Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Jesus Said His Commandments are Not Burdensome

jesus teaching disciples

Jesus said:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus says that those who take on his yoke will find rest for their souls. His yoke and burden are light.

What does Jesus mean when he uses the word yoke? Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines the word this way: to join; a coupling that is, (figuratively) servitude (a law or obligation); also (literally) the beam of the balance (as connecting the scales).

Thayer’s Lexicon defines yoke this way: a yoke that is put on draught cattle; metaphorically, used of any burden or bondage (as that of slavery).

After reading several commentaries on Matthew11:28-30, I concluded that the yoke Jesus asks his followers to wear is his commandments and teachings; that according to commentators this yoke encompasses all the laws and precepts found in the Bible — “rightly” interpreted, of course.

John adds:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:3)

If someone says he loves God, he will keep God’s commandments, and these commandments are not grievous (burdensome).

Deuteronomy 6:17 states:

Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 adds:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Solomon says that the whole duty of man is to do what? Fear God and keep his commandments.

Jesus told his disciples in John 14:15: if ye love me, keep my commandments.

How does one show his love for Jesus? By keeping his commandments.

And finally, John says throughout the book of First John:

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:3-4)

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. (1 John 3:24)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. (1 John 5:2)

Evangelicals equate salvation with believing the right things. I have often said that the Evangelical gospel can be summed up thusly: BELIEVE this and thou shalt live. However, based on the aforementioned verses, the gospel is actually, DO this and thou shalt live; that the essence of Christianity is not only believing the commandments, teachings, laws, and precepts of Jesus/God/Apostles, it’s putting them into practice and living them out day by day.

do and dont

There are 613 laws in the Old Testament alone. According to an extensive list produced by Christian Assemblies International, there are 1,050 New Testament commands. (PDF)

Evangelicals fuss and fight over how many commands and laws, exactly, there are in the Bible. Once Evangelicals figure out the number of commands, then they argue about how many are still applicable today. No two Evangelical churches or preachers agree on which commandments are valid and in force today. Even when it comes to the Ten Commandments, most Evangelicals only practice nine of the commandments, and some Evangelicals don’t practice any of them, choosing to follow only the teachings of the Apostle Paul.

Whatever the number of commands, one thing is for certain, Evangelicals don’t do a very good job of keeping them. Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden was light. Why, then, do most Evangelicals routinely ignore or disobey the teachings of the Bible? It seems, at least from my perspective, that Evangelicals find God’s laws and commandments a real pain in the ass; a big inconvenience; an impossible task, so why bother?

Evangelicals present their religion as transformative; that Jesus will fix whatever ails you. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Evangelicals SAY they are IN CHRIST. If so, according to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, Christians are new creatures (creations): old things pass away and everything becomes new.

Any casual investigation of Evangelicalism reveals that there is a huge disconnect between what God’s chosen ones say and how they live. In other words, they are hypocrites.

I am not suggesting that Evangelicals as a whole are bad people. I have met scores of Evangelicals whom I consider decent human beings. However, Evangelicals have a marketing/messaging problem. Evangelicals tell the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world that Jesus makes all things new; that Jesus alone can change lives. That’s the sale pitch. However, most people who sign on the dotted line spend their lives trying to measure up to the Biblical standard — and fail. Why do Evangelical preachers spend an inordinate amount of time exhorting and rebuking congregants, calling out their less-than-Biblical lives? If Jesus is all Evangelicals say he is, why is the product produced so inferior? Why is there no difference between Evangelicals and their counterparts in the world?

I am sure the True Christians® among us will say that many Evangelicals are fake believers or cultural Christians. However, having once been a True Christian® myself for many, many years, I know that sold-out, on-fire, Holy Ghost-filled Christians are every bit as hypocritical as those deemed fake or cultural Christians. The difference being, of course, is that True Christians® are experts at playing the godliness/holiness/sanctified/separated game. They know how to put on a front; how to make those around them think they are super-duper followers of Jesus.

“How dare you insult me. Bruce. I am a real Christian. I follow the teachings of the Bible to the letter.” No you don’t, and you know it. Quit playing the game, and admit that you are nothing more than an everyday flawed, frail human being, just like the rest of us. Aren’t you tired of riding the high ground on your moral high horse? You may think you have people fooled, but you don’t. Those around you see you as you are. And that goes for so-called men of God, too.

I am not suggesting that Evangelicals stop trying to live according to the teachings of the Bible. There’s some good stuff in the Bible; you know commands such a loving your neighbor as yourself or not letting the sun go down on your wrath. All I ask is that Evangelicals stop demanding others live according to teachings of the Bible, when they, in fact, can’t agree on what those teachings are, nor can they keep them.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Is it Okay for an Evangelical Christian to Marry an Unbeliever?

unequally yoked together

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

The Bible is clear on this subject. The inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God that millions of Evangelicals SAY they believe says:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is not an ambiguous or hard-to-interpret passage of Scripture. It means exactly what it says. Believers (Christians, followers of Jesus) should not be unequally yoked (joined) together with unbelievers. The Bible describes marriage this way: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

One would think that bought-by-the-blood, Bible-believing Evangelicals would, because of their love for Jesus, obey what God has commanded. God calls on every single Christian to be just like Tim Tebow: a virgin until the day they marry a fellow believer of the OPPOSITE sex.

But, in another, all-too-typical, example of the fact that Evangelicals only believe the Bible when it fits their lifestyle and ignore it or explain it away when it doesn’t, the Christian Partner for Life website (website is no longer active) gives this advice:

Finding your husband or wife can be quite a process.  Often, whether through school or elsewhere, we meet people in our lives who are not committed Christians.  A common question that we receive is: “Is it OK to date someone who is not committed to Christianity?”  While many advisors and ministers that we encounter have said definitively “NO,” we think it is important to have a more secular view of the situation.  If you have a great connection with someone, and they would potentially want to explore raising your future family with predetermined beliefs, we see no reason to object . . .

We believe that marrying a non-Christian or a non-practicing Christian is not a definitive “no” answer, as is commonly taught.  Would you rather stay single or marry a loving and wonderful person who is agnostic of Christian beliefs?  If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass, we think the possibility of marriage should very much exist.  If a relationship is based upon love, trust and mutual respect, there is a good chance that a marriage will succeed, regardless of religion.

The caveat to this question becomes whether your future spouse is willing to raise a family the way that you would like to.  Would your future spouse be open to raising your children as committed Christians?  If so, we think that a relationship could work . . .

In other words, ignore the Bible.

The Bible says that nonbelievers are dead in trespasses and sin. Unbelievers are at variance with God, vain in their imaginations, and haters of God. Unbelievers are really bad people, After all, their father is the devil himself.

Yet, John at Christian Partner for Life says: “If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass” then perhaps it would be okay to marry them. How can unbelievers have a great moral compass? According to the Bible, they can’t.

Here’s what I think . . . unbelievers are hotter . . . and baby, when it comes to chasing after hotness, let the Bible be damned darned.

All silliness aside, John’s post at Christian Partner for Life is just another reminder that Evangelicals, for all their bluster about the Bible being truth, really don’t believe it.

Now for MY marriage advice for unbelievers.

Actually, the Bible gives some pretty good advice here. In most circumstances, it would be unwise for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical. Unless the believer is willing to live as an unbeliever, then it is probably not a good idea to marry someone who doesn’t believe in or worship God. I can hear the howling now Evangelicals everywhere are screaming, HOW DARE YOU EXPECT A BELIEVER TO DENY THEIR FAITH AND LIVE AS AN UNBELIEVER!! I bet it seemed okay to most Evangelicals when John proposed the very same thing when he suggested making sure the unbeliever would be willing to raise future children as believers. Evangelicals seem to always expect OTHERS to compromise so they can be true to their beliefs, but they rarely seem to be able to compromise their beliefs for the sake of others. The message is clear: my beliefs matter, yours don’t.

Generally, it is a bad idea for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical, especially if their prospective marriage partner’s family is Evangelical too. If you marry anyway, you are sure to have conflict over issues such as:

  • Baptizing or dedicating your children
  • Attending church
  • Tithing
  • Praying over meals
  • Having family devotions
  • Cursing
  • What entertainments to participate in
  • What movies to watch
  • Sex

You will also likely subject yourself to a life of “I am praying for you” and subtle attempts to win you to Jesus.

It is almost impossible for Evangelicals to NOT talk about their faith — nor should they be expected to. This is why the Bible actually gives sound advice about an unequal yoke.

Contrary to the aphorism opposites attract, successful marriages are usually built on the things that the husband and wife have in common. While my wife and I are very different people, we do have many things in common. We cultivate our common values and beliefs, and with things we differ on, we leave each other free to pursue those things.

Over time, the things a couple differs on can become something both like or agree upon. When Polly and I married she was a sports atheist. I was a jock. I mean, I was one of THOSE kinds of guys. I played sports year-round for the first ten years of our marriage. Age, knee problems, and a busy ministerial life ended my sports playing career. Polly made a good faith effort to enter into my world. For a long time, her ignorance of sports was quite amusing, but bit by bit she became conversant in sports-talk. I did not reciprocate. I still do not know how to sew or put the toilet seat down.

We still have a lot of things that we do not hold in common, and that’s okay. But, the bedrock of our marriage of almost forty-two years is the values, beliefs, and likes we share. I believe it would be very hard for an Evangelical and an unbeliever to find common ground to build a successful marriage. It’s not impossible, but it is hard.

On this issue, I am much more of a Bible believer than John at Christian Partner for Life. Granted, I see the principle taught in Scripture from an atheist perspective these days, but it still is good advice. When it comes to the foundational issues of life and the philosophies we live by, having a common mind is always best. Certainly, compromise is possible, but willingly chucking your beliefs (whatever they might be) for love will usually leave you disappointed, and it may land you in divorce court.

If you are in an unequally yoked marriage or relationship, how do you make it work? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen

fake church sign first baptist

The late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana — a man considered by some of his followers to be the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul — made famous the statement:

If You Didn’t See it, It Didn’t Happen

Over the years, at Sword of the Lord conferences and Bible conferences, I heard Jack Hyles make this statement several times.  When Hyles was accused of having an illicit relationship with his secretary, it was this very line he and his followers used. This If-You-Didn’t-See-it-it-Didn’t-Happen thinking was taught to countless pastors at Pastor’s School and Hyles-Anderson College. These Hyles-trained men carried this thinking home to their churches and used it themselves to rebuff accusations of impropriety and immorality.

This is the argument that one commenter used when dismissing Bethany Foeller Leonard’s accusations against Pastor Bill Wininger. Since the abuse occurred almost two decades ago, there is no physical proof that Wininger sexually molested Leonard. While others have now come forward and added their names to the accusations, they too have produced no hard, physical evidence to prove their claims.

According to this commenter, since there is no actual physical evidence, it is likely the abuse never happened. According to him, Bethany Leonard and others are lying and are out to ruin this man of God. In his mind, since there is no semen-stained Monica Lewinsky blue dress, any claims of abuse should be rejected out of hand.

This is the same kind of argument that Ken Ham uses when ignoring the overwhelming evidence for evolution and the age of the universe being billions of years and not thousands of years old. Countless Evangelicals have been swayed by Ham’s Jack Hyles impersonation when he says, were you there? According to Ham, since none of us was there when the earth was birthed into existence, we cannot know how old the universe, earth, and the human race really are. We should accept what God says in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Protestant Bible — that the universe is 6,023 years old. According to Bishop James Ussher, a 17th century Ken Ham, creation began on the “nightfall preceding 23 October 4004 BC.”

While this kind of thinking sounds insane to people who are not Evangelicals, millions of Americans and other Western Christians believe as Ken Ham does. Since none of us was there, we must accept what the Bible says about the beginning of the universe. Never mind the fact that the writers of the book of Genesis weren’t there either. The oldest manuscripts, which are not the originals, are dated thousands of years after the events recorded in Genesis. Even if Moses actually wrote the book of Genesis, and we have no evidence for this other than that the BIBLE says he did, he would have written the book thousands of years after the events recorded in Genesis. In other words, Moses, or whoever the authors were, weren’t there at the moment of creation, so how can they know what happened?

The commenter I mentioned earlier refuses to believe that Bill Wininger sexually abused Bethany Foeller Leonard because there is no physical evidence to prove Leonard’s claims. No one saw it, there is no proof of it, so it didn’t happen.

I wonder if this commenter, and others who think like him, realize the huge problem they are creating for themselves. As Christians, they believe:

  • Jesus came to earth and was born of a virgin
  • Jesus worked miracles in Palestine almost 2,000 years ago
  • Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross
  • Jesus resurrected from the dead three days later
  • Jesus ascended into the clouds and left the earth 40 days after he resurrected from the dead

Every Christian believes these things to be facts, yet there is no evidence for any of these claims. None. Nada. Zip. Using the commenter’s objection to Bill Wininger being considered a child molester, should he not refrain from calling himself a Christian or from evangelizing others in hope that they will put their faith in Jesus? Where is the evidence?

When it comes to Bethany Foeller Leonard and others who are claim they were abused by their pastor, we have living people who can be questioned. Yet, according to one commenter, their claims should be rejected. Their testimony, which Leonard has put in written form, can be read by everyone, yet, because there is no physical evidence, the claims must be rejected out of hand. Why is this same rationale NOT applied to the Bible and the claims Evangelicals make for Jesus?

I can know Bethany Foeller Leonard wrote a letter about Bill Wininger abusing her, however I have no way of knowing who wrote the various books of the New Testament. I wasn’t there, to use Ken Ham’s illogical logic, and I didn’t see it, so it must not have happened, to use Jack Hyles’ illogical logic. Surely this is one of those what-is-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander moments.

Please explain to me how it is reasonable and rational to reject Leonard’s claim out of hand, but not apply the same thinking to the claims made for Jesus that I mentioned above? Or, can reasonable people put their faith in Leonard and others and come to the conclusion that they are telling the truth, just as the Christian would do concerning the historic witness of the Christian church concerning the claims the Bible makes for Jesus Christ?

Why are people such as the commenter mentioned above so willing to accept what they are told about Jesus, a Jesus they have never met, never seen, and for which there is no physical evidence, yet when a few women say, this man abused me, their claims are rejected out of hand?

Simply put, you can’t have it both ways

For further information about Bill Wininger, please see UPDATED: IFB Pastor Bill Wininger Outed as Sexual Predator

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things — Part 2

elmer gantry
Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In the first part of this series I dealt with Churches That Abuse: Why Bad people do Bad things. I wrote:

Churches attract all kinds of people with varying motivations for being part of a particular religion. I spent fifty years in the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. When it comes to other religions, I only know what I read in the media. The experiences and observations I share in this post come from the fifty years I spent in those churches, first as a parishioner, and later as a pastor. I spent twenty-five years in the pastorate, pastoring churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas.

The Christian church often attracts people with ulterior motives. Generally, Christian people are very trusting. When someone gives a testimony of redemption, most Christians readily embrace the lost sheep that is now found. Tales of addictions, sexual immorality, prison, violence, and the like find a sympathetic ear with most Christians. The worse the sinner, the greater the testimony of God’s wonderful, saving grace.

There is no doubt that many sinful, fallen people have found deliverance through what they believe is the saving work of Jesus Christ. Many vile people now live productive, grace-filled lives as born-again Christians. They are to be commended for the changes that have taken place in their lives. While I no longer embrace the Christianity and its message of saving grace, I willingly admit that religion transforms and changes multitudes of people.

Because Christian people are trusting and accept people at face value, they are an easy mark for people who have evil intentions. In among the sheep are criminals, thieves, child abusers, and sexual deviants, to name a few. These people make an outward show of Christianity, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves seeking sheep — often children — to devour. This is true not only in the local church, but also in Christian camps, group homes, and Christian schools.

Churches make it easy for deceivers to set up camp in their midst. The deceivers quickly embrace the church family, begin to regularly attend services, and even give money to the church. They are soon embraced as brother or sister. Before too long they are given access to places of responsibility within the church. They now have access to the treasures of the congregation, be it monetary, physical, or spiritual.

In this post, I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject. It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people — wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in churches when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people.

How does a good person — a pastor, deacon, or Sunday school teacher — go from a life as a devoted follower of Jesus to one of engaging in acts of abuse and perversion? It is easy to dismiss them as people who secretly were always abusers, but what if they weren’t?  What caused them to turn from being a follower of Jesus to being an abuser?

I will not offer any iron-clad answers to this question. I do want to suggest that there are teachings and ideologies within many Christian groups, especially those of Evangelical or Fundamentalist persuasion, that are instrumental in turning good people into abusers. They become Good People who do Bad Things.

My focus is on Evangelicalism — the sect I am most familiar with. I could spend the next hour detailing the heinous acts of people I personally know; men and women considered to be devoted followers of Jesus who became abusers of the very people they were supposed to love and care for. If the Black Collar Crime Series has exposed anything, it has exposed the ugly reality that Evangelical churches have a big abuse problem.

I do not want this post to come off as a justification for the behavior of abusers. When 9-11 happened, our focus was rightly on the terrorists who murdered thousands of people. Over time, a few people tried to raise questions about WHY the terrorists did what they did. Sadly, many people have no interest in pondering or answering the WHY question. “Who in the hell cares WHY they did it. We know they did it, and that is all that matters.” I understand this sentiment, but refusing to ask the WHY question leaves us open to a repeat of 9-11. Understanding the terrorists’ motivations just might reduce the number of terrorist attacks going forward. Motivations matter.

Multitudes of people have gone through their own personal 9-11.  They have been attacked, abused, and often emotionally and spiritually destroyed by people they trusted. Their tales of abuse are heart-wrenching, and I have no problem understanding their hatred for those who abused them. What I want to gently do is try to understand WHY the abuse happens. I will understand if you say, “Let them all rot in hell. I don’t care what their reasons were, or why they did what they did.” I have not walked in your shoes, so I have no right to tell you how you must respond to these issues. But I do think answering the WHY question is very important when it comes to reducing emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual abuse.

I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Evangelical church. I believe I can give some answers to the WHY question. I want to look behind the abuse and see what led good people to become abusers. I am convinced there are things within the DNA of Christianity that lend themselves to breeding and growing abusers, especially within the Evangelical church.

Every church and denomination has its own orthodoxy and its own orthopraxy.  When trying to determine why good people do bad things, we must first look at what a particular church or denomination believes and practices. This is essential to understanding why people, in the name of God, people who are committed followers of Jesus, abuse other people, often doing despicable things to those they are supposed to love and protect.

Most Evangelical churches teach:

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth.  If he doesn’t, he is not an Evangelical.
  • That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
  • The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
  • The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.

When we add these things together, we end up with sects and churches that believe everything that is written in the Bible; sects and churches that expect members to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God. They also believe that God has given them pastors to teach them and guide them in the teachings of the Bible. The pastor is the linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.

How do pastors gain such power over people?

People want to believe that when they go to church, they are safe. After all, they are surrounded by people who love Jesus and who seem to sincerely follow the teachings of the Bible. The “it’s what is inside that counts” sounds nice, but in most churches, everything is measured by what can be seen and experienced from the outside. If people “look” Christian then they “are” Christian. If they “act” Christian then they “are” Christian. People enter the pastor/parishioner relationship with their guard down. They trust the pastor. Surely, he has their best interest at heart.

This is why, when charges of abuse are brought against their pastor, it is hard for church members to accept that their pastor is an abuser. “He wouldn’t do such things.” “He is a man of God.” “He is kind and loving.” “He would never do anything to hurt the church or his family.” Looking in from the outside, the level of denial seems astounding, but church members are taught to be loyal. They are taught to stand firm no matter the circumstance. If they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. (Please see Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.)

I know of countless church scandals where the facts of the scandal were not in dispute, yet many members refused to believe them. They steadfastly denied reality. When the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond Indiana — at one time the largest church in America — was charged with infidelity, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) movement was divided into two groups of people: those who stood with Hyles and considered all the evidence against him to be false or circumstantial, and those who believed Hyles was guilty of the things he was accused of.

The evidence was overwhelming. I have no doubt that Hyles did what his accusers said he did. Yet, the 100%-Hyles people — those who actually wore buttons that said “100% Hyles” — won the day. Thousands of people left the church, but Hyles survived the scandal and pastored the church until his death. After his death, his son-in-law Jack Schaap pastored the church.  He, too, found himself accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike his brother-in-law David Hyles, who got away with having sex with numerous female church members, (please see UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored) Jack Schaap was found guilty of having sex with a minor and is now serving a twelve-year federal prison sentence.

Hyles had what we called the “Hyles Mystique.” Jack Hyles had god-like qualities. He was a super-Christian, a super-pastor who somehow got thirty or forty hours out of every twenty-four-hour day. He preached at conferences every week, preached at his church on Sunday and Wednesday, counseled dozens and dozens of people each week, and still had time to be a wonderful father and husband. His preaching was inspiring and he had command of the pulpit like few other preachers. Surely, such a man could not “sin” or “abuse” other people. I was quite the Hyles fan, but I later came to see that Hyles was a narcissist and a serial liar.

In Evangelical churches, pastors are considered to be a step above the rest of the human race. They are God-called, God-inspired men who speak on behalf of God. They supposedly have vast knowledge of the Bible and they have an answer for every question. If the God/Bible/Pastor doesn’t have the answer to a question . . . well that’s never happened.

Church members are taught that the Bible is God’s divine answer book. In the Bible, Christians will find everything they need that pertains to life and godliness. If it is not in the Bible, it is not worth knowing. Say what you will about Evangelicals, but many of them take seriously the teachings of the Good Book. They read it and study it, desiring to know how to live their lives in conformity to its teachings.

Church members are taught to NOT trust their own reasoning, nor are they are to trust the vain philosophies of this world. Out in the world, Satan walks to and fro seeking whom he may devour. This is why church members are discouraged from reading books or magazines that are not written by approved Christian authors. They dare not open their mind to the world, and by living this way, they ultimately lose their ability to rationally think and, over time, to spot error and contradiction. Skeptics do not make good Christians. The Bible, or should I say, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, becomes the only thing that matters. This is fertile ground for the seeds of abuse to grow and mature.

Sunday after Sunday, people gather together in Evangelical churches to listen to their pastor expound and illustrate his interpretation of the Bible. They think they are doing so with an open mind, but instead they have closed off their mind to everything except what their pastor teaches. Since he is the man of God, he is explicitly trusted by almost everyone.

Before I go on, I need to say that I think most pastors are honorable people.  I think they, as I did, entered the ministry with the best of intentions. They sincerely want to help people and to instruct people how to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Regardless of my beliefs about God, the Bible, and Christianity in general, I greatly respect pastors who selflessly work hard to minister to their churches.

Most churches are pastored by one person. Churches with multiple pastors or multiple staff members make up a small number of the total churches in America. Even in large churches, with numerous staff members, there is usually one person who is THE pastor. Take a look at mega-churches. Tens of thousands of church members and dozens of staff members, yet the churches are labeled as John MacArthur’s, Rick Warren’s, Bill Hybels’ church, etc. No matter how many elders are on the board, there is no doubt whose church it is.

No matter the size of the congregation, the church revolves around the pastor. He is the head honcho, the bwana, the chairman of the board. The pastor has tremendous power granted to him by the church body. In many churches, the power that a pastor has is almost absolute. Granted, a church CAN dismiss its pastor, but rarely are disaffected church members willing to get into a turf war with the pastor. In every church there is a core group of people who are on the pastor’s side. Disaffected church members find it difficult to take on the pastor and those who support him.

As time goes on, the pastor, whether on purpose or not, tends to consolidate his power/authority in the church. He becomes the go-to man for everything, even things that have nothing to do with the Bible or the church. The pastor may even deceive himself about this. He may see this as the church and pastor maturing together like an old married couple.

I am sure you have heard the line: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, this is often the case in many Evangelical churches. Over time, the pastor becomes a monarch ruling from a throne. First Baptist Church becomes John Smith’s church. The pastor’s name is on the sign, the church letterhead, and every piece of literature put out by the church. If the church is a corporate body, with every member being an essential part, why does it matter what the pastor’s name is?

The answer is quite simple. In America we are attracted to personalities. We live in a culture that puts a great premium on star power. As a result, people view pastors as stars and personalities. As with actors, politicians, and athletes who seem larger than life, when a pastor begins to believe the hype about himself, he has taken the first step to being an abuser. Filled with pride and arrogance, the pastor begins to actually believe what people say about him. “Great sermon pastor.” You are the best preacher I have ever heard.”  “What a powerful man of God you are!” “We are so glad to have you as our pastor!”

The pastor and the church are complicit in providing fertile ground for abuse to occur. While ultimately the abuser is the one who must give an account for his abuse, the church is complicit to the degree that it fails to see all people, INCLUDING the pastor, as mere humans. Pastors are capable of committing the same sins and behaving in similar ways as their congregants and non-Christians.

Trust is a good thing. Generally, we should trust one another. However, there is a difference between eyes-wide-open trust and blind trust. Closing off one’s mind to the possibility that good people can do bad things is irresponsible. Every week there are news reports of good people doing bad things. Sometimes these are bad people acting like good people doing bad things, but sometimes they really are good people doing bad things.

Good pastors are capable of doing bad things. I have pondered the WHY of this for a long time. I want to conclude this post with a few thoughts on the “why” of pastors that abuse. Why to good men do bad things?

First, they believe the hype about themselves. Pastors foolishly begin to believe the accolades that are thrown their way. Pretty soon they begin to think, I AM SOMEBODY. This is especially true if the pastor is a gifted communicator or has great people skills. They forget that Bible says pride goeth before a fall. The story of Nebuchadnezzar and his rise to power and fall should be burned into the mind of every pastor. The book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”  Many an Evangelical pastor has uttered a similar statement, only to be ruined by his arrogance and pride. (Please see Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher.)

Second, they think they are more knowledgeable than they really are. The longer a pastor serves in one church, the more willing people are to come and talk to him about the problems they are facing. Most pastors have little or no training in counseling or psychology. Even when they do have training, most often they are trained to view the Bible as the answer to every problem. When I was a pastor, rare was the day that someone didn’t come to me and say “can we talk?” I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Evangelicals have the same problems as non-Christians do. Sometimes they have MORE problems than non-Christians, due to literalist interpretation of the Bible. The Bible does not make life easier to live. It’s commandments, rules, and regulations are often a source of conflict and psychological stress.

This is complicated further by the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible. In the hyper-fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical church, you will find lengthy codes of conduct said to be taken straight from the Bible. This code of conduct is enforced through the preaching of the pastor. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook.) Many times, the pastor’s own personal code of conduct is presented as the standard by which everyone else must live. After all, the pastor got it right from the Bible! (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

As I look back over twenty-five years in the ministry, I now realize the churches I pastored had far more dysfunction than I was willing to admit. My staunch, literalist stand on the teachings of the Bible caused some of this dysfunction. Thinking the Bible is the answer to what ails us is not only ignorant, it can be dangerous. This dysfunction was furthered by my own arrogance as I allowed myself to become THE answer man. I could justify myself by saying that many of the people I pastored were lazy Christians. They were quite willing to accept whatever answer I gave them. One church member, when asked “what do you believe?” answered, “I believe whatever the preacher believes.” Brutal, but honest.

Most church members read the Bible devotionally and never spend a moment studying the doctrines they say they believe. Of course, I now see that this is essential to the long-term survival of Evangelical Christianity. Ignorance is bliss, or, in Evangelicalese, ignorance is faith. When Evangelicals embark on an intellectual journey to truly understand Christianity and its teachings, they often end up leaving the faith or embracing some form of liberal Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is not well served when looked at with the microscope of reason and fact. For this reason, pastors encourage their parishioners to read only approved books, and parishoners are encouraged to send their kids only to approved Evangelical colleges. This is vitally important for keeping the ship afloat. Non-approved books and non-approved colleges usually cause trouble and often lead to people leaving the church. Knowledge is power.

Over the years, I counseled a number of people who needed immediate psychological or psychiatric help. At the time, I despised the mental health profession. I viewed them as tools of Satan. Instead, I gave people lame, unhelpful advice from the Bible. Instead of helping them, I abused them with the Bible. Several church members had nervous breakdowns and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I viewed this as their fault, their unwillingness to trust God and obey his commandments. Those who had a nervous breakdown later left the church. They found out that what I was selling was snake oil. I proclaimed Jesus as the cure and they found out he wasn’t.

When given the opportunity, I tell young pastors to stick to doing what they were trained to do. Leave mental health issues to the professionals trained to deal with them. The same could be said of many things pastors counsel others on without having the proper training to do so.

Third, the pastor thinks of himself as being impervious to sin. He is, after all, the man of God. He is the servant of the Most High. He has his Ephesian 6 armor on 24/7. Pastors can begin to think that they are invincible, that they are above the fray. They really should know better, but arrogance and pride blind them from seeing themselves as they really are. At this point, pastors lack self-awareness and are extremely vulnerable to self-deception and open to doing things considered sinful and abusive.

Pastors have a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to act appropriately and responsibly. The Bible, in 1 Timothy 3, sets a high moral and ethical standard for pastors, as do the laws of most states.

Here in Ohio, a pastor is considered a person of authority. He can be held criminally liable for not reporting abuse or for violating the trust of a parishioner. Let me give an example. If church member Joe has an affair with church member Sue, the Bible calls their behavior adultery. However, when a pastor has an affair with a congregant the Bible still calls the action adultery, but the law calls his behavior an abuse of authority. Countless pastors end up in prison because they ignored their moral, ethical, and legal obligations to church members.

Pastors who commit sexual sin with a church member are abusing the trust given to them by the member. The state recognizes this and accordingly criminalizes such actions, Pastors, due to the sensitive nature of their interactions with congregants, put themselves in situations where the potential for sin and abuse is great. They often see people at their worst. The conscientious pastor acts appropriately, giving what help he can and recommending secular services for those things he can’t help with. The abusive pastor sees vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of a church member. Such pastors are rightly considered the lowest of the low, like dog shit on the bottom of a shoe. Preying on the weak and the vulnerable might work in Darwin’s survival of the fittest, but in the church, members rightly expect their pastor to treat them ethically and morally.

Let me share a personal story that I believe will help illustrate what I am trying to say. One spring day, a young woman who used to attend the church came to my office dressed quite provocatively. Her parents still attended the church, but she had left the church, off to sow her wild oats.  She had a short, tight skirt on and when she sat down and crossed her legs, she definitely had my attention. It didn’t take me long to realize what her intentions were. In her mind, the best way to get back at her parents was to screw the preacher and ruin his ministry and the church. Fortunately, I realized what was going on and had my wife come into the office with us.

In no way do I intend to present myself as a pillar of moral virtue. I wasn’t then, and I am not now. In the above-mentioned story, I was fortunate that I did not take a bite of the forbidden fruit. I just as easily could have. If I had, I would have been guilty of abusing this young woman. Never mind her attempt to seduce me. As a pastor, I was the one who had the responsibility to act appropriately in every circumstance. That’s what the Bible teaches and what the law demands.

A number of the readers of this blog were abused in Christian group homes and boarding schools. Their stories of abuse still bring me to tears. How did these people, children at the time, end up in abusive settings? In almost every circumstance it began with their pastor. Let’s face it, troubled teens are not easy to deal with. But we must remember that “troubled teen” in an Evangelical context does not mean the same thing as it does elsewhere. A “troubled teen” in an IFB church might be nothing more than a teen who listens to rock music, drinks a beer now and again, fools around with her boyfriend, or admits to trying pot. This, of course, describes most everyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.

Evangelical children are taught to obey authority, especially the authority of their parents and pastors. When parents have a child or a teen they can’t control — and I readily admit there are some kids who need help beyond what parents can provide — they most often seek out counsel from their pastor. When teens end up in a Christian group home or boarding school, they almost always end up there based on the recommendation of their pastor. In my opinion, when these kids are sent off to a group home and abuse happens, the pastor bears just as much responsibility as the abusers. He is culpable because he is the one who recommended a home such as New Bethany Home for Girls, Hephzibah House, or the Roloff Homes. Our legal system recognizes this, equally punishing the bank robber and the person who drove the getaway car. (Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls and Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sins.)

Truth be told, pastors often are just as trusting as church members. Parents come to them seeking help for their “troubled teen.” The pastor remembers that “so and so” from college runs a group home, so he gives the parents the phone number for the home, thinking he has done all he needs to do. The pastor has NOT done his due diligence. He should thoroughly check out any place he is recommending to parents with “troubled teens.” The same could be said for Christian colleges. Many Christian colleges are purveyors of institutionalized abuse, yet pastors blindly recommend these colleges to prospective students. Rarely does anyone consider how the bizarre codes of conduct at many Christian schools affect the minds of the students sent there. Pensacola Christian College goes so far as to withhold giving the students and their parents the complete list of rules and regulations until the students are on campus. Pastors are responsible for the people, places, and things they recommend. Ignorance is not an excuse.

I hope this post helps to explain how good people — specifically pastors — can do bad things. I hope I also adequately answered the WHY question. If not, please ask your questions in the comment section and I will do my best to answer them.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Roy Shoop Accused of Sexual Assault

pastor roy shoop

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Roy Shoop, pastor of Cowboy Gatherin’ Church (currently, their Facebook has been set to private) in Inola, Oklahoma, stands accused of sexually molesting three girls under the age of sixteen who were either working on his farm or taking horse riding lessons from him.

Channel 6 reports:

Rogers County deputies arrested an Inola pastor after he was accused of molesting three girls under the age of 16.

“It should be sickening to hear this from anyone who would commit those acts on children. They were placed in a position where they should have been able to trust a man. It takes it to another level to see this from a man who stands on a pulpit and leads a church,” Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton said.

Deputies said they arrested Roy Shoop on May 20 at his house after they said he molested three girls that were either working on his farm or taking horse riding lessons from him.

Documents said a 12-year-old girl came forward in January to say Shoop sexually assaulted her. Deputies said that girl was receiving horse riding lessons from Shoop.

Documents also showed two other girls, ages 13 and 15, came forward with sexual assault accusations. The documents said the 15-year-old was sexually assaulted four times.

Shoop denies the charges leveled against him.

Channel 8 reports:

In his own words Roy Shoop is an innocent man.

“I can assure you I have done nothing inappropriate with these young ladies or in any manner,” said Pastor Roy Shoop.

The Inola pastor and well known figure in the community is facing sexual assault accusations involving three girls; accusations he says are false.

“All I can do is just continue to pray and to seek the Lord and follow him in this manner and that means praying for the young ladies as well,” said Shoop.

….

“I am heartbroken that these accusations could be made against him. My Dad is a man of God; my mentor,” said Daughter Shanelle Gray.

Through this week’s arrest Shoop has had his family behind him, especially his daughter Shanell Gray.

“He has raised up a church that serves the Lord fearlessly and we just pray that these accusations get stopped,” said Gray.

….

In the meantime Shoop’s family is staying by his side.

“He’s my daddy there’s no greater character of a man who would lay down his life for his friends and his family,” said Gray.

Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton says it’s possible more allegations could surface.

The Tulsa World reports:

One victim told authorities that Shoop would inappropriately touch her while he was instructing her on horse riding and while she was at his Inola, Oklahoma, residence, according to the affidavit.

“These events took place while (the victim) was staying at the Shoop’s residence where she was being instructed on barrel racing with her new horse her father had purchased from Roy and Diana Shoop,” investigators state in the affidavit.

The other two victims reported similar accounts. Each reported going to Shoop’s residence for horse riding or rodeo-related lessons when the alleged abuse occurred.

One victim reported the abuse occurred in October 2018. Another victim reported the abuse occurred between April 2018 and April 2019, and the third victim reported abuse occurring in January.

Investigators state in the affidavit that the victims were not related to one another.

Deputies arrested Shoop on Wednesday. He was booked into Rogers County jail on the charges and subsequently posted a $300,000 bond.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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The Anatomy of the IFB Church Movement

ifb

History of the IFB Church Movement

The roots of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) can be traced back to the internecine battles between American Fundamentalists and Modernists in the twentieth century. Denominations such as the American Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention had become theologically and socially liberal, leading churches and preachers to withdraw from their denominations, becoming independent congregations.

The IFB church movement saw rapid numeric growth in the 1960s-1980s. During this time, many of the largest churches in the United States were IFB congregations. The largest church in America, pastored by the Jack Hyles, a former American Baptist pastor, was First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Today, the IFB church movement is a shell of what it once was. Few, if any, IFB congregations are on the 100 Largest Churches in America list today. Many of the ginormous IFB churches of yesteryear are now closed. While a student at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, I attended nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Pastored by IFB pulpiteer Tom Malone, Emmanuel was one the largest churches in the country. Today? It’s doors are shuttered.

The IFB church movement, despite its decline, still remains a force in our culture. Take, for example, the churches that refuse to close their doors during the present pandemic. Many of these rebellious congregations are IFB churches. This should come as no surprise to anyone who follows the IFB church movement. IFB churches tend to be to fiercely independent and exclusionary. IFB churches also typically tend to be anti-government.

What is an IFB Church?

What, exactly, is an IFB church? Attempting to answer this question will bring IFB zealots out of the woodwork, each saying that my description of IFB churches does NOT describe them. Regardless, I am confident that I can generally answer this question.

I stands for Independent

The local, visible church is an independent body of believers who are not associated or affiliated with any denomination. The pastor answers only to God, and to a lesser degree, the church. The church answers to no one but God. Most IFB churches oppose any form of government involvement or intrusion into its affairs. While some IFB churches have deacon boards or elders, almost all of them have a congregational form of government.

F stands for Fundamentalist (or Fundamental)

The independent church is fundamentalist in its doctrine and practice. IFB churches are social and theological fundamentalists. (see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Fundamentalists adhere to an external code of conduct, often called church standards. The Bible, or should I say the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, is the rule by which church members are expected to live. IFB churches spend a significant amount of time preaching and teaching about how the pastor expects people to live.

IFB churches are also theological fundamentalists. They adhere to a certain and specific theological standard, a standard by which all other Christians and denominations are judged. Every IFB pastor and church believes things such as:

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

I am sure there are other doctrines that could be added to this list, but the list above is a concise statement of ALL things an IFB church and pastor must believe to be considered an IFB church.

B stands for Baptist

IFB congregations are Baptist churches adhering to the ecclesiology and theology mentioned above. Some IFB churches are landmark Baptists or Baptist briders. They believe the Baptist church is the true church and all other churches are false churches. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, which made him a Baptist, and the first churches established by the Baptist apostles were Baptist churches. Churches like this go to great lengths to prove that their Baptist lineage dates all the way back to John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles. (See The Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll.)

Other IFB churches and pastors believe that Baptist ecclesiology and theology are what the Bible clearly teaches. They grudgingly admit that other denominations “might” be Christian too, but they are quick to say, “why be a part of a bastardized form of Christianity when you can have the real deal.”

Some Southern Baptist churches are IFB. They are Southern Baptist in name only. It is not uncommon for an IFB pastor to pastor a Southern Baptist church with the intent of pulling the church out of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Because of this, often Southern Baptist churches will reject résumés from pastors with an IFB background. Southern Baptist area missionaries warn churches about pernicious IFB pastors who desire to take over churches and pull the churches out of the convention.

The Societal Structure of IFB Churches

To properly understand the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist IFB church movement, you must first understand the IFB concept of camps. In the IFB, a camp is the tribe to which you belong. It is a membership group that is defined by such things as what Bible version is considered the “true” Word of God, what college the pastor attended, approval or disapproval of Calvinism, open or closed communion, or ecclesiastical, personal, and secondary separation. Many IFB camps will have multiple “positions” that define their group, and admission to the group is dependent on fidelity to these positions. Many pastors and churches belong to more than one camp.

IFB churches, colleges, parachurch organizations, evangelists, missionaries, and pastors are quick to state that they are totally independent of any authority or control but God. Like Churches of Christ, the IFB church movement is anti-denomination, and any suggestion that they are a denomination brings outrage and denunciation.

Every IFB church, pastor, and college has what I call a camp identity. While they claim to be Independent, their identity is closely connected to the people, groups, and institutions they associate with.

Some churches and pastors group around colleges such as Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Cedarville University, Baptist Bible College, The Crown College, Maranatha Baptist University, Texas Independent Baptist Seminary, West Coast Baptist College, Massillon Baptist College, or Hyles Anderson College. Others coalesce around specific doctrinal beliefs such as Sovereign Grace Baptists, Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America, or the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelical Churches. Some, such as Missionary Baptists and Landmark Baptists group around certain ecclesiastical beliefs. Others group around missionary endeavors. There are also countless churches that are IFB churches — churches such as John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church — but refuse to claim the IFB moniker. The Bible church movement, IFB in every way but the name, has fellowship groups such as The Independent Fundamental Churches of America.

Some of these groups will likely object to being considered the same as other IFB groups. Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptists will most certainly resent being talked about in the same discussion as the Sword of the Lord and Jack Hyles. However, many Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors come from IFB backgrounds. While certain aspects of their theology might have changed, much of the IFB methodology and thinking remains. Some of the most arrogant, mean-spirited pastors I ever met were Sovereign Grace or Reformed Baptist pastors. They may have been five-point Calvinists, but they were in every other way Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.

Most people don’t know that groups such the Southern Baptist Convention and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches are really fellowship groups of like-minded pastors and churches. While they have many of the hallmarks of a denomination, their churches and pastors remain, for the most part, independent, under no authority but the local church.

IFB churches and pastors trumpet their independent nature and, as their history has clearly shown, this independence has resulted in horrible abuse and scandal.  But, despite their claim of independence, IFB churches and pastors are quite denominational and territorial. They tend to group together in their various camps, only supporting churches, colleges, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries who are in their respective camps.

In 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio. I contacted Gene Milioni, then the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church — the church where I was saved and called to preach — and asked him about the church supporting us financially. Milioni asked me if I was going to become a part of the Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship. He wanted to know if the church was going to be a BBF church. I told Gene no, and he told me that I could expect no support from Trinity unless I was willing to be a BBF pastor and church. I ran into similar problems with other pastors who demanded I be part of their camp in order to receive help.

Only one church financially supported me: First Baptist Church in Dresden, Ohio.  First Baptist, pastored by Midwestern Baptist College grad Mark Kruchkow, sent me $50 a month for a year or so. Every other dime of startup money came from my own pocket or the pockets of family members. I learned right away what it meant to be a true Independent Fundamentalist Baptist.

Over the years, I floated in and out of various IFB camps. I attended Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship meetings, Midwestern Baptist College meetings, Massillon Baptist College meetings, Sword of the Lord conferences, Bill Rice Ranch rallies, and the now-defunct Buckeye Independent Baptist Fellowship. For a few years, I attended a gathering of Calvinistic Baptist pastors called the Pastor’s Clinic in Mansfield Ohio. When I pastored in Texas, I fellowshipped with like-minded Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors.

Every group demanded something from me, be it money, commitment, or fidelity to certain beliefs. If I were part of the group, I was expected to support the colleges, churches, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries the group approved of. Stepping beyond these approved entities brought disapproval, distance, and censure.

The next time an IFB preacher tries to tell you he is an INDEPENDENT Baptist, I hope you will remember this post. Take a look at the colleges, missionaries, churches, and pastors he supports. It won’t take you long to figure out what camp he is in, and once you figure out his camp, you will know what he believes and considers important. The old adage, birds of a feather flock together, is certainly true when it comes to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement.

Is There a Difference Between the IFB and New IFB?

Several years ago, Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, started group called the New IFB. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona and James Ach Says Steven Anderson Isn’t Really IFB.) Put off by perceived “liberalness” within the IFB church movement, Anderson started his own fellowship group of likeminded churches. While the NEW IFB has distinctives that differentiate it from run-of-the-mill IFB churches, the differences are inconsequential. Like it or not, Anderson is an IFB pastor.

In a post titled, Warning: Law of Liberty Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. Teaches False New IFB teaching, Joshua Lindsey, the son of an IFB pastor, attempted to delineate the differences between IFB and New IFB churches. As I read Lindsey’s post, I had to snicker. I thought, “what a selective explanation of the differences between the two groups.” Typical manipulation of facts to achieve the desired conclusion. Many within the IFB church movement hate Anderson. He is a nasty piece of work, so I understand why IFB preachers and churches want to distance themselves from Anderson. However, when the noise is stripped away, I see very little difference between the New IFB and the IFB. Sorry, IFB preachers, Anderson is your crazy uncle, and as anyone who follows the IFB church movement knows, there are plenty of crazy uncles to go around.

Conclusion

The IFB church movement will remain very much a part of the American religious landscape. Yes, IFB churches are, for the most part, dying, but the movement is a long way away from coding. These churches will remain anti-cultural institutions, attracting people looking for what they perceive is old-time or old-fashioned Christianity. (Please see What Independent Baptists Mean When They Use the Phrase “Old-Fashioned” and “Old-Fashioned” Preaching: Calling Sin Sin, Stepping on Toes, And Naming Names.) As the world continues its slide towards secularism, IFB churches will promote themselves as shelters for people seeking safety and protection from the “world.” Want the Christianity of the 1950s? Visit your local IFB church.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Gary Eaches Accused of Sexual Assault

pastor gary eaches

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Gary Eaches, pastor of United Baptist Church (an American Baptist congregation) in Scranton, Pennsylvania stands accused of plying a teenager with alcohol and marijuana and then sexually assaulting her.

WNEP-16 reports:

According to court paperwork, Gary Eaches of Scranton gave a 16-year-old girl alcohol and marijuana and then improperly touched her.

Police say they later responded to Eaches home after he was found depressed and suicidal.

Police say Eaches admitted to the assault and told officers he recently lost his job at United Baptist Church in Scranton.

Gary Eaches is locked up on $50,000 bail and faces assault and other charges.

Eaches’ last posted on Twitter May 3, 2020. Here’s what he tweeted:

christians known for

Based on the aforementioned news report, Pastor Eaches Peaches is now known for sexually assaulting a teen girl. Too bad he wasn’t against such behavior.

Eaches’ name and bio has already been scrubbed from United Baptist’s website. Other Christian websites have also deleted Eaches’ sermon and music videos.

Eaches’ handle on YouTube is “Scandalous Christian.” Eaches mentions on social media that he suffers from addiction and mental illness. As someone who has battled depression most of his adult life, I do wonder whether Eaches should have been a pastor. Knowing the rigors of the ministry, was it really wise to put Eaches in a position where his mental health issues could be exacerbated, and, perhaps, lead to addiction problems? Or were these issues minimized, believing that Jesus was the cure for what ailed Pastor Eaches?

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things–Part One

elmer gantry

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Churches attract all kinds of people with varying motivations for being part of a particular religion. I spent fifty years in the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. When it comes to other religions, I only know what I read in the media. The experiences and observations I share in this post come from the fifty years I spent in those churches, first as a parishioner, and later as a pastor. I spent twenty-five years in the pastorate, pastoring churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas.

While I am no longer a Christian or a pastor, I do keep myself informed about Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical Christianity. Just because I no longer believe doesn’t mean that my experiences and observations are now, suddenly, invalid or lack value. Some Christians try to marginalize or invalidate my writing by suggesting that since I am no longer a Christian, or may have never been a Christian (their view), my experiences and observations can safely be ignored or ridiculed. I will leave it to the readers of this blog to decide whether what I write has value. I suspect, knowing my readers as I do, that what follows will resonate with many of them,

The Christian church often attracts people with ulterior motives. Generally, Christian people are very trusting. When someone gives a testimony of redemption, most Christians readily embrace the lost sheep that is now found. Tales of addictions, sexual immorality, prison, violence, and the like find a sympathetic ear with most Christians. The worse the sinner, the greater the testimony of God’s wonderful, saving grace.

There is no doubt that many sinful, fallen people have found deliverance through what they believe is the saving work of Jesus Christ. Many vile people now live productive, grace-filled lives as born-again Christians. They are to be commended for the changes that have taken place in their lives. While I no longer embrace the Christianity and its message of saving grace, I willingly admit that religion transforms and changes multitudes of people.

Because Christian people are trusting and accept people at face value, they are an easy mark for people who have evil intentions. In among the sheep are criminals, thieves, child abusers, and sexual deviants, to name a few. These people make an outward show of Christianity, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves seeking sheep — often children — to devour. This is true not only in the local church, but also in Christian camps, group homes, and Christian schools.

Churches make it easy for deceivers to set up camp in their midst. The deceivers quickly embrace the church family, begin to regularly attend services, and even give money to the church. They are soon embraced as brother or sister. Before too long they are given access to places of responsibility within the church. They now have access to the treasures of the congregation, be it monetary, physical, or spiritual.

Countless churches, after just a short time, readily appoint newcomers to positions of authority. The reason for this is simple. Most churches need a steady supply of new workers. Sadly, many churches practice the four W’s: win them, wet them, work them, waste them. It is not uncommon for Baptist churches to turn over their membership every five or so years. It is common to find new church members quickly appointed as deacons, Sunday school teachers, junior church workers, youth workers, nursery workers, etc. Rarely is the past life of the new church member examined, either through an interview or comprehensive background check. This is especially true in smaller churches. All that matters is that Jesus saved them.

What I have written above also applies to pastors. Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, I candidated at a number of churches. Not one church did a criminal background check. Several churches did check my references, but the references they checked were those I gave them. Who would ever give a reference from a disgruntled church member or board member?  Every church I candidated at readily accepted the information on my résumé. I found every church to be trusting, and while this is a trait that should be generally commended, it is this same trait that often results in churches hiring men and women who are deceivers.

Bad people are those who become members of a church for ulterior reasons or those who are pastors with a secret past, who go from church to church preying on unsuspecting congregations. Bad people do bad things to trusting children, teens, and adults. They physically and sexually abuse people. They scam people out of their money — sometimes their life savings. They wreak havoc wherever they go. After getting caught, they pack up their wares and go down the road to another church and set up shop. There is no shortage of supply of sincere, trusting, honorable church members.

There are some things that churches can (must) do to keep themselves from being easy marks:

  • Do not allow newcomers to become members of the church for at least one year. Do not allow them to hold any office of authority or responsibility. Time will likely expose them for what they really are.
  • Require federal and state criminal background checks on every person who will be in a place of authority or will have contact with children or teenagers. This must be a “no exceptions” policy. These background checks should be repeated annually.
  • Pastors should have an open-door policy.  Church members should be encouraged to share any concern they might have.
  • When someone reports abuse of any kind, an immediate investigation must be done. 
  • ALL criminal activity should be reported to the police. ALL abuse should be immediately reported to law enforcement or child protective services. In Ohio, people in places of authority are REQUIRED to report any abuse they are made aware of. They can be held criminally liable if they do not report it.
  • Churches should thoroughly investigate candidates for the pastorate. State and federal background checks should be done. References should be thoroughly checked. Phone calls should be made to the churches previously pastored. I would even go so far as to send people to the churches a candidate previously pastored or is currently pastoring.
  • Candidates for a church’s open pastorate should be just as diligent. Churches are notorious for hiding their dirty laundry. Why did the last pastor leave? What shape are the church’s finances? Churches, as a whole, can be just as abusive as a pastor or an individual church member.
  • Churches must be diligent in their investigation of new church members and prospective candidates for the pastorate. The unasked question is often the very thing that ends up biting the church in the ass. Personally, I would record all interviews, along with ANY meetings the church has. Recordings put an end to the he-said-she-said fights that are far too common in Christian churches.
  • Every church program or class should have a minimum of two workers who are not related. No person should be permitted to teach a class, work with the teenagers, or staff the nursery alone. If possible, every room should have a window in the door or hall wall. This allows people walking by to look in at any time.

Just because someone is a teenager or a pre-teen doesn’t mean he or she should be exempt from the things mentioned above. Many churches staff their nursery, junior church, or vacation bible school with young people from the church (and sometimes from other churches). Churches assume that young people are safe. This assumption can prove to be deadly. Years ago, we had a teenager in our church who was a nice young man. Likable. Easy going. Oh, and, unbeknownst to me, he had spent two years in a juvenile detention center for rape.

The church attracts bad people who do bad things. Unless churches are diligent in protecting themselves, they will continue to be easy targets for abuse. The old adage is true: better safe than sorry. A genuine Christian will not be offended if the church is diligent in its protection of its children and teenagers.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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iPhones Lead Us to Jesus

apple jesus
“Steve Jobs is Jesus” by Daphne van Kesteren

Calvinists are fond of claiming the Sovereign God of John Calvin is the first cause, the source of everything. Everything we atheists say, do, and have comes from the Christian God. There’s no aspect of our lives which are not created and controlled by the thrice holy God. No matter how vivaciously we object to such stupid claims, Calvinists say that we know in our hearts of hearts that this is true.

Supposedly, everywhere we look there is evidence for the existence of God. And not just any God either. Oh no, all the evidence points to John Piper’s God. Only those who are deliberately blind or reprobates deny what is clear to all who have eyes to see. Or so the Calvinist say, anyhow.

Take Greg Morse, a graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary and a staff writer for John Piper’s Calvin-24/7 website Desiring God. Morse writes about his interaction with a man who told him that he was happy without God.

Here’s what Morse had to say:

“I know you don’t believe me, but I do not need Christianity to be happy. I am happier than most Christians I know.” Looking up from his coffee, he smiled and assured me, “I am glad you found happiness in Jesus, but I am quite content without him. I have found my path to happiness, and I am glad you have found a different one. We stand at the same end, it would appear.”

I did not know what to say.

I knew how to share the Joy of the world to the discontent, the miserable, the downcast, but I stood perplexed at this man who told me, in no uncertain terms, “I do not need Christ to be happy.” Wasn’t his heart restless until it found its rest in him? He assured me it wasn’t. Didn’t he have a God-shaped hole in his heart? He swore that he didn’t. And what was more, he truly seemed to be, as far as I could tell, happy.

Most atheists would likely agree with the happy man’s sentiment. We don’t need God/Jesus/Christianity for our lives to have meaning, purpose, and happiness. Many of us were, at one time, Greg Morse. We believed that the Christian God was the sole source of all that was good in our lives. Our joy and happiness came from God alone, not anything we ourselves did. We believed, that without Jesus, our lives were steaming piles of worthless shit. This is especially true for those of us who were Calvinists. There’s no better theological system than Calvinism for destroying human value, purpose, and self-worth.

Morse wants atheists and other believers to know that despite their claims, everything they have comes from the Calvinistic God.

Morse writes:

God allows those who ignore him, reject him, despise his glory, and belittle his name to breathe his air, feast on his food, swim in his waters, hike in his forests, ski on his mountains, laugh, sing, and dance on his lands. He has not yet evicted them. He has not taken back his bread from their plates nor his air from their lungs. Rather — and note the benevolence of the God of the universe — he “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

….

The man that I spoke with took these gifts from God, enjoyed them, and refused to say thank you.

Man is the only creature other than fallen angels to pay God back so basely. God opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.

How dare unbelievers believe that the good in their lives comes from their own efforts and that of their fellow homo-sapiens. How dare we think we don’t need God/Jesus/Christianity.

This seems like a good place to interject my all-time favorite TV prayer.

Video Link

The character played by Jimmy Stewart believes in giving credit to whom creThe character played by Jimmy Stewart believes in giving credit to whom credit is due. As an atheist, I don’t pray and thank God for the meals prepared by my wife. Why should I? What, exactly, did God do? Every aspect of the meal, from its raw ingredients to the finish product, can be attributed to things other than a deity. Over the weekend, I made fried chicken. It turned out well, although Polly might have something to say about Tornado Bruce’s cooking behavior. 🙂 If Polly said to me about all my hard work, All praise be to Jesus for this wonderful fried chicken, I would be more than a bit upset.

Morse, on the other hand, has never cooked a meal, or done anything else for that matter, without at least thinking that Jesus was worthy of all praise, honor and glory.

Morse concludes his post by telling readers what he would say to the aforementioned godless happy man if given the opportunity to do so again:

The Christian faith is not merely about man’s happiness, although God gives more joy than you can now imagine. Christianity addresses how sinful men, women, and children can be reconciled to their Creator and live happy lives for his glory. God has placed good gifts to summon you to see God’s ultimate gift: his Son, Jesus Christ. He came to save a people he didn’t have to save. To live a life we couldn’t live. To die the death we deserved to die. And to rise, summoning all everywhere to turn away from their sin, and trust in his finished work on the cross for sinners.

The smartphone in your pocket has everything to do with this God. The music massaging your ears, the colors jumping before your eyes, the gladness of heart and the love you feel are kindnesses from God with one message upon their lips: “Repent and believe.”

With a straight face with Morse asserts without one whit of evidence, “The smartphone in your pocket has everything to do with this [the Calvinistic] God.” In other words, if I carefully peer into the screen of my iPhone I will see “God.” That’s right, iPhones lead us to Jesus. Android phones? Straight to Satan and Hell! Only iPhones lead to the straight and narrow way.

That Morse would dare to utter such nonsense out loud is quite amusing. If we listen carefully, we can hear Steve Jobs hollering from Hell, Dammit! How dare God take credit for my creation, and that of Apple.

Nothing Morse writes is new. As a devout Calvinistic Evangelical, I heard countless sermons, and preached more than a few myself, that promoted the notion that we humans are helpless; that everything we have physically and materially comes from God; that without Jesus our lives are n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

How has your life changed since deconverting? Did you find it hard to give up giving all praises and blessing to God from whom all things flow? Do you now give credit to whom credit is due? Do you have Christian family who steals the credit for your happiness and success and gives it to their God? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Are You Worshiping a False Jesus?

blue eyed jesus

Evangelicals want everyone to believe that they worship Jesus; not just any Jesus, either. Their Jesus is the one and only Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Their Jesus is special and unique, unlike the Jesus worshiped by Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, or revered by Muslims and other non-Evangelical sects.

Take the Sovereign Grace Music song, Jesus, There’s No One Like You:

There is no song we could sing
To honor the weight of Your glory
There are no words we could speak
To capture the depth of Your beauty

CHORUS
Jesus, there’s no one like You
Jesus, we love You, ever adore You
There’s no one like You
Jesus, we love You, ever adore You, Lord

VERSE 2
There is no sinner beyond
The infinite stretch of Your mercy
How can we thank You enough
For how You have loved us completely?

BRIDGE
All we have
All we need
All we want is You

Video Link

It’s evident Sovereign Grace has a particular Jesus in mind. More on that below.

blue eyed jesus

Years ago, Evangelical musicians Bill and Gloria Gaither released a song titled, There’s Something About That Name:

There’s just something about the name of Jesus

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all Heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s something about that name

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all Heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s something about that name (that name)

Something about that name.

Video Link

Both songs reference Jesus, yet the Jesus of Sovereign Grace Music, and that of Bill and Gloria Gaither are very different from one another. Sovereign Grace is Calvinistic, whereas the Gaithers belong to an Arminian sect. The Jesus of the Calvinists and the Jesus of the Arminians are two very different Sons of God. Oh, outwardly they appear the same, but doctrinally they are very different. Mere semantics? I think not. Evangelical sects build complex systems of theology around their peculiar versions of Jesus. These beliefs can’t help but color how believers view the Savior of the world (to the Gaithers) or the Savior of the elect (to the Calvinists). And it’s not just Evangelicals who do this. Liberal/progressive Christians have a very different Jesus from Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB). Which Jesus is the right one? How could we possibly know who possesses the Jesus who alone can save us from our sins?

black jesus

Worse yet, individual churches, pastors, and congregants shape and mold Jesus into their own version of the Son of God. Instead of there being one Jesus for all, there are countless Jesuses, each eerily looking like their creators.

The next time you have a discussion with an Evangelical who is preaching “Jesus” to you, perhaps it would be interesting for you to ask them “which” Jesus? Ask them how their Jesus compares to the one found within the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Any cursory reading of the Bible reveals that whomever and whatever the Jesus of the gospels might have been, he bears little resemblance to the Jesuses of today. And that’s okay. Is that not the power of religion; its ability to adapt, change, and transform over time? All I want is for Evangelicals to admit, in particular, that Jesus is NOT the same yesterday, today, and forever; that he is a chameleon of sorts.

I find it amusing when Evangelicals attempt to assert that their Jesus alone is the “right” Jesus, and that all other Jesuses are false. Take our Fundamentalist friend Spaniard VIII. In a post titled, Satan Is After You To Destroy You, Sp8 gives “examples of a false Jesus Christ that comes from the teachings of demons through false religions.”

middle eastern jesus

Sp8 believes that he worships the one true Jesus. He even gives a checklist for readers to follow to determine if they are worshiping a demonic Jesus, Do you believe that (my answers in parentheses):

  • Jesus is not God (yes)
  • Jesus didn’t die on the cross (no)
  • Jesus didn’t rise from the dead (yes)
  • Jesus wasn’t perfect (yes)
  • Jesus was not born from a virgin (yes)
  • Jesus was not the Son of God (yes)
  • Jesus is not the only way to heaven (yes)
  • Jesus is another god apart from the Father (yes)
  • A denial of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all three being Yahweh (yes)

Oh my God! I just learned that I believe in a false Jesus! I have been deceived by Satanic forces out to send me to the Lake of Fire for eternity. Hey, I did answer the question “Jesus didn’t die on the cross” correctly. I am of the opinion that we have sufficient historical evidence for the execution of Jesus on a Roman cross (and, no, I don’t want to debate this issue). This claim makes rational sense to me. However, the rest of Sp8’s assertions are faith claims. Sp8 just wants us to take his word for it that he worships the right Jesus. Doubt this naked assertion of his? Burn in Hell!

socialist jesus

There’s no such thing as a monolithic Jesus. Two thousand years of Christian church history, along with the establishment and proliferation of thousands of contradictory Christian sects, have birthed countless Westworld-like Jesuses, each programmed to look, believe, and act like their creators.

Which Jesus, if any, do you worship?

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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An Errant Inerrant Bible

inerrancy

Wander into your neighborhood Evangelical church on a Sunday . . .

You will likely find the pastor preaching from the Bible.

Pastor, is the Bible the Word of God?

Yes.

Pastor, is the Bible the truth?

Yes.

Pastor, are there any errors in the Bible?

No.

Pastor, is the Bible inspired by God?

Yes.

Hundreds of millions of Christians believe the Bible (translations) they hold in their hands or hear preached from on Sunday is THE Word of God. They believe every word is true because God inspired (breathed out) the words. Not one time have their pastors told them differently.

Come Monday, Evangelical pastors gather with fellow clergy and talk a different line. No one really believes the Bible is inerrant.

Come Tuesday, and throughout the week, Evangelical pastors prepare their sermons, consult commentaries, lexicons, and the like, hoping to find answers to the discrepancies, errors, and contradictions in the text. They say to themselves, how can we best explain this so church members will still believe the Bible is inerrant? Should we tell them the truth about the text?

All of a sudden, the Bible is not quite as perfect as these pastors lead everyone to believe on Sundays.

In other words, they lie.

Why do these pastors lie?

To tell the truth would bring down the Evangelical house of cards. The entire movement is predicated on an inerrant infallible Bible.

An inerrant Bible must be maintained at all costs.

So they obfuscate by playing word games. What do you mean by the word error? What do you mean by the word Bible? What is a “mistake?”

As Bart Ehrman showed in his debate with William Lane Craig, the basic question remains . . . are there any errors in the Bible?

Honest pastors must, privately, in whispering voices, say YES. In public however, they lie and tell their congregations, YES, the Bible is without error; the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God; every word of the Bible is true. And all God’s people said AMEN!

If Evangelical pastors can’t be trusted to tell the truth about inerrancy, why should he be trusted to tell the truth about anything?

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Teaching IFB Church Members About Every Cult But Theirs

the-kingdom-of-the-cults

I grew up in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches in the 1960s and 1970s. I latter attended an IFB college — Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Next to evangelizing the lost, preaching against “sin,” and trumpeting the soon return of Jesus, IFB preachers loved to talk about cults.

The IFB church movement generally believed themselves to be God’s true church. Some preachers — called Landmark Baptists or Baptists Briders — believed they could, much like Roman Catholics, trace their church’s lineage all the way back to Jesus and the New Testament. While most IFB preachers will grudgingly admit that some other Christian sects include True Christians®, many non-IFB groups are labeled cults. Seventh Day Adventists? Roman Catholics? Mormons? Church of Christ? Charismatics? Pentecostals? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Calvinists? Cults, the lot of them.

As an IFB pastor, I thought it important to teach church members about the teachings of cults. Sunday School was a perfect place to introduce teaching about cults. Congregants loved learning about cults. After all, learning about the heretical beliefs of cults only reinforced the notion that their pastor and church had the “right” beliefs. What was never considered was the fact that Christianity itself is a cult, as is the IFB church movement.

M teaching presupposed that my interpretation and understanding of the Bible was equivalent to the faith once delivered to the saints. Thus, it was easy to “prove” that certain sects were cults. Just compare their beliefs to mine. See! There’s all the evidence you need to prove that baby-baptizing, Virgin-Mary-worshiping Catholicism is a cult. That’s why I could go to a town of 1,600 people that had two Catholic churches, a Methodist Church, a Lutheran Church, and a Church of Christ, and start a new church — a true New Testament Baptist congregation. I was convinced that I knew the truth, and I was duty-bound to deliver the residents of Somerset and Perry County of the hold cults had on their souls. Especially those fish-eaters.

People raised in IFB churches have likely read or heard of Walter Martin’s seminal work, The Kingdom of the Cults. This book takes up a prominent place on the bookshelves of many IFB preachers. It was a necessary tool in the raging war against cults. Ironically, Martin did not believe the Seventh Day Adventist Church was a cult.

Two stories come to mind from my days as a cult-busting preacher. One year, I had been teaching on Mormonism. During the class, a visitor stood up and challenged what I was teaching. Unbeknownst to me, this man had gotten wind of my teaching and decided to visit our church so he could put in a good word for Mormonism. Needless to say, his attempt to set me straight didn’t go well. My retort was simple, THE BIBLE SAYS! That was always my answer when my preaching or teaching was challenged.

Later in my ministry, as pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, a Seventh Day Adventist man and wife had been attending our church. They were friends with a couple who periodically attend Our Father’s House. By this time, I was much more openminded towards other sects. In fact, the front doors of our church building said, “The Church Where the Only Label that Matters is Christian.” I was friends with the local Church of Christ preacher, and a member of the local ministerial group — a cardinal sin back in my IFB days.

I believed, at the time, that this Seventh Day Adventist couple genuinely wanted “Christian fellowship.” One Sunday evening, I learned differently. I don’t remember what I had preached on that night, but afterward, as was my custom at that time, I asked if there were any questions? The Seventh Day Adventist man stood up and started condemning my preaching. I was shocked by his behavior. I told him that he was wrong to assume that we believed what we did out of ignorance. We went back and forth for a few moments, and then I put an end to our “discussion.” This couple never came back. I suspect that they were there for the purpose of infiltrating and evangelizing instead of food, fun, and fellowship. 

Both of these confrontations troubled me, not because I thought my beliefs were wrong, but because I never dreamed of visiting a different church so I could evangelize or set them straight. Back in the 1980s, I preached a series of messages about the Church of Christ, showing that they were a cult who preached a false gospel. On Mondays, I would make cassette copies of the sermons and mail them to every Church of Christ preacher in a four-county area. This, of course provoked all sorts of outrage. I received several cassette sermons in the mail from Church of Christ preachers. Their sermons were their attempt to expose the Baptists as a cult! How dare they! I was a member of True Church®. In the 1800s, the Baptists expelled Campbellites — Alexander Campbell and his father Thomas Campbell were the founders of the Church of Christ (along with Barton Stone) — from their midst for heresy. Cults, the lot of them.

What I never considered, of course, that I too was a cultist; that Christianity, in general, was a cult. According to the TheSage Dictionary, a cult is a system of religious beliefs and rituals; cultists are followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices. Pretty well describes Christianity in general, and the IFB church movement in particular, does it not? I could see the “cult” in every sect but my own.

Want to enrage Evangelical/IFB preachers? Call them cultists. Out will come their Bibles, proof-texts, and evidence that “proves” that their brand of Christianity is that which was founded by Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul. Blinded by arrogance and hubris, they cannot see that their sects and churches are cults too.

To these True Christians® I say: by all means continue to fight among To these True Christians® I say: by all means, continue to fight among yourselves. Keep waging internecine warfare against each other. Keep slinging words such as cult or heretic. You are doing good work, exposing the bankruptcy of your beliefs.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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