Tag Archive: Conscience

What Evangelicals Mean When They Use the Word “God”

god

When engaging Evangelicals in discussions, it is important to get them to define what they mean when they use the word “God.” On Sundays, Evangelicals are quite specific: God is the Christian deity; the God of the Bible; the Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Ghost. All other Gods are false Gods. If Evangelicals are true to their faith, they will admit that they believe there is only one path to Heaven — theirs. Not the Catholic road; not the Muslim road, not the Jewish road; theirs. In their minds, True Christianity® is rooted in the merit and work of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead three days later. For Evangelicals, God, Christianity, and salvation are clearly defined in the Bible. People who disagree with them are either lost or being led astray by heretical beliefs. In recent years, some Evangelicals have lurched towards the liberal fringe of Evangelicalism, believing that many of the beliefs once held dear by God’s chosen ones are no longer essential doctrines of the faith. Roman Catholics, Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists are now considered “Christian,” whereas just a few decades ago every Evangelical considered these sects cults or false religions. God surely works in mysterious ways, does he not? What’s next, rock music in worship services? I digress . . .

Engage Evangelicals on matters of church and state and you will find that they quickly lose their particularity about God. Pursue discussions about prayer in public schools, the National Day of Prayer, teaching creationism in science classes, or posting the Ten Commandments of the walls or grounds of government buildings, to name a few, and you will find Evangelicals have abandoned or muted their strict, absolute definition of the word God. All of a sudden, God is a generic being, a deity found in all religions. These hypocrites value political power more than they do standing true to their beliefs. As we have learned with the part Evangelicals played in the election of pussy-grabber-in-chief Donald Trump, they are willing to wholesale abandon their beliefs and practices if, in doing so, they gain political power. Following the plan set forth in the late 1970s by Jerry Falwell, one of the founders of the Moral Majority, these cultural warriors are willing to sell their souls to the Devil if it means outlawing abortion, abolishing same-sex marriage, and stuffing LGBTQ people back into the dark recesses of closets. It seems, at least for many Evangelicals, situational ethics and morality — wherein the end justifies the means — are now the rule, and not the exception. There was a time when Evangelical resolutely stood upon the teachings of the Christian Bible. Today, many of them are only concerned with power and control. As a young pastor in the 1970s, I didn’t know one Evangelical pastor who didn’t believe in the strict separation of church and state. My God, we were Baptists — the original separatists. The pastors I knew wanted nothing to do with government. Today? These same men, with straight faces, say that there is no such thing as church/state separation, and if anything, our founding fathers only wanted to keep the government from establishing a state church.

Evangelicals may attempt to appeal to a generic God when engaging in public square discussions and debates, but don’t let them pull the proverbial wool over your eyes. When they write or say the word “God” they are ALWAYS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, speaking of the Evangelical version of the Christian deity; the God ensconced in the pages of the Protestant Bible. Let me be blunt, Evangelicals who appeal to a generic God are being dishonest. They don’t believe this God exists.

Engage Evangelicals on the “God of Creation” and you will often find that they will begin by appealing to a generic, universal understanding of who and what God is. Often, they will cough up Romans 1:17-20 and Romans 2:11-16:

For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

….

For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

According to Evangelical apologists, there is no such thing as an “atheist.” According to their interpretation of Romans 1 and Romans 2, “God” reveals himself to everyone through creation and he gives to everyone a BIOS of sorts; a conscience; a base moral code. These “truths” are found in most religions, Evangelicals say, especially in the text-based Abrahamic religions. Evangelicals want to leave people with the impression that the concept of God is a universal truth. However, when pressed — well, backed into a corner by a bold atheist — Evangelicals will grudgingly admit that there really is only one God — theirs. Poof! And just like that their generic, universal deity goes up in smoke. When Evangelicals speak of a Creator God or a God who gives everyone a moral and ethical compass, they are talking about a very particular God — theirs. Mark it down, when Evangelicals use the word “God” they are NEVER referring to a generic deity — even if their lying lips suggest otherwise.

Hardcore Evangelical apologists often use the idea of a generic God as a way to hook naïve people, drawing them into discussions that always lead to the man, the myth, the legend, Jesus Christ. I have found that one of the best ways to attack such an approach is to grant their premise: Fine, I readily admit that there is a Creator God, a deistic God who created the universe and endowed humans with a moral/ethical code. Now, please show me how you get from the concept of A GOD to THE GOD; from the generic Creator God to the Evangelical God. And please show me this bridge without using presuppositions or making appeals to the Bible. End of discussion, every time.

Much to the dismay of hardcore atheists, I am quite happy to admit that it is possible (not probable) that a God of some sort created the universe. I don’t believe this to be true, but I am willing to grant its possibility. However, I have yet to see an Evangelical argument that gets me from this to this God being the God of the Bible.

The next time you have an Evangelical try to engage you with generic God arguments, don’t believe one word of what they are saying. Evangelicals have never believed in a non-proprietary definition of the word “God.” In their minds, there is one God, and Jesus is his name. Well, that and God, the Father, and God, the Holy Spirit. I’ll leave that mess to another day.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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If the Evangelical God Revealed Himself to Me, Would I Believe? 

athfleaist convention

I am often asked what it would take for me to believe in the Evangelical God. Is there anything that would cause me to discard atheism and embrace the God whom Evangelicals say is the Creator of everything and the savior of everyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ?  Am I so set in my atheistic/humanistic ways that there is nothing that could persuade me to return to the Christianity I abandoned eight years ago?  Simply put, what will it take for me to fall on knees and repent of my sins, professing that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior?

Many Evangelicals, of course, believe that no amount of evidence would be enough to convert someone such as myself. I am a reprobate, an apostate, a sworn enemy of the Evangelical God. I have crossed the line of no return. My destiny is already settled, with a first-class accommodation in Hell and the Lake of Fire awaiting me after I die. According to the Bible, I am the pig that has returned to the mire and the dog who has returned to his vomit. I have trampled under my feet the blood of Jesus, and there remains no further sacrifice for my sins. Christian evangelizers are told not to waste their time on the Bruce Gerencsers of the world. Let them go to the hell they so richly deserve!

Other Evangelicals think that I am still saveable. With God all things are possible, they say.  Imagine what a testimony to God’s wonderful grace it would be if the preacher-turned-atheist Bruce was brought low before the thrice-holy God and saved from his sins. Years ago, I remember being taught in evangelism class that the best way to reach a community for Christ is to find the meanest sinner in town and lead him to Christ. While I am not a mean person, I am considered the village atheist, a man who hates God and Christians. Get me saved, and r-e-v-i-v-a-l is sure to follow. Or so local Christians think, anyway.

Many Evangelicals believe that God has given me all the evidence I need in order to believe. The Evangelical God has revealed himself to me through creation, conscience, and divine revelation (the Bible). God has done all the revealing he intends to do. If this is not enough for me, I can go straight to hell.

Wait a minute, what is there in creation that proves to a rational, reasonable man that the Evangelical God is one true God, and that forgiveness of sins and salvation are through Jesus, the second God of the Trinity? When I peer into wondrous darkness of a starry night, I am filled with awe and wonder. When a harvest moon rises in the east, giving off its larger-than-life orange glow, I am reminded of the awesomeness of the universe.  All around me I see wonders to behold. As a professional photographer, I often spend time peering at the complexities and beauty of nature and wildlife. Even the feral cats resting underneath the nearby post office box cause me to pause, watch, and enjoy. Everywhere I look, I see things that cause me to stop, reach for one of my cameras, and shoot a few photographs. Not far from where the aforementioned cats hang out, there are sheep and goats who often entertain me when I have time to stop and take their pictures. And don’t get me started when it comes to my family. There are times when everyone is over for a holiday — all twenty-one of us, aged two to sixty — that I quietly sit and watch my children and grandchildren. I think to myself, man, am I blessed. With all the health problems I have, I am lucky to be alive, fortunate that I have the privilege to love and be loved. Does all of this, however, say to me, the Evangelical God is real, that Christianity is the one true religion? No, it doesn’t. At best, all that I have experienced tells me that perhaps there is some sort of divine power, a God of sorts, that has set in motion life as we know it.  Perhaps — though I doubt it — there is a deistic God who created the universe and then went on vacation, leaving the future of planet earth and its inhabitants up to us. This is the God of some of the people who read this blog, and while I don’t believe in their God, I do understand how they came to believe as they do, and I respect their viewpoint. And they are okay with my unbelief, as is their God.

existence of god

I have yet to have an Evangelical satisfactorily explain to me how anyone can rationally surmise that their God is the one true God just by looking at starry skies or biological world. I am willing to concede, as I mentioned above, that it is possible to conclude that some sort deistic creator put the world into motion and then said, there ya go, boys and girls, do with it what you will. But, pray tell, what evidence is there for this generic creator God of sorts being the Evangelical God? Well, the Bible says ___________, Evangelicals say, and therein lies a big, big problem. Evangelicals are, for the most part, literalists. When they read the creation account recorded by an unknown author in Genesis 1-3, Evangelicals conclude that their God created the universe in six twenty-four days, exactly 6,022 years ago. Yes, I am aware that some Evangelicals are NOT young earth creationists, not that this really matters. Whether young earth or old earth or any of the other creation theories espoused by Evangelicals, they believe that the foundational authority is the first three chapters of Genesis.

Using the Bible as a tool to prop up what can be viewed with human eyes only causes greater doubt and unbelief. Why? Because what the Bible says about the universe runs contrary to what science tells us. Astronomy, geology, cosmology, archeology, and biology all tell us that what the Evangelicals believe the Bible says about the universe is false. Of course, Evangelicals are taught that the Bible is the final authority on everything, including how and when the universe came into existence. When science conflicts with the Bible, the B-i-b-l-e — the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — not science, is always right. As science continues to push creationism closer and closer to the dustbin of human history, Evangelicals are forced to defend beliefs that are no longer rationally defensible. So anyone telling someone such as myself that creation — when viewed through the lens of the Bible — proves the existence of the Evangelical God will be met with ridicule and laughter.

The Bible, despite Evangelicals believing otherwise, is no longer a credible source of proof for the existence of God. Evangelicals believe that divine revelation (the Bible) is another way that God reveals himself to us. Unfortunately, thanks to the internet and authors such as Bart Ehrman and Robert Price, the Bible can no longer be used as proof for anything. Now that there are countless blogs and websites dedicated to deconstructing the history and teachings of Christianity and the Bible, it is increasingly hard for Evangelicals to continue to promote and sell the party line. The Bible is not worthless. There are teachings, maxims, proverbs, and such that people, religious or not, find encouraging and helpful. The same, however, could be said of a plethora of religious texts, so the Christian Bible is not special in this regard.

inventing a god

Having read the Bible dozens of times from cover to cover, spending thousands of hours studying its words, books, and teachings, I see nothing that would convince someone not already initiated into the Evangelical cult that the Christian God is the one true God and all other Gods are false. The fact remains that the Bible is not what Evangelicals claim it is, and the only people who believe that the Bible is some sort of supernatural book are those raised in religious sects and tribes that embrace inerrancy. Such people believe the Bible is inspired and inerrant because they either don’t know any better or they refuse to change their beliefs — facts be damned. Extant information, available to all who can read makes one thing clear: the Bible is not what Christians say it is.

Evangelicals also believe that their God reveals himself to humans by giving all us a conscience. Supposedly, the conscience that God gives us is some sort of moral regulator. According to Evangelicals, everyone is born with an innate understanding of right and wrong. God, they say, has written his law on our hearts. If this is so, why do parents need to teach children right and wrong? Why is it that geography and tribal identification, not God, determines moral and ethical beliefs? If the Evangelical God’s law is imprinted on everyone’s hearts, shouldn’t everyone have the same moral beliefs? Of course, they don’t, and doesn’t this mean that there must be some other reason(s) for moral belief other than God? That atheists are moral and ethical without believing in God is a sure sign that these things come from something other than a deity; things such as genetics, parental training, tribal influence, education, and environment.

The fact is, for atheists such as myself, creation, conscience, and the Bible do NOT prove to us the existence of the Evangelical God. Sorry, Evangelicals, I have weighed your evidence in the balances and found it wanting. What then, Bruce would it take for you to believe in God? Is there anything that God can do that would cause to believe?  Sure, there is. Let me conclude this post with several things the Evangelical God could do to prove to me his existence. All of these are within the ability of the I can do anything Evangelical God:

  • Raise my mother from the dead so she can love and enjoy the grandchildren she never got to see.
  • Heal me. Waking up one morning — just one — without pain would certainly cause me to reconsider my view of God.
  • Striking Donald Trump dead the next time he lies would certainly be a sign of God’s existence.
  • Causing the Cincinnati Reds to go 81-0 the last half of the season, Joey Votto hitting 80 home runs, Billy Hamilton hitting .350 and stealing 140 bases, and the Reds winning the World Series would definitely make me believe in God’s existence.
  • Causing the Cincinnati Bengals to go 16-0, winning three playoff games and the Super Bowl would also make me wonder, is there a God?
  • On a more serious note, God ending violence and war, hunger, sickness and disease, would certainly get my attention. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that God is too busy helping Grandmas find their keys and Tim Tebow become a major league baseball player to be bothered with human suffering.
  • And finally, God could just send Jesus to my house. That certainly would do the trick. However, I fear once I tell Jesus what has been going on in his name for the last 2,000 years that he might say, Dude, I don’t blame you for not believing in God. I wouldn’t either, but since my Dad is God, I have to believe whether I want to or not.

Truth be told, I doubt there is anything that can be said or done that would convince me of the existence of the Evangelical God. I have carefully weighed the extant evidence and found it wanting. Since it is unlikely that any new evidence is forthcoming, I am comfortable with saying that the Evangelical God is the mythical creation of the human mind, and I need not fear or obey him.