Evangelicalism

Jack Hyles Tells Unsubmissive Woman to Kill Herself

Shrine built after Jack Hyles died, as always bigger than life.

Shrine built after Jack Hyles died, as always bigger than life.

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt from Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

This is every man’s right. Each has only one life to live. God looks down and sees that every man is incomplete. God gives a man a woman, and that woman is supposed to complete that man. If you fail to do it, it won’t be done. If he dies without ever having it, it’s because you didn’t give it to him. You have taken from him what is every man’s right. Every man’s right is to have a completer. That’s why God made you!

A lady came to my office not long ago and I gave her this truth. She said, “I’m not going to do all that stuff.”

I said, “I’ll give you an alternative suggestion.”

She said, “What?”

I said, “Go over here to the bridge over the Chicago River and jump off.”

“What?”

“Go jump in the river.”

“Why?”

I said, “You’d go to Heaven, and your husband wouldn’t have to live in hell!” Listen to me, especially you young ladies, you unmarried ladies, you ladies who haven’t been married long. I’m trying to help you. I’m not trying to take any freedoms away from you. I’m trying to give you a liberty that you’ll never enjoy unless you become what God has made you to be.

I said to that lady in my office for counsel, “Look, you are standing in the way. Your husband is a good man. He’s not going to have anybody else. You’re standing in the way of your husband ever having a completer. You’d be a lot better off, young lady, in the early days of your marriage, if you would go over and jump off the bridge so your husband can have in his lifetime someone to complete the circle.”

Fifty Shades of Grey: Does Erotica Harm Women?

fifty shades of grey

According to Paula Hendricks, reading or looking at erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey harms women, especially single women. Hendricks writes:

So you don’t have the love (and sex!) you want.

Does that mean that erotica is a good outlet for your sexual frustration? Before I answer that, let me tell you how I define erotica.

Erotica is art, literature, or movies intended to arouse sexual desire. It doesn’t have to be a harlequin romance novel or an X-rated movie to count.

I can hear you protesting, But when I read a book or watch a movie, I’m not actually having sex myself. So isn’t that the lesser of two evils?

This Valentine’s Day, the world offers you a solution: You don’t have to have sex yourself; you can watch someone else have sex, or you can read all the steamy details through erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey.

While that might initially sound better than having sex yourself, don’t believe for a minute that erotica has any place in a genuinely born-again believer’s life…

…Here’s why Dannah Gresh shares that erotica is not the solution for your sexual desires:

While erotica might originally heighten sexual feelings, over the long haul it erodes something much more important—intimacy. Whether you are married or single, you are longing for more than sex. Your body, your mind, and your spirit were created to crave intimacy.

The Old Testament [word] for sex [is] yada—to know, to be known, to be deeply respected. Transcending the physical act, God’s language speaks of the deep emotional knowing you ultimately long to experience.

The physical aspect of sex is just one part of the equation, but our culture tends to hyperfocus on it with no attention to the ultimately more fulfilling aspect of yada—emotional intimacy. Sexual activity by itself is an empty substitute for true intimacy, and will never be enough. Erotica places undue emphasis on the physical and disables your ability to connect emotionally.

f you’re still skeptical, take it from a girl who’s been there. Dannah and Juli share this girl’s story in Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart,

I am single and erotica has ruined my life. I have been addicted for ten years, and I am only twenty-five. No one knows that I have lived an isolated life because I have found more solace in fantasies aroused in my mind by erotica than in real relationships.

Erotica seems harmless because it’s just words on a page but it brands your mind, creates false expectations for future relationships. I can’t even maintain real relationships because I feel like a shallow pretender hiding one of the biggest parts of my life.

Erotica perpetuated my “need” for meeting people online because I didn’t know how to develop or maintain relationships with people outside of the screen. Eventually, I decided to take my online relationships into reality. Many of the stories I read portrayed rape or power-struggle situations as exciting. A no didn’t always mean no because, in the end, the girl always seemed to end up just fine.

So when I met one of my first guys offline, I was thrust ever too quickly into a scenario I had read about but, unlike the stories, I didn’t end up fine. My no didn’t mean no, and I was sexually abused by a man who did the same things to me that I had read about in those erotic stories. But in my story, there wasn’t a happy ending.

Ever since then, I have carried the weight of shame and guilt from putting myself into that situation six years ago. Erotica makes it seem normal for us to be used and abused, but it’s not normal.

Dear single, erotica is not the answer to your longings for intimacy. Christ is.

He’s also provided community so you can experience emotional intimacy right now. And if and when He provides you with a godly spouse, the physical intimacy of sex will just be the icing on the cake of the friendship and emotional intimacy you already share together…

The Evangelical community is all hot and bothered over the book and movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. Evangelical  preachers, bloggers, and websites are fearful that Christian women will be drawn into the dark world of eroticism and BDSM if they read the book or go see the movie. Instead of reading a trashy, filthy, sinful book like Fifty Shades of Gray, women are encouraged to read wholesome, uplifting Christian literature/romance novels, novels that rarely have any resemblance to real life.

Why is it that Evangelical churches and preachers are having such a hard time keeping church women in line? Instead of blaming erotica, how about taking a hard look at the root cause of the guilt and fear motivited sexual dysfunction in the Evangelical church? Literature and movies aren’t the problem. The constant harping on sexual sin, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, petting, and pornography leads not only to sexual frustration but to sexual acting out.

Why do we see sexual acting out in Evangelical churches? Humans are drawn to that which is forbidden. Don’t look don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t hear is what is heard from Evangelical pulpits. Sexually aware Evangelicals say to themselves, but I want to look, touch, taste, and hear. Result? Bizarre sexual acting out. Wouldn’t it be better to teach people sexual responsibility? Wouldn’t it be better to see looking at pornography or erotica as normal, perhaps a passing fad, and nothing that will harm a person?

Thanks to generations of Puritanical, sexually repressive preaching, Evangelical churches are filled with sexually frustrated people, people who have wants, needs, and desires that their pastor says is a sin. Even something as normal and healthy as masturbation is considered a sin.

On the extreme right fringe of Evangelicalism you will find preachers and churches that forbid any physical contact before marriage. No kissing, hand holding, no physical intimacy of any sort. Just today, I read a Jack Hyles sermon where Hyles bragged about his daughter Cindy not kissing her fiance until  their wedding day Hyles was quite proud of his daughter and son-in-law for waiting until they were married. I wonder what his thought would be now that his son-in-law is in federal prison for committing a sex crime and his daughter is divorced.

Here’s what people like Paula Hendricks don’t or won’t understand; Evangelical church members, like everyone else, have normal, healthy sexual desires. No matter what is preached from the pulpit, they are going to find ways to act on these desires. They may have to do it in secret, beyond the prying eyes of the church, but they will act on their desires. The sex drive is too primal and strong to be stilted forever. All the preaching and Bible quoting in the world won’t change this fact.

According to a 2013 Barna Group study:

A new study has revealed there is no difference between the percentage of Christians who have read Fifty Shades of Grey and the percentage of all Americans who have read the book, which has at times been described as “mommy porn.”

According to Barna Group researchers, nine percent of practicing Christians have read E.L. James’ erotic novel, and the same percentage of all American adults have done the same. Sixteen percent of women have read the bestseller, which was more popular among older readers – one out of ten of both Busters (ages 29-47) and Boomers (ages 48-66) say they have read the book. Among those adults who read Fifty Shades, one-in-five (19 percent) were practicing Christians.

I have no idea if Fifty Shades of Grey is good or bad literature. I haven’t read it and my wife hasn’t either. Since she is a fiction fan, I suspect she will some day read it. If she does, I have no fear of my wife turning into a slutty woman who loves bondage. It is just a book. I might be inclined to read it if has lots of pictures.

Note

Here’s a Catholic take on Fifty Shades of Grey: (link no longer active)

Why isn’t it okay to read books like this?

Because sex is more than use. Sex – and all the things that physically, emotionally, and mentally lead to sex – was created by God to be shared between a married man and woman. Sex is an expression of love that reflects the Divine Love of God – a Love that is free, total, fruitful, and faithful. Pornography and erotica are a mockery of the intimacy and beauty of Sacramental love. It reduces the mystery of sex to mere use, turning something sacred and Godly into something profane and dark. As Blessed John Paul II said, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is use.’ The lust that these books infect us with is all about self-gratification – it’s all about use.

Because the Church teaches us it’s not okay. Pope Benedict addressed the issue of pornography and erotic literature saying, “A relationship that does not take into account the fact that a man and a woman have the same dignity represents a serious lack of humanity . . . The moment has come to energetically halt the widespread distribution of material with an erotic and pornographic content, including through the internet in particular.”

Because lustful thoughts lead to lustful actions. Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul II both understood that erotic words and images (like in Fifty Shades of Grey) create lustful thoughts in us. Those lustful thoughts don’t just end there; they cause in us physical reactions which end in lustful actions. Even St. Augustine struggled with this disordered and vicious pattern in his own life. After his conversion he wrote about his struggles with lust saying, ‘Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity.’

If you want to live a virtuous life, you have to be vigilant about it. Evil only needs to find a tiny little chink in your armor of holiness to begin to work. Don’t let these books crack open your virtue and start you down the vicious cycle of self-gratification and lust. Avoid these books, this author, and authors like her (V.C. Andrews comes to mind).

A woman by the name of Selena Sarnes has written a Biblical response to Fifty Shades of Grey

fifty shades of black and white

According to Wikipedia:

Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic romance novel by British author E. L. James. It is the first installment in the Fifty Shades trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM). Originally self-published as an ebook and a print-on-demand,publishing rights were acquired by Vintage Books in March 2012.

The second and third volumes, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, were published in 2012. Fifty Shades of Grey has topped best-seller lists around the world, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States. The series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time.

Is it a Sin for a Man to Have Long Hair?

charles spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon, 19th Century English Baptist Preacher

God pity you people who call yourselves Christians and wear your long hair, beard and sideburns like a bunch of heathens. God, clean you up! Go to the barber shop tomorrow morning, and I am not kidding. It is time God’s people looked like God’s people. Good night, let folks know you are saved! There are about a dozen of you fellows here tonight who look like you belong to a Communist-front organization. You say, “I do not.” Then look like you do not. You say, “I do not like that kind of preaching.” You can always lump anything you do not like here.

Jack Hyles, sermon Satan’s Bid for Your Child

Where do Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers get the idea that it is a sin for a man to have long hair?

It is in the B-i-b-l-e.

In 1 Corinthians 11:14 the Bible says:

Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

According to this verse:

  • It is a shame for a man to have long hair
  • That nature teaches us that a man having long hair is shameful

Most Evangelicals believe that homosexuality is a sin, a sin against nature. In Romans 1:26, 27 the Bible says:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

It is clear from Romans 1:26, 27 that when homosexuals engage in homosexual sexual activity they are going against nature. Preachers scream from the pulpit, homosexuality is an abomination. It is unnatural!

The word nature that appears in Romans 1:26,27 is the same Greek word that appears in 1 Corinthians 11:14. According to the Christian Bible, human nature tells us that homosexuality AND a man having long hair is a sin.

Why is it Evangelicals are so focused on homosexuality but rarely say a word about men having long hair? Both are against nature. Surely, the good Bible believers that they are, they would not want to neglect preaching about what the Bible calls s-h-a-m-e-f-u-l.

john wesley

John Wesley, 18th century English preacher

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, a subset of Evangelicalism, is not ashamed to preach against homosexuality AND long hair on men.

IFB pastor, Jack Hyles, wrote a booklet titled, Jesus Had Short Hair. Hyles wrote:

I Corinthians 11:14 says, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” The Greek word for “shame” in this verse is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “dishonor,” “vile,” “disgrace.” In Romans 1:26 the same word is translated “vile”, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” You will notice that these “vile affections” have to do with homosexuality.

It is very interesting that as the trend toward long hair increases, the acceptance of homosexuality increases. This is not to say that long hair and homosexuality always go together, but it is to note the fact that both are on the rise in our generation. Several of the major denominations have now accepted homosexuals. In some cities there are churches for homosexuals pastored by avowed homosexuals. At least one major denomination has ordained a homosexual preacher and others are considering following suit.

Answering the question, Did Jesus have long hair?, Hyles wrote:

The paintings of Christ are simply artists’ conceptions and have no Scriptural authorization. At least one historian of His day described Him as being a tall man with chestnut-colored hair, parted in the middle, with short hair which turned up at the end. In the book, THE MODERN STUDENT’S LIFE OF CHRIST by Irving Vollmer, published by Fleming H. Revell, the author says, “Archeologists object to the conventional pictures of Christ because they are not true to history.”

A German painter, L. Fahrenkrog, says, “Christ certainly never wore a beard, and His hair was beyond a doubt a closely cut. For this we have historical proof.” The oldest representations going back to the first Christian centuries and found chiefly in the catacombs of Rome all pictured Him without a beard.

All the pictures of Christ down to the beginning of the first century and even later are of this kind. Students of the first century and of Roman history are aware of the fact that the time of Christ was characterized by short hair for men. This author has seen many coins and statues which bear the likenesses of emperors who reigned during and after the time of Christ. Such likenesses reveal that the Caesars and other rulers and emperors had short hair, and of course, the subjects followed the example set by the emperor.

The plain simple truth is that during the life of Christ, short hair was the acceptable style. That Jesus wore the conventional style of His day is proved by the fact that Judas had to kiss Him to point Him out to the soldiers. Had Jesus been somewhat different, as a long-haired freak, Judas could have simply told the soldiers that Jesus was the One with the long hair. This, of course, is not true, as Judas had to place a kiss on Him in order to identify Him.

Answering the question, What should a Christian’s attitude be about long hair?, Hyles wrote:

The only long haired person other than a Nazarite mentioned in the Bible was Absalom, a son of David. It was he who rebelled against his father. It was he who started a revolution. It is worth noting that even in Bible days rebellion, revolution, disobedience to parents, and long hair were associated.

Now what should the Christian’s attitude be concerning male hair styles? First, we men should follow the admonition of the Scripture and have short hair. It should be short enough as to be obviously contradictory to the revolutionary symbol. Many Christians allow their hair to become longer in an effort not to be identified as fundamental believers. Why shouldn’t a Christian be just as proud of his identity with the Word of God as the hippie is to identify himself with the revolution? Men, let us wear our short hair with pride as a symbol of our belief in the Bible and its Christ.

Parents, start your son with haircuts and short hair when he is a baby. With discipline and, if needs be, punishment, see to it that as he grows up he uses his hair as a symbol of patriotism and Christianity, thereby following the admonition of the Scripture that says in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed (fashioned) to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

hudson taylor

Hudson Taylor, 19th century missionary to China

Hyles’ booklet reflects the standard IFB thinking about long hair on men. As a youth in an IFB church, a student at an IFB college, and an IFB pastor for many years, I heard a lot of preaching against men having long hair. Ironically, I heard very little preaching about short hair on women which the Bible also condemns,

IFB men are taught:

  • Long hair is a sign of rebellion against God
  • Long hair is effeminate
  • Long hair is worldly

What hair styles are considered godly?

  • Hair off the ear
  • Hair off the collar
  • Tapered, and not block cut

The preaching against long hair on men finds its impetus in the rebellion against authority of the 1960’s and 1970’s. IFB preachers were alarmed that church youth were being drawn into the hippie culture. Preachers spent many a Sunday preaching against premarital sex, rock music, mini-skirts, and long hair.

Their preaching did little good.

john bunyan

John Bunyan, 17th century English Baptist preacher

Fast forward to today. Many IFB pastors still preach against premarital sex, rock music, mini-skirts, and long hair. And just like their bellowing fathers in the ministry, they find their preaching largely ignored.

IFB preachers who preach against long hair have a real problem on their hands when it comes to suggesting that long hair is a sign of rebellion against God. While some men still have long hair, many of the rebellious worldlings now have short hair or shave their head. This conundrum is what happens when a preacher determines what is Biblical or “godly” based on the whims and trends of culture.

Besides, how l-o-n-g is long? Where does the Bible state exactly how short or long a man’s hair should be? If long hair on a man is “against nature,” why were Nazarite priests forbidden to cut their hair in the Old Testament? Was their long hair a “shame” against nature? Some of the most revered preachers of the past were men with long hair. Was their long hair a “shame,” against nature?

This whole subject might seem silly to many Christians and most non-Christians, but, let’s not forget, it IS in the B-I-B-L-E.

Note

Lest you think this is a silly issue, every day I see “is long hair a sin”  search (or a variation of it) requests in the logs.

The pictures in this post are of men who are revered in the IFB church. Yet, according to Jack Hyles and others who preach against long hair on men, these men are worldly and in rebellion to God.

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From Evangelicalism to Atheism Part Two

creamery road zanesville ohio

Creamery Road, Zanesville, Ohio

One of the questions I am often asked is, Why did you become an Evangelical or Why did you become an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist?

This is the wrong question. The real question is, how could I NOT have become an Evangelical or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist?

Every child born into this world is an atheist. Not one of them knows one thing about god or religion, nor about sin, salvation, or morality. As far as god and religion are concerned, every newborn is a blank slate.

Belief in god must be taught and learned. This teaching is done by parents, extended family, and the culture/society the child grows up in. Children taken to a church, temple, or synagogue, are taught to KNOW god, to know their parents’ religion.

Most children embrace the religion of their parents. Parents who worship the Christian god generally raise children who are Christian. This is especially the case when it comes to Evangelical children. From the toddler years forward, Evangelical children are taught that they are sinners in need of salvation. They are taught that unless they ask Jesus into their hearts, they will end up in hell when they die. Every Sunday at church, at home during the week, and at school, if they attend a Christian school, Evangelical children face an onslaught of manipulative evangelistic methods geared to help them accept Jesus as their Savior.

It should come as no surprise then that most Evangelical children make a salvation decision when they are quite young. This initial salvation experience usually carries them into their teenage years. They are safe and secure in Jesus until they are thirteen or fourteen years old.

During their teenage years, it is not uncommon for Evangelical children to either make another salvation decision or rededicate their lives  to Christ. Why is it that so many Evangelical children make another decision during their teenage years?

Think about it. What happens during the teenage years? Children reach puberty and they begin to discover they have sexual desires. They start wanting to do things that their pastor, church, and parents say are sinful.  Most, Evangelical teens, if not all, give in to sinful desires. They feel guilty for doing so and they conclude that they must not “really” be saved or that they need to rededicate their lives  to Christ.

Many Evangelical teenagers find themselves caught in a constant cycle of sinning, getting saved/rededicating their life to Christ, sinning, getting saved/rededicating their life to Christ, etc. As much as Evangelicals deny it, this cycle becomes the Protestant version of Catholic confession.

In the early 1960s, my Dad moved us from Bryan, Ohio to San Diego on the west coast. California was the land of opportunity in the 1960s and my Dad was certain his pot of gold was in San Diego. He ended up selling patio awnings and driving a truck, and three years later we moved back to Bryan.

While living in San Diego, our family attended Scott Memorial Baptist Church. The pastor at the time was Tim LaHaye. Both of my parents made public professions of faith in Christ at Scott Memorial. I also asked Jesus into my heart in Junior Church. I was five years old.

Politically, my parents were right-wing extremists. They were members of the John Birch Society, hated Martin Luther King Jr, and supported the war effort in Vietnam. Their salvation decision at Scott Memorial fit well with their political ideology.

From this point forward, until my parent’s divorce in April of 1972, the Gerencser family was in church every time the doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday night, prayer meeting, and revival meeting, we were there. When I became a teenager, attending youth group after church was added to the schedule, along with regular youth group activities.

In the fall of 1972, Evangelist Al Lacy came to our church, Trinity Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio, to hold a revival meeting. On Sunday Morning, during Lacy’s sermon, the spirit of God came over me, telling me that I was a sinner in need of Christ. When it came time for the public invitation, I quickly stepped out of the pew, came down the aisle, and knelt at the altar. There, a church deacon took me through the plan of salvation and I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart. I was fifteen.  I was baptized that night, and a week or so later I went forward during the altar call and let the church know that God was calling me to be a preacher. Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon.

As a first grader in San Diego, I told people that when I grew up I was going to be a preacher, and now, as a fifteen year old boy, I was telling the world that God was calling me to be what I wanted to be my entire life. From this point forward, most of the preachers I came in contact with worked with me and steered me towards fulfilling my calling. It came as a shock to no one that I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in 1976 to study for the ministry.

All told, I preached for thirty-two years, spending twenty-five of those years pastoring seven churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I preached over four thousand sermons and taught countless Sunday school classes. For many years, I also preached on the street and at the local nursing home.

So, when someone asks, why did you become an Evangelical or why did you become an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, I counter that the real question, based on what I have written here is, how could I have become anything else?

Note

All dates are to the best of my recollection. I have done my best to remember where I was and when. If I am off a bit on a date, it is not because I am deliberately being imprecise or trying to hide something. I am an old man with dying brain cells. Enough said.

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Wash Twice Before Using: Entire Sanctification

sanctification

Ask the average Christian to explain the doctrine of sanctification and you will likely get a deer in the headlights stare. At best, a good Baptist might be able to tell you that sanctification means being set apart, that a Christian has been set apart by God for service and worship. The average Christian has a hard enough time explaining salvation, so they  usually leave doctrines like sanctification, regeneration, justification, etc.  to the experts. They know they’re saved and their ticket to heaven has been punched. Now, what’s for dinner.

Every Christian sect would agree that a person is sanctified when God saves them. Baptists believe that after the initial act of sanctification, God through the work of the Holy Spirit progressively sanctifies the saved person throughout their life. In theory, the saved person should become more and more like Jesus the older they become. As God continues his sanctifying work, sins are revealed and the saved person repents and matures spiritually. The sins that so easily swayed them when they were first saved are no longer  an issue. They have “deeper” sins to deal with, the sins that no one but God knows about. Sanctification then, is a progressive work by God throughout the saved person’s life, a work that is designed to make them spiritually mature.

Nice theory, right? If progressive sanctification is how God sanctifies people, why are there so many people who have been Christians their entire life that are still so sinful, carnal, and worldly? If one looks at the Baptist church, it would be easy to conclude that many Baptist church members are actively resisting the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. No matter how often the preacher threatens them with judgment and chastisement from God, they still continue to be infantile in their faith and worldly in their lifestyle.

Baptist preachers would likely say that their people are worldly and carnal because they are not listening to their preaching and applying it to their lives. (missing the point that Baptist preachers are often just was worldly and carnal as the people they preach to/at) If the Holy Spirit actively, progressively sanctifies the saved person, why do Baptist preachers spend so much time preaching on what I call the “first” works:

  • Attending church regularly
  • Tithing and giving an offering
  • Praying
  • Tithing and giving an offering
  • Reading and studying the Bible on a daily basis
  • Tithing and giving an offering
  • Witnessing
  • Tithing and giving an offering

It is not uncommon to find Baptist church members who have been saved for years still having problems doing these “first” works. In fact, only a very small percentage of the average Baptist church membership ever moves beyond these “first” works. Most church members go to church on Sunday, listen to the sermon, throw some cash in the offering plate, and go home, only to repeat the process again next week. They will “try” to read the Bible and pray during the week, but life often gets in the way, and before you know it, they need to go to Wednesday night prayer meeting, which is rarely a prayer meeting, to get their spiritual battery recharged. This is the typical life of a Baptist church member.

If the Holy Spirit lives inside of the Christian, why is the Christian able to easily thwart the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work? Surely, the Holy Spirit, who is God, should be able to lead/force/demand the Christian to progress in sanctification? Why is it that so many Christians stubbornly refuse to cooperate in the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work?

Perhaps the real issue is that there is no Holy Spirit living inside the Christian, and that Christians are human just like the rest of us unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines. Christians behave like the humans they are. They work all day and come home tired. All they want to do is eat dinner and collapse in the recliner. Pray? Read and study the Bible? Yeah, they know they “need” to, but they are so damned tired that they don’t/can’t “commune” with God.. The Holy Spirit has never been able to successfully overcome sleepiness. As we know from the Bible, the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus was praying. If Peter, James, and John couldn’t stay awake, what hope is there for normal, run of the mill Christians.

Perhaps the bigger problem is that preachers expect too much out of people. The preacher has the luxury of being paid for praying and reading the Bible. He can schedule his life in such a way that it makes it easy for him to pray, meditate, and study the Bible. That is if he is not too busy playing golf or attending a pastor’s conference. Towards the end of my ministerial career,  I realized I was putting too much pressure on people to perform, to do the “first” works. I realized they had a life, and  they had little time to devote to what I could spend hours and days doing.

Now, on to the real focus of this post, entire sanctification. Many Wesleyan, Holiness, and Pentecostal sects, believe in entire sanctification. While they agree with the Baptist that every saved person is sanctified at the moment God saves them, they reject that post-salvation sanctifying life is progressive.

The proponents of entire sanctification believe in what is commonly called a second definite work of grace. A Christian reaches a certain place in their Christian life where God does a mighty work in their life and they are entirely sanctified. From this point forward, they no longer sin. Yes, that’s right, they no longer sin.

When people who have been entirely sanctified are confronted with behaviors that certainly “look” like sins, they will often say that their behaviors are mistakes not sins. Entirely sanctified Christians think that they are so connected to God and his Spirit that perfect love flows in, through, and out of them, and they lose all desire to sin. Again, all one has to do to disprove this is to look at the lives of those who “say” they are entirely sanctified. Their lives betray the fact that indwelling, original sin remains. They may cover their sins with lofty, flowery religious garb, or redefine them as mistakes, but when the real person is exposed, they are no different from the Baptists I mentioned above.

Years ago, I visited a Holiness church near the church I pastored in Somerset, Ohio. Holiness churches were quite common in the area, so I decided to attend a service to see for myself what they did. The church was holding a revival meeting, held by a Holiness pastor from another church.

Before the preacher started preaching, various church members stood up and gave testimonies. One lady was quite emotional, and as she wept she told the congregation that at such and such a time she had finally gotten victory over sin and was entirely sanctified. The church voiced their approval. Another member had received the second blessing.

The evangelist began his sermon with an illustration. He told a story about buying a teapot. Inside the teapot was small tag that said: Wash twice before using. He thought this was a perfect illustration of entire sanctification. For a person to truly be used by God, they had to be washed twice, sanctified at the moment of salvation and entirely sanctified at a point later in life.

The evangelist’s wife stood off to the side as he preached. Every time he needed a verse from the Bible, he had his wife read it. It finally dawned on me halfway through his sermon that the evangelist couldn’t read. Lest you mock and ridicule such an uneducated man, many sects believe a lack of education is a plus. In their minds, it is better to be known as a man who has been with Jesus:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4;13)

An elderly man, who I assumed was a leader in the church, was quite vocal during the testimony time and the evangelist’s sermon on entire sanctification. At the close of the service, the evangelist had an altar call and a young man came forward to get saved. This church believed that a person had to keep praying (praying through) until God saved them. Numerous church members knelt around the young man encouraging him and helping him to pray through. The elderly man I mentioned? He went home. After watching the praying through spectacle for a few minutes, I decided to take my decidedly not entirely sanctified body home. I do not know if the young man successfully prayed though.

As I mentioned before, I met secular university evangelist Jed Smock in the late 1980’s. Jed was a big proponent of Charles Finney’s teaching of perfect love. (entire sanctification) According to Jed, he and his wife Cindy hadn’t sinned in years. One could argue that Jed is deluded, since every time he opens his mouth to preach hate and judgment on a university campus he sins.

Jed was the first sinless Christian I met, but he wasn’t the last. In every instance, the sinless person called their “sins” mistakes. When they lost their temper it was a mistake not a sin, even though the Bible calls anger a sin. I had one sinless man get so angry with me that he threw me out of his house. We were good friends and we had gotten into an argument about eternal security. He was an Arminian and I was a Calvinist. I thought we were going to get into a fist fight. At that moment, I was definitely not very sanctified and neither was my friend.

Sanctification allows Christians to hide their true nature. The believer in progressive sanctification says when they sin, “well God isn’t finished with me yet.” They see themselves as a work in progress. The believer in entire sanctification still sins like the Baptist does, they just find a way to explain away their sin. Both think that God, through the Holy Spirit, is working in, through, and out of them. Why then, do sanctified Christians behave, for the most part, just like everyone else? It’s not enough to aspire to spiritual greatness. Surely, if God lives inside a person, they should act and live like God would, right? Why is there such a disconnect with the doctrine professed and the life lived?

I think Greek dualism and Gnosticism have left a huge mark on American Christianity. As a result, many Christians have a warped view of their humanity and this results in them living frustrated, contradictory lives. While all of us should desire to live a better life, we remain human, and as long as we are human we will be prone to live like humans live. I have met a number of “sinless” Christians who were quite fat. Surely, an entirely sanctified person wouldn’t  be overweight, especially since the Bible calls gluttony a sin.

I want to invite Christians back into to the dirty water of humanity. We need you. We don’t need your sanctimony or your superior airs. We know who and what you are. You may be able to play the sanctified game while you are among your fellow Christians, but eventually you must venture out into the world where the rest of us live. We see you at work, at the store, at the doctor’s office, and at the ballgame. We see your humanity and we smile. We know that you are just like the rest of us.

 

Jack Hyles Tells Christian Women it is All Up to Them

john r rice and jack hyles

John R Rice of Sword of the Lord Fame and Jack Hyles

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt from Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

…It’s difficult to imagine that this beautiful queen of the Garden of Eden, the one who filled every need of Adam, could possess in her breast the hatred of Herodias, who had John the Baptist’s head served in a platter! It’s hard to believe that she could be a soiled Rahab, who could sell her body to the hands and lusts of wicked men. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful one has the potential so that her feet could carry her to Moab with Naomi. It’s hard to believe that these lips could possess the potential of lying as did Sapphira. There behind her smile dwells the possibility of hatred and the disposition of Abigail.

Ladies, it is up to you, as it was to Eve, to decide, for there is in your breast all the loyalty of Sarah, the loveliness of Rachel, the tenderness of Mary, the servitude Martha, the patience of the mother of Christ (His earthly mother), and the gentleness of Rebecca. There is also a bit of Jezebel, Athalia, Michal, Abigail and the others. It is up to you to decide.

Whether it be good or bad, there is one thing that woman always does; she determines the spirit and the atmosphere of any place where she is present.

Woman was not made to till the soil, she was not made to build the house, she was not made to steer the crane, nor stack the brick, nor hew the stones, nor build the road, nor head the state, nor lead the church, nor reap the harvest.

It is woman’s job to determine the atmosphere while the soil is being tilled. It is woman’s job to determine the atmosphere while the house is being built. Though it is not her job to steer the crane, it is her job to make happy the one who steers the crane. It’s not her job to stack the brick nor hew the stone; it’s her job to make a wonderful spirit and atmosphere while the brick is being stacked and the stone is being hewn. It’s not her job to build the road, nor head the state, nor lead the church, nor reap the harvest. Everywhere woman has ever been, it has been her job to provide the spirit of atmosphere while man does his work and changes the course of history.

Woman can make Eden a paradise if she so chooses, or she can curse everything in it, as she did. She can make an ark a lifeboat and the Nile River a nursery if she wants to, or she can curse her husband in Job’s ash heap. It’s her choice! She can ruin a nation as did Jezebel or she can change a house into a church as did Priscilla. She can make a preaching service great by giving all or ruin one by withholding some as did Sapphira. She can fill the house with Mary’s ointment or she can fill it with Michal’s hatred. She can save a nation as did Esther or she, like Jezebel, can destroy one…

…That’s your job–brighten your corner! The atmosphere of the office is determined more by the spirit of the secretaries than that of the bosses. The atmosphere of the home is determined more by the mother and wife than by the father and the children.

Man looks to you first to see in what kind of mood you are now. Your husband comes home at night and one of the first things he wants to know is, “What kind of a mood is she in tonight??’ His evening is brightened or saddened according to your mood! Why? Man doesn’t determine the mood of the house; you do! You are the Holy Spirit of the home.

You won’t get the praises man gets. You won’t get your name in the paper like he does. You won’t get your name honored like he does, and you won’t be as big, as strong and as much of a leader. He is the Father, the children are the Son, but you are the Holy Spirit. The whole atmosphere wherever you are is determined by you.

Did you know that God has made it so that your spirit can overwhelm the spirit of man? He is stronger than you as far as your body is concerned. Your emotions could never do it, because there is more emotional stability in a man than in you, but there is one place where you can always overpower your guy or any guy and that is your attitude, the spirit, the atmosphere!

Sometimes your home is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you.Sometimes the place you work is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you. Sometimes your school is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you. Sometimes your church is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you…

….That’s what it’s all about. It’s your job to comfort. Dad’s not a very good comforter; in fact, he’s a weak comforter. Dad’s a horrible spirit-determiner or atmosphere-determiner. He waits on you…

Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review

laura's light laura hardman

I am reposting this review because Laura has written a second book The Life and Times of Donald A Hardman. Once I am able to secure a copy, I will read and review it.

Laura Hardman, the wife of Fundamentalist Baptist Evangelist Don Hardman, has written an autobiography titled Laura’s Light. The book is 277 pages long, and is published by Victory Baptist Press. The book was published in  2010.

Laura’s Light reads quite a bit like the Bible. Laura Hardman’s story is one of bondage to sin and deliverance from that sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Also, like the Bible, it is littered with fictions and omissions.

Hardman’s story begins June 14, 1955 in Salem, Ohio. The first 45 pages of book detail Hardman’s hard scrabble life, a life she says God used to prepare her for future life as an evangelist’s wife.

The rest of the book details Hardman’s marriage to Don Hardman, their conversion to Christianity, and their subsequent work as evangelist and wife.

There is no question that Don and Laura Hardman are sincere, devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I have no reason to question their commitment to Jesus. However, Laura’ Light does bring to light some glaring issues in the thinking and attitudes of Don and Laura Hardman.

The book is hard to read. It has numerous grammatical errors and I found myself speed reading at times, wearied from the poor grammar. Hardman would take my criticism of her grammar as a badge of honor. She is quite proud of her hillbilly ignorance.

Hardman writes in the preface:

The words of this book are simple and easy enough for a child to read. My education is very limited and my vocabulary is not with enticing words of men, because I am writing it from my heart and not from an educated view.

Hardman reiterates this point several times in the book. I can appreciate someone who writes from the heart. I do the same on this blog. However, Hardman should have engaged the services of someone who could correct the glaring grammatical errors. These errors detract from the story Hardman is trying to tell.

The book reveals that Hardman has racist tendencies. I am sure she would be appalled at being called a racist, but her language in the book reveals a deep-seated racism that is quite common. This kind of racism is so much a part of Hardman that she might not even be aware of how offensive her words are.

Perhaps Hardman is just refusing to be politically correct. Perhaps she is just refusing to use the language of the liberals she rails against in the book.

Here are a couple of choice quotes that show, at the very least, a lack of understanding of the modern world we live in:

One week we decided to take four of the ghetto kids on an outing to the Gulf of Mexico to play with them in the water….

The humorous part of this story is that when they were all done playing in that salty water, I took each one into the back of the truck and dried them off. The drier they got, the whiter they got! Black folks don’t have the pores like we have to produce oils, so they have to put lotion on their skin to keep it black and not a ashy color. It was a good thing I had some cocoa butter on hand, and I was able to soak them down before I got them back home. (page 189,190)

Speaking of a trip she and her husband took to Africa to preach and teach:

One day one of the preacher boys asked me if I would cut his hair. When I looked at him I figured it would be similar to trimming my black poodle, so I agreed. (page 233)

Speaking of a trip Hardman and her husband took to Hawaii:

It was on November 3, 2002, very early in the morning that we boarded a plane in New Orleans…

It had been just a little over a year since 9-11…

It became a little more frightful when I saw a couple of rag heads get on the plane… (page 247)

Throughout the book, African-Americans are called blacks and Hispanics are called Mexicans. I know there is disagreement about which terms should be used, but taken together with the quotes I mention above, the book has quite a racist tone. Hardman also repeatedly calls homosexuals,sodomites, a fundamentalist term of derision and hate.

I find the racial overtones interesting because the Hardman’s spend most of the year ministering to street people in the New Orleans area; people who are overwhelmingly people of color.

Another thing that stood out to me in the book was Hardman’s view of sex, married men, and her own sexuality. It is a subject that comes up repeatedly in the book.

If Hardman is to believed, married men chased after her from her teens years and up. Repeatedly, Hardman writes of married men trying to get her to have sex with her. She uses Christian-correct words for their actions, but there is doubt they were after her for sex.

After Laura Hardman and her husband were converted and in the ministry, Hardman finally saw the light about  married men wanting to have sex with her.

Hardman writes:

All the way through my Christian life it seemed I had to learn things the hard way. However, one thing was for sure, I never forgot the lesson I learned. Each day the pastor come to the trailer, and he and Don would decide where they would make calls that day. There is one day he came over, and for the life of me I can’t remember what I was wearing, but it must have looked worldly and sensual. He told my husband he could not look at me because my clothes were revealing the contour of my body. Talk about a dagger through my heart. I could say I had no idea what my well-built body did to men, but I really could not because I was still getting whistles when I went to the mall and shopping centers, even after salvation…

If I caused even a strong man to abstain from looking at me, what was I doing to the weak? (page 95)

I was astounded when I read this passage and others that spoke of Hardman’s sexuality.  Perhaps the problem was not Hardman but the preacher man who couldn’t keep his mind pure. (a common problem for poor, lustful, weak Baptist men)

Hardman portrays life in the ministry as one of standing for the truth at all costs. She details loss of friends and loss of meetings because of their stand for the blessed truths of the King James Bible. Not one time does Hardman ever speak of a problem being their fault. It’s always the liberals fault. There is always an enemy, imaginary or real, they are fighting. This is the kind of life narrow Baptist Fundamentalism brings.

Hardman glosses over a few pertinent issues in her life and the life of her evangelist husband Don Hardman. They practiced this subterfuge the whole time they were holding meetings for me in Somerset and West Unity, Ohio

On page 87, Hardman speaks of Don’s ministerial calling. (Don completed a 1 year Bible correspondence course with Liberty Baptist Home Studies) The church they were part of at the time, First Baptist Church, Findlay, Ohio did not believe that Don was called to the ministry. Hardman gives the reason as:

his (Don’s) wicked past.

That’s it. This is the same line the Hardman’s used time and time again when asked about their life BEFORE Jesus saved them. In their mind, the past was the past. It was all under the blood of Jesus, never to be remembered again

So what was Don’s wicked past? Don was divorced. Not only was Don divorced, but his first marriage was to a 13-year-old girl he got pregnant.  He was seventeen when they married. (I have a copy of the marriage license that proves this)

Two children came out of Don’s first marriage. Laura claims the children as her own, a claim I suspect the biological mother finds quite offensive.(a woman I have corresponded with over the years)  While Hardman does say Don had two children, she never calls herself their step-mother. In her mind, when Jesus came into their life EVERYTHING became brand-new and that included the children having a new mother.

Hardman details their life as a traveling evangelist. Laura’s husband Don became an evangelist in 1987. Prior to that he pastored a church in West Virginia. Hardman spends a lot of time mentioning people who helped them along the way. I was quite surprised that Bruce Gerencser and Somerset Baptist Church got no mention at all. We were one of the first churches to have Don come and preach. Don held four meetings for me in Somerset, Ohio and another meeting in West Unity, Ohio.

We were close to the Hardman’s. We traveled to several churches where Don was preaching to support him. We even took a group from our church to the Hardman’s home church, Midway Bible Baptist Church, in Fishersville, Virginia, to attend their annual Bible conference. We graciously supported the Hardman’s financially. We spent several days in northern Ohio with the Hardman’s family while Don and Laura were off the road. Our youngest daughter is named after Laura.

I suspect, like Don’s wicked past, I have been expunged from their memory. Laura’s Light was written in 2010. By then Laura Hardman had got my coming out letter and had written to tell me that I never was a REAL Christian. Perhaps, having a one time staunch supporter turned atheist was too much for them to bear. No matter what is or isn’t in the book, the Hardman’s know, Somerset Baptist Church and Bruce and Polly Gerencser were very much a part of their life.

The book is titled Laura’s Light. Laura Hardman has a persona she wants to portray and she does a good job portraying it. However this book is a mixture of fact and fiction, in many ways, like most autobiographies.

Hardman wants to portray her life as one of continued spiritual ascendency after salvation. For this reason her story has an untrue ring to it. Life is messier than that. Sins. Lapses in judgment. Wrong. Error. Doubts. These are the kind of things that say to a reader, here’s a real person. Unfortunately, like many Christian autobiographies, the book subject is given God-like qualities, qualities that those closest to them find dishonest and quite amusing.

Where can I buy the book?

You can purchase the book at Victory Baptist Press. I know of no other place it is available.

Here’s a video of Laura Hardman singing Blessed Assurance

News article about Don and Laura Hardman.

Sermon by Don Hardman, preached at Old Time Baptist Church, Buffalo, New York. (sermon begins at the 9:53 mark, after congregational hymn, offering, and special music number)

Interesting Snopes.com article about Don Hardman and a bolt of lightning hitting a church where he was holding a meeting.

Hardman’s home church, Midway Bible Baptist Church, Fishersville, Virginia, supports Olen King, Second Chance Ranch and Ron Williams, Hephzibah House. Both have been investigated for abuse.

Why I Stopped Believing

why

Jason, an Evangelical Christian, asked:

What would cause someone with your Biblical education and years of preaching the Word of God not just claiming to be a Christian but also living it one day decide to not believe and do a 180 and turn your back on it?

While I deal with this question at length in the From Evangelicalism to Atheism series, today I want to give a short, condensed answer to this question.

People like Jason are often perplexed by how it possible for someone with my background and training to one day walk away from the ministry and Christianity. Most of the clergy who deconvert do so at a much younger age, often in their 20s and 30s. In my case, I spent fifty years in the Christian church and I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years before I deconverted. When I started going to counseling, my counselor told me that it was quite rare for someone my age and with my experience to walk away from a lifetime of belief and work. It happens, just not very often.

Jason is not alone. A number of my ex-friends, family members, and former parishioners can’t understand how it is possible that the man they called Preacher or Pastor is now an atheist. Often they can not or will not believe the reasons I give for my deconversion. Instead, they try to find some other reason to explain why Bruce Gerencser, the man of God, the pastor, the preacher, their fellow colleague in the ministry, is now an apostate, an enemy of God.  Is there some secret past I am hiding, some secret sin? they ask themselves. They wonder if I have mental problems, or if I am unstable.  They rack their brains trying to come up with a plausible explanation, anything but accepting the reasons I give for my deconversion.

Christian fundamentalism taught me to stand firm on my beliefs and convictions. When I was a pastor, people appreciated and applauded my willingness to resolutely defend my beliefs and convictions, But now that I do the same with atheism and liberal politics, they think there must be some other reason I drastically changed my mind and life. I am the same man, a man who thinks that beliefs matter.

My mother taught me, from my youth onward, that it was important to stand up for what I believe. Now, this does not mean that I am not now tolerant of the beliefs of others, because I am. As I get older, I realize that tolerance is an important virtue. Stepping outside of the box I spent most of my life in, I found a rich, diverse, and contradictory world that forced me to be more accepting and tolerant.

When I entered kindergarten I could already read. My mother taught me to read and she developed in me an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. This may seem counterintuitive at first, since I was raised in a fundamentalist environment that is not known for promoting a thirst for knowledge. But, by becoming a proficient and avid reader, I had at my disposal countless opportunities to expand my knowledge. Sadly, my quest for knowledge became quite stunted as a pastor because I rarely read books that would conflict with my Christian beliefs.  However, when I began to have doubts about Christianity and its teachings, my thirst for knowledge kicked into high gear and I began reading books that I once would have considered heretical.

I never made a lot of money pastoring churches. I never had church-provided health insurance or a retirement plan. The only benefits I received were a check I got once a week IF the offerings were enough.  Outside of the time I spent pastoring Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, every other church I pastored paid a part-time or poverty-level wage for the full-time work I gave the church. I often worked outside of the church, as did Polly when I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I am not pointing a judgmental finger at the churches I pastored. Most of the churches were either small or in poverty-ridden areas. Over the years, I was privileged to pastor many gracious, giving poor people. They gave what they could.

About now you are thinking, what in the world are you talking about, Bruce? I thought this post was about WHY you stopped believing! It is, and what I have written above can be distilled down to these three important statements:

  • I was taught to stand firm on my convictions and beliefs
  • I was taught to read at an early age and I developed a thirst for knowledge
  • I never made much money in the ministry

Since I never made much money in the ministry, there was no economic reason for me to stay in the ministry. I always made more money working outside of the church, so when I decided to leave the ministry, which I did five years before I deconverted, I suffered no economic consequences.

Freed from the ministry, my wife and I spent five years visiting more than a hundred Christian churches. We were desperately looking for a Christianity that mattered, a Christianity that took seriously the teachings of Jesus. During this five year period, I read countless books written by authors from a broad spectrum of Christendom. I read books by authors such as Thomas MertonRobert Farrar CaponHenri Nouwen, Wendell BerryBrian McLarenRob BellJohn Shelby SpongSoren Kierkegaard, and NT Wright.  These authors challenged my Evangelical understanding of Christianity and its teachings.

I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and determine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Robert Wright Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These three authors, along with several others,  attacked the foundation of my Evangelical belief in the inerrant, inspired word of God. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.

I tried, for a time, to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone. Later, Polly would come to the same conclusion.

I turned to the internet to find help. I came upon sites like exchristian.net and Debunking Christianity. I found these sites to be quite helpful as I tried to make sense of what was going on in my life. I began reading the books of authors like John LoftusHector AvalosRobert M. PriceDaniel DennettChristopher HitchensSam HarrisJerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins.

The five books that made the biggest impression on me were:

(I make a few shekels if you click on the above links and buy the books)

I read many authors and books besides the ones listed here. I say this to keep someone  from saying, but you didn’t read so and so or you didn’t read _______,  So, if I had to give one reason WHY I am no longer a Christian today it would be BOOKS.  My thirst for knowledge – a thirst I still have today, – even though it is greatly hindered by chronic illness and pain – is what drove me to re-investigate the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible. This investigation led me to conclude that the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible could not rationally and intellectually be sustained. Try as I might to hang on to some sort of Christian faith, the slippery slope I found myself on would not let me stand still. Eventually, I found myself saying, I no longer believe in the Christian God. For a time I was an agnostic, but I got tired of explaining myself, so I took on the atheist moniker, and now no one misunderstands what I believe (see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners and Dear Friend).

The hardest decision I ever made in my life was that day in late November of 2008  when I finally admitted to myself, I am no longer a Christian, I no longer believe in the Christian God, I no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God. At that moment, everything I had spent my life believing and doing was gone. In a sense, I had an atheist version of a born-again experience. For the past six years, I have continued to read, study, and write. I am still very much a work in progress. My understanding of religion and its cultural and sociological implications continues to grow. Now that I am unshackled from the constraints of religion, I am free to wander the path of life wherever it may lead. Now that I am free to read what I want, I have focused my attention on history and science. While I continue to read books that are of a religious or atheist nature, I spend less and less time reading these kind of books. I still read every new book Bart Ehrman publishes, along with various Christian/atheist/humanist blogs and publications, and this is enough to keep me up to date with American Christianity and American atheism/humanism.

I hope this post adequately answers the WHY I stopped believing question.

Notes

  1. This is a brief answer to the question WHY? I will fully develop this answer in the series From Evangelicalism to Atheism.
  2. I also spent some time investigating other religions and gods that humans have created (a study I still find quite fascinating).
  3. There is also a political aspect to my deconversion. I will talk about this in the aforementioned series.
  4. Jason asked if I believed in evolution. The answer is yes. I am no expert when it comes to science, but I have done enough reading to be comfortable with saying that I believe evolution/natural selection best explains the natural world.

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From Evangelicalism to Atheism Part One

creamery road zanesville ohio

Creamery Road, Zanesville, Ohio

In the following series, I intend  to explore my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. In future posts I plan to look carefully at the process that took me from a card-carrying member of the Evangelical church through a loss of faith that ultimately led to atheism. In this post I want to define the words Evangelicalism and atheism.

Ask an Evangelical to define Evangelical or Evangelicalism and it is unlikely that he or she can do so. In fact, it is doubtful that any two Evangelicals would give you the same definition of their shared heritage.

According to the National Association of Evangelicals, all member churches and groups MUST believe the following:

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

In answering the question, What is an Evangelicalthe National Association of Evangelicals website states:

Evangelicals take the Bible seriously and believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, the evangelical faith focuses on the “good news” of salvation brought to sinners by Jesus Christ.

We are a vibrant and diverse group, including believers found in many churches, denominations and nations. Our community brings together Reformed, Holiness, Anabaptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic and other traditions. Our core theological convictions provide unity in the midst of our diversity. The NAE Statement of Faith offers a standard for these evangelical convictions.

Historian David Bebbington also provides a helpful summary of evangelical distinctives, identifying four primary characteristics of evangelicalism:

  • Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus.
  • Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
  • Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
  • Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity

These distinctives and theological convictions define us, not political, social, or cultural trends. In fact, many evangelicals rarely use the term “evangelical” to describe themselves, focusing simply on the core convictions of the triune God, the Bible, faith, Jesus, salvation, evangelism, and discipleship.

I know of NO true Evangelical who would dispute any of the above statements. I say TRUE Evangelical, because there are many Evangelical church members, pastors, parachurch leaders and institutions that are Evangelical in name only. They say they are Evangelical, when their beliefs make it clear they are actually a liberal or a progressive.

It is important to understand that ALL Evangelicals are fundamentalists. I’ve had countless Evangelicals object to me calling them fundamentalists. However, if they believe the statements above then they are fundamentalists. If it walks, talks, and quacks like a fundamentalist it is a fundamentalist.

Some Evangelicals are confused about fundamentalism or they want to distance themselves from the crazy, extreme right-wing fundamentalists that are common in Evangelicalism. However, their lack of understanding their theological and historical heritage or their dislike of the crazy uncles within Evangelicalism does not mean they are NOT fundamentalists.

Within Evangelicalism there is two lines of fundamentalism:

  • Theological fundamentalism
  • Social fundamentalism

If a person believes the National Association of Evangelicals’ statements regarding Evangelical belief and what an Evangelical is, then he or she is by definition a theological fundamentalist.

Many Evangelicals wrongly think that because they are not like the fundamentalists found in sects such as the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church (IFB), that they are not fundamentalists. However, when it comes to theology, there is little difference between a mainstream Evangelical and an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist.

Social fundamentalism  focuses on how a person lives the Evangelical Christian life. Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, along with many Holiness and Pentecostal groups, are noted for all the rules and regulations they have dictating how a professing Evangelical Christian should live. These kinds of sects strictly control everything from how a person dresses to whether or not a church member can watch or own a TV.

Many Evangelicals consider such rules and regulations legalism, and, wanting personal freedom, reject many of the rules and regulations as extra-biblical or works-salvation. These theological fundamentalists make a concerted effort to distance themselves from social fundamentalism.

However, can it really be said that an Evangelical can be a theological fundamentalist but not a social fundamentalist? Strictly speaking, the answer is no. Because Evangelicals believe the Bible is “the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God” and have “a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority,” at some point every Evangelical is a social fundamentalist.

If you doubt this, ask Evangelicals, Do you think a Christian must live according to the precepts, commands, and teachings of the Bible? They will resoundingly say Yes. They are, then,  by definition, social fundamentalists . Evangelicals who do not believe the Bible is the standard of living for the Christian are not really Evangelicals. They are liberals or progressives dressed up in Evangelical clothing.

Defining the words atheist or atheism is much simpler. According to Wikipedia, atheism is:

in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.

When I say I am an atheist, this is what I mean:

  • I do not believe in the existence of deities.
  • Since I cannot know with 100% certainty that there is not a god of some sort, technically I am an agnostic. But, I live my life according to what I currently know and understand, and based on that I live my day-to-day life as an atheist.

Now that I have made clear what I am talking about when I use the words Evangelical/Evangelicalism and atheist/atheism, I am now ready to start telling my story.

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For the Evangelical Christian, It’s Not About the Evidence

birth of jesus

Here’s one thing that atheists and agnostics need to understand. A person becoming an Evangelical Christian has never been JUST about the evidence. We mistakenly think that if we just show a Christian the evidence that they will abandon their Christianity and embrace atheism or agnosticism. How’s that working for us?

The truth is, Christianity as a belief system is all about faith. Hebrews 11:1-3 says:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. 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.

How does a person become a Christian? Ephesians 2:8,9 says 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.

The Christian, by faith, decides to believe certain things. By faith, he believes the Bible is the word of God and what it says is truth.  By faith, he believes that the central teachings of Christianity found in the Bible are true regardless of the fact that they contradict what we otherwise know to be true.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, that he was born of a woman named Mary who was impregnated by God. It is common knowledge that virgins can’t have a baby. Unless a woman is impregnated by a man’s sperm there can be no baby forthcoming. The Christian knows this, but chooses to disregard it because, by faith, he believes the story in the Bible about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

It is also common knowledge that when people die they stay dead. I know of no evidence that suggests that a person laying dead in the grave for three days has any hope or possibility of coming back to life. When you’re dead you stay dead. The Christian knows this, but chooses to disregard it because,by faith, he believes the story in the Bible of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. By faith, he believes that God will someday resurrect his body from the grave and make it brand new.

The Virgin birth of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead are two essential doctrines of the Christian faith. There is absolutely no evidence for these two events outside of the Bible. It requires faith to believe these two cardinal Christian doctrines. The same could be said for the Bible stories about Jesus walking on water, walking through walls, turning water into wine, and walking though a crowd of people without being detected. Reason demands we reject such stories, but by faith the Christian believes them to be true.

Christians do a great disservice to their religion by attempting to argue for Christianity on an evidence alone basis. This is an argument that they cannot win and they only hurt their own cause when they attempt to argue faith claims in an evidence arena. Outside of the Bible, there is no proof that virgins can have babies or dead people can get out of the grave and live again. These are stubborn facts that cannot be refuted.

Does this mean that Christians are stupid or ignorant? Of course not. I recognize that Christianity has never been just about the evidence. Christianity purports to answer what we call the big questions of life. Where did we come from? What is the purpose of life? Is there life after death? The Christian Bible answers these questions and more. For atheists and agnostics, the answers to these questions seem empty and of little value, but we need to remember not everyone is like us.

Who am I to stand in the way of what helps someone get through the night? It matters not whether I think their beliefs are a flight of fancy. All that matters is whether their Christian beliefs meet the need they have in their life. We often forget that many people come to the Christian faith in a time of crisis. Let’s face it, atheism doesn’t do a very good job of comforting people when they are hurting, sick, or dying. Often, all we have to offer is love and compassion wrapped in the reality that life is shitty and hard and everyone dies in the end. Brutal I know, but it is the truth.

Ask yourself, when is the last time you have won over a Christian by argument and evidence? Doesn’t happen much does it? Christianity is much more complex than that. It’s not the end of the world if a Christian dies thinking they will go to heaven. At the end of the day who cares? For whatever reason, the Christian needs faith to make it through life and they need to think that there is something better awaiting them after they die. I don’t fault them for believing these things.

But, as an atheist I cannot believe the things that Christians believe. Why? I don’t have faith. All I have is a Bible that Christians tell me is the truth, but I find no persuasive evidence for its truth claim. I know that faith would fix the lack of evidence problem for me, but I’m not willing to relegate matters of life and death to such a subjective thing like faith. I wish I could, but I can’t.

Is a 34 Year Old Murder Case Connected to New Bethany Home for Girls?

unidentified homicide victim

A composite drawing from LSU FACES Laboratory shows what investigators believe a woman found dead on Jan. 28, 1981, may have looked like before she was stabbed to death four to six weeks before her body was located in a wooded area in east-central Bossier Parish.

Rebecca Catalanello writes:

Her stab-pocked body was found in the woods off a public logging trail in north Louisiana on Jan. 28, 1981. She was in her late teens or early 20s and had been dead for four to six weeks, a coroner determined. There were scribbles on her sneakers, including a name written on the inside: “D. Davies.” It looked like she had removed the braces from her teeth.

In 34 years, no one has identified the body of the 5-foot-6 blonde found off Louisiana Highway 157. But now Bossier Parish law enforcement officials are investigating a potential link between the woman they now call “Bossier Doe” and a notorious girls home 40 miles away.

Lt. Shannon Mack, lead detective in Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office cold case No. 81-018329, said she first learned of New Bethany Home for Girls in Arcadia, after creating a public Facebook profile for Bossier Doe on Friday (Feb. 6) in an attempt to generate more leads. She has since reached out to former New Bethany residents for help.

Open from 1971 to 2001, New Bethany marketed itself as a boarding school for troubled girls. Youth came from across the country, some court-ordered, others by request of parents or guardians. Bienville Parish law enforcement and nearby residents became accustomed to encountering runaways from the strict, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist home, located behind barbed wire fences in a rural area off of Louisiana Highway 9.

Simone Jones, 47, a former resident who herself scaled the fences and ran to law enforcement seeking an escape, said that when Mack reached out to her about the 1981 case Sunday, her mind started spinning.

Jones, who was at the home from 1981 to 1984, said that while she doesn’t remember anyone by this name or description, details about Bossier Doe’s case were reminiscent of New Bethany:

  • Girls were required to write their names in marker on the insides of their shoes and on all their clothes, as it appeared someone did inside the victim’s shoes. When Bossier Doe was found, she was wearing size 7 Evonne Goolagong brand, a washable canvas sneaker sold by Sears. Other names were scribbled in ink on the outside of the shoes, including “Resha,” “David” and “Dena & Michael Brisco.”
  • Bossier Doe was wearing white athletic socks with blue and yellow stripes, Mack said. The New Bethany uniform at the time included white athletic socks with stripes on them. Jones said the uniform required the stripes be red or blue. “But there were other colors around,” she said.
  • To date, law enforcement has found no indication anyone by this young woman’s description was ever reported missing. It’s well-established that many of the girls of New Bethany were often disconnected from their families — either by force of the school’s rules, by circumstance that led them there, or both. In 2013, for example, Bienville Parish Sheriff John Ballance told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that after he encountered an 18-year-old runaway from New Bethany in 1975, he contacted her father by phone and was told the man wanted nothing to do with her.

Here’s another detail that raised interest of the former New Bethany residents.

Bossier Doe had bonding residue from braces on her teeth, Mack said, which led investigators to believe either she or someone else had removed her braces without the help of a professional.

Teresa Frye, 47, another former resident who Mack reached Sunday, said that detail stood out to her. When Frye arrived at New Bethany in 1982 from North Carolina, she was taken to have her braces professionally removed earlier than her orthodontist had instructed. Frye said she believes it was done so that she wouldn’t require additional medical care while at the home.

Many former New Bethany residents interviewed by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune since 2013 have described being denied medical care, a complaint that was also documented in a child welfare investigation in the 1980s. It would not be implausible, said Jones and Frye, for a resident to attempt to remove her own braces.

Mack said she is looking to speak with anyone whose memory might be jogged by the details of this girl’s death…

You can read the entire post here.

If you have not read Sex Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls, I encourage you to do so.

Simple Contact Form for Evangelicals

Dear Evangelical,

Today you stumbled upon The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.  You did a Google or Bing search and  The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser was on the first page of search results. You are shocked and upset by what this Bruce Gerencser guy writes. You want to give him a piece of your mind, in Jesus’s name, so you went to the contact form page to do so. On the page you read:

If you would like to contact Bruce Gerencser, please use the following form.  If your email warrants a response I will respond as soon as possible. Due to persistent health problems, I cannot guarantee a timely response. Sometimes,I am several weeks behind on responding to email. My delay doesn’t mean I don’t care. It does mean I can only do what I can do. I hope you understand.

If you are an Evangelical Christian that has a pathological need to evangelize, I am not interested in hearing from you. Threats of hell, God’s judgment, and the like are not welcome. Neither are “I’m praying for you” emails or emails with Bible quotes. Whatever you think God wants you to tell me, I have already heard it. Thousands have come before you, so there is no need for you to email me. If you ignore my request, please be advised that I reserve the right to make your message, name, and email address public.

I do not accept unsolicited guest posts.  Please do not email me about writing a guest post. I will not respond to your request.

I have no need of help with SEO, Google ranking, or web design. I use a managed WordPress service and my ranking on Google is first page on most subjects I write about. I do NOT need your help, so please do not email me trying to selling me the latest, greatest way to improve my Google ranking.

I have no interest in buying Facebook likes, Twitter followers, or anything else you might be selling. Please do not email me with your sales pitch.

Everyone else? I would love to hear from you.

You thought, who cares what this Bruce Gerencser guys thinks? GOD wants me to send him an email. GOD wants me to set him straight!! And so you furiously type away and click SEND.

Your email will be just like the email of hundreds of Evangelicals (Fundamentalists) before you. In an effort to help Evangelical readers save some time so they will have more time to pray, read their Bible, and evangelize people who don’t want evangelized, I have made the following Simple Contact Form for Evangelicals:

Name: (Put in fake name because you are so fearless)

Email Address: (Put in fake email address because God knows who you are)

Reason for Contacting Bruce Gerencser (Check all that apply)

_____To tell him he is wrong

_____To preach to him

_____To quote Bible verses to him

_____To evangelize him

_____To tell him he doesn’t know anything about the Bible

_____To let him know God still loves him

_____To let him know I am praying for him

_____To tell him he never was a Christian

_____To tell him he is going to hell

_____To tell him he is still saved and can never be un-saved

_____To tell him he was/is a false prophet

_____To tell him he was/is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

_____To tell him he is angry

_____To tell him he is bitter

_____To tell him his writing shows he has been hurt

_____To tell him he is fat

_____To tell him I hope he burns in hell

_____To tell him that I am praying God will kill him

_____To tell him that he has a meaningless, empty life

_____To tell him he is going to die soon and then he will find out THE TRUTH!

_____To tell him that I know THE TRUTH about him!

Once you have completed the form, please click the send button below.

send button

What? You can’t send it? This must be an atheist conspiracy to keep you from exercising your Christian nation Constitutional right to say whatever you want to Bruce Gerencser. By all means, please continue to click the send button. After you have done so a few hundred times and are thoroughly frustrated and irritated, then you will know how I feel after hundreds of Evangelicals have sent me repetitive emails saying one or more of the things listed above.

Here are a few things you need to understand about me:

  • I likely know more about the Bible and theology than you do
  • You are not going to tell me anything I have not heard before
  • I am an unrepentant apostate
  • I have no interest in Christianity, Jesus, or your interpretation of the Bible
  • I am immune to threats of harm or death, in real life I would probably kick your ass
  • I am a committed and circumcised atheist
  • I am a happy if you know it say amen humanist
  • I do go to church every Sunday in the fall and winter, the church of the NFL
  • I am a good, decent, kind, caring man, husband, father, grandfather, and friend
  • I love my neighbor as myself

Now, go in peace, and find someone who really wants to buy what you are selling. I don’t.