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Tag: Bart Ehrman

Dear Christians, if the Holy Spirit is Your Teacher and Guide . . .

indwelling of the holy spirit

Evangelicals believe that the moment a sinner is saved, God, in the person of the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost, comes into the born-again sinner’s life and lives — somewhere, no one can say for sure where — inside of that person. This is commonly called the “indwelling of the Spirit of God.” Every true Christian® is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19 states that the bodies of Christians belong to God; that these bodies are the temple, the residence, of the Holy Ghost.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

In Romans 8:7-10,13,14,16, the Apostle Paul says that Christians have the Spirit of God dwelling inside of them.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Those who do not have the Spirit’s indwelling are not Christian. How can someone know he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit? While Evangelicals tend to focus on right beliefs as evidence of salvation, Paul says that behavior is evidence of whether someone is led by the Spirit. Those who are in the flesh (unbelievers) cannot please God, but, according to Paul, Christians are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” Paul speaks of death for those who live according to the flesh. True Christians® are to mortify (put to the death) the flesh. This mortification of the body brings life, both in the present and the afterlife.

Reflecting the Gnosticism found throughout the Bible, Paul tells the Church at Corinth that the things of God cannot be known apart from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost:

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:10-14)

The natural man (non-Christian) cannot understand the things of God. Supposedly, only Christians can understand and correctly interpret the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. The Bible is the only book ever written that cannot be understood just by reading it. Unbelievers, according to Evangelicals, have sin-darkened hearts and are in bondage to the ruler of this earth, the prince and power of the air, Satan. According to the Bible, non-Christians are deaf and blind to Biblical truth. No unbeliever can understand the Bible without first being saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

New Testament scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman tackles unbelievers not understanding the Bible in a post titled Does a Person Need the Holy Spirit to Interpret the Bible?

I’ve never found it at all convincing that a person needs the Holy Spirit in order to interpret the Bible. As an agnostic, of course, I don’t believe in the Holy Spirit (since I don’t believe in God). But even when I did believe in the Holy Spirit, I thought that it was silly to claim that a person could not interpret the Bible correctly without the Spirit – for a couple of reasons that have always struck me as virtually irrefutable.

The first is this: if it’s true that the Holy Spirit is the one who provides the correct interpretation of Scripture, then why is it that so many people who claim to have the Holy Spirit cannot agree on what the Bible means? This is simply an empirical fact that is not open to dispute. Different Christian interpreters of the Bible, all of them claiming to be guided by the Holy Spirit based on humble prayer, come away with diametrically opposed interpretations of major important passages, of minor less important passages, and of major biblical themes and doctrines – just about everything.

I saw this vividly when I was myself a fundamentalist Christian: clear and hard-core different interpretations of major issues, by devout and spiritual Christians, based on how the New Testament was being read. As a poignant example: I had come out of a charismatic background where we believed that “speaking in tongues” was the clearest manifestation of God’s spirit, based on our reading of Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. At Moody Bible Institute, on the other hand, we were taught that charismatic activity, and especially the speaking in tongues, was a demonic activity and that the charismatic group from which I had come was misinterpreting these passages. Well, which is it? Both groups claimed to be representing the views of the Holy Spirit that had guided their reading of Scripture.

I could point to passage after passage after passage where well-meaning and clear headed Christians who claim to be given their understanding by the Spirit provide two, three, or four contradictory interpretations of the passage. So what is the evidence that the Spirit assists in interpretation?

The second reason I’ve never bought this is that as a complete agnostic who does not believe in the Holy Spirit, I have studied passages and come to the very same conclusions as those who claim the Spirit has told them what the passages mean. If I “need” the Holy Spirit to interpret these passages, why have I interpreted them in the same way that people who have the Holy Spirit has interpreted them? Seems like I’ve done all right without the Spirit.

And there’s a reason for that. Whatever you think about God, the Holy Spirit, or the Bible – the Bible is written in human languages following human rules of spelling and grammar and coming out of completely human situations lived in by human authors. To interpret the Bible you need to be a human, one who can read words and understand sentences. Even if the Bible is inspired, it is inspired in human words and is, therefore, susceptible of human understanding. My view is that the Spirit does not contribute to the process.

Ehrman is quite right when he says that Christian confusion over exactly what the Bible says belies the notion that the Holy Spirit lives inside Evangelicals, acting as some sort of divine GPS or search engine. According to many Evangelicals, all they need to do is say, Lord lead me/show me the way, and BOOM! their lives follow the exact course mapped out by the Holy Spirit. The same goes for understanding the Bible. Evangelicals metaphorically type their questions into God’s Google app, and BOOM! the Holy Ghost leads them to the exact book/chapter/verse answer. Awesome, right? No need to think. Just “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” with God promising “every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7,8)

If the Holy Spirit lives inside EVERY believer, why can’t Christians even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, communion, and whether masturbation is a sin. There are thousands of Christian sects, each guided by the Holy Spirit, each believing that their Jesus is the way, truth, and life and their little merry band of believers is the holder of the faith once delivered to the saints. Christianity might — I say might — be taken more seriously by non-Christians if sects/churches/pastors all spoke with one voice. But, they don’t. Instead, Christianity is rife with internecine warfare, with sects and churches competing with each other over money — err — I mean souls. Jesus said that the world would know that people were his followers by their love for one another. Hey Christians . . . how’s that loving one another thing working out?

Supposedly, being indwelt by the Holy Ghost gives Christians the requisite power necessary to live above sin (transgression of the law of God) and the world. I say supposedly, because from my seat in the atheist pew, I don’t see any difference between Christians and non-Christians. Am I missing something here, Christians? If all the above is true, if God the Holy Spirit, really does live inside of you and is your teacher and guide, why is it that Christians don’t live any differently from unbelievers? If, as John says, in 1 John 2:3,4,15, 29, 3:6:

….we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him….ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him….whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

Can anyone really say that he or she is a Christian? 1 John 3:8 states that anyone who sins is of the devil! Can someone be a Christian AND a child of the devil? At this point, Evangelical readers likely will say, Bruce, Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Christians are works in progress.  Wait a minute, what about all the verses mentioned above? What about what 1 John 3:10 says, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” John says the difference between God’s children and Satan’s children is behavior. The writer of the book of Matthew says in chapter 25 that on judgment day it will be what people did and did not do that will determine where they spend eternity.

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I am sure that I will hear from Evangelicals who will castigate me for “wrongly” interpreting the Bible. After all, I don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside of me, so how can I possibly tell others what the Bible says and means? Well, I just did. So much for needing the Holy Ghost to know what the Bible says. The aforementioned verses aren’t ambiguous, so what conclusions should unbelievers come to when observing how Evangelicals live their day-to-day lives? At best, we can conclude that Christians are, in every way, just like unbelievers; that if the Holy Spirit lives inside of believers, he is fast asleep or on vacation; that Christianity has no moral or ethical authority, given that Christians themselves can’t practice what they preach.

If you are an Evangelical, think about the notion that God lives inside of you; that the Bible is some sort of Gnostic book that can’t be understood by six-sevenths of the human race; that only the saved understand what the Bible teaches. Do you REALLY believe these things? Do you really believe that the moment I left Christianity that I lost the ability to understand the teachings of the Bible; that decades of reading and study disappeared from my memory, never to be remembered again? In what other realm do we see this kind of thinking?

Sadly, Evangelicals, unlike liberal and progressive Christians, stubbornly hold on to their literalistic interpretations of the Bible — interpretations that force them to endorse, support, and defend silly beliefs, no matter how stupid and ignorant it makes them look. There is little that any of us can do to reach people who think they know the punch line for the biggest joke in history. While mere worldlings feast on the plethora of literature available today, Evangelicals scour the pages of a book deemed inexhaustible, hoping to find Bronze age wisdom for twenty-first-century living.

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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Non-Christians Can’t Understand the Bible but They Should Read It Anyway

natural man doesnt understand the things of god

Evangelical number one says to an unbeliever, you need to read the Bible. Within its pages you will find the good news of the gospel. Through this message, you will find the forgiveness of sins and life eternal — that is, if God decrees it to be so and you haven’t committed the unpardonable sin.

Evangelical number two says to an unbeliever, the natural (non-Christian) people cannot understand the things of God (the Bible) because they are spiritually discerned. Since non-Christians are dead in trespasses and sins and the Holy Spirit does not live inside them, they cannot understand the Bible. Unless God gives non-Christians ears to hear and eyes to see, they are unable to discern and comprehend the only supernatural book ever written, the Protestant Christian Bible.

Confused? How about I let Leslie, a Fundamentalist Christian blogger, explain this to all of us unregenerate, unsaved enemies of God:

Have you ever tried to talk to someone about the Gospel, just to have them declare that the Bible is simply another book? Where do you go with this?
….
But the question (and answer) that impacted me most was this one: What do you do when an unbeliever says the Bible is just like any other book and full of errors and contradictions?

This does seem to be a very relevant question in this day and age, does it not? The authority of scripture has been so undermined that few people believe the Bible to be the very Word of God anymore.

Dr. John) MacArthur gave a two-part answer to this question that I found incredibly encouraging. I am conveying his general thoughts (not his word for word answer) and then sharing some of my thoughts about what he said.

First, we need to stop expecting them to believe the Bible is the Word of God. Of course, they don’t. And Scripture tells us that they can’t until God unveils their eyes and shines His light on their hearts.

You may be thinking– Wait! You mean it’s not up to us to shine the light on to their hearts?

We can present it. We can share it. We can try to persuade them. But only God can give the light of His knowledge to a searching heart.
….
Unbelievers can’t understand until God opens their eyes. It’s impossible.

Secondly, if someone is challenging us about the Bible, he suggested that we ask them one simple question: Have you read the Bible?

If they say no, then suggest to them that this is a very strong statement to make about a book they’ve never read. If they decide to do their own study at that point, then let the Bible speak for itself.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

Hebrews 4:12  confirms this: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Bible will speak for itself to the unregenerate, seeking heart. God may use us to help someone to find salvation but He doesn’t need us.

According to Leslie, non-Christians cannot understand the Bible. No matter how much they read the Good Book, unless God gives them understanding, its meaning will remain beyond their ability to comprehend and understand. Yet, Leslie gives a completely different answer (to be fair, she is parroting Fundamentalist John MacArthur) when saying how Christians should handle non-Christians who say the Bible is filled with contradictions. Have you read the Bible? she suggests saying to atheists and unbelievers. Leslie assumes most non-Christians haven’t read the Bible, not knowing that many unbelievers know the Bible quite well and have likely read and studied it more than most Evangelicals. That doesn’t matter of course. Why? Remember, non-Christians have no capacity to understand the Bible. But wait, didn’t Leslie say they should read it? Now you are catching on . . . around and around the mulberry bush we go.

What Leslie, John MacArthur, and a cast of millions believe is that to understand the Bible non-Christians need some sort of Gnostic superpower. Without this supernatural ability to see and understand what the words of the Bible mean, it becomes just another book gathering dust on the bookshelf. So what about people such as myself, Robert M. Price, Dan Barker, John Loftus, and Bart Ehrman? All of us spent years reading and studying the Bible, allowing God to teach us the “real” meanings of its words. Yet, now that we no longer believe, does this mean that POOF! — all our knowledge has disappeared? I wonder if Evangelicals understand how ludicrous and silly it sounds when they suggest that non-Christians can’t understand the Bible. The Bible — truth be told — is not that complicated. Having read it from cover to cover numerous times, I know what it says. After studying it for thousands of hours and preaching over 4,000 sermons, I think I can safely say I know the Bible (from an Evangelical perspective). I think I am more than ready to test out of this class and move on to hard books such as George R.R. Martin’s Games of Thrones.

Leslie quotes Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Based on this verse, Leslie concludes that the Bible has some sort of magic power, a living book that is able to divine human thought and intent. I wonder, is this just for Christians? I just went to the bookshelf and retrieved my trusty Cambridge, leather-bound King James Version of the Holy Bible. After removing several inches of dust, I held my Bible on the side of my head and waited for it speak. Tell me, oh Bible, what am I thinking? What are my intentions? I waited and waited, yet nothing happened. Hmm . . . I wonder, am I doing it wrong? Then it dawned on me . . . Leslie is misinterpreting the Bible. Up from the recesses of my sin-addled mind came the memory of how this verse is often misinterpreted by Evangelical parishioners and pastors alike.

Hebrews 4:13 says (remember context, context, context):

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

You see, the word of God is a HE, a HE that sees all things. This word of God is not the Bible, it is likely JESUS (see John 1). It is Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. The Bible? It is a book that is no different from any other book. Written by numerous men — many of them unknown — over hundreds of years, the Bible is a compilation of religious, historical, and poetic writings. It is not, in any way, some sort of magical book that contains messages that can only be unlocked by those who have the special Evangelical decoder ring. Containing sixty-six books, the Bible is littered with contradictions and internal inconsistencies. All the Evangelical parlor tricks in the world can’t harmonize its words. Numerous Gods, numerous salvation plans, and numerous contradictory interpretations await those who dare to read its pages. Evangelicals such as Leslie will deny what I have written, oblivious to the true nature of the Biblical text. Filled with faith, God’s chosen ones thumb their noses at academics who dare suggest that the Bible is not what Evangelicals claim it is. In the aforementioned quote, Leslie told her readers to ask those who say the Bible has contradictions if they have ever read it. Yes, Leslie, we have. Perhaps the real question is whether Leslie has read any books by authors such as Bart Ehrman, Robert M. Price, or John Loftus, or a host of other non-believing scholars. These men were all, at one time, Evangelicals. Now they are atheists. I wonder if Leslie has studied the history of Christianity or how the Bible came to be? My money is on Leslie — if she has done any study at all — not having read any books by authors outside of the narrow Fundamentalist constraints of the Evangelical box.

Often, when Evangelicals say they have studied these issues, what they really mean is that they have read apologetic books written by Evangelical authors. Warned of the dangers that await those who read authors such as Bart Ehrman, Evangelicals only read books that are on the Approved Evangelical Authors list. And here’s what many non-Christians don’t know. Most Evangelicals NEVER read theologically oriented books. In fact, most of them rarely read the Bible. How then do Evangelicals come to know what they believe? Simple. Every Sunday at 11:00 AM they report to Bible Knowledge Class 101, also known as Sunday Morning worship. While Evangelicals are encouraged to bring their Bibles to church so they can follow along as their pastors teach them the Bible, once the service is over, these Bibles will be returned to storage, only to retrieved the following Sunday. When Evangelicals are asked about what THEY believe, most often what they reply with is what their pastor believes. He is the arbiter and purveyor of what is true. And like lambs to the slaughter, church members follow along. Yet, according to Leslie, these illiterate Evangelicals know more about the Bible than Evangelicals-turned-atheists who spent a lifetime parsing the Greek and divining every word of its text. Only in the Christian church does this kind of thinking exist. Imagine someone saying that only a person who lived at Hogwarts could “really” understand the Harry Potter books. Why non-Hogwarts-living Potterite readers would laugh at such a thought. As with all literature, anyone willing to read and study the Bible can understand its teachings.

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.

Answering “Dr.” David Tee’s Assertions About Atheists and LGBTQ People

dr david tee

Since my last post about “Dr. David Tee (David Thiessen, Theology Archeology, TEWSNBN), “Dr.” David Tee Continues to Obsess Over My Writing, the defender of Fundamentalist Christianity from a dank, poorly lit basement somewhere in the Phillipines has written six more posts that are either about me directly or mention me in passing.

Typically, I ignore Tee’s stalker-like obsession with me, but his next-to-last post about me (and atheists in general), Are Evangelicals Responsible for the Culture Wars? demands some sort of response from me. My response is indented and italicized. All spelling and grammar in the original.

The answer according to BG [ Tee is too lazy to type out my name] and other atheists seems to be a resounding ‘yes’.  Just read his words as BG speaks for himself and other atheists:

“It seems that Donald can’t or won’t understand why atheists might want to challenge Evangelical beliefs, especially since those beliefs directly affect and harm unbelievers.”

This concept is held by atheists world wide. Instead of taking the blame for their own actions, it is easier and more convenient to blame someone else. The easiest target is the Evangelical or the RCC or some other protestant religion that goes against atheist ideals.

The history of the modern culture war is clear. One need only look at the history of the Moral Majority and other Evangelical groups who followed in their steps to see the people and beliefs behind the current iteration of the “culture war.” The same can be said of conservatives within Roman Catholicism and Mormonism. (Many other culture wars have been fought throughout America’s history — prohibition comes to mind, as does the pro-slavery movement. I am specifically talking about the post-Roe vs. Wade culture war.)

What behaviors, exactly, do atheists refuse to take responsibility for? Besides, there’s no such thing as “atheism” or the “religion of atheism.” Wikipedia defines atheism this way:

“Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.”

Atheists are individuals. There’s no sect or church atheists belong to. Each atheist simply denies the existence of deities. That’s it.

There’s also no such thing as “atheist ideals.” Aside from their common belief about the non-existence of deities, atheists have all sorts of political and social beliefs. Sure, many atheists are humanists, holding liberal/progressive ideas. Others, however, are card-carrying conservatives, many of whom voted for Donald Trump.

It should go without saying that I do NOT represent all atheists. The only person I represent is Bruce Gerencser. Do many of the readers of this blog generally agree with me? Sure. But, more than a few of my atheist readers wish I wouldn’t write about politics. To suggest that I am representative of a typical atheist is not only untrue, but dishonest.

BG repeats himself and makes his accusation even clearer: “Evangelicals are the primary force behind the culture war.”

Then he goes on to list the ‘crimes’ [I do not use the word “crimes” in my post.] being committed by Evangelicals that not only supposedly started this culture war but fuels [sic] it. Those are strong words to hurl against a group of people who look to help everyone in the nation in which they live.

Evidently, Tee is responding to what I said in my second response to Donald, Yet Another Evangelical Asks Me Why I Am So Bitter — Part Two:

“I spent significant time in my first response to Donald explaining to him why I do what I do. It seems that Donald can’t or won’t understand why atheists might want to challenge Evangelical beliefs, especially since those beliefs directly affect and harm unbelievers. My God, we need only to look at the January 6 insurrection or the election of Donald Trump to see how Evangelicals harm others. Evangelicals are the primary force behind the culture war. These warriors for Jesus want to criminalize abortion, outlaw same-sex marriage, marginalize LGBTQ people, and establish a Christian theocracy where the Bible is the law of the land. These things materially cause harm, so it would be irresponsible for me not to speak out on these (and other) issues. I suspect Donald wants the freedom to do the same. Again, I ask why does Donald want privileges for Evangelicals that he is unwilling to grant to atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and other unbelievers?”

Tee asserts that Evangelicals “look to help everyone in the nation in which they live.” Really? I mean, REALLY? Everywhere I look, I see Evangelicals who want to cause harm to others: women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, atheists, and Muslims to name a few. What religious sect is behind the current war against masks and vaccinations? What religious sect was front and center during the January 6, 2021 insurrection? What religious sect is threatening violence toward people who refuse to bow to their theocratic demands? What religious sect has forsaken following after Jesus for fascism? (I am, of course, speaking generally. I am well aware of the fact that there are Evangelicals who take seriously the teachings of Christ and love their neighbors as themselves. They are, however, the exception to the rule.)

Evangelicals are an existential threat to our Republic. Left to their own devices, blood will be shed, people will die, and the Christian flag will stand proud and tall above the U.S. flag at the Capitol. In their minds, there is no king but Jesus and no law but the Bible.

But when you look at the crimes Evangelicals are supposed to be guilty of it really makes you wonder where the minds of atheists are at. How is it wrong to stop abortion and make that act of murder illegal?

How is making abortion illegal a far worse crime than killing innocent people? If a Christian stops a man from killing a woman on the street he is praised, yet when it comes to protecting unborn children from their parents somehow that act of sparing a life is worse than the atrocities committed by Stalin, Mao, and Hitler put together.

Abortion is not murder, need I say more? Eighty-eight percent of abortions take place in the first trimester — sixty-five percent in the first eight weeks. If Tee cannot or will not see the difference between a zygote and a child, I don’t know what to tell him.

Here are twenty-five questions I have for anti-abortionists, also known as forced-birthers:

Does life begin at conception?  How do you know it does? Is your view based on science or is it based on a religious belief?

If life begins at conception, why are you supporting an Ohio bill that makes it illegal to have an abortion once a heartbeat is detected? Does life begin at conception or at first heartbeat?

Do you support the use of emergency contraception (morning after) drugs? Why or why not?

Should a pro-life pharmacist have the right to not dispense emergency contraception drugs? Should I be allowed to opt out of anything that goes against my moral or ethical beliefs, regardless of their foundation?

Is abortion murder?

Do you believe murderers should be prosecuted?

Do you believe that driving the get-away car makes a person just as guilty as the person who robbed the bank?

Do you believe a woman who has an abortion should be prosecuted for murder? How about the doctor who performs the procedure? How about the nurse that assisted in the procedure? How about the person who drove the woman to the clinic? If you believe in the death penalty, do you support the execution of murderers?

Do you use birth control pills?

Should you be prosecuted for murder since birth control pills can, and do, cause spontaneous abortion?

Should abortion be allowed for reasons of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother?

If you answered yes to question eleven, do you support murdering the fetus if it is the product of rape or incest?

Should a fetus be aborted if the mother’s life is at risk?

Do you support murdering the unborn if it saves the life of the mother?

Is your viewpoint on abortion a religious belief?

What passage in the Bible prohibits abortion? Does this passage define life beginning at conception?

Has God ever killed the unborn?

In Genesis, God destroyed every human save eight by drowning them in a flood. Were any of the women who drowned pregnant? Did God kill the fetuses they were carrying? (Kill the mother, kill the fetus.)

Do you support the death penalty? Do you support war? Should women who survive self-induced abortions be charged with attempted murder?

If you answered yes to question nineteen, why do you oppose the killing of the unborn but support the killing of those already born?

Why do you believe that killing the unborn is murder but consider an American bomb killing a baby 3 hours old a tragic result of war, collateral damage, but not murder?

Do you support birth control being readily available in every school? If your objective is to reduce or eliminate the need for an abortion, wouldn’t easily available, free access to birth control reduce the abortion rate?

Do you believe it is better for a severely deformed child to live for a day and die than for the fetus to be aborted? If so, explain why it is better for the child to suffer needlessly?

Do you believe that God is in control of everything? Does everything include children being born deformed or with serious defects that will result in a life of extreme suffering and pain?

Is someone a Christian if he or she supports abortion?

I’m sure Tee will take these questions as some sort of test for him to answer. Can’t wait for that. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Obviously, atheists have a warped sense of what is fueling these so-called culture wars. The same questions can be put to the support of same-sex marriage.

How is it wrong to stop people from being perverts, mocking traditional marriage, and wanting to preserve that rite of life for everyone? Why should an institution become a laughingstock simply because some people do not want to follow the rules of marriage that have been in place since the beginning of time?

Where is the crime in limiting the institution to only those who will follow the rules? There is no law stating that same-sex couples cannot love each other outside of marriage.

However, there are certain rules in place that prohibit non-married partners from benefiting from certain aspects of life when a same-sex partner dies, is injured, and so on. To change those rules one does not have to destroy the institution of marriage but the LGBTQ community doesn’t care about that.

They are very selfish and only think of their own selves. It is not the Evangelical that fired the first shot in this battle and they have the right to defend the institution of marriage and keep it holy, sanctified, and pure.

After all, it is the sick and perverted that is invading the domain of marriage and they were not invited to join. In this case, the LGBTQ community is the one to blame for the war over marriage.

Tee says LGBTQ people are sick, selfish, and perverted. That should tell you all you need to know about the man. Thou doth protest too much, “Dr.” Tee.

Marriage is a state-sanctioned contract between two people. The state grants certain privileges to people who enter into such contracts. Tee can provide no rational reason outside of quoting the Bible to prohibit two people of the same sex from marrying. Their marriages do not affect Tee and his fellow moralizers in any way. What drives Tee’s outrage is his lifelong homophobia (and perhaps latent desire for gay sex). Tee covers up his homophobia with moral pronouncements and Bible verses, but make no mistake about it, underneath his facade is a homophobe (and I am using the word in a colloquial sense).

Then BG states the next crime to be marginalize LGBTQ people, yet how so? He does not go into detail here and in reality, homosexuals were never really marginalized. One of the codebreakers of the German enigma machines was a homosexual.

They got to help in the War and they got to work, live in homes, and so on. People draw the line when special rights are being granted. The selfish and greedy reach of the LGBTQ knows no boundaries.

….

Oh my, LGBTQ people get to serve in the military, have jobs, and own homes — rights Tee would deny to them if he and his fellow theocrats were in charge. LGBTQ people demand equal rights and protection under the law. Instead of thinking about anal sex all the time, I suggest Tee ponder why it is right to deny LGBTQ citizens the same rights heterosexual Americans have? What legal basis is there for denying LGBTQ people the same civil rights everyone else has? LGBTQ people want equal rights, not superior rights — unlike Evangelicals with their Christian nation beliefs.

But these crimes may only be the smoke screen for the most important ‘crime’ held against the evangelical- establish a Christian theocracy where the Bible is the law of the land.

What is being said here is that the atheist really wants to make their own rules and live by them. They do not want to humble themselves and say to God, ‘okay, we will obey you…’ They want to be masters of the world and live their own ways.

They do this regardless of how much harm and hurt their alternative lifestyles do to other people. It is not the Christian or Evangelical that is harming people, it is the atheist.

….

Well, at least Tee finally admits he is a Christian nationalist.

Everyone is being hurt by the atheist support of the LGBTQ agenda.

Who is being hurt and how? How does wanting equal rights and protection under the law for everyone cause harm to others? No answers will be forthcoming

Finally, the atheist and their fellow unbelievers have not created a great society to live in with their rules.

Crime is out of control, injustice is being done daily, people are being killed, shot, robbed far more now than when God’s rules were on the books. Also, criminals are not being punished for their crimes. How is this better than a God-centered nation?

Uh, the overwhelming majority of Americans are Christian. Christians control the levers of government and the U.S. Supreme Court. If crime is out of control (and it’s not) who is to blame? Most of the crime committed in this country is committed by people who believe in the existence of the Christian God, and who, to some degree or another, believe the Bible is the Word of God. Surely, Tee doesn’t think it’s atheists commiting most of the crimes in this country?

Tee lives in a dystopian Christian alternate reality, one where atheists roam the land murdering, raping, stealing, and burning churches to the ground. Much like many of his fellow Evangelicals, Tee has a persecution complex extraordinaire — detached from reality.

When you look closely at the facts, the atheist is merely blaming Christians for what they are actually doing.

Please provide those “facts” you are talking about, David. We would all love to look at them “closely.”

Oh, and the atheist says that those who make extraordinary claims need to produce the physical evidence to support those claims. Well. BG says God does not exist, there is no sin, and many other anti-biblical claims. He has yet to produce any real physical evidence to support his extraordinary claims.

I am an agnostic atheist, David. You know this. So, please quit misrepresenting my views. Sin? A religious construct used to induce fear, keeping asses in the pews and money in the offering plates. My real “evidence” can be found in the almost 4,000 posts on this site. Feel free to rage blog away, David. In fact, I encourage you to start a new blog with the express purpose of deconstructing my writing. Or, you can continue to whine and complain over my refusal to accept your irrational, unscientific, immoral, anti-human claims.

We challenge him to do so on his blog instead of declaring how many years he has been in ministry, how many sermons he has preached, or how he has trouble going to the bathroom (way too much information there).

The solution to your existential angst David is this: don’t read my blog. I have explained to you why I use autobiographical statements in my writing several times. Yet, you continue to whine about me doing so. I have come to the conclusion that you are jealous. You have come out on the losing end of a dick-measuring contest and don’t like it. You don’t like the fact that I have garnered a large following over the years. Instead of plowing your own fields, you stand along the fence row complaining about my farming techniques. You, my friend, are a petty man.

You are the only person who has ever complained about my use of autobiographical material or mentions of my health problems. Why is that, David? Let me state once again: you are a petty man.

Why are you so opposed to natural bodily functions such as sex and shitting? I assume you do both. If you don’t want to talk about your fucking and pooping, fine. However, I will continue to do so. Maybe I’ll even share photos. You can use them free of charge. 😂 Don’t like it? Don’t read my blog.

On a side note, BG has this to say:

“If Donald has not done so, I encourage him to read one or more of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books on the history and nature of the Biblical text.”

We know [a real Dr. unlike you] Bart Ehrman through his books, lectures, and debates. How could anyone think he has the truth about the Bible? He makes a lot of declarations but we are yet to see him produce any hard, verifiable, physical evidence that any of his declarations are true.

….

His books are the same way. It is all his point of view not facts from archaeology or history. All you get from Bart Ehrman is lies and misrepresentations.

sigh

Let’s see, “Dr.” David Tee’s books have sold how many copies, exactly? Surely Tee will provide his sales numbers for all to see? Something tells me his sales numbers will be 2,000,000 books less than Dr. Ehrman’s.

Tee thinks that by slanderously attacking Bart Ehrman he can get at me. After all, I’m a fanboy and I frequently suggest Evangelicals read Dr. Ehrman’s books.

Most Evangelicals believe the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Tee most certainly does, though I suspect he thinks his interpretations are superior to the original text. He is the pope of Evangelicalism. He’s never been wrong about a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.

You can’t honestly read Dr. Ehrman’s books and come away believing the Bible is without error. If facts and evidence matter, inerrancy (as typically defined by Evangelicals) has to go. Tee “says” he had read Ehrman’s books, yet never mentions them on his site. I suspect he is overstating his Ehrman prowess. Tee remains a staunch defender of inerrancy, so either he hasn’t read Ehrman’s books or his “faith” stands in the way of intellectual honesty. One can certainly remain, as many have, a Christian after reading Ehrman’s books, but inerrancy cannot be rationally sustained.

Saved by Reason,

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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.

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.

It Only Takes One Errant Word to Destroy the Inerrancy of the Bible

want truth read bible-001

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

According to most Evangelicals, the Bible is not only inspired (breathed out) by God, it is also infallible and inerrant. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Since the Bible was written by men moved by the Holy Spirit or dictated by God, it stands to reason — God being perfect in all His ways — that the Bible is perfect, without error. Some Evangelicals take the notion of inerrancy even further by saying that the King James Version of the Bible is without error. And some Evangelicals — the followers of Peter Ruckman — take it further yet by saying that even the italicized words inserted by the translators of the King James Bible are divinely inspired. Other Evangelicals, thinking of themselves as more educated than other Christians, say that the “original” manuscripts from which English translations come are what are inerrant. Translations, then, are reliable, but not inerrant (even though pastors who believe this often lead churches that are filled with people who believe their leather-bound Bibles are without error). The problem with this belief is that the “originals” don’t exist. Over the years, I ran into countless Christians who believed that these so-called “originals” existed “somewhere” and that they are safely stored “somewhere.” Recently, one such ignorant Evangelical told me that I should read the Dead Sea Scrolls. In doing so, I would see that Christianity is true. Evidently, he didn’t know that the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t mention Jesus, and those who “see” Jesus in the Scrolls are either smoking too much marijuana or are importing their biased theology into the texts. Such is the level of ignorance found not only in pulpits, but in church pews.

Is the Bible in any shape or form inerrant? Of course not. Such a belief cannot rationally or intellectually be sustained. It is nothing more than wishful thinking to believe that the Bible is inerrant — straight from the mouth of God to the ears of Christians.

Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and professor at the University of North Carolina, answered a question on his blog about whether believing the Bible has errors leads to agnosticism/atheism. Here is part of what Ehrman had to say:

I have never thought that recognizing the historical and literary problems of the Bible would or should lead someone to believe there is no God. The only people who could think such a thing are either Christian fundamentalists or people who have been convinced by fundamentalists (without knowing it, in many instances) that fundamentalist Christianity is the only kind of religion that is valid, and that if the assumptions of fundamentalism is flawed, then there could be no God.  What is the logic of that?  So far as I can see, there is no logic at all.

Christian fundamentalism insists that every word in the Bible has been given directly by God, and that only these words can be trusted as authorities for the existence of God, for the saving doctrines of Christianity, for guidance about what to believe and how to live, and for, in short, everything having to do with religious truth and practice.   For fundamentalists, in theory, if one could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that any word in the original manuscripts of the Bible was an error, than [sic] the entire edifice of their religious system collapses, and there is nothing left between that and raw atheism.

Virtually everyone who is trained in the critical study of the Bible or in serious theology thinks this is utter nonsense.  And why is it that people at large – not just fundamentalists but even people who are not themselves believers – don’t realize it’s nonsense, that it literally is “non-sense”?  Because fundamentalists have convinced so much of the world that their view is the only right view.  It’s an amazing cultural reality.  But it still makes no sense.

Look at it this way.  Suppose you could show beyond any doubt that the story of Jesus walking on the water was a later legend.  It didn’t really happen.  Either the disciples thought they saw something that really occur [sic], or later story tellers came up with the idea themselves as they were trying to show just how amazing Jesus was, or … or that there is some other explanation?  What relevance would that have to the question of whether there was a divine power who created the universe?  There is *no* necessary relevance.  No necessary connection whatsoever.  Who says that God could not have created the universe unless Jesus walked on water?  It’s a complete non sequitur.

The vast majority of Christians throughout history – the massively vast majority of Christians – have not been fundamentalists.  Most Christians in the world today are not fundamentalists.  So why do we allow fundamentalists to determine what “real” Christianity is?  Or what “true” Christianity is?  Why do we say that if you are not a fundamentalist who maintains that every word in the Bible is literally true and historically accurate that you cannot really be a Christian?

While I question how someone can be a Christian and not believe all that the Bible says is true (perhaps this is the result of a Fundamentalist hangover), I know, as Dr. Ehrman says, that hundreds of millions of people believe in the Christian God, perfect Bible or not. I am not, contrary to what my critics suggest, anti-Christian. I am, however, most certainly anti-Fundamentalist. I am indifferent towards the religious beliefs of billions of people as long as those beliefs don’t harm others. Unfortunately, many Evangelical beliefs and practices ARE harmful, and it is for this reason that I continue to write about Evangelicalism.

Inerrancy is one such harmful belief. Believing that every word of the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and true leads people to false, and at times dangerous, conclusions. Take young earth creationism — the belief that the universe was created in six literal twenty-four days, 6,024 years ago. Men such as Ken Ham continue to infect young minds with creationist beliefs which, thanks to science, we know are not true. The reason the Ken Hams of the world cannot accept what science says about the universe is because they believe the text of the Bible is inerrant. According to inerrantists, the Bible, in most instances, should be read literally. Thus, Genesis 1-3 “clearly” teaches that God created the universe exactly as young earth creationists say He did. This kind of thinking intellectually harms impressionable minds. While little can be done to keep churches, Christian schools, and home schooling parents from teaching children such absurdities, we can and must make sure Evangelical zealots are barred from bringing their nonsense into public school classrooms.

Peel back the issues that drive the culture war and what you will find is the notion that God has infallibly spoken on this or that social issue. Think about it for a moment: name one social hot button issue that doesn’t have Bible proof texts attached to it. Homosexuality? Same-sex marriage? Abortion? Premarital sex? Birth control? Marriage and divorce? Prayer and Bible reading in public schools? Every one of these issues is driven by the belief that the Bible is inerrant and that Christians must dutifully obey every word (though no Evangelicals that I know of believe, obey, and practice every law, command, precept, and teaching of the Bible). Removing the Good Book from the equation forces Evangelicals to contemplate these issues without appeals to Biblical authority and theology. As a secularist, I am more than ready and willing to have discussions with Christians about the important social issues of the day. All that I ask is that they leave their Bibles at home or stuffed under the front seats of their cars. In a secular state, religious texts of any kind carry no weight. What “God” says plays no part in deciding what our laws are. Evangelicals have a hard time understanding this, believing that their flavor of Christianity is the one true faith; believing that their infallible interpretation of a religious text written by their God is absolute truth. It is impossible to reach people who think like this.

While I at one time believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, it was not until I considered the possibility that the Bible might not be what I claimed it is, that I could then consider alternative ways of looking at the world. This is why I don’t argue about science with Evangelicals. I attack their foundational beliefs — that the Bible is not inerrant; that the Bible is not what they claim it is. Once the foundation is destroyed, it becomes much easier to engage Evangelicals on the issues they think are important. Given enough time, a patient agnostic/atheist/rationalist/skeptic can drive a stake into the heart of their Fundamentalist beliefs. As long as Evangelicals hang on to their “inerrant” Bibles, it is impossible to have meaningful, productive discussions with them. All anyone can do for them is present evidence that eviscerates their inerrantist beliefs. Since Heaven and Hell are fictions of the human mind, I am content to let knowledge do her perfect work. I know that most Evangelicals will never abandon their faith (the one true faith), but some will, so I am content to continue fishing for the minds of women and men. Using reason and knowledge is the only way I know of to make the world a better place. Part of making the world a better place is doing all I can to neuter Fundamentalist beliefs. Inerrancy is one such belief.

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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The Bible is Not a Fairytale, Every Word is True, and God Cares About the Little People

erin davis

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Erin Davis, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe website, wrote one of the most astounding, delusional, and absurd blog posts I have ever read. Filled with assertions based on THE BIBLE SAYS, Davis’ post reflects how deeply and thoroughly Evangelicalism can negatively affect one’s ability to reason and think.

According to Davis:

The Bible Is Not a Fairy Tale

With giants (1 Sam. 17), strange creatures (Job 40:15), angels (Ps. 91:11), demons (Mark 5), and a God who is mysteriously three in one, sometimes the Bible reads like a children’s fairy tale or Hollywood screenplay. But it isn’t. It’s a history book of events that actually happened to real people. More than that, it’s a book about a very real God.

Every Word of God Proves True

Proverbs 30:5 makes this bold promise:

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

An easy way to prove the truth found in Scripture is through the genealogies. Let me show you what I mean.

Isaiah 11:1 declares this promise, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”

There isn’t a person on the planet that God doesn’t love and care about.

That promise wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans without the genealogy found in Matthew 1:1–17 and again in Luke 3:23–38. This list starts with Abraham and ends with the birth of Christ. Smack dab in the middle we find this gem:

And Jesse the father of David the king (Matt. 1:6).

The branch Isaiah wrote about was Jesus. His words were written 800 years before Christ was born! If we skipped this genealogy, we would miss the wonder of seeing this prophecy fulfilled.

God Cares About the Little People

Ever hear of Mahalalel, Hezron, or Abijah? Probably not, but God has. He made sure their names were listed among the genealogies found in Genesis 5 and Matthew 1. Every single human since Adam has three things in common:

We are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

We are loved by God (Jer. 31:3).

We were designed to be with God for eternity (Eccl. 3:11).

There isn’t a person on the planet that God doesn’t love and care about. The genealogies read like lists of His favorite people.

God  Is Faithful.

Here’s a question I love to ask Christians who are older than me:

“Tell me about that time God let you down.”

I’ve been asking that question for years, almost every chance I get to hang out with people with a gray hair or two. I’ve never met a single person with an answer. Instead they all gush about God’s faithfulness, telling me how time and time again He has shown up in their lives.

Evidently, Davis has not studied the history of the Christian Bible, nor has she read anything about the various textual contradictions and errors found in the Biblical text. I suspect that Davis grew up in and is still a part of a religious tradition that asserts the Bible is a God-given and God-written, inspired, inerrant, and infallible text. Whether the Bible is inspired is a metaphysical claim beyond the scope of rational inquiry, but assertions that the Bible is inerrant and infallible are evidentiary claims that can be investigated. Anyone who has honestly and openly looked at the text of the Bible cannot conclude it is an inerrant text.

Well, Bruce, I have studied this issue and I still believe the Bible is inerrant. To that I say, bullshit. If someone follows the evidence wherever it leads, he or she must conclude that inerrancy cannot be sustained on rational grounds. When people claim that the Bible is inerrant, I always ask them if they have read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. Most often, the answer I receive is no. For the handful of people who say yes, my response is this: you are letting your presuppositions keep you from seeing things as they are. Biblical scholars of every stripe have concluded that the Bible has textual errors and contractions; that the Bible is internally inconsistent. It is impossible for someone to read Ehrman’s books and still hang on to the belief that the Bible is inerrant. And it is for this reason many Evangelical scholars and pastors say the Bible is inerrant in the original writings (which do not exist).

Davis believes the Bible is “true” because the Bible says it is. This is circular reasoning — a common problem in Evangelical Christianity. Countless people are Christians, all the while believing the Bible is fallible and errant. They recognize that the Bible is a human-written text that points the way to God, not a divine rulebook or blueprint for life. These Christians readily admit that some of what the Bible says is not true, is outdated, or inapplicable for today. While I have problems with how they come to these conclusions, I do find that this view is more intellectually honest than parroting that the Bible is inerrant.

The key to reaching Evangelicals is to get them to see that the Bible is not what they claim it is. Until Evangelicals are willing to consider that they might be wrong; that the Bible might contain errors and contradictions, there’s not much anyone can do to reach them.

Davis states that God cares about the little people. She bases this statement on the fact that numerous unknown people are mentioned in the Bible and, since God wrote the Bible, this is proof that God cares about everyone. Davis sincerely believes that God loves and cares for everyone. She believes this because the Bible says so. Again, eyes-wide-open honesty does not bear out Davis’ claim. Look around. What do you see? Do you see evidence for the belief that God loves and cares for everyone? Of course not. At best, we see a God who is indifferent to the plight of his creation. He steps in from time to time and helps Nana find her car keys, but when it comes to big-ticket issues such as war, violence, sexual assault, starvation, oppression, and Donald Trump, the Christian God is AWOL.

Davis desperately needs to believe that God loves and cares for her. I understand WHY she believes as she does. God loving and caring for Christians is the glue that holds Christianity together. No matter what happens in their lives, Evangelicals believe that God is looking out for them and that “all things work together for good.” This thinking directly conflicts with reality — shit happens, life can suck, and all credit and criticism belong to humans. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is a fictitious middleman who keeps Evangelicals from seeing life as it is. That’s the beauty of religion. It gives people meaning and purpose, promising life after death. (Please see The Life-Changing Power of the Mythical Jesus and Never Underestimate the Power of Jesus) Believing such delusions allows Evangelicals to evade the harshness of human existence. Sadly, many people think that it is better to believe a lie if it gives them peace and happiness. I don’t fault people who follow this path as long as they keep it to themselves. However, when they drag such nonsense into the public square and de-legitimize the lives of everyone who believes differently, I’m going to challenge, on rational grounds, their beliefs.

Davis concludes her post by saying that God (not any God, only the Evangelical God) is ALWAYS faithful. When Evangelicals talk about the faithfulness of God they mean that God always does what he says he will. If God says he will do ______________ then he always does. Think of all the promises God supposedly made in the Bible. Has God infallibly kept every promise? Of course not. Any cursory examination of the lives of Christians reveals that God is NOT faithful, that he routinely fails to pay child support. When challenged on the God-is-Faithful claim, Evangelicals often respond that just because God hasn’t come through yet, doesn’t mean he won’t come through in the future. Ah yes, God will, someday, likely not today, come through. He’s God and he ALWAYS comes through.

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.

Why Everything Makes Sense in the Evangelical Bubble

living in bubble

I recently wrote a post detailing Evangelical Lori Alexander’s advice to women who want to be more attractive to their husbands. Alexander, a promoter, defender, and practitioner of patriarchal Christianity, believes wives should submit to their husbands in all things. She has been accused of defending male violence towards women. I can safely say that Alexander is anti-woman, a devoted follower of Jesus who pines for the days when women were barefoot and pregnant, uneducated, and slaves to their husbands’ sexual desires.

It’s 2021. Women burned their bras over fifty years ago. Feminism has won the day. Yet, scores of women — mostly white Evangelical women — don’t want freedom. They want what their grandparents, parents, and pastors have told them are “old-fashioned” complementarian marriages. These women yearn for “Biblical” marriages and families. They have been conditioned to believe that something is missing in their lives, in their relationships with their spouses and families. Thus, the Lori Alexanders of the world find scores of women who will willingly submit to their teachings.

This kind of behavior is not the domain of Evangelical women alone. Beginning in the 1980s, groups such as Promise Keepers began preaching the gospel of masculinity. Believing that Evangelical churches had become feminized, these groups called on “real” men to reassert their masculinity. Men were taught the importance of complementarian/patriarchal marriage and family structures. Want to have a marriage/family that is pleasing to God? preachers would say. Reassert your God-given authority and headship. In other words, put that woman of yours in her place.

Non-Evangelicals often have difficulty understanding how it is possible that people would willingly and openly submit to such teachings and practices. My friend Astreja best illustrates this in her comment on the post titled, Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Lori Alexander Tells Women How to Become Attractive to Their Husbands:

But what is the appeal for Alexander’s fans? That’s what I could never figure out: Why cede control of your life and obey prefabricated rules? Responsibility and self-actualization are scary at first, but incredibly rewarding once you get over the fear.

Evangelicalism is what I call a “bubble.” Not singular, of course. There are numerous sub-bubbles within the larger Evangelical bubble. These sub-bubbles allow individual Evangelicals to organize around specific theological and social beliefs. Thus, within the Evangelical bubble, you find sub-bubbles for Christians who are Calvinists, Arminians, or believe the King James is the one and only Word of God, along with a plethora of other defining beliefs and practices. I have spent years trying to educate non-Evangelicals on the complex tribal influences found within Evangelicalism. One cannot understand Evangelicalism without understanding how Evangelicals define themselves and how they organize into these sub-bubbles.

Bubbles are self-contained units. Generally, Evangelicals find everything they need pertaining to life and godliness in their particular bubble (and sub-bubbles often overlap). Within a particular bubble, everything is theologically, socially, politically, and economically consistent. Simply put, everything makes sense.

The air within these sub-bubbles has a base element: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Evangelicals breathe in this element every day of their lives, exhaling certainty that their beliefs and practices are the one true faith once delivered to the saints. Imagine breathing in this air every moment of your life. Imagine being convinced by your parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers that your beliefs are one with the mind of God; that all other beliefs are wrong; that God specially chooses you; that unlike most of the human race, past, present, and future who will burn in Hell for eternity, God will reward you for believing the right things with eternal happiness and bliss. Is it shocking, then, that Evangelicals see or understand no other world but their own?

While some Evangelicals escape their sub-bubbles, most do not. Sure, an increasing number of Evangelicals are exiting their churches stage left. Sure, ex-Evangelical preachers such as myself are exposing where the proverbial bodies are buried. These circumstances should not obscure the fact that most Evangelicals are resolutely ensconced in their respective sub-bubbles. Most Evangelical preachers will die with their boots on. When your life is totally invested in a system of beliefs and practices, the older you become, the harder it is to pop the bubble and escape. My counselor told me that it is rare for preachers my age — I was fifty when I deconverted — to walk away from Christianity and the ministry. Too much time and money invested to choose a new path. It happens, but not often.

Several months ago, I had a lifelong Evangelical bubble dweller contact me. After almost fourteen years and thousands of emails and comments from devoted Evangelical Christians — including former congregants and ministerial colleagues — I am no longer as willing to engage in discussions with such people. This time, however, I decided to interact with this follower of Jesus. Over the course of several weeks, we traded emails. I hoped to lead the man into a discussion about the nature and history of the Bible. I learned long ago that if you can disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible, it is possible to reach them with truth. Otherwise, their minds are typically shut off from rational, skeptical thought.

I asked this man if he had read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books? He told me no. It took time, but I eventually got him to read one of Ehrman’s books. I know believing the Bible is inerrant and infallible will not survive an honest, open reading of Ehrman’s books. The information he presents is a fatal blow to the irrational belief that the Bible is without error.

While I wish I could report that this man left the Evangelical bubble, as far as I know, he has not. After reading Ehrman’s book, he sent me several questions, and I answered them. And then . . . silence. Such silence is not uncommon. What often happens to the Evangelicals who contact me is that they can’t make what they learned about Bible from Ehman’s book fit within their bubble. Faced with waves of cognitive dissonance, they withdraw from the source of their doubts and confusion. And that’s fine. My goal has never been to convert Evangelicals to atheism. While this does happen at times, I am content to see people move away from the inherent Fundamentalism in Evangelical Christianity. Any move away from Fundamentalism is a good one.

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.

The Indifference of God

starving children

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Spend time on Sundays at Evangelical churches and you will hear all sorts of talk about how God is intimately involved in our lives. God is everywhere, Evangelicals say, and he knows everything. Not only is God omnipresent and omniscient, he is also omnipotent! God holds the universe in the palm of his hand, Evangelical preachers say. God is the Kings of Kings, Lord of Lords, the supreme potentate of heaven and earth. He is, as Calvinists love to say, sovereign. In other words, God is in control of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. No thought, word, or deed escapes his notice. No matter where humans travel — be it to the farthest reaches of the universe or the depths of the oceans — they can not escape God. God is the king of voyeurs, his eyes peering into the darkest corners of human existence.

This God of the Evangelicals must be one busy deity. Knowing everything, including what will happen in the future, God surely acts in ways to lessen suffering, pain, loss, and death, right?  Certainly, there is ample evidence for the Evangelical God’s involvement in the smallest details of life, right?  While Evangelicals will certainly answer YES! to these questions, when pressed for objective, verifiable evidence for such claims, they quickly retreat to their houses of faith and claims that God’s ways are not our ways.

Theodicy — the branch of theology that defends (or attempts to defend) God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil and suffering — continues to be a big problem for Evangelicals. The more apologists attempt to defend God in light of evil and suffering, pain, and death, the less people think God is good. All people have to do is read the newspaper to realize that IF God is the powerful deity Evangelicals say he is, then he is a horrible being who delights in unfeigned worship while doing nothing as countless men, women, and children face untold agony and death.

One of the marks of psychopathy is a lack of empathy. God can, if he chooses, put an end to suffering. Yet, he does, by all accounts, absolutely nothing. In 2008, New Testament scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman wrote a book titled God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer. Ehrman had this to say about why he wrote the book:

For most of my life I was a devout Christian, believing in God, trusting in Christ for salvation, knowing that God was actively involved in this world. During my young adulthood, I was an evangelical, with a firm belief in the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God. During those years I had fairly simple but commonly held views about how there can be so much pain and misery in the world. God had given us free will (we weren’t programmed like robots), but since we were free to do good we were also free to do evil—hence the Holocaust, the genocide in Cambodia, and so on. To be sure, this view did not explain all evil in the world, but a good deal of suffering was a mystery and in the end, God would make right all that was wrong.

….

Suffering increasingly became a problem for me and my faith. How can one explain all the pain and misery in the world if God—the creator and redeemer of all—is sovereign over it, exercising his will both on the grand scheme and in the daily workings of our lives? Why, I asked, is there such rampant starvation in the world? Why are there droughts, epidemics, hurricanes, and earthquakes? If God answers prayer, why didn’t he answer the prayers of the faithful Jews during the Holocaust? Or of the faithful Christians who also suffered torment and death at the hands of the Nazis? If God is concerned to answer my little prayers about my daily life, why didn’t he answer my and others’ big prayers when millions were being slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, when a mudslide killed 30,000 Columbians in their sleep, in a matter of minutes, when disasters of all kinds caused by humans and by nature happened in the world?

….

Eventually, while still a Christian thinker, I came to believe that God himself is deeply concerned with suffering and intimately involved with it. The Christian message, for me, at the time, was that Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to us humans, and that in Jesus we can see how God deals with the world and relates to it. He relates to it, I thought, not by conquering it but by suffering for it. Jesus was not set on a throne in Jerusalem to rule over the Kingdom of God. He was crucified by the Romans, suffering a painful, excruciating, and humiliating death for us. What is God like? He is a God who suffers. The way he deals with suffering is by suffering both for us and alongside us.

….

About nine or ten years ago I came to realize that I simply no longer believed the Christian message. A large part of my movement away from the faith was driven by my concern for suffering. I simply no longer could hold to the view—which I took to be essential to Christian faith—that God was active in the world, that he answered prayer, that he intervened on behalf of his faithful, that he brought salvation in the past and that in the future, eventually in the coming eschaton, he would set to rights all that was wrong, that he would vindicate his name and his people and bring in a good kingdom (either at our deaths or here on earth in a future utopian existence).

We live in a world in which a child dies every five seconds of starvation. Every five seconds. Every minute there are twenty-five people who die because they do not have clean water to drink. Every hour 700 people die of malaria. Where is God in all this? We live in a world in which earthquakes in the Himalayas kill 50,000 people and leave 3 million without shelter in the face of oncoming winter. We live in a world where a hurricane destroys New Orleans. Where a tsunami kills 300,000 people in one fell swoop. Where millions of children are born with horrible birth defects. And where is God? To say that he eventually will make right all that is wrong seems to me, now, to be pure wishful thinking.

Ehrman states in God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer:

Eventually, though, I felt compelled to leave Christianity altogether. I did not go easily. On the contrary, I left kicking and screaming, wanting desperately to hold on to the faith I had known since childhood and had come to know intimately from my teenaged years onward. But I came to a point where I could no longer believe. It’s a very long story, but the short version is this: I realized that I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life. In particular, I could no longer explain how there can be a good and all-powerful God actively involved with this world, given the state of things. For many people who inhabit this planet, life is a cesspool of misery and suffering. I came to a point where I simply could not believe that there is a good and kindly disposed Ruler who is in charge of it.

The problem of suffering became for me the problem of faith. After many years of grappling with the problem, trying to explain it, thinking through the explanations that others have offered—some of them pat answers charming for their simplicity, others highly sophisticated and nuanced reflections of serious philosophers and theologians—after thinking about the alleged answers and continuing to wrestle with the problem, about nine or ten years ago I finally admitted defeat, came to realize that I could no longer believe in the God of my tradition, and acknowledged that I was an agnostic: I don’t “know” if there is a God; but I think that if there is one, he certainly isn’t the one proclaimed by the Judeo-Christian tradition, the one who is actively and powerfully involved in this world. And so I stopped going to church.

For most Evangelicals-turned-atheists, the issue of suffering looms large in their decisions to leave Christianity. When I am asked why I left Christianity, I usually point to the intellectual problems I have with Christian theology and practice. In particular, I call attention to the unsupportable notion that the Protestant Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God. I generally avoid discussions about suffering and death because such engagements usually end with Evangelicals apologists telling me that the REAL reason I am no longer a Christian is the personal pain and suffering I deal with each and every day of my life. Bruce, you are just mad that God didn’t heal you, Evangelicals say. So, you quit on God, all because he wouldn’t do what you wanted him to do — heal you.

While there was a time when I would bristle at such claims, I now admit that God’s indifference towards not only the suffering of family, friends, and parishioners, but also my own suffering played a pertinent part in my deconverson. It was not THE reason, but certainly one of the reasons I was no longer was willing to believe in the Christian God’s existence. The Bible speaks of a Jesus who healed the sick, blind, and deaf, fed the hungry, and raised the dead. Surely, if, as the Bible says, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why is there so much suffering in the world? What better way for God to reveal himself to us than to heal the sick and feed the hungry. I am aware of all the Evangelical apologetical arguments that are used to justify God’s indifference, so don’t bother, but the fact remains that most suffering goes unrequited. As Bart Ehrman mentioned above, untold suffering will happen today and, come tomorrow and every other day after that, pain, sickness, and incalculable loss will test and try countless people. In fact, few of us get through this life without facing things that can and do turn our lives into piles of ashes. Despite prayers and voices crying to God for help, the triune God of the Bible acts as if he lives in an area where there is no cellphone service. Christians and non-Christians alike cry to the heavens, pleading and begging its inhabitants to help them, yet all they hear is deafening silence.

Let me conclude this post with two news stories that amply illustrate the indifference of God.

On August 6, 2016, in an apparent murder-suicide, a Pennsylvanian husband or wife murdered their spouse and three children before committing suicide. CBS News reports:

A Pennsylvania couple who were featured in news stories about their difficulties getting medication for their youngest daughter who had a heart transplant were found shot to death in their home along with their three children.

Prosecutor John Adams says an apparent “murder/suicide” note was found in the family’s Sinking Spring home Saturday. Police found a handgun near one of the adults. They didn’t say who they believe was the shooter.

Officials say the parents had had “domestic issues.” Police had gone to the home to check on the family after a call from a concerned relative who said the mom did not show up for a pre-arranged lunch date.

The victims were identified as 40-year-old Mark Short Sr., 33-year-old Megan Short; 8-year-old Lianna, 5-year-old Mark Jr., and 2-year-old Willow.

….

Willow had undergone a heart transplant as a baby. Her family had been featured in articles in The Reading Eagle in 2014 and The New York Times in 2015 about her condition and the family’s difficulties obtaining anti-rejection medication for her.

….

Once inside the home, officers discovered the family’s deceased bodies and a deceased dog in the living room area of the residence. A handgun was discovered near one of the deceased adults.

On July 31, 2016, a young couple with three children was headed to Palmer Lake, Colorado, “for a five-week session on learning a language and assimilating into another culture” when a semi-truck rammed the rear of their minivan, killing all of them. The Omaha-Herald reports:

The semitrailer truck driver involved in a crash that claimed six lives on Interstate 80 was “inattentive and distracted by outside influences” when he rammed into a minivan “at a high rate of speed,” a Nebraska State Patrol trooper said in an arrest affidavit.

The driver, Tony Weekly Jr., 53, of Baker, Florida, was charged in Keith County Court on Tuesday with five counts of felony motor vehicle homicide — one for each member of the St. Paul, Minnesota, family who died Sunday in the fiery crash four miles west of Brule’s I-80 interchange — and a single misdemeanor count of reckless driving.

….

Witnesses said Weekly’s truck “did not slow down until hitting the first vehicle,” Trooper Darrell Crawford said in the arrest affidavit.

That vehicle was the minivan carrying the Pals family of Minnesota. Jamison and Kathryne Pals and their three children died as a direct result of the initial impact,” Crawford said. Before coming to rest, the vehicles’ forward momentum pushed them into a Plymouth minivan driven by Sullivan, then a Nissan sport utility vehicle and finally a Ford van.

Killed Sunday were: Jamison and Kathryne Pals, both 29, and their children, Ezra, 3; Violet, almost 2; and 2½-month-old Calvin.

….

The Palses intended to serve as long-term missionaries in Nagoya, Japan. They were headed to Palmer Lake, Colorado, for a five-week session on learning a language and assimilating into another culture, said Dennis Vogan, vice president of personnel development of the ministry organization WorldVenture.

“The Palses fit perfectly within our organization,” Vogan said. The missionaries in Japan “were thrilled and looking so forward to their coming,” he said.

The Palses had raised enough money to fund their mission work, which was to start in October, he said.

Rick Pals, Jamison’s father, said Tuesday that funeral services would be held at Jamison and Kathryne’s church, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He said the families of Jamison and Kathryne “have been very touched” by the “outpouring of sincere support” they have received.

….

Jamison Pals worked for just over three years as a grant writer for Feed My Starving Children. The Christian nonprofit based in Eagan, Minnesota, sends meals specially formulated for malnourished children to orphanages, schools, clinics and feeding programs around the world.

Andy Carr, the group’s vice president of marketing and development, said Jamison and Kathryne Pals were “amazing people” and good friends.

“They were the most humble and selfless people that you could ever meet,” he said. “In today’s world where it’s so much about me, me, me, it was never about them. It was always about others.”

The first story is likely to be explained in Evangelical circles as an example of human depravity. Human sinfulness leads people to do awful things, Evangelicals say. If this couple had known Jesus, perhaps things would have turned out differently!

The second story is being portrayed as an example of the “mysteries” of God. We dare not question God’s purpose and plan! Calvinist pastor John Piper attributes their deaths to the mysterious, unknown plan of the universe’s sovereign God. Evangelicals must never ask why. God knows best!

In both of these horrific, mind-numbing tragedies, one thing is for certain: God stood by and did nothing. If God can’t be counted on to rescue children and those who have devoted themselves to “serving” him, why should any of us bother to worship him? If God helps a young child through a heart transplant, only to later stand by twiddling his thumbs while this same girl is murdered, should we not at least question the actions of the compassionate, loving, kind God who promises never to leave or forsake us?

Evangelicals should not fault people such as myself when we conclude that their God is either a work of fiction or is simply not interested in what happens to us. I have concluded that there is no God, and that life can be cruel and hard. Disease, pain, hunger, violence, and death are very much a part of life, and all of us will likely be marred or broken by one or more of these things. Try as we might to escape suffering, it will track us down and arrest us, often sentencing us to lives of pain and agony. I wish things could be different, but they are what they are. All the prayers and religious pronouncements in the world won’t change the fact that humans (and other animals) suffer. The best we can do is to work at reducing suffering and its effects. It is up to us to alleviate the suffering of others (and our own). Waiting on God accomplishes nothing. As the stories mentioned above make clear, God is nowhere to be found when it comes to things that matter.

Please read the comments. Wonderful examples of Evangelical/Bible gymnastics.

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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Never Doubt Your Bible, No Matter How Far-Fetched it Seems

never doubt the Bible

Several years ago, in an article titled Watching Bible Prophecy Fulfilled, Fundamentalist Michael Pearl detailed the so-called prophecies found in Ezekiel 38-39. Evangelicals like Pearl believe that this passage of Scripture predicts the establishment of the Jewish state and war in the Middle East before the rapture of the church and the seven-year Tribulation.

As Pearl was unpacking his theories about the future, he told the story of a Church of Christ preacher who had written a book in 1946 attacking the premillennial view of future events. The author of the book reminded his readers that “for premillennialism to be true, the Jews would have to occupy their ancient land of Israel.” The author believed such a claim to be absurd, yet in 1948, Israel became a nation. Pearl remarked, never doubt your Bible, no matter how far-fetched it seems.

Spend any amount of time around Evangelicals, and you will find out that they have many — to use Pearl’s term — far-fetched beliefs. Evangelicals believe that the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. While this God used human instrumentation to write the Bible, its authors, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, wrote down exactly what God wanted written. The Bible, then, contains the very words of God.

Once people buy into the myth that the Bible is God’s Word, it is easy to get them to accept the most outlandish of beliefs. Evangelicals accept them as God-uttered truth no matter how crazy these beliefs might sound to people outside of the Evangelical bubble. No amount of reason or common sense will persuade them to believe otherwise. A world created 6,023 years ago in six literal 24-hour days? Noah building a big boat in the middle of the desert, and a flood destroying the entire human race, save eight? Fallen angels having sex with human women resulting in hybrid children? A virgin woman being impregnated by God so she could give birth to a baby who was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent human? This same baby, as an adult, healing the sick, raising the dead, turning water into wine, walking on water, dying and coming back to life three days later, walking through walls, and ascending back to Heaven, promising to return in the future? All of these fantastical claims, and more, are believed by Evangelicals. Remember, never doubt your Bible, no matter how far-fetched it seems.

Ask Evangelicals if they think the foundation stories of religions such as Mormonism or Scientology are absurd, and they will, to a person, say yes! Yet, Evangelicals seem incapable of seeing their own beliefs in the same light. This is because Evangelicals have been indoctrinated, often from birth, in mythic Christianity. Evangelicals gather together every Sunday to hear a supposedly educated man remind them that the Christian myths are true. Evangelicals are expected to swallow every fantastical Bible story hook, line, and sinker. As fishermen know, let a catfish swallow a hook, and it is almost impossible to retrieve the hook without killing the fish. So it is with Evangelicals. Once they have swallowed the hook of Bible literalism, it is almost impossible to deliver them from God said it, I believe it lunacy.

The only hope for people locked up in the Evangelical padded room is for them to have doubts about the Bible’s veracity. Once Evangelicals dare to entertain the thought that the Bible might not be what their preachers say it is, they are opening the door of their mind to skepticism and reason. Preachers fear church members who dare to doubt, knowing that the path out of the church is paved with questions and doubts. Preachers remind church members that Satan caused Adam and Eve to doubt the words of God. When tempted to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve reminded the serpent that God had commanded them not to eat the fruit. Satan replied, yea, hath God said (in perfect King James English)? Adam and Eve ignored the words of God, ate the fruit, and plunged the human race into sin. See what happens when you doubt the words of God?, Evangelical preachers say. NEVER doubt your Bible, no matter how far-fetched it seems.   

This is why Evangelical leaders consider authors such as Bart Ehrman dangerous. Ehrman, like Satan in the Garden of Eden, says to readers, yea hath God said? Ehrman, a widely published and respected New Testament scholar, confronts Evangelical readers with evidence that thoroughly destroys the notion that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Focusing on the New Testament, Ehrman exposes ignorant Evangelicals to the facts about the Biblical text’s transmission and history. This evidence is so overwhelming that honest Evangelicals are forced to admit that the Bible is not what preachers claim it is. While it is certainly possible for Ehrmanated Evangelicals to hold on to some semblance of Christianity, they will never view the Bible in the same way again.

When Evangelicals stop by this blog to challenge this Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist, I always ask if they have read any of Bart Ehrman’s books. Invariably, their answer is no. Often they see no need to read his books. Their pastors have either told them to stay away from Ehrman’s books, or they have read their favorite Fundamentalist blogger’s posts about Ehrman’s heretical beliefs. No need to investigate further. Since truth is always wasted on a closed mind, I rarely engage Evangelicals who refuse to read Ehrman’s books. Long-time readers have watched me tell Evangelical zealots repeatedly to read Ehrman, and then we will talk. Few do so, preferring to remain safe and secure in the Evangelical bubble. Until they are willing to entertain doubts and questions about the Bible, there is no hope for them. Until Evangelicals are willing to reject the irrational parts of the Bible, the parts Michael Pearl calls far-fetched, they will remain enslaved to their literalistic interpretations of God’s “perfect” words.

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