3 Things That Drive Me Insane About Evangelical Theology

January 21, 2014

Last week on the blog, I posted a light hearted post entitled 20 Things That Drive Me Insane! (on the inside of course).  One of the things that was included on my list of things that drive me insane was this item:

Systematic, Reformed, & Evangelical theology.

A beautiful brother named Jared commented on the post with his own list, and also the suggestion that he would like to see a follow up post from me about why systematic, reformed, & evangelical theology bothers me so much.  I thought it was a great suggestion!  In today’s post, I’ll simply stick with evangelical theology.  I may tackle the other two in future posts.  Unlike last week’s post, today’s post is intended to be quite sobering and serious.    


When I think about evangelicalism, these three things drive me ‘insane’, so to speak.  Although the word ‘insane’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, there actually is a lot of evidence that suggest these thought patterns, championed by evangelicalism, contribute to mental illness.  Please understand that I do not say that flippantly.  Mental illness is a serious and very real issue that affects many good brothers and sisters in Christ.  I would like to share more about this, but it will have to be another article for another day.  With that said, I can speak for myself when I say that evangelical thinking has been toxic to my own mind.  Although evangelical thought has many complexities, these are what I see to be the three pillars of evangelicalism as I have experienced it.                

1. The assumption that babies must understand and accomplish the birthing process. 

(The common evangelical message about being born-again is contrary to the very example that Jesus used to describe spiritual birth.  He compared spiritual  birth to natural birth.  In natural birth, the burden is on the mother to birth the baby.  This natural reality of birth is simply a shadow of the spiritual reality of birth.  If evangelicalism were actually true, physicians in maternity wards would play music in the delivery rooms and carefully explain to the unborn babies exactly what they need to do to be born.  They may even use carefully worded ‘tracks’ or video clips to entice the baby to come out of the mother’s womb.)  

This is obviously a ridiculous scenario, but so are most evangelical sales pitches that seek to entice people to be ‘born again’.  Spiritual babies are born like physical babies are born.  If we can’t understand this simple physical  example, how will we understand greater spiritual realities? (John 3:3-10) 
I wrote more about this in an article entitled: GIVING BIRTH & DISPELLING THE EVANGELICAL ‘BORN-AGAIN’ MYTH…

2. A culture of performance.

The first being who wanted to be like the most High was Satan.  This same idea is cleverly repackaged in evangelicalism.  The religious desire to be like Jesus, does not come from the heart of Jesus.  The messages coming out of evangelicalism are endless.  How to have a good marriage, how to be a good steward of your money, how to reach your community, how to study the bible, how to be good parents, how to be obedient to God’s commands, etc… The aim of this misguided evangelical message is to become more Christ-like.  

Thankfully, we were never created to strive to be like Christ.  Rather, we were created to be the dwelling place of Christ Himself.   Christ is already like Himself.  There is one vine, and there are many branches that carry the life of the vine.  This is the example that Jesus Himself used.  We simply live by His life and give Him expression.  This is unfortunately not the message of evangelicalism.  

3. A toxic view of humanity. 

I could write a book about how a toxic view of humanity has been, to use Paul’s words,  a continual messenger of Satan to me over the years.  The lie that promotes a toxic view of humanity rears its ugly head in the most religiously creative of ways.  It has assaulted my relationships time and time again.  Evangelicalism loves to promote this lie as truth.  No matter how many times you tell a lie, however, it never becomes true.  

The truth is, mankind was made in the image of God (Christ).  Genesis 1:27, Colossians 1:15   

The truth is, God is good.  His image, along with His creation, simply expresses His goodness.  In light of this reality, it’s not a stretch to think that God would also look at His creation (including mankind) as good.  (Yes, I can hear the gasps).  Genesis 1:26-31.   

The truth is, our Lord never bought into the serpent’s lie about Adam & Eve.  The serpent passed along the false assumption that mankind was not ‘like’ God, but could be if they acquired more knowledge.  The truth is, they were already made in His likeness. (Genesis 1:27).  

The truth is, God never had to change His mind about us!  We’re the ones who bought into the lie about our identity, and God’s.  His view of us, and Himself, has always been accurate.  The truth (our goodness because of His image) never became a lie, and the lie never became true.  That’s why it was, and remains, a lie.  The cross rescued us from the power of the lie by opening the eyes of our hearts to true reality (Christ).  I wrote more about this in an article entitled:  THE BIGGEST ‘COVER UP’ IS OCCURRING RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE

I have said this before, and I’d like to say it again here today. All of life is about relationship. Relationship with God, and relationship with one another.  I am convinced that these three lies championed by evangelicalism are toxic to our relationships because they assault our identity.  They color the lenses through which we see the Lord and one another.  Thankfully, I have personally experienced the redemption and restoration of relationships with God & others that can occur as these lies are exposed, and to the degree that they are exposed.  This is not an overnight process.  It takes time to undergo any detox process, but the wait is well worth it.


Jamal Jivanjee        

Jamal Jivanjee

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44 responses to 3 Things That Drive Me Insane About Evangelical Theology

  1. We are not defined by our doing (our ‘good’ intentions, works), we are defined by our ‘Being’ (Christ). When we can awaken to the truth we can see the beauty and simplicity of The Gospel (Christ in you the hope of glory). We can rest in Christ, allowing His grace to supply and sustain us, providing for each of us through His perfect Love.

    The sinister lies that are taught as truth, and the wreckage this has caused, the broken relationships, the untold anguish of fear that the religious systems that have spawned is coming to an end.

    Truth of His abundant Love for all, and the beauty of His indwelling presence, and the true hope of His Kingdom is bursting forth, and the Light and Love of Jesus Christ is making it all possible.

    May we fix our eyes on the Author and finisher of our faith, and may we rest in His Love and His grace, knowing He is faithful and true to His word.

    “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

  2. I agree with every point you make, but it does seem like there is more in the narrative that needs to be factored in too. Are there are not many negative assessments of humans? Didn’t Jesus say, :”If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts…”? It is said twice, “The Lord saw how great human wickedness had become on earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Doesn’t the Lord’s assessment of humans encompass both their image-bearing quality and their alienation from Him by sin?

    • That’s a great point Jon. I get into this more in the second article that I linked to regarding the ‘cover up that is occurring under our noses’. Humans live out wickedness and sin because of belief in lies. It all began with the first lie about our identity and God’s identity in the garden. Thankfully, that lie never became true. As Jesus Himself said, we will be free when we know the truth. The wickedness and evil that characterizes mankind in darkness to the truth is indeed evil. That is what Jesus was referring to. Thankfully, His view of us does not begin with evil, however. This is where knowing His heart is vital. His view of us begins much earlier than sin, before the foundations of the world. This is why He could look at the woman caught in adultery (committing evil) and not condemn her.

      • This passage of Paul’s sums up the Fathers heart;

        The Ministry of Reconciliation
        Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

        So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

        I’ve been drawn to this second letter to the folks at Corinth, there is gold to mine here, and we indeed have this ministry, my prayer is that this catches fire ‘in’ His Love.

      • Good response. I’m glad when we became darkened in our understanding, He never lost track of the light. #glory

  3. Can you make up an example of how this might play out in someone’s life and contribute to mental illness? I have to go back and read the linked articles later…

    • Pam,

      That’s a great question. I really would like to get into your question more in another post. I’d like to cite some of this evidence and give some personal examples of how these toxic beliefs led to mental breakdowns and illness. I promise, it will be soon, and I will let you know when I post. Thanks for reading:)

    • My marriage broke up partly because of unrealistic expectations from my wife. She wanted to be a Super wife, Super mom, Super saint. The harder she tried the more frustrated she became, I often felt odd when she would do things “for me” that seemed over the top or unnecessary. Later after she left I looked through some of the many marriage books she had read through and heavily marked up and found where there were suggestions of nice things you could do for your husband. I remembered her trying some of these things, she had basically been reading these books and then experimenting on me, not loving me from her own heart.
      I think my wife and her mother both have some mental health issues (my in-laws broke up at the same time as we did for similar reasons) I can see where the three points above, particularly #2 were driving them both over the edge.

  4. Ok, no problem. No shortage of things to read in the mean time. 🙂

  5. This is beautiful brother! Each of these points have burdened many hearts. This is such an invitation and proclamation of freedom in Jesus! Wow! MINKY! We are free in Jesus! Wow wow wow wow! Thanks again for you wrote here! Incredible!

    • Thanks for the inspiration bro. I think you could have written this. I greatly appreciate the emphasis on the new nature that you continually demonstrate in your life and among the brothers and sisters there.

  6. Oh boy, I had to look up and read the two post that you told us about to get a better understanding and I know I still don’t understand all. You have answered one question for me and that is the spiritual birthing process. I was raised Catholic and you might say was the Catholic of Catholics, following Paul’s format. At age 32 my priest gave me a bible. I always was told never to read the bible but the priest would do the reading and interpreting for us. It was a gift for teaching the kids. Who was I to question my priest, so I began on Ash Wednesday to read a chapter of the New Testament every day and say my rosary. I don’t know how I knew to begin in the New Testament. I gave up the soaps to do this for lent! Before Easter came I knelt beside my bed and began talking to God saying, I don’t know about this kind of life. Help me to live like the disciples I am reading about. Instantly I knew for the first time in my life that I was going to heaven and I felt so light and knew my sins came off of me and left me. I didn’t know I was born again. I just knew I was going to heaven and my sins left and I had so much peace and joy. That was in 19 75. Since then I was taught by many how to be born again just like you said. But when I look back at my experience I had nothing to do with it. It came by the divine Parent that wanted me so much as His child. He had planned for me to be birthed from the foundation of the world and it was time for me to be spiritually birthed and be God’s daughter. Kind of hard to keep back the tears. I can see I didn’t do a thing, it was all ordered by the Father. I believe everyone that is born physically, God has planned for their spiritual birth as well. Who could resist this kind of Father? Lord, help us to tell it right to them.

  7. Dear Jamal
    This is very well said, thank you. I had to “work” very hard from childhood to earn my stepmother’s approval and of course I carried this over into my relationship with our Pappa. Religion and evangelicalism speak the same language and it has taken me a long time to detox from these lies. It took a very disabling disease, Fm/CFS, to open my eyes to realize just how very bad and abusive this evangelical system (including the systematic, reformed part) can be and how many souls are being aborted through deception in their earnest striving to get spiritually born. I was so incredibly busy trying to earn God’s approval and the love of the religious bunch, that our Lord had to take my legs from right under me to get me to stop and to just be with Him. Before my illness my body was healthy, but my spirit and soul were crippled. Now He has healed the latter and I never want to go back to my “old” life.
    Blessings XX

    • Mia,

      What a stunning and sobering comment. What a testimony of His relentless love for you. It melts my heart. Thank you very much for sharing your personal journey. I will not forget what you shared.

  8. My spirit leaps forth and cries out “Yes!” and “Amen.”

    If our brothers and sisters could grasp just one of these truths, the face of “Evangelicalism” would change. Point number 2 especially grieves my heart as I watch fellow believers reduce Jesus to a vending machine where they attempt to just get things from Him in order to “look like Him.”

    Okay, now I have to go and read the posts you linked to here.

    • Amen Nicole, thank you very much for reading. I pray that many of our brothers and sisters in evangelicalism would be liberated with these truths. Blessings on you and the saints there:)

  9. “…born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13

    I love the comical way you expounded the parable of physical birth. Having been thoroughly steeped in evangelicalism from a young girl, I can relate to the mental anguish. I spent my early to mid 20’s with the weight of the world on *my* shoulders, wearing a brown sack-like dress with a rope belt, no make-up, and with a conscience so weak that I couldn’t even put jam on my toast. Truly, lies may lay dormant for awhile, but they eventually bear fruit in misery. I remember when I was wrestling particularly hard with my identity, a woman walked up to me and said out of the blue, “Once you are born, you cannot become unborn.” A simple truth that knocked me down, and became a part of the many scales that were coming off from my eyes as to where I came from, and how I got here. A clearer eye of course, gives us an increasing vision of Christ, who is the “Who” behind us all, and “out of whose side” we came. 🙂 There’s a lot more riches in what you wrote here, and I too want to read the other two articles that you referenced, which I don’t think I’ve read yet. Thank you for this post, Jamal. Great comments here from all too!

  10. I’m so glad you are explaining your reasons for not liking evangelicalism,systematic,and reformed theology..I myself don’t like them either..your so right on about that born again thing and the performance deal has always pissed me off..that issue with our humanity is very good to..I’m looking forward to you explaining the other two. Your one of my favorites.keep it rolling bro.

  11. Very good post, Jamal.

    I think Jon Z made a good observation. We have a difficult time with the “mystery of evil”–either we fail to recognize it in ourselves, or we see it and then make it the center of our identity (as did Augustine to a great degree). What helps me in this area is the recognition that evil has no substance of its own, rather, it’s a parasite on the good.

    Your distinction of “being like Christ vs. the dwelling place of Christ is very good. If anything, Christ became the likeness of US.

    Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

  12. But I do want to look like Jesus. He tells me apart from him there is no good in me, for I no longer live but it is Christ living in me. I want to love my wife like Christ loves the church, I want to love others like he loves me. I discover how this happens through relationship as you mentioned, it’s not a duty, it’s love for him, because he first loved me. I know how to love because of him. This new creation, this new self, is His doing.

    • Rob,

      Thank you for reading and for sharing your comment. Thankfully, because of Christ, we are not apart from Him. We don’t even have to go there in our minds. The belief in our ‘separation’ from Him is the lie He came to free us from. Can anything separate us from His love? No way!! (Romans 8:38-39)

      • As you know we agree in our union with Christ having been raised to newness of life in Him. And having been reconciled to Him from whom we were once alienated through the darkness of our understanding and bondage to sin.
        Just asking for clarification on one point that is along the lines of Jon Zens. Are you saying that everyone is in reality united with Christ, perfect and holy in His eyes but they just don’t realize it? And therefore it is just a matter of realizing that our separation is a lie and we can therefore now enjoy the union once we realize that? Perhaps that is just another way of saying what I started out with and therefore my question concerns more nuance and perhaps context. The reason is when I first read that point in your article and stated again in the comments it sounded very similar to a point made in Christian Science by Mary Baker Eddy in that she taught that both sin and sickness were simply a delusion and you just needed to realize that and you could overcome them just as Jesus did. And there are other similar new age thought that is along these lines. Since I know you are Christ centered I am asking more for clarification so that others may not be confused or superimpose or take away the wrong idea. Thanks bro.

        • Seth,

          Brother, great to hear from you. Thanks for reading and for your question. I am not familiar with the person or group you mentioned in your comment. Also, I do not look at the validity of something simply based on what implications it may lead to in the minds of others, nor would I discount something simply because it sounds similar to a view held by a person or group that I find to be in error. I know you know that, I just wanted to state that for this conversation here.

          Regarding your question, I am going to avoid stating something dogmatic about the nature of ‘everyone’. I have noticed a trend when having these kinds of conversations about the nature of what it means to be born-again, or about the true nature of humanity, for folks to want to shift the conversation toward making all inclusive statments like “Are you saying that all of mankind is / will be saved” etc… Then folks will begin to react positively or negatively toward the implications of a truth, yet not examine the validity of the truth being presented. As you know, truth often causes more questions in the beginning than answers.

          With that said, I’d like to attempt to answer your question with an example from my own life. For most of my life, I felt like an orphan. I felt completely alone, fumbling through life trying to find the answers. When my eyes were eventually opened to Christ as an adult, the Lord began to show me how not alone I actually was. He has begun to show me specific moments in my life when I was in the dark toward Him, when I thought I was seperate from Him, that He was right there with me. He was taking care of me the whole time. He was present with me. He was guiding me years before He opened my eyes to Him. A lot of the problems I experienced in my life were rooted in the lie that I was on my own, unloved and unaccepted. To the degree that I know that the opposite is true is the degree that I experience freedom. I hope that makes sense.

          Thanks again for sharing your heart brother. I appreciate the dialogue!

      • Yes I understand and know nothing can seperate us from his love. His love is unchanging toward us nothing we do can change that love towards us. But we were objects of His wrath, his enemies, is what Romans says. What are we redeemed from, saved from? Who are the wicked Paul talks about 1 Cor 6? Are they not seperate from the life of God?Eph 4

        • Rob,

          I’d like to share a story with you that I hope may answer some of your questions. I have a member of my family that is very close to my heart. I have always loved her and accepted her. For most of her life, however, she didn’t understand my love. When she was young, I set up guidelines for her. To protect her. They were only temporary until she became older and didn’t need them. She thought my love and acceptance of her was based on her performance and adherence to these guidelines, however. She always felt like she didn’t measure up to my love because of her continual failure to honor the guidelines we set up for her.

          As a result, the relationship between her and I grew to be quite hostile. For many years, she acted like an enemy to me. For many years, we did not have a relationship. We were always at odds. I was very angry with the life she had built around the lie that she believed about me and the nature of my love. I decided that I was going to put that wicked lie (along with the false wicked life that was built around that lie) to death! How was I going to do that? Through love.

          While this girl and I were still at odds in our relationship, I decided to freely give and demonstrate my love for her in sacrificial ways that caused death on my part. This confused her at first. She couldn’t understand why I would love her in such over the top ways when she was so hostile toward me and was breaking all the guidelines I set for her.

          You want to know something crazy Rob? She is starting to see my unconditional love and acceptance for her!

          This love is beginning to win her over. Our once frozen relationship is beginning to thaw. We’ve had coffee several times recently. She has begun to open up and share her heart with me. My love for her is winning. We’re no longer enemies. My love is putting those wicked lies to death.

          I hope that makes sense.

  13. Hey man, such a good post. Not sure if you know him, but Brandon Chase sent me a link to your “CoverUp” post and now reading some of your other posts. Your points hit home. . . have always set my heart on knowing Jesus and the life that is real when he is present, but thought that thinking myself valuable was looking away from him. Starting to think that that sounds stupid but man, it’s been a whirlpool. Will check out your other posts and have subscribed.

    • Alan,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting here. Welcome to the blog. The name Brandon Chase sure sounds familiar. Where does he live?

      Yes, His ways are clearly different than what we are commonly taught about Him. It is an upside down (or rightside up) kingdom! I look forward to continuing the dialogue with you in future posts. Blessings!

      • Hey man, you did the hard part of writing. . . reading’s the easy half. Brandon has a blog Zoe Perissos, think he lives in Texas. Met him thru his blog and he seems like the real deal, like you. Like what he writes because he makes a lot about Jesus. Look forward to your posts. . . will comment if it adds to the conversation.

  14. Jamal,
    The only lie that the serpent told Eve in the garden was that she wouldn’t die.

    “God knows that in the day that you eat, your eyes will be opened and you will be as God knowing good and evil” was completely true.

    God confirmed this statement when He said “the man has become like one of us knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22).

    Identity had nothing to do with it.

    • John,

      Thanks for reading. I must strongly disagree with you however. That was clearly not the only lie the serpent told Eve in the garden. The serpent assumed that they were not made in God’s likeness when he enticed her to eat. The lie the serpent passed on to her was not directly said, but implied. It was quite clever. The entire temptation from the serpent was built on the false assumption that mankind did not already bear the likeness of God. Eve accepted this false assumption about their identity. It most certainly had to do with identity. If this were not the case, the temptation would have not had any affect. If you go back to Genesis 1, you will see that God said very specifically that He created male and female in His likeness. He said this well before they ate the forbidden fruit.

      When the Lord said in Genesis 3:22 that they had become “like one of us knowing good and evil”, He was NOT saying that they now possessed His likeness from an identity standpoint. They already were made in His likeness. He was simply saying that mankind now possessed something that God had only possessed up until that point. For example, if I had always owned a car but my daughter had never possessed a car until today, I could say that “today my daughter has become like her mother and I, possessing a car”. I would NOT be saying “today, my daughter is now like her mother and I BECAUSE she owns a car”. There is a HUGE difference between the two. The serpent was assuming the latter, and that was the lie about their identity.

      Mankind now had an awareness of good and evil, something that they were not intended to have. The fact that they could even possess something that only God Himself had previously possessed actually sheds light on the fact that mankind was ALREADY made in His likeness. To use my daughter as an example again, because she is like us, she has the ability to own a car. My cat, on the other hand, has no ability to own a car because my cat is not like me. I hope that makes sense.

  15. Hi Jamal
    Interesting points. What struck me though is that your point 3 seems to contraindicate point 1. If humanity is not dead in sins and wicked in God’s eyes then why the need to be born again where he gives us a heart of flesh in place of a heart of stone?

    • Phillip,

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your question / comment. I do not see the contradiction that you see, however. Point #1 (new birth) is necessary because God actually does NOT have a toxic view of humanity. When the eyes of mankind were darkened, they began to live contrary to the view and image that God created mankind in. Through the new birth, mankind is actually being restored to the original intention and view that God had for humanity in Christ before time and the foundations of the world were ever created. This original and true view of humanity that God possessed was, and is not toxic.

      • Hi Jamal

        Thanks for the reply. Yes i agree with you that the new birth is our Lord’s restoring His original intent. May He be praised forever! Peace and joy to You Brother.

  16. I guess that I am just not up to it.

    I will go just so far (and no further) when it comes to loving God and my neighbor.

    I have to say that most of the time I am thinking about my own wants and desires.

    But He knows this about me…and still loves and forgives me.

    Wow. What a God!

  17. Zziwa Ashiraf March 4, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Hi Jamal! well am Ugandan Male and a Muslim. I have just come a cross your spiritual postings and i have enjoyed reading them.

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  1. It’s Not Me, It’s The Lord…I’m Dead…& The Lie of Zombie Theology | Jamal Jivanjee - October 31, 2014

    […] January of this past year, I wrote an article on this blog titled 3 Things That Drive Me Insane About Evangelical Theology.  In that post, I mentioned that the effects of evangelical thinking can run quite deep, leading […]

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