Bruce, Were You Ever a “Real” Christian?

real christian

One of the common lines of attack Evangelical critics use against me is what is commonly called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.  Rational Wiki explains the “No True Scotsman” fallacy:

The No True Scotsman (NTS) fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when a debater defends the generalization of a group by excluding counter-examples from it. For example, it is common to argue that “all members of [my religion] are fundamentally good”, and then to abandon all bad individuals as “not true [my-religion]-people”.

….

NTS can be thought of as a form of inverted cherry picking, where instead of selecting favourable examples, one rejects unfavourable ones. The NTS fallacy paves the path to other logical fallacies, such as letting the “best” member of a group represent it. Thanks to these remarkable qualities, the NTS fallacy is a vital tool in the promotion of denialism.

Simply put, “no matter what you say Bruce, you never were a REAL Christian.”

I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. At the age of fifteen, I made a public profession of faith at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Coming under the Holy Spirit’s conviction, I went forward during the invitation, knelt at the altar, repented of my sins, and asked Jesus to save me. Several weeks later, I went forward again and professed publicly to the church that I believed that God was calling me to preach. From that time forward — until I walked away from Christianity in November 2008 — my heart and mind were set on worshipping, serving, and following Jesus. I committed myself to daily prayer and reading and studying the Bible. At the age of nineteen, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. While at Midwestern, I met and dated the beautiful daughter of a Baptist preacher. We later married, had six children, and invested our lives in building churches, helping others, and evangelizing the lost. Simply put, we loved Jesus, and whatever the Holy Spirit led us to do, we did it — even if it cost us socially or economically.

That’s not to say that we were perfect Christians. We weren’t. Speaking for myself, I was temperamental, prone to mood swings that ranged from palpable excitement to brooding darkness. I now know that I was dealing with undiagnosed depression; that what I really needed was competent professional help. It took me more than a decade to see someone once I realized I needed help. Why so long? I grew up in a home with a mother who had serious mental health problems. (Please see Barbara.) I knew the shame that came from having a loved one who was viewed by others as “nuts” or “crazy.” I certainly wasn’t my mother — as my counselor has frequently reminded me — but I didn’t want my wife and children to have to bear the stigma of having a husband/parent who had mental problems. It was enough that they had to bear the brunt of my mood swings behind closed doors. I didn’t want them to bear that burden in public.

I am sure an Evangelical zealot or two is itching to ask, “Bruce, did you ever “sin” against God?” Silly boy, of course I did. I daily sinned in thought, word, and deed; sins of omission and sins of commission. Let me ask you the same question, “did you ever sin against God?” That’s what I thought. Of course you have. Whatever failures I had in my life, and they were many, doesn’t negate the fact that I loved Jesus (and the church) with my all my heart, soul, and mind. I spent the prime years of my life — ruining my health in the process — laboring day and night in God’s vineyard. I chose a life of poverty so I could provide the churches I pastored with a full-time preacher. There’s not one former congregant who can say of me that I didn’t give my all to the church; to preaching the gospel to sinners and teaching the saints the Word of God. Critics will search in vain for anyone who knew me at the time that would say of me, “Bruce was not a real Christian.” Several years ago, a woman who knows me quite well, told a family member, “if Butch (my family nickname) wasn’t a Christian, no one is!” And that’s my testimony too. There’s nothing in my story, when taken as a whole, that remotely suggests that I wasn’t a real Christian.

What happens, of course, is that my Evangelical critics skim over the book of my life, choosing instead to just read the last chapter; the chapter where Bruce, the Evangelical pastor is now Bruce, the atheist; the chapter where Bruce rejects, criticizes, and stands against everything he once believed; the chapter where it is clear to Bruce’s critics that he is a reprobate and apostate. After reading the last chapter, my critics conclude, “Bruce, you never were a real Christian.” Once critics come to this ill-informed conclusion, it is impossible to change their minds (and I no longer try to do so).

The biggest problem my critics face is their theology. Most Evangelicals, particularly Baptists, believe that once a person is saved, his salvation cannot be lost. Once adopted into the family of God and married to Jesus, you are forever a member of the Christian family. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:31-39:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus himself said in John 10:27-29:

 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I 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.

Did my long years as a Christian show that I was a sheep who had heard the voice of Jesus and followed him? Of course they did. If that is true, and it is, then based on the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, I was a born-from-above child of God who had been granted eternal life by God himself.

Many of my critics can’t bear to admit that I was ever a “real” Christian. They can’t bear to think of spending eternity in Heaven with me, an avowed atheist. So they take a lice comb to the hair of my life, looking for anything in my beliefs, practices, or conduct that reveals that I was not, according to their standard, a real Christian. Their minds are made up: I was a fake Christian. I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Never mind that the evidence of my lived life suggests otherwise. Instead of admitting the obvious, these keepers of the Book of Life strain at the gnat and swallow a camel finding ways to “prove” I wasn’t a real Christian.

On one hand, I agree with them. It is absurd to think that I am now a Christian, and that Heaven awaits me after I died. There’s nothing in my present life that remotely suggests that I am a follower of Jesus. A few critics, unable to square their theology with the sum of my life, take a different approach. According to them, I am still a Christian, and there’s nothing I can say or do to change that fact. This line of argument is equally absurd.

It is not up to me to help my critics make their theology fit the narrative of my life. All I know is this: I once was a Christian, and now I am not. I think of my life this way: At the age of fifteen, I married Jesus. We had thirty-five years of blissful marriage. However, at the age of fifty, I divorced Jesus, and fell in love with rationalism and freedom. When asked about my marriage to Jesus, I say, “all in all, we had a good life together.” There are times when I wistfully look at my marriage to Jesus and yearn for the “good old days.” Stupid thoughts, to be sure, knowing that humans tend to sanitize their past, ignoring or blocking out the bad things that happened. Sure, Jesus and I had a good life together, but he’s no match for my current lover. I could never go back to the leeks, onions, and bondage of Egypt, having tasted and enjoyed the wonder and freedom of the Promised Land.

Some readers, particularly lifelong atheists, often ask, “why does this matter to you, Bruce? The Christian God is a myth. Christianity is built on a foundation of lies. There’s no judgment, no Heaven, no Hell. Your life as a Christian was built on a fairytale!” As a godless heathen, I certainly agree with these sentiments. However, I WAS a devoted Christian for many years. I WAS a committed, sacrificial pastor for decades. It’s impossible to honestly and faithfully tell my story without sharing the fifty years I spent in the Christian church. Years ago, I had a social worker offer me some advice on how to write an effective résumé. She thought that my religious education and ministerial job history were turnoffs or red flags to many prospective employers. She suggested leaving these things off my résumé. I replied, “so what do you want me to do with the huge holes in my work history? Should I just put I was in prison for twenty-five years?” She was not amused.

My past is part of who I am. I can’t and won’t ignore the “Christian years” to make my story more palatable. Nor can I ignore the chapters that are presently being written. Are not all of us the sum of our experiences? Why is it we have no problem when someone says, “I was married and now I am divorced. Several months ago, I met someone who might be the right person for me.” That’s my life. I was married to Jesus, divorced him, and eleven years ago I met someone new; someone who has become just the right person for me. All I ask from Christians is that they accept my story at face value; that they allow me to tell my story honestly and openly without attempting to deconstruct my life. When Christians comment on this blog, I accept their claims of faith without question. Even when they promote bad theology or say contradictory things, I allow them to tell their stories on their own terms. If I have learned anything over the years it is this: there are millions of Christianities and millions of Jesuses. No two Christians believe the same things or worship Jesus in exactly the same way. To discern who is and isn’t a “real” Christian is an impossible task. Who am I to say to a follower of Jesus: you are NOT a real Christian. All of us bring unique books to story time. Mine just so happens to be one of devotion to Jesus and loss of faith. Regardless of what my critics say about my past, I know what I know. After all, who knows my life better than I do? And so it is with you.

Last week, I had a Christian contact me, asking for advice on how to set up a blog and how to rank well with search engines such as Google and Bing. I gave him some general advice. The first thing I told him is this: “I encourage everyone, Christian or not, to tell their story. Blogging is an excellent way to do so.” I am convinced that the best way to help others is by telling our stories. Sure, there’s a time and place for polemical writing; attacks on the text and teachings of the Bible. I am certainly more than willing to take an axe to the roots of Christianity and the Bible. However, I have learned, as a public speaker and a writer, that the most effective way to reach people is by telling my story. As such, this blog will always remain “one man with a story to tell.”

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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26 Comments

  1. Byroniac

    Bruce, I could be mistaken, but haven’t you used an expression before on this blog which I originally learned from John Loftus (maybe you did, too?), that (paraphrasing) there are no True Christians because Christianity is not itself True? I think that honest Christians, even if they can never bring themselves to actually believe this to be true, must acknowledge this possibility if they are to be intellectually honest. No doubt some Christians would be dismissive even as they grant this concession or try to minimize its impact. I guess my main point is, and I think that you are a shining example of this for what it is worth, no matter how convinced you are in a particular position and how impossible it seems (then) that you could change and assent to a diametrically opposed view, it can certainly happen. I’ve changed what I’ve believed, so to make a little joke, I have been wrong at least once in my life, either before I realized I was mistaken, or in being mistaken in thinking I needed a correction to my view (referring specifically to my personal religious beliefs).

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I don’t remember saying this, but intellectually it is certainly a true statement. If Christianity is false, then there’s no such thing as “True Christians.” My argument here, however, doesn’t argue one way or the other about the truthfulness of Christianity. Christianity doesn’t need to be “true” for me to have believed I was a True Christian. For decades I believed the Holy Spirit lived inside of me. Such a claim is absurd, but I believed it nonetheless. In telling my story, I hope to reach and help others who had similar experiences. Saying out of hand, “you weren’t a true Christian because Christianity itself is false” helps no one.

      Reply
  2. Matilda

    I just read this on Neil Carter’s blog. Rhett of Rhett and Link on Youtube, describes his loss of faith. ”I want to emphasize how big of a deal it was to me. It was a relationship. And I want to say that because I’ve noticed that when I tell my story, often people kind of conclude that I was never a true Christian…As far as I’m concerned, Jesus was as real to me as he possibly could be without physically manifesting himself in my presence. It was a relationship. We were in conversation.” That says it perfectly doesn’t it? The excellent Neil also once said that folk think he – and we – deconverted because we were lukewarm x-tians, but we were the opposite, sold out for jesus, 24/7, working our socks off for him and it was with mounting horror that some of us realised…it didn’t make sense.

    Reply
    1. GeoffT

      Matilda, I occasionally read Neil Carter, but I’m an avid follower of Patheos non religious generally, and find it perhaps the best receptor of reasoned comment of its type on the internet. There’s the Bruce type blogs that outline stories of deconversion, such as Rational Doubt (to which Bruce frequently contributes), there’s those that expose the underlying silliness of types of belief, such as Roll to Disbelieve, Friendly Atheist that tends mainly to expose contemporary stories of religion trying to creep into everyday life, and Tippling Philosopher, which covers lots of topics, and not just religion, but from an underlying point of reason.

      Reply
      1. Matilda

        I’ve said this before here, it’s not putting it too strongly to say that, when having doubts – and I’d been a fervent believer for 50yrs – Bruce and Neil’s blog almost saved my life. I was due to tell the story of Esther to a school assembly so, looking for a new angle, googled it. That led me straight to Rachel Held Evans. I had absolutely no idea folk like her existed…I began to read her avidly…and one day for some reason she linked to Neil…and then I found this blog…and it was all downhill (or uphill) from there. So thank you again to Bruce for this ongoing inspirational blog.

        Reply
  3. ObstacleChick

    Sometimes I feel slightly bad for Christians faced with those of us who used to be Christians but are no longer. It’s hard for them to handle “what if it’s not true”. All the sacrifices required in words, thoughts, and actions; giving up the concept of a perfect afterlife and seeing loved ones again; having a clear list of rules, how to vote, who to hate; having a supernatural superhero to help them find their car keys and purpose in life; losing a tribe, an identity. But then one of them.will act like an a$$hole and I no longer feel sorry for them. The stakes are too high for them to believe us.

    Reply
  4. Karen the rock whisperer

    Well, yes, if your lived experience doesn’t match up with my world view, then your experience obviously wasn’t real! I’ll take gaslighting for $200, Alex.

    Reply
  5. Trenton

    By all accounts, your story is much more honest than most christian testimonies, especially the ones loaded with details about sex, drugs, witchcraft, rock’n’roll, pornography, and a host of other forbidden topics. The more lurid and detailed, the better. What is interesting is how none of these testimonies dealing with those subjects actually resembles what goes on in the real world. It’s almost as if christians in some ways live vicariously through these testimonies. Oh well, they willingly enslave themselves to Jesus while saying that they are being freed from sin. It’s always opposite day in fundieland.

    Reply
  6. Drew Costen

    I might have a strange take on this because I believe you really were a real Christian, but I also believe that 99.9% of real Christians have never actually believed Paul’s Gospel and, as such, haven’t actually been saved (from a relative perspective; from an absolute perspective I believe that everyone, Christian or otherwise, has been saved by what Christ did) and have never joined the body of Christ. Yes, I believe that nearly all Christians believe they believe Paul’s Gospel, but I also believe that almost none of them actually know what his Gospel really is (or at least what it means), which means they can’t really believe it.

    Basically, in my view (and in the view of those other members of the body of Christ I know), being a “real Christian” doesn’t mean anything at all other than the fact that one has taken that name for themselves, and has also likely joined the religion called Christianity. We consider religion to be useless, however. Religion (generally; there are exceptions, such as with non-theistic religions) teaches that God will only look kindly upon us if we believe and/or do the right things before we die. The Good News of the Uncircumcision (Galatians 2:7), on the other hand, is not a religion at all, but is instead the announcement of the end of religion (it’s a proclamation, not a proposition). Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing) the religious think they have to do to get right with God, but no action or belief on our part can ever take away our sins or make us immortal. Thankfully, everything necessary for salvation from sin and death has already been done, once and for all, by Christ. The Good News (or Gospel) is that Christ died (actually died, including ceasing to exist consciously, which also means He can’t be God since God can’t die) for our (meaning everybody’s) sins, was entombed, and was roused from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This means that sin has been completely dealt with by Christ for everybody and, because of this, everyone (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) will eventually experience salvation and be resurrected (if they’re dead) and vivified (be made immortal) by the consummation (or end) of the eons (“God is the Saviour of all mankind…”); and if God has elected to give you the gift of faith to believe this Good News now, you’ve now joined the body of Christ and will experience a special, earlier salvation known as eonian life (“…especially of believers.” 1 Timothy 4:10), meaning you’ll have immortal life in heaven (or “the heavens,” which is really just outer space — Genesis 1:1) in a glorified body like Christ’s, where you’ll help reconcile celestial beings to God during the next two eons before the rest of humanity is also vivified.

    So we believe that no Christian who believes in the traditional doctrines such as human free will, the immortality of the soul (which includes pretty much all trinitarians and oneness Christians), and everlasting punishment (either in “hell” or by annihilation) can join the body of Christ while believing those things. However, we don’t believe that not believing these things saves someone, and in fact we don’t believe that it’s one’s belief in the Gospel itself that actually saves someone either. Instead, believing these things is how one knows they’ve been given faith and have been saved by God (relatively speaking) and will experience eonian life (not to be confused with everlasting life, which everyone will eventually experienced although each in their own order or times). It’s kind of Calvinist, just without most of the rest of the Calvinist doctrines. 🙂 I myself grew up believing all those traditional doctrines, and consider myself to have been a real Christian as well while I believed them, but I also now believe that I wasn’t saved (again, relatively speaking) until I came to realize they were unscriptural.

    Of course, I realize that if Scripture isn’t the word of God, and of course if God doesn’t exist, all of the above is a moot point, but I’m not here to debate apologetics (nor am I here to defend my interpretations of Scripture as described above; if you want to know why I believe what I do, click the link to my website that I assume my name will link to). Instead, I just wanted to share my theological viewpoint on what I believe Scripture teaches about whether being a real Christian actually matters. And now I’ll stop preaching (in fact, this will likely be the one and only time I post something like this in the comments on your site). 🙂

    Reply
    1. Karen the rock whisperer

      Whatever works for you, Dude.

      I was going to just leave it at that, but it sounds passive-aggressive, and that Isn’t my intent. You’ve worked out a theology (or others have a theology that you’ve adopted) that gives you a hopeful worldview for your own ultimate fate and that of those you love. And that’s actually a good thing, because it means you aren’t going to bed every night and praying desperately that your Mormon, atheist, or otherwise unsaved children. grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and their equally unsaved spouses, will find True Christianity before they die. My poor mom-in-law has admitted that she does this kind of praying every night. Sometimes my heart breaks for her. She’s shed a lot of the non-reality-based rules she was taught in her Fundamentalist upbringing, but she can’t get past being terrified that most of the people she truly loves won’t make it to heaven.

      Others might argue with you about the basics of your theology. I won’t, though I won’t believe, either. I’m far more interested in people cultivating beliefs that encourage them to care for others, find happiness in those caring connections, and spread that caring around. How you dress that process with theology or philosophy is up to you.

      Reply
      1. Drew Costen

        Karen: You’ve worked out a theology (or others have a theology that you’ve adopted) that gives you a hopeful worldview for your own ultimate fate and that of those you love.

        Drew: It’s the latter, and yes, that’s correct. I was actually an ex-Christian “agnostic” (for lack of a better term; I do realize the problems with this label, but I never went “full atheist” so I use it for simplicity’s sake) for about 6 years, give or take, until I discovered the teachings of the late A.E. Knoch through some “Concordant” Christians (as people who believe these doctrines sometimes jokingly call themselves). I still have problems with the Bible in places, but I found that his philosophy and theology was one of the only out there that brought me any hope (his theodicy is probably the only one that can be said to have any hope in it at all as well), so for now I’ve grasped onto it.

        Reply
    2. ... Zoe ~

      Drew Costen: “So we believe that no Christian who believes in the traditional doctrines such as human free will, the immortality of the soul (which includes pretty much all trinitarians and oneness Christians), and everlasting punishment (either in “hell” or by annihilation) can join the body of Christ while believing those things.”

      Zoe: You start out by saying about Bruce: “I might have a strange take on this because I believe you really were a real Christian, […]”

      So he was a Christian even though (correct me if I’m wrong Bruce) he believed the traditional doctrines you quote here, but, he was not then an actual member of “the body of Christ while believing those things.”

      So technically, Being a Christian does not equal being in The Body of Christ.

      So many complicated salvations.

      Reply
      1. Drew Costen

        Zoe: So technically, Being a Christian does not equal being in The Body of Christ. So many complicated salvations.

        Drew: Heh. It can seem that way sometimes. I think that’s because most people are used to traditional Christianity, though, and haven’t ever heard of this idea. To put it extremely simply, everybody will eventually be resurrected and given immortal bodies because Christ died for our sins and was roused from the dead, and those who happen to believe this Good News before they die are brought into the body of Christ and get their resurrection early (or, if they’re not dead yet at that point, will be given immortal bodies at that point). Yes, technically there is a lot more to it than that, but that’s really the important part.

        Reply
        1. ... Zoe ~

          Drew: Yes, technically there is a lot more to it than that, but that’s really the important part.

          Zoe: So what you are describing here is a simple universalism?

          Reply
          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            If everyone is “saved” in the end, why bother? 😀 If I get Heaven/eternal life no matter what I say/do/believe, why bother with religion/faith? Seems, at least to me, that if what Drew says is true, I can have a good/happy/fulfilling life without Christianity. Why embrace/believe the Bible if it has no meaningful impact on my life. If Drew wants what his peculiar brand of religion affords him, fine. I just don’t find such beliefs intellectually satisfying and they certainly don’t add any value to my life. Been there, done that — no thanks.

          2. ... Zoe ~

            Not sure where this will show up in this thread Bruce.

            I don’t see Drew’s Christianity as that simple really. 🙂

            To simplify.

            Christian does not equal Body of Christ.

            Jesus does not equal God.

            Paul’s Gospel: Some are enlightened. Some are not. Some say they are but really can’t be because the don’t “really know” what it means.

            God decides who gets the gift of faith.

            Some are special, some are not.

            Some are in the body of Christ. Some are out.

            All “saved in the end.” Apparent levels of salvation along the way.

            The chosen get a special deal. Earlier salvation, body and a job re: reconciliation during the eons.

            Saved means you cannot join the body of Christ because you can’t join unless God gives the gift of faith to understand. So if you in fact, by God’s call, do believe these things it is proof that God saved you. If he hadn’t, you wouldn’t believe as you do.

            Sounds Calvinistic but we also have our own doctrines and hold on scripture. Traditional doctrines = unscriptural. Our doctrines/understandings/faith given by God = scriptural.

            Drew: “I myself grew up believing all those traditional doctrines, and consider myself to have been a real Christian as well while I believed them, but I also now believe that I wasn’t saved (again, relatively speaking) until I came to realize they were unscriptural.”

            Zoe: My attempt at paraphrasing what I see, remembering that I can’t see otherwise as God has not yet given me the gift of faith to see it now.

            ‘I myself grew up believing all those traditional doctrines, (because God had not chosen me yet though it was on the horizon, I just didn’t know it yet) and considered myself to have been a real Christian, but I also now believe that I wasn’t saved (again, scripturally) until I came to realize the other stuff was unscriptural and of course I then understood I was one of the chosen because well I couldn’t have understood all that if God had not decided I was one of the ones who would get the gift of faith to believe that now. So technically I didn’t figure all this out on my own. God chose me.’

            Drew: “Instead, I just wanted to share my theological viewpoint on what I believe Scripture teaches about whether being a real Christian actually matters.”

            Zoe: Paraphrasing what I see. ‘Instead, I just wanted to share my (God given gift of faith) in my (God given theological viewpoint) on what I believe (God given gift of faith/belief) Scripture teaches (only understood because God given gift of faith and now able to discern the Scriptures correctly because God) about whether being a real Christian actually matters (because ultimately all will be saved/redeemed/vivified), so technically not a big deal in the end. Just a lot of other stuff in the meantime if God choses you and gives you the gift of faith.

            Closing comment: Please remember God has not chosen to give me (Zoe) the gift of faith so my analysis of Drew’s (A.E. Knoch’s) beliefs cannot be in anyway helpful to his way of belief or should I say God’s way.

            Here’s the thing for me. Drew has grasped on to this and it gives him hope. What I feel with each new interpretation of scripture is exhaustion. Not hope. It really gets to me because I’m not the kind of person who likes to take away anyone’s hope. Belief is so minute (details) and over-whelming and my hope comes in not looking to former human beings as having possessed anything related to God should God as you define it exist.

            To me and on the outside it may seem like a benevolent way to approach the Bible, it really isn’t any more redeeming than my former fundamentalism. Surely Zoe you are not comparing? Well, I see, “i’s” that still need to be dotted and “t’s” to cross. I still see a hierarchy of believers. Chosen and unchosen. No hell or annihilation yet degrees of spiritual personhood both before (the now) and after (for those who die without having joined the body of Christ while here; remembering they couldn’t without God giving them the gift of faith while in the now.)

            As well, it’s based on the teachings of A.E. Knoch. Who then must have had the “correct” interpretation. Another human being who got it right.

            It seems not unlike my former fundamentalism where we followed other human beings (mostly men of God so-to-speak) who also had the correct interpretation. For me, it is just another Christianity but again, I cannot be enlightened as I’m not but maybe at some point in the now I will be? Who knows.

            It seems to me no less a religion than any other. I realize that that’s probably an insult for the Concordance group. I use to take umbrage when as a Christian people told me my former belief was also a religion. I just figured they couldn’t understand and didn’t have the correct interpretation about what a religion is and what Christianity was. One could say they just didn’t know any better because they didn’t have the Holy Spirit or in this case just hadn’t been given the gift of faith by God yet.

            So many complicated salvations. Time for tea.

          3. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Thank you for taking the time to parse Drew’s theology. 😀 I did a little more reading on Knoch. Disagreed with certain teachings of the Bible, so he wrote his own. As I step back and view Knochism from afar, I can’t help but notice its gnostic tendencies — a common trait of peculiar sects who believe they’ve found some sort of special “truth.” Again, as you say, yet another religion that says its “right.” So many religions, so little time. 😀

            I’ve known Drew since 2008. He is the son-in-law of an ex-Evangelical preacher friend of my mind. I always thought he was an atheist, but I noticed an increasingly religiosity to his comments. Now I know his backstory. I’m content to let people believe what they want. I have zero interest in trying another flavor of Christian ice cream. Even if I could be persuaded that Knochism is “right,” I would not believe. I’m just not interested in such things. I have a relatively good life without the trappings of religion. I can’t imagine ever return to religion, regardless of the form and substance it takes. 😀 Of course, with you and my other heathen friends, I’m preaching to the choir.

            Bruce

          4. ... Zoe ~

            I’m content too Bruce.

            I’m also familiar with Drew, (for those who are reading, though he may not be familiar with me) and his family from all these years online. That’s why I probably felt comfortable to wade through Drew’s post. 🙂

            My interest always comes from the point of view of “what is a Christian?” My Christian heritage is quite diverse and it was this diversity that started my slide out. Then of course, you change your mind about what you once believed and the whole “you were never a Christian in the first place” starts up . . . as we all know.

  7. Brian Vanderlip

    Every time I read an expostion of the one true faith, I breathe a huge sigh of relief that I am no longer stuck with a ‘spiritual’ magnifying glass held by two hands, pouring over the Babble Book to discern the real and final real truth.
    All the best, Drew! Off you go!

    Reply
  8. Tim Matter

    If you by definition couldn’t have been a true Christian or you would never have deconverted, I would tell them that they can’t know if they are a true Christian either, because they have not reached the end of their life without deconverting. It could happen to them too.
    And the Bible confirms they might be convinced they are saved, but really aren’t.
    Matthew 7 “21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
    22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Reply
  9. Bob

    First let me say that this is his is just my opinion and I have no doubt that you were a Christian and devoted follower of Christ as well as a servant to all that were in your flock. I have been a believer my whole life and committed my life the Christ at the age of 14 and at the age of 56 today I still live my life committed to God and His plan for me. To say that everything was a cakewalk would be a lie and I would put that partly on the Pentecostal/Evangelical churches I have been in most of my life and their dysfunctions.

    I have felt called to the ministry and almost took the similar path that you did out of high school, but I am glad I did not go that road. Personally I think only a small fraction of the youth that headed off to Bible School in the 80’s and 90’s were called for such a calling. The older I have gotten and the more I have seen, no one is prepared to be a Pastor in their 20’s if even their 30’s. They have no idea what they are getting into and no idea on what they doing when it comes to counselling people. So along this long road I have seen a lot of people hurt for many reasons and some sort of walk away from their faith and I know a couple that went very close to where you ended up in your belief today. I think you were either very hurt by something or you looked at the path of your life and said, why in the world did I go this way? What do I have to show for it? Was I even supposed to go into the ministry as a Pastor? I don’t even like doing this, but I am trapped. If any of these are the case, then I do not think it is much different than what ministries I was involved in as a layperson and I then wake up one day because of “Internal Church Changes” and “other things” and said to myself why am I bothering with doing any of this? How much of this is God and how much is it just some man on a pulpit telling me what he thinks is right and wrong and how to think?

    The thing that does baffle me out of all this is not that someone committed a grave sin, or someone decided one day I don’t want to be in ministry any longer and I want to try something else. It is, how can they walk away from God? I get it someone is hurt or made a mistake, OK, leave the church, get mad at the church, get mad at the people, but to say there is No God now? We were not allowed to question God or authority and it put people in hard places of internal conflict until one day they just seem to shut if off as it sounds like you did. We all get off track, you have gone quite a ways in the Christian sense, but I do hope you find your way through it all.

    Reply
    1. Astreja

      Bob, there’s a simple explanation: Sometimes faith just… disappears. It could be related to a bad experience, but far, far more often it’s an inability to accept something that is foundational to the belief.

      I’ll use myself as an example: It’s plausible that a man similar to Jesus was preaching in and around Jerusalem. It’s also not too much of a stretch to imagine him saying some of the things in the Gospels. Turning water into wine is verging on implausible, unless proto-Jesus was also adept at sleight-of-hand. So far, so good.

      The myth breaks down completely in the crucifixion and resurrection part of the story. The Gospels have the Romans behaving in a way totally unlike the historical record — asking the crowd to choose a prisoner to free, for a non-Roman holiday, and allowing the friends of Jesus to have his body for burial. Jesus subsequently coming back to life is ludicrous.

      Simple. Really. You may not like it, but it’s far closer to the ex-Christian experience than “Who hurt you?”

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Thank you for saying what I’m too tired to say 😀

        Reply
    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      No, actually it wasn’t until I was willing to listen to “everything” that my path became clear. I’m confident that I’m exactly where I need to be, no bandaids needed.

      Reply
    3. Grammar Gramma

      Bob, it is evident that you haven’t read much of Bruce’s story. He has very clearly said, many times, that he was not hurt by someone or something, nor did he one day look at the arc of his life and ask why he went this way. Indeed, I think Bruce enjoyed being a pastor. His “mistake,” if you will, was reading. He read books by authors not on the “approved IFB list,” and discovered a whole new world and a whole new way of thinking. He read, among others, Bart Ehrman. Through Ehrman’s books, Bruce began to question whether the bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of god. This was the basis upon which the foundation of his belief in god rested, and when he realized that the bible, indeed, is NOT inspired, inerrant and infallible, that was the beginning of the end. He reread the bible without the IFB blinders on and discovered all the errors and contradictions, all the viciousness of, particularly, the old testament, and his faith began to crumble. If he couldn’t believe in the inspired, inerrant, infallible nature of the bible, then he realized he couldn’t believe in any of it. Check out this piece by Bruce: https://brucegerencser.net/2019/05/my-first-steps-towards-believing-the-bible-was-not-inerrant/

      Oddly, I don’t think Bruce got mad. I suspect it is more that he got sad, as he came to the realization that everything he had built his life on was a lie. Rather than “shut it off,” Bruce read and read and read some more, and arrived at the point, over more than a decade, where he realized none of it made sense, that, historically, there was very little to back up the stories of the bible, and that, finally, there was and is no god.

      The fact that you can’t understand how someone would walk away from god is on you – not Bruce’s or anyone else’s to explain. I do think that Bruce has found his way through it all very well, and is happy with his non-belief. I’m sure he will chime in if I got it wrong.

      Reply
  10. Brian Vanderlip

    Bob, the question I have for you is simple on the face of it: Were you ever a real person? When you became convinced that you were unworthy, guilty, sinful, was that because you were fully human or because you lacked something that would have allowed you to suffer what it means to be a biped? When you and Jesus teamed up was it because you had attained an ability to discern the perfect or because you were a dumbed-down sinner feeling pretty badly about life! Suddenly Jesus made you feel that you could be whole? As Gramma, has astutely suggested, it might be time to believe in ol’ Bob a bit and allow him to read some more. When I allowed myself to embace all that the heart and mind offered me over many years living the Christian merry-go-misery-round, I became whole again, Bob, occupied my life and felt such a peace, such a joy of renewal. Damn! I was just so happy to meet myself again that it felt like the first time. Go and preach your gospel if you must, gospel or bust, trust-trust-trust… Read some authors who have deeply cared to search and see: If nothing else (if you do not become more and more Bob in the process) you can always witness to the Barts!

    Reply

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