Tag Archive: Calvinism

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Raising White Christian Boys in a Culture That Hates Them

scott alan buss

You just don’t talk about white people, boys or not, as if they’re somehow deserving of equal consideration and treatment in America when we all know that every other gender (of which one is real), every other ethnicity, and every other religious perspective is totally deserving of “special consideration” above and beyond what “Christian white boys” in America ought to have or even expect.

You aren’t supposed to notice, and certainly not speak out against, the fact that American culture has been systematically programmed to embrace and promote an attitude of open hostility, discrimination, and disdain for several groups, with particular hostility acutely focused on Christian white boys, who literally embody the sin of being several problematic things all at once, namely: Christian, white, and male.

To be not only a male, but a young male in America, makes you the target of an anti-Christian educational system and a pagan pop-culture designed to feminize and castrate you by various means, including the mass prescription of mind altering drugs (and I mean literally mind altering – the brain is radically altered by these things) to compensate for and/or crush the more “annoying” aspects of maleness in youth.

To be a Christian – an actual Bible-believing Christian – in this culture makes you a fringe kook even in most “conservative Christian” churches. To actually believe in Jesus as Lord over everything in His creation for real is to be a relic of America’s Calvinistic past that it’s anti-Calvinistic/anti-Christian present can’t seem to ditch fast enough or impugn loudly enough.

I mean what kind of racist, sexist, homophopic, islamophobic, transphopic, global warming denying white devil do you have to be in America these days to dare to publically acknowledge that your children are, um, white, and that said whiteness is totally cool and good?

….

Yes, my children are white.

Really white.

Glow in the dark white.

They make Dracula look tanned and SPF 100 seem reasonable.

You get the picture.

The very white picture.

Now on to more important things…

Like open discrimination.

As in: If you’re a white boy or man in America, it is 100% A-Okay (and virtuous even) for you to be openly discriminated against through any number of “special considerations” given to everyone who is not like you.

Every other gender (of which one is real) gets preferential treatment.

Every other ethnicity (of which all are a part of one race – the human race) get’s preferential treatment.

Every other religious worldview gets preferential treatment.

As a Christian white boy and Christian white man in America, you are and will be uniquely targeted for attack, criticism, discrimination, and blame.

Scott Alan Buss, AKA Fire Breathing Christian, Raising Christian White Boys In A Culture Programmed To Hate Them, November 22, 2017

Note

Buss is a Calvinist. He attends Christ the King Church in Centerville, Tennessee.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Daniel Williams Pleads Guilty on Loitering Charge

busted

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Daniel Williams, pastor of Arrowbrook Baptist Church in Xenia, Ohio, was arrested earlier this year on a prostitution related charge. In August, Williams pleaded guilty to loitering.

WHIO reports:

A Xenia pastor arrested in Dayton was found guilty earlier this year for loitering to engage in solicitation, according to court records.

Daniel P. Williams, 40, of Huber Heights, was found guilty in late August after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of loitering, according to Dayton Municipal Court.

Williams’ employer is listed as Arrowbrook Baptist Church in Xenia in both court record and the police report. The church’s website also lists Williams as their pastor.

….

Williams was originally charged with a second count of loitering and a third count of soliciting, both of which were withdrawn upon his guilty plea, according to Dayton Municipal Court.

The violation happened at around noon Aug. 17 in the 3400 block of East Third Street in Dayton, according to Dayton police.

Williams was sentenced to 60 days in jail, with 60 days being suspended. He will be on probation for one year, according to court records.

….

Arrowbrook Baptist is a Southern Baptist church affiliated with the Founders Ministries and 9Marks — both Calvinistic ministries. Williams’ church bio states:

Pastor Dan has served Arrowbrook as the Pastor of Preaching and Teaching since May 2001. He graduated from Wright State University with a Degree in Mass Communication and a Minor in Religious Studies. He is married to his wife,****, and together they live in Huber Heights with their daughter ****. Pastor Dan has a desire to build up the people of God through the preaching of God’s Word and a deep love for the local church, knowing that it was for the church that Jesus Christ died.

“God is With You,” says Sioux Center Christian School Principal Josh Bowar to Students Molested by Curtis Van Dam

god the child molester

Note: As you will soon see, I was very angry when I wrote this post — the eighth post today dealing with sexual/financial misconduct by clergy and church leaders. Day after day, these kind of stories show up in my email in-box. I often feel dirty, disgusted, and depressed after reading them. Is there no end to the predatory behavior of Christian clergy? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer, of course, is no. What makes these stories worse is the fact they are often covered up, explained away, or coated with Grade A religious bullshit. I started the Black Collar Crime series in March. Since then, I have posted almost 250 stories. These reports are but the tip of the iceberg. Most sexual abuse goes unreported. As we are learning with Hollywood’s sexual harassment/abuse/rape scandal, men (and it is almost always men) with power and authority over children and women can and will use that power to satisfy their perverse desires. What makes Evangelical and Catholic scandals worse is the fact that pastors, priests, and other church leaders are naively viewed as pillars of morality and virtue. People, especially children, implicitly trust clerics and church leaders, and these degenerates take that trust and use it harm their charges. 

Curtis Van Dam, a fifth-grade teacher at Sioux Center Christian School in Sioux Center, Iowa, was arrested and charged with sexually molesting numerous students. The Globe Gazette reports:

An elementary teacher at Sioux Center Christian School arrested last month for committing a lascivious act with a student at the school has been charged with an additional 84 counts of sexual abuse involving “numerous” children, police said Wednesday.

Curtis Van Dam, 35, of Sioux Center, was arrested Oct. 23 after a complaint was lodged against him five days earlier for inappropriate conduct with a student.

The latest charges are tied to incidents that occurred over a four-year period, between August 2013 and last month. Van Dam now faces 101 felonies and 39 misdemeanors.

The felonies include 72 counts of second-degree abuse, 12 counts of third-degree sexual abuse, 14 counts of sexual exploitation by a teacher, and three counts of lascivious acts with a child.

The alleged acts took place at various locations, including the private school, the release said.Police Chief Paul Adkins said the investigation is continuing, and additional charges are possible. Adkins declined to identify the number of alleged victims or their ages.

Van Dam, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, was fired following his arrest last month.

Police searched Van Dam’s residence on Oct. 21, two days before his arrest. He is booked into the Sioux County Jail.

Van Dam started teaching at the school after he graduated from Dordt College in 2004.

Sioux Center Christian School was founded in 1905. According to the school’s website, the school has 509 students in grades K-8 for the 2017-18 school year.
In a statement, the school said it removed Van Dam from the school immediately after hearing the initial complaint and terminated him on Oct. 19. The case, the school said, is now “in the hands of our criminal justice system and we trust that justice will be served.

….

Evidently, no one, not even God, knew that Van Dam was preying on school children for FOUR FUCKING YEARS. Josh  Bowar, the principal at Sioux Center Christian had this to say to the children abused by Van Dam:

Kids, we want you to know that we consider you brave for telling your parents, the police, and the interviewers what happened to you.  We praise God that your testimony has brought to light a dark secret that none of us adults knew was there. Please know that thousands are lifting you before the throne of your Father in heaven…. Trust Him to restore you completely.

Sioux Center Christian is a Reformed institution. These institutions’ philosophy is such that they believe that Van Dam’s heinous behavior was decreed (or permitted) by the sovereign, all-knowing God of John Calvin (and yes, I know all the arguments Calvinists use to escape the logical conclusion of their deterministic theology). A statement put out by Bowar states:

We have been told from the beginning that additional charges for a former teacher at Sioux Center Christian would be coming. Today, Mr. Curt Van Dam, was charged with 101 felonies and 39 misdemeanors. We have been informed that he was arrested this afternoon. On Oct 18, within hours of hearing a complaint, school officials removed Mr. Van Dam from the school and immediately contacted authorities. His employment was terminated on Oct 19 and we have been in full cooperation with civil authorities since. This case is in the hands of our criminal justice system and we trust that justice will be served.

Though the number of charges do not necessarily reflect the number of students, we are grieved again as we hear the extent of the charges. We’ve wept, now it’s time to weep again. We’ve prayed, now we need to continue praying. We’ve brought our anger and fears to the Lord, and now we need to lay those feelings again at His feet. We need to remember that though the charges are many, it also means that many students are no longer carrying secrets. Kids, we want you to know that we consider you brave for telling your parents, the police, and the interviewers what happened to you. We praise God that your testimony has brought to light a dark secret that none of us adults knew was there. You have played an important role in keeping others safe. Please know that thousands are lifting you before the throne of your Father in heaven… trust Him to restore you completely.

Our focus at Sioux Center Christian continues to be the Christ-centered education of our students, while also providing daily support and guidance to students as needed through their teachers and professional counselors. Tonight, there is a parent group session with All Things New Therapy Services. It is at 6:30pm in our gym for parents. Next Wednesday, Nov. 15, we will have a parent/5th – 8th grade student opportunity with Pastor Aaron & Nicole Baart at 6:30pm in our gym.
We are planning additional specialized support for our students in the months ahead and for as long as it takes. If this news especially hurts because you have suffered or are suffering abuse, we encourage you to bring it out of the realm of secrecy, so that it loses its powerful grip on you. We encourage you to talk to a professional Christian counselor.

We know hearing these new charges is incredibly painful and heartbreaking, but we need to be reminded again that we are walking this road of pain, so that another child need not. In the midst of this hurt, we proclaim hope. Hope in our sovereign God, who is so very trustworthy and true in His promises of life and healing. He gave His only Son, who lived as one of us, died on the cross, rose again, and reigns on high, so that we could enjoy eternal life in Christ’s unfolding Kingdom. As a community of people bound together by our love and care for kids, let us persevere through the trials that lay before us. This will be an enduring process but we rest in our Living Hope, Jesus Christ. Let’s continue to pray and encourage one another. We have been overwhelmed by the love and support shown by our entire community and beyond …you have done more for us than words can define. Be assured that God is good and He is at work mightily in this school. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Below was not part of our public statement, but we want to share this with those who read the statement. We have all experienced comfort and assurance through Scripture and in songs of faith during this trying time. Here is one Bible verse that has been especially encouraging to us:

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

This is, of course, a horrible story. I find it hard to believe that NO ONE had any suspicions about Van Dam’s predatory behavior. Not one person questioned Van Dam’s behavior? Not one child complained? Not one parent wondered if Van Dam’s was up to no good?

Bowar offered the abused children thoughts, prayers, and Christian counseling. The thoughts and prayers are worthless, little more than empty religious platitudes meant to make adults feel better about allowing a sexual predator to run wild at Sioux Christian. And the Christian counseling? This allows the school to keep the matter in-house. Students will be counseled according to Biblical principles, with, I suspect, a healthy dose of Calvinistic thinking. Will these counselors tell the children the truth; that their abuse at the hands of their teacher was all part of God’s plan for their lives; that God was “with” them through every disgusting, vile act perpetrated by Van Dam.

I wonder if anyone will dare to ask the question,WHERE WAS GOD when Van Dam was violating these children? And while you are at it, explain to these precious children why an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God stood by and watched — doing nothing — while their innocence was ripped away. Shouldn’t God be held accountable for his indifference?

Of course, God didn’t intervene because he couldn’t — he doesn’t exist. Religion might provide a temporary salve to soothe these wounded children, but there is coming a day, perhaps years from now when they are adults, that those abused by Van Dam will have to wrestle with the things done to them by their Christian school teacher. Perhaps then, far away from the empty words of Josh Bowar, they will find healing. I hope they will seek out competent counselors who put them, and not God, first.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bible Thumpers: Dealing With Evangelical Bible Bullies

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. 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.

Earlier this week, I tried to engage a Bible thumper in a thoughtful discussion on the Rational Doubt blog. 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 three 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 to their site, as does No Longer Quivering) I decided to refrain from giving the Bible thumper the Bruce Almighty 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 now has — 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, that 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.)

Earlier today, 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 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 took a big step backward this week. All I know to do is make an appointment with my therapist, rest my mind, hope Ohio State beats the shit out of Penn State on Saturday, and hopefully, most of all, learn from my mistake.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Open Letter to Evangelical Air Force Chaplain Sonny Hernandez From the Freedom From Religion Foundation

sonny hernandez

Yesterday, I published an excerpt from an article by Air Force Chaplain Sony Hernandez — a Fundamentalist Calvinist —  in which Hernandez told Christian soldiers that their duty to God comes before the U.S. Constitution. Today, church-state watchdog Freedom From Religion Foundation responded to Hernandez.

To Captain Sonny Hernandez, Chaplain for the U.S. Air Force Reserves:

Dear Captain Hernandez,

This is a response to your recent misguided rant about the “duties” of Christian military chaplains to “avoid supporting or accommodating evil.” You make it clear that by “evil” you mean the American values of religious pluralism and the constitutional right of non-Christians and the nonreligious to freely exercise their beliefs. Your ideas are unworthy and un-American.

The tirade was meant to encourage other military chaplains to follow your lead and turn their backs on the Constitution — the very document that you and they have sworn an oath to uphold and defend — by actively denigrating non-Christian service members. This is a shameful call to action that will actively undermine unit cohesion and the readiness of our armed forces.

You begin your diatribe by distinguishing between “True” Christians (those who are devoted to your interpretation of the bible and “hate the things that God hates”) and “Counterfeit” Christians (those who “appeal to the Constitution” and “support everyone’s right to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours”). You declare that military chaplains “accommodate evil” if they accommodate the men and women of our armed services who are not Christian.

Midway through your rant, you swing and miss at an incredibly easy question that you pose to yourself: “Is it wrong for a professing Christian service member to say, ‘I support the rights of all Americans to practice their faith since the Constitution protects their rights?’ ”

The easy, correct, obvious answer — the one demanded by your oath to uphold the Constitution — is, “No, it’s not wrong to support the right of free religious exercise, or any of the other rights enshrined in our Constitution.”

Your answer? “Absolutely!” Your disrespect for the very principles on which this nation was founded is appalling.

As a military chaplain you have a duty to aid our service members in the free exercise of their religious beliefs. Accommodating the free exercise of religion is, in fact, your only job. Military chaplains exist to grant our service members access to a church or religious leader of their chosen religion while they live on base or travel overseas.

While the military chaplaincy has unnecessarily expanded and in many cases now provides redundant access to Christian chaplains in areas where private Christian churches are available, the justification for military chaplains nevertheless remains rooted — tenuous though those legal roots may be —  in the constitutional principle of free religious exercise. Your call to openly disregard the Constitution is particularly hypocritical, given that the Constitution justifies your existence.

You are encouraging military chaplains to abuse their government positions to promote your particular brand of Christianity to atheist and minority religious service members. This is a dangerous proposal that disrespects the constitutional separation of religion and government and undermines the well being of our non-Christian military members.

U.S. service members have freedom of religion, which includes freedom from religious promotion by the government. By conflating the difference between private belief and government action — the First Amendment only protects the former — you sow confusion and perpetuate the type of overt proselytization by military chaplains that has become far too common.

Earlier this year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to the Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire after a guardsman complained to us that on-base ceremonies regularly include chaplain-led bible readings and prayer. These are not optional services taking place in a chapel; service members are often required to attend these events as part of their official duties. This is a serious violation of the First Amendment rights of our country’s service members, a violation that you appear to embrace, since it benefits your particular religion.

After bashing the constitutional rights of non-Christians, you bizarrely choose to make an appeal to the constitutional rights of military chaplains. You write, “Military chaplains are not forced to do anything that would violate what their conscience dictates,” which is poorly phrased but basically true. Military chaplains have the right to freely exercise their religion too. But they don’t have the right to force their personal beliefs on others. And they also don’t have a right or an obligation to be military chaplains. Freedom of religious belief does not include the freedom to blow off the duties you’re being paid to perform while continuing to receive a government paycheck.

Your final straw man sets up a false dichotomy. You claim that your opponents want military chaplains either to accommodate “all service members” or else “resign from the military.” There is a world of choice between these two extremes! How about we find military chaplains who are willing to preach to those who welcome them without jamming religion down the throats of the more than 30 percent of service members who are non-Christian, including the 23 percent who have no religious preference? There are indeed many atheists/agnostics/humanists in foxholes who should be protected from religious intrusion and coercion while on duty.

All servicemen and women, chaplains included, must swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Your recent post was meant to undermine that hallowed document and the rights it protects. You are unfit to wear the uniform and, if you had the courage of your loudly proclaimed religious convictions, you would resign immediately. Shame on you.

Yours Sincerely,

Sam Grover
Associate Legal Counsel
Freedom From Religion Foundation  

Are you a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation? If your answer is no, I encourage you to become a member today.

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

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

Late last night, 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-two 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’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 time, 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 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.

rick and bruce

Rick, Bruce, and Greg, 1993 , Somerset Baptist Church, Sunday Dinner

Where the Calvinistic Rubber Meets the Road: Is Dr. Ian Campbell in Hell?

ian campbell

Last January, noted Scottish pastor Ian Campbell committed suicide by hanging himself after being admitted to the hospital for a drug overdose. Campbell, a member of the Free Church of Scotland — a Calvinistic sect — pastored Point Free Church in Point, Isle of Lewis. According to the Point Free website, Campbell:

contributes to the e-zine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Reformation21, and is a frequent contributor to Ligonier ministry’s Tabletalk magazine. He is a weekly columnist for the local paper, the Stornoway Gazette.

Now that her husband’s body is lying cold in the grave, Campbell’s wife has publicly stated that her pastor husband had sexual affairs with seven church women. In a March 5, 2017 Daily Mail article, Neil Sears had this to say about Campbell’s alleged affairs:

When a leading church minister died in unexplained circumstances on the Isle of Lewis, the close-knit community was in shock.

Tributes to Reverend Dr Iain D Campbell, 53, came from around the world, while shops on the island closed for his funeral in January.

But it has emerged the father-of-three hanged himself after his 54-year-old wife Anne accused him of having up to seven affairs with churchgoers at the same time.

And now she has called on their church to kick out the women for adultery – even hiring herself a public relations professional.

The Free Church of Scotland, often referred to as the ‘Wee Frees’, is investigating while the accused women are understood to be instructing lawyers to help declare their innocence.

Dr Campbell was a leading light in the church – which has strict teachings on the sanctity of marriage and ethics of suicide – in Stornoway.

The minister had been a senior official in the Free Church and minister of the Point Free Church in Lewis, which is off the Scottish mainland’s north-west coast.

….

A source said: ‘It is said Anne was suspicious about Iain’s activities, and confronted him at the manse [a Scottish vicarage] allegedly after finding compromising emails in his computer trash files.

….

‘Anne is wanting all this to go in front of a church court and for them to throw them out of the church for adultery.

‘It will cause havoc with their marriages and the entire Free Church.

‘Even though she’s a widow people are saying Iain had a difficult home life and there’s a lot of anger towards her.’

A source close to senior church figures said: ‘There was never a whisper of a rumour about affairs until after he died – on such a close-knit island they would have been very difficult to keep secret.

‘Yet Anne has supplied names of these alleged mistresses to the church. If she is right, he had been leading an extraordinary double life for years.

‘This is a widow talking about her own late husband.

‘It’s now in the hands of senior Free Church ministers on the island – James Maciver, who conducted the funeral, and Callum Macleod.

‘This is a terrible human tragedy it is difficult to resolve.

‘A dead man can’t be disciplined and can’t defend himself.

‘Suicide is wicked, but it is possible he feared he was about to be ruined. I am hearing there is real evidence to back up these extraordinary claims.

‘But the greater fault would be with Dr Campbell who, as a minister, had a duty of care.’

They said that, if the women admitted affairs, they may be allowed to continue receiving communion. But the source added: ‘It would never be forgotten on the island.’

The women accused of affairs or their families refused to comment or made denials.

In an obituary for Dr Campbell, long-serving Free Church minister Professor Donald Macleod had written: ‘Too late, we know that he was in pain, and sometimes pain is more powerful than faith, and more powerful than reason, and altogether too much for the balance of our minds.’

….

A spokesman for the Free Church on Lewis confirmed the allegations had been made, saying the church was ‘taking these very seriously and acting on them’.

Last night a public relations professional hired by learning support assistant Mrs Campbell made no attempt to deny any details of the story, but said: ‘The family has lost a husband and father.’

According to the Scotland Herald, Campbell not only committed adultery, he also fathered a child with a woman who is not his wife. The Herald also alleges that these allegations could reach as far back as the 1990s.

There are no winners in this story. If reports are true, Campbell was living a double life, one that his wife had knowledge of before he died. While it is likely that his suicide was related to the threat of being exposed as an adulterer, we will never know for sure, because Campbell didn’t leave a note. It’s clear that Campbell’s wife Anne is hurt and angry and she is taking it out on the women who had sexual relationships with her husband. Anne Campbell’s allegation are sure to cause great havoc and damage, both in and outside of the Point Free Church. Worse, the Campbell’s adult children must not only mourn the death of their father, but also deal the fallout from their mother’s allegations.

Campbell’s duplicitous life and suicide are a real conundrum for Evangelical Calvinists on both sides of the pond. Ministerial colleagues, parishioners, and friends all praised Campbell for his devotion to Christ during his fifty-three years on earth. Campbell wrote numerous books, along with articles for Calvinistic publications. He was loved and well-respected. Now that it is known that Campbell committed suicide, and according to his wife he was screwing his way through the female church membership, I wonder what lengths Calvinists will go to square what he said with how he actually lived and ended his life.

Calvinists believe that Christians must persevere to the end to be saved. Despite all of their talk about grace, Calvinists preach a conditional salvation that requires those who say they are Christians to live lives of good works until death. Those who don’t persevere until the end — people such as myself — never were true Christians. (Actually, since I am still among the living, it is p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e that I could return to the faith, that is IF I am one of the elect.)  I wonder how Calvinists will square Campbell’s ‘works’ with their theology and the clear teachings of the Bible. Consider:

There is nothing ambiguous about Galatians 5:19-21:

 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

or 1 Corinthians 6:9,10:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

It is with stories such as this one that the Calvinistic rubber meets the road. Campbell and his fellow Evangelical preachers — in Puritan-like fashion — view themselves as proclaimers of God’s standard of morality. Asked if homosexuals or same-sex married couples are Christian and will go to heaven when they die, I am sure that, to the man Campbell and his Calvinistic brethren would say no. Will they say the same about Campbell, a self-murderer and adulterer?

We Love Stornoway published (link no longer active) the following obituary for Campbell:

The tragic death of the Reverend Iain D. Campbell has cast a gloom over the island of Lewis such as it has never known in my lifetime; and the gloom is not confined to Lewis.  Iain was a well-known figure in Evangelical circles throughout Britain, and beyond, and tributes have already come in from the USA and elsewhere.

‘He could have adorned pulpits in the largest cities in the world,’ writes Dr. Geoff Thomas of Aberystwyth, ‘or become a professor in an American seminary, but he valued the community which nourished and nurtured him, and he shared their values.’  To that community he dedicated his life, and from it he drew the strength that supported his wider ministry.

….

Iain D. Campbell was a brilliant communicator, in constant demand as a lecturer and conference-speaker.  He had a quite extraordinary fluency of speech, but the fluency was disciplined by clarity, precision and careful arrangement.  The delivery was effortless, though often passionate, the mastery of the subject complete, and while there was no trace of arrogance he spoke with the Bible-derived authority of a true preacher.

But he was also a master of the written word, as his many publications show, and the Free Church recognised this by appointing him Editor of its magazine, the Record, not only once, but twice.  He was still serving in this capacity at the time of his death, and one of the most poignant memories we shall carry is that his very last issue (the February one) contains a photo of him in the prime of a splendid manhood, looking perfectly at peace with himself and the world.  His editorship avoided controversy, but it reflected faithfully both the growing diversity within the Church and its links with the wider Christian world; and his own contributions consistently dealt with the profoundest themes at a level which was well within the compass of an intelligent laity.

Iain D was a rare combination: an academic and a natural preacher, and all who knew him assumed that sooner rather than later he would be appointed to teach at the Free Church College.  Such opportunities did indeed arise and I, for one, devoutly wished to see him as either a colleague or a successor.  My attempts to persuade him failed, to my chagrin, and now to my lasting regret, but the College’s loss was Point’s gain.  He was inducted there on 21st August 2009, and as in his previous charges of Snizort (1988-95) and Back (1995-2009) his preaching quickly rekindled enthusiasm for the Christian message, and people who had lost their spiritual appetite found themselves once again looking forward eagerly to their Sundays and to preaching which fed their minds and stirred their souls.  Thanks to the marvels of modern technology these sermons were heard all over the world and within hours of his death an American pastor was writing, ‘I never met or heard Dr Campbell in the flesh, but I knew him from sermon audios, and the sermons I heard told me all that I needed to know of the man. The reason for his high reputation was obvious.  He was a man of transparent piety, for whom the Bible and the God of the Bible was a Being with whom he was familiar.  The Bible irradiated everything he said, and every application he made of Biblical truth seemed so searching and personal, even though he did not know those whom he addressed.  He knew men’s deepest needs and he addressed them with gentleness and compassion as one who felt for them, and wanted them to have the comfort of Christian peace.  His death is a loss, not only to his immediate family and to the congregations he pastored, but to the wider church across the world.’

….

Iain D would have risen to eminence in any profession (and once toyed with the idea of becoming an SNP candidate for the Scottish Parliament), but he chose the Christian ministry, and in that chosen field he became a giant.  Yet, for all the consummate ease with which he presented himself in public, he was a very private man who seldom shared his feelings, and he exuded such an aura of calm competence that none of us thought to ask, ‘Are you OK?’  Now, too late, we know that he was in pain, and sometimes pain is more powerful than faith, and more powerful than reason, and altogether too much for the balance of our minds.  Bereft of him, we are traumatised, our hearts bleeding, our minds stunned and our prayers turned into protests.

I find myself swirling in a vortex of questions, narratives, disinformation, regrets and fears. St. Paul assures me that ‘God works all things together for good,’ but never has my faith in that great promise been so severely tested.  How He can turn this grievous loss into good, I see not.  But grace shone brightly in the life of Iain D. Campbell, such grace does not let go, and if it leads me home we shall soon be with the Lord together.

The obituary stated that Campbell was “a man of transparent piety.” Evidently, not. The obituary also said Campbell “knew men’s deepest needs.” To that, all I can say is, indeed.

While men such as David Robertson have attempted to cut off public discussion of Campbell’s immorality, this story remains a hot topic in some Calvinistic circles. From my perspective as a former Evangelical Calvinist and a pastor, this story is a reminder that preachers can and do have secret lives. (The same could be said for all of us.) It seems clear, at least to me, that Ian and Anne Campbell’s marriage was troubled and that Ian found love in all the wrong places. As mentioned numerous times in the Black Collar Crime series and other posts, Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, elders, deacons, and Sunday School teachers — supposedly pillars or morality and virtue — can be every bit as “worldly” and “sinful” as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

These men of God preach thundering sermons about the sins of Adam’s race, call on all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, yet they themselves cannot live according to what they preach. Campbell leaves a legacy that says, now that his adulterous affairs have been exposed, do as I say, not as I do. In other words, Campbell was a hypocrite. And that would be fine, if it weren’t for that fact that Campbell, along with his fellow Calvinistic pastors, pompously dare to demand that everyone live according to the anti-human moral precepts and teachings of the Bible. When these so-called mouthpieces of God are found out to be less than their bio suggests, it is certainly fair for unbelievers such as myself to point out the hypocrisy. If Evangelicals don’t like having their sins exposed to the light of day, I suggest that they quit exposing what they believe are the moral failures of believers and unbelievers alike and admit that they are every bit as “fallen” as the rest of us.

From an atheistic and humanistic perspective, I feel sad for Anne Campbell and her children. The stain of their father’s and husband’s sin and death will be with them forever. Anne Campbell will always be viewed as a woman who extracted some sort of payback by exposing her husband’s affairs. Silent while her husband was living, Anne has unleashed her scorn and wrath on those who dared to let her husband into their beds. It will be interesting to see if the Point Free Church can survive this scandal.

Ian Campbell’s body lies in a grave, returning to the earth from whence it came. His secrets and his tragedy live on, but he does not. There is no hell, so no eternal punishment of fire and brimstone await. The only hell is that which Campbell left behind.

Note

The Free Church of Scotland, a Fundamentalist sect that is Calvinistic and Evangelical in belief, has one hundred congregations with a total membership of about 12,000.

My editor sent me the following  comment:

Humans are such complex characters. It is probably unfair that we ask more of certain people than we do of others – clergy, office holders, others in high positions – and of ourselves. Of course, we despise certain characteristics in ourselves, even as we continue to engage in the despised behaviors. But we expect those to whom we admire, and those who have sought high positions, to be better than we are. I am reminded of your post just yesterday when your congregant objected when you admitted you knew what it was to lust after a woman.

I concur. It is time for Evangelicals to stable the moral high horse, and rejoin the human race. Then posts such as this one won’t need to be written. The story then is that of a bad marriage, a scorned woman, and a man who couldn’t keep his pants zipped up. It is probable that Campbell’s religious beliefs fueled his suicide attempts. Campbell broke his marriage vows, as countless people do, but such lapses don’t normally lead to suicide. Throw religion, particularly Evangelical Christianity, into the mix and that changes everything. Imagine the depths of Campbell’s guilt, fear, and shame. It is not hard to imagine a follower of Jesus, in a moment of despair, turning to suicide.

Evangelical Writer Allison Barron Says None of Us Deserves Happiness

allison barron

“I don’t think most of us realize how centered around feelings we are. Every day, we make decisions and evaluate our circumstances based on how we feel at the time. Plus, our culture is constantly telling us to “follow our hearts” and do whatever feels good because we deserve it. We are amazing and wonderful, and we deserve happiness (often in the form of a new hair care product or prime rib sandwich or shiny SUV or whatever that billboard on the side of the street is trying to sell us).

Well, sorry, culture, but we don’t deserve happiness. We’re human beings who lie and cheat and steal and fight and hold grudges and hurt our loved ones, and we don’t actually deserve anything. I strive to be a good, caring person, but I still make mistakes and end up hurting people. However, God gives us the opportunity for a beautiful, pain-free future with Him because of this amazing thing called grace.”

— Allison Barron, The Gospel Coalition, Debunking the Myth of Happiness, March 14, 2017


Allison Barron is a Calvinist, so her beliefs about original sin and total depravity color her thinking when she says that we humans not only don’t deserve happiness, we don’t deserve ANYTHING! That’s right, saved or lost, all of us are worms, undeserving of any of good things that come our way. If we experience blessings and happiness, we mustn’t think that we deserve these things. We don’t. Unregenerate sinners deserve the wrath of God and, after death, unrelenting torture in the Lake of Fire. God might be the creator of everything, but because Adam and Eve ate some fruit they shouldn’t have, God has turned away from humanity, judging them unworthy of his love, grace, mercy, and compassion. During the days of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6-9), God determined that the human race was so vile the he had to destroy every living thing, save Noah and his family, the animals on the ark, birds in the air, and fishes in the sea. God slaughtered men, women, children, and the unborn. (So much for God being pro-life.) Why? Because he could; because he deemed the entire human race unworthy of redemption. Think of all the animals that were killed during the flood. What did they do to deserve such an ignoble end? At best, they were props in an object lesson: mess with God and he will kill you.

Even the elect, those whom God chose to save from before the foundation of the world, are, apart from Christ, viewed in the same light as the non-elect. According to the substitutionary atonement theory, Jesus stands between God the Father and the saved. When Jesus died on the cross, his Father brutally tortured him because of the sins of the elect. All that Jesus suffered on the cross was because of the sinfulness of the elect. (According to Calvinism, Jesus only died for the elect. The non-elect have never been a part of God’s redemptive plan.) If it weren’t for Jesus reconciling the elect to God the father, they too would be under the wrath of the Almighty.

Calvinists such as Barron go groveling through life, believing that they are unworthy of any kindness, goodness, or blessing that comes their way. These things indeed come their way, but only because of God’s grace, not because of their good works, effort, or luck.  Calvinists spend their lives tamping down any thoughts they have of worth, of deserving that which they worked for, or stumbled upon out of luck. All that is good comes from God, and God alone. Any thoughts of self-worth or self-esteem are viewed as affronts to the righteousness and holiness of God. This thinking is what drives the self-deprecating speeches and interviews given by athletes, musicians, and actors. All the glory, praise, and honor go to Jesus/God, they say, ignoring the fact that who and what they are is due to many factors, the greatest of which is their personal effort and hard work. If all the glory truly belongs to God, why bother to work at one’s craft?

Surely Lebron James and Stephen Curry and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Clayton Kershaw and Joey Votto — all-stars and future hall of famers the lot of them — are good at what they do because of God’s grace, right? Why spend hours a day, virtually every day of the year working on their skill set? If their greatness is due to God alone, then no practice is needed. Or, perhaps Barron’s God is a work of fiction, and those who achieve much in this life do so primarily because of their diligent, hard work. Certainly genetics, environment, social status, education, and a healthy dose of luck play a part too, but without committing themselves to excellence they would never have become household names. Again, exactly what part did the Christian God play in their development?

As most Christians do, Barron looks to a time after death when she will have a wonderful, beautiful pain-free life with God. For now, she and fellow predestinarians must endure life, awaiting that day when Jesus will return to earth, resurrect and judge humanity — sending the saved (elect) to God’s Trump Tower® and the lost (non-elect) to the Lake of Fire — and then God, with his mighty power, will make ALL things new. The redeemed will spend eternity loving and praising the God who took credit for all the good things they did while on fallen earth. Imagine spending eternity with a husband who never worked a day in his life, but took credit for your hard work. That’s God.

Calvinism is a dour religion, one that demands its adherents endure to the end if they hope to have any chance of getting a room in Heaven. Even then, there will be Calvinists who will diligently persevere to the end, only to find out that the joke is on them, they never were among the elect. No Calvinists can never know for sure that they are saved. They hope so. They hope they are among the elect. They hope they will persevere to the end. They hope on judgment day to hear God say, well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord. 

Count me as one person who is glad he walked away from Christianity and its denial of self and personal worth. None of us is perfect, and when we cause harm to others, we need to make things right. As much as lies within us, we should be at peace with all men. If we live long enough, we will meet people who don’t deserve love, kindness, or respect from us. There be assholes in this land of ours — unworthy of one moment of our time. For the people we call family, friends, and colleagues — those who make our lives richer in every way — I hope we all can say that they deserve the goodness, kindness, and blessing that comes their way. While life certainly isn’t fair, and bad things far too often happen to good people, in general we reap what we sow. If I want to reap a life filled with love, mercy, and kindness, then I must be willing to sow the same. What goes around, comes around, no God needed.

Unlike Barron, I know a number of amazing, wonderful people. Barron might object, saying that she does know such people, but they are amazing and wonderful because of God and not their own inherent goodness. And therein lies the problem. God clouds Barron’s view of others to such a degree, that all she sees is J-e-s-u-s (what boring view).  For the uncircumcised, unwashed Philistines of the world, we have no need of a God blocking our view.

As an atheist, I can clearly see those who deserve goodness and blessing; those who deserve good jobs, nice cars, wonderful houses, fancy clothing, and big-ass 60 inch LED televisions. My dear wife endured a life of self-denial as a pastor’s wife, living in a 12×60 foot trailer with six children and a workaholic husband. She did without nice clothing, shoes, and the finer things of life, all for the sake of the ministry. Both of us sacrificed financial security and health, believing that our poverty was a sign of our devotion to Calvin’s God.  There’s is not enough life left for me to shower my wife with all that she deserves — all that SHE deserves, not God.

Now that we are free from a God who demanded absolute fealty and servitude — a God who demanded all the praise, worship, and glory — Polly and I are free to reward not only each other, but our family and friends, with all the kindness, goodness, and love they so richly deserve — all that THEY deserve, not God. We are also free to spread the gospel of a God-free, sin-free, judgment-free, hell-free, heaven-free life. Live each day to its fullest. Enjoy each and every day. Pour your life into those who matter. Eat, drink and be merry, and make sure you have a designated driver. Work hard, doing the best you can. Strive to be a better person tomorrow than you were today. Life is all about living. To riff on an Evangelical cliché: only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done now will last.

Let me leave you with the words of Wendell Berry in the Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: God Doesn’t Love Everyone by Justin Hoke


The logical conclusion of the popular, “God loves all men” doctrine is that God sincerely loves those who will spend eternity in Hell. In other words, all those in hell are truly loved by God with a love which is displayed by eternal conscious torment that will never end. For all time these objects of God’s love will experience the full wrath of His hatred for sin being eternally separated from Him while enduring the same punishment as devils and demons. But take comfort you damned, because god is sad that you are in the place He sent you, experiencing the everlasting torments He is lavishing upon you.

The love of God is therefore logically reduced to a sort of pathetic wishing that somehow things could be different. While the Sovereign God is reduced to a helpless victim of circumstance who desires one thing but is forced to live with another. The God of the Bible, however, is in complete control over all things whatsoever comes to pass. When the modern church says God would save all if He could, the God of the Bible says, “’My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,” (Isaiah 46:10).

The Bible does not teach the man made “God loves all men” doctrine. The Bible says we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Those who do not love God lack the evidence that God loves them. Further, the Bible says that God loves the Righteous but hates the wicked (Psalm 5:4-6; 11:5). And that God created the wicked for destruction (Proverbs 16:4; Romans 9:22).
….

I would suggest that the man made, “God loves all men doctrine”, is creating a culture of hard-hearted people who have no fear of God or Hell (Romans 3:18; Ezekiel 33:1-6). Like the Jews in the first century who rejected their own Messiah (John 8:30-47), the men of our generation are convinced that they are the apple of God’s eye (Matthew 7:21-23; 1John 1:5-7). They cannot hear God’s command to repent because it makes no sense. Why repent, why change, when God already loves me just as I am.
….

God does not love those who will spend eternity in Hell (Psalm 1:6; 5:4-6; 11:5; 37:20; 112:10; Proverbs 15:9; 2 Peter 2:12). Yes while they are granted the gift of this passing life God provides for them as He does all living things, the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45; Psalm 145:9; Acts 14:16-17). But it is not right to call this common providential care love. This kindness of God will only add to the suffering of those in hell (Luke 16:31), for in these acts of providence God clearly reveals to all men both His eternal power and Godhead leaving them without excuse (Romans 1:18-32).
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It is my hope that we will be granted to repent of promising the love of God to all men. That we will be more careful, to be honest about the love of God. And that we will preach faithfully the gospel, the only message able to truly bring people into the love of God (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18)

Justin Hoke, Pulpit and  Pen, Does God Love All Men?, February 28, 2017

Note

Justin Hoke is the pastor of Lake Shastina Community Bible Church in Weed, California.

The Insanity of the ‘Life Begins at Fertilization’ Movement

aaron wilsonThe 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).

Yesterday, 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.

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6. How can I care for frozen children?

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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.

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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-lifer’s 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.

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. 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 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 and Steven Anderson, Jesus verbally attacked the Jewish religion and even went so far as going 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.

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 the 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 are right (Amyraldism). 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 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.

 

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheists are Healthy, Wealthy, and Comfortable by Tony Reinke

tony-reinkeWe look around and try to understand whether God understands and whether God sees. Does God see the circumstances we see, and does he see my struggles, and does he see the prosperity of the godless? The godless are wealthy and comfortable. Is God asleep? Does he watch the circumstances of the world like we watch them? Does he see the injustice of it all?

As we weigh our circumstances, we ask the cost-benefit question: Are the benefits of following Christ really worth the price?

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he psalmist looks around and sees the faithless living opulent lives of comfort and blessing and long life. He looks around and sees that these same people are wicked oppressors of others. He thinks that they’re getting away with it. The simplicity of the psalmist’s challenge fuels our search for clarity and answers. Where is our sovereign, righteous God when the sex trafficker naps on his yacht?

God is good to the “pure in heart” (Psalm 73:1). That makes sense. So why doesn’t he frustrate and undermine the lives of the impure in heart?

A question like that will shake your footing, and this psalmist (his name is Asaph), is losing his footing. His steps had nearly come out from under him. The ground seemed to move and the grave seemed to turn and slip under his feet (Psalm 73:2).

The God-rejecters are wealthy, healthy, and comfortable (Psalm 73:4–15). Their toxic cocktail of health and wealth and comfort becomes a prosperity “gospel” of degradation. They live pompous and arrogant lives, as they look down on everyone else and abuse others. They have tongues that strut, so they despise God as unspeaking and powerless. They have bank accounts that prosper, so they despise God as worthless. They have indulgences that abound, so they despise God as an opiate for the poor and lowly.

Asaph looked at this predicament and felt the ground of his worldview shift under his feet: “As for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2–3).

Footing is faith, and to lose your footing is to lose your faith — or almost to lose your faith. In this world we face seasons of unbelief that hit like a dizzying spell of spiritual vertigo.

Unbelief hits so hard because our spiritual life depends so fully on faith. “Faith is the inescapable way in which we live our lives now in relation to God,” wrote John Webster, a beloved theologian who passed away this summer. “We cannot get beyond it; there are, again, no other terms on which we can have God” (Confronted, 163).

Tony Reinke, Desiring God, Why Do We Envy the Wicked?, December 12, 2016