Avoiding Confusion By Making Stuff Up

There are basically two tactics used by most fundamentalist preachers when confronted with passages of Scripture that are unclear, confusing, or contradictory to their own doctrinal positions. The most common is simply to pretend that such troublesome verses don’t exist. This involves just reading some other verse before launching into the weekly rant. After all, it’s not like it really matters what the text is, we all know that the sermons is going to end up on the pastor’s four or five pet topics without fail.

But for those who are convicted that ALL Scripture is given for doctrine, reproof, and self-promotion, there exists another tactic: just read it and then make something up. Guess. Theorize. Give random definitions to the words and then just make it say whatever you want. Bonus point if the passage contains words no longer in common usage.

But what must be avoided here at all cost is the fundy s-word: “scholarship.” Definitely don’t open up commentaries by other people who actually have a clue about the original languages, cultural context, and traditional interpretation. Don’t read translations that straighten out the syntax a little. Just make something up and keep moving. After all, every fundy pastor has The Spirit, And THE CALL™, and the best doctorate that his home church can provide him. Trusting him is inevitable.

But whatever the case there’s something I’ve only heard a handful of fundamentalist pastors in my life ever say: “I don’t know what that means. I don’t think anybody really does.” Honesty like that is almost as rare as a really good exegesis of Genesis 38:8-10.

139 thoughts on “Avoiding Confusion By Making Stuff Up”

    1. My first “first”. :mrgreen:

      I’ve sat through sermons of avoidance and sermons of inventive ambiguity. Thankfully, our new pastor studies things out, and just last Sunday night when I asked him a question told us, “I don’t know everything.” :grin: We found a GREAT pastor.

  1. Then, there was Jack Hyles’ question and answer time, every Sunday evening, where he introduced himself as the “source of all knowledge,” with a self-deprecating smile, and proceeded to yes, make stuff up, to answer questions. I never heard him say “I don’t know.” I did hear him yell at the questioner when JH did NOT know an answer, and harshly tell the questioner that “I am not here to WHY God, I am just here to obey Him!” He also got harsh whenever he was questioned on IFB doctrine. :evil: :roll: :mad:

        1. I remember “Source of all knowledge and font of all wisdom” or some such ridiculous statement. And then people would ask him things ranging from what kind of car they ought to buy to who he thought might win the Superbowl. And yes, if it was a hard question he would berate the person asking it and avoid answering. It made asking a question kindof like a game of whack-a-mole or russian roulette.

    1. I hate the Q&A hour! I hated that it was mandatory for HAC students on church property at 6:00pm. I hated how he treated people when they had legitimate questions and he would belittle them. The whole thing just made my skin crawl.
      I usually sat on the back row of the deaf section and read a book during that hour. :evil:

      1. Groucho Marx once said that he found television very educational – whenever it was on, he went to the library and read a good book. Did you find Jack Hyles to be educational in the same way? Three differences between Hyles and TV – a TV can be switched off, you can turn the volume down, and there is more than one channel

        1. Yeah, me too. I would have looked at Amilyn and thought, “HOW can she risk missing ANY of this great advice and wisdom? She must be VERY unspiritual and worldly. I wonder what she is reading. I am sure it can’t possibly have more value than what is being said here in this moment…” (I was so advanced in my fundy judgementalism back then)

  2. Are there little gold stars being handed out if we knew what Genesis 38:8-10 said without looking it up? And yes, I have a pretty good exegesis of it.

      1. LOL – a lot of people use that to say that no contraception is ever ok.

        But what I’ve heard preached is that he was supposed to be providing her with a son, who would be counted as his older brother’s son, and who would then get his inheritance, so he was deliberately trying to keep her from having a son so that he could unfairly get his share of his brother’s inheritance.

        Would be interesting to see if there are any other interpretations of the passage.

        But yeah, that’s why exegesis is important :razz:

        1. Ok, I’ve reread what I wrote and it’s confusing.

          What I was taught was: In that culture, when a man dies, his inheritance was divided among his sons, but his firstborn son would get double the portion. Also, if a man died without having children, his brother was supposed to conceive a son with the widow, and that son was counted to be the dead man’s son and would get his inheritance.

          Judah had three sons. Er was married off to Tamar, but Er was killed. Onan, the second brother, was then supposed to provide Tamar with a son, but he wanted the lion’s share of the inheritance. If Tamar had a son, it would get a full half of what Judah left to them, whereas Onan would only get a quarter. So he deliberately made sure Tamar wouldn’t get pregnant. So God killed him too. Then Judah was supposed to give the youngest son, Shelah, to Tamar, but he didn’t, so she dressed up as a prostitute and had twins by Judah instead.

          And these are the days of our lives…

        2. One of the other interpretations that I’ve heard is that this passage is why masturbation is wrong. Semen spilled on the ground equals death from God.

          But you did mention what I believe is the correct exegesis. When you read all of Genesis as a whole and especially the Jacob narrative you realize the importance of the birthright. The reason he wouldn’t impregnate Tamar is because he wanted the larger birthright, inheritance, and blessing.

        3. Wait… How is drfiddledd allowed to post a vid on here. I thought we weren’t allowed to do that.

          Am I going to have to move to the other side of the church again?

        4. My personal interpretation: Onum felt chest pains and jumped up just at the ‘magical moment’, then keeled over dead of a heart attack. Incident recorded as not doing ones duty to his brother. Mid nineteenth century, along comes Sylvester Graham and other Seventh Day Adventists who reinterpret this as spilling of seed being a deadly sin. They start a campaign against the most grievous sin a man can commit. Everybody suffers ever since.

        5. @Eric

          If that were true, all guys would be dead by age 15 – both the 95% that admit to it and the 5% that lie about it. ;)

        6. If I remember correctly, Graham (for whom the cracker is named) was against all sex, as well as consuming alcohol or meat. Go figure.

        7. Tiarali wrote:

          “Then Judah was supposed to give the youngest son, Shelah, to Tamar, but he didn’t, so she dressed up as a prostitute and had twins by Judah instead.”

          So did God strike down Judah or Tamar for this kind of deceitful nonsense? No? Why the heck not?

          Oh yeah, he’s God, and he works in mysterious ways, and we are not to question him. :roll:

          (The sarcasm and eye roll are NOT directed at you, Tiarali, but at the inconsistency of God’s punishment of people in the Bible.)

        8. Tiarali’s interpretation is pretty obviously the correct one. But that doesn’t make it much less strange to us, since Levirate marriage, younger brothers’ marrying older brother’s widows, brothers fathering children by proxy to be heirs to deceased men, and prostitution being respectable under the right circumstances, are all pretty foreign to our culture and our experience.

          If reading a modern Bible translation is a “perversion,” then what would you call all that?

        9. My favorite anecdote related to Genesis 38:8-10 is that the writer Dorothy Parker was said to have had a parakeet named Onan. She said she called him that because “he spills his seed on the ground.”

        10. @Natalie, Darrell has put for the claim that the youtube embedding is done automatically by the comments software he has on SFL. I personally think he’s pulling a fast one and making that up, and that you should definitely move back over to my side of the sanctuary!

        11. More interestingly, the story of Tamar and her need to conceive is plunked right smack down in the middle of the narrative about Judah and his relationship with Joseph. Seen in that light, it’s part of a larger story about how Judah went from being a man of no honor to a man who would willingly offer himself up for punishment in his brother Benjamin’s place. The point of the story about Tamar is that after Judah used her as a prostitute, then found he was the father of his own daughter-in-law’s child, he had to confront his own hypocrisy. This became key in his later dealings with Joseph–he finally was able to face up to his own sin.

        12. @grace2live, did you get that from Francine Rivers’ story about Tamar? I never realized that until I read her book, but it totally makes sense! I’d always wondered why JUDAH was the one who spoke up to take Benjamin’s place in jail in Egypt instead of the oldest Reuben, but now I think it’s because of what he learned in that experience with Tamar.

        1. Only if you don’t accept the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth, because Perez was an ancestor of Joseph, not Mary.

        2. @ Big Gary: Your point is well taken. However, the genealogy of St. Joseph was important enough to St. Matthew that he began his gospel with it—another instance of the writers of Scripture taking a different view of what was important to the story than 21st century Americans.

  3. How many times have I been reading the Bible and found stuff and wondered “How come they never preach on this?” They do always go to the same chapters and verses and preach the same things over and over again. And often they will take stuff out of context to preach what they want to preach. It gets so annoying when a pastor will take something and twist it that way. :roll:

    1. My friends and I have discussed this topic; we generally think that the reason many IFB preacher skip certain passages is that they don’t believe God has given us things He wants us to know; they think everything is meant to be practical. So, if they cannot figure out a way to guilt the sheeple into doing something from a passage, they don’t preach on it.

      I’ve heard numerous IFB preachers mock Biblical knowledge, and I’ve heard a preacher say that he had a complete message, but wouldn’t preach it because he hadn’t figured out a way to make it “practical”.

    2. “How come they never preach on this?”

      Like John 6:48-58? Oh wait, that sounds too Catholic. Can’t be preaching on that.

      1. Jesus was always saying embarrassing things like that, and then not explaining that He didn’t really mean them because, you know, He didn’t know that the Orthodox, Catholics, and the majority of protestant denominations would believe Him. :roll:
        SFL: Believing the Bible. Except the parts the Catholics believe.

      2. Southern Baptists believe the same about communion that IFB believe, and I have heard that scripture taught on in a Southern Baptist church. It was taught that it’s not literal; that it means to partake of His teaching, and to have the Holy Spirit inside of you. I’m not sure I explained that too well. :mrgreen:

        1. Did they claim this passage did not refer to the Lord’s Supper? Because every Baptist church I’ve been in taught this passage was about the Lord’s Supper. But they also taught that Baptism and Communion were absolutely NOT necessary for salvation, that is, you could pray the sinner’s prayer, attend church for the next 50 years without ever being baptized or taking communion, and still be saved. They didn’t like to look at this passage in detail or bring it up too often.

          Kind of like all those passages that say, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.”

  4. Lol I’d also like to hear an “exegesis” on that passage. :mrgreen:

    We were highly discouraged against reading Song of Solomon or asking questions about it when I was in the IFB. Wonder why that was? :shock: :mrgreen:

    1. Was that even for married people?

      At the Southern Baptist church I go to now, we get a kick out of the High Schoolers and The Song of Solomon sometimes. They’re soooo funny! :lol:

      1. Well this was before I was married so no. But even now I still have the habit of skipping through that book in the bible cause I was so used to never reading it! :roll:

        I remember my little sister getting angry during family devotions one night because I found a hilarious verse in SOS and read it out loud. :mrgreen:

        I’m sure anyone could guess which verse that was. :shock: :lol:

        1. SoS 7:8? I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.” May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples,

        2. At age 16, I was indignant and angry that God had put such foul words in Holy Scripture. That’s the kind of self-righteous arrogance that can result from a super-sheltered IFB upbringing. But I was angry that here my parents were trying to hide me from sin by not letting me join any extra-curricular events, not having a TV, being super strict about what I read, averting our eyes and hurrying by the Greco-Roman room in the museum with all the naked statues, yet there was the very thing my parents were trying to keep me away from written out in their precious KJV (the ONLY Bible suitable to read, according to my parents). Either the Bible was wrong or my parents were wrong.

  5. Fundys don’t address doubtful or ambiguous passages because there is no ambiguity or doubt with the ultimate and final authority, and that is the Notorious M.O.G. God is not the author of confusion, so any questions that may disprove Notorious must be quashed rather than addressed.

  6. Right. Nothing from Song of Solomon.

    How is it that I only heard two out of context verses quoted from Leviticus in all my years of warming pews, going to Christian Camp and Christian schools?

      1. Send it along privately, and I will let you know if it is suitable for public viewing. :wink: Because censorship is SO my thing… NOT! :grin:

        1. I like the euphemism “duet”. As in he used to sing and would know for his duets with so and so. Then one day he sang a duet with her, and the next thing you know they were dueting all the time.

    1. Ughhh!!! That gave me a headache. The guy is full of …., well you know. When the Bible talks about “your/his/her nakedness, I am pretty sure it is talking about genitals, butts, and women’s breasts. Also, when the king James has the word, “thigh” isn’t it used as a euphemism for testicles/genitals? So does this also apply when the word thigh is used in reference to women also as in Numbers 5:21? I understand that a woman wearing shorts in Bible times would be considered imodest because that was their middleeastern culture, we have no such culture here and if we dressed like they did we would look retarded! Any of you guys want to wear a tunic, women want to wear a veil? The breaches were definitely underwear to cover the genitals when they went up to offer sacrifices so that the people down below couldn’t look up and get flashed. None of this was learned from IFB sermons but by actually reading the Bible for myself and I was appalled that I had always been taught those things with the IFB twist added. :evil: :evil:

    2. That guy, Steven Anderson, is pretty much the king of Making Stuff Up.
      If you haven’t yet, check out his sermon on “Pissing Against a Wall.” It is not to be missed.

        1. I listened to it last night, and sent the link to my husband to listen to as well. I am appalled, I mean simply APPALLED that some fundy pastor stood behind his pulpit, supposedly in a room of both men and women and said this stuff. It was so indecent to say this behind the pulpit! And he was so gross and disgusting and chauvinistic! We’ve heard him before, in fact for a while he was a member of a yahoo group my husband moderates and he booted him out! The guy is wacko! And he’s part of why fundy-dom is full of weirdos. He even makes Hyles sound good by comparison. :twisted:

    3. that verse has nothing to do with modesty – its referring to the covenant sealed by holding the thigh- uncovering it is breaking the covenant – yeah, I heard it preached as “boys shouldn’t wear shorts” when I was a young’n

  7. Avoiding confusion in any way possible isn’t just a Fundie thing. Many evangelicals would rather pretend doubt doesn’t exist, or at the most give it a glib answer, than dealing with it honestly.

    WORLD Magazine reported here: http://worldoncampus.com/article/religion/2011/10/making_room_for_doubt_in_the_church: that young adults weren’t finding answers for real questions in the church.

    I know that a few years back I tried to question a very small matter – the timing of the Rapture. I was handed a bunch of very poor theological reasoning and sternly reminded that I had to interpret the Bible literally, and the only way to do this was hold to a Pre-Trib rapture (and this wasn’t even in the Fundie church).

    Christians of conservative stripes simply can’t handle doubt. They can’t deal with even a hint of ambiguity. Everything needs to be closed off, clearly, in a nice, neat package – even if there’s nothing in that package.

    1. Oops, that’s not a pretty hyperlink. Can anyone tell me how to hyperlink in a better way?

      1. I apologize for causing any confusion between our names, Lady Julian; but I must say that your namesake is one of my favourite medieval mystics. I will do my best not to set a poor example for our mutual moniker, and will only be honoured if anyone happens to mistake me for you.

        1. Maybe just Julian, to avoid confusion?

          A few of the posters here are married to each other, and Sir Julian and Lady Julian . . . :shock:

          Yeah, let’s not give that impression. :smile:

        2. Ha, excellent point. Actually, my friends call me Jules. I’ll just use that.

    2. Avoiding confusion in any way possible isn’t just a Fundie thing. Many evangelicals would rather pretend doubt doesn’t exist, or at the most give it a glib answer, than dealing with it honestly.

      Comment of the week.

  8. “doctrine, reproof, and self-promotion” :lol:

    My ex-fundy MOG had no fear (of God or man) :evil: . He would simply read the text, inserting and omitting words as needed to make it say what he wanted. There never was reference to other translations, original languages, commentaries. He would just do it. Sometimes he would read it correctly, but then dialog for about 5 minutes until everyone forgot what the text stated. Then he would summarize the verse. Sometimes the summary would be the exact opposite of what the text said.

    MOG get away with this because the sheeple want to believe, not in God, but rather the MOG. :cry:

    1. So, do you have to prove your Moggishness to download it or can anyone?
      How do they make sure that women don’t dowload it? Is there a test for that?
      How do they make sure people with real doctorates don’t dowload it?
      How about Methodists? Or Presbyterians? Or…shudder….Catholics? Is there some built in protection against…you know….THEM?

      I assume the point of this app is for fundy Mogs to turn up the volume on their cell phones and play The Call™ in the presence of unsuspecting teenage boys, thus enabling God to “make them an offer they can’t refuse”. This makes for great newsletter fodder for the Mog. It will also provide him with years of illustrations for his sermons.
      In my group, The Call™ was presented like it was an offer from Don Corleone. If you didn’t immediately accede, God and Satan would essentially double-team you until you gave in.

  9. My inlaws have a thought-stopping answer to any question you may have: “Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and ask Jesus about that when we get to Heaven.”

    No need for inquiry, no need for studying, no need for learning more about the Bible. It makes things easier to just have a trite and pointless expression handy to shut down conversation.

    I bought an old theology book at an antique store several years ago that deals with the difficult passages in Scripture and attempts to explain them. I was amazed at some of the truths that are taught by those passages if one takes the time to study them.

    1. I suspect Jesus will answer some of their questions with “I haven’t a clue,” and others with, “It wasn’t supposed to say that. Someone made an error in copying the scroll.”

        1. Funny! I saw the “beth” under latest comments after I posted on another thread and thought “I don’t remember just now posting on this thread.” Beth, you just made me think I was working too hard or something! :lol:

      1. Shoes…i recently notified all IFB Churches in America of this oversight and they’ve committed to righting the error this coming Sunday.

        1. Also notice that Deuteronomy passage (14:26) specifically gives them permission to spend the money on wine or strong drink. No fundy would like that!!!

      1. That is a fasciniating interpretation. Now I’ve really got to go reread the passage for myself!

        In general, though, I’ve always felt the same way as the first part of that (that tithing is clearly part of the old covenant, like their example of going to Jerusalem every year) and that tithing was much more about your heart being right than a specific amount given. Also, the idea in that interpretation that it was meant to be shared with others, especially the poor… I really like that idea. It very much seems to fit other things I’ve read in the Bible.

        1. Fundy pastors are afraid if they were to teach people to give as God leads rather than telling them that they’re under a curse for not tithing, they’d lose 90% of the church’s income meaning their salary. Wrong. If people gave as God led them, some would give more than a tithe and some would give less. Everyone would give something because God can’t bless if you give nothing. No matter how poor you are, you can give something and God can bless you for your obedience because He knows how much money you have and what your other financial obligations are. He will not tell you to give more than you can afford. The fundy pastor who tells you you are under a curse for not tithing and who will take that money so his wife can shop at fancy stores while their poorer church members are subsisting on macaroni and cheese and wondering where the rent payment is coming from will be answering to God for it one day. How dare they?

          Funny how they never preach anything else out of Malachi but tithing eh? There is a lot of stuff that can be preached out of Malachi, but no, it’s always, “Turn to Malachi 3:8″… and you know what’s coming. :roll:

      2. Hey, I went to fundy high school with a Dean Van Druf. I think it is the same guy. BOY he looks different though. I forgot to read the article cause I was so surprised, my sisters and I were just talking about them yesterday. Weird weird world.

  10. DUDE! It’s kind of weird but when I went to biblegateway.com to look some stuff up, look at what the verse of the day is.

    Does Paul mean that ALL scripture is to be used for the following that he describes? I’m only asking because I never thought of it that maybe he didn’t mean all. I’m not sure.

    Someone help! :)

    1. I’m no Bible scholar, but maybe he meant that it’s all inspired and all useful, but different parts are useful for different purposes. I’m sure people here could give many examples of preachers trying to make a point from a passage that was written with an entirely different purpose in mind. Bill Gothard built his kingdom on using Scripture this way.

    2. Also, Paul meant the Hebrew scriptures as they existed in his time. I doubt he was so arrogant as to consider his own writings to be scripture.

      1. Correct. When Paul mentioned “scripture,” or “writings,” he referred to the Hebrew Bible. The Gospels, Acts, and Revelation had not been written yet, and he did not call his own letters sacred writings.

  11. at my fundy U the guy who taught romans skipped over chapters 9,10 & 11 because he “didn’t have time” what a joke.

    1. Once in my adult Sunday school, the pastor offered to answer anybody’s questions about the Bible.

      I asked, “What did it mean when Jesus wanted some figs, but the fig tree didn’t have figs on it because figs weren’t in season, so Jesus cursed the tree, and it died?”

      The pastor said, “Um … yes. We’ll be sure to get back to that if we have time.” (He never got back to it.)

      (By the way, I’m aware that there is a conventional interpretation of this story. I don’t find it a very satisfying one, though.)

      Another such question I asked on a similar occasion was, “How can salt lose it’s flavor? Salt is a mineral. It doesn’t get stale or go rancid, even after thousands of years.”
      To her credit, the minister (a different one) who fielded that question simply said, “I have no idea. If you find out, let me know.”

      1. On the salt one, I’ve wondered that myself. I wonder if the point isn’t so much that it could actually lose its flavor (or flavour, or whatever it is in Ye Olde KJV1769-but-we’ll-call-it-1611) but more that if it did lose the properties that made it unique and actually salt, as opposed to just some random white crystal, we wouldn’t value it at all.

      2. I’m pretty sure that the fig tree was supposed to represent the faithful Jewish nation in rabbinic thought. Jesus was like ‘Oh, look, this fig tree sucks just like those Pharisees.’ Dunno if that’s what you heard.

        1. Yes, that’s the conventional interpretation. The tree was the Jewish people, and they were about to be cut off for not bearing spiritual fruit.
          But the analogy is very problematic: How is it fair to kill a fig tree for not having fruit when it’s the wrong season for figs?
          As Elton John might sing, “It’s like trying to find gold in a silver mine/ It’s like trying to drink whisky from a bottle of wine.”

        2. As a matter of fact, I’ve been told that people in the Holy Land customarily do not cut down healthy olive trees. The olivewood goods sold as souvenirs are carved from branches that have been pruned off in the process of culturing the olive groves. That’s the official story, anyway.

  12. I love that Monty Python clip! In the theatre, we were rolling in the aisles. The Catholics loved it most, especially all the kids he is singing to (all supposed to be his, of course)…

    When a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate! :mrgreen:

  13. I actually owe a lot to preachers who constatntly ignore passages, make stuff up, and misinterpret things. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have realized what a cult the school that I went to was. Thankfully they were so bad that the majority of people that I am aware of from that school do not follow what was taught there.

  14. Darrell, you’re missing one key piece of information: all this theology/exegesis nonsense is just a waste of time that keeps us from winning souls, amen?

    And furthermore, you’re just a mocker. :mrgreen:

  15. also, i never did buy the traditional IFB interpretation of the “unpardonable sin”, i.e. that it MUST mean “rejecting Jesus as your savior.” that seems to be what it has to mean in order to fit IFB theology, but the passage itself indicates that attributing the Holy Spirit’s work to Satan is the unpardonable sin.

    1. Isn’t attributing the Word of God to Satan – like when fundies call the ESC, NASB and NIV perversions – attributing the Holy Spirit’s work (of preservation) to Satan? Yet, people have repented of that wrong understanding…

      What exactly do you mean?

  16. You miss so much when you can (or think you can) explain everything, and nail it down. Once you’ve got all of the answers, you can move on to the next thing.

  17. Personally, I’m glad I don’t understand everything in the Bible, same as I’m glad I don’t understand everything about physical laws or how the universe works. How boring would that be if you knew everything?

    …no offense meant to the Lord, of course! As an omniscient, omnipotent, omnietcetera being, I seriously doubt boredom is a problem.

    1. I don’t think knowing things can cause boredom. Everything I learn just opens up a lot more questions, showing me how much more there is to learn than the little I know. This just makes the world more and more interesting.

  18. Fundy U’s have a sort of altered version of this. They claim to believe firmly in scholarship and they encourage students to read commentaries and other doctrine/Bible books. Of course, there were very few authors that were dubbed “profitable” to read (dubbed, or course, by the administration, which was the Fundy U version of the all-knowing pastor-who-is-never-wrong-ever). And if you ever read something in those books that disagreed with the school, you were to assume the school was right. They justified this by saying something like “Well, we have a whole school of teachers and Bible scholars. We’ve studied it out extensively, so we know what we’re talking about.” Because obviously the commentary writers didn’t do research, and clearly the admins have more of the Holy Spirit than them. :roll:

    Thank God that, despite the number of mindless followers, there were still those few teachers who taught and encouraged their students to study it out for themselves instead of just accepting whatever they are told.

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