Evangelicalism

Rebellion and How an Authoritarian God Deals With it

rebellion

Rebellion is a common word in the vocabulary of Evangelical Christian pastors, church leaders, husbands, and parents.

Here’s what the Bible says about God’s view of rebellion:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23)

Those who practiced witchcraft were to be put to death (Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:9-11), so it is clear that God considered rebellion a serious matter.

God commanded a harsh punishment for a rebellious son:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them;Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

The Old Testament is the written record of how a Holy God dealt with a rebellious people, Israel. Page after page details God’s judgments against his people and those who got in his way.

When we get to the New Testament, the word rebellion is not used. Does this mean that God has changed? Of course not. How is it possible for a perfect God to change?  Malachi 3:6 says:

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

The Bible says, speaking of Jesus:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

It is clear that God is immutable. He doesn’t change. (though there are a few texts that seem to suggest otherwise)

The Evangelical Church is a sect that accepts both Testaments as authoritative. (especially those Old Testament verses about tithing) Granted, Evangelicals are quite contradictory in their interpretations of the Old Testament, picking and choosing what they want to believe, but they do say all sixty-six books of the Bible are authoritative.

The key word is AUTHORATATIVE.

Evangelicals take seriously the matter of rebellion because they believe that the Bible is an authoritative text and from that text they deduce an authority structure.

It goes something like this:

  • The Christian God is the supreme authority over everything. He is the sovereign over all. He is the creator. He is in complete and absolute control. Even with salvation, no one can be saved unless God permits them to be saved. (both Calvinists and Arminians believe God is the final arbiter when it comes to salvation)
  • The Christian God has established authority in the church. Under Jesus Christ, pastors (elders, bishops) are the head of the church. They have been called by God to teach, correct, lead, and direct the church. They are to initiate discipline when necessary to ensure the church is a pure, holy body. (though many churches have a pretty low standard for pure and holy)
  • The Christian God has established authority in the home. Again, under Jesus Christ, the husband is the head of the home and his wife is to submit to his authority. Children are to obey their parents and submit to their authority.
  • The Christian God has established authority in nations. All nations are to bow to the authority of the Christian God. Their laws should reflect God’s law. Better yet, theocracy, God rule, is the best form of government.

The Evangelical Christian believes God rules over all. There is no King but Jesus and no God but the Christian God.

The problem here is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much like the rest of us. For all their praying and confessing sin, they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.

And that is a big, big problem.

You see the God of the authoritative Bible demands obedience. God expects Christians to implicitly obey his commands. All of them. God will have none of this picking and choosing that American Christians love to do.

So everywhere you look you have Christians in some form of rebellion against God, the pastor, their parents, or their husband. No matter how much they pray, read the Bible, go to the altar, and promise to really obey God this time, they continue to lapse into sin and rebellion.

This is what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5:48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It seems Jesus didn’t lower the standard. God expects and demands perfection. God will have none of this “I am not perfect just forgiven” cheap grace Christianity. Jesus expects his followers to walk in his steps. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they have been given everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

But, let me say again:

The problem here is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much just like the rest of us. For all their praying and confessing sin they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.

The difference between the atheist and the Evangelical Christian is guilt. The Christian lives in a constant cycle of living right, rebelling, feeling guilty, repenting, and back to living right. This cycle can go on numerous times a day. The atheist can feel guilty at times, but since they are not encumbered by a long list of laws, commands, rules, regulations, precepts, or standards, they are less likely to feel guilty. With no God hovering over them and no pastor preaching at them, the atheist is pretty much free to enjoy life.  The atheist tired to live by the maxim: don’t hurt other people, and when they fails they are likely to make restitution and ask for forgiveness from the person they hurt. No need for a God, Bible, church, or pastor. As a human, the atheist has all the faculties necessary to be a good person.

What makes it worse for the Christian is that they go to church on Sunday and their pastor reminds them, from the Bible of course, of how rebellious they are. He points out their sin and reminds them that God hates sin. He calls on them to repent. You would think that people would get tired of all this, but each week they dutifully return to church so their pastor can remind them about their sinfulness and need of repentance.

Children, especially teenagers, get this same treatment from their parents. When they don’t obey their parents they are chastised and reminded that God hates rebellion. But kids will be kids, as every parent knows, and in Christian homes it seems that children are either starting into rebellion or coming out of it.

Parents are commanded by God to beat the rebellion out of their children. God provides himself as a good role model to follow.  Hebrews 12:5-10 says:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

The Bible records how God goes about chastising rebellious Christians. He maims them, makes them sick, kills their family, takes away their possessions, starves them, and, if necessary, kills them. God goes to great lengths to make sure a Christian seeks after the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Here’s how God expects Evangelical Christian parents to respond to the rebellion of their children:

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13,14)

Let me tie this all together.

An authoritative text from an authoritarian God establishes authority structures for the church, family, and nations. Disobedience to authority is to be punished.

For those of us raised in this kind of Christianity (and all forms of Christianity have some of this, even liberal iterations of Christianity) we well know how this practically works out.The Bible, in the hands of God’s man, the pastor, is used to dominate and control people. Individuality and freedom is discouraged, and, in some cases, severely punished.

Pastors remind the church of pastoral authority. Parents remind children that they are to be obedient and threaten them with punishment if they don’t. Husbands remind their subservient wives that they are the head of the home and their word is f-i-n-a-l. Collectively, Christians warn government officials that Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and God demands they submit to the authority of God, the Bible, and his people. (this is the essence of the theocracy movement in this country)

Some readers are likely weeping by now. Their mind goes back twenty or thirty years to a time when they were teenagers. Their parents considered them rebellious. Often their rebellion was things like listening to rock music, smoking, getting pregnant, talking back, having sex, or smoking marijuana.Their parents, needing to show them that they were in charge, sent them off to group homes to get their “rebellion” problem fixed. What really happened is that they were cruelly misused, abused, and debased. Years later, their lives still bear the marks of the Godly “rebellion” treatment they received.

It is hard not to see cultism in all of this. I am sure Bible-believing Christians, people of the book, will scream foul, but the marks of a cult are there for all to see if they dare but open their eyes. Millions of people attend churches that believe the things I have written about in this post. This is what Bible literalism gets you. How could it be otherwise?

I Did it All for Jesus, My Life of Self-Denial

somerset baptist church 1983-1994 2

Our hillbilly mansion. We lived in this 720 square foot mobile home for five years, all eight of us.

I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Christian church. Baptized a Lutheran and later making a public profession of faith in a Baptist church at the age of fifteen, I had been a part of the Christian church most of my life. I preached my first sermon at the age of fifteen, attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college as a young man, and pastored churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

I never went through the angst many people go through when determining what to do with their lives. At the age of five, I told my mother I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up. From the age of fifteen to the age of fifty, I was a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no doubt that God had called me to preach to sinners the unsearchable riches of Christ.

I am an all in kind of guy. I have little tolerance for doing things halfway. When Jesus called to me and told me to leave my proverbial nets, I did so immediately. I was a devoted, committed, sold-out follower of Jesus Christ. My passion was for God, his church, and the Word of God. For twenty-five years, my life was consumed by the ministry and the work I believed God had called me to do.

Up until I started blogging in 2007, no one had ever doubted that I was saved, that I was a devoted, committed follower of Jesus. A person who years ago knew me quite well, was shocked when she heard that I was no longer a pastor and that I was now an atheist. She said, Butch (my family nickname) was the real deal. It is important to understand this point. NO ONE…out of the thousands of people I came in contact with, ever expressed doubt about my salvation. Not one teacher, not one deacon, not one evangelist, not one church member, not one fellow pastor, ever expressed doubt that I was a Christian or that I was a God-called preacher.

Those who now contend I was never a Christian or that I was a false teacher make their judgment based not on the evidence of the life I lived, but their peculiar interpretation of the Bible. For the Baptists, Calvinists, and many Evangelicals, the only way to square my life with their theology is for them to say I never was a Christian or that I still am a Christian Arminians have less of a problem explaining my life. While they are “troubled” by my apostasy, they recognize that I was a Christian. In their eyes, I fell from grace, and I am now no longer a Christian.

I realize that I am a rare bird. While there are many men who leave the ministry, few leave it as I did so late in life. Many of the notable preacher-turned-atheists, apostatized and left the ministry in their twenties and thirties. I left at the age of fifty. This does not make me special in any way, but it does make me an exception to the rule. And this is why Christian people have a hard time understanding how it is possible for a man to be a Christian for most of his life and to pastor churches for twenty-five years, to then just walk away from it all and renounce Jesus.

Those who know me personally have a difficult time wrapping their mind around Pastor Bruce being an atheist. To quote Nicodemus in John 3, how can these things be? But, whether they can understand it or not, here I am. I once was a Christian, I once was a man of God, and now I am not.

My life was motivated by the following verses:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24,25)

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1,2)

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:15,16)

For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (James 4:14,15)

These verses, along with my commitment to follow every command in the Bible, led me to a life of self-denial and economic simplicity. While most people around me were focused on earning a living, providing for their family, and accumulating material goods, I was focused on making just enough money to keep a roof over my family’s head. I took seriously the command to “learn in whatever state I am to be content.” I practiced a Baptist version of voluntary poverty, and as the head of the home, I led my family to do the same. I figured that whatever money and material goods we had was what God wanted us to have. To desire, require, or want more was a sure sign that I was in love with the things of the world.

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio 1983-1994

Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, my family and I were economically at or below the poverty line. For many years we drove junk cars and for five years our family of eight lived in a three bedroom 12’x60’ mobile home. I paid $2,800 for the mobile home and parked it next to the church. It was a ratty old mobile home to which I had to do extensive work so we could live in it. As I look back on it now, I see this mobile home as a snapshot of my/our life of self-denial.

Somewhere in the late 1990s, I woke up one day, looked around, and realized that our family was the only one living this way. Everyone else, pastor friends included, were busy building their kingdom on this earth. Their focus was on their job, career, home, land, education, and retirement. My focus was on living a voluntary life of self-denial so that I might preach the gospel. I saw myself as following in the steps of Jesus and Paul. Why wasn’t anyone else living this way?

I still think my interpretation of the Bible was essentially correct. It wasn’t that I took Christianity too seriously, it was that most everyone else didn’t take it seriously enough. After all, did Jesus not say:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (Matthew 6:24, 25)

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19,20)

My heart was squarely focused on Jesus. I treasured the Word of God and preaching the gospel. I saw the world neatly divided into saved and lost. As a saved man, one who believed in a literal hell, how could I idly sit by while knowing that most people did not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ? I spent most of my married life hustling for Jesus. Preaching, teaching, witnessing, preaching on the street, preaching at nursing homes, visiting prison inmates, knocking on doors, visiting bus routes, handing out tracts, and starting churches.  Like the Apostle Paul, I believed, woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!

somerset baptist church 1983-1994

Our son Jaime, and our two girls, Bethany and Laura.

I took seriously Ezekiel 3:17-19:

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me, When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

I believed that God would hold me accountable for every soul that went to hell because I did not witness to them. I felt I was duty bound to warn sinners of their wicked ways and of the judgment to come. My preaching, methodology, and lifestyle reflected this. Even though I was more committed than anyone else I knew, I also knew I was far from perfect, that I was far from being as committed as I could be. I pleaded with God to give me more of his power, more of his Spirit, just like he gave to great preachers like DL MoodyHudson TaylorDavid BrainerdJohn WesleyCharles FinneyAdoniram Judson,  and Charles Spurgeon.

I left the ministry in 2005 and I left Christianity in 2008. It is hard for me not to look back on my/our life of self-denial with bitter regret. Yes, I helped a lot of people and yes, in spite of our poverty, we had a good life. But, a lifetime of self-denial has put my wife and me in an economically difficult place. We are by no means poor. We have more than enough money to pay our bills and live a comfortable life. We still live simply, and outside of a 2015 Ford Escape sitting in the driveway, our home and its furnishings are modest. When we bought our home in 2007, we bought a fixer-upper and we have been fixing it up ever since. Our life is comfortable, dare I say blessed. But, I can’t help thinking about where we might now be if I had not been so focused on living a life of self-denial? In about three years, I will officially “retire.” I will draw a minimal social security check because I didn’t pay social security tax for most of the years I was in the ministry. I have no other retirement plan. Polly will likely have to work after she reaches retirement age. I deeply regret this, but decisions have consequences, and because I made a decision years ago to not pay social security tax and because I thought Jesus and the church would take care of me when I was old, I made no other plans for the future.  After all, I planned on dying with my boots on.

Life is one long lesson learned. How about you? Were you a devoted follower of Jesus? Did you take seriously the verses I mentioned in this post? If so, what did your life of self-denial look like? Did you do without for the sake of Jesus and the church? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

082216

Beyond An Absence of Faith

beyond an absence of faith

Beyond An Absence of Faith: Stories About the Loss of Faith and Discovery of Self, edited by Jonathan M.S. Pearce and Tristan Vick, is an anthology of deconversion stories, including my own. In the book, you will find the deconversion stories of:

  • Sarah Sabella
  • Bud Uzoras
  • Saleha M
  • Sergio Paulo Sider
  • Alicia Norman
  • Arsalan
  • Vyckie Garrison
  • Counter Apologist
  • William Lucas
  • Tristan Vick
  • Mindi Rosser
  • No Cross No Crescent
  • Rebecca Bradley
  • Mike Doolittle
  • Bruce Gerencser
  • Beth Ann Erickson

Beyond An Absence of Faith is not a book written to defend atheism or attack religion. It is 263 pages of everyday people detailing their journey from belief to unbelief. Since I have a chapter in the book, and many of you know some of the people listed above, I thought I’d let readers know how they can get a copy of the book.

The book is available through Amazon, paperback or Kindle.

The Ken Ham Maxim: The Bible Says…

god said it

The Ken Ham Maxim, The Bible Says…

It is quite easy to predict how Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham will react to a new scientific discovery. It doesn’t matter what the discovery is, Ham will judge its veracity based on whether it bolsters his literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3. If it does, he loudly proclaims that the new discovery proves God created the universe in six literal 24 hour days, 6,019 years ago. If it doesn’t, Ham, filled with the righteous indignation of an Old Testament prophet, declares that scientists are wrongly interpreting the data, using wrong methods, or are secret agents working for secularists who want to rid the world of Christians.

Ham is upset about a recent study published by the Arizona State University Institute of Origin about a human jawbone discovered in Ethiopia in 2013:  The Guardian reports:

A lower jaw bone and five teeth discovered on a hillside in Ethiopia are the oldest remains ever found that belong to the genus Homo, the lineage that ultimately led to modern humans.

Fossil hunters spotted the jaw poking out of a rocky slope in the dry and dusty Afar region of the country about 250 miles from Addis Ababa.

The US-led research team believes the individual lived about 2.8m years ago, when the now parched landscape was open grassland and shrubs nourished by tree-lined rivers and wetlands.

The remains are about 400,000 years older than fossils which had previously held the record as the earliest known specimens on the Homo lineage.

The discovery sheds light on a profoundly important but poorly understood period in human evolution that played out between two and three million years ago, when humans began the crucial transformation from ape-like animals into forms that used tools and eventually began to resemble modern humans.

“This is the the first inkling we have of that transition to modern behaviour. We were no longer solving problems with our bodies but with our brains,” said Brian Villmoare at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

The new fossil, found at a site called Ledi-Geraru, has a handful of primitive features in common with an ancient forerunner of modern humans called Australopithecus afarensis. The most well-known specimen, the 3m-year-old Lucy, was unearthed in 1974 in Hadar, only 40 miles from the Ledi-Geraru site. But the latest fossil has more modern traits too. Some are seen only on the Homo lineage, such as a shallower chin bone…

…Other researchers agree. In a separate paper published in Nature, Fred Spoor at University College, London, reports a virtual reconstruction of a Homo habilis skull. “By digitally exploring what Homo habilis really looked like, we could infer the nature of its ancestor, but no such fossils were known,” said Spoor. “Now the Ledi-Geraru jaw has turned up as if on request, suggesting a plausible evolutionary link between Australopithecus afarensis and Homo habilis.”…

Ken Ham has a problem with any number that has more than four digits, that is unless it is a tax credit from the state of Kentucky, then he likes the number 18 with six zeroes. Since scientists are using numbers with lots of zeros to date the jawbone, Ham has published an article repudiating the recent find:

Headlines are buzzing with news about the oldest known human in the fossil record. The specimen—half a lower jawbone with five teeth—was found in the Ledi-Geraru research area in Ethiopia and has been recently reported in the journal Science. This jaw was found in 2013 about 12 miles from where “Lucy” was originally discovered. Lucy, of course, is an extinct ape called Australopithecus afarensis, and evolutionists believe Lucy was an important step in human evolution.

Officially dated at 2.8 million years, the Ledi jaw has been assigned a date midway between the “most recent” specimens of Australopithecus afarensis and the “oldest” examples of human fossils, Homo habilis. Researchers have not been able to determine the Ledi jaw’s species, but they are convinced it is a species of Homo. Its discoverers are touting it as a transitional form, a missing link between Lucy and Homo.

Now, we’ll post a more comprehensive article about the Ledi jaw next week. Our qualified AiG researchers will describe for you the anatomy of the new fossil and how it compares to the jaws and teeth of apes like Lucy and those of humans. But as much as the evolutionary community is raving about the convenient timeline connecting Lucy, the Ledi jaw, and later humans, many of their conclusions are based on the unverifiable dates assigned to it. And like all such millions-of-years claims, these dates are totally dependent on assumptions and worldview-based interpretations of radiometric dating methods. They are calling some of the Ledi jaw’s features “primitive” and others “advanced” because they assume that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors along this timeline.

You see, your worldview determines how you interpret the evidence. These scientists have a secular worldview, and they start with the assumption that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors so that’s what they see..

…But what does the Bible tell us? God made all kinds of land animals as well as Adam and Eve on Day Six of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. He made animals to reproduce and vary only within their created kinds. And this is confirmed through observational science. God made the first man, Adam, in His own image on that same day, from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7)—not through evolutionary processes and ape-like ancestors. He also made the first woman from the man (from Adam’s side). Obviously Christians cannot claim God supposedly used evolution as some try to do! No matter what evolutionary scientists claim about fossils like this, the truth is it is that while a fossil could be human or could be an ape, it could never be a transitional form…

matchbox

For Ham, it’s never about the science. The Bible says…end of discussion. No matter what scientists find, if the new discovery contradicts Ham’s literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3, “qualified AIG researchers” will find some way to discredit the discovery. Their entire worldview depends on their ability to keep modern science contained within the matchbox of young earth creationism. Scientists long ago lit a match and set fire to this box, but Ham and others like him, sit in the ashes of their ignorant beliefs and continue to pretend the box is still whole.

Is there any hope of reaching someone who is a creationist? Sure. Thousands of former creationists read this blog. They, at one time, had beliefs similar to those of Ken Ham, so they are a testimony to the possibility of change. But the only way for this to happen is to destroy the foundation these errant beliefs are built upon. Until creationists are willing to let go of literalism and the inerrancy of the Bible, there is no hope of reaching them. They have walled themselves off from anything that does not fit with their fundamentalist beliefs.

090416

Creationist Ken Ham and the Boiled Frog Story

ken ham and origen

Snark ahead. You’ve been warned!

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creationism Museum and a defender of young earth creationism, stated in a recent radio interview that the state of Kentucky is treating him like a second class citizen. According to Ham, by refusing to give him $18 million worth of tax incentives for his latest project, the Ark Encounter theme park, state officials are attacking his right to speak and worship freely.

Ham’s legal battle with the state of Kentucky over tax incentives is just the latest in a long string of controversies swirling around Ham’s creationism empire. Ham has spent most of his life being “persecuted” by scientists, secularists, humanists, atheists, liberal Christians…well by anyone who doesn’t think and believe just like he does. Ham gins up controversy so those who support him will be “righteously angry” and continue to support his moneymaking enterprises.

Last Monday, Ham was a guest on Janet Parshall’s radio program. (Parshall, a fundamentalist Christian, “is the host of the Christian talk show In the Market with Janet Parshall, which is broadcast on the Moody Radio network.”) During the program, Ham  stated:

“If we don’t do something about this it’s like the old idea of the frog in the water that you can boil it up and boil it to death and it doesn’t you’re doing it because it keeps accommodating to the temperature around it. If Christians just keep accommodating and allowing this to happen more and more, we will lose that free exercise of religion.”

I wonder if Ham, Parshall, or those who listened to the program on Moody Radio, know that the boiled frog story is bad science. Probably not. Since creationists jettison any science that doesn’t fit within the framework of a literalist interpretation of the Bible, I guess it would be too much to ask them to research the story before using it as a metaphor for Christian inaction and acclimation to culture.

In a 2011 article titled Frog Fable Brought to BoilDr. Karl S. Kruszelnicki wrote:

If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will slowly cook to death. So claims the myth. Indeed, everyone—from corporate consultants to politicians to environmental activists—cites the frog fable as proof that people often don’t see change happening and cannot deal with it in the aftermath.

So how did this myth begin? Maybe it arose because frogs are cold-blooded. We humans are warm-blooded: our internal thermometers measure the local temperature, and then we shiver or sweat to maintain a body temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius. But a cold-blooded frog maintains the temperature of its immediate environment. Perhaps somebody once wrongly thought that this meant frogs had an inferior or inadequate thermometer…

Dr. George R. Zug, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and Professor Doug Melton of Harvard University both agree on this point.

Second, a frog would notice the water getting hot. Dr. Victor Hutchison, a herpetologist at the University of Oklahoma, has dealt with frogs throughout his professional life. Indeed, one of his current research interests is “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles.” Professor Hutchison states, “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ [the maximum temperature an animal can bear] of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water.”

So real-life experiments show that the frog-in-boiling-water story is wrong. If only this fact could make it into real life, too.

The aforementioned article was adapted from Kruszelnicki’s book, It Ain’t Necessarily So…Bro.

After doing some reading on the boiled frog myth, I found a study that best describes Ham’s use of the myth:

As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C.

Frog…brain removed…Ken Ham…young earth creationism…

Hey, I’ve come up with a new metaphor for creationism.

Any day now, I expect Ham to come out with an Answers in Genesis defense of the boiled frog story. Like the voice of God speaking to Moses on the Mount, the utterances of Ken Ham are treated as infallible by his cult followers. Ken Ham, like the Bible and God, is never, ever wrong.

The easiest way for Ham to prove the boiled frog story is to conduct a frog boiling study. Oh wait, Ham doesn’t do research. He’s too busy preaching the Gospel of Genesis 1-3, also known as The Bible According to Hammy®, to take any time to conduct a study. With millions of dollars at stake, there is no time for bothering to speak scientifically when pretending to be a scientist on the radio. Souls are at stake. The future of America and Western Civilization depends on the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. If these beacons of ignorance are closed, what would Christian schools and homeschoolers do for science class field trips?

Perhaps one of Ham’s followers might say, yes, the science of the story is wrong, but the moral story behind the metaphor is correct. Oh, you mean like the B-I-B-L-E? Let the stammering begin…

Note

The boiled frog story has been used by people of every political, social, and religious persuasion. I even know one redheaded preacher who used it years ago in his sermons.

082216

Global Warming and the Fatalism of Creationist Alan White

global warming

Warning! Risqué cartoon below.

Recently, Answers in Genesis published an article by Dr. Alan White about global warming. The article, The Globe is Warming, But It’s Not Your Fault, is chock-full of statistics and charts. Like every defender of a 6,000 year old earth, White spends a lot of time talking about science. I am not sure why he bothers to do so. After all, according to White:

The Globe Is Warming, But It’s Not Your Fault!…

…Christians are less likely to be concerned about the climate going out of control since they believe the earth and its climate were designed and created by an all-knowing and all-powerful God. Those who believe that the heavens and the earth are the result of a random, accidental process naturally will be concerned about what may happen next…

…What is your worldview? Do you trust that God brilliantly designed and created everything and trust that He has your best interests at heart, or will you always be worried that the planet is on the verge of going out of control?…

Let me sum up White’s viewpoint: The Christian God of the Bible is in control of everything, so if the earth is warming it is because God wants it this way.

At the heart of Evangelicalism is fatalism. Since God is sovereign and in control of his creation, if the overall temperature of the earth rises and the seas someday engulf Pacific islands, it’s because God wants it this way.  Evangelicals believe God has the whole world in his hands. He is working out his purpose and plan, and there is nothing humans can do to thwart him.

Usually, people who think like this also believe that Jesus will soon return to earth to judge the living and the dead, destroy the heavens and earth, and make a new heaven and a new earth. Since God is in control of everything and he is fixing the burn the house down, there’s no need to call the fire department.

Why is then that Evangelicals like White are content to appeal to the sovereignty of God when it comes to climate change, but when it comes to the culture war, they fight and work as if their God doesn’t exist or is on vacation? If God has everything under control, wouldn’t that include abortion and same-sex marriage?  Since God, the biggest abortionist of all, could stop women from having an abortion and could cause the courts to rule that marriage is between one man and one woman, that he doesn’t must mean that God ordained abortion and same-sex marriage.

I am simply taking White’s argument to its logical conclusion. God’s in control, don’t sweat it. Since God holds the world and the itty bitty baby in his hands, there’s no need for Christians to concern themselves with the future. Dr. White needs to explain why fatalism is the proper response to global warming but not abortion and same-sex marriage. The same God who controls the global thermostat is the same God who controls the life and death of every human being. Theological consistency demands Christians let go and let God. Even if they don’t let go, God is still going to work out his purpose and plan.

Those of us who spent a lot of time in Sunday school remember the story recorded in Daniel 4 about God teaching King Nebuchadnezzar about who is really in charge. One day, while walking in his palace, prideful Nebuchadnezzar had this to say:

Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

God, busy helping the Israelites find the keys to their chariot, stopped what he was doing and focused his attention on punishing Nebuchadnezzar for his insolence. How dare the King think that Babylon is his kingdom! I’ll show him:

While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

As Daniel 4 makes clear, Nebuchadnezzar got the message:

And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?…Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

The theology of this story is embedded in the DNA of Evangelicals. The Bible is clear, God is God and all power, authority, and control belongs to him. No need to fret, fuss, or worry about global warming and climate change. Yet, when it comes to social issues, Evangelicals act as if God doesn’t exist. Why the hypocrisy?

Fatalism, also known as the sovereignty of God, is nothing more than a tool used by Evangelicals to avoid or do away with data that conflicts with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. Since White believes his God created the earth 6,020 years ago, he dismisses any science that doesn’t fit in the creationist box.

White could have saved Answers in Genesis readers a lot of time if he had just stated his belief about God’s sovereignty and left it at that. In White’s worldview, God is the end all, he’s the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. The answer to every question is GOD, and not just any God, the CHRISTIAN GOD!

teaching creationism

082216

I am a Publican and a Heathen Part Three

Jose Maldonado Bruce Gerencser Pat Horner

Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993

Pat Horner and I had a common theology: Calvinism. Outside of that, we were very different from one  another. From the way we preached to how we interacted with parishioners, we were as different as night and day. I thought it was important for me to get to know each family in the church, so I did a lot of in-home visiting. When someone was in the hospital, I would visit them. When someone had a family member die, I would attend the funeral. Pat did none of these things. He was much more standoffish than I was. This is not a criticism of him as much as it is an example of how different our personalities were.

This difference began to be a problem when parishioners started to favor me over Pat. After services, I would talk theology with the young men of the church, and they found me easy to talk to. It wasn’t long before  Pat began to criticize for being too familiar with parishioners. He told me that it was important to maintain a space between pastor and parishioner. I was told the same thing in college: the pastor can’t be friends with anyone in the church because it will hinder his ability to minister.

Both Pat and I preached expositionally (preaching verse-by-verse, in context), but our styles were very different. I tended to be more human, earthy, and at times humorous in my preaching. Pat tended to be more dogmatic and rarely used illustrations. To him, it was all about doctrine. While I thought it was important, I knew that it was also imperative for me to make a human connection with parishioners. More than once, Pat criticized my preaching for being too light or not doctrinal enough. Again, I suspect this had to do with the fact that, personality-wise, we were very different from one another.

After a few months, I gathered up a few willing church members and we started two new Sovereign Grace churches, one in Floresville, Texas and the other in Stockdale, Texas. Every Sunday morning we would hold a service at Floresville and then drive 20 miles to Stockdale and hold another service. During the week, I would take groups from Community down to Floresville and Stockdale and go door to door evangelizing and inviting people to church. While we worked hard to get the churches established, neither church did well attendance-wise.

I also started a street preaching ministry and a nursing home ministry. Being the workaholic I am, I was busy and I loved it. Later in the summer of 1994, I helped the church start a Christian school. There were fifty children in the school. Many of the church families homeschooled before the school was started.  Several teachers were hired, along with a school principal. Once the school was up and running, I had little to do with it.

community baptist church new building

Community Baptist Church, Elmendorf, Texas, 1994

During this time, Community was building a new 10,000 square foot building. Pat had a construction background, so he was well suited for overseeing the project. A group of Calvinistic church builders came in and helped frame, roof, and side the building. The concrete slab was poured by a group of undocumented immigrants, and various men in the church took care of the plumbing, electric, and HVAC.

The busy-ness helped to distance me from the increasing conflict between Pat and I. It seemed like every time we got together there was conflict and we bickered like two old married people. Neither of us was a shining example of temperance, deference, or respect. In the fall of 1994, I realized that things were not going to work out for me at Community, so I talked to Pat and the elders about it. Things quickly went south, like Mexico-City-south, and it became evident to me that Pat and I were headed for a messy divorce.

I told Pat that they we needed to sit down and talk. I asked John Sytsma, one of the elders, to join the meeting. John did his best to bring peace, but it was not to be. We got into an angry shouting match and I finally told Pat to leave my office. The next day or so, Pat gathered the elders together at John Sytsma’s house and had a secret meeting where I was the topic of discussion. I found out about the meeting and crashed it. I was still a pastor and I should have been included in the meeting.

bruce preaching at stockdale

Bruce Gerencser, preaching at Community Baptist Church, Stockdale, Texas, 1994

Pat and I exchanged angry words and he told me that I had to stop pastoring the churches in Floresville and Stockdale and come and sit in the services at Community for a while. He told me that I was not fit to be a pastor. I suggested that I was willing to leave the church and pastor one of the new churches I started, but Pat would have none of it. Finally, when it became evident Pat had his mind made up, I said, Fine, I resign. Pat replied, You can’t resign without our permission. My last words to him were, Really? Watch me. A few days later, Polly and I packed everything up in a U-Haul truck and we moved back to Ohio. As we were driving down the lane from our home, the church was holding a special meeting to deal with the “Bruce Gerencser problem.”  Of course, Pat was the moderator of the meeting.

Several church families begged us to stay. Some even suggested that Pat should be the one to go. But, I was not going to be party to a church split. Besides, all those that were in my corner when we moved later went over to Pat’s side. I knew that nothing I said or did would make a difference. As the old gambler said, You got to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them. It was definitely time for me to fold my hand.

I am often asked, What happened?  I think what happened was that two strong-willed men with very different personalities wanted to own the same piece of real estate. Due to the fact that we both were quick-tempered, conflict came easily. I regret the conflict, but my time as co-pastor of Community Baptist Church taught me a lot about myself and I left Texas a very different man. For the first time I saw what I had become, and I didn’t like what I saw. It was at this point that my fundamentalism began to die. It was a slow death, but this was the moment when I saw what fundamentalism had done to me and I knew that I needed to change. Pat, however, is still a fundamentalist Calvinistic Baptist. He later left the church, started another church, and last I heard was working a secular job and doing mission work in India.

In my final post in this series, I want to write about how the church dealt with the “Bruce Gerencser problem.”  I also want to write about the vicious discipline the church (Pat Horner) used to manipulate and control parishioners.

121915

I am a Publican and a Heathen Part Two

Jose Maldonado Bruce Gerencser Pat Horner

Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993

Our family arrived in Elmendorf, Texas the first week of March, 1994. I had resigned from Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio, and after closing down the church and Christian school, I packed up my family and moved us to Elmendorf so I could become co-pastor of Community Baptist Church.

Community Baptist Church was an Sovereign Grace (Calvinistic) Independent Baptist church started in the 1980s by Pat Horner. The church worshiped at a ramshackle former Southern Baptist church building on Labus Road outside of Elmendorf. The church property included several acres of land that housed a double-wide mobile home in which Pat Horner and his family lived, an old mobile home where Joe Buitron, the groundskeeper/handyman, and his family lived, and a brand-new 14×70 mobile home the church purchased for my family.

gerencser girls

Our girls playing in a sand pile near our mobile home. This was before we learned what fire ants were!

This enclave of mobile homes was called The Compound. Each mobile home was close enough to the other two that the occupants could easily see what was going on at each mobile home. When we moved to Texas, we did not watch TV. I remember how judgmental I felt when I saw the glare of a TV in the bedroom window of Pat Horner’s home, late on almost every Saturday night. I thought then, why is he watching TV? Shouldn’t he be praying and preparing for the Lord’s Day as I am?

The church was quite welcoming and we were excited to be there. Community Baptist Church was a vibrant church, filled with young adults and their children. There was an air of excitement in the church, a hunger for the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. I spent many a Sunday evening after church talking theology with the men of the church. They had questions and I was delighted to dispense to them what knowledge I had about the Calvinistic interpretation of the Bible.

tim conway

Tim Conway, preaching at a nursing home. Conway is now pastor of Grace Community Church in San Antonio.

There was quite a bit of movement in and out of the church membership. Not long before I became co-pastor of the church, two men from Kalamazoo, Michigan moved to Elmendorf so they could be part of the church. Their names were Craig Mussulman and Tim Conway. Conway is now the Calvinistic Fundamentalist pastor of Grace Community Church in San Antonio, Texas. Mussulman still live in San Antonio, but I do not know where he attends church. Joe Maldonado, who had preached for me in Somerset in 1993, had left the church by the time I got there. He became the pastor Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church.  A few Hispanic families from the church, with Horner’s blessing, joined with Maldonado at the Hillburn Drive church.

When we moved to Elmendorf, a family from Ohio moved with us. Larry and Linda Johnson were members of Somerset Baptist Church, and when we decided to move they packed up their belongings and moved to Elmendorf a week or so later. Larry and Linda had three children and Larry was a heating and air conditioning contractor.

The Gerencser’s first act as co-pastor and family was to officially join the Community Baptist Church.  The church, a Sovereign Grace (Calvinistic) church, had strict membership requirements. The church’s Covenant had this to say about church membership:

…In recognizing the church’s authority to receive me into, and dismiss me from, its membership, I purpose when seeking to remove myself from her membership to seek the counsel, the approval, and the blessing of the church in seeking to join myself to another church of like faith and practice…

…If, however, the church does not agree with my reasons for leaving, I recognize that the church may release me from its membership disagreeing with me and expressing their displeasure of my actions but, at the same time, allowing me the liberty of conscience to leave…

…Finally, in the event of sin on my part with regard to any biblical matter, I recognize the church’s biblical right to take disciplinary action toward me, which seeks my restoration…

As I would later learn, church members were routinely disciplined for violating the membership requirements.

One requirement stood out above all others. Since  people had to have the church’s permission to join the church, they also had to have the church’s permission to leave the church. Members could not just leave and go somewhere else. If they did not ask for the church’s permission to leave, the church (Pat Horner) would call a meeting and discipline the errant church member. I would suffer this same fate when I resigned and moved back to Ohio.

larry linda johnson

Larry and Linda Johnson, a couple from Ohio that moved to Texas when we did. They still live there.

A week or so after we joined the church, the Johnson family arrived in Elmendorf, and as we did, they joined the church. However, before the Johnsons joined the church, Pat Horner and I had our first conflict. Before potential members  could join the church, they had to meet with Horner so he could grill them about their salvation experience and what they believed. Larry Johnson met with Horner and afterward Horner came to me and said he doubted Larry was a “real” Christian. The reason? Larry talked too much about God and not enough about Jesus.

I was able to convince Horner that Larry was a “real” Christian and he permitted the Johnsons to join the church. I was quite sad when the Johnson family, convinced by Horner that I was a bad man, later turned against me.

Every year, in March, Community Baptist Church held a week-long Bible conference. I preached several times during the 1993 conference and I was scheduled to preach several times during the 1994 conference.

The conferences were housed in a large tent that held several hundred people. Calvinistic Baptist pastors from around the state of Texas would come to the Bible conference, and Calvinistic Baptist pastors from as far away as Ohio and Louisiana would preach during the conference. The women of the church would provide meals each day for everyone in attendance. The food, music, and preaching were outstanding.

The 1994 conference took place a week or so after we moved to Elmendorf. After we settled into our new mobile home, I began helping with conference preparations. Along with John Sytsma, a wealthy owner of a nearby ostrich farm, I set up the sound system for the conference. Our “work” would fuel the second conflict I had with Pat Horner.

On the first morning of the conference, the sound kept cutting in and out. John and I could not figure out why this was happening. During lunch, Horner angrily lit into me about the sound problem and he let me know that I had better get it fixed. I had never seen the angry side of Pat Horner before, and I would see a lot  more of it before I left the church. Horner must have realized that his angry display was inappropriate because he came to me later in the day and apologized. This would be the first and last time Horner apologized for anything. John Sytsma later left the church and is now an elder at Tim Conway’s church, Grace Community Church, San Antonio, Texas.

Over the next seven months, Pat Horner and I would have skirmishes that became increasingly combative and angry. I do not blame Horner for this. Each of us was temperamental with aggressive type-A personalities. We were both in charge of the same real estate and this led to frequent conflict. Sometimes I would win these battles, but most of the time Horner was the victor.

We argued about everything from my dog getting under the church and chewing the phone line to whether or not it was okay to shoot the neighbor’s feral pig. Horner threatened to shoot my dog if it ever did any like this again, and he wanted to shoot the pig, but I was able to convince him that it was wrong to shoot the neighbor’s pig.

We argued over the church budget and the church bulletin. I was of the opinion that the church needed to know everything about church finances. Horner took the position, How much do they need to know? I won this battle and the church was provided with a complete statement of income and expenses each month. This exposed the slush fund Horner had used for years to give money to preachers and families in the church. I am in no way suggesting he was dishonest. Our disagreement was over whether the church should know about the fund.

Since I was quite proficient when it came to computers and desktop publishing, I took on the responsibility of the church bulletin. Horner was a micro-manager, and he refused to let me print the bulletin until he reviewed it first. Every week, I would get the bulletin back with things circled he felt needed to be corrected. His micromanaging quickly got under my skin.

Our conflict over the bulletin turned into open warfare and it took an English major in the church to settle it. Horner was a Texan and I hailed from the rural Midwest. Our speech and writing patterns were very different from each other. Let me give you an example: I would say “the barn needs to be painted.” Horner would object and say, no, “the barn needs painting.”

We frequently butted heads over things such as this. Finally, Rhonda Galaviz, wife of Mexican missionary Andres Galaviz, told Horner and me that my usage was technically correct and it was considered a colloquialism from the Midwest. While this settled the proper English debate, Horner would continue to have a problem with the way I did the bulletin. Not long after that incident, I gave the bulletin job to someone else.

joe buitron

Joe Buitron, the church handyman

Joe Buitron and his family lived on The Compound directly across the street from my home. Joe took care of the grounds and fixed whatever needed fixing. He was a jack-of-all-trades. There was nothing he couldn’t fix or repair. Joe worked long hours, especially when we began building a new church facility. The church paid him $200 a week and allowed him and his family to live in a small mobile home on church property. Joe was grossly underpaid, and making ends meet was a constant struggle. I finally brought his financial struggles to Horner and the elders, and after a bit of shaming, they gave Joe a pay raise.

The Buitrons were in need of a washer (and maybe a dryer). This need was brought before the church so they could “pray” about it. The praying went on for weeks, yet God had not yet directed the church to buy the hardworking family of six a washer. Finally, I had enough of all the praying and I bought a washer for the Buitrons. I never understood the whole praying thing when it was in my power or the church’s power to take care of a need. To this day, I wonder if some church members thought I played “God.”

In my next post in this series, I will discuss how my conflicts with Horner came to a head, and how I ultimately left Community Baptist Church.

121915

Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God

darwin fish

Darwin Fish, yes that is his actual name. Fish is part of a church called A True Church in Oklahoma.

Recently, a man by the name of Wayne K sent me an email that contained a dare. He wrote:

Now be cautioned because there is a cultish group in America whose website called atruechurch(dot)info  – they may add your name to a list of false teachers? – probably not. I dare you write about them.

I thought, who the hell is atruechurch.info? Why should I fear them? Are they an assassination squad that whacks atheists and other nonbelievers? So, trembling with consternation and fear, I typed atruechurch.info into Firefox. What did I find? Darwin Fish. Darwin Fish, the truest Christian on earth, a fundamentalist on steroids.

I’ve known about Darwin Fish for many, many years. Fish was once a disciple of John MacArthur, trained at Master’s Seminary, and then he had a falling-out with MacArthur.  You can read Fish’s bio here.

According to Fish:

All of the religions of the world (e.g. Protestantism, Evangelicalism, Catholicism, Mormonism, JW’s, Seventh Day Adventism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, etc.) lead to nowhere but hell. Those involved in them are “unbelieving, . . . idolaters” (Revelation 21:8). Every single last one of them reject the truth of the Bible (Romans 1:18-25), and thus, the Truth of the Bible, God (John 14:6), will burn them forever in the lake of fire for hating Him so (Deuteronomy 32:39-41; Revelation 20:11-15).

If you are involved with the kind of Christianity that views Protestantism, or Catholicism, or the Orthodox church, or the “church of Christ,” or Billy Graham, or Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen, or James Dobson, or Pat Robertson, or John MacArthur, or Paul Washer, or Norman Geisler, or Tony Evans, or Greg Laurie, or Charles Stanley, or Chuck Smith, or Fred Price, or J. Vernon McGee, or Charles Blake, or Chuck Swindoll, or Gene Scott, or Harold Camping (Family Radio), or John Piper, or T. D. Jakes, or David Jeremiah, or Charles Spurgeon, or Dave Hunt, or Marvin J. Rosenthal, or David W. Cloud, or Perry F Rockwood, or Neil Anderson, or Robert Schuller, or Jack Hayford, or Benny Hinn, or Miles McPherson, or Ray Comfort, or Jim Cobrae, or Ron Luce, or Chuck Colson, or C. S. Lewis, or Hank Hanegraaff, or Paul Chappell, or Steven Anderson, or any of the like (or any of the likes on “Christian” TV or radio) as godly, you are not saved. Why? Because, you are on the broad way (Matthew 7:13; 2 Peter 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:3). You have not the characteristic of Christ’s sheep (John 10:5). And, men such as these are wells without water (2 Peter 2:17).

Fish really believes he is part of the one true church. In the FAQ section of his website he answers the question, Are you the only true church/believers?

We suggest you take a look at our Statement of Faith to understand why we say, we do not know. There was a church in Murfreesboro, TN, but that has since dissolved. Other than that, we have not yet, as of this date, found another church that is in the truth (1 John 4:6), and we have been to many. Will we find one? Actually, the real question is, will Christ find one?

Fish has what I call the Elijah syndrome. In I Kings 18, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a God-Off®. Maybe you remember the story from Sunday school:

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.

And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

This was one of my favorite passages to preach from. I Kings 18 is a story that illustrates God’s power when a person is willing to stand alone for God. Of course, I never preached on 1 Kings 19, you know the chapter that details Jezebel chasing Elijah into the hills threatening to kill him.

Of course, Elijah got the last laugh in 2 Kings 9 when, at the behest of Jehu, two or three eunuchs threw Jezebel out of a window, killing her as she hit the ground. Jehu then stomped on the body of Jezebel, leaving her corpse for the dogs to eat. When they came to bury her, all that was left was her skull, palms, and feet. Sounds like a hit series on HBO, yes?

People like Darwin Fish see themselves as a modern-day Elijah. They are THE remnant that God has left on earth to give testimony to the truth. Think about the Bible and its stories for a moment. Aren’t most of the big name characters in the Bible, men like Noah, Abraham, Elisha, Enoch, Joshua John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus, loners who stood against Satan, false religion, and secular power?

In every community there is a Darwin Fish, a preacher who thinks he is God’s messenger, a prophet whose name is Frank/Harry/Waldo/Bruce.  If you have read the comment section of this blog over the years, you know that there are plenty of people who think they have all the answers; that God is on their side and that their interpretation of the Bible is true. Such people are impossible to reach until they are willing to see that their foundation, the Bible, is not what they claim it is.

In A True Church’s doctrinal statement, there’s a section titled Controversial Issues. Fish and A True Church believe:

  • We believe drinking alcohol in moderation is not wrong (Deuteronomy 14:26; Psalm 104:15; John 2).
  • We believe those who commit suicide go to hell (John 15:1-6).
  • We believe gambling is not wrong, but to gamble, because you are not content and want more, is sin (Hebrews 13:5).
  • We believe Scripture does not condemn masturbation. Although it is typically done in wickedness (Matthew 15:19 “evil thoughts”), it can be done in godliness (Titus 1:15).
  • We believe the Bible does not condemn slavery (1 Timothy 6:1-5), even though it is illegal in the USA (Romans 13:1).
  • We believe smoking is not condemned in Scripture, but addiction is (1 Corinthians 6:12; Galatians 5:22-23).
  • We believe most debt is ungodly (Romans 13:8).
  • We believe the Bible does not condemn polygamy (Genesis 16:1-3), even though it is illegal in the USA (Romans 13:1), which illustrates America’s idea of what is moral or not is quite twisted (Isaiah 5:20).
  • We believe there are fire breathing dragons called Leviathan (Job 41).
  • We believe during the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20), God will bring back from the dead evil Levites of the past to serve in His temple (Ezekiel 44:10-14).
  • We believe sexual intercourse during menstruation is an evil practice (Leviticus 18:19-30).
  • We believe the answer to “eternal security” is both “yes” and “no” (Romans 8:31-39; 11:19-22).

This kind of thinking is the result of taking Evangelicalism/Christian fundamentalism to its logical conclusion. Perhaps Fish should be commended for really, really, really believing all that “God” wrote in the Bible. I know more than a few Christians who think like this. They may not take things as far as Darwin Fish or Fred Phelps, but they sincerely believe they are numbered with the few faithful Christians left on earth.

Note

And, in true fundamentalist fashion, there is a website that exposes Darwin Fish and his heretical beliefs. Best I can tell, the website is owned by Spurgeonite Phil Johnson, an elder at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California and a book editor for John MacArthur.  Phil was a friend of mine back in my Calvinistic days.

062616

Open and Affirming: St John United Church of Christ, Defiance, Ohio

st john united church of christ

St John United Church of Christ, Defiance, Ohio

Great news from the land of Christian fundamentalists and right-wing Republicans…St John United Church of Christ in Defiance has officially come out of the closet. Tim McDonough, religion writer for the Defiance Crescent-News, reported today that St John’s is now an open and affirming church, a designation given to churches who welcome gays and same-sex couples into their assembly.  Here’s an excerpt from McDonough’s front page article (behind pay wall):

Following a 16-month discernment and education process, the congregation of St. John United Church of Christ in Defiance has voted to become an open and affirming church. Open and affirming is the United Church of Christ’s designation for congregations, campus ministries and other bodies in the UCC, which make a public covenant of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

“This process really began back in April of 2013 when we were having a congregational meeting,” said Pastor Bob Jencks, who has been serving in an interim role at the church since August of 2012. “We were having a discussion about our identity and our purpose when someone said, ‘we’re the liberal church in town.’ I asked, ‘what does that mean?’ The response was, ‘we’re open and affirming.’

“The truth is, we were not,” continued Jencks. “I explained that there was a process we had to go through to have that designation. At that time, there was only one church in northwest Ohio that was, and that was First Congregational United Church of Christ in Sandusky. The pastor there (Lenore Kure), was at one time the director of Christian education here, so we reached out to her, talked about the process, brought that information back here, where it was voted on that we begin that process.”

Melissa Davies, chairperson of the open and affirming committee, explained that the process was all about educating the congregation as to why St. John UCC wanted to have the designation. “The UCC denomination is pretty progressive, and within the denomination churches have the opportunity to signify themselves as open and affirming, after a discernment process,” said Davies. “At the end of the process, churches vote whether or not to carry that distinction. We started with a series of educational congregation-wide sessions, where we learned what science has to say about sexual orientation, what the Bible has to say about sexual orientation, and how quotes from the Bible are used to ostracize people.”…

…At a congregational meeting in January of this year,a vote was taken to see if St.John UCC would become an open and affirming church. With more than 50 percent of the church in attendance,the vote to carry that designation was a resounding 52 for, and only two against. “To be in this part of Ohio, which is more traditional, that vote was surprising,” Davies said. “We know we tend to be more progressive leaning on social issues, but it was a little strange in our meetings when we realized that a pushback that we thought we would get, really just wasn’t there for a large majority of our congregation…

…Both Davies and Jencks do expect that some members of the congregation may stop going to church at St. John UCC since the vote, and both expect some feedback from the community. “We haven’t had anyone come out and tell us they are leaving the church, but if anyone has, they haven’t been vocal about it,” said Davies. “We really just want to be a welcoming place to worship.” Said Jencks: “We haven’t heard anything yet (from outside the church), but this is conservative northwest Ohio. We’re taking this stand because it is a social issue, we believe it’s an important one, and we believe Jesus accepts all people…

I can’t wait to see the letters to the editor from local Christian culture warriors who are deeply offended by St John’s rejection of their fundamentalist homophobia and bigotry. Should be an entertaining couple of weeks. I think I will wait until all the fundamentalists are done venting their spleen before I write a letter to the editor. Might as well let the chosen ones have the first word.

Congratulations to Pastor Jencks and the fine people of St John United Church of Christ for willingly putting equality, justice, compassion, and science first. They rightly recognize that far too many local Christians use the Bible to abuse others, denying them the right to love and marry whoever they want.

For you who live in more progressive areas, you might not realize how big of a deal this is. Tonight, despite the pain I am in, I feel good. It’s nice to see goodness and decency prevail in at least one corner of rural NW Ohio.

I am a Publican and a Heathen Part One

Jose Maldonado Bruce Gerencser Pat Horner

Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Should church members be allowed to leave the church without permission? Bobby Jamieson, writing for 9Marks, answered the question this way:

…I think the biblical answer is a resounding “No.” Here’s why: When your church made that person a member, you were declaring to the world that this person belongs to the kingdom of Jesus. By regarding this person as a member, your church affirmed that he is indeed a “brother” in Christ…

…So what’s the problem? Hebrews 10:24-25 commands us not to forsake assembling together. Therefore, any professing Christian who quits going to church is living in habitual, unrepentant sin. And the way a church addresses unrepentant sin is not by merrily sending that person on his way, but by removing their affirmation of “member” and “brother”. When the player quits showing up on game day, the team has to take back his jersey.

So pastors, just as you pay careful attention to the front door of your church, keep a close eye on the back door, too. Make sure that the sheep can’t simply open the gate themselves and disappear from sight. Refuse to allow people to resign into thin air, both for the sake of your church’s witness to the gospel and for the good of every single sheep—especially those who tend to wander off.”…

The purpose of the aforementioned quotations will become readily evident once you have read this series. I had planned for this to be one post, but as I started writing, I realized I need to split it into several posts.

In July of 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist in Somerset, Ohio. I pastored the church until March of 1994. In the late 1980s, I became quite disenchanted with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I came to the conclusion that the IFB gospel was a bastardized, corrupt gospel that made no demands of those who said they were a follower of Jesus Christ.

Through the writings of Charles Finney, I came to see that repentance, a turning FROM sin and a turning TO Christ, was an essential component of the gospel. In 1989, I read John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus, and this fundamentally changed my soteriology (theology concerning salvation).

I began to read books written by the Puritans: men such as Thomas Watson and John Owens. I also read the works of men such as John BunyanCharles SpurgeonJC RyleAW PinkAndrew Fuller, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  I also began listening to Calvinistic preaching tapes from the Chapel Tape Library.

rolfe barnard

One preacher’s taped sermons really got my attention, and that was the sermons by the late Rolfe Barnard. Barnard was a fiery Southern Baptist preacher of the Calvinist gospel. I listened to his sermons over and over, and it became clear to me that I had been preaching a false gospel. I also felt that my college professors and mentors had lied to me. Why had they never shared with me the sovereign grace gospel? (Short bio of Rolfe Barnard)

In a sermon titled, Seeking the Lord, Rolfe Barnard said:

…This generation would like to get to heaven, but they just haven’t got time. They had time to make a profession and join a church, but they just haven’t got time to seek the Lord. When I started to preach 36 years ago, people would come hear me preach and I could keep a crowd for a while, and in that way somebody would listen to the Word of God. And since no man has saving faith, and God has to give it to men, He gives it as men hear His Word, and after a while they say “that’s God talking”.

You must hear the law of God preached long enough for God to reveal to you that you are a guilty lost sinner before you will be interested in hearing the good news of the Gospel of Christ. If God can get you lost, He will save you. If God can get you to sit still long enough to let a little of His Word sink in and grant you repentance and faith, He will save you. If you don’t have time to seek the Lord till He is pleased to reveal Himself to you and speak peace to you, why you will just live on a little while, then go to hell. You haven’t had time to hear what is being said.

A personal confrontation of the soul by a gracious redeeming God; this leads to repentance and faith, this leads to the terminating of a self-centered existence, and the beginning of a Christ indwelled life. You will lay down the arms of rebellion and run up the white flag of surrender. That’s what it means to be saved. I don’t know how long it will take you to get there, but it would be time well spent if you got to Christ…

In a sermon titled, A Lack of Repentance Preaching has Filled Modern Churches with Hypocrites, (link no longer active) Barnard said:

…I am dead certain that the mess we are in religiously and spiritually now, the love-sick so-called “church” people, the sickly sentimental crop of so-called “believers” who are enthusiastic about a fair or a frolic but are conspicuously absent from prayer meeting — I am sure that this is due to the fact that our churches are full of people who are not born right…

Somehow or another they got into our professing churches without ever having come face to face with the holy demands of a Holy God, and being brought in the face of those demands to the place of throwing up all hands of self-effort and self-confidence and turning one’s self over lock, stock and barrel to the Sovereign Christ. Somehow or another they have missed the main business. Somehow or another they got in what we call the church without turning in abhorrence and in utter conviction against sin, without turning from their sin to obedience unto God.

And, of course, their lives fail! If we dodge this step [repentance], we miss out on salvation!…

As a result of the aforementioned books and tapes, I embraced five-point Calvinism. At the time, I thought God had taken the blinders off my IFB-darkened eyes.  In classic, there is no middle ground, charge hell with an empty squirt gun fashion, I became a vocal proponent of Calvinism. This change of soteriology (doctrines concerning salvation), and a later a change of ecclesiology (doctrines concerning church polity, discipline) and eschatology (doctrines concerning end times), destroyed whatever connections I had with pastors and churches in the IFB church movement.

I spent the last five years of my time as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church radically changing and restructuring the church. I stopped giving altar calls and I went from preaching topical/textual sermons to preaching expository sermons. Instead of choosing a new and different text each week, I began preaching systematically through various books of the Bible. I preached over one hundred sermons from the gospel of John.

It was not uncommon for me to spend several full days studying and preparing a sermon. This study and preparation became the focus of my ministry. (Calvinism appeals  to people such as myself who love reading and who enjoy intellectual pursuits.) I also came to see that I had a duty to reach the members of Somerset Baptist Church with the TRUE gospel, the gospel of sovereign grace. I feared that many of the church members were unsaved. I spent the first half of time in Somerset getting them saved and I spent that last half trying to get them unsaved.

I began traveling to preaching meetings at Calvinistic churches. At these meetings I met men such as Don Fortner and Henry Mahan. Mahan would later come to Somerset and hold a meeting.  I also began associating with Reformed Baptist pastors. Men such as Al Martin and Walt Chantry were prominent voices in the Reformed Baptist movement, as were men associated with the Southern Baptist Founder’s GroupAl Mohler is a prominent member of the Founder’s Group.

Every month, I would travel seventy miles to a General Association of Regular Baptist  Churches (GARBC) church in Mansfield, Ohio, pastored by Mark Furman, a Calvinistic pastor, so I could attend a meeting of like-minded pastors. This meeting was called The Pastor’s Clinic. Several pastors would present a paper on a particular theological subject, we would discuss the papers, and then eat lunch before heading for home. I found the meetings intellectually stimulating and they helped assure me that the Calvinistic gospel was the TRUE gospel.

Under my leadership, Somerset Baptist Church began a tape lending library similar to that of the Chapel Library.  We sent preaching tapes free of charge to anyone who requested them. I also began publishing a monthly newsletter titled, The Sovereign Grace Reporter. This newsletter was sent to hundreds of Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic pastors. The newsletter incited rage among my non-Calvinistic friends and their outrage ruined a fifteen-church Youth Fellowship I had started years before. I knew that the newsletter would provoke some of the pastors, but I didn’t care. I thought, they need to hear about the TRUE gospel.

I lost almost all of my professional connections, save a friendship I had with Keith Troyer and another with Polly’s uncle James (Jim) Dennis. At the time, Keith was pastor of the Fallsburg Baptist Church in Fallsburg, Ohio and Jim was the pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath Ohio.

Jim Dennis was not a five-point Calvinist, in the classic sense of the word, but his soteriological beliefs were closer to the Calvinistic position than the one-point Calvinist/Arminian position of the IFB church movement.  Keith Troyer was a young pastor when I met him. I think I am about ten years older than he. I began to give Keith books written by Calvinistic writers, and, for a time, he was greatly influenced by me and the books I gave him. Many people believe that I had a negative influence on Keith. Whatever influence I may or may not have had, Keith is not a Calvinistic pastor. He currently pastors Grace Baptist Church in Greenville, Pennsylvania. With both of these men, I could freely talk about Calvinism. Both men would later come and preach for me, not only at Somerset, but at Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio (which was originally named Grace Baptist Church).

Through the publication of the Sovereign Grace Reporter, I came into contact with men such as Andy Sandlin and Pat Horner. Both Sandlin and Horner were originally part of the IFB church movement. Sandlin, for many years, was associated with Rousas Rushdoony and the Chalcedon Foundation. Horner was a sovereign grace Baptist pastor who pastored  Community Baptist Church  in Elmendorf, Texas.

While Andy I had much more of a casual relationship, Pat and I began to develop a friendship. Over time, Pat become comfortable enough with me that he invited me to speak at his church’s annual Bible conference in March of 1993. At this conference, I came into contact with numerous sovereign grace Baptist pastors.  Both Polly and I were overwhelmed by the friendliness and vibrancy of Community Baptist Church.

Over the course of the summer, Pat Horner and I continued to keep in touch. Pat eventually asked if I would consider coming to Elmendorf to be the co-pastor of the church. He knew I was beginning to “feel” that my work in Somerset was done and that perhaps God was leading me to go somewhere else. He also knew I was gifted when it came to evangelism and he hoped I could help with planting new churches, along with starting a Christian school.  After considering Pat’s offer for several weeks, I came to the conclusion that God wanted me to stay in Somerset. I called Pat and declined his offer.

A few weeks later, I was sitting in my office and suddenly a flood of emotion came over me. I began weeping uncontrollably. I began thinking about the church in Texas and Pat’s offer. And, in that moment, I changed my mind and decided to accept the offer to become the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas.

move to community baptist church

One of the trailers used to move our belongings to Community Baptist Church

I called Pat and asked him if the offer was still open. He said, yes, and a few weeks later Polly and I drove to Texas to meet with the church elders and the church family. They overwhelmingly agreed that I should come to Texas and become the co-pastor of the church. In March of 1994, men from Community Baptist Church came to Ohio, helped us pack up our furniture and goods, and we moved 1,400 miles to a new and exciting ministry opportunity.

What should have been a wonderful time for my family and  me, over the course of seven months, turned into disaster that resulted in me resigning from the church and Pat Horner and the church excommunicating me.

From late September, 1994 to today, Pat Horner and the Community Baptist Church consider me a publican and a heathen.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss how we settled into Elmendorf and my conflicts with the church that ultimately led to our leaving.

121915