Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.
I often write about the extreme right of Evangelicalism, the end of the Evangelical spectrum inhabited by churches and sects that nice, friendly Evangelicals like to call Fundamentalist nut jobs. However, as I clearly show in my post titled Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?, ALL Evangelicals are Fundamentalists. Evangelical belief requires theological fundamentalism, a core set of beliefs that one must adhere to be a Christian and considered an Evangelical in good standing. Some who deny this fact are really liberal/progressive Christians living in denial. Raised in the Evangelical church and familiar with its worship and practice, these liberal/progressive Christians don’t want to abandon the only church they have ever known. Their theology puts them squarely outside of Evangelicalism, yet they refuse to accept this, digging their heels in when attempts are made to drag them into the liberal/progressive church. There’s not much anyone can do for these folks. In time, the keepers of Evangelical truth will expose and embarrass them and they will be forced to leave. For now, they play pretend Evangelical.
There’s another subset within Evangelicalism that thinks they are what I call a nicer, friendlier version of Evangelicalism. They are convinced that legalism, rules, moralizing, and the like are the problem, so they attempt to advertise their churches as places that are judgment free; places where sinners can come to find healing and deliverance. However, these nicer, friendlier Evangelicals hang onto theological fundamentalism. While their lifestyle or what they consider a sin might be different from their legalistic brethren, theologically there is very little difference between the two.
Here’s how you force nicer, friendlier Evangelicals to show their true colors. Forget this or that doctrine. Forget everything except what I share next:
Evangelical: The church I go to, First Church of the Most Awesome People in Town, is the nicest, friendliest church in town. We love everyone, and I am sure that if you come to our church you will feel right at home!!
Bruce: Let me ask you several questions. First, do you believe in a literal Hell?
Evangelical: Yes, that’s what the Bible teaches.
Bruce: Who ends up in Hell?
Evangelical: Well, um, uh, I am not the judge, only God is. But the Bible does say that a person must know Jesus as their Lord and Savior to go to Heaven when they die.
Bruce: So, since I am not a Christian and I refuse to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I will go to Hell when I die, right?
Evangelical: (looks down to ground) Uh, well, um, yeah, if you don’t repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will go to Hell when you die.
Bruce: How long will I be in Hell? Is it like Catholic purgatory where I’ll suffer for a time and then be taken to Heaven?
Evangelical: Well, uh . . . (long, long, long pause) if you die without knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will spend eternity in the torments of Hell.
Bruce: Fire and brimstone and where the worm dieth not?
Bruce: Since this body I currently have would burn up if I was thrown into a pit of fire and brimstone, does this mean God gives me a new body that will withstand the torments of Hell?
Evangelical: (silently praying the Rapture would happen)
Bruce: And doesn’t this mean that your God created me, killed me, and sent me to Hell with a new body fashioned by him to withstand day and night torture for eternity?
Evangelical: (God, won’t this atheist go away)
Bruce: Is this the God you worship? Why would anyone want to worship such a horrible deity?
Forget all the other doctrines, this is the only one that matters. I don’t care how nice or friendly Evangelical churches thinks they are, if they believe in Hell, then they are party to their God’s savage, endless torture of billions of people. They might smile more or practice friendship evangelism, but the result is still the same: those who don’t repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ go to Hell when they die. (Please see We Love People and Are the Friendliest Church in Town.)
The next time you run into a nicer, friendlier Evangelical, go for their jugular. Ask them point-blank if they believe in Hell. Their answer(s) to this question will tell you all you need to know. Personally, I have no interest in being a part of a group or being friends with anyone who thinks that I will burn in Hell for eternity because I am not like them. This kind of thinking is no different from the thinking of the demented killers portrayed on Criminal Minds. Our God is an awesome God, the Evangelical says, and He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. And if you refuse to accept his gracious, wonderful offer of salvation, our God will someday torture you for all eternity.
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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