Over the last several months I have been responding to a series of YouTube videos produced by unevangelist, Chris Redford, a former Assembly of God youth group member turned atheist. Most of his videos are professionally made, and His soft-spoken manner and “Christian” music do not fit the stereotypical view of an angry atheist.  Nevertheless, his viewpoint in the latest videos I watched can be summed up this way: “I don’t like the God of the Bible.  I am smarter than Him, and I have better moral standards.”  Few of his arguments in Deconversion 2.3 and 2.4 discuss the existence of God, and though he directly attacks the Bible as the Word of God, the videos mostly reveal his personal dissatisfaction with the God of the Bible.  For the better part of thirty minutes, he makes no appeal outside his own experience and feelings.

At one point, Redford describes his failed attempt to read the Bible through for the first time, cover to cover, at about age 22.  He eventually sets large portions of it aside as a waste of time.  His actual knowledge of the whole Bible was so thin it is not surprising that he finds himself relying on “the spirit’s leading” rather than the actual text of the Book that the Holy Spirit wrote.  The Bible warns against putting experience above Scripture:

II Peter 1:16-21:  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.

Mark 7:9-13   And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:  But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

One problem Redford has with the Bible is the elaborate sacrificial system in Leviticus.  He relayed that “…god had always told me to rise above the mundane and see the bigger spiritual picture.”  In other words, the god of his own imagination took precedence over the God of the Bible.  Opposing Leviticus, however, is challenging the Holiness of God.  The book is important because:

  1. The details picture the perfection demanded by God.   Salvation is of God alone.   We come to God on his terms.  We are to worship God as he has commanded, not as we devise. Christ is the perfect atonement for sin.
  2. Most of the offerings were to be made without leaven (or yeast), which pictures sin and its infectious tendencies.  Can you imagine mocking a mother who scrupulously avoided even one speck of peanuts in her house because her child would have a deadly allergic reaction to peanuts?   God does demonstrate His Holy Character in great detail with Levitical laws.
  3. God is the God of the mundane (which means pertaining to the world).  Jesus came into this world.  God loved the world. We are not just spiritual.  We are material.  That is why there is a resurrection.

Making himself to be better than God, Redford then mocks the book of Numbers, leading him to skip this and other “tedious” parts of the Bible.  Redford doesn’t realize that these numberings illustrate God’s care for every single one of his people, his intimate knowledge of their individuality.  Jehovah numbers the stars; not one of them is missing.  During the feud over the 2000 elections, the rallying cry from supporters of both Al Gore and George Bush was “every vote counts!”

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Not surprisingly, Redford is particularly annoyed with the judgments of God on sinners, such as God sending a bear to kill children who mocked a prophet of God.  This has been a recurring theme in all of his videos, and his comments on previous threads here at Caffeinated Theology.  Though the judgments of God have no direct bearing on “the question” of His existence, Redford expresses his distaste for this kind of God.   But preference is not evidence.

It should not be surprising then, that Redford sides with the wicked when they are judged, and never sides with God when He shows mercy to His people.  For example, Redford sides with Pharaoh (and by implication, Abimelech) when they steal Abraham’s wife, Sarah, but he chastises God for showing mercy to Abraham who may have told a half-truth to protect his wife.  This erstwhile professor of Christ also challenges God’s decision to harden the hearts of Pharaohs who cruelly enslaved the Jews, and who threw a generation of children into the river, God choosing to save Moses by obedient midwives and his parents, and the Israelites by a great deliverance at the Red Sea.

Like many professing Christians, it is God’s free will that irritates him.   The apostle Paul was quite aware of the kind of reasoning opponents of God’s sovereignty would raise and answered them thus:

Romans 9:14-25   What shall we say then?  Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.  For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

From the beginning Redford claims his high moral standards came from the Holy Spirit’s leadings. This demonstrates how his background has misled him and taught him to choose his own feelings over the Bible text.  Why would the Spirit of God, the very Inspiration of the Bible, tell Chris that the Bible was wrong?   He is confused.  I won’t be surprised if his last video is entitled “How God Showed Me that God Doesn’t Exist.”

After all those years of professing Christ, Redford finally decided to read through the New Testament. He finally discovers what is to him an apparent contradiction in accounts of the death of Judas between one of his favorite(!) verses

Acts 1:18:   “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out,”

and Matthew 27:5   “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself,”

Redford claims his spiritual world came to an end – his belief shattered. After hours of an emotional upheaval as if a family member died, he did allow “an apologist” on the internet to offer the reasonable explanation that perhaps Judas hung himself and afterward his body decomposed, fell and broke open.   Redford refuses to admit the plausibility of this explanation because, once again, his Pentecostal heritage betrayed him.  He wrote, “It still didn’t explain the feelings I had been given by the Holy Spirit….” At this point, Redford is locked into either/or thinking.  When the Bible tells us that Judas hung himself and that God was against him in wrath, he assumes this is a contradiction.   He does not consider the possibility it is God’s wrath against Judas that drives him to suicide.

Many of Redford’s departures from Christianity are departures not from orthodoxy, but from pre-conceived notions derived from his own mind.  For example, he previously believed that the Bible had been communicated by “Mass revelation” without the use of the minds of the writers.  Christian churches, including his own Assembly of God church[1], have long rejected this view of inspiration.  But then he was introduced to (and now promulgates) the silly old J.E.D.P. multi-author theory of the Pentateuch, as if it were something new.  I heard it 30-some years ago in college and thought, mostly, “so what?”  Now when I hear about this, my view is much more refined: I think “Big, hairy deal!”  So what if God used multiple authors, word-of-mouth information, and other sources. It is irrelevant as to whether the Scriptures are inspired and infallible. It is a red herring.

When dealing with miracles, prayer, judgment, and the writing of Scripture, Redford takes a stance against God’s use of natural means to accomplish his will, and against supernatural explanations.  He considers the former an effort to hide the fact of God’s non-existence, and the latter as unscientific.

Jesus addressed this judgmental attitude:

Matthew 11:16-19 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

The miraculous and supernatural are not antithetical.  They work together.  There is no reason that God cannot give daily bread by use of means, and miraculously provide manna without means, when He so desires. The former does not deny the miracles of God (regular providence is actually necessary for the recognition of miracles), and the latter does not deny the Providence of God.  These two methods of God’s work go hand in hand.

In early correspondence and comments, Redford took umbrage with my “Calvinist” doctrine.  It is his presumptive rejection of the sovereignty of God over all creation that is the basis of many of his claims.   He is more Arminian than atheist.  However, God rules over all: doctors, Apostles, and bears (oh my!).  And sometimes he does miracles, like saving atheists and me.

Part Two:

[1] As I can attest to, from my notes I took at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, an A/G school.

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