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Questions: Bruce, Were You a “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” Christian?

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I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

ObstacleChick asked:

Related to questions others are asking, when you were fully in the fold, sold out, dedicated to the Trinity, did you ever feel any discomfort when you read things in the Bible that didn’t make sense or add up? Like, where did the children of Adam and Eve get their mates? Or about the dead that supposedly resurrected in the Easter Story in Matthew’s version? Or did Noah’s offspring all procreate with their siblings and cousins? (And why if it took so long for Noah and his sons to build the Ark there were no grandchildren running around during that time – or were those kids horrible reprobates too?) Were you a “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” kind of guy? You mentioned that you actually would study and prepare for your sermons, so you must have seen all those issues and more…you’re a smart guy.

Let me start by giving a short answer to ObstacleChick’s question: “Bruce, Were You a “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” Christian?” No, I was, instead, a “God Said It, That Settles It” Christian. For most of my years in the ministry, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Thus, I viewed the Bible as the very words of God — written by men under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit.

I was a serious student of the Bible, spending upwards of twenty hours a week preparing my sermons. I had a large library, but most of my books were written by people who believed as I did. Thus, I rarely read dissenting voices (this changed in the late 1990s as my theology and political views became more liberal). Did I see the issues raised by ObstacleChick? Sure, but the authors I read always seemed to have answers that satisfied my questions and doubts. I was, in every way, a true-blue believer.

I believed that God would, in time, answer any doubts or questions that I might have. I might have to wait until I got to Heaven, but all things would one day be revealed.

My view of the Bible gradually changed. First to go was King James-onlyism — a cardinal sin in the IFB church movement. Then, in the early 2000s, I started preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV). Influenced by the Emerging (Emergent) church movement with its post-modernist thinking, I began entertaining my doubts and questions — at least in my study — instead of turning them away with Evangelical cliches. While my preaching remained orthodox until the end — with liberal tinges — I ended the ministry a far different man from the one I was as a young preacher. After I left Christianity in 2008, several former parishioners told me that “books” were my problem; that I just needed to ONLY read the Bible. Alas, the horse had left the barn, never to return. Thanks to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and others, it was impossible for me to return to a supernatural view of the Bible.

I regret not voicing my questions and doubts from the pulpit. I owed honesty to the congregations I pastored. Of course, I am not certain church members could have handled the truth. I might have found myself unemployed had I cast “doubt” upon the Word of God. Years ago, I shared some personal details about my life in one of my sermons. Afterward, someone came up to me and expressed displeasure over what I had said. “We want a pastor who is an overcomer, one who is victorious over sin.” Evidently, being open and honest was not appreciated. This man wanted me to “fake it until I make it.” He preferred the facade instead of the real (very human) structure.

I appreciate ObstacleChick saying I am a “smart guy.” I don’t think ignorance is bliss. As Matt Dillahunty is fond of saying, “I want to know as many true things as possible.” However, as an Evangelical Christian, my thinking processes were corrupted by religious indoctrination. “God said it, and that settles it” thinking causes untold harm. As former Evangelicals know, taking God at his word is a bad idea.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    Yeah, the parishioners want perfect ministers, but alas, all ministers are just flawed people. I have some pastor friends I’ve known for a long time, and they are good people. But they have told me stories about the crap that really goes on behind the scenes.

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      Anecdote, working on a volunteer project a few days ago, I chatted to 2 others I didn’t know. Convo started about xmas and Mary said she wasn’t religious, she and son had a small xmas then spent the money on a nice holiday in the sun in January. Then phones were mentioned, Anne said she never answers her phone, only texts. Mary asked why. Anne said it was cos she’s a vicar’s wife and got tired of taking rude and nasty calls from hubby’s flock. Mary, being a decent human being, expressed surprise that x-tians would treat each other, and their leader, so badly. Sad that Anne had to admit that, even now in retirement, she can’t use a phone…and that was the way she’d dealt with the dissonance of having so many ‘loving’ people in her x-tian orbit..

  2. Avatar
    Obstaclechick

    Thanks for answering, Bruce! One of the hardest things I had to deal with as an evangelical who was taught that the Bible is the inspired inerrant infallible word of God, historically accurate and literally true, was hearing “you can ask God that when you get to heaven” when I came across things that made no sense.

    I don’t think average Christians want to hear the truth about the Bible. Most don’t go to church for that – they want to feel part of a community, feel like they are doing the right thing in life, like being part of the rituals, etc. They really don’t care about those nitty gritty details. I guess some of us are just different in that respect!

  3. Avatar
    Sage

    I remember going with my father to hear a preacher speak in a local church in our extremely small,town. This preacher would read a verse, or make a point, the follow it with “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” He created a nice rhythm with that phrase. I was around 16 and I remember thinking that his sermon was extremely reductive. Being a teenager, I entertained myself in this dull sermon by mouthing his pet phrase, usually with perfect timing. I got in trouble for that….

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    One lesson that the pandemic has reinforced for me is that people want certainty. Dr. Fauci and others are accused of doubletalk or simply lying when they revise the advice they’ve given. They, like everyone else, are learning about COVID-19 and its variants as they evolve. One would hope that preachers would do the same for the Bible. Alas, as we see, learning leads to change, but people to “set it and forget it.” So, preachers have to either live in an echo chamber or risk alienating their congregants.

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Bruce Gerencser