My thoughts on Brian Flemming’s The God Who Wasn’t There

May 17, 2007 at 6:47 am 58 comments

I recently watched Brian Flemming’s The God Who Wasn’t There DVD and I must confess that I was a little disappointed. I took notes and may comment more in depth later, but the general impression I got was that, as usual, the points Flemming was making about Christianity seemed like cheap shots. He used clips of rabid Christians speaking in the 70s. He chose cheesy “C” movies to The God Who Wasn’t Thererelate bible stories as background, and he even managed to equate Charles Manson and Pat Robertson in the same montage as if these people had something in common. I’m sorry, but just because a maniac like Manson uses biblical imagery to fashion his own apocalyptic vision of society, it does not mean Christianity was the cause of his psychosis. That’s stretching it. Oh, yes, and the usual Bush created Abu Ghraib montage was in there as well. Never mind the fact that Abu Ghraib was probably in existence long before Bush took office.

I’m not an apologist for Christianity by any means, but this documentary makes me want to be one simply because of the sloppy, underhanded ways that Flemming tries to present his view of history and how he tries to make Christians look ridiculous. There is no distinction made between progressive Christianity and fundamentalist Christianity. Flemming does not talk to progressive theologians like Dr. Marcus Borg or progressive political Christians like Jim Wallis. No, he only uses the most radical and ignorant Christians to portray all Christians as some kind of blood thirsty, vast army who are “trying to take over the world.” (Use best Pinky and the Brain voice here). It’s such a cheap shot and easy way out that I don’t see how anyone can take it seriously. It’s so easy to make fun without getting into actual evidence. And he makes some pretty dicey statements such as, “Paul knew nothing about Mary, or the apostles, or any of the Gospel stories.” (Loose paraphrase). Well, you could just as well assume that Paul doesn’t mention them because they were already assumed to be known at the time of his writing. See, it’s stuff like this that makes it easy to explain away; even I could do it. So is it a blow to Christianity? Hardly.

Not to mention, that he couples his documentary with the atheist fad called The Blasphemy Challenge all the while misinterpreting what “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” really means. Any Christian knows that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not merely denying the Holy Spirit’s existence as Flemming states in his documentary. Nope. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in the biblical context, is when you attribute something to Satan that is actually a work of God. Since unbelievers neither believe in God or Satan, they cannot commit the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Simply not believing in a Holy Spirit is not blasphemy. However, in the Catholic version, merely calling God unjust is blasphemy, but they have been known to blow lots of things out of proportion now and then. -)

Anyway, the documentary is kind of poorly made (sorry Brian), and probably won’t convince anyone but confirmed atheists who don’t know anything about the actual workings of “lived” Christianity to begin with. There are other more convincing arguments against Christianity, God, and the Bible out there.

- MysteryOfIniquity

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Were the Gospels eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus? I Blasphemed before Blaspheming was Cool

58 Comments

  • 1. HeIsSailing  |  May 17, 2007 at 6:41 am

    Thanks for writing the movie review, Mystery. I have to concur about 95% with you on this movie. I watched it recently on Google Video after reading raves about it, and I have to tell you my old Christian ire got up. I would never recommend a Christian watch this because I see nothing in it to make them doubt their own faith, and you are right, there are lots of cheap shots.

    There was much to critique in this film, but the interview with the principal of his old Christian school made me most uncomfortable. Fleming seemed to me very smarmy when questiioning the principal about teaching children the existance of Hell. “Why are you getting upset? I am just asking a question?”, he would ask, barely able it seems to me, to hold back a snicker. Like he caught the principal doing something shocking. Give me a break. Every private Catholic and Protestant school is teaching children the same thing and has always done so, and everyone knows it. Every mainline children’s Sunday School and Bible camp is teaching the same thing. I was taught the same thing! The parents know good and well what is being taught to their children, and the principal is just doing what is expected of him after being paid lots of tuition money to do so. Better people to grill are the parents of the students!! I dunno, just my lousy opinion.

    Fleming seemed to jump all over the place, and I am not sure what he was trying to prove with his movie. He spent time on the Christ as myth idea, then jumped to critiquing the violence in Gibson’s movie, interviewing the founders of Snopes.com(!!), onto Abu Gharib, Pat Robertson on 9/11, and spent way to long narrarating the story of Jesus over scenes of Max von Sydow playing Jesus 45 years ago. It just seemed all unraveled and unfocused to me.

    As Mystery said, he ends the film by denying the existance of the Holy Spirit, right there in his old school chapel. The Shock!! The Horror!!

    + points: The interview with Alan Dundes, and whatever that silent Jesus movie was (I love the look of some of those silent movies)

    – points: Fleming’s interview style. He should have gone the route the makers of ‘Jesus Camp’ did and just let the Christians, and their sometimes loony ideas, speak for themselves.

  • 2. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 17, 2007 at 9:10 am

    HIS,
    Yes, I thought cornering the principle was just done out of revenge. Even I felt bad for the principle!

    Your review pretty much sums up the gist of the movie. I like that he goes into the Jesus myth and how it compares to other myths of its time, but what was with counting the blood scenes in The Passion of the Christ? Everyone knows Christianity is all about the blood of Jesus. Of course I never saw the Passion of the Christ because to me it’s just violence porn, but, no offense to Catholics, they are a little too much focused on oozing blood and gore.

    Anyway, Fleming was all over the place and very unfocused and completely misses the point about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit!

  • 3. Heather  |  May 17, 2007 at 11:01 am

    ** Everyone knows Christianity is all about the blood of Jesus. **

    This is a complete tangent, but that sentence is a very chilling view of Christianity. And I don’t even think there’s such a thing as taking it out of context, because for many, that is exactly what Christianity gets reduced to. It just seems to paint a very unpleasant picture of God. And ignore a lot of the Synoptic Gospels. But if that sentence were applied in any other setting, would the religion be as appealing?

    Note: MOI, i wasn’t critiquing your sentence, or your usage. It’s just a sentence that makes me pause, because it does really sum up a lot of stuff, when dealing with certain branches of Christianity.

  • 4. stellar1  |  May 17, 2007 at 11:26 am

    MOI,
    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I understand your frustration all too well. It is so childish to use cheap shots to undermind Christianity. It reminds me of how childish the Christians were in the churches I attended. When there is a mountain of solid reasons to rebut the religion, why not use some sound ideas instead of poking fun at something that is important to millions of people?
    -Stellar1

  • 5. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 17, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Heather,
    As an example, I work in a large urban mainline denomination church with three pastors that I am admin. assistant for. Two of my coworkers and I, a business manager and church secretary, all have Baptist backgrounds. We critique one of the pastor’s sermons all the time because there is no mention of “blood” or “salvation” or anything remotely evangelical in them. We laugh and amuse ourselves about it, but basically it’s true. Even the hymns make no mention of this in their new hymnal. It’s all very stripped down and “proper.” As a Baptist though you are taught that you are saved by the blood atonement of Jesus, you are “washed in the blood,” and you are “blood bought.” There is no salvation without blood. It’s very basic to evangelical, fundamentalist theology.

    I believed this theology for a very long time, and in a way, still do, but I am working toward a more egalitarian, less blood drenched theology that explains Jesus’ uniqueness and purpose (if possible) while giving me something solid to hang onto. It ain’t easy. I am still very much an agnostic theist in this regard. I believe in something, not sure what and don’t care how, just not literally and without the driving need to convince others of it.

  • 6. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 17, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    stellar1,
    Yes, some tend to think they are using humor, but there’s a big difference between self-deprecating humor and sarcastic humor aimed at making others look bad. Here’s an example. I watch South Park all the time and find it hilarious. I tried to watch Borat and found it virtually unwatchable. I just felt sorry for the people being made fun of. When your documentary makes others sympathize with “the opposition” more than consider the ideas you’ve tried to bring forth, you’ve done something wrong.

  • 7. Karen  |  May 17, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    MOI,

    I agree with your critique of the movie’s quality, and your assessment that using cheesy clips was a cheap shot. (Though you have to admit some of those televangelists from the 70s were good for a laugh.)

    Let me offer a slightly different perspective on the movie’s impact, however.

    I was just beginning to “feel my oats” as an atheist when I heard about this movie and went to a tiny LA film festival to see it – probably mid to late 2004. I was one of maybe half a dozen people in the audience of an old, rundown theater in Hollywood. I had never before seen anything that outright challenged the idea that Jesus was an historical person. I had never even contemplated that idea myself.

    In my nice, safe fundy cocoon, I hadn’t heard of Sam Harris, or Richard Carrier, or Robert Price. The “new atheists” hadn’t yet become a phenomenon. Even the idea that a former Christian would deconvert and overtly turn against Christianity was absolutely shocking to me.

    While I recognized at the time that the movie wasn’t very well done (and you’re right, it didn’t hang together coherently), just realizing that there was a community of skeptics and (gasp!) disbelievers out there was a complete epiphany to me. The interviews with happy but ignorant believers were a slap in the face – I’d been ONE of THEM so recently! It was unbelievably empowering (and frankly very scary) to watch Flemming deny the holy spirit in his old church.

    I was taught the same thing Flemming learned – that the “unpardonable sin” was to deny the holy spirit just like he did it. In fact, many fundamentalists are taught this. I know because I’ve had conversations with lots of them who were scared silly that they may have “accidentally” blasphemed the holy spirit and would therefore be denied entrance to heaven. Whether or not it’s biblically defensible (it’s probably not) that is a teaching many of us were unfortunately raised to believe. So to see him reject it – in church – was quite a revelation for me.

    I think because of the impact it’s had on people like me – long-sheltered and indoctrinated by religion – the film is notable, though flawed. I later got the DVD and watched the bonus interviews with Dawkins and others and thought they were excellent.

  • 8. heartyheretic  |  May 17, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    I agree, the Blasphemy Challenge is totally misguided. There are lots of ways to interpret it, but using it as a way to deny God is just silly. What really gets me is how some Christians think that proving the existence of God somehow validates their whole system of salvation (power in the BLOOD!) and how some atheists think that disproving the existence of God somehow invalidates the teachings of Jesus. Sometimes it makes me want to become a Unitarian. Wait, I am a Unitarian!

  • 9. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 17, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Karen,
    Your perspective is interesting and shows just how much people are inundated with information nowadays. Yes, there are vast numbers of Christians who’ve never seen this before and other atheists who haven’t either. I always assume that people know what I know when I know it and others probably think the same way too. Thank you for that valuable “take” on the movie. :-)

  • 10. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 17, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    heartyheretic,

    You wrote: “What really gets me is how some Christians think that proving the existence of God somehow validates their whole system of salvation (power in the BLOOD!) and how some atheists think that disproving the existence of God somehow invalidates the teachings of Jesus.”

    EXCELLENT point! As if one flaw invalidates the integrity of an entire system. We all know that’s not necessarily true. Also, proving the existence of God, which will never happen, does not validate “theology” which is all man-made.

  • 11. societyvs  |  May 17, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    I rather was disappointed by the movie but there was some things for consideration. I actually enjoyed the movie to be totally honest – was a little dissappointed by some of it but that’s already mentioned in the blog.

    I though Flemming showed a true character from his church – that pastor dude – and how closed minded he was towards him. I thought those scenes were good for any ardent Christian pastor to watch and consider – maybe we can be too close-minded? I seen that things need to continue to change in the church mindset to be more closer to the actual teachings of Jesus – and I think Flemming served that scene as a good challenege.

    Flemming raises points for any Christian to consider – as harsh as it comes off – they are still worth considering. Points about mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance seem to be things lackign within the church in general – whereas judgement, bias, and seperation seem to be current values (which I think can be changed). As a Christian I thank Flemming for the documentary in the sense it got me to re-think a few aspects of Christian teaching (in the same frame I also thanks Harris and Dawkins for some of their viewpoints). As Christians, we need not to be so close-minded towards other’s thoughts – and I think it is good to know them so we can accurately judge ourselves on what we may be possibly doing wrong (a sort of measuring stick in some senses).

    That being said, I agree with the comments in the blog about the documentary but I see the possibility of learning a few things from the atheists.

  • 12. Heather  |  May 17, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Moi,

    **a Baptist though you are taught that you are saved by the blood atonement of Jesus, you are “washed in the blood,” and you are “blood bought.” There is no salvation without blood.**

    I really do find that perspective fascinating. I can see which verses support this — I just always interpreted those in a metaphorical sense. Especially since the image really falls apart for me if pictured literally. It just seems to ignore a lot of the other portions of the New Testament, if that makes any sense. Especially since Jesus mentioned his own blood so little, and seemed more concerned that people follow him, rather than focus on beliefs.

    It just in a way, and this isn’t meant to be insulting, seems to mirror the Aztec sacrifices, in a way, with the emphasis on the ‘blood.’ To the ancient cultures, the sun rose and the crops grew because they sacrificed a specific amount of people to please their gods — and yet we find that barbaric, in today’s times. Yet it’s seen as a wonderful thing in fundamentalist Christianity.

    But thank you for the explanation.

  • 13. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 17, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Heather,
    It is very pagan in origin and I’m not sure if Baptists really think about it in literal and graphic terms, but it’s the mindset. I’m sure it’s a Pauline idea and even a Petrine one if you watch where it took the Catholic church over the years. But yeah, Baptists really play it up.

  • 14. Heather  |  May 17, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Moi,

    **It is very pagan in origin and I’m not sure if Baptists really think about it in literal and graphic terms, ** And the literal/graphic area is always the first place my mind jumps to, when someone says that they are washed in the blood of Jesus. The joys of being an English Lit major. We picture descriptions *quite* well. :)

    Do you think the idea would be played up as much if sermons started literally showing what that means? Like a picture with someone drenched in blood?

  • 15. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 17, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Heather,
    HMMMM…. good question. I think it still would yes. Just look at the popularity of The Passion of the Christ among the evangelical set. These people thought this was the best movie EVER! My sunday school class was agog when it came out. It just makes them “realize” how much Jesus suffered for them!

  • 16. Heather  |  May 17, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Moi,

    I guess I would see that as a double-standard. (Which suddenly amuses me, because I’m about to go ‘all or nothing’ on the very crowd that would see me as a moral relativist in any other discussion).

    I mostly see it that way because if that violence had occured to anyone else, I would see the evangelicals staying away in droves. I did see the movie, and know the reaction you’re talking about. My other friends were almost sobbing at the end, after “realizing” how much Jesus suffered. The thing is, I thought the movie said more about Mel Gibson’s mindset than anything else, and the God that Mel Gibson worships. The violence was almost … pornographic and the movie crowd was almost in a blood-lust. And much of the violence in there was not in the Bible (the flogging scene is one such example, because it was so drawn-out). In the movie, everyone was sadistic and clearly delighted in torturing Jesus. In the Gospels, there are those who mock him and such, but much of that came from the ‘failed’ Messiah-ship. (As in, no true Messiah would let themselves be treated that way, so clearly Jesus was full of himself).

    It just basically came across as, “God loves you so much that He sent His son to be tortured by evil, evil people.” And my reaction was: “Then how am I supposed to love Something like that back, whose ‘justice’ demands such an act?”

    That was closly followed by my second reaction of the movie-goers would’ve found the movie appalling and wrong, except Jesus was in it, so it was okay.

  • 17. Karen  |  May 17, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    Just look at the popularity of The Passion of the Christ among the evangelical set. These people thought this was the best movie EVER! My sunday school class was agog when it came out. It just makes them “realize” how much Jesus suffered for them!

    Ugh. I had one foot already out of the church when Passion came out, so I never saw it because I can’t stand violence. I certainly would never allow my kids to see that. The carrying on about how wonderful it was – from Christians who wouldn’t DARE to see anything else R-rated – was unbelievable.

    Actually, the worst part of Flemming’s movie, for me, was the graphic violence he replayed from Passion, and the slo-mo, and the counting of graphic incidents. I actually had to cover my eyes during that part.

    We had a big emphasis on being “washed in the blood” when I was a kid, too. I think Christians say that and sing it and pray it and never fully realize the physical reality they’re alluding to. Another example of the split mindset of many fundamentalists.

  • 18. HeIsSailing  |  May 17, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    Karen sez:
    “We had a big emphasis on being “washed in the blood” when I was a kid, too. I think Christians say that and sing it and pray it and never fully realize the physical reality they’re alluding to.”

    Remember the hymns “There is Power in the Blood”, and “Have you been Washed in the Blood of the Lamb”? Those were some of our favorites growing up.

    As an adult, I often wondered how Judaism of the OT, where Jews could not touch anything unclean, morphed into the bloody religion of Christianity. I viewed it like this – God taught the Jewish people that blood and uncleanliness were not to be touched – filthy and unclean. So that just emphasized the ugliness that God viewed sin, which Jesus became through his blood on our behalf.

    I dunno – that still sort of makes sense to me. I just took the Atonement as one of God’s mysteries – a strange mechanism by which he could bring us across the chasm of sin.

    And just for the record, I did not see Passion of the Christ. Just hearing about my fellow churchgoers taking their children to see it made me pretty sick though.

  • 19. mysteryofiniquity  |  May 18, 2007 at 7:29 am

    HIS,
    I know where they get the blood atonement from. Hebrews explains Jesus death as the ultimate sacrifice and not the scapegoat kind either. It’s directly related to the Jews smearing blood along the lintels of their doorways in Exodus. God passed over those with the blood of an innocent lamb smeared on them when he sent a plague on Egypt. Christians say that Jesus’ death is the exact same type. It’s a new Passover. God sees us washed in the blood and passes by so that we will not be judged. Revelation 5:12 says, “Worthy is the lamb that is slain…” referring to Jesus of course.Hebrews is all about Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice.

    I see where Christians get the doctrine.

  • 20. Heather  |  May 18, 2007 at 9:41 am

    **As an adult, I often wondered how Judaism of the OT, where Jews could not touch anything unclean, morphed into the bloody religion of Christianity.**

    I think that also puzzles those that practice Judaism. From what I’ve read on their websites, in terms of refuting that particular Christian claim, is that the whole point was to eventually move beyond the blood sacrifices (I could be misunderstanding this) — as seen by OT verses that show God can forgive without the sacrifice. There’s also the fact that nowhere in the OT does it say human sacrifice is used in this way, because of how the ‘pagans’ were doing so.

    I’ve always found it interesting that Gehanna was seen as extremely bad because child sacrifices took place there, and yet evangelicals glorify that God required the sacrifice of His child to ‘save’ people. Because the child sacrifices to the pagan god is part of what made Gehenna so horrific.

  • 21. Karen  |  May 18, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve always found it interesting that Gehanna was seen as extremely bad because child sacrifices took place there, and yet evangelicals glorify that God required the sacrifice of His child to ’save’ people. Because the child sacrifices to the pagan god is part of what made Gehenna so horrific.

    Yeah, that’s a bit of a conundrum, isn’t it? ;-)

    I think by conflating the trinity, what evangelicals believe is that god sacrificed himself for humanity, not another being (i.e., his son).

    But in the bible, Jesus is identified many times as “the son of god.” I think the doctrine of the trinity was developed later – though I’m not well-versed on that impossibly tricky subject so I could certainly be wrong!

  • 22. Karen  |  May 18, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Remember the hymns “There is Power in the Blood”, and “Have you been Washed in the Blood of the Lamb”? Those were some of our favorites growing up.

    Oh, absolutely. And to get even more graphic, how ’bout the ever-popular:

    “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood”
    “Nothing But The Blood”
    “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power”
    “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?”

    Yeesh. I’m officially weirded out now…

  • 23. Heather  |  May 19, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    ** think by conflating the trinity, what evangelicals believe is that god sacrificed himself for humanity, not another being (i.e., his son). **

    I’m beginning to see why so many fundamentalists say to just have faith, rather than questions. Because it’s either God sent His son, which leads to the conundrum, or God sacrificed Himself, which could be seen as suicide.

  • 24. Karen  |  May 19, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    I’m beginning to see why so many fundamentalists say to just have faith, rather than questions.

    Yup. Or if you do question, they cut it off with:

    a) god works in mysterious ways, and our minds aren’t big enough to comprehend him, so we shouldn’t bother to try;

    or

    b) don’t worry about the details now, because we’ll have all eternity to figure this silly stuff out in heaven! AND, we can ask all the questions we want then and get answers directly from the source (I actually heard a lot of details about who you could demand answers from in heaven, and how you could sit down with Moses for a century or so, or Paul, or John, etc!)

  • 25. HeIsSailing  |  May 20, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Thus saith Karen:
    “(I actually heard a lot of details about who you could demand answers from in heaven, and how you could sit down with Moses for a century or so, or Paul, or John, etc!)”

    Karen, how many times have you heard during a sermon, “Wow, what an amazing story! I can’t wait until I see (Noah, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, Moses, Gideon, Samson, Mary, …etc) in Heaven and ask him about it”?

  • 26. Karen  |  May 20, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Karen, how many times have you heard during a sermon, “Wow, what an amazing story! I can’t wait until I see (Noah, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, Moses, Gideon, Samson, Mary, …etc) in Heaven and ask him about it”?

    LOL! Too many times to count, no doubt. ;-)

    What really ticks me off is that at one time, I would have thought:

    “Wow – that’s such a cool idea! That’s so exciting, I can’t wait!”

    Duh … I can’t believe how naive I was. It’s embarrassing, actually.

  • [...] 22nd, 2007 On MysteryOfIniquity’s post “My thoughts on Brian Flemming’s The God Who Wasn’t There,” there is a discussion on the blood of Jesus. Responding to HeIsSailing’s comment: [...]

  • 28. Mariss  |  October 2, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    this piece of CRAP LIAR Brian Flemming need’s to be stopped and shot at!

  • 29. MOI  |  October 3, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Wow Mariss. Flemming must have really hit a nerve with his film. It wasn’t a great film, but he has every right to make it without being shot at.

  • 30. Anonymous  |  February 7, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    wow when people get offened in church its Gods fault how about this. JESUS

  • 31. Anonymous  |  February 7, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    JESUS is alive he did die for our sins and weather you believe Jesus or not, it does not change the fact that you will have to stand in front of Jesus and give an account of your deeds!

  • 32. orDover  |  February 7, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    I wonder, do atheists ever hit up Christian blogs and write:
    “How about this: THERE IS NO GOD. There is no God who died for anyone’s sins, and whether you accept the fact that God does not exist or not, it does not change the fact that when you die you will rot and nothing of your ‘soul’ will remain. There is no one to hold you accountable for your deeds except you and your fellow man. There is no Cosmic Judge, so just get over it already.”

  • 33. mysteryofiniquity  |  February 7, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    onDover,

    I’ve seen some atheists do that. But, the point is well taken. If commenters 30 and 31 knew how many times we’ve heard their spiel before they’d think maybe half a minute before leaving their thoughts. But then again, I’m not holding my breath.

    The whole idea of that pointed rejoinder of having to “stand in front of Jesus” merely stems from the bloodlust of Christians, an ancient, ancient trait that wants so desperately to see others punished for not believing the same way they do. It also stems from a deep, deep fear that perhaps they too might be wrong and may be wasting their lives on a false ideal. Sadly, I understand it completely.

    I hope that I’ve outgrown such bloodlust and desperately desire everyone passes through this life with all the peace and love they deserve. I don’t have to enjoin Jesus’ wrath as a threat for failing to do so either.

  • 34. Strella Smith  |  June 26, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Interesting review! I AM a fundamentalist Christian and am quite happy to be attacked for being so. I have never actually seen this movie myself, but I have heard a great deal about it and I have heard of Flemming’s “Blasphemy Challenge” which, frankly I found to be quite funny. Poor old Brian is quite mistaken in thinking that he is going to send a ton of people to hell just by saying “I deny the Holy Spirit”. God probably finds it quite funny too.

    This is actually the belief of many true “fundamental” Christians about what that passage actually means. You see, when Jesus makes that statement, he is addressing the Jews, namely, the Jewish leaders who refused to believe in him as their Messiah (even though they had been looking for and longing for their Messiah for centuries). Christ was sent specifically to the Jews as their savior, Messiah, and King. But when they rejected him time and time again, he knew that they had essentially condemned themselves to judgement because of their unbelief. This is the quote from the book of Matthew “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him either in this age or the age to come.” Mat. 12: 30-32.
    The Holy Spirit had been sent to the Jews to prepare their hearts to receive their Messiah, but time and time again they rejected it. In the context of that verse, (and the verses surrounding it) Jesus is basically saying that the “unforgivable sin” is basically that generation of Jew’s rejection of him as their Messiah. Therefor, the unforgivable sin was one that ONLY that generation could commit. It does not apply to any generation ever since. No one living today can even commit this sin. Of course this view has been much debated and many people don’t agree with it, but when read with the context of the entire books of both Matthew and Mark, I believe it is the one that makes the most sense.
    I wonder if Brian Flemming has ever heard of this view? I doubt that he has and I think he is a poor canidate to critique Christianity because he evidently has a very poor understanding of it.

  • 35. Quester  |  June 26, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Well, that’s one of a couple hundred interpretations that can be attributed to that verse. It’s too bad an all-powerful god couldn’t be more clear when describing the only unforgivable sin. But, hey, no one said God loves us, so it’s perfectly consistent with His character.

  • 36. Joe  |  June 26, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Strella—
    Your interpretation above (#34) (I know it is not “your” interpretation—but one of the interpretations that seems to make the most sense) is a good one. I believe however that the unforgivable sin can be committed presently, but that it is a “sin” that is not committed at one time (like saying “I deny the Holy Spirit)but is a sin that is so willful and continous that the person puts themself in a place of condemnation. As Christians say the “Lake of fire” was created for the devil and his angels, not for man.

    Anyone who arrives there will have put themself there—it won’t be God deciding to put them there. The sin involves being presented the truth CLEARLY so that one KNOWS in their heart it must be the truth—-but STILL REJECT IT. And this continuous and knowing rejection results in the person coming to a place where they can no longer repent. They have literally put themselves in this state by continually rejecting what they no to be true.

    This was the sin of the Pharisees. They had “seen” clearly the miracles that Jesus was doing. They KNEW that Jesus was not a fraud. They KNEW God must be working through him—but due to their pride and unbelief they accused Jesus of casting demons out by Satan himself. They KNEW this to be untrue, but stated it anyway and refused to repent. It is an “attitude of heart”, not a single sin someone can commit. This I believe is also a very valid way of looking at this sin.

  • 37. mysteryofiniquity  |  June 26, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Strella,

    That’s an interesting interpretation and I’ve heard that before taught in churches that I’ve been in. My mother and I have this same argument about words and “denying Christ” out loud should an apocalyptic world come to pass and we are called upon to renounce Christ or die. I have told her when we used to debate this years ago, that what we say out loud matters not a whit; that if God was a true God he/she/it would know in our hearts the true state of it regardless of what we said out loud. Saying something out loud doesn’t make it so any more than standing in a pulpit talking about Christ makes someone a Christian.

    Flemming was taught the same principle perhaps based on the verse that says roughly that if we deny Christ in public he will deny us. But again, those are used in a specific instance and not meant for all time as a first principle. A lot of the bible is a record of experiences of people who lived to either hear of these events or learned them by word of mouth. So, one wonders if somewhere in the transmission it’s meaning has been lost or misinterpreted even by the disciples themselves.

    Thanks for responding to the post and for the interesting take on it.

  • 38. cb  |  August 14, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Shame on Brian Flemming for trying to take away the fundamental right and freedom to worship of 44% of americans. Shame on you, and whore unto you for misleading generations to come.

  • 39. Joe  |  August 14, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Shame on you, and whore unto you for misleading generations to come. (#38)

    Whore unto you? I’ve never heard that phrase before. I would wager to say that 44% of Americans have never heard that phrase before either.

  • 40. Quester  |  August 14, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Wait, CB, are you cursing people with hookers if they deceive? I’m not certain that will bring about the result you seek.

  • 41. Ubi Dubium  |  August 14, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    “…whore unto you?”

    You know, for a lot of people that would be a good thing. I don’t think that came across as the threat you meant it to be!

  • 42. mysteryofiniquity  |  August 14, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I think CB that you meant “woe unto you” and perhaps your mind, dwelling on the “whore” quite a lot, slipped it’s moorings and wrote it out loud. oops. Freudian…. Unless you really meant it and in that case. Cool!! (Thumbs up).

  • 43. Katya  |  August 14, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    A banner ad for “The God Who Wasn’t There” popped up today while I was checking my e-mail. I had never heard of the movie, nor of Brian Flemming. It was hard for me to believe that Mr. Flemming is a former Christian because this is more a propaganda piece, a work of fiction, than a work based on actual facts. One would think that if he were a former Christian that at least he would know something about Christianity. It appears that whatever he encountered as a Christian was not true Biblical Christianity. And you don’t have to look very far to find false teachers and prophets. They are everywhere. They always have been. They are spoken of several times in the Holy Scriptures. “There truly is nothing new under the sun” as King Solomon wrote so succinctly in the book of Ecclesiastes 1:9.

    It appears to me that “The God Who Wasn’t There” is more indicative of Mr. Flemming’s state-of-heart than any commentary on Christians or Christianity.

    I would like to respond to some of the posts here about the blood of Christ. The reason there is so much emphasis on the blood of Christ is because in the Holy Scriptures it points out that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission for sin.” Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17:11 state that “there is life in the blood.” The following also speak of the need for a blood sacrifice: Exodus 24:7-8, Exodus 30:10, Matthew 26:28, Romans 3:25, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:22, I Peter 1:17-19, and the Revelation of Jesus Christ 12:11.

    Jesus fulfilled every single Messianic prophecy in the Holy Scriptures. It is His blood specifically that had to be shed for the remission of sin. Without this blood sacrifice a person will die in their sin and will forfeit immortality. When God created humankind we were made to live forever, but when Adam and Eve sinned death entered into the equation. Not just physical death, but spiritual death as well. Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood so we could live forever. He is the Resurrection and the Life. When He rose from the dead He became the firstfruit of those who will follow.

    Judgment Day is fast approaching. Don’t be foolish and reject God’s plan of salvation. Just as the children of Israel placed the blood on the lintels and doorposts of their homes for protection from the destroyer so, too, you will need the blood of Christ the Messiah to deliver you from the destruction that is coming.

    Exodus 12:23 (New King James Version)
    For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.

  • 44. Quester  |  August 14, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    It was hard for me to believe that Mr. Flemming is a former Christian because this is more a propaganda piece, a work of fiction, than a work based on actual facts.

    It might help if there were some facts for Christianity to be based on.

    It appears that whatever he encountered as a Christian was not true Biblical Christianity.

    Biblical Christianity being whatever version of Christianity hasn’t yet been disproved to the individual believer making such a claim.

    And you don’t have to look very far to find false teachers and prophets. They are everywhere. They always have been.

    I was a false teacher for years, until I stopped believing I knew anything about any gods, including whether they actually exist.

    Jesus fulfilled every single Messianic prophecy in the Holy Scriptures.

    Including many that weren’t Messianic prophecies, until the Greek writers of the Gospel accounts (especially “Matthew”) mangled the Hebrew scriptures to fit.

    When God created humankind we were made to live forever, but when Adam and Eve sinned death entered into the equation. Not just physical death, but spiritual death as well. Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood so we could live forever.

    Too bad Adam was so much more powerful than Jesus. The world would be so much nicer if things were otherwise.

    Don’t be foolish and reject God’s plan of salvation.

    Which of the multitude of incoherent and contradictory plans of which of many gods would that be? Oh, never mind. Thanks for dropping by; feel free to keep moving along.

  • 45. Joe  |  August 14, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Katya—–

    You may have the best of intentions, but you need to know that the majority of people here REALLY do not believe any more. It took me a long time to realize this. It is like trying to convince a 15 year old that there is a Santa Claus. You just can’t do it. He is not going to begin to believe in Santa all over again because of your detailed argiuments.

    Go up to the red exclamation point above and read. I made the mistake of ignoring that small section—-but it really says it all.

  • 46. Joe  |  August 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    To clarify—-the red exclamation point above and to the right that says “Attenion Christian Readers”. Read it first before posting.

  • 47. mysteryofiniquity  |  August 14, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Katya,

    (sigh) Having actually seen the film, I would say that Brian Flemming is indeed a former Christian, and I would say that making that judgment should come after you’ve seen it as well. Your comment is not the first to say all of the things that you’ve said. In fact, your comment is very common and something we’ve all heard here before.

    We know the “plan of salvation.” We know the doctrines of blood atonement and other doctrines under soteriology. We’ve read our bibles backwards and forwards and yes, we’ve all asked Jesus “into our hearts.” Every single devoted fundamentalist Christian who stumbles by our posts has told us we were never truly converted or we did not understand “true Christianity.”

    The tedium of addressing this over and over would be relieved if people would just read the previous posts, comments, and contributor pages first and then, if there was anything new to add, add it.

  • 48. Gary  |  August 14, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    You don’t have to look very far to find false teachers and prophets. They are everywhere. They always have been….. Judgment Day is fast approaching.

    Congratulations, you’ve just made the list of false prophets.

  • 49. Joshua  |  August 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    One would think that if he were a former Christian that at least he would know something about [Katya's understanding of] Christianity.

    The dexterity with which all Christians subtly ascribe infallibility to their own understanding of their religion never ceases to amaze me.

    Katya, I think you are a false prophet.

    Now what?

  • 50. RichVon  |  August 31, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Whore unto you all.

  • 51. LeoPardus  |  August 31, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Why thank you Rich. :)

    Hmmmm… which one shall I pick?

  • 52. Joshua  |  August 31, 2009 at 11:39 am

    That one from Babylon looks fiiiine.

  • 53. Joshua  |  August 31, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Hmmm, I should probably be careful saying stuff like that or some fundamentalists might think I’m serious and conclude I am in league with Satan.

    Although I’m sure they already think that, so it won’t make any difference what I say.

    On that note: I’m the anti-christ everyone. Probably shouldn’t hide it anymore…

  • 54. Anonymous  |  August 31, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    J—–10
    O—-15
    S—-19
    H—–8
    U—-21
    A—-1
    _________
    74

    an atheist = 9 letters

    9 X 74 = 666

    LOL

  • 55. Joe  |  August 31, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Joshua—

    Forgot to put my name. But do the math—-you ARE the anit-christ. LOL

  • 56. Joshua  |  August 31, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Holy crap!

    Thanks Joe, I was beginning to doubt my calling! This brought new life to my predetermined destiny!

    Haha, “an”. Lol.

  • 57. Roy  |  August 31, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I think he meant WHOA unto you. I’m glad to see that most of us are having fun. Humor has a way of defusing hostility which is a good thing.

    I used to go through order the same breakfast every morning at the same fast food restauraut. The price was 3.34. Anytime I would pay with a $10, the little old lady would give me the correct change and call it $6.67.

  • 58. Roy  |  August 31, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Gotta go! Family Guy is on. “The Father, the Son and the Holy Fonz”.

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Attention Christian Readers

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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