this book about how he is now much more advanced than simple-minded Christians, how he can now do critical thinking! Ah, isn't Joe wonderful! Now he knows so much and he cares so much and he wants us all to become as advanced as he is!
That takes care of one very interesting part of the book, it's a story about pride and how there are many prideful and phony Christians around. But there is something else very important and very interesting about Joe's story. It's the story of how God is dealing with Joe. Joe's story has some resemblance to two stories in the Bible. First, there is the book of Job. In the book of Job, Job thinks he knows quite a lot but then God shows up and points out all the things that Job does not know. Job ends up repenting and admitting he doesn't know as much as he thinks he does.
The second story that somewhat resembles Joe's situation is the story of the prodigal son. Here, the so-called prodigal son demands his inheritance from his father and goes off and blows it all on you could say, "wine, women and song". Once the prodigal son goes broke he ends up working for a farmer and feeding pods to the hogs. The prodigal son realizes he's been stupid. He was far better off living with his father and decides to go back home where, of course, the father welcomes him with open arms.
In Joe's case, we have Joe "getting saved" at the beginning of the story but Joe finds all sorts of problems with Christianity and the more he thinks about them the more he drifts towards atheism. Joe keeps asking God for an explanation of what the heck is going on with all these problems but God never answers him. Joe gets really, really frustrated with the silence and this silence contributes toward making Joe think that there is no God. Joe recognizes how silly young Earth creationism is as he studies science more and more. I'd guess that in the end Joe was actually mad that the Christians around him fooled him with that young Earth nonsense. I suppose he's still mad at them.
To continue, Joe embraces the polar opposite of young Earth creationism. He embraces atheism and atheistic evolution thinking that is is so modern, so rational and so scientific! The problem here is that if you look carefully at atheistic evolution it is just as ridiculous as young Earth creationism. The atheists make all the same fundamental errors in reasoning that young Earth creationists make and they sweep under the rug all the problems of atheistic evolution just as young Earth creationists sweep their problems under the rug. (See my little essay comparing the two.) First, Joe fell for young Earth creationism and then he turns around and falls for something equally dumb. Ah, Joe, just how smart does that make you? I'm thinking God refused to answer all those questions Joe had because Joe needs a good lesson in how stupid he is. Until he learns that will God pay any attention to his questions? No, I think God is waiting on Joe to come to his senses as was the case with Job and the prodigal son.
Will Joe ever come to his senses? Maybe and maybe not. If Joe decides to be stubborn and insist on how smart he is, Joe will, of course, be going to Hell. There is just no place for smart alecks in Heaven. On the other hand, there are a few pieces of evidence that hint that Joe may come to his senses. First, near the end of his book, Joe writes as "Saint Sarcasticus" where he repeats many of the criticisms he has already made of the Christian faith and he does it by asking God about them. Here is how chapter 23, "The Sacred Writings of Saint Sarcasticus" starts out:
Hello God. It's Joe Holman, your ex-servant with yet another list of questions for you - questions you will, no doubt, add to my extensive list of blasphemies, reproaches, and mortal sins, which will further serve to guarantee my damnation - but a man must have answers, right? None of your representatives here on earth (the scholars and theologians who you have appointed to make you look logically credible in the eyes of skeptics) can provide me with the answers I seek, so I would like to get them straight from the horse's mouth, if you don't mind. As you know, Lord, I am a troubled soul, a rigidly dogmatic and militant atheist, headed straight for the burn-black depths of the merciless Hell you created. I desperately need your help and salvation, but I need these questions answered before that can ever happen. (page 361)
Here Joe is making a critical mistake. Nobody but nobody comes to God on the basis of reason. It is nice to know what God is up to and why it makes sense but people don't decide in favor of God because of cold, hard calculation and because all their questions have satisfactory answers. People come to God because they want more in their lives. They want relief from the physical and spiritual pains here on Earth. They are longing for a better world. It is wishing for that better world that gets you into Heaven with God Who can really satisfy you. You simply sense you are headed in the right direction even though you still don't understand everything. But anyway, in the above quote it is as if in one corner of his mind Joe still thinks God is out there.
Then, in the first chapter, Joe talks about his "born again" experience:
The depression was gone, gone totally. I walked with a spring in my step. I had confidence and self-esteem like I never knew before. I was "born again" as I knew I had to be to enter the kingdom of God. God seemed to go with me everywhere I went. Nothing can duplicate that high feeling that almighty God is with you. (page 6)
This may be evidence that he will come to his senses because he was actually "saved" at the time but God has been ignoring Joe since then because Joe first needs to learn how stupid he is. Or maybe it was not a real born again experience. Maybe it is just more evidence that his pride, confidence and self-esteem happened because he became a somebody rather than a nobody.
To summarize, there are a lot of people out there like Joe who think they're special because they think they're Christians. They may even be ministers and evangelists. That's an important lesson for everyone, both Christians and non-Christians. There are fakes going around. Also this book is worth reading because you might want to compare yourself to the early Joe, the Joe who was a Christian zealot. Are you just as proud as he was? I know I see a lot of young Earth creationists who are ever so proud of the work they are doing promoting young Earth creationism. Are you just getting a high from pride rather than being THANKFUL to have a great future with God? I hope reading Joe's book will cause some people to repent. Thanks, Joe, it's a nice piece of work, a good insight into the world of phony, pride filled "Christianity".