Earlier today Glen Odem, a realtor from Mississippi and a group leader for Reformers Unanimous (also called RU Recovery Ministries) — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) addiction program — left the following comment on the post titled Cindy Schaap, Daughter of Jack Hyles, Divorces Convicted Felon Jack Schaap. Odem ignored the comment policy for this site, determined to put in a good word for Jesus regardless of my wishes. As you shall see, Odem took a passive-aggressive approach to making sure I heard the “truth.” Never mind the fact that Odem’s comment had nothing to do with the post he commented on. Absolutely nothing. I can only assume, then, that Odem’s comment was a drive-by evangelism effort.
Odem did read ten posts on this site, so I do give him credit for showing a bit of curiosity. Unfortunately, his comment shows that he learned absolutely nothing from (or chose to ignore) my autobiographical material.
My response to Odem’s comment is indented and italicized.
Mr Bruce truth is truth regardless of whether we believe it or not.
Yes, truth is truth regardless of whether we believe it or not. Facts and evidence matter. I suspect, however, that Odem thinks that truth = Bible; that words of the Bible are inspired, inerrant, and infallible, 100% unadulterated, pure big T T-R-U-T-H. And therein is the rub. How does Odem know the Bible is truth? What evidence does he have for his claim? Just because the Bible says something doesn’t make it so. If Odem wants me to accept his claim, then he is going to have to provide evidence for me to examine.
Saying the Bible is TRUTH is a faith claim. Either you believe this claim or you don’t. I, for one, reject this claim out of hand. I do not have the requisite faith necessary to believe virgins have babies, spit and dirt heals blindness, humans can teleport through walls, or dead people resurrect from the grave — to name a few of the fantastical claims found in the Bible. I assume Odem believes all of these things are TRUTH. All I ask is that he provide evidence for his truth claims. Don’t quote me Bible verses or baldly assert that the Bible is TRUTH whether I believe it or not. As someone who spent fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches, I know the Bible inside and out. I know, not believe, but actually KNOW, that the claims Evangelicals make for the Bible cannot be intellectually or rationally sustained. I’ve done my homework.
What I do wonder is whether Odem has done his homework. Has he read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books on the history and nature of the Bible? Ehrman is a New Testament scholar who teaches at the University of North Carolina and the author of numerous books on the Bible. If Odem has not read any of Ehrman’s books, I will gladly buy a copy and have it sent to him, free of charge. I have made this offer dozens of times over the years. Not one Evangelical has taken me up on this issue. Why is that?
Believing or not believing the truth only effects [sic] our lives and those we influence. Two plus two is four, whether we believe it or not. But not believing it can have a significant impact on our lives. Jesus walked on the shores of Galilee, he healed the sick and raised the dead. Those are facts, and us not believing them does not make them any less true. Jesus lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried in a borrowed tomb, and rose again the third day and whether we believe it or not doesn’t change it from being a reality.
As I mentioned above, Odem seems to not understand that asserting a claim doesn’t mean it is true. The Harry Potter books make all sorts of claims, as fantasy and science fiction books do. Should any of us accept the “truth” found in the Harry Potter books at face value? Of course not. For me to “believe” that Harry Potter can change things with the wave of his magic wand, I am going to want to see empirical evidence for this claim. I view the Bible the same way. It is a work of fiction, or, at best a historical novel. My wife, Polly, loves to read historical novels. Such books are filled with facts, yet the storylines are fictional. I can accept that Jesus was a flesh and blood human being who lived and died in Palestine 2,000 years ago. But if you expect me to believe the stories told about him, you are going to have to provide evidence that supports these stories being true. 2,000 years later, no evidence is forthcoming.
But not believing it can have a significant impact on your life in this world and in eternity to come.
Not believing the Bible has not affected my life in any meaningful way. In fact, it was believing the Bible was true that caused all sorts of problems for me. Now? I have no interest in the Bible whatsoever, outside of writing for this blog. My life is better in every way now that the Bible has no authority over me, no hold on my life.
Odem speaks of “eternity to come.” This is another one of those claims that Evangelicals make that is solely rooted in faith. I know of no evidence for the existence of an afterlife or the existence of Heaven/Hell. Let me say once again that just because the Bible says something doesn’t make it true.
You are probably a better man than I am morally. In fact, I’d say quite better because I know me!
Isn’t the only thing that matters how we live our lives? I try my best every day to be a decent, kind, thoughtful, compassionate person. Yet, because I don’t believe the same things as Odem, I am headed for eternal torture at the hands of his God. What kind of monster is this God that Odem worships and serves; a deity who values right beliefs over love, kindness, and good works? Even if this God is real, I wouldn’t worship him.
But there was a point in time when I realized I was lost and in sin. Not sin according to me or you or any other man but according to our Creator, and I accepted the payment that was made for my sins by Jesus when he shed his perfect blood for me. Now, that still doesn’t make me better than you or possibly anyone else for that matter, but it does make me justified in His sight, and that is what matters. Now I no longer enjoy those old ways and I do try to do better. But my relationship is not dependent upon my performance as a son it is dependent upon Him. However, my fellowship can be strained, but just like my relationship with my earthly parents cannot be undone my relationship with my heavenly Father is unchanging.
This is Odem’s personal testimony — an anecdotal story. And I am fine with that. Go with God. However, Odem doesn’t grant unbelievers the same respect. He’s not content to let us live our lives as we wish. Our lives are defective, in need of fixing. And only Hey-Zeus can fix us. I think I speak for most atheists, agnostics, pagans, and other unbelievers, when I say, we are fine just the way we are. We are not broken sinners in need of salvation. We are humans with the same wants, needs, and desires Odem has.
I cannot assume to know the condition of any man’s heart. So, whether or not this man is born again or not I do not know. I do know he was in sin, and it doesn’t appear he had remorse for it. But I have enough of my own troubles to keep me busy rather than condemning him. His actions speak for themselves.
Odem is being less than honest when he says that he doesn’t know the condition of my “heart” or whether I am born again. Isn’t his entire comment based on the assumption that I am NOT a Christian and neither are the readers of this blog; that we are sinners dead in trespasses and sins, headed for God’s judgment and eternal brimstone and hellfire after we die?
I am not sure what “sin” Odem thinks I was in — past or present. Regardless, he does say my actions speak for themselves. What actions? Telling my story? Trying to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity? Trying to help and encourage people who have left Christianity? What, exactly, have I done that “speaks for itself”?
But I would say this to anyone reading this post: they’re bad people that work at WalMart but I’m not going to stop shopping there. If I were going to that church, I would not stop going to church just because of some bad people.
I didn’t stop going to church because of “bad people.” I walked away from Christianity because I no longer believed its central claims were true. It was truth that led me away from Christianity, not bad people.
So, if this rebirth has happened it cannot unhappen. Many people can say what they are it does not make them what they say. Only God searches the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Welp, I once was saved and now I am not. Odem can do with that what he will. I understand that he can’t square my story with this theology, but that’s not my problem. He does seem to doubt that I was a True Christian®. Again, all the extant evidence says that I was, indeed, a committed follower of Jesus. Does Odem have any evidence to the contrary? Of course not. He can’t fathom a Bible-believing preacher becoming an atheist. So the quickest way to dismiss my story is to cast doubt on my sincere profession of faith.
I pray this post is a blessing to someone, in Jesus’ name, amen.
I suspect Odem’s “prayer” will go unanswered; that the former Christians on the site will likely view his comment in a bad light.
What did Odem hope to accomplish by leaving this comment? I know I keep asking this question, but I wish people like Odem would honestly answer my inquiry.
In Reason’s Name, Amen
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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