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