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Why I Became a Calvinist — Part One

Jose Maldonado Bruce Gerencser Pat Horner
Three Calvinist Peas in a Pod: Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993

A regular reader of this blog asked if I would write about my move from Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) theology to Evangelical Calvinism. While I have mentioned the fact of my move to Calvinism, I have never explained why I did so.

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan from 1976-1979. Midwestern was a small IFB institution started in the 1950s by Dr. Tom Malone — the pastor of nearby megachurch Emmanuel Baptist Church — to train men for the ministry. While there were women enrolled for classes at Midwestern, seeking either to hook a preacher boy and become his wife or become a Christian school teacher, everything revolved around manufacturing new male soldiers for the IFB war machine.

In a post titled What is an IFB Church? I listed the following doctrinal distinctives:

  • The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
  • The sinfulness, depravity of man
  • The deity of Christ
  • The virgin birth of Christ
  • The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin
  • The resurrection of Christ from the dead
  • The second coming of Christ
  • Separation from the world
  • Salvation from sin is by and through Christ alone
  • Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
  • Heaven and hell are literal places
  • Hierarchical authority (God, Jesus, church, pastor, husband, wife)
  • Autonomy and independence of the local church

While IFB churches and pastors are known for internecine wars over fine points of doctrine or whether certain behaviors are sinful, the aforementioned beliefs are nonnegotiable. Deny one or more of these doctrines and you will be labeled a compromiser, liberal, or a heretic.

Some churches don’t use the IFB moniker due to its negative associations; but using the doctrines listed above as the standard, many Southern Baptist congregations would be considered IFB churches. The same could be said for General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregations. I should also add, in passing, that many Reformed Baptist, Sovereign Grace Baptist, Conservative Baptist, and Missionary Baptist churches have the same doctrinal markers as churches that proudly claim the IFB label. This means, then, that there are tens of millions of Americans who attend churches that hold to IFB theological beliefs, even if many of them refuse to label themselves as such.

Calvinism was considered heresy at Midwestern, and students found discussing Calvinism or promoting its tenets were expelled. My systematic theology teacher, Ronald Jones, made it clear that Calvinism was not to be discussed. Students weren’t taught anything about Calvinism, and most of them simply accepted the anathemas uttered by their teachers as fact. I know I did. Midwestern’s goal, then, was to reinforce the doctrines taught to students in their home churches. Rare were classroom discussions that veered from IFB orthodoxy. According to Tom Malone and the professors at Midwestern, there was One Lord (Jesus), one faith (IFB doctrine and practice), and one baptism (Baptist immersion). While these promoters of the one true faith grudgingly admitted it was possible for non-IFB Christians to be True Christians®, most outsiders were considered religious, but lost (especially Catholics, who were considered the spawn of Satan).

Midwestern was also King James Only. Students were not allowed to use any Bible version but the 1769 revision of the King James Bible. Midwestern also promoted the belief that a certain Greek translation, commonly called the Textus Receptus (received text), was the true Word of God in Greek, and all other translations, such as Wescott and Hort, were inferior and were not to be used in Midwestern’s Greek classes. One professor disobeyed this edict, introducing students to the wonderful world of textual variants. He was summarily fired, even though on every other point of theological and social Fundamentalism he was a true-blue Baptist Fundamentalist.

When I began pastoring IFB churches in 1979, I didn’t know one pastor who would have called himself a Calvinist. Today, Calvinism has made deep inroads in the IFB church movement and in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In the SBC, Calvinistic pastors, led by men such as Al Mohler, are battling with non-Calvinistic pastors for the soul of the Convention.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Calvinism, here’s the TULIP acronym for the five points:

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints (Preservation of the Saints)

Calvinists also hold to what is commonly called the Five Solas:

  • Sola Scriptura — By Scripture Alone
  • Sola Fide — By Faith Alone
  • Sola Gratia — By Grace Alone
  • Solus Christus — Through Christ Alone
  • Soli Deo Gloria — Glory to God Alone

Calvinism is a theological and philosophical system where each point builds upon the other. Remove any one point and the system collapses. As with any theological system, adherents endlessly debate the finer points of belief. There are numerous subsets of Calvinistic belief, each with peculiarities that set them apart from other Calvinists.

Calvinism is a complex theological system. I call it an intellectual’s wet dream. Calvinistic pastors line their bookshelves with wordy tomes written by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Puritans and nineteenth-century Calvinistic Baptists and Presbyterians. IFB pastors have dick-measuring contests, with church attendance being the measure of success. Calvinists also have dick-measuring contests, with library size being the definitive proof of a pastor’s prowess.

Many of the Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors I knew were, at one time, IFB pastors. All that changed for them was their soteriology and, at times, their ecclesiology. The same social Fundamentalism found in IFB churches is often found in Evangelical churches of Calvinistic persuasion. For many years, I would drive once a month to a Calvinistic pastor’s meeting called the Pastor’s Clinic in Mansfield, Ohio. Most of the men in this group were former IFB pastors — GARBC, SBC, and unaffiliated Baptist churches.

One big difference between Calvinistic Baptist churches and IFB churches is how the congregations handle church discipline. Typically, in IFB churches errant members are, behind the scenes, “encouraged” to leave so they can find a new church to better meet their “needs.” If this approach doesn’t work, pastors use their sermons, complete with subtle prods, to run the offender off. I don’t know of an IFB church that actually practices church discipline as laid out in Matthew 18:15-18:

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

On the other hand, Calvinistic Evangelical churches are much more likely to use church discipline to punish unrepentant members who run afoul of morality codes and conduct standards or disobey orders from their pastor/elders. Supposedly, the goal of church discipline is to effect restoration, but more often than not, it is used as Biblical cover for kicking people out of the church or shaming them into submission. One church I pastored, Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, used church discipline for all sorts of offenses, including not regularly attending Sunday worship services. Even when the church was notified that the absent member was attending a new church, because the member didn’t ask the church’s “permission” to leave the church, he or she was excommunicated. The threat of church discipline was used to quash disagreement and keep congregants in line. (I was excommunicated from this church myself. You can read about my time at Community in the series titled, I am a Publican and a Heathen.)

My first exposure to Calvinism came in 1988 when I began borrowing and listening to cassette sermon tapes from Chapel Library — a Calvinistic tape lending library and tract publisher in Pensacola, Florida. I suppose, all told, that I listened to several hundred tapes. Before returning them, I would make copies of the tapes so other people in my church could listen to them. A year or so later, I started CHARIS Tape Library — a lending library patterned after Chapel Library. Tapes were sent free of charge to anyone who requested them. The goal was to spread the good news of the Calvinistic gospel — also known as the TRUE gospel, the faith once delivered to the saints.

In part two of this series, I will share how these tapes were instrumental in my theological move from IFB theology to Evangelical Calvinism.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Living With OCPD

garfield ocpd

I have battled Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) for most of my adult life. While OCPD and OCD have some similarities, there are differences, namely:

  • People with OCD have insight, meaning they are aware that their unwanted thoughts are unreasonable. People with OCPD think their way is the “right and best way” and usually feel comfortable with such self-imposed systems of rules.
  • The thoughts, behaviors and feared consequences common to OCD are typically not relevant to real-life concerns; people with OCPD are fixated with following procedures to manage daily tasks.
  • Often OCD interferes in several areas in the person’s life including work, social and/or family life. OCPD usually interferes with interpersonal relationships, but makes work functioning more efficient. It is not the job itself that is hurt by OCPD traits, but the relationships with co-workers, or even employers can be strained.
  • Typically, people with OCPD don’t believe they require treatment. They believe that if everyone else conformed to their strict rules, things would be fine! The threat of losing a job or a relationship due to interpersonal conflict may be the motivator for therapy. This is in contrast to people with OCD who feel tortured by their unwanted thoughts and rituals, and are more aware of the unreasonable demands that the symptoms place on others, often feeling guilty because of this.
  • Family members of people with OCPD often feel extremely criticized and controlled by people with OCPD. Similar to living with someone with OCD, being ruled under OCPD demands can be very frustrating and upsetting, often leading to conflict. (OCPD Fact Sheet)

I have been considered a perfectionist most of my life, a badge I wore with honor for many years, and one I still wear on occasion. As we age — I am now sixty-five — we tend to reflect on our lives and how we got where we are today. Self-reflection and assessment are good, allowing us the opportunity to be honest about the path we have taken and choices we have made in life.

When I first realized twenty or so years ago that I had a problem — a BIG problem that was harming my wife and children — the first thing I did was try to figure out how I ended up with OCPD. While my mother had perfectionist tendencies, she was quite comfortable living in the midst of clutter and disarray (but not uncleanliness). I concluded that it was my Fundamentalist Christian upbringing with its literalistic interpretations of the Bible that planted in me the seeds of what would one day become OCPD. I spent most of my adult life diligently and relentlessly striving to follow after Jesus and to keep his commandments. But try as I might, I still continued to come up short. This, of course, only made me pray more, study more, give more, driving me to allot more and more of my time to God/church/ministry. In doing so, the things that should have mattered the most to me — Polly, our children, my health, and enjoying life — received little attention. Polly was taught at Midwestern Baptist College — the IFB institution both of us attended in the 1970s — that she would have to sacrifice her relationship with me for the sake of the ministry. I was, after all, a divinely called man of God. Needless to say, for way too many years, our lives were consumed by Christianity and the work of the ministry, so much so that we lost all sense of who we really were.

ocd santa

Perhaps someday several of my children will write about growing up in a home with a father who had OCPD. The stories are humorous now, but not so much when they were lived out in real-time. My children are well versed in Dad’s rules of conduct. Granted, some of these rules such as “do it right the first time” have served them well in their chosen fields of employment, but their teacher was quite the taskmaster, and I am certain there were better ways for them to learn these rules.

My oldest sons “fondly” remember helping me center the church pulpit, right down to one-sixteenth of an inch. Did it matter if the pulpit was slightly off-center? For most people — of course not; but, for me it did. I felt the same way about how I prepared my sermons, folded the bulletins, cleaned the church, and didcountless other day-to-day responsibilities. When I took on secular jobs, employers loved me because I was a no-nonsense, time-to-lean, time-to-clean manager. (Is it any surprise that most of my adult jobs were either pastoring churches or management jobs?)

People walking into my study were greeted by a perfectly cleaned and ordered office. The desktop was neat, and the drawers were organized, with everything having a place. My bookshelves were perfectly ordered from tallest to smallest book and then by subject. Dress-wise, I wore white one-hundred-percent pinpoint cotton shirts and black wingtip shoes. My suits were well-kept and matched whatever tie I was wearing. My appearance mattered to me. Congregants knew they would never find me shopping at the local Walmart wearing a tee-shirt and sweatpants.

What I have mentioned above sounds fine, right? Surely, I should have a right to order my life any way I want to. And that would be true, except for the fact that I live in a world populated by other people; people who are not like me; people who are happy with clutter, disarray, and OMG even dirt! It is in their personal relationships that people with OCPD have problems, and, in some instances, they can drive away the very people who love them.

For the first twenty-five years of marriage, my relationship with Polly was defined by Fundamentalist/patriarchal thinking. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that such beliefs play well in the minds of people with OCPD. I had high expectations not only for myself, but for my wife and children too. We all, of course, miserably failed, but all that did was increase the pressures to conform to silly (and at times harmful) behavioral expectations. It didn’t help matters that I was an outgoing decision-maker married to a passive, always-conform-to-the-wishes-of-others, woman. While we put on quite a dog and pony show for most of our time in the ministry, behind the scenes things were not as they outwardly appeared to be.

Towards the end of my time in the ministry — the early 2000s — I began to see how harmful my behavior was when it came to my familial relationships (and to a lesser degree my relationship with congregants). While it would be another decade before I would finally seek out professional secular counseling, I did begin to make changes in my life. These changes caused a new set of conflicts due to the fact that everyone was used to me being the boss, with everything being according to MY plan. While Polly and the kids loved their new-found freedom, there were times where they were quite content to let me be the stern patriarch. As with all lasting change, it takes time to undo deeply-seated behaviors.

I am not so naive as to believe that I am “cured” of OCPD. I am not. My counselor is adept at pointing out to me when certain behaviors of mine move toward what she calls my OCD tendencies. I have had to be repeatedly schooled in the difference between good/bad and different. For example, young people today generally discipline their children differently from their baby-boomer parents. Read enough memes on Facebook and you will conclude that young parents have lost their minds when it comes to raising their children. What that brat needs is an ass-whipping, boomer grandparents say. What I continue to learn is that people who act differently from me, look different from me, or have beliefs different from mine are not necessarily wrong/bad. Most often, what they really are is “different.” Learning to be at peace with differences has gone a long way in muting my OCPD thinking.

Both Polly and I agree that the last fifteen or so years of married life have been great. One of the reasons for this has been my willingness to realize where my OCPD is causing harm and making the necessary changes to end the harm. The first thing I learned is that everyone is entitled to his or her own space. I have every right to order my office, drawers, and space as I want them to be. I no longer apologize for having OCPD. All that I ask of others is that when they invade my space, they respect my wishes. And that works for others too. I have to respect the personal boundaries of Polly and our children. This is why I do not meddle in the lives of my children. I give advice when asked, but outside of that, they are free to live as they please. Do my children make decisions I disagree with, decisions that leave me mumbling and cussing? Yep, but it’s their lives, not mine, and I love them regardless of the choices they make.

The second thing I learned is that it is important for Polly and me to have times of distance from each other. It is okay for each of us to do things without the other. We don’t have to like all the same things. Understanding this has allowed Polly’s life to blossom in ways I could never have imagined. If you had known Polly in 1999 and then met the 2022 version, why you would wonder if she is possessed. From going back to college and graduating, to becoming an outspoken manager at work, Polly is an awesome example of what someone can become once the chains of Fundamentalism and patriarchal thinking have been broken.

ocd cartoon

The third thing I learned is that my OCPD can be productively channeled, with my personal relationships surviving afterward. Polly loves it when she comes home and finds that I have emptied the cupboards, cleaned them, and replaced everything neatly and in order. The joke in the family is that people want me to come clean their house for them, but they can’t stand being around me when I do. In the public spaces where our lives collide, Polly and I have had to learn to give and take. I have learned that it is okay to leave the newspaper on the floor until tomorrow, and Polly has learned, come holidays, that I am going to clean every inch of the house, including under the refrigerator — with her help of course. She will never understand why my underwear drawer needs to be straightened up for company, and she will likely never understand the need to clean under the stove/refrigerator four times a year. But, because she loves me, she smiles and says, what do you need me to do next?

My chronic health problems and unrelenting pain have forced me to let go of some of my obsessions. I can’t, so I don’t. I don’t find this giving in/giving up easy to deal with, but I have come to see that life is too short for me to not enjoy the moment even if everything is not in perfect order. That said, I still have OCPD moments, and I suspect I always will. Several years ago, I had a dentist appointment. The dental assistant had me take a seat in the exam room. When she returned, she found me tapping the valance on the blind with my cane. I told her, I have been sitting here for years with that crooked valance driving me crazy. There, it’s fixed! She laughed. Later, she returned and told me that all the valances in the other rooms were off-center too. She said, I never noticed that until you pointed it out to me. I likely will always have an eye for when something is crooked, especially wall hangings and sign lettering. Why can’t the doctor’s office get notices straight when they tape them on the wall, right? Dammit, how hard is it to do the job right the first time! Sigh. You see, OCPD never completely goes away, but it can be managed and controlled, allowing me, for the most part, to have satisfying and happy relationships with the people I love.

Do you have OCPD or OCD tendencies? Please share your experiences in the comment section. I am especially interested in hearing about how Fundamentalism affected your behavior.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

One Stop Baptism, and While You are There, Eat a Hot Dog and Drink Some Hot Chocolate

baptism

This Saturday, the City of Defiance, Ohio, will hold its annual Halloween Parade. Three of our grandchildren with be marching with their respective school bands in the parade. Several of our children and their families will be street side to watch the parade. While there, they, along with other bystanders, will have the opportunity to:

the gathering place defiance

The Gathering Place, a local charismatic church in downtown Defiance, is reaching out to the masses this Saturday, offering saints, sinners, and snarky atheists walk-in baptisms by immersion, along with hot dogs, hot chocolate, and candy.

Who thought up this nonsense? Did he or she bother to consider the theological implications or Biblical justification for baptizing people off the street? Imagine going to the parade, and while standing streetside with your family, you decide to get baptized (a rite of initiation into Christianity, an outward sign of an inward act). Do the folks at The Gathering Place really think someone is going to do this? I suspect if anyone is baptized, it will be people who are already affiliated with the church. This is an increasingly common practice in Evangelical churches. Members who are already baptized (supposedly a one-time act) get baptized again. Why? Because they want to or it makes them “feel” good. After all, worship is all about “felt needs,” right?

Just when I think I have seen everything . . .

Maybe I will go get baptized on Saturday. Not for salvation, of course, but I sure do love hot dogs (oh wait, the church is likely using $1 hot dogs from Aldi, so maybe not), hot chocolate (with whole milk, please), and candy. Lots of candy. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Alf Cengia Thinks He Knows Why People Reject the Bible. Hint: He Doesn’t

bible inerrancy

Another day, another Evangelical who thinks he is Carnac the Magnificent when it comes to knowing what atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, and other unbelievers really believe.

Alf Cengia recently wrote an article for the Evangelical website Sharper Iron titled Why Do People Reject the Bible? Cengia gave several reasons why people (non-Christians) reject the Bible:

  • People reject the Bible because they suspect the Bible contains truth, and if it does they would have to change their lives
  • People reject the Bible because they don’t like what the Bible says about itself
  • People reject the Bible because they don’t want it to be true
  • People reject the Bible because it’s seen as an imposition on the lives they want to live for themselves

Cengia goes on to make two overarching statements:

  • People know the truth and suppress it
  • The Bible is self-attesting

Cengia uses the late Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber (both Christians) as examples of people who justify the premise of his post:

A classic example is Nadia Bolz-Weber. Chapter 2 of her book Pastrix begins with citing 1 Timothy 2:11-12. At its conclusion, she thanks her parents for blessing her desire to become a pastor. Sorry Paul, Nadia did what she wanted to do.

The same can be said of Rachel Held Evans. She wrote Inspired in order to introduce her readers to an un-inspired Bible, which she insisted ought to be loved despite imperfections—perhaps like a dithering beloved family member with dementia. I guess RHE felt she needed to maintain a foot in Christianity; hence, couldn’t totally abandon it.

Bolz-Weber, RHE and a slew of deconstructionists didn’t reject Scripture because it is a fallible outdated document. They know the truth and suppress it because they refuse to submit to God’s authority.

Cengia is a presuppositionalist. In his mind, the Bible is true because it says it is true. Further, people know the Bible is true because the Bible says they know it’s true. Got that? Non-Christians, or even some Christians such as Bloz-Weber and Held-Evans deliberately, and with full knowledge, reject some of the Bible’s truth claims. Cengia believes the Bible is inerrant and infallible, so, for him, whatever the Bible says is absolute truth. People who reject Cengia’s claims do so because they reject what they know to be true. This claim, of course, is patently false.

Presuppositionalists such as Cengia think they can ignore demands for evidence for their claims because, in their minds, the truthiness of their claims is self-evident. Of course, as an atheist and a materialist, I reject such claims out of hand. If Cengia wants to convince me (and others) of his claims, he is going to have to do more than say, “it’s true because I (God/Bible) says it is.” Cengia sees no need for providing evidence for the claims he makes about the Bible. We know the Bible is not inerrant or infallible (neither translationally or in the non-existent original manuscripts). Further, I have yet to see evidence for the claim that the sixty-six books of the Protestant Christian Bible are God’s Word or written by mostly unknown men who were supernaturally inspired by God. Those are faith claims.

Cengia concludes his post by making by this fantastical claim:

One cannot find a comparable work of non-Christian faith which spans thousands of years, with multiple authors, yet telling a cohesive non-contradictory story.

The Bible tells a “cohesive non-contradictory story”? Really? In what universe? As someone who spent 50 years in Evangelicalism, pastored churches for twenty-five years, and spent over 20,000 hours (on average, 20 hours a week) reading and studying the Bible, I can confidently say that Cengia’s claim cannot be rationally sustained. I understand “why” Cengia believes what he does. After all, I once believed the same things. And as long as I only read Evangelical authors, my beliefs were safe and secure. However, once I started reading authors such as John Shelby Spong, Bart Ehrman, and other scholars, I quickly learned that my beliefs about the Bible were not true.

As far as the Bible being a cohesive narrative, if that is so, why have Christians been arguing nonstop about that “cohesive” narrative for 2,000 years? Why are there thousands and thousands of Christian sects, each believing they are absolutely right? Why can’t Christians even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion? Every sect sees a cohesive narrative, as, of course, interpreted by them. Landmark Baptists look at the Bible (and church history) and see an unbroken line of Baptist purity. Roman Catholics do the same. Some sects start their narrative in Genesis, others start with the Gospels. The claim that there is a “cohesive narrative” in the Bible simply cannot in any meaningful way be rationally sustained.

In 2008 I walked away from Christianity. While the reasons for my deconversion are many, one simple fact brought my house down: the claim that the Bible is inerrant and infallible was untrue. Once the Bible lost its authoritative hold over me, I was then free to re-investigate the central claims of claims of Christianity. I concluded that these “truths” were, in fact, myths. None of Cengia’s claims played any part in my loss of faith. Will he accept my story at face value? Probably not. Why? The Bible is true because the Bible says it is true. End of discussion.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Should Churches Have Alternatives to Halloween?

halloween

The Bible says to give no place to the devil. And I think when we look at Halloween, what we have to look at is how many doors can we close so that we give no place to the devil? The adversary goes around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. And we need to make sure we are living a righteous, pure, clean, holy life so that we are not someone that he can come and devour or that he’s even seeking.

There will be people who will find different churches to go trunk-or-treating, but let’s not have our church be that place, because when we allow our church to be that place, we’re setting ourselves up—our church, our ministry—for spiritual warfare attack. Anton LaVey, the founder of Satanism, says he loves it when Christian parents dress their kids up for Halloween, because in the spiritual realm, there’s just no differentiating between dressing them up as a spider or a goblin or dressing them up as an angel or a biblical character to the demonic realm that has made it [its] mission to curse us and wreak havoc on us.

We are opening a door; we are opening a gateway when we allow that participation. That’s why I really believe, that if you want to do something for Hallowen, the best thing we should do is spend that time in prayer, and do evangelistic outreach 10 days later.

[Do you struggle with discouragement or depression more often around the end of the year? If so, DeGraw says the reason may at least be partially spiritual.]

Some of these are natural happenings—grief, depression, financial. But this is also these demonic spirits that are coming out for the month of October and Halloween. They’re cursing us in advance. … A lot of Christians go into the spiritual warfare zone in November and December, and it’s because of the spirits that have these underlying curses that they’re throwing in October, and it puts us in turmoil for the rest of the year.

— Prophetic deliverance minister Kathy DeGraw, Charisma, How ‘Christian Alternatives’ to Halloween Can Still Open Portals to Demonic Attack, October 18, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Halloween Hysteria

halloween

Beginning in the 1980s with the Satanic Panic, Halloween has been a culture war target for ignorant, hysterical Evangelicals. In their minds, Halloween is a Satanic holiday; a high holy day when Satanists kidnap and sacrifice children to Lucifer. And if it is not the Satanists, it is pedophiles who are kidnapping children off the street and molesting them. And don’t forget warnings about Halloween candy. This year, law enforcement is stirring up parents over rainbow-colored fentanyl tablets and marijuana-laced gummies. Ask yourself, what drug dealer or user gives their expensive drugs to children? Years ago, it was razorblades in candy, resulting in parents having their children’s candy x-rayed at local hospitals. All nonsense, for which there is not a shred of proof.

I can only think of four dangers children face while trick-or-treating:

  • Teenagers stealing candy from younger children
  • Bellyaches from eating too much candy
  • Automobiles
  • Grandpa eating their candy 🙂

These four things are REAL threats. The rest of the Halloween “dangers” you read about this time of year in the news and on social media are hysterical nonsense. Halloween is a holiday that is meant to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Don’t let fearmongers and conspiracy theorists ruin the day.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Eleven Reasons Why Celebrating Halloween is a Sin

pastor jamie morgan
  1. God is a God of life, but Halloween focuses on death. Should I celebrate a holiday where people decorate their front yards with tombstones?
  2. The Scriptures tell us to put away deeds of darkness (Rom.13:12) and that light has nothing in common with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Is celebrating a dark holiday something a child of the light should be doing?
  3. I had been delivered from fear and panic attacks and knew that fear comes from the enemy. Should I participate in a holiday that has fear as its very foundation?
  4. Witchcraft is clearly detestable to the Lord (Deut. 18:10-13). Shouldn’t something that glorifies witchcraft (just take a walk through the Halloween store) be detestable to me as well?”
  5. Halloween is a sacred, high holiday for Wiccans (the official religion of witchcraft). Is this a holiday Christians should celebrate alongside Wiccans?
  6. Is it cute when we dress our kids like the devil (or witches, ghouls, scary characters, etc.)? Isn’t it, well, demonic?
  7. What if my child dresses in a wholesome fireman costume? Romans 16:19 says that we need to be wise to what is good and innocent of evil. If I let him participate in Halloween, even while dressed as a fireman, aren’t I sending him a mixed message by allowing him to participate in a celebration of evil?
  8. The Lord said in 2 Cor. 6:17, “Come out from them and be separate … Touch no unclean thing …” Doesn’t God want His children to be set apart from the world and from sin and evil? Aren’t we supposed to be peculiar people?
  9. My extended family thinks it’s ridiculous that we not allow our son to dress up for Halloween. Should their opinions matter to me more than God’s? Shouldn’t pleasing God be my utmost concern?
  10. If there is even a question in my heart and mind that it might be wrong, shouldn’t that be my first clue? Why would I continue to do so with even a lingering thought that it is wrong?
  11. Does Halloween bring glory to God? No! It glorifies the devil! Nuff said.

….

Halloween is the one day a year when neighbors come to your door expecting to receive something. So give them JESUS! Our family chose to give God the glory and the devil a black eye by reaching out to our neighbors with the gospel of Jesus Christ! “You are the light of the world … let your light shine among men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).

So stop justifying why it is fine to celebrate this demonic, worldly, evil holiday. There are no muddled lines or gray areas about it. A committed follower of Jesus Christ should not celebrate Halloween.

— Jamie Morgan, Charisma News, 11 Reasons Why Christians Absolutely Should Not Celebrate Halloween, October 12, 2018

Jamie Morgan is the pastor of Life Church (Assemblies of God) in Williamstown, New Jersey

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Save the Zygotes!

human zygote

Several years ago I did an interview with a friend shortly after his wife gave birth to a ‘snowflake baby’- an affectionate and mildly tragic moniker given to children created in a lab who were frozen and then thawed before being implanted and ultimately born.

Their baby was conceived and fertilized several years ago, but was abandoned by his parents, He was placed in a laboratory freezer where for nearly a decade he wasted away with his siblings, the same fate as an estimated 600,000 more precious souls.

My friend and his wife sacrificed much to rescue him through an “embryo adoption”, where they saved the child from certain death and implanted the embryo in her womb, bringing forth renewed life after years of frozen purgatory.

It garnered much interest, and many people contacted me with poignant stories and pointed questions. Some folk were extremely grieved, having friends and family who had participated in IVF and now were waking up to the horror of realizing that their loved ones had abandoned their babies to be killed- that they had discarded their nieces and nephews in this unholy pursuit.

One woman spoke of how her daughter-in-law had created a child using IVF, leaving the rest of their babies in limbo. She asked if we knew anyone who would consider an embryo adoption so she could see her grandchildren one day. She lamented that she would give birth to these herself if she could, but being in her 50s it was no longer possible, and her helplessness was palpable.

Still, others were incensed. They were upset that I would dare hint that they had done anything wrong and vigorously protested the notion that their embryos were real human beings with souls. These were professing Christian women, specifically, and they refused to acknowledge the weight of what they had done.

— Protestia, The Christian Art Of Adopting Frozen Babies- And Why You Might Want to Consider It, October 23, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser