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Jim Elliff says, Avoid Bart Ehrman, He Could Cause You To Lose Your Faith!

bart ehrman

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Jim Elliff, the director of Christian Communicators Worldwide, thinks Christians should avoid Bart Ehrman because he could cause them to doubt or lose their faith.  For those of you who are not familiar with Evangelical-turned-agnostic New Testament theologian Bart Ehrman, his credentials are as follows:

Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He began his teaching career at Rutgers University, and joined the faculty in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC in 1988, where he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department.

Professor Ehrman completed his M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees at Princeton Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. An expert on the New Testament and the history of Early Christianity, has written or edited [over] thirty books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews. In addition to works of scholarship, Professor Ehrman has written several textbooks for undergraduate students and trade books for general audiences. Five of his books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list: Misquoting Jesus; God’s Problem; Jesus Interrupted; Forged; and How Jesus Became God. His books have been translated into twenty-seven languages.

His books include:

  • God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer
  • How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher From Galilee
  • Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
  • Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)
  • Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife
  • How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee
  • Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, & Invented Their Stories of the Savior
  • How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee
  • Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are
  • The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

Ehrman is a royal pain in the ass for Evangelical pastors and theologians. His books are well written and quite devastating to many of the tenets of Evangelicalism — especially Biblical inerrancy and infallibility. His books are accessible, making it easy for the average Joe-the-plumber reader to understand the history and nature of the Bible. In other words, Ehrman has successfully bridged the ivory tower/pew divide. I heartily recommend his books.

Years ago, Ehrman participated in a debate with Craig Evans at a Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Midwestern is a Southern Baptist institution.  By all accounts, Ehrman decidedly won the debate.

Video Link

Speaking of this debate, Jim Elliff, a man I knew from my days as a Reformed Baptist, thinks debating Bart Ehrman is a bad idea. Here’s why:

First, because Ehrman is a false teacher and we are forbidden to give such men a forum to express their views.

The Bible doesn’t treat false teachers kindly. It is one thing to talk with a skeptic who is asking questions to know the truth, or who is confronting you in public, but it is quite another thing to invite and pay a false teacher to come to your turf in order to present his views in an open forum.

Inviting a false teacher to present his errant views in order to persuade students and the public is like allowing a gunman to shoot randomly out into an audience of military personnel because it is assumed the troops have body armor. For one thing, body armor cannot shield against all shots, and for another, there are many people attending who have no armor at all. At last week’s debate, for instance, there were many people from the public who were not even believers. Some young people also attended, and some seminary students who are not yet prepared for the effects of doubt-producing verbiage…

Second, because the minority position almost always gains some followers regardless who wins the debate.

When you have a sizable crowd it almost goes without saying that someone will be convinced of the false views of the false teacher. You may sense an overwhelming approval of the debate by many who love the give and take, but fail to take note of the quiet student or outsider to the seminary now stricken with doubt about the Scriptures. Ehrman’s presentation might be all that is needed to move him over the line…

Third, because debates are not always won on the basis of truth alone.

We don’t need to comment much here, because you understand how this works. Ehrman clearly won the debate by the account of several attending. He simply won it by his cleverness and expertise at debating. His opponent, the believer, was well able to defeat him with the truth, but missed his opportunities in several places, giving credence to the idea that he was a better writer and lecturer than debater. In fact, this is the second time Ehrman won a debate at the same seminary, but against a different Christian opponent. What does that do for our witness? Though I have no question in my mind that our position on the reliability of Scripture is the right one and can withstand Ehrman’s arguments soundly, our side was out-debated.

Fourth, because many of the listeners will not have the opportunity to sort out confusing aspects of the debate with professors or knowledgeable persons…

Fifth, because doubt is insidious.

One seminary student who has now graduated told me that he occasionally had huge doubts about Scripture and God. They were not there often, perhaps only for a few difficult days or weeks once every year or two, but they were so strong that he found himself almost smothered by them when they came. This was a leading student, chosen as one of the best preachers of the seminary. Doubt is insidious. Like a drop of ink added to gallons of water, it can ruin everything. It is the fly in the perfume. We are naïve to think that, being free from doubts ourselves, others do not deal with them regularly.

When a man like Ehrman speaks, doubt-producing statements may be forever lodged in people’s minds, causing trouble when least expected. It only takes a tiny amount of doubt for some people to be destroyed. A weak person might believe his doubts rather than believe his beliefs…..

Where, oh where, do I begin?

There is no need for me to go through a lengthy refutation of Elliff’s post. His position is quite simple:

  • Bart Ehrman is a false teacher
  • Christians are not to listen to false teachers
  • False teachers like Ehrman cause Christians to doubt
  • Doubt causes people to lose their faith
  • Doubt must be avoided at all costs, so information that is contrary to the approved narrative must be avoided

Consider this. The doubting students that Elliff is so concerned about have gone to Evangelical (Southern Baptist) churches their entire lives and have at least four years of college education, most likely at Evangelical institutions. After a lifetime of training, four years of college, and after uncounted sermons and Sunday school lessons, the students still aren’t prepared to withstand hearing ONE debate featuring a non-Christian?

I have one word for this: pathetic.

Elliff lives in a world where the only truth is his truth– though he calls his truth “God’s” truth. Even though most everyone admits Ehrman handily won the debate, according to Elliff he won by deceptive means. Since there is only one version of the truth, Ehrman had to win by other means.

The money quote is this:

Ehrman clearly won the debate by the account of several attending. He simply won it by his cleverness and expertise at debating. His opponent, the believer, was well able to defeat him with the truth, but missed his opportunities in several places, giving credence to the idea that he was a better writer and lecturer than debater.

Elliff seems to have forgotten his Bible. If I remember right, the Holy Spirit indwells every follower of Jesus. When believers are called on to give a defense of their faith, the Holy Spirit gives the believers the words to say. Evidently, the Holy Spirit didn’t come through for Evans.

Elliff lives in an alternate universe where saying the Bible says _________ is the satisfactory answer to every question. It’s the equivalent of a child wanting to know why, and their mother telling them, because I said so. That’s the world Evangelicals like Jim Elliff live in. Any facts that don’t fit the approved orthodox narrative are rejected out of hand. Even when the facts are overwhelming, great lengths are taken to explain away the contrary evidence. Young-earth creationists such as Ken Ham and Kent Hovind (Dr. Dino) are perfect examples of this.

I left Christianity because I no longer believed the Christian narrative to be true. It was my desire to know the truth that ultimately resulted in my deconversion. If Christian seminary students, most of whom are studying for the ministry, cannot be confronted with contrary evidence for fear of losing their faith, I would suggest it is not a faith worth having.

Doubt should not be discouraged. Evangelicals should be encouraged to question, investigate, and test the beliefs which their pastors (and college professors) and churches say are true. A faith that will withstand the onslaught of the modern/postmodern world must be able to answer the questions the modern/postmodern world presents. Perhaps, that is the real issue. The Christian faith has run out of answers. All that is left is warmed-over dogma from years gone by, irrelevant and no longer satisfying for the needs of humanity.

It really is all about the Bible; on this point both skeptics and Evangelicals can agree.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

Bruce, I Was an Atheist Like You Before I Found Jesus

adam savage quote

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Over the years, countless Evangelical Christians have told me, “Bruce, I was an atheist like you before I found Jesus.” Typically, my pithy answer is this: “No, you weren’t.”

Usually, this line is used by Evangelical apologists trying to get me to see that they “understand” where I am on the God issue. However, when pressed, they usually reveal that they were not as atheistic as they claimed to be, or they wrongly believed that not being a Christian means you are an atheist. Each of us was born into this world without any religious belief or moral framework. No one is born a Christian. This is the clear teaching of the Bible and every Christian denomination. To become a Christian, a person must commit to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. One must embrace the Christian gospel and profess a desire to follow Jesus. This profession of faith is different from sect to sect. Some require a person to be baptized, while others require the person be confirmed or make a public profession of faith.

These rituals do not take place in a religious vacuüm. The United States is predominantly Christian, so it should come as no surprise that most Americans embrace the Christianity of their family and culture. Religion is inherently tribal, as can clearly be shown by looking at what the dominant religion is in a particular place. There are historical, geographical, and sociological reasons why, in a certain locale, most people are a certain flavor of Christianity (or a different religion altogether). For example, most Christians in the South are Evangelical and Baptist, while here in the North, Methodists and mainline sects have a greater foothold. Even at the local level, we see dominate sects, such as in nearby Archbold, Ohio where the Mennonite sect has numerous churches, or parts of rural northwest Ohio where Lutheran churches dominate the religious landscape.

The atheist-turned-Evangelical-Christian and I began life the same way, but our stories are very different from there. Like the Evangelical apologist, I too became a follower of Jesus Christ. For almost 50 years I was a devoted follower of the Lord, but at the age of 50, I left Christianity and embraced atheism and humanism. This was an open, honest, and sincere intellectual choice of mine, unlike many people who are Christians because they grew up in the Christian faith, and not because of any intellectual choice of theirs.

Most Evangelicals who say they once were atheists never made honest intellectual choices to become atheists. They were non-believers by default, and at some point in their lives, they decided to become followers of Jesus Christ, or their parents decided for them. They took off their non-believer clothing and put on the robes of Jesus Christ’s righteousness. One day they were unbelievers, and the next day they were Christians. This is not how the process worked for most of the atheists I know.

Many atheists were at one time, like me, devoted followers of Jesus. Our deconversions weren’t a matter of taking off the righteousness of Christ and putting on shirts with a scarlet A. Most of us spent months and years reading and studying before we concluded that the claims of Christianity are false and the Christian God is fiction. For some atheists, due to family and social pressures, they spent decades in the atheist closet, unwilling or unable to declare their godlessness.

While I can point to a definite place and time — on the last Sunday of November in 2008 — when I dared to say out loud I no longer believe, I spent years getting to that point. My journey took me from the strict Fundamentalism of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement through Calvinism and generic Evangelicalism to emergent Christianity and liberalism, and on to universalism, agnosticism, and atheism. Every step along this path was laden with emotional and mental anguish. The hardest decision I’ve ever made came at the moment when I was willing to say that I no longer believed. Making this decision meant I was saying that my previous life as a Christian was based on a lie.

So, I say this to Evangelicals who say they once were atheists: Yes, you may have been an unbeliever, but you were not an atheist like me. Until you can show me that you have done your homework, then I am going to assume that you were what I call a default atheist. If you are going to comment on my blog and claim you were an atheist before you became a Christian, then it is fair for me to ask you to demonstrate how and why you became an atheist. It is not enough for you to say that you didn’t believe in God and then you became a Christian. ALL of us didn’t believe in God at one time. That’s the normal human condition, according to the Bible.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

Playing In Traffic: Don’t Worry, God Will Protect Us

the big c

If the Evangelical Christian teaching on the sovereignty of God and God’s personal, direct intervention in our lives is taken seriously, it often results in Christians acting foolishly and irresponsibly. It often leads to fatalism. The thinking goes something like this: God is in control. Nothing happens that is not part of God’s purpose and plan for our lives. Christians live fearlessly, knowing that God is controlling and directing their lives. All they need to do is surrender their will to his, dying to self (cue the song I Surrender All). God promises Christians he will never leave them or forsake them. He promises to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He promises, promises, promises . . .

Back in the real world, Christians fail, get sick, have accidents, lose their jobs, get divorced, file bankruptcy, and die just like the rest of us. Despite the promises of God, their lives are no different from the lives of godless atheists. They “think” their lives are different, but any cursory examination proves otherwise.

A scene in an episode of the Showtime hit The Big C illustrates how Christians often deceive themselves. The Big C is a comedy/drama about a woman — Cathy (Laura Linney) — who has terminal cancer. Her son Adam (Gabriel Basso) has turned to Christianity as his mom continues to struggle with the reality that she is dying. The Christianity the show portrays is a mix of Lutheranism, Emergent church, and Evangelicalism. Adam starts attending a Bible study where he meets a girl. She is “saving” herself until she is married, so she only will have anal sex with Adam. In her world, anal sex and oral sex are not really “sex.”

One evening, Adam is out with his girlfriend and they come to the curb of a busy, traffic-filled street:

Girlfriend: (starts praying) God help me to help Adam. Let him know your love and protection like I do. Let him give over his life to your loving hands.

GirlfriendOkay, RUN! (and grabbing Adam’s hand they begin to run across the street dodging cars)

AdamOh shit!

Adam: (Upon safely reaching the other side of the street) I can’t believe we did that, we could have died.

GirlfriendBut, we didn’t because God protected us. Just like he protects all of his children.

This is EXACTLY the way many Evangelical Christians think.

Never mind that if this same scenario was played out again, it is likely they would have been killed. Perhaps they escaped death a second time. All that would mean is that they were lucky the first two times. They might run out of luck the next time they try to cross the road. And if Adam and his girlfriend were hit by a car and killed? Christians have an out for that too. It was their “time” to die. God called their number, end of story! To God be the glory.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

An Ex-Pastor’s Dilemma

bruce gerencser 1983
Bruce Gerencser, age 25, Ordination 1983, Emmanuel Baptist Church Buckeye Lake, Ohio

Contrary to what some of my critics say, I have no great need to convert others to what they derisively call the atheist religion. I’m quite content to live and let live. I fully recognize that many people find great value in believing in God and the afterlife. I even understand the deep emotional need such beliefs meet. Who am I to rob someone of anything that gives their life deeper meaning and purpose? It doesn’t matter whether their beliefs are true. All that matters is that THEY think their beliefs are true, and I have no pressing need to deliver people from their fantasies, delusions, or irrational beliefs.

As much as I think that I am a rational person driven by evidence and knowledge, I know I can, like any other human being, be led astray by false or misguided beliefs. No human being is a god when it comes to rational thinking. We all can and do, at times, fall off the wagon of rational thought. As long as religious people don’t try to convert me, I am inclined to leave them well enough alone. I suspect if the Christian religion were a private, pietistic religion, practiced quietly behind the closed doors of homes and houses of worship, I would have little to write about. Since it is anything but, I am inclined to push back at those who think their beliefs should be required for all, whether believed voluntarily or under threat of law.

For twenty-five years, I was pastor to hundreds of people in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I was their friend, counselor, and confidant. I married the young and buried the old. A few times, I buried the young and married the old. I led them to faith in Christ. I baptized them. They looked to me to give them certainty and hope, and a message from God that said he loved and cared for them. Through every phase of life, I was there for them. That’s the life of a pastor. I cared for them, loved them, and even to this day I want only what is best for them. And this puts me in a real spot, what I call An Ex-Pastor’s Dilemma.

I pastored my last church in 2003. In 2005, I left the ministry, and 3 years later I left Christianity. By late 2009, I was self-identifying as an atheist. I am not a person who is hard to find. I have a unique last name. I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world (ain’t I special?!).  My Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog email contact information are readily available via any search engine. I guess what I am saying here is this; I am not an ex-pastor in hiding. I am not trying to forget a past life and make a new life for myself. It’s not that simple.

Here’s my dilemma . . .

Former parishioners and Christian friends often try to touch base with me. They haven’t found this blog yet or read any of the other things I have written that are posted on the Internet, so they assume I am still a pastor. A middle-aged woman, a woman I first met when she was a troubled teen, contacted me to let me know what a wonderful difference God was making in her life. She just knew I would want to know that FINALLY God was using her to help other people. Quite frankly, I AM glad God is using her to help other people. I am glad God has made her life better. I remember the tough time she had growing up, the great sorrows and difficulties she faced.

I didn’t respond to her inquiry. I didn’t want to open the door to her being discouraged or disillusioned. It is one thing if she stumbles upon this blog. If she dares to search a bit, she will find the truth, but I would rather she come to it on her own and rather than me telling her. I am not being a coward. Those who know me know I don’t play the coward’s part very well. But, at the same time, I still have a pastor’s heart. I don’t want to see people hurt. Maybe she will never find out I am an atheist. Maybe she will live a good life, thinking that Pastor Gerencser is proud of her. Such a small deception is one I will gladly commit if someone such as she finds peace and purpose as a result.

It is one thing if an ex-parishioner or Christian friend comes after me like a hungry lion chasing a bleeding deer. Those who find out about my defection from Christianity and become angry, combative, defensive, and argumentative will find that I am quite willing to meet them in the middle of the road and do battle. If I am forced to do so, I will speak my mind and pointedly share what I believe (or don’t believe). However, for those who are only looking for the man who loved them and nurtured them in the faith, I am not inclined to hurt them or cause them to despair. It was never my intent to hurt anyone intentionally, both as a pastor, and now as a preacher of the one true God, Loki. (Please see Dear Wendy, Dear Friend, and Dear Greg.)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

An Email From a Fundamentalist Christian

grumpy cat

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, I received an email from a Christian man by the name of Mike Gallagher. Here’s what he had to say:

I’ve noticed in your articles that you have a bitterness toward so-called Baptists. (Hyles, Swaggart, etc.)  I’ve never considered these men to actually be true men of God. ( “by their fruits, ye shall know them”).  If I may, please allow me to state some observations; and I shall make them brief.  I will not preach to you (tho preaching is a form of communication; and in my experience people are afraid to listen to preaching because they are not secure in their core beliefs.)

1.  I perceive that what you had was religion. Sure, you knew about God and all the doctrines and teachings associated with it. (tho I can’t understand how a serious Bible student could get the doctrine of Calvinism out of it. Calvin wasn’t even a Baptist- yet he persecuted them)  You knew about the Bible and studied it and crafted sermons from it. You looked up to and deified(?) men that you admired; even mentored a few. You were also strongly influenced by them, yea, molded by them.  You had the mechanics of all what a Christian life should be – except for one thing..

2.  Relationships.  You know what they are.  You’ve had one with your wife for 37 years.  No doubt you’ve had strong friendships with others for years.  You have a  relationship with your children and grandchildren;  each one individually (I hope).

Relationships consist of 3 essential elements – Trust, Honesty, Commitment.  Long lasting relationships must consist of these.  But the One whom you have not had a relationship is – God. Sure one can study all about Him, know about Him, what men say about Him – but to know Him, ahh is different.  That’s why salvation always comes

First; it’s the actual meeting; the face to face (by faith) contact.  From that point on you get to know Him more (just as the more time you spent with your wife, you got to know her better; and your friends; and your children; etc.).  You’ve always known He was out there but always distant.  You prayed but didn’t know if He answered or not until you saw results – disappointing or otherwise.

He’s a person.  This is why prayer is a  2-way street;  not one sided.  He’s not there just to listen to you – He wants you to listen to Him.

3.  God didn’t forsake you; you forsook Him. The Bible is not a law book – it’s a guide book.  God isn’t the One who’s changed all these years (especially in our generation in America) We are the ones who have “gone astray”.  Can you HONESTLY say we are better off as a society than we were 50 years ago?

Well, I said I would keep it brief.  Hope we can become friends, Bruce. Some of the things you said about our flesh and humanity is true. The Apostle Paul had trouble with his; and David; and Peter; and Samson; and….. you get the idea. If I’m honest with myself, with others and most importantly, with God;  then I feel secure in what I believe. I don’t think that you do.  write soon, come on you know you can’t let this go without a response!

Mike

I will leave it to you to judge the merit of his letter. My response was short, sweet, and to the point:

You are kidding right? Be friends? Why would I want to be friends with someone who is a judgmental, arrogant ass who refuses to allow me to tell my own story on my own terms?

So no, I am not interested in being friends, hearing from you, or anything else. After hundreds of emails just like yours, I hope you will forgive me when I say to people like you, go to Hell.

Bruce

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

I Hope You (Fill in the Blank)

meaning of life

Well-meaning people have all kinds of expectations and desires for me, revealing how they view my life and me as a person. Often, they view me as hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Instead of allowing me to define who and what I am, they use their own version of who and what I am and then come to certain conclusions about me. It’s like me saying I am a cat and someone saying no you are a dog, and then all their subsequent judgments about me are based on their belief that I am a dog. No matter how loud I meow, they still think I am a dog.

These kinds of people think there is something wrong with me. Take my friend Bill. Here is what he said in a blog comment:

But in my not very humble opinion as a person who has known your thinking for more than 25 years (?), the topic of “god” is disturbing your mind to no good end.

Now, on one hand, Bill has known me for a long time. He lives thousands of miles away from me and we met face-to-face one time in the late 1990s. Years ago, I sponsored the CHARIS discussion list, and Bill was a regular participant. He has, on and off, read my writing for almost 25 years. He has followed my evolution from a Calvinistic pastor to an atheist. Surely, he should “know” me, right?

While I consider Bill a friend, I would never say that Bill “knows” me. In fact, the number of people who really know me can be counted on one hand. And even then, can someone ever really completely “know” me? During the course of our friendship, Bill has mentally developed his own version of Bruce Gerencser. While this Bruce bears some resemblance to the real Bruce, it is not the real Bruce and if Bill doesn’t understand this, he will likely, as in his comment above, come to a wrong conclusion about me.

I think Dale summed up things quite well when he said to Bill:

What Bruce is doing is therapeutic for him and for many of us.

Dale precisely summed up why I write. I am not sitting here raging at God. I am not, on most days, hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Outside of the constant pain I live with, I am quite happy. I have a wonderful marriage and family, and I love interacting with my internet friends through this blog. Yes, I can go through bouts of deep depression, but people like Bill wrongly assume that my depression is driven by my questions about God and religion. It’s not. My health problems are what drive my depression. Feel better=less depression. Lots of pain=more depression.

These days, the only time I think about God and religion is when I am writing. There are no unanswered questions for me when it comes to the Big Kahuna. I don’t think there is a God, so this pretty well answers all the “God” questions for me. My interest in religion has more to do with sociology, philosophy, and politics than it does anything else.

I frequently get emails, blog comments, and comments on other blogs that start with, I hope you _____________________. These people have read something I have written and have made judgments about me. They think I am lacking in some way, and if I would just have what they are hoping I will have, then all would be well for me.  They hope I find peace, deliverance, salvation, or faith. They are Internet psychiatrists who think they can discern who I really am and what my life consists of by reading a few blog posts.

I know that this is the nature of the Internet. People make snap judgments about a person based on scant information. (Just today, a Christian commenter told me I was a fascist. OMG! A fascist?) They think they “know” me after they have read 1,500 words, and they are then ready to pass judgment on what I am lacking.  Everyone who writes in the public space faces this problem, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

This is me saying, I don’t like it. I am not a problem in need of solving. I am not a broken toy that needs fixing. I don’t need what my critics are hoping for me. I am quite happy with who and what I am. It is atheism that has allowed me the freedom to be who I am. I realize this presents a real problem for Evangelicals because they believe that a person cannot be happy, satisfied, or at peace without Jesus. But, here I am.

One commenter stated:

Dear Bruce, I hope you are delivered from your delusions of a happy, satisfied, peaceful life. You are living in denial of how things REALLY are for you.

All I can say to this is that I am enjoying every delusional moment of this life, and I suspect many of my fellow atheists are doing the same.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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It’s Been Fifteen Years Since I Preached My Last Sermon

It’s been fifteen years since I preached my last sermon. Well, according to my counselor, it’s been fifteen years since I preached my last CHRISTIAN sermon. He thinks I am still very much a preacher and a pastor. I’m playing for the other team, but I’m still playing the game. While I certainly continue to preach the good news of reason, secularism, godlessness, and scientific inquiry, I am no longer driven to make converts lest they die in their sins and go to Hell. I wish more Americans would heed my preaching, but I know they won’t until there is some sort of crisis of faith. So, I preach, but I no longer concern myself with the outcome. To use parable of the sower, all I can do is sow the seed. Most of the seed will fall on barren ground, but some will fall on fertile ground, and up will sprout a person of reason, skepticism, and science.

In the fall of 2003, I resigned as pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Clare, Michigan. Victory Baptist was a dysfunctional, dying Southern Baptist church — the perfect church for Bruce Almighty to work a miracle. When I took the church, I told the congregation that I was not a fighter, and I would resign if there was any substantial conflict. Twenty-three years of pastoring churches had taken the fight out of me. All I wanted to do was preach three times a week, visit the sick, marry the young, bury the dead, and help the church grow and mature. Unfortunately, conflict came anyway, and true to my word I resigned. Two years later, the church closed its door.

We moved back to Ohio and rented a house in Stryker. We lived in Stryker for about six months. In February of 2004, my sister, who lived in Yuma at the time, offered to move us to Arizona. She thought the weather would be physically good for me. So, we packed up our household goods and moved 2,000 miles to what many consider the armpit of the southwest. My sister and her cardiologist husband bought a beautiful house for us to live in and we quickly settled into our new life in the desert. It was a fun time for us, but the pull of family became such that we moved back to Ohio in late September. We decided to relocate in Newark so we could be near Polly’s parents. It was during this time that Polly’s sister Kathy was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident.

In the spring of 2005, I got the hankering to once again pastor a church. I sent my résumé to several Southern Baptist area missionaries and it wasn’t long before my phone was ringing off the hook. It was a repeat of what I went through in 2003. Once churches knew I was available, I was quickly inundated with inquiries. At this juncture, Polly and I decided that we were no longer willing to pastor a church that couldn’t pay me a fair salary, complete with benefits. This requirement quickly winnowed the field since most of the churches were small and unable or unwilling to pay a pastor a living wage.

I did candidate at two churches, Hedgesville Baptist Church and New Life Southern Baptist Church, both in West Virginia. While both churches were interested in me being their pastor, I decided not to proceed. A month or so later, a pastor friend of mine tried to entice me to start a Christian Union church in Zanesville, Ohio, but I decided I no longer wanted to go through the rigors necessary to plant a new church.  I came to conclusion that the fire had died and I no longer wanted to pastor a church.

My sermon at Hedgesville Baptist was the last time I stood before a group of people, opened up the Bible, and preached to them the unsearchable riches of Christ. For the three years that followed, Polly and I tried to find a church to call home. (Please see But, Our Church is Different!) We moved from Newark back to northwest Ohio so we could live near our children and grandchildren. We diligently continued to seek a church that took seriously the teachings of Christ. Alas, our search was in vain. As we became more disenchanted with Christianity, our doubts and questions grew. Long-held beliefs were challenged as we attempted to determine what we really believed. In the end, we concluded that the claims of Christianity could no longer withstand rational inquiry and investigation. We attended church, Ney United Methodist Church, for the last time in November of 2008. From that point forward we no longer considered ourselves Christians.

I preached my first sermon at the age of 15, and I was 48 when I preached my last. I entered the ministry as a fire-breathing, sin-hating, soulwinning Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). I left the ministry as a Progressive Christian who was sympathetic towards the Red-Letter Christian and Emerging church movements. When I started preaching, I subscribed to Christianity Today, The Biblical Evangelist, and the Sword of the Lord. When I stopped preaching I subscribed to Sojourners and Mother Jones. In the late 1970s, my library consisted of books by John R. Rice, Jack Hyles, Harry Ironside, and other Fundamentalist writers. Twenty-five years later, the Fundamentalist books of my youth had been donated to charity and in their place stood books by Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Dorothy Day. In between, hundreds of  Calvinistic, Mennonite, Baptist, and Reformed tomes came and went, offered up to Christians on eBay. Time and experience had fundamentally changed me. I have no doubt that I would not be the man I am today without experiencing the joys and heartaches of the ministry.

I miss preaching and teaching. I wish I had been younger and in better health when I deconverted. I could have gone back to college and gotten a degree so I could teach at the college level. I think I have the requisite skills necessary to do so, but without a degree there’s no hope of me teaching. I’d love to teach a World Religions class at the nearby community college. Since that path is no longer open to me, I content myself to write for this blog, hoping that I can, in some small way, be a help to others. Perhaps, my counselor is right: Always a preacher, always a pastor.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Twitter Discussion with an Evangelical Christian: Accusations, Threats, and Silence

lisa elise on twitter

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

What follows is a brief discussion I had on Twitter with a Christian by the name of Lisa Elise. Lisa objected to what I wrote in the post Jesus is the Only One That Matters.  Like all such discussions, this one ended with a threat and silence. Usually, I don’t respond to tweets from Christians. Twitter discussions with Christians are 100% of the time, each and every time, an exercise in futility. In Lisa Elise’s case, I thought I’d tweet a bit and see what came of it.

Lisa: Wow, bitter much?

Bruce: Ah, bitterness, the first word used by zealots to marginalize a person and dismiss their argument out of hand . . . what’s next? Anger, jaded, hurt? Anything but engaging the person’s argument.

Lisa: Or. . .You just seem bitter. Btw, liberals are the EXPERTS at marginalizing those who disagree with them.

Bruce: I just spent the day with my wife of 37 years, six kids, ten grandkids. Such a bitter experience I have without your Jesus.

Lisa: Then go to bed and relax. You seem quite angry and bitter, attacking a dead person and a person u don’t know on Twitter.

Bruce: Public writers, public critique, that’s the way it works. Want a private life? Don’t put stuff on the Internet.

Bruce: Evangelicals seem to get butt hurt anytime someone pushes back at their beliefs and ideas. Don’t like it? Turn off the Internet

Bruce: I believe you tweeted me, yes? I didn’t attack you. I challenged your faulty judgment. Doesn’t the Bible say you should refrain from judgment until you know a matter?

Lisa: U should know. U preached the Bible most of ur life, things didn’t go the way u wanted. Now u mock those who believe what u did.

Bruce: Critique, not mock. A fair number of Christians read my writing and find it helpful.

Bruce: I don’t have a prob with critique. Plenty of it on the Internet, including sermons that have been preached about me.

Lisa: You’ll meet Jesus 1 day. What a tragedy, to have preached him all your life & denied him in the end.

Bruce: Ah yes, the parting threat of judgment and hell. Sorry, I do not fear. 8 years of people like you have made me immune to threats.

Lisa: When u preached the gospel all ur life did u see it as threatening people with hell?

Bruce: Of course it is a meaningless threat. No God, no hell. The only person I fear is my wife.

Lisa: Why would u preach a false threat for 25+ yrs, yet now mock those who believe same thing? Seems strange.

Bruce: At the time I believed it to be true. New evidence, new conclusions.

Lisa: Evidence? Constantly criticizing those who don’t yet have your new found “evidence”. Hmmm.

Bruce: Evidence meaning investigating the claims Christians make for the Bible . . . evidence meaning taking a fresh look at Christian belief and practice. Held up to the light of skepticism and reason, Christian belief comes up short.

Bruce: Constantly? A few hours a day is constantly?

Bruce: The Bible is not what Christians claim it is. Once free of its bondage and authority, I was free to see life in a new light.

Lisa: Bible can be hard to understand. Yet makes more sense than ANYTHING the world offers as answers to my existence.

Bruce: I don’t find it hard to understand. Spent thousands of hours reading and studying it, preaching over 4,000 sermon. But, by all means, show me that my reasoned conclusions are incorrect. And show me doesn’t mean quoting the Bible.

Bruce: 8,000,000 people think Mormonism make sense, yet Evangelicals consider them a cult. Hundreds of millions of people say Islam makes sense, yet Evangelicals say it is a false religion. When it comes to our existence, all we can know is what we see.

Bruce: Anything else requires faith, a faith I do not have. The central claim of Christianity is that a dead Jesus came back to life.

Bruce: Everything I see and know tells me this is not true. Feel free to believe this by faith, but I shall not do so without proof.

Silence

Rapture?

Silence

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.