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Bruce, By Which Gospel Were You Saved?

saved or lost

Recently, a commenter asked on the post titled Kent Hovind Says Evangelical-Turned-Atheist Bruce Gerencser is Still a Christian!:

May I kindly ask which Gospel where you saved by?

Snarky Bruce wants to reply “the one found in the Bible.” Curmudgeon Bruce wants to answer the question with a question “are you looking for a way to discount my personal testimony of faith in Jesus”? Since I cannot discern the reader’s motivations, I will answer his question openly, honestly, and directly. Then he (or she) can “judge” my salvation accordingly.

Several years ago, I wrote a post titled My Baptist Salvation Experience. Here is how I described my salvation experience and subsequent life as a devoted, committed follower of Jesus Christ:

In the spring of 1972, my parents divorced after 15 years of marriage. Both of my parents remarried several months later. While my parents and their new spouses, along with my brother and sister, stopped attending church, I continued to attend Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. In the fall of 1972, a high-powered IFB evangelist named Al Lacy came to Trinity to hold a week-long revival meeting. One night, as I sat in the meeting with my friends, I felt deep conviction over my sins while the evangelist preached. I tried to push aside the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart, but when the evangelist gave the invitation, I knew that I needed to go forward. I knew that I was a wretched sinner in need of salvation. (Romans 3) I knew that I was headed for Hell and that Jesus, the resurrected son of God, was the only person who could save me from my sin. I knelt at the altar and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and save me. I put my faith and trust in Jesus, that he alone was my Lord and Savior. (That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamedRomans 10:9-11)

I got up from the altar a changed person. I had no doubt that I was a new creation, old things had passed away, and all things had become new.  (Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The next Sunday, I was baptized, and several weeks later I stood before the church and declared that I believed God was calling me to preach. For the next thirty-five years, I lived a life committed to following after Jesus and the teachings of the Bible. While I failed many times as a Christian, there was never a time where I doubted that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. I loved him with all my heart, soul, and mind, and my heart burned with the desire to preach and teach the Word of God, evangelize the lost, and help Christians mature in their faith. No one doubted that I was a Christian. Not my Christian family; not my Christian friends; not my colleagues in the ministry; not the people who lovingly called me preacher. I was, in every way, a devoted Christian husband, father, and pastor. As all Christians do, I sinned in thought, word, and deed, but when I did, I confessed my sin to the Lord and asked for his forgiveness. (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)  And then I got up from my knees and strived to make my calling and election sure. (Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. (2 Peter 1:10)

This is my testimony.

Christians often find my story perplexing. Unable to square my devoted commitment to Jesus — evidenced by good works — with their peculiar theology, some Christians comb through my life looking for some sort of discrepancy that will allow them to dismiss my story out of hand. “Oh, you believed the wrong gospel. You never were a “real” Christian,” countless Evangelicals have told me. Personally, I find such an assessment to be silly and ludicrous. Ask any Christian family member, church member, or colleague in the ministry whether they believed, at the time, Bruce Gerencser was a Christian, and all of them would say yes. One distant family member, upon learning of my loss of faith, said, “if Butch (family nickname) isn’t saved, nobody is!” Much like the Apostle Paul, I could say for much of my life, “I know whom I have believed.” After all, I was there when Jesus saved me. Who better to know if I was a Christian than me? The fact that I am an atheist today plays no part in determining whether I was a Christian from the age of fifteen through age fifty. Either I was the greatest deceiver since Satan himself, or I was Christian.

I have written numerous posts about the various plans of salvation found in the Bible and believed by sundry Christian sects, churches, and individual Christians. (Please see Is There Only One Plan of Salvation? and Can Anyone Really Know They Are Saved?) I have also eviscerated the cheap grace, one-two-three-repeat-after-me, decisional regeneration gospel preached in many Evangelical churches; a gospel that requires nothing but assent to a list of Bible propositions; a gospel that expects and demands nothing except belief. This gospel is little more than Fire Insurance.

Of course, not everyone who is saved in churches that preach this bankrupt gospel live lives of indifference toward the teaching of Christ. Many of the readers of this blog were saved in churches that preached cheap grace, yet they took their confessions of faith seriously and devote their lives to serving their Lord. I was saved in a church that preached this gospel, but my testimony of faith suggests that I truly believed.

I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Over the years, my thinking about the Christian gospel changed from the easy-believism gospel of my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) upbringing to the Calvinistic gospel of perseverance to the social gospel of good works. In the end, I came to believe that the only measure of a Christian is his or her works; that faith without works is dead. Sadly, many Christians believe that salvation is measured by the right beliefs. “Believe the right things and thou shalt live,” this gospel says. This is NOT the gospel taught by Jesus in the gospels.

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

    While becoming such an involved member of the faith caused you both physical and mental pain in the end, I still find it admirable you persevered so long, preached in quite a few different locations, and tried to do your best in balancing your obligations as a citizen and a believer when Christian, Bruce. I can’t imagine how you managed to break from your old social network entirely (the nasty relatives are relatively easier to break from than the folks you pastored, I would guess), but just in reading bits and pieces of your story I am happy for the end of what became your Christian ordeal.

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    I’m sure that you were a Christian, because in your heart and mind you dedicated yourself to Christ. Just as I am certain you are an atheist, albeit of the humanist persuasion. Too many people are spending their time playing bagpipes* so they can rid themselves of their fear over you leaving the faith.

    *No True Scotsman fallacy…no one is a Christian whom they disavow.

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    I think that the Southern Baptist church and the fundamentalist Christian school (which was highly influenced by IFB, BJU, PCC, Sword of the Lord, etc) taught an easy believism soteriology. Believe, repent, say a prayer, boom – you’re saved (you have to really mean it though…). Of course, after that came a gigantic laundry list of behaviors and dress and political baggage one must subscribe to in order to stay in favor, supposedly with God, but in actuality the church or school.

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      Yes. You sign on the dotted line and then you later read the fine print. They give you “free” salvation, but then throw a guilt trip on you for accepting something for free without doing all they expect of you.

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    Obviously, you believed in the ‘Wrong Jesus’.

    Who is the ‘Right Jesus’, you might ask? Well the biblical Jesus, of course, the one ‘our’ church worships because we are a ‘Bible-believing church’. Find a ‘Bible-believing church’ and they will introduce you to the ‘Right Jesus’ and give you the ‘True Gospel’.

    How do you find a ‘Bible-believing church’? Well if our church endorses them, they are probably a ‘Bible-believing church’, unless the pastor ever says something that disputes our interpretation of scripture. Then that church is probably a ‘False church’ and they might be following the ‘Wrong Jesus’. Most churches are ‘False churches’.

    So you think your church was a ‘Bible-believing’ church but you are still a ‘damned-for-all-eternity apostate’? You are probably wrong about your church, but it could be than Satan blinded you to the ‘True Gospel’ and in your pride you believed that you saved yourself through works instead of truly trusting Jesus with all you heart (and don’t even think about blaming God for allowing you to believe a lie you filthy sinner, you deserve what’s coming to you because you rebelled against God from the moment you were conceived…..yes you did, otherwise you would still be in the faith…..of course you weren’t ever in the faith to begin with but if you were it would have been because you trusted in the ‘Right Jesus’ and then you’d still be in the faith because no one can snatch the redeemed from Christ’s hand).

    But you say that your works proved your salvation per James book? (We should have let Luther cut that book from the canon, but since we’re stuck with it it’s part of sola scriptura….well at least our ‘Bible-believing church’ knows how to interpret that it, unlike those ‘False churches’). Ahem, works don’t matter if your not saved by the ‘True Gospel’. They are just filthy rags you boast about because you did them with selfish motives.

    And so on and so on…….

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    My first thought reading, “which Gospel where you saved by?” (Wait how many kinds of Gospels ARE there?!) Leads me to think “What kind of fool do you take me for?” I dunno, how many kinds of fools are there?

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    MJ Lisbeth

    If we take the “Which Gospel were you saved by?” question literally, the only possible answers are Luke, John, Mark, Matthew or “none of the above.”

    Seriously, though, how can anybody doubt that Bruce was ever a Christian, given how much of his life he committed to the faith he once had–and the good works he did?

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      To be fair to Muslims, they seem to believe the Infancy Gospel of Thomas has some merit and added phrases from that gospel to their “get saved book”, the Quran (specifically 3:49 and 5:110).

      Quran 3:49 – And (make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I determine for you out of dust the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah’s permission, and I heal the blind and the leprous, and bring the dead to life with Allah’s permission; and I inform you of what you should eat and what you should store in your houses. Surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers.

      Infancy Gospel of Thomas 1:4-6 – 4. Then he took from the bank of the stream some soft clay and formed out of it twelve sparrows; and there were other boys playing with him. 5. But a certain Jew seeing the things which he was doing, namely, his forming clay into the figures of sparrows on the Sabbath day, went presently away and told his father Joseph, 6. Behold, your boy is playing by the river side, and has taken clay and formed it into twelve sparrows and profanes the Sabbath.

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      Yulya Sevelova

      Andy Miller ,
      Bruce did believe the gospels when he heard them and responded at that time to the steps to belief,repenting, and asking Jesus into his life. Go back to those columns where he describes that part of his life.

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    Andy J Miller

    I believe every word you said, and I’m not looking to trick you. The word Gospel never saved anyone! It is the content of the Gospel that saves people! By your own comment you trusted your prayer for Salvation! {{{I knelt at the altar and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and save me. I put my faith and trust in Jesus, that he alone was my Lord and Savior.}}} Would it surprise you if the Bible said God never heard your Prayer? {{{Joh 9:31  Now we know that God heareth not sinners}}} (to have God hear your prayer you first have to BELIEVE): but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, ((What is Gods will?))
    {{{ 1Ti 2:3  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 
    1Ti 2:4  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 
    (You never were Saved because all you did was your works) Wood, Hay, and Stubble!

    The only think God will accept today is the Belief in the Blood spilled at the Cross and the Death, Burial and Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ! 1st Cor 15: 1-4

    Below are 14 examples in the Holy Scripture what is the content of our Gospel for today!


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      Bruce Gerencser

      I take the time ⏰ to honestly, openly, and politely answer your question❓ and this is how you respond?Go fuck 🍆🍆yourself, Andy. Take your masturbatory Bible 📖 road show somewhere else.

      I never said my prayer 🙏 saved me. “I put my faith and trust in Jesus,” dumb ass. “Faith without works is dead,” suggests there is no salvation apart from works. Read Matthew 25; the book of James; First John.

      I deleted the rest of your proof texts. Surely you read the comment policy, right? You could have had a discussion with me. Instead you wasted your opportunity jerking off.

      This, of course, is an intellectual exercise, for me. There is no God, no original sin, no need of redemption. The only thing I need saved from is people like you.

      Do you ever wonder why many people hate Evangelicals? Look in the mirror 🪞 , dude.

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    This reminds me of the preacher I had to listen to in church while growing up – he would skew the professions of the book of myths to fit his agenda. Things needed to be done around the church? Then salvation is by works! Things honky-dory around the church? Salvation is by faith! The church needs a new ______ (preacher wants a raise!) Then salvation is a combination of faith and works so dig deep, the offering plate is making another go-round.

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    Well said Mr. G!
    Especially when responding to the people quoting from their “Good Book”.
    These pompous parrots chafe my last nerve.

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      Yulya Sevelova

      Curios to see what Reviled and Fired said( which was deleted)though he comes off as a stereotypical poophead. The thing here is, by being rabid,angry fanatics, they drive away potential converts. It’s like this is what their actual goal IS. They truly don’t care if they make God look bad. They wear such an attitude like a badge.

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    Bruce Gerencser

    I’m approving some of Justice’s, Revival Fires, and others comments for instructive purpose. Exposing their comments to the light of day provides testimony to the bankruptcy of Fundamentalist Christianity.

    I don’t intend to approve all of their comments. I’ll still try to block their access to this site, but these Assholes for Jesus continually evade whatever roadblocks I put in place. You see, their goal is to abuse and harass.

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    Neil Rickert

    “I’m approving some of Justice’s, Revival Fires, and others comments for instructive purpose. Exposing their comments to the light of day provides testimony to the bankruptcy of Fundamentalist Christianity.”

    I sometimes say “there’s nothing Christian about Christianity.” That’s not strictly true, but it does seem to be true about fundamentalist Christianity.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I have several decent, honest, kind Christian friends. They are liberals. I wish all Christians were like them. Unfortunately, my writing draws the worst Christianity has to offer. Ugly, hateful people.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    If Victor Justice and his ilk represent the “love” of Jesus, and I had a family, I would be sure that none would go anywhere near him–or his Jesus. If anything, it would be more reason to raise my kids as non-believers, at least in anything having to do with Christianity.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Yes, he stated the obvious. 🤣 And had he been my father-in-law we would have taken a restraining order out on him. No chance in hell that we would let him anywhere near our children.

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