Menu Close

Tag: Calvinism

Dear Frank, Is Bruce Backslidden or Was He Never Saved To Begin With?

rick
Rick, 1996, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio

Several years ago, I received a Facebook notification about approving something Rick, a friend of mine, wanted to post to my wall. Rick is a long-time friend, former parishioner, and frequent reader of this blog. What’s interesting about his request is that he meant his message to be a private one sent to a friend of his by the name of Frank. The reason I got the notification is that he inadvertently tagged me. Here’s the message Rick sent to Frank — also a man I have known for many years.message to frank

Don’t be put off by Rick’s poor language skills. Several years ago, Rick had a major stroke. This affected his ability to write sentences. Best I can tell, the stroke has not affected his ability to study and read the Bible, nor has it affected his ability to read religious materials.

I met Rick in the late 1990s. At the time, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Rick, a Calvinist, was looking for a Calvinistic church to attend and someone recommended that he check out Somerset Baptist. Rick joined the church, happy in knowing that he had found a man who was conversant in the doctrines of grace (the five points of Calvinism). For the next five years, I would drive two times a week — thirty miles round trip — to New Lexington to pick Rick up for church.

rick and frank (2)
Frank and Rick, 1993, Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

One Sunday night, while on our way to the church, Rick was waxing eloquently about double predestination and whether children who die in infancy and developmentally disabled people are automatically a part of the elect — those whom God, from before the foundation of the world, has chosen to save. I told Rick, with a slight irritation in my voice, that Calvinistic Baptist great Charles Spurgeon believed such people were numbered among the elect. Rick, not the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to social cues, continued to defend God having the absolute right to eternally torture anyone, including infants and developmentally disabled people, in the Lake of Fire. I could feel anger welling. I thought to myself, has Rick forgotten that I have a developmentally disabled two-year-old daughter with Down syndrome? Doesn’t he care how hurtful his words are? I slammed on the brakes and told Rick to get out of the car. He could walk to church, I told him. I quickly cooled down, telling him, I didn’t want to hear another word from him about whether infants and developmentally disabled people are elect. Rick complied, moving on to other hot button Calvinistic issues.

Let me share another Rick memory, one that I think readers will find funny. Rick worked third shift at a residential home for the developmentally disabled — Mount Aloysius. Unsurprisingly, Rick was quite tired by the time he arrived for Sunday morning church. Try as he might to stay awake, Rick would often fall asleep. Rick snored, so the entire congregation knew when Rick was sleeping. Sunday after Sunday I watched Rick fight sleep, his head bobbing back and forth during my hour-long sermons. One Sunday, Rick bobbed his head back and then forward just as he did Sunday after Sunday. This time, however, Rick’s head traveled forward farther than he intended, smacking the pew in front of him. I stopped preaching and went to Rick to make sure he was okay. Fortunately, the only thing harmed was his pride. After the service, I told Rick that perhaps he should skip the Sunday morning service when he worked the night before. That way he could be rested and mentally fresh for the Sunday evening service. By the way, this was the only time in twenty-five years of pastoring churches that I told someone, please don’t come to church.

I haven’t been Rick’s pastor for over twenty-seven years, and the last time I saw him was in 1996 when he and Frank drove to West Unity, Ohio to attend services at a new church I had planted. Since then, I have traded a few emails with Rick, but nothing of substance.

rick and bruce
Rick, Bruce, Greg, and boy, 1993 , Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

Rick’s message is a reminder to me that people still talk about my deconversion. People who knew me well — as Rick and Frank once did — are still trying to square the pastor they once knew with the atheist named Bruce Gerencser. In Rick’s case, he wonders if am just backslidden, or is it possible that I never was saved. I am sure Rick prefers the backslidden explanation. I am sure trying to wrap his mind around the possibility of me never being saved is too much for him to emotionally and intellectually handle. If I was never saved, this means that Rick was taught for five years by an unsaved pastor, a man he heard expositionally preach hundreds of times; preaching that he believed was empowered by the Holy Spirit. I am sure he remembers the countless hours we spent after church talking theology. I am sure he remembers my love, kindness, and compassion, and my willingness to, week after week, drive to New Lexington and pick him up so he could attend church. I am sure he asks himself, how is it possible that the Bruce I knew was never a true Christian.

The easy out for Rick is for him to embrace Arminianism with its belief that saved people can and do fall from grace. Doing so would mean that I once was saved, but now I am not. Of course, Rick’s Calvinism keeps him from believing I have lost my salvation, so he is forced to psychologically torture himself with thoughts about whether I am backslidden or was never a Christian to start with.

I wish Rick nothing but the best. I hope he will, in time, come to terms with my current godless state. I chose to be exactly where I am today. Or did I? Perhaps all of this has been decreed by God, and the person ultimately responsible for my lost condition is the divine puppet master, John Calvin’s God.

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.

Atheists Know There’s a God, Says Elizabeth Prata

romans 1:20

Elizabeth Prata, a “Christian writer and Georgia teacher’s aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children,” recently pontificated on the existence of God; how EVERYONE, including atheists, KNOWS that God exists:

Why does every culture in the world worship something? I’d learned in my twenties that every culture that ever existed worshiped something greater than themselves in some way, from the beginning of recorded time to this moment. Why is that, I’d wonder, and why is it that of all the animals on earth, that none other ever attained that transcendence of self, and looked up to a God?

Could it be…because God designed it that way?

….

The fact of the matter is, whether a person believes in God or not, all of Ecclesiastes reminds us that life without God is empty and vain. Every person ever created has the opportunity to see the world and His invisible attributes within. Every person has the opportunity to seek the fulfillment of that empty place inside us where we groan and discover what it is we groan for. The Lord made us with sinews and blood and DNA and a place in our brains (it seems) where the seat of heavenly longing waits for the Holy Spirit to connect with it and AWAKE our soul unto Jesus. The key is whether a person suppresses the truth in unrighteousness and continue kicking against the goads. There IS a solution for that burden of sin and guilt we all carry.

….

Will you harden your heart to the questions that arise in you? Will you push out of your mind the unanswerable that is before your eyes? Or will you accept the Holy Spirit’s conviction and seek until blessed belief in repentance to Jesus overwhelms you with love and grace?

….

I urge all of us to think these things. If you are speaking with an unbeliever just know that they already believe in God because they can see His invisible attributes through His creation, they suppress it though.

His creation has His signature on it. His formation of humans has in us implanted longing for His Magnificent self. If you have ever looked at the beauty of the world and wondered Who made it, or felt within yourself a longing and unfulfillment, a seeking for something more, it is the Spirit knocking on the door of your heart ready to reveal the kingdom to you. If you only believe, and ask.

Where, oh where, do I begin?

First, let me be clear on Prata’s behalf, when she talks about “God,” she doesn’t mean “choose one from the panoply of deities worshiped by humans.” Prata believes there is only ONE God — her God: the Calvinistic Christian God. Her use of a “generic God” in her post is a smokescreen meant to hide the fact that she believes worshiping other Gods is just a path to the true God — the triune God of Protestant Christianity.

Second, Prata’s contention that EVERY culture “worship something greater than themselves” is patently false. Prata thinks cultures are monoliths, when in fact they are quite diverse. I’m sure she thinks that the United States is a Christian culture. However, there are tens of millions of Americans who are atheists, agnostics, humanists, and nones; people who do NOT “worship something greater than themselves.” For me personally, I only worship one person, my wife! 🙂 She is my partner, equal to me in every way. But worshiping someone or something greater than me? That’s absurd.

Prata refuses to accept the stories (testimonies) of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and nones at face value. According to her, she KNOWS what we really believe and who or what we really worship. How does she know these things? Cuz the Bible says so . . .

According to the Bible and Prata, when non-Christians look at the natural world, they KNOW the Christian God exists. They know there is a divine Creator. Yet, billions of people deny the existence of Prata’s peculiar God. To claim otherwise is a denial of how things really are. Of course, when you believe the Bible is Big T TRUTH, reality can be dismissed with the wave of your hand. “God said” becomes the answer to every question.

Prata tells her followers:

I urge all of us to think these things. If you are speaking with an unbeliever just know that they already believe in God because they can see His invisible attributes through His creation, they suppress it though.

Instead of accepting non-Christians at face value, Prata tells her followers to ignore their stories, knowing that they really, really, really know the Christian God exists, they just suppress that knowledge. This simply is not true. I do not suppress knowledge of God’s existence. First, what a weak God that I have the power to suppress knowledge of him; that I am able to withstand and deny God himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit. What a weak, pathetic God, that a broken down, disabled man can suppress knowledge of him. Second, Prata is a Calvinist, so I am perplexed about the notion that I can actively suppress knowledge of God. Isn’t God the author and finisher of faith? Can anyone save themselves? I thought it is God who draws people to salvation? Since our salvation rests in the hands of God alone, how is it possible that I can suppress knowledge of him? According to orthodox Christian theology, God is the sovereign Lord over all, including salvation. This God predestined who would and wouldn’t be saved from before the foundation of the world. How then, am I, in any way, responsible for not believing. God knows where I live. He even knows my phone number and email address. If he wants to save me, he knows where I am. If he wants me to “know” him, all he has to do is provide persuasive evidence for his existence. Instead, all I get are the Elizabeth Pratas of the world calling me a liar, denying that what I say about my life is true.

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.

Bible Thumpers: Dealing with Evangelical Bible Bullies

bible thumper 2
Graphic by GlamorKat

Most churchgoing Evangelicals are nice enough people. They may have irrational beliefs and, by their attendance and financial support, lend their names to social policies we progressives find offensive and harmful, but meet Evangelicals at local football games or restaurants and they will act very much like the rest of us. A small percentage of Evangelicals are Bible thumpers — people who live and breathe the Bible, Christian doctrine, and evangelization. Many of the Evangelicals-turned-atheists/agnostics who read this blog were, during their Christian days, Bible thumpers. I know I was. Evangelicals who stumble upon this blog and comment are usually members of the Bible thumper club. Bible thumpers might be a minority within the broader context of Evangelicalism, but they have a larger-than-life presence on the internet, television, and radio. Most Evangelicals are Sunday-go-to-meeting Christians — people who love Jesus and their fellow man. Bible thumpers, on the other hand, love doctrine and hearing themselves talk far more than they do other people. Bible thumpers are quite willing to psychologically eviscerate those deemed enemies — liberal Christians, Catholics, non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and even Evangelicals who aren’t as “committed” as they are.

Several years ago, I tried to engage a Bible thumper in a thoughtful discussion on the Rational Doubt blog. (Our discussion is no longer available.) I should have known better. I ALWAYS should know better. It’s been years since I have had a lengthy discussion with an Evangelical that turned out well. By the time I figured out I had made a huge mistake, this Bible thumper, sensing emotional blood in the water, turned to attacking me personally, suggesting that I was intellectually inferior and a whiner. This man’s words cut to the quick, opening up wounds that lie buried deep in my being. It’s been almost eight years now since I have returned to blogging. People who have been following my writing for years know that I quit blogging several times in the past because of vicious assholes for Jesus. A little voice in my head kept telling me to tell this Bible thumper exactly what I thought of him and move on, but since I was a guest on Rational Doubt (which periodically publishes my writing on their site) I decided to refrain from giving the Bible thumper the Bruce Gerencser Treatment®. I finally threw in the towel, much to the delight of the Bible thumper. According to him, his superior “Biblical” arguments caused me to flee. He even suggested that deep down I knew that his arguments were correct.

Readers who frequent this blog know the kind of man I am. They also know of my physical struggles and my decades-long battle with depression. Had they been following the Rational Doubt debacle, I am sure I would have gotten emails, instant messages, and texts asking me if I was okay. When a major depressive state sets in — as it did when I had this discussion — life gets quite dark for me. It is easy for me to lose sight of what matters. What doesn’t matter is a piss-ant Evangelical who uses the Bible to bully people. This particular man is just one more of the thousands of Bible thumpers who have come before him. I knew what kind of awful man he was, so why did I engage him anyway? I knew he described himself on his website as:

T.C. Howitt writes at the gospel crossroads of truth and reality, using the Bible to illuminate our benighted culture. He considers no subject sacred in this fallen world, relying on the power of God’s word alone to boldly declaim the shocking wickedness surrounding us in the forms of secular humanism, scientism and technological idolatry.

I knew that his Facebook page said: “I’m on Facebook to preach God’s word. Don’t be surprised when you hear it.” I knew his Medium profile said: “Writer, preacher of God’s word, destroyer of idols, giver of fair warning.” These three statements set off a warning in my mind that said, WARNING, BRUCE! BIBLE THUMPER AHEAD. Yet, despite knowing all I needed to know about what kind of man Todd Howitt is, I decided to engage him anyway. The fault, then, is mine, not his. Rabid dogs act like rabid dogs. I shouldn’t expect them to act like lovable puppies. Bible thumpers act the way they do because they believe the Bible is the answer to every question, and that they know everything. Every morning, these zealots arise and sing:

The B-I-B-L-E,
Yes that’s the book for me,
I stand alone on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E.
BIBLE!

bible thumper 4

They have read countless books that reinforce their educated ignorance. Bible thumpers believe they have life figured out, and that if everyone would believe as they do, all would be well. Many of these Bible thumpers are Calvinists, adding another layer of arrogance and certainty to their behavior. I KNOW all of these things, so why, then, did I bother to engage Howitt? My counselor tells me that I wrongly think that if I just share with people my story and explain my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism, Bible thumpers will understand. Dr. Deal had told me several times, Bruce, you think these people care about what you think. They don’t! They don’t give a shit about you or what you think.

Doc, of course, is right. I KNOW he is right. I have known for years that he is right. I know, I know, I know, yet every so often the “just explain yourself” Bruce nags me, demanding to speak, and so I let him. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, the moment I do, I realize I have made a big mistake. I am not talking here about explaining myself to the regular readers of this blog. I owe it to readers who have invested their time (and money) in reading my writing to explain things that aren’t clear. Fortunately, regular readers rarely need an explanation. They understand my writing methodology and usually know what I mean when I say this or that.

Several years ago, I read a Washington Post article about the turmoil in Spain over Catalonia’s attempt to secede from Spain. Speaking of the supposed dialog between the parties, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said:

The word dialogue is a lovely word. It creates good feelings. But dialogue has two enemies: those who abuse, ignore and forget the laws, and those who only want to listen to themselves, who do not want to understand the other party.”

I thought as I read it, Rajoy’s statement fits well with my recent “dialog” with Todd Howitt. Howitt is an enemy to open and honest dialog because his Fundamentalist religious beliefs have turned him into an abusive bully. He may smile and say Praise Jesus! while he is doing it, but Howitt and other Bible thumpers can and do cause psychological harm to people with sensitive sensibilities (which Bible thumpers view as weakness). Howitt had no interest in understanding where I was coming from. He stated from the get-go that he was a former atheist (doubtful) and he was there not to dialog or converse — already knowing how atheists think — but to preach the Word. In other words, he was only interested in hearing himself talk. Those of us who are former Evangelicals are quite familiar with people who only want to listen to themselves talk. Our pastors were people who believed they were men supernaturally chosen by a supernatural God to preach the inspired, inerrant supernatural Word of God. Our duty as hearers was to submit to the pastor’s — I mean God’s — authority and explicitly follow the laws, precepts, commands, and examples found within the pages of the one book that is different from all the books ever written — the Protestant Christian Bible. As an Evangelical pastor, I did the same. Since I had been called by God to preach and teach at whatever church I was currently pastoring, I expected congregants to listen and obey. (Hebrews 13:17)

Bible thumpers believe they are plugged into God 24/7 — that is, except when they, under the cover of darkness, behave in ways that make them entries for the Black Collar Crime series. Bible thumpers believe that their knowledge of the Bible is superior to that of the vast majority of people on earth. Some of them think that they are so right that no church is good enough for them. They are infected with what I call A.W. Pink disease. Pink was a famous early-twentieth-century Calvinistic writer who secluded himself on an island because he couldn’t find a pure enough church to attend.

Having risen to the level of being worthy to enter the inner temple of Biblical truth, Bible thumpers, girded with self-righteousness, fan out across the internet seeking forums to dispense their Trumpian-level knowledge. Scores of such people over the years have made their way to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. These days, Bible thumpers are rarely permitted to sell their faux-gold plated turds on this site. A decade spent dealing with Bible thumpers has taught me that engagement is futile. While I, at times, forget this maxim, I am getting better at just letting Bible thumpers tilt at windmills.

I originally wrote this post in 2017. Over the past five years, I have come a long way in learning how to deal with Evangelicals who only want to cause harm. Life is too short — literally — for me to waste time trying to engage people who only want to viciously, violently, and hatefully attack me and the readers of this blog. On the rare occasions I do engage such people, I do so for entertainment purposes or to provide graphic illustrations of the ugly underbelly of Evangelical Christianity. Such people do a wonderful job turning people away from Christianity.

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 Insanity of the ‘Life Begins at Fertilization’ Movement

aaron wilson

The goal of the pro-life movement is to make ALL abortion illegal. They will not stop their war against women until fertilized eggs receive the same constitutional protections afforded post-birth humans. Using the incremental approach, pro-lifers have successfully made it impossible for women in many states to get an abortion. Some zealots even go so far as to say that birth control should be outlawed. I have no doubt that once the U.S. Supreme Court is at full strength that zygote warriors will attempt to re-litigate Roe v. Wade.

I have written several articles on abortion you might find helpful:

Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions

25 Questions for Those who say Abortion is Murder

Why it is Impossible to Talk to Pro-Life Zealots About Abortion

Frozen Embryos: If Life Begins at Conception

Tristan Vick also wrote an article for this site on abortion titled, Is Abortion Murder? (A Rationalist’s Take).

Several years ago, The Gospel Coalition — a Fundamentalist, Calvinistic, parachurch group — published an article by Aaron Wilson titled, What Christians Should Know About Embryo Adoption. That’s right, EMBRYO ADOPTION.  Tens of thousands of children need adoptive families, yet people such as Aaron Wilson are focused on rescuing frozen embryos — who are, in their minds, human beings with constitutional rights — from being criminally murdered. Here’s some of what Wilson had to say:

A hallmark of the evangelical church in America is the backing of a pro-life worldview. As such, abortion clinics and the politics that govern them are primary areas of focus in this important cause. However, there’s another front that often gets overlooked in the fight for life: the state of the thousands of children who remain cryogenically frozen as human embryos following in-vitro fertilization cycles.

A growing Christian response to this issue is the life-affirming answer of embryo adoption.

If you haven’t heard of embryo adoption, you’re not alone. Even though thousands of children in the United States could immediately benefit from this act of love, many people—Christians included—remain unaware of this adoptive need.

Because embryo adoption can be confusing, here are six answers to common questions.

1. What is embryo adoption?

Embryo adoption is a way to care for children who, for lack of a better phrase, are “left over” and kept in a cryogenic state following an in-vitro fertilization cycle. Through embryo adoption, an adopting mother gives these children a chance at birth by allowing their embryonic form to be thawed and transferred to her uterus. If one or more implant, the mother then carries and births the child (or children) though she is not genetically related to them. Embryo adoption is often referred to as pre-birth adoption.

2. Isn’t embryo adoption the same thing as in-vitro fertilizatio (IVF)?

No. In many ways, it’s the opposite. In-vitro fertilization creates life as a form of reproductive technology. Embryo adoption is a response to the fact that life has already been created and that it needs a womb to continue developing the way God intended babies to grow.

3. How many embryonic babies exist in cryopreservation?

In the United States alone, a projected 700,000 children exist as frozen embryos. Of these, an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 are available to be adopted. That number grows every week. These statistics reflect two pressing needs: A movement of families who are willing to adopt and an awareness of the life-affirming options available to parents who already have remaining embryos.

4. Is embryo adoption really adoption?

Because the U.S. government doesn’t agree with the Bible’s claim that life begins at fertilization, embryo adoption isn’t considered legal adoption in America. The government only sees human embryos as cells, and so treats embryo adoption as a mere transfer of property. As such, many fertility clinics prefer “embryo donation.”

Biblically informed Christians, however, shouldn’t shy away from using life-honoring terms. Just as Jesus was adopted by Joseph in a preborn state (not received as a donation from God), Christians should honor life by using theologically accurate language.

….

6. How can I care for frozen children?

….

Inform. Most people have never heard of embryo adoption. Those who have often confuse it with IVF. Much adoption evangelism needs to take place inside the church on behalf of these frozen lives. Share embryo adoption articles on social media. Talk with friends. Do research. Talk to your elders and your small group about ways your church can be involved in the mission field that is embryo adoption.

….

Adopt. The most powerful way to care for these tiniest of children is to personally open a womb and a home to them. A great place to start is to check out the website of the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee.

When God Became an Embryo

Jesus didn’t leave his throne for a manager, at least not directly. He first left his throne nine months earlier for a womb.

How much grander is the story of the incarnation when we realize the Son of God went from ruling the universe to becoming the smallest, most dependent, most microscopic form of human life. The God who authored a world that can’t be measured, humbled himself into a form that can’t be seen.

And this same God who became a human embryo to save sinners would have his church stand up for the many human embryos regularly discarded or frozen indefinitely. Consider how you can expand your pro-life passion toward the littlest lives by championing the cause of embryo adoption.

As someone who believes women should have the unrestricted right to an abortion pre-viability, Wilson’s article is a reminder of the impossibility of working with pro-lifers to reduce the number of abortions. Unable to differentiate between a blob of cells and a human life, pro-lifers obstinately refuse to compromise their beliefs. This is why I no longer waste my time arguing or debating with members of God’s Zygote Squad®. Their Fundamentalist religious views have blinded them to the horrific damage caused by their incessant assault on reproductive rights. They will not rest until Ozzie and Harriett, Leave it to Beaver, and the Duggars are the gold standard for American families.

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.

Family Driven Faith — Part One

bruce-and-polly-gerencser-1981
Bruce and Polly Gerencser with son #2, 1981, at Bruce’s mother’s home. Gotta love that porn stache. 🙂

This article was first published in 2011 on the blog No Longer Quivering. Corrected, revised, and updated.

For seven months in 2004, our family attended Faith Bible Church in Jersey, Ohio, a vibrant, growing, family-oriented church in central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly, my wife, was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day, and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.”

In a split second, everything changed.  You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises, but they were not to work outside the home. From that day forward, the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.

In the 1990s, I co-pastored Community Baptist Church, a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Elmendorf, Texas (please see I am a Publican and a Heathen — Part One). A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily, candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony of salvation before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman because her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.) She wanted to give a public testimony, but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. This standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and counseled her to disobey her husband. She was baptized a short time later.

This church also believed that “church business” was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings, women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question, they had to whisper their question to a man, and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing, but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.

While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the aforementioned churches, I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to male rule and authority. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to their parents and obey every command given to them.

I believed the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course, what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible, there is no Christianity (in any meaningful sense of the word). As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. The Bible was the final rule and authority for everything, the blueprint for life.

IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything, but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement, is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under-shepherds of their churches, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching their churches what the Bible says (or better put, what his interpretations are). These pastors, divinely called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, are the mouthpiece of God.

Practically speaking, the pastor is the final authority in the church. He is the law-giver, and he alone has the final say on virtually everything. The Bible is clear, the pastor is to rule the church, and church members are to submit to his rule. Pastors spend significant time reminding the church that God says he, the pastor, is the boss. The common phrase used to define this is pastoral authority.

Pastoral authority, IFB style, leads to dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members’ lives. Some churches recognize the problem with one man having so much power, so they have a plurality of elders or a board of elders or deacons. Sadly, all this does is make a group of men dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members’ lives

In a hierarchical system, God and the Bible come first. Underneath God and the Bible is the pastor. Church members are taught that submitting to the pastor’s teaching and authority is pleasing to God, and, if practiced, will bring the blessing of God.

As an IFB pastor, I taught church members that God and the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children. In my mind, the Bible was clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Much like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them is marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all, why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home? I taught men that God’s highest calling for them is to be a leader. Men are called to lead the church, home, and government. In my mind, the strength or weakness of any culture, church, or home depended on whether men were fulfilling their divine calling to lead. Children, of course, are at the bottom of this hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother (and according to my three younger sons, their oldest brother). 🙂 Children have one divine calling in life, obedience!

Polly and I have been married for almost forty-four years. We have grown six children, ages forty-two to twenty-eight. Our older children went to a public or Christian school for a few years, but for the next seventeen years, we homeschooled our children. For the first twenty years of marriage, we followed the hierarchical system detailed above. For the most part, Polly didn’t work and I was the breadwinner. I pastored churches full-time, but, due to the notoriously low pay in IFB churches, I also worked a number of secular jobs. For years on end, I worked sixty to eighty hours a week, and in doing so, neglected my wife and children. Regardless of the neglect, I was still the authority in the home. I was the final answer to every question. I ruled our home with a rod of iron and my family feared me. Of course, I never called their fear fear. I called it a healthy respect for authority. I gave the orders and they obeyed.

For many years, my wife (I don’t like using phrases like my wife and my children. While most people see these phrases as harmless, they are a reminder of the past, a past where Polly and the children were treated like slaves and property. I try to avoid using these phrases, but in some instances, they cannot be avoided) and I followed the general tenets of the Quiverfull movement. In the early 90s, we embraced Calvinism and became persuaded that using birth control was a sin. We believed that God was sovereign and He opened and closed the womb. Who were we to stand in the way of God blessing us with more children?

Our first child born under the “let God have his way” form of birth control was a beautiful redheaded girl with Down syndrome. Two years later, almost to the day,  we were blessed with another beautiful redheaded girl. Twenty months later, our youngest child, a son (should I call him beautiful too? Momma says yes!) was born.

Before we could blink, we had three more children, all in diapers. Polly was known in the family as Fertile Myrtle. I was persuaded that if I looked at her, she would get pregnant. I have no doubt that we would have had twenty children if we had continued to abstain from using birth control.

Fortunately, Polly’s doctor intervened and told us in no uncertain terms that Polly’s last pregnancy had taken a huge physical toll on her and any future pregnancies could kill her. We decided, God’s will be damned, that we were not going to have any more children. I was considered a hypocrite for not trusting God in this matter, but I had no desire to be wifeless with six children. Several years later, Polly had a tubal ligation and no more rabbits died.

In part two of this series, I plan to write about how the thinking mentioned in this post affected the churches I pastored and how it affected my family. I want to detail how this kind of thinking almost destroyed my marriage and how abandoning such thinking transformed my relationship with Polly and our children.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Jesus Did All of This For YOU!

jesus did all of this for you

Warning! Lots of snark ahead. Easily offended Christians have been warned! 

From the Isaiah 53:5 Project blog (no longer active). My comments are indented and in italics.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
– Isaiah 53:5

Jesus Christ left Heaven for YOU.

Jesus is God, right? So, when Jesus exited Heaven, it was left without a God? No, God the Father was still there. Wait a minute. I thought Christianity is a monotheistic religion. If there is a God on earth — Jesus — and a God in Heaven — the Father — doesn’t this mean that Christianity is actually a polytheistic religion?

How do you know Jesus left Heaven for me? Calvinists say that Jesus came to earth to only die for the elect — those predestined to salvation by God from before the foundation of the world. And doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus actually came to earth to die just for the Jews and that only after they rejected him did Jesus (God) decide to die for Gentiles?

Matthew 1:21 says: And she [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people [Jews] from their sins.

John 1:10-12 says: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own [Jews], and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

He left Heaven and entered a world He knew would hate Him, for YOU.

Jesus, God number two, came to earth because his Father, God number one, decided before he created the heavens and earth that he would send God number two to earth to be hated, physically assaulted, and killed. What kind of father sends his one and only son (well, God, according to the Mormons, has many sons) to a hostile environment, knowing that he will be viciously killed? Here in the 21st century, such a father would lose custody of his son and likely face criminal prosecution.

He endured beatings for YOU.

Actually, Jesus endured beatings because he pissed off his fellow Jews. Much like Fred Phelps, Jed Smock, and Steven Anderson, Jesus verbally attacked the Jewish religion and even went so far as to go into the Temple to physically assault people and destroy their property. In other words, Jesus is to blame for his ass-whooping, not me.

He was unimaginably tortured for YOU.

See previous paragraph. Yes, Jesus was tortured, but was it really as big of a deal as Evangelicals make it out to be? The United States government tortures people they deem terrorists for weeks, months, and years. Jesus suffered torture for about twenty-four or so hours. I know of people who have suffered with unrelenting pain and agony for decades. Oh, how they wish they could suffer as Jesus did and then be done with it. (Please see I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend.)

He suffered for YOU.

See previous two paragraphs. Since Jesus, according to orthodox Christian theology, was fully God and fully man, does this mean God can suffer; that a perfect, sinless being can experience physical pain? I thought, as John 4:24 states, that God is a spirit. How, exactly, does a spirit suffer?

He hung on a cross for YOU.

See previous paragraphs. I think the record is stuck. Please bump the needle.

He shed his blood for YOU.

Christianity is a blood sacrifice cult, as is Islam, Judaism, and a host of other human religions. What’s with all the bloodshed? Couldn’t God have designed a better way of redeeming man from their sin? Why require the bloody sacrifice of innocents? Centuries ago, some religions sacrificed humans. Christians say these other religions are cults. Why is one human sacrifice right and another wrong? The Bible condemns the worshipers of Molech for offering their children as sacrifices, yet offering Jesus as a sacrifice or eating his body and drinking his blood every Sunday during communion are acts worthy of veneration and worship. Seems hypocritical to me.

Christians are divided as to for whom Jesus shed his blood. Did Jesus shed his blood for everyone, as Arminians claim? Or did Jesus shed his blood only for John Calvin’s elect? Or perhaps the Christians sects who believe that Jesus’ blood atonement was sufficient to save everyone, but only efficient to save the elect (Amyraldism) are right. Or maybe the Universalists are right — that Jesus’ blood sacrifice provides salvation for everyone regardless of belief.

So much blood, so many confusing, contradictory beliefs about Jesus’ shed blood. Why didn’t the writer of the Bible — God — make it clear exactly who it is that is covered by Jesus’ blood sacrifice?

He died for YOU.

I think I have snarkily established that Christian sects are divided over for whom Jesus died. From a historical perspective, Jesus didn’t die for anyone. He was executed at the behest of the Jews by the Roman government because he was viewed as a threat to the established order. At best, Jesus was executed because his political beliefs were causing social unrest — that is, if the secondhand reports recorded in the Bible are true. If, as Evangelicals claim, Jesus was/is a world-changing figure, why is there virtually no mention of him outside of the Bible?

I didn’t ask Jesus to die for me, nor did anyone else. God created us, gave us the capacity to sin, and then, when we act of the nature given to us by him, he requires that blood sacrifices be made to satiate his anger; anger, I might add, that should be directed at himself. If I create a car, fill it with gas, start it, and put the car in gear, only to have it go driverless down the road careening into bystanders, who is to blame? Not the bystanders. We humans are mere bystanders in the Christian God’s sordid morality play. God could have chosen a different path, but he didn’t. This is the best humans, uh I mean God, could come up with?

Amazing, isn’t it?

No, actually it is not. There’s nothing amazing about the blood sacrifice of Jesus. There’s nothing amazing about his suffering. There’s nothing amazing about his death. Jesus’ story is one of failure, that of a man who went against the political and religious powers of his day and lost. His story is repeated daily in countless places as people stand against oppression, only to end up imprisoned or killed. Instead of wallowing in the blood of Jesus, the world would be better served if Christians focused on reducing suffering and eliminating the bloody slaughter caused by war.  You know, quit talking and start doing.

I have never asked anyone to die for me, nor would I. I recognize that police officers and soldiers might be called on to keep me safe. These are jobs that they have chosen to do. I would never ask anyone to die on my behalf. When someone says that American soldiers are fighting in the Middle East so I can enjoy life in the land of the free and home of the brave, I say, not for me! I would never ask such a thing. Bring all the soldiers home, today. Of course, the troops will not be brought home, betraying the fact that the real reasons for their deaths are imperialistic American ambitions and corporate profits.

There are certainly times when human death for others is worthy of praise and remembrance. Dying to protect and save others is certainly noble, and I honor those who have given their lives for others. Such people are heroes —  hero being a word robbed of its significance by its shallow, frequent use. The death of Jesus is not worthy of such a designation. Think about it for a moment. Ponder the whole God/creation/Adam-and-Eve/Satan/original-sin/blood-sacrifice/Jesus/redemption/salvation/death/heaven-or-hell story line. Does any of it make any sense to you?  When viewed with eyes that have not been colored by religious indoctrination, this story sounds like some sort of Stephen King novel — soon to be adapted into a feature film for the SyFy channel.

Why is that Christians never ask God WHY? Why this sordid story of animal and human sacrifices? Why the creating of Satan just so he could tempt humans to sin? Why create humans with a capacity to sin? If all of this was just a coder’s work gone awry I would understand. But, according to Christians, their God is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. THIS was the best the Christian God could come up with? According to a Ken Ham-reading of the Bible, four thousand years ago, God killed every human, save eight, by drowning them in a worldwide flood. Millions of people died. Here was God’s chance to start over with just eight supposedly God-fearing humans. And what did these humans do? Got drunk and had incestuous sex. Why didn’t God kill Noah and his family and start over? Why didn’t God put an end to Satan and demons? Why did God kill millions of people because they committed execution-worthy sins, only to reboot the world without changing anything?

Didn’t God learn anything from the Human 1.0 experiment? Evidently not. Two thousand years after Noah’s flood, God decided he had to do something about the Human 2.0 experiment. God became human (much like he did when he walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve), traveled to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life for thirty-three years, only to commit suicide on a Roman cross. (Suicide? Therefore doth my Father love me, because I [Jesus] lay down my life, that I might take it again. John 10:17) And now, for two thousand years God is conducting the Human 3.0 experiment. And if the book of Revelation is to be believed, this experiment will also end in horrific violence and bloodshed.

It seems to me that God is having a hard time getting things right; that try as he might his multi-player action games are riddled with bugs — coding errors that often cause the games to either reboot or stop working. Perhaps it is time for another coder to try his hand at creation. Sorry God, you’ve been fired.

Christianity would be better served if the bronze-age blood sacrifices and cult worship found in the Bible were excised from its pages. Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he took a pair of scissors to the Bible. Instead of a God who became a man, we could have a sage who uttered sayings and teachings worthy of emulation. Few would argue with the value of such teachings. Human sacrifice? Blood sacrifice? These are relics best left in the dust bin of human history.

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.

Does God Love Us Unconditionally?

unconditional love

Ask an Evangelical Christian if God loves humans unconditionally and he or she will likely respond with a resounding YES! God loves us no matter what we do, they will say. An Evangelical  familiar with the Bible might even quote Romans 8:38,39:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do these verses apply to non-Christians? After all, when non-Christians die they go to Hell. So, this means they are separated from the love of God, right? Uh, well . . . the Bible says God is love! Okay, where does it say that God’s love is unconditional?

The word “unconditional” means without any conditions, not contingent, not determined or influenced by someone or something else. I know that Evangelicals desperately want God’s love to be unconditional, but any cursory reading of the Bible shows that God’s love is ALWAYS conditional.

Consider salvation for a moment. Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled before God will save a person? Or does a person go to bed one night unsaved and wake up the next morning saved? Of course not. In order for unbelievers to be saved, they must repent, believe, and follow. These are the conditions that must be fulfilled in order for a person to be considered a Christian.

Both Calvinism and Arminianism teach that God’s love is conditional. For the Calvinist, God’s love for a person is predicated on unconditional election and predestination. For the Arminian, God’s love for a person is predicated on prevenient grace. If God unconditionally loves everyone then he would save everyone. But, he doesn’t save everyone because he has already determined who he is going to save. But Bruce, the only reason people are not saved is that they choose not to be. Okay, so then them CHOOSING is the condition for God saving them, right? Well, uh . . . can’t get away from it . . . God is not the God of unconditional love.

When God created Adam and Eve, he told them that his love, favor, and blessing were contingent on one condition: don’t eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, we all know how that worked out.

From the time Adam and Eve sinned until Jesus died on the cross, God required a blood sacrifice in order to expiate the sins of humans, both individually and corporately. Forgiveness was contingent on the blood sacrifice. No sacrifice, no forgiveness. Even now, the forgiveness of sin is contingent on the blood atonement of Jesus on the cross (and sects argue endlessly about whose sins and what sins were expiated on the cross). Again, it is clear that salvation and the forgiveness of sin are conditional.

When I am talking to Evangelicals about the unconditional love of God, I ask them: give me one illustration from the Bible where God’s love is shown to be unconditional? If they think about this for a moment they likely will argue that God’s love is different from human love, so it is impossible for us to understand it. According to many Evangelicals, God is capable of perfectly loving and hating a person at the same time. This is a nice theory for which there is no Biblical foundation.

Genesis 6-8 states that God caused a flood to engulf the earth, killing every human and every animal that was not on the Ark with Noah and his family. Millions of people died. Men, women, children, and babies still in the womb, died because God drowned them. Was God’s love unconditional for those who drowned?

According to Genesis 6:3, God gave humans 120 years to repent. The New Testament tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Noah was God’s warning siren to the inhabitants of the earth. Their survival depended on them repenting of their evil ways. Granted, things were bad, according to the Bible; the sons of God, which many Evangelicals believe were fallen angels, were marrying human women and having sex with them. This sexual union produced what the King James Version calls giants, mighty men, men of renown.

The conditions on earth were so bad that God:

…saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Genesis 6:7)

Humans had become so evil that God regretted creating them. He decided to kill everyone except Noah and seven members of his family. Simply put, God hit the reset button and started over.

When Evangelicals preach at me about the unconditional love of God, I always ask them to explain the unconditional love of God to me from Genesis 6-8. Usually, they will quickly say that God killed everyone because of their sin. So, God’s love was conditioned on them repenting, so his love wasn’t unconditional, right? Besides, God killed innocent children and unborn babies in the flood. God loved them so much that he killed them? Perhaps God thought they would be better off dead (an argument used by more than a few deranged psychopathic parents)?

It is clear from Genesis 6-8 that God’s love was NOT unconditional, and no matter where people read in the Bible, they are going to find that God’s love is conditional. If the Bible is anything, it is the written record of God’s wrath, vengeance, and hate towards those who do not accept and act on the conditions he gives them. The gospel message of the Bible is this, Do THIS and thou shalt live. Either we do things God’s way or he makes us pay.

Imagine a person saying, I love my wife, kids, neighbor, friend, et al. Yet, this person afflicts, starves, brutally punishes, and kills those he says he loves. Would we not rightly say that this person knows nothing about love? Yet, when the Unconditional Love God® does these things, he is given a pass. God is right in all he does because God is right. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 9, many Evangelicals say, How dare you question what God does! He loves because he says he loves! End of discussion.

Shouldn’t we expect God to at least measure up to human standards? A person who afflicts, starves, brutally punishes, and kills people knows nothing about love. He is likely a sociopath. He is not a person any of us would want to have anything to do with. Yet, when God acts this way, the Evangelical choir begins to sing, What a Mighty God we Serve, followed by, Our God is an Awesome God.

The truth is this: many Christians are far more loving than the God they profess to worship. We all should be very glad that many Christians are more God-like than God himself. Imagine what the world would look like if Christians loved what God loved and hated what God hated. (Read the Bible for the list of people and behaviors God hates.)

I realize that most Evangelical readers and many non-Evangelical Christian readers will reject what I have written here. They are convinced that God is love, every time, all the time, and he can be nothing but love. They even carry it a step further when they naïvely say, not only does God love unconditionally but we are to love everyone unconditionally too.

While it is hard to “prove” that an invisible God does not love unconditionally, it is quite easy to prove that NO human loves unconditionally. At best, unconditional love is a grand ideal, but back here in the real flesh and blood world, human love always has conditions.

I am sure someone will say, I love my wife and my children unconditionally.  This person’s thinking is well-intentioned, but it is based on sentimentality and not fact. Suppose for a moment this person went to work, came home early from work, and found his wife in bed with the neighbor. Would his love still be unconditional? Perhaps, he forgives his wife for her indiscretion, but what if she continues to sleep with the neighbor and even starts sleeping with numerous men. Would his love still be unconditional?

Parents like to say that they love their children unconditionally.  Suppose for a moment a father went to work, and when he came home, he found his wife and four of his five children murdered. He soon finds out that his teenage son killed his wife and children. Would his love still be unconditional?

But Bruce, these are extreme examples. Yes, and shouldn’t unconditional love work no matter the circumstance? Remember:

The word unconditional means without any conditions, not contingent, not determined or influenced by someone or something else.

It is important for us to love others, and we all can and should broaden the limits of our love. But, as with the God of the Bible, our love does have limits, and this is why I must conclude that the notion of unconditional love is a myth. It is a belief rooted in human sentimentality. Perhaps it is a worthy goal, but all I know is that everywhere I look, be it the Bible, the actions of my fellow humans, or my own actions, all I see is conditional love.

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.

1998: The Theological Beliefs of Evangelical Pastor Bruce Gerencser

bruce polly gerencser our fathers house west unity
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio Circa 2000

Excerpt from Our Father’s House website, circa 1998. Edited slightly for spelling, grammar, and adding links

Often I am asked “what does your church believe about__________?”  This is not an easy question to answer because our church is a body made up of individuals, and even in a smaller church like Our Father’s House, there are “differing” views on what the Bible says about some things. We do not set any particular creed or statement of faith as a requirement for membership in the church. Rather, if a person has repented of their sins, and by faith trusted Christ for salvation, AND has a desire to be taught the Word of God, we encourage them to become a part of our assembly. We accept the Apostle’s Creed as a summary statement of belief. Please see our church constitution for further information.

So, when asked “what does your church believe about__________?” it is better for me to say what “I” believe and to share the viewpoint that “I” teach from.

I am an expositional preacher. The primary Bible version I use is the KJV [I later moved to the ESV]. Some church members use the NKJV.  Usually, I preach on random passages of Scripture, and at times will preach through books of the Bible. I believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. It does not just contain the words of God, it IS the Words of God, every jot and every tittle.

I am an Evangelical. I willingly embrace all those who claim the name of Christ and walk in His truth. I believe the denominational fragmentation that is seen today is a dishonor to the God of Heaven. The world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. One of my desires is to promote love and unity among God’s people. Lest someone think I am an ecumenist, I oppose the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement. While I readily grant that there are many Roman Catholics who are Christians (and I embrace them as such), the official doctrine of the Roman Church is salvation (justification) by works.  In the name of Christ, I embrace God’s people wherever they may be found, but I strongly oppose the false gospel of works taught in many churches. A sinner is saved (justified) apart from the works of the law. (or any other work like baptism, joining the church, being confirmed) Sinners are not saved by works but UNTO good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

I am a Non-Cessationist. I believe that spiritual gifts are for today and that they are in operation today. While I would not call myself a charismatic, I do find a common bond with men such as John Piper and Martyn Lloyd Jones and ministries such as People of Destiny [now Sovereign Grace Churches]. I do not believe that many of the so-called charismatic gifts exercised in many Charismatic/Pentecostal churches are of God. Such churches preach a gospel according to the Holy Spirit, not a gospel that finds as its foundation Jesus Christ. Any gospel that requires a person to speak in tongues, evidence the fullness of the Spirit, etc. is a false gospel. I also stand opposed to the modern prosperity gospel preached by men such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Frederick Price, et al. The modern charismatic movement is an admixture of truth and error and is best described as a mixture of the Corinthian and Laodicean churches. I also stand opposed to most of the Charismatic teaching regarding demons, territorial spirits, and demon/spirit possession. There is a real Devil who can and does possess his children (John 8:44) and our battle is with him, but much of the spiritual warfare teaching is according to the philosophies of men and not of God.

I believe in the validity of the law of God. God’s law is pure, holy, and true, and man is enjoined by God to obey. I emphasize that the believer is to progress in sanctification and holiness. Saved people LIVE like saved people. I find much in common with the good men and women. of the Chalcedon Foundation. They are a small voice in a large wilderness declaring the validity of the law of God.

I am a Calvinist. I believe in the Sovereignty of God and that salvation is of the Lord. No man can save himself. I do not believe man has an innate ability to believe. Unless the Father, by the power of His Spirit, draws a man to salvation, that man will never be saved. I believe in the perseverance (preservation) of the saints. God keeps His own until the day of salvation. I consider the doctrine of eternal security preached in many Churches to be a perversion of the truth because it denies a connection between the saviorship and lordship of Christ in a man’s life. There is a direct connection between a man who is saved and how he lives. The same God who saves a man has also ordained that that same man would live a life of good works. No holiness, no heaven! While I consider myself a Calvinist, I stand against hyper Calvinism and its denial of the free offer of the gospel. I also reject double predestination as a doctrine rooted in the philosophies of men and not the Word of God. As a minister of the gospel, my desire is not to convert Arminians to Calvinists, nor is it to promote a system. I preach Christ. Calvinism is the best description of how and why God saves a sinner. I, without hesitation, affirm the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith as an accurate statement of that which I most surely believe.

I am posttribulational, and amillennial. I believe the church will go through the tribulation, and that there yet awaits a day when Jesus Christ will come again and judge the world.

I believe in the Lordship of Christ. We do not make Him Lord, HE IS LORD. Because He is Lord, we are called on to live holy, separated lives. The standard for such living is the Word of God. I reject all man-made standards of living, for God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. Legalistic standards of touch not, taste not are rejected as the philosophies of men.

My favorite theologians and authors are JC Ryle, Wayne Grudem, Donald Bloesch, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Watson, Gardiner Spring, John MacArthur, and most anything written during the Puritan era. Truly a minister is known by the books he reads.  My favorite bookstore is the Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service. They are an excellent source of sound doctrinal books and, of course, they carry a large supply of Puritan books

So there you have it . . .this is not all I believe . . . but I have given you enough so that you can decide what kind of preacher you think I am. After you decide, if you are still interested, please do stop and visit. We will be delighted to have you as our guest. If you have a question please email me and I will promptly reply.

Pastor Bruce Gerencser

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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.

Can Calvinists Know They Are Saved?

saved or lost

I spent a great deal of time around Calvinists and though they preached security they never possessed it. They claimed “faith” but were not secure in it. One moment they are saved/the elect. The next moment, meh, not so sure.

— Zoe

Calvinists believe that human salvation is predetermined by God from before the foundation of the world. Calvinists posit God in eternity past predestined some humans to salvation, leaving everyone else as they are, dead in trespasses and sin. Some Calvinists believe in double predestination. God actively chooses who will be saved and does the same for those who won’t. Those God chooses to save must persevere in the faith until death. Some Calvinists don’t like the term “perseverance of the saints,” thinking it makes salvation a “work,” so they use the phrase “preservation of the saints” instead.

I was a Calvinistic Baptist pastor for years. I associated with Reformed Baptist and Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors and churches. For several years, I published the Sovereign Grace Reporter and operated the CHARIS Tape Library. My library was filled with books written by Calvinistic authors. I even read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion — a set of books widely quoted in Calvinistic circles, but rarely read. All told, I pastored three Calvinistic churches, including Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. (Please see the series I am a Publican and a Heathen — Part One.) I am partially responsible for giving to the world Tim Conway and Craig Musselman pastors of Grace Community Church in San Antonio. Conway (and Musselman) was a member of Community Baptist while I was there. He and his wife Ruby helped me plant Calvinistic churches in Stockdale and Floresville, Texas.

I say these things because this post will likely attract the attention of Calvinistic apologists. They will likely challenge whether I truly “understand” Calvinism. If I use the wrong word or be imprecise in any way and Calvinistic apologists will see that as “proof” I wasn’t a “real” Calvinist. So, if you are a Calvinistic apologist, please forward the test questions to me so I can answer them, proving that I am indeed a circumcised five-point Calvinist.

While Calvinists prattle on endlessly about salvation by grace, a closer examination of how the doctrines of grace work themselves out in the lives of Calvinistic church members reveals a works-based salvation scheme. In once-saved-always saved (sometimes called one point Calvinism) Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, sinners are:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

Once a person is saved, there is nothing he or she can do to lose their salvation. That’s why many IFB preachers believe I am still a Christian. No matter what I say about God, Jesus, Christianity, or the Bible, I am forever a born-again Christian. At age fifteen, I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and that, in their minds, sealed my eternal destiny.

Calvinists, of course, repudiate and despise once-saved-always-saved soteriology. According to their theology, salvation is conditional. Those who are truly saved must persevere until the bitter to enter Heaven after death. And even then, they could be unsaved and land in Hell. You see, some Calvinists can think they are “saved,” but they are not. They are temporary Christians, people under the common grace of God, but not his special, discriminate grace. In other words, God lets some Calvinists go through life thinking they are Christians, only to tell them when they draw their last breath, ha! the joke is on you. I never chose you, and now you will burn in the Lake of Fire for e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. What an awesome deity, right?

For these reasons, and others, Calvinists have a lot of angst over the state of their souls. Am I truly saved? Am I one of the elect? Calvinists are implored to make their calling and election sure. They are encouraged to plumb the depths of their hearts, searching for anything that might be leading them astray. Calvinists spend inordinate amounts of time carefully examining what they believe and why. And even after doing so, they might still go to Hell in the end because they aren’t one of the elect. Is it any wonder that many Calvinists doubt their salvation and stress out over whether they are truly “in the faith”?

What Zoe stated above is very much my experience pastoring Calvinistic church members. Sincere, thoughtful congregants would seek me out after church or make an appointment to see me so I could give them spiritual counsel about the state of their souls. While I couldn’t tell anyone if they were one of the elect, I could encourage them to avail themselves of the means of grace. Much like once-saved-always-saved IFB preachers, I would encourage congregants to: attend church unless providentially hindered, read and study the Bible, pray without ceasing, fast, partake of communion, and any anything else that would bring spiritual challenge, correction, and strength. I encouraged people, and I quote, “to put themselves in the way of God.” Yet, despite doing all of these things, I had church members who still doubted their salvation. These people were, in every way, committed followers of Jesus. They were the backbone of the churches I pastored.

I have no doubt that my preaching helped encourage doubt among naturally introspective people. To this day, I struggle with a lack of self-esteem. Why? A lifetime of perverse introspection; an inability to accept myself as I am. Even though I am now an atheist, Calvinism, with its obsessive introspection, made a deep, lasting mark on my psyche. Now, instead of wondering whether I was one of the elect, I struggle with believing I am a good person. Decades of self-denial and daily inventories of my life robbed me of any sense of worth. Just because I am an atheist doesn’t mean the psychological harm caused by Calvinism has gone away. That’s what therapy is for.

Were you a Calvinist? Did you have doubts about your salvation? Did you wonder if you were truly one of the elect? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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