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Category: Evangelicalism

1997-2008: A Look at My Writing as an Evangelical Pastor

letter to the editor

What follows is a sampling of my letters to the editors of the Bryan Times and Defiance Crescent-News I wrote between 1997 and 2008. These letters should forever put an end to the notion that I was never a True Christian®. These letters also should help current readers understand why former congregants and colleagues in the ministry are so troubled and upset by my defection from the one true faith. Readers should also note how my politics shifted leftward during this period of time. Please see my previous post, 1986-1995: A Look at My Writing as an IFB Pastor, for other letters I wrote as a Christian.

September 1997

America is in Big Trouble

Dear Editor:

America is in trouble… big trouble. The moral and ethical structure of our nation is crumbling at its very foundation. We, at one time, accepted the “law of God” as our moral and ethical standard, but now, relativism reigns supreme. Law, morality, and ethics are relative to the situation and circumstance. It seems that there are no absolutes. We debate such issues as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, homosexuality, etc., and by our debate suggest that God has not spoken on these issues. God’s law is not a mystery. His law is clear. It is we, as defiant creatures, who have shaken our fist at the heavens and said, “We will not have You to rule over us.” As a result, instead of being ruled by the laws of Jehovah, we are ruled by the laws and system of corrupt humans. We have become a nation of people aptly described as “they did what was right in their own eyes.”

Who do we blame for the mess we are in? It is easy to blame the politicians. It is easy to point to the Clinton/Gore administration and say “they are the problem.” Recent articles in the Bryan Times reported on the meeting of the Christian Coalition. They were quick to blame the Democrats for all the ills in our society, all the while ignoring the ethical and moral lapses of those they support (i.e. Newt Gingrich). No, I would contend that what we see in Washington is a consequence and not a source of our ills.

The blame must be laid on the church and her ministers. There was a day when the church and her ministers were respected and were considered the moral voice of the community and our nation. Such is not the case today. Society has concluded that the church is irrelevant and her ministers are nothing more than educated buffoons. We are told to keep our religion within the four walls of the church (separation of church and state you know) and to keep our moral and ethical pronouncements to ourselves. If a prophetic voice is raised, screams of “Thou shalt not judge” are quickly heard. We, as ministers of the gospel, should be ashamed for allowing our voices to be silenced in such a manner. God has called us to be a clear voice of light in our decadent society. How then, can we be the prophets of God has called us to be?

First, we need to be reminded of who the boss is in this world. It is not the government, it is not society, it is not any mere human: it is God. He is the Sovereign of the universe. He is the Creator and we are the creatures. Our society needs to be reminded of who is in charge and that we will all be held accountable on Judgment Day.

Second, we need to be reminded of the authority of the Bible and the law of God. The Bible is God’s written revelation to man. His laws are to be loved and obeyed. The pulpits of America have been silent to the law of God and as a result antinomianism reigns. Church members have no absolutes and as a result they follow their own rules or they let “their conscience be their guide.” The greatness of a nation is directly related to the respect and obedience it gives to the law of God.

Third, we need to return to being bastions of absolute truth and morality. Ministers need to be thundering prophets instead of mild, wimpy church mice. There is no time for compromise. The battle is real and we must fight. On Judgment Day we will not be judged on our popularity, but rather on how we faithfully fought the battle and kept the faith.

Fourth, we need to stop trying to be culturally relevant to such a degree that we sacrifice what is true and honoring to God. The appearance of Audio Adrenaline at the Williams County Fair is case in point. In an effort to “reach”young people (and perhaps fill the grandstands) two high-powered “Christian” rock ‘n roll groups were booked at the fair. When Audio Adrenaline took the stage the party began to rock and roll. Complete with body piercing and mosh pits, we were given a quick lesson on how far we have slipped in our Christian society. We see the troubles that young people face and we think by lowering the standard and meeting them at the lowest common denominator we’ll “reach” them. Sadly we have been deceived. Young people need to hear truth, absolute truth. They need to hear preaching that challenges, provokes, and rebukes. They need to hear the kind of preaching that ultimately lead them to a higher standard in Jesus Christ. We have become convinced that the timeless methods that God has ordained no longer work. This is the ultimate deception.

Fifth, we need to return the word SIN to our vocabulary. God says sin is transgression of the law of God. The church and her ministers are not the final authority on what is holy and what is sin. God is. Ministers are called on to repeat what God has said (thus saith the Lord). Because of the fear of men, we do not preach on the “hard” subjects. We piously leave that to the “conscience” of the people. Such denial of responsibility will not wash with God on Judgment Day. We desperately need a revival of preaching against sin and the preaching of the solution to sin that is found in Jesus Christ.

When will we learn that people want truth and not compromise? We fear being rejected or ridiculed. We fear our message will not be heard, or that we will be viewed as Bible-thumping fanatics. Well, a cursory reading of the Bible will show that we would be in good company. The prophets of old did not conform to their society, but instead demanded that their society conform to the truth of God’s Word. They demanded of all men everywhere that they”repent and believe the gospel.”

I would ask my fellow ministers and fellow Christians…when our eulogy is read what will be said? Will we be remembered as one who was a true follower of Jesus Christ? One who was faithful to his holy Word? Will our life reflect one who was a radical follower of Jesus? Life is short and in but a few days we will pass from this life. Let us labor for that which is eternal. Let us restore those things we have let slip and restore God as the rightful ruler of our nation.

Bruce Gerencser

March 1999

Evolution is Incompatible with Christianity

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the recent editorial that suggested evolution is not being taught in public schools because teachers fear right-wing religious zealots. The zealots are portrayed as being anti-science and intellectually stunted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Evolution is a theory. Even the writer of the editorial admits such. Yet, just a few paragraphs later, he advocates teaching the theory as fact. He then states that man cannot understand biology without evolution.

What arrogant presumption and distortion of truth. Evolution is a theory of “how” things came into existence. It is, at its root, a faith religion that suggests a random existence apart from a divine being. Evolution demands that there is no God, no creator, and that man is nothing more than the most evolved of creatures. Man becomes nothing more than an animal that has evolved to a more mature state than that of other animals.

Evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Christianity begins with the premise that God is, and whatever God says is true. The Bible is God’s revelation to man, and he reveals in the first three chapters of Genesis how this world came into existence. To deny the biblical record is to deny God and his revelation, and the result is eternal damnation. Christians fear being viewed as ignorant if they deny the teachings of evolution. They become just like the schoolteachers who fear the religious zealots. If God is who he says he is, and he meant what he said in the Scriptures, then let us not fear, but instead declare boldly “Thus saith the Lord.”

Bruce Gerencser

August 2000

True Christianity

Dear Editor:

It is time that we make some radical changes to our printed money and the pledge of the Allegiance. Both our printed money and the Pledge of Allegiance give testimony to the historical truth that the United States was a country that believed in God. Not just any God, but Jehovah God, the God of the Christian Bible.

Sadly, we as a nation no longer believe in Jehovah. Due to misguided thinking about pluralism and tolerance, we have become a nation of many gods. Those that dare assert that we were founded as a Christian nation (and a Protestant Christian nation at that) are labeled narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant miscreants.

The God attested to on our printed money and in the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer allowed to be mentioned in our country. Recently, a young girl wanted to sing the song Kumbaya at a camp talent show. She was not permitted to sing this song because it mentioned the word Lord. Government schools have eradicated every vestige of God from the classroom. The very schools that were founded on Christian principles (just look at a set of  McGuffey Readers) have not only left that foundation, but try to insist such a foundation never existed. School officials are so afraid of God (or is it the god called the ACLU) that children no longer have Easter break. Instead, they have spring break. Children are given two weeks off at Christmas, yet they are never told what Christmas is. Attend the average government school Christmas program and you will come away with the conclusion that Christmas is all about snow, Rudolph, Frosty, et al. Pages could be written on the deliberate banishment of Jehovah from every aspect of public life.

What are the reasons for this happening? They are several. First, there is the mythical, so-called “separation of Church and State.” The separation clause is routinely quoted by government and school officials when they want to dismiss the religious requests and activities of others. Truth is, what is really happening is that Jehovah is the only God not welcome. All other gods are quite welcome. The god of humanism is quite welcome. The new age god is welcome. This past school year, in a Williams County elementary classroom, a teacher took class time to teach the children about serial killers. Our children can be taught about such perverse things, but they can not be taught the solution to serial killing (faith in God)? Schools try to enforce a moral and ethical code yet they fail. Why? You cannot have morals and ethics without a religious foundation. Morals and ethics demand an answer to the question “WHY is this wrong?” Why is it wrong to have sex before marriage? Why is it wrong to steal? Without God and His standard, the Ten Commandments, we have no foundation for morality and ethics.

Another reason is the myth called toleration. Liberals and conservatives alike bandy about the thought of toleration. The foundation of toleration is that all truth is equal and that all viewpoints are valid. Our country has become one big comparative religion class. Truth is, there is no such thing as true toleration, nor can there be. Christians believe the Bible to be their standard of morality and ethics. They believe the Bible to be, not just one truth among many, but THE TRUTH! Christians are called on to love what God loves and hate what God hates. Yes, we are a narrow, intolerant bunch because we dare suggest there is but one God, one way to heaven. We dare suggest there is but one moral and ethical code, the Bible. We dismiss arguments couched in words “well that’s your opinion,“ and we reply by saying “Thus saith the Lord.” Matters such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, drunkenness, abortion etc. are not matters for political debate. The Bible is clear on such matters.

It is amazing how we have redefined that which God calls sin. Homosexuality is called an alternative lifestyle. Drunkenness is called a disease. The adulterous partner is now called the significant other. On and on and on it goes. God said “Be not deceived . . . for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” We are reaping our harvest in America. The foundations are crumbling. Is anyone paying attention?

It’s time we either admit that Jehovah is dead and remove His name from our money and the pledge of allegiance or perhaps it is time we reassert the kingdom rights of the true and living God. God’s people need to stand up and be counted. Not in Marches for Jesus, but in the workplace, the school. the government and in every public arena of life. We need to sound forth that name which is above every name. That name, and only that name, by which men shall be saved.

Bruce Gerencser

January 2002

Abortion

Dear Editor:

The anniversary of the famed Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade has just passed. Almost 30 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that abortion on demand was legal in the United States. Since that time, a battle between the forces called pro-life and pro-choice has raged without abatement in our country. We truly are a nation divided when it comes to abortion. Both sides have taken to the legal and political arena in an attempt to stifle or crush their opposition. In the case of the pro-life movement, some on the far extreme of the movement have taken to murdering clinic workers and the doctors who perform the abortions.  Several men with such beliefs are on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

How are we, as Christians, to respond to the continued murder of babies in abortion clinics, private doctors’ offices, and hospitals? Some may suggest that I am asserting that the terms “Christian” and “pro-life” are synonymous. Such an observation is correct. “Christianity” and “pro-choice” are not compatible one with the other. I have written a number of times over the years on this issue, and each time I receive letters from supposed pro-choice Christians. Perhaps such folks are well-intentioned, but it is theologically impossible to square being a Christian with also being pro-choice. To be a Christian is to walk in the steps of, and follow after, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was pro-life and the Law of God states very clearly “Thou shalt not kill.”

The command “Thou shalt not kill” has a positive precept attached to it. That precept is “thou shalt preserve life.” If we are not to kill, then we are to preserve life instead. This preserving of life extends to not only the abortion clinic, but also the prison and countries where we are engaged in war. The Bible teaches and permits capital punishment, but it also prescribes when and who it is to be carried out. The Bible permits just war, but it also prescribes when and how such war is to be carried out.  We must always remember that the killing of other human beings shows the baseness of human society, not its superiority. As Christians, we have a duty to preserve life at every opportunity. We must stand against abortion. We must work to outlaw the practice in the United States and the rest of the world. We should also be actively working to promote justice for those in prison and to insist that God’s law be followed in the execution of those guilty of first-degree murder. We must hold our government and military accountable for its actions in Afghanistan. Find the terrorists. Punish the evildoer, but in doing so do no harm to innocent men, women and children.

We must continue to wage the war of words with the pro-choice crowd. They speak of the “woman’s right to choose” and yet they are rarely challenged to the assertions they make in regard to this statement. I too, support a “woman’s right to choose.” She makes a choice to have sexual relations with a man, and she must live with the consequences of such an action. The pro-choice movement is at the forefront of the “right to have sex whenever with whomever movement” and then with the quickness of a magician they deny any accountability for the choice that is made. There are many choices a pregnant woman can make, but far too often abortion is the only option given because it is the easy way out.  Adoption is an option. Extended family assistance in raising the child is an option. Our government needs to streamline the adoption process making it easy for families to adopt these unwanted babies

We must do more than just object to abortion. We must also put our words into action. We must help support women in their pregnancy and provide the means for their care.  Every unwanted baby needs a home. My wife and I are the parents of six children, yet if needed, we would take on the responsibility of another child. It would not be easy, but our words must be backed up with action.

We must continue to oppose the fringes of the pro-life movement that advocates violence and murder in the name of God.  Murdering a baby via abortion is a sin but so is murdering an abortion clinic doctor. We must not bear the sword. God gives government the responsibility of bearing the sword to punish evildoers. As we stand against abortion we must work to change the laws of the land. Abortion must once again be illegal. We must work to enact laws that make it criminal to participate in any part of the abortion process. We need to stop the tax flow to organizations that promote abortion. Let Planned Parenthood get its money from its liberal constituents, but not from the American taxpayer.  There is much work to do and killing an abortion doctor will not stop the abortion mills. There will always be another to take their place. Instead, we must make abortion illegal thus removing the financial incentives that continue to fuel the abortion mills.

It is easy to become complacent in the matter of abortion. As I watched the events of September 11th, my heart was grieved. I mourned and wept for days over the tragic loss of life. Yet, keeping it all in perspective, the loss of life at Ground Zero equals one day of work in the abortion clinics of America. Our hands are covered with the blood of millions of babies that have been aborted since that fateful day when Roe vs. Wade became law. We must not rest until justice for all once again prevails in our Land. May God give us the grace and strength necessary to not waver in this battle of battles.

Bruce Gerencser

December 2002

Nuclear War and the Prince of Peace

Dear Editor:

What a wonderful and beautiful Christmas Day! The ground is blanketed with six or so inches of snow and all is peaceful and quiet. There is nothing more beautiful than a crisp winter morning after an overnight snowfall. This wintry scene causes me to reflect on the glory of Christmas Day and the meaning of it. Christmas is about redemption. Christmas is about Jesus the Son of God taking on human flesh, and being born of the virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem. Jesus came into the world at the appointed time to bring redemption to all men. He came to proclaim peace and justice for all. He is called the Prince of Peace. Later in His life, Jesus would declare that peace and justice were to be character traits of those who profess to be followers of Him.

It is thoughts of peace and justice that now begin to cloud my mind on this Christmas Day. Jesus came to bring peace, yet there is no peace. Jesus came to bring justice, yet there is no justice. Those who claim to be His followers show little concern for peace and justice. It seems they are all too busy with eating, drinking, and being merry to concern themselves with such weighty notions of peace and justice. But, concern ourselves with them we must.

I have been reading of late the Social Essays of the Catholic monk, Thomas Merton. These essays were written at the height of the cold war and the Vietnam War. I am amazed at how timely Merton’s essays are for today, though they were written 40 years ago. In his time, Merton had to constantly battle censors within the Catholic Church who attempted to silence his anti-war message. Merton was quite creative in the ways he got his message to the public. His voice still speaks loudly today.

Merton’s essays on nuclear war, unilateralism, and preemptive war should be required reading for all Americans. Merton reminds us of the lunacy of the notion that a nuclear war can be fought and won. Once the buttons are pushed, the world as we know it ceases to exist. Thoughts of non-defensive, unilateral, preemptive war, Merton reminds us, are immoral and should be condemned by all Christians.

Today, America sits on the precipice of nuclear world war. We have become the big bully who thinks he can get his way by bluffing and threatening. Every once in a while, the bully even whips some weakling to show who is the toughest. Such is the case with Iraq. But now we have added North Korea to our list of nations we are intent on bullying. Unfortunately, North Korea does not quiver and shake at our threats. They well remember an America who could not defeat them during the Korean War. Since then, the North Koreans have added nuclear and biological weapons to their arsenal. According to recent newspaper reports, the North Koreans are quite willing to use what weapons they have to defend themselves.

What troubles me the most in all of this is the silence emanating from the pulpits of America. It seems the only voice that is heard is from warmongers such as Jerry Falwell. Does he, and those like him, speak for the rest of us? The German Church silently sat by while Hitler put into force the plans and programs that would later give us World War II and the Holocaust. Now, the clergy of America sit by silently as George Bush and Company put into force programs like the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act. George Bush threatens war and destruction on any nation that opposes him. Our insane notion of national superiority, coupled with immoral capitalistic greed, is leading us down a path that is certain to have catastrophic results, yet nary a word is heard from our pulpits.

The Scriptures are clear, Christians are called to be people of peace and justice. We are to be peacemakers. It is absurd to suggest, as George Bush does, that by waging war we will have peace. War always begets war, and history bears this out. Only peace begets peace. It is time for all nations, including America, to lay aside and destroy ALL weapons of mass destruction. Our nation needs to repudiate its doctrine concerning preemptive first strikes against other nations. The world needs to know that America will be a peacemaking nation that desires peace and freedom for all men. While we must leave space for defensive war or even what the theologians call “just war,” we must forsake attacking and killing others just because we do not like their government structure or way of life. Muslims have a right to live as they live without America interfering in their affairs. It is time we stop exporting Western civilization as the answer to the world’s problems. Better for us to concern ourselves with our own moral, ethical, and civil failures than trying to fix the problems of the world.

Fifty or so years ago the phrase “better dead than Red” was coined. Unfortunately, that philosophy is still alive and well. The proponents of this notion believe it is better for us all to be dead than to have any government or civilization than the one we have now. We had best think about the reality of such a notion because when the nuclear bombs start falling, it will be too late. The Reagan/Bush Star Wars notion of missile defense will not save us once the bombs start to fall. It will only take a few bombs to render this world unlivable. Those who survive will wish they had not.

It is not too late. Voices must be raised in opposition and protest to the war policy of the Bush administration. Protesters must make their voice heard via letters and public protest. Conscientious men and women in the military must say “I will not” to their leaders who want to slaughter them on the altar of political and economic gain. Politicians must get some backbone and be willing to stand up to the warmongering hawks on Capitol Hill. They have been raised up “for such a time as this!”

Bruce Gerencser

May 2003

A Cat Killer is On the Loose

Dear Editor:

A cat killer is loose in Williams County. He is known by our local authorities. He even boasts of his cat killing and the enjoyment it gives him. Why should this be a concern to anyone? After all, he is just killing cats, right?

The Humane Society spoke of prosecuting the man because cats are considered property, and by his actions he violated the property rights of the cat owner (s). Do they have any moral standing apart from their relation to their owner?

All animals are a part of God’s created order. They were endowed by their creator with life, and with that life given certain rights. Animals have a right to be respected as created beings within the context of the order of Creation. While it is debated whether or not animals should be eaten for food, there should be no debate concerning the care of, love for, and responsibility to animals. Factory farms, factory slaughter houses, trophy hunting, and abandoned, mistreated animals are all abhorrent testimonies to the depravity of man. The wicked man cares not for the life of his beast (Proverbs 12:10).

The man who killed these cats should be prosecuted. Prosecutors who hide behind their prosecutorial discretion should be reminded of voter discretion at the next election. We need government leaders who recognize that cruelty to animals is just as abhorrent as a crime against a human. If we do not prosecute when it involves the “least” of us, who is to say we will not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to other immoral behaviors deemed more serious by the powers that be?

If this man cannot be prosecuted, how about a sign in front of his house that says “Beware, cat killer lives here!”

Bruce Gerencser

September 2005

The Rise of a New Christian Fundamentalism

Dear Editor:

There is a new fundamentalism rising up in America. While it has Christian theological overtones, it is really right-wing political extremism wrapped in the clothes of conservative Christian dogma. There was a time when politics and religion did not mix and were considered separate planes in God’s created order. Things are much different today. Political activism from the pulpit is common. A recent front-page feature article in the Columbus Dispatch about Rod Parsley, pastor of World Harvest Church in Columbus shows very clearly the agenda of this new fundamentalism. Parsley pastors a Church with over 10,000 members. The annual Church budget is in excess of $32,000,000. Parsley advocates pastors rising up to become Patriot Pastors. Theocracy is the goal.

Some would suggest that we ignore this folly and it will fade away as quickly as the Atkins Diet. Our nation has faced many well-intentioned but misguided attempts at reclaiming the culture for God. All have run their course. All have utterly failed because they attempt to use political means to gain a spiritual end.

But we can not ignore this movement because it is resulting in the death and maiming of thousands of people. Virtually every person involved in this new fundamentalism supports the war in Iraq. They have bought into the rhetoric that the war in Iraq is a war of good vs. evil. Opposition to the war is shouted down with angry words such as traitor, unpatriotic, liberal, etc. All discussion has ceased. Arrogant fundamentalism has usurped the right to speak for all Christians. We must always remember that one the key tenets of fundamentalism is the belief that you have the complete truth, and that all other views are error. No discussion. No shades of gray. Those who hold a different view are considered the enemy.

The most dangerous factor in the Iraq war is the fundamentalist religious right. Their thinking is not much different from the fundamentalist Muslims. They believe God is on their side and that the infidel needs to be destroyed. It is no wonder that many Muslims view the war in Iraq as a religious war. America, led by a Christian President, claims to be a Christian nation. God is invoked to justify virtually everything we do.

Most of the leaders of the fundamentalist religious right have a particular eschatological belief called pretribulational premillennialism. This is the theology of the wildly popular Left Behind book series. It is a relatively modern school of eschatological thought which is first found in writings of the mid-19th century. According to this system of thought, the world is headed toward a seven-year period called the Great Tribulation. This period of time concludes with Armageddon, at which time the thousand-year millennial kingdom of Christ will be established. Prior to the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return and rapture out all the Christians. it is important to keep this in mind when listening to the war rhetoric of the fundamentalist religious right. According to their theological system, Mathew 24 must be literally fulfilled. One of the key tenets of Matthew 24 is “war and rumors of war.“ Those holding to this theological persuasion have no impetus to be “peacemakers.“ War is inevitable, and the more war we have the closer we are to the rapture.

I am a conservative Christian. My theology and personal lifestyle practices place me squarely in the conservative Christian camp. Unfortunately, I am, along with many others, the son no one talks about. We sit silently in church while our ministers talk up war and nationalism from the pulpit. l speak for those who are Christians but who can not support the war in Iraq. I speak for those who believe that Jesus called us to be ”peacemakers.” It is not enough to believe in peace. We must actively promote peace.

Where are the conservative Churches and pastors that take a stand against war and actively promote peace? Have we become so blinded by our political agenda and fanciful eschatological interpretations that we have forsaken the Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount?

We should note that when justification for war is talked about, it is the name of God that is invoked. Have you noticed that no one says, “Jesus supports the War In Iraq?“ Using the generic term God invokes the image of the wrathful God of the Old Testament. When we speak the name of Jesus we come away with a different image. We do not see Jesus as the soldier, the warrior. We see him as the shepherd, as the meek, mild-mannered, peace-loving Savior of the world.

Bruce Gerencser

May 2006

The Dangers of Christian Nationalism

Dear Editor:

Throughout the history of the Christian church, it has been commonly believed that state and church, both ordained by God, operate on separate, yet equal planes of authority. This is commonly called the “separation of church and state.” History painfully reminds us of what happens when state and church are joined together. This union always results in the death of many people and the authority of both the state and the church being compromised. Adolph Hitler would not have been successful during World War II without the joining of church and state together. The church lost her moral authority when she became complicit in the Aryan teachings and programs of the Nazi regime. Yes, there were those who stood against Hitler and his murderous minions, but, for the most part, the German church remained silent. As a result, the world was plunged into war and millions of people suffered and died. This is but one example of many that could be pulled from the pages of history. I am using it because it is “current” history and one that can readily be researched.

The world owes a great debt to the United States for her willingness to stand against Germany and her attempt to rule the world. The United States stood on solid moral footing and she is to be commended for her courage and sacrifice. With such a great moral stand also comes a great challenge; to remain humble in the light of great victory. Coming out of World War II, the United States had the approval and appreciation of the world. Sixty years later the United States is now viewed as an imperialistic superpower that is intent on dominating and taking over the world one nation at a time. How did this happen?

Pride! One-word answer. Pride! Reinhold Niebuhr, shortly after the end of World War II said this:

We are indeed the execution of God’s judgment yesterday. But we might remember the prophetic warnings to the nations of old, that nations which become proud because they were divine instruments must, in turn, stand under the divine judgment and be destroyed……If ever a nation needed to be reminded of the perils of vainglory, we are that nation in the pride of our power and our victory.

As the post-September 11, 2001 era continues, there is an increasingly ugly, nationalistic pride that is rising up in the United States. This errant pride is seen in our nation’s actions in Iraq and in the continued saber-rattling against Iran. Strong traces of it can be viewed in the current debate going on in the United States over Mexican immigration.

A clear distinction needs to be made between patriotism and nationalism. According to Michael Dyson in his book titled Pride, “Patriotism is the critical affirmation of one’s country in light of its best values, including the attempt to correct it when it is in error. Nationalism is the uncritical support of one’s nation regardless of its moral or political bearing.” Sadly, much of what is called patriotism in the United States is actually prideful, sinful, nationalism.

As in Germany during World War II, this errant nationalism is graphically on display in churches everywhere. Christian theology has been wedded with political ideology and given a healthy baptism of flag-waving nationalism and the result is that the church in the United States has abandoned her call to follow Jesus. Far too many churches, including an unhealthy number of churches in this area, have become pawns in a political chess game. Such churches have lost their prophetic voice. Where is the voice calling out for justice and mercy? Where is the voice calling out for peace in the name of the Prince of Peace?

The flag-waving nationalism on display in many churches needs to stop. Ties with liberal or conservative political agendas need to be broken. The war in Iraq and Mexican immigration need to be viewed through the teaching of Jesus instead of a political party’s platform. It is time to repent.

Over the past 36 months, I have visited a good number of churches in the northwest Ohio area, including churches in Indiana and Michigan. I have yet to hear one critical word concerning the War in Iraq. I did hear numerous words promoting the war, and sometimes I was almost certain that I was hearing a public service announcement from the defense department. Why are the pulpits of so many churches silent on this crucial issue? Even churches that come from the “peace” denominations are strangely silent or even go so far as to promote war, in direct contradiction to their church doctrine. I realize I cannot make absolute judgments when I only visit a church once or a few times, but overall the silence is deafening.

It seems that many churches are requiring allegiance to the State and her war policy as a test of fidelity to Jesus. If one dare raise a voice of objection, immediate questions of salvation and love for country are raised. Coward, un-American, unsaved, liberal, and military hater are some of the kinder words hurled at those who, in Jesus’ name, oppose war. In spite of the name-calling, lovers of peace must continue to stand for peace. It is the LEAST we can do. Churches and ministers must be prodded and cajoled, and if need be, shamed into returning to being prophetic voices in the world. Instead of allowing political agendas to control the voice of the church, the clear and emphatic teachings of Jesus must set the agenda. It is time to stop the debates about “just war” (which is nothing more than political ideology wearing theological clothes) and return to doing what Jesus commands us to do; love our enemies and be a people who actively promote peace.

Bruce Gerencser

May 2006

The Dangers of Christian Nationalism

Dear Editor:

Every time Christians gather together for communion, it is for the purpose of memorializing the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus on the cross has many theological implications: redemption and sanctification among many others. The death of Jesus also has political implications. His death, along with his resurrection from the dead, proclaimed a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Who, and all that Jesus did, challenges the politics and agendas of every generation. There is a new King in the world, and Jesus is his name.

Last Sunday, many churches took time to briefly mention Memorial Day. Some churches had full-blown patriotic rallies, complete with the presenting of the colors and taps. Others sang a few patriotic songs and said a quick prayer for those who have died in our nation’s wars. Some took time to honor church members who are serving or had served in the Military.

I always prepare myself for what “may” happen in church on our nation’s various national holidays. I would prefer that churches not meld worship of God and nationalism together, but I have come to the place where I can tolerate it in short doses. Interjecting nationalism into our worship of God diminishes the focus of our worship, and can, if we are not careful, suggest that Christianity and American nationalism are one and the same.

In many sermons, we will hear that Christians need to view the sacrifice of war in and of itself, separated from its theological and political implications. An attempt is made to link the sacrifice of war with the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus laid down his life for others and in war we are called on to do the same.

It is unwise to connect the sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrifice of war. Jesus was the guiltless dying for the guilty. In war, there are no guiltless parties. It is also impossible to divorce the sacrifice of war from its theological and political implications. War ALWAYS has such implications.

My prayer is that churches will stop being agents for the political agendas of the Republican and Democratic parties. Instead of giving public service announcements for the defense department, churches would be truer to their calling if they proclaimed what Jesus said about peace and loving our enemies. I am still waiting to hear a sermon anywhere that takes seriously the claims and teachings of Jesus concerning peace and as a result, declares the war in Iraq to be contrary to Christian teaching. Instead of wrangling about “just war” I hope and pray churches will wrangle with the implications of “thou shalt not kill,” “love your enemies,” and “blessed are the peacemakers.”It is certainly proper and right to quietly remember those who have died during our nation’s wars. Some died defending freedom, others died for a political agenda, but all died as Americans and we should remember them. We should also take time to reflect on the awfulness of war and the danger of a nation with unchecked arrogance waging war against all who cross her path.

Bruce Gerencser

January 2008

Paying Attention to Africa

Dear Editor:

Kenya is burning and the American government fiddles while it does. Kenyan Christians flee to a church for safety and are burned alive by Muslim extremists. Hundreds have been killed and thousands are fleeing for their lives. The government is in total collapse and the economy is being destroyed by rampant hyper-inflation.

One recent missionary letter I read reported gasoline selling for $20 a gallon. Kenya is another Rwanda or Sudan in the making. This is yet another chapter in a sordid African tale in which millions are dying or maimed and entire countries are destroyed. What is constant in this story is, for the most part, the American government and the Christian church stand by and do nothing.

Oh, we may throw some money at the problem, utter meaningless words like “genocide” and mutter some general non-efficacious prayers, but for the most part, Americans don’t care. Why is this?

I believe there are two basic reasons why Americans have little care or concern for the slaughter going in Africa. First, most Africans are black. I guarantee you that if 50 white European Christians were burned alive in a church by Muslim extremists, there would be outrage in America. There is a deep-seated racism in America towards black people. It is so deeply rooted many people are unaware of it. One could almost excuse it, but in the case of Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan, it has cost millions of people their lives.

Second, most Africans are poor. They live on a few dollars a day. They offer little of value to the world. They live lives of subsistence and most die leaving few, if any, material goods behind. They are but a blip on the screen of the American economy. While some oil production does come from Africa, it is not a major player in the oil market.

The bottom line is Africa does not matter. Africans have always been killing each other. Africans have always been starving. Africans have always had social and civil unrest. But we should care. A human catastrophe is taking place.

A whole country is being ravaged and slaughtered by war and disease. Almost half of the population in Swaziland is infected with AIDS. Thousands of children die from malnutrition every day. Thousands more are orphaned.

It is immoral for us to sit by and do nothing. I want to appeal to my fellow Christians to insist that their churches and pastors pray for, and actively get involved in, ending the carnage and suffering in Africa.

Write letters to government leaders pleading for action in Africa. Find humanitarian groups that are working on the ground in Africa and support them with your money. Educate your children about Africa and, most of all, search your heart for latent racism that may keep you from seeing black Africans for who they are — precious children of God.

Bruce Gerencser

July 2008

American Myths

Dear Editor:

We will never collectively progress as a nation until we admit that much of our social, economic and political belief is based upon myth. Time shapes facts into collective myths that are rarely, if ever, examined by the average citizen.

Christian ministers continue to preach the Christian nation myth. America has never been, and never will be, unless the Christian right gets its way, a Christian nation. We have always been a secular, pluralistic society. Any notion to the contrary is revisionism and not supported by our collective history. In secular America there is a clear separation of church and state. For this reason, questions concerning the religious beliefs and practices of presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama should be considered out of bounds and irrelevant.

Our political leaders continue to preach the myth of continual economic growth. Few people seem to question the notion of continual economic growth. Is unlimited, unconstrained growth possible? Will we ever reach a place where no more growth can take place? Do we really need one more restaurant in Defiance? Do we really need one more drug store? Do we really need another church on another corner? How many varieties of the same old stuff do we really need? When will our razor have enough blades?

We are rapidly approaching the time where the myth of continual growth will be clearly revealed. Soaring food and energy prices, collapsing housing and economic markets are all signs that continual growth is not sustainable. Words like sustainability, conservation and self-sufficiency are the common vocabulary of the future. An economy built on consumption will ultimately fail because it cannot sustain itself. We are consuming ourselves to death. We cannot rely on the government to tell us the truth about the economic condition of America. Statistics like the GDP, unemployment, poverty rate, etc. are massaged and manipulated by government officials to such a degree that they are essentially meaningless.

The evangelical Christian church and many of our government leaders continue to promote the myth that war brings peace. In fact, our entire national history rests on the foundation of this myth. Our nation has a bloody, warring history. We have bombed, killed and destroyed all who have stood in our way. From the early days of our nation to the present conflict in Iraq we have used military force and brutal war to force our will on others. We have rarely been a peaceful people.

War will never bring peace. It can’t. It may bring a cessation of hostilities, but peace can only come through peacemaking. A peaceful country will not have nuclear armaments capable of destroying the world many times over. A peaceful country will not wage pre-emptive wars and will only use its military forces for acts of self-defense. Peaceful nations act peaceably. Our national conduct shows us to be anything but peaceful.

Peace begins at home with each of us living like peacemakers. Peace begets peace.

Bruce Gerencser

October 2008

Consistent “Pro-Life” Position

Dear Editor:

Ed Singer wrote the one letter I have read so far that succinctly distills the issues at stake in the 2008 presidential election. His appeal to Catholic school tradition is key to our choosing the next president of the United States. I only wish evangelical Christians had such a social tradition.

While groups like Sojourners and Evangelicals for Social Action attempt to bring social issues to the forefront of public discussion, evangelicalism is, for the most part, still a captive of the Republican Party. Many evangelicals are two-issue voters — abortion and homosexuality.

While I am certainly pro-life, I believe we miss the mark when we become single-issue voters. The issues are much broader and more complex than that. We need to think carefully about the current condition of our country and where we want to go in the future. I am 51 years old and I have voted in every election since Jimmy Carter won the White House. I am of the opinion that the current election is the most important election of my life.

I would ask my fellow evangelicals to consider what I call a “consistent life position.” It is not enough to be pro-life. We must also consider the issues of war, terrorism, torture, capital punishment and poverty. We must also consider the broad issue of social justice. What does it mean for me to be my brother’s keep? In a world filled with poverty, disease, war and injustice do I have a moral obligation to keep in regards to my fellow human beings?

America is a great nation filled with honorable, loving, and just people. In recent years, as we waged pre-emptive wars, turned our backs on the poor of the world, and continued to ignore to hurting and suffering in our own country, we have become less honorable, less loving, and certainly less just. We need a president who will take a completely different course from the one we are on now and who will lead us back to being a nation of honorable, loving, and just people.

As much as I like John McCain, I believe he will be four more years of George Bush. Will Barack Obama be any different? I don’t know. I find his speeches to be stirring, and they certainly are filled with all the things I think are important. Time will tell whether or not Barack Obama can deliver on what he has promised. I am willing to give him the chance. We cannot continue to stay the course, and I fear that is exactly what John McCain will do. We need a radical departure from the status quo.

Barack Obama’s message is one of change, and I can only hope that the change he brings will reinvigorate us as a nation and that will return to being a people of goodwill, both at home and across the world.

Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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“False Christians” Such as I Am Never Had a Love for the Things of Christ

head not heart knowledge

Several years ago, the late Ken Silva, a Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, and discerner of all things truly Christian, posted the following quote from C.F.W. Walther on his Apprising Ministries website:

A person may pretend to be a Christian while in reality he is not. As long as he is in this condition, he is quite content with his knowledge of the mere outlines of the Christian doctrines. Everything beyond that, he says, is for pastors and theologians.

To perceive as clearly as possible everything that God has revealed is something in which a non-Christian has no interest. However, the moment a person becomes a Christian there arises in him a keen desire for the doctrine of Christ.

Even the most uncultured peasant who is still unconverted is suddenly roused in the moment of his conversion and begins to reflect on God and heaven, salvation and damnation, etc. He becomes occupied with the highest problems of human life. An instance of this kind is afforded by those Jews who flocked to Christ and also by the apostle.

What about the increasing number of atheists and agnostics who were, for many years, pastors/evangelists/professors/denominational leaders; men and women who spent years delving deeply into the Word of God?

For thirty-five years, I had a keen desire for things of Christ. I read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times. I spent thousands and thousands of hours studying the Bible. I read hundreds and hundreds of Christian books, magazines, and newspapers. I listened to countless sermon tapes, attended Bible conferences, revival meetings, and mission conferences. I did my best to put into practice all that I read and heard. Jesus was the way, truth, and life to me, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I was as deeply immersed in the things of Christ as one could be.

In Silva’s world, only Christians who think like he did are really Christians. Silva thought that most people who profess Christianity are false professors. They professed Christ, but never possessed Christ (Christian cliché 101).

These days, I know a lot of Christians-turned-atheists. Almost every one of them was a conscientious, serious person who believed the teachings of the Bible and sincerely desired the things of Christ. To suggest these people didn’t really have any interest in the things of Christ is laughable. Most Christians-turned-atheists I know understand the Bible quite well. Of course, according to the Ken Silvas of the world, they have a head knowledge and not a heart knowledge (Christian cliché 102).

All that we ex-Christians can say is this: we know what we know. We once were saved, and now we’re not. Can’t wrap your unimaginative, dull Christian mind around this fact? That’s your problem, not ours.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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For Evangelical Christians, It’s Not About the Evidence

birth of jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Here’s one thing that atheists and agnostics need to understand. For a person becoming an Evangelical Christian – the choice to do so has never been JUST about the evidence. We mistakenly think that if we just show Evangelicals evidence that their God is a myth, the Bible is a manmade book, and the central claims of Christianity are false, they will abandon their religion and embrace atheism or agnosticism. How’s that working for us?

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

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

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

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

Evangelicals, by faith, decide to believe certain things. By faith, they believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. By faith, they believe the Bible is truth, and whatever it says comes straight from the mouth of God. By faith, they believe that the central teachings of Christianity are true regardless of evidence to the contrary.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin — that he was birthed by a teen girl named Mary who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. It is common knowledge that virgins can’t have babies. Unless a woman is impregnated by a man’s sperm, there can be no baby. Evangelicals know this, but they disregard this fact, choosing instead to believe, by faith, the story in the Bible about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

It is also common knowledge that when people die, they stay dead. I know of no evidence that suggests that a person lying dead in the grave for three days has any hope or possibility of coming back to life. When you’re dead, you stay dead. Evangelicals know this, but choose, instead, to disregard this fact, putting their faith in the claims the Bible makes for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Much like it was for Jesus, Evangelicals believes that God will someday resurrect their bodies from the grave and make them new. What evidence do they have for this claim? None.

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead are two essential doctrines of Evangelical Christianity. There is absolutely no evidence for these two events outside of the Bible. Blind, irrational faith is required to believe these two essential Evangelical doctrines. The same could be said for the Bible stories about Jesus walking on water, walking through walls, turning water into wine, and walking through a crowd of people without being detected. Reason demands we reject such stories, but by faith, Evangelicals believe them to be true.

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

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

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

As long of Evangelicals keep their beliefs to themselves and make no attempts to evangelize others or turn the United States into a theocracy, I suspect most atheists and agnostics are content to let Evangelicals believe what they will. Unfortunately, many Evangelicals refuse to keep their religion private, and, as will be on full display November 3, do everything in their power to ensconce Jesus as the King of the United States (and world). As long as Evangelicals have ill-will towards non-Evangelicals and demand preferential treatment, atheists, agnostics, secularists, and others who value the separation of church and state, must resolutely oppose and condemn Evangelicalism. That said, we should ask ourselves whether our time is well spent trying to evangelize Evangelicals and turn them into atheists.

Ask yourself, when is the last time you have won over an Evangelical by argumentation and evidence? Doesn’t happen very much, does it? Christianity is much more complex than that. It’s not the end of the world if Christians die thinking they will go to Heaven. At the end of the day, who cares? For whatever reason, Evangelicals need faith to make it through life, and they need to think that there is something better awaiting them after they die. I don’t fault them for believing these things, even if I think their beliefs are untrue.

As atheists, we cannot believe the things that Christians believe. Why? We don’t have faith. All we have is a Bible that Evangelicals tell us is truth, but we find no persuasive evidence for its truth claims. We know that faith would fix the lack of evidence problem for us, but we are not willing to relegate matters of life and death to such a subjective idea as faith. We wish we could, but we can’t.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Bruce, Have You Committed the Unpardonable Sin?

bible made me an atheist

Bob, a regular reader of this site, asked me the following question:


I do have a question for you and was curious on your answer.

I know you know the scriptures as far as what they say, so you will most likely have an answer.

Based on the scriptures concerning blasphemy it is my understanding from past teachings that blasphemy definition by Pharisee’s was saying that a person could forgive sins or someone claiming to be God. Jesus then talked about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and no forgiveness.

Based on these few scriptures, in your opinion from what you know of your past Bible teachings, do you think that you have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit? Not because of your walking away, but rather by the things that you have said? I am asking based on your knowledge of what the Bible says, not whether you believe in the Bible today.

Hopefully I have worded this respectfully enough for an answer.

Wonderful question. Hopefully, I can provide an adequate and satisfactory answer.

Matthew 3:22-30 says:

And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Ligonier Ministries, the teaching ministry of Reformed Evangelical R.C. Sproul, interprets Mark 3:28-30 this way:

Although Jesus does not specifically define this sin, the context reveals this transgression as the persistent, knowing, verbal attribution of the work of God to Satan.

First, Mark’s comment “for they were saying” (v. 30) as he narrates Jesus’ response to the scribes shows that the blasphemy Jesus has in mind is a verbal sin. The scribes were sinning with words, with statements against our Savior. Moreover, the same comment from Mark means unforgivable blasphemy is a persistent sin. “Were saying” is in the progressive voice, which conveys ongoing action. The scribes spoke against Jesus not merely one time; rather, they were so hardened against Him that they continued to associate Him with Satan.

Such hardness is particularly noteworthy because it came from the resident biblical experts. So, we cannot understand what Jesus means by the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unless we recognize the scriptural knowledge of our Lord’s opponents. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus held the religious leaders to a high standard. Christ expected them to know the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, so well that they could rightly identify God’s work (Matt. 23; John 3:1–15). So, the blasphemy of the Spirit does not arise from mere ignorance. When people know the Scriptures well and yet not only fail to recognize Jesus as Messiah but also openly reject Him, they are standing on perilous ground.

Blasphemy of the Spirit, then, is not the occasional bad thought or episode of anger against God. Such things are sins, to be sure, but they are not the persistent, deliberate rejection of the Lord’s work that shows itself in a willful attribution of God’s actions to Satan himself. Such blasphemy is unforgivable not because the Lord is unwilling to forgive but because a person guilty of such sin has fully and finally hardened his heart against the grace of God.

What, exactly, is the unpardonable sin? While Evangelicals disagree among themselves about the unpardonable sin — what it is and who can commit it — Sproul’s interpretation is held by many Christians. As an Evangelical pastor, my interpretation aligned with Sproul’s; that the unpardonable sin is ascribing the works of God (Jesus) to Satan; that those who commit the unpardonable sin cannot be saved/redeemed.

Bob wants to know, based on my knowledge of the Bible, if I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin? The short answer is no. While I certainly, with great gusto, blaspheme God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, I have never ascribed the works of God to Satan. The reason for this is simple: much like God himself, I believe Satan is a myth. It would be silly of me, then, to give credit to Satan for works allegedly performed by God.

The “works of God,” without exception, are the handiwork of humans, as are works ascribed to Satan. Gods, regardless of the sect, are fabricated by humans, and the only “powers” deities have are those which we give to them.

Now, if I transport this discussion back to the days when I was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, and I had run-in with Bruce Gerencser, the atheist, I most certainly would have said that he was a blasphemer against God; that he had committed the unpardonable sin.

Having said that, the notion that there is an “unpardonable sin” leads to all sorts of problems theologically for Evangelicals.

Is there a difference between the “unpardonable sin” and reprobation, as found in Romans 1:18-32?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

According to Romans 1:18-32, when a person, who by nature, knows God exists and refuses to acknowledge his existence and worship him, that person becomes vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart is darkened. Southern Baptist evangelist Rolfe Barnard preached a sermon on reprobation where he said that for the reprobate, the lights go out on their way to Hell. In other words, God gives humankind the “light” of creation, conscience, and divine revelation (the Bible). The person on a path to reprobation rejects the light given to him by God, and, bit by bit, the God’s light within him becomes dimmer, until God says, “that’s it for you,” and he unplugs the light. According to Barnard, countless people are as good as in Hell as if they were already there. Once God turns out the light in a person’s soul, there’s no hope for them. That person has crossed a line of no return.

In a sermon from Luke 11:35 titled, When the Lights Go Out on The Road to Hell, Barnard said:

I want to talk some tonight, if God’s Spirit will help me,
about this last danger. I am speaking on “When the Lights Go Out on the Road to Hell.” And they are going out for men and women all about us. I can’t prove it, but I believe that America is made up largely of men and women who cannot be saved. I believe they have played and trifled with truth too long. And there is one thing that God Almighty gets angry about; it’s the people who treat lightly any move that God makes to bring light on our pathway. That sure is serious.

There comes a time when God Almighty will reprobate a
man, will reject a man. He rejected Pharoah. He rejected the nation of Israel; and it appears to be by the blank expression on people’s faces that many, many people in America have been rejected, because God has had them under His long-sufferance to the point where He cannot be God and deal with them any more. And so He just rejects them and they begin to live in hell here on this earth and
hell in time to come.

Both the unpardonable sin and reprobation lead to the same place: outside of the saving grace of God. Once a person reaches this place, they can’t be saved, and their eternal destiny is sealed — even though they may live for another fifty years.

These Biblical “truths” lead to several glaring problems for Evangelicals.

First, Evangelicals are fond of saying that no sin is so bad that God can’t or won’t save you. No matter what you’ve done, God is willing and able to save you, the thinking goes. However, it seems that the unpardonable sin and reprobation place a person beyond God’s wonderful, matchless grace.

Second, most Evangelicals — Arminians excepted — believe that once a person is saved, he cannot lose his salvation/fall from grace. He can lose his eternal rewards, but once saved, he can never become unsaved. Thus, since I was saved at the age of fifteen, no matter what I say or do, I am still safe in the arms of Jesus, and when I die, I will go to Heaven.

How is it possible to square once-saved-always-saved with the fact that someone can commit the unpardonable sin or God can give them over to a reprobate mind? Doesn’t this contradict what Evangelicals say about the nature of God’s saving grace?

Arminians — the children of Jacob Arminius and John Wesley — have no problem explaining these contradictory beliefs. According to Arminian theology, a follower of Jesus can fall from grace. Hebrews 6:4-6:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Hebrews 10:26,29 says:

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

….

Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches. At the age of fifteen, I made a credible public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. For thirty-five years, I lived my life as a committed, devoted follower of Jesus. No one, at that time, doubted that I was a Christian.

Today, according to Hebrews 10, I am sinning willfully. I have trampled under my feet the blood of Jesus and have contemptuous disregard for the Holy Spirit. According to Hebrews 6, if those who have been enlightened by God, tasted the Heavenly gift, been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, reject these things, if they fall from grace, it is impossible for them to be saved again.

The Message translation, poignantly translates Hebrews 6:4-6 this way:

Once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can’t start over as if nothing happened. That’s impossible. Why, they’ve re-crucified Jesus! They’ve repudiated him in public!

I think it is safe to say, that I have repudiated Jesus in public. Thus, I have fallen from grace, lost my salvation (which I can never regain), committed the unpardonable sin, and God has turned me over to a reprobate mind! In other words, when it comes to God/Jesus/salvation, I’m fucked!

Of course, these things do not worry me in the least. Since I reject the Bible and its teachings, believe the Christian God is a myth, and reject the central claims of Christianity, I am not concerned one whit over whether I am saved/lost or a reprobate. I admit that in the eyes of Christians, I daily, without apology, commit the unpardonable sin; that my writing, if judged by the teachings of the Bible and the gaseous pronouncements of so-called men of God, is, in every way, blasphemous. Anyone who promotes reason, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry is, according to Evangelicals, a blasphemer. Refuse to accept the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God? Deny the existence of God? Reject the claims of Christianity? Believe that Jesus was a but a man who lived and died, end of story? Find the “miracle” stories found in the Bible silly and laughable? You, my friend, in thought, word, and deed have committed the unpardonable sin. In the eyes of Evangelicals, you are a reprobate. See you in Hell.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Is it a Sin for Men to Have Long Hair?

charles spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon, a 19th Century English Baptist Preacher

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

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

Jack Hyles, sermon Satan’s Bid for Your Child

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

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

In 1 Corinthians 11:14 the Bible says:

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

According to this verse:

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

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

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

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

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

john wesley
John Wesley, 18th Century English pastor, Founder of Methodism

Why is it Evangelicals are so focused on homosexuality but rarely say a word about men having long hair? Both are against nature, if the Bible is to be believed. Surely, Bible believing preachers would not want to neglect preaching about behaviors the Good Book calls s-h-a-m-e-f-u-l. Yet, most Evangelical preachers never say a word about men having long hair (and women having short hair).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

john bunyan
John Bunyan, 17th Century English Baptist preacher

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

IFB men are taught:

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

What hairstyles are considered “godly?”

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

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

Their preaching did little good.

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

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

hudson taylor
Hudson Taylor, 19th Century Evangelical missionary to China

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

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

Lest you think this is a silly issue, every day I see “is long hair a sin” search (or a variation of it) requests in the search logs of this blog. Evidently, in some corners of the Evangelical world, the length of a man’s hair still matters.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Guilt — the Essence of Evangelical Christianity

guilt

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

What would Evangelical Christianity be without guilt?

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

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

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

Who can forget the story about the man who put out his hand to steady the ark of the covenant to keep it from falling and God rewarded this man by killing him? Or the story about God killing the entire human race save eight people (and yet, Evangelicals say God is pro-life). Lesson? God is a mean mother fucker you better not mess with.

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

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

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

The Bible’s message is clear: obey God lest you fall under his judgment, a judgment that could lead to your death. Put in words that any child can understand: do what God says or he is going to get you. Remember this is a God who killed two people in the book of Acts for lying. This is the same God who brutalized his son on the cross because of what other people did. This is also the same God that will someday ravage the earth and its inhabitants and torture in Hell for all eternity all those who are not Christians. The book of Revelation reads like a Quentin Tarantino movie script. The vengeful God will pour out his wrath upon the earth, killing billions of people and destroying the earth in the process. This destruction will be so severe that God will have to make a new Heaven and a new earth. (2 Peter 3:10-13)

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

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

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

As a pastor, I gave 99% to the cause. I worked long hours without regard to whether I got paid. Most of the churches I pastored paid poverty wages, but that didn’t matter to me. I would have gladly worked for free, and, in fact, I did work many weeks and months without receiving a paycheck. It was never about the money. It was all about faithfully serving God and fulfilling his calling on my life. It was all about being obedient to the commands and teachings found in the Bible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

1970s: Junior High Gym Class

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

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

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

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

While I am now a 6-foot, 325-pound man, during the two years I spent at Central Junior High, I was 5 foot 2 inches tall and weighed a little over 100 pounds. I was a late bloomer, not reaching my current height until the end of eleventh grade. Needless to say, I was quite conscious of my diminutive size.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

What Evangelicals Think They Know About Atheists

things christians say to atheists

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Evangelical Christians have all sorts of ideas about what atheists believe and what kind of people they are. Where do they get these ideas? From Evangelical apologetic’s books, their pastors, evangelists who hold meetings at their churches, their Sunday School teachers, Christian Radio and TV, Fox News, and their fellow Christians.

Most Evangelicals don’t know any atheists. They live in what I call the Evangelical ghetto, a bubble insulated from worldly, godless influences. After all, there are no atheists in their churches — though they might be surprised to learn that there are likely secret atheists sitting near them in church almost every Sunday. Evangelicals tend to surround themselves with people who think and act as they do, so they are rarely exposed to people who hold beliefs different from theirs — and this is common for all tribes, including atheists.

This is the same criticism LGBTQ people have of Evangelicals. Evangelicals rage against the sin of homosexuality, yet they don’t personally know any LGBTQ people.  All they know is what their pastors say, TV preachers say, or what they read in Evangelical apologetics book.

When Evangelicals actually meet and befriend a non-heterosexual, they are often forced to rethink their beliefs. When a face is put on their beliefs, they are forced to deal with the humanity of that person. Often, when Evangelicals become friends with an LGBTQ person, they soften or abandon their beliefs about homosexuals being sinful, wicked, deviant, child-molesters.

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

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

  • They think atheists are a monolithic group where everyone believes exactly the same thing.
  • They think atheists practice the “religion” of atheism.
  • They think atheists hate the Evangelical God.
  • They think atheists oppose religion of any kind.
  • They think atheists have a secret desire to live immoral lives.
  • They think atheists worship Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
  • They think atheists are ignorant of the Bible and Christianity.
  • They think atheists are out to steal the souls of children.
  • They think atheists are agents of Satan/Lucifer/Beelzebub/Barack Obama.
  • They think atheists revere men such as Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
  • They think all atheists are liberals, voted for Barack Obama in 2008/2012, and will vote for Joe Biden in November.
  • They think atheists are out to destroy America and turn it into a godless state.
  • They think all atheists are pro-abortion.

And in every instance, Evangelicals are wrong about what they think they know about atheists. What is atheism?

Atheism is in the broadest sense an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

From this point, atheists head off in many different directions. Yes, most atheists are likely political liberals, but many atheists are Republican, pro-life, Libertarian, supporters of the right to own guns, and yes, some of them, inexplicably, will vote for Donald Trump.

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

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

If Evangelicals really want to understand atheists, they are going to have to set aside their presuppositions and actually get to know real, flesh-and-blood atheists. Most Evangelicals are unwilling to do this. They are closed-minded like former Taylor University professor James Spiegel (who wrote The Making of An Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief), having made up their mind that atheists are in rebellion against their peculiar version of God and secretly desire to live immoral lives.

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

Evangelicals cannot stand being “just like everyone else.” They have been told their whole lives that they are unique and special — a new creation in Christ Jesus. To admit that atheists are just like they are is too much to handle, and invalidates the foundation upon which their lives are built.

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

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

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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1986-1995: A Look at My Writing as an IFB Pastor

letter to the editor

What follows is a small sampling of the letters to the editor of The Zanesville Times Recorder I wrote between November 1986 and January 1995. These letters should forever put an end to the notion that I was never a True Christian®. These letters also should help current readers understand why former congregants and colleagues in the ministry are so troubled and upset by my defection from the one true faith. The contrast between then and now is glaring.

Personally, I find these letters embarrassing, but I publish them today to help readers better understand my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. (Please see From Evangelicalism to Atheism.)

November 13, 1986

TEXTBOOK READING CASE BADLY REPORTED

To The Editor:

I have for some weeks now very carefully read the articles presented for public reading in The Times Recorder. I have particularly paid attention to those that deal with religion in general and fundamentalist Christianity in specific.

I am of the opinion that The Times Recorder is extremely biased in its reporting of fundamentalist activities. Case in point: the Tennessee textbook-reading book court case. While I certainly do not agree with all of the values these Christians held in regard to some of the books they wished banned from their schools, I believe they have a right to decide what or what not their children are to be exposed to in school.

Remember, children belong to their parents, not the state! Opponents say the state has a compelling interest. Why not have enough compelling interest to make sure kids can read and write? Parents have a right, to mold their children in the religious and ethnic values they see fit. Many will say then remove your children from the public school system and put them in a private school. This is exactly what many Christian parents have done, but even then the state tries to exert control. We are a nation founded on freedom. Why not allow fundamentalist parents to exercise that freedom by keeping their children from reading books they feel are offensive?

I feel that The Times Recorder in its reporting of this issue has tried very hard to present only the liberals’ point of view. When the fundamentalist point of view is presented it seems it is always presented in a negative, scornful, dumber-than-a-ridge-runner way.

How about some unbiased reporting and truly delved into why these parents believe the way they do? How about finding out what those in Muskingum County feel on the Issue? People have the right to know both sides of an issue. It’s time that newspapers begin presenting it.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

January 25, 1988

EDUCATION CHOICE IS PARENTS’ RIGHT

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my view on the recent article regarding the contemplated jailing of a Toledo couple for home schooling their children without Wood County school board approval.

It is a sad day in America when parents do not have the opportunity to choose how to educate their children. Studies show that children taught in a home school or Christian school environment consistently test higher than their counterparts in the public school. So the issue cannot be educational quality.

The real issue is control. The state, through its government sponsored schools wants to control our children. They feed our children a daily diet of humanistic philosophy and teaching.

They are taught there is no God, no authority and no absolutes. Is it any wonder our country is in the shape it is? We are products of our teaching.

We are told much of a person’s character is formed in their early years of life. He who gets the children when they are young will usually get them for life. For the humanists to further their cause, they must control the educational system. Thus, the reason for the case in Toledo.

I applaud this couple for standing up for their right to educate their children. They will be children who I am sure will know that there is a God, that there is authority and that there are absolutes. That is the only hope for America.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

July 5, 1989

THERE IS PRIDE IN FLAG-WAVING

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my view in regard to the recent Supreme Court decision dealing with flag burning.

It is appalling to think that we have come to the point in this country where we are even discussing whether or not it is acceptable to burn the American flag. Previous generations would roll over in their graves if they could bear the discussion going on today.

We live in the greatest country in the world. We are a nation founded as “One nation under God.” The flag of the United States of America represents that “One nation under God.” It is a great honor to be born in this country. We are the freest country that has ever graced the pages of history.

Our flag represents that freedom. Those who want to desecrate our flag should be given a one way ticket to Beijing, China. Let’s see how they like freedom Chinese style.

I would also like to suggest that Sen. Howard Metzenbaum be given the first ticket. He is a disgrace to this country and the State of Ohio. If he is personally against flag burning, then let his voting record reflect that. It sounds to me like Sen. Metzenbaum wants to have it both ways, and that is not possible.

It seems to me the issue is patriotism or left wing liberalism. Which will it be? As for me I’m with the countless throngs of people who still revere and honor “Old Glory.” I’m proud to be a flag waving American.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

November 7, 1989

STORY ABOUT RALLY FULL OF HALF-TRUTHS

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my disgust over the liberal reporting by The Times Recorder as exhibited in the article entitled, “Abortion Rallies Have Large Turnout,” which appeared in the Monday, Oct. 30, edition of The Times Recorder. The article is full of half-truths and it is evident the writer of the article is pro-choice. I had the privilege of attending the Rally of Hope, a pro-life rally on Saturday, October 28. It will go down as one of the highlights of my life. It’s too bad The TR chose not to give more newspaper space to this event.

Now to the article. It is statistically proven that most Republicans are pro-life. I thought it was ironic, you were able to dig up one Republican at the pro-choice rally that was for abortion. As a Republican, I assure you, most Republicans are pro-life. Thelma Moore does not represent the sentiments of most Republicans.

I also thought it was noteworthy that the article did not mention that Gov. Celeste participated in the pro-choice rally. Are you afraid to let the local citizens know that our governor is for killing innocent unborn children?

Finally, the article only printed half of Mr. John Willkes comments. It will be noted that his comments were in reference to how a survey can be tainted by the questions asked.

The rest of the statistical quote was “69 percent of Americans believe there should be laws to protect the lives of the unborn?” I wonder why this statistic was left out. Could it be that indeed America is a Pro-Life people?

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

November 10, 1989

SATAN ALIVE IN OUR WORLD

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the editorial on Halloween by Dave Claypool. Mr. Claypool seems to doubt the reality of a person called Satan (or the Devil). The Bible says in I Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

One only has to look around our country and see pornography, AIDS, homosexuality, abortion, divorce, rampant drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, and many other signs of decadence,. to know that the Devil is alive and well. He desires to destroy our families and our country. One way he accomplishes this is by getting people to believe his actions are harmless. Such is the case with Halloween.

Halloween is the High Holy Day of the Satanic Church. You will find that clearly stated in the “Satanic Bible,” by Anton LaVey. Halloween has always had its roots in the occult and satanism.

Mr. Claypool may call objectors to Halloween, zealots, but at the least, we are not blinded to the devices of Satan. Mr. Claypool may, in satirical humor, mock those who believe Halloween is Satanic; but someday, each of us will draw our last breath in this life. Then we will see if there is a real Satan and who has been blinded.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

January 31, 1990

MORAL APPROACH IS MISDIRECTED

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the letter written by Kenneth Prior in the Jan. 19, issue of The Times Recorder.

The purpose of my letter is not to debate the issue of the group called “Strike Force.” I personally have a problem with those types of ministries and the Jesus Christ they portray.

My issue of contention rests with the statements about the assemblies held at various schools. It was discussed, but not Jesus Christ.

Morals without Jesus Christ are nothing but self-righteous acts.

The permanent solution to drugs, booze, sexual pressures, etc., is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The public school system for 25 years has been teaching a situational morality without God and the Bible.

The Result? A nation of young people that have little, if any, moral values.

Drugs, premarital sex, booze drinking, abortion, and venereal disease are all on the upswing among our young people. First-time occurrences of many of these things mentioned now occur with our elementary-aged children. Why? Morals without Jesus Christ and the Bible.

What this country needs is less Hollywood religion and more old-fashioned Bible preaching. An assembly on morals without a clear presentation of Jesus and the Word of God is like an automobile without tires. It is useless and it’s not going anywhere.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

October 8, 1990

GOOD QUESTION FOR CHRISTIANS

To The Editor:

This is in response to the article on Armageddon in the Sept. 30th Times Recorder.

While I would agree with some of the facts, I disagree wholeheartedly with much of the article. The Bible teaches the world as we know it is headed down a path that leads to destruction.

The final event that takes place on that trek is the Battle of Armageddon. When sin has been destroyed and the Lord Jesus Christ vindicated, God will bring into existence a new heaven and a new earth.

His people, those who have been born again, will live for eternity in the new heaven and new earth. Those who reject Jesus Christ and his salvation will spend their eternity in the lake of fire.

Prior to the end, God will pour out his wrath on this earth in a period which is commonly called the tribulation. My point of disagreement with the article is the issue of Christians being absent from the earth while God judges it.

This is nothing more than “pie in the sky” thinking. God’s people will face persecution and death during the tribulation, God’s people have always faced trial. Why should this generation of weak, carnal, and loose-living Christians be any different?

During the tribulation, God intends to purify His Church. It is time for Christians to WAKE UP!

A lost world needs to see a Christianity that really matters. We have had enough Bakkers and Swaggarts. The world needs to see a holy people who love God and obey His Word. Is God’s closing in on Armageddon and the tribulation?

While most preachers are too busy building their kingdoms on this earth, I intend to be on the street corners of our communities proclaiming a message of repentance! There are still some of us who believe in preaching “REPENT, for the end of the world is at hand.”

But this message is not only for lost sinners, but for Christians also. Luke 18:8 says, “When the Son of cometh, shall He find Faith on the earth?” I would suggest that is a good question for each Christian to answer.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

February 2, 1991

BIBLE IS CLEAR TRAINING GUIDE

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to an article ‘entitled “Controlling Your Household Tyrants,” written by Ron Smitley of Six County Inc.

From the tone of the article I can see Dr. Spock lives on.

God did not leave child training to chance. He gave each of us a clear guide for training children, and it’s the Bible.

The problem is many so-called experts have called the teachings of the Bible outdated. They would even suggest the Bible teaches child abuse. But is that the case?

The Bible teaches sexual abstinence before marriage. Planned Parenthood and public school sex education programs teach children safe and responsible sex. Result? Rampant venereal disease and pregnancy. Who shall we blame?

The Bible teaches homosexuality is a gross perversion. The liberals of the day call it an alternative lifestyle. Result? AIDS. Who shall we blame?

The Bible teaches marriage for life with monogamy inside the marriage. Society says live together, get a divorce if you are not happy, etc. Result? Broken homes, venereal disease and abused children. Who shall we blame? I could go on and on.

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” I will agree with Smitley on one point, we DO have tyrants in our homes. The reason? No Biblical discipline.

A parent who loves their children will spank them if they rebel against their authority. (Which is, by the way, a God given authority.) Proverbs 13:24 says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

The hope of America rests in its families. We need to get back to Bible-based family practice. It is the only way!

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

April 10, 1992

CHILD ABUSE LIST COULD BE FAULTY

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the article on the secret child abuse record, which appeared in the March 30 issue of The Times Recorder.

If the statistics quoted are to be believed, 10 to 20 percent of all adult Ohioans are on this list. Are we really to believe 600,000 Adults in this state are suspected Child abusers? Either the statistics are incorrect or the method by which one ends up on this list is faulty.

Granted, child abuse is a serious problem. In 15 years of pastoral ministry I have seen my share of cases. I have no objection to those who have been convicted of bonafide child abuse crimes, being placed on a list.

But I have a sneaking suspicion many on this “McCarthy Era” list are guilty of nothing more than good discipline practices.

The official philosophy of the Ohio Department of Human Services, the state teachers’ unions, and the different departments that offer help to children, is that of no corporal punishment. According to them, to paddle a child, for any reason, is child abuse. Several other states are trying to pass laws that will outlaw all forms of corporal punishment.

Our schools in Ohio have removed corporal punishment as a means of discipline. Result? Read the newspaper and see the mayhem in the public school system.

Educators blame it on the family structure. Perhaps this is true, but who suggested to this generation’s parents that they discard time-tested, God-mandated forms of child discipline? We must lay the blame at the feet of social workers, educators, liberal ministers, and mental health workers who bought Benjamin Spock’s line on discipline. The result of all this is a Society that is in rebellion to all authority including God’s!

The only thing Spock’s book is good for is paddling a rebellious child. OOPS! I better not say that. Some liberal bureaucrat might turn my name in to the DHS list keepers.

May we ever be reminded to: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6. That training includes proper child discipline.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

August 31, 1992

DEMOCRATS ARE AT ODDS WITH GOD

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to recent articles dealing with President Bush’s comments about Bill Clinton’s views of God and religion.

Bill Clinton and Albert Gore are Democrats in the truest sense. They try to pass themselves off as conservative, family-oriented politicians, but such is not the case. To be a Democrat is to be a liberal. While there may be good, conservative people in the Democratic Party, the official party stance is a liberal one. President Bush has every right to call Bill Clinton into question in regards to his views of God and religion.

The official Democratic line is pro-abortion, anti-capital punishment, expanded social programs, and pro-homosexual. This and many other issues puts the Democratic Party in direct opposition to the Bible, which then puts them at odds with God.

While I am not so naive to believe that being a Republican and a Christian are synonymous, the Republican Party does stand for many things that are right. I am a Republican not because of George Bush, but rather because of what the party stands for. Pro-life, pro-capital punishment, and social programs that help people (and not enslave them) are some of the reasons for being a Republican. These are Biblical values.

I have my concerns about the Republican Party. My fear is that they are just a few years behind the Democrats. This is evidenced in their courting of the homosexual vote. Instead of openly courting the homosexuals, better time would be spent passing and enforcing sodomy laws. God declares that homosexuality is a perverse sin.

Bill Clinton and Albert Gore both claim to be Baptist and Christian. Their views are incompatible with true Christianity, and as far as them being Baptists, I am ashamed that they would number themselves with those who for the most part oppose what they hold to politically. The Baptist churches which Clinton and Gore are members of should speedily exercise church discipline and remove these men from their church rolls. They have no right to the name Baptist, let alone the name Christian.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

January 15, 1993

CHOICE OF CHELSEA’S SCHOOL SHOWS CLINTON’S HYPOCRISY

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my views in regards to Bill Clinton’s decision to put his daughter in a private school. While I am an ardent advocate of private education, I believe Mr. Clinton shows utter hypocrisy in his decision.

We should remember, just months ago, Mr. Clinton ran on a platform of anti-school choice. He strongly believes that children should be educated in state schools. Unless of course it is your child and then you do what is best for the child. Mr. Clinton needs to practice what he preaches. If public education is so wonderful, why not enroll your daughter in the Washington, D.C., city schools?

No, Mr. Clinton knows that the D.C. schools are for the most part juvenile detention centers. Crime, violence, guns, etc. are commonplace. I wouldn’t want to educate my children in that environment either. Where are the teacher’s unions, now? Or do they know, like Mr. Clinton, the true shape of many of our school systems.

I am one parent who has determined to provide my children with a private, religious education. As progressive education, coupled with an amoral society, moves in force in our local communities, we can expect to see the same problems here that they face in Washington, D.C.

I trust Mr. Clinton will see what a hypocrite he has been. I don’t condemn him for doing what is best for his daughter. My prayer is that each of us will be allowed to do the same. For my family it is to send them to a non-chartered, non-tax supported Baptist school that teaches Bible morals, ethics, and doctrine. If Mr. Clinton has a right to choose, so should we!

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

February 5, 1993

HOMOSEXUALITY PERVERSE SIN

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my views in regards to the issue of homosexuals in the military. It is an admitted fact that homosexuals have long existed in the various branches of the military. The issue is whether or not their conduct or lifestyle should be given sanction.

This issue is much deeper than whether or not homosexuals can serve in the military. It clearly is a moral issue. If we have not, as yet, become a paganistic, amoral society, then it would do us well to address the morality of this issue. Is homosexuality moral?

For those who hold to the Bible being their standard of morality, homosexuality is indeed a perverse sin. While adultery and fornication are grievous sins as well, homosexuality goes beyond them in the fact that it goes against nature (Romans 1)God made man and woman to have distinctive roles. The very core of homosexuality goes against ALL that God intends. Bible believers reject the notion that homosexuals are born that way. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.

I would implore Congress to override the intentions of the Clinton administration and ban homosexuals from the military. Their lifestyle is incompatible with the rigor and order of military life. To those caught in the web of homosexuality I would beg them to turn to Christ in repentance and I believe they will find a Savior who will not only forgive them but will also deliver them from the deep sin they are in (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

April 11, 1993

CHRISTIANS MUST MAKE JUDGMENTS

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the letter by Doug Allen in The Times Recorder April 1. Mr. Allen’s views show very forcefully what is wrong with professing Christianity.

As Christians, we have been called to a life of holiness and commitment. We are to love what God loves and hate what He hates. We are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. But today, the salt has lost its savor and the light has gone out.

Mr. Allen equates those who make Biblical Judgments with those who hate and spew forth bitterness. Who is judging now, Mr. Allen? I have no hatred or bitterness in my heart toward others. My desire is to reach the sinner man with the gospel of Christ. My desire is to imitate my Lord in his love and compassion for sinners. But that DOES NOT mean we throw Bible truth and judgment to the wind.

People who take the view of Mr. Allen and claim to be Christians are in direct violation of the Scripture. We are to judge righteously and properly. To do so means making judgments about the society we live in. Contrary to the opinion stated by Mr. Allen, we ARE to speak for God. If His people do not speak for Him, who will? God gave us the Bible, which we must proclaim to our generation. It’s repent or perish!

Finally, I would say that perhaps the root problem is a theological one. Mr. Allen suggests that the only difference between a Christian and all others is a sincere prayer. This thought is the core of Arminianism and is utterly false. True Christianity is a turning from sin and an embracing of Christ by faith. It is the adopting of a new life in Christ in which Christ becomes the Lord and Savior of a person. Anything less will not avail. Some people are sincere and certainly some even pray but that is not true Christianity.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

May 26, 1993

JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY HOPE

To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the May 19 letter by William Lacy. Mr. Lacy shows the demeanor and character of a man who rejects God and His infallible truth, the Bible. His letter is filled with distortions and inaccuracies.

First, he would have us believe that those of a “fundamentalist” persuasion do not think for themselves. While there are those who are “closed-minded,” and who would argue that Mr. Lacy himself doesn’t have a very closed mind, most Christians think for themselves. We wrestle with the truth of the Scripture. Some of the greatest thinkers in history have been Christians. I would gladly allow Mr. Lacy to look over my library. He will find books by men of education and stature.

Secondly, Mr. Lacy takes the approach that all who say they are Christian are indeed one. Not so! The Bible does not teach a salvation of many different roads all leading to one place. There is one hope of salvation and that is in Jesus Christ.

Such is the case on the moral issues Mr. Lacy brings up. There are not two ways to look at ANY of the issues he raises. It is not what man says, but God. It is of little concern to me that most denominations advocate abortion and homosexuality. The Bible declares both to be wicked and that is sufficient for me. The problem today is that what is called Christianity in America, for the most part, is false religion.

Mr. Lacy would have you believe that Christians believe they are not accountable to civil government. Sure we are, as long as that government rules in a righteous manner. The law of God is sufficient for any society. It is when civil government attempts to become god that conscientious Christians must object and stand against their government. We will either be ruled by God’s law or man’s law.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

July 9, 1993

OUTRAGED AT HISTORY REWRITE

To The Editor:

I am writing to express my outrage at the deliberate attempt to rewrite American history as attempted on the Mini Page June 28. The issue, which is mainly for children, featured Thomas Jefferson as the main subject. In among many historically correct facts were at least two blatant distortions of history.

The first dealt with the quote from the Declaration of Independence. It is remarkable that two important words, Creator and unalienable, were left out. They talk about being endowed with rights, but who did Jefferson say endowed us with those rights? Their Creator! The proof that this is a deliberate misrepresentation rests in the fact that all other phrases left out in the context of the quote were represented with ellipses. Such was not the case with the omission of “their Creator.” The word unalienable was also deliberately left out. The politically correct would have us believe that the government endows people with rights, which at any time can be taken away. Hogwash! Men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, rights that cannot be taken away by man. The foremost of these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Daily our government continues to encroach in the areas of our unalienable rights.

I would also note in passing that the part in the Mini Page dealing with religious freedom paints a very biased and skewed view. It shows the symbols of the supposed five major religions in America. Would the writers of this article have us believe that these five religions were in existence when Jefferson wrote his various thoughts on religious freedom? The 18th century of America was a century dominated by Christianity. No Buddhists, Hinduists or Islamics and very few Jews. Let’s at least paint an accurate picture. Next we’ll be reading articles from these historical reconstructionists that the doctrine of separation of church and state as practiced today was what Jefferson meant when he wrote of the issues of government and church separation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

December 9, 1993

GOD HATES SIN AND SINNERS

To the Editor:

I am replying to the Dec. 3 letter written by J.D. Kimple. Mr. Kimple accuses me of being uninformed and of using rash generalizations. The truth of the matter is that Mr. Kimple has bought into the government line about AIDS. We can quote statistics galore but they prove nothing.

The largest percentage of those having AIDS is homosexual. Yes, it has spread to the heterosexual population, but the issue is still the same. Heterosexuals are getting AIDS for the most part because of immoral sexual practices. Show me two people who were virgins when they married and were faithful to each other and now they have AIDS. There is no such case. Morality and fidelity and the only cures for AIDS.

As to God being a kind, loving God, yes, he is. I am thankful for his saving grace. But God also hates sin. God punishes sinful men for their wicked practices. The old cliche “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner” is not in the Bible. God hates sin and those who do it. Man must flee from the wrath of God. Only then will man find love and forgiveness. God saves men out of their sin and does not leave them in it. God’s view of homosexuality is summed up in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Mr. Kimple is not questioning my religious convictions, but rather the word of God. Let God be true and every man a liar.

Bruce Gerencser
Somerset Baptist Church

November 15, 1994

ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS

To The Editor:

Recent news reports have touted a new test that can be used for detecting Down Syndrome a month earlier than before. This new test is called Chorionic villus sampling, or CVS. Prior to this new test, amniocentesis was the primary method used to detect Down Syndrome while the child was still in the womb.

We are told that women over 35 should have this testing done to determine whether or not their child has Down Syndrome. What is not being said? That the only reason for this type of testing is so an abortion can take place if the test comes back postitive. Now we can kill the unwanted Down’s child at 10 weeks instead of 16 weeks. Our nation continues down the path of decadence, murdering those who don’t fit the accepted criteria of life. God help us.

All life is precious. It is the gift of God. Who are we to determine what is “quality” or “acceptable” life? God never gave us that right. Some would argue that the over 35 mother would like to know if she is carrying a Down’s child. When the test came back negative she would then be relieved. Why does it matter? If abortion is not the issue then it does not matter if the child is Down’s. But abortion is the issue, and we continue our killing ways.

God will hold us accountable for how we treat the innocent and the helpless. As a parent of a Down Syndrome child, I thank God for allowing us the privilege to have our daughter. Yes, there are those difficult moments, but the precious moments far outweigh the difficult ones. We wouldn’t trade our daughter for all the money in the world. May God help each of us to view life as precious. May we stand against anything and anyone that depreciates human life. From the womb to the grave we uphold the sanctity of life.

Bruce Gerencser
Frazeysburg

December 16, 1994

RAZE THE STRUCTURE

To The Editor:

The issue of school prayer will prove to be one of the hottest topics of 1995. Newt Gingerich and other ardent right wing Republicans plan on making it one of the first topics addressed in 1995. I guess we should feel excited that the Republicans are trying to get God on our side again. If we can just get prayer back in the schools, then America will have the favor of God

Please don’t do God any favors. For the first time in my life, and I am sweating as I write this, I agree with the liberal, card-carrying, ACLU members. Let’s keep prayer out of school. Do we really think, that a moment of prayer, at the start of the school day, is going to make a difference in our society? I think not By the time the politicians and the courts get done with what type of prayer will be acceptable, it will certainly not resemble anything that would be pleasing to the God of the Bible.

Christian parents are naive if they think that a momentary prayer at the start of the public school day will keep their children safe from the onslaught of humanistic instruction. Instead, Christian parents need to ask themselves if their children belong in public schools in which everything the Bible teaches is held up to question and ridicule. We can put our heads in the sand, Christians, but when we come out of our hole, the fact still remains: the public school system is bankrupt and no place for Christians to educate their children.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that there are fine Christian educators in the public school system, and they are to be commended for their diligent effort, but the Titanic is sinking and it is time to man the lifeboats.

Do you want prayer, real prayer in school? Then put your children in a school that believes the Bible and which encourages, by teaching and action, students to pray to the God of the Bible. Or perhaps, like some of the rest of us, home school your children. Prayer is always legal in the home school.

My main objection about school prayer has nothing to do with the school itself. It is time that Christians and churches quit being hypocrites. We want the public schools to practice what we are not practicing ourselves. The average Christian prays less than five minutes a day. Churches have prayer meetings in which nobody prays. Are we concerned about America? Then let’s pray. Let’s make our churches houses of prayer again. Religious leaders continue to clamor about the need for revival The precursor to every great revival is prayer. The New York revival of 1858 came forth from a small prayer meeting. Thousands were converted. Moral change was effected. But today, where are the cries of mourning coupled with prayer and fasting?

It is time to be honest. School prayer is just new paint on the outside of a dilapidated, soon to collapse structure. Oh, it may look nice for a while, but the building is sure to collapse. We don’t need any more paint Instead, let’s raze the structure and build it again.

People of prayer. That is what America needs. When we become a people of prayer, we will not have to worry about school prayer. When Christians determine to walk according to the teachings of the Bible, the public school systems will either change or their buildings will be empty.

It’s time to quit blaming the devil, the Democrats, or Bill Clinton, and instead put the blame where it belongs. We, as Christians, have forsaken our duties and responsibilities. We are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, but we have become a salt that has lost its savor and it’s pretty dark out there.

Bruce Gerencser
Frazeysburg

January 4, 1995

SHOOTINGS ARE WRONG, BUT SO IS ABORTION

To The Editor:

We find in the news again the report of another abortion clinic shooting. First, the paper was filled with articles on Paul Hill the Presbyterian minister recently convicted of murder in Florida. Now, I am sure we will be fed a continued diet of stories about John Salvi, the purported Boston abortion clinic shooter.

Paul Hill and John Salvi committed horrible acts; acts that God does not condone. God, in his unalterable moral law, declared “Thou shalt not kill.” The end never justifies the means, and the killing of abortion clinic workers will never bring an end to abortion. These two men are murderers and must face the consequences of their sin.

Sometimes men and women can become so committed to “the cause” that they lose sight of moral rightness. Instead any action becomes justified as long as it serves the cause. In the end, Paul Hill and John Salvi must answer to God.

But just as killing abortion clinic workers is murder, so is the aborting of babies. People who work in abortion clinics are employed in the killing fields. They, by their employment in such places, lend their support to the killing that goes on in the name of a “woman’s right to choose.”

While I feel sorry for the Nichols family who lost their daughter, Lee Ann, in the recent clinic shootings, let us not forget that Lee Ann Nichols was a willing participant in the killing fields. She may have only been a receptionist, but she knew what went on behind closed doors. Her brother was quick to quote the Bible and decry his sister’s murder, and rightly so. But his sister has blood on her hands also.

Lee Ann Nichols wanted the world to be more civilized. Abortion will never make us more civilized. Abortion, for any reason, devalues the worth of a human life. Human life is now nothing more than fetal tissue to be tossed away at a woman’s whim.

There is only one answer to this problem. Man must obey his God. And Jehovah God said “thou shalt not kill.” It is time that we figure out God really meant what He said.

Bruce Gerencser
Frazeysburg

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Evangelicals and Their Use of the Word “God”

one true god

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

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

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

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

Go to your local Evangelical church and listen to the preaching. Behind closed church doors, Evangelical pastors no longer have to play nice. These so-called men of God are free to say what they really think about the gods of other religions. I can tell you what you won’t hear. You won’t hear about a generic God, or the universal commonalities the religions of the world have, Oh, no. What you will hear is that all other gods but the Evangelical Christian God are no God at all.

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

The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox all, according to Evangelical apologists, worship false gods. Some Evangelicals even suggest that unless a sect holds to a certain soteriology, they too are worshiping a false God. Calvinists often make this claim about Arminians. Believe in free-will? Believe you can lose your salvation? You aren’t a Christian, according to many Calvinists.

In the days of the Roman Empire, Christians were considered atheists. Why were they considered atheists? The Romans had a plethora of gods, and they worshiped all of them. The Christians would have none of this. They were monotheists (actually polytheists), rejecting all other gods but theirs. Are not modern-day Evangelicals atheists; rejecting all other gods but the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?

Ask Evangelicals: do all roads lead to Heaven? and they will emphatically say no. According to Evangelical orthodoxy, there is one road that leads to Heaven and life eternal, and that road is the road bought and paid for by and through of the blood of Jesus, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead three days later.

This road is a straight and narrow road that few people travel. Most of humanity — past and present — will not go to the Evangelical Heaven when they die. Billions and billions of people will go to Hell (The Lake of Fire) when they die and be tortured for all eternity by the loving, kind Christian God.

Most Evangelicals are quite Fundamentalist when it comes to God. And those Evangelicals who are not? They most likely are not really Evangelicals. An increasing number of Evangelicals, influenced by the emerging church and liberal/progressive politics, are becoming more inclusive in their view of other sects. It is not uncommon to hear Evangelicals say that while Catholics, Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists, to name a few, are heterodox, they are still Christian sects. While this is good news as far as inclusiveness is concerned, such beliefs are betrayals of core Evangelical dogma.

Evangelicals who are more inclusive have one foot in the Evangelical church and the other foot in the liberal/progressive church. I suspect inclusivists will, in time, leave Evangelicalism altogether and join up with liberal/progressive Christian sects or completely leave Christianity. Countless on-fire-for-Jesus Evangelicals have walked away from Christianity and embraced atheism, agnosticism, or other forms of unbelief. The number of defections grows daily.

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

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

If you happen to be an Evangelical and are reading this post, please explain to me why you do not call yourself an atheist? The ONLY difference between you and atheists such as I and many of the readers of this blog is that we have one less god on our NO GOD LIST than you do. You think every other god but your God is a false god. Please be honest enough to admit this. Please boldly tell non-Evangelicals — billions and billions of loving, caring, thoughtful people — that they are going to Hell after they die, and will be tortured by your God for all eternity unless they start worshiping Jesus.

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

And if this is not what you believe, then why are you still sitting in the pew at the local Evangelical church? Are you not condoning their exclusivism and bigotry by continuing to attend an Evangelical church? Why not join up with people who share your theological, political, and social views?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Let’s Go Soulwinning

lets go soulwinning
Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30

Soulwinning — the art, the endeavor of sharing the gospel with sinners and leading them to put their faith in Jesus Christ. A metaphor for evangelism or witnessing. (It is not a word found in the English dictionary.)

Soulwinner —  a person whose purpose, desire, and motivation is to share the gospel with sinners and lead them to put their faith in Jesus Christ. (It is not a word found in the English dictionary.)

The Bible makes it clear that every church should be a soulwinning church and every Christian should be a soulwinner.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20

Matthew 28:19,20 is commonly called the Great Commission. While some may argue that the Great Commission was given ONLY to the eleven disciples, most sects and pastors think the Great Commission is a command given by Christ to every Christian in every generation, until Jesus returns to earth.

Why is it then that most Christians never verbally share the gospel with another person? I am not talking about inviting people to church so the head soulwinner, the pastor, can preach the gospel to them. I am not talking about nonverbal, just let your light shine or any of the other excuses Christians give for not verbalizing the gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Why is it that most Christians never, one time, in a clear, concise way, share the good news of the gospel with a lost, hell-bound sinner? Isn’t not doing so a direct repudiation of the Great Commission — a direct command given by Jesus to his followers?

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement has turned soulwinning into fine art. Churches hold soulwinning conferences and clinics. These special events are used to light a fire under church members who are not soulwinners. They are also used to train members in the best soulwinning methods and techniques. Technique matters. IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle bragged to me that he could win a soul in five minutes. According to him, all a soulwinner had to do is follow the script. Follow the script, use proper technique, and you too can be a great soulwinner like Dennis Corle.

No one was a bigger promoter of soulwinning than the late Jack Hyles — the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Hyles was famous for telling stories like this:

A few years ago I was in a Bible Conference in Houston, Texas. After a morning service, I returned to my room at one of the large motels on the north side of Houston. To my surprise, the door to my room was open and I heard singing coming from the bathroom. After checking the room number with my key, I realized I was in the right room. Perhaps someone else was in the wrong room.

I hollered through the door, inquiring who was there, only to find it was the Negro maid cleaning out the bathtub. She was actually down in the tub cleaning out the ring.

I asked her if she were a Christian. She said, “Mercy, no! I am as mean as the devil.” I got my Testament out and showed her the plan of salvation. All the time she was in the bathtub. After I showed her how to be saved, she knelt in the tub and received the Saviour.

I have laughed many times about this and have jokingly said, “I guess I am the only preacher in the world who ever won a lady in a bathtub!” This is just another of the many unusual experiences that God gives to soul winners. We should be on the lookout constantly for people who need the Saviour.

I have won people to Christ in train stations, in bus depots, on airplanes, in grocery stores, in barber shops, in shine parlors, in service stations, in garages, in school buildings, on ball diamonds, and in many other places. There are many hungry hearts waiting for someone to tell them the story.

You can read more of Hyles’s soulwinning stories here. Hyles was a powerful preacher and a masterful storyteller. He was also a pathological liar.

For decades, Hyles and First Baptist Church conducted what they called Pastor’s School — a week-long event used to motivate pastors and church leaders to win more souls. Under the leadership of John R. Rice and Curtis Hutson, the Sword of the Lord held Soulwinning Conferences all over the country. These conferences were used to encourage and motivate pastors and churches that had forgotten Jesus’s command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

From the 1960s-1980s, countless IFB churches experienced explosive growth as they went into the highway and hedges and compelled (without vampire powers) sinners to put their faith in Jesus. In the 1970s, many of the 100 largest churches in America were IFB churches.

Today? First Baptist Church in Hammond, once the largest church in the world, no longer conducts Pastor’s School, The Sword of the Lord no longer holds soulwinning conferences all over the country. Most of the IFB churches that made the Top 100 list in the 1960s-1980s are shells of what they once were. Some have even closed their doors. What happened?

In 1976, I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan to study for the ministry. Midwestern, a small IFB college, was known for producing preachers who were great soulwinners. Tom Malone, the founder and chancellor of Midwestern, was also the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Every student was required to attend Emmanuel.

For many years, thanks to its bus ministry, Emmanuel experienced explosive attendance growth, and was listed as a Top 100 church. Emmanuel saw high attendance days of over 5,000. Soulwinning was the lifeblood of the college and church. Students were required to go out soulwinning at least once a week, and each week they required to account for their soulwinning activities, by filling out a slip that detailed how many doors they knocked on, how many people they witnessed to, and how many people they led to Christ. Many students, myself included, lied about their soulwinning activities. Fake it till you make it, right?

Midwestern held a soulwinning contest while I was student there. Students competed with each other to see who could win the most souls. The winner of the contest usually won a hundred or more souls. Every student was required to participate in the soulwinning contest. One year, the college put up a big banner and a chart that was used to track who was winning the most souls. In the mind of Tom Malone, soulwinning was all that mattered.

Today? Midwestern has sold off its buildings. A developer had turned the main school building into a senior center, and the dorm has been turned into an apartment complex. The handful of students who remain meet for classes at Shalom Baptist Church in Orion Michigan. Emmanuel, a church that once bragged about being a Top 100 church is no more. Its church facilities are up for sale.

What happened? Why is Emmanuel closed, Midwestern a shell of what it once was, and the IFB church movement facing steep numerical decline?

If you ask IFB pastors this question, they will likely tell you that the WORLD is the cause for the attendance decline. People love sin more than they love Jesus. They might even point the finger at Evangelical mega churches and their slick marketing, worship bands, and relational sermons. Where they will never point the finger is at themselves. In their minds, they are the true church, preaching the true gospel. They seem unable to see that it is their theology and methodology that has led to their precipitous decline.

Instead of preaching a transformative, holistic gospel, many IFB pastors preach what is commonly called decisional regeneration — also known as easy-believism or one-two-three, repeat after me. Salvation became a simple transaction between a sinner and God — believe these propositional truths and thou shalt be saved. Sinners were told to pray a prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Come into my heart and save me from my sins. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. I am trusting you to take me to heaven when I die. Amen.

According to countless IFB churches and pastors, if people pray this prayer, they become, in that moment, born-again Christians. Millions and millions of Americans have prayed a prayer such as the one above. From Billy Graham crusades and Campus Crusade outreaches to Southern Baptist churches and IFB churches, the sinner’s prayer contained the magic words that made one a child of God. This bastardized version of the gospel filled churches with people who had no idea about what it meant to a Christian or a member of a Christian church.

The sin of the soulwinning movement and the IFB church is that they thought that winning souls was just a matter of using the right techniques. Pastors taught church members to use certain formulas such as The Roman’s Road to lead people to saving faith in Christ. Got Questions, a Fundamentalist website explains The Roman’s Road like this:

The Romans Road to salvation is a way of explaining the good news of salvation using verses from the Book of Romans. It is a simple yet powerful method of explaining why we need salvation, how God provided salvation, how we can receive salvation, and what are the results of salvation.

The first verse on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We have all sinned. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. There is no one who is innocent. Romans 3:10-18 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives.

The second Scripture on the Romans Road to salvation, Romans 6:23, teaches us about the consequences of sin – “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The punishment that we have earned for our sins is death. Not just physical death, but eternal death!

The third verse on the Romans Road to salvation picks up where Romans 6:23 left off, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ died for us! Jesus’ death paid for the price of our sins. Jesus’ resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus’ death as the payment for our sins.

The fourth stop on the Romans Road to salvation is Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins – and we will be saved! Romans 10:13 says it again, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and rescue us from eternal death. Salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The final aspect of the Romans Road to salvation is the results of salvation. Romans 5:1 has this wonderful message, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through Jesus Christ we can have a relationship of peace with God. Romans 8:1 teaches us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, we will never be condemned for our sins. Finally, we have this precious promise of God from Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Would you like to follow the Romans Road to salvation? If so, here is a simple prayer you can pray to God. Saying this prayer is a way to declare to God that you are relying on Jesus Christ for your salvation. The words themselves will not save you. Only faith in Jesus Christ can provide salvation! “God, I know that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. With your help, I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

Have you made a decision for Christ because of what you have learned through the Romans Road to salvation? If so, please click on the “I have accepted Christ today” button below.

Soulwinners are told to stay on point, reiterating the points in the soulwinning plan. If unsaved sinners ask questions not related to salvation, the questions are to be ignored and sinners steered back to the soulwinning plan. They are to give sinners just enough information to get saved. Their questions would be answered later after they were baptized and became a part of the church.

Think for a moment about what I have written here. Doesn’t all of this sound similar to a sales program used by Amway or some other direct marketer? Work the plan! Stay on point! Press the prospect to make a decision! Don’t let them ask questions! Close the sale!

When I was in college, I sold Kirby vacuüm cleaners. My Dad sold them for many years, and I thought, like father, like son. Every Saturday, the local Kirby office would hold mandatory sales meetings for their salesmen. These meetings were pep rallies meant to motivate salesmen to sell more vacuüm cleaners. They even sang songs with lyrics like There’s power, power wonder-working power in a Kirby, sung to the tune of the There’s Power in the Blood.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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