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Bruce, IFB Doctrines are Biblical and Correct

peanut gallery

Earlier today, an Evangelical man named Mark left the following comment:

It is a shame that you you [sic] have rejected Christ as your Saviour. How could you even Pastor a church and not be saved? Yes there are lots of problems with the IFB’s, but their doctrines (except for KJV only-ism and legalistic standards and Pastor worship) to name a few, are very Biblical and correct. There is still only one way to heaven.

We all make choices in life. Mark says it’s a “shame” that I didn’t make the same religious choice that he did. He provides no evidence for why my rejection of his peculiar brand of religion is a “shame.” Would he say the same thing if I was a Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, Hindu, or Pagan? I suspect he would. Mark likely believes that there is one true God, one true religion, one true interpretation of the Bible — his.

Mark asks “how could you even pastor a church and not be saved?” Best I can tell, Mark read all of two posts on this site:

He read none of my autobiographical posts. Had he done so, he would have learned that I was part of the Evangelical church for fifty years; that I was gloriously saved at the age of fifteen; that I spent the next thirty-five years of my life devotedly following after and serving Jesus. I wasn’t an “unsaved” pastor. I was a born-from-above preacher of the gospel. I was in every way a child of God. And then, at the age of fifty, I walked away from Christianity.

I suspect that Mark is having a hard time reconciling my story with his Baptist theology. He knows that I’m an atheist, so how is it possible that I was ever a “saved” preacher? In his mind “this does not compute.” However, either I was the most cunning deceiver since Satan himself, or I once was saved and now I am not. Mark will search in vain for any evidence that suggests I was a deceiver. Talk to my wife and children. Talk to my extended family. Talk to people I pastored over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry. Talk to my former ministerial colleagues. You will not find one person who will say that they knew, at the time, that I was a deceiver; a false Christian; a tool of Satan; an enemy of God.

Mark, a Baptist, thinks once a person is saved, he remains saved — forever. Once gained, salvation can never be lost. Yet, here’s Bruce Gerencser, a sixty-five-year-old man who by all accounts, was saved, and now he is lost. How can this be? Mark thinks. Instead of reconciling the defect in his theology, Mark decides to make a fantastical claim for which he has no evidence: Bruce Gerencser never was a real Christian.

I am not certain if Mark is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). He recognizes several glaring theological problems, yet he thinks that IFB beliefs are correct. (Please see What is an IFB Church?) Of course, all he is saying is that IFB beliefs are not much different from those held by Southern Baptists and countless other Evangelical sects. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) What sets the IFB church movement apart from a lot of other sects is their social beliefs and practices (please see An Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Hate List); their ecclesiology; their irrational belief that the King James Version of the Bible is inerrant and infallible. What Mark doesn’t mention is the high rate of sex crimes committed by IFB pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and bus workers; crimes that are routinely dismissed or covered up. (Please see Black Collar Crime Series.)

It is hard not to conclude that, when taken as a whole, the IFB church movement is a cult. The psychological and, at times, physical harm caused by IFB churches and pastors has wounded and scarred countless people. Many former IFB church members end up needing therapy to come to terms with the harm inflicted upon them by so-called men of God.

If I were inclined to return to Christianity someday, there’s not a chance in Heaven or Hell that I would ever join an IFB church. Decades of abuse was enough for me, causing incalculable harm. My advice to anyone in an IFB church is this: RUN! There are gentler, kinder forms of faith; places where you will be loved and respected as you are.

Mark concludes his comments by saying “there is still only one way to Heaven.” Evidently, Mark has never read the Bible. The Bible actually teaches that there are numerous ways to Heaven: faith alone, faith plus works, and works alone. Further, each Christian sect has its own spin on the requirements for salvation. Which sect is right? Every sect appeals to the Bible for its theological claims. You would think that God, the alleged author of the Bible, would have made the plan of salvation clear. Instead, we find Peter and Paul arguing with each other about salvation. And then James comes along and says they both are wrong.

I am sure that Mark has been taught how to harmonize these contradictory beliefs. However, a plain reading of Scripture suggests that there are conflicting plans of salvation. Christians can’t even agree on basics such as baptism, communion, or church government. Yet, mere unbelievers are expected to pick through the conflicts and contradictions, hoping to find the faith once delivered to the saints. Maybe, just maybe, the various competing beliefs are a sign that Christianity is a manmade religion; that ancient men made it up as they went; that God, in all its forms, was created by fallible, frail humans.

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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Evangelicals and Their Obsession With Sexual Lust

lust

Evangelicals have a huge problem with what they call sexual lust. Countless sermons, books, and website articles are devoted to helping Christians overcome lust. Rarely, if ever, do Evangelicals ask WHY they have a lust problem. Why do men and women filled with the Holy Spirit need to be constantly reminded of their propensity to lust? With God living inside of you (there’s a joke waiting to be told), I would think that victory over lust or any other sin would be but a thought or prayer away. If God himself can’t keep Evangelicals from sexually desiring other people to whom they are not married, what hope is there for the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world?

Perhaps the real issue is that Evangelicals mislabel and misunderstand sexual lust. Thanks to Jesus for telling his followers in Matthew 5:27,28: Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart, Evangelicals think that if they look at a man or woman and desire them then they have committed adultery in their hearts. Is it any wonder that some Evangelicals, upon realizing they have committed adultery in their hearts, decide to physically have sex with whomever they are “lusting” after? If you are going to think it, you might as well do it.

What is lust, anyway? A simple definition is this: having a craving, appetite, or great desire for. Based on this definition, all humans lust, and there is nothing inherently wrong with sexually lusting after a man or a woman. What complicates the matter for Evangelicals is that they are duty-bound to live according to the laws, commands, precepts, and teachings of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — as interpreted by their churches and pastors. The Bible, then, and not an English dictionary, defines what lust is. The inconsistent, arbitrary, contradictory moral code found in the Bible becomes the standard by which the triune God demands people live — in theory anyway. As any observer of Evangelicalism knows, Evangelicals don’t walk what they talk. Here they are, filled with the Holy Spirit and holding in their hands God’s blueprint for living, yet they fail miserably at being different from the big, bad “world.” Why is that?

The first problem is that Evangelicals view themselves as sinners; weak, powerless, helpless people, who, without the saving grace of Jesus, would be given over to their sinful desires. Evangelicals believe humans are inherently broken and need fixing; and only God, through the atoning work of Jesus, can repair them; and this fixing is a moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day process. Sin is always at the door, threatening to destroy their lives, Evangelicals think. Powerless, they cry out to Jesus for help, and in his good time, if at all, Jesus supposedly rides in on his white horse and delivers them from their sins. And if Jesus doesn’t arrive in time and Christians fall or run into sin? Forgiveness and a clean slate are but a prayer away: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9. Thus, for Evangelicals, there’s no reason for them to own their behaviors and be accountable for their actions.

colossians 3:5

The second problem comes when you embrace the Evangelical concept of sin and inherent helplessness with strict adherence to what’s written in the Bible. Instead of understanding that it is normal and healthy to sexually desire others, Evangelicals label their desires “sexual sins” such as adultery or fornication. Worse yet, even thinking about these desires, according to Jesus, is adultery. Imagine living in a world where the very thought of another person’s sexual desirability is considered heinous behavior worthy of eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. Is it any wonder Evangelical men and women go through life laden with guilt and fear? Is it any wonder so many Christians act out on their desires, often crossing the line from normal human behavior to criminality? One need only to read the Black Collar Crime series to see that Evangelicals have a huge problem with sexual sin — especially sex with minors or, as in the case of pastors, people with whom they have professional relationships. A pastor having consensual sex with someone other than his wife violates the Evangelical God’s moral code, but outside of Christianity such behavior, at worst, leads to divorce. Consensual sex between unmarrieds is normal, healthy, and expected, but, for Evangelicals, such behavior is called fornication – an accursed sin worthy of eternal damnation. Masturbation and viewing pornography are also considered serious sins by most Evangelicals.

The focus should be on sexual behaviors that harm others. If there is no harm to others, and all parties are adults who consent to the sexual behavior, there should be no condemnation of the sexual behavior. Extramarital sex is generally considered bad behavior, but a married couple could have an “understanding,” making what Evangelicals consider adulterous normal. The rules I live by are quite simple:

  • I made a commitment to my wife forty-four ago when I stood at the church altar and said that she would be my one and only. Polly and I, on that day, entered into a contractual relationship governing our sexual behavior. I live by that commitment. Do I desire other women? Do I find other women attractive? Do I even have thoughts about having sex with them? Yep. I am a normal, healthy human being. But I don’t act on these desires. Why? I pledged my troth to my wife, and I plan on keeping that vow.
  • Whatever people do sexually behind closed doors, as long as it is consensual, is none of my business. I don’t understand why some people enjoy BDSM, but I don’t have to understand it to find it acceptable human behavior. Each to his own as long as the parties involved freely consent.

Simply put, I mind my own business.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, are plagued with all sorts of rules governing their sex lives. Worse yet, these rules have different interpretations depending on whom their pastor is, where they attend church, and what sect their church belongs to. When Evangelical men and women see someone to whom they are sexually attracted, they immediately feel guilty and worry about committing adultery in their hearts. Instead of seeing such behavior as normal and healthy, Evangelicals fear God’s judgment if they fail to avert their eyes and repent of their inordinate desire.

Several years ago, an Evangelical psychologist by the name of Douglas Weiss barfed up a post titled 10 Powerful Tips to Stay Lust-Free. The article was pretty much standard Fundamentalist fare: pray, read the Bible, memorize Scripture, and keep a journal of your lustful behavior. Weiss did, to his credit, speak of Evangelicals owning and changing their behavior. These points seemed quite humanistic, so I do wonder how Weiss squares personal accountability with what the Bible says about sin and human helplessness without God.

I did find tip number eight quite humorous:

Simply put a rubber band around your wrist and when you start to lust, snap it hard.

Currently, you are giving your brain positive reinforcement when you lust. You escape reality, you feel desired, you fantasize and sometimes even receive a chemical reaction in your brain from the risk and excitement you feel. When you positively reinforce your brain, it will heighten your desire to repeat that behavior.

The rubber-band technique creates a negative reinforcement for lust and sends your brain the message: I don’t want to do this anymore.

Of course, Weiss is giving advice for combating a behavior — lust — that only exists in the minds of Evangelicals. I see a theological contradiction with Weiss’s advice. If Evangelicals are to snap the rubber band when they start to lust, doesn’t that mean they have already sinned? Isn’t lust sinful, regardless of whether the Christian is at the start, middle, or end of the lusting process? Shouldn’t the lustful Christian immediately stop sinning, drop on his knee, and give God a blo- uh I mean pray for forgiveness?

Imagine, for a moment, Pastor Joe sitting at his office desk studying for Sunday’s sermon. Pastor J, as his followers love to call him, is planning on preaching a ten-point sermon titled How to Live a Lust-Free Life. J-Man, as church teens fondly call him, clicks on Firefox, and once it loads he opens an incognito window. Pastor Joe wants his study materials to be between him and God, and by using an incognito window, he leaves behind no trace of what websites he has visited. Pastor Joe navigates to youporn.com, telling himself, what better way to understand lust than “studying” the content of porn sites. As the tenth photo loads, Pastor Joe remembers he is wearing a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. He starts snapping the band repeatedly, thinking that the pain from having a rubber band snapped on his wrist will cause him to turn from his computer screen. Alas, it does not. Soon, Pastor Joe is overwhelmed by what he has seen. I’m lusting, he cries, but no amount of self-awareness — or rubber bands — keeps Pastor Joe from masturbating. Soon orgasm brings release, and with release comes an overwhelming sense of religiously driven guilt. Oh Lord, I am so sorry for my sin. Please forgive me! Jesus, of course, forgives Pastor Joe, just as he has every other time. Or so we are told, anyway. Pastor Joe is forgiven by God because he says he is forgiven. In fact, every time Pastor Joe “sins” God forgives him. A weak, helpless man I am, says Pastor Joe. Deliver me from my lust, Jesus! What a miserable existence, but the fictional story I’ve told here happens countless times a day behind closed doors. And it will continue to happen until Evangelicals realize that their religion is the problem. Their belief system has turned them into pathetic weaklings who believe they have no control over their emotions or sexuality.

Evangelicals don’t need rubber bands. Does anyone really believe that snapping yourself with a rubber band is going to keep you from acting on your sexual desires? This is absurd. The only thing that controls your sexual desires is YOU. Not God, not Jesus, and certainly not a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. What’s required here is personal responsibility and accountability. Determine what is good and bad sexual behavior and act accordingly. The Bible, with its sexually repressive teachings, is not the answer, and neither is any of Weiss’s tips for living a lust-free life.

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.

Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate — Oh Yes, They Do!

trading eternal life for an orgasm

People raised in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches have heard countless sermons on what the Bible says about sex. Teenagers are warned about the dangers of petting, and many IFB churches forbid unmarrieds from having any physical contact with each other. Young men are characterized as weak horn-dogs and young women are viewed as gatekeepers who are responsible for any untoward sexual advances made by sexually aware men. Young women are given strict orders concerning how to dress and behave to ward off young men from having sex with them. One thing is certain: if a young IFB woman has sex with a man, it is almost always her fault.

IFB churches often have lengthy and complex rules that are used to keep unmarrieds from having sex. These rules follow young adults to the IFB colleges they attend. Here we have institutions filled with eighteen- to twenty-five-year-old men and women who, with hormones raging, are expected to refrain from physical contact with the opposite sex. This includes: no holding hands, no kissing, no hugging, no putting one’s arm around another, or sitting too closely to someone of the opposite sex. My wife and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in the 1970s. We were expected to maintain a six-inch distance from each other at all times. Even after we married, we were expected to refrain from public displays of affection lest we cause unmarried dorm students to “sin.” (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.)

One would think that IFB pastors and college leaders would approve of masturbation as a way of dealing with pent-up sexual frustration. Unfortunately, masturbation is also a sin. As an IFB teenager, I heard pastors who warned church teens about the dangers of masturbation, including, — oh yes they did! — warning that masturbation will make you blind. Now lest you think it’s just crazy IFB preachers who have a problem with masturbation, consider this quote by Evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll:

First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he’s watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.

And then there’s this excerpt from The Village Church’s website:

If one was [sic] to scan the horizon of current evangelical thought he or she would find a number of conclusions on the matter of masturbation. There are some who would claim that it is inherently neutral or even innately good and thus would teach that it is an appropriate way to express gratitude for sexual desire. Others would say that it is a veiled form of homosexuality, or that it is a clear violation of God’s law and thus always sinful. The spectrum is wide and the positions are quite varied.

Scripture never overtly addresses the issue of masturbation and thus any non-careful treatment of this topic must be avoided. If we define sin merely as transgression of God’s law then we might conclude that since Scripture does not explicitly prohibit the particular act of masturbation, it must therefore be non-sinful. However, sin is not merely transgression of the Scriptures, but also a transgression of the character and intent of God. As marriage is the only God-ordained means of expressing sexual intimacy, it would seem perfectly acceptable to declare masturbation a sinful act. This paper will seek to specify some common wisdom regarding masturbation and then commend a few questions which must be considered to faithfully examine the act.

  • Sexual immorality is specifically declared to be sinful.
  • Lust is specifically declared to be sinful.
  • Masturbation does not typically quench sexual desire, rather it intensifies it. As with most things, the more you feed it, the more it grows. In general, masturbation becomes habit forming and enslaves us to desires for greater sexual relief through greater self-indulgence rather than greater self-control. While the Spirit produces in us the fruit of self-control, the flesh desires indulgence and release. Self-control is not ascetic discipline, but is instead the response of a proper understanding of God’s creative design for our bodies.
  • Masturbation is outside of God’s intended design for sexual relations. Sex was created to be experienced between a man and woman who are joined together into the one flesh relationship of marriage; masturbation is taking the sexual desire reserved for this relationship and seeking to fulfill it through our own means. Masturbation sets a very destructive pattern for marriage. It places the emphasis on self pleasure rather than the desire for two to experience the fulfillment of sexual union together.
  • Masturbation is typically lustful – whether that be overt lust direct toward another or a lustful desire for relief.
  • Masturbation does not typically stir our affections for the Lord, rather it robs them.

….

It seems to the pastors and elders of The Village Church that masturbation is prohibited for a couple of reasons. First, we would prohibit the act based upon the provision of marriage as the only appropriate institution in which to express sexual intimacy. If you burn with lust or desire sexual intimacy, get married (1 Corinthians 7:9). Such is the gracious and holy prescription for sexual desire, the only prescription afforded by the Creator of all good desire. Second, we would counsel abstinence due to the overwhelming and innate relationship between masturbation and lust. Lust is extremely serious and not to be taken lightly, dismissed, or played with.

The Village Church is a Southern Baptist megachurch pastored by Matt Chandler. Chandler is also part of The Gospel Coalition — a Fundamentalist group with Calvinistic leanings. Men such as Danny Akin, Alistair Begg, Bryan Chapell, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Kent Hughes, Erwin Lutzer, Albert Mohler, Russell D. Moore, David Platt, John Piper, Philip G. Ryken, and Sam Storms are/were members, as were the infamous Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney. I can safely say that all of these men likely approve of Chandler’s anti-masturbation message. Ironically, Chandler is currently on “leave” from his church for having an inappropriate online relationship with a woman.

Jason DeRouchie, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, also believes masturbation is sinful. DeRouchie, writing for the Desiring God website, says:

Many medical professionals treat masturbation as a natural part of human development, and some church leaders have attempted to supply practical and theological reasons to masturbate. From a biblical perspective, however, I do not believe this approach pleases God, and I have seen the devastation that such a practice brings to both singles and marrieds alike.

….

When people reach orgasm outside the covenant-confirming act of lovemaking in marriage, the act becomes solely self-seeking, divorced from its purpose of creating intimacy. Sexual expression through orgasm should be an overflow of a desire for a spouse, not merely for a feeling or experience.

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As noted, orgasm outside the marriage bed removes the relational, intimate nature of sexual expression, which is at the core of its purpose (1 Corinthians 7:2–3, 5). Refraining from masturbation helps to purify one’s appetites (1 Corinthians 9:27). It helps to ensure that a person’s desire to make love with his or her spouse is for nurturing covenantal intimacy through service and honor, and through receiving love from him or her (Matthew 20:28; John 13:14–16). It reminds couples that their spouse is not given as an object to be exploited, but rather as a covenant partner to be provided for, protected, and respected (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33; see also Genesis 2:24).

….

Masturbation outside the marriage bed does not glorify God because evil desire always fuels it.

Whatever we do — including all forms of sexual expression — we are to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whether tagged as covetousness, lust, or sensuality, misplaced and mistimed desires do not glorify God, and failure to glorify God is always sin (Romans 3:23; 14:23). Paul thus charges, “Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

In God’s good design, marital love is the only justified context for one to enjoy a sexual craving for orgasm, for only in this sphere does one glorify God by pointing to the beautiful union of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:31–32). From this perspective, evil desire fuels all sexual expression outside the marriage bed, including masturbation, so we must treat all such acts as sinful and as deserving of hell (Matthew 5:29–30; Mark 7:20–23; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:17, 19–21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5–6).

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Jesus urged his followers to guard themselves from lustful masturbation, and Paul called Christians to control their sexual parts in holiness and honor.

Only “the pure in heart . . . shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Jesus appears to link masturbation with lust when he declares that looking at a woman with lustful intent is sin, and then charges his disciples to take extreme measures with their eyes and hands, so that they will preserve themselves unto life (Matthew 5:27–30). Similarly, Paul stressed that holiness seen in sexual purity was God’s will for every person, and then he urged believers to control their sexual parts in holiness and honor rather than in lust.

Masturbation outside the marriage bed witnesses a lack of self-control and is therefore sin.

Self-control is a new-covenant fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), a discipline that pleases God, nurtures hope for eternal life, and frees one from fear of future punishment (Romans 8:6–9, 13; 2 Timothy 1:7). Lack of self-control is sin and enables greater influence by the evil one (Proverbs 25:28; 1 Corinthians 7:5). Intentional orgasm outside the marriage bed through masturbation witnesses a lack of self-control and is therefore sin.

….

In light of these realities, I believe that anyone who masturbates outside the marriage bed sins and insults God’s glory in Christ. As men and women of God, therefore, may we not engage in it. Instead, may we look to our Lord for help and seek to honor him with our bodies by allowing our only outlet for sexual desire to be the covenant-nurturing intimacy of marital lovemaking (Job 31:1). May we also intentionally lead our children in such paths of righteousness for Christ’s name’s sake.

….

Please look up all the Bible verses given by De Rouchie. I’m sure you’ll want to immediately refrain from masturbating lest God tosses you in Hell for doing so.

ted cruz masturbation

And finally, here’s what Focus on the Family has to say about masturbation:

The point, as we see it, is the larger meaning and purpose of human sexuality. The Bible has two important things to say about this: first, sex is central to the process by which husband and wife become one flesh (Genesis 2:24); and second, sex and marriage are intended to serve as a picture or symbol of the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:31, 32). Sex, then, isn’t intended to be “all about me.” Rather, it’s designed to function as part of the give-and-take of an interpersonal relationship.

These theological perspectives should inform and shape our approach to the practical problem of masturbation. It’s important that we avoid heaping guilt on teenagers who find the urge to masturbate almost uncontrollable, and who might be driven to spiritual despair as a result. At the same time, we should do everything we can to help adolescents, young adults and married couples see that self-gratification is inconsistent with the purpose, goal and basic nature of sex. We shouldn’t condemn anyone for masturbating, but neither should we encourage them to continue in the habit. Why not? Because God has created men and women to experience sexual fulfillment on a much higher level – within the context of a marital relationship – and we don’t want anything to jeopardize their chances of knowing that joy to the fullest extent.

In connection with this last thought, it’s important to add that masturbation, due to the powerful hormonal and psychological components of human sexual behavior, can often become extremely addictive. Individuals who fall prey to this addiction may end up carrying it with them into adult married life, where it can become a serious obstacle to healthy marital intimacy. Further, masturbation is frequently involves indulging in sexual fantasy; and fantasy, if we are to believe the words of Jesus (Matthew 5:28), does represent a very serious breach of a person’s mental and spiritual purity.

What can be done to break this pattern? In many cases, masturbation originates as a self-soothing behavior. In other words, it’s a way of coping with pressures and seeking to meet the basic human need for peace, security, comfort and reassurance. If you have a problem with masturbation, you may want to keep this in mind and ask yourself whether it might be possible to replace this negative behavior with a more legitimate method of addressing the underlying need. For example, by talking things over with a friend, reading an engaging book, listening to music, pouring yourself into a constructive project or serving other people. Ultimately, the pain a person is trying to anesthetize through the practice of masturbation is just another manifestation of the “God-shaped vacuum” that exists at the center of every human heart. Only a relationship with the Lord can fill that empty space in a deep, lasting and satisfying way.

….

sin of masturbation

Yet, for all their preaching against the sin of Onanism, virtually all Evangelical teens, young men, and even married men, masturbate. I can’t speak to the level of masturbation among Evangelical women, but I suspect there is a lot more ringing of the devil’s doorbell going on than church leaders think there is.

Being raised in an anti-masturbation church environment caused quite a bit of problem for me as a teen and unmarried adult. Despite all the preaching against touching the opposite sex, when given the opportunity to make out with my girlfriend (or fiancée), I did so lustily. While I was a virgin when my wife and I married, I found myself rounding third and heading for home not only with Polly, but also with a girl named Anita. (The rest of my dating relationships were casual and of short duration.)

I was eighteen years old when I started dating Anita. She was twenty, a college student at a Conservative Baptist college in Phoenix, Arizona. Anita and I, for five short months, had a torrid relationship. She was much more experienced sexually than I was. On more nights than I can remember, we would park along a dark, rarely-travel back road and watch the night sky. Of course, we also did a lot of necking. Our intimacy stirred my sexual passions to such a degree that I would go home after dates and spend time praying to God for forgiveness, thanking him for not allowing us to give into our sexual desires. For me, not giving in included not masturbating. Anita and I later went our separate ways, but I’ll never forget the time we spent together.

Polly and I met as freshmen at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I was nineteen, she was seventeen. I planned on playing the field at college, but meeting Polly changed everything. I was quickly smitten by her beauty and quiet demeanor, and thus began our two-year battle with Midwestern’s Puritanical dating and physical contact rules. We refrained from breaking the rules for a time, that is until I went to visit Polly at her parent’s home in Newark, Ohio over Christmas break (1976). It was there, in Polly’s parent’s apartment complex laundry room, that we had our first kiss. Dating students were expected to keep the rules even during Christmas and summer break. No one, and I mean no one, did so.

Once back at Midwestern, Polly and I were faced with a dilemma. We wanted to continue touching and kissing each other; you know, as dating teens and young adults are wont to do. This meant we would have to secretly break the rules. We sought out couples to double-date with who were not averse to physical contact on dates. The vast majority of dating students — with but a handful of exceptions — broke the rules. Some students even slid into home and had sexual intercourse.

The Midwestern dorm was a den of raging hormones. With masturbation forbidden and touching the opposite sex grounds for expulsion, what were dating students to do? Why, they broke the rules with impunity, causing a repeating cycle of “sin,” guilt, repentance, and promises to God. I don’t know of anyone who successfully stopped breaking the rules once they started. IFB young adults were very much like their counterparts in the world — 1960s-1970s world. We, like our peers, wanted sexual intimacy without fear and guilt.

Masturbation, then, was common among male students in the Midwestern dorm. Each dorm room had two or three students, so “secretly” masturbating was out of the question (and there were enough dysfunctional Pharisees around that doing so would have been reported to the dean of men). With masturbating in their rooms out of the question, many male dorm residents used the privacy of the men’s showers to get sexual relief. More than one IFB luminary suggested quick, cold showers to ward off masturbatory temptations. Each dorm room had a periodic responsibility to clean the dorm bathrooms, including the showers. We used to joke about the sticky, slimy “stuff” in the showers. Yuck, I know, but have you ever been in a male dormitory shower room? You don’t want to go there!

IFB preachers and their Evangelical counterparts continue to preach against the sin of masturbation. Despite all their preaching, masturbation remains widely practiced. Why? Masturbation is a harmless, effective way to find sexual release. Wanting to obey God (and their preachers), Evangelical unmarrieds do their best to refrain from sexual intercourse before marriage. It’s cruel to say no sex before marriage and, at the same time, say masturbating is a sin.

how to stop masturbating

What really should happen, of course, is for Evangelical churches and colleges to begin endorsing safe, responsible sexual intimacy among unmarrieds. With the average age for young people marrying reaching twenty-seven, it is absurd to expect them to refrain from sex for ten to fifteen years before they tie the knot. Bruce, that’s FORN-I-CAT-ION, a horrible sin in the eyes of the thrice holy God.  Whatever “it” is or isn’t, preaching abstinence doesn’t work. Much like non-believing young adults, Evangelical unmarrieds, more often than not, have had sex before marriage. Instead of heaping guilt upon their heads, preachers, how about teaching young adults to embrace their, as you say, “God-given” sexuality? Maybe then, young adults might be less likely to flee the confines of Evangelical Christianity. I know, I know, the Bible says. Perhaps, it is time to rewrite or update the Good Book, striking from its pages all the sexually repressive rules and regulations. Imagine how much more attentive young adults might be on Sundays if they were able to have guilt-free sex the night before. And you too, Preacher Man. Think of how much easier your job will be if you don’t have to spend time railing against normal human sexual behavior — you know the behavior you engaged in back when you were a virile young man.

Were you raised in the IFB or Evangelical church? How did your church/college handle the subject of masturbation? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

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: The Miracles Performed by Jesus are Still Happening Today

dr david tee

The Biblical miracles that Jesus and his disciples did in the first century are repeated by true believers throughout history. Every century has had observable evidence proving the Bible true. The evolutionary experiments do not have that track record.

They are lucky to have 150+ years of experiments and they still have people who disagree with how the mechanisms of evolution operate. There is no such division with the observable evidence that has taken place in support of the Bible.

Every true Christian knows exactly how those miracles were done and they were witnessed by both unbelievers and believers. We are not talking about the fake faith healers. We are talking about the true miracle workers who do not make a show of it or use it to get rich.

They do it all the time and it is witnessed by whoever wants to see it. The Christian has observable evidence for the existence of God, Jesus, and creation. The question is will they believe it or not?

You see, it is not really about observable evidence but about the unbeliever hiding from the truth. There is more than enough observable evidence to show the Bible is true. It boils down to the fact that unbelievers do not want to humble themselves and be servants of God.

They like their lives as they are and do not want to change. That is the power of deception in their lives. Ex-Christians can whine and moan all they want about Christ not being real but they are just trying to convince themselves that they did not throw their lives away for nothing.

The Bible should be enough evidence for everyone as it fits the dictionary definition of the term ‘evidence’ it furnishes proof of creation, why we are here, and more. Then the true followers of Jesus furnish even more proof through their changed lives, their healing of others, and more.

— Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, TheologyArcheology, Observable Evidence, November 7, 2022

Dear Salesman, Don’t Assume Every Prospective Customer is a Christian

pay attention

Dear Salesman,

You came into our home today to sell us your company’s product. We received a flyer from your company last week, touting its new, low-priced rental program for your equipment. We’ve been wanting to buy or rent your product for some time, so the new rental program was all the motivation necessary for us to call your company and schedule a sales call. What follows in this letter is a mixture of advice and critique. I hope you will learn from what I have written.

You arrived promptly for the sales call — and that’s a good thing. Tardiness — especially without notification — is a sure way to get us to reject out of hand what you are selling. If my wife and I, who are just as busy as you are, set time aside for your sales pitch, we expect you to arrive on time. And if you can’t, we expect a telephone call or text message. Last week, I offered for sale two Amazon Fire TV Sticks on a local buy-and-sell forum. The first person to say he wanted them asked if I could wait until Friday for him to pick them up. I said, sure. Friday came and went without the man picking up the Sticks. So, I offered them to the next person who wanted them. She promptly came and picked up the Sticks. The next day, the man who stood us up sent me a Facebook message, asking if he could come and pick up the Sticks. I told him no; that I had offered them to someone else. The man became upset with me, suggesting that I was a terrible person. I took a few moments to educate him on the value of timeliness and keeping your commitments. All that did was aggravate him further. The man told me that he would never do business with me again. Little did he know that I don’t give people who don’t keep appointments a second chance; even those who use the lame excuse that their grandmother was in the hospital and no one had a cell phone. He and his siblings were Millennials, so there was no chance in hell that one of them didn’t have a cell phone. So as a salesman, you get one point for being on time. Unfortunately, as this letter will detail, our interaction with you cost you quite a few other points.

You parked on the street in front of our home, directly in front of the two-foot by six-foot sign for my business, Defiance County Photo. It’s hard to miss, with its blue frame, but somehow you missed it. That’s why you were surprised when you found out I was photographer, and that I, in particular, did local high school sports photography (you proceeded to then spend way too much time telling me of your own photo prowess, complete with dick pics — also known as your “awesome” sports photos). Years ago, I tried my hand at sales. My dad was a salesman for several decades. He was as smooth as silk when it came to selling people things they didn’t need; things such as Kirby vacuüm cleaners and Combined Insurance Company supplemental medical policies. Unfortunately, I was not like my dad, and I failed miserably at selling stuff. I even tried my hand at selling the product you tried to sell us today.

One lesson I did learn from my foray into sales is that it is very important to pay attention to your prospective customers’ homes. How do they live? What’s hanging on their walls? Years later, I would use this technique in my selling of Jesus to sinners. As someone who’s been in sales for years should know, it is important to make a connection with customers. The easiest way to do that is to talk about them, and not yourself. Unfortunately, you didn’t pay attention to your surroundings as you walked into our home, and as a result you made assumptions about us that were invalid. You are much like the Amway salesman that came to our home years ago thinking that by mentioning his Cadillac sitting in our driveway and showing us his Rolex watch and diamond ring, we would be so impressed that we would immediately want to become salesman for Con-way. Nothing in our home — a mobile home — told this man that we were people who placed a premium on material wealth. He missed all the cues that our home, dress, and demeanor told him. You did the same, by not paying attention to us, and by spending way too much time talking about yourself; building yourself into a larger-than-life master of industry. One thing I have learned over my sixty-six years of life is to spot a bull-shitter from a mile away. Soon as you started regaling us with your exploits, I knew we were talking to a first-class, Grade-A biped manure spreader.

Had you been paying attention, you never would have repeatedly referenced the Evangelical God in your conversation with us. You wouldn’t have told us that God has a plan for everyone’s life or that the Christian God is in control of everything. You also wouldn’t have mentioned how my wife’s employer — for whom she has worked twenty-seven years — has gone downhill since its Evangelical founder died; that the third generation now running the company is only concerned with profits and the bottom line. What was it about how we lived, dressed, or carried ourselves that said to you we are Christians? There’s nothing in our home that even remotely suggests that we are Christian; no Jesus Junk®, no Bibles lying around, no Evangelical books in our bookcase; nothing that suggests that we are Jesus-loving, church-going Christians. I suspect you wrongly assume that everyone in rural northwest Ohio believes in the Christian God, so you thought it safe to use God to warm us up and entice us to say yes. Little did you know we are atheists. I wonder how uncomfortable that fact might have made you feel had you known.

My wife and I are kind and generous to a fault. We said nothing as you blabbered on about your omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent mythical deity. After you left, my wife even complimented me — with a chuckle in her voice — for using the word darn instead of damn in one of my responses to you. You see, I pay attention to my surroundings. I don’t go out of my way to offend Christians. When my wife’s Evangelical parents come to our home to visit, we temper our language, change the TV channel to Hallmark, and play G-rated music. We don’t want to unnecessarily offend them; even though they find plenty to be offended over by our stocked liquor cabinet, their daughter’s worldly apparel, the atheist books on my bookshelves, our children’s lack of faith, and our lack of church attendance and prayer before meals (though we do allow Polly’s dad to say a prayer before meals). You might learn something from our behavior: that unless you know a prospective customer is a member of the Jesus Club®, perhaps it’s better to not assume. You came to our home to sell us your company’s product, not to sell Jesus. Had we known that Jesus was going to be part of the sales presentation, we certainly would not have invited you into our home.

There is much more that I could say about your interaction with us; stuff that should have resulted in us saying no thanks. But, thanks to me researching your company and its product, and thoroughly educating myself about what it does, we decided to buy your product anyway. While we were turned off by your sales presentation, including the part that treated us like aged imbeciles, we had decided beforehand that if the price in your company’s flyer was indeed correct, we were going to rent your product. So then, it was your lucky day, Mister Jesus Freak, that you ran into customers who could ignore your religious drivel, and instead base their decision on whether your product would meet their needs.

Next time you go into someone’s home to sell them your product, pay attention. Your next prospective customer might not be as thoughtful and deferring as we are. Perhaps it would just be better if you left religion out of your sales pitch altogether. There’s something dirty and shallow about trying to hook prospects with Jesus talk. While I suspect my wife and I are in the minority when it comes to not wanting to hear salesmen talk about their love life with Jesus, an increasing number of local residents are choosing to label themselves as NONES — people who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. These prospective customers want to hear about your product, not your God. Keep that in mind the next time you start telling a customer about the God who controls everything. You might find out that the only God who controls something is the customer who has the power to say yes or no to your sales pitch; and for customers who aren’t religious, they are more likely to say no to someone who uses religion in an attempt to reel them in.

Sincerely,

Bruce Gerencser

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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Are Factory Workers Mindless Drones Who Need “Smart People” to Tell Them What to Do?

sauder woodworking

I recently listened to a podcast that featured an interview with a scientist. The scientist extolled the virtue of education, especially science education. Everyone needs to think like a scientist, the thinking went. If not, they will end up working mindless jobs in factories. Such people don’t think for themselves. They want or need overlords to tell them what to do.

The scientist quickly caught himself, saying “not that working in a factory is bad.” In my mind, that was too little, too late. His statement revealed a bias that is common among “educated” people. Such people typically have no real-world experience with factory work. Had they any experience working the line at a factory, they never would have made such an asinine statement.

Instead of demeaning factory workers, how about valuing the work they do? Without them, our country would come to a standstill. If everyone was a scientist doing “cool” stuff, we would all die and our world would become uninhabitable. Look around your home, car, and businesses you frequent. Imagine what things would look like without factory workers (or other workers lacking college educations).

Polly, along with our oldest and youngest sons, works for a large local manufacturing concern. Both Polly and Jason have worked for the company for over twenty-five years. Jason started in groundskeeping and is now a mid-level manager. Polly is a shift manager for auxiliary services. Both are paid well and have good benefits. None of them works “mindless” jobs. Can factory work be monotonous? Sure, but don’t think for a moment that manufacturing jobs require employees to check their brains at the door. If factory work isn’t your cup of tea, fine. But, don’t demean people who play an essential part in the building and progress of our country.

One interesting side note is the fact that way too many people follow the scientist’s advice. They go to college, graduate with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and enter the workforce, thinking they will easily find a job in their chosen profession. And when they don’t, what do they do? They end up working the very jobs the aforementioned scientist disparaged. Scores of people with associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees work factory jobs. Why? They quickly find out that they can make more money working in a factory than they can working in their chosen professions. This is especially true for people with social science or education degrees. Polly went back to college, thinking she might want to work in a different field. She quickly learned that the jobs that would be available to her upon graduation would pay $6-$8 less an hour than what she was making in the factory at the time.

I see this same kind of thinking when society belittles rural people. We are just a bunch of low-life, uneducated hillbillies. Yet without us — and I gladly own my tribe — those deprecating us would starve. By all means, city folks, grow your own crops, raise your own livestock. 🙂 Let me know how that works out for you. You need us even if you don’t like us.

When you feel that people look down on you and view you as less than, what do you do? You look for people and groups that accept and respect you (even if they do so for political reasons as Trump and the Republicans are doing). Yes, rural people tend to vote against their own interests. What is never asked is WHY? Why has the Democratic Party lost rural America? Perhaps one of the reasons is that rural folks have been listening to what Democratic leaders say about them. “Oh they want our votes, but they think we are stupid hicks, deplorables, or dangerous gun owners.” None of us like to be talked down to, to be demeaned for who and what we are. We have now reached a point where rural people are outraged over how the government in general mistreats them. Sure, some of their outrage is misinformed, but much of it is not. Until Democrats shut the hell up and LISTEN, they will continue to suffer election losses.

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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I KNOW What Jesus has Done for Me

struggling with faith
Cartoon by David Hayward

Subjectivity: The quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. An explanation for that which influences, informs, and biases people’s judgments about truth or reality; it is the collection of the perceptions, experiences, expectations, personal or cultural understanding, and beliefs specific to a person.

Objectivity: The state or quality of being true even outside a subject’s individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. A proposition is generally considered objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met without biases caused by feelings, ideas, opinions, etc., of a sentient subject. A second, broader meaning of the term refers to the ability in any context to judge fairly, without partiality or external influence.

Faith, by design, is inherently subjective. Even the writer of the book of Hebrews understood this, as evidenced by the words found in chapter eleven and verses one and three:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 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.

Hebrews 11 details the faith of Biblical luminaries such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David, the prophets, and even the wandering children of Israel. Believing these people had great faith requires even more faith because none of them exist outside of the pages of the Christian Bible. Hebrews 11 goes on to detail what these people of faith supposedly faced as earthly voices of the one true God:

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

I say “supposedly” because there’s no evidence outside of the Bible for these things actually happening. Believing them to be true requires faith. And that’s the essence of faith: believing without evidence. Now intellectuals among the faithful love to argue that their faith is reasonable, but I find their arguments unpersuasive. Is it reasonable to believe a man who was cruelly executed on a Roman cross resurrected himself from the dead three days later? Is it reasonable to believe that this same man was born of a virgin, turned water into wine, walked on water, walked through walls, teleported out of the midst of a crowd, healed blindness with spit and dirt, and fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and even fewer fish? Of course not. Believing these things to be true requires faith, a faith that rejects what we know objectively to be true. We know that virgins don’t have babies, water can’t be turned into wine (though my wife wishes this were true), people can’t walk on water or walk through walls, blindness can’t be healed through spit and dirt, and it’s impossible to feed five thousand men, and an unspecified number of women and children with five loaves of Wonder Bread and two perch filets. (Now, Jesus teleporting out of a crowd without being seen; that’s possible. SYFY channel, people. It’s all real.)

Imagine me telling you that, over a twenty- or so-year period, I was beaten almost to death five times by Buddhists, beaten with wood rods by jihadists, stoned by ISIS, and spent thirty-six hours treading water in the Pacific. Not only that, the Chinese attempted to arrest me in Hong Kong, but I escaped by climbing over a wall. Would you believe my story? Of course not. A reasonable person would ask for some sort of corroborating evidence. Live long enough and you learn that when a story sounds too good/bad to be true, it is likely a lie.

Yet, when a similar tale is told by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11, countless Christians believe it to be true:

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. … In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

The Apostle Paul knew that readers would doubt his story, so he offered up proof for its truthfulness. Are you ready for some mind-blowing truth? Here it is: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

God knows I am not lying.  Paul’s Sunday night testimony is absurd, and most reasonable people would reject it as the rantings of a man who has spent too much time in the third heaven. You know you are in trouble when you have to call a mythical God as your witness. Yet, is this not what countless Evangelicals do when they argue that they know God/Jesus/Christianity is true because of what they have experienced in their lives? God did it, they say. Just ask him! Pray tell, how is this any different from Elwood P. Dowd’s six-foot three-and-half-inch tall pooka friend, Harvey the rabbit?

Dowd believed Harvey was real, taking him to the bar for drinks and even introducing him to his friends. Dowd even believed that Harvey had the power to stop time:

Did I tell you he could stop clocks? Well, you’ve heard the expression ‘His face would stop a clock’? Well, Harvey can look at your clock and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like, with anyone you like, and stay as long as you like. And when you get back, not one minute will have ticked by. You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space, but any objections.

What an awesome, science/reason-defying rabbit, right? Maybe we should start a religion.

Harvey existed only in Dowd’s mind. He believed Harvey was real, so that means Harvey existed — even though no one actually saw him. Dowd rightly ended up in an insane asylum, yet when Evangelicals make similar claims about their God and religion, they are considered fine, upstanding citizens, every bit as rational as hardcore skeptics and rationalists.

The world has a collective cognitive dissonance when it comes to deities and religion. Instead of objectively examining and testing religious claims, billions of people accept them at face value. By faith, they just believe these things to be true. The United States is one of the most religious countries on Earth. While the U.S. is religiously diverse, Christianity is the primary belief system of most Americans. Approximately one out of four Americans claim he or she is Evangelical. Ponder that for a moment — one out of four. In some places, such as where I live in rural northwest Ohio, the percentage of Evangelicals is even higher yet. This is why a century of scientific knowledge has done little to change the minds of Americans about evolution. Three-fourths of Americans either believe God created the universe pretty much as it is described in Genesis 1-3 (creationism), or God used evolution to bring our biological world to life (theistic evolution). For hundreds of millions of Americans, when it comes to understanding the world they live in, they are content to say, God did it!

Several years ago, I had a brief discussion with an Evangelical man who wanted to know how and why I no longer believe in God. This man wanted me to know that his relationship and experiences with Jesus were real. Here’s some of what he wrote (all spelling and grammar in the original):

I am not being critical. I am talking from a heart of simple faith in my life. I became a Christian in 1979 as a young boy running away from home. I had never been to church, my parents had never been to church. I sat in class during a bible lesson and had the most incredible encounter, which at that stage I had no clue what it was. Today, I know it had to have been the Holy Spirit. I went home that day, sat on my bed, Gave my life to Christ and have never looked back.

Since then I have had the most incredible experience of Christ’s love, forgiveness, prophecies and jobs through prophecy and leading in Christ. I have seen live [sic] transformed in him.

I am now 55, serving in a Christian school and seeing lives touched. Kids from broken homes, destitute families, youngster in very difficult situations being healed. This is not a hyped experience. Our school has seen raped young girls have coming to incredible healing under Christ, girls wanting to abort their babies, deciding not to and producing awesome children and loving them, boys abused and abusers who have turned their lives around because of the love they have found in Christ and testimonies of students from our school who are making a difference in their work place because of their faith. We do not have extensive bible programs, bible lessons, etc…but simple faith in Christ.

….

For whatever has happened in your life, I know what I have received in Christ. Maybe for me it has to do with the fact that I truly met Christ, not in a Church, that I have a personal experience of His touch.

I politely responded to the man, and a short time later he sent me this:

Thanks for the honest reply. I have read some of the articles already [I sent him links to several posts, along with a link to the WHY page] . Every single article I have already read still does not disprove or prove the existence of God to me. The only proof of God to me is what I have experienced in Him.

The bible of course makes no sense in many areas! That’s what makes it so tangible for me. Only an idiot would write such rubbish trying to lead someone to believe in him regarding faith, what’s in the bible, the “stories” etc…… , unless that idiot happened to be God who knows infinitely more than I could ever understand. I cannot presume to know God’s thoughts behind what was written in the sometimes seemingly ridiculous writing’s. That’s okay for me.

Once again all I can answer to is my own experience. I have experienced Him personally.

If I am wrong in my belief then I have lived an incredible life of serving others, in my opinion, to a better life where they can live in peace (referring back to the lives I have seen transform from despair to hope). If I am right in my belief in God’s word and plan then I spend eternity with him. What you call life “anecdotes” based on scientific principles I call awesome God events. It is a matter of choice. One of us is going to be wrong at the end of the day. I think I would rather be in my shoes. That however is a matter of personal opinion.

This Evangelical man knows that what he believes is true through emotional, subjective experiences. Essentially, he is saying, I know I am right because I know I am right, no proof needed. I assume he believes that there is only one true God — the Evangelical Christian God — and that all other Gods are false. But people of other faiths have similar experiences. Shouldn’t their beliefs be accepted at face value? If this man expects me to accept his claims without evidence, shouldn’t he do the same for people who worship deities other than his?

I appreciate this man being honest about the Bible:

The bible of course makes no sense in many areas! That’s what makes it so tangible for me. Only an idiot would write such rubbish trying to lead someone to believe in him regarding faith, what’s in the bible, the “stories” etc…… , unless that idiot happened to be God who knows infinitely more than I could ever understand. I cannot presume to know God’s thoughts behind what was written in the sometimes seemingly ridiculous writing’s.

you might be wrong

Only an idiot would write such rubbish, he said. Now, that’s an objective statement if there ever was one. Believing the fantastical claims in the Bible requires the suspension of rationality and critical thinking skills. The only way to believe the Bible is true is to faith-it. Remember what I said earlier? That when a story sounds too good/bad to be true, it is likely a lie. The Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is the greatest lie ever told. At best, it is a historical novel; a work of fiction interspersed with enough historical facts to give it a sense of believability. Until Evangelicals understand this, there is little that can be done to reach them. No matter what I told the aforementioned man, he was going to continue to believe; he’s going to continue to believe that he has had and continues to have a supernatural encounter with a supernatural God (much like being probed by aliens while you sleep); he’s going to continue to believe that God speaks to him; he’s going to continue to believe that his life’s story was written by God from time immemorial; he’s going to continue to believe that the Bible is a supernatural inerrant text written by a supernatural God, and given to fallible humans so they can know how to live their lives (without any updates or corrections for two thousand years).

But, Bruce, you were once an Evangelical. My God, man, you were even a pastor for twenty-five years! You changed your mind and now you are an atheist. See, people can and do change! Sure, I changed my beliefs concerning God, Jesus, Christianity, and religion in general. Many of the thousands of people who read this blog have done the same. But, change is hard, and the first step towards change is admitting that you possibly could be wrong. It wasn’t until I considered that maybe, just maybe Rev. Bruce Gerencser was wrong, that my mind was ready to know the truth (not in an absolute sense, but the truth about Christianity in particular). Once my mind was open to the possibility of errancy, both on God’s part and mine, I was then able to begin the journey I am still on to this day.

For a time, faith kept me from openly and honestly considering my fallibility. What if you are wrong? my inner Bruce said. Most ex-believers went through times when their lives were like a game of Pong. Conditioned by church/pastor-induced fear, it’s hard for Evangelicals to even ponder not being who and what they are. After all, thoughts of eternal torture in a pit of brimstone and fire will do that to you. I frequently receive emails from people who recently deconverted, yet are having what I call a God hangover. They objectively know that they are right about God and Christianity, but a lifetime of religious indoctrination and conditioning causes them to fear. This fear is palatable and can cause great emotional unrest. Evangelicals, of course, say that such feelings are God trying to woo us back to himself. The Holy Spirit is saying, don’t doubt. I am real. God is real. Jesus is real. Everything the Bible says is true! Of course, these thoughts and feelings are not God at all. They are vestiges of a former life, and over time they will go away, never to be remembered again. Once our minds are open to objective, rational thought, there is no going back. The proverbial horse has left the barn, never to return.

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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Bruce, Why Are You an Atheist if You Think Jesus was a Real Person?

middle eastern jesus

Recently, a reader left the following comment on the page titled Why I Hate Jesus:

Just wondering if you believe in the Jesus that walked the streets and died on the cross, why are you an atheist?

I think Jesus was a real flesh and blood human being born in Palestine two thousand or so years ago. It is likely that Jesus was either a Jewish rabbi or teacher and attracted a small following in his thirty-three years of life. Running afoul of Roman law and teaching things contrary to the Jewish teachers of the day, Jesus was arrested, tried, and executed. His body today lies buried somewhere in an unknown grave. (I have less than zero interest in debating with mythicists over the existence of Jesus.)

I reject all the supernatural claims made for Jesus: his divinity; his virgin birth; his resurrection from the dead; his ascension to Heaven; the miracles attributed to him in the Bible.

As an atheist, I think Jesus was real because of the historical evidence for his existence. I reject Jesus’ divinity because of a lack of evidence for any of the supernatural works attributed to him. I suspect many atheists believe as I do.

One of the challenges all of us have when studying the lives of historical figures is distinguishing between fact and fiction. This is especially difficult when we are talking about people who lived thousands of years ago. It is much easier to study the lives of modern historical figures thanks to the printing press and the Internet. I have written extensively about my life on this blog. I still have things I haven’t written about or “secrets” that shall never see the light of day if I have anything to say about it. (And don’t read too much into that statement. I don’t have a secret love child, nor do I have a gay lover, and I have not been arrested for a crime. Now let your imaginations run wild.) 🙂 I suspect after I am dead, it would be fairly easy for an author to write a biography of my life. There’s plenty of source material that would be readily available to the author. That is not the case for most ancient historical figures, including Jesus.

Yes, I “believe” in Jesus, much like I “believe” in my mother who lies buried in Fountain Grove Cemetery in Bryan, Ohio. Both of them lived and died. Both of them left a legacy behind, but neither of them will be showing up for dinner on Thanksgiving.

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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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.

Letter to the Editor: Lifewise Academy, An Evangelical Trojan Horse

letter to the editor

Letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News

Dear Editor,

Evangelicals have now set their sights on taking over and transforming public schools. Not content to homeschool their children or send them to private Christian schools, Evangelicals are increasingly clamoring for school boards to acquiesce to their theocratic demands. Sadly, school boards seem all too willing to bulldoze the wall between church and state, reintroducing sectarian Christianity into our schools.

Take Lifewise Academy. Lifewise, an Ohio-based Evangelical ministry, is a Trojan horse that has been rolled through the front doors of numerous local schools with no pushback from school administrators or the media. Exploiting a quirk in Federal law, Lifewise purports to teach ethics and morality. Who wouldn’t want schoolchildren to learn morals and ethics, right? What is not told to parents is that their children will be taught these things from an Evangelical perspective; and that the goal is to evangelize non-Evangelical children.

Children will be taught that they are “sinners,” inherently broken and in need of fixing. Of course, the “fix” for their brokenness is salvation through Jesus Christ. Children will be taught that they are not inherently good; that their good works will never merit them favor with God. Lifewise makes it clear in its materials that personal transformation through the salvific work of Jesus Christ is the goal for every child. Do local parents really want their children to be targets for proselytization? Lifewise’s program literature states “Our continual appeal to students will be to believe the gospel, repent from sin, trust in Christ, and get connected with a local church.” Is this what you want for your children? If so, take them to church. If not, I implore you to not let your children attend Lifewise’s classes. Their “training” is not benign. As someone who has been investigating and writing about Evangelicalism for decades, I can testify to the incalculable harm caused by such indoctrination.

Further, children will be taught that the mythical stories found in the Protestant Bible are real; that the universe was created by the Christian God; that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and all of this happened a few thousand years ago. These teachings, of course, directly contradict what students are being taught in their science and history classes.

Lifewise’s objective is indoctrination, not truth. The goal is to make new soldiers for Jesus, not well-rounded, well-educated citizens of a diverse, pluralistic society.

Sincerely,

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

For readers who want to investigate Lifewise Academy further, please check out their sample curriculum here. Local Lifewise statements obfuscate what is clearly revealed in their curriculum. The goal is “saving” unsaved children.

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