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Tag: Calvinism

Do You Have Questions About Calvinism?

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I am currently writing a multi-part series titled Why I Became a Calvinist. I have noticed readers have questions about Calvinism. I plan to answer those questions upon the completion of the series. Please leave your questions on this post or the relevant post in the series. I will get to them sometime next week.

Thank you!

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Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Two

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

My first exposure to Calvinism came in 1988 when I began borrowing and listening to cassette sermon tapes from Chapel Library — a Calvinistic tape lending library and tract publisher in Pensacola, Florida. I had seen an ad for Chapel Library in a periodical I received, so I thought I would write to request a list of sermon tapes. Most of the preachers on the list were not familiar to me, but one name stood out: Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones, who died in 1981, was a well-known British Evangelical pastor. He was the pastor for many years of Westminster Chapel in London.

Along with a handful of Lloyd-Jones’ sermon tapes, I ordered tapes of Rolfe Barnard, a Southern Baptist evangelist. While I thoroughly enjoyed Lloyd-Jones’ sermons — and I would listen to dozens more of them over time — it was Barnard’s sermons that blew me away. Here was a Calvinist who preached with the fervor of an old-fashioned fire and brimstone evangelist. I had never heard Calvinistic preaching before listening to Lloyd-Jones and Barnard. I had been told that Calvinistic preachers were dried-up prunes with little zeal, passion, or power. I was a big fan of nineteenth-century Calvinistic Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, but having only read his sermons, I had no idea how Spurgeon sounded. I assumed he preached with great authority and power, but since there are no recordings of his preaching, all anyone can do is assume how Spurgeon preached.

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan from 1976-1979.  Midwestern — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution — was resolutely opposed to Calvinism. Ironically, one of the college’s men’s societies carried Spurgeon’s name. When questioned about having a society named after Charles Spurgeon, students were told that, yes, Spurgeon was a Calvinist, but God mightily used him in spite of his Calvinism. More than a few IFB preachers suggested that Spurgeon was not a “true” Calvinist; that his zeal for winning souls was inconsistent with his Calvinistic beliefs. I would later thoroughly study Spurgeon’s published sermons, and I determined, without question, that Charles Haddon Spurgeon was an Evangelical five-point Calvinist.

While Spurgeon was my favorite nineteenth-century preacher, Rolfe Barnard quickly became my favorite modern-day preacher. Many of his recorded sermons were preached at Thirteenth Street Baptist Church in Asheville, Kentucky. For many years, Henry Mahan was the pastor of Thirteenth Street. I called Henry one day to see if he had contact information for Barnard. I wanted to have him come to preach at our church. Henry told me, well brother, Brother Barnard died in 1969. (Henry and I would later develop a friendship. I visited Thirteenth Street several times, and Henry came to Ohio to preach a conference at Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio, the church I was pastoring at the time.)

Here’s a sermon by Barnard that will give readers a good idea of his preaching style and sermon content:

Video Link

Barnard’s sermons made a deep, lasting impression on my life. As Barnard preached the Calvinistic gospel and spoke of God’s sovereignty and grace, I found myself emotionally stirred. I asked myself, why hadn’t I ever heard these “truths” before? Why hadn’t my college professors told me of these “truths?” In time, I came to believe that my mentors and professors had lied to me about the gospel, salvation, and God’s grace.

rolfe barnard

Barnard, then, opened the door for me to Evangelical Calvinism; and once the door was opened there was no going back. I began buying and reading books written by Calvinistic theologians and pastors — many of them from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Over time, I would buy almost one thousand theology books and Christian biographies. One time, a church teen walked into my study, looked at all my books, and said, preacher, have you read all these books? With great humble pride, I replied, yes, every one of them. I was quite proud of my library, a common trait found among Calvinistic preachers. It was through these books and the preaching tapes from Chapel Library that Bruce Gerencser, a one-time IFB preacher, became an Evangelical Calvinist.

As newly minted Calvinists are wont to do, I made it my mission to convert my colleagues in the ministry to Calvinism. All my zeal accomplished was fractured relationships, including one man who got so mad at me — accusing me of being the keeper of the Book of Life — that he stomped out of a meeting we both were in, never to be in the same room with me again. Of course, I viewed his temper tantrum as him not being able to handle the “truth.”

I started a monthly newsletter titled, The Sovereign Grace Reporter. I mailed this newsletter to hundreds of IFB and Calvinistic preachers. The Calvinists loved my newsletter, including several IFB preachers who were closeted lovers of John Calvin. Some IFB preachers got so upset with me that they sent me angry letters, demanding that I take them off the newsletter mailing list. This video clip from A Few Good Men pretty well says what I thought of these angry preachers:

Video Link

One preacher, my best friend at the time, was sympathetic to my Calvinistic views. Through hours-long theological discussions and reading books I loaned him, he embraced certain aspects of Calvinism (though he certainly would never have called himself a Calvinist). He would later pull back from Calvinism. One mutual acquaintance of ours told my friend, Bruce Gerencser almost ruined you with that Calvinistic stuff.

My theological transformation came at a time when the church I was pastoring was facing attendance decline due to the fact that we decided to stop operating our bus routes. I determined, then, with my new-found beliefs in hand, to do three things:

  • Try to un-save all the people who were saved through my preaching of the IFB gospel. I was convinced that many of the people who attended Somerset Baptist Church were “saved” but lost. If Rolfe Barnard was right about the true condition of many Baptist churches — filled with lost people — then it was my duty and obligation to expose the false IFB gospel and preach to them the true gospel. I found that it was a lot harder to un-save people than it was to lead them to salvation.
  • Teach the congregation the doctrines of grace (Calvinism), line by line, week after week. I abandoned preaching topical and textual sermons, choosing instead to exegetically preach through books of the Bible. For example, I preached over one hundred sermons from the gospel of John (my favorite gospel).
  • Start a tuition-free private Christian school for our church’s children. By doing so, I (we) would not only teach them reading, writing, and arithmetic, but it would also allow me, through having students memorize the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith and read biographies of Calvinistic missionaries and preachers, to indoctrinate them in the one “true” faith.

In the next post in this series, I will talk about how Pastor Bruce becoming a Calvinist materially affected the church I was pastoring and how it altered my personal relationships with my wife, children, and friends.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

How I Know Victor Justice is a Calvinist and Other Sundry Thoughts

six point calvinist

An Evangelical man using the pseudonym Victor Justice continues to leave comments on this site and send me emails. If you are not familiar with Justice, please read Victor Justice: The Cancer Spreading in Evangelical Christianity. Over the weekend, Justice sent me the following email (all spelling and grammar in the original):

Little Bruce,

You are truly a pathetic, lazy slob with a reprobate mind. When I read the vulgar things that you write here, I have no doubt that you never loved GOD Almighty…never experienced regeneration through the precious blood of the LORD Jesus Christ!

Preaching was the easiest way for you to get the attention you craved. You pastored exclusively in “one pastor rule” settings that fed your oversized ego. You should have (if you were actually saved) been in churches that had a plurality of Elder rule. This biblical form of church governance is far more likely to smoke-out heretics, lunatics, and craven, egomaniacal termites like yourself.

It’s quite obvious that you’re OCPD and your piss-poor attitude have destroyed your satanic blog. Little Bruce has to be in CONTROL, Little Bruce has to prescreen every comment, Little Bruce can only allow the most retrograde, degenerates, sycophants, haters, and trolls to make comments! So now you have an echo chamber of maladjusted riff raft conversing with one another, instead of a robust forum of ideas and opinions. Does this sound familiar to you, boy?

You’ve ruined EVERYTHING that you ever touched, every church you’ve ever pastored, every normal relationship that you’ve ever been involved in. My humble advice is for you to just sit down and shut up for once in your miserable existence! Everything that you touch—wilt’s away and dies.

Most sincerely,

I have heard from a plethora of Victor Justices over the past fifteen years. Along with Justice, I am currently getting emails, social media messages, and blog comments from men such as Revival Fires, Daniel Kluver, and Dr. David Tee (who mainly writes blog posts about me). While these so-called Christians are my latest hemorrhoids, they are not the only ones I have dealt with over the years. Such people come with the territory.

By far, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) adherents are the most hateful, nastiest people I deal with. Not all of them, of course, but enough of them to conclude that the IFB church movement has an outsized number of people who aren’t good people. Another group that seems to produce meanspirited followers is the Evangelical Calvinist movement. Victor Justice is one such person.

While Justice never claims the Calvinist moniker, his writing reveals his Calvinistic theology. Note the Calvinist buzzwords Justice uses: reprobate, regeneration, plurality of elders rule. Ding! Ding! Ding! One of John Calvin’s boys is in the house. I can spot Calvinists from a mile away, much as I can IFB adherents. This information about Justice goes a long way in explaining why he is so hateful and nasty. In his mind, I am a reprobate — someone whom God has turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Justice views my life through this paradigm, thus he sees no need to treat me kindly or with respect. I am just a “dead” human being waiting in the anteroom of Hell, awaiting final judgment and eternal punishment.

I have long believed that many of my critics put me in a special category of unbelievers: those undeserving of respect, kindness, and decency. Justice extends this ill-treatment to my wife, Polly, and our family. Evidently, if I am a reprobate everyone in my family is a reprobate. Justice even extends this further to the readers of this blog — even though many of them are Christians. It is safe to conclude, then, that there is some sort of rot in Justice’s mind that has robbed him of the ability to be a decent human being to anyone except people who believe as he does.

Let me conclude by correcting several of Justice’s errant opinions about me.

First, two of the churches I pastored had a plurality of elders. Evidently, even after allegedly reading most of my blog, Justice missed the fact that I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. Community, a Calvinistic Baptist congregation, had a plurality of elders. That said, having a plurality of elders cures nothing. Even when a church has multiple elders, one man typically is the elder who runs the show. One need only look at John MacArthur’s church to see how this plays out in real life. (The reasons for this are many, but I don’t intend to address them today.)

Second, I loved the Lord with all my heart, soul, and might for most of my life. This fact is incontrovertible. Only those who are hellbent on trying to discredit or marginalize me say the things Justice does in his emails. Further, my lived life proved the truth of my claims. Just ask Polly, our six children, friends, or former parishioners. You will find a few people with an axe to grind, but everyone else will admit that I was a devoted follower of Jesus Christ; that I dedicated my life to building churches, winning souls, preaching the gospel, and teaching God’s people. These people may grudgingly admit this, knowing it raises theological problems for them, but if they are honest, they will say, “Bruce Gerencser was a Christian.” As a Christian family member once said upon hearing of my loss of faith, “if Butch (a family nickname) is not a Christian, nobody is.” I had my frailties and faults. I “sinned,” but the bend of my life was towards holiness.

Third, I am not sure what Justice means when he says I “have destroyed my Satanic blog.” In what way? Thousands of people read my blog. This site will yet again pass one million page views this year. I have given numerous interviews this year, with more planned in the coming months. So, by every metric, my “Satanic” blog is doing just fine. All praise be to Lucifer. 🙂

Fourth, Justice decries that I won’t let him say whatever he wants on this site. Tough shit. Justice could have played by the rules as countless Evangelicals have done, but he chose not to. That’s on him, not me.

Justice will eventually slither into his hole never to be heard from again. But others will pick up where he left off. In doing so, they remind the readers of the blog why they are glad they left Evangelical Christianity.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce, You Never Knew the REAL Jesus

who is the real jesus

I have been accused hundreds of times over the years of never having been a True Christian®. The gist of this accusation is that I met, worshiped, and followed a counterfeit Jesus. If I had encountered the REAL JESUS and put my faith and trust in him, I would have become a True Christian® and would still be a follower of Christ to this day. The Bible gives cover for this argument when it says:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:19)

According to Evangelicals who say I never met the REAL JESUS, the angels of light in my life — parents, pastors, professors — were actually tools of Satan used by him to deceive me. And true to my training, I then became a false angel of light too — deceiving the churches I pastored and pulling the wool over the eyes of my colleagues in the ministry; that is, if any of them knew the REAL JESUS themselves.

The fact that I no longer profess to be a follower of Jesus is further evidence that I never met the REAL JESUS. Had I met the REAL JESUS, I would have continued in the faith; I would have continued pastoring churches. That I now stand in opposition to Christianity and the teachings of the Bible is clear evidence to Evangelicals that whatever Jesus I followed over my fifty years in the Christian church, he was not the REAL JESUS.

A good example of this thinking can be found in the recent blog comments by Rod Rogers [all spelling and grammar in the original]:

Yes, but you now claim that you are not a christian and therefore you never were a christian, right? You have painted your self into a corner. Either you were a liar for years or you are lying now; but you have to choose. My point is that God is always God or there never was a god. You have claimed both. Very sad.

Bruce, you don’t go from preaching God’s word, studying and praying daily and then wake up one day and say God never existed. That never happens. Somewhere you came to a place where God didn’t meet your expectations. I don’t know where that happened but it happened.

“Each aspect of my life must be judged in its context.” Ok, YOU said you were a Christian, said you were a preacher. In that context, were you preaching the truth or preaching a lie? Preaching a lie makes one what? “All I am saying is that I once was a Christian just like you, and now I’m not.” And all I am saying is that by your own admission you believed in once saved always saved. Now you don’t believe in God at all. By you own theology you yourself believed either you were not saved to begin with or you preached a lie. You are in a corner.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Either you never were a child of God or you still are.

Bruce, it doesn’t matter what happened when. The only thing I am assuming is that you are telling the truth when you say that you were an IFB. If you were ever IFB then you believed in OSAS. You just don’t want to admit the truth. Your comment, “It’s like saying, I’m divorced now, so that means I never was married”?”, has nothing to do with my comment; its Non Sequitor.

I’m 64 years old and have met a lot of people and you are the only one who claims to have lived at the foot of the cross and woke up one day and renounced it. Sorry, I don’t believe that.

Rod is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). As such, he believes in the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”  According to this doctrine, once a person is saved, he can never, ever fall from grace; never, ever lose his salvation. Built upon a foundation of intellectual assent to a set of theological propositions, most proponents of “once saved, always saved” believe that I am still a Christian; that I am just backslidden or out of the will of God. I say most, because some “once saved, always saved” believers can’t bear to fathom that someone who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29) can still be a Christian. If I am not now a Christian, in their minds that means I never was a Christian; that in decades of pastoral experience I never came in contact with the REAL JESUS.

Calvinists fall into “once saved, always saved” crowd, albeit they believe that a person must endure to the end (death) to be saved; and even then, some people who thought they were saved will wake up in Hell, realizing that they never were one of the elect. What a con job, right?  Much like many in the “once saved, always saved” IFB crowd, the Calvinists who knew me have concluded that I never met the REAL JESUS. If I had met the REAL JESUS, I would still be in church, availing myself of means of grace. That I am now an outspoken opponent of True Christianity® is proof to them that I was a false Christian.

In 1994, I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church — an independent Calvinistic congregation — in Elmendorf, Texas. While at Community, I became friends with Jose Maldonado, pastor of Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church. I had met Joe in the fall of 1993 when he and Pat Horner — my soon-to-be co-pastor — came to preach a conference at the church in Ohio I was pastoring at the time.

I resigned from Community in the fall of 1994. You can read more about that debacle in the series titled, I Am a Publican and a Heathen. After leaving Community, I had no further contact with Maldonado. Imagine my surprise, then, to hear that Maldonado, sixteen years after our last contact, took to the pulpit to let people know that I was now an atheist; a man who never knew the REAL JESUS.

Here’s a short audio clip of Maldonado “exposing” me as a false prophet:

You can listen to Maldonado’s four-part sermon series or read transcripts of his sermons here.  You also might find interesting the post titled, Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.

The hilarious thing in the whole “Bruce met a false Jesus” saga, is that “once saved, always saved” Baptists and Calvinistic Baptists bitterly oppose one another, each believing the other preaches a false gospel. In other words, each side believes the other has never met the REAL JESUS.

As you can see, the core theological problem for both groups is that True Christians® are eternally saved. The Bible says in John 10:27-29:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Those who hear the voice of Jesus and follow after him are given eternal life and are held safe in his hand. No man is able to pluck Christians out of the hand of Jesus. The problem with this argument, of course, is my life as a Christian clearly shows that I heard the voice of Jesus and followed after him. There’s nothing in my storyline that remotely suggests that I was following after a false Jesus; that I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing; that I was a false prophet. Yet, here I am today, having safely jumped out of the hand of Jesus, an out-and-proud apostate. “How can these things be?” Evangelicals ask themselves. Zealots such as Rod refuse to accept my story at face value, suggesting that there is some part of my story I am not sharing lest I give away the “real” reason I am no longer a Christian. This leads people to concoct all sorts of conspiracies about my loss of faith.

How about we let Occam’s Razor tell the story here. Occam’s Razor is a philosophy which suggests that if an event has two possible explanations, the explanation which requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct: I once was a Christian and now I am not; I once was a follower of Jesus and now I am not; I devotedly loved Jesus and now I don’t; the telling of my story is an honest, forthright reflection of my life as a Christian and an Evangelical pastor — theology be damned.  Christians holding to Arminian theology believe followers of Jesus can and do fall from grace. In their minds, I am just one more sad example of someone who chose not to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Works for me.

Here’s what I know for sure, I once was saved and now I am not. It really is that simple. It is not up to me to help Evangelicals square their theology with my testimony. Can’t make my story fit in the narrow confines of your rigid theological box? Tough shit, not my problem. I have no doubt I met numerous times the REAL JESUS. A mythical being, to be sure, but I most certainly had a torrid love affair with this Jesus for most of my adult life. Just as I would never doubt a sincere Christian’s testimony of faith, all I ask is that Evangelicals grant me the same courtesy. This will never happen, of course, because their theology bars them from doing so. Their intransigence reveals the real truth behind this discussion; that the question has never been about meeting the REAL JESUS; that what really matters is believing the right sectarian doctrines; that Evangelicalism is inherently a text-based system; that what really determines entrance into Heaven is checking off the right boxes on the Beliefs Checklist. The Evangelical gospel is this: BELIEVE THESE DOCTRINES AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED. It’s never been about the REAL JESUS.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Evangelical Woman Says Calvinism is Satanic and Blasphemous

Today, I received an email from an Evangelical woman named Cheryl who emphatically stated:

Just have a comment. Calvinism is a false Gospel and is not from God. To me it’s from Satan and blasphemy.

Best I can tell from the logs, Cheryl read Why I Hate Jesus, the About page, looked at posts associated with the tag Calvary Baptist Church Dundalk, watched part of my talk to the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, and looked at the front page. All told, she spent about ten minutes on this site.

Typically, I just sigh (please see Why I Use the Word “Sigh”) when I get emails such as this one. Filled with certainty, arrogance, and judgmentalism, writers such as Cheryl are so puffed up with themselves that there’s little, if anything, I can say that will make a difference.

Is Calvinism a false gospel? The email writer says yes! How can she possibly know this? Evangelicalism is rife with gospels. How does one possibly determine which gospel is right? If my eternal destiny depends on me believing the right gospel, how do I figure out which gospel is the “faith once delivered to the saints?” The Bible says there is “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism,” yet every Evangelical church seems to preach “Their Lord, Their Faith, and Their Baptism.” Who is right? Cheryl is certain, absolutely certain, “I know whom I have believed” certain, that her gospel is the right one. Based on the plethora of Evangelical gospels, how can she possibly know that her gospel is true, and, by extension, all other gospels but her’s are false?

Calvinistic soteriology teaches that salvation is of the Lord; that no one can be saved unless God saves them; that God predestines some people to salvation. Further, Calvinists believe that God is sovereign over all things; that nothing happens that is not according to his purpose and plan. Calvinism, of course, is much more complex than what I have stated here, but this will suffice for the purposes of this post.

Wikipedia describes Calvinism this way:

Calvinism (also called the Reformed Tradition, Reformed Protestantism or Reformed Christianity) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. It emphasizes the sovereignty of God and the authority of the Bible.

Calvinists broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Calvinists differ from Lutherans (another major branch of the Reformation) on the spiritual real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, theories of worship, the purpose and meaning of baptism, and the use of God’s law for believers, among other points. The label Calvinism can be misleading, because the religious tradition it denotes has always been diverse, with a wide range of influences rather than a single founder; however, almost all of them drew heavily from the writings of Augustine of Hippo twelve hundred years prior to the Reformation.

As you can see, Calvinism is a subset of Protestantism. It has a rich history, with adherents found in countless sects across the globe. Here in the United States, millions of Christians claim the Calvinist moniker. Cheryl would have us believe that these people are Satanic and blasphemous. She seems to lack charity towards his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

I was a Calvinist for a number of years. I drank deeply from the Puritan/Reformer well. I can confidently say that Calvinism is Biblically supported. Of course, so is Arminianism and every other Christian soteriology. There’s no possible way to reconcile these various schools of thought. How could we possibly determine who is right? It seems to me that everyone is right, and that the goal should be to humbly follow Jesus and charitably accept those who claim the name of Christ. From 1995-2002, I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. The main door into the building had these words on its glass: The Church Where the Only Label That Matters is Christian. By this time, I had moved a long way away from the narrowminded bigotry of my IFB years. I was still a Calvinist, but I no longer viewed other Christians as suspects or less than. That allowed me to befriend a number of ministers in town; men who I would have banished to the darkness of Hell years before.

This email reveals Fundamentalist thinking; a worldview based on certainty of belief. Cheryl might want to debate theology with me — and I am game — but the greater issue is her heart. The Bible speaks of unity, yet everywhere unbelievers look they see disunity and internecine warfare. Jesus said in John 13:34-35:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Where can one find this sort of Christianity today? While there’s nothing that can be said that would incline me to return to Christianity, I am more than willing to admire and appreciate a faith grounded in love of believers for their fellow man.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Why My Preaching Changed After 1988

bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

Recently, Jeff asked a question about something I wrote. He asked me to explain this statement:

I spent the remainder of my time in the ministry trying to get saved people unsaved. This proved much harder than getting them saved. Embracing Calvinism in the mid- to late- 1980s forced me to reorient my approach to preaching and evangelism.

Jeff spent thirty years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Hopefully, I can adequately answer his question.

When I entered the ministry in 1976, I preached the IFB gospel of one-two-three-repeat-after-me salvation, also known as easy-believism or decisional regeneration.

In 2015 I wrote:

Bob Gray, Sr., retired pastor of the Longview Baptist Temple (now Emmanuel Baptist Church) in Longview, Texas, is a super-duper salvation-dealing machine. Gray is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) who religiously subscribes to the Jack Hyles Easy-Believism, cheap-grace way of evangelizing lost sinners.

I was taught this kind of evangelism while a student at Midwestern Baptist College, but I came to see that it was little more than a cheap gimmick that allows preachers such as Gray to say: Look at how many people I won to Jesus. (Gray knows to the soul how many people he has won to Jesus over his long, illustrious preaching career.) It promotes a vacuous Christianity that does a real disservice to people who take the commands and teachings of Christ seriously.

Several years ago, Gray was in Albuquerque, New Mexico to hold a preaching meeting. While at a local Subway, Gray decided to do some soul winning. Here’s his account, which has since been pulled from his blog:

… Flew to Albuquerque, NM, and was picked up by Pastor Brent Lenetine who pastors the Gospel Light Baptist Church of Rio Rancho, NM. I will be joined by Evangelist Allen Domelee Sunday night and Monday. This is a great soul winning church!

After resting for a while I went next door to the Motel to get a bite to eat at the Subway Restaurant. I sat at a table next to a man named Bill McDermit. We joked a little bit together and after a while I went over to his table and continued our conversation. He lives alone in a house trailer and was a devout Catholic. After a few moments I presented the Gospel to him and he took me by the hand and prayed to receive Christ as his personal Saviour.

WOW! That old KJB is still preserved inspiration and is THE incorruptible seed that brings life to a dead soul! Don’t treat this issue of preserved inspiration lightly. He who sticks his head in the sand gets his behind kicked! Either the KJB is inspired or it is not! Which side of this issue are you on?

Let me summarize Gray’s testimony:

Gray is on the prowl for souls in Albuquerque.

Gray is hungry, so he goes to Subway to eat.

He jokes around with the elderly trailer-living Catholic man next to him. The joking is a pretext for what comes next.

After a few moments, Gray shares the Jack Hyles IFB plan of salvation with the Catholic man.

The life-long Catholic sees the error of his way, takes Gray’s hand, and prays the sinner’s prayer. Holding the hand is important, much like the salesman giving you the pen. Hold their hand and you are more likely to close the salvation deal.

In but a few moments this man goes from a headed-for-hell Catholic to a . . . uh . . . let me think . . . oh, I know! A Catholic who prayed a prayer so the busybody preacher would let him finish his sub.

And don’t forget that Gray used the all-powerful 1611 King James Bible to win this man to Jesus. It has supernatural powers that perverted, Satanic, non-inspired versions do not have.

This is the bankrupt gospel preached in countless IFB churches.

IFB preachers love to brag about how many souls are saved in their churches or revival meetings. Every soul saved is another notch on their gospel six-shooters. However, what happens to these sinners after they are saved? Do they get baptized? Do they join the church? Do they regularly attend church? Do they live their lives according to the teachings of the Bible? In most instances, no. IFB churches retain a fraction of the people whom they report making salvation decisions. A pastor may humble-brag about 300 people getting saved, yet when asked if his church’s attendance correspondingly increased, he will likely say no. It seems, then, there’s a huge disconnect between the methodology used and the fruit it bears.

In July 1983, I started Somerset Baptist Church, a new congregation in the southeast Ohio community of Somerset. The church later moved five miles east of Somerset to an abandoned Methodist church building. From 1983-1988, six hundred people were saved under my ministry. During this time, the church reached a high attendance of 206. Every week, sinners were being saved, but most of them never became active members of the church.

The disconnect between these two things began to trouble me. After reading John MacArthur’s seminal book, The Gospel According to Jesus, I concluded that I was preaching a truncated, bankrupt gospel; that I was making people seven-fold children of Hell. I realized that many church members had a superficial understanding the Christian gospel and God’s expectations for the followers of Jesus.

In 1989, I repudiated the IFB gospel and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. I began preaching expositionally. I spent two years preaching through the Gospel of John — 125 sermons in all. One of my goals was to show church members the true gospel of Sovereign Grace, and ask them to examine their lives and determine whether they were “in the faith.” This thinking transformed every aspect of my preaching and ministry. I stopped giving high-pressure altar calls, choosing to let the Holy Spirit do his perfect work. Very few people made public professions of faith post-1989. In fact, for the next decade, the number of souls saved was minimal, less than twenty. I was content to focus on my preaching and let God do the saving.

I believed then, and still do, that this approach results in better quality converts; people who understand the gospel and know what God expects of them. Saying you are a Christian should mean something. At the very least, it should mean that you take the teachings of the Bible seriously and daily work to put them into practice in your life. One need only look at modern Evangelicalism to see that churches are largely filled with cultural Christians. Oh, they believe, but when it comes to living according to the teachings of Christ, they give little more than lip service to his demands. How else do we explain that 82% of white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, and if given a chance to do so in 2024, they will do so again. There’s no possible way a Christian can vote for Trump and stay true to the teachings of the Bible. And then there are the daily sex scandals in Evangelical churches, as documented in the Black Collar Crime Series. It’s hard not to look at Evangelicalism as a whole and puke. I suspect Jesus, were he still alive, would do the same.

I may be an atheist, but I still believe that if people claim to be Christian, they should take their faith and the teachings of the Bible seriously.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Sounds of Fundamentalism: Evangelical Calvinist Explains the Term “Christian Nationalist”

christian nationalism

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of an Evangelical Calvinist explaining the term “Christian Nationalist.” According to her, we are all under the authority of Christ whether we accept it or not. She explains atheist morality this way: “if stardust rapes stardust who cares?

Enjoy! 🙂

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser