Tag Archive: Eternal Life

Independent Baptist Songs: Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stanphill

ira stanphill

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stanphill. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Jeanne Johnson and Friends.

Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stamphill

I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver lined

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Though often tempted, tormented, and tested
And like the prophet my pillow’s a stone
And though I find here no permanent dwelling
I know He’ll give me a mansion my own

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely
I’m not discouraged I’m heaven bound
I’m but a pilgrim in search of the city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Video Link

This song is based on John 14:1-3:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Unfortunately, for Evangelicals, the Greek word translated mansion in the King James Version should have been translated rooms. Instead of Evangelicals getting their very own mansion in Heaven some day, what they will really get is a room at God’s YMCA dormitory. The way Evangelicals fight amongst themselves, communal living should make for great entertainment. Imagine Fred Phelps being in the same vicinity as Billy Graham.  Sure will be fun to watch from Hell.

About Ira Stanphill:

Stanphill  (February 14, 1914 to December 30, 1993) was an Assemblies of God pastor, singer, and Gospel songwriter. A gifted musician, he was already playing piano, organ, ukulele and accordion by age 10. By the time he reached 17, he was composing and singing, participating in revival crusades, prayer meetings, and tent campaigns. He graduated from the Junior College in Chillicothe, Missouri, and was later awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana. As a singing evangelist, he preached all over America and in over 40 other countries. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1981, and published his autobiography, This Side of Heaven, in 1983.

How Evangelicalism Distorts Reality and Causes Harm

john piper sleep

I recently talked to a high school football player about an accident he was in that almost killed him. I told him that he was one lucky guy to have survived the crash (he was t-boned by a woman who ran a stop sign). He replied, well God still has a plan for me! Polly’s Mom will soon have surgery for breast cancer. She has thrown herself into the arms of Jesus whom she believes will always take care of her and never leave or forsake her. Polly’s father went through hip replacement surgery two years ago, hoping that the surgery would ease his pain and increase his mobility. Instead, in what can only be described as an unmitigated disaster, Polly’s father will never walk more than a few steps again and is relegated to a wheelchair. When asked about his plight, he replies, this is all part of God’s plan. I am putting my faith and trust in Jesus, believing that all things will work out according to his plan. I have a dear Christian friend who has spent the past decade battling one affliction after another. This year, to add insult to injury, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. My friend has faced the indignity of losing her hair from chemotherapy/radiation treatments. Yet, no matter what comes her way, she knows that God will give her strength as he works out his plan in her life.

God is good all the time, Evangelicals say. He has a purpose and plan for everyone, and everything that happens in their lives is according to God’s divine script for their lives. And even when it comes to death, Evangelicals believe that God has appointed a date/time when they will die. No one comes into the world and no one leave this world unless God says they can. The Bible says:

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:25,28)

I am [Jesus] he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:18)

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)

What makes things worse is that not only do Evangelicals believe that God has a purpose and plan for their lives, they also believe that no matter how much they suffer or face adversity, once they die, God will reward them with eternal life in Heaven. I call this the divine payoff. Revelation 21:4 says:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Evangelicals hang their hat on the belief that a perfect life awaits them after death. They will be reunited with their Christian loved ones and never again have to deal with non-Christians. A perfect world in every way, preachers say, one wherein dwells love, peace, and righteousness. It comes as no surprise then, that many Evangelicals just float through life, facing what comes their way with indifference, believing God will make all things new in the end and give them the desires of their hearts (hearts that have been changed by God).

The problem with this kind of fanciful thinking, of course, is that it is irrational. Evangelicals have no proof for their claims except to say, THE BIBLE SAYS! And therein lies the problem. Countless Christians believe the Bible is a supernatural text written by a supernatural God, and given to them to reveal the truth about life, death, and the afterlife. Evangelicals have no tangible evidence for these claims except to quote book, chapter, and verse. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me, Evangelicals say about the Bible. Faith blinds them to reality and often leads to real-life, disastrous outcomes. I can’t help but think of my father-in-law. When the surgeon recommended hip replacement, Dad said yes, believing that God would work everything out according to his will. That the surgery was an epic failure is of no matter. Whatever happens is according to God’s sovereign, unknowable plan. Evangelicals are conditioned to never gripe or complain about anything. They are told to have faith, believing: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) The Apostle Paul said in Romans 9:20,21:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Don’t bitch, whine, or complain, Christians! God is on the job, and everything that happens in your lives is according to his script for your life. Buckle up and hang on. Those who make it to the ride’s end will be handsomely rewarded with pain-free eternal lives. Years ago, I heard Polly’s cousin, Evangelist David Young, say, there is coming a day when you will be glad you are a Christian! The Bibles does say, after all, that he that endureth to the end shall be saved. In the minds of Christians, there is coming a day when they will be vindicated and everything will be made new. Life on this side of the grave is viewed as insignificant, a mere moment in time when compared with millions of years of blessed, wonderful, atheist-free eternal life. This present life, then, is all about preparing to meet God face to face. According to James 4:14:

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

For us old-timers who attended school back in the day when buildings were heated with boilers, we can remember aimlessly watching the stream rise up from the radiators and dissipate on cold winter days. This aptly describes how Evangelicals are taught to view life.

If Christianity is anything, it is the religion of helplessness. The Christian song, I Can’t Even Walk Without You Holding my Hand perfectly illustrates this:

I thought number one
Would surely be me
I thought I could be
what I wanted to be
I thought I could build
on life’s sinking sand
but now I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

I thought I could do a lot on my own
I thought I could make it all day long
I thought of myself as a mighty big man
but Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand
the mountains too high
and the valleys too wide
down on my knees
that’s where I learned to stand
O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

I think I’ll make Jesus my all and all
and if I’m in trouble
on his name I’ll call,
if I didn’t trust him
I’d be less of a man
cause Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand
the mountains too high
and the valleys too wide
down on my knees
that’s where I learned to stand
cause Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

Video Link

In Acts 17:28, Paul says: For in him we live, and move, and have our being …

Millions and millions of Christians believe that they couldn’t breathe or walk without God giving them the power and strength to do so. In 2016, the late Billy Graham wrote:

Did you ever stop to ask yourself where you got the inner strength to overcome these problems? Yes, I realize you probably take credit for it—but in reality, God made you, and He was the One who gave you the ability to do it. In other words, without God’s unseen help you would have been helpless.

Why, then, do you find it so hard to admit you need God, or to turn to Him when you face something you don’t know how to handle (as you inevitably will)? There may be several reasons—but the basic reason can be summed up in one word: pride. Pride makes you want to take all the credit for the things you’ve been able to accomplish, and pride also makes you want to do everything on your own.

But pride can be a very dangerous thing, blinding us to our faults and cutting us off from others. Pride also can lead us into doing things that are wrong, because we think they’ll make us greater or more powerful. The Bible warns, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

….

John Piper had this to say about Christian helplessness:

Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?

Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”

And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him.

In John 15:5, Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So we really are paralyzed. Without Christ, we are capable of no Christ-exalting good. As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

Such thinking distorts reality and can cause great harm. Christians beg and plead with God for deliverance from “sin,” believing that God will give them victory over their transgressions. And when they fall or run into the same “sin” again? Why, 1 John 1:9 covers it all: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All helpless Evangelicals need to do is confess their “sins” and God wipes their slate clean. Their helplessness breeds codependency. Evangelicals are never told that they have the power to change their ways. Want to stop looking at porn? Stop looking a porn. Want to stop being an abusive spouse? Change your ways. But instead of taking personal responsibility for bad behavior and changing their ways, Evangelicals cast all their “sins” and burdens at the feet of Jesus, crying, LORD I AM HELPLESS. PLEASE HELP ME. Such thinking breeds infantilism. Poor, helpless Christians caught in an endless cycle of repentance and forgiveness never develop the resolve to change their ways. And Jesus the drug dealer likes them this way — hooked on helpless pleading for forgiveness.

This kind of thinking is rooted in the teachings of the Bible. Whatever it says, Evangelicals say, is true. If God says Christians are helpless without him, that means they are helpless. God has spoken, end of story. As long as the followers of Jesus give the Bible undue, unwarranted influence over their lives, they will continue to be helpless. The Christian God doesn’t heal mental cripples, he makes them. In fact, God wants Christians to totally depend on him. If Christians wake up and realize they DON’T need God to live their lives, I suspect that many of the “sins” (bad behaviors) they struggle with will find resolution. The burden of change rests on us. Yes, change is hard, but it is possible if we truly put our mind to it. Begging and pleading with God accomplishes nothing. How can it, right? At best, the Creator is a deistic entity who isn’t involved in the ministrations of men. It’s far more likely, however, that we are on our own, and if we want to change it is up to us to do so.

How did Christian beliefs about the nature and helpless of man distort reality in your life? Did these beliefs cause harm, not only to yourself, but to others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

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.

Believing Humans Have Eternal Life is Harmful and Wastes Life

eternal life

Cartoon by Mark Lynch

I am not suggesting that the reality of death isn’t painful, but just because something is painful doesn’t mean it can be avoided, or even that it should be.  I believe the promise of eternal life is a coping mechanism, and I don’t like it.  Pascal’s famous wager posits that if there is even one chance in a million that God exists, you should bet your life on it, but to me those are terrible odds.  Indeed, it may well be that the greatest mistake in this world is to live as if you have endless time…when in fact you don’t.

Bart Campolo, Why I Left, Why I Stayed, p. 133

What would Evangelical Christianity be without the belief that humans are eternal beings that will either dwell in Heaven (God’s Kingdom) or Hell (Lake of Fire)? Evangelicals give up a lot of living in order to earn a room in Heaven’s Trump Tower. I say “earn,” because despite talk of grace, Evangelicals know that gaining a golden ticket requires work and effort on their part. There are sins that must be confessed and forsaken, and Christians who wallow in the cesspool of the “world” likely will end up in Hell with Adolph Hitler, Barack Obama, and Bruce Gerencser. Thus, Evangelicals religiously attend church, pray, read their Bibles, witness, give tithes and offerings, buy Christian literature, listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV, support Evangelical political candidates, and fight against abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. These same Evangelicals try their damnedest to follow the sexual mores of the Bible. From the moment they awake in the morning until they fall asleep at night, Evangelicals focus their minds on God, Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, and making sure that the evil agenda of Satan and the Antichrist is defeated. (I am aware of the fact that not all Evangelicals are zealots; that many of them are nominal, in-name-only Christians, but millions of Americans are committed followers of the Evangelical God. It is these people who are the focus of this post.)

Those of us who spent much of our lives living and breathing Evangelical beliefs and practices often find ourselves lamenting the time wasted serving a mythical deity. I was fifty years old before I saw the “light” and divorced myself from Jesus. From the age of fifteen to the age of fifty — thirty-five years — I devoted my life to Jesus and did all I could possibly do to live according to the teachings of the Bible — failing miserably, by the way. None of my six children played sports or enjoyed many of the things “normal” children do because their Dad demanded that they, too, devote their lives to Jesus. My children, for the most part, were either educated in unaccredited private Fundamentalist schools or home schooled. Rarely were they given the opportunity to do something that was not connected to either school or church. My oldest son attended over three thousand church services and heard virtually every sermon I preached. The same could be said for Polly and the rest of my children. We lived and breathed God, the Bible, and the church. To what end? What did we gain from such a life? So much wasted time. Hours, days, and years squandered with no hope of a do-over or a second chance. Lost time is just that — lost. All the weeping and wailing in the world doesn’t change the fact that the time wasted in service of a myth is forever lost.

Ephesians 6:16 says, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. James 4:14 states, Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. And Proverbs 27:1 says, Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.  For Evangelicals, these verses are reminders of the brevity of life and the importance of serving God while they have the opportunity. Amos 4:12 speaks of preparing to meet God. Evangelicals believe that this life is preparation for the life to come; that the pain, suffering, heartache, and loss faced in the here and now is meant to keep them from becoming attached to the world. 1 John 2:15-19 states:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 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.

Evangelicals are implored to not love the world with its pride and lusts. Someday, according to the Bible, Jesus is going to return to earth and destroy the heavens and the earth, making all things new. Knowing this to be “true,” Evangelicals forsake the world, knowing that, in the end, they will be glad they did. And for those Christians who love the world and its fleshly desires? Their behaviors reveal that they aren’t True Christians®.

Evangelicals know that life is short. Psalm 90:10 says, The days of our years are threescore years and ten (seventy); and if by reason of strength they be fourscore (eighty) years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.  All too soon, death will come knocking on their doors, thus it is crucial to live life in such a way that when Jesus calls their number he will say to them, well done thou good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:23).

It is too bad that Christians don’t live their lives according to Solomon’s book of wisdom, Ecclesiastes. Solomon reminds people of the brevity of life, and the best any of us can do is eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And therein lies the point of the Bart Campolo quote at the beginning of this post. This life is the only one we will ever have. This is it. No re-dos. No second chances. No reincarnations. No coming back as ghosts or angels. Every breath, every heartbeat brings us one moment closer to death. I am sixty years old. If I live to age seventy, this means my life is six-sevenths gone. If I live to eighty, three-fourths of my life is in the rear-view mirror. I currently take drugs that prolong my life. Without them, I would have already gone up in the smoke of the local crematorium.

There are moments in the night when pain keeps me from sleeping, and I lie in bed listening to the tick-tock of the clock on the nearby nightstand. Tick-tock, tick-tock, two seconds of life is gone. Sixty tick-tocks and a minute is gone. Thirty-six-hundred tick-tocks and another hour of my life is dissipated into the night. Someday, sooner and not later, readers of this blog will be greeted with a post from my wife or one of my children. It will say that on such-and-such a date at such-and-such time, Bruce Gerencser drew his last breath. Cause of death? Life.

Knowing this to be true, I refuse to spend my time chasing ghosts, goblins, and gods. I refuse to offload the present in the hope that I might receive some sort of divine payoff from a mythical deity. Life is meant to be lived in the here and now, with no promise of tomorrow. Yes, it is okay to plan for the future, but not at the expense of enjoying the present. Campolo says belief in eternal life is harmful because it is, above all things, a lie; a lie based solely on some words written in an ancient religious text thousands of years ago. Believing this lie causes people to miss out on all that life has to offer. Believing this lie changes relationship dynamics, pitting believers and unbelievers against each other. If Heaven and Hell are real places, then it stands to reason that Evangelical concern for non-Christian family, friends, and neighbors is warranted. However, there is, based on all we know about the universe, no Heaven or Hell. The only heaven and hell any of us will ever know is that which is lived in this life. That’s why I want, with what little time I have left, to live and raise a little hell, and make earth as heavenly as I possibly can.

Let me conclude this post with the advice I give to new readers on my ABOUT page:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Dear Evangelical, Here’s The Number One Reason We Can’t be Friends

lets be friendsIt is not uncommon for me to receive emails and Facebook friend requests from Evangelicals who really, really, really want to be my friend. These What a Friend We Have in Jesus Christians think that the reason I am no longer a follower of Jesus is because I never had good Christian friends. In fact, during my years as an Evangelical church member and pastor, I had countless friends, including several men I would have considered my BFFs — best friends forever. (These best friends of mine had a different definition of forever, abandoning me once I started having doubts about Christianity and my faith.)

In November 2008, my divorce from Jesus was final, and those who once called me friend turned to praying for me, preaching sermons about me, gossiping about me, and sending me caustic, judgmental emails. Into this friendless void jump Evangelicals eager to be “real” friends with Bruce Gerencser, the Evangelical pastor-turned-atheist. Why do these friendship seekers want to be friends with me?

Some of them naïvely think that if I am just willing to be exposed to their kind, compassionate, loving version of Christianity that I will somehow, some way, be drawn back into the Evangelical fold. Their goal is the restoration of Bruce Gerencser. In other words, their offer of friendship has an ulterior motive — to win me back to Jesus.

Such attempts to be friends with me irritate the hell out me. I hate it when people, regardless of the reason, have ulterior motives when contacting me. Generally, I can spot ulterior motives a mile away. Depending of my mood, I might respond to these secret agents for Jesus by asking, what is it that you REALLY want?  Cut the bullshit and tell me what it is you really want from me.

I have zero interest in having meaningful friendships with Evangelicals. I am fine with being acquainted with or doing business with Evangelicals, but I have no desire to have them over for dinner or to get our families together on the Fourth of July. And the reasons for this are not what Evangelicals might think. No, I don’t hate God, Christianity, or the Bible. None of the reasons Evangelicals think atheists are “unfriendly” apply here. Not that I am unfriendly. People who know me — saved or lost — know that I am a kind, compassionate, loving man with, when provoked, a bit of a quick-to-rise-and-recede redheaded temper. I am kind to animals, don’t step on ants, and don’t kill spiders. I lovingly endure my grandchildren jumping on me as if they are fighting in a MMA match, even though my body screams in pain.  I love my friends, neighbors, and family. I get along well with others, even when put in circumstances made difficult by the airing political and religious viewpoints I oppose. Simply put, on most days, I am a good man, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. Like everyone, I fall short in my relationships with others. When I hurt those who matter to me, I do my best to make things right. So whatever stereotype these friendship seekers might have of atheists, I don’t fit the bill.

The one and only reason I don’t befriend Evangelicals is their belief about hell.  Evangelicals believe that all humans are sinners, and without putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ they will go to hell — a place where all non-Christians spend eternity suffering eternal damnation in utter darkness and searing flames. Knowing that the high temperatures in hell (and later, the Lake of Fire) would turn unsaved humans into sizzling grease spots, the Evangelical God of love gives them bodies capable of enduring never-ending pain and suffering. What a wonderful God, right?

I will soon be sixty years old. Sometime beyond this moment, I will draw my last breath. According to Evangelicals, the very next moment after I close my eyes in death, I will awake in hell, ready to begin my eternal sentence of unimaginable pain and suffering. (A theological point in passing. Most Evangelicals believe what I just wrote; however, according to orthodox Christian theology, God doesn’t give the saved and lost new bodies until Resurrection Day. So, I am not sure what it is that suffers when I land in hell, but it won’t be my body. Maybe my suffering will come from my mind be subjected to a never-ending loop of Evangelical sermons and praise and worship ditties.)

Why, you ask, will I be tortured by God in hell for eternity? One reason, and one reason alone — I do not believe Jesus is anything Christians say he is. And since Jesus is not God, not a Savior, and not divine in any way, and I see no evidence of his eternal existence in the present world, I have no reason to worship him. No matter how good a man I might be, all that matters when it comes to an eternity spent in heaven or hell is if I have checked the box on the Evangelical decision card that says: Yes, I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me from my sins.

So, I ask you, WHY in the names of all humanity’s gods would I want to be friends with anyone who thinks I deserve to be put on the Evangelical God’s rack and stretched for years without end? You see, dear friendship seeker, it is your belief about hell and my eternal destiny that makes it impossible for me to be your friend. No, hell isn’t real, and I don’t fear what may come of me after death, but you believe these things to be true and they stand in the way of us having a meaningful friendship. I am thoroughly convinced that in this life and this life alone do I have immortality. Once death claims me for its own, I will cease to be. Those who were friends with me, will hopefully toast my life, telling their favorite Bruce stories. In time, as is the case for all of us, I will be but a fading memory, a mere blip on the screen of human life.

Bruce, surely you can ignore their beliefs about hell and accept their offer of friendship. Sure, I could, but why should I? Why would I want to be friends with someone who thinks I deserve eternal punishment, who thinks I have done anything to deserve being endlessly tortured by God. Life is too short for me to give my friendship to people who believe their God plans to eternally roast me in the Lake of Fire if I don’t believe as they do.

These days, I have two Evangelical friends, whom I have known for fifty years and thirty years, respectfully. Our friendship works because we do not discuss religion or politics (unless asked). We have many things in common — children, grandchildren, love of good food, Cincinnati Reds — so we have no need to talk about the things not spoken of in polite company. I remain their friends, first, because I love them, and second, because I have a lot of years invested in our friendship. If these dear friends of mine were new acquaintances today, I highly doubt we would be friends.

Well, fine, Bruce, I WON’T be friends with you!!!  Okey dokey, smoky, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. I am too old to care whether someone is my friend or likes me. These days, my friend list is short, but those who are on it love and support me, and I am grateful for them being in my life. To Evangelicals who are butt-hurt because I won’t play in the sandbox with them, I say this: pick a new God who is not a violent, murderous psychopath and worship her. Then maybe, just maybe, we can be friends. As long as you hold the company line concerning sin, death, judgment, and hell, I will not be your friend.

There’s No Such Thing as a Former Christian

saved or lost

Like Hotel California, once you are in you can’t get out.

Once you are saved, you can never be lost.

Once God’s hound dog, the Holy Spirit, tracks you down you belong to God forever.

Or so says Charles Smith:

If you scour the world-wild-web for any amount of time using atheism as your search term, you will undoubtedly find pages and pages of sites laced with the famous proclamation, “I used to be a Christian.” While this may be intriguing to the seeker, desiring a glimpse at the testimony of a formerly professing believer turned cynic in hopes of discovering reasons to remain religiously repulsed by Christendom, or possibly the opposite – looking to see if their retroversion experience is sensible – one thing is certain…there’s no such thing as a former Christian.

Cultural Christianity is quite the phenomenon of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries…

After “leaving the faith,” these misguided, false-converts then find their voices in the blogosphere, social sites, chat rooms, discussion boards and every other form of digital media outlet known to man – exhaustively expatriating as many “cardboard Christians” as they can sink their flaw-full claws into. Ironically, if they would spend as much time truly investigating and begging with a contrite heart, “God, please show yourself to me!” they would discover that He is absolutely faithful to do so – and the door the Lord has once opened, can be closed by no man.

These poor misinformed “ex-Christians” were never truly reborn of the Holy Spirit of God. They followed the crowd in church, were dunked under water, consumed crackers and gulped grape juice, sang songs, talked the talk, looked the part, memorized verses and so many other religious acts, but never came to a saving faith found in a relationship with the only begotten Son of God. Like so many of their contemporaries who weren’t led to the foot of the blood-stained cross of Calvary, they never saw their sins in the mirror of the ten commandments and consequently, never realized the magnitude of their debt – owed to a God who, because of His perfect love and justice, must punish sin – and they never saw the spotless Lamb for who He was and is, the ransom payment – the sacrificial substitute – who carried their sins before the Father and said “I will take their punishment.” Their prideful hearts of stone never crumbled under the weight of such a love and therefore, they simply socialized and enjoyed the music and learned to get along. But, of course, anyone who goes through a “phase” knows, it wore off and they moved on and Jesus wept…

Let the reader understand, just as you can’t become unborn once you have evacuated the womb, you also cannot become un-born-again. It is impossible to un-ring a bell, un-cook an egg or un-kill the living. If you are a spiritual seeker, please know that there is no such thing as an ex-Christian and if you want the truth, please look in a good Bible teaching church for assistance. If after reading this you still claim to be a “former believer,” you just do not understand…

While Smith’s argument certainly might apply to cultural or nominal Christians, it falls flat on its face when it comes to people like me, those who were sincere, committed, devoted, sold-out, on fire, consecrated, dedicated, sanctified followers of Jesus. While it is quite easy to dismiss those who never really took Christianity seriously, what about those of us who did? Did I really spend most of my adult life deceived, never having come to faith in Jesus Christ? Only in the echo chamber of Smith’s mind is such a claim possible. The only way he can square his theology with the life of someone like me is to say I never was a Christian, and since theology always trumps reason, Bruce Gerencser never was a Christian.

Look, I understand. I really I do. Christians like Smith can not fathom anyone walking away from their Jesus. Why would anyone want to walk away from J-E-S-U-S, the most awesome God-man in the world, the biggest, baddest God is the entire universe. Why would anyone walk away from a golden ticket to God’s Motel 6? No more pain, no more suffering, no more death…who in their right mind would turn down such an offer?

But I did, others have, and more will continue to do so. Evidently God didn’t want us bad enough to keep us.

After I am Dead

walking by graveyardAs soon as Christian fundamentalists read this headline they will shout at their screen:

  • You will be burning in hell!
  • You will know there is a God!
  • You will know I was right!

They will see my death as vindication of their belief system. I wonder how many of them will say to themselves, I bet Bruce wishes he had listened to me!  I can hear a Calvinist saying, now we know Bruce was not one of the elect! They will speak of the preacher-turned-atheist who now knows the TRUTH (please read Christopher Hitchens is in Hell).

If they bother to read beyond the title of this post they will see this post is not about my e-t-e-r-n-a-l destiny. I have no concern over God, judgment, or hell. I am confident that hell is the creation of those who want to control people through fear. Fear God! Fear Judgment! Fear Hell! Since Christianity and the Bible no longer have any power over me, I no longer fear God or hell. I am reasonably certain that this is the only life I will ever have, and once I die I will be…drum roll please, d-e-a-d.

Here’s what I want to happens after I draw my last breath.

First, I do not want a funeral service. Waste of time, effort, and money. No need for fake friends or distant family members to show up and weep fake tears. No need for flowers. I want Polly to spend as little as possible on disposing of my dead carcass. Trust me, I won’t care.

plus size cremation

Second, I want to be cremated. No special urn. A cardboard box will work just fine. If Polly wants to show her love for me, a Hostess cupcake box would be sweet.  As I jokingly told my children, when I am cremated I will go from ass to ashes.

Third, I want my ashes to be spread along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Polly knows the place. I hope my children, daughters-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, and close family will be there. I want no prayers said and as few tears as possible. Perhaps those who are gathered will share a funny story, one of their many Butch/Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories. I hope they will remember me for the good I have done and forgive me for those moments when I was less than I could or should have been.

And that’s it.

Life is not about dying, it’s about living. Since I am on the short side of life, I dare not waste the time I have left. When death comes, the battery in my life clock will be depleted. Like the Big Ben clock beside our bed, the one I listen to late at night as it clicks off the seconds, I know there is coming a day when I will hear CLICK and that will be it.

How about you? As an atheist or non-Christian, what do you want to happen after you die? Have you made funeral plans? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Is There Only One Plan of Salvation?

saved lost

o hear many Evangelical preachers tell it, salvation is a transaction between God and humankind. Humankind is wicked, vile, and sinful, unable to do good and headed for hell. God, in his infinite wisdom, made a way for us to have our sins forgiven. Once we avail ourselves of this super-duper sin-erasing way, we have a ticket to heaven that cannot be canceled. The moment we pray to Jesus and ask him to forgive us of our sins and come into our life, one of heaven’s angels puts a door hangar on a room in the Father’s House that says RESERVED.

Countless American Christians have prayed the sinners prayer and are certain that when they die they will wake up in heaven. They have successfully pulled the handle on God’s Salvation Dispensing Machine® and down the chute came a Fire Insurance policy that guarantees payment upon death. It is the only insurance that pays off AFTER you die.

Eternal security, also known as once-saved-always-saved, is a central tenet of many an Evangelical preacher’s soteriology. Once in the family you can never leave the family. God’s family is like the mob, once you are in, you are in for life. What better thing to offer sinners than a guaranteed home in heaven that costs them nothing more than a few heartfelt words:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen

The Bible says in Romans 10:9,10,13:

 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Arminians, those who believe you can lose your salvation, object to the doctrine of eternal security. According to their theology, Christians can lose their salvation. Good works are necessary to maintain one’s salvation.  Calvinists also object to the doctrine of eternal security. They emphatically believe that a person must persevere, hold on until death. And if they don’t, this is proof that the person never really was a Christian.

Based on what I have written above, this means that someone such as myself, a reprobate, a denier of God and his offer of salvation, a man who once was saved, who once followed Jesus is either:

  • Still saved because once you are saved you can never lose it
  • Unsaved because I lost the salvation I once had
  • Never was saved

Over the years I have had numerous Christians tell me that one of these three statements is an accurate description of my present state. All of them are quite certain that they are 100% right about my standing with God and where I will end up when I die.

Every Christian sect would agree that salvation and eternal destiny are THE most important issues every person must decide. Amos 4:12 says, PREPARE to meet thy God.  Surely then, God has made the whole salvation thing crystal clear, right? Nope.

Take the aforementioned verses in Romans 10:9,10, 13. It seems clear that belief=salvation=eternity in heaven.  John 10:28 says:

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

and 1 John 5:13 says:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

and Hebrews 8:38, 39 says:

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

These are the verses on which the once-saved-always-saved believers hang their hats. Of course, Arminians and Calvinists both have arguments and rebuttals to the once-saved-always-saved interpretations.  I once heard an Arminian preacher explain John 10:28 this way:

No man can pluck you out of God’s hand but you can jump out by yourself.

The point I am trying to make is that the whole notion of Christian salvation is hopelessly convoluted, complex, and contradictory. Right now, Evangelical preachers reading this post are:

jumping man

They are certain that THEIR soteriology, THEIR plan of salvation, is the right one. As I have stated numerous times, the Bible teaches multiple plans of salvation, with each plan contradicted by other Bible verses. Let me illustrate this. We already know what the once–saved-always-saved preacher says. Are there verses that contradict his salvation plan?

Hebrews 3:12-14 says:

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;

This passage seems to be quite clear. A brother (brethren) can have an evil heart of unbelief and walk away from God. He will only have salvation and eternal life if he is steadfast to the end.

Can a person, for a time, fall away, and then come back to Jesus? Is it possible for someone such as I to repent of my sin, renounce my atheism, and return to following Jesus? Countless Evangelical preachers would say, YES! It’s never too late. As long as you are a living, breathing soul, you can be saved.

But wait a minute!

Doesn’t Romans 1 and 2 talk about people who can’t be saved, people who have been given by God over to a reprobate mind? Isn’t it too late for them? And what about the Jews? John 12:37-40 says:

But though he (Jesus) had done so many miracles before them (the Jews) , yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

God blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of the Jews so they would not understand and be converted. In other words, these Jews could not be saved. Does this no-salvation-for-you only apply to Jews alive during the days Jesus walked through the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem? Evangelicals argue endlessly over the Jews and whether they can be saved or even need to be saved.

Now, if I can, let me land this plane. Consider a few passages from the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:4-6 says:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

As a Christian, I was once enlightened and I tasted of the heavenly gift. I was made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come. I am now an atheist and I have repudiated all that I once said I believed. According to Hebrews 6:4-6, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to ever be saved again. Why? Because I make a mockery of Jesus’s atoning work on the cross.

The writer of Hebrews reiterates this in Hebrews 10:29-31:

Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Granted, theologians and preachers of every persuasion have explanations for the multiple, contradictory plans of salvation. Many will dismiss the Hebrews quotes with a wave of the hand saying, these verses apply to the Jews not us. Others will open their sect’s systematic theology book, turn to the section on soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and “prove” that any salvation scheme but theirs is wrong and will likely lead to eternal damnation and hell fire.

Here’s my point. If Christian theologians and preachers can’t agree on something as basic as salvation, what hope is there for those not trained in theology? How can they, without the preacher telling them, read the Bible and find out for themselves the way to heaven?

From cover to cover the Bible is a convoluted, contradictory mess. Try as theologians and preachers might to “harmonize” the Bible to fit their theological system, it remains unable to simply answer the question, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16 and Mark 16) Even with the passage that asks the question what must I do to be saved, Christian preachers argue amongst themselves over whether salvation requires baptism.

All of what I have detailed here is evidence that the Bible is very much a human-made book. Surely if the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible as many Christians sects and preachers believe, one would think that the manner in which someone is saved, how one comes into right standing with God, would be clear. It’s not.

Let me finish this post with Bruce Gerencser’s salvation plan:

Live well, do good works, and die. The only heaven and hell you will experience in this life is what you and your fellow human beings create.

Straight from the mouth of Bruce Almighty, written down on this inspired, inerrant, and infallible page. Thus saith Bruce.

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