Why Baptists Refuse to Believe I Once was a Christian

saved or lost

My story poses a real problem for Baptists.  According to Baptist soteriology (doctrines pertaining to salvation), once nonbelievers are saved (born again, becomes a Christian), they can never lose their salvation. This belief is called once saved always saved, eternal security, or the perseverance/preservation of the saints.

All Baptists, except Free-will Baptists, believe that once a person is saved there is nothing a Christian can do nothing to lose his or her salvation. John 10:28, 29 says:

And I (Jesus) give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

This is why some Baptists believe I am still saved. No matter what I do, Jesus will never disown me. No matter how much I blaspheme God, Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. It is like getting  married without having any provision for divorce. Once married, you are married for life. No matter what the husband or wife does, be it adultery or physical abuse, their marriage cannot be dissolved. So it is for me. No matter what  I say or do, I am still saved. God might chastise me or even kill me, but there is nothing I can do to get God to let me out of my eternal life contract.

Of course, this kind of thinking is silly and some Baptists realize this, leading them to take a different approach to my life. Instead of once-saved-always-saved, they say I never was saved.  According to them, I never really put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. While I may have outwardly given evidence that I was saved, inwardly I knew that I really wasn’t. I was a faker, a pretender, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. My becoming an atheist is proof to them that I never really was a Christian. In their mind, I always was an atheist.

In a post titled, The Logical Consequences of You Never were a Christian, I wrote:

People who believe a Christian can not fall from grace are forced to dismiss me as a life-long deceptive servant of Satan. For 36 years I deceived every Christian, every church member, every pastor, every evangelist, every Christian college professor I came in contact with; and most of all I deceived my entire Christian family.

No one, over a span of 36 years, ever said “I think Bruce Gerencser is not a Christian.”  Think about this for a moment. Think of the deception necessary to pull this off.

  • I preached thousands of sermons…all preached in the power of the flesh.
  • I  prayed thousands of prayers, none of which was ever heard by God.
  • Hundreds of people who made professions of faith did so after hearing the preaching of a deceiver, a follower of Satan.
  • Hundreds of people who were baptized by me were immersed by a charlatan;  a man who rejected the  vows confessed during a baptism.
  • I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Every person I counseled received counsel from a false prophet.
  • Every moment spent in private prayer, every moment spent in devoted study of the Word of God, all the time spent in devotion to the living Christ was spent as a person no better than Judas.

The truth is, Baptists (along with Evangelicals who eschew the Baptist label but have a similar soteriology) are in bondage to their theology. To admit I once was a Christian means that their belief about eternal security is false. Instead of admitting that I once was a Christian, keepers of the Book of Life  scour my life looking for defects in my story. They then exploit these defects to show I really never was a Christian.

Years ago, I was co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. When we moved to Texas, another family, Larry and Linda Johnson,who were members of the church I pastored in Ohio, moved with us. Every person joining Community Baptist had to give a credible testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. Larry told his salvation story to  Pat Horner, my fellow pastor.  Pat became alarmed over what Larry told him. Larry used language to describe his faith that most Baptists didn’t use. He talked more about God than he did Jesus. Pat took this as evidence  Larry might not really know Jesus. I assured him this was not the case. Larry was a good man who took matters of faith seriously.

So it is with some Baptists who read this blog. Instead of accepting my story at face value, they look for things in my story that don’t line up with their own experience. They then conclude I never really was saved. They go to great lengths to deconstruct my life, poking and prodding, looking for anything that will invalidate my claim of once being a Christian. And guess what? They always find what they are looking for.

When people are committed to upholding certain theological belief at all costs, they end up thinking and saying things that are silly. So it is when people say I never was saved or that I am still saved. The only way anyone can judge the validity of a person’s life is by how he lives. I told parishioners countless times over the years, we give evidence of faith in Christ by how we live not by what we say we believe. This fact seems to be forgotten by my critics. Look at my life as a Christian and as a pastor.  What in my conduct and lifestyle remotely suggests I was not saved? If I wasn’t a Christian then it is fair to ask if anyone is.

Part of the problem is that I am willing to talk about my failures as a Christian and as a pastor.  I am willing to admit that I sinned, that I did things considered wrong by most Baptists. These confessions are taken as proof that I never was saved. Evidently, the perfection standard applies only to Jesus and Bruce Gerencser. None of the people I pastored or the men I considered colleagues in the ministry was perfect.  Because they are still professing Christian means they are judged by a different standard than I am. They are allowed to be sinful, yet saved, but I am not.

Thousands of people read this blog. Many readers are former Evangelicals. If I asked them what was the one thing that Christians said that offended them the most they would likely say, Christians who dismiss my past life by saying I never was a Christian. Sadly, many Christians fail to see, or don’t care, how offensive such a line of thinking is.

Put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose atheists began going through a Christian’s life with a fine tooth comb, pointing out discrepancies or contradictions in his life story. Imagine being told, it is evident you never really were saved. I suspect they would be quite offended by such a statement.

Here’s what I know…I once was saved and now I’m not.

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19 Comments

  1. Tammy

    If you reject the bible as the one perfectly true book leading to the one way to heaven – then it follows logically that you reject the idea that there is a designation of saved/not saved. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what the critics say about your former status. The way I see it is that we used to be part of a cult and now we’re not,

    Reply
    1. Michael Mock

      That works when you’re talking about salvation. However, the more common accusation is “You were never a Christian,” and that doesn’t work in quite the same way.

      Reply
    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yep. It’s hard, isn’t it, to admit that we were part of a cult? Of course a “true” Christian is going to agree, saying that if we had just been a part of their cult, all would be well. Religion is at its best when is fosters community and care for others. Sadly, here in the United States, particularly among Evangelicals, the focus is on right theological and political beliefs and putting people in categories like saved/lost.

      Reply
  2. Peter

    This is just one of the many contradictions in Christian theology. When I studied Christian theology at seminary level I was shocked that there was so much uncertainty over key theological issues. But it became clear to me that the conflict was because both sides of the debate could support their position from the Bible.

    Bible scholars called these contradictions, ‘areas of tension’. But it puzzled me why ‘God’ did not make things clear, especially on matters which are held as essential to salvation, such as baptism.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yep. I tell people when they attempt to make this or that theological argument that I think everyone is right. Every theological viewpoint can be “proved” from the Bible. Arminians and Calvinists have been arguing for centuries, both certain they are right. And they both are. It’s right there in the Bible.

      Reply
  3. Brian

    Well, I’ll see your ‘never saved’ and raise you with my ‘ saved more than once!’
    I would never say that you were never saved, Bruce, cuz I can tell by listening to you that you were a real prick in the pulpit in your time BUT even though you have been saved forever, you haven’t got my hand, being saved twice! That trumps you, you, you, atheistic THING. (Or does God save little tykes who are terrified of Hell and their skin burning off forever, with a full-power save that covers a later saving? Naw, I got at least two savings so, well, your move… This IS the gambling thread, isn’t it?
    Seriously, you were never saved and fooled everybody, even you. You thought that being lost you were found but lost is not found, Bruce, unless well, it’s lost and found. Can you be both lost and found? But that is like saying that everything isn’t black and white, a simply silly statement, ludicrous. Is there black? Yes, obviously, and white? Of course. All the rest is heresy, a word that used to mean being interested in different views. Then Rome decided it was evil to be interested in other views than Rome’s. So heresy could get you all cut up or pulled apart or hung or burned or several of these things all at once.
    God wrote the Bible for even simpletons like me, then smart people told us simpletons what it all really meant. Or was that the other way around? Nevermind.

    Reply
    1. Katie

      “simpleton”
      Says it all, really.

      Reply
  4. Kenneth

    This is common in southern Baptists. Our preacher would always preach about those professed Christians not actually being saved. This would instill an unsureness of salvation on everyone (fear tactics again). In turn, this produces a certain obsession with ones salvation, where it makes one unsure of it, and to me, begs the question–why is it even a problem? Wouldn’t we know by the holy spirit if we are saved or not? It should be a certainty, but never truly is. This, in turn, makes you wonder if all the stuff is just made up. I concluded it was, along with many others visiting this blog. Of course they can blame Satan. HE is always easy to blame when all else fails. How convenient!

    Reply
  5. Mel

    Wow. That logic – well, absence of logic or…. something – boggles my mind.

    I am Catholic so I have a very hazy, unformed idea of “being saved” in the first place in spite of growing up in the Western Michigan Bible Belt where people do ask me about my salvation status. (I reply “Yuppers!” in an obnoxiously upbeat voice and run away while they try to figure out what the hell that means.)

    Wouldn’t it just be easier theologically for Baptists to allow that once someone was saved they could deny their salvation and become unsaved? Like Peter denying Jesus except that in this scenario Peter just keeps on denying Jesus without ever feeling bad about it. Or is that too close to a “works” model of salvation? (I ask as clarification – I’m sure it’s much clearer to people from an Evangelical background.)

    On a more practical level, declaring that someone was never ever saved feels petty, childish and an unbecoming form of one-upmanship for adults.

    I’m sorry people treat you like that. That’s not ok.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Catholics, like Jews, tend to view their religion in a cultural, social context. Several of my sons and daughter-in-laws are Catholic. I find that they don’t get hung up on what a person knows and believes. (and I am aware of the fundamentalist element in Catholicism that is eerily similar to Evangelicalism) Both of my sons married Catholic girls, and Catholicism came as part of the wife package. 🙂 I’m not sure what they actually believe about God, the Bible, and the attendant Catholic doctrines. I’m not sure these things matter to them. The Catholic church gives them a sense of belonging, and that’s what matters.

      Evangelicals, OTOH, are all about believing the right things. They are overwhelmingly Baptist when it comes to soteriology, so this means that a person can never fall from grace. They can’t change their beliefs because it says right there in the Bible ____________. BTW, this is the exact same argument the Evangelical who believes a person can fall from grace makes. So…they argue, fuss, fight, and label, making a mockery of their religion.

      Reply
  6. CaringFreethinker

    The same thing happened to me sometime after I joined an IFB church in my neighborhood. I had left the Pentecostal-Charismatic Evangelical denomination and church I was pastoring, and was in search of true biblical Christianity. After some time I started asking uncomfortable questions and holding theological views contrary to the chuch’s doctrine (ie becoming a heretic). The pastor and his deacons started immediately questioning my salvation, asking me all kinds of questions about my experience of salvation. It puzzled me at first they would ask me all those questions, but I soon figured out why: they were doubting if I was ever saved. Eventually they kicked me out of church as a heretic. I then continued my “search” for true Biblical Christianity, which ultimately led me become an unbeliever altogether, after I realized “the emperor has no clothes”
    Now they have convinced themselves they were right in their suspicion, that I was never saved in the first place. I got that the day my wife, who stayed in this “prison”, hinted at whether I had ever been saved in the first place. That was a huge shock for me, but then I understand she doesn’t have the choice. She must agree with the IFB OSAS soteriology because it says it right there in the Bible.
    Now she seems to have convinced herself that I will come back (ie I haven’t lost my salvation and I’m just a prodigal son), because not only she sees the hypocrisy/dishonesty of the position that I had never been saved, but also because she prefers not to entertain the thought that I am lost and on my way to Hell.
    Of course her new conviction about me is at odds with her IFB church family (who know me very little)
    I’ve told her that she is doubling up on her delusion to believe I will come back.

    Reply
  7. Monty

    Let’s not forget how they get around one doubting their salvation. One can profess a reassurance of their salvation. I witnessed this many many times by teens coming back from the Youth Conference with Schaap. Even then I was bewildered.

    Reply
  8. Edward W.

    Hi Bruce,

    I am just wondering (if you don’t mind me asking) what happened that you decided you no longer were a believer in Christ? Was it something that happened over a certain stretch of time, or immediately?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Please check out the posts listed on this page

      https://brucegerencser.net/why/

      If you have any questions, I will gladly answer them.

      Bruce

      Reply
      1. Edward W.

        We just read a couple of your pages, and agree with some of what you said. My wife was saved in 09′ and myself in 2011. We have searched high and low for a church that teaches bible, and we are still looking. We also just broke away from an abusive church with abusive leaders and members who would give any unsaved drunk person a run for their money. They claim to want to save lost souls, but tell saved people they are going to burn in hell. Their hatred toward (pretty much) everyone is not what we see in Scripture. We can’t say what we’d like to (due to your “no” list), so I will leave off here. Thanks for answering.

        Reply
        1. Michael Mock

          Hi, Edward. I don’t have much to add here, but I would like to thank you for actually reading and respecting the “no” list. You might (or might not) be surprised by just how rare that sometimes seems. I’m not a believer myself, but I wish you well in your search.

          Reply
        2. Daril Lev

          Look for a church that is PCA Presbyterian Church In America. Trust me when I say that they are the most biblically sound, meat of Gods word, expositional teaching church there is !

          Reply
          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            PCA churches are the Fundamentalist Baptists of the Presbyterian world (as are OPC churches). Fundamentalism is the problem wherever it is found. I hope you are aware that you are commenting on an atheist’s blog. You shouldn’t expect for your rousing recommendation to receive a positive reception.

          2. Becky Wiren

            Daril, the problems with what you are saying is: nothing in the OT happened before the Babylonian captivity. Everything, creation, flood, exodus…all myths, some probably based on local legends and blown up to gigantic proportions. And in the NT: none of the Gospels were written by anyone who knew Jesus, and were written decades AFTER his death. And Paul introduced different theologies than what Jesus supposedly taught, which makes it Paulianity.

            Plus, there isn’t a single Christian denomination that doesn’t pick and choose what they believe. There are always those troublesome texts that are considered “cultural,” and then why golly, THOSE texts (especially about the LGBTQ community) are rock solid, need no explanations! I’m a Universalist and not a Christian, and I also have zero interest in PCA. But then, regular readers here are open-minded to love our fellow man, not hate them like fundies do. (Because we know that you all hate gays, liberals, Democrats, gun control proponents, pro-choicers, Muslims, Mexicans etc. The fact you all voted for an adulterer narcissist into the presidency speaks of the LACK of moral fiber you all truly have. It’s about forcing the rest of us to do what YOU want. You violate the principal of love that is spoken of in scripture.)

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