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Tag: God's Providence

Luck, Fate, or Providence?

god is in control

As an Evangelical Christian, I believed that God was the sovereign ruler of the universe. I believed God held my life in the palms of his hands. I believed God controlled every aspect of my life, and that life and death were determined by God alone. I believed I wouldn’t die one moment before it was my time to go; that God penciled a death date next to the name of every person ever born. I believed that God had a purpose and plan for my life. I thought this way for almost 50 years.

I have faced numerous circumstances where I could have easily been killed. Accidents, stupid mistakes, exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals, bad decisions by myself or others, serious sickness, and being at the wrong place at the wrong time . . . I could have and should have died long before today.

But here I am, and until 2008, I gave the Christian God all the credit for my continued existence. God wasn’t finished with me, I told myself, wiping my brow after surviving yet another near brush with death. As disease and pain continued to ravage my body, I lived with the calm assurance that God still had plans for me. In some ways, this is a great way to live. No worries . . . God’s on the job and nothing will happen unless God wills it.  The Apostle Paul had the same view:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

I willingly subjected myself to a life of poverty because I thought if God wanted me to have more money or a better house and car, he would give them to me. When I began to have health problems in the early 1990s, I saw them as a test from God. God wanted to make me more holy or stronger. God wanted to root out the deep and secret sins that no one but him could see. And no matter how painful the process was, I knew that God loved me and was in charge of everything.

God’s providence: the belief that God knows what’s best for us and doesn’t give us more than we can bear, is actually fatalism. While Christians convince themselves that they are free moral agents, their belief system says differently. Proverbs 16:9 states:

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

Proverbs 20:24 states:

Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?

Consider these verses:

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:3

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20

That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Isaiah 40:23

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6

O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. II Chronicles 20:6

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. I Chronicles 29:11-12

I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Job 42:2

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Isaiah 46:9-10

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?  Romans 9:21

Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Lamentations 3:37

Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. Psalm 135:6

But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. Job 23:13

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

For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? Isaiah 14:27

The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: Isaiah 14:24

These verses are but a small sampling of the Bible verses that declare that God is the boss. He is in control of everything. Of course, this opens up a huge problem for Christians. If God is in control of everything, if nothing happens that God does not decree, purpose, and plan, what about sin and evil? At this point, most Christians run from their beliefs, denying that God has anything to do with evil and sin. However, the Bible says:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45:7

That’s right, the Bible says God creates evil. No matter how Christians might object, if they believe in a God who is in control, then they must also believe that he is culpable for evil and sin. Dance any theological or philosophical jig one might, there is no escaping God being the creator of evil. But, but, but . . . no buts. Either God is the CEO of the universe or he’s not. Either he is the first cause, the beginning, and the end, or he is not. Either he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, or he is not.

Believing this way had a profound effect on my life. Instead of realizing that much of what happens in a person’s life is due to good or bad luck, I saw God behind every action, event, and circumstance. Like King David, I said:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. Psalm 139:11-12

God was omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. For those not schooled in the omnis, God was all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere.

In 2008, God lost control of my life as I began to reclaim it along with the personal responsibility that came with it. No more trusting God’s providence or letting go and letting God. No more puppet strings or “trusting” God to work out everything in my life according to his purpose and plan. As I began to reorient my life according to fact and reason, I was forced to reinvestigate past claims of miracles, moments when God reached down and supernaturally kept me from harm or death. I concluded that every God sighting in my life but one could be explained through natural means. All the supposed answered prayers were really Bruce or some other Christian answering the prayer.

None of us knows how our life will be beyond the next breath. For all I know, this could be the last blog post I write. The Bible is right when it says:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

No one knows what tomorrow will be like. We can plan for the future, but we have no promise that things will work out for us. Life is a crapshoot. Live to your 60s and you will realize you are lucky to have made it to old age. The best any of us can do is make responsible decisions based on reason and probabilities and hope things work out for us.

Several years ago, Polly and I took a road trip to Ottoville, Fort Jennings, and Delphos. Like most of our trips, I took my camera equipment with me. As we were wandering around Delphos, we stumbled upon a lock from the era of the Miami and Erie canal. Getting down to the lock was a bit treacherous for me. I wanted to get as close as possible, so I gingerly walked down the concrete abutment to the lock. I didn’t fall, slip, or trip. Lucky me, I thought.

After ten minutes or so, I was ready to return to the car. I had two paths I could take. I could retrace my steps or make a big step and little jump to ground level, Polly said she would give me a hand, so I chose the latter. Polly reached down, took my hand, and began to help me up. And then, our world went crazy. Polly couldn’t pull me up completely, and I violently fell forward, knocking both of us to the ground. If my weight had been balanced slightly the other way, I would have no doubt gone careening down the concrete abutment into the canal. The fall would have likely killed me.

The good news? My cameras escaped damage, though one body had a slight scrape. The hood on the lens kept it from being smashed. Polly ended up with bruised knees and I suffered a twisted ankle and hip and a nasty, bloody contusion on my left leg. 

I know I was lucky. I should have retraced my steps. This was the safe and prudent choice. However, Polly was standing right there and she said she would help. Why not, right? She helps me out of the recliner and car all the time. What neither of us counted on was how difficult it was to pull up a 350-pound man. When Polly pulls me out of the car or the recliner, I help her. This time? I was a dead weight and I almost literally became so.

Lesson learned.

Several years ago, as we were eating lunch, our daughter with Down Syndrome began choking. Due to her disability, she has a thick tongue and can easily choke. This day was different. For the first time, she couldn’t clear her throat. Polly administered the Heimlich maneuver three times before the food was dislodged. I was one second away from calling 911.

This scary circumstance reminded us that we need to pay careful attention to how our daughter eats her food. I talked to her about chewing her food, taking small bites, and not eating hurriedly. She was scared, we were scared, but we all lived to face another day. Our daughter could just as easily have died on our living room floor. Living in the rural area we do, we know that sometimes it is impossible to get quick emergency help. We were lucky, and we know it.

Every brush with death should cause us to reflect on why it happened. Were we culpable? Could we have made a better or different decision? Sometimes, shit happens.

Living is a dangerous proposition. Smart is the person who understands this and acts accordingly. Thinking that God has the whole world in his hands only leads to delusion and discouragement. God isn’t coming to save the day. In 2015, a German airline pilot flew a plane into the ground, killing everyone on board. I am sure, mixed in with the screams, were pleas to God to stop the plane from hitting the ground. Prayer lost out to physics and everyone died.

How about you? How do you live your life? How do you determine risk? Have you ever escaped death after making a decision that should have ended your life? If you once believed in the sovereignty of God, how does a world without a God affect your decision-making process? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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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Dear Patrick Mahomes, No, God Didn’t Challenge Your Team to Make It Better

patrick mahomes

Yesterday, the Kansas City Chiefs played the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Led by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City won the game in overtime. Afterward, Mahomes said:

It (winning the game) means a ton. Just the adversity we dealt with this year and to come through. The guys never faltered. I give God the glory. He challenged us to make us better. I am proud of my guys. They did awesome. Legendary.

After beating the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, Mahomes stated:

God put a lot of adversity in our way this year.

Before last year’s Super Bowl, Mahomes was asked about his faith. Here’s what he had to say:

My Christian faith plays a role in everything that I do. I mean, I always ask God to lead me in the right direction and let me be who I am for His name.

I have no doubt that Mahomes is a sincere Christian; that he really believes that the Christian God (Jesus) is the power behind his winning ways. Such beliefs are common among professional athletes. However, if the Chiefs were 3-14 this year, would Mahomes say the same thing? If Mahomes had torn his ACL or Achilles tendon and was sidelined for a year, would he still praise God for his perfect ways? It seems that God only gets all the praise, honor, and glory when teams and players win. In defeat, blame is laid at the feet of players, coaches, team owners, or groundskeepers. God never gets praise, honor, and glory for defeats. Why is that?

touchdown for jesus

If God was behind the Chiefs’ win, doesn’t it necessarily follow that he was also behind the 49ers’ defeat?

Think about all the violence, suffering, and death in the world. Think about the carnage in Ukraine, Gaza, Yemen, Syria, and other countries roiled with military conflict. Think about global warming, dramatic species decline, and other existential threats. So many things Jesus could do something about, yet he does nothing. He hides himself from his prized creation — the human race — only to appear when Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs need to score and win a game. He is the God of the trivial, the insignificant. What an awesome, God, right?

Teams win games because of athletic prowess, roster construction, competent coaching, and luck — lots of the ball bouncing in the right direction at the right moment. Mahomes is certainly free to praise God for his superior physical skills and the coaching expertise of Andy Reid and his staff, but I hope he will forgive me when I roll my eyes and laugh when he does. Does anyone really believe Patrick Mahomes wouldn’t be a future Hall of Fame quarterback without his faith? Of course not.

I give credit to whom credit is due. God was nowhere to be found on Sunday. All I saw was grown-ass men beating the shit out of each other, hoping to win — in the grander scheme of things — a meaningless game, a fancy trophy, a sparkling ring, and their name written in football history. I love sports, but I haven’t lost sight of the fact that when measured according to the pressing, dire issues faced by all living things, sporting events are little more than brief distractions as we trudge along the road of life.

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 God Care About Us?

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Guest Post by John

Depending on what religion you come from, and what flavor within that religion, this question can be confusing to answer. Each religion believes that God has a favorite group of people and most of the time, the followers of that religion happen to be in his favorite group. What a coincidence!

As far as the Christian God goes, there are many verses throughout the Bible that talk about God’s mercy, favor, protection, intervention, kindness, etc. But there are other verses that talk about His jealousy, wrath, sorrow, anger, etc. Like the time where He killed 99.9% of all humans and animals on the planet because He didn’t like the way the humans He made turned out. Or all the times He told the Israelites to kill whole groups of people because they didn’t believe in the right God. And there was that time where He killed all the firstborn sons in Egypt to soften the heart of Pharaoh, after He hardened his heart to start with.

I hear Christians talk about how God helped them find their lost keys, or get a good parking spot at the store. They (and I used to do the same!) talk about how God kept them or loved ones out of accidents, healed them of some illness (always curable), helped them get a raise at work, and other wonderful things. But at the same time, 25,000 people around the world die every day from hunger or hunger-related issues. Just a day ago, earthquakes in Turkey and Syria killed more than 20,000 people. Recently, a pastor and his staff were flying from Memphis to Texas and the plane crashed, killing the staff. Since April 1999, there have been 23 fatal Christian church shootings. I hear people all the time saying that issues in schools are because we “removed God” from our schools. Ok, what about all these church shootings? It reminds me of George Carlin’s talk about religion being bullshit. Here is a small segment from that routine: “So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he’s at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn’t give a shit. Doesn’t give a shit, which I admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results.”

Video Link

I’ve had a few instances where I narrowly escaped what probably would have been a bad event: a car accident that didn’t happen, a tornado that missed my house, a tree branch that fell and missed my car by inches. And in the past, I attributed these things to God watching out for me. But what about the countless Christians or Muslims or Hindus or whatever faith who weren’t so fortunate? Are they depending on the wrong God? Did they have a lapse in faith that took away the protection or favor of their God? Is their God testing them? Or, maybe their God doesn’t exist. Maybe no God exists? If there is a “God,” I tend to believe that it’s the type of God that Alan Watts and many others describe as, everything is a manifestation of God. This link explains it a bit: https://iawia.net/observations/god-playing-hide-and-seek/

But in my day-to-day life, I no longer believe that there is a God who cares about us. There is just too much evidence to the contrary. And people who try to explain away the mountains of evidence to the contrary have to go through so many mental gymnastics that it just gets silly. Good things happen. Bad things happen; often in seemingly unfair ways, and sometimes in what we would think of as fair ways. Karma; reaping what you sow — however you want to label it. Life happens. If we believe there is some sort of divine being who should be looking out for us and caring for us and doing things for us that we judge as good, life gets very confusing. I think if we can accept life as it is, the good and the bad, it takes a lot of the confusion, anger, and frustration out of life; not all of it, but a lot of it.

To clear up something that people might question, just because I no longer believe that there is a God who cares about us doesn’t mean I have a negative outlook on life. I actually have a better outlook on life now than I had when I was an Evangelical Christian. I like who I am and where I am in my beliefs about the world. I wasn’t able to say that as a Christian, for various reasons. It’s really nice and liberating to like who I am and who I am becoming.

I hope you and yours are doing as well as can be. Peace.

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 This the Best the Evangelical God Could Do?

Last Friday, the building where Balsora Baptist Church in Bridgeport, Texas meets burned to the ground, save for the cross pictured above.

When asked to explain the charred cross, Lanita Smith, the wife of the church’s pastor, had this to say:

It showed us that God is there, God is there and he’s going to get us through. [The cross was] used for the members to put their prayer request on. They would, we would write their prayer request on the tags, and they would hang them on the cross. And so we were able to see what different prayer requests we had.

It’s sad, but it’s a happy time that we’re going to, we’re going to get through this and we know God’s in it. We’re just, we’re just going to be anxious to see what God has planned for us.

God is there? God is going to get us through? God’s in it? God has a plan for us? I genuinely feel sorry for the church. They lost an asset that was very important to them. I’m sure they are heartbroken over their loss. Yet, the atheist in me can’t help but question the Heavenly Arsonist’s plan for Balsora Baptist Church. Why burn the church to the ground, leaving only a charred wooden cross? What lesson could the church possibly learn from this, outside of how to file insurance claims? If anything, this story shows how powerless God is when tragedy and adversity strike. God stood helplessly by while the church went up in smoke. Even the cross left in the debris was not his handiwork. The church will pray ceaselessly to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but it will be real flesh and blood humans and insurance that will help Balsora Baptist rise from the ashes. God? He will be busy helping the grannies over at First Methodist find their car keys.

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.

Bruce Gerencser