Over the weekend, I received an email from an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) man from Texas named Richard Boltin. Here’s what he had to say (all spelling and grammar in the original):
I was saved at the age of 12 and from that time God has placed a desire in my heart to tell others about my saviour. No one has ever forced or driven me so to speak to witness or preach the gospel it has just been a simple desire I have because of what my saviour did for me. I have not always faithfully followed Christ in fact there was a time in my life where I was disappointed by other people who were professed Christians and I was out of fellowship with the Lord over this for many years, please don’t get me wrong it was not their fault but rather my own. The Lord graciously turned my life around and gave me back that desire to serve Him. I am sorry but in my life I have not experienced any of the kind of frustrations or disappointments you related about the IBF. The gospel is simple and salvation is eternal but true salvation will render a desire to such a person as he will never escape. Simply put if that desire is not there then I question weather I was truly saved. I could give you scripture but it would seem to be a frustrated effort as you have already said you were a self proclaimed athiest. I will say tho when Paul stood in the midst of Mars hill and preached to the Athenians he said the time of this ignorance God winked at but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent speaking of their idolatries. All men are at some time in their life tangled in the scheme of this idolatry but God is gracious in that he winked at it at one time but now by the finished work of redemption of Christ on the cross offers to all salvation in Him. I hope and pray for you Bruce that he will challenge your heart and give you something that you can hold on to and believe because there is coming a day weather we believe it or not that every knee will bow to Jesus Christ. I attend to these same conversations with my son and I pray for him daily and will do the same for you.
After Richard emailed me, he left fourteen comments on this site. You can read all of Richard’s comments and my responses in one post, Breaking News: IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Admits to Driving Church Members. That’s right, Boltin read all of one post. I gave him links to other posts he should read, but he chose not to. He didn’t read my About page, nor did he read any of my extensive autobiographical material. Perhaps, Proverbs 18:13 best defines Boltin’s actions: Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.
Boltin is a diehard Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. Proudly IFB, he is also a conspiracy theorist and an avid Trump supporter. Based on Boltin’s comments, he likely has spent decades in the IFB church movement — an authoritarian sect known for its religious and social extremism. When I read Boltin’s remarks, I hear a man John C. Holmes proud, a man who is certain he is right. Boltin didn’t come to this site to interact with me or the readers of this blog. He came to rebuke, correct, preach, and evangelize. Based on my interaction with him, he showed no awareness of the fact that he could be wrong.
Take, for example, his objection to me saying that the IFB church movement was in numerical decline.
I have been to many IFB churches that run quite a few in church. I don’t know how you can say they are in serious decline you don’t attend therefore you don’t see I have known churches in the last 2 years that run as much as 2000 per Sunday the church you just mentioned Emmanuel Baptist in Longview is one they run 2000 per Sunday My brothers church in Tennessee Hairraman they run 1000 per Sunday several in Ft Worth run 3 – 5 thousand pretty good for todays standards and there is by the way no hatred for the LGBTQ crowd amongst these churches they just preach against the sin not the sinner. They try to win these souls to the Lord.
Do better, Richard. Just because you can point to churches running in the thousands proves nothing. First, what did these churches run in the past? Attendance at Emmanuel is less than what it was when Gray Sr. pastored the church. Second, in 1980, most of the churches on the Top 100 churches list were IFB. Today? Only one remains, First Baptist in Hammond, and it runs 10,000 less in attendance than it did in the 80s. Third, scores of large IFB churches are now defunct. Emmanuel Baptist in Pontiac is a good example. When I attended Emmanuel in the 70s, it had days when 2,000-4,000 people were in attendance. Today, the church no longer exists. The church I attended in the early 70s ran over 1,000 in attendance. Today, it runs around 400. My wife’s uncle’s IFB church ran over 400 in the late 60s. Today it runs 150. Shall I go on? Fourth, smaller IFB churches either are static or in decline attendance-wise. These are facts, Richard. I hate to appeal to authority on this issue, but I’m an expert on the IFB. I grew up in the IFB. I attended an IFB college and married an IFB preacher’s daughter. I pastored IFB churches. Most of all, I have been closely following, monitoring, and studying the IFB church movement for over 45 years. I know what I’m talking about. So, pointing to a church here and there to prove your point tells me nothing. I heard there is an awesome K-Mart somewhere in Texas. Should we take this as a sign that K-Mart is flourishing, especially when the rest of the evidence suggests otherwise? Do a study, Richard. Call 100 older, established IFB churches and ask them if they run more in attendance now than they did 20, 30, or 40 years ago. I guarantee you that the overwhelming majority of them will say no. It’s so bad that some IFB preachers are saying “quality over quantity” in an attempt to cover up the fact that their churches are numerically dying.
Boltin, not listening to anything I said, replied:
and the fact that you point out that churches run less in attendance means nothing in todays society that cares nothing about where they will spend eternity. You know a lot of what you just discussed about the brevity of life is recorded in the book of James. What is your life it is even a vapor that appeareth for a little while and then vanisheth away. We are not to prepare our lives as if we are even guaranteed of a tomorrow but rather we are to live it to please our saviour. There I answered your questions about Abraham and about church attendance and many other things yet I still have yet to hear one shred of evidence that you don’t really believe the things you acclaim and I see your bitterness and your hatred and also that you hide behind a shield of humanism and atheism in an effort to comfort your heart about the true destiny of your soul
Did you notice that Boltin totally ignored the evidence I provided, choosing instead to preach and attack my character? Sadly, this is common IFB behavior.
Boltin says four things about me:
- I don’t really believe the things I say I do
- I am bitter
- I am hateful
- That I use humanism and atheism to hide the true destiny of my soul
I won’t bother to rebut Boltin’s claims. I have done so numerous times before. If Boltin wants to read my responses to people who say that I am bitter and hateful, he can do a search and find those posts. Boltin, of course, won’t do so. He, like many IFB zealots, is lazy and lacks curiosity. (Please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait.)
I do want to address one issue that I mentioned in my comments to him. At the age of fifteen, I was saved at Trinity Baptist Church, a large IFB congregation in Findlay, Ohio. According to Boltin’s theology, once a person is saved, he can never, ever, for any reason lose his salvation. This is the core of the “once saved always saved” soteriology preached by many (not all) IFB churches, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. It was most certainly the soteriology preached by Bob Gray, Sr., Jack Hyles, Tom Malone, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, David Hyles, Lee Roberson, Curtis Hutson, and countless other IFB luminaries. I heard it preached at Midwestern Baptist College in the 70s, and at numerous Sword of the Lord conferences and preacher’s meetings. I knew when I was in the movement, I preached up once saved always saved. (I abandoned once saved always saved in the late 1980s. I believed it was a truncated, bastardized perversion of the gospel.) I may be an avowed atheist today, but according to IFB doctrine, I am still a Christian. I may lose some rewards in Heaven, but I will still receive a mansion right next door to Boltin’s. And that, my friend, chaps his ass. That’s why he doubts I was ever saved.
What evidence does Boltin have for saying I never was a Christian? Certainly not my life. Certainly not my devoted love and service to Jesus. Certainly not my preaching and soulwinning. Certainly not my commitment to holiness. No, Boltin thinks the fact that I am an atheist “proves” I never was a Christian. Wait a minute. I thought that all a person needs to do to be saved is to believe the gospel and sincerely pray the sinner’s prayer. I did that. On what basis does Boltin deny that I ever had faith in Christ? If my godlessness is the problem, then Boltin must answer whether he is preaching works salvation or that he believes that salvation is conditioned on believing the right things until the end. So which is it, Richard?
Let me return, in closing, to Boltin’s email. Every person who emails me is presented with the following text:
If you would like to contact Bruce Gerencser, please use the following form. If your email warrants a response, someone will respond to you as soon as possible.
Due to persistent health problems, I cannot guarantee a timely response. Sometimes, I am a month or more behind in responding to emails. This delay doesn’t mean I don’t care. It does mean, however, that I can only do what I can do. I hope you understand.
To help remedy this delay in response, my editor, Carolyn, may respond to your email. Carolyn has been my editor for six years. She knows my writing inside and out, so you can rest assured that if your question concerns something I have written, Carolyn’s response will reflect my beliefs and opinions — albeit with fewer swear words.
I do not, under any circumstances, accept unsolicited guest posts. Think that I’m interested in letting you write a post with a link back to your site, I’m not.
I am not interested in receiving commercial email from you.
I am not interested in buying social media likes, speeding up my website, signing up for your Ad service, improving my SEO, or having you design a new blog theme for this site.
I will not send you money for your ministry, church, or orphanage. In fact, just don’t ask for money, period.
I know you stayed at a Holiday Inn last night, but you are not a medical professional, so please do not send me unsolicited medical or psychological advice. I am not interested — ever.
If you are an Evangelical Christian, please read Dear Evangelical before sending me an email. If you have a pathological need to evangelize, spread the love of Jesus, or put a good word in for the man, the myth, the legend named Jesus, please don’t. The same goes for telling me your church/pastor/Jesus is awesome. I am also not interested in reading sermonettes, testimonials, Bible verses, or your deconstruction/psychological evaluation of my life. By all means, if you feel the need to set me straight, start your own blog.
If you email me anyway — and I know you will, since scores of Evangelicals have done just that, showing me no regard or respect — I reserve the right to make your message and name public. This blog is read by thousands of people every day, so keep that in mind when you email me whatever it is you think “God/Jesus/Holy Spirit” has laid upon your heart. Do you really want your ignorance put on display for thousands of people to see? Pause before hitting send. Ask yourself, “how will my email reflect on Jesus, Christianity, and my church?”
Outside of the exceptions mentioned above, I promise to treat all correspondence with you as confidential. I have spent the last fourteen years corresponding with people who have been psychologically harmed by Evangelical Christianity. I am more than happy to come alongside you and provide what help I can. I am not, however, a licensed counselor. I am just one man with fifty years of experience as a Christian and twenty-five years of experience as an Evangelical pastor. I am more than happy to lend you what help and support I can.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
I assume Boltin read this and ignored it. He is a man on a mission from God.
IFB adherents are difficult to deal with. They are often arrogant, self-righteous, and disrespectful. Steeped in certainty, and believing the Holy Spirit is leading, guiding, and directing them, IFB Christians totally disregard my wishes, sending me emails that I have no interest in receiving. I don’t need to read more Bible verses — I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times — or hear any more sermons. I know all I need to know about the Bible and Christianity. Anyone who bothers to do their homework knows this about me. I am more than happy to answer questions or help people in any way I can. I take the time to correspond with numerous people every week. However, emails such as Boltin’s raise my ire because their only purpose is to attack, criticize, and denigrate. Boltin made no attempt to interact with me or understand my story. I tried to draw him into discussions about his beliefs and support of certain IFB preachers, but all he did was criticize, deflect, change the subject, or disregard what I said.
I don’t know why I bother. These sorts of “discussions” always end the same way. I remind myself that I once was just like Boltin; that I had similar beliefs and practices. I was a Baptist Fundamentalist through and through. (One difference, however, is that I never defended or supported men such as Jack Hyles, David Hyles, and Bob Gray, Sr.) I know that I was able to break free from the IFB cult. This will not happen for the Boltins of the world until they are willing to admit that they could be wrong; that it is possible that their foundational beliefs might be untrue (especially when it comes to the inerrancy and infallibility of the Protestant Christian Bible.)
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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