Bruce, Were You Ever Born Again?

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

A seventy-seven-year-old Evangelical man recently sent me the following email (his remarks are in italics, mine are in bold font) :

I will try to be spiritually pragmatic. And please accept this as genuine.

Genuine as opposed to what? I know you read the Comment Policy and the Dear Evangelical page, so I am at a loss as to why you would email me. You could have read some of the posts on the Why? page, but you chose not to. Instead, you read several articles and came to a “genuine” conclusion about my past and present spiritual condition.

Proverbs 18:13 says: If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Were you born again or was your Christian experience based on emotion and or philosophical psychological reasoning?

Yes, I was born again (born from above). I was, in every way, born again just like you. Would you like to whip out your born-again and compare it to mine so we can see who has/had the “real” born-again experience? 

I remember the date, time, and place when Jesus saved me. I understand theologically what it means to be born again, and I suspect my born-again experience had an emotional/psychological component just like yours.

I ask because in my years I have seen a great deal of ‘make believe’ in Christendom based on emotion. The charismatic movement has been a very effective in making emotion THE primary motivation in many lives. I wonder if you had been recruited that way, or similar?

No. I was a part of the Christian church for fifty-years. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. I think it is safe for me to say that I know what it means to be born again. Not only that, but hundreds of people were saved under my ministry and I personally led numerous people to Christ. I was a born-again pastor who took seriously my responsibility to lead sinners to faith. 

I see the wheels turning in your mind as you try to square my story with your peculiar theology. I know that I once was a Christian and now I am not. Whether or not that fits your theological box matters not.

You would know this verse and it certainly seems applicable to your actions and mindset… “They left us, but they were not part of us, for if they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us. Their leaving made it clear that none of them was really part of us” (1st John 2:19).

Ah yes, time for a proof text or two so you can dismiss my story out of hand. I never was a Christian, according to you. If I had been, I would still be a Christian. I do hope you realize how absurd a thought this is. It’s akin to you saying I was never married even though I have evidence to the contrary. If I divorce my wife, that means we were never married. Of course we were married once upon a time. I have a marriage certificate and a lifetime of experiences that prove we were married. Just because we divorced doesn’t me we were never “really” married!

I take your profession of faith at face value. I would ask that you do the same for mine.

If this is the truth of the matter I have doubts you will be influenced now with any appeal to take a second look at the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his ministry. He said we MUST be born again. Being born again is of the spiritual realm not of any emotional, philosophical or psychological betterment.

Again, been there, done that, and lived it for most of my life.

Please read the posts of the Why? page.  You might find some of these posts helpful:

From Evangelicalism to Atheism Series

Why I Stopped Believing

Please Help Me Understand Why You Stopped Believing

16 Reasons I am Not a Christian

Why I Hate Jesus

The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It

What I Found When I Left the Box

Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners

Dear Friend

I also encourage you to read The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.

Our ‘fleshly’ existence cannot be improved by such effort for in reality our ego is still self centred; the universe revolves around ‘us’. As a Christian I must admit it still does, but I modify it a little by saying ‘my’ universe revolves around me.

Being born from above is a spiritual dimension yet within the confines of our human experience, and the two are generally at war with each other.

I am almost 77 and have fought this battle for 50 of those years. Ego has softened in my old age and spiritual warfare has quietened down to the occasional skirmish, consequently peace and joy tend to reign more often than not. O that I had learned the lessons earlier in life.

There is a great deal more to the Christian life than peace and joy, but that is another and even weightier matter.

Yes, according to the Bible, there is. Been there, done that. What more can I say?

Let me conclude by asking you a few questions: what did you hope to accomplish by contacting me? I would NEVER go to a Christian blog and email the owner about the falsity of Christianity. What, in your long life, suggests to you that this is appropriate behavior? It’s boorish and rude. Did God “lead” you to email me? If so, how do you know it was God leading you and not your ego? Have you contacted other atheist writers? If yes, how many of them repented and put their faith and trust in Jesus?

I hope you will thoughtfully ponder your reasons and motives for contacting me. Most of all, I hope you will think about whether this is a profitable way to engage atheists. Trust me, it’s not. I know the Bible inside and out. What could you possibly say that I haven’t heard before — often countless times? I have carefully weighed the claims of Christianity and found them wanting. There’s no argument you could make that would ever lead me back to the cuddly arms of Jesus. I’m not trying to be arrogant here; I’m just telling you how it is. Thousands have come before you, and to the man they have failed at their soul-saving mission.

I wish you well.

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.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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  1. Michael Mock

    “Born again” is a really weird narrative in this day and age, too. Like, it would make sense to say that you had to be born again in order to be saved if you were living in Imperial Rome or occupied Judea 2,000 years ago — you know, when everybody outside of your tiny little group belonged to some other (presumably dead in their sins and destined for judgement) religion.

    But in the modern United States of America? Where the prevailing culture is built around Protestant Christianity? With Christians of various flavors being somewhere around 3/4 of the population? Saying that makes a lot less sense. It’s not just that the doctrine itself makes a lot less sense, though that’s part of it. But it’s also that you end up trying to tell other Christians that they need to be born again — and that’s just weird.

    Case in point:
    Me, age… Twelve? Maybe? Old enough to be interested in girls, but not old enough to be ready to do anything about it (including talk to them, apparently). It’s the eighties, so I’m in a video game arcade (remember video arcades?) in a mall (remember malls?) playing, I think, Elevator Action. ( if you’re curious or nostalgic.) I finish my game, and go to play something else. On my way through the arcade, a pretty young girl of roughly my own age tries to get my attention: “Excuse me, but–”

    I ignore her completely and move to the next game. She… follows me. She’s pretty (did I mention she was pretty?) so I turn around.

    “Excuse me,” she says, “but… have you been born again.”

    I just kind of… look at her… for what feels like about twenty minutes but probably isn’t. I’m not really good with talking to humans anyway, and I’m definitely not used to being approached by girls, and now she’s asking a question that seems to be grounded in some very questionable assumptions. I consider and discard a couple of responses, and finally settle on: “I’m a Christian, yes.”

    “…But have you been born again?” she persists, looking slightly flustered.

    “Didn’t need to,” I told her. “I was raised in the Church.”

    She shakes her head. “You have to be born again.”

    So, okay. This was awkward from the start, and I’m rapidly losing patience. “No,” I say, “if you were born a Christian, then you’re already there.”

    She just looks at me. I just look at her. There is probably a wealth of communication to be read from stances, postures, expressions, small and subtle movements — but I am twelve, and not at all good with people I don’t know, and uncomfortable with this whole “talking” thing, so I utterly fail to decipher any of it. After a moment, I turn my back, put a quarter in the slot, and start another game. The girl must have wandered off, because when the alien robots killed me she wasn’t there.

    TL/DR: Back when I was still a Christian, someone asked me if I’d been “born again”. It remains one of the more memorably weird and awkward conversations of my life, and I really think Christians would do well to put some serious thought into how the world has changed over the last two-thousand years, and how that affects some of the things that are stated in the Gospels as indisputable, obvious realities.

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I never used the born-again nomenclature. It seemed redundant to me. Christians are born again (born from above). It’s part of the package deal. 😀 Same goes for calling inanimate objects Christian. Christian TV. Christian Radio. How does a TV station become a Christian? Just saying…

      These terms are meant to segregate dwellers of the Evangelical ghetto from other Christians.

  2. Trenton

    Obligatory “sigh”

    I wonder if evangelicals who email you stuff like this actually read the pages they view. But most like skipping over the parts of the bible like Numbers 5:11-30 or blatantly ignore parts of the bible that tell them to help immigrants or the poor to keep themselves safe instead of trusting god, why would they listen to a little old blog post from a christian turned atheist?

  3. ObstacleChick

    Remember the late 70s/early 80s when a lit of celebrities were claiming to be “born again”? I was a kid at that time, and I remember my very devout fundamentalist evangelical Grandma being very judgy judgy about these celebrities. She believed they were using the term for attention because if they were truly born again they wouldn’t act in movies that used swear words or showed sex or any other immoral behavior (or if they were singers they would only sing clean or Christian songs). So in my child’s mind I viewed the term as “the world” making fun of True Christians. To this day I still have a viscerally negative reaction to the term.

    Bruce, if you had a dime for every time a Christian asks if you were REALLY a True Christian you would be rich. It amazes me how so many Christians cannot grasp the concept os disbelief- that we must have never believed or that we still harbor belief but are rebellious.

    I also marvel at how advanced humans a couple of thousand years ago were with manipulative skills. Look at the Bible with its verses to convince us of humans’ utter depravity; not to trust our own logic; to always assume that we are wrong, weak, nothing without god; to dismiss inconsistencies with the notion that we are inadequate to understand god; doubts are temptation from Satan; to paint those who don’t follow as rebellious but with the assumption that the doctrines and existence of God are all true. There is an answer to every objection that was known at the time, usually boiling down to the inadequacy of humans. It is brilliant and twisted.

  4. GeoffT

    Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, nobody at all can claim to be genuinely born again until the moment they die. The best that they can claim is that they think, hope perhaps, that they are born again, knowing that if they cease to believe, which is possible for anybody, then they couldn’t have been born again.

    Of course, logic and ‘born again’ cannot exist in the same sentence.

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  6. Brian

    I was born again at approx. 4:47 a.m. Pacific Time when I opened my eyes to a born again Saturday morning. All was changed and I rose again from the dead to put the kettle on.
    Christianity, when it becomes sickly obsessive (as in Michael’s story of a youngster witnessing to him) demonstrates its purpose among us, not to ‘save’ but to harm, not to give new life and allow someone to be ‘born again’ but the exact opposite, to steal life and make one an indentured servant, no, a slave to delusion. It makes me so sad to see children lose their childhood living under the rule of Christian parents, chilldren who go to the mall not to hang with friends but to bring their hang-ups and dump them on others.
    Next time somebody asks if you are born again, respnd by asking them how long they have been in slavery, how they lost their lives…
    This phenomenon is not simply odd and interestingly weird, it is horrible evidence of widespread delusion among us. I much prefer the ‘burned out’ older Christians who have learned to shutup and be halfway biped instead of heaven cadets on a mission.


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