You Never Were a Christian

daniel finke

One of the ways that Evangelicals dismiss my life and current beliefs is to say that I never was a Christian, I was a false Christian, or I was Christian in name only.

I thought Christians have been given a spirit of discernment. I thought Christians are filled with Holy Spirit. I thought the Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide. I thought the Bible gives Christians everything they need to know concerning life and godliness. If these things are true, how is it then that NO ONE, not one single person, ever suggested that I was not a real Christian until I openly said I was an agnostic? I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I preached my first sermon at age fifteen and for the next thirty-five years I was a committed, devoted follower of Jesus. I spent twenty-five years in the ministry, pastoring churches and helping thousands of people. I prayed, read and studied the Bible, witnessed, tithed, attended public worship services, and tried to pattern my life according to the teachings of the Bible and the life of Jesus. I sacrificed my life for the sake of the gospel. I willingly lived a life of self-denial, accepting poverty wages so churches could have a full time pastor. This was my life, yet according to some Christians, it was all a charade, a game, or the work of a man inspired by Satan and possessed by demons

A pastor on Facebook said that he could discern the true Christian from the false Christian. I replied that I did not believe he had any such gift. I told him my family and I could put on our Sunday best and come to his church and I could preach for his congregation and EVERYONE would think the Gerencsers are a wonderful Christian family. Perhaps my older children could come along with us and bring their guitars so we could lead the church in a divine, inspiring time of praise and worship. I bet people would even remark that they “felt” God’s presence and that the Gerencsers are a godly example of how a family should be.

I’ve been telling my story online for more than seven years. Uncounted Christians have told me that I never was a Christian. Some of these deniers were close friends and colleagues in the ministry. Why do they say I never was a Christian?  By saying this, they are able to ignore the glaring truth that they have no discernment and that the Holy Spirit did not warn them I was a sheep in wolf clothing. This also allows them to avoid the hard theological questions that arise when trying to square my life with their beliefs.

It’s easy to say, in hindsight, I never was a Christian. Why is it no one spotted my deception while I was their pastor? Was I just a great con artist, an Elmer Gantry? Think about this for a moment. For twenty-five years, I was able to successfully con seven churches, thousands of people, and dozens of colleagues in the ministry. Does anyone really think I could pull this off if I were not a Christian?

Here’s the truth, like it or not: I was a Christian and now I am not. I don’t care how you square this with your theology, you know and I know that I was a true-blue, washed-in-the-blood, sanctified, Holy-Ghost-filled, Bible-believing, sin-hating Christian. Jesus was my one and only, the passion and love of my life. I was willing to die for him if need be. If I wasn’t a Christian then nobody is.

bruce gerencser 1991

Bruce Gerencser, 1991, Somerset Baptist Academy. Surely everyone can see from this picture that I was a real Christian. 🙂

I am sure someone will ask why this matters to me? If God doesn’t exist and the Bible is fairy tale, why should I care whether someone thinks I was a Christian? Imagine, for a moment, that you were a star baseball player in high school. At age eighteen, you were signed to a minor league contract by the New York Yankees. You worked your way through the Yankees minor league system, finally making it to the major leagues at age twenty-three. For the next fifteen years, you played outfield for the Yankees. At the age of thirty-eight you retired. Fast forward to age sixty. You are having a discussion with someone and they tell you that you never were a baseball player. You may have had a ball glove, a bat, and a uniform, but you never were a “real” baseball player! Would you be offended by this? Would it be OK for someone to dismiss your life on the baseball diamond? Of course not. The fact that you were a baseball player from the time you were a child to age thirty-eight was a very important and real experience for you. Tens of thousands of people KNOW you played baseball, yet there are a handful of deniers who are sure you never, ever played the game. While fans are certainly free to discuss and debate how good a player you were, how well you played the game, or if your play helped the Yankees win, but saying you never were a player is irrational.

Yet, this is exactly what some Christians do. They deny I was ever what I said I was. They take a knife to my life and cut huge portions of it away and toss it in the garbage. While this might help them avoid the hard questions my life requires them to answer, the evidence for me having once been a Christian is overwhelming, making their denial  ludicrous and irrational. I wonder if the real issue for deniers is that my shocking deconversion forces them to consider that they too could fall from grace, that they too could one day be numbered among the godless.

021916

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7 Comments

  1. Scott

    This is the one I understand the least when non-believers bring it up. I’ve seen it at multiple debates. And several of the ex-believers have published books or like Bruce have a written path on how they became s believer and then the path out of religion.

    The only thing I can come up with is that understand how much they are like the former believer and they terrified that it can happen to them.

    A guy I know won’t read some writers they know they would like because they are atheists and would find the arguments convincing.

    It’s fear plain and simple. Once you accept that there is no supernatural and that death is final, it’s hard to believe nonsense.

    Scott

    Reply
  2. Jackie

    Just as the fox who couldn’t reach the grapes consoled himself with “they were probably sour anyway”, these believers must find a way to disqualify the ex-theist’s experience to legitimize THEIRS. It’s about them, not you. Your Christianity must be less-than or not real at all for theirs to be validated. Their numbers are bleeding out and they’re scared. They are consoling themselves any way they can, no matter how dishonest.

    Reply
  3. Brian

    You are a Christian through and through and not an atheist. You just think you are because you have a gremlin doll devil in your bonnet and you think, you feel, like you are an atheist. But really, honestly, you are not an atheist.
    (Boy, I bet that feels better now that we have sorted that out!)
    Wait, let’s try: You are not a Christian and not an atheist. You’re this guy, name of Bruce, who wants to talk about this and that… It is not so important to me that you are a one thing or another, dear man, just that you share from your human heart. That is a light let go in the world, into the world, that I think lends a hand both where it begins in you and where it ends out in the ether. Thank-you for sharing your heart. That is very successfully human, something I seldom encounter in church and out. (Though to be fair, I have not checked in the churches for many years!)

    Reply
  4. mikespeir

    Yeah, but playing for the Yankees is something to be proud of! 😉

    Reply
  5. limey

    I’ve recently been exposed to how firmly Christians will hold to this view. I get how it’s convincing because there are verses to back it up.

    however, I think the key behind it is weak theology and an inability to acknowledge that Christianity has flaws. this would open up too many options which are uncomfortable to them.

    I’ve discovered that this is actually a hot button for me. few things about Christianity really wind me up. but this theology does. I think it might be because of the devaluing of all those years I wasted on a bogus faith. I’m. sure I’ll get over it in due course.

    Reply
  6. Troy

    I suppose I can understand the Christian point of view. When someone like Kirk Cameron as well as a wide array of ministers claim to have been atheists I am extremely skeptical of this. In particular since Kirk Cameron’s sister follows EXACTLY the same religion as big brother I suspect it is more that Kirk wasn’t religious and then at some point he decided to be. Which isn’t quite the same thing as being an atheist. While I’m skeptical, I wouldn’t definitatively say I’m certain, though it is a common preaching technique. (“I once was lost, but now I’m found.” It gives them a great born again tale)
    Something else I’ve been thinking about Christians wouldn’t say you were never IFB when you converted to Calvinism. My parents went from Lutheran to Methodists when they moved, was more an issue of finding a close church and they were having issues with the personality of the pastor. Now I could make a good case they were never Lutherans. They are looking for a good social fit and they found it. The denominational nuances weren’t really an issue (though they’d probably avoid certain denominations for sure.) But in your (Bruce) case you were more Christian than they can ever hope to be. Those little denominational differences to the common layperson were exhaustively studied and pondered. Don’t let it bother you, they are wrong about everything else!

    Reply
  7. Peter

    Bruce, thanks for your openness. I am going through a similar journey to which you have traveled. I find bogs like yours very helpful in the transition.

    You mentioned lack of discernment – that is a factor that has been comforting to me to help affirm I am on the right path – that is away from faith. I had noted down various prophetic words and the like that ‘Spiritual’ Christians had offered in regard to my ministry over recent years. They have all been totally wrong. As my faith wavered not one other Christian detected it. The Christians on the internet who claim to be in constant contact with God still need to ask for my story because God never seems to reveal it to them.

    I am yet to come across a Christian with genuine supernatural knowledge – that is knowledge they could not have obtained by earthly deduction and observation.

    Thanks again for your openness.

    Reply

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