Evangelicals are not of one mind when it comes to the security of the believer. Some Evangelicals believe that a saved person can fall from grace (lose his or her salvation). After a person falls from grace, some Evangelicals believe salvation can be regained through repentance and faith. Other Evangelicals believe that once a person falls from grace, salvation can never be regained.
Evangelical Calvinists believe in conditional salvation, contingent on enduring (persevering) to the end (death). Saved people persevere, unsaved people don’t. While Calvinists will wail and howl at my assertion that they preach salvation by works, their soteriology suggests otherwise.
Many Evangelicals, especially Southern Baptists, Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB), and nondenominational churches, believe in once-saved-always-saved; that once a person is saved, he or she cannot fall from grace. In these churches, salvation is transactional. Once the transaction is completed, the gift (salvation) cannot be returned. A once-saved-always-saved Christian can renounce Christ and live out his days as an atheist, yet when he dies, he will go to Heaven. Salvation, then, is a marriage between Jesus and the sinner, one that can never, ever be dissolved.
At the age of fifteen, I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to save me. At that moment, I was gloriously born again. I was baptized the next Sunday, and the week after that I went before the church again, telling them that I believed God was calling me to preach. For the next thirty-five years, I was a devoted, committed follower of Jesus. My life, in every way, was Christian — as family, friends, and former parishioners can attest. Like all Christians, I sinned, sometimes grievously. Yet, the bent of my life was toward godliness and holiness. I was, to the people who knew me, a true-blue believer.
Yet, I am an avowed atheist today, disavowing everything I once believed. My present apostasy poses a real conundrum for once-saved-always-saved Christians. According to their theology, I am still a Christian. No matter what I say or do, I am going to Heaven when I die. God may punish me in this life, in the hope that I will return to him, but once I arrive in Heaven, I will receive the same heavenly benefits as everyone else. This surely has to chap the asses of Evangelicals who devoted their whole lives to Jesus, denying their flesh and worldly ambitions.
Not wanting to follow their theology to its logical conclusion, once-saved-always-saved Christians go out of their way to prove that I never was a “real” Christian; that I was a fake Christian; that I was a false prophet; that I was a tool of Satan. They will use a nit comb to go through my life, looking for any anomaly that says to them that I was never a Christian. And once they go looking, they always find what they are looking for. Thus, to these Evangelicals, I spent my whole life either deluded or deliberately deceiving everyone around me.
Is it ludicrous that I am still a Christian? Absolutely. It is absurd to think that I am Christian; that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me. What once-saved-always-saved Baptists have is a theological problem. Their soteriology demands accepting me as a fellow brother in Christ. The solution is to change their beliefs, adopting an Arminian or Calvinistic soteriology. Of course, this will never happen. To do so, would require once-saved-always-saved Baptists to admit they are w-r-o-n-g. And we know that ain’t ever gonna happen.
The plane is circling the runway, waiting to land, and then I will be dead. At that moment, I will learn who is right. Or maybe not. All of this is based on several presuppositions: the Evangelical God exists, the Bible is true, and upon death, every human goes to Heaven or Hell, based on whether or not they were saved. I reject these claims out of hand. Thus, when I die, my body will be turned to ash and scattered along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. And if I am wrong? Well, I will remind Jesus of all the confusing beliefs Christians preach about salvation. How could I have possibly known which one was right?
And so it goes . . .
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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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