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The Mythical Evangelical Victory Over Sin

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According to Evangelicals, the Holy Spirit lives inside of them (1 Corinthians 3:16, John 16:13 and Romans 8:9). This indwelling is what sets the Christian apart from the world — Satan’s Kingdom. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is greater than Satan. Satan walks to and fro across the earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Non-Christians are easily devoured and destroyed by Satan, but not Christians. (2 Corinthians 4:41 Peter 5:8).  Supposedly, because the Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide (John 14:26), Spirit-filled, obedient Evangelicals are immune to sin. Ephesian 6 talks about Christians wearing spiritual armor as they battle Satan:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints… (Ephesians 6:11-18)

In some corners of the Evangelical world, Christians believe they can totally overcome sin and live sinless lives (sinless perfection), although many Evangelicals reject such thinking. But the Bible says that people who sin are of the devil (I John 3:8). This leads me to believe that God expects Christians to live above sin. Jesus told his followers, be ye perfect even as my father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Surely Jesus would not have said this if it was impossible for Christians to attain this lofty standard. Doesn’t the Bible say that Christians are new creations — old things pass away and ALL things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Yet, as we look at how Evangelicals live their lives, what do we see?

There are numerous Evangelical websites dedicated to helping Christians who are “addicted” to porn. Other sites exist to help Evangelicals sexually toe the line. Yet, Evangelicals commit sexual sins at the same level as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. No matter how loud and long Evangelical preachers preach against sexual sin, church members continue to ignore their preaching. There is no statistical category that shows Evangelicals being more moral or ethical than their counterparts in the world. Try as they might, Evangelicals are no different from unsaved family, friends, and neighbors.

Evangelicals KNOW these things, yet they go to church Sunday after Sunday seeking victory over sin. Songs are sung (Victory in Jesus) that testify to the mighty power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. Sermons are preached extolling the virtues of living sin-free lives. Sometimes, church members find themselves “convicted” over sin. This leads them to fall to their knees, asking Jesus to give them the victory over _____________ (fill in the blank with the sin of the week). Despite all the singing, preaching, and praying, Evangelicals continue to sin. As powerful as Evangelicals tell us God is, he is unable to keep them from sinning. Perhaps humans are more powerful than God. Perhaps human free will cannot be overcome or thwarted by God. How else do we explain daily reports of God-fearing, Bible-preaching pastors raping children, molesting children, having affairs, stealing from their churches, along with a host of other “sins”? (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)  If Catholic priests are Jesus’ representatives on earth, how do we square this belief with the sexual scandals that have rocked the church over the past decade? If God is so powerful that he holds the world in his hands, why does he allow priests to sodomize boys and Baptist youth leaders to take sexual advantage of church teenagers?

It is time for Evangelicals to join the human race. Stop all the moralizing and sermonizing. You have been found out, Evangelicals, and now it’s time to admit it. Come join us in the muddy, dirty waters of Sin Creek. The water is warm and inviting. Bathing suits are optional. 🙂

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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  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    ” Studies tell us that Evangelicals commit sexual sins at the same level as people they call vile, wicked, unregenerate sinners.”

    Which is actually kind of amazing, considering that most of the unregenerate sinners don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, but the Evangelicals do. It’s one thing to enjoy porn with a clear conscience, another to view it knowing your god will be pissed at you.

  2. Avatar
    William Sperber

    Good post, Bruce, and on a subject that is very important to me as it was one of the legs of my belief that gave way first. I think a lot of believers are like I was and take the “this isn’t working” on themselves, doubling down on repentance and bible study. I don’t remember from where the realization came that the reason “this isn’t working” is the belief system itself, nor why it took me until my forties to figure it out but I’m so glad every day that I eventually did. The world has made so much more sense since then.

  3. Avatar
    J.D. Matthews

    Even as a fundamentalist, I knew I was gonna have sex. It was just too strong of an urge for me to suppress. I didn’t get married until 30, so there was literally zero chance of me making it to the altar as a virgin. I accepted it. Felt guilty a time or two, but I reckoned there was little I could do. At first, I figured I would probably have to date girls outside of the church if I wanted some sexy naked times. Well… As it turned out, every fundie girlfriend I ever had was completely willing to get to, and often proactive towards, jumping in the sack! Oh sure, there’d be guilt, occasionally, but more often than not, it was just… normal. There were even times when I would open my email–this was the 90s, before sexting was a thing–and find unsolicited sexual emails from girls I wasn’t dating. Offers to give BJs from my girlfriend’s best friend. Invitations to make-out sessions from my sister’s christian college roommate.

    And the funny thing is that now, years later, I find those same people on Twitter and Facebook posting scriptures and decrying how the youth of today are having sex. The same person who got me off in the home team dugout after dark is whining about transgendered people in the bathroom. The young lady who made backseat romps legendary is posting scriptures about purity.

  4. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I found it so, so freeing to give up on the concept of sin. I don’t believe there are any deities to offend, ergo, no sin. My ethics are about not hurting people, who are real and who do matter.

    I still find it distressing that people go through an enormous amount of pain, sorrow, and shame when they do sexual activities that harm no one.

    Consenting adults only? Nobody’s cheating? No predatory behavior? No power imbalance? Nobody’s job is going to be on the line if the relationship turns sour? Hey, you’ve won the ethics lottery, go have a great time. Otherwise, if you’re an adult, you can either manage your behavior to avoid the encounter, or you need to learn, really quick.

    Not having had children, I don’t know what is appropriate for teenagers, who are not going to avoid sex because adults tell them to. Probably depends on the individuals involved, but the bottom line is always to not use other people.

    My Catholic mother was raised with the most disgusting ideas about sex. It was sinful for women to enjoy at all. Wives must always consent. No sex before marriage. Sex was dirty, shameful, and evil, but necessary for making babies, and men needed it. For her, because of internal physical issues, PIV sex was excruciatingly painful, but God didn’t allow for any other sexual activity. Oh, and she was far too ashamed to bring any of this up with her gynecologist. And the topping on this crap sundae was that she couldn’t bear children. I was adopted at birth.

    I was a decade into my own marriage when the reality of just how much she suffered, and believed God had called on her to suffer, finally hit me. I was well on my way to deconversion by that time, but I had explored so many different ideas, understandings of God on my way out…and not once had I ever considered that God could be so breathtakingly cruel. (What can I say, Catholics read the Bible very selectively, and tend to skip the cruelty parts.)

    I use dish cloths that have plastic scrubbing texture on one side, and that makes them hard to wring out well. As I explained to my housemate, “Wring it out like it’s the neck of someone you despise.” And sometimes, when I wring it out, it is the necks of those evil church people who created and propagated that teaching that so tortured my mother. It probably means I need to go back two millennia to find the ones who started it. I’m gonna have a really dry dish cloth.

  5. Avatar

    I can understand people trying to keep themselves from doing behaviors that harm other people, and trying to quell the urge to sometimes do something destructive. But certain religions and philosophies took the level of control way too far. Should we strive not to murder people? Absolutely. Should we strive not to steal? Yes! But masturbation and lust? Those are natural and don’t hurt anyone.

  6. Avatar

    I find their “evils of porn” articles just hilarious. My come back is if a Playboy centerfold picture is porn and I have a picture of my spouse in the same pose, is my spouse now porn? When you make a normal part of being human wrong, you’re going to have that problem.

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