My heart has been hurting a bit these days because I know I have so much inside of me that needs to change. I don’t know how God’s going to work it all out. Things like pride, resentment, and arrogance build up in me, reminding me I’m still so broken.
I have these conversations with God, telling Him I have nothing left that’s any good at all. I probably sound a little like this: “I gave you all I thought you wanted. . . . Wait, what was that? . . . You want everything? Even the worst parts?” I run and hide, sometimes, from the God who made me.
I still wonder about this: Does He really want to see my brokenness? Does He really want to do something with me? Have you ever felt like that?..
I read God’s Word because I know He’s not going to take my excuses for an answer. I know He’s going to keep reassuring me as He did to Jeremiah . . .
“I know you”
“I have still chosen you.”
“I’m the One who made you this way, don’t you think I know how to use you?”
The way he said it made me laugh, but this truth rang clear to me: God is in charge, not me. Yet my itty-bitty human brain seems to think the Maker of the stars needs my permission to work in and through me.
I read God’s Word because I need to be reminded that He wants to use me, even when it doesn’t feel like that could possibly be true…
My initial response was one of sadness. Here’s a bright 14-year-old girl and she has already lost her ability to think rationally. Not only has she surrendered her ability to reason and think, she thinks the Evangelical God talks to her.
Here’s a girl sitting in her bedroom sad over the fact that she is not the person God wants her to be. She is plagued by pride, resentment, and arrogance, knowing that these things are a reminder of how broken she is. Ponder this thought for a moment. Here’s a girl who already thinks she is broken. That’s what the Evangelical teaching on original sin does to a person. It makes them see themselves as broken and in need of repair. And who can repair them? No one but God. This girl has been taught that she is helpless and hopeless without God, unable to do anything on her own.
Does she really have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem? Only she can answer that, but I suspect that her angst is fueled by the preaching and teaching at her church and her home school education. Minor character flaws are blown up into transgressions against a thrice-holy God. If she really does have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem, then she need not passively, obediently wait for God to fix her. She is not weak, nor broken, and it is within her power to change her ways. Prideful? Stop! Resentful? Stop! Arrogant? Stop!
Far too many Evangelicals go through life thinking they are helpless, broken people who need God’s help to do anything. This kind of thinking makes them weak and passive, always waiting for God to forgive them, deliver them, show them a better way, or give them strength. Instead of relying on self, they are taught to rely on a non-existent God who supposedly never leaves them or forsakes them and sticks closer to them than a brother. They are reminded that the Bible says:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5,6)
They are also reminded that Jesus said in John 15:5:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Evangelicals are told, You can’t do ANYTHING without Jesus. He is your strength. The very breath you have comes from him. Don’t trust your own reasoning, don’t trust the reason of any mere human. Trust God, lay your life at his feet, and let him direct your life. Remember, Jesus said we are to deny self. We don’t matter. Jesus is the end all. Jesus taught us to pray, God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven. Not our will, but his.
This is why uncounted Evangelicals are waiting for God to change them, correct them, or show them what to do. Marriage problems? Out of work? Health problems? Job problems? Conflict with children, spouse, coworker, neighbor, or friend? Financial trouble? Just wait and let God show you the way. Just wait and God will return your phone call. Just wait and God will use his mighty wonder-working power to conform your life into the image he wants it to be. And while they are waiting, life continues to move forward. Waiting on God becomes an excuse, a way of sidestepping personal responsibility, a way of ignoring character flaws.
Every one of us are responsible for our own behavior. There’s no God fix coming for what ails us. If it is important to us to be good, to treat others with decency and respect, then we will do what’s necessary to make these things happen. I have little patience for the prayers of the helpless. They have been neutered by religious teachings that have robbed them of their will. Taught to deny self, they trust in a deity that has no power to help them. The only person that can change ME is the person staring at me in the mirror.
I am not against waiting, thinking, or meditating before making a decision. Haste is just as bad as passivity. When I need to make a decision or change something in my life, I try to give the matter careful consideration. But, when I act, it is me acting, not some outside source of power. As a humanist, I recognize that the buck stops with me and my fellow Homo sapiens.
Laura Hardman, wife of Fundamentalist Baptist Evangelist Don Hardman, has written a biography about her husband titled The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman. The self published book is 201 pages long. In 2010, Laura published an autobiography titled Laura’s Light. The book was published in 2010. You can read my review of the book here.
Like Laura’s Light, The Preacher reads quite a bit like the Bible. Don 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. I will illustrate some of these fictions and omissions later.
While the book is meant to be a biography of Don Hardman’s life, it is sparse on details, except for those details that paint Don in a favorable light. In the preface, Laura states:
I will endeavor to write about a man whom I watched God transform into literally another person over the last thirty-seven years. It is my desire not to glorify or make much of what he did when he was lost, but make much of his new life in Christ.
In other words, the past is the past, it is under the blood, praise Jesus! Time to move on. The greater objective, according to Laura, is for some “sinner or saint” to “read this biography and realize there is hope for a victorious life, not only when we get to heaven, but also here as we walk in this world.” Laura wants readers to know that they too can be just like Don and Laura Hardman and achieve the victorious Christian life.
The book has eight chapters:
A Struggle Through Childhood
No Purpose for Life
Time for Change
The Call of God
Just a Servant of the Lord
A Street Preacher
The Chance of a Lifetime
The Life of Evangelism
These eight chapters take up 142 pages. The other 70 pages are what Laura calls a “Summary and Sketches of What the Preacher Said.” While Laura had uncounted recordings of Don’s sermons that she could have transcribed, she instead decided to summarize 30 of his sermons. While Laura says the reason for doing this is because “the Lord laid on my heart that giving a short essay and sharing how the people reacted might be more edifying”, I suspect the real reason for not transcribing Don’s sermons is because he often preached for 60 to 90 minutes. Over the years, Don lost meetings because he refused to shorten the length of his sermons.
Chapter one details Don’s birth in Canton, Ohio in 1950, his battle with polio, and a bit about his parents, brother, and grandparents. The chapter ends with Don graduating from high school, a rebellious young man who frequently skipped school, hung out at pool halls, smoked, drank beer, and rarely thought about God. According to Laura, Don graduated in May of 1968 “with a diploma in hand and no purpose in life.”
What’s interesting is that Laura makes no mention of the fact that Don married a 13-year-old girl by the name of Cheryl, one month before he graduated from high school. At the time of their marriage, Cheryl was four months pregnant and both Don and her were wards of the court. While I can certainly understand why Laura might not want to mention this, wouldn’t this juicy tidbit enhance Don’s sinner to saint story?
Evangelist Don Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Late 1980’s
In chapter two, Laura skips Don’s marriage to Cheryl, the birth of their two children Joe and Tangi, and their foster daughter Shelly. Again, if what I am being told is correct, there are plenty of stories that Laura could have shared from this period that would have enhanced Don’s sinner creds. Outside of mentioning Don’s drinking habit, nothing more is said about Don’s life until May of 1977. During this nine year period, Don was married to Cheryl. An uninformed reader would assume that Laura is Don’s first wife and that Joe and Tangi are her biological children. In my review of Laura’s first book, I wrote:
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.
In May of 1977, Don, Laura, and their two children moved to Findlay, Ohio so Don could begin working for Ashland Oil. According to Laura:
In June of 1977, things seemed to be going great for us as a family. We moved into a government house on 1143 Concord Court, Findlay, Ohio. Our neighborhood was made up drunks, unmarried couples living together, and a slew of hoodlum kids. Needless to say, we added to their list of hoodlums. Little did we know that this wicked little neighborhood would become a mission field in the months to come.
Laura may have forgotten that I lived in Findlay in the 1970’s, grades eight through eleven. I am quite familiar with the neighborhood the Hardman’s lived in. The house in question is a single family dwelling. At the time the Hardman’s moved into the house it was around 20 years old. I seriously doubt that the house was government housing. It is possible that it was Section 8 housing, but this would mean that the Hardman’s were either on welfare or quite poor. Having already stated that Don had a job at Ashland Oil, which was a good paying job in the 1970’s, it is unlikely that the Hardman’s were poor or on welfare. (put 1143 Concord Court into Google Earth or Google Map and take a street view look of the house and neighborhood)
As far as the Concord Court neighborhood is concerned, I seriously doubt the neighborhood was as Laura describes it. While my memory is certainly not what it once was, I do remember that the Concord Court area was a working class neighborhood of moderately price, small homes, not unlike the neighborhood on National Court that my parents, siblings, and I lived in the 1970’s.
If my memory is correct, what are we to make of Laura’s description of the neighborhood? The easy answer would be that she is lying and that certainly might be the case. However, I am more inclined to believe that this story, like much of The Preacher’s Life, is like a testimony given during Sunday night church. Over the years, I heard hundreds of testimonies, often from people who told the same story over and over. I found that, over time, the stories become more exciting. A story that started out with a person being a drug user years later became the story of a person selling heroin for the mob. As we age, we tend to change, reformulate, correct, and expand the narrative of our life. The challenge for any reader is to be able to pick the facts out of the bullshit.
Chapter three details Don and Laura’s salvation experience. On June 20, 1977, Paul Reimer, pastor of First Baptist Church and church deacon Mike Roberts visited the Hardman home and shared the gospel with Don and Laura. After Reimer had shared the gospel with them and Roberts gave a personal testimony:
Don was the first to take a step forward, and prayed to God for forgiveness. Because we did not know how to pray, they led us in a prayer. Our hearts had been smitten and conviction brought tears to our eyes. We understood for the first time in our lives what Jesus had suffered for us on the cross that we might have life. Our lives were heavily burdened down with guilt and shame, and the chains of sin kept us shackled to the old life. Now we are given the choice of Freedom in Christ or Bondage withe the devil. It’s doesn’t seem like much of a choice even though many choose bondage with the devil.
Shortly after Don cried out to God, I also gave my life to God. We literally gave our lives to Christ!
The next Sunday, the Hardman’s walked the aisle at First Baptist Church and made their profession of faith public. Several weeks later, they were baptized and not long afterward they stopped smoking and drinking beer. Laura writes:
It took about four months of battling our flesh, but God did give us the victory. At the beginning, we only went to church on Sundays, but realized how important that midweek service was in our growth. Not only did I watch a thrice-Holy God changing my life, but also transforming my husband into another man, from a man whose mouth had a cuss word coming out every other word, to one thanking and praising God.
These excerpts are typical of testimonies of those saved in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Years ago, an Amish-Mennonite neighbor confided in me that he was troubled because he didn’t have a sin to salvation story like Baptists have. Raised in the church, a practicing Amish-Mennonite, he grew into salvation. He wanted to know if his salvation was defective because he didn’t have any bad sinner stories to tell. His question illustrated the fact that IFB churches and preachers play up the bad sinner part of their testimony. Everyone wants to be viewed as the baddest sinner in town, a sinner whom God miraculously delivered. As I mentioned previously, most of these testimonies are a mixture of lie, half-truth, fabrication, and fact.
The Hardman’s were saved in era when the IFB church and Evangelicalism made much of bad sinner testimonies. While these testimonies were meant to give God all the glory, what they really did was make much of the sinner and their debauched life before Jesus. Who wants to hear the testimony of the aforementioned Amish-Mennonite man when they can hear the testimony of Mike Warnke, Chuck Colson, Pat Boone, Joanna Michaelsen, and Eldridge Cleaver?
Nine months or so later, in the spring of 1978, “God spoke to his (Don’s) heart about full-time service.” According to Laura, a short time later, God gave Don his life verse, II Timothy 4:5:
But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Laura writes “of course, he never understood what that meant until later on.” Don told their church family that God had called him to preach. Pastor Fred Crown, also a pastor at First Baptist Church,came and talked to Don about his call to preach. Laura writes:
Pastor Crown looked him dead in the eyes and said “So you feel God has called you to preach” and Don said, “Yes Sir.” He (Crown) said, “Then you need to consider not stealing from Him.” Of course, he was dealing with tithes and offerings. Don told him we could not see how we could pay our bills and tithe our income. The wisdom from this preacher never ceases to amaze me. He told us to try tithing for a month, and he would take care of every unpaid bill himself. Needless to say, we never had an unpaid bill and never again robbed from God.
While Don and Laura may never have robbed from God again, they did rob the U.S. treasury. Some of the churches Don preached at, including the churches I pastored, paid Don in cash. Don did not claim some or all of this cash income on his tax return. This proved to be quite a money boon to the Hardman’s.
Chapters four through six detail Don’s life as a pastor and evangelist. In 1980, Don graduated with a one year certificate from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist correspondence school. By this time, Don was on disability and he and his family moved back to eastern Ohio to be near family. While in eastern Ohio, the Hardman’s helped Victory Baptist Church in Kensington, Ohio and Lisbon Baptist Temple in Lisbon, Ohio.
Jim Midcap was their pastor while they attended Lisbon Baptist Temple. I preached for Jim in late 1980’s when he was pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Negley, Ohio. Jim returned the favor and preached for me while I was pastor of churches in Mt. Perry and West Unity, Ohio. For several years, Jim operated a clothing and food ministry that provided the Hardman’s with food and clothing to distribute to the poor and homeless in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had the privilege of taking a trip with Jim and a few other men from Ohio to Louisiana to deliver and distribute food and clothing. I had a great time and my eyes were opened to the plight of the poor in cities like New Orleans.
In November of 1980, the Hardman’s moved to Pennsboro, West Virgina to begin pastoring Pennsboro Baptist Church. According to Laura:
…We used all of our money to transport our mobile home and did not have enough money to have our gas turned on…Here we were far hence unto the Gentiles and not a penny to our name until the disability check came in. Still, this Preacher had not come here to become a Pastor, but to be a Servant of the Lord in whatever capacity he was needed.
Don began filling the pulpit at the Pennsboro Baptist Church every Sunday. Some liked him, and some did not like his free spirit in decision, but the congregation asked him to candidate as Pastor anyways. He was voted in as Pastor in December of 1980.
I am sure readers will ask, as I did, why moved to Pennsboro unless you planned on pastoring the church? Why move without having the funds necessary to turn on the gas? What happened in Kensington and Lisbon, Ohio that resulted in the Hardman’s quickly moving to West Virginia? The book answers none of these questions.
According to Laura, while at Pennboro Baptist, Don became “a friend to the friendless, a father to the fatherless and a teacher to the unlearned.” All Don wanted to do was “try to make a difference in people’s lives and get them to the God who changed his life.” Don spent two years trying to change the church, but, according to Laura, Don “could not seem to override the traditions of the church.” In the fall of 1982, Don resigned from the church and moved down the road to start Freedom Baptist Church. Five years later, Don left Freedom Baptist and began working full-time on what he called the Streets of America. From this time, until today, Don’s ministry is operated from a base in New Orleans and Midway Bible Baptist Church in Fishersville, Virginia.
Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio, Late 1980’s
I looked in vain for any mention in the book of myself and Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio. While Laura mentions numerous churches and preachers who gave Don his start, she makes no mention of me or Somerset Baptist. Laura seems to have forgotten that I was one on the first pastors to have Don hold a meeting for them. She seems to have forgotten than Don held at least five meetings for me, most of them two weeks long, at Somerset Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Church (later Our Father’s House) in West Unity, Ohio. She also fails to mention that we spent time with them at their parents home, named our youngest daughter after her, and brought a group from our church to their church’s Bible conference. Again, an uninformed reader would never learn that Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Somerset Baptist, and Grace Baptist, played an instrumental part in Don getting started in evangelism.
Of course, I understand why Laura might want to edit me and the churches I pastored out of Don’s life story. Nothing like having a preacher friend turned atheist muck up Don’s story of spiritual ascendency from drunk to Holy Spirit filled man of God.
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.
This thinking is on prominent display in The Preacher. Not one time, does the book implicate Don or Laura. It ‘s always family, a church, or a pastor, who is to blame for broken fellowship or lost relationships. In Laura’s mind, her husband is a God-called man who is in tight with the Almighty. Those who take issue with Don’s preaching are liberals or carnal. Over the years, I saw Don repeatedly browbeat church members with the Bible, calling out their sins. One time, he went from teenager to teenager pointing his finger at them, exposing their secret sins. These tactics worked, with church members, visitors, and teenagers getting saved or repenting of secret sin. Was this God? Of course not. Like most skilled Baptist preachers, myself included, Don was an expert manipulator of emotions. He knew how to set the hook and reel the fish in.
And here’s thing, I know a lot of things that I can not share in this review. Since I have no way of verifying what I know, I can’t share it. I mentioned Don impregnating a 13-year-old girl and marriage to her because I have a copy of the marriage application. Other things that I think are likely true lack evidence. I can say this, there are those who think Don Hardman is an Elmer Gantry-like grifter; that he and Laura have spent four decades making an easy living off their marks. For readers not familiar with the term grifter, a grifter is “someone who swindles you through deception or fraud.”
Is it possible that Don and Laura Hardman are frauds? Sure. I have no way of knowing or proving this, but I do know that the IFB church has turned out a number of con artists, some of who have gone on to pastor large churches. Bob Gray pastored Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for decades. He was finally exposed as an adulterer and child molester, a life of perversion that began when he entered the ministry in 1949. I heard Bob Gray and Don preach at the same preacher’s meeting in Cambridge, Ohio. The Hardman’s are or were friends with a number of the men who operated IFB teen group homes. Many of these men have been accused of child abuse, sexual assault, and rape.
Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Grace Baptist Church (Our Father’s House) West Unity, Ohio, Circa 2000
Supposedly, a few years back, I can’t remember the exact date, Don had cancer. This cancer was killing Don and modern western medicine couldn’t cure him. The Hardman’s raised a significant amount of money so Don could get alternative cancer treatment in Mexico. Yet, Don’s cancer story is not mentioned in the book. Wouldn’t a miraculous healing from deadly cancer be an important story to share? While this story isn’t shared, Laura spends 32 pages, almost 25% of the biography part of the book, detailing the lightning story. Based on the amount of space given to this story, it’s safe to say that the Hardman’s consider this the highlight of their time in the ministry.
July 1, 2003, finds Don and Laura holding a meeting at First Baptist Church in Forest, Ohio. Don’s sermon text for the night is I Kings 8. Laura writes:
About halfway into the message, we could hear the thunder and see the lightning through the stained glass windows, During his preaching, when a loud crack of thunder rang out, Don would say, “Yes, Lord, we are listening.” He made reference to the verse God’s voice was like thunder. (Psalms 77:18)
All of a sudden, a lightning bolt hit the church and burnt out the sound system, blowing the light bulbs out of their sockets behind the pulpit. We could smell the burning wires but still did not know we had taken a direct hit. Not once did we lose our electricity, so Don kept preaching on Solomon’s prayer of repentance. About 20 minutes later, a women came running into the church and said, “the church is on fire.”
This event made the news, from the local paper to the Toledo Blade. It was mentioned on CNN and Don had interviews with the BBC, the NBC Today Show, and Paul Harvey. The book has several of the news stories along with a transcript of Don’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show:
Again, what I find interesting is what is missing in this chapter. Laura makes no mention of the name of the pastor of First Baptist Church in Forest. Why is this? Perhaps it is because not too long after God’s lightning bolt sign from above, the pastor of the church was removed for sexual misconduct. The image of Evangelist Hardman must not be tainted by any connection with an atheist, adulterers, child abusers, or rapists. Like the precious blood of Jesus that wipes away all recollection of sin before salvation, Laura conveniently writes out of the book anyone who doesn’t affirm, strengthen, or reinforce Don’s drunk to Holy Spirit filled traveling evangelist testimony.
Over the years, Don has lost a number of the churches he once preached for. Whether this was due to his refusal to answer questions about his past or the length and content of his sermons, Don now has just a handful of churches he regularly holds meetings for; churches like Old Time Baptist Church, (Pastor Lou Guadagno) Buffalo, New York, Lighthouse Baptist Church, (Pastor David Constantino) North Tonawanda, New York, and Amazing Grace Baptist Church, (Pastor Jimmy Hood) Columbus, Ohio. As Laura admits in the book, most of the churches that once had Don preach for them no longer do so.
For the churches and pastors Don still preaches for, Don is a god-called evangelist mightily used by God to win souls and call backslidden church members to repentance. For others, Don is a long-winded, legalistic preacher. And for a few others, perhaps those who know Don and Laura Hardman the best, the Hardman’s are grifters who have found an easy way to make money. For me personally, there are things I have been told that deeply trouble me. While there is no hard evidence for these things, especially since many of these things happened decades ago, there’s enough smoke to make wonder if there is a fire. If I had known these things when Don first preached for me in 1987, I doubt that I would have had him do so. If I was still a Christian, I could play the pious preacher and say that God will make all things known on judgment day. As an atheist, all I can do is review Laura Hardman’s books and make my observations known. It is up to you the reader to determine whether what I write is true.
I do not know of any place this book can be purchased. Someone connected to the Hardman family sent me a copy of the book. Laura Hardman’s first book was published by Victory Baptist Press, but I did not find her newest book in their online catalog.
This is the twenty-third installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.
Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Has Anybody Seen JC?, sung by Jeff Ollerhead, a singer–songwriter from Liverpool, England. Best I can tell the lyrics are of unknown origin. The song has numerous verses as the lyrics below show.
This is the twenty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.
Today’s Song of Sacrilege is My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus by Jimmy Buffett, an American singer–songwriter.
Chorus My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don’t love Jesus. It’s that kind of mornin’, really was that kind of night. Tryin’ to tell myself that my condition is improvin’ and if I don’t die by Thursday I’ll be roarin’ Friday night.
Went down to the snake pit, to drink a little beer. Listened to the juke box, oh, it’s comin’ in clear. All of a sudden I wasn’t alone pickin’ country music with old Joe Bones. Duval Street was rockin’, my eyes they started poppin’! Because there she sat at the corner of the bar, as I broke another string on my old guitar. Someone call a cab. Lady won’t you pay my tab?
Got to get a little orange juice, And a Darvon for my head. I can’t spend all day, Baby, layin’ in bed. I’m goin’ down to Fausto’s to get some chocolate milk. Can’t spend my life in your sheets of silk I’ve got to find my way Crawl out and greet the day.
This is the twenty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.
Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Jesus Saves by Slayer, an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California.
Let it therefore be held as fixed, that those who are inwardly taught by the Holy Spirit acquiesce implicitly in Scripture; that Scripture carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit. Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own judgement or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human judgement, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God. We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our judgement, but we subject our intellect and judgement to it as too transcendent for us to estimate. (John Calvin)
I wish Evangelicals would be honest about this instead of trying to “prove” the Bible is true, reliable, accurate, scientifically correct, historically precise, etc, etc, etc.
Evangelicals believe the Bible is the words of God because the Holy Spirit tells them it is. The Bible is truth because God tells them it is. Their belief is a matter of faith. If it is not, then they are guilty of using circular reasoning; the Bible is truth because the Bible says the Bible is truth.
Evangelicals embarrass themselves and their religion when they attempt to “prove” that the Bible is truth. One either accepts the claims of the Bible as truth or they don’t. It has always been about faith.
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. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-6)
I am an atheist today because I do not have the requisite faith necessary to believe that the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. I do not have the requisite faith necessary to believe that the Bible is in any way truth or God’s message to humankind. While I can competently discuss, argue, and debate the intellectual reasons why I think the Bible is an errant, fallible work of men, the reason I am not a Christian is because I am unwilling to set reason and rationality aside to accept, by faith, that the Bible is an authoritative text straight from the mouth of Jehovah.
It all started with my belief that the Bible was the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I considered the Bible the road map for navigating through a Satan dominated. sin plagued world.
According to the Bible, every person is a sinner under the just condemnation of God and deserves to burn in hell for all eternity. The Bible also taught me that God graciously provides a way for us to have our sins forgiven and avoid hell. God sent Jesus Christ, the son of God, to earth be the final atonement for our sin. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sin and three days later rose again from the dead, conquering death and the grave. Our salvation and eternal destiny rests squarely on the merit and work of Jesus. He, and he alone, is the way, truth, and life. Through the preaching of the Word (the Bible) and the work of the Holy Spirit, God calls out to us, saying, repent and believe the gospel. Those who do are gloriously saved and made part of the family of God.
The Bible taught me that as a God called, God ordained minister of the gospel, I had the solemn obligation to preach the good news to everyone. Work for the night is coming. Leave everything for the sake of the gospel. Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ. These clichés were not mere words to me. They were a clarion call to forsake all and follow Jesus.
Every church I attended, every youth group I was a part of, and every summer youth camp I went to, reinforced the belief that God wanted (demanded) one hundred percent of me. All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give, says the old gospel song, I Surrender All. I went to an Evangelical Bible college to train for the ministry. Every class curriculum, every professor, every chapel speaker shouted out to students:
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. We never will give in while souls are lost in sin Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.
My wife went to college to marry a preacher — a God called, God ordained, preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She knew that she would have to make sacrifices for the sake of her husband’s call. She was taught that Jesus, the ministry, and the church came first. She was also taught that her husband was specially chosen by God to proclaim the good news of the gospel. She was encouraged to read biographies of great men and women of faith to learn how to deal with being married to a man of God. Polly and I entered marriage and the ministry knowing God had called us to a life of self-denial and devotion to the work of the ministry. Hand in hand, we embraced the work God had set before us.
I consider 1983-1994 to be the high point of my ministerial career. I pastored a growing, busy church. Sinners were being saved, baptized and joining the church. God was smiling on our work. Not only was this my observation, but it was the observation of my colleagues in the ministry. God was going something special at Somerset Baptist Church.
During this time, I did a lot of preaching. A typical week for me looked something like this:
Jail ministry on Tuesday
Nursing home ministry on Wednesday
Midweek service on Thursday
Street preaching 2-3 days a week
Teaching the adult Sunday school class
Preaching twice on Sunday
We also had a tuition-free Christian school, open only to the children of church members. In addition to my busy church preaching schedule, I held revival services and preached at bible conferences and pastor’s fellowships. I was motivated by what I believed the Bible taught me about the work of the ministry. I looked at the life of the apostles and thought that they were a pattern to follow. Run the race, Paul told me, I. I was totally committed to what I believed was God’s calling on my life.
Some Christians object and say “you are the one who worked yourself to death. Don’t blame the Church or God. OUR pastor doesn’t work this way. He takes time for his family. Blah. Blah Blah.” Even now, as an atheist, I find such objections lame. If the Bible is true, if what it says about God, sin, salvation, death, hell, and heaven is true, how dare any preacher or any Christian for that matter, treat the gospel of Jesus Christ so carelessly. How dare any preacher not burn himself out for the sake of those in need of salvation. No time for busy work. No time for golfing with your fellow preachers.
More than a few pastors are lazy hirelings who do just enough to keep from getting fired. They pastor a church for two or three years, wear out their welcome, and then move on down the road to another church. I have no respect for pastors who defend their laziness by stressing the importance of balance in their lives. Where do they find such a notion in the Bible they say they believe? Jesus doesn’t call them to balance. He calls them to forsake all and follow him.
One of the reasons I see Christianity as a bankrupt religion is the lackadaisical approach Christians and their spiritual leaders have towards matters that supposedly have eternal consequences. Most of what goes on in the average church is meaningless bullshit. Call a business meeting to decide on the color of the paint for the nursery walls and everyone shows up. Implore people to come out for church visitation and the same three or four people show up.
Why should I take the Bible, God, Jesus, salvation, heaven or hell seriously when most Christians and pastors live lives that suggest they don’t. It took leaving the Christian church and leaving the ministry for me to realize that most of what I was chasing after was nothing more than a fool’s errand. Many of the ex-ministers who read this blog know what I am talking about . So much of life wasted, and for what? Too bad I had to be fifty years old before I realized what life is all about. Too bad I sacrificed my health on the altar of the eternal before I realized that there is no eternity, just the here and now.
From a psychological standpoint, I understand that my type A, work-a-holic personality made it easy for me to be the preacher I came to be. Whether it was pastoring churches or managing restaurants, I worked day and night, rarely taking time for family or leisure. I still have the same tendencies, the difference now being that the list of things that matter to me is very small. Polly matters. Family matters. My neighbors matter. But matters of eternity, heaven, and hell? Nary a thought these days. If the Christian God exists then I am screwed, and more than a few of the readers of this blog are too. However, I don’t think the Christian version of God exists, so I am investing all my time, money, and talent on the only life I have. I will leave it up to the gods and my family to do what they will with me after I am dead. Of course, I could come back from the dead and write a book, “Heaven is Real and Boy are the Atheists In Trouble.”
One of the ways that Evangelicals dismiss my life and current beliefs is to say that I never was a Christian, I was a false Christian, or I was Christian in name only.
I thought Christians have been given a spirit of discernment. I thought Christians are filled with Holy Spirit. I thought the Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide. I thought the Bible gives Christians everything they need to know concerning life and godliness. If these things are true, how is it then that NO ONE, not one single person, ever suggested that I was not a real Christian until I openly said I was an agnostic? I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I preached my first sermon at age fifteen and for the next thirty-five years I was a committed, devoted follower of Jesus. I spent twenty-five years in the ministry, pastoring churches and helping thousands of people. I prayed, read and studied the Bible, witnessed, tithed, attended public worship services, and tried to pattern my life according to the teachings of the Bible and the life of Jesus. I sacrificed my life for the sake of the gospel. I willingly lived a life of self-denial, accepting poverty wages so churches could have a full time pastor. This was my life, yet according to some Christians, it was all a charade, a game, or the work of a man inspired by Satan and possessed by demons
A pastor on Facebook said that he could discern the true Christian from the false Christian. I replied that I did not believe he had any such gift. I told him my family and I could put on our Sunday best and come to his church and I could preach for his congregation and EVERYONE would think the Gerencsers are a wonderful Christian family. Perhaps my older children could come along with us and bring their guitars so we could lead the church in a divine, inspiring time of praise and worship. I bet people would even remark that they “felt” God’s presence and that the Gerencsers are a godly example of how a family should be.
I’ve been telling my story online for more than seven years. Uncounted Christians have told me that I never was a Christian. Some of these deniers were close friends and colleagues in the ministry. Why do they say I never was a Christian? By saying this, they are able to ignore the glaring truth that they have no discernment and that the Holy Spirit did not warn them I was a sheep in wolf clothing. This also allows them to avoid the hard theological questions that arise when trying to square my life with their beliefs.
It’s easy to say, in hindsight, I never was a Christian. Why is it no one spotted my deception while I was their pastor? Was I just a great con artist, an Elmer Gantry? Think about this for a moment. For twenty-five years, I was able to successfully con seven churches, thousands of people, and dozens of colleagues in the ministry. Does anyone really think I could pull this off if I were not a Christian?
Here’s the truth, like it or not: I was a Christian and now I am not. I don’t care how you square this with your theology, you know and I know that I was a true-blue, washed-in-the-blood, sanctified, Holy-Ghost-filled, Bible-believing, sin-hating Christian. Jesus was my one and only, the passion and love of my life. I was willing to die for him if need be. If I wasn’t a Christian then nobody is.
Bruce Gerencser, 1991, Somerset Baptist Academy. Surely everyone can see from this picture that I was a real Christian. 🙂
I am sure someone will ask why this matters to me? If God doesn’t exist and the Bible is fairy tale, why should I care whether someone thinks I was a Christian? Imagine, for a moment, that you were a star baseball player in high school. At age eighteen, you were signed to a minor league contract by the New York Yankees. You worked your way through the Yankees minor league system, finally making it to the major leagues at age twenty-three. For the next fifteen years, you played outfield for the Yankees. At the age of thirty-eight you retired. Fast forward to age sixty. You are having a discussion with someone and they tell you that you never were a baseball player. You may have had a ball glove, a bat, and a uniform, but you never were a “real” baseball player! Would you be offended by this? Would it be OK for someone to dismiss your life on the baseball diamond? Of course not. The fact that you were a baseball player from the time you were a child to age thirty-eight was a very important and real experience for you. Tens of thousands of people KNOW you played baseball, yet there are a handful of deniers who are sure you never, ever played the game. While fans are certainly free to discuss and debate how good a player you were, how well you played the game, or if your play helped the Yankees win, but saying you never were a player is irrational.
Yet, this is exactly what some Christians do. They deny I was ever what I said I was. They take a knife to my life and cut huge portions of it away and toss it in the garbage. While this might help them avoid the hard questions my life requires them to answer, the evidence for me having once been a Christian is overwhelming, making their denial ludicrous and irrational. I wonder if the real issue for deniers is that my shocking deconversion forces them to consider that they too could fall from grace, that they too could one day be numbered among the godless.
As regular readers know, I read and monitor a number of right-wing Christian websites and blogs. Some days, it is hard to do. Of late, the hysteria over same-sex marriage has resulted in uncounted Bible thumpers making pronouncements of doom and judgment. Filled with homophobic rage and bigotry, these false prophets are doing all they can to cause the faithful to fear. The gays are coming, the Gays are coming, these modern-day revolutionaries cry out, ignorant of the fact that the gays have always been among us. The only difference now is that gays no longer fear what the religious-right can do to then. Out of the closet they came and they have no intentions of returning.
The real issues aren’t homosexuality or same-sex marriage. Evangelicals, Mormons, and conservative Catholics are losing their seat at the head of the cultural table and they don’t like it. Relegated to the back of the room, little more than an afterthought, they whine, scream, and complain that nobody is paying attention to them. They blame secularism, atheism, and liberal Christianity for the rise of homosexuality in America, but the real blame rests on their shoulders. Thirty or so years ago, the religious-right traded piety and holiness for political power. Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they decided to wage a war against any and all who oppose their morals, ethics, and beliefs. Instead of being counter cultural, the religious right decided to assault their fellow citizens and force them to believe in their God and obey the teachings of the Christian Bible. What is now happening is that secularists, atheists, humanists, liberal Christians, and even Evangelicals and Catholics, are pushing back, realizing that if the religious-right gets their way on same-sex marriage they will not be satisfied until the Bible is enshrined as law and the Christian flag flies of the U.S. Capitol. In others words, theocracy is their goal.
What follows is a handful of the hysterical statements made by those warning that God’s judgment is coming if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. Enjoy!
“I believe there is a war on religious liberty in the United States of America. And this war is not targeting people of the Muslim faith, it’s not targeting people of the Jewish faith or the Hindu faith or the Buddhist faith. This war on religious liberty is targeting people of the Christian faith.”
“The United States Supreme Court may presently make a decision discarding marriage as an unalienable (natural) right. By defect of reason and respect for the Constitution, the decision will return the people of this country to the condition of constantly impending war characteristic of the human condition when and wherever the just premises of government are abandoned.
A decision degrading the natural right of marriage, endowed by the Creator, to the status of a fiat right, fabricated by government, will be unconstitutional on the face of it, because it disparages an antecedent right, retained by the people, which disparagement is explicitly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s Ninth amendment. Under present circumstances, the decision will also invite conflict on account of the openly flaunted prejudice of two of the justices participating in it..
…If the United States Supreme Court presumes to impose any redefinition of marriage on the states, respectively, or the people, without addressing the issue of unalienable right it involves, with reasoning that respects God-endowed right (which is the logic by which the American people asserted, and still claim to possess and exercise, sovereign authority over themselves), the Court’s decision will be an attack on the very foundation of constitutional government, of by and for the people of the United States. It will be a high crime and misdemeanor that effectively dissolves the just bonds of government between and among the states, and among the individuals who compose the people of the United States. It will therefore be just cause for war.
Like the Dred Scott decision that heralded the onset of the first Civil War, the Court’s action will bring the nation to the brink, whence “nothing but confusion and disorder will follow. …” If the justices do not tread carefully, their temerity could very well set in motion the death throes of what is still supposed to be their country. “Forbid it, Almighty God!”
“Now the communists rule this nation and everywhere communism takes control, they go after the churches and they kill the pastors and they demolish the church buildings and they reeducate the church children. That’s what’s coming to America. It’s already started.”
“We are at the end of the road as a nation. If the Supreme Court dares to defy Almighty God one more time, I’m telling you it will be the last time.”
“I believe I am speaking under the unction of the Holy Spirit. I’m telling you there will be swift, sudden and devastating consequences for the United States of America. America will be brought to its knees, there will be pain and suffering at a level we’ve never seen in this country. The word that I hear in my spirit is ‘fire.’ I do not know if it refers to riots or looting or war on American soil or a fireball from space. I simply know that a sweeping, consuming fire will come across the United States of America and this country will be charred and burned.”
“Life may change radically in 60 days. I’m talking about the fast-moving, radical homosexual movement that has captured control of the American political system, the corporate world, the news media, the entertainment industry and the educational system. This is a takeover and it is anti-God, it is anti-Christ. The same-sex marriage case before the U.S. Supreme Court is not about same-sex marriage, it is about the criminalization and the elimination of biblical Christianity in the United States of America.”
“Brace for impact if it goes against God’s divine order of marriage…”
…Now to attempt to change that which is eternal and forever fixed by the Creator is to do nothing less than make the claim that you are God. This is very wrong and very dangerous, and the Supreme Court of these United States is now considering taking this very same dangerous step.
While there are many conclusions that can be drawn as we witness this cultural degradation, one comes most immediately to my mind. When a culture discards the Word of God as the standard for what is right and what is wrong, and relegates these determinations to fallen men, the results are as predictable as they are terrible.
In the time of the founding of America, when a Biblical worldview was predominant in the American people, this connection between following the commandments and peaceable existence was clearly known, easily understood and evidentially experienced in the American culture. Undoubtedly, living prosperously by living righteously is what Jefferson meant when he used the phrase “pursuit of happiness”.
Psalm Two warns that when the judges and the rulers of the earth throw off God’s law and take it upon themselves to make their own rules for right and wrong, they will be dashed to pieces like a rod of iron striking a clay pot.
Regrettably we seem to be setting ourselves up for this very lesson. Unless our government officials start obeying God and stop “playing god,” this is a lesson we will experience fully…
Liberty Counsel chairman Matt Staver “urged the owners of an Oregon bakery who were fined for violating the state’s non-discrimination law when they denied service to a gay customer to refuse to pay the fine in an act of civil disobedience against an “unjust law.”:
“If the government wants to come in and put Rosa Parks on the back of the bus, Rosa Parks shouldn’t move to the back of the bus. If they are wanting to take Christians and put you on the back of the bus because of your faith, you shouldn’t voluntarily walk to the back of the bus.”
“There is nothing historically or throughout our long history of Judeo-Christianity that says that someone who’s got dark skin can’t marry someone who’s got white skin or lighter color skin. That’s never been rooted in our history, that’s never been rooted in natural law, that’s never been rooted in millennia of human history. Marriage is objectively, to use a philosophical term, ontologically, the union of a man and a woman. If you can’t get that right, good grief, how can you be a judge on any court?”
The “abomination of desolation” that was prophesied by Daniel, Jesus, and the first century apostles could have been translated “the abomination that desolates.” Because homosexuality is referred to as an abomination in Scripture, and its impact on Western culture is so quickly and profoundly desolating the moral fabric of Western civilization, it is to be expected that many will start to consider this “the abomination that desolates.”
Who could have dreamed just two decades ago that we would have major cities celebrating “Days of Decadence” with all manner of perversions being performed and flaunted openly in our streets? Who would have thought that such a moral and religious nation could fall so quickly to the ultimate national depravity spoken of in Isaiah 5—calling what God calls “good,” “evil,” and what God calls “evil,” “good,” while the dishonorable are honored and the honorable are dishonored? Is that not precisely what has happened to America in just the last generation?
The meltdown of morality in our military could be happening even faster. Just a few years ago, the U.S. military was such a bastion of morality and integrity that adultery was considered grounds for dismissal because one’s vows had been broken. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the handwriting on the wall that a devastating change was coming. But who could have foreseen the pace of the desolation of our military since homosexuality was openly allowed in the ranks? It moved quickly from everyone having to accept it, to everyone having to celebrate it if you expected any further promotions, to now being forced out if you do not celebrate it.
Christians are now openly discriminated against, if not persecuted, in the U.S. military. Not only are some of the best and brightest leaving the military, they are no longer choosing it as a possible career.
The same is taking place throughout government services on all levels, as well as corporations, education, and the media, as was once the case for a long time in arts and entertainment. Now, with a single Supreme Court decision it could be that Christians, Muslims, and Jews that honor their books as the word of God will not be able to “buy, sell, or trade” in America without the constant threat of losing your business, or your position and livelihood, because of an offended homosexual.
Even if this is not “the mark of the beast,” it will be for those who are now losing what they, in some cases, have given their lives to build, because they would not compromise their religious convictions in order to buy, sell, or trade. If the Supreme Court decision falls the way it is expected to, we can be sure that very soon every Christian in America will have to make a similar choice between obeying the Word of God or this beast.
Matt Staver, Rick Santorum, Kenneth Blackwell, Steve Deace, Bradlee Dean, John Eidsmoe, Joseph Farah, E.W. Jackson, Rods Parsley, Paige Patterson, Andrew Sandlin, Ed Young, Larry Tomczak, Jerry Prevo, Janet Porter, Tim Lee, Richard Land, Peter LaBarbera, Phil Burress, William Boykin, Robert Jeffress, Tim Wildmon, Don Wildmon, Mike Huckabee, Franklin Graham, Harry Jackson, James Dobson, and a cast of thousands, signed the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage:
We stand together in defense of marriage and the family and society founded upon them. While we come from a variety of communities and hold differing faith perspectives, we are united in our common affirmation of marriage.
On the matter of marriage, we stand in solidarity. We affirm that marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.
Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by faith, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason. It is part of the natural created order. The Natural Law is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as a higher law or a just law in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Marriage is the preeminent and the most fundamental of all human social institutions. Civil institutions do not create marriage nor can they manufacture a right to marry for those who are incapable of marriage. Society begins with marriage and the family.
We pledge to stand together to defend marriage for what it is, a bond between one man and one woman, intended for life, and open to the gift of children.
The institutions of civil government should defend marriage and not seek to undermine it. Government has long regulated marriage for the true common good. Examples, such as the age of consent, demonstrate such a proper regulation to ensure the free and voluntary basis of the marriage bond. Redefining the very institution of marriage is improper and outside the authority of the State. No civil institution, including the United States Supreme Court or any court, has authority to redefine marriage.
As citizens united together, we will not stand by while the destruction of the institution of marriage unfolds in this nation we love. The effort to redefine marriage threatens the essential foundation of the family.
Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. The precedent established will leave no room for any limitation on what can constitute such a redefined notion of marriage or human sexuality. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason.
Conferring a moral and legal equivalency to any relationship other than marriage between a man and a woman, by legislative or judicial fiat, sends the message that children do not need a mother and a father. As a policy matter, such unions convey the message that moms and dads are completely irrelevant to the well-being of children. Such a policy statement is unconscionable and destructive. Authorizing the legal equivalency of marriage to same-sex couples undermines the fundamental rights of children and threatens their security, stability, and future.
Neither the United States Supreme Court nor any court has authority to redefine marriage and thereby weaken both the family and society. Unlike the Legislative Branch that has the power of the purse and the Executive Branch which has the figurative power of the sword, the Judicial Branch has neither. It must depend upon the Executive Branch for the enforcement of its decisions.
As the Supreme Court acknowledged in the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, its power rests solely upon the legitimacy of its decisions in the eyes of the people. If the decisions of the Court are not based on the Constitution and reason, and especially if they are contrary to the natural created order, then the people will lose confidence in the Court as an objective arbiter of the law. If the people lose respect for the Court, the Court’s authority will be diminished.
The Supreme Court was wrong when it denied Dred Scott his rights and said, “blacks are inferior human beings.” And the Court was wrong when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in Buck v. Bell, “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thus upholding Virginia’s eugenics law that permitted forced sterilization. Shamefully, that decision was cited during the Nuremburg trials to support the Nazi eugenic holocaust.
In these earlier cases, the definition of “human” was at issue. Now the definition of “marriage” is at issue. The Constitution does not grant a right to redefine marriage — which is nonsensical since marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman. Nor does the Constitution prohibit states from affirming the natural created order of male and female joined together in marriage.
We will view any decision by the Supreme Court or any court the same way history views the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions. Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.
We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.
It is April 29, 2015. Two hundred and twenty six years ago this day, George Washington readied himself for the first ever presidential inauguration, to take place the following day, the day America as we know it came into existence, with a president’s hand resting on the Word of God. That day would conclude with America’s first government gathering in prayer to dedicate the nation’s future into God’s hands.
A century and a half earlier, another seminal event took place on the same day. On April 29, 1607, the voyagers of the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed, gathered together in prayer at Cape Henry to set a wooden cross in the sands of Virginia Beach, and dedicate the new civilization to the will and purposes of God.
America’s biblical foundation would be reaffirmed over and over again by its forefathers, from the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, to the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, to the leaders of the first American colonies who declared publicly and in writing that the new commonwealth had come into existence solely for the glory and purposes of God.
No historian can rewrite that. No president can expunge it. And if a thousand angels swore on a thousand bibles that this was not the case, it would in no way alter the fact – that this American civilization was conceived, established, dedicated, and founded on a biblical cornerstone; America was brought into existence for the will and purposes of God.
On this night, over two hundred years ago, George Washington held in his hand the first ever presidential address. In that address was a prophetic warning: It was this:”the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained.” In other words, if America should ever turn away from God and His ways, if it should ever disregard His eternal rules of order and right, then His blessings, the smiles of Heaven, would be removed from the land.
It was an ancient warning. It had been given in Hebrew words by the prophets to the kingdom of Israel. But Israel turned away from God and disregarded His eternal rules of order and right.
They drove God out of their government, out of their public squares, out of their culture, and out of the lives of their children. They worshiped idols and served other gods. They celebrated immorality and persecuted the righteous. They lifted up their children on the altars of foreign gods. And the blessings of God were removed from the land and replaced with judgment.
It is two and half thousand years later, and America has made the same mistake. We, too, have turned away from God. We, too, have driven Him out of our government, out of our public squares, out of our culture, and out of the lives of our children. We too have profaned the sacred and sanctified the profane. And we, too, have killed our most innocent, over fifty five million of our unborn children, and our collective hands are covered with blood. What we were warned never to do, we now have done.
And now we gather in the city named after the one who gave that prophetic warning. And yesterday, in this city, in the building that sits across from this hill, the justices of the Supreme Court took up their places on the bench to decide whether America should strike down the biblical and historic definition of marriage. The very fact that such an event took place is, in itself, a sign that the America of Washington’s warning is here and the day of which he warned is now.
We have become a civilization in spiritual schizophrenia, a nation at war against its own foundations. The Supreme Court opens its sessions with the words: “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” But if then this honorable court should overrule the word of God and strike down the eternal rules of order and right that Heaven itself hath ordained, how then will God save it?
Supreme Court Justices, can you judge the ways of God? Can you, with manmade verdicts, overrule the eternal laws of God? There is another court, and there is another judge. And before Him, all men and all judges will give account. If a nation’s high court should pass judgment on the Almighty, should you then be surprised if the Almighty should pass judgment on that court and that nation.
In the Book of Jeremiah, it is written: “Has a nation ever exchanged its gods… Yet my people have exchanged their glory for that which cannot help them.” Let us not pretend as to what we are now doing. We are doing exactly that which Israel did on the altars of Baal. We are exchanging our God for idols, our light for darkness, and our glory for that which cannot save us. Are we ready to risk that which comes on the other side of that exchange, the day when the blessings of Heaven are removed from the land?
We began with a word from the president of our nation’s first days. So I now speak a word to the president of our nation’s most recent days. Each time I have spoken here, I have asked a question. Now I will answer it. “Mr. President, with all respect that is due, ‘What happens if one assumes the presidency by placing his left hand on the Word of God, and then, with his right hand, enacts laws that war against the very same Word of God on which he laid his hand? Such an act invokes the judgment of the Almighty.
To swear an oath on the Word of God in which it is written “Defend the weak” and “Do not murder,” and to then to not defend the weak, to not protect the unborn from harm, but, instead, to advance their murder, is to invoke the judgment of the Almighty.
To swear an oath on the Word of God, in which it is written, “Do not cause your brother to stumble,” and then to seek to force those who uphold the Word of God to transgress the Word of God, by partaking in the killing of the unborn and the celebration of sin, is to invoke the judgment of the Almighty.
And to swear an oath on the Word of God, in which it is written, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” and then to take part in leading a nation away from “the eternal rules of order and right that Heaven itself hath ordained,” and against the very Word of God on which you laid your hand to swear that oath, is to invoke the judgment of the Almighty.
When the leaders of ancient Israel turned away from God, when they abolished His precepts, and broke His covenant, they did so in the shadow of Moses, whose voice cried out to them in warning.
“Mr. President, when you address the nation from this house, look up. Look up above the Senators and Representatives, above the Supreme Court Justices, and above the invited guests – and you will see a face – the only full visage on that wall – looking back at you. It is the face of Moses.
And if that face could speak, it would say this: “No king can overrule the laws of God, no order can annul the order of God, and no judgment of man can stand against the judgments of God. Invoke not His judgment. But choose life. And lead in the way of repentance. Invoke the grace of God, that He might have mercy on this land.”
We have come to a most critical moment. As Elijah stood on top of Mount Carmel and cried out to Israel in its hour of decision, in between two altars and two gods, his voice now cries out to America and says to us, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Seventy years ago, the Chaplain of the United States Senate, cried out in the same voice, and said to this nation, “If the Lord be God, then follow Him! But if Baal, then follow him… and go to hell!”
Tonight, America stands at the crossroads. And as Elijah came to the summit of Mount Carmel to make a declaration, we have come this night to Capitol Hill to declare… that our God… is not Baal. Our God… is not Molech. Our God… is not government. Our God… is not money. Our God… is not power. Our God… is not pleasure. Our God… is not political correctness or any other manmade thing.
We have come to this hill to declare… that there is only one God – And He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of Israel and of all nations. And He alone is the Rock upon which this nation has come into existence.
And from this high place we make this declaration: We will not bow down our knees to Baal. We will not bow down our knees to political correctness. We will not bow down our knees to a morality that is as shifting as wind swept sand. We will not bow down our knees to the laws and precepts of rebellion or to the sacred cows of moral apostasy. We will not bow down our knees to the idols of man. We will not bow down to Baal.
We will bow down our knees only… to the Lord our God, come what may, and we will have no other gods before Him.
For some trust in chariots, and some trust in princes, some trust in supreme courts, and some trust in white houses, some trust in governments, and some trust in wall streets, some trust in powers, and some trust in idols.
But we will trust in the name of the Lord our God, in the name above all names, above all kings, and above all powers. We will trust in the only name given by which we can be saved.
We will trust in the name of Yeshua Ha Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, the Judge of all judges, the Light of this World, the Glory of Israel, the foundation stone upon which this nation came into existence, and the only answer, the only chance, and the only hope America has, that it might once again shine with the light of the fire of the presence of the glory of the Living God … and not … go to hell!
One of the common search phrases that bring people to this site is What is an IFB Church? Here’s my answer to this question.
I stands for Independent
The local, visible church is an independent body of believers who are not associated or affiliated with any denomination. The pastor answers only to God, and to a lesser degree the church. The church answers to no one but God. Most IFB churches oppose any form of government involvement or intrusion into its affairs. While some IFB churches have deacon boards or elders, almost all of them have a congregational form of government.
F stands for Fundamentalist (or Fundamental)
The independent church is fundamentalist in its doctrine and practice. IFB churches are social and theological fundamentalists. (see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists) Fundamentalists adhere to an external code of conduct. Often this code of conduct is called church standards. The Bible, or should I say the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, is the rule by which church members are expected to live. IFB churches spend a significant amount of time preaching and teaching about how God the pastor expects people to live.
IFB churches are also theological fundamentalists. They adhere to a certain and specific theological standard, a standard by which all other Christians and denominations are judged. Every IFB pastor and church believes things like:
The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
The sinfulness, depravity of man
The deity of Christ
The virgin birth of Christ
The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin
The resurrection of Christ from the dead
The second coming of Christ
Separation from the world
Salvation from sin is by and through Christ alone
Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
I am sure other doctrines that could be added to this list, but the list above is a concise statement of ALL things an IFB church and pastor must believe to be considered an IFB church.
B stands for Baptist
IFB churches are Baptist churches adhering to the ecclesiology and theology mentioned above. Some IFB churches are landmark Baptists or Baptist briders. They believe the Baptist church is the true church and all other churches are false churches. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, which made him a Baptist, and the first churches established by the Baptist apostles were Baptist churches. Churches like this go to great lengths to prove their Baptist lineage dates all the way back to John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles. (see The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll)
Other IFB churches and pastors believe that Baptist ecclesiology and theology are what the Bible clearly teaches. They grudgingly admit that other denominations “might” be Christian too, but they are quick to say why be a part of a bastardized form of Christianity when you can have the real deal.
Some Southern Baptist churches are IFB. They are Southern Baptist in name only. It is not uncommon for an IFB pastor to pastor a Southern Baptist church with the intent of pulling them out of the Southern Baptist convention. Because of this, it is not uncommon for Southern Baptist churches to reject resumes from pastors with a IFB background. Area missionaries warn churches about pernicious IFB pastors who desire to take over churches and pull the churches out of the convention.
Many Christian sects teach that a person can commit the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin is an act or behavior so heinous that God will never forgive the person who commits it. Where does this teaching come from?
The Bible says in Matthew 12:31,32:
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Many Christians commentators believe the unpardonable is ascribing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit. The context of Matthew 12:31,32 is Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath day and the Pharisee’s accusing Jesus of working by the power of Satan.
Several years ago, I received the following email from a blog reader in Canada:
I will not take much of your time sir, except to say it’s people like you who nail down the authenticity of HELL. You are to be pitied, for you have spent the greater part of your life pretending to be something you never were…a CHRISTIAN. To be a Christian means to have Christ in you (via the Holy Spirit). Obviously, the spirit that fills you is a vile, demonic presence. My concern should be for your soul, but somehow I tend to believe you have committed the “unpardonable sin”, simply by your contemptible re-assessment of Christianity in general. For you, sir…my prayers may be in vain, but for all the precious souls you profess to have led to Christ, I must pray that their “salvation” is a credible one and they have not followed the abominable trail of demonic lies you have set before them in the aftermath of your own life.
Let’s see if I can sum up his argument:
People like me prove the authenticity of hell
I am to be pitied because I spent the greater part of my life pretending to be a Christian
I am filled with a vile, demonic presence
I have committed the unpardonable sin
He is not concerned for me since it is to late for me to be redeemed, but he is concerned for the people I pastored. He hopes that their salvation is credible (Greek for they have the real deal like me) and that they have not followed the “abominable trail of demonic lies you have set before them”
The gist of the matter is this: I never was a Christian and I am an unredeemable agent of Satan.
There is only one problem with this line of thinking…I don’t believe in God and since Satan is a creation of the Christian God and the Christian Bible (and Dante) I don’t believe in Satan either. So threatening me with hell has no effect, thus proving, of course, that I am a reprobate, a man with a hardened heart, a man beyond the reach of even God himself.
Here’s my message to the reader in Canada:
Let this man’s words be a warning to all. This is what happens when you drink deeply at the well of religious certainty. He is so certain that he is right, that he has the correct, true, infallible truth, that anyone who does not follow after his God’s truth and his interpretation of this truth is deceived.
This man shall someday learn the truth, except he won’t know it because dead men learn nothing.
Thus saith Bruce Almighty
Yes, I am mocking and ridiculing this man. He deserves it. I have no respect for people like this, people filled with their own arrogance and certainty, people who live in a world so narrow and confined that I doubt Jesus himself would want to spend time with them.