Last time we met up, we checked out the second part of an evangelical pastor’s terrible listicle (archive) about Jesus’ resurrection. That pastor, Robb Brunansky, wanted his flocks to feel more certain that Jesus’ resurrection really happened in the real world. So far, though, he hasn’t supported a single one of his claims. Worse, at least one—regarding Christians’ supposed freedom from what he called the power and penalty of sin—is only true, if it is at all, in the most metaphorical way imaginable.

Now, however, our guest star will outdo himself. He’s about to dive into the real reasons for his own belief in Christian claims. These are his very biggest guns, the ones he is clearly certain will blast any reader’s doubts to smithereens.

These claims, you see, concern death itself.

(From introduction: Mark Noll’s 1994 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, got reprinted in 2022/archive.)

(This post went live on Patreon on 4/23/2024. Its audio ‘cast lives there too and should be available right now!)

Recapping Resurrection claims

Our OP (Original Post) came out around Easter. During that special time of year, a fundagelical’s thoughts turn lightly to death. Just to recap, here are Arizona pastor Robb Brunansky’s claims about Jesus’ death and resurrection:

  1. If Jesus hadn’t resurrected himself, evangelism would be worthless.
  2. Likewise, faith itself would be “worthless and meaningless.”
  3. Also, evangelicals would be unable to consider the Bible a trustworthy source of information about Yahweh/Jesus.
  4. Even worse, Christians’ sins would still “rule over” them.

As you can see from the list, it’s a fairly accurate snapshot of Christianity—but not in the way Brunansky would like. Evangelism is indeed a waste a time, as is faith in gods who don’t exist. The Bible is not actually a trustworthy source of information about any real gods. And Christians still sin constantly, however they decide to contort themselves to separate the actual process of sinning from “the power of sin” and “the penalty of sin.”

He’s only wrong in saying that faith is “meaningless” without its object existing for real. We know that all through history and across the breadth of all religions worldwide, believers everywhere have certainly found deep meaning in their beliefs.

I can personally attest to that truth. Even as my own belief in literal gods waned and fizzled out, I still found meaning in my pagan beliefs. Reading ancient poetry and myths can still move me to tears, years after becoming a happy little None-of-the-Above.

Claim #5 about the Resurrection: Regarding death

As far as our guest star thinks, though, he has totally nailed his points. (Pun unintended, but I’m letting it ride.)

Having fully supported his previous arguments, then, Brunansky scoots right along to his fifth claim:

Fifth, if Jesus had not been raised, Christians would have suffered divine judgment at death.

Paul’s argument in verse 18 is that deceased believers would be under divine judgment, as would all future Christians at death if Jesus had not been raised from the dead. If Jesus had remained dead, then the apostles, missionaries who died for the cause of Christ, and believers throughout church history, are in hell. And someday if Christ had not been raised, we would be, too.

It’s interesting here that Brunansky conflates “divine judgment” with eternal condemnation to Hell.

In fact, that’s very interesting. Out of everything in his midwit post, this bit raised my eyebrows the most.

I doubt it’s an accident that he conflates those two ideas.

That’s not what those words mean

Of course TRUE CHRISTIANS™ will be divinely judged, in his ideology. Everyone will.

At the end of the world, Yahweh will judge everyone—saints and sinners and even angels. In the angels’ case, Jude 1:6 tells us so:

And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.

The Old Testament also tells us that there’ll definitely be a single time of judgment for everyone, not a separate little judging session after each Christian’s death:

  • “The LORD replied to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot out of My book.’ [. . . W]hen the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.” [Exodus 32:33-34]
  • “Have I not stored up these things, sealed up within My vaults? Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.” [Deuteronomy 32:34-35]

(Yahweh sounds like an abusive spouse, doesn’t he?)

Being mostly the product of apocalypticism, the New Testament mentions Judgment Day frequently. Moreover, that day includes everybody and involves one occasion.

  • “Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” [Matthew 10:15]
  • “But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” [Matthew 11:22]
  • “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” [Matthew 12:36]
  • “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” [Romans 14:12]

And in Revelation Chapter 20, we actually get a vision of what Judgment Day will look like!

Then I saw a great white throne and the One seated on it. [. . .]

And there were open books, and one of them was the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their deeds, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead, and each one was judged according to his deeds.

So it’s very curious that Brunansky thinks TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like himself have avoided “divine judgment at death.” He really thinks “divine judgment” means—and only means—going to Hell.

Where’d this guy get his seminary training? I’m guessing he didn’t like sitting right up front in class.

Debunking Claim #5: A weird take on Judgment Day

Whatever Brunansky believes “divine judgment” means, though, the truth remains that nobody has ever supported any claim ever made about any kind of afterlife for human consciousness. That statement most especially includes Robb Brunansky. He has no idea what happens after death. More importantly, neither does anybody else. Nobody’s even conclusively demonstrated that anything remains of our consciousness after death.

Me myself, I don’t think our consciousness survives death. All too often, consciousness doesn’t even last till the very end of our lives! If our brains get injured or diseased in a myriad of ways, our consciousness can undergo radical changes. It can even disappear forever. Our consciousness is incredibly fragile. As far as anyone’s ever seen or measured, it vanishes for good once our bodies’ biological processes break down.

And it is a little scary for many people to contemplate not-being. I understand. Ever since we began to stir with the first hints of sapience, I suspect we’ve felt fear around not-being. No matter how many other astonishing secrets we learn, death has always been—and will likely always be—our “undiscovered country.”

Christian hucksters talk about death a lot to their marks so they can make money off those people’s natural fears. But they can’t support a single claim they make about death. Perhaps that’s why so many Christians actually fear death so much, and why they consider any kind of life preferable to death.

Our energy will never vanish from the universe, but our consciousness almost certainly will

But even if our consciousness isn’t part of the picture anymore, our energy has always been around. That doesn’t change while we’re alive. It won’t change after we die.

We get this little blip of amazing fortune, this one little brief time to be aware and awake and alive in the world. That’s our consciousness. In that brief stretch, many millions of molecules and cells cooperate together in one certain way, and they do so until they simply can’t anymore. At that point, we die. In dying, all of those molecules and cells and processes break down into component parts.

These newly-freed components then go on to become part of millions of other patterns. Maybe they will become energy for some other cooperating, conscious, even sapient lumps of matter. It fascinates me just to think about it.

When I look at my squawky little orange cat, I wonder if some of her cells once cooperated to make a dinosaur or some ancient proto-human. Or if they were part of a comet. Or the sugar burst that powers a cell.

Similarly, when I look at my palm, I see my mother’s energy within me—and her mother’s, and her mother’s mother’s, and so on, all the way back to the explosion of stars billions of years ago, and from there all the way back to when everything in the universe huddled so close together that even time had no room to exist.

When I die, I will go wherever my mother and her mother went. Where the stars went. Where everything eventually goes. I’ll share their fate. I’ll become whatever they have become. And so I refuse to be afraid.

If you hadn’t guessed, Brunansky’s fifth claim cannot be tested. Here, we behold a child’s fear writ large. It’s that same child’s pique over not being included in the adults’ party forever.

And so we reject it.

Claim #6 about the Resurrection: And there it is.

Finally, Brunansky arrives at his 6th claim about the Resurrection. He bases it on 1 Corinthians 15:19:

If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men.

And this is what Brunansky does with that verse:

Sixth, if Christ had not been raised, Christians would be the most pathetic people in the world. [. . .]

Here’s how Paul saw the Christian life, however: It’s a war against sin, unbelief, and false teachers; and it’s a war for the souls of peoples of every tribe, tongue, and nation. If I’m fighting this war and giving my life for it, and at the end, I’m not raised from the dead, I’m a fool!

The real question is not, Why did Paul think the Christian life was not worth it apart from resurrection? but, Why do we think it is? Jesus’ resurrection should be moving us to make choices and sacrifices that are absurd in the world’s eyes.

This one’s interesting to me. It’s one of the funniest ways I’ve ever seen an evangelical set up a non-falsifiable claim.

Many evangelicals talk about the imaginary material rewards of faith. They imagine that Christians enjoy more happiness, better relationships, freedom from addictions and vices, safety from accidents and natural disasters, and even way better luck than non-Christians do. In theory at least, their sacrifices open the door to those earthly benefits. Virtue is its own reward, etc., as the old saying goes.

I don’t know if I’ve ever even heard an evangelical imply that they get zero earthly benefits from their faith.

If someone disagrees that Christians enjoy those perks, then sure, Christians probably do look pathetic to them. After all, they’re wasting time and resources on something that doesn’t benefit them at all in the real world.

Brunansky takes this idea on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Debunking Claim #6 about the Resurrection: Wisdom and folly

What’s hilarious here is that even Brunansky doesn’t believe his own twaddle. Right after asserting that Christianity should cost Christians a great deal, that it should lead them to make decisions that look ridiculous to normies, he backpedals on it all:

In the end, we give up nothing, and we get everything by being raised from the dead. Anything we sacrifice will be returned to us a thousand-fold. The solution to self-centered living that says, “I don’t want to die every day and I don’t want following Jesus to cost me,” is to remember the significance of Jesus’ resurrection.

He thinks that Christians “give up nothing,” and he says so right after telling us that Christianity should cost Christians so much that they look ridiculous to normies. I get that he’s comparing the cost to the dividends he thinks they’ll get after death, but it is most certainly not “nothing” in life.

All Brunansky is doing here is setting up a cut-rate version of Pascal’s Wager. He can’t actually meaningfully support his claim that Christians get a return on their investment after death. But he can confirm his audience’s belief that they will get a big one.

Pascal’s Wager is not even a solid argument on its own merits, much less compelling support for Christian claims. Even Blaise Pascal himself hardly displayed overmuch religious zeal in his own lifetime, as we see from T.S. Eliot’s foreword to his posthumously-published 1670 book Pensées. In fact, his “wager” only makes Christians like opportunistic cretins.

Debunking Claim #6: Pascal’s Wager and some shameless opportunism

Pascal’s Wager asserts that it makes more sense to believe in Christian claims than not to believe. Here’s how one atheist writer describes it:

[I]f the believer is wrong and God doesn’t exist, then nothing has been lost; on the other hand, if the atheist is wrong and God does exist, then the atheist risks going to hell. Therefore, it is smarter to take a chance on believing than to take a chance on not believing, and the atheist is in a bad spot.

Alas for Christians, Pascal’s Wager falls completely apart at the slightest examination.

  1. The wager assumes that only two states of belief exist: TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ and atheism.
  2. It assumes that a belief can be consciously chosen even when the person choosing it knows it’s not supported by any real-world evidence—and that entirely too much contradictory evidence exists.
  3. Moreover, it assumes that Christianity costs nothing but earns infinite returns, while atheism earns infinite penalties regardless of its perceived cost.
  4. Worst of all, it assumes that Yahweh doesn’t mind when people opportunistically choose to go through the motions of faith, rather than converting out of sheer love for him.

The high cost of resurrection these days

Speaking as a former fundamentalist, I can attest that Christianity does indeed cost plenty. Brunansky seems to agree. But where I eventually realized that I was pouring resources into a bottomless pit, Brunansky perceives a big huge return on his investment—after his death of course! He’s got a golden mansion waiting for him, but it lives in Canada. It goes to another school. You’ll just have to take his word for it.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see Brunansky piously claiming that simply thinking about Jesus’ resurrection feels exactly the same as faith having a high cost for him, though. That thought is not “the solution to self-centered living” at all. In reality, as one of the pampered favorites of the American government for centuries, Brunansky enjoys a faith that costs him nothing—except perhaps some cultural disdain that he can certainly ignore, or whatever opportunity costs he incurs in resisting sinful temptations.

Worse, some of the most self-centered people I’ve ever met were Christians. When they think nothing in this life is worthwhile, that nothing matters at all except their future totes-for-realsies afterlife, that leads to some truly wretched levels of thoughtlessness.

Shameless opportunism isn’t a great look for Christians. But they keep accidentally telling us that they’re in the religion for very opportunistic reasons.

The problem is that their “investment” never pays off in any way that is detectable using real-world measures and senses. They’re “investing” in pie-in-the-sky promises, the same kind that almost every religion—and every scam, for that matter—promises believers.

When something sounds too good to be true, whether we’re talking about gods or investment schemes, watch out:

It probably isn’t true at all.

Circular reasoning isn’t an obstacle here

Once again, I’ve probably put considerably more thought into critically examining some evangelical’s blathering than they did in the first place. Brunansky’s entire post sounds like he rattled it off by the numbers in a half-daze ten minutes before it was due. It’s just words, words, words.

But nobody in his target audience will care. It’s only meant to make that audience feel good about being evangelical. That’s why this guy supports his claims only with Bible verses. Sure, it’s completely circular reasoning, but that’s not a problem for evangelicals.

For decades now, evangelical leaders have trained their flocks to accept such arguments as valid. That’s why, in Mark Noll’s 1994 book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, he asserts that the scandal in its title is simply that there really isn’t an evangelical mind anymore. Evangelicals have been carefully trained to ignore and stop using any critical thinking skills they accidentally pick up elsewhere.

That’s how we end up with evangelical pastors writing terrible listicles full of cringe-level bad reasoning. If our guest star ever learned how to use critical thinking skills, he definitely isn’t bringing them to bear here. But then again, if he did then I doubt his flocks would like it much.

I just think it’s funny as hell that we could replace his insistence about Jesus’ resurrection with a certainty about the existence of unicorns, and his claims make just as much sense:

If unicorns didn’t exist, Christians would be the most pathetic people in the world. But they DO exist, so Christians are ACKSHULLY totally wise and discerning!

Doncha wish your ideology was HOT like mine?

The truth remains as powerful and as inescapable as it’s always been

When we finish scraping away all of the blather, we end up at the truth that Robb Brunansky can’t face:

This life is too incredibly precious to waste, and it’s precious precisely because it’s so short and finite.

Christians need this life to seem worthless so their religion’s very real costs (and opportunity costs) stop looking so high. But if we start perceiving life the way they say we should, we do not benefit. Only religious hucksters do.

Speaking of, that leads us to the second truth Brunansky can’t face:

Christian claims are not based in reality.

Evangelicals have never, ever figured out a way to get around that fact. So they’ve evolved all this hand-waving and circular reasoning and bad arguing to hide it. They desperately need a literally-true Bible and a literally-real god. They’ll say and do anything to maintain the pretense that they have both—when they have neither. And hucksters are happy to enable this song-and-dance to benefit at their followers’ expense.

Even among the ranks of the pew-warmers, so many Christians try so hard to paper over and forget the real future they face of death and oblivion, of not-being, of dissolving to nothing eventually, of becoming part of something else and so on till the end of the universe. All the apologetics sleight of hand that their leaders can conjure can’t fully dispel that reality.

Personally, I’d rather have a scary truth than a comforting lie. The earlier I make peace with reality, the less scary it’ll be when I’m standing at death’s door, about to take that last leap into the unknown.

It won’t look like this, either, when it happens.

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Today’s theme song:

Captain Cassidy

Captain Cassidy is a Gen-X ex-Christian and writer. She writes about how people engage with science, religion, art, and each other. She lives in Idaho with her husband, Mr. Captain, and their squawky orange tabby cat, Princess Bother Pretty Toes. And at any given time, she is running out of bookcase space.


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