Tim Leedom's "The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You to Read"

The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You to Read is edited by one Tim Leedom, a man of journalistic and political persuasion who has collected a series of essays by those of like mind (very few actually being scholars of the Bible) and peppered them with "gotcha" quotes, mini-articles of dubious critical worth, and photographs and drawings of sometimes marginal quality.

The title plays upon the "forbidden fruit" temptation, although at my own level of spiritual growth this is about as tempting as being invited to snort chimney soot. My own pastor knows well enough what I do on this page and would not care if I read this book, which in any case, it is too late for him to object, since I already have, and I didn't ask his permission first.

And what did I find? Let's do a summary presentation of most of what's written. I did NOT find any new objections to my faith, which was rather disappointing.

  • An introduction by one Bill Jenkins ("former ABC talk show host"), who has apparently had his sensibilities shaken by the experience of family members joining cults, makes the usual mention of religion as a cause of war and suffering and offers a hint of an endorsement of Graves' "16 Crucified Saviors" thesis.

    This is a foreshadowing of two themes to be repeated regularly in this book: On the one hand, we will be presented with lists of the evils of the church through history; you would never know that the French Revolution and the modern Communist regimes together exceeded the body count and violation record of the church quite a few decades ago. As for the latter, the authors of this book are apparently unaware that the "pagan borrowing" thesis was discredited quite some time ago.

  • William Edelen, a person with no listed qualifications in religious studies whatsoever, makes his case for comparative religious studies programs under the assumption that it will prove just how utterly alike the religions of the world are, and in a daring move alludes to the very discredited idea that Mithraism was a source for Christianity.
  • Other articles suggest Zoroastrianism, sun worship and astrology as sources for Christian belief. The first article uses as a source a work from 1939. Another article cites the Egyptian Horus as a source for Christ, using as a source a work from 1924. Has anyone told these people what year it is?
  • There are also some articles on Islam in this book; at least we're not the only target...
  • A few articles by historical freethinkers like Jefferson, Paine, and Ingersoll, hardly qualified Biblical critics even in their own times.
  • A speech by Chief Seattle which, while properly indicting environmental abuses, turns out to not be authentic -- see here.)
  • A reprint of material on Bible prophecy, absent understanding of typology and ancient quotation and exegetical methods.
  • An item by Howard Teeple, a self-described "former fundamentalist" and one of the few Bible scholars in this book. Much of his essay is against "fundamentalist" interpretation of the Bible, with particular focus on the story of Noah's Ark and alleged contradictions within, along with endorsement of the JEDP theory and citations of pagan flood stories. I would note that Teeple is apparently behind the time on chiastic divisions in the text which indicate that it is a unity.
  • An item by an early Christ-myther named Remsburg, who also between two essays produces perhaps the largest error in the book other than the endorsements of various Dead Sea Scrolls conspiracy theories by the likes of Eisenmann and Baigent and Leigh.

    One of Remsburg's essays is a hateful critique of the ethical commands of the Bible. The first four Commandments are dismissed as "simply religious emanations from the corrupt and disordered brain of priestcraft." Elements of the Sermon on the Mount are dismissed as "false and pernicious." Not one of these charges is justified with any sort of reasoning, much less are the commands understood in their social context.

    Remsburg's second article endorses the Christ-myth; he lists 41 writers -- see our fuller critique link above. Another comment by Remsburg says of Jesus, "His biography has not been written." He didn't know that the Gospels were ancient biographies.

  • A. J. Mattill unleashes himself on C. S Lewis' critique of NT scholars who do not study literature, pointing out admittedly valid inconsistencies in Lewis' arguments. What Mattill does fail to do is discredit the core of Lewis' case, which is that many NT scholars do not properly understand the NT writings from a literary perspective and instead let their own biases rule their judgments. I have run across many, many NT scholars who lack knowledge of ancient rhetorical methods and letter-writing which would refute their preconceptions. Ben Witherington rightly bemoans the distinct lack of classical education today among NT scholars.
  • A somewhat helpful article by a Biblical scholar named Errico on the subject of the NT's Aramaic background, which deals with the divine claims of Jesus by simply putting them off as creations of the church (with no reason given as to why the church would simply create them). The "Son of Man" title, a topic of immense complexity which I myself have only barely touched upon, is dealt with in a mere two paragraphs by simply alleging that the title is a circumlocution for "I". (Not that this item is authoritative anyway, as Errico was a student of George Lamsa.)
  • Another Bible scholar, Gerald Larue, with the standard charges of the Gospels as late documents, dismissal of typology, the usual charges of invention of material, and a few (grudging?) concessions that some parts of the NT may be accurate. For the most part, though, Larue goes on about how modern Christian shrines, locations, and relics are probably not authentic, which won't get a lot of argument from anyone.
  • Also Morton Smith endorsing his Secret Gospel of Mark, which has been prven by Stephen Carlson's Gospel Hoax to have been a forgery by Smith.
  • Shmuel Golding offers up essays endorsing the pagan borrowing thesis and another later on suggesting that Paul borrowed his ideas from Mithraism (see link above).
  • A list of several failed prophecies of "the end" by various religious groups; interestingly, although well within the timeline, that "88 Reasons" book published back in '87 is not on the list.
  • A selection from Herbert Cutner on the alleged unoriginality of the cross symbol -- the same material that Dan Barker used.
  • In the section on doctrine, we are greeted with an exposition of the Trinity by Robert Ingersoll, who would have been easily refuted by the likes of Thomas Morris or even Peter Toon, or by our essay here.
  • A few pieces are offered up by Austin Miles, notably one on original sin. Miles has since reconverted to Christianity, which makes this inclusion ironic. His articles here were mostly "argument by outrage" and he even sees contradiction between Gal. 6:2 and 6:5.
  • Dan Barker offers his "Easter Challenge" and object to harmonization.
  • John Allegro offers the thesis that "Jesus" was a code name for a "sacred mushroom". This thesis was considered so odd that a group of scholars took out an ad in a newspaper denouncing it, but Leedom thought it worth including even so.
  • The largest part of the book by far is devoted to historic crimes of the Church (the Inquisition, etc.), and complaints about modern Christian involvement in politics. In this mix are some odd miscues; for example, a professor of philosophy, Delos McKown, interprets 1 Cor. 1:20 as "denigrating literacy (!), logic, and learning" -- as we have shown elsewhere, it has nothing to do with any of those things.

    Also in this section: Steve Allen on abortion, the treatment of women in the Bible, a helpful item on mail-order degrees (did you know that Madalyn Murray O'Hair was also a minister of the Universal Life Church?), and this comment by Edelen: "It is a historical fact that behind all of the wars and violence of human history, and behind every gun, has been a religious scripture." (395)

    Really? What chapter and verse did Chairman Mao use?

  • Finally, a list of famous "freethinkers" that includes Christians on it - Shakespeare and Solzhenitsyn, for example.

    Bottom line: This over-thick book presents nothing that is either new or threatening to the Christian faith. The compilers perhaps want you to read it because they think that the average church member is not informed enough to know how off base they are, but there are many who are.

    -JPH