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Bruce, You Misunderstand Evangelical Christianity


Today, I received an email from an Evangelical Christian who thinks I misunderstand Evangelical Christianity. He doesn’t question my understanding of Evangelical theology. Instead, he thinks I misunderstand  WHY Evangelicals continue to evangelize me. He hopes that I will “PLEASE listen with open ears (unless you want to stoop to the same level as those people who comment without reading your posts).”

The email writer seems to be a decent person, but I learned a long time ago that just because an Evangelical is initially kind, decent, and respectful doesn’t mean they will continue to be this way. Recent emails from David R. Leach are case in point. Leach’s first email was every bit as thoughtful as this man’s email. However, once I responded in kind, Leach dropped the façade and went for my throat. (see Bruce, You Have a Narcissistic and Bankrupt Heart) Long time readers of this blog remember a Baptist preacher by the name of Marty. Marty came across as a decent, thoughtful man. His comments were generally polite and respectful. But, over time his comments became increasingly hostile and then BOOM the proverbial shit hit the fan. It was not long before Marty was permanently banned from this site. So, I hope the email writer will forgive me if I don’t necessarily trust him.

Like many Evangelicals who write me, he wants me to know that he is NOT like the nasty, bombastic, hateful Evangelicals who write me or leave comments on my blog. In other words, yes we are family but those folks are the crazy uncle of the family. Here’s what he had to say:

First off, I want you to know that I am sympathetic. It makes me angry when “Christians” comment on blog posts, send emails, or write letters simply to condemn a fellow human who doesn’t believe the same thing.  I also want you to know that my goal isn’t to try to convert you, quote verses at you, accuse you of bitterness or anger, or to claim that I know the “truth” about you. My goal is simply to explain, in love and humility, why (not all, obviously, but some) evangelical Christians do try to “convert” you.

I understand where he is coming from. When I see some atheists act like petulant children who think that a turd throwing contest with a fundamentalist is a thoughtful conversation, it embarrasses me. I want to shout, I am NOT like them. Most Christians who take the time to get to know me come to the conclusion that I am, in their eyes wrong about many things, but, as a person, I am decent, kind, and loving. Those who don’t see me this way are agenda driven, having a need to justify their horrendous behavior towards me. What better way to do so than paint me as a demonic inspired evil man This Bruce Gerencser exists only in the addled mind of Christian fundamentalists.

The email writer asks:

Have you ever seen the video where the atheist comedian Penn Jillette speaks about his encounter with the loving evangelist?  This stranger gave Penn a Bible, along with a note, and Penn’s response describes exactly what evangelical Christianity is all about.

He said, “If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell—or not getting eternal life or whatever—and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Yes, I have seen the video and I agree with Penn Jillette. If I really believed what the Bible says, then I would witness and evangelize too. How could I not do so, knowing that judgment and hell await those who do not repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior? And that is exactly what I did for over twenty-five years. I took seriously the teachings of the Bible and the exclusivity of the Christian gospel. As a result, hundreds of people were converted through my preaching. I get it. Life is short, hell is real. Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.

And that’s the point…I GET IT. Been there, done that. What is an Evangelical going to tell me that I haven’t heard before? Is there a new gospel or a new method? Did God throw over the portal of heaven some new books to be added to the Bible?  Of course not. Same gospel, same methodology. I suspect I have used, at one time or the other, almost every Evangelical evangelistic method. At this late date, as the sun is long in the sky of my life, I highly doubt an Evangelical is going to surprise me with something I haven’t heard before.  After seven years of blogging and hundreds and hundreds of Evangelicals emailing me and commenting on my blogs, I have yet to read something new. I suspect the former Evangelicals who frequent this blog will say the same.

That’s why when the email writer says:

Now, I understand your frustration when Christians try to tell you you’re wrong, try to convert you, or tell you they’re praying for you.  I know it’s frustrating when they assume things and accuse you of being a filthy sinner. Sometimes they are in the wrong (lacking love and humility, speaking in anger, etc), but often times they are just warning you of what they believe is truth.  I’ve read a couple of your posts now, and you seem like a reasonable man.  My request to you is simple: try to hear what evangelicals are saying without assuming cynical motives–consider what they’re saying from their own point of view.  When I “evangelize,” I’m doing it out of love. I’m doing it because I don’t want to see another human suffer; because I believe that the Bible is true and hell exists.  If I didn’t try to share that truth with people, what kind of person would that make me?

he fails the appreciate the overwhelming amount of email, tweets, blog comments, and Facebook comments, I have received from Evangelicals. He fails to appreciate the sermons that have been preached about me and the blog posts that have been dedicated to deconstructing my life. Many of these things are just a reminder that there are a lot of assholes in the Evangelical church. Others? I am sure they are sincere. They want me to be saved, brought back to Christ, etc. But, here’s the thing, there’s seven billion people living on planet earth. From the narrow perspective of the Evangelical, this means there are billions of people who need to hear the Evangelical gospel. Why spend one moment trying to evangelize someone who has zero interest in the snake oil that Evangelicals are selling? Since I have no need of being educated in the gospel message, if God wants me saved or brought back into the fold, surely he is able to do it without further human instrumentation, right?

The email writer wants me to know that Evangelicals write me because they love me. They don’t want me to die and go to hell. I am not sure I believe this. I think that many Evangelicals THINK this is their motivation for writing me, but, I ask again, why focus on me, a man who has made it very clear that he has no interest in Christianity or the Christian gospel. Since I think many Evangelical churches are either cultic or have cultic tendencies, in what universe would I be considered a viable candidate for salvation and re-entrance into the Evangelical church?

You see, I think Evangelicals are less than honest about their motivations. Perhaps, I should give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they might not even be aware of what their motives are. Here’s what I think:

  • Wouldn’t  it be great story if someone was the means God used to bring me to saving faith or to bring me back into the Evangelical fold?  I am not just a generic sinner in need of saving. Oh no, I am the Evangelical pastor turned atheist, a man who once preached the gospel and now preaches atheism. Can you imagine the book sales and speaking opportunities I could have if I renounced atheism?
  • Many of the Evangelicals who write me need to have their beliefs reinforced. They NEED the battle. They NEED the bloodshed. What better place to come than They Way Forward? By sending me an email or leaving a blog comment, they reminding themselves of the truth of the Evangelical gospel. I am not their real target. They want affirmation that they are right.
  • Some Evangelicals who write me actually have doubts about their own salvation and beliefs. They have questions about the Bible. They wonder, is what I believe really the truth? They may initially come off as just another evangelizing Evangelical, but underneath their bravado is a doubter, a person who wonders if they will some day become just like me.

Regular readers know I have six children. I love my children and I want them to have safe, peaceful, happy, productive lives. When our children started moving out and getting married, Polly and I established a hard and fast rule that governs our involvement in the lives of our children. If they ask a question or want our opinion then we will give it. If they get upset at our answer then that is their fault. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know. If they don’t ask, we keep our opinions to ourselves.  They know we have opinions about most everything they do, from the color of the paint in their kitchen to the car they bought. But, it is not our place to meddle in their life. If an issue is important, perhaps life threatening, we will give our opinion one time. The discussion usually goes something this, I know you might not want to hear this but I need to tell you __________________. Most often, they will reply, I know or I hear you.  And that’s it. Their life and they are free to do with it what they want. I still love them even if they make choices that I don’t approve of.

Here’s my point, I don’t need to harp at my children to get my point across. We are adults and we are capable of having adult conversations. No need to keep repeating my objection. They get it, I object, but they are going to do what they are going to do. I wish evangelizing Evangelicals would see things this way. Over the course of seven years, I have been evangelized more times than I can count. I really don’t need to hear it anymore. I get it, you think I am going to hell and you want to save me from myself. I don’t want to be saved, and quite frankly if I have to choose between a heaven filled with Evangelicals and a hell populated with the eclectic unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines that read this blog, I am going to choose hell every time.

The email writer doesn’t think much of the page Dear Evangelical. It is a page I put together to answer every question and objection an Evangelical might have. It is meant to keep people like this email writer from wasting their time by emailing me or leaving a comment. He writes:

When I read through some of your posts, especially the “Dear Evangelical” page, your comments regarding evangelistic responses seemed somewhat unfair to me.  In your rules, you make it clear that any sort of “warning” from Christians is unacceptable and will be disapproved. Those Christians are sharing what they believe so that fewer people will have to experience the eternal torment they know as hell.

Whether you believe in that eternal damnation or not, please understand that the warning is an expression of love. To ban this sort of comment is the same thing as saying, “Nobody is allowed to warn that man over there, even though some of you believe he’s about to get hit by a truck. This blog isn’t for people who believe that the truck is coming, so warnings are not allowed.” There are two points that I’m trying to make: 1) Why disregard the comments and portray them as annoying, when they’re meant as an expression of love? And 2) What if you’re wrong about the existence of that truck? Wouldn’t it be better to allow an open discussion about that truck, so the man has the ability to decide for himself whether he’s about to get hit or not?

Despite all the warning signs and roadblocks I put in the way of zealots for Jesus, they either ignore them or they think they don’t apply. They show me through their behavior that they have little respect for me. If they respected me, they would accept the fact that I am not a prospect for heaven and they let me go to hell in peace. It is, after all, my choice, right? And here come the Calvinists to remind me that it is NOT my choice but God’s. Fine, then let God email me. When THAT happens I will most certainly pay attention.

The email writer is confused about the purpose of this blog. Like many Evangelicals, he thinks his God-given right to evangelize supersedes my right to personal space and free association. (see Steve Sanchez Thinks He has a Right to Harass People for Jesus) While anyone can read my writing, that doesn’t mean they also have a right to comment. I want to build a community here, a community of people who have common interests. Oh, we squabble every once in a while over politics or Honey Boo Boo, but generally the people who comment on this blog are in agreement with what I write. When they don’t agree with me, they voice their objection and I try to learn from them. That’s how it works here.

heinz 57 dog

The Way Forward community is a varied lot. Dare I say a motley, Heinz-57 lot?  Think everyone who comments here is an atheist? Don’t put that in writing…you will find out quickly that the spectrum of belief and unbelief is quite broad. There’s even a smattering of Evangelicals, odd ducks to be sure, who have learned to play well with others. Christians of all sorts, atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, universalists, and pagans. We are one, big messed up adopted family.

The one thing most regular readers and commenters have in common is that we understand Evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Some us spent a lifetime in the Evangelical trenches and we have the mental and emotional scars to prove it. And some, tragically, have the the physical scars to prove it.  Since I think Evangelicalism is generally abusive and mentally and emotionally harmful, would it be right for me to allow Evangelical zealots the freedom to evangelize at will in the comment section? In my mind, that would be like inviting a convicted child molester to my child’s birthday party. Not going to happen.  Since I know that back story of some of the people who regularly comment, it would be irresponsible for me to let Evangelical evangelizers run roughshod over people I consider my friends.

The email writer needs to understand that I am not interested in open discussion with Evangelicals. I have no desire to debate them, argue with them, or disabuse them of their mythical beliefs. I give each Evangelical one opportunity to say whatever they want to say. No one has been banned before they comment. Every Evangelical that has a Jesus hard on is free to leave one comment; one comment for them to say everything they think God is leading them to say. If they show the ability to play well with others I might let them comment again. If I think some good can come from having a discussion with them then I will play along. Sadly, in almost every case, when I give an Evangelical enough rope to hang themselves, they in short order follow in the steps of Judas.

I get it, Evangelicals want the right to defecate in my cat box They see all the heresy and error espoused by not only me but the deluded people who comment here, so they want to make sure we all know the truth. They either forget or don’t care that most of us have forgotten more theology than they will ever know. I know it is shocking, but there are people who look at the wonderful grace of Jesus and say no thanks! There is nothing within the Evangelical church and its beliefs that is even remotely interesting to me. If I am given the opportunity to choose between Sunday church with a bunch of Jesus loving Evangelicals and an NFL football game, even if it is the Jets vs the Raiders, I am going to choose the NFL e-v-e-r-y time.

In the end, no matter how nice this Evangelical seemed, he couldn’t help himself. Here’s how he ended his email:

Even though you obviously don’t appreciate when Christians pray for you, I just did. I prayed for you because I love you as a fellow person, and because I believe that this matter is of the utmost importance. I will continue to pray for you, because I don’t want to see you face eternal damnation.

He KNOWS I don’t appreciate Christians telling me that they are praying for me, yet he tells me anyway. In one brief act he illustrates the point my counselor made to me several years ago. I naïvely thought that if I just told my story and explained myself to Evangelicals they would “understand.”  My counselor laughed and said, Bruce, you think they should give a shit about what you think. They don’t. I now know this to be true

The email writer could have prayed for me without telling me. Does his prayer become more efficacious if he tells me? Why not pray in secret for my soul? Why not go into the holy of holies and grab the horns of the altar and bombard the heavens with prayers for my soul? Instead, this Evangelical does the one thing I ask him not to do.

3,090 words. Didn’t I just say in a previous post that people quit reading after a thousand words?

Bruce out.


Published: July 24, 2014 | Comments: 0

How and Why I Write the Way I Do

bud man

During the eleven years I attended public school, I showed myself to be an average student. Somewhere around seventh grade, I figured out that getting A’s required lots of work and getting C’s required little effort on my part. Since I loved playing sports, going to church, and hanging out with my friends a lot more than I did excelling in school, I chose the C route. My grade cards reflect the effort of a student who could have had all A’s but didn’t want to do the work necessary to earn them. Mr. Brobst, my ninth grade counselor, told me I had the potential to be a straight A student IF I worked hard and applied myself. At the time, I thought, why work hard when I can breeze through school without doing much work. More time for sports, church, and girls, right?

Fortunately, I was a proficient reader and speller. My mother taught me to read before I entered school and this opened up the world to me on my own terms. Instead of the required reading in school, I could go to the library and choose any subject I wanted to read about. My reading naturally gravitated towards sports stories. As I got older, my reading habits moved from fiction to nonfiction. These days, I rarely read fiction.

In the fall of 1976, I left rural NW Ohio to study for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College. From this point forward, my reading was focused on theology, Christian biographies, church history, and inspirational books. As a young pastor, I read books written by Independent Baptist and Southern Baptist writers. As I got older and my theological beliefs matured, so did the type of books I read. After I embraced Calvinism, I began reading the Puritans and the Reformers, along with the English Baptists and the writers that were prominent during the First and Second Great Awakening. Most of my reading focused on authors from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century.

I also began reading twentieth century Calvinistic authors like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, and countless other defenders of Calvinistic orthodoxy. After my theology moved away from Calvinistic orthodoxy, I began reading books by Mennonite and Catholic authors. My reading proclivities reflected the leftward shift of my political  views. I entered the ministry as a Fundamentalist Baptist with extreme right-wing political views. I left the ministry as a progressive Christian with liberal/socialistic political views. As a young pastor, I was a diehard pro-life. homosexual hating, war mongering Republican. As I exited the ministry at the age of 46, I was a pro-choice, LGBT sympathetic, pacifistic liberal Democrat.

As a  pastor, I was a diligent student of the Bible. I spent countless hours reading and studying as I prepared the sermons I would preach each Sunday. I read complex, dry theological texts because I thought it was important for me to accurately instruct others. My sermons could have been deep, dry acts of theological masturbation; sermons that only a theology addict would appreciate. Instead, I took complex theological subjects and taught them in such a way that the factory worker, waitress, and farmer could understand them. It’s not that I couldn’t wax eloquently on the various lapsarian and eschatological views; I could , but to what end? The average person in the pew worked long hours at work and had little time to read Calvin, Turretin, or Gill. What they needed from me was hope, strength, encouragement, and motivation and I did my best to give it to them.

For seven years, I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. The church started as a Reformed Baptist church and morphed into an nondenominational church that used the tagline, the church where the only label that matters is Christian. For a short time, a man with a PhD from Westminster attended the church. He and I would spend hours talking theology. I thoroughly enjoyed our Bible bull sessions. However, when it came to teaching, he and I were vastly different. For a few weeks on Sunday night, this man tried to teach the church about the importance of philosophy. His lessons were a mixture of theology, philosophy, Greek, and Hebrew. I loved his teachings. The rest of the church? Right over their head. He never taught again. Church members were polite but they made sure that I knew that they preferred my teaching.

The brilliance of Bart Ehrman is his ability to take complex theological, textual, and historical subjects and make them accessible to a wide spectrum of people. And this is exactly how I approached preaching. While I loved reading John Gill, I found his sermons stuffy, dry, and mind numbing. I thought, who would want to listen to this stuff? Not many, according to historians. In the nineteenth century,  a man by the name of Charles Spurgeon became the pastor of the church once pastored by John Gill. People thronged to hear Spurgeon preach. Why? The style and content of his preaching appealed to the masses. Spurgeon had a massive library and certainly could have preached sermons that only a clergyman would love. Instead, he took complex theological beliefs and made them accessible to working class people. To this day, we remember Spurgeon as the prince of preachers. Gill? Forgotten.

And now let me bring this around to blogging. When I started blogging in 2007, my goal was to be one man telling his story. Early on, blogging was a cheap form of therapy. Over time, people started reading what I wrote. I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t. I still have days when I say to myself, who wants to read this shit? I spent most of my life as a public speaker. Early readers of this blog remember how difficult it was for me to stop writing like I talk. What made for a great sermon made for a lousy blog post. I continue to work on being a better writer. I know I have a lot to learn.

My sermons were passionate, with every message being a call to action. I was just as open and honest in my sermons as I am now in my writing.  My sermons, to a large degree, were an extension of who and what I was and I want blogging to be the same. I could, if I was so inclined, write long, complex, wordy theological tomes. I am sure there would be people who would read it. But, that’s not what I want to do. I still want to be one man with a story to tell. I want my writing to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. I know who my target audience is and I want to write posts that reach this audience. Those who are looking for scholarly, deep, complex 5,000 word posts are going to be sorely disappointed with my writing. I can’t be all things to all men, so I try to focus on doing a few things well. I know my story resonates with many people, so I intend to continue writing about the past and my understanding of Evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. I want to frame my story in such a way that it is an inspiration and help to others.

Years ago, I wrote frequent Community Voice articles for The Bryan Times. Christopher Cullis, the publisher of the Times, gave me some advice I have tried to remember as a writer. Cullis told me that my articles could be as long as I wanted them to be, but people tend to quit reading after a thousand or so words. Some of you voiced your frustration and boredom as you  tried to read Joshua Whipps’ three post, 10,000 word deconstruction of my life. One post was over 5,000 words. Too dense, too many words. Even I was bored and I was the subject of his screed. I am sure his posts appealed to the high brow, John Gill loving Calvinists he runs with. That’s not my crowd.

My crowd continues to be the everyday people who frequent this blog. Our common bond is our stories and experiences. Through them we help, comfort, and support one another. That’s the great thing about the internet. Wherever your interests lie, you can find people to hang with. There was a day when I would have enjoyed sipping Dom Perignon from time to time with my uptown friends. These  days, I am content to drink Budweiser with the good people who frequent The Way Forward.  For those who want Dom Perignon, there are plenty of places that serve it. Continuing to hang out at The Way Forward pub hoping to get an expensive bottle of wine will only leave a person frustrated and as sober as an AA crowd. Why not go and drink where you will feel at home?

Published: July 24, 2014 | Comments: 11

Which Version of the Ten Commandments is Correct?


Rustin asked:

Until recently I’ve never heard of the 10 commandments as described in Exodus 34. Where Moses breaks the first set then comes down with these new ones. These new ones in Ex 34 are actually referred to as the “10 commandments” but they are completely different than what we traditionally think. I’m curious if you’ve ever brought this up with Christians and what their reactions/responses were.

Also I’m curious of what Christians say when asked how do you decide what Old Testament commandments to follow and which ones were only designated for those in the past?

These are great questions! I hope I can adequately answer them.

Most Christians believe the Ten Commandments are for today. A minority of Christians who call themselves New Covenant Christians, do not believe the Ten Commandments are binding today. In their mind, when Jesus died on the cross and resurrected from the dead, he instituted a New Covenant. The Old Covenant, the Old Testament, is no longer binding. However, most Christians think the Ten Commandments are binding, even if they make little effort to keep them.  Right-wing Christians demand government recognize the Ten Commandments as God’s law for everyone. They often demand that the Ten Commandments be taught in public school classrooms and be tacked on classroom walls.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, 18:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

These verses seems to directly contradict New Covenant theology. According to Jesus, the law will not pass away until heaven and earth pass and all be fulfilled. Has heaven and earth passed ? Has all been fulfilled? The answer to both of these questions is NO. As a pastor, I took the approach that all of the law of God was in force and binding. The key was “rightly” interpreting God’s law.

Christians endlessly argue amongst themselves over the word law. Does law mean all 635 Old Testament commands? Does it mean the commands of both Testaments or just the New Testament? Calvinists love to divide the laws found in the Bible into three categories: moral, civil, and ceremonial. In their mind, the ceremonial law was fulfilled in the death of Jesus, the civil law only applied to Israel, and the moral law is the Ten Commandments. (and it is the law that is written on every person’s heart) Only the Ten Commandments are binding and in force today. Good luck trying to play the Law Game. Every Christian has their own set of rules.

For the sake of this post, the word law means the Ten Commandments. Before we look at the three versions of the Ten Commandments, I should point out that no Christian keeps all of the Commandments. In fact, most Christians deliberately disobey the command to remember the sabbath and keep it holy. They have all kinds of explanations for not keeping the Sabbath, but I won’t bore you with them today. Perhaps I will deal with the Sabbath issue in another post. I just want to point out that most Christians believe in the Nine Commandments not the Ten.

There are three Ten Commandments lists in the Bible. They are found in Exodus 20 , Exodus 34, and Deuteronomy 5. You don’t need to be a Bible scholar to see that the versions are quite different. Why do they differ? Surely, if the Ten Commandments are straight from the mouth of God to tablets of stone, shouldn’t each Ten Commandments passage be identical?

Exodus 20

 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Deuteronomy 5

I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Neither shalt thou commit adultery. Neither shalt thou steal. Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour. Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Exodus 34

And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance. And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee. Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt. All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male. But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. Thrice in the year shall all your menchildren appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning. The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.

As you can easily see, there are small differences between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 and huge differences between Exodus 34 and the other two. Let the ‘splaining begin.

Here how I handled this problem as a pastor. I did the same thing I did with the gospels, I harmonized the three accounts. I made them “fit” well enough to make everyone, myself included, think that God was just expanding our “understanding” of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 34. I didn’t dwell on the differences. When I preached on the Ten Commandments I always used the Exodus 20 text.

Ruskin asked:

Also I’m curious of what Christians say when asked how do you decide what Old Testament commandments to follow and which ones were only designated for those in the past?

ten recommendations

I think I have answered this above, but let me add one final thought. Christian pastors, sects, and college professors use all sorts of methods to determine whether a certain Biblical law is valid today. There are some who say that the Old Testament is no longer binding and Christians should only follow the commands of the New Testament. Others say that ALL of the law of God from Genesis through Revelation is for today. The key is to rightly interpret it. (Greek for make it fit my 21st century American lifestyle) Some pastors and sects consider themselves New Testament Christians, yet they are quite willing to appeal to the Old Testament when trying to justify tithing or certain social prohibitions like women not wearing pants. There are even others who think that only the commands found in Paul’s writings are valid today. (hyper-dispensationalists)

Like with everything else in the Bible, the individual Christian picks and chooses which laws to obey. Internecine wars are fought over whose “laws” are correct. Countless books are written giving the correct interpretation of God’s law. From Jesus to Paul to Augustine to Calvin to Rushdoony, everyone has their own opinion.  Lost in all these battles is the fact that God made no effort to make sure that his very important laws were accurately given to humankind. Yet, despite all this confusion and contradiction, there are Christians who think the Christian God’s law, the Ten Commandments, should be the law by which secular states govern themselves.


Another question….if the Ten Commandments are God’s perfect moral law, what law were humans required to obey before the Ten Commandments were given?

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 4

Where is the God of Elijah?


Elisha, the prophet who succeeded Elijah asked, in 2 Kings 2:14, where if the God of Elijah? Christians of today should be asking the same question.

Elijah’s God is one that sent fire from heaven and killed the prophets of Baal. Throughout the Old Testament, we see Elijah’s God dealing harshly with those who opposed or disobeyed him. Elijah’s God drowned everyone in the world, except Noah and his family, because the world was increasingly wicked. The God of Elijah, rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, used his followers to slaughter countless enemies, and even killed a man for trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from tipping over. Elijah’s God, at least in the Old Testament, was a vengeful, angry God that was the meanest son-of-a-bitch in town. He was not a God to be trifled with. As the writer of Hebrews said, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

However, once we get to the New Testament, outside of killing Ananias and Sapphira because they lied about the price they received for a property, Elijah’s God seems to have successfully completed anger management class and is being treated for a split personality disorder. Granted, according to the book of Revelation, God will, someday, go off his meds and revert to the vengeful, angry, petulant God of the Old Testament. But, for now, we have to wonder…exactly where IS Elijah’s God?

Evangelical preachers and TV talking heads frequently say that we are living in the Last Days. Some think it is just as bad now as it was in the days of Noah or when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Since the advent of the internet, atheists, agnostics, humanists, and virtually every non-Christian religion you can think of, has taken to the blogosphere to preach heresy and ridicule and mock the Evangelical Christian God. Abortionists, homosexuals, Hollywood actors, and Democrats, promote godlessness and give nary a thought about Elijah’s bad ass God. Where is Elijah’s God? You know that God who routinely killed false prophets and those who dare to disobey him?

It seems to me that there are two explanations for Elijah’s God being AWOL. Either he is on vacation and when he comes back he will take care of those who blaspheme his name or he doesn’t exist.  I am inclined to think that Elijah’s God doesn’t exist. Supposedly, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Surely, God should act consistently, yes? Why then, does he not strike down evil, wicked, Christ-denying false prophets like me? Why has he allowed Bart Ehrman to have such a devastating effect on the Christian church?  These days, vocal atheists live full lives and the Evangelical God does not touch them? Again, is God on vacation? Or perhaps this God does not exist.

According to Evangelicals, God is knows the number of hairs on their head, helps them find their car keys, and blesses them with jobs, cars, vacations, and palace-like church buildings. He is a micromanaging God, interested in every detail of their lives, yet when it comes to modern false prophets he does nothing. Doesn’t this seem strange to you? More than one Christian zealot has prayed an imprecatory prayer over my head, yet here I am. Why? Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Evangelical God struck me dead or caused my hands to wither up so I couldn’t type? Imagine the stories preachers could tell about the atheist God killed. Imagine books that could be written about my life, cautionary tales about a man who thought he was bigger than God. Yet, despite all the prayers, sermons, blog posts, and indignant calling fire down from heaven blog comments, I remain alive.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to ask, where IS the God of Elijah? Let me know when you find him. For now, I fear his crazy, right-wing followers a lot more than I do him. You know, the ones who say they would love for someone to slit my throat.  If the Evangelical God wants to straighten me out, chastise me, or kill me, he knows where I live.

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 0

Those Who Fall Away Just Didn’t Love Jesus Enough

facebook jesus

Susan, who blogs at Susan’s Flutterbys, continues to be infatuated with yours truly. In today’s missive, she quotes Joshua Whipps, agrees with him, and says since I used my real name in a comment she is officially “outing” me. Which is kind of funny since I have never been “in”. I have always used my real name on the internet. I am readily accessible, with nothing to hide.

Susan tells a bold-faced lie when she states:

…Mr. Gerencser ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.

Meaningful dialog is ALWAYS welcome. Susan made no attempt to have meaningful dialog with me, accusing me of being an hater, and when asked to give here reasons for this claim, refused to do so. Even on her own blog, after my good friend John Arthur commented on a previous post  about me, Susan closed down the comments. As far as Joshua Whipps is concerned, I asked him to comment on the blog posts he disagreed with, yet he made it clear that he was not going to lower himself and waste his valuable words on the people who read The Way Forward. Whipps could have engaged in meaningful dialog with me but he chose not to. Whipps wrote a total of three posts about me but allowed no comments. Whipps considers his posts about me “teaching” posts. Yet, according to Susan and Whipps, I am the one that “ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.”

Now, on to the focus of this post. Susan recently listened to a sermon by Phil Johnson,the executive director of Grace to You and a longtime member of John MacArthur’s church. This is what she learned:

One thing he says towards the beginning is the thing that I was (thankfully I can say “was”) having trouble with. He says that institutions and persons have failed and will continue to fail into the future, but the gospel of Jesus will be triumphant. I admit that I was overly concerned by individual persons failing and falling away. Pastor Johnson says that this is actually a blessing in disguise in that the Lord is weeding out through this process the pretenders and keeping the faithful remnant. Pastor Johnson sees the season of unpopularity of the Church having a purifying effect on the Church because the ones who go for any other reason besides their love of Jesus, will drop out. They can deny and deny and speak of their previous love for Jesus, but in the end TRUE LOVE DOESN’T FAIL, so their denials are about as valid as an alcoholic saying he’s not a drunk.

Here’s the gist of Susan’s Johnson Bruce inspired post:

  • The Lord is weeding pretenders like Bruce Gerencser out of the church
  • Bruce Gerencser had some other motivation than love for Jesus and this is why he fell away
  • Bruce Gerencser didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough

I always find it amazing that people from afar, people who never sat under my ministry, never heard me preach, never observed my life, can make such severe judgments about my life. I suppose I am to blame for this. I am quite open and honest as I tell my story and this gives my critics a lot of information by which to judge my life. Yet, not one church member, fellow pastor, or personal friend ever thought that I didn’t love Jesus. This charge is silly, unfounded, and a lazy attempt to explain away my life.

Here’s two questions I have for Susan and the “I really didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough” crowd:

  • How much love for Jesus is enough?
  • What is the standard for determining if a Christian really loves Jesus or loves him enough?

Susan’s post is a reminder that Calvinists, for all their talk about salvation by grace, actually believe in salvation by works. The measure of love for Jesus is what? Good works. Since I didn’t persevere and continue to produce good works that showed I really, really, really loved Jesus, I never “really” loved Jesus and was never a true Christian.  Unless the Calvinist continues producing good works and continues to do so until their last breath, they can not be certain that they are a Christian.

I know I can not convince the Susan’s and Joshua Whipps of the world of anything. Their minds are made up. They have weighed me in the balance and found me wanting..

Let me close this post with one of my favorite songs when I was a pastor. When I led and sang this song I did so with every fiber of my being. It is ludicrous to say that I was a deceiver or that I never loved Jesus. Like two people who were once married, their marriage likely ended with a loss of love, but who can doubt they, at one time, loved one another. So it was with my relationship with Jesus. Here’s the song, Gone From My Heart the World and All its Charms:

Gone from my heart the world and all its charms;
Now through the blood I’m saved from all alarms;
Down at the cross my heart is bending low;
The precious blood of Jesus cleanses white as snow.

I love Him, I love Him,
Because He first loved me,
And purchased my salvation on Calv’ry’s tree.

Once I was lost, and fallen deep in sin;
Once was a slave to passions fierce within;
Once was afraid to meet an angry God,
But now I’m cleansed from every stain thro’ Jesus’ blood.

Once I was bound, but now I am set free;
Once I was blind, but now the light I see;
Once I was dead, but now in Christ I live,
To tell the world around the peace that He doth give.

Responses to Joshua Whipps

Another Deconstruction of My Story

Joshua Whipps: I’ve Read Your Blog

Fundamentalist Christian Gnats

Response to Susan

The Anti-Christ’s Brother is Revealed: His Name is Anti-Pastor

Evangelicals Use the Wrong Equation to Determine Their Beliefs

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 26

Louisville Bats vs. Toledo Mud Hens July 18, 2014

Polly and I drove to Toledo to watch the AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, the Louisville Bats, play the Toledo Mud Hens.  Here are some of the pictures I took. Most of them are in black and white.

Bruce and Polly Gerencser

Bruce and Polly Gerencser. Thanks to the unnamed man that volunteered to take a picture of us. Polly’s shirt says Whiny Birds, a diss of the St Louis Cardinals. You’d have to be a diehard Reds or Cardinals fan to appreciate the intense rivalry between these two teams.

Polly Gerencser

My girlfriend. We really should get married some day.

Jack Hannahan

Jack Hannahan, utility player for the Cincinnati Reds. He is rehabbing from a recent shoulder surgery. I was delighted to see Jack take time to sign autographs and talk with the young people congregated near the Louisville dugout.


Mascot for the Toledo Walleye hockey team

Duane Below

#32 Duane Below, Toledo Mud Hens

Rey Navarro

#1 Rey Navarro, Louisville Bats

David Holmberg

#19 David Holmberg, Louisville Bats

Louisville Toledo Baseball Game July 18 2014

Unknown player for Toledo, #7 Tucker Barnhart catching for Louisville Bats

Felix Perez

# 14 Felix Perez, Louisville Bats

Thomas Neal

#3 Thomas Neal, Louisville Bats

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 2

Out on The Town with the Boys, July 20th 2014

Last Sunday, I attended, with my sons and grandson, the minor league baseball game between the Louisville Bats and the Toledo Mud Hens. As always, I had my camera with me:

toledo louisville baseball game july 20 2014
Levi, Jaime, son #3, and Jason, son #1.

toledo louisville baseball game july 20 2014

Jason and Nathan, son #2.

toledo louisville baseball game july 20 2014

Grandpa and  grandson Levi

toledo louisville baseball game july 20 2014


toledo louisville baseball game july 20 2014


toledo louisville baseball game july 20 2014


toledo louisville baseball game july 20 2014


Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 6

Pastor Tim Conway Shows he Doesn’t Know Much About Mental Health

pastor tim conway

Tim Conway is the pastor of Grace Community Church in San Antonio, Texas. He is a fundamentalist Calvinist. I was Tim’s pastor for a short time in 1994. In the following video, Conway shows that he knows absolutely nothing about the mental health issues many people face. He may have stayed at a Holiday Inn but he most certainly is not qualified to give any advice to someone with mental health problems.

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I also find it interesting that Conway did not mention one of major reasons people have mental health problems…fundamentalist religion and abusive, manipulative pastors. Yes, guilt is a BIG problem, but the solution is to free oneself from the purveyors of guilt. There is no greater guilt producer than Christian fundamentalism. It is a religion that debases, demoralizes, and abuses people, teaching them to blame themselves rather than the religious beliefs, practices, and leaders who have emotionally and mentally harmed them.

Published: July 22, 2014 | Comments: 10