Evangelical Man Finds My Story “Confusing”
Several months ago, I received an email from an Evangelical man who shared with me that he found my story confusing. This is a common problem for Evangelicals when they encounter this site. The reason for their confusion is simple: they can’t fit the narrative of my life within the confines of their theological box — in this man’s case, the Evangelical box. To which I say, that ain’t my problem. All I know is that I once was a Christian, and now I am not. It really is that simple.
The email writer raised several issues, so I thought I would take a stab at publicly answering them. My response is indented.
I stumbled on this site when reading Don Williams words about his daughter who just lost her husband to a shooting in Cameroon Africa.
Here’s the post he is talking about: Who’s to Blame For the Tragic Death of IFB Missionary Charles Wesco?
The articles why you became a Calvinist part 1 and 2 caught my attention and then coming up to date. I can’t help but wonder if what is really being expressed in your writings is like warnings to readers of what can happen when following the teachings of man/men as several men’s intellectual or their writings were sought after. And eventually being led to humanistic view point with no return.
You can read the Calvinism series here:
Why I Became a Calvinist — Part One
Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Two
Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Three
Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Four
Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Five
Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Six
The email writer suggests that what happened to me is that I left the Jesus and the teachings of the Bible and followed after the teachings of mere men. This ultimately led me away from Christianity to humanism. I agree with the man, but I would say the same of him and every person who has ever claimed to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus was a man. The apostles were men. Paul was a man. The authors of the books of the Bible were men. Christianity, if it is anything, is a religion based on the writings of men. All John Calvin and other Calvinistic men did was teach me their spin on the Bible — men explaining what other men said and meant.
As a humanist, I believe that the highest authorities on earth are men and women. Suggesting that there is some sort of supernatural force at work — i.e. God — is a faith proposition, not a fact. Evangelicals say God, through supernatural inspiration, wrote the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible. The evidence for this claim is what, exactly? “The Bible says” is not valid evidence. Believing the Bible is anything other than a collection of books written by men requires faith, a faith I do not have.
Not wanting sympathy or giving any it’s hard to figure the atheist part because is there really any such thing because everyone has something or someone that has first place in their life Or that they /we idolize —making it an idol or to be a god of our life.
The writer demands I use the Bible as the standard by which I measure/judge my life. Thus, he believes there’s no such thing as an atheist; that everyone worships/idolizes someone or something. Again, the email writer nails it. Of course I have people in my life I worship: my wife of forty years, my six children, my twelve grandchildren, and the Cincinnati Reds. If we worship what we love, then I indeed worship the people that matter to me. However, they are not my God or gods. I don’t exalt them above human experience. I don’t pray to them or call on them to guide/direct my life. And most of all, I never say my life is worthless without them.
Answer to the question about being called to be a pastor can’t see how that can be either because IF were truly called then would still be.
The writer uses an inane circular argument that I find irritating every time a Christian zealot tries to use it on me. I could never have been “called” to a pastor, because if I had been, I would still be a pastor. The Bible says that the calling of God is irrevocable. “Once a pastor, always a pastor,” the thinking goes. This is akin to me saying I once was married, but now I am divorced. I couldn’t have “really” been married, because if I had been, I would still be married. Silly, right?
The email writer can’t square my life with his peculiar beliefs, so the only option he has is to declare that I was never a “true” pastor; never a True Christian®. Wouldn’t it be much easier for him to admit that people become pastors and leave the ministry for all sorts of the reasons. The same could be said for people who were once Christians and now they are atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, spiritualists, Buddhists, et al.
All I ask readers to do is accept my story at face value. Instead of trashing me, how about taking a hard look at your theological beliefs? How about pondering the reasons I give for leaving the ministry and Christianity? (Please see Why?) Of course, this rarely happens because THE BIBLE SAYS trumps human experience. This kind of thinking leads to cognitive dissonance.
And about a book you hope to finish writing or finishing your book maybe before the rapture if I understood correctly, of which if I understand correctly an atheist or socialist don’t believe in any such thing as a rapture or being caught up?
Sarcasm, bro, sarcasm. The only rapture I believe in takes place between the sheets in my bedroom.
Don’t much like pointing a finger as it usually has three aiming back- but to unashamedly admit being a pastor of baptist churches and even had started 5 I believe I read then admitting turning to a gospel of a different kind in the name of Calvinist —was that to stir up discord ???
Not at all, but I know my story does trouble a number of Evangelical readers. I am just one man with a story to tell. While I write on all sorts of subjects, the focus of this blog remains my story; my upbringing; my life as a pastor; my deconversion; my present life as an atheist and a humanist. I try to be open and honest, even when it causes personal embarrassment.
Does reading my story lead some people away from Christianity? Yes. Is that my goal? No. Is it gratifying to know that some people find my writing helpful? Yes. Shouldn’t all writers want their work to be well received, to be helpful to others? Yes!
Is there possibly warning with that to be careful because allowing teachings of men to fill our mind can drive our hearts away from the one true foundation ? Is your message to readers to be careful to gird up the loins of our mind? And to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is???
No, the real message is that what Evangelicals believe about the Bible cannot be rationally sustained; that the teachings Evangelicals claim are authoritative and infallible are anything but.
If you haven’t read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books, I encourage you to do so. I am confident that his books will disabuse any Evangelical reader of the notion that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, and infallible text. Whatever the Bible might be, it is not what Evangelicals say it is.
Not sure why I even bothered to write but just happened on your site from the tragedy that occurred to the Wessco family Tuesday and thought maybe it’s meant to be so slander me if you like because it may turn out for good.
You wrote me either out of divine direction from God or because you wanted to. I’m going with the latter. You wrote, and here’s my response. I am not sure why you thought I would slander you. I don’t know you, so I am in no position to render any sort of judgment.
I wish you well.
Saved by Reason,
Books by Bart Ehrman
The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World
Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee
Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior
Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)
Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth
Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are
God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer
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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At least he didn’t warn or threaten you with hell, though he brought up the rapture so that’s a close second.
A good friend of my mother’s became a fundamentalist Christian as an older adult. She has fallen hard for all of the things you write about, and cannot hear anything that is contrary to whatever her pastor tells her without becoming very agitated. She is in her late 60;s and a kind person.
but she simply refuses to see that not all issues are black and white. The last time I spoke with her she said something about our great President Trump. I very candidly said that I can’t take him seriously because I believe he is a very bad man who is selfish and doesn’t really care about all those Christians he claims to support. She was shocked that I would think or say such a thing. She truly believes he his God’s gift to our country. But what really surprised me was how very angry she was that I was not convinced. I am rather soft-spoken by nature and was speaking very calmly. She was so upset she was shaking. Some of them can’t abide any disagreement. That kind of irrational behavior does not help them convince anyone that they know what they are talking about (whether it’s politics or religion).