Tag Archive: God’s Will

With God, All Things Are Possible

ohio motto

The state motto for Ohio is “With God, All Things Are Possible.” Is this theological statement really true? First, “God” in this statement is not just any old deity, it’s the Christian God. And as far as Evangelicals are concerned, this God is theirs alone. Evangelical orthodoxy states that Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, liberal Christians, and other sects deemed heretical worship false Gods. For Evangelicals, the God of all things possible is the God of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible. It is through the Bible (and conscience and nature) that God reveals himself to us, thus God is who and what the Bible says it is.

Second, are ALL things really possible with God? 1 John 5:14, 15 says:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

This passage says that only those prayers that line up with God’s will shall be answered by God. This is what I call God’s “divine escape clause.” Countless other verses, however, explicitly say and or imply that whatever Christians ask of God, he will grant it to them. John 14:13, 14 says:

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 15:16 adds:

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

And finally, John 16 22-24 says:

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

These statements are in RED in the Bible, so that means Christians believe Jesus said these things. Another RED passage on the subject is found in Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him.

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist John R. Rice, wrote a book titled Prayer: Asking and Receiving. Rice believed in a formulaic approach to prayer: ASK and RECEIVE. Based on the aforementioned quotes from the gospels, Jesus believed the same. Evidently, by the time we get to the writer of 1 John, things had changed a bit. Instead of prayer being simply asking and receiving, answered prayer was contingent on praying according to the “will of God”; a will, by the way, that no mere mortal knows. The LORD says in Isaiah 55:8,9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Thus, when we see how this whole praying thing works out in real life, suggesting that “all things are NOT possible with God,” Evangelicals will appeal to God’s escape clause to defend his callous indifference to the plight of his Creation. God, then, is never accountable or responsible when Christian prayers go unanswered. “You didn’t ask according to my will,” God says. When the sincere believer asks, “Jesus, what is your will?” the King of Kings replies, “Oh I can’t tell you. That’s just between me and Dad. Besides, even if I told you, you wouldn’t understand. Me and Dad, our thoughts and ways are higher than yours and beyond human understanding.” Christians, then, are either left with choosing to believe what they can see and know or turning off their intellect and critical thinking skills and believing as Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Most Christians, sadly, choose the latter. When occasional lapses of faith or doubt force them to face the irrational nature of prayer, they are reminded of Paul’s words about doubting God:

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:19-21)

In other words, shut the fuck up. God is the sovereign ruler over ALL, and he does whatever he wants to do. End of discussion.

Christians who trust what they can see and know instead of Bible proof texts and unsupportable faith claims, are left with a conundrum of epic proportions: God rarely, if ever, answers their prayers, and there is no evidence for the theological claim, With God, All Things Are Possible. Countless Christians in the Middle East pray daily for God’s protection — surely a prayer the Big Man Upstairs would want to answer, right? Yet, these followers of Jesus continue to be slaughtered by Muslim jihadists or killed by the actions of the American war machine. In Africa, countless Christians earnestly pray:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)

And yet, they continue to have their daily food and water needs unmet.  While they are starving to death, God, evidently, is too busy directing an American Christian to the location of her keys or working any of the innumerable “miracles” Western Christians say he does every time they dial his number, to stop and feed the hungry. Does God’s behavior not contradict what the Psalmist said in Psalm 37:5, 6?

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.

Everywhere we look we see the followers of Jesus and unbelievers alike forsaken and begging for food. Where is this God of mercy, this God of love and compassion? From my seat in the atheist pew, he is nowhere to be found. Which stands to reason, since the Christian God exists only within the pages of the Bible. God is the main character in a work of fiction.

The reason Christianity still exists in the twenty-first century is that Christians either choose faith over fact or they choose to live with cognitive dissonance. The latter know the evidence points to the nonexistence of the Christian God — any God, for that matter — yet they believe anyway. Why? Most often, such people want to believe that there is more to life than the present; that there is life after death. They are willing to live with cognitive dissonance because doing so meets some sort of psychological need or gives them answers to the “big” questions concerning human existence. They see little to no evidence for the claim, With God, All Things Are Possible, yet they believe anyway. Certainly, they are free to do so, but I hope thinking Christians realize that praying and waiting for God to come through on matters such as climate change, war, nuclear proliferation, and the like is a recipe for disaster and will likely lead to the end of life as we know it. Waiting on the God with the unknowable will to work his magic condemns our planet and its inhabitants to death. We mustn’t wait around to see what is possible with God. Instead, we should work furiously to see what is possible though human will, effort, and ingenuity. It is through the humanistic ideal, not faith and theological prescriptions, that the problems now vexing us will be solved. Perhaps it is time for Ohio to change its motto to With Science and Human Ingenuity, All Things Are Possible.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Not My Will, But Yours, Evangelicals Say to Their God

free will

Evangelicals, regardless of their peculiar theological beliefs, all believe that the Christian God is the one true God, and that he, as the creator of all things, is the giver of life, and is sovereign and in control of all things. While some theologically ignorant Evangelicals will argue that humans have unrestricted free will and are thus totally responsible for their own actions, a careful reading of the Bible makes it clear that God rules and reigns over all, and there is nothing that happens apart from his will. Calvinists and Arminians love argue about free will and whether once a person is saved he can ever fall from grace, but both agree that God determines who is saved and what happens in our lives. It is God, through the merit and work of Jesus Christ, who saves sinners from their sins. No one can save themselves. Evangelicals deny that there is anything such as luck or circumstance. Things happen because God wants them to happen, and no amount of work or objection can change God’s plan. From the election of political leaders to the very air we breathe, God is in control.

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus commands his followers to pray in this manner:

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Christians are to pray for God’s will to be done in earth as it is in heaven. Jesus illustrated this command in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed:

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)

O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. (Matthew 26:42)

Those of us raised in Evangelical churches have heard people say countless times, not my will, Lord, but yours be done. Such utterances are statements of faith rooted in the belief that God has a perfect plan for everyone’s life; and Christians are duty-bound to fully and passively submit to this plan. God’s machinations are never to be questioned or doubted. The apostle Paul in Romans 9 told those who would dare to question God choosing to only save certain people (the elect):

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

Simply put, Paul is saying the critics of God’s purpose and plan should shut the fuck up; that God is the creator of all things and he has the absolute right to do whatever he wants.

Throughout the New Testament, Paul reminds Christians of the importance of dying to self; of crucifying the flesh; of giving oneself totally, completely, and without reservation to God. Christians are commanded to give themselves as living sacrifices to God. In the Old Testament, God’s people are reminded that Jehovah’s thoughts are not their thoughts and his ways are not their ways. In other words, Christians might think that a certain action is right, when in fact it is not; that God has a higher purpose, plan, and agenda that cannot be understood by mere humans. Instead of trying to understand why this or that is happening in their lives, followers of Jesus are commanded to blindly believe that their God is working out everything in their lives according to his purpose or plan. No matter what happens, believers are told, God only wants what’s best for you. A church not far from my home has emblazoned on his building the words, God is good all the time. For these believers, God’s actions must never be questioned. Romans 8:28 says: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

How do Evangelicals know what the will of God is? Generally, the sources for determining God’s will are thus:

  • The Bible
  • The leadership of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of every believer
  • The counsel of mature followers of Jesus
  • The alignment of circumstances that are such that there is no doubt that God is behind what is happening

I was a part of the Christian church for fifty years, and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. I know a good bit about submitting oneself to the will of God, and I watched countless Evangelicals suss out God’s will for their lives. I found that in almost every circumstance, God’s will coincided with what people wanted to do. Christians love to gussy up their decisions with spiritual sounding statements such as; yielding to Christ, following in his footsteps, etc., but no matter how the picture is painted, one fact remains: God’s will and human desire are one and the same. As a pastor, I made numerous decisions that I believed were the result of God’s leadership. I stood before church congregations and told them that I believed this or that — buying property, starting a new program, stopping an old program, buying a copier, purchasing a bus, starting the school, to name a few — was the will of God. How did I know that these things were the will of God? Because it seemed the right thing to do at the time; or it was something that I wanted to do.

I wish Evangelicals would be honest about their decision-making process. It’s evident to anyone who is paying attention that Evangelicals make decisions just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world do. Whatever the factors might be that affect and influence our decisions, the fact remains that we do what we want to do. Think of this post as a sermon. Thousands of Evangelical pastors will stand behind pulpits on Sunday and preach what they believe God has laid upon their hearts. Some of them might even tell parishioners that they wanted to preach a different sermon, but God commanded them to preach this sermon. These preachers will lead congregants to believe that their sermons come from God, and that they are preaching their sermons because God’s will demands it. Thus, any objections to what these preachers are saying are viewed as challenges to God’s will. All of us have had social media experiences with Bible thumpers who dump a bunch of Bible verses on our wall. When we object to their proof texting, they respond, your problem is with God, not me. God said it, I didn’t. As an atheist, I delivered this sermon (post) because I wanted to and I thought it might be helpful to people with questions and doubts about Evangelical Christianity. When Evangelical preachers deliver their sermons, the small print says: I, God, approve of this message. When Bruce the atheist preacher delivers his sermon, there is no small print. The words I write and speak our mine, and mine alone. While certainly my writing is influenced by my past and present experiences, I claim no higher authority than self. I write, say, and do what I want. And so it is with Evangelical Christians, whether or not they are willing to admit it. The reason I know this to be true is that the Christian God is a mythical being, and so talk of God’s will or God leading is — how do the British put it? — poppycock. The only voice whispering in the ears of Evangelicals is their own. No God, no Holy Spirit, no Satan.

I’m sure more than a few Evangelical readers will be outraged over what I’ve written here. For those upset over this post, I ask you: how do you know that it is God leading or speaking to you? What evidence do you have for your claim that you are following the will of God? What evidence do you have for the voice your head being anything other than your own wants, needs, and desires? And if everything happens to God’s purpose and plan, does that include me writing this post? If God really is the sovereign of the universe, does he control what I say and do?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

God’s Voice or Paranoid, Delusional, Conspiratorial Thinking?

abraham

Evangelicals are fond of saying that prayer is “me talking to God and God talking to me. ” Some Evangelicals believe that God audibly talks to them, while others believe he speaks to their hearts with an inaudible, still small voice. Some Evangelicals — particularly Calvinists — believe that God speaks to them through the words of the Bible. Regardless of how God speaks to me is described or explained, Evangelicals of every stripe believe God speaks to them.

That Evangelicals believe God speaks to them should not come as a surprise to non-Evangelicals. Evangelicals believe that the third part of the Trinity — the Holy Ghost/Spirit — lives somewhere inside their mind/body. If God lives inside people, it is not too far a stretch to assume that the indwelling Holy Spirit “talks” to Evangelicals.

Consider the lyrics of the hymn, In the Garden:

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.

Refrain:

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of his voice
is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing.

(Refrain)

I’d stay in the garden with him
though the night around me be falling,
but he bids me go; thru the voice of woe
his voice to me is calling.

(Refrain)

Jesus Speaks to Me, a song by contemporary Christian group FFH, perhaps states it best:

Can I talk to You a while
Can I lay my weary head
On Your shoulder again
Can I rest beneath Your smile
Will You whisper to me
As I kneel beside my bed

I’ve been walkin’ in the desert
I need to hear from You

I need Your touch, I need Your love
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
I need to hold You, oh, so close
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me

It feels like I’ve walked a thousand miles
Just to see the mountaintop
To be above the clouds
But it only takes a while
Until my feet just seem to stop
And I make my way back down

I’ve been so long in the valley
I need to hear from You

I need Your touch, I need Your love
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
I need to hold You, oh, so close
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me

Feels like I’m losing my mind
Going crazy
Feels like I’m running out of time
Come and save me
Just wipe the tears from my eyes
Say it’s alright, alright

I need Your touch, I need Your love
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
I need to hold You, oh, so close
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me, yeah
Oh Jesus, speak to me

FFH opines that they are going crazy as they desperately seek to hear the voice of God. I suspect many Evangelicals have similar sentiments. I know Polly and I did.  Sadly, Evangelicals will rarely consider that perhaps the reason they are going crazy is that the voice they are seeking to hear doesn’t exist.

Evangelicals who hear the voice of God are certain that what they are hearing is from the Christian God. Attempts to challenge such assertions are almost always rejected. I know what I know, Evangelicals say. I KNOW God speaks to me! How do they KNOW for sure God speaks to them? Why, they heard his voice! Suggesting that such an argument is circular reason will also be rejected. God’s ways are not our ways, Evangelicals say. As with most discussions with Evangelicals, attempts to appeal to reason and objectivity will be turned away with statements such as, by FAITH, I believe God speaks to me. Once Evangelicals appeal to faith, there’s not much more skeptics and rationalists can say or do. Subjective metaphysical claims are beyond the realm of reason. Facts, evidence, and science don’t matter when Evangelicals appeal to faith. As the old Evangelical canard goes, God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me.

hearing gods voice

Comic by Ted Rall

Recently, a woman who calls herself Bible Believer had this to say about listening to the voice of God:

We are entering the days where things are getting more and more spiritually darker. Every Christian here feels it. We are seeing massive changes even within the last few years. We have to learn to listen to God in prayer. More and more it is important to listen to God’s warnings for protection. Some time ago, I had met a new person and on my second meeting with them where I was not in a larger group of people. I had this thought flash across my mind, “This person is wicked and an insider.”  This came out of nowhere. I did listen but I proceeded with caution but still erred on the side of not taking actions sooner. My warning about this seared person are so intense, I will leave a room or other place if I ever see them in it.

I am learning to listen to warnings like that faster and more immediately. Yes as a human being, I can err but I believe we all need to be listening when God is warning us of something. This may sound odd, but I had the thought too this person had some involvement with occultism. On the surface they are in a false church, and I met them in a community context.

I found out via public information on the internet someone closely related to this person is basically a Satanist. And I am not talking teen “Goth” or “Wicca” dabbler or a few bouts of yoga or rekki [sic] but a well into adulthood HARD CORE Satanist. Think “OTO” temple one with Silver in the name and interest in esoteric “magic”, some with names I am sure no one ever heard of but I have from my younger days. And it went even further then that. Some may say it is unfair to judge a relative on what another relative is doing. And on that they would be right. Many good Christians come out of wicked families, but this specific person on a public Facebook page, drew pictures of themselves surrounded by demons. They praised their Satanic family member to me when I first met them.

I believe God is helping to protect me from future betrayals. I hope people do not think I have lost it or gone “paranoid”. I didn’t act on a lot of warnings that came early when dealing with two major betrayals. I paid for not listening sooner. With one person, who was a deceiver, I had dreams about them for a long time. I “knew inside” but was afraid to act. The dreams told me over and over they were not what they appeared to be. Here is a place where a Christian will want to go with your gut. If all your “instincts” tell you something is wrong, the message is coming from somewhere. Listen to the small voice of the Holy Spirit! I hope with time I have grown stronger. Some will tell you everything you want to hear. Some will even pretend to be Christians. Some will pretend to even be a fellow new world order aware Christians.

Bible Believer’s hearing from God is not, in any way, unique. Every day, I peruse over one hundred Evangelical blogs and websites. Rare is the day that I don’t read articles and blog posts about God speaking to the authors. Those of us raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement are quite familiar with phrases such as: God said, God told me, and God is leading me. IFB preachers can easily justify almost anything by speaking these magic words: God spoke to my heart and told me to do ____________. During my preaching days, I often told congregants that God told me that the church needed to do _________________. Believing I was the man of God — one chosen by God to lead the church — churches members believed God and I were on a first name basis.

Of course, God and I weren’t BFF. The “voice” I heard in my “heart” was my own. God’s will always lined up with my own wants, needs, and desires. I wish Evangelical preachers would be honest with congregants, telling them that what they want to do is premised on their wants and not the voice of God.

god in mind

If God really does speak to Evangelicals, why do Christians have conflicting ideas about what God had said? I have participated in countless church business meetings, meetings that were always “bathed” in prayer, with members seeking to hear the voice of God. The goal, of course, was to gather up a majority of yes votes so the preacher’s wants/needs/desires could be fulfilled. Most business meetings are little more than rubber-stamp approvals of whatever tickles pastors’ fancies. Every once in a while, a congregant or two will “hear” a different voice and object to the topic under discussion. What are we to make of such contrary views? Surely, if all Evangelicals have the same Holy Spirit living inside of them, shouldn’t they — as the early church did — be of one mind? Despite all the praying and seeking to hear the voice of God, church business is decided by good old fashioned American majority rules.

Most Evangelicals who have conversations with God are good people. We humans are prone to irrationality, and in the case of people hearing God’s voice, this irrationality is on a massive scale. Where this becomes a problem is when hearing God’s voice causes people to harm to themselves or other people. Countless people have been murdered by Christians who believed that God was telling them to commit homicide. The Bible recounts the story of God telling Abraham to murder his son Isaac. While God was just “testing” Abraham, is there any doubt that the father of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam would have slit his son’s throat had God not intervened? This story is preached as a great example of faith — obediently doing whatever God commands. Why then, should the stories of modern-day Abrahams be discounted or rejected out of hand?

The answer, of course, is that such behavior is a sign of mental illness. Evangelicals who believe God is speaking to them and saying that they should harm or kill other people are mentally disturbed. While I am not suggesting that every Evangelical has a screw loose, many of them do, especially those who are sucked into depths of paranoid, delusional, and conspiratorial thinking. (Perhaps, this is a chicken/egg issue. Do people become mentally ill as a result of Evangelical teachings or are people who are already mentally ill attracted to Evangelical churches?) Most of the Sounds of Fundamentalism videos I have posted are good examples of Evangelical psychological instability.

I am sure Evangelicals will gnash their teeth and wail over the claim that “hearing the voice of God” is often a sign of mental illness. I suggest that such gnashers and wailers attempt to see how this looks from the outside. In any other setting someone hearing voices would be a cause for concern. Numerous mental health problems can give rise to hearing voices in one’s head. Why should voice-hearing Evangelicals be given a pass when it comes to their mental acuity? Does the fact that someone is religious exempt them from normal standards of psychological fitness? I think not.

Nothing I have written in this post will change the minds of people who are convinced that God is their best friend, one who frequently “talks” to them. All we can do is make sure such irrational beliefs don’t harm others. Behind much of the political machinations of the Republican Party are Evangelicals who believe God is telling them to oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, and gun restrictions. God is also telling them to build a wall on our border with Mexico, stop transgenders from using wrong restrooms, and, most of all, take back America. What’s next? Arresting and incarcerating atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, along with anyone else that opposes the establishment of a Christian theocracy? Perhaps it is time to put Prozac in Bible Belt water supplies.