Why I am Not Interested in a Nicer, Friendlier Christianity

truth in love

Drawing by David Hayward

I often write about the extreme right of  Evangelicalism, the end of the Evangelical spectrum inhabited by churches and sects that nice, friendly Evangelicals like to call fundamentalist nut jobs. However, as I clearly show in my post titled Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists, ALL Evangelicals are fundamentalists. Evangelical belief requires theological fundamentalism, a core set of beliefs that one must adhere to be a Christian and considered an Evangelical in good standing. Some who deny this fact are really liberal/progressive Christians living in denial. Raised in the Evangelical church and familiar with its worship and practice, these liberal/progressive Christians don’t want to abandon the only church they have ever known. Their theology puts them squarely outside of Evangelicalism, but they refuse to accept this and they dig their heels in when attempts are made to drag them into the liberal/progressive church. There’s not much anyone can do for these folks. In time, the keepers of Evangelical truth will expose and embarrass them and they will be forced to leave. For now, they play pretend Evangelical.

There’s another subset within Evangelicalism that thinks they are what I call a nicer, friendlier version of Evangelicalism. They are convinced that legalism, rules, moralizing, and the like are the problem, so they attempt to advertise their churches as places that are judgment free, places where sinners can come to find healing and deliverance. However, these nicer, friendlier Evangelicals hang on to theological fundamentalism. While their lifestyle or what they consider a sin might be different from their legalistic brethren, theologically there is very little difference between the two.

Here’s how you force a nicer, friendlier Evangelical to show their true colors. Forget this or that doctrine. Forget everything except what I share next:

Evangelical: The church I go to, First Church of the Most Awesome People in Town, is the nicest, friendliest church in town. We love everyone and I am sure if you come to our church you would feel right at home!!

Bruce: Let me ask you several questions. First, do you believe in a literal hell?

Evangelical: Yes, that’s what the Bible teaches.

Bruce: Who ends up in hell?

Evangelical: Well, I am not the judge, only God is, but the Bible does say that a person must know Jesus as their Lord and Savior to go to heaven when they die.

Bruce: So, since I am not a Christian and I refuse to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I will go to hell when I die, right?

Evangelical: (looks down to ground) Uh, well, um, yeah, if you don’t repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will go to hell when you die.

Bruce: How long will I be in hell? Is it like Catholic purgatory where I’ll suffer for a time and then be taken to heaven?

Evangelical: Well,uh….(long pause) if you die without knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will spend eternity in the torments of hell.

Bruce: Fire and brimstone and where the worm dieth not?

Evangelical: Yes.

Bruce: Since this body I currently have would burn up if I was thrown into a pit of fire and brimstone, does this mean God gives me a new body that will withstand the torments of hell?

Evangelical: (silently praying the Rapture would happen)

Bruce: And doesn’t this mean that your God created me, killed me, and sent me to hell with a new body fashioned by him to withstand day and night torture for eternity?

Bruce: Is this the God you worship? Why would anyone want to worship such a horrible deity?

Forget all the other doctrines, this is the only one that matters. I don’t care how nice or friendly a church thinks they are, if they believe in hell then they are party to the savage, endless torture of billions of people. They might smile more or practice friendship evangelism, but the result is still the same; those who don’t repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ go to hell when they die. (please see We Love People and Are the Friendliest Church in Town)

The next time you run into a nicer, friendlier Evangelical, go for their jugular. Ask them point-blank if they believe in hell. Their answer (s) to this questions will tell you all you need to know. Personally, I have no interest in be a part of a group or being friends with anyone who thinks that I will burn in hell for eternity because I am not like them. This kind of thinking is no different from the thinking of the demented killers portrayed on Criminal Minds. Our God is an awesome God, the Evangelical says, and He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. And if you refuse to accept this, our God will some day torture you for all eternity.

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49 Comments

  1. Becky Wiren

    Hell is one reason I was an Adventist for years, as they don’t believe Hell is biblical. They do believe the unsaved will die for eternity, which is sad. But nicer than burning forever.

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    Hey Bruce, great post! I know exactly what you mean by the ‘friendly’ church. When I was 13, th family decided it was time to go to another church. & yes, they were very friendly; the sickly-sweet, very fake friendly, with smiles that don’t quite reach th eyes. I didn’t see it at the time, but looking back on my church-going past, its th same at every church.

    Anyway, the pastor of this church had a favorite saying, especially if visitors were present: ‘we’ll welcome you even if you’re so filthy you have potatoes growing out of your ears’…how nice.

    Not really. My mom let me wear pants to Wednesday night services; the atmosphere was supposed to be casual bible study, where we could ask questions & have discussion. Well apparently, being a 13-16 yr old girl meant dresses every service. One Sunday he all but pointed me out & said it wasn’t lady-like to wear pants to church. Dresses only from now on! I was so embarrassed even though this was supposed to be a welcoming place.

    I know this doesn’t quite fit w/the point you were making about hell, but thought I’d throw in my 2¢ on the hypocrisy

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      A lot of churches and preachers are nice and friendly on the first date. It’s when you start having a serious relationship with them that you find out they are a hateful, domineering control freak. The smart person RUNS!

      Sadly, for many of us who were raised in this kind of environment, we thought this is how the relationship was supposed to be. Savaging people with words and pointing out their failures was called hard preaching or telling the truth. Week in, week out…until one day…you stop…think…question…think…and run like hell. Freedom, no matter how late in life, is sweet. Yes, I wish I had found the light when I was young, but I am glad I had enough of life left to make sure my children did not walk down the same path. My hope is that my grandchildren will truly be free. Even if they choose to have religious faith, I hope it will be a faith that is affirming and promotes love for all.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        My mom almost got up & took me with her. I think th only reason she didn’t was because my dad was there too.

        I did a lot of research about early Christianity in my early 20s & called myself atheist for a time. But I guess I wasn’t ‘ready’ to quite let go of God & dabbled/researched in other religions. It wasnt until recently ive fully embraced my atheism, but still have trouble w/a complete de-programming

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          Just want to say I appreciate your posts very much, I’ve dived in the past few days. Keep it up Bruce:)

          Reply
    2. Harmen Greven

      Please please get out. Religion gives surogate answers to life’s questions and discourages you to go and search for answers to these life’s questions yourself. Their moral superiority is bogus as the golden rule (wikipedia page about this is very good) is all you need
      rule 1 dont’be a dick
      rule 2 have fun
      🙂
      Good luck

      Reply
  3. Andrew Hackman

    I find that the nicer, friendlier tends to be a sham. They try to sell themselves as, oh so different. But if you refuse to buy, their true colors start to show – first it is attacking unbelief, then the personal digs, and finally they defriend you… 🙂

    Reply
  4. Aram McLean

    Hell is definitely a major tell. But even if they profess to not believe in hell I still have no time for time. After all, it’s all the same shifting shades of belief reinforcing the fantasy of some ethereal magical world beyond our own. The so-called liberal Christian even non-hell believing outlook may seem more reasonable at first blush, but what’re they doing if not enabling the many more dramatic make-believers a comfortable jumping off point.

    Reply
  5. Troy

    Hell was sold to me as “separation from God”. As atheists that sounds more like heaven (or at least separated from the lunacy of religion and its top imaginary friend). Of course this is from the same theologians who will tell you that God is everywhere. Hmm sounds more like they are making it up as they go along. As atheists aren’t we already separated from God? While it might be sobering to acknowledge that we are finite creatures and that we must contemplate our own extinction it does not seem anywhere near that is sold.

    Reply
  6. Monica

    The problem with your argument is when you state that “God sends you to hell.” God never sends anybody to hell. God offers eternity with Him to everyone and even tells you exactly how to “get there.” No acts of goodness can get you in and no acts of evil can keep you out, accept Christ’s free gift of salvation and you are there. Anyone who ends up in hell has made that choice for themselves. End of story. Don’t blame God for that.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Your argument leaves you with several insurmountable theological problems:

      1) Is God sovereign, the creator of all things?
      2) Is God the fist cause of all things?
      3) Who created hell?
      4) Does God know who will and won’t be saved?
      5) Does choosing Christ require knowledge about him?
      6) Will there be anyone in hell who didn’t have knowledge of Jesus Christ?
      7) Will there be anyone in heaven who didn’t have knowledge of Jesus Christ?
      8) Does man have free will? If yes, how do you square this answer will verses that say otherwise?
      9) If salvation is totally conditioned on me choosing, is not that choice, by necessity, a work?

      Shall I go on? You gave a simplistic response to my post that I would encourage you to rethink, especially if you claim to a Christian and claim to accept the Bible as the sole authority in your life.

      Reply
      1. Monica

        I gave a simplistic answer because at the end of the day it is that simple. You are loved, cherished, unique, created with a unique purpose. You and your life matter greatly to the One who created you. He desires that none will be lost but will not force you to choose Him.
        If you want to get more technical on the science behind evolution not lining up with scientific law we can discuss lack of sediment on the ocean floor, bent rock layers, soft tissues found in dinosaur bones, faint sun paradox, rapidly decaying magnetic field, helium in radioactive rocks; carbon-14 in fossils, coal and diamonds; short lived comets, very little salt in the sea and DNA in ancient bacteria. Investigate any one of these and you will see that even evolution believing scientists accept that these present real problems for their theory. And I haven’t even mentioned the impossible odds, according to science, for the evolution by chance of a single living cell. Or the Cambrian explosion. A lot of people thing all Christians accept their beliefs w/o any real thought. I find many evolutionist accept theirs w/o any real investigation either.

        Reply
        1. Aram McLean

          FYI: AiG is pseudoscience.

          Reply
        2. Aram McLean

          ps consider the ‘impossible odds’ of your parents coming together at just the right nanosecond for you to have been born. Absolutely massively unlikely. And yet here you are.
          The thing with impossible odds is that once they happen they happen. And so here we are as a human species.

          Reply
          1. Monica

            You support my argument. I don’t believe my parents had to come together at any exact moment. I believe I was created on purpose, with a purpose. Just as I believe you too, Aram, are no ” chemical accident.” I will never believe that you are some evolutionary “luck of the draw.” You are one of a kind. You have immeasurable worth. You are meant to be here at this time and place and history. You have a divine calling on your life. You are cherished. I will never believe differently.

        3. Troy

          You have imaginary data to go along with your imaginary friend.

          Reply
          1. Monica

            What data do you specifically find fault with?

        4. Aram McLean

          You lack imagination.

          Reply
        5. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          I find it interesting that you make no attempt to answer the questions I raised. Like many Christians, your theology is based, not on what the Bible says, but on what you want it to say. Like all Christians, you have shaped God and Jesus into deities that reflect your view of the world. As I have stated many times before, there is no such thing as Christianity. There are MANY Christianities, as many as there are believers, but no singular Christianity. I’ve found that every Christian has a buffet approach to belief. They pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe. I’ve yet to meet a Christian who believes and practices all of the Bible. Yet, these same people demand I accept the Bible as an authoritative book and bow to their peculiar interpretation of the text.

          You state “You are loved, cherished, unique, created with a unique purpose. You and your life matter greatly to the One who created you. ” I’d love for you to make a Biblical defense of these claims, especially in light of the fact that the Bible says God causes some people to not believe, and in the case of the reprobate, makes it impossible for them to believe.

          Reply
        6. ksiyoto

          We didn’t evolve from a single cell. The “primordial soup” of ocean water was struck by lightning trillions of times to create more and more complex molecules that led to life. So it wasn’t just a single cell, it was trillions of tries to join quintillions of atoms and chemicals together

          And evolution doesn’t happen solely by chance. It happens from environmental pressures.

          Reply
      2. Monica

        1. Yes. 2. Yes 3. God 4. Yes 5. Yes 6. No -Romans 1:20 7. No – Romans 1:20 8. Yes 9. No- not a work as in doing good works to earn one’s way to Heaven. It is accepting a free gift,

        Reply
        1. e

          So for #6 and #7. Does this mean that acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice isn’t the gift you need for entrance into heaven, but merely acceptance of the presence of a divine creator?

          Reply
        2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          It wasn’t a test. It was my attempt to show you that your statement is not only illogical but inconsistent with orthodox Christian theology. Oh well, seems a horse and water cliche is appropriate here.

          Reply
    2. Winston

      Your conclusion is flawed. If you don’t accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you go to hell. This is God’s choice, God’s ultimatum. A choice of “love me or else”, is no choice at all. It is an evil, manipulative, psychotic. way to treat someone. YOU WILLL LOVE ME AND ACCEPT ME, OR SUFFER THE HORRIFIC CONSEQUENCES! Why would you want to worship, love, or adore a God like that? Only the most emotionally abused or brainwashed could find this acceptable.

      Reply
    3. Jan Mast

      Monica,

      How about all those born in Muslim dominated countries, especially those that are illiterate and have only been exposed to Islamic principles? Are they still held accountable by your god for not knowing and accepting him? That would be a total dick move wouldn’t it?

      -Cheers

      Reply
      1. Evilbob

        Muslims and Christians both believe in the same god. Jesus is described as a prophet, not the son of god, in the Quran.

        Reply
        1. Jan Mast

          You’re missing my point. Substitute Buddhists for Muslims. So the hypothetical person was raised Buddhist and was not exposed to Christianity at all. Would their God still send that person to heel even though they had no knowledge of God?

          Reply
    4. Jeeyo

      Who created hell then?

      Reply
    5. Aram McLean

      I’m going to assume you believe God knows past, present, future, and he’s benevolent to boot. Yes? Okay, so now consider this. If you knew you would have a kid that was going to choose drugs, get hooked on heroin, end up on the streets being raped by homeless men every Saturday evening and straight on through till Sunday service, to ultimately die from AIDS – never mind waking up in hell for an eternity of somehow an even worse time – would you still choose to have that child? This is not a debate. This is what will DEFINITELY happen to your child if you have them and you know all about it beforehand. Would you, as a flawed human being, still choose to being that child into the world? Think about it.

      Reply
    6. Richard Kent Matthews

      Here’s the fact: Jesus is not the center piece of Christianity. Satan is. Without him, The Faith crumbles as a house of cards. But get this: Your god created Satan to do his dirty work (see the Book of Job and the Books of Daniel and Revelation). There is no need for salvation without a Tempter. So, how did that Tempter get into the Garden of Eden if not placed there by your god? And the Couple, oh the poor Couple. They were innocent. It was only after they ate the Fruit that their eyes were open.

      And then, later in Genesis, your god ‘grieved’ that he had ever created humans. So, he sends this big Flood. But does he kill all the people? No. He saves a handful of the same Fallen Sinners to start it all over again. Then, as if he didn’t know what the heck would happen, he has to send himself in the form of Jesus to save the offspring of the Fallen Sinners he saved after having been regretful of ever having made them. Do you see the major contradictions here?

      If your bible is correct, then your god is a sadist. I for one want nothing to do with him. Rather to spend an eternity in a hell than to spend one moment with a god who would create a hell for ANY reason. Your god, your savior, is one sick puppy.

      Nothing personal, of course.

      (I, too, am a former fundamentalist. But I finally woke up. All I gave up was a belief in a literal devil and everything changed.)

      Reply
  7. Mike

    The fundamentalist will tell you that God is not sending you to hell. They will say that you are given the choice. And if you choose not to receive God’s gift of salvation, then you are rejecting God, And, they will tell you, that is why you are going to hell. Now, there are any number of effective ways to rebut this tact that your friendly fundamentalist will take. But to the fundamentalist’s mind, this consequence of personal choice only makes perfect sense. Theirs is a purely binary world where there is no nuance or wiggle room. A world of pure absolutes. This is the world in which any fundamentalist resides, regardless of their religious label. And we all know that when one begins to abide nuance, it leads directly to that most horrible of conditions…….DOUBT!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yep, as Monica’s comment of above clearly shows. I try to respond to such claims from a theological perspective, trying to get them to see that their claim does not square with their theology.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
    2. Jan Mast

      They are merely using religions main motivators: Guilt and Fear.

      Unconditional love (With conditions)

      Reply
  8. Wes

    Everything about this makes me roll my eyes. Believe in my invisible magic sky daddy without my having to offer a single reason other that “cuz… Hell!” This level of delusion is harmful to the species, dangerous, and insane.

    Reply
  9. Winston

    Monica, your conclusion is flawed. It is God’s reasoning, his ego. that will send you to Hell for not accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. He made the rules. “LOVE AND ACCEPT JESUS OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES” is not really a choice at all for humans. It is an ULTIMATUM. An evil, manipulative, disturbed, and psychotic ultimatum. Only an emotionally abused or brainwashed person could find this acceptable.

    Reply
  10. Magnus the Great Dane

    Tried arguing with a fundie from Hillsong, was told hell was just an absence of the presence of god but could not get an explanation from him on how that was any different from life as an atheist.
    My own mistake for expecting rational debate from a young earther.
    Like the blog.

    Reply
    1. Monica

      I believe the difference is that whether or not you believe in Him does not make Him exist or not exist. So if He is real, He is not presently absent in your life. Your acknowledgment of that presence is besides the point. What the person you referred to was saying is that hell would be the true absence of God. Not trying to change your beliefs, just answering what the difference is.

      Reply
  11. Jim Bynum

    It would appear that we create our own heaven or hell. It is kind of hard to argue with the man fundamentalist claim we must worship. John 10:34 “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?”

    Reply
  12. John McCready

    I DEMAND to see the PHYSICS EXPERIMENT that shows a “soul” BURNING! I want to see the HOW of how this happens! 😉

    Reply
  13. Nick

    Unfortunately, this only makes churches that don’t believe in Hell that much more sure of their position.

    Take the Mormons for example. By being on earth, they believe that you have done half of what is required. The worst you’ll get is an eternal life just like earth, but with no death or pain.

    And Mormons don’t need another stupid excuse to feel superior D:

    Reply
  14. e

    I was raised evangelical, and this is the EXACT reason I started questioning my beliefs when I was 19.

    Being raised that way, I actually find it kind of hard to believe that there is such a thing as a “progressive” Christian who doesn’t believe in a literal hell. Thanks to the above commenter who described the Aventist take on it because that kind of blew my mind. Granted, the hell I was taught to believe in wasn’t fire and brimstone, it was a place where you would be eternally cut off from God’s presence, which was supposed to be orders of magnitude WORSE than literal fire or brimstone for some reason. It was still presented as a fate worse than death that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy in a million years.

    So when I finally became close with someone who wasn’t a Christian, I had to stop and wonder why God would do something like that to someone who was so nice. (It certainly says something about the insularity of the church that this didn’t happen until I was 19.)

    And thanks for writing this article. I’m kind of in denial about having been a fundamentalist for 19 years.

    Reply
  15. Melody

    Somewhere in my teens, I learnt that the Crusades were wrong, not just because of killing people, but also because forcing someone to believe in Christianity on pain of death is not really giving them any choice: i.e. the Bible or the sword.

    In the end that is what the ‘choice’ is based on regardless: if you don’t accept God’s offer, you will die eternally and so it’s still rigged from the beginning. Your free choice isn’t truly a choice at all but a way of blackmailing you into believing disguised as a gift.

    Reply
  16. Brad Davis

    Bruce. Go to hell. It is Your choice

    Reply
    1. Jan Mast

      I promise to go to your hell just as soon as you prove to me that it exists. Deal?

      Reply
  17. Monty

    My question is…if God is so powerful, why couldn’t he just be OK with one not lovi g and accepting of him? Why does there have to be an ultimatum? Is your God so insecure that he has to force a choice onto you?

    Reply
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  19. Magnus the Great Dane

    If any religion was remotely true then it would have no need of the coercion of a hell.
    As for a god wanting me to be saved, why have they not provided me with convincing evidence. Even as a 10 year old I could smell the bs.

    Reply
  20. Chris

    If someone comes up to me and starts on me about god and the bible I just point out psalm 14.1 and tell them of all the time I spend volunteering helping the homeless, addicted as well walk around the streets to get food to those that can’t to the soup kitchen.

    I then tell them if that passage were true then I couldn’t possibly do what I do.

    Reply
  21. Paul

    Bruce, thanks for your post. You hit the nail right on its head.
    This is what Robert Ingersoll had to say about this infamous doctrine of Eternal Punishment:

    “The orthodox God, when clothed in human flesh, told his disciples not to resist evil, to love their enemies, and when smitten on one cheek to turn the other, and yet we are told that this same God, with the same loving lips, uttered these heartless, these fiendish words; “Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
    These are the words of “eternal love.”
    No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror.
    All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood—all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death—all this is as nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.
    This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God—the mercy of Christ.
    This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor. It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains, and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands. It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.
    Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.
    It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend. It is the one infinite horror. Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind. Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred, and revenge. Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God. While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.”

    Reply

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