Evangelicalism

Not My Will, But Yours, Evangelicals Say to Their God

free will

Evangelicals, regardless of their peculiar theological beliefs, all believe that the Christian God is the one true God, and that he, as the creator of all things, is the giver of life, and is sovereign and in control of all things. While some theologically ignorant Evangelicals will argue that humans have unrestricted free will and are thus totally responsible for their own actions, a careful reading of the Bible makes it clear that God rules and reigns over all, and there is nothing that happens apart from his will. Calvinists and Arminians love argue about free will and whether once a person is saved he can ever fall from grace, but both agree that God determines who is saved and what happens in our lives. It is God, through the merit and work of Jesus Christ, who saves sinners from their sins. No one can save themselves. Evangelicals deny that there is anything such as luck or circumstance. Things happen because God wants them to happen, and no amount of work or objection can change God’s plan. From the election of political leaders to the very air we breathe, God is in control.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus commands his followers to pray in this manner:

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Christians are to pray for God’s will to be done in earth as it is in heaven. Jesus illustrated this command in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed:

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)

O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. (Matthew 26:42)

Those of us raised in Evangelical churches have heard people say countless times, not my will, Lord, but yours be done. Such utterances are statements of faith rooted in the belief that God has a perfect plan for everyone’s life; and Christians are duty-bound to fully and passively submit to this plan. God’s machinations are never to be questioned or doubted. The apostle Paul in Romans 9 told those who would dare to question God choosing to only save certain people (the elect):

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Simply put, Paul is saying the critics of God’s purpose and plan should shut the fuck up; that God is the creator of all things and he has the absolute right to do whatever he wants.

Throughout the New Testament, Paul reminds Christians of the importance of dying to self; of crucifying the flesh; of giving oneself totally, completely, and without reservation to God. Christians are commanded to give themselves as living sacrifices to God. In the Old Testament, God’s people are reminded that Jehovah’s thoughts are not their thoughts and his ways are not their ways. In other words, Christians might think that a certain action is right, when in fact it is not; that God has a higher purpose, plan, and agenda that cannot be understood by mere humans. Instead of trying to understand why this or that is happening in their lives, followers of Jesus are commanded to blindly believe that their God is working out everything in their lives according to his purpose or plan. No matter what happens, believers are told, God only wants what’s best for you. A church not far from my home has emblazoned on his building the words, God is good all the time. For these believers, God’s actions must never be questioned. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

How do Evangelicals know what the will of God is? Generally, the sources for determining God’s will are thus:

  • The Bible
  • The leadership of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of every believer
  • The counsel of mature followers of Jesus
  • The alignment of circumstances that are such that there is no doubt that God is behind what is happening

I was a part of the Christian church for fifty years, and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. I know a good bit about submitting oneself to the will of God, and I watched countless Evangelicals suss out God’s will for their lives. I found that in almost every circumstance, God’s will coincided with what people wanted to do. Christians love to gussy up their decisions with spiritual sounding statements such as; yielding to Christ, following in his footsteps, etc., but no matter how the picture is painted, one fact remains: God’s will and human desire are one and the same. As a pastor, I made numerous decisions that I believed were the result of God’s leadership. I stood before church congregations and told them that I believed this or that — buying property, starting a new program, stopping an old program, buying a copier, purchasing a bus, starting the school, to name a few — was the will of God. How did I know that these things were the will of God? Because it seemed the right thing to do at the time; or it was something that I wanted to do.

I wish Evangelicals would be honest about their decision-making process. It’s evident to anyone who is paying attention that Evangelicals make decisions just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world do. Whatever the factors might be that affect and influence our decisions, the fact remains that we do what we want to do. Think of this post as a sermon. Thousands of Evangelical pastors will stand behind pulpits on Sunday and preach what they believe God has laid upon their hearts. Some of them might even tell parishioners that they wanted to preach a different sermon, but God commanded them to preach this sermon. These preachers will lead congregants to believe that their sermons come from God, and that they are preaching their sermons because God’s will demands it. Thus, any objections to what these preachers are saying are viewed as challenges to God’s will. All of us have had social media experiences with Bible thumpers who dump a bunch of Bible verses on our wall. When we object to their proof texting, they respond, your problem is with God, not me. God said it, I didn’t. As an atheist, I delivered this sermon (post) because I wanted to and I thought it might be helpful to people with questions and doubts about Evangelical Christianity. When Evangelical preachers deliver their sermons, the small print says: I, God, approve of this message. When Bruce the atheist preacher delivers his sermon, there is no small print. The words I write and speak our mine, and mine alone. While certainly my writing is influenced by my past and present experiences, I claim no higher authority than self. I write, say, and do what I want. And so it is with Evangelical Christians, whether or not they are willing to admit it. The reason I know this to be true is that the Christian God is a mythical being, and so talk of God’s will or God leading is — how do the British put it? — poppycock. The only voice whispering in the ears of Evangelicals is their own. No God, no Holy Spirit, no Satan.

I’m sure more than a few Evangelical readers will be outraged over what I’ve written here. For those upset over this post, I ask you: how do you know that it is God leading or speaking to you? What evidence do you have for your claim that you are following the will of God? What evidence do you have for the voice your head being anything other than your own wants, needs, and desires? And if everything happens to God’s purpose and plan, does that include me writing this post? If God really is the sovereign of the universe, does he control what I say and do?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: Bruce, What Were Your Views on Catholicism?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

ObstacleChick asked, “As an Evangelical Protestant pastor, what were your views on Catholicism?”

First, for many years I wouldn’t have labeled myself a Protestant. I was a Baptist, part of the True Church®. Protestants are people who came out of Roman Catholicism. As a Baptist I never came out of anything. I was a part of the church founded by Jesus. Thank you, very much!

Of course, this belief of mine had no historical foundation. None, nada, zip. However, I grew up in churches and attended a college that promoted Landmarkism; a type of Baptist ecclesiology that said the Baptists were true Christians; that the first century churches were Baptist churches. (See Baptizing E.T., Mork, Alf, and Worf: Alien Baptism and The ONE True Church of Jesus Christ) Keep in mind that the college I attended did NOT teach Christian church history. The Bible was viewed as the church’s history. Want to know what a New Testament church is? Read the book of Acts. It was when I embraced Calvinism that I learned that the history of the Baptist church traces not back to Jesus, but to seventeenth century English separatists. Jesus wasn’t a Baptist, and neither was John THE Baptist or any of the apostles. They were, to a man, Jews.

An honest reading of history forced me to conclude that the Christian church — in the main — was birthed out of Judaism and grew into what we now call Roman Catholicism. Now, knowing this didn’t make me sympathetic towards Catholics. Not in the least. I saw the Catholic Church as a Christian sect gone astray; a sect that stopped preaching the gospel and practicing the one truth faith. For many years, I frequently harangued Catholics from the pulpit, denouncing their works-based plan of salvation, idol worship, and worship of Mary. I believed Catholics were unsaved and in need of good old-fashioned Baptist new birth.

For eleven years, I pastored a Baptist church in the Southeast Ohio community of Somerset. Somerset had TWO large Catholic churches, one of which was the oldest Catholic church in Ohio. Here was I, Bruce, the Baptist, ready and willing to evangelize these fish-eaters and convert them into Baptists. In the eleven years I pastored in Somerset, I had not one Catholic convert. Not one. I continued to preach against the great whore of Babylon (Revelation 17) and the Catholics politely ignored me.

My view of Catholicism began to moderate somewhat in the early 1990s, thanks to my Catholic doctor, Bill Fiorini. I won’t tell the story again here. Please read What One Catholic Doctor Taught Me About Christianity. By the early 2000s, I no longer believed that Catholics were false Christians. While I still had reservations about many of their beliefs, I came to believe that Catholics were Christians too — as were a number of other sects formerly deemed by me to be false. For seven years, I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. The church’s slogan was, The Church Where the Only Label That Matters is Christian! Needless to say, more than a few of my colleagues in the ministry believed that I was becoming a liberal; an ecumenicist. They, of course, were right. After decades of deciding who is in and who is out; who is saved and who is not, I decided to let God sort the sheep from the goats. If someone said to me, I am a Christian, I accepted their profession of faith at face value. (I suspect had I known back then about the sexual abuse going on in Catholic churches, I might not have been so accepting.) This allowed me to enter into relationships with people I would have otherwise kept at distance, including the three Catholic girls my oldest sons married. Meeting and befriending Catholics went a long way towards driving religious bigotry out of my life.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: Bruce, What Did You Learn About the Bible as a College Student?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

ObstacleChick asked, “What did you learn about the Bible as a college student?” Specifically, ObstacleChick wants to knows what I was taught about the origin of the Bible, the existence of “other” texts, and why the Apocrypha was excluded from the Protestant Bible. ObstacleChick also asked what I taught congregants about these things.

Most Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. The college I attended. Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, believed the Bible was a divinely written, supernatural, one-of-a-kind book; a text by which all things were to be measured. My professors took one of two approaches to how the Bible came to be:

  • God dictated the exact words of the Bible to its authors.
  • God used fallible humans, with their cultures and experiences, to write the Bible, and supernaturally, through the Holy Spirit, made sure that what they wrote was exactly what he intended for them to write. (2 Peter 1:21)

Of course, appeals were made to the Bible itself to “prove” that the Bible was indeed what my professors claimed it was. In other words, the Bible was a supernatural book because it said it was; the Bible was inerrant because it said it was. There were no errors, mistakes, or contradictions in the Bible because its author, God, is incapable of making mistakes.

These presuppositions were laws that students were expected to obey without question. Questioning the nature of the Bible brought swift, certain expulsion. Midwestern was also King James-only and it only used certain Greek texts in its Greek classes. The premise upon which every class was taught was the belief that the Bible was inspired, inerrant, and infallible.

I can’t remember a time when one of my professors talked about non-canonical texts or variants. Many of my classes were little more than glorified Sunday school classes, a common problem found in Evangelical colleges to this day. The goal was teach minsters-in-training how to properly preach and teach the Bible. The Bible, then, was viewed a book of divine knowledge, an instruction manual for life.

The IFB church movement is inherently and proudly anti-Catholic. To many IFB preachers, the Catholic church is the great whore of Babylon described in Revelation 17; a false religion that will one day be used to by the Antichrist to control the masses. Thus, the Apocrypha was rejected because of its inclusion in the Catholic Bible. It was not until much later that I learned the 1611 version of the King James Bible included the Apocrypha and that the men who put together what is now the Bible were Catholics. Facts that didn’t fit the approved narrative were ignored or banned.

Most of the students at Midwestern came from IFB churches that had similar beliefs as those of the college. Thus, college classes reinforced beliefs students brought with them from home. The New International Version (NIV) came out in 1978, and students were not allowed to have a copy of it in their possession. Midwestern was a King James school — no corrupt, Satanic Bibles allowed. I remember having a discussion with the Greek professor’s son who was home on break from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. He had a brand spanking new copy of the NIV. I remember thinking of how “liberal” he was and that if word got out about his use of the NIV it could cost his father his job. By the next academic year, the Greek professor was gone. Rumor had it he was dismissed because he refused to toe the party line on the King James Bible. (Keep in mind the Greek professor was Fundamentalist in every other way — and still is today — but his refusal to use only the King James Version of the Bible branded him as a heretic.)

I carried the aforementioned beliefs into the ministry, and I wouldn’t question them for many years. I expected congregants to embrace without question the belief that the Bible was a God-inspired, inerrant, infallible text. At the churches I pastored, we were people of the BOOK! Questions and doubts were viewed as tools used by Satan to lead Christians astray and to render churches powerless. Alleged contradictions were “explained” and those that couldn’t be were relegated to the land of Trust God. He never makes mistakes.

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I came to see that what I had been taught about the history and nature of the Bible was a lie; that all translations had errors, mistakes, and contradictions; that there were no such things as inerrant manuscripts. My exposure to higher textual criticism forced me to conclude that the Bible was very much a man-made book; a fallible book used by God to convey truth. I believed then that God could use human means to convey his truth, even if the Bible itself was fallible.

As far as the churches I pastored were concerned, I never said anything from the pulpit that would cause people to doubt that the Bible was the Word of God. Towards the end of my time in the ministry, I would mention variants in the Greek texts and why some Biblical texts might not say what we Christians have traditionally thought they said. No one seemed to have a problem with these admissions. As is often the case in Evangelical churches, congregants trusted me. They believed that whatever I told them from the pulpit was the Truth. Of course, the truth I was preaching was shaped and molded by my presuppositions about the Bible. Telling congregants the REAL truth would have resulted in conflict and loss of faith. Can’t have that! Remember, most people attend church so they can feel affirmed, so they can have their felt needs met. No one wants a pastor who casts doubt on the Bible and its teachings. Congregants want cheerleaders, not truth tellers.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Men Want Debt-Free, Tattoo-Free Virgins

lori alexander

Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men? Unfortunately, there are so few of these types of young women anymore because of the high costs of college (debt) and sexual promiscuity even within those in the church. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him because His ways are the best. He calls debt a burden and urges us to live lives of sexual purity.

There are many more reasons why Christian young women should carefully consider whether or not they go to college, especially if they want to be wives and mothers someday. Secular universities teach against the God of the Bible and His ways. It’s far from what God calls women to be and do: it teaches them to be independent, loud, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.

— lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos, July 16, 2018

A supporter of Alexander’s had this to say:

“Men don’t want to marry a women with debt. Most of this debt comes from college. They would also prefer a woman who still lives at her parent’s house that has not had other relationships. Do those two things and you will be highly sought after.”

“If they go to college, they are unlikely to stay home raising their children to pay off the debt and use the degree they spent years on.”

“The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.”

“They will start having babies later in life. That is if they can still conceive naturally.”

“They lost a handful of years of experience learning to cook large meals and learning how to work in the garden. College kids don’t cook. If they do, it’s typically for themselves.”

“The list goes on. Churches don’t talk about it. They support the college kids (really adults) and the ‘working’ mothers.”

“It’s very rare to find an 18 year old woman that continues to work and live at her parent’s house until she meets her husband. It’s pretty much a joke to all who do that.”

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor James “Ronnie” Messer Accused of Rape

james ronnie messer

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

James “Ronnie” Messer, pastor of Crossway Worship Center in Newport, Tennessee allegedly raped a church teenager. Messer, of course, says the girl consented to their sexual encounter in the church. WCYB-5 reports:

The report said the girl stated she and Messer entered the back door of the church and went to a room across from the men’s room where Messer allegedly began flirting with her and asked her to take her clothes off three or four times but she refused.

She said she felt scared and so she took her clothes off and laid on the floor where Messer reportedly had sex with her, according to the incident report.

Then, she told investigators he took her to the Hartford area to swim but the water was too muddy and swift so they left.

So, let’s see…in Pastor Messer’s delusional mind, taking sexual advantage of a church teenager is okay because she “wanted” it. Really?

Black Collar Crime: Highpoint Church Gives Chris Conlee a Standing Ovation

wtf

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Last week, I wrote a post titled, Black Collar Crime: Dominoes Continue to Fall Over Andy Savage Scandal. I detailed the fall out from Andy Savage’s admission that he sexually assaulted a church girl twenty years ago. Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee, received a standing ovation from congregants after he oh-so-humbly admitted the “sexual incident” twenty years before. Savage later resigned after public outrage over his tone-deafness and lack of true repentance and sorrow.

Yesterday, Savage’s fellow pastor Chris Conlee (who resigned last week) had an oh-so-touching parting moment with his church. Afterward, Conlee received a STANDING ovation, thus proving that the entire Highpoint congregation is deaf and blind, oblivious to how such crass behavior appears to outsiders. It’s evident that Highpoint and its leaders do not take sexual abuse seriously. Had they done so, they would have never hired Savage — the church new about the sexual abuse allegation when they hired him — and after hiring him anyway, the church should have fired Conlee for giving Savage cover. Instead, both men received ovations. Yes, both Savage and Conlee are gone, but there’s no sign from Highpoint that they understand their own culpability in this sordid story of sexual abuse and cover-up.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: Savage and Conlee will resurface somewhere, ready to shear more sheep on their road to personal fame and glory.

40 Years Later: A Kiss for Luck and We’re on Our Way

bruce and polly gerencser 1978

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, May 1978

It was a hot July day in 1978 when Polly and I stood before family and friends at the Newark Baptist Temple and pledged our troth one to one another. We were two naive — in every way — Baptist youths, nineteen and twenty-one. We believed that God had divinely brought us together. We met for the first time in late August 1976, days before our first classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I planned to be a pastor and Polly set her sights on finding herself a preacher-boy to marry.

We were a mismatched couple; Polly was quiet, reserved, and backward, whereas I was talkative, outgoing, and precocious. Our early dates were a whole lot of me talking and Polly listening. After dating for six months — dating meaning double-dates to college-approved restaurants and no physical contact  (See Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six Inch Rule) — I asked Polly to marry me. She said yes, and I gave her a 1/4 carat diamond ring I had purchased at Sears for $225. Little did we know what life would bring our way. Our plans were simple: get married, have two children, move to a town where I would pastor a church the rest of our lives, and live in quaint home with a white picket fence. What could go wrong, right?

Our first reality check came when Polly’s mom informed us that we couldn’t get married; that she and her Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor-husband would not give us their blessing. My parents divorced in the early 1970s, and Polly’s mom believed divorce was hereditary. After several months of stewing over their disapproval, Polly called her mom and told her that we were going to get married anyway, with or without their approval. This was the first time Polly stood up to her parents. Realizing that they had no power to stop us from marrying, Polly’s parent’s relented and set their minds on preparing for their daughter’s soon-to-come July wedding.

Our wedding was typical of the day, but there were several things that stand out even today. My best man and groomsmen were friends of mine from college. We had rented our tuxedos in Pontiac, bringing them with us to Newark, Ohio for the wedding. Thinking the rental company had properly sized our tuxes, we didn’t try them on before the day of the wedding, Imagine our surprise, then, to find out one of the groomsmen’s pants were too small. Panic set in, but Polly’s mom quickly took care of things by letting out the seat of the pants. All is well, we thought. Come time for the wedding, the preacher (the late James Dennis, Polly’s uncle), my groomsmen, and I walked up basement stairs to the front on the church auditorium. As we were walking up the stairs, the emergency-tailored pants ripped from stem to stern. All any of us could to was laugh, and laugh we did. My friend would stand the whole time with legs and butt cheeks clenched together during the ceremony, hoping that no one would see his airy pants. Fortunately, no one saw the tear, though I do wonder if some people wondered why he was walking through the church with his legs to tightly closed together.

Polly’s uncle volunteered to photograph our wedding. We said, sure. Art purchased new lighting equipment for our wedding. As the wedding processional began, I saw this panicked look on Art’s face. His new equipment was not working! Unfortunately, as a result, we have no live photographs of our wedding. We do have posed photos that were taken after the wedding.

The soloist for our wedding was a college friend of ours. He sang two songs, The Wedding Song by Peter, Paul and Mary:

He is now to be among you at the calling of your hearts
Rest assured this troubadour is acting on His part.
The union of your spirits, here, has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love. There is Love.

A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home
And they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one.
As it was in the beginning is now and ‘til the end
Woman draws her life from man and gives it back again.
And there is Love. There is Love.

Well then what’s to be the reason for becoming man and wife?
Is it Love that brings you here or Love that brings you life?
And if loving is the answer, then who’s the giving for?
Do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before?
Oh there’s Love, there is Love.

Oh the marriage of your spirits here has caused Him to remain
For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name
There is Love. There is Love.

and We’ve Only Just Begun by the Carpenters:

We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
We’ve only begun

Before the rising sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We’ll start out walking and learn to run
And yes, we’ve just begun

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day, together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day, together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Little did we know, that “secular” music was not permitted for weddings at the Baptist Temple. Afterward, we learned that, thanks to us, all wedding music had to be pre-approved. Forty years later, our “sin” still affects couples wanting to be married at the Baptist Temple. Sorry ’bout that!

After our wedding, we headed to Springfield, Ohio where we would spend our first night together as husband and wife. Neither of us had any experience sexually. Our entire sex education came from things I overheard in high school locker rooms, Polly’s mom giving her a two-minute PSA, and both of us reading The Act of Marriage, by Fundamentalist Baptist Tim LaHaye. Somehow, we figured out.

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, July 1978, with Bruce’s mom and dad

We spent two nights at the French Lick Hotel in French Lick, Indiana. Afterward, we drove to Rochester, Indiana to visit my mom and then over to Bryan, Ohio to visit my sister and her family. We spent the night at the Exit Two Motel. The room was hot, infested with mosquitoes, and we spent the night listening to clanking pipes. Come morning, we returned to Pontiac, Michigan to begin our junior year of college.

We rented a four-room upstairs apartment in Waterford Township, a short drive from Midwestern. I returned to my job at Felice’s Market and Polly continued to clean the homes of several people, including the condo of a Jewish rabbi and his family. Six weeks after our wedding, Polly informed me that she was pregnant. Pregnant? How can that be? I thought. We are using birth control. Children should never play with fireworks, and so it is with naïve Baptist youths with sex. We knew we wanted to wait to have children, but our inexperience with birth control charted a different course for us. In late May 1979, our son was born, six weeks before our first wedding anniversary. By then, I had been laid off from work, we dropped out of college, and returned to Northwest Ohio — the last place I ever wanted to come back to.

Yesterday, Polly and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. We spent the afternoon and evening in Findlay, Ohio, sitting along the banks of the Blanchard River, photographing squirrels, and talking about life. So much water has coursed under proverbial bridge of our married life. At times, slow-moving streams, at other times floods threatening to overrun the banks, destroying all that stood in their way. Yet, we survived. Six children in ten years. Always living life on the edge of financial ruin. Bankruptcy. Twenty-five years of pastoring churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Countless houses and automobiles. A near-death health crisis. Surgeries. Heart problems. Chronic illness, unrelenting pain, and disability. The birth of a daughter with Down Syndrome. The loss of faith and starting over. Any of these things could have brought ruin, yet we endured.

We are not special or gifted in any way. There’s no formula or magic. We know that that we are lucky to have made it this far. Yet, made it we have. As we drove home from Findlay in a car that cost more than our first twenty cars combined, I opened Spotify on my iPhone and started streaming The Carpenters to our car’s entertainment system. My how things have changed. We are a long ways away from when we first listened to these songs on WJR and CKLW, yet their lyrics touch a deep place in our hearts, bringing tears and longing. We started out forty years ago with We’ve Only Just Begun, and in many ways that’s still the case. While most of our life together is in the rear-view mirror, there are still new horizons ahead. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, with a kiss for luck, we’ll make it to the end.

I love you, Polly.

I See That Hand

raised hands

I’m lying in bed on my right side, with my left arm and hand extended straight up, hoping to relieve some pain in my arm.

Polly walks in and says, “I see that hand!”

(Polly’s mom is having surgery on Thursday and she’s driving to Newark to care for her mom a day or two.)

I replied, sarcastically, “you should go to your mom’s on Wednesday so you can go to church with her.”

(Polly’s mom attends an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church where the pastor asks non-Christians to raise their hand if they would like prayer. To each raised hand he replies, “I see that hand.”)

With all might of a scorned Baptist preacher’s daughter, Polly said, “HELL NO!”

I replied, “actually you should be saying HELL YES! If you don’t want to be saved you are saying YES to HELL!”

Polly laughs and says, “un huh, once saved, always saved!”

I replied, “that’s right….”

And we both had a hearty laugh, safe in knowing that no matter how much we mock God or deny his existence, we still get to go to Heaven when we die. Sweet, right?

Evangelical Professor Dennis Hensley Accused of Sexual Misconduct

dennis hensley

Dennis Hensley, a professor of writing at Taylor University — an Evangelical institution, stands accused of sexual misconduct. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports:

A Taylor University professor with Fort Wayne ties has resigned after multiple “significant and credible allegations of serious misconduct,” according to a statement from the Christian university in Upland.

The statement, posted online Thursday, does not detail the type of misconduct. But a Fort Wayne-area woman told The Journal Gazette she was the victim of an unwanted sexual advance from the professor, Dennis E. Hensley, more than a decade ago as a student.

Hensley taught professional writing at Taylor and is well-known in Christian-writing circles for scores of books and articles. He has been active speaking and teaching at Christian-writing conferences and has an online blog where he offers mentoring.

According to the statement, the university on three occasions received reports of alleged inappropriate conduct between 2004 and this year. Another surfaced this year.

The last three did not involve students or employees and were not related to the 2004 complaint, the statement said.

Hensley, who lives in Fort Wayne, taught at Taylor’s Fort Wayne campus before it closed in 2009. He resigned June 16, the same day he was told he was being suspended indefinitely while the university investigated the most recent complaint, according to Jim Garringer, director of media relations at Taylor.

The university’s statement says the resignation was “unsolicited and unconditional and we accepted it.” Garringer said he could not elaborate.

Reached by phone at home today, Hensley characterized leaving the university as retiring.

“I thought I should just take the high ground and retire, and just call it quits and let this thing die its own death,” Hensley said, noting he will turn 70 next month.

Hensley said the latest allegations arose out of the “Me Too” movement.

In Christian-writing circles, people may hold hands in prayer or hug one another in greeting or worship, he said. Discussions at a conference may have resulted in concerns being raised, he said.

The university statement said on all previous occasions when complaints were raised, Hensley has been “confronted” and “disciplined and cautioned.”

….

Former Taylor student Rachel Custer said she was the student in 2004. She gave The Journal Gazette a copy of an account of the incident she wrote within hours of it occurring. She reported to the dean of students that day, she said.

Custer said she was upset about being sexually assaulted by someone else earlier that day. She said she broke down in an office visit with Hensley, academic adviser for the professional writing program, whom she was consulting about her schedule. He took her hands, she said, and later pulled her into a hug and then kissed her on the lips.

At this point, accounts diverge. Hensley said Custer pulled him into a hug. He did not continue the story.

“I didn’t want any of it to happen,” she said, adding she was shocked. To her, he was a representative of the church, she said. “I thought he was a Christian man and I felt safe and he would never do anything like that.”

A writing conference leader and a Taylor professor approached her this year, and she again provided her information to administrators.

She now is asking if there are others who need support to contact her on Facebook and on Twitter.

“What I would like to see is Taylor taking some institutional responsibility for enabling him,” Custer said. “But that is not my main goal. My main goal is to support others and bring to light that this type of thing does happen in the church and Christian universities, and they have to find a way to deal with it.”

….

Taylor University released the following statement:

While it is Taylor University’s policy generally not to comment on personnel matters, we are making an exception in this instance. Fourteen years ago (2004), a complaint was filed against Dr. Dennis Hensley by a student. Although the investigation at that time yielded conflicting stories, Hensley was disciplined and cautioned. During the next 14 years, two potential conduct concerns came to the university’s attention, neither of which involved students or were related to the 2004 complaint. Hensley was confronted in both of these situations and disciplined.

Recently we were made aware of significant and credible allegations of serious misconduct by Hensley. Although these allegations did not involve Taylor students or employees, we promptly commenced an investigation, which included interviews and statements from those involved, and subsequently informed Hensley that he was suspended with immediate effect while the investigation was ongoing. On the same day that he was notified of his suspension, Hensley offered an unsolicited and unconditional resignation from Taylor University, which we accepted.

As a Christian institution of higher education, guided by biblical principles of truth, justice and grace, Taylor is grieved by any instance of predatory behavior or abuse of power. We hold accountable each member of our community with the expectation they adhere to the highest ethical, behavioral, and moral standards. We are committed to providing an environment of dignity, respect and safety for all members of our community.

Henley is the author of books such as:

  • Encountering Jesus: Modern-Day Stories of His Supernatural Presence and Power
  • Jesus in All Four Seasons: Having Christ as Your Life Coach
  • Jesus in the 9 to 5: Facing the Challenges of Today’s Business World

Hensley says he is taking the high ground; that the accusations against him are the result of the “Me Too” movement; that his physical familiarity with a former student was all about love for a fellow Christian. Sounds to me like Hensley was serious about spreading the love of Christ to young Christian women. What  I want to know is why Hensley “retired” if nothing was amiss. Why do so many of these “innocent” followers of Jesus abruptly resign or retire when facing supposedly false allegations of sexual misconduct?

Questions: Bruce, As an Evangelical, How Did You Handle the Differences Between the OT and NT God?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Dave asked, As an Evangelical, How Did You Handle the Differences Between the OT and NT God?

The short answer is, I didn’t. As an Evangelical, I viewed God as this monotheistic whole; that the Old Testament characterization of God was one side of his nature, and the New Testament portrayal the other side of his nature. God, unlike humans, was able to love and hate at the same time. He could be the carrot or the stick. God was this perfect balance of emotions, never wrong, always acting according to his purpose, will, and plan. In those moments where I had a hard time reconciling the God of the OT and the God of the NT, I reminded myself that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and God’s way are not my ways. Who was I to object to anything that God did?

Believing the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, of course, boxed me in as to what I could or couldn’t believe. I believed the words of the Bible were straight from the mouth of God. Thus, when God commanded cruel, violent, or genocidal behavior, I had to say, God had his reasons. We have to trust God, believing that he knows what he is doing.

One of reasons I left Christianity is because I could reconcile the OT and NT God. Either they were two different deities, or the Christian God was a loving, kind madman. I knew that Christians deny the former, so I concluded that the God of the Bible was not a divine being I wanted to worship. Over the years, I have dealt with liberal Christians who only see God as a God of love, mercy, and kindness. They love the NT God, but even here is God really all that loving and kind?  I concluded that he is not.

In the NT, we have the violent death of Jesus on the cross. According to Evangelicals, God, the Father poured out his wrath on Jesus, his Son, to satisfy a longstanding debt: human sin. Everything that happened to Jesus came from his Father’s hand. What kind of father treats his son this way? What kind of father punishes his son for what someone else did? God, the Father, then, comes off looking like a serial killer who loves to inflict pain and suffering on his victims before he kills them.

We also have the book of Revelation. Evangelicals believe Revelation is a record of past history and future events. Someday soon, Evangelicals say, Jesus and his Father are going to unleash a house of horrors upon the Earth such as never has been seen. The earth will be destroyed and billions of people will die, including little children, unborn fetuses, and the developmentally disabled. The bloodshed, according to the Bible, will be so great that blood will flow through the streets the height of a horse’s bridle.

Once God is finished with the earth and its inhabitants, he will resurrect everyone who ever lived on our planet and divide them into two groups: saved and lost. The saved will live forever in God’s kingdom on a new earth. The lost will be fitted with bodies capable of enduring endless suffering and pain, and then cast into the Lake of Fire. Most of the people in the Lake of Fire will be there because of geography — living in places where people worshiped the wrong deity.

It seems to me, then, that the Christian God has always being capricious and violent; that he has always resorted to bloodshed to prove a point or get his way; that the OT and NT Gods are really one being with a split-personality disorder. What the Christian God needs is psychiatric help.

What Christians need to do is write a new Bible, excising the genocidal God from the story. Evangelicals, of course, would never approve of a rewrite. They need the violent God to justify the culture war and their belief that that they are the gleam in their Father’s eye. Imagine all the smug, self-righteous Evangelicals on Judgment Day. They want God to make non-Evangelicals pay for their unbelief. Open a can of whoop ass, Lord, and give it these filthy, reprobate sinners. They deserve an eternity of pain and suffering for not believing in the right God and not living by book, chapter, and verse. Pour it on, Lord. You are worthy!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Songs of Sacrilege: Amen by Halestorm

halestorm

This is the one hundred eightieth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege: Amen by Halestorm.

Video Link

Lyrics

Can I get a
Uh hu
Can I get a
Uh hu
Can I get a
Uh hu
Can I get a
Uh hu

A fire’s gotta burn
The world is gonna turn
A rain has gotta fall
Fate is gonna call
But I just keep on breathing
Long as my heart is beating

Someone’s gotta hate
It’s never gonna change
Gets harder everyday
This is one hell of a place
Keep your heart from freezing
To keep yourself believing

But I won’t run
I’m not afraid
I’ll look em in the eye
Gonna hear me say
It’s…

My life
My love
My sex
My drug
My lust
My god it ain’t no sin
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
My grace
My church
My pain
My tears
My hurt
My god, I’ll say it again
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?

Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?

Life has gotta kill
Faith is gonna blind
Hope is gonna fade
The truth is gonna lie
Sometimes there’s no reason
To justify the meaning

But I won’t run
I’m not ashamed
It’s gonna take more than this for me to break

My life
My love
My sex
My drug
My lust
My god it ain’t no sin
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
My grace
My church
My pain
My tears
My hurt
My god, I’ll say it again
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?

Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?