I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.
ObstacleChick asked, “As an Evangelical Protestant pastor, what were your views on Catholicism?”
First, for many years I wouldn’t have labeled myself a Protestant. I was a Baptist, part of the True Church®. Protestants are people who came out of Roman Catholicism. As a Baptist I never came out of anything. I was a part of the church founded by Jesus. Thank you, very much!
Of course, this belief of mine had no historical foundation. None, nada, zip. However, I grew up in churches and attended a college that promoted Landmarkism; a type of Baptist ecclesiology that said the Baptists were true Christians; that the first century churches were Baptist churches. (See Baptizing E.T., Mork, Alf, and Worf: Alien Baptism and The ONE True Church of Jesus Christ) Keep in mind that the college I attended did NOT teach Christian church history. The Bible was viewed as the church’s history. Want to know what a New Testament church is? Read the book of Acts. It was when I embraced Calvinism that I learned that the history of the Baptist church traces not back to Jesus, but to seventeenth century English separatists. Jesus wasn’t a Baptist, and neither was John THE Baptist or any of the apostles. They were, to a man, Jews.
An honest reading of history forced me to conclude that the Christian church — in the main — was birthed out of Judaism and grew into what we now call Roman Catholicism. Now, knowing this didn’t make me sympathetic towards Catholics. Not in the least. I saw the Catholic Church as a Christian sect gone astray; a sect that stopped preaching the gospel and practicing the one truth faith. For many years, I frequently harangued Catholics from the pulpit, denouncing their works-based plan of salvation, idol worship, and worship of Mary. I believed Catholics were unsaved and in need of good old-fashioned Baptist new birth.
For eleven years, I pastored a Baptist church in the Southeast Ohio community of Somerset. Somerset had TWO large Catholic churches, one of which was the oldest Catholic church in Ohio. Here was I, Bruce, the Baptist, ready and willing to evangelize these fish-eaters and convert them into Baptists. In the eleven years I pastored in Somerset, I had not one Catholic convert. Not one. I continued to preach against the great whore of Babylon (Revelation 17) and the Catholics politely ignored me.
My view of Catholicism began to moderate somewhat in the early 1990s, thanks to my Catholic doctor, Bill Fiorini. I won’t tell the story again here. Please read What One Catholic Doctor Taught Me About Christianity. By the early 2000s, I no longer believed that Catholics were false Christians. While I still had reservations about many of their beliefs, I came to believe that Catholics were Christians too — as were a number of other sects formerly deemed by me to be false. For seven years, I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. The church’s slogan was, The Church Where the Only Label That Matters is Christian! Needless to say, more than a few of my colleagues in the ministry believed that I was becoming a liberal; an ecumenicist. They, of course, were right. After decades of deciding who is in and who is out; who is saved and who is not, I decided to let God sort the sheep from the goats. If someone said to me, I am a Christian, I accepted their profession of faith at face value. (I suspect had I known back then about the sexual abuse going on in Catholic churches, I might not have been so accepting.) This allowed me to enter into relationships with people I would have otherwise kept at distance, including the three Catholic girls my oldest sons married. Meeting and befriending Catholics went a long way towards driving religious bigotry out of my life.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
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Thanks, Bruce, that is interesting. Somehow – not sure if it was from home, church, or school – I had the idea that baptists came from John the Baptist but I couldn’t get an answer on continuity because I knew from history that the Catholic church was the only western Christian church until the reformation. Most baptists I knew were pretty proud of being protestants – of being of the correct doctrines, of being free of idolatry and false teachings of Catholicism. We were sure of our salvation through grace, not works, and once saved always saved. We didn’t consider most Catholics True Christians though we conceded that the Holy Spirit may have guided a few to truth.
Baptists love to claim that groups such as the Waldensians are part of their tribe. By doing this, they can hop, skip, and jump all the way back to the first century. ?