The Creationist Gospel of Wrath

Creationism Teach the Controversy

 

The Lutheran-Calvinist Gospel of Wrath called believers to choose between manmade religion and Almighty God, unfiltered. The entire Roman Catholic tradition was portrayed as an abomination of manmade rituals, doctrines, and superstitions. True believers chose God Alone: omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. However, this Augustinian-Lutheran-Calvinist deity was frightening and often incomprehensible. Did the great loving God of the universe really predestine a small number of elect for salvation and condemn vast multitudes to eternal torment ‘for His own pleasure’? Was the atonement of Jesus really limited to the elect few?

 

The doctrine that God Alone calls the elect and cleanses them of all sin became known as monergism (Greek – working alone). The opposite is synergism, from which we get the word synergy (working together). Common sense and practical experience suggested that there is a synergy between divine calling and human response, between divine guidance and human obedience.  Synergism is a heresy according to Augustine, Luther, and Calvinist. It is the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism whereby human beings take part in working out their own salvation. (Note, synergism is not a heresy for the Eastern Orthodox Church, for most contemporary Catholics, or for Protestants who have evolved a theology of Anti-wrath.) 

 

Post-Reformation Christianity became the world’s most widespread religion for three reasons: massive revival campaigns restored the faith among ‘cultural Christians’ who had drifted into agnosticism or indifference; persistent missionary campaigns took the Gospel message to the four corners of the globe; and strategic programs of conversion were implemented among the European colonial empires. By the 1850s it seemed quite possible that entire world would be converted to Christianity within a generation or two.  How much of this evangelization would have taken place had ‘God Alone’ been left to call the lost? Even the most ardent Calvinists were forced to admit that Christianity appeared to operate synergistically: God commanded from on high while His ‘Christian soldiers’ marched ever onward.

 

The modern ‘synergistic’ Gospel of Wrath can be traced to John Wesley.  Born in 1703, a contemporary of Voltaire and Rousseau, Wesley was a child of the Enlightenment.   Early in his ministry, Wesley’s partner in evangelism was George Whitefield. They were both Anglicans but Whitefield defended the Church of England's Calvinist doctrine of predestination while Wesley’s belief in freewill alienated him from the religious establishment of his day. He was obliged to form an independent denomination.  Wesley’s ‘Methodists’ were persecuted by Anglicans, Presbyterians and Baptists in the UK, and Catholics in Ireland. 

 

Despite his Pelagian ideas about freewill, Wesley was a staunch defender of Augustine’s doctrine of Original Sin and wrote an entire book on the subject. Wesley’s defence of Original Sin can be summarised into two principles. The first was empirical: sin is universal; therefore every single person born into this world is a sinner. Wesley regarded ‘universal sin’ and ‘original sin’ as synonymous, although the universality of sin does not require Adam and Eve to have been the cause.  Wesley’s second principle was practical: the deep work of  salvation and transformation cannot begin until the sinner is terrified by the certainty of eternal condemnation for the unsaved.

 

Wesley knew that very few non-believers are guilty of heinous crimes such as murder which might make them fear divine wrath. Most people will only confess to minor transgressions that do not deserve eternal damnation. The doctrine of Original Sin was for Wesley, as it had been for Augustine, a weapon of mass conversion. The crushing burden of guilt is not personal, but inherited.

 

Wesley was one of the most successful Christian evangelists in history, and the founder of a brand of faith that would be extremely influential throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the great revival leaders, including Charles Finney and Billy Graham, were inspired by John Wesley.  Modern disciples of Wrath preach the love and grace of God for the saved but remain absolutely convinced that ‘unsaved’ will suffer the horror of hell-fire and brimstone because of the doctrine of Original Sin.  

 

The difference between Augustinian, Lutheran and Calvinist monergism and the ‘synergistic’ Gospel of Wrath is that every sinner can accept the gift salvation of his own freewill.  The synergistic message was that no one is predestined to suffer; God wants everyone to be saved; the only thing preventing salvation is the stubbornness of the unrepentant sinner. Therefore the ‘unsaved’ are deliberate enemies of God. 

 

This new synergistic ‘theology’ is close to Semi-Pelagianism. Augustinians, Lutherans and Calvinists have written entire libraries to prove that it is impossible to believe in both Original Sin-God Alone and Freewill- Human Choice.  That has not prevented Wesley’s compromise from becoming the fastest growing form of Christianity in the modern world.

 

These renegade Methodists were a major inspiration for the 19th century Holiness Movement.  In the early 20th century ‘Pentecostals’ became an independent denomination because they were driven out of mainline Churches for their heretical beliefs about freewill and supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecostal theology combines a belief in freewill with absolute commitment to the doctrine of Original Sin. 

 

As Christianity was splintering into warring tribes during the Post-Reformation (Catholics v Protestants, Calvinists v Arminians, Anglicans v Methodists, Fundamentalists v Holy Rollers etc) the Enlightenment was bombarding the world with new ideas which undermined belief in an omnipresent God. Scientific thinkers showed that earthquakes are caused by movements of tectonic plates, not divine wrath. Storms are caused by changes in atmospheric pressure, not shifts in divine humour.  Plagues have natural causes, which are both treatable and preventable. The almighty micromanaging Lord of the Universe was progressively reduced to a God of the Gaps.  One hundred years ago, the smart money was betting on the ultimate triumph of science to explain away all the mysteries of religion. Many bright people were convinced that religious systems would soon be as inconsequential as flat earth geography.    

 

Well, they were wrong. By the mid-20th century the various factions of the Gospel of Wrath had been so badly damaged by scientific rationalism and an emerging Gospel of Anti-wrath that they united around the one point they all agreed upon – the doctrine of Original Sin.  The coalition of Wrath was born of desperation but has been extraordinarily effective in reviving an Augustinian/ Lutheran/ Calvinist world view.

 

Modern disciples of Wrath declared war on science in the early years of the 20th century.  This anti-science strategy has been remarkably popular and effective. In parts of the USA, Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia the number of atheists has stagnated for decades while the number of people who believe in a literal Garden of Eden and a global flood has risen dramatically.

 

The greatest weakness of science is the scientific method, which begins in ignorance and acquires knowledge via trial and error.  Luther and Calvin forced Protestants to choose Almighty God over the complicated, contradictory, corrupted teachings of the Catholic Church. Multitudes of ex-Catholics became militant anti-Catholics.  Modern disciples of Wrath are forcing believers to choose Almighty God over the complicated, contradictory, corrupted teachings of Science. The most zealous proselytisers are credentialed scientists who are ex-atheists or agnostics. They have become true believers in the inerrant Biblical Authority of God of Wrath.  

 

The Bible says that God created the universe perfectly good. The story of Eden can be used to explain how sin, suffering, evil and death entered the world. It is the fault of Man. The Bible reveals that God responded to a Fallen World with unconditional love by providing a Saviour. We are all sinners. We all require a personal saviour. The story is so simple a child can grasp it.

 

The doctrine of Original Sin derives its authority from a literal reading of Genesis; Adam and Eve had to be literal, historical characters. The chronology of the Bible situates them in recent history, approximately 4,000 BC.  The doctrine of Original Sin attributes all sin, suffering, evil and death to these recent events in Eden. Therefore, evolution over billions of years is impossible, despite what the scientific ‘evidence’ suggests. Therefore dinosaurs could not have been extinct prior to the rebellion of Adam and Eve.  The conflict is not a question of evidence, which can be manipulated and misinterpreted, but a matter of authority.  Who are you going to believe, Almighty God, or a bunch of improvising, careerist scientists?   As the debate is reduced to a question of faith, and increasingly blind faith, the scientific evidence becomes incidental.  

 

If all sin and suffering can be blamed on Adam, then the claims of Jesus to be universal Saviour of the human race takes on a powerful meaning. We are all condemned because of Adam, and some of us will saved via Jesus as our Saviour. Augustinians, Lutherans, and Synergists disagree about who is saved and why, but they speak with one voice about who is condemned (all) and why (Eden).  Therefore, all contemporary disciples of Wrath are united in a campaign to prove that Adam and Eve were created (not evolved) recently, in a world that was perfect; without sin, suffering, evil and death.   This theology clashes with the scientific world view. This ‘cultural war’ may appear to be nonsense for non-Bible-literalists, but for disciples of Wrath the conflict is deadly serious.       

 

In early 2014 Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Science Museum, and Bill Nye, TV’s ‘the Science Guy’, debated creationism versus evolution.  It was not much of a debate.  Bill Nye defended science and poked holes in Creationist beliefs. Ken Ham talked more about religion than science. He was perfectly candid that the conflict is one of world views and a battle for authority.  Who are you going to trust – a perfect God or imperfect men?

 

After the debate, the scientific community shrugged that it was mostly a waste of time.  They heard nothing new from the Creationist camp, and realized that had had probably made no new converts. 

 

Creationists had a field day. Within 24 hours they had listed every one of Bill Nye’s pro-science, anti-creationism arguments, and provided counter arguments drawn from creationist websites, written by credentialed scientists. Creationists declared a hands-down victory. Anyone sitting on the fence would be impressed by their fervour, conviction and detailed documentation.

 

Creationists have deftly attacked the scientific world view at its weakest points, arguing that we can observe dogs ‘evolving’ into different ‘kinds’ of dogs, but no one has ever seen a dog evolve into a cat.  Fossil-dating methods are invalidated with evidence that rocks known to be newly formed by volcanoes have been misdated by millions of years. Allegedly ancient dinosaur bones have been found with perishable soft tissue still attached.  The discovery of DNA and the complexity of self-replication make it easy to argue that life can only be explained by an intelligent designer; that mutations lead to a loss of genetic ‘information’ which causes degeneration rather than ‘evolution.’  And then there is Noah’s flood which can explain why animals were preserved as complete fossils rather than torn apart and devoured by predators, why thick layers of sedimentation are associated with fossil fuels, and why the face of the earth has been ravaged by catastrophic destruction.

 

An entire parallel ‘world view’ has emerged from a Biblical interpretation of the ‘observed facts.’  More and more scientists with doctoral credentials are defending their religious faith by contributing specialized evidence about flaws, oddities and biases in the scientific community. 

 

As the new Creationist Gospel of Wrath gains momentum it becomes bolder; its disciples demonize science and call for education reform to restore religion to the classroom. The scientific community is stunned.  Why are Creationists so stubborn and so stupid? Why do they believe this nonsense?  The modern Gospel of Wrath is responsible for the fastest growing, most youthful churches in the world, at a time when mainline churches, which have adopted the Gospel of Anti-wrath, are declining, emptying and dying off.

 

The cornerstone of the modern Gospel of Wrath remains the doctrine of Original Sin. The ‘unsaved’ are still condemned to eternal damnation without exception, which makes it essential for this gospel to be preached to a dying world. Disciples of Wrath are, paradoxically, motivated by love. They want to save their families, friends and neighbours from the horrors to come. They want the world to know the love of God which brings joy, peace and serenity.   

 

Wesley’s belief in freewill makes salvation available to all, not just the elect few. This is the motor for evangelization. Anyone can be saved, anywhere, anytime, by simply reciting the sinner’s prayer.   Who in their right mind would reject such an offer?  Who would willingly choose sin, suffering, evil and death over grace, happiness, righteousness and eternal life? Therefore, to reject salvation is to embrace damnation.  The blame for eternal torment rests squarely on the shoulders of the unrepentant sinners who reject the gift of salvation. This might be terrible and it might be incomprehensible, but this synergistic Gospel of Wrath allows God to remain full of love, mercy and justice. 

 

From the outside, the Creationist Gospel of Wrath is strange and frightening.  Many disciples of Wrath have declared a cultural war against scientists, atheists, homosexuals and any number of enemies who corrupt ‘the culture.’ Disciples of Wrath perpetuate a climate of fear in which true believers are fighting alongside God while all God’s enemies are fighting with Satan.  Many believe that the world will soon be destroyed at the Second Coming of Jesus.

 

Christian disciples of Wrath have watched the intransigence and violence of Islamic fundamentalism as it seizes control of the Middle East; some of them are stock-piling weapons, preparing for Armageddon.   Are we entering a new era of religious wars?  Disciples of Wrath have no fear of war because their Almighty God will destroy His enemies.

 

return to The Reformed Gospel of Wrath - Luther and Calvin

 

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5  The Gospel of Anti-wrath  

 

6. Rational Atheism

 

7. Militant Atheism

 

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