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Why Evangelical Apologists Fail to Win Me Back to Jesus

jesus walking dead
Jesus, a character on The Walking Dead, is currently among the living. Whether by Negan’s hand or a walker’s bite, this Jesus will one day die, joining all the Jesus’s that have come before him.

Over the past nine years, countless Evangelicals apologists have emailed me or commented on this blog in hopes of winning me back to Jesus. Reclaiming an Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist for Jesus would certainly be big news and viewed as a sure sign that God is still in the soul-saving business. Why is it, then, that former Evangelical pastors rarely, if ever, return to the faith?

Many apologists suggest that the reason former pastors can’t be reclaimed for Jesus is that they are apostates or they have committed the unpardonable sin. (Romans 1:18-32) These pastors are blasphemers who have trodden under their feet the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:26-30), degenerates who have crossed the line of no return. Apologists will often engage former pastors anyway, seeing it as an opportunity to hone their apologetical skills or preach the gospel to those who are lurking in the shadows.

Assuming that I am not a reprobate that God has turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, why, then, do Evangelical apologists fail to win me back to Jesus? One reason is that the behavior of apologists towards me is contrary to everything the Bible says about how we are to treat other people. Some of the most arrogant, nasty, judgmental people I have ever met are people who attempt to win me back to Jesus. I have never understood how behaving this way is conducive to reclaiming me for Jesus. As a pastor, I talked to hundreds and hundreds of people about the state of their souls. I found that being loving, kind, and compassionate helped in setting the tone for a presentation of the gospel. Leading with hell, judgment, and the wrath of God generally turned people off. Sadly, many apologists are oblivious to these things, choosing instead to bully people with the Bible. (Please read Bible Thumpers: Dealing With Evangelical Bible Bullies.) In doing so, these apologists give Christianity and God a bad name. When such people savage me with their words, I often ask them, what is it in your behavior that would make me want to return to Christianity? Granted, just because the messenger is an asshole doesn’t mean that the message is untrue. That said, kindness and respect will open far more doors than hatred and judgmentalism — a lesson some apologists need to learn.

Another reason that Evangelical apologists fail to win me back to Jesus is their belief that the Protestant Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I recently wrote a post titled, Why Biblical Inerrancy is Not Intellectually Sustainable. This post attracted an apologist who was certain that his intellectually superior arguments would destroy any criticism of the Bible. His arguments failed to convince anyone that the Bible was inerrant. The only people who believe the Bible is inerrant are presuppositionalists who assume, without evidence, that the Bible is without the error. The Bible says is it is without error, so it is. End of discussion. This is, of course, a faith claim that cannot be refuted. Once apologists appeal to faith — which is inherently subjective — all rational discussion ends. Faith, according to the Bible, is belief without evidence. Hebrews 11: 1,3, and 6 states:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Creationists love to argue that the events recorded in Genesis 1-3 are scientifically accurate; that God created the universe out of nothing in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,022 years ago.  Everything that science tells us about the universe says that creationists are wrong, that the universe is billions of years old, not thousands. Vast amounts of scientific data must be rejected or misinterpreted for creationists to conclude with a straight face that Genesis 1-3 is how the universe came into existence. Lost on creationists is the fact that the Bible says that believing Jesus created the universe is a matter of faith, not scientific fact. Millions of Christians reject creationism, yet believe God is the grand architect of the universe. Creationists, on the other hand, refuse to budge on their ignorant beliefs. Why? Their commitment to literalism and inerrancy forces them to embrace beliefs that are absurd. One need only drive to Kentucky to visit Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter to see colossal monuments to Evangelical ignorance.

Let me conclude by giving three obstacles apologists can’t overcome in their attempts to win me back to Jesus:

  • The Christian God is the creator of everything.
  • Jesus was born of a virgin.
  • Jesus was executed on a Roman cross and resurrected from the dead three days later.

These three things ultimately stand in the way of me returning to Christianity.

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

The Apostle Paul said the universe itself gives testimony to the existence of God. Look at the wonders of the earth and beauty of the star-lit sky. Sure this is proof that God created everything? Perhaps, but what evidence is there for this creator being the God of the Christian Bible? I have long argued that I understand how someone could look at the night sky on a clear summer night and conclude that a deistic God of some sort created the universe. What does not make sense to me, however, is that this creator God is the triune God of Christianity. What in the night sky tells me that the Christian God is the creator? Why the Christian God, and not any of the other Gods human worship? I see no intellectual bridge that gets me from A GOD to THE GOD of Evangelical Christianity. Again, the belief that the Christian God created everything rests on the presupposition that the Bible is the Word of God and whatever it says is true. Believing this way requires faith, a faith that I do not have.

The virgin birth of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead thirty-three years later, are equally problematic for me. Virgins don’t have babies and dead people don’t come back to life. Pregnancy requires the uniting of a female’s egg with a male’s sperm. Believing Jesus’ mother Mary was a virgin requires me to ignore what science tells me about where babies come from. But, Bruce, with GOD all things are possible! So Evangelicals say, but one thing is certain: millions and millions of people have prayed to God asking him to give them a baby. God has — supposedly — answered these prayers countless times. I have heard numerous testimonies about how God “blessed” people with children. What is the common denominator in all these stories? — a female egg united with male sperm, and nine months later a child was born. There’s no evidence that God played any part in these births. Believing so requires faith.

So it is with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Billions of people have lived and died on planet Earth, yet not one of them has come back from the dead. Cemeteries, funeral homes, and crematoriums are reminders that when people die, they stay dead. I believe Jesus was a real person who lived and died in Palestine two thousand years ago. How Jesus died, it matters not. Jesus lived, died, end of story. Evangelical apologists offer no evidence for the claim Jesus resurrected from the dead. Again, believing this to be true requires faith, a faith I do not have. Either someone accepts as fact what the Bible says about the things mentioned in this post or they don’t. I don’t, and this is why apologists fail in their attempts to win me back to Jesus. I want evidence, not special pleadings that appeal to Evangelical faith and the inerrancy of the Bible. Until apologists can come up with arguments that are more substantial than the litany of proof texts and faith claims they currently use, I remain unconvinced. The ball is in your court, Evangelicals.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    maura a hart

    well they still need you and me every body to accept sky daddy and zombie jeebus because if they do not exist, never existed, if they invested their entire lives in a fairy tale mythologic book…..well, we do know what that’s like. but still. fuck them. they are evil haters that cloak themselves in their loving “god” skydaddy and zombie jeebus while they really only follow the apostle paul who is a fictional character. i do not give a rat’s ass. more damn evil committed in the name of zombie jeebus than any other

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    Try having a civil conversation with a Bible-welding, Book of Mormon- thumping Latter-day Saint(Mormon)! It’s the same old story…. They can’t attack your argument(s), so they attack you. You can’t reason with someone who is unreasonable. Like Evangelicals, Mormons don’t have a clue when it comes to the historicity of the Bible. The documented facts mean nothing. The “all-important” to them is their emotional “witness” that, they claim,negates any logic, science, reason, or fact that stands against their faith. I find it interesting that such people feel justified in their intrusion of your time, in the most offensive way, to assume your soul needs saving. The Christian Charge to go out and preach/save the world (as Mormons like to say; Warn Your Neighbor) is obnoxious and intrusive. Imagine what society would be like if everyone would MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS!

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    Personally I don’t have a problem with numbers two and three on your list. If God wanted to put his seed into a virgin by magical means then, given his omnipotence, I’m sure he could do it. Similarly, he might make an exception to enable a one off resurrection. Of course, there’s not the slightest evidence that either occurred, quite the reverse in fact, but that’s another story.

    As to the night sky being evidence for God, that’s just perspective. If I were a field mouse, desperately trying to avoid the preying talons and night vision of a swooping owl, I’d have a very different perspective.

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    Bruce, the human mind automatically makes correlations. The mind creates its own illusions by linking thoughts that share no connections. From what I’ve read, it is a phenomenon called “Illusory Correlation”.
    I do like your words “intellectual bridge”. That is the only “bridge” that attributes, connects, and associates things…to any “God”.

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    You mean they’re not nice? You scare the bejesus out of them! How DARE you use reason and logic! You already know not to lean on thine own understanding! LOL!
    Yes. The fire and fury of a nasty evangelical’s god spew makes people run the other way. Every. Single. Time.
    Whenever I’m being spoken at particularly judgementally, I quote Proverbs 18:19, “A brother offended is harder to be wonne then a strong citie: and their contentions are like the barres of a castle.” (1611 KJV). Then, when I’m told that God has given me up for a reprobate mind, I quote Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”
    Yeah, they hate that. Usually then I’m called a fool. 🙂

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    My dogs think I’m a god but that doesn’t make it so.

    With regard to creationism, my fundamentalist evangelical school exclusively taught young earth creationism. We were taught that the earth was created about 6,000 years ago with the appearance of age. Carbon dating methods were claimed to be faulty and that the earth wasn’t really billions of years old. Additionally, God probably created the world with the appearance of age. They had no real answer for the existence of dinosaur bones except that they were probably killed during the Flood (which was of course considered a true story) or perhaps the dinosaurs could not survive in the new climate after the Flood (climate change version 1.0). There was also the concept that perhaps dinosaur bones were put into the ground by satan/demons in order to lead us astray.

    My mom bemoaned the fact that my cousin was very interested in dinosaurs because she bought into the fundamentalist evangelical stories. I remember as a young teenager talking with my aunt (who was not a fundamentalist Christian) about dinosaurs and how they weren’t real. She asked, how can they not be real, their bones are in museums all over the world. And I said something about satan/demons putting them into the ground to confuse us or lead us astray. She just looked at me. At that moment, saying the words aloud, I was struck by the realization of how ridiculously ignorant and denying of truth that statement sounded….. But thousands of young earth creationists say these things aloud every day and never realize how ridiculous they sound.

    • Avatar
      Daniel Wilcox

      ?! Our cat, Smoke, knows he is god! We are his minions to do his slightest demand.:-)

      Very sad that so many kids such as you grew in in young earth creationism.

      It’s weird how many very different Christianities there are, even very different Christian fundamentalisms.
      For instance, we were dyed-in-the-wool Baptists, didn’t dance, go to movies, even play cards, etc.,
      my preacher dad often talked with me about Neanderthal man, dinosaurs (which he knew existed long before humans), and so forth.

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      The idea that God created the world “with the appearance of age” used to be quite popular with some fundies because it allows them to claim the Earth is 6,000 years old without having to debate the details of things like carbon dating or geology (if something seems to be, say, 20,000 years old, that just means God created it with an “appearance” of being 14,000 years old at the time of creation). It does raise some funny questions, though.

      1) If God created with world with all that evidence of “age” that never actually happened, isn’t that intentional deception? Does God want us to think the Earth is 4.6 billion years old if he created everything to look that way?

      2) Why wouldn’t creating the Earth with the appearance of age be mentioned in Genesis, if that’s what God did?

      3) If Satan can create things to deceive us, why don’t they think Satan created the whole world, since the whole world is full of evidence that contradicts Genesis the same way dinosaur bones do? If Satan created dinosaur bones to fool us, why didn’t God prevent this?

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      Carbon dating only can date things around 50,000 year old or so. Rock dating typically uses other radioactive elements (potassium/argon for example, though there are others).

      While a scientifically esoteric (to a layman) dating system might be suspect, using tree rings it is possible to get dates older than the Bishop Usher age of Earth. Of course all dating systems converge on the true age of the Earth and universe. We have stars that are millions of light years away, yet we don’t see new stars popping into existence every year because the light finally got here. Geological strata and other disparate fields end up confirming the vast age of the Earth and refuting the Biblical account.

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    Bruce wrote: “I have long argued that I understand how someone could look at the night sky on a clear summer night and conclude that a deistic God of some sort created the universe.” Brian has called it “the feels”. Growing up in the Quaker faith, it always seemed to me that “the feels” were more important than the Book. In fact in my youth group during my teen years, our youth leader told us exactly that. And that if science and the Bible disagreed, go with the science; the “science” in the Bible was Bronze Age science and we were in the Space Age (having landed on the moon a few years prior).

    He also told us that if the Holy Spirit could speak to Paul, it could (and would) speak to us too. Those leadings of the Spirit could ( and should!?) contradict the Bible too, as mankind gained in understanding. He used the potent example of slavery of course, but also things like the dietary laws. Refrigeration, modern butchery methods, meat inspection and better sanitation methods have made prohibitions against pork, shellfish or eating the back half of an animal unnecessary today, but protected the Hebrew tribes wandering in the desert 3000+ years ago. He also used the passage about a rape victim being forced to marry their rapist as a Bronze Age practice that is abhorrent to the modern mind and rightfully abandoned; “shotgun weddings” were the modern remnant and that was wrong too. Premarital sex was still wrong, but if we couldn’t hold out, “for God’s sake, use birth control!” (Yes, that is a direct quote. And quite boldly progressive in 1976.) Essentially I was taught that a faith that cannot be defended by logic and reason isn’t worth having. The Bible is NOT inerrant either. The *intent* of the Spirit was inerrant, but the fact that a “mere human” had to write down the words made it slightly flawed, due to the “fallen” nature of mankind.

    And thus I find myself still believing in that Something, yet ever more unable to define what that Something is, or much of anything resembling doctrine or theology beyond “God is Love.” Mostly it can be summed up as “If it’s not loving, it can’t be right/good/godly.” Conversely, if it *is* loving, then it is right/good/godly, regardless of the faith, or lack thereof, of the person doing it.

    IF God is indeed God, She doesn’t need a stupid book to define the rules. Humans make all those books and rules. If “Jesus” lives within our hearts, then how can our hearts be wicked? Wouldn’t the indwelling Christ make them the Holy of Holies, God’s home on Earth? The fruits of the Spirit are supposed to be love, joy, peace, patience/tolerance, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self-control, attributes almost all people find admirable. I figure anyone who demonstrates at least 5 out of 9 on any given day is “one of the good guys”. Sadly, I see fewer and fewer Christians and almost no Evangelicals demonstrating even one. Bruce usually gets 7 or 8 out of 9, at least here on the blog. (Polly’s and the local buffet’s mileage may vary! 😉 ) Most definitely “one of the good guys”.

    Sorry for the mini-post, but this resonated with me.

  8. Avatar
    Justine Valinotti

    “Assuming that I am not a reprobate that God has turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, why, then, do Evangelical apologists fail to win me back to Jesus? One reason is that the behavior of apologists towards me is contrary to everything the Bible says about how we are to treat other people. Some of the most arrogant, nasty, judgmental people I have ever met are people who attempt to win me back to Jesus. I have never understood how behaving this way is conducive to reclaiming me for Jesus.”

    This is exactly the reason why I came to distrust the “sincerity” and “good intentions” of Evangelicals and most other highly religious people. Even when they want to “save your soul” because they “love you as God loves you”, there is a more base impulse lurking beneath. That’s the reason why they get so nasty and arrogant when you don’t accede to their “love” and “concern” for you.

    On another note–Martin Luther supposedly nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church on this date 500 years ago. And what’s happening today? The Indictment! The Indictment!

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    Cats vs. dogs…..cats think they are deities. Dogs think we humans are deities.

    It is very sad to grow up with yec. I don’t believe that our Southern Baptist Church actually addressed origins – most of the children and youth attended public schools where evolution was taught. A handful of us attended a particular fundamentalist evangelical (Independent Baptist) school where yec was taught. Some of my cohorts from the school still believe yec. Others’ parents were wise enough to have their children read books on evolution.

    You’re fortunate that your father was not a science-denier.

  10. Avatar

    You don’t want to be won over that is why. Your free will at work. Nothing wrong with owning it.

    You don’t believe because of all the nasty Christians out there? Seriously? Well then I guess I can use the excuse to never become an atheist because of all the nasty atheists out there. If there is a God do you think he will take that as a good reason?

    You make these very broad, sweeping statements that Christians, especially those evangelicals, believe without any hint of evidence. Everything is based on faith and they checked their brain at the door of the first church they entered to be brain washed in the ways of harmful religion. Of course you know this is false. I know you know this is false because you have not spoken to every single Christian in this world to be able to make such broad statements. I know, I know, you aren’t speaking about every Christian, but your blog certainly repeats this theme throughout, so yes you are saying that.

    And what of the martyrs throughout the ages? They believed without a shred of evidence, even unto death? Really? The disciples, who saw Jesus’ death and resurrected were all martyred for their faith. They spread the teachings of Jesus during a time when it was very dangerous for them to do so. They knew that what they were doing was hazardous to their physical well being. They did it anyway, because it was true. They were eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses are not going to die for something they know was not true.

    Ignorant? Absurd? You feel justified in using those terms to describe the millions of believers in the world because they didn’t come to the same conclusion that you did? Ever heard of the term arrogant? There are plenty of well educated people, in all forms of the sciences, that have come to a very different conclusion than you. Doesn’t make them ignorant or absurd. And what gets me is this type of tactic that was used against you was so upsetting to you. But you do it to others.

    You didn’t like the way that horrible evangelical spoke to you on that other blog and yet you do the same thing here. Of course, it is your blog and you may write whatever you wish, but push back is going to happen when such broad, sweeping, and aggressive statements are made about such a large population of people

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Veronica, as with Facebook, you have worn out your welcome here. I am tired of you putting words in my mouth and more than tired of your damn accusations. I will approve no further comments of yours.

      People die for all sorts of false beliefs. I assume you believe Mormonism and Catholicism are false religions. Yet, hundreds of millions of adherents think their beliefs are true. Because they “think” their beliefs are true, they must be, right?

      I respect people, not beliefs. I respect you as a person. However, your absurd beliefs are worthy of derision and ridicule. Your mythic beliefs breed and encourage ignorance. It is not about differences of opinion. The sciences promote evidence and facts, not opinions. You want to believe a mythical being created the universe in six twenty-four days, 6,022 years ago? Fine, but don’t expect rational, educated people to accept such absurdities as fact. Believe what you will, but don’t expect non-Evangelicals to respect your beliefs. You drag nonsense from the church house to the public space, don’t be shocked when people laugh. I would do the same if you tried to make the case for the Harry Potter books being non-fictional truth. I see no difference between the Bible and any other work of fiction.


    • Avatar

      Replying to Veronica, though I know Bruce has replied already and now banned her from commenting. I just can’t let the following point pass:

      “Eyewitnesses are not going to die for something they know was not true.”

      Oh yes they do. The history of religion is pretty well equivalent to the history of gullibility. You think Muslim suicide bombers ‘know’ that what they are dying for is true? Well actually they do by your standards, but I’ll bet you don’t buy it. It gets worse. Jehovahs Witnesses, in an attempt, long ago and now forgotten, to snare believers and to make sure they were into the cult hook, line, and sinker, invented the ‘no blood transfusion’ rule. They figured that if they could convince their followers to let their kids die for want of medical attention, then they’d do anything they were told. Of course, many fundamentalists still insist on faith and prayer being superior to medical attention, resulting in many unnecessary deaths.

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