Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Luke 16: The Rich Man and Lazarus

rich man and lazarus

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 

But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:19-31)

Anyone raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church has heard numerous sermons from Luke 16:19-31. Over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I preached from this passage many times.

The first question this passage raises is whether it is meant to be taken literally. Many Christians, increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of hell and sinners being tortured for eternity, say that this is a parable. However, it is clear from the text itself that Jesus did not mean for this to be taken as a parable.

In all the other parables uttered by Jesus he never mentions anyone by name. In this parable, the three main characters are:

  • A certain rich man (Dives?)
  • A certain beggar named Lazarus
  • Abraham

Jesus tells us the rich man was:

  • Clothed in purple and fine linen
  • Fared (ate) sumptuously every day

Lazarus, however, was:

  • A beggar
  • Crippled
  • Afflicted with sores that the dogs licked
  • Fed with crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table

Both Lazarus and the rich man died:

  • The rich man went to hell and was tormented by the flames of hell without a drop of water to drink
  • Lazarus was carried by  angels to Abraham’s bosom and was comforted

Generally, the Evangelical Christian church believes hell is in the bowels of the earth. In this passage of scripture, hell is a place separated from Abraham’s bosom by a fixed, impassable, great gulf. This gulf is not so great though that a person in one part cannot see the people on the other side of the gulf. The rich man was able to look across the great gulf and see Abraham.

This story details the concern the rich man had for his five brothers who were still alive. He wanted to make sure that they didn’t end up in hell.  He begged Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about hell. Abraham refused and told the rich man his brothers had the Word of God (Moses and the Prophets). If they wouldn’t heed the Word of God they would perish. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them, but Abraham told the rich man that if his brothers wouldn’t heed the Word of God they would not heed someone who rose from the dead.

I find it interesting that Abraham says the living brothers should heed Moses and the Prophets, yet the Old Testament says little to nothing about hell or heaven. I also find it interesting that Abraham told the rich man that his brothers would not be persuaded even if a resurrected dead man, Lazarus, came to them to warn them about hell. Isn’t the linchpin of the Christian religion the resurrection of a man named Jesus from the dead? What better way to authenticate the Christian religion than Jesus physically revealing himself to the world. Think how much better it would be for Christians if every 20 years Jesus could make a brief appearance to remind people that he is still alive and kicking and is still busy building them mansions in the New Jerusalem.

Instead, we are told we must believe what the Bible says about the living, dead, now living Jesus, the son of God. As Luke 16 makes clear, the Abrahamic religions have always been text-based religions. The Bible says is not just the mantra of Evangelical Christianity, but also Liberal Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism cease to exist without their respective religious texts. Simply put, no Bible, no Christianity.

According to many Christian sects and pastors, when Jesus died he descended into hell. 1 Peter 3:18-20 says:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:  By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Ephesians 4:7-10 says:

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Many Christian sects and pastors teach that hell and Abraham’s bosom were in the bowels of the earth. These were temporary holding places for the just and unjust. When Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven he took the just with him. Those in hell remained there.

The early church believed Jesus descended into hell. The Apostles’ Creed says:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

A Third Century Syrian creed says: (link no longer active)

“who(Jesus)  was crucified under Pontius Pilate and departed in peace, in order to preach to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the saints concerning the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead.”

Luke 16:19-31 raises all kinds of sticky questions for Christians.

  • Why did the rich man end up in hell? The text seems to imply it was because he was rich. The New Testament makes it clear that few rich people make it to heaven (Luke 18:24-25)
  • Why did Lazarus end up in Abraham’s bosom? The text seems to imply it was because he was poor and suffered. Jesus reinforces this belief in the Beatitudes.
  • Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment.  How then, could the rich man see and know Abraham and Lazarus and Abraham and Lazarus see the rich man?
  • If, as some Christians believe, it is the soul or spirit that goes to the heaven or hell to await being united with a resurrected body, then, according to Luke 16:19-31, the soul has corporeal properties. Why then can we not see the soul of a person when they die?
  • How was the rich man able to withstand the flames and torments of hell without being burned up? This is a question many Christians run from since it suggests God specifically fits non-Christians with a soul/spirit and body that is specially suited for endless torment in the flames of hell. (this is the where the praise band begins to sing, Our God is an Awesome God)
  • The Word of God, (Moses and the Prophets) teaches that salvation is through obedience to God’s law and not by grace. If this is the case, what ultimately determined where Lazarus and the rich man ended up?  If Jesus (God) is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why is salvation in the Old Testament and the gospels different from salvation in the post-gospel New Testament?

The easy (and lazy) answer to these questions is to say that Luke 16:19-31 is a parable  and is only meant to be an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. However, I think it is intellectually dishonest to suggest that this story is a parable. When compared to the parables uttered by Jesus, it has little in common  with them.

Do you have a story to tell about a sermon on Luke 16:19-31? Was preaching on hell a prominent part of your or your pastor’s preaching?  Please use the comment section to share your experience

The Bob Jones III Non Apology Apology

bob jones III

Recently, thanks to a petition by the gay rights activist group BJUnity, Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University, was forced to apologize for saying that homosexuals should be stoned to death. In 1980, Jones III told  the Associated Press (link no longer active):

“It would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”

According to WXLT, Jones III made this statement while “attending a meeting at the White House with other fundamentalist leaders to deliver a petition to protest extending the protections of the Civil Rights Act to homosexuals.”

While Jones III indeed apologizes for what he said, have his beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex marriage changed? Of course not. While this is certainty a small, hard-fought victory for BJUnity, the apology is meant to a be band-aid covering up the bigotry that is prevalent on the Bob Jones University campus. I am quite certain that, belief wise, the Jones’s and the administration of the University believe just like they always have. I am certain that they do not support equal protection under the law for gays. They remain steadfastly opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

BJUnity had this to say about the statement:

“This means a lot to us because it represents the beginning of a change in the rhetoric and conversation.”

I really wish this was true, but alas it is not. Bob Jones III, like his father and grandfather, remains a hateful bigot. He will certainly pay closer attention to what he says and where he says it, but any thought of the Jones’s or the University moving away from their beliefs about homosexuality is naïve. They remain unabashedly fundamentalist. They remain committed to inerrancy and literalism. In their mind, the Bible is THE standard for morality, and the Bible is clear: homosexuality is an abomination and the mark of a reprobate mind.

IFB Preacher Bob Gray Says “Buy My Book if You Really Care About Souls”

passion for souls

Snark ahead, you’ve been warned!

I ask you dear reader, do you care about lost and dying souls? If so, Bob Gray Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, has a book or two he’d like to sell you. According to his blog, these books are so important that NOT buying them will result in more souls being lost for eternity. According to Gray:

…There are 400,000 plus churches of all types in our nation. If the Bible believing local churches would sharpen their soul winning tools and organize a strong Sunday School system we would see a reversal of our outreach to our worlds. Jesus is coming soon and we must have a second mile kick in order to finish our portion of the race for souls.

You can call xxx-xxx-xxxx or xxx-xxx-xxxx or email xxx@juno.com or xxx@me.com to order.  Do not put this off. The longer you delay the more souls we will lose. This one-two punch will help your local church in your outreach in your world.

Gray warns fellow Independent Fundamentalists Baptists (IFB) about the soon return of Jesus. Isn’t this same sorry trope IFB preachers have been using for decades in an attempt to light a fire under complacent church members?  Evidently, IFB churches are in a race and these books will help them start running faster so they “finish their portion of the race for souls.” Who are they racing against? Satan? Catholics? Muslims? Southern Baptists? Or is this just a Madison Fifth Avenue ploy to sell self published books?  Guilt+fear=more book sales.

The first book is written by David Hyles. Yes, THAT David Hyles. Titled, Jack Hyles’ Passion for Sunday School: Philosophies and Principles that Shaped His Pastoral Ministry, this book is all about the importance of having a Sunday school. And not just any Sunday school, but a Sunday school just like Jack Hyles had at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. (Please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles if you are not familiar with him) I think it is safe to say that this book will NOT mention Jack Hyles’ passion for his secretary or David Hyles’ passion for anyone wearing a skirt.

The second book is written by Gray. Titled, Passion for Souls: The Motivation, Message, and Methods of My Life as a Soulwinner, it details Gray’s soulwinning passion and methodology. Jeff Fugate, pastor of Clay Mills Road Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, had this to say about the book:

“This book is in my opinion the BEST book I have ever read on the matter of personal soul winning. It is encouraging, instructive, enjoyable and convicting. I recommend this book to new Christians as well as to seasoned soul winners. Thank you Dr. Gray for your example of personal soul winning and for putting your life’s work into this book.”

Evangelist John Hamblin adds:

“I’m thrilled that you are holding in your hands right now, this tremendous bound volume, “My Passion For Soul Winning” by my dear friend, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr.

I’ve said, as Andrew was the Apostle of Personal Workers in the days of the early church, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr. is the “Apostle of Personal Workers” in the present church”

Here is a principled fundamentalist, powerful preacher, published author and proficient soul winner, who has not only lead tens of thousands to Christ but also has trained and tutored tens of thousands of personal soul winners.

In this bound volume you will find the drive, desire, duty, determination and demeanor, of one, without question, of the most successful personal soul winners of our day.

The IFB church movement is dying on the vine. Countless churches have closed their doors and others face steep attendance decline.  IFB colleges that once had burgeoning enrollment now have a hard time keeping the doors open. You’d think that someone, anyone, would stop and ask WHY this is? Some IFB preachers blame worldliness, a catch-all phrase for church members who love HBO more than they love Jesus. Others develop a persecution complex, thinking that liberals, Obama, socialists, Democrats, Catholics, Southern Baptists,other IFB preachers who aren’t in their camp, and a host of other groups and people they demonize, are actively working against them.

The fault lies with everyone but them. Instead of recognizing that their “motivation, message, and methods,” no longer work, they just keep doing the same thing over and over and over hoping for a different outcome. They continue to preach against the same “sins” they were preaching against 40 years ago. The difference now is that it is harder to find people who are willing to be assaulted week in and week out with the King James bible.

Gray will surely sell some books. The IFB church movement is quite incestuous, so big name IFB preachers preach for one another, give each other doctorates, and buy each other’s books. It is a wheel that keeps on spinning…

If you are interested in buying a copy of Gray’s books, you can purchase them at Solve Church Problems.

 

Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics

bait and switch

Update: Former Faith Baptist Church youth pastor Malo Victor Monteiro arrested on sexual abuse charges.

Bruce Goddard pastors Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar California. Faith Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Here’s how they advertise themselves:

Malls are trendy, churches should feel timeless. With the forceful current of constant change sweeping over every part of our lives, people have the need to connect with something enduring and firm. We believe Christ designed the church to fulfill that need by representing an eternal kingdom and ageless truth with no need to imitate the culture. We want you to know that there is still a church that feels like a church. It will not feel like a rock concert, comedy club, or motivational seminar. It is not old-fashioned, as in 50 years ago, it is timeless, as in 2000 years ago.

IFB churches are noted for  bait and switch methods used to lure the uninitiated into their group. Often, they advertise themselves as being the friendliest church in town, and outwardly they often are. But, once a person becomes a part of the church, they often find out that things are not as they first appeared to be. Let me illustrate this with several paragraphs from Faith Baptist’s website.

On the I’m New page, we find this:

HOW SHOULD I DRESS?

There is not a dress code at FBC for members or guests. Our ministry leaders and many of our church family dress in more traditional “Sunday” dress; however, our main goal is that you would feel welcome and comfortable on your visit here at FBC!

AM I EXPECTED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE OFFERING?

No. We do not invite you to FBC for your offering. We want our service to be a gift to you. We hope you will find a warm, family spirit in this place, truth from God’s Word, and a place where you can grow in God’s grace. Please do not feel any obligation to participate in the offering as a guest.

A literalist, normative, King James reading of these two paragraphs would lead a new person, one not initiated in the IFB way of life, to think that they could dress anyway they want and the church is not interested in their money. Yes, I see all of you former IFB church members laughing and rolling on the floor. This is what I mean by bait and switch: we love you just like you are, but once we have our claws into you we are going to rip you apart and remake you into what we, uh what God, wants you to be.

There’s a non denominational church not far from where I live that prides itself in being tolerant and accepting. Why, they have two gay people attending their church. But, here’s what the two gays might not understand. The love, tolerance, and acceptance is a ploy. They have no intention, over the long-term, of accepting them as they are. The church is willing to put up with having two vile, wicked homosexuals attending their church because they confidently believe that through the preaching and the fake “we love you” the two gays will get saved and realize that homosexuality is a BIG, BIG, BIG sin.

Here’s how the two gays can prove the sincerity of the church’s love, tolerance, and acceptance. Just ask to join the church or work in the nursery. Tell the pastor you’d like to work with the youth or in junior church. I hear you former Evangelicals snickering. Stop it! I guarantee you, this church will not allow two gays to become members or allow them to be anywhere near their children.

Bruce Goddard and Faith Baptist Church want first time visitors to see the “good” side of the church, the loving, tolerant, accepting side of the church. Come as you are, Bob and Mary, they will tell them, thinking to themselves, when We, I mean Jesus, gets a hold of you, he’ll let you know that wearing the clothes you have on today are a sin and an affront to God.

Bruce, perhaps Goddard and Faith Baptist are different. After all, you’ve never visited the church, so you can’t KNOW how they really are. I wish that was so, but IFB churches are quite predictable. Go to the church’s About Us page and take a careful look at the picture at the top of the page. Pay close attention to how people are dressed. This should tell you exactly what the church’s dress standard is.

Still not convinced? Here’s an article Bruce Goddard wrote for Old Paths Journal, (link no longer active) an IFB website that features the writing of men like Boy Gray Sr. and Allen Domelle:

Forgive my sarcasm, it simply fits this morning as I read and laugh at how messed up some men must get if they read their Bible. It makes me smile. This Book will mess with your mind unless you surrender to it. Amen! Just how do contemporary preachers read their Bible at all without gagging?

Proverbs 6 brings up some very uncomfortable issues. If God knew the politically correct times in which we would be living, I just do not think He would have written some things in the Bible. Consider these few verses:

Proverbs 6:23-25, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.”

So, here is a matter of Bible reproof and a what the reproof deals with. Take a good look at how “off” God is in our contemporary world.

First of all, God thinks our preaching should contain reproof! Wow! Is that ever out-of-date! Then, the reproof should deal with these four things, can you believe it?

1. The wrong crowd: to keep thee from the evil woman.

2. Wrong speech: flattery.

3. Lust: now it is hard to have lust for a woman without it having to do with her looks. So this indicates preaching and reproof on appearance and what a man looks at.

4. The draw of a woman’s eyes: take thee with her eyelids.

That sure sounds like God wants some serious instruction on how a gal looks, how she acts and warning a young man about that woman. It appears God is so archaic that He thinks we ought to warn young men about the danger of flattering words and forward woman. It appears God is so out-of-touch that He wants us preaching to young men about what and who they look at. How 1950ish!

If God only knew the times in which we would be living, I am sure He would have dropped this kind of thing about 1950 and changed our instruction to simply loving God, loving people and getting rid of the foolish “do’s and dont’s.“ Oh, well! When your God never changes I guess He is bound to be old-fashioned and out-of-step with the times.

Maybe God can read some modern blogs and visit some big name conferences to catch up with the men who really know what is going on. If only God had not said that His Word would not change, then I am sure God would drop this “legalism” and pushy stuff. Man! That was a mistake. Now, God is stuck with these old-fashioned statements. I guess it is good most modern preachers are not stuck on the Bible. Good thing they have enough sense to ignore the Bible when needed and do the “appropriate thing.”

Where would we be if we only had an old-fashioned Bible, and we were having to find our path without these men who know better than to preach on appearance, flattery, forward women and the things at which a man looks? I am sure it was not God Who brought us these modern enlightened prophets, but whoever it is, our world owes him…

Did you see the bait and switch? The church website says:

“There is not a dress code at FBC for members or guests. Our ministry leaders and many of our church family dress in more traditional “Sunday” dress; however, our main goal is that you would feel welcome and comfortable on your visit here at FBC”,

Yet Goddard says in his article: (link no longer active)

“That sure sounds like God wants some serious instruction on how a gal looks, how she acts and warning a young man about that woman. It appears God is so archaic that He thinks we ought to warn young men about the danger of flattering words and forward woman. It appears God is so out-of-touch that He wants us preaching to young men about what and who they look at…

…Where would we be if we only had an old-fashioned Bible, and we were having to find our path without these men who know better than to preach on appearance, flattery, forward women and the things at which a man looks?”

Need I say more?

Family Driven Faith Part Three

bruce and polly 2013

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, 2013

The article was first published in 2012 on No Longer Quivering Corrected, revised, and updated

Eleven years have passed since I preached my last sermon and Polly was called the “pastor’s wife.” Almost seven years have passed since we determined to stop attending church. Now we are “unchurched”, casualties of a lifetime spent in Evangelical Christianity. Worse yet, at least according to our critics, we are now enemies of Christ and his church.

You see, we not only left the Church, we left Jesus. Regardless of how some Christians try to parse our lives through their peculiar theological system, we are two people who once were devoted, committed followers of Jesus, who are an atheist and an agnostic. We were saved and now we are lost.

Some people leave Evangelicalism, with its attendant fundamentalist beliefs and code of living, and try to remake their life according to a kinder, gentler view of God, the Bible, and their fellow humans. I view this like remodeling a house where the foundation and the basic framework remain the same. What’s changed is the siding and the paint on the interior walls, but everything else remains the same,

Many people leave the Evangelical church and join progressive or liberal Christian churches. They gain new labels for themselves, but, again, the foundation of their faith remains the same. Polly and I decided that we were not willing to slap some new siding on the house and remodel the interior. Instead, we burnt the house down, hauled the debris away, and started over.

Now I say we started over, but I recognize that since we think and remember, there really is no such thing as starting over with a blank slate. Deep in our minds are memories from 50 years spent in the Christian church and 25 years spent in the pastorate. These things will forever be with us. The good, bad, and indifferent; the wonderful experiences and the painful, hurtful experiences too. We are the sum of what we have learned and experienced in the past. While we like to think we KNOW where we will be months or years from now, the truth is we really don’t know what the future may bring or how our lives will be.

If someone told me a decade ago that I would be an atheist and Polly would be an agnostic, I would have suggested they seek immediate psychiatric help. As far as Christians go, and as far as Christian pastors and their wives go, Bruce and Polly Gerencser were as devoted and committed as any Christian or ministry couple. Yet, here we are, numbered among the godless, the most despised people in America.

When we decided to start over we knew that we were going to have to confront many personal and marital issues. Wiping the slate clean forced us to look at what we really believed about most everything. At times, the process made us fearful. What if we decided that we didn’t want to married to each other? Free to think and reason and to decide for ourselves what our moral and ethical foundation was, there was a real danger that this process could lead us apart.

Of great concern was how our children would view the new, and hopefully improved, Mom and Dad. They only knew us as parents who were 100% committed to Jesus and the church. They only knew us as strict, not sparing the rod, homeschooling parents. I can only imagine how great a struggle it was for them as they watched their parents not only leave all they ever knew, but repudiate it and embrace a godless worldview.

Former friends, parishioners, and fellow pastors reacted with horror and anger over our leaving the Christian faith. We have been accused of all sorts of things and our Christian past has been dissected, discredited, and discarded. We spent a lifetime building relationships with people and it only took saying, I don’t believe or I am an atheist, for all of those relationships to disappear. We paid a huge price for being honest and open about the journey we are on.

Over the past seven years, we have slowly built our new home. Our marriage not only survived, but it has thrived. Nirvana, it is not. We still fuss and fight. We still have personality quirks that drive each other crazy. But, at the same time, we are far more accepting and loving, not only towards each other, but towards humans in general.

Our lives are very different these days. My continued physical debility has radically changed how we live, how we earn a living, and what we can and can’t do. Since our “sin” list now fits on a matchbook cover, we are free to do many things and go many places that were verboten in our previous life. We are free to dance, drink, and party, even though we very rarely do so. It is liberating to enjoy life without having to wonder what God, the church, or our Christian friends think. We’ve met new friends, mostly through this blog and Facebook, who allow us the space and freedom to be who and what we really are.

Some Christians are likely to suggest that we left Christianity because we wanted the freedom to live however we wanted. Some might even suggest that we had a secret desire to sin, to live immorally and that’s the REAL reason we left Christianity. To some degree, they are correct.  However, we ultimately left Christianity for intellectual reasons.  We came to the conclusion that the claims of Christianity were not true and the Bible was not in any way a divine, God inspired book. We came to see that our lives had been built upon a foundation that was not true. Once the Bible was removed from the discussion, we were free to chart our own course; free to determine for ourselves what is moral and ethical; free to experience things and go places that were considered sinful for most of our lives.

Some readers, thinking we threw the baby out with the bath water, will say, But Bruce, you were a Fundamentalist Baptist.  Everyone knows how legalistic, how narrow-minded Fundamentalist Baptists are. This claim might have some merit IF we had remained Fundamentalist Baptists over the course of 25 years in the ministry. But, we didn’t. By the time I pastored my last church in 2003, I was a social gospel progressive, Sojourner loving, emergent church friendly, Democratic pastor. Many of my pastor friends labeled me a l-i-b-e-r-a-l.

The process that led us to where we are today began in the 1990’s. Fundamentalists tend to view things in a black and white manner. Saved/Lost. In/Out. Heaven/Hell. God/Satan. They remember the date/time/place God saved them and when people who think like this read that we are now atheist/agnostic/godless, they, judging us through their own experience, think we had some instantaneous experience where we went from saved back to lost.

That’s not how it worked for us. It was, and remains, a process. We fully expect that the process will continue until we die. We fully expect our journey will have many bumps, crooks, turns, and reversals. We have no doubt there will be times when we part ways and walk different paths from each other. That’s OK. We are free to be who we want to be. We are free to follow the path wherever it leads. No more thundering sermons telling us NO. No more Christian books telling us the evil of this or that human experience. No more living a life where the Bible is the compass and guide.

This does not mean that life is now easier for us. If anything it is harder. When the Bible was the standard by which all things were judged, we didn’t have to think as much. Just Obey. As the old song goes, Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey. Now we are forced to recognize that life is filled with gray and ambiguity and that sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. We have learned to be indifferent towards many things.

bruce and polly gerencser 2013-2

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, 2013

This is how we have chosen to live our lives. We are happy and our love for one another endures. Our children have embraced the new Mom and Dad, even though some of them might question the path we are on. Each of our six children have charted their own course through life. None of them are Evangelical. To many people, our children are a huge disappointment, and Polly and I will answer to God for what we have done to our family. We, however, are proud of our children, proud of the lives they have chosen for themselves.

Polly and I are grateful that we have been given the opportunity to start again. We are cognizant of the fact that our story could have had a bad ending. But, it didn’t and we hope this new lease on life will be one we do not squander. We hope that our best days lie ahead.

The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right

persecution

As of today, there is NO religious persecution in the United States. Every citizen is free to worship any or no God. Every citizen is free to worship when, where, and how they wish. I know of no law that prohibits the free exercise of religion. The United States, when it comes to religion, is the freest nation on the face of the earth. Yet, despite the evidence, many on the religious right think they are being persecuted, and if Barack Hussein Obama has his way Sharia law will be instituted and Christianity will be outlawed. If the socialist, communist, Kenyan born Obama is not stopped, by the time of the 2016 presidential election, Christians will be persecuted, incarcerated, and possibly killed, just like Hitler did to the Jews in World War II.

Think I am kidding? I am on the American Family Association’s (AFA) mailing list. (know thy enemy) In today’s digest was an article written by Jim Shempert titled America’s Future: Christian Persecution. What graphic did AFA and Jim Shempert choose for the article?

prison camp survivors

That right, Shempert and AFA think that Christians will soon be treated just like the Jews, gypsies, and mentally handicapped were treated by Hitler and Nazis in World War II.

Here’s what Shempert had to say (link no longer active):

…This blog is intended for the Church. If you are not a Christian, and your only goal is to tear down Christianity, you can stop reading here.

Church, Christianity is under attack all across the globe. The persecutions of the Church are definitely not the same but they all have the same root. Imagine trying to be a Christian in Iraq/Syria/anywhere south of Turkey right now… Standing for your faith will be met with loss of property, threats, beatings, and death. These are common occurrences. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to go to Google. Type in “Middle East Christian persecution” and hit “search.” In literally half a second, Google will return to you 1.1 million articles/pages on persecution of Christians in the Middle East. To focus on a different area, go back to Google and search for “Christian persecution in Africa.” In .6 seconds, you are greeted with 2.5 million articles/pages that deal with Christian persecution in Africa.

Now, the current resident of the White House believes that the atrocities committed by Muslim terrorist groups are not indicative of all Muslim people. Here’s a potential fire starter: I happen to agree with him there. Personally, I believe the Muslim faith to be incorrect in its focus. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no man cometh unto the Father but by Him. As those Muslims must surely think that I am wrong in my focus. However, I do not think that all Muslims are terrorists, or that they are all on jihad. I also don’t believe the line that these extremist groups are not focused around Islam. I know that the resident of the White House likes to continue his crusade against Christianity by reminding us that at one time, horrible atrocities were committed by those who claim the name of Christ. His problem, and all those who claim moral equivalency, is that he is unable to call EVIL what it is: EVIL. He is able to quickly tear apart Christianity, and say that America was never a Christian nation, but he is unable to say that Islamic terrorism is evil.

I’ve had a long conversation with a friend on this, and we came to the conclusion that if any group that claims Christianity starts cutting off people’s heads while singing “Just as I am,” the first people to respond will be Christians. We will police our own. The soldiers sent to stop them will probably be Christians, at least in some part. Rest assured, the current White House, will seek great joy in touting that it is CHRISTIANS doing this. “See…they are doing it too!” A 5 year old child has more intellect and intelligence.

The point is… American is no longer a Christian nation. Those are hard words to hear. They were even harder to type. That’s not to say that it never was. America was built around Christian principles, with Christian men and women leading it. Those who claim otherwise are just repeating a Goebbels lie: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The nation that I grew up in, is no more. Being viewed as an evangelical Christian now, is to be seen as a leper. “Those close minded, bigoted, judging Christians.” “Why don’t you just love? That’s what Jesus did.” (That one usually comes from someone who hasn’t opened a Bible since grade school) “Judge not, that you be not judged.” That’s Matthew 7:1 for any of you that use it. You might want to continue down chapter 7 to verses 15-20. Might do you some eternal good…

…What’s the next step for those who only want their ears tickled? To silence those who don’t! Anyone who preaches the Light, will be resisted by the darkness. Offensive words will be created to describe them and shouted over and over and over until the masses begin to repeat them. They will be chastised in the media, lose their jobs, their businesses, their property, their ability to live their lives the way they choose. The assertion that they are ignorant will be constantly repeated. Their very freedom will be threatened. Oh wait, that’s already happened…

Martin Niemoller was a pastor in Germany during the Nazi regime and also a concentration camp survivor. He is remembered most for this quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Ronald Reagan is by far the greatest president of my lifetime. He said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Those words could never be truer than they are today. As Christians, we are at a crossroads in America. We can stand up, and let our voices be heard. We can fight at the ballot box for the rights that we were always guaranteed. Or, we can continue to allow our anti-Christian government to destroy the basic tenants of our faith. The choice is ours…

…What happens to those of us that resist? How long before we become “enemies of the State?” How long before we are sent to “camps” for re-education? Sound crazy? The German people in the ‘30’s would have said the same thing. In a few short years, millions would be imprisoned and executed for their faith…

…I live in relationship with Jesus Christ as my Savior. My life is forfeit. If it is His will that I must be sacrificed for my stand for His Name, then so be it. Even Jesus didn’t turn away from death when presented with it. He was obedient to the end.

American Christian, most of the rest of the world knows this already, from experience. But there is coming a day when to identify as a Christian in America will bring consequences…

I love it when groups like AFA use Martin Niemoller’s quote to suggest that what happened in Hitler’s Germany will soon happen here. Here’s the problem: no one has come for the socialist, trade unionist, or Jew. Yes, many on the political and religious right fight against socialism and trade unions, but no one would suggest that the religious right is persecuting socialists or union members. They most certainly are not persecuting the Jews. The religious right loves Israel, well at least until Jesus comes back and slaughters all the unbelieving Jews.

We live in a free country. While I think personal liberties are under attack by corporate, military-industrial complex, and surveillance-industrial complex interests, I have no fear of being persecuted or jailed if I oppose these interests. Like the Christian, atheists like me are free to write about, attack, critique, and make fun of religion. I don’t fear the government breaking my door down and arresting me for something I have written.

Unfortunately, when one lives in a country where freedom of belief and practice is ensconced in its founding documents and law, the slightest denial of freedom or the slightest inconvenience can be viewed as an attack on freedom and personal rights. The religious right thinks the move towards same-sex marriage and justice and equal protection under the law for gays is an infringement of their religious rights. Same-sex marriage really is THE issue that has the religious right foaming at the mouth. However, allowing same-sex couples to marry in no way infringes on a person’s right to believe and worship as they wish. If same-sex marriage was legal tomorrow in all fifty states, absolutely nothing would change for Christians. They would still be free to pray, read the Bible, evangelize, attend a house of worship, and, get this, forbid gays and same-sex couples from being members in their church.

No clergyperson will ever be required to marry a same-sex couple. Since marriage is a secular function of law, a pastor is free to choose who he will marry. It is the marriage license, not the ceremony that gives a marriage legal force. This is why, in states like Alabama, public officials must issue a license to heterosexual and same-sex couples. They are acting on behalf of the state, a secular institution. If they cannot, according to their conscience, fulfill their duty to issue a marriage license to all who request one, then they should resign. Their resignation is not persecution. All of us have beliefs and moral and ethical values that might, in some circumstances, preclude us from holding a certain job.

We are 20 months away from electing a new president. Our country faces many pressing and trying issues: war, threat of war, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, government debt, etc. Instead of whining and screaming about being persecuted, I wish the religious right and their representatives in Congress would reach across the aisle and meaningfully try to find a solution to the pressing issues of the day.

The American Family Association, and other right-wing religious groups like them, knows that their followers must constantly be poked lest they become apathetic. What better way to wake people up than to scream PERSECUTION!  Until Christians realize groups like the AFA are manipulating them for political and material gain, they will continue to be outraged every time they are told they need to be outraged. (the outrage machine One Million Moms is an arm of the AFA)  Until they are willing to actually think for themselves and throughly investigate the issues without checking in with Fox News first, there’s little hope of meaningful dialog.

But Bruce, same-sex marriage is wrong! Why? Without the Bible, please defend your position. I have yet to have someone successfully defend the prohibition of same-sex marriage without appealing to their religious beliefs and a sacred text like the Christian bible. Once religion is removed from the equation, there is no reasonable argument to be made for prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.

That said, I still believe in the American political process. Christians are free to work towards a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They have the same rights and privileges as I do. Let’s duke it out in the public square. Of course, the religious right doesn’t want to do this, knowing that they would likely never get enough states to approve a constitutional amendment.

The real issue here is that Christianity is losing its preferential place at the table. For most of our country’s existence, the Christian religion has been the centerpiece. This is natural, of course, since most Americans self-identify as Christian. However, more and more Christians are more to the left politically and religiously, especially young adults. More and more Americans no longer have any religion. Atheism, agnosticism,humanism, secularism, religious indifference, and “none of the above” continue to increase. Like it or not, right-wing Christians must recognize that they no longer have the political and social power and clout they once had. If they don’t like this, I suggest they get busy attracting new people to their cause.

Family Driven Faith Part Two

bruce and polly gerencser 2008

Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2008

This article was first published in 2011 on No Longer Quivering Corrected, revised, and updated

As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I taught parishioners that the the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children. (a hierarchy) The Bible is clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them was marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home.

I taught men that God’s highest calling is for them to be a leader. Men are called by God to lead the church, the home,and the government. The strength or weakness of any nation, culture, church, or home depends on whether men are fulfilling their divine calling to lead.

Children are at the bottom of the hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother. Children have one divine calling in life, obey!

This kind of hierarchical family structure has been a part of American society since the day the Pilgrims stepped ashore on the eastern coast of America. Over time, due to social, political, and economic pressure, the hierarchical family structure has weakened. As women gained the right to vote, began working outside of the home, and began using birth control, they realized they could live without being under the control and authority of a man. Modern American women are free to pursue their own life path, free to live lives independent of men. When women marry, they are no longer considered the help meet. They are equal partners in the marriage. Their values, beliefs, and opinions matter.

However, in the IFB church movement women still live in the 18th century. Bound by commands and teachings from an antiquated book, they live lives strangely and sadly out of touch with the modern world. Every aspect of family life is controlled by what the Bible teaches. Better put, their life is controlled  by what an authoritarian pastor and authoritarian husband/father say the Bible teaches.

I have no objection to a woman willingly choosing to live and participate in a hierarchical family structure. If an Amish woman wants to live as the Amish do, then I have no reason or right to object. It  is, however, difficult to determine if they willingly choose. Is it a free choice when there are no other options?

For my family and I, moving away from a hierarchical family structure was difficult. We had to relearn how to live. We had to examine sincerely held beliefs and determine if they still were applicable to the new way we wanted to live our lives. I realized that I had lorded over my family. I had dominated and controlled their lives, all in the name of Jesus. By doing so, I had robbed them of the ability to live their lives independently of my control. Every decision had to have my stamp of approval. Nothing escaped my purview. After all, God had commanded me to be the head of the home. Someday, I would give an account to God for how I managed the affairs of my family. I took the threat of judgment seriously.

The biggest problem we faced was that since I was the one who always made the final decision my children and wife lacked the skills necessary to make good decisions. My children quickly adapted to their new-found freedom, shouting a Martin Luther King Jr-like FREE, FREE AT LAST. However, my wife did not fare so well.

Raised in a fundamentalist home, her father an IFB pastor, Polly had spent her entire life under the thumb of someone else. She rarely had to make a decision because there was always someone else making decisions for her. To say our new-found freedom was difficult for Polly would be a gross underestimation. Suddenly, she was forced to make decisions on her own. For a time, she panicked when faced with making a decision on her own. Simple decisions, like what to order at the fast food drive-thru or whether or not to put gas in the car, were monumental decisions for her.(1)

Over time, Polly’s decision making skills improved. Several years ago, she was promoted to a supervisory position at local manufacturing concern. (2) One night, she came home from work all upset. She told me that she had made a decision about something and several people were now upset at her. I laughed and  told her, rule number one about making decisions. You will likely piss someone off. (3)

polly gerencser graduation 2012

Polly Gerencser, Graduating from Northwest State Community College, Archbold, Ohio

In 2010, Polly returned to college. She struggled at first, and it took quite a bit of willpower for me not to bail her out. Over time, she adapted to using the computer (she was computer illiterate) and doing the various things necessary to be a good college student. In 2012, Polly  graduated with an Associates of Arts degree from Northwest State Community College. I wept as I saw her walk down the aisle on graduation day. Her graduation was a reminder of how far both of us have come. (Polly actually has 5 years of college credit. Unfortunately, 3 of those years were spent at an unaccredited Bible college)

Polly was over 40 years old before she wore her first pair of pants. Same goes for going to the movie theater, drinking alcohol, cutting her hair short, reading a non-Christian romance novel, etc, etc, etc. As many people know, the IFB movement is all about what a Christian CAN’T do. Some of these choices were fearful choices, God lurking in the shadows of the mind, ready to punish her for making“sinful” choices.”

With change comes new life. In many ways, we have been “born again.” In 2005, I left the pastorate and we began a slow, painful process of examining our Christian beliefs. For many years, my family believed what I believed, went to church when I went to church, and obeyed any and every command I gave, complete with proof texts from the Bible . Now it is different.

I told my wife and six children that I was setting them free. I am no longer the spiritual head of the home or the patriarch of the family.  They are free to be whatever they want to be. I sincerely mean this. If they want to be Wiccan,Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, or atheist, I am fine with it. The bottom line is this: I want them to be happy. If they are happy, I am happy.

This last decision has caused quite a bit of controversy and conflict. Freed from my control, my entire family quickly abandoned the Evangelical church. I am now an atheist, Polly is an agnostic, and our children, for the most part do not attend church. (4) Religion is still a big topic of discussion in our family and I still like a rousing debate or discussion about religion, politics, or sports. The difference now is that there is no test of fidelity. No, “did you guys go to church today?” No, “what was the sermon about?” 

Our family remains a work in progress. As my wife continues to learn to make decisions, I have to learn not to make decisions. I am learning to shut up and allow them to make choices for themselves, even when I think their choices are ill-advised. I have a new rule I live by: If I think someone is making a bad decision on an important issue, I will voice my opinion, but that is the end of it. I stay out of my children’s business. They are responsible adults and I support whatever decision they make, even if I disagree with it.

We are far from a finished product. Polly still freezes at the drive-thru and I still know what I want before we pull into the restaurant. We still have the same peculiar character traits we’ve always had. You know,those things that annoy and bug the hell out of you. The difference now is that we have learned to embrace each other’s peculiarities, knowing that these are what make us unique individuals. (5)

It is good to be free.

(1) Even today she freezes at the drive-thru. We joke about it now, but her freezing hails from a day when I ordered everything.

(2) One of the first steps of freedom for Polly was getting a job, a job that she has held since 1997.

(3) I was well suited for the hierarchical family system and the pastorate. I am not afraid to make decisions. Snap decisions come easy for me. It felt very natural to me to make all the decisions. However, in the home, like at work, one person making all the decisions stunts the growth of others and when they are put into a position where they must make a decision they are often unable to.

(4) I am hesitant to label my children’s current beliefs. Two of my children attend the Catholic church with their wives. The rest of them, for the most part, do not attend church. I would not classify them as atheists or even agnostics. They are indifferent and still figuring out what they believe. It is exciting to watch, even if the IFB part of our extended family thinks we are committing spiritual suicide.

(5) I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Polly is happy with clutter. Ours is a match made in hell. For many years, my OCPD dominated everything. I have had to learn that while I have every right to want things perfectly ordered, everything in its place, Polly also has the right not to want things perfectly ordered, everything in it place. We each have personal spaces where we are free to practice our peculiar habits and traits. We know to stay out of each others “stuff”. In the common spaces, we try to find a happy medium, though I must admit I have a hard time doing this.  The clutter has decreased significantly since our last two children moved out 15 months ago.

It’s Time to End the Death Penalty in Ohio

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News, submitted on March 18, 2015

Dear Editor,

It’s time for Ohio legislators to put an end to the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 2003, 20 Ohio inmates have been removed from death row “through exonerations, clemency, or sentence reductions because of intellectual disabilities.” In December 2014, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer testified before  the House Criminal Justice Committee. Justice Pfeifer stated “The death penalty in Ohio has become what I call a death lottery…It’s very difficult to conclude that the death penalty, as it exists today, is anything but a bad gamble. That’s really not how a criminal justice system should work.”

Currently, Ohio legislators are working on bills that would prohibit the execution of those with severe mental illness, create an indigent defense fund, require crime labs and coroners to be certified, and prohibit the execution of anyone convicted solely on the testimony of jail house snitch. While these are great steps in the right direction, it is time for Ohio to altogether abolish the death penalty.

As Justice Pfeifer rightly noted, the death penalty has become a death lottery. Those of means have the ability to hire competent defense attorneys, often resulting in the death penalty being taken off the table. The poor, who can’t afford to hire an attorney, must rely on proper representation from a public defender. In many rural areas, the poor are often assigned an attorney with little capital case experience. While many public defenders do a great job defending indigent clients, there are times when they are not up to the task, lacking the necessary skill and time to adequately defend their client.

When a person’s life hangs in the balance, they deserve competent, aggressive representation. Attorneys who defend an indigent client are paid a pathetic fee and must often wait for months or years to be reimbursed by the state. If we are going to continue to use execution as the means to punish those convicted of a capital crime, then it is morally imperative that we make sure that those facing death have the same access to attorneys, expert witnesses, and crime labs, regardless of their ability to pay.

Currently, 140 men and 1 woman are awaiting execution in Ohio. Due to controversy over the drugs used  in lethal injections, it is unlikely that there will be any executions until 2016. I would encourage Ohio legislators to use this time to find a way to bring an end to executions.

Killing someone because they committed a crime is rooted in the barbaric eye for an eye justice of the Old Testament. While many Christian sects now oppose the death penalty, Evangelicals and conservative Christians continue to demand death for those convicted of a capital crime. I ask, what happened to following in the footsteps of Jesus? Would Jesus, the Prince of Peace, approve of a criminal system that disproportionately punishes the poor and people of color? If Evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican, would get behind abolishing the death penalty, we can end this abhorrent practice.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Hey Girlfriend, Jesus Has Passionate Eyes

Here’s the latest from Paula Hendricks, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe

Come on girlfriend (please say girlfriend with your best Valley Girl impersonation) , time to abandon all those dreamy-eyed guys you have a crush on and hook up with Jesus. Don’t want to? Fine, then Jesus is going to burn you up with his eyes and send you to hell.

Mark Hall Lead Singer of Casting Crowns: Miraculous Healing or Luck?

casting crowns

Casting Crowns 2013

A few years before I left the ministry, the music group Casting Crowns were one of my favorite groups.Songs like Does Anybody Hear Her?, Who am I, American Dream, and If We are the Body spoke of the dysfunction and incest I saw in Evangelicalism. Both Polly and I cried many a tear as we listened to Casting Crowns. Their music had a way of working its way down to the pain and emptiness that had engulfed us. While I think they have, in recent years, become enamored with their success, I do appreciate the help and encouragement I found through their songs.

I said all of the above so I could hopefully blunt any criticism over what I am going to say next.  Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns, was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of kidney cancer. Hall went though surgery to remove the cancer and now the Evangelical community is abuzz with reports of God miraculously healing Hall.

Charisma News, a news site that reports as fact the most ridiculous of miracles, had this to say about Hall’s miracle:

Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns, asked his fans for prayer earlier this month when doctors found a solid mass on his right kidney.

God answered those prayers. The doctors successfully removed the cancerous growth and he’s heading back home again.

“The pathology report is in and the news is just as we expected and also an answer to the prayers we have all prayed,” said Melanie Hall, Mark’s wife. “The pathology report confirms that the tumor was indeed kidney cancer but it was fully encased. The findings of the report confirm that the cancer had not spread to the kidney or anywhere else. Glory Hallelujah!!”

Melanie said the cancer was classified as the nuclear level 3 cell type, which is aggressive. That means it was active and ready to spread to other parts of Hall’s body.

“This just makes all of this even more of a miracle,” Melanie said. “I wish that I could explain in words how much of a miracle it was, but it would take too many words. And to be honest, I am too tired.”

Melanie pointed to three circumstances that allowed doctors to find the tumor. First, Casting Crowns is normally never off in March—but was this year. Hall was not experiencing any tumor-related symptoms—gastric problems took him to the doctor. And doctors don’t routinely order CT scans with contrast for physicals.

“God was at work in this before we had any idea. He is good that way. We are thankful for His mercy and grace. We are thankful that He chose to answer our requests in this way,” Melanie said.

“I know that not everyone’s stories have the desired ending. But I also know that God desires us to trust Him with it all anyway. Even still, He says He will work it all together for our good. Thank you again for your continued prayers. For us, in this, the war is won but we still have to fight the recovery battle.”

Is Mark Hall’s successful cancer surgery a miracle? Where’s the miracle component? A competent, qualified radiologist performed the CT scan, a competent, qualified anesthesiologist put Hall asleep, a competent, qualified surgeon removed the cancer, and a competent, qualified nursing staff assisted and took care of Hall before, during, and after his surgery. Pray tell, where’s the miracle? Just because countless Christians prayed doesn’t mean that the Big Man upstairs stopped filling out his March Madness Bracket so he could answer all these prayers and “heal” Hall.

The fact is, it is trained doctors who successfully treated Hall. But, But, But, the Christian says, WHO gave the doctors the skill to successfully operate on Hall?  By all means, please prove to me that you can know the Evangelical God gave the doctors their skill? Which is more likely: a deity giving someone a particular skill set,  or hard work, training, genetic disposition, upbringing, education, and desire giving some a particular skill set? I’m going with the latter.

There’s no miracle to be found here. Hall was lucky. Let me deconstruct Mark Hall’s wife’s explantion of the miracle.

First, Casting Crowns is never off in March and Melanie Hall sees this as providential. Providential, as in God giving Mark Hall aggressive kidney cancer so he could then miraculously “heal” him? Providential, as in God having Casting Crowns take the month of March off so he could miraculously “heal” Mark Hall? Isn’t amazing that any string of events and circumstances can be strung together as “proof” of God’s providence.

Second, Hall went to see the doctor for gastric problems and he was not showing any signs of having a tumor. Yet, the doctor supposedly ran an unneeded CT scan and viola! found the cancer.  Here’s the problem with this scenario. Doctors do order CT scans for gastric problems. How do I know this? Last December, I went to the doctor for gastric problems. What did the doctor order? A CT scan. What did they find? Enlarged lymph glands, a lesion on my pancreas, and a gallbladder filled with stones and sludge. I then had an endoscopic ultrasound. My doctor feared I had pancreatic cancer. Fortunately, the lesion was benign, but I will soon have my gallbladder surgically removed. There is nothing miraculous about a doctor ordering a CT scan on a 45-year-old man complaining of gastric problems.

So then, miracle or luck? Luck. A miracle would have been a CT scan showing Mark Hall’s cancer and then when the surgeon cut him open the cancer was gone.

Melanie Hall’s parting comment to those hoping to be healed like her husband reveals the bankruptcy of praying for miracles:

“I know that not everyone’s stories have the desired ending. But I also know that God desires us to trust Him with it all anyway. Even still, He says He will work it all together for our good.”

You see, most Christians who pray for divine healing from cancers, illnesses, and diseases find out that their God, who supposedly never leaves or forsakes them, is on vacation and can’t be bothered with their petty requests. For every Mark Hall “miracle”, there thousands and millions who will die without their God ever giving them a thought. In their dying hour, they find out that the Great Physician is anything but.

Earth 6,000 Years Old, but Once in a 100,000 Years Solar Event Sign of God’s Judgment

elmer gantry 1960

Elmer Gantry, played by Burt Lancaster (1960), preaching on the evils of evolution

Worldnet Daily, home to a plethora of right-wing Evangelical writers and nut jobs, warns that an upcoming solar eclipse is a warning sign from God:

A solar eclipse coming on March 20 won’t just be an astronomical wonder – it will be an event that may be unprecedented in human history, according to biblical experts who say it is an unmistakable sign of judgment.

Root Source Ltd., which provides Christians access to Jewish teachings online, reports the eclipse will darken the sun just in time for the sunrise at the North Pole, where it will be visible for two minutes.

It will happen both on the first day of spring and on the first day of the Jewish religious calendar, the beginning of the month of Nisan.

Such an astronomical event only takes place once every 100,000 years, experts said.

In an exclusive interview with WND, Root Source co-founder Bob O’Dell pointed to the significance of an eclipse visible from the North Pole at this particular time.

“The North Pole can’t really be called the territory of any particular nation or people,” O’Dell said. “This is likely a message from God to the entire world.”

He also believes the path of the eclipse is significant.

“The total solar eclipse continuously hovers over water and ice. I’m reminded of Isaiah 11:9 – which tells us that ‘None will harm or destroy another on My entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water.’”

Root Source co-founder Gidon Ariel, an Orthodox Jew, is calling for people around the world to pray for two minutes starting at 10:18 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. Ariel will be praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem at a time of day that Jewish tradition reserves for prayer in the Temple.

In a written statement, Ariel commented, “While a worldwide call to prayer is not typical for Jews like myself, the concurrence and rarity of this natural event, together with the times in which we live, points to prayer as being the right response to such an amazing natural event that might indicate the finger of God in history.”

The solar eclipse is already causing concern even in the secular world. The vast majority of the sun’s rays will be blocked in Europe during the event, and experts are warning of possible power shortages in nations that rely heavily on solar power.

Pastor Mark Biltz, author of “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs,” sees a heavenly warning in the consequences of the eclipse, especially for the northern Europeans, who will be most affected.

In an exclusive interview with WND, Biltz explained, “In Jewish tradition, a total solar eclipse is a warning to the Gentiles and a sign of judgment on the nations. When we look at where the darkness will be, it will be in northern European countries like England and Sweden where we see the rise of Islam and anti-Israel sentiment. Europeans especially should take heed.”

Biltz also sees significance in the timing of the solar eclipse.

“An event of this magnitude at the very beginning of the religious new year demands attention. As the Bible tells us, there will be signs in the heavens on the feast days, and this is a very significant sign on a critical day.

“It’s the same day that there was the grand-opening ceremony of the tabernacle of Moses, with fire from heaven lighting the altar. Historically, this is a day of judgment.”

Biltz is the original discoverer of the four Blood Moons, a concept heavily promoted by pastor John Hagee. Biltz points out that the total solar eclipse comes in the midst of these Blood Moons and that there will be another heavenly sign only weeks after the eclipse.

“Only a few weeks after this total solar eclipse, there with be a blood moon over Passover,” he said. “If the total solar eclipse is a sign to the gentiles, this will be a sign to the Jewish people.

“This comes at a time when American aid for Israel has become an important political issue in the United States. But Israelis know they cannot put their survival in the hands of one who wishes their demise.

“All throughout history, Israel has put their hopes in foreign help rather than trusting in the God of Israel. From King Ahaz to King Zedekiah and throughout history. While the U.S. needs to back Israel, Israel needs to rely on the God of Israel.”

Biltz also points to other upcoming signs that will take place on feast days. There will be another solar eclipse on The Feast of Trumpets, on Sept. 13, 2015.

The final blood moon, a “super blood moon,” will appear during the Festival of Tabernacles, which is also known as a period of judgment for all the nations. Biltz believes that this is a sign that momentous events are in motion.

“The last time there were four blood moons in a row, it was 1967 and Israel captured Jerusalem,” Biltz said. “The time before that occurred just after the re-establishment of Israel. Christians need to be aware of these facts in order to understand what is happening in the world today.”

The blood moons teaching is receiving increased attention in the Christian community. Root Source is launching its own online educational course and ebook to educate both Christians and Jews about the blood moons…

World Net Daily is a defender of young earth creationism. If they follow Bishop James Ussher’s chronology, the earth is 6,019 years old. How then, can an event that happens once every 100,000 years be a warning sign from God? According to the nutters and wing nuts at World Net, the universe is only 6,000 or so years old. This means that there has been NO solar eclipse like the upcoming one on March 20th.

And when God’s judgment fails to fall as these false prophets say it will? By then, they will be on to other warnings and signs from God.  They are never called upon to account for their false prophecies. They’ve made their money off the gullible, and a few years from now, they will cook up another prophetic scheme so they can bilk sincere, ignorant Christians out of their money.

88 reasons edgar whisenant

27 years ago, Edgar Whisenant published 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Almost five million copies of the book were given away or sold. Here we are, three decades later. Whisenant, repeatedly redid his “Biblical” calculations and said the rapture would occur in 1989, 1993, and 1994. He died in 2001 without ever seeing Jesus split the eastern sky.

Before him, crackpots like Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impe  traveled the county preaching the soon return of Jesus. While I will still in high school, Van Impe, the walking Bible, came to Findlay, Ohio to hold a crusade. Thousands flocked to hear him preach. I remember hearing Van Impe emphatically state that the Russian flag would be flying over the US capitol in 1976. In the 1980’s Hal Lindsey warned that the 1980’s were going to be it. Then he said that it was doubtful that Christians would be on the earth after the year 2000. (remember the Y2K scare and religious fanaticism?) Both of these hucksters have been wrong over and over, yet their bank account balance continues to grow.

judgment day harold camping

And who can forget 2011, the year billboards appeared all over America warning that Jesus was coming again on May 21, 2011. Harold Camping, using the fund raising powers of his Family Radio empire, raised millions of dollars so he could warn the world of its soon to come demise. After May 21st came and went, Camping revised the date to October 21, 2011. Camping died in 2013 without ever seeing Jesus in the clouds coming to snatch him away.

Sites like World Net Daily and men like Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impe prey on Christians who are fearful about the future. As they watch Christian America slide headlong into secularism and same-sex marriage, they find themselves wondering if the rapture could happen soon. No amount of common sense and reason will persuade them otherwise. Their trusted eschatological sources can’t be wrong! After all, their predictions are straight from the Bible. But, they are wrong. They have always been wrong. If these false prophets lived in Old Testament times they would have been long ago stoned to death.

Evangelicals, who are inherently fundamentalist, are conditioned to accept even the most ludicrous of ideas and beliefs. Taught to belief the Bible is an inerrant, infallible, and inspired book and taught that pastors and evangelists are the mouthpiece of God, they surrender their rational thinking skills and embrace the kinds of craziness found in the World Net Daily article. There is no hope for them until they realize that the Bible is not what their pastor says it is. Until they are willing to let go of inerrancy/infallibility/inspiration, they will continue to be easy marks for a 21st century version of Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry.

Note

Website that shows solar and lunar eclipses for the next ten years

While I think Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsey are in it for the money, Edgar Whisenant and Harold Camping were sincere, well intentioned believers who became obsessed with prophecy.

Just Remember, Satan was the First to Demand Equal Rights

knoxville baptist tabernacle

Knoxville Baptist Tablernacle, pastored by Tony Greene, is a Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Knoxville, Tennessee. According to the church’s website:

In May, 1952, Dr. R.W. “Bob” Bevington led a group of earnest Christians in establishing the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was founded on the principles of strong Bible preaching, house-to-house soul winning, separation from the world, and support for world-wide missions.

Through the years, some of America’s greatest preachers and soul-winners have spoken from our pulpit– men such as John R. Rice, Lee Roberson, Billy McCarroll, Fred Garland, Dolphus Price, Lester Roloff, among many others.

The Tabernacle was a participating host for many years of the International Fellowship of Fundamental Baptists.

Prior to Bro. Bob’s Homegoing in 2009, the Tabernacle called Bro. Tony Greene as its second pastor.  Bro. Greene continues the ministry in the same vein as Bro. Bob, with a strong emphasis on evangelism…

The church also operates a Christian school.

The sign at the top of this post recently caused quite a bit of controversy. WATE.com reports:

A sign posted by a Knoxville church continues to raise eyebrows and spark both discussion and outrage after it was posted online.

The sign posted by Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle Church read “Remember Satan was the first to demand equal rights.” Many people posted the picture to the WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook and Twitter pages, starting a debate about what the sign really means.

The pastor says the purpose of the sign was to send a message about unity and spark conversation in the community. He says it wasn’t meant to offend anyone.

Our sign referencing Satan demanding his equal rights to ascend into the heavens and be God was simply ‘I’ and all about that individual,” said Pastor Tony Greene. “It was not a statement against any one group in particular, you know what about the rights of the unborn babies, the rights of children, the rights of everyone?”

After the picture was posted on Facebook, there was mixed reaction to the message. Stephanie Settlemyre said, “As a Christian, I find this highly offensive, these kinds of signs and messages are exactly the reason why people are turned off by Christianity.”

Adam Miller posted, “Honestly thought that the photo was shopped, I thought, “surely someone wouldn’t post such a thing,” said Miller. “Makes me sad I was wrong, and doubly sad that these folks are in my back yard.”

Ashley Smith wrote, “Church offends many anyway, you could write Jesus loves you and someone would get bent out of shape.”

Now the sign reads: “Glad you reading, did not intend to offend, we all need Christ.”

Pastor Greene spoke about why he made the change.

“We are a diversity congregation of people. We’ve reached people that know us and know our stand in this community know what we’ve done,” said Greene. “My heart breaks in the dividedness of our country.”

Greene says they like to interact with the community and they typically change the sign once a week. Greene says they will have another message posted later this week…

Here’s the updated sign:

knoxville baptist tabernacle 2

Does anyone believe that Pastor Tony Greene and the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle didn’t mean to offend? Does anyone believe they had no particular group in mind? Of course not. It is in the DNA of IFB pastors and churches to offend anyone and everyone who believes, thinks, acts, or lives differently than they do.

Pastor Greene’s message is clear: those demanding equal rights, you know homosexuals, lesbians, and feminists, are in league with Satan.