Ricky Gervais, of course, is the British creator of The Office. (I’m not familiar with the British version, but I love the American version. I think it’s brilliant.)
Gervais tries to contrast “sane” Christians with “evil fundamentalists.” I think Gervais is misinformed about history. Whether Gervais knows it or not, and contrary to popular understandings of history, fundamentalist Christians are the greatest heroes of history!
A fundamentalist Christian is one who believes in the good news of Jesus. They adhere to the New Testament. They don’t throw away the Old Testament, but they interpret it in light of the New Testament.
There are people who claim to be Christians, yet they reject the Bible as a source of truth, add to or take away from the bibical record, or don’t interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. This has led to many false teachings which have caused much suffering in the world. On the other hand, fundamentalist Christians have basically led the opposition to every evil the world has ever produced!
It wasn’t atheists who got rid of Roman emperor worship–it was fundamentalist Christians. It wasn’t atheists who got rid of the power of the papacy–it was fundamentalist Christians. It wasn’t atheists who got rid of slavery–it was fundamentalist Christians. It wasn’t atheists who opposed Hitler–it was fundamentalist Christians. It wasn’t atheists who brought the world out of the darkness of pagan religions–it was fundamentalist Christians. It wasn’t atheists who caused the blessings of science to explode unto the world scene–it was fundamentalist Christians. It wasn’t atheists who opposed atheistic communism–it was fundamentalist Christians.
Unfortunately, there’s much confusion over the true and false church. Those who pervert and corrupt the teachings of the New Testament still try to pose as the Christian Church. They have done much damage to the body of Christ, bringing disgrace to the name of God. It’s nothing new, though. This is exactly why Jesus was upset with the religious Pharisees. They had added their own traditions to the scriptures causing Jesus to declare that they had made “void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down (Mark 7:13).” The fundamentalist Christian church has always fought to keep the scriptures pure and to pull society back to the standard of the Word. For this they have invariably been imprisoned, tortured, and murdered. Yet, looking back, they were ALWAYS right.
One example of the heroism of fundamentalist Christians was their refusal to worship any of the Roman emperors. Instead, they maintained their commitment to Jesus. They wouldn’t deny Him. For this they were burnt at the stake (by Nero) and fed to the beasts in the Coliseum. They were called atheists for not worshiping the Roman gods and emperors. At the time they looked like fools, but thanks to them, the Roman empire was eventually dismantled.
After this, a corrupt religious system began to develop which would blend philosophy, traditions, papal decrees, and other nonsense in with the scriptures. The Catholic Church would gain more and more authority and hold the body of Christ hostage in darkness for a millenium. But finally, John Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation would burst on the scene and begin to oppose the entrenched false doctrines of Catholicism. Huss, Tyndale, Luther, and Calvin would change the world! The Reformation was an example of how the world became blessed by the restoration of the knowledge of the Bible. As a result of their work, the Catholic Church and her wrong doctrine were finally confronted and overthrown. This new exposure to the Bible, coinciding with the invention of the printing press, would lead to the Western concept of religious freedom and toleration (as typified by Locke and Jefferson who based much of their writings on the scriptures), produce new respect for the family (as in contrast to the celibacy of priests, monks, and nuns), encourage the development of the work ethic (since we are commanded in the New Testament: “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men [Col. 3:23]”;– meaning ALL work is spiritual if it’s done for Jesus), cause the expansion of education (since reading was necessary for the study of the Bible), plant the seeds for the growth of secularism (since all thought was tolerated under the kind Jesus), and give birth to the explosion of science (since the material world was no longer considered evil and the Bible even hinted that we could know some of the mind of God through His creation).
To explain how science was hindered during the medieval era, the Catholic Church (thinking they were intelligent) had adopted Aristotle’s natural philosophy as the basis for their beliefs, rather than the scriptures. This is what frustrated Galileo! It was the emphasis on Greek philosophy that Galileo was arguing against in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Galileo mocked the Church through his character Simplicio, who is painted as being stupid because he was a follower of Aristotle and Ptolemy. Galileo’s argument wasn’t with the scriptures; it was with the church’s adoption of Aristotle.This is just one example. There are so many more. What seems to be covered up these days is that those who adhered to the scriptures (fundamentalists) were the ones who advanced science and blessed the world! The list of fundamentalist Christian scientists would include Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Bacon, and on and on. (https://narrowwayapologetics.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/is-christianity-the-enemy-of-science/)
Concerning slavery, it was those who wrongly interpreted the scriptures in light of Old Testament passages on “the curse of Ham” who brought shame on the church. If they would have listened to Jesus who said he “came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18),” or to Paul who admonished Philemon to be reconciled to his slave, Onesimus, “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother” (Philemon v. 16), perhaps they wouldn’t have been party to the slave trade. It took the abolitionists, who were nearly ALL fundamentalist Christians, to rid the world of slavery. (If they weren’t fundamentalists, they still used the scriptures to justify their position, as Thomas Paine does.) One of these fundamentalists was William Wilberforce, the parliamentarian who labored for decades to abolish slavery in the British Empire. He loved Jesus and opposed those who perverted the scriptures, pointing to the Catholic Inquisition or the abuses of Pizarro and Cortez, saying they were “furious bigots . . . bloody persecutors, and self-interested hypocrites . . . ” He knew the Catholic Church didn’t adhere to the teachings of the Bible. They added their own traditions, such as indulgences, to the Word. They also promoted superstition because they didn’t teach the Bible. Instead they left the people to wander in darkness. This was why the witch hunts were so “sucessful.” If the people had known the gospel, they would have known that witches had no power over them because “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).” There would be no fear of the devil. Yet the Catholic Church allowed the use of the booklet “Malleus Maleficurum” to convict women of witchcraft. It wasn’t the Bible that led to these hysterics; it was wrong teaching. Fundamentalist Christians would never turn to an extrabiblical document for their theology. They are also diligent to “rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).” Therefore, we would not turn to the Old Testament laws concerning witchcraft because the New Testament teaches that Jesus fulfilled the law for us. (This is why he didn’t allow the woman caught in adultery to be stoned.)
Other abolitionists included members of the Clapham Sect, who would later help to form the Ethnological Society of London to fight against scientific racism. Jefferson, Hume, Kant, and Voltaire (none of them fundamentalists) would use “empirical methodology” and “scientific observation” to declare that there was more than one parent of all the races (polygenism), while fundamentalist Christians pointed to the New Testament scripture, Acts 17:26, which declares: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth.” This was a reference to Adam and Eve and monogenism. Frederick Douglass would battle against scientific racism also, using the Bible as a source in his speech, “The Claims of the Negro, Ethnologically Considered.” In contrast, those enlightened by science without being tethered to the scriptures would declare:
“I am apt to suspect the Negroes, and in general all other species of men to be naturally inferior to the whites.” (David Hume)
“Their round eyes, their flat nose, their lips which are always thick, their differently shaped ears, the wool on their head, the measure of even their intelligence establishes between them and other species of men prodigous differences. If their understanding is not of a different nature than ours, it is at least greatly inferior.” (Voltaire)
“The Negroes of Africa have received from nature no intelligence that rises above the foolish.” (Kant)
“Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous.” (Thomas Jefferson)
It’s also documented that George Morton, while president of the National Academy of Science, was a believer in phrenology, and attempted to develop a racial theory based on the measurement of skull size. His students, George Gliddon and Josiah Nott, would write Ethnological Research (or Types of Mankind), which was used by southern slaveholders as a scientific justification for slavery. Even Louis Aggasiz, the glacial scientist and professor of natural history at Harvard, would abandon biblical Christianity and embrace polygenism, immersing a whole generation of students in the theory.
Many people are unaware of the backlash which occurred as a result of the wrong doctrine of polygenism. The modern missions movement was a direct outcome of the rejection of two 19th century beliefs: scientific racism and social Darwinism. While scientific racism was the belief that each race had different parents (polygenism) instead of a common ancestor (monogenism) as taught by the Bible, social Darwinism would teach that the darker races were less evolved. It would be adopted by the likes of Harvard’s Frederic Ward Putnam (a student of Louis Aggasiz) who was commissioned to develop an anthropological display at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. This was supposed to showcase the latest scientific endeavor! Unfortunately, history records that the “science” on display included a type of human zoo which allowed those who attended the fair to walk through the evolutionary history of man. Beginning with the African race and moving forward through the red and yellow races, villages were set up and people of color put on display. The exhibit ended with European villages and culminated with the glorious “White City” which was the final evolutionary goal that mankind was moving toward.
Yet, how was this view challenged? A little known aspect of the mission of the fundamentalist Christian church of the 19th century was to prove that the darker skinned races were not inferior. They believed that the reason those in far off lands were not as intelligent was because they had never heard about Jesus who could bring them out of their pagan religions (which produced infanticide, widow burning, euthanasia, cannibalism, tribal warfare, and all sorts of cruelty and injustice) and then educate them so they could read the Bible and study science, mechanics, literature, mathematics, etc… This is why nearly all the great universities around the world were started by Christian missionaries. If you were to go to foreign nations such as China, South Africa, India, or Australia, you would discover that their great universities were founded by Christian missionaries as a direct challenge to the claims of social Darwinists/scientific racists!
It was also fundamentalist Christians who led the only organized opposition to Adolph Hitler. It was those who compromised the words of the Bible in response to the historical criticism it received in the late 19th century (a movement, I might add, which started in Germany!) who caved in to Hitler and allowed swastikas to be placed on their altars. The Confessing Church, on the other hand, remained faithful to the Bible, declaring in the Barmen Declaration that they rejected “the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this on Word of God, still other events and powers, figures, and truths, as God’s revelation.” In other words, they would only acknowledge the Bible as their source for truth — not the philosophers such as Hegel and Herder, nor the scientists, such as Darwin. If these other sources of truth conflicted with the Bible, then they would reject them. And they did–many of the signers losing their life in the process.
It was also the fundamentalist Christian who opposed atheistic communism in the 20th century. Persons such as Richard Wurmbrand, Watchman Nee, Aida Skripnova, Vera Yakovlena, Nikolai Khamara (whose eyes were gouged out and tongue cut off for praising Jesus), Dr. Margareta Pescaru (who smuggled medicine to patients who had gone through “re-education efforts”), Ivan Moiseyev, and many, many, more stood up to communist tyranny in the name of Jesus. The church who had compromised the Bible and believed the historical criticisms of it, joined the communists! They even started organizations such as the World Council of Churches to defend Marxism. As in other cases in history, the church that abandons the Word becomes an embarassment to future generations. Yet the remnant that remains faithful becomes the HERO of history!
Perhaps Ricky Gervais has learned a revised version of history. To oppose the Bible as an outmoded or irrelevant document has always been the legacy of those who would abuse humanity or hinder society from making strides toward freedom, prosperity, education, and goodness.
If you love kindness, Ricky, I’d like you to understand that it was fundamentalist Christianity which provided the world with a tenderness it hadn’t known before. As the good news of Jesus spread around the world, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, rather than brutality and perversion, found a resting place in Christianity’s branches. If we are to know a tree by its fruit, as Jesus said, rescuing abandoned children, redeeming slaves, caring for the needy, nursing the sick, opposing emperor worship, educating ALL peoples, fighting against Hitler, breaking the Catholic stranglehold, expanding freedom and toleration, suffering under communism, blessing humanity with science, and many other great acts of devotion to Christ were all fruits of this tree.
Perhaps Ricky believes today’s Christians are evil because they oppose abortion, homosexuality, or global warming (even though the case could be made that all of them have caused great human suffering), but I would ask him to consider the track record of the fundamentalist Christians before he begins to attack their biblical views. What you may consider to be a politically or scientifically correct view now, may be looked upon in the future as absolute foolishness. For example, even though there was no view into the womb when Roe v. Wade was established, we now have ultrasound equipment which can give us a three dimensional view of the baby in the womb, establishing the reality that it is a human being. Although abortion is an established right, perhaps it wouldn’t have been if we had more modern technology in 1973. I believe we will look back on the abortion era in the same way we looked back on the slavery era–as an absolute injustice which was birthed in the selfishness of the human heart. And it was the fundamentalists (called the religious right) who led the campaign against abortion because of their adherence to the scriptures which proclaim that God knows us in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Christopher Hitchens has even acknowledged that abortion was wrong. Perhaps the tide is beginning to turn even now.
Santayana said that those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I would venture to say that Gervais may be falling into this trap. In the same way that others in the past have hated fundamentalist Christians, while being on the wrong side of history, Ricky may be doing the same thing. Please Ricky, reconsider your statement.
Oh, by the way, even though I’m a fundamentalist Christian, I’ve never set fire to a puppy or stoned a gay person. I love babies and bake cookies for my neighbors. I don’t like being called evil, but I still love you. 🙂