Evangelicalism

Heaven and Hell, The Carrot and the Stick

carrot and stick

The two tools most often used by Evangelical preachers to keep people in the pews are:

  • The threat of God’s judgment
  • The threat of hell

As with Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Evangelical preachers warn parishioners of the judgment to come and the hell that awaits anyone who does not repent of their sins and become a follower of Jesus.

Here’s what Edwards had to say:

…The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment…

While few Evangelical preachers can turn a word and speak as eloquently as Edwards, their message is still the same: judgment and hell awaits those who do not repent of their sins and follow after Jesus.

Preachers often use what I call the carrot and stick approach. Every person has a choice to make about where they spend eternity. While Calvinists and Arminians argue endlessly over whether we really are free to choose, saving faith does require an act of volition. Every person must choose between heaven and hell. Become a follower of Jesus and heaven, the carrot awaits when you die. Reject Jesus, his salvific work on the cross and his death-defying resurrection from the dead, then hell, the stick, awaits you when you die.

Evangelical preachers impress on those under the sound of their voice that it is important to make a decision for Christ NOW! The Bible says in the last part of II Corinthians 6:2:

…behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.

According to Evangelical preachers, none of us has the promise of tomorrow. Proverbs 27:1 states:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Evangelical preachers are like Larry the Cable Guy. Git ‘er Done! Today, right now, don’t delay.

Some preachers spice up their sermons with illustrations of people who died suddenly or who died after hearing and rejecting the preacher’s warning about God’s judgment and hell. These stories, true or not, are meant to elicit an immediate response. When I was a preacher, my goal was to press every person who heard my sermon to make a decision. I was of the opinion that there was no such thing as a neutral position. Once a person heard the gospel, heard my sermon, they had a choice to make. Heaven or hell, which will it be?

A regular reader of this blog sent me a Franklin Graham quote that I think will help illustrate what I am trying to say in this post:

“Death is serious, eternal business. Once our physical hearts beat for the last time, we will instantly find ourselves either in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His splendor, or in the pit of Hell away from His presence.”

There’s the carrot and the stick. Heaven or hell; choose now while your heart is still beating. The moment your heart stops beating, your eternal destiny is settled.

Think for a moment about what Graham said here about the heart stopping. So, if a person’s heart stops, his eternal destiny is settled? What if his heart is restarted using a defibrillator? Does this mean his eternal destiny is not really settled and he gets another chance to decide, heaven or hell? For those people who have heart transplants, does that mean that they need to decide again?

The bigger problem with Graham’s statement is that it is bad theology. According to orthodox Christian theology, when people die, they do not go to heaven or hell. Instead, they go to the grave and will remain there until the resurrection of the dead. Grandma is not up in Heaven running around, nor is she peering over the portals of Heaven watching her grandchildren play. Neither is Christopher Hitchens in hell, being tormented day and night for daring to mock the thrice holy God. They are dead, lying in the grave, awaiting the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.

After the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment will take place and every person will be sent to his or her eternal destiny. And even here, many Evangelical preachers, including Graham, get it wrong. Christians will not spend eternity in Heaven. Instead, they will spend it in the kingdom of God. Hitchens and the rest of us reprobates? We will not spend eternity in hell. Instead we will spend it in the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15 makes this quite clear:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

and Revelation 21:1-8:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

And here an even more interesting point. Isn’t our eternal destiny is settled by repenting of our sins and following after Jesus? These texts state that everyone is judged by their works, that it is works that determine whether Grandma, Hitchens, or anyone else goes to heaven or hell.

I wish Evangelical preachers would get together and figure out exactly where it is we are all going when we die. I wish they would  determine if it is really up to me to decide? With so much confusion and lack of theological precision, how is a poor, lost atheist such as I am, supposed to determine in what hotel to make my final reservation?

The purpose of this post is to show how confusing and contradictory Evangelical preachers and their theology can be. If they are not precise and clear, can mere untrained, unwashed Philistines such as we are have any hope of finding THE Way, Truth, and Life?

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Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait

curiosity

Why is it that so many Evangelicals have no desire to be curious? Yes, I know many are, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you are a curiouser- than-a-cat Evangelical. I frequently get an email or a blog comment from an Evangelical Christian wanting to “help” me find my way to Jesus. Such people are certain that they possess the requisite knowledge and skill to win me to Jesus. They are sure that if they just befriend me, quote the right verses, soothe my hurts, or understand my pain, I will fall on my knees and call on the name of Jesus.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was a pastor for twenty-five of those years. I have a Bible college education. Surely they understand that I am not an atheist out of ignorance? Of course not, and here is where their lack of curiosity gets them in trouble. They often don’t know anything about me or this blog. Why? Because they did a Google/Bing/Yahoo search for _________________ and their search brought them to a single blog post of mine. They read that one post and immediately decide that I am a poor wayfaring waif in need of Jesus.

When I get comments such as these, I go to the logs and see what pages they read. Usually, they have read only the page the search brought them to. Their lack of curiosity (or laziness) is astounding and leads them to make wild judgments about me and come to rash, ill-informed conclusions. If they would just read the About page they would be better informed about me and this blog.

I suspect part of the reason Evangelicals are not, in general, known for their curiosity, is because they are 100% certain that they are absolutely right. They worship the one, true God and this God lives inside of them. This God walks with them, talks with them, and tell them that they are his own. They have a supernatural book given to them by this supernatural God. This book contains all the answers about life they will ever need.

When you are certain…there is no need to think, reason, investigate, or doubt. When the man upstairs is on your team, no need to consider any other team. When your church has declared that strawberry ice cream is the one true ice cream, no need to try any other ice cream.

Simply put, no need to know anything else, when you already know all you need to know. God said it and that settled it. One true God, one true religious text, one way of salvation. The earth is 6,000 years old, created in six days. The Bible gives the blueprint for Christ-honoring family, a happy marriage, obedient kids, and great sex. When the answer to every question is God, it’s not surprising to find that Evangelicals are not curious.

The good news is that more and more Evangelicals are discovering the curiosity that lies dormant beneath the surface of their lives. Once they make this discovery, they are on their way out of the closed-mindedness and senses-dulling prison of Evangelicalism. They will find out that science can and does explain the world they live in. Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is asking the right questions.

Still want/need to believe in a transcendent deity or some sort of spirituality? Once free of the heaven/hell, saved/lost, in/out, good/bad paradigm of Evangelicalism, people are free to wander at will. When the fear of hell and judgment is gone, they are free to experience those things that are meaningful to them. Once the question is no longer will you go to heaven when you die, the journey rather than the destination becomes what matters.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but trust me Evangelicals, it won’t kill you.

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Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About Bruce Gerencser

questions

Updated April 13, 2016.

I wrote the following to inform those who don’t know me about my past and present life. While this is in no way the sum of my life, it should help to answer some of the questions readers might have. I try to be open and honest. If you have a personal question you would like me to answer, please send me an email or leave your question in the comment section.

I also wrote a humorous follow-up to this post. You can read it here.

How do you pronounce Gerencser?

Grr IN Sir

What nationality is your name?

Hungarian

How old are you?

58

How long have you been married?

37 years

How many children do you have?

Six

How many grandchildren do you have?

Eleven  ten granddaughters and one grandson

How many times have you been married?

Once

Where do you live?

Rural NW Ohio, the village of Ney. One stoplight, one gas station, one pizza place/bar, and one restaurant/bar. We have lived here since 2007.

Do you own your own home?

Yes

What color is your hair?

Well it used to be bright red, some say orange. These days, it is a faded, dull red, mostly white. (see picture above)

How tall are you?

Six foot

How much do you weigh?

I currently weigh 365 pounds. I weighed 160 pounds at age 18, 180 pounds the day I got married, and 225 pounds five years after I married. I am twice the man I was on my wedding day.

Which hand are you?

Left, 100% left.

What color are your eyes?

They range from gray to sparkling blue. Polly says my eye color is determined by my mood.

What is your body shape?

I have short legs (29 inch inseam) and a long body. One man told me I was built like a fire plug.

What’s wrong with you?

How much time do you have? I have suffered with depression most of my life. I have Fibromyalgia, diagnosed in 1997. Since 2007, I have had non-specific neurological problems that affect my ability to stand and walk. I live with daily, unrelenting pain. I walk with a cane and often have to use a wheelchair.

What sports teams do you root for?

Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Louisville Bats, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Toledo Mud Hens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Ohio State football and basketball.

I am also a dirt track racing fan.

Did you play sports?

Yes, I played Little League and City League baseball and City League basketball. I played one year of junior high football.

I was usually good enough to make the team, but I tended to be on the far end of the bench (except for City League basketball, where I was a starter).

Should Pete Rose be in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame?

Yes

What do you like to do for fun or to relax?

Go anywhere with Polly.

Attend a sporting event with my sons.

Read non-fiction books.

Take a walk in the woods, or a walk anywhere with the love of my life by my side. These days, it is usually Polly pushing me in a wheelchair when we take walks.

What are your hobbies?

I am a serious amateur photographer. I use Sony, Tamron, and Sigma equipment.

I have extensive computer/Windows software knowledge. I build my own computers.

I also like to garden and work in the yard when I am able.

When did you buy your first computer?

1992, a V-Tech 286.

Who are your favorite authors?

Thomas Merton, Henry David Thoreau, Bart Ehrman, and Wendell Berry, along with countless other authors who have helped me along the way.

What is your favorite comic?

Get Fuzzy.

What foods do you like?

Food.

Do you drink alcohol?

Yes, I like wine and spirits. I am not a beer drinker.

What are your favorite restaurants?

Mad Anthony’s in Fort Wayne and Auburn, Indiana, Red Lobster, and Texas Roadhouse.

For dessert, I like Eric’s Ice Cream in Defiance, Ohio and Dietsch Brothers Ice Cream in Findlay, Ohio.

What is your favorite ice cream?

Rocky Road and Mint Chocolate Chip.

What is your favorite candies?

Double dipped chocolate malted milk balls from Dietsch’s, Clark, Zero, Zagnut, Snickers, and Milky Way candy bars, and Goetz’s Carmel Creams.

What communities have you lived in?

Over the past 58 years, I have lived in:

Ohio: Bryan (numerous times), Ney (twice), Farmer, Deshler, Harrod, Findlay, Mount Blanchard, Alvordton (twice), Newark (twice), Buckeye Lake, New Lexington (twice), Junction City, Mount Perry, Glenford, and Somerset.

California: San Diego and Chula Vista.

Arizona: Tucson, Sierra Vista, Hereford, and Yuma.

Michigan: Pontiac and Clare.

Texas: Elmendorf.

How many houses have you lived in?

16 houses by age 21 and 18 more houses since Polly and I have been married.

How many cars have you owned?

Over 60. The cheapest cost $25.00, the most expensive cost $29,000.00.

What car do you currently own?

2015 Ford Escape.

What was your favorite car?

The 1970 Chevrolet Nova SS I owned in the 1970s.

What was your least favorite car?

Any of the cars I owned that were made by American Motors.

Besides pastoring, what jobs have you worked?

Janitor, gas station attendant, short order cook, newspaper motor route, life insurance salesman, sweeper salesman, restaurant general manager, network manager, durable medical equipment supply office manager, dairy department manager, grocery stock clerk, workfare/court offender program manager, litter control manager/officer, building code enforcement officer, grant manager, real estate updater for auditor’s office, farm worker, mechanic, cable box repairman, shipping and receiving, turret lathe operator, and numerous general laborer jobs in factories.

What was your favorite job?

Restaurant general manager.

What is your favorite color?

Blue.

What are your politics?

Liberal, progressive, socialist.

Are you an atheist?

Yes.

Are you a humanist?

Yes.

What is your worldview?

I am agnostic on the God question. I cannot know for certain if a god of some sort exists, but I think it is highly improbable. It is possible that a deity of some sort might someday reveal herself to us, but I highly doubt it. I am convinced that all of the deities in the human panoply of gods are the creation of humans.

I live my day-to-day life as an atheist. Thoughts of God never enter my mind unless I am writing an article for this website.

I try to live my life according to the humanist ideals spelled out in the various humanist manifestos.

Do you fear going to hell?

No more than I fear Mickey Mouse breaking into my house and stealing my TV.

In other words, since heaven, hell, and the devil are the fictions of humans, I don’t fear hell.

What churches did you pastor?

Montpelier Baptist Church, Montpelier, Ohio – Assistant Pastor.

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio – Assistant Pastor.

Somerset Baptist Church, Somerset, Ohio – Pastor.

Community Baptist Church, Elmendorf, Texas – Pastor.

Olive Branch Christian Union Church, Fayette, Ohio – Pastor.

Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio – Pastor.

Victory Baptist Church, Clare, Michigan – Pastor.

What was your favorite church?

Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio.

How many churches did you start?

Five.

I helped start Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio.

I started Somerset Baptist Church, Somerset, Ohio and Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio.

While co-pastor of Community Baptist Church, Elmendorf, Texas, I started two churches, one in Floresville, Texas and one in Stockdale, Texas.

Have you ever been baptized?

Three times.

I was baptized as an infant at the Lutheran church in Bryan, Ohio.

I was baptized when my parents joined Eastland Baptist Mission in Bryan, Ohio.

I was baptized at Trinity Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio after I made a public profession of faith.

When were you saved?

I made a public profession of faith at Trinity Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio at the age of 15.

When were you called to preach?

I was called to preach several weeks after I was saved.

Where did you attend college?

Midwestern Baptist College, Pontiac, Michigan 1976-79.

How many churches have you visited/preached at in your lifetime?

Over 150.

What can you tell me about your wife?

We met at Bible college. Polly is a pastor’s daughter. She is my lover and best friend. She is an awesome cook, a great seamstress, and she never lets me have all the covers.

What can you tell me about your kids?

Well, there are six of them, four sons and two daughters. Four of them are married and have children of their own. One of them is going through a divorce. Five of them are gainfully employed. Our oldest daughter has Down Syndrome.

Are your children Christian?

You’ll have to ask them. None of them is Evangelical and all of them have left the faith of their youth.

Do you have any siblings?

Yes, a brother and sister. They both live in Arizona (Chandler and Tombstone).

Are your parents still living?

No. My father died at the age of 49 from a stroke and my Mom committed suicide at the age of 54.

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

I like every style of music except rap, old-style country, and opera.

Who are your favorite artists?

Matt Nathanson, Eliza Gilkyson, Darius Rucker, Theory of a Deadman, Staind, Seether, Lucinda Williams, The Carpenters, Collective Soul, Sugarland.

What is your favorite movie?

Mosquito Coast and Hell in the Pacific.

If you could live any place in the world where would you live?

Anywhere near water as long as Polly is with me and my children live 20 minutes away.

Why do you blog?

I have a story to tell and blogging is my way of telling it.

Why do you stop blogging from time to time?

Depression and health problems.

Have you made a lot of money blogging?

Yes, millions of dollars. So much money that I don’t know what to do with it.

Serious answer? Last year, blog donations totaled about $2000. I don’t write to make money. I write because I want and need to.

Are you writing a book?

Yes, I started it a dozen times and I hope to have it done before I die. I signed a book contract last December. I hope to have it completed by the end of summer.

What’s most important to you?

My family.

What’s least important to you?

The approbation of others.

What is your favorite season?

Fall.

If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

041316

Can Anyone Really Know They Are Saved?

saved lost

Yes.

No.

Maybe.

What do I mean by the word “saved”? Delivered. Redeemed. Set free. Bought by the blood. Justified. (Looked at by God just as if I never sinned.)

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.(Romans 10:9, 10)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8.9)

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3,4)

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9)

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16

Oops. Scratch that last one. Don’t want to start a war between the Baptists and the Campbellites. (Church of Christ)

Let me set aside, for a moment, the fact that these verses teach several different salvations. Most Christians interpret these verses, and others, in a very basic, generic way:

I am a sinner. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. Three days later he resurrected from  the dead. Believing this message, I admit I am a sinner, I repent of my sins, and by faith I trust Jesus to forgive me of my sins and save me. I am trusting Jesus to save me and keep me until I die. By putting my faith and trust in Jesus I know I will go to heaven when I die. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

There are three basic schools of thought when it comes to salvation. I know there are various shades of each of these. Please, spare me the emails and comments that say I didn’t properly describe YOUR TRIBE.

Once Saved, Always Saved

There is the “once saved, always saved” school. According to this school of thought, once a person is saved he can never be un-saved. No matter what the person does, no matter how the person lives, he is saved forever. A person can stop attending Church, stop doing ANYTHING that remotely suggests that he is saved, yet “once saved, always saved.” One noted writer even said that a person could go to the altar and be saved and then leave the Church, curse God, and live like a heathen the remainder of his life…it matters not, “once saved, always saved.”

This is the belief of most Baptists and many Evangelicals and fundamentalists. Salvation becomes a form of “fire insurance.” People don’t want to go to hell, so they get saved. Whew, that’s over. Next!

Coupled with this belief is the notion that the believer will be rewarded some day for doing the right things in this life. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

So, people might be “once saved always saved” but if they don’t live right they will lose their rewards in heaven. The nature of this loss of rewards is never clearly defined. Maybe their mansion won’t have indoor plumbing? (John 14:1-6)

Some “once saved always saved” believers realize that their version of salvation really looks bad. They know their brand of salvation looks like it is preaching a “live like hell, still go to heaven” message.

To counter this, they teach that Christians who live carnally will be chastised (corrected) by God in this life. If a carnal Christian is not chastised, it is proof that they were never “really” saved. After all the Bible says in Hebrews 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Countless once-saved-always-saved Baptists have told me that I am still a Christian. No matter what I do, no matter I believe, I can never, ever lose my salvation. I suppose if this is the case then there will be a lot of atheists in heaven.

Conditional Salvation, Arminianism

Arminian groups  hold to a conditional salvation. They believe a person is saved by grace but kept by works (works they do by the power of God, so it is really all of grace). In this school of thought, people can only know they are saved in the present moment. Their future salvation is conditioned on them doing the right things. This is the belief of groups like the Free-Will Baptists, Methodists, Wesleyans, etc.(groups who trace back their heritage to John and Charles Wesley and Jacobus Arminius).

A believer can do certain things that will result in the loss of salvation. Some Arminian groups believe you can only lose your salvation one time. In other words, “once saved, once lost, always lost.”

The Bible says in Hebrews 6:4-6:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Other Arminian groups believe a person can repeatedly be saved, lost, saved, lost, saved. They often talk about a line that is crossed, when a person goes from a state of grace to being lost again. I have asked repeatedly over the years exactly where that line is and no one can tell me. I have been told by more than one Arminian preacher, “You just KNOW when you have crossed the line.”

Arminians have no problem explaining my life. It is quite simple to them; I once was saved and now I am lost.

Perseverance of the Saints, Calvinism

The final school of thought is the Calvinistic school. Calvinist groups like the Presbyterians, some Baptists, Episcopalians,etc adhere to what is commonly called the five points of Calvinism (which were actually articulated as a reply to the Arminians). Point number five is the perseverance of the saints or the preservation of the saints.

The perseverance of the saints is “once saved, always saved” with a twist.  Calvinists believe salvation is a work done totally by God. From start to finish it is God who does it all. A person can not believe, exercise faith, or do anything apart from God giving them the power to do so. Those whom God saves, God keeps. Now, God only saves a certain number of people. God knows exactly how many he will save. They are the elect. They have been predestined to salvation. No one but the elect will be saved. Everyone else need not apply.

The God who saves is the God who causes believers to persevere to the end. If they don’t persevere to the end, then that is proof they were never saved to start with.

After hearing my story Calvinists conclude I never was saved.  I didn’t persevere. I have received common grace but not God’s special, saving grace. In other words, God toyed with me and then said fuck you. The contradiction in their conclusion is that they can not know if I might yet persevere in the future. Perhaps I am just going through an atheist phase.

No Calvinists can know for sure they are saved. They can HOPE they are. They can constantly examine their lives to see if they are availing themselves to the means of grace, but until they die they can not know for sure they are saved. They MUST persevere to the end to be sure. They are hoping God comes through for them, but they won’t know for sure until the end. After all, they too could be deluded. They too could be following a false Christ. Perhaps God is just toying with them too and they will end up bunking in hell with atheists such as I.

Imagine a person going from church to church trying to find out the one true Christian message of salvation. You would think Christians could agree on the most basic of truths, salvation.

But they don’t.

I am convinced that Christians better hope that God is a universalist. If not, hell is going to be filled with Christians.

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Good Baptist Boys Don’t Dance

dancing

In September of  1971 I began my ninth grade year at Central Junior High School in Findlay, Ohio.  At home, my parents argued constantly, and seven months later, in April of 1972, they divorced. A few months after that, Mom married her first cousin and Dad married a 19-year-old who had a little girl.

Needless to say, life at home was anything but love, peace, and harmony. I hated my parents for getting divorced. I hated my Dad for marrying a girl who was only four years older than I.

I stayed away from home as much as I could. Dad was busy with his “new” family, so my siblings and I were left to our own devices. I spent a lot of time at the local YMCA. I didn’t have the money for a membership, so I learned the fine art of sneaking into the Y. The Y became my home away from home.

Dad started G and B Train Shop with Gary Zissler, a fellow deacon at the church. The store mainly sold Lionel, American Flyer, and HO trains. I worked at the store in the evenings. Dad paid me twenty-five cents an hour minus the cost of the pop I drank. Since we rarely had pop at home, I became a pop-a-holic while at the train shop.

Our family attended Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Trinity was a large Independent Baptist Church pastored by Gene Milioni.  Ron Johnson was the assistant pastor and Bruce Turner was the youth pastor.

After Pastor Milioni married my Dad and his second wife, my Dad and my siblings stopped going to church.  I, however, immersed myself in the church, attending church every time the doors were opened.

The church became my family. Most of my close friends attended Trinity and the church provided me with everything I found lacking in my home life. Even though I am now an atheist, I will forever be grateful for the support and social connection the church provided for me.

In the fall of 1972, my tenth grade year at Findlay High School,  Al Lacy held a revival at Trinity Baptist Church. One night, I came under great conviction and I went down to the altar, confessed my sins, and asked Jesus to save me. A week later I was baptized, and not to long after that I publicly confessed before the church that I believed God was calling me into the ministry. I was fifteen.

My life changed dramatically after I got saved. I started carrying my Bible to school and I witnessed to my non-Christian friends.  My non-Christian friends, those I played sports with, thought I had lost my mind, and some of my Christian friends did too.

I have always been an all-in kind of person. I don’t do half-way, so when it came to being a Christian I was 100% committed to Jesus. I took seriously what I heard the pastors preach. In my young mind, I saw the pastors as speaking for God. After all, everything they preached about came straight out of the Bible, God’s inspired, inerrant Word.

Trinity was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship. The pastors preached against rock music, premarital sex, mixed swimming, going to movies, short skirts and pants on women, and long hair on men. Remember, it was the early 1970s and mini-skirts and maxi-dresses were popular and men wore their hair long. The pastors at Trinity were anti-counterculture, believing the love and peace generation was destroying America.

Like a good Baptist boy, I tried to follow the rules to the letter. God (or the pastor) said it, I believed it, and that settled it for me. One sin the pastors were against was any kind of dancing. Not just some types of dancing, they were against ALL dancing.

A few years ago,  I wrote about how the no-dancing rule affected me:

I vividly remember ninth grade year at Central Jr High. The Phys Ed teacher decided to teach square dancing.  I was all for learning to square dance.  This would be my only opportunity to touch the cheerleaders. Unfortunately, Pastor Milioni put an end to my carnal desires. He came to  school and made a fuss about the square dancing class. Next thing I know, I am being forced to sit with the fags (talking as we did in the 1970’s, I do not use such language today) who refused to take Phys Ed.  This was a punishment worse than death. (Pastor Milioni also came to my school to complain about the choir singing Jesus Christ Superstar. I had to quit choir)

The school held regular dances, social events that everyone attended, well everyone but this good Baptist boy.  I went through a period of time where I was really upset about all the rules and restrictions, so I would stay overnight with a non-Christian friend and I would go to the dances with him.  I did this numerous times. I don’t know if my parents ever caught on. If they did, they never said a word.

I came through the 1970s with my Baptisthood intact. I never smoked cigarettes, drank, or smoked marijuana. I didn’t listen to rock music, kept my hair cut short,  and I successfully made it through high school as a virgin. Not the I didn’t want to have sex, I did, but I was afraid of what might happen if I did and I didn’t think any of the church girls I dated were “willing.” I found out a few years ago, after talking to some of the girls I went to church with, that they were more “willing” than this naïve Baptist boy thought they were.

The first time I danced was at the wedding of one of my children. This was the first time for my wife too. My daughters-in-law cajoled us into dancing. Oh, what a sight we were. We may have been years away from our fundamentalist youth, but it was quite evident that we didn’t know anything about dancing.

How about you? If you were raised a fundamentalist and attended a public school, how did that affect your ability to be a normal student? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Notes

For some insight into this kind of thinking, here’s an excerpt from an article titled All Dancing is Dirty,written by David Stewart, an IFB zealot:

One of the most disgusting and sinful movies ever produced is “Dirty Dancing.” Dirty Dancing (1987) starred Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Jerry Orbach. The great evangelist, Billy Sunday, preached uncompromisingly against dancing—would to God that more preachers had the guts to do so today. The Apostle Paul cautions us in 1st Corinthians 7:1 concerning touching the opposite sex (i.e., a person to whom we are not married). Adultery begins with a mere “touch.”

No man should ever touch a woman to whom he is not married. This Scripture also applies to women. If it’s NOT good for a man to touch a woman to whom he is not married, then it is certainly not good for a woman to allow a man to touch her either (unless it’s her husband)…

… In night clubs all across America, dancing is a prelude to fornication, homosexuality, and abortion. People place their hands all over each other, violating God’s warnings against lust, lasciviousness, and unholy thoughts. People have become so hardened nowadays that morality is a joke to them (clearly evidenced by the godless late night shows on hellivision).  The Word of God states that “Fools make a mock at sin…” (Proverb 14:9).

Just as the Hawaiians still blame and hates Christianity today for taking away their dirty-dancing centuries ago, so do many people around the world (as witnessed in the preceding quote from an occultist)…

…Dancing is just as sinful at high school proms, ballrooms, town gatherings, etc. Dancing and immodest dress are synonymous. Dancing leads to lasciviousness (i.e., immoral sexual desire). The ONLY place where dancing is acceptable is between a husband and wife in the privacy of their own home, and without observation by others. America has deteriorated into a sexually perverted nation, where sensual and suggestive dancing is commonplace. As a result, millions of unwanted babies continue to be murdered every year through abortion. This is a great evil in America! We have earned the title from Muslims of being THE GREAT SATAN!

Think about it … the average person today can’t help but laugh at the thought that dancing is a sin; yet millions of unplanned pregnancies continue to be terminated through murderous abortions. Is it surprising that a nation that sees no harm in murdering children would also see no harm in premarital sex, petting, dancing, pornography, stealing, divorcing, and filthy conversation? I think not…

…All dancing is of the Devil, whether it be the Tango, the Foxtrot, the Rumba, the Swing, et cetera. It’s because dancing is inherently fleshly. Some dancing schools even advertise “Touch Dancing.” Women who dance, immodestly expose their bodies, luring lustful men to sinfully gaze upon them. According to Jesus’ Words in Matthew 5:28, lust is sinful … But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Dancing has always been dirty and sinful…

…Even bally [ballet] dancing is sinful, VERY SINFUL, because the women dance in their underwear, giving explicit views of their body. Those women who dance while skating are filthy. It is offensive to God. Bally Dancing is sexually arousing and; therefore, extremely sinful. The same people who scoff at my preaching are the same people who have no problem with abortion, divorce, nor fornication…

…The bottom line is that dancing is a worldly entertainment, heathen. Dancing is a very physically activity, which basically gives men a dirty show to watch, and in many cases, touch. The Hawaiian hula is the filthiest dance on earth. I can understand why the Christian missionaries tried to mentor the natives away from it. People today criticize the early missionaries like they were bad people, and perhaps some of them were; but they were justified in trying to change the Hawaiian culture from one of paganism and sexual immorality to one of grace, chastity, belief in Jesus Christ, and decency. Hawaii is a very sinful place today, and the hula is as filthy as ever…

…No normal man can watch a women jumping around in tights without getting aroused. As Christians, we must rise above the filth and immorality of this sinful world. I’ve known people who were actively involved in some sort of dancing.  In every case, they were worldly–going to gambling casinos, homosexual-friendly, drinking beer, attending nightclubs, indulging in sexual sins, running from God. I’ve never met one soulwinner who was a dancer. I’ve never met a dedicated, Christ-honoring, sin-hating Christian who went dancing. The unsaved world loves dancing, because it is sexually suggestive and filthy. Jesus didn’t dance…

The thinking demonstrated in Stewart’s article was what was behind the taboos at the churches I attended as a youth. Needless to say, years of this kind of abuse plays havoc with a persons ability to live normally.

The IFB church wasn’t the only sect that thought dancing was a sin. Here’s an anti-dancing article on the official Assembly of God website.

041616

 

Junior High Gym Class —1970s

bruce gerencser 1971

Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade, 1971

The black framed glasses? Welfare glasses. As soon as I saved up enough money to buy wire-rimmed glasses, I ditched the glasses.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I have spent a good bit of my life moving, either from town to town or house to house. In 1971 my Dad moved us from Deshler, Ohio to Findlay, Ohio. I lived in Findlay from 1970-1974. I say “I lived”, because my parents divorced in 1972 and my Dad moved us to Tucson, Arizona in the early spring of 1973. I finished my tenth grade year at Rincon High School in Tucson, and once school was out I moved back to Findlay to live with several families in the church I attended. For a few months in the fall of 1973 I attended Riverdale High School in Mount Blanchard, Ohio, and then I transferred back to  Findlay High School and finished out eleventh grade.

Got all that? Here’s my point in giving you a Bruce Gerencser geography lesson. From 1970-72, eighth and ninth grade, I attended Central Junior High School (which has since been torn down)  in Findlay. Two school years, my longest consecutive years at one school without a move to a new school district. (though we did live in 3 different houses during this time), when I actually had time to make a few friends.

While I am now a 6 foot, 360 pound man, during the two years I spent at Central Junior High, I was 5 foot 2 inches, and weighed a little over 100 pounds. I was a late bloomer, not reaching my current height until the end of eleventh grade. Needless to say, I was quite conscious of my diminutive size.

Even though I was slight of build, I played city league baseball and basketball. I am left-handed, and being left-handed gave me a decided advantage when it came to playing baseball and basketball. Even though I loved playing sports, gym class at Central Junior High was one of my least favorite classes.

As I mentioned above, I wasn’t very big and puberty came quite slowly for me. I enjoyed playing the various sports in gym class, but when games were over, came the dreaded mandatory shower. Here I was, a small boy with little underarm or pubic hair, among, what seemed at the time, giants. When I took off my clothes and glanced at other boys in the class, it was quite evident to everyone that I was in every way on the small side. Needless to say, I became quite self-conscious about my body.

The gym teacher was also a coach. He was a rough-and-tumble, crude man, typical of many of the coaches I played for. One day, he walked into the shower room where all of us were showering and he surveyed the mass of the nakedness before him and said, Well, I can tell who is having sex and who isn’t. His inference was clear; those with bigger penises and testicles were the ones having sex. Since I was one of the smallest boys in the class – and I mean small in every way – I was quite embarrassed. I am sure some of the boys thought, and we know who ISN’T having sex.

I was also the only redhead in the class. At the time, I had bright, flaming orange hair that definitely made me stand out. My gym teacher called me Carrot. This only added to my self-consciousness.

One week for gym class, we square danced. The male and female gym classes were joined together for dance lessons. I thought, this will be my chance to touch one of the cheerleaders. Typical, self-conscious boy’s dream, right? Well, my dream became a nightmare because my pastor, Gene Milioni, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, came to the school and raised a ruckus about the dancing. As a result, my parents would not allow me to square dance. Later in the year, Pastor Milioni would complain about the choir singing Jesus Christ Superstar. I was in the choir, and as a result of his complaint my parents wouldn’t allow me to sing.

I still remember to this day sitting at the top of the gym bleachers watching my classmates square dance. Next to me were two boys who were believed to be homosexuals. The proof of their homosexuality? They refused to take a shower at the end of gym class. Remember, it was the 70s… So there I was with the two weirdo’s who wouldn’t take a shower.

While I eventually grew up to be a physically fit 6-foot man, endowed well enough to father six children, I have been self-conscious about my body my entire life. Once free of junior high gym class, I never took another communal shower. When it comes to using the bathroom, I always try to use a stall. Just the thought of using a urinal is enough to cramp the flow. If I have to use a urinal, I make sure no one is nearby. And if a man uses the urinal next to me? It’s like a vise grip on my urethra. It ain’t gonna happen. I have often wondered if my experiences in junior high gym class play a part in my inability to urinate when someone is standing next to me.

I do know that my religious training resulted in an unhealthy view of the human body and sex. The fundamentalist churches of my youth spent significant time preaching against short skirts, pants on women, long hair on men, and premarital sex. Even masturbation was considered a sin. The body, the flesh was sinful and in need of salvation.

How about you? Were you body self-conscious in school? How did your religious upbringing affect how you viewed your body. Please share your story in the comments section.

041616

Guilt — the Essence of Evangelical Christianity

guiltWhat would Evangelical Christianity be without guilt?

Guilt, despite what preachers say, is the engine that powers Evangelicalism.

Often preachers will try to hide guilt by giving it other names like conviction. But no matter how they try to hide it, guilt plays a prominent part in the day-to-day lives of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Think about it for a moment. The Bible presents God as a righteous, holy, judging, wrathful, deity. In the Old Testament this God was unapproachable except by a  few chosen people. People who got too close wound up dead.

Who can forget the story about the man who put out his hand to steady the ark of the covenant and God rewarded this man by killing him. Or the story about God killing the entire human race save eight people (and yet, Evangelicals say God is pro-life).

From Genesis to Revelation we see a God who gives no quarter to disobedience or sin. He demands worship and expects perfect obeisance. He is a God who not only hates sin but hates those who do it. (the-hate-the-sin-but-love-the-sinner line of thinking is not found in the Bible.) Evangelicals often remind people such as myself that someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Bow now or bow later, the thinking goes.

No matter how much the writers of the New Testament tried to cover this up with talk of love, grace, and mercy, the God of the Bible was not one to be trifled with. Those who trifled with him ended up dead. The Bible says, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

There are hundreds of commands in the Bible, commands that God expects every Christian to obey without question or hesitation. After all, according to the Bible, God himself lives inside every Christian. According to the Bible, the Christian has the mind of Christ. The Bible also says that Christians are to be perfect even as their father in heaven is perfect. Lest one doubt whether God is serious, the writer of First John reminds his fellow Christians that he who sins is of the devil.

The Bible message is clear, obey God lest you fall under his judgment, a judgment that could lead to your death. Put in words that any child can understand: do what God says or he is going to get you. Remember this is a God who killed two people in the book of Acts for lying. This is the same God who brutalized his son on the cross because of what other people did. This is also the same God that will someday savage the earth and its inhabitants and torture in hell for all eternity all those who are not Christians. The book of Revelation reads like Quentin Tarantino movie script. The vengeful God will pour out his wrath upon the earth, killing billions of people and destroying the earth in the process.

It should come as no surprise then that many Evangelicals live with a backbreaking load of guilt. They know what God expects and they fear him, but, in spite of all their hard work, they still can’t measure up to what God expects of them. What deepens their guilt is preachers who say they speak for God, adding more rules and regulations that God demands every Christian obey (also called church standards).

I spent most of my life in the Evangelical church. I desperately wanted to be a good Christian. I felt God had called me into the ministry and I wanted to be the best pastor possible. I was willing to sacrifice everything for God. And so that’s what I did. I sacrificed my family, my health, and my economic well-being for God. I held nothing back and I was willing to die for my God if necessary.

A while back someone made a comment on Facebook about my being an atheist. This person has known me for 37 years. He said that he was shocked that I was an atheist because if anyone was a committed, true blue believer, I was. Most people who knew me in my Christian days would give a similar account of my devotion to God.

As a pastor I gave 100% to the cause. I worked long hours without regard to whether I got paid. Most of the churches I pastored paid a poverty wage, but that didn’t matter to me. I would have gladly worked for free, and, in fact, I did work many weeks and months without receiving a paycheck. It was never about the money. It was all about faithfully serving God and fulfilling his calling on my life. It was all about being obedient to the commands and teachings found in the Bible.

One would think that someone as committed as I was wouldn’t have guilt, but guilt played a prominent part in my life. Striving for perfection quickly reveals how imperfect one is. Sometimes I envied Christians who could take a minimal, carefree approach to God and his commands. Why couldn’t I be nominal just like everyone else? I’m not sure I have an answer for that. All I know is this, I worked for the night is coming when no man can work and the more work I put into my Christian faith the more guilt I had.

I often pondered the work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus had given his all on the cross for me. Shouldn’t I give my all to him? I took seriously the command to walk in the steps of Jesus. I tried to pattern my life after the example of Jesus and the apostles. I wanted to be found busy working for the advancement of God’s kingdom with Jesus came back to earth.

The Bible teaches that this life of ours is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (like a steam from a radiator on a cold winter day). Rather than spending time building a kingdom in this life that will soon pass away,  I sincerely believed my  time was better spent  laying up treasure in heaven. Why bother with the transitory, material world that will soon pass away? Better to spend every waking hour serving Jesus than to spend one moment chasing the baubles of this world. Yet the harder I worked the more guilt I had.

I prayed in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night, and numerous times throughout the day, yet I feared I was not praying enough. After all, the Bible commands us to pray without ceasing. No matter how many people I witnessed to, there were always more people I needed to evangelize. There never seemed to be an end of souls that needed saving. How dare I spend one moment taking care of my own personal needs while countless souls were hanging by a bare thread over the pit of hell. I had no time for talk of heaven or eternal reward. There was too much to do.

I know some readers of this blog will read this post and say, no wonder you were guilty all the time. Look at how motivated and driven you were. Yes, this is true, but I ask you, where do I find in the Bible the laid-back, nominal, easy-come-easy-go, Christian life? While certainly such a life would have lessened the amount of guilt I had, how could I live such a life knowing what I did about the teachings and commands of the Bible?

Look at the examples given for us in the Bible of people who were devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Show me the nominal Christian. In every instance nominal Christianity is roundly condemned. God expects — dare I say demands — 100% devotion and anything less than that is treason against  God.

So, for many years I lived with guilt almost every day. I felt guilty when I stopped to enjoy life. I felt guilty when I stopped to attend to my personal wants and desires. I felt guilty when I spent money that could have gone to the church or to missionaries. Why could I not be like the Apostle Paul? Or why could I not be like Jesus himself?

Of course the real problem was that I was a human being. A life of selfless devotion to God was an impossibility. Now that I’ve left the ministry and left the Christian faith, my problem with guilt still remains. I’m no longer guilty over my lack of devotion and I’m certainly not guilty over committing what the Bible calls sin, but I do lament the amount of time, money, and effort I gave in devotion to a God who does not exist. As the old gospel song goes, wasted years, oh how foolish.

I also regret leading people into the same kind of life. I regret causing parishioners to feel guilty over not measuring up to the commands found in the Bible. As I have often said, churches would be empty if it weren’t for guilt and guilt’s twin sister fear.

Perhaps my penance is this blog. I am sure there are many people who read this blog who know exactly what I’m talking about.  Atheism and a humanist worldview have allowed me, for the most part — aside from what I have mentioned above — to live a life free of guilt (and fear). I no longer have to fear or feel guilty over not keeping God’s commands. No longer are my actions checked against God’s sin list. My actions on any given day are good or bad and when I do bad things I need to make things right if I can and try not to do them again. There is no need for me to be threatened with hell or promised heaven. All I want to do is be a good human being and be at peace with others. If my actions fail this standard then I need to do better.

How about you? Do you still struggle with guilt post-Jesus? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

042216

Evangelicals and Their Use of the Word “God”

one true god

When Evangelicals speak of God, they often do so in ways that give people the impression that God is a generic deity who is the same regardless of the name of the sect.  When it suits Evangelicals, they will appeal to the Gods of other sects as proof that their God exists.

Evangelicals point to supposed universal moral traits in the various world religions as proof of the existence of God. They also point to the various creation myths and flood myths found in many sects and suggest the universality of these stories is another proof that God exists.

Don’t be misled by the subterfuge of the Evangelical. While they may speak of God in a generic way and appeal to other religions as proof that God exists, they really don’t believe this. Don’t listen to their public talking points, points used when they want to convince the public they really are nice people who just want to get along with everyone.

Go to your local Evangelical church and listen to the preaching. Behind the closed the doors of the sanctuary, the Evangelical pastor no longer has to play nice. He is free to say what he really thinks about the Gods of other religions. I can tell you what you won’t hear. You won’t hear about a generic God or the universal commonalities that the religions of the world have, Oh no, you will hear that all other Gods but the Evangelical Christian God, are no God at all.

There is some movement within Evangelicalism to be more inclusive when it comes to other sects, but at the heart of Evangelical belief is the notion that there is one God: a triune being, revealed to humankind in the 66 books of the Christian Bible. There is no other God but this God.

The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox all worship a false God. Some Evangelicals even suggest that unless a sect holds to a certain soteriology, they too are worshiping a false God. Calvinists often make this claim about Arminians.

In the days of the Roman Empire, Christians were considered atheists. Why were they considered atheists? The Romans had a plethora of gods and they worshiped all of them. The Christians would have none of this. They were monotheists, rejecting all other Gods but their God. Are not modern-day Evangelicals atheists, rejecting all other Gods but theirs?

Ask the Evangelical, do all roads lead to Heaven and they will emphatically say no. There is one road that leads to Heaven and life eternal, and that road is the road bought and paid for by the Evangelical God.

This road is a narrow road that few people travel. Most of humanity will not go to the Evangelical heaven when they die  (in the strictest sense neither will the Evangelical. No one goes to heaven until the resurrection of the dead).  Most of humanity will go to hell and be tortured for all eternity by the Evangelical Christian God.

Most Evangelicals are quite Fundamentalist when it comes to God. And those Evangelicals who are not?  They most likely are not really Evangelicals. An increasing number of Evangelicals, influenced by the emerging church and liberal/progressive politics, are becoming more inclusive in their view of other sects.

These days, it is not uncommon to hear Evangelicals say that while Catholics, Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists, to name a few, are heterodox, they are still Christian sects. While this is good news, it is a betrayal of core Evangelical beliefs.

Evangelicals who are more inclusive have one foot in the Evangelical church and the other foot in the liberal/progressive church. I suspect inclusivists will, in the future, leave Evangelicalism altogether and join up with liberal/progressive Christian sects or completely leave Christianity.

Are you a member of a non-Evangelical Christian sect? The next time you have a discussion with an Evangelical about God, just remember they think your God is no God at all. Don’t be tricked into thinking that their use of the word God includes your God. It doesn’t.

This is why Evangelicals are so evangelistic. Since they worship the one, true, and living God, members of every other sect but theirs are evangelistic targets. They believe every human being needs to know, in a personal salvific way, the Evangelical Christian God. A refusal to do so means spending eternity in the Lake of Fire.

If you happen to be an Evangelical and are reading this post, please explain to me why you do not call yourself an atheist?  The ONLY difference between you and atheists like me is that we have one more god on our NO GOD list  than you do. You think every other God but your God is a false God.  Be honest enough to admit this and be honest enough to tell the majority of the human race that they are going to hell to be tortured by your God for all eternity unless they start worshiping your God.

No, well only God knows who is going to heaven or hell, cop-out.  This is not what Evangelical pastors preach on Sunday.  Their sermons make it very clear who is worshiping the true God and who is not.  If  this is your belief too, then why not proudly own it? Why not proudly wear a button that says, My God is the only true and living God or God chose me but not you?

And if this is not what you believe, then why are you still sitting in the pew at the local Evangelical church?  Are you not condoning their exclusivism and bigotry by continuing to attend an Evangelical church?

042216

What Evangelicals Think They Know About Atheists

godless atheist

Evangelical Christians have all kind of ideas about what atheists believe and what kind of people they are. Where do they get these ideas? From Evangelical apologetics books, their pastor, evangelists who speak at their church, their Sunday School teacher, Christian Radio and TV, Fox News, and their fellow Christians.

They usually don’t know any atheists. After all, there are no atheists in their church (though they would be surprised to find out there are likely secret atheists sitting near them in church almost every Sunday). Evangelicals tend to surround themselves with people who think and act like they do, so they are rarely exposed to people who hold beliefs different from theirs (and this is common for all tribes, including atheists).

This is the same criticism homosexuals have of Evangelicals. Evangelicals rage against the sin of homosexuality, yet they don’t personally know any homosexuals.  All they know is what the pastor says, a TV preacher says, or what they read in a Christian apologetics book.

When Evangelicals actually come to know a homosexual, they are forced to rethink their beliefs. When a face is put on their beliefs, they are forced to deal with the humanity of the homosexual.  Often, when Evangelicals actually meet and get to know a homosexual, they soften or abandon their beliefs about homosexuals being sinful, wicked ,deviant, child-molesting pedophiles.

So it is with atheists. Evangelicals have little in-person, up-close contact with atheists, and until they do they will continue to say and believe outlandish and untrue things about atheists.

So what do many Evangelical Christians think they know about atheists?

  • They think atheists are a monolithic group, where everyone believes exactly the same thing.
  • They think atheists practice the religion of atheism.
  • They think atheists hate God.
  • They think all atheists oppose religion of any kind.
  • They think atheists have a secret desire to live immoral lives.
  • They think all atheists worship Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
  • They think all atheists are ignorant of the Bible and Christianity.
  • They think atheists are out to steal the souls of children.
  • They think atheists are agents of Satan/Lucifer/Beelzebub/Barack Obama.
  • They think atheists revere men such as Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
  • They think all atheists are politically liberal and they all voted for Barack Obama.
  • They think atheists are out to destroy America and turn it into a godless state.
  • They think all atheists are pro-abortion.

And in every instance, Evangelicals are wrong about what they think they know about atheists. Atheism is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.  From this point, atheists head off in many different directions. Yes, most atheists are likely political liberals, but many atheists are Republican, Pro-life, Libertarian, or supporters of the right to own guns. Unlike Evangelicalism, the atheist spectrum is quite broad.

Are some atheists ignorant of the Bible and Christianity?  Sure, and as an atheist I am embarrassed when they open their mouths and expose their ignorance. However, many atheists are like me, raised in the Christian church, taught the Bible from our youth, and we know the Bible inside and out. There are countless college-trained atheists who were once Evangelical pastors. Some, such as I, spent most of their adult life preaching and teaching the Bible, winning souls, and doing the work of the ministry.

fool says no god

As I told one commenter who suggested that since I was not a Christian and didn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside me, my understanding of the Bible was wrong: does this mean the moment I said, I am an atheist, 25 years of intense Bible study and knowledge immediately left my brain?

If Evangelicals really want to understand atheists, they are going to have to set aside their presuppositions and actually get to know a real, flesh-and-blood atheist.  Most Evangelicals are unwilling to do this. They are closed-minded like James Spiegel, having made up their mind that atheists are in rebellion against God and secretly desire to live a life of immorality.

Actually getting to know an atheist might force them to rethink their beliefs, and we can’t have any of that. To admit that an atheist is a kind, loving, decent human being means that the Evangelical claim that only Jesus can make a person kind, loving, and decent  is not true. To admit that atheists are as moral as they are is to rob the Evangelical God of his power.

Evangelicals can not stand being “just like everyone else.”  They have been told their whole life that they are unique, special, a new creation in Christ Jesus. To admit that an atheist is just like they are is too much to handle and invalidates the foundation their life is built on.

So Evangelicals continue their attack on atheists, refusing to realize that the atheists they are attacking do not exist and are a figment of their imagination.

Here’s an offer I will make to any Evangelical church/pastor within a two-hour drive from my town. I will gladly, free of charge, come and speak to your church about atheism and answer any questions the congregation might have. I will even bring my beautiful, godless wife with me. If you really want to know and understand what makes an atheist tick, I am ready and willing to be examined. This is not an offer to debate. I do not do debates. This is a genuine offer to educate your congregation about atheism. If you are interested, please contact me (and I will prepare myself for the deluge of invitations that are sure to come)

things christians say to atheists

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Faith and the Chair

dog in a chair

I suspect most of us who were raised in fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity have heard the faith/chair analogy. If you have not heard it before:

Faith is like deciding to sit in a chair. You don’t know that the chair will hold you, yet by faith you believe it will, so you sit down in the chair.

Quite deep theology there, brethren.

I read an Evangelical blog post the other day that used this analogy, so it is still out there being used by Evangelicals zealots to wow the ignorant.

Here’s the problem with this analogy; sitting in a chair does not require faith at all. Let me explain it this way. I am a big man, so making sure a chair will withstand my considerable ass sitting in it requires me to use the scientific method of inquiry.

Before I ever sit in a chair I ask myself, does this chair LOOK like it will hold me? Now looks aren’t enough, as I learned several years ago at a Toledo Olive Garden. After the hostess brought us to our table, I glanced at the chair and quickly sat down. Except I didn’t make it all the way down. As I started to put my weight on the chair it kicked out from me and I landed flat on my back in the middle of Olive Garden. I hit my head on the cement floor and could not get up. The manager came running in to make sure I was all right. I was. The only injury was to my pride. So, was the chair defective? Not at all. The chair had roller casters and I didn’t see them. As I started to sit down, the chair rolled out from underneath me and I fell. Because I didn’t pay attention to the construction of the chair, I ended up on the cement floor. This is what having faith in the chair got me.

Most of the time, when we go out to eat, I carefully check not only the construction of the chair, but the ingress and egress. As a disabled man, it is important for me to know the lay of the land. Where’s the bathroom, can I easily walk to the bathroom, etc. As far as the chair is concerned, I rock the chair back and forth and side to side making sure it is solid and I press on the seat  making sure it will hold me. I have been to more than one restaurant where I’ve had to ask for a different chair lest the one they wanted me to use breaks. The only thing worse than a chair breaking is the embarrassment that comes from it.

Using the scientific method, I test a chair to make sure it will hold me. After I have done so, and it passes the tests, I feel confident that the chair will support my 6 foot, 360 pound body. I have been a big man most of my adult life and this method of determining chair worthiness has never failed me. The only time I have ever had a chair break is when I “faith” it.

The faith/chair analogy breaks down in another way because the chair is an inanimate object that I can see and touch. God can not been seen or touched and believing in God requires, to some degree, blind faith.

This is one of the reasons I am an atheist. I see no evidence for the Evangelical Christian God. Believing in such a God requires faith, a faith that I do not have. For me, seeing is believing, and I do not “see” the Evangelical God.

Hebrews 11:1,3 states:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

What is Christian faith?

  • The substance of things hoped for
  • The evidence of things not seen

Perhaps the wording of the NIV will make it clearer:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Many Evangelicals get upset when someone suggests that their faith is a blind faith. But isn’t that exactly how Hebrews defines faith, believing without seeing; that faith is the proof of belief in that which can not be seen?

Creationists would do well to read Hebrews 11 the next time they try to scientifically prove creationism. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that believing God created the universe requires faith. It requires faith to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence for the formation of the universe, earth, and life. Creationists embarrass themselves and besmirch their religion when they try to make creationism fit in a scientific box. And when their efforts fail, what do they do? They retreat to the safety of faith, a place they should have stayed to start with.

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On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

You can tell a lot about a church without ever attending a service. All you have to do is read the sign in front of the church and it will tell you all you need to know. I love taking photographs of church signs, and now that I have an iPhone, I no longer need to take my DSLR with me every time we go out to eat or shop.

The iPhone camera is quite adequate for snapping photographs of church signs, so I plan to publicize, through my blog, the theology and message of some of the Evangelical churches Polly and I drive by on our trips to here and there.

Tonight, we drove to Findlay, Ohio to eat at Texas Roadhouse. After we finished our meal, we drove over to Dietsch Brothers Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream, an establishment I first frequented in 1970. Here’s three of the signs we saw along the way. Enjoy!

The first sign is from Ottawa Missionary Church 2031 E Main St. Ottawa,Ohio. Marshall Metzger is the pastor. The church is affiliated with the Missionary Church denomination.

ottawa missionary church

Ottawa Missionary Church, Ottawa, Ohio

The sign begs the question, how can we know God, not just any God, but the God of the Ottawa Missionary Church, inhabits our future? No one has ever seen or lived the future, much like no one has ever seen God. All we have to go on is words written down in a book by unknown authors thousands of years ago.

The next church, Faith Assembly of Believers, located at 1604 E Main St Ottawa, Ohio has a double-faced sign that catches passerbys coming and going.  The church has no website.  Larry Bibler pastors the church.

faith assembly of believers 3

Faith Assembly of Believers, Ottawa, Ohio

This sign is believable only if you think the earth is 6,000 years old and believe it didn’t rain for the first several thousand or so years. Noah was 600 years old when he entered the ark. Noah’s father Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born, lived 777 years , and died 5 years before the worldwide flood of Genesis 6-8. Noah and his father account for almost a millennium. And we still have to account for the ages of Methuselah, Enoch, Seth, Cain, and Adam to name a few.  So quit your whining Californians. Your drought? Nothing compared to no rain for over two millennia.

faith assembly of believers

Faith Assembly of Believers, Ottawa, Ohio

While I couldn’t find a church website, God, also known as Google, did tell me a few things about Faith Assembly Believers and its pastor, Larry Bibler.

From a 2009 Putnam Sentinel article:

In George Washington’s farewell address, he declared that two pillars were sustaining the nation, keeping it strong and free; one is religion and one is morality.

Pastor Larry Bibler, of Faith Assembly of Believers, sees this sentiment as absolutely true, yet something the country has gotten away from. That’s why he and his wife Jan, along with other concerned citizens, have formed the Ottawa Patriots and held a Tea Party on the Courthouse lawn July 4.

“People are frustrated about what’s happening in America and this gives them an opportunity to do something about the condition of America,” said the Pastor. “We wanted to come up with something local going out to communities” in and around Putnam County.

Bibler said the whole purpose was to make the people realize that they need to get back the Constitution, back to God and back to prayer…

Bibler says the efforts of the group are based on the principles and values of Glenn Becks 912 project, found at theglennbeck912project.com. The project promotes the sacredness of family, justice, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, faith, and values like honesty, charity, courage and personal responsibility to name a few.

So, if you are lost, Pastor Bibler and Faith Assembly of Believers have just the road map for you. For those who want to freely travel down the road of life without Jesus GPS (gospel positioning system) plotting your way…beware…the road you are on leads to death, judgment, and hell. But, the ride sure is fun.

Smile God Loves You — Just Kidding!

Imagine a story that goes like this…One day a young man walks up to a young woman and says:

I love you and I want to marry you. I know we have never met before but I really, really, really love you and if you will love me back I have a wonderful plan for your life. I will be by your side 24 hours a day. In fact, you will never be free of me because I promise to never leave you or forsake you. I know you don’t know me from Adam, but if you will love me and never forsake me, I will be your BFF.

Suddenly, the young man’s face turns dark, and with a stern, threatening voice he says to the woman:

And if you don’t accept my proposal of love and lifelong commitment, I promise to make your life miserable. I will afflict you, burn your house down, and reduce you to Job’s ash heap. I will make your life so bad that you will wish you never had been born.

Any normal woman would recoil and run from such a man. Who would ever want to love such a person, one who offers conditional love, a love that promises violence and death if not requited? Yet, this is exactly the love that many Evangelicals try to sell to non-Christians.

Let me illustrate this with a tract from Osterhus Publishing House in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I picked this tract up at Dietsch Brothers Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream in Findlay, Ohio.

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Osterhus Publishing Tract, Front

osterhus publishing tract

Osterhus Publishing Tract, Back

Is this not the essence of the gospel many Evangelicals preach?  God says, Love me or you’ll wish you had.

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