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According to This Evangelical Christian, Atheists Live Hopeless, Senseless Lives

empty life

Several years ago, I received an email from an Evangelical named Preacher Dog. Here’s an excerpt from his email:

1. In stating you are an agnostic, although you think it is highly improbable that there is a God/creator, is it logical to think that the creature can possibly exceed its Creator in terms of intelligence, wisdom or virtue? I mean, if you are actually leaving the door open to the potential that God might exist, then it’s fair to say that the clay cannot be superior to the potter, right? Think about it. When people shake their fists and [sic] God, scream at Him, curse Him, or question Him, etc., what they are really claiming is that they are superior to Him. They are charging God with having less love, or less righteousness, or with caring less, etc. Of course, this is a very silly premise, to say the least. So if you are leaving the door open to the possible existence of God, and God does indeed exist, then you must admit and concede to God’s superiority to yourself on all fronts. Do you see my point? You are a personal being, so can God be any less personal? If you are a loving being, is it reasonable to think God is some cold, heartless, unfeeling entity?

2. Okay, let’s assume God doesn’t exist. If such is the case, then where then does this leave you? Well, it leaves you stuck in the hopeless, senseless, futureless bog of mere naturalism. Yup, stuck in the mud, as the old saying goes. All of life is the product of mere time and chance. Everything is therefore “natural” ( including religion), and there’s no sense putting morality to anything, because authoritative morality doesn’t exist under such a naturalistic worldview. Hey, the only difference between man and all other creatures is conscience and a greater dose of  intelligence, right? But as soon as chickens develop self awareness and start talking, then it will be a heinous, murderous act to sit down to a chicken finger dinner with coleslaw and a thick strawberry shake.

Bill, as I see it, abandoning a belief in God has left you greatly wanting. Throw God out of the equation of life and you will not be able to define your origin, meaning, purpose and destiny. Well, you can define it, but not properly, sensibly or logically.

Bill, you are not a glorified frog.

Think about it.

meaning of life

Preacher Dog later emailed me and apologized for calling me Bill. Bill, Bruce, it matters not. Let me attempt to answer his questions.

In admitting that I am agnostic on the God question, I am in no way suggesting that a God of some sort exists. Since I lack absolute knowledge, it is possible that some yet unknown deity created the universe. Unlikely, but within the realm of possibility. In determining whether a God exists, all any of us can do is weigh the available evidence and make a rational decision. Since all of life is based on probabilities, all I can do is look at the evidence and make a decision as to whether some sort of deity exists. Having done so, I have concluded that God does not exist. Let me put it this way. It is possible that if I step outside my back door at a certain time a falling piece of an aircraft engine could hit me in the head and kill me. It’s possible, but not likely. I can, with calm assurance, walk out my back door at a certain time without a glance to the skies to see if something is hurtling my way. So it is with God. I have no thoughts or worries about the existence of God because I see no evidence for his/her/its existence.

I suspect that Preacher Dog thinks that I am leaving the door open for believing once again in the Christian God. I am even more certain that the Christian God is a fiction conjured up in the minds of humans millennia ago. Since I can read and study the Bible, the odds are even less that the Christian God — in all his various iterations — exists (and is personally involved in our lives). Having spent fifty years in Evangelicalism and twenty-five years as a pastor, I think it is safe to say that I know the Bible inside out. I can’t remember the last time I discovered a new “truth” about Christianity. The Bible is not an inexhaustible book. It can be read and studied to such a degree that one can fully comprehend its construction, message, purpose, and teachings — along with the various sectarian interpretations of Christianity and the Bible. I do not doubt that the supernatural claims of the Bible are false. While I think there was a man named Jesus who lived and died in first-century Palestine, that Jesus bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. At best, Jesus was a Jewish prophet or teacher who lived and died 2,000 years ago. His miracles, resurrection, and ascension should be rejected by rational thinkers and viewed as no different from countless other mythical stories passed down through history.

People such as Preacher Dog are often clueless as to their own atheistic beliefs. While most Evangelicals reject all other religions but their own without studying them, some Evangelicals do study other religions before concluding that the Christian deity is the one true God. While I do have my doubts about whether someone can study world religions and still think that only one religion is right, I have had Evangelicals tell me that they had done their homework, so I am taking them at their word. Regardless of the path to Evangelicalism, once people embrace Christianity they are, in effect, saying that all other deities are false Gods. This makes them atheistic towards all Gods but their own.

Much of what Preacher Dog says in his first point doesn’t make sense to me. I think he is saying it is ludicrous for humans to say that they are morally superior to their Creator (assuming that their Creator is the Christian God). What reveals to us the existence of the Christian God? Not nature or conscience. Nature can, depending on how one views the universe, testify to the existence of some sort of deity or creating energy. However, there is zero evidence in the natural world that proves that this deity is the Christian God, namely Jesus. The same could be said for human conscience. At best, all we can say is that some sort of God exists. I have written numerous times on the lack of a bridge that connects the God of nature to the God of Christianity. The only way that people come to believe in the Christian God is through the teachings of the Bible.

Since the Bible reveals to us the Christian God, we can then determine the nature and morality of this God. Those who read the Bible without filtering it through the various Evangelicals interpretive filters will conclude that the God of the Bible is an immoral monster. He is a misogynistic, violent, capricious psychopath who uses suffering, pain, loss, and death to teach frail humans so-called life lessons. While this God gets something of a moral makeover in the New Testament, by the time we get to the book of Revelation, the nice New Testament Jesus-God has reverted to the moral monster of the Old Testament. Look at all the things God does to people during the Great Tribulation. Such violent behavior makes the Christian God a perfect candidate for an episode of the TV show Criminal Minds. There is nothing in the behavior of the Christian God that I find appealing —  or moral. Where is this God of mercy, kindness, and love Evangelicals fondly talk about?  When I compare the behaviors of Evangelicals with those of their God, I find that Christians (and atheists) are morally superior to the God of the Bible. And the world should be glad that this is the case. Imagine what would happen if Evangelicals started acting like their God. Why, there would be blood bridle-deep in the streets (Revelation 14).

In his second point, Preacher Dog regurgitates a well-worn Evangelical trope — that without God life would be senseless and meaningless. This notion is easily refuted by pointing to the fact that the overwhelming majority of world citizens are not Christians. And if the only True Christians® are Evangelicals, then 90% of people are living sinful, meaningless lives. Preacher Dog cannot intellectually or psychologically comprehend the idea of the existence of morality apart from the teachings of the Bible. If all Christians everywhere had the same moral beliefs, then Preacher Dog might be on to something. However, even among Evangelicals — people of THE Book — moral beliefs widely vary. Christians can’t even agree on the Ten Commandments. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Is the Bible the Objective Standard of Morality?)

Evangelicals believe that the only things keeping them from being murderers, rapists, and thieves, is God and the so-called objective Bible morality. For the uninitiated, this argument makes sense. However, for those of us well-schooled in all things Evangelical, we know that Evangelicals incessantly fight about what the Bible does or doesn’t say. Just stop by an Evangelical preacher’s forum and watch them go after each other about what is the “law” of God. God may have written his laws down on stone tablets, but modern Evangelicals, just as their Pharisaical forefathers, have developed lengthy codes of morality and conduct. It is laughable, then, to think that there is universal Christian morality. Christians can’t even agree on whether there are TEN commandments in the Decalogue. Some New Covenant Christians think the Ten Commandments are no longer binding. A careful examination of the internecine wars Christians fight over what the Bible says reveals that Evangelical beliefs are the works of men, not God. There is no such thing as objective or absolute morality. Morality has always changed with the times (or with new Biblical interpretations). Behaviors once considered moral are now considered immoral. As humans adapt and change, morality evolves. There was a time when it was moral for men to have child brides. Most countries now have laws prohibiting such marriages. We wisely recognize that it is not a good idea to allow grown men to marry 12-year-old girls.

It should be obvious to everyone that morality flows not from the Bible but from the minds of humans. We the people decide what is moral and lawful. Our objective should be to build a moral framework on the foundation of “do no harm to others.” Of course, this maxim is not absolute. When a nation-state attempts to assert its will over another, war often breaks out. Settling things often requires violence. People are injured or die as these nations settle their differences. This is regrettable, but it serves as a reminder that the maxim of “do no harm to others” can never be absolute. Let me explain this another way. Suppose a man is driving down the road with his eight-month pregnant wife. A car hits them head-on, severely injuring the wife. Her injuries are so severe that doctors tell the father that he must choose between the life of his wife or the fetus. No matter who he chooses to save, the other will die. The father can choose to “do no harm” to one of them, but not both.

Preacher Dog thinks that atheists are incapable of defining their “origin, meaning, purpose and destiny.” Again, another worn-out, shallow understanding of how atheists and other non-believers understand the world. While Preacher Dog will appeal to the Bible as “proof” of his origin, he is making a faith claim. Atheists do the same. We do not know what took place before the Big Bang. How life began is beyond our understanding — for now. Unlike those whose minds are chained to the pages of an ancient religious text, most atheists put their “faith” (confidence, trust) in the scientific method. It is the best vehicle, so far, for explaining the universe. We may never have all the answers, but we will continue to seek out as much knowledge as we can. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, leads to lazy thinking. Genesis 1-3 is given as proof of how the world came into existence. Science easily shows such claims are false, yet Evangelicals are content to say, God or the Bible says ___________ (fill in blank with statement of fact not in evidence).

atheist life has meaning

As far as meaning or purpose is concerned, Evangelicals such as Preacher Dog have been duped into thinking that the Evangelical God alone gives their lives meaning and purpose. Again, billions of people live meaningful, purposeful lives without believing in the Christian God, so what does that say about Preacher Dog’s baseless assertion? I know P Dog can’t wrap his mind around what I am going to say next, but it is true nonetheless. I am a contented, happy person. Atheism and humanism have, in every way, improved my outlook on life. No longer facing the moral demands of a deity is a big relief. Not having to devote my waking hours to slavish worship of God allows me to have the time necessary to enjoy life. Being human and alive is enough for me. Having a wonderful wife, six children, and sixteen grandchildren is enough to give my life meaning and purpose. I challenge the Preacher Dogs of the world to examine my life and conclude otherwise. I suspect most atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and non-Christians would say the same. Life is what you make it.

What lies behind Preacher Dog’s statement is the need for some sort of divine payoff. Evangelicals are told that suffering and loss are the price they pay for admission into God’s gated community. Life is, in effect, offloaded to the afterlife — an afterlife, by the way, that no Evangelical knows for sure exists. Yes, the Bible says there is life beyond the grave, but based on evidence found in cemeteries and obituary pages, such a belief is little more than fanciful thinking. One thing is certain, dead people stay dead. To use a bit of reverse Pascal’s Wagers…are Evangelicals really willing to risk (and forego) the pleasures and joys of this life in the hope that there is life beyond the grave? What a waste if this life is all there is. Think of what could have been done with all the money donated to the church or the hours spent in church services. And please, don’t tell me that living life according to the Bible is a better way to live. It is not, and if it wasn’t for the promise of eternal bliss and happiness, most Christians would abandon their houses of worship for the prospect of sleeping in on Sunday, followed by a relaxing afternoon spent with family, friends, and NFL football.

I choose to embrace THIS life as it is. Yes, life brings pain, suffering, and loss. In June I will be sixty-seven, just a hop, skip, and a fall to seventy. I know a good bit about life, and here’s a nugget of wisdom I would like pass on to Preacher Dog and his fellow zealots:

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

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

If I died today, I would die knowing that I had lived a good life — one filled with meaning, purpose, joy, and happiness. Preacher Dog’s religion has nothing to offer me. Like the Israelites of Moses’ day, I have shaken off the bondage of Egypt. Why would I ever want to leave the Promised Land for the squalor of Egypt? As the old gospel song goes, I have come too far to look back now. I may not know what lies ahead, but I do know what’s in my rearview mirror and I have no desire to turn around.

Let me finish this post with a story from my teenage years. When I was fifteen, my parents divorced and my Dad packed everything up and moved us to Arizona. I wept many a tear as we drove farther away from all that I had ever known. Somewhere in the Plains states, we drove on a straight road that seemed to go on forever. As I looked into the distance, I could see how the road went on for tens of miles. And then there was a slight grade and the road disappeared. This is how view my life. There’s a lot of history behind me. Plenty of good and bad experiences lie in the rubble of my past. However, in front of me all I see is a long road. Where will this road take me? What lies beyond the horizon? There are experiences to be had, joys to be experienced, and questions to be answered. It is these things that still, even at my age, excite me. Possibilities, to be sure, but I will never know unless I put the car in drive and move forward.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Is Jesus Hope for the Hopeless and Rest for the Weary?

hopeless and helpless

I used to enthusiastically preach that Jesus was hope for the hopeless and rest for weary. Unfortunately, for many people, Jesus, or I should say Evangelical Christianity, made them weary and hopeless.

What should have been a source of hope and rest turned into something destructive — so destructive that some people have thoughts of committing suicide.

It shouldn’t be this way. I am convinced that Jesus — real or not — is not the problem. I find nothing in the words of Jesus that would cause me to lose hope or have thoughts of suicide.

No, it is what the church has done with Jesus over the past 2,000 years that is the problem. God, Jesus, and the Bible have become tools of manipulation, control, and destruction.

I wish I could share with you the emails I get from people who are former, or trying to be former, Evangelicals. I can’t share them because I respect the privacy of those who email me. For some, my email inbox has become their confessional. I can tell you this: there are a lot of people who are hopeless and weary as a result of their immersion in the Evangelical Christian religion.

They often have no place to turn. In many instances, their families or spouses are still in the church. They desperately need someone to talk to, but they have no place to turn. They can’t go to their pastor — he wouldn’t understand. If they live in a small town, they can’t even seek out a local counselor because everyone will know (you would have to live in a small town to understand this).

So they suffer in silence. In the night they toss and turn and wonder what has gone wrong. Where is God? There is no God. Where is the God of hope? There is no hope. Where is the God who gives rest? There seems to be no rest.

Their thoughts turn to suicide. No, I can’t do that, I’ll go to Hell. Wait, there is no God, who gives a shit?

I want you to know that I give a shit. I have been where you are and some days I am still where you are. There are a lot of readers of this blog who know your story. They have lived it. They are still living it. They know the struggle you are going through — the struggle of a life of faith that has turned into faithlessness, a life of believing that has turned into unbelief. Maybe you are like the man in the Bible who cried “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”

I am not out to convert you to my cause or change you. It does not matter whom you worship, where you worship, what you believe, or what label you give yourself.

My desire for you is hope and rest.

For many of us, the Evangelical Christian faith has caused psychological harm. The wounds and scars run deep. All the attempts in the world to marginalize our feelings will come to naught. We know what we know.

It’s late . . .

I can hear the clock ticking.

Another night with no sleep.

I hear my lover snoring.

I think of our life together.

So much time wasted.

So much work invested in things that do not matter.

Years have passed us by.

God, we served you.

God, we loved you.

God, we worshiped you.

God, we left all to follow you.

Careers, ambitions, wealth, family . . .

All forsaken to follow you.

Only to find out it was all a dream, and a bad dream at that.

And so, in the still of the night, I reflect on the heap of my life.

What am I to make of all this?

Can I go on?

Will I go on?

I must go on.

God or not, there is a life to be lived.

God or not, I still must live as if I am dying.

Because I AM dying.

So much life yet to live.

So much life yet to experience and enjoy.

God is back on the shelf where he belongs.

Maybe I’ll dust him off again on my final day.

Probably not.

Until then, I will live morally and ethically.

Until then, I will love and hate.

Until then, I will walk the path called life the best way I know.

Without God, without the Bible, and most certainly without the church.

I still have hope.

My hope is no longer built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

My hope is built on the love and goodness of humankind.

These days, the only gods I see are my family, friends, and fellow humans.

I devote myself to these gods.

I worship them.

That’s enough for me.

I will leave eternity to another day.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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You Say You Speak for God

angry preacher

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Millions upon millions of voices all clamoring at the same time, all uttering the same thing . . .

God says . . .

The Bible (God) says . . .

God is leading me to say . . .

God is telling me to tell you . . .

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, right?

Get a Baptist and a Catholic in the same room and let them duke it out over One Baptism. Infant baptism, adult convert baptism, or both?

Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and these three are one. Surely everyone agrees? Not me, says the Oneness Pentecostal or the Apostolic.

Baptism saves. It doesn’t save. No, it’s water baptism plus speaking in tongues as evidence of Holy Ghost baptism that saves.

Communion is the Lord’s Supper, Baptists say. Other Christians say it is the Eucharist. Is it really the body of Christ (transubstantiation), is it kind of the real body of Christ (consubstantiation), or is it a memorial? Wine? Welch’s grape juice? Pepsi and Ritz crackers?

Pre-, Mid-, Pre-wrath-, Post-rapture, and tribulation.

Pre-, A-, Post-millennial reign of Christ.

Dispensationalism. Non-dispensationalism. Hyper-dispensationalism.

Calvinism.

Arminianism.

Pelagianism.

Cessationist. Non-cessationist.

The Old Testament is for today. No it’s not.

The gospels are for today. No, they’re not.

New Perspective on Paul. No, Old Perspective.

Pauline or Peterine. Or maybe James is right when he says faith without works is dead?

The Old Testament law is still for today.

No, it’s not.

Yes, it is, but only the Ten Commandants.

No, only Nine Commandments, and maybe the verses on tithing. Got to pay my bills, you know.

Only the words in red matter.

Only what Paul writes matters.

Did Paul write Hebrews?

Did Moses write the Pentateuch?

God created the universe in six literal twenty-four-hour days. No, a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. No, God created the earth with apparent age. No, God used evolution to create our biological world.

Eternal Security. No, perseverance of the saints. No, preservation of the saints.

Can a Christian lose his salvation (fall from grace)?

Can I get my lost salvation back? Yes! No! It depends!

Hell.

Annihilation.

Purgatory.

Sixty-six books in the Protestant Bible. Catholics, Mormons, and Orthodox count differently, but they aren’t Christians, so who the Heaven cares how many books are in their Bible?

So when you say:

God says . . .

The Bible (God) says . . .

God is leading me to say . . .

God is telling me to tell you . . .

Pray tell, why should we believe you?

How do we know that you have the faith once delivered to the saints?

Can you even answer the most basic of questions?

What is salvation? How is a person saved?

By grace?

By faith?

By works?

By faith, plus works?

By faith, plus works, and staying true to the end?

I can choose?

I can’t choose?

God chooses me?

I choose God?

Baptism saves?

Baptism doesn’t save?

You argue endlessly among yourselves, like toddlers fighting over a toy or Donald Trump and Mike Pence fighting over a Kentucky Fried Chicken drumstick.

The Bible SAYS!

God SAYS!

Our church SAYS!

Our confession SAYS!

Our catechism SAYS!

The Pope SAYS!

The Pastor SAYS!

There is one TRUE church and it is ours, countless denominations and churches say.

With us, and Heaven is your home. Against us, and you fry. Choose right, lest ye die and burn forever!

Your lack of unity is the indictment against you.

Your lack of a singular voice is clear to all who can see beyond the threats of Hell and promises of Heaven.

You should not then be shocked when you try to tell non-Christians God says or the Bible says and they smile and turn a deaf ear.

Oh wait, they are deaf because God made them that way.

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. (Luke 8:10)

It’s God’s fault.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

The Resurrection of Jesus From the Dead: Fact or Fiction?

resurrection of jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Several years ago, Wefo, one of my readers, asked:

What do you make of 1 Corinthians 15, which is an early Christian creed held by the majority of biblical scholars (with a few exceptions like Robert Price) to be written no more than five years after Jesus’ death and it being held as proof of a belief in the resurrection? Also what changed your mind on the resurrection?

While the majority of biblical scholars think Paul was quoting an oral tradition in 1 Corinthians 15, it is not at all clear who Paul actually received this tradition from or whether it was some sort of vision. I certainly understand the importance of the gospel creed in 1 Corinthians 15 to those who base their entire worldview on the death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, but this singular record is not enough to convince me that the claims the Bible makes for Jesus are true.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 states:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Paul says that the death and resurrection of Jesus were “according to the Scriptures.” What Scriptures is Paul referring to? There is no record of the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Old Testament, and 1 Corinthians was likely written several decades before the gospel of Mark. (Biblical scholars generally think Mark was the first written gospel, and Matthew and Luke use Mark as a source.) In Galatians 1:11-12, Paul states he received the gospel, not from any man, but by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Which is it?

In his book, How Jesus Became God, Bart Ehrman details what we can historically know about the resurrection of Jesus:

In the previous chapter I argued that there are some things, given our current evidence, that we can not know about the resurrection traditions (in addition to the big issue itself—whether God raised Jesus from the dead): we cannot know whether Jesus was given a decent burial, and we cannot know, therefore whether his tomb was discovered empty.  But what can we know?

We can know three very important things: (1) some of Jesus’s followers believed that he had been raised from the dead; (2) they believed this because some of them had visions of him after his crucifixion; and (3) this belief led them to reevaluate who Jesus was, so that the Jewish apocalyptic preacher from rural Galilee came to be considered, in some sense, God. [page 174]

While some of Jesus’ followers believed he had been raised from the dead, this doesn’t mean he actually was. Belief does not equal fact. People believe many things that are untrue. Did they believe his resurrection was bodily? Spiritual? Since Gnosticism deeply influenced the early church, perhaps Paul thought Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual. There is no way for us to know.

It’s been a long time since I looked at the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. As I read various articles and blogs, I came away thinking that there’s no possible way to know, from history, if Jesus resurrected from the dead. If a person presupposes there is a God and that the Bible is God’s revelation to humanity, then they are likely to believe that Jesus resurrected from the dead. For those of us who are not Christian, we are left with determining whether the Bible accounts of the resurrection should be considered factual.

According to the Bible, Jesus was buried in a grave belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. There is no evidence for the existence of a man named Joseph or a place called Arimathea. Since Jesus was executed as a criminal, it is unlikely he was given a proper burial.  The Godless Skeptic writes:

More interesting are the two things Dr. Ehrman says he has changed his mind on regarding what we cannot know about the resurrection. Like his colleague John Dominic Crossan, Professor Ehrman now believes that the tradition of an honorable burial of Jesus is doubtful. He makes note of the suspicious backstory of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the same Jewish council that condemned Jesus to death, absent from the early Christian creeds, and a figure who is progressively portrayed across the four gospels as more and more of a sympathizer to the Christian cause. Citing a handful of ancient examples, he observes that Roman crucifixion victims were not usually given proper burials because humiliation was an important part of the practice, intending to deter potential criminals from committing acts of rebellion against Rome. Those who were crucified were often laid in common graves or left to decay and be eaten by scavenging animals.

It is sometimes remarked that Jesus was buried by Joseph in accordance with Jewish law, since the Sabbath was close at hand. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 gives instruction in this vein, but as Dr. Ehrman points out, it’s an open question of whether or not the Romans, particularly Pilate, would have respected such a rule. Though the Pharisees and the Jewish Sanhedrin had accused Jesus of blasphemy, the charges brought against him in front of Pilate were more political – inciting crowds, forbidding payment of taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be king (Luke 23:1-3). If Jesus was executed as an insurgent, under certain circumstances perhaps he would have been left unburied. If, however, he was executed in accordance with Jewish law, it’s not so obvious where he was buried. In a chapter of the anthology The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, Peter Kirby writes that there is some evidence for a dishonorable burial tradition in passages like Mark 12:8 and Acts 13:27-29, which allude to Jesus being buried by his enemies rather than by his followers.

While I find all the back-and-forth debate over what the Bible does or doesn’t say about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead quite informative and entertaining, the reasons why I reject the resurrection of Jesus are quite simple.

First, there is no record outside of the Bible for the resurrection of Jesus. I find it astounding that no historian recorded anything about the life, execution, and resurrection of Jesus. We are left with the Bible and its accounts of the life of Jesus; accounts which contradict one another. The fact that they contradict one another is not proof that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, but the contradictions do cause me to wonder if I should put much stock in what the Bible says.

Since history is silent on many of the “historical” events and figures in the Bible, why should I accept as factual what it says about the resurrection of Jesus? For me, accepting the resurrection of Jesus from the dead ultimately requires faith, a faith I do not have.

Second, accepting the resurrection of Jesus from the dead requires believing in miracles. According to John 14:12, Jesus said

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

According to the Bible, Jesus worked many miracles, including turning water into wine, walking on water, walking through walls, healing the sick, and raising the dead. Jesus told his followers that they would do greater works than he did. Yet, everywhere we look we see a lack of the miraculous. In fact, many Christians argue that the miracles of the Bible were only for a certain time, and once the canon of Scripture was completed, there was no longer a need for the miraculous. However, this isn’t what Jesus said. He clearly stated his followers would do greater works than he did, yet we have no historical evidence that his followers were in any way super-duper miracle workers. Where can I find a modern-day miracle worker? Where I can I go to see the dead raised back to life?

Third, if there is one thing I know it is that living people die and do not come back to life. Every time I drive by a cemetery, I see the evidence for once dead, always dead. This alone is sufficient evidence for me to say that Jesus lived and died, end of story.

But, Bruce it is possible that a miracle of some sort could happen. Sure, anything is possible, but now we are talking about probabilities. Based on the evidence, is it probable that humans die and come back to life? No. Once dead, always dead. Is it more likely Jesus lived and died or Jesus lived, died, resurrected from the dead, and is currently alive sitting at the right hand of God, the Father in Heaven? The latter requires a suspension of reason and the exercise of faith. I am not willing to do this. I know what I see with my eyes and what history tells me: once someone dies they stay dead. Since, outside of the Bible, we have no record of someone dying and miraculously resurrecting from the dead, it is safe for me to say that the resurrection of Jesus is improbable.

In the last part of Romans 14:15, Paul stated, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”  After looking at the evidence, I am persuaded that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead. Whatever he may or may not have been, he was a man who lived, died, and was buried in a nondescript grave. Everything else Christians say about Jesus requires faith, a faith I do not have. When new evidence becomes available, I will look at it, but, for now, count me one who does not believe.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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When God Dies

god is dead

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

For those of us who spent a significant part of our lives in the Christian church, our eventual defection from Christianity was an important and traumatic event in our lives. People who are still devoted followers of Jesus grossly underestimate the travail people go through when they finally come to a place where they realize God is Dead.

For years we sang praises to God. We prayed and read God’s sacred Word. We devoted our time, talent, and money to the advancement of God’s kingdom.

We were not nominal believers. When the doors of the church were open, we were there. For those of us who were pastors, everything was secondary to our devotion to the work of the ministry. With great gusto we sang, “Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. We never will give in while souls are lost in sin. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.”

When we sang songs like All to Jesus I Surrender, we meant it. No part of our lives was untouched by our zeal, love, and devotion to Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

When evangelists called for people to come forward to pray, we were the first people down front on our knees before God.

We counted the cost and Jesus was worth it. We were, in every way, true-blue, on-fire, Holy Ghost-filled, sanctified slaves of Jesus.

The Bible said that we were the Bride and Jesus was the Bridegroom. We were happily married to Jesus. He was our best friend, our confidante, and lover. No one compared to Jesus. He was the sum of our existence.

And then one day, perhaps years of days, we found ourselves separated or divorced from the God we had loved and served. Irreconcilable differences were the official cause of our divorce.

The journey . . . We spent so much time talking about our destination that we spent little time discussing our journey. Now, all we seem to talk about is the journey we are on.

The journey takes us away from all that is familiar. All the trappings of our life with God become more distant as we walk, perhaps run, farther and farther away.

For many of us, we eventually reached a place where, to our utter surprise, we found out that God was dead.

Few ponder this thought without shedding tears and lamenting the loss.

Well-meaning Christians earnestly implore us to trace back our steps to that place where we lost our first love. They tell us God will not chase us, but if we will only return home our marriage can be saved and all will be forgiven.

But it is too late.

For us, the God of Christianity is dead, and like all of the many ideas shaped by human hands, this God can’t be resurrected from the dead.

We lament what we have lost, but we are hopeful about that which we have gained.

It took the death of God for us to realize that life, this life, is worth living.

We refuse to surrender one more moment of time to a God made by humans; a deaf, dumb, and blind God who only exists in the imaginations of men who can’t bear the thought of this life being all there is.

But what about the God that is not made by man?

For the atheist, such a God does not exist. All gods are human inventions.

For the agnostic, for the deist, God remains a possibility, but in practice, even this God shows little or no life.

So on we go down an uncertain, but exciting, road.

Who knows what the future may hold. With no holy book, preacher, or God to lead the way, we are left with a wide-open road littered with the potholes of uncertainty. Uncertainty may, at times, cause us to fear, but we are also excited about the possibilities uncertainty brings.

Some day, perhaps today, tomorrow, or twenty years from now, we will face the ugly, unwelcome specter of death. As the COVID-19 virus stalks the human race, death seem all too close and real for us all.

Will we go to the grave with as much certainty as a person who believes that a life of eternal bliss awaits all who love God?

Will we be tempted, as our breath grows labored, to offer a feeble prayer to the God who died?

Will our final moments be those of integrity and commitment to what we said we believed?

Will we prove in death that what we believed was good enough to live by and good enough to die by?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Vivek Ramaswamy Disingenuous About His Religion

Vivek God is Real

Guest Post by Troy

If you’ve seen parts of the first Republican Presidential debate, you likely noticed the brash young neophyte (and obnoxious) Vivek Ramaswamy. Not only is he a practicing Hindu, he’s also the highest caste in the Hindu religious system. So I found it interesting when he makes a list of “truths” (many of which are not or are nuanced to the point of not being a “truth”), the first being “God is real.” This does have a strategic value to him. He can stave off questions about his, let’s face it, alien religion and does so because his audience isn’t thinking about sacred cows and the non-person Hindu god Brahman. By doing this he can cauterize the political wound his religion will no doubt have on the evangelical base of the GOP. Americans are so unacquainted with Hinduism that at least for now he’ll likely get a free ride on his religion. There is no religious test to be President, but since he seems to be wearing his religion on his political sleeve, I think it is fair game. Ramaswamy also gets a free ride on the caste system which no doubt has been part of his success. While he is asked questions about American racism based on skin color, the media aren’t even primed to ask about the Hindu caste system that is based on societal traditions. I suppose one question that one might ask is this: Will American evangelicals tolerate a polytheistic Hindu so long as he kisses Trump’s keester? After all, Trump is not and never will be an evangelical. In addition, can Ramaswamy “hide” his Hinduism in plain site by proclaiming “God is Real dammit!”? For those of us who’d like to see less church in our state, I’m sorry to say Ramaswamy would be as bad as Trump or Pence. The best way to hide this deficit is to overcompensate–he will overtly and loudly be a cheerleader for evangelical church-state entanglements. Hopefully, it doesn’t get that far, but I’ll be interested to watch and we need to make sure the media is asking the right questions to take Ramaswamy to task.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Does the Christian God Really Care About Me or You?

where is god

One of the reasons given by atheists/agnostics for leaving Christianity is the belief that the Christian God doesn’t give a shit about those who devote their lives to following Jesus Christ. No matter how much time is expended in worship and service, God never says, thanks, good job, or I have your back. Why should he? According to Evangelical theology, Jesus, the sinless son of God, came to earth to atone for humankind’s sin. He suffered horrific brutality at the hands of the Romans. He was then, like a common thief, nailed to a cross. According to the Bible, Jesus was beaten to such a degree that it was hard to tell that he was a man. After hours of suffering, Jesus died. All of this was on behalf of sinners (or the elect, if you are a Calvinist). Knowing all that Jesus suffered, Christians should be satisfied with knowing their sins are forgiven and a home in Heaven awaits them when they die. The least Christians can do is, in slave-like manner, devote themselves, without bitching and complaining, to the Kingdom of God on Earth. In other words, shut up, stop complaining, and be thankful for what Jesus has given you. Just remember, God owes you nothing.

Dieudonne Tamfu wrote a post titled Suffering is Our Story for The Desiring God website. In his opening paragraphs, Tamfu writes:

Suffering tends to produce loneliness. We feel lonely, isolated, sealed off, and detached from others. It is common for us to believe that no one understands our pain.

We can be deceived into thinking that God is distant and uncaring. While I do not wish to invalidate these emotions, I do want to extinguish the lie that the sufferer is ever alone. We are never alone in suffering because in it we join other saints in the pattern of righteous suffering that has been going on from the inception of salvation history.

Are you or other believers around you facing rejection for your faith? Do you feel lonely in your suffering? Does it seem that God is distant and has detached himself from your pain? Do you feel disappointment, bewilderment, or dismay? Are you sitting in darkness, searching for answers and grasping for hope?

Tamfu readily admits that there are times when God seems distant (Greek for trillions of lightyears away). There are those times when God seems uncaring, content to leave Christians sitting alone in the dark, weeping uncontrollably. The good news, according to Tamfu, is that there are other Christians facing similar circumstances. Yea! You aren’t the only follower of Jesus who is writhing in pain as cancer robs you of your life!  Are you suffering? Are you alone? Do you feel abandoned? Do you feel like an orphan without a coat, left in a back alley to die on a cold winter’s night? Good news! There are millions of Christians going through similar circumstances. God has abandoned them just as he has abandoned you!

When Christians go through dark trials and adversity, those who are not currently being ignored by God are called on to cheer up those who find themselves under the bootheel of God. They are encouraged to take matters to the Lord in prayer. Seek and trust the Lord, Evangelical preachers tell the downtrodden. What is it that God is trying to accomplish in your life? Remember, no matter what happens, God means it for your good. He promises to never, ever leave or forsake you. 

Those under physical, emotional, or economic assault are urged to submit to the “loving” hand of God. Perhaps God is teaching you a lesson, Evangelical preachers tell the afflicted. Or maybe he is testing you or punishing you for disobedience. Regardless, God only wants what is best for Christians. His goal is to make them more like Jesus — a homeless single guy — and to prepare them for the peace and bliss that awaits on the other side of the grace. If God made life easy for Christians, preachers say, they would never appreciate Heaven and all that Jesus did for them on the cross.

Yet, despite all the flowery platitudes and blame-shifting, some Christians come to the conclusion that the reason God seems so distant is because he doesn’t exist. When help came in times of suffering, it was always their fellow humans who helped them. When prayers went unanswered, phone calls were always picked up. When bank accounts were empty and the cupboards were bare, it was family and friends who lent a helping hand. As these former Christians survey their lives, they conclude that wherever God might be, he is not on earth. At best, he is a deadbeat father who cares not for those who love and adore him. At worst, he is a cruel hoax, little more than an unfulfilled promise.

The reasons I left the Christian faith are many, but one of them is that I came to the conclusion that God is not intimately involved in the lives of those who devotedly serve and worship him, despite his promises. Over the course of fifty years as an Evangelical, I had many so-called God experiences. After I deconverted, I went back through my life and gave a reckoning of the times I thought God was blessing me, answering my prayer, or meeting my needs. A careful accounting of these events led me to conclude that the only God(s) in my life had flesh and blood bodies. Human instrumentation, and not the mighty wonder-working power of God, was the reason my prayers were answered and my needs were met.

While there were certainly a handful of unexplained events, these moments in time were not enough to lead me to the conclusion that God is who and what Christians claim he is. While coming to this judgment is certainly not sufficient evidence to deny the existence of God, it is enough for me to conclude that the notion of a loving, caring, hands-on God who is intimately and minutely involved in the lives of those who worship Jesus is a myth.

I am unwilling to swear allegiance to a God who cares no more for me than my cat does. My cat demands constant attention, no matter what may be going on in my life. Yet, if I found myself crying out for help, I know for certain that my cat would waddle up to my leg, rub up against it, and with a voice I have heard countless times before, would say, feed me. This is how I view the Christian God.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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I ‘Heart’ You, Says God

i heart you god

As Polly and I were traveling to Lake Erie and the Marblehead Lighthouse, we came upon the billboard pictured above. For Christians, the message is perfectly clear: Jesus or the Christian God loves them. However, for the unbeliever or the skeptic, the message is not so clear.

First, which God? Christians presuppose that their God is the one, true, and living God. All other gods are false deities. Since I don’t start my rational inquiry with the notion that the Christian God left this message for me or anyone else traveling by, I ask again, which God? This is the same argument I use when Christians try to argue that the wonders of the natural world testify to the existence of God. Fine, I say, so WHICH God? It is not evident from creation that the Christian God or any other God created everything. To come to the conclusion that the Christian God created everything as we now see it requires accepting as true what is written in Genesis 1-3, a belief that runs contrary to everything science tells us about the universe.

Second, the I ‘HEART” U message is not at all clear. Most people assume that the message means I love you. However, according to the Urban Dictionary, this phrase has several different meanings:

  • Words uttered by a person not ready to say I love you
  • Words not as serious as I love you
  • I have feelings for you
  • I love you

This undefined God, does he really love me, or does he just have feelings for me? Perhaps he is not ready to make a commitment to me. There is nothing in the message that would lead me to conclude that this God loves or has feelings for me. This is how I view the Bible, just ink on paper. There is nothing in the Bible that would lead me to conclude that the Christian God loves me.

You see, love is not measured by words on a printed billboard or page. Just because an undefined God’s name is attached to a nonspecific phrase like I ‘HEART’ U doesn’t mean that any specific God loves me. Polly and I will celebrate forty-five years of marriage next week. We’ve written a lot of letters to each other over the years, yet both of us would agree that love is shown, not in what a person says or writes on paper, but by what he or she does. In other words, when it comes it love, don’t tell me, show me.

We have an ancient book, the Bible, that tells us the Jewish/Christian God at one time, in the person of Jesus, walked among us, yet no one has drawn a picture or snapped a photograph of this God. All we have to go on are ancient writings by unknown authors. If knowing this I ‘HEART’ U God is so important, don’t you think he would make an appearance now and then and let us know that he is alive and kicking? Jesus could settle things right now for everyone by coming back to earth and working a few miracles. Allow the press to report the miracles, allow photographers to shoot the Son of Man doing his miracle show, and perhaps let National Geographic do a feature spread on the mighty works of the Lord. Better yet, Jesus could make an appearance on America’s Got Talent and give a miraculous performance — say raising someone from the dead or regrowing an amputated leg. Billions would fall on their knees and worship Jesus if this happened.

Instead, Jesus spends all his time building rooms in the heavenly Trump Hotel for his chosen ones. According to the Bible, when Jesus ascended back to Heaven, he left a spirit form of himself behind, the Holy Spirit/Ghost. Supposedly, this Spirit/Ghost lives inside every Christian, teaching them everything that pertains to life and godliness. Of course, there is no evidence given for this claim other than what is printed on the pages of the Bible.

If I believe what is written in the Bible about the nature and good works of the followers of Jesus, I can safely conclude that no one is a Christian. If the new life of the born-again Christian is supposed to be radically different from the life of the non-Christian, where can I find these radically different Christians? If the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, where are the Christians who evidence such fruit?

The proof of any religion is the product it produces. An apple tree might look nice with all its green foliage, but unless it blossoms and produces fruit it has no value. So it is with Christianity, especially here in the United States. It looks nice with all its ornate, expensive buildings and well-dressed clergy, but a Christianity that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus is nowhere to be found. Why is this? 2,000 years removed from Jesus, Christianity has been reduced to a generic, nondescript, cheesy slogan on a billboard. Is this all Christianity has to offer the world after twenty-one centuries?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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What Evangelicals Mean When They Use the Word “God”

god

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

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

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

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

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

….

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Is God Impartial?

open arms of Jesus

Church of Christ preacher Al Shannon believes that the Christian God is impartial. Quoting Acts 10:34 and Romans 2:11, Shannon states:

Our God is impartial. “For there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom.2:11); “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). Since all men are his creation, he must make no difference in them.

Shannon goes on to give seven examples of God’s impartiality:

  • He has declared all under sin.
  • God has provided a common Savior and gospel for all.
  • God extends the same invitation [of salvation] to all men.
  • God requires the same conditions of pardon be met by all men if they are to be saved.
  • God has given one standard [the Bible] to be followed.
  • God has provided one church [Church of Christ] for all.
  • God will judge all as individuals and upon their own life.

Is Shannon right? Does the Christian God act impartially towards people, giving everyone the same opportunities to believe in and worship the right God? Is God really an equal opportunity deity, dispensing to one and all the wonders of his grace?

Calvinists, of course, would reject Shannon’s proofs out of hand. In the Calvinistic scheme of things, the Christian God, through a divine lottery, predestined certain people to be saved. These “winners” — also known as the elect — are the only people who will be saved. Before the first humans were created, God, through a process known only to him, chose to save certain people. Over the thousands of years humans have lived on planet Earth, this God has been regenerating (giving spiritual life) only the people on his will call list. These lucky winners will, at some point in their lives, be given eyes to see and ears to hear the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and upon hearing it they will — without fail — repent and call on Jesus to save them from their sins. And if they are truly saved, these elect people will persevere in faith until they die. Failing to persevere to the end means that those who failed were not truly elect. (See Can Anyone Really Know They Are Saved?)

For Calvinists, then, God is quite discriminating. God only chooses to save some people. Thus, when Jesus died on the cross for human sin, his atonement was only on behalf of the elect. No true Calvinist will ever say that Jesus died for everyone. There are “Calvinists” who adopt Amyraldianism, believing that Jesus’ atonement was “sufficient” to save everyone, but only “efficient” for the elect. Realizing that particular redemption/limited atonement makes God look bad, these four-point Calvinists attempt to put a better face on their deity’s partiality towards a very small portion of the human race — past, present, and future. Regardless of how the atonement is viewed, ALL Calvinists believe that only a certain number of people will be saved. All others need not apply.

Shannon, of course, is not a Calvinist. In fact, as most Church of Christ preachers do, Shannon considers Calvinism to be heretical — a cult. (Calvinists return the favor, saying that the Churches of Christ are a cult that preaches works salvation.)  According to Shannon, every person who has ever been born has an equal opportunity to be saved. Shannon’s God makes an indiscriminate offer to all: repent, be baptized, persevere in good works, and you shall be saved.

While there are certainly Bible verses that suggest that God is impartial, there are other verses that suggest otherwise. As I mentioned above, Calvinists can make a strong case for the notion that God’s love, grace, and salvation is discriminating, and reserved only for those upon whom God has chosen to bestow his favor. Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike spend significant amounts of time and energy challenging each other’s Biblical interpretations — proving that the Bible can be used to prop up virtually any system of belief.

We don’t have to get into the theological minutia of this internecine war to conclude that Shannon’s claim — God is impartial — is false. In fact, the Old Testament provides overwhelming proof of the partiality of God. For those of us raised in Sunday School, we heard numerous stories and lessons about God choosing Abraham and his seed to be his chosen people. Abraham’s seed was later renamed Israel (the Jews). According to Deuteronomy 7:6-8:

For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

A special people. So much for the impartiality of God. Showing that he indeed had a favorite, God commanded the Israelites to commit genocide, killing countless non-Jewish men, women, children, and unborn fetuses. So much for God being pro-life! God wanted ethnic and theological purity, going to great lengths to ensure that the only people left living were his “special” people.

In Genesis 6 through 9, the Bible records the mythical story of Noah and his gopher wood and pitch floating zoo. It is likely that millions of people lived on the face of the earth at the time God opened the windows of heaven and flooded the earth, killing everyone save Noah, his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law. Out of millions of people, God only found eight people he was willing to save. So much for the impartiality of God. Imagine the poor sinners living on the island of what is now called Japan. One day it started raining and in a matter of days everyone on the island died. On judgment day, these people, having never heard of the Jewish/Christian God will stand before Jehovah and be judged for their “sins.” I can only imagine their confusion. Born at the wrong time, in the wrong place, these resurrected drowning victims will be told that they should have known what they could not possibly know: that there is one true God and Jesus is his name. Off to Hell they go without ever clearly understanding why. Perhaps a Calvinist will pipe up on that day and say, Ha! You weren’t chosen by God! Burn motherfuckers, burn! Oh, sorry, Lord about saying motherfucker. I forgot about that “thing” with you and Mary.

Even in the New Testament, we see a Jesus who had no interest in anyone save his chosen people — the Jews. It was not until the writing of the Apostle Paul that we hear of non-Jews being saved and made a part of God’s family. Jesus’ disciples, all of whom were circumcised Israelites, spent their time preaching the gospel to only the Jews. Deeply versed in the teaching of the Old Testament, the Apostles knew that the Jews were God’s chosen people. While Christianity (Paul’s version) certainly spread to the outposts of the Roman Empire, it is clear that Jews were the intended target. In Romans 11, Paul reminds Gentiles that the Jews were God’s original chosen people. Gentiles were, according to Paul, grafted into the Jewish branch. Gentiles should feel lucky that God became upset over Israel’s unbelief and decided to let them in on salvation and eternal life. In other words, God is similar to a jilted lover. Spurned by his one true love, he seeks out and marries another person.

Most of the people who have and yet will grace the pages of human history will die in their sins without ever knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Born at the wrong place and time, these “sinners” will worship the God of their culture, thinking that their devotion will be enough to grant them favor with God and an eventual home in Heaven. Most of these people will never “hear” about Jesus or the “right” Christian gospel. (See Is There Only One Plan of Salvation?Does the Bible Contain Multiple Plans of Salvation?One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style, and Church of Christ Preacher Al Shannon Says There are Only 2 Million Christians in the Whole World). They will die in ignorance, yet Al Shannon’s God and the God of millions of Christians will eternally torture billions of people in the flames of Hell for things over which they had no control. For the people God saved, all they can say is lucky me, it sucks to be you. Those who are saved will owe all praise, glory, and honor to Jesus.

Every Christian sect believes that God alone saves. Those who find themselves on the winning side of the ledger will have no reason to boast. It is God, through the merit and work of Jesus, who saves sinners. This is, contrary to Shannon’s assertions, the perfect example of partiality and discrimination. It is also one of the reasons many people reject Christianity and its God. These unbelievers see God as a capricious deity, a divine bully who is running some sort of cosmic scam — one in which he allows billions of people to think they are on the right path to salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life, only to find out that God was just playing with them. Similar to a cat catching a mouse in his mouth and letting it go, only so he can catch it again, the Christian God toys with the human race, knowing that just as sure as the cat eventually will kill the mouse, he will sentence the vast majority of people to a life worse than death — eternal torture in the flames of the Lake of Fire.

As with the idea that God loves everyone unconditionally (see Does God Love Us Unconditionally?), the idea that God is impartial sounds good to those who value fairness and justice; actually reading the Bible proves otherwise.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Bruce Gerencser