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Tag: Inerrancy of the Bible

Why Am I Different From My College Classmates?

bruce gerencser 2002
Bruce Gerencser, 2002

During the 1970s, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. It was there that I met my wife, Polly. Started in the 1950s by Dr. Tom Malone, Midwestern was a school known for turning out preachers. Most women attending Midwestern were there to snag themselves a man. My wife was no exception. She believed she was called to be a pastor’s wife. I was studying to be a pastor, so I suppose you could say our divine callings matched and our marriage was made in Heaven — or something like that, anyway. (We celebrated forty-four years of marriage last July.) All we knew for sure was that God called us to build churches and evangelize the lost. Everything we were taught at Midwestern had these two things as their goal. We left Midwestern in 1979 and embarked on a twenty-five-year journey that took us to churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Virtually everything we did was in fulfillment of God’s call upon our lives, yet, today, we are no longer Christians and it has been more than fourteen years since we darkened the doors of a church. What happened to us?

I cannot and will not speak for Polly, but I can say, for myself, that the Christian narrative no longer makes sense to me. I wrote about this in a post titled, The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense. Most readers know my story, so I won’t retell it here. New readers are encouraged to read the posts found on the WHY? page for more information about my life as a pastor and my subsequent deconversion. My story has been deconstructed by countless Evangelical zealots determined to invalidate my past. Try as they might, the fact remains that I once was a committed, devoted, sold-out follower of Jesus Christ; a man who hungered and thirsted after righteousness for his name’s sake; a man who believed every word of the Bible was true; a man who preached the Christian gospel to countless people. Them there are the facts, regardless of what apologists might say. I know what I know because I was there when it happened. Who better to know and tell my story than me? That said, I do ponder the question, Why am I Different From the My College Classmates? Some of them have moved beyond the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) training they received at Midwestern, yet they still believe. Sadly, for most of my college classmates, their beliefs have changed very little, if at all. Many of them still attend or pastor IFB churches. Oh, they might agree with me about the crazy rules at Midwestern, (please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule) but their core theological beliefs are decidedly Fundamentalist. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Why do they still hang on to these beliefs and I don’t?

The easy answer would be to call all of them stupid hillbillies, but that would be a cop-out. Many of my former classmates have wonderful families and ministerial careers. According to the theological and social standards of IFB Christianity, they are, in every way, successful. I have no doubt that many or even most of them are true-blue believers, completely and totally committed to IFB doctrine, thinking, and way of life. Yes, some of them now consider themselves garden-variety Evangelicals, but most of my classmates still believe the fundamentals taught to them by their pastors and their professors at Midwestern.

If I had to pick one reason for why my former classmates still believe, it is because they were taught to never, ever doubt the Bible and its teachings. All of them believe in some form of Biblical inerrancy, so the foundation of their lives is THUS SAITH THE LORD. Insulated from contrary or challenging thoughts, they see no reason to question their beliefs. Souls are lost, Hell is hot, and Jesus is coming soon. They have no time for doubting or questioning their beliefs. When Jesus comes again, they want to be found faithfully serving him, not reading Bart Ehrman’s latest book. For me, however, I reached a place in the late 1980s where I seriously questioned the doctrines I had been taught at Midwestern. I ultimately abandoned them and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. Calvinism allowed me to study theology and read books outside of the IFB rut. While the Calvinists I associated with were still quite Fundamentalist theologically and socially, they valued education and intellectual pursuit. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the more I studied and read, the more questions and doubts I had. This is why people who knew me well told me that BOOKS were my problem, and what I needed to do is stop reading books and only read the Bible. Of course, saying this to a book lover is akin to telling a cocaine addict to stop using drugs. I was addicted to intellectual pursuit, and I doggedly followed the path until it led me out of Evangelicalism, out of the Emergent church, out of progressive Christianity, and right on down the slippery slope to agnosticism/atheism and humanism. I ended up where I am today because I couldn’t stop my questions and doubts. I ended up where I am today because Christianity had no satisfactory answers for my questions. Oh, they had “answers” but I found them to be hollow, circular, and, at times, farcical; answers that might placate those within the Evangelical bubble, but unsatisfactory to anyone on the outside looking in.

There are days when I wish I could be like my former college classmates. I see much in their lives I admire. However, I am unwilling to forsake the meat and potatoes of intellectual and scientific inquiry for the pottage of Evangelical Christianity. I have read and studied too much to go back to the garlic and leeks of Egypt. I would rather be known as a Midwestern Baptist College-trained atheist than a coward who couldn’t face doubts and questions head-on. “One” may truly be the loneliest number, but I would rather stand alone for truth than embrace theological dogma. If Midwestern and Dr. Tom Malone taught me anything, it was the importance of standing for truth and principle and being willing to hold to your beliefs and convictions no matter what. So, in that regard, Midwestern played a crucial part in my deconversion from Christianity.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Evangelical Man Upset That I Didn’t Show Reverence and Respect for the Bible

bible made me an atheist

Several years ago, I had a brief comment section discussion with an Evangelical man about the Bible. I posed some questions to him that I thought would challenge his beliefs, but instead of answering them, he replied:

The words you use to speak about the Bible are far away from ‘adult level’ as you demand /expect in your blog policy from others.

I will not respond to your statements anymore. Not that there is not enough things to address but I will not communicate on such a demeaning language level and rather use my time differently.

What did I say that proved so offensive to this believer? Here’s what transpired (all grammatical errors in the original text):

Ronny: While it seems on the surface you are doing a good job defeating christianity, when one knows enough Bible it becomes evident that you are not right. Lets just say for example that ‘Christians live like the rest of us’. Which so called Christians did you get to know? Yes Christians sin acc. to 1 John. But they sin less and less as they grow in their faith. A REAL Christian IS different from the world. Those that you describe fall into the category of Mt 7. There is more to respond to you but my tram arrives in one minute so I say goodbye.

Bruce: The neat thing about the Bible is that it can be used to prove virtually anything. Actually 1 John says that those who sin are of the devil. Are Christians, then, of the devil?

The definition of who is a REAL Christian varies from sect to sect, church to church, and believer to believer. What makes you right and other Christians wrong? Why should anyone accept your peculiar interpretation over that of anyone else?

My observations about Christianity are both specific and general. I was a pastor for twenty-five years. I pastored a lot of people and knew many of their secrets. I stand by my observations.

Thank you for commenting.

Ronny: I am a bit surprised that you let me comment actually. I thought because I mentioned scripture that my response would have been deleted because of your policy. But how can we talk about christianity and not use bible verses acc. your policy…

Anyhow there is much to comment but if I e.g. take your statement that those people are of the devil – you have to look at the greek. And isnt poio/prasso speaking of a habitual lifestyle? And even if I am wrong here because I am not the biggest scholar, we ought to always take the full counsel of God and not one verse.

And I understand that you got to know many professing Christians, my point is that ‘many will say to me Lord Lord’ Mt7, and ‘broad is the way’ – people who profess Jesus but look like the world (James…) dont posess faith. And it saddens me that Gods name is put down because of such people. The fruit of the Spirit IS, yes, and it is seen in people like Paul, Jesus, John, and people of our day as well if you not just look for any professing people but Christians who do not play a game but take God and faith seriously.

I hope people who read this will not judge Christinity acc. to the majority of Christians who only are believers by name and not lifestyle.

Bruce: So let me see if I understand your argument:

1. We need to understand Biblical Greek to properly interpret the Bible; that the indwelling of the Spirit is not — contrary to what the Bible says — sufficient to teach and guide believers in truth.

2. The verses in question cannot mean what I say they do because they contradict your interpretation of other verses and don’t fit in your theological box.

3. And even if the verses mean what I say they do, they are talking about habitual sin, not one-off or infrequent sins. At what point does behavior become habitual? Using your logic, if a man only murders one person, that’s okay since it’s not “habitual.” Of course, the Bible says no murderers will inherit the kingdom of God. The Bible says the same about adulterers. Thus, anyone who divorces and remarries and anyone who lustfully looks at a woman won’t inherit the kingdom of God. The Bible is a real bitch, Ronny. By all means, dance your way out of the plain/rational interpretations and conclusions of the aforementioned verses.

4. You are a true Christian. The people I knew — numbering in the thousands weren’t true Christians. How convenient.

Do you sin? How often do you sin? How many sins does a habit make? The Bible says, be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Are you perfect?

As with all Christians, you have taken the Bible and shaped it into proof of the veracity of your beliefs and lifestyle. You are a true Christian. Why? Because your peculiar interpretation of the Bible says you are. Again, how convenient.

Here’s what I know. I took my faith seriously. I spent much of my life trying to live according to the teachings of the Bible. I was, in every way, a committed follower of Jesus. I was, at the same time, a sinner, yea, even a habitual sinner. The fruit of the Spirit was my goal, one that I never met. I’ve known countless dedicated followers of Jesus. They too strived to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Yet, they failed to measure up to the fruit of the Spirit standard. All these people, according to you, were false believers. Again, how convenient.

Bruce: The policy about Bible verses is the result of Evangelicals beating people over the heads with the Bible or suggesting that the people who frequent this blog haven’t read the Bible or don’t “understand” its teachings. Such behaviors are offensive, so I don’t allow them.

Evangelicals wrongly believe that the Bible is coherent in its presentation of theology and history. The Bible is, in fact, contradictory, often incoherent, and a source of endless debate. If the Bible is God’s Word, he must have been drunk or high when he wrote it.

As I told you previously, the Bible can be used to prove almost anything. For example, I assume you have a Trinitarian view of God. I can take Genesis 1-3 and show that God is not a triune being, that there are, instead, multiple Gods. The awesome thing about no longer being a Christian is that I no longer need to make the Bible fit a certain theological box. I can read the Bible and come to different conclusions than most Evangelicals. What if my interpretation is right? What if the Bible teaches polytheism, not monotheism?

Ronny: The words you use to speak about the Bible are far away from ‘adult level’ as you demand /expect in your blog policy from others.I will not respond to your statements anymore. Not that there is not enough things to address but I will not communicate on such a demeaning language level and rather use my time differently.

So, what did I say that was so offensive? I suppose the line, the Bible is a real bitch might be beyond the pale to some Evangelicals, but there’s nothing in my responses that were the least bit offensive. Perhaps Ronny didn’t like me suggesting that maybe God was high or drunk when he wrote the Bible (the Bible does say with God ALL things are possible). All I did was give my perspective and ask him questions. What seems far more likely to me is that Ronny couldn’t answer my questions, so he found something to be offended over, and this allowed him — in his mind — to justify ignoring and dismissing my questions.

This leads me, then, to this question: is the Bible worthy of reverence and respect? The short answer is “no.” Why should the Bible be treated differently from other books? Evangelicals have all sorts of rules about the Bible. Some Christians believe it’s a sin to write in the Bible, while other believers make copious notes and underline. In IFB churches, it was not uncommon for children and teenagers to have big-name preachers autograph their Bibles.  My pastor encouraged members to seek out the autographs of men “greatly used by God.” He also told us to record in the front of our Bibles the date, time, and place where we were saved. This way, we would never forget when it was that we were born again.

Some Christians believe it is wrong to put anything on top of the Bible. I attended Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio in the 1970s. Teenagers were encouraged to carry their Bibles to school; not under your books, but right on top so everyone could see it. I was one of a handful of a students who displayed my religion for all to see. One day, an acquaintance of mine took my Bible and started a hot potato game with it. Around and around my Bible went, until my classmates finally tired of tossing my Bible around. After a few weeks, I decided to leave my Bible at home. While I was still quite vocal about my beliefs, I didn’t like the attention carrying my Bible brought.

Regardless of what rules they might hold to, most Evangelical revere and respect the Bible. This makes sense, I suppose, when you consider that Evangelicals believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible book written by the Christian God. In their minds, the Bible is different from all the other books ever written. It’s a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. Thus, to say anything negative about the Bible is considered offensive.

However, I don’t believe the Bible is a supernatural text. It is, at best, a collection of ancient writings. Its words may at one time have had great significance, but they no longer do today. While the Bible remains a top seller, it is also a book that most people never or rarely read.  Evangelicals base so much of their life on what their pastor says the Bible says, yet few of them have read it from cover to cover. How can someone be a Christian, a Bible-believer, and not completely read through the Bible at least once? If the Bible is so damn important, why do Christians treat it like a museum piece; something to be looked at but not read?

Ronny is not the first person to feign offense as a way to avoid my questions. I know how Evangelicals think about the Bible. I am conversant in all things Evangelical. So, I can quickly distill what it is commenters such as Ronny are trying to say. The Bible remains a book that can be used to prove almost any belief. That’s why there are thousands of Christian sects and thousands of Evangelical churches. Each denomination and church believes that they have the truth, and any “truth” that contradicts theirs is false.

My objective is to point out that their certainty is grounded in arrogance and not facts, and that there are competing and contradictory narratives in the Bible. Within its pages, readers will find multiple Gods and multiple plans of salvation. The Bible is a wonderful book, especially for buffet Christians. Eat what you want, ignore the rest. And all the people of God said, AMEN!

Want to know more about the history and nature of the Bible? I recommend reading one or more books written by best-selling author Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina.

Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End (Release date March 21, 2023)

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Journeys to Heaven and Hell: Tours of the Afterlife in the Early Christian Tradition

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Alf Cengia Thinks He Knows Why People Reject the Bible. Hint: He Doesn’t

bible inerrancy

Another day, another Evangelical who thinks he is Carnac the Magnificent when it comes to knowing what atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, and other unbelievers really believe.

Alf Cengia recently wrote an article for the Evangelical website Sharper Iron titled Why Do People Reject the Bible? Cengia gave several reasons why people (non-Christians) reject the Bible:

  • People reject the Bible because they suspect the Bible contains truth, and if it does they would have to change their lives
  • People reject the Bible because they don’t like what the Bible says about itself
  • People reject the Bible because they don’t want it to be true
  • People reject the Bible because it’s seen as an imposition on the lives they want to live for themselves

Cengia goes on to make two overarching statements:

  • People know the truth and suppress it
  • The Bible is self-attesting

Cengia uses the late Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber (both Christians) as examples of people who justify the premise of his post:

A classic example is Nadia Bolz-Weber. Chapter 2 of her book Pastrix begins with citing 1 Timothy 2:11-12. At its conclusion, she thanks her parents for blessing her desire to become a pastor. Sorry Paul, Nadia did what she wanted to do.

The same can be said of Rachel Held Evans. She wrote Inspired in order to introduce her readers to an un-inspired Bible, which she insisted ought to be loved despite imperfections—perhaps like a dithering beloved family member with dementia. I guess RHE felt she needed to maintain a foot in Christianity; hence, couldn’t totally abandon it.

Bolz-Weber, RHE and a slew of deconstructionists didn’t reject Scripture because it is a fallible outdated document. They know the truth and suppress it because they refuse to submit to God’s authority.

Cengia is a presuppositionalist. In his mind, the Bible is true because it says it is true. Further, people know the Bible is true because the Bible says they know it’s true. Got that? Non-Christians, or even some Christians such as Bloz-Weber and Held-Evans deliberately, and with full knowledge, reject some of the Bible’s truth claims. Cengia believes the Bible is inerrant and infallible, so, for him, whatever the Bible says is absolute truth. People who reject Cengia’s claims do so because they reject what they know to be true. This claim, of course, is patently false.

Presuppositionalists such as Cengia think they can ignore demands for evidence for their claims because, in their minds, the truthiness of their claims is self-evident. Of course, as an atheist and a materialist, I reject such claims out of hand. If Cengia wants to convince me (and others) of his claims, he is going to have to do more than say, “it’s true because I (God/Bible) says it is.” Cengia sees no need for providing evidence for the claims he makes about the Bible. We know the Bible is not inerrant or infallible (neither translationally or in the non-existent original manuscripts). Further, I have yet to see evidence for the claim that the sixty-six books of the Protestant Christian Bible are God’s Word or written by mostly unknown men who were supernaturally inspired by God. Those are faith claims.

Cengia concludes his post by making by this fantastical claim:

One cannot find a comparable work of non-Christian faith which spans thousands of years, with multiple authors, yet telling a cohesive non-contradictory story.

The Bible tells a “cohesive non-contradictory story”? Really? In what universe? As someone who spent 50 years in Evangelicalism, pastored churches for twenty-five years, and spent over 20,000 hours (on average, 20 hours a week) reading and studying the Bible, I can confidently say that Cengia’s claim cannot be rationally sustained. I understand “why” Cengia believes what he does. After all, I once believed the same things. And as long as I only read Evangelical authors, my beliefs were safe and secure. However, once I started reading authors such as John Shelby Spong, Bart Ehrman, and other scholars, I quickly learned that my beliefs about the Bible were not true.

As far as the Bible being a cohesive narrative, if that is so, why have Christians been arguing nonstop about that “cohesive” narrative for 2,000 years? Why are there thousands and thousands of Christian sects, each believing they are absolutely right? Why can’t Christians even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion? Every sect sees a cohesive narrative, as, of course, interpreted by them. Landmark Baptists look at the Bible (and church history) and see an unbroken line of Baptist purity. Roman Catholics do the same. Some sects start their narrative in Genesis, others start with the Gospels. The claim that there is a “cohesive narrative” in the Bible simply cannot in any meaningful way be rationally sustained.

In 2008 I walked away from Christianity. While the reasons for my deconversion are many, one simple fact brought my house down: the claim that the Bible is inerrant and infallible was untrue. Once the Bible lost its authoritative hold over me, I was then free to re-investigate the central claims of claims of Christianity. I concluded that these “truths” were, in fact, myths. None of Cengia’s claims played any part in my loss of faith. Will he accept my story at face value? Probably not. Why? The Bible is true because the Bible says it is true. End of discussion.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Quote of the Day: Reading the Bible as We Do All Other Books by Robert Ingersoll

robert ingersoll

Too great praise challenges attention, and often brings to light a thousand faults that otherwise the general eye would never see. Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque, and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure, and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all moral and religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature’s night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free unbiased soul is forced to raise the standard of revolt.

— Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses, 1879

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Should I Care What the Bible Says?

the bible says

Imagine if I went to an Evangelical preacher’s blog and left comments quoting text from the Harry Potter books. Imagine me saying, Harry Potter says ____________ or the path to salvation and eternal life and happiness and peace is through the miracle-working power of Harry Potter. Imagine me telling this preacher that he needed to read and practice the teachings of Harry lest he die and face eternal damnation. I suspect he would rightly say to me, Why should I care what the Harry Potter books say? Why should I pay any attention to what Harry says? These books are just the words of one person, JK Rowling. They carry no weight or authority with me.

Yet, when this preacher and other Evangelicals do the same with the Protestant Christian Bible, they claim that the Bible is “different”; that there’s no book like the Bible; that the Bible is a supernatural book written or inspired by a supernatural God; that its words are magical and powerful. As presuppostionalists, Evangelicals expect nonbelievers to accept their claims about the Bible without providing any evidence and support for them. In their minds, the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible, a divinely written book that is TRUTH. When atheists, agnostics, and other non-Evangelicals reject these claims due to a lack of evidence, they are accused of having hardened hearts; people who are deliberately blind to what is right in front of them. Yet, when I take the same approach with them concerning the Harry Potter books, Evangelicals demand evidence for my claims. Why the double standard? Shouldn’t all claims be judged by the same evidentiary standards? Just because you say something doesn’t mean it’s true.

While I am more than happy to discuss or debate the Bible with Evangelicals, when they start making supernatural claims, then I expect them to provide evidence and support for their claims. Of course, no evidence will be forthcoming. Why? There’s no evidence to be had. Evangelical claims for the Bible are based on faith, not facts. And I am fine with that as long as Evangelicals admit that their beliefs about the Bible rest on faith, not evidence. When it comes to faith, either you believe or you don’t. I don’t, and until you can provide empirical evidence for your claims, I cannot and will not believe.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: The Bible is ALWAYS Right

bible inerrancy

1.“Our basic assumption: God rules the world.” — God is a personal God, He can act in exceptional ways (“miracles”) if he chooses.

2. “God is consistent.” — God cannot contradict Himself, what He reveals through Scripture and how He chooses to act are eternally consistent.

3. “The Bible is the word of God.” — The Bible declares itself trustworthy and inspired by God Himself, we can rest on its inerrancy and authority.

4. “God gave human beings dominion, so scientific investigation is legitimate.” — Modern science was berthed in assumptions of a biblical worldview.

5. “Scientists’ formulations are not the word of God, but human reflections concerning evidence in the world.” — Unlike the Bible, science does not claim to be unchanging and even well-established theories are fallible in principle.

6. “Though the Bible is infallible, all later human interpretations of the Bible are fallible.” — There is a critical distinction between what the Bible says and what any human interpreter believes it says.

7. “Apparent discrepancies between the Bible and science are discrepancies between fallible human interpretations of the Bible and fallible scientific pronouncements, based on fallible interpretations of evidence from the world.” — Human fallibility, extends to interpreting both the Bible and scientific findings.

8. “An apparent discrepancy needs further investigation.” — When we do come across something that appears to contradict, it can be attributed either to a mistake in biblical interpretation, in scientific reasoning, or both.

9. “The Bible has a practical priority, because of its design by God.” — The Psalms speak of a real impact of the word of God on our daily lives, not just abstract theology.

10. “When there is an apparent discrepancy, we should see whether there are competing explanations from scientists or from Bible interpreters.” — Not unlike theology, science is rarely limited to a lone scientific opinion.

11. “The Bible gives us sufficient instruction for the next practical step in obeying God, even when we have many unanswered questions about the apparent discrepancies.” — Ultimately, God’s grace helps us settle into those questions we have that we do not find explicitly answered in His Word.

— Vern Poythress, author and professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, The Christian Post, Miracles, scientific irregularities may point to biblical truth, theologian says, May 16, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Self-Authentication of the Bible

the bible says

Most Evangelicals believe that the Bible is a self-authenticating text; that the Bible proves the Bible. No matter what external sources might say about the Biblical text, the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Even when confronted with the glaring contradictions and mistakes in the Bible, Evangelicals have a knack for explaining away these things. Take the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books contradict each other in countless places, yet Evangelicals through the use of “harmonization” somehow, some way make the narrative fit (at least to believers).

For people outside of the Evangelical bubble, this sounds irrational. In their minds, it is impossible to build a coherent narrative from the Biblical text. Too many errors, mistakes, and contradictions for the Bible to be a consistent, logical, lucid text. Haven’t Evangelicals read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books? Surely you jest. Evangelicals are discouraged from reading books by outsiders, authors who might cause people to have questions and doubts. I was in my mid-forties before I read a book that challenged in a meaningful way my Evangelical beliefs about God’s perfect Word. By that time, I had been a pastor for almost twenty years.

Evangelicalism is a bubble, a place where every belief and practice makes sense. When you are in this bubble you think your beliefs are rational and consistent. And even when you have questions and doubts, they are quickly dispensed with trust (of God) and faith. As a pastor, I never questioned the veracity and truthfulness of the Bible. When I read things I didn’t understand, I appealed to my faith. I believed God was perfect in all his ways; that he would never lie; that the Bible was his very words, inerrant and infallible in every detail. Thus, the contradictions and internal inconsistencies I read were waved off with me saying, “Someday, God will make this clear to me. And if he doesn’t, I am still going to trust him.”

In 2008, I found myself outside of the bubble looking in. What once seemed perfectly logical and internally consistent looked, to put it bluntly, bat shit crazy. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) Learning that the Bible was not inerrant and infallible dealt a death blow to my faith. My house of faith was built upon the Bible. Without a perfect Bible, my faith came tumbling down. Without the Bible holding some sort of authoritative power over me, I was then able to take a careful, critical look at the central claims of Christianity. I concluded they were not true; that they couldn’t be rationally and intellectually sustained.

When interacting with Evangelical zealots, I avoid and ignore discussions about philosophy and science. I have little interest in discussions about the existence of God or evolution. My preferred mode of attack is to challenge their beliefs about the authority and historicity of the Bible. Successfully taking a sledgehammer to their beliefs about the nature of the Bible will force them to question their sincerely held beliefs. Once the Bible loses its power over believers, it becomes possible to challenge their core beliefs. The goal, at least for me, is to help Christians move away from Fundamentalism, not turning Evangelicals into atheists. Fundamentalism kills, so I am more concerned about saving lives than I am making converts. The best way, then, to “save” Evangelicals is to counter their beliefs about the Bible itself. This approach can and does work, as many of the readers of this blog can attest.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bible Thumpers: Dealing with Evangelical Bible Bullies

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Graphic by GlamorKat

Most churchgoing Evangelicals are nice enough people. They may have irrational beliefs and, by their attendance and financial support, lend their names to social policies we progressives find offensive and harmful, but meet Evangelicals at local football games or restaurants and they will act very much like the rest of us. A small percentage of Evangelicals are Bible thumpers — people who live and breathe the Bible, Christian doctrine, and evangelization. Many of the Evangelicals-turned-atheists/agnostics who read this blog were, during their Christian days, Bible thumpers. I know I was. Evangelicals who stumble upon this blog and comment are usually members of the Bible thumper club. Bible thumpers might be a minority within the broader context of Evangelicalism, but they have a larger-than-life presence on the internet, television, and radio. Most Evangelicals are Sunday-go-to-meeting Christians — people who love Jesus and their fellow man. Bible thumpers, on the other hand, love doctrine and hearing themselves talk far more than they do other people. Bible thumpers are quite willing to psychologically eviscerate those deemed enemies — liberal Christians, Catholics, non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and even Evangelicals who aren’t as “committed” as they are.

Several years ago, I tried to engage a Bible thumper in a thoughtful discussion on the Rational Doubt blog. (Our discussion is no longer available.) I should have known better. I ALWAYS should know better. It’s been years since I have had a lengthy discussion with an Evangelical that turned out well. By the time I figured out I had made a huge mistake, this Bible thumper, sensing emotional blood in the water, turned to attacking me personally, suggesting that I was intellectually inferior and a whiner. This man’s words cut to the quick, opening up wounds that lie buried deep in my being. It’s been almost eight years now since I have returned to blogging. People who have been following my writing for years know that I quit blogging several times in the past because of vicious assholes for Jesus. A little voice in my head kept telling me to tell this Bible thumper exactly what I thought of him and move on, but since I was a guest on Rational Doubt (which periodically publishes my writing on their site) I decided to refrain from giving the Bible thumper the Bruce Gerencser Treatment®. I finally threw in the towel, much to the delight of the Bible thumper. According to him, his superior “Biblical” arguments caused me to flee. He even suggested that deep down I knew that his arguments were correct.

Readers who frequent this blog know the kind of man I am. They also know of my physical struggles and my decades-long battle with depression. Had they been following the Rational Doubt debacle, I am sure I would have gotten emails, instant messages, and texts asking me if I was okay. When a major depressive state sets in — as it did when I had this discussion — life gets quite dark for me. It is easy for me to lose sight of what matters. What doesn’t matter is a piss-ant Evangelical who uses the Bible to bully people. This particular man is just one more of the thousands of Bible thumpers who have come before him. I knew what kind of awful man he was, so why did I engage him anyway? I knew he described himself on his website as:

T.C. Howitt writes at the gospel crossroads of truth and reality, using the Bible to illuminate our benighted culture. He considers no subject sacred in this fallen world, relying on the power of God’s word alone to boldly declaim the shocking wickedness surrounding us in the forms of secular humanism, scientism and technological idolatry.

I knew that his Facebook page said: “I’m on Facebook to preach God’s word. Don’t be surprised when you hear it.” I knew his Medium profile said: “Writer, preacher of God’s word, destroyer of idols, giver of fair warning.” These three statements set off a warning in my mind that said, WARNING, BRUCE! BIBLE THUMPER AHEAD. Yet, despite knowing all I needed to know about what kind of man Todd Howitt is, I decided to engage him anyway. The fault, then, is mine, not his. Rabid dogs act like rabid dogs. I shouldn’t expect them to act like lovable puppies. Bible thumpers act the way they do because they believe the Bible is the answer to every question, and that they know everything. Every morning, these zealots arise and sing:

The B-I-B-L-E,
Yes that’s the book for me,
I stand alone on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E.
BIBLE!

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They have read countless books that reinforce their educated ignorance. Bible thumpers believe they have life figured out, and that if everyone would believe as they do, all would be well. Many of these Bible thumpers are Calvinists, adding another layer of arrogance and certainty to their behavior. I KNOW all of these things, so why, then, did I bother to engage Howitt? My counselor tells me that I wrongly think that if I just share with people my story and explain my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism, Bible thumpers will understand. Dr. Deal had told me several times, Bruce, you think these people care about what you think. They don’t! They don’t give a shit about you or what you think.

Doc, of course, is right. I KNOW he is right. I have known for years that he is right. I know, I know, I know, yet every so often the “just explain yourself” Bruce nags me, demanding to speak, and so I let him. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, the moment I do, I realize I have made a big mistake. I am not talking here about explaining myself to the regular readers of this blog. I owe it to readers who have invested their time (and money) in reading my writing to explain things that aren’t clear. Fortunately, regular readers rarely need an explanation. They understand my writing methodology and usually know what I mean when I say this or that.

Several years ago, I read a Washington Post article about the turmoil in Spain over Catalonia’s attempt to secede from Spain. Speaking of the supposed dialog between the parties, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said:

The word dialogue is a lovely word. It creates good feelings. But dialogue has two enemies: those who abuse, ignore and forget the laws, and those who only want to listen to themselves, who do not want to understand the other party.”

I thought as I read it, Rajoy’s statement fits well with my recent “dialog” with Todd Howitt. Howitt is an enemy to open and honest dialog because his Fundamentalist religious beliefs have turned him into an abusive bully. He may smile and say Praise Jesus! while he is doing it, but Howitt and other Bible thumpers can and do cause psychological harm to people with sensitive sensibilities (which Bible thumpers view as weakness). Howitt had no interest in understanding where I was coming from. He stated from the get-go that he was a former atheist (doubtful) and he was there not to dialog or converse — already knowing how atheists think — but to preach the Word. In other words, he was only interested in hearing himself talk. Those of us who are former Evangelicals are quite familiar with people who only want to listen to themselves talk. Our pastors were people who believed they were men supernaturally chosen by a supernatural God to preach the inspired, inerrant supernatural Word of God. Our duty as hearers was to submit to the pastor’s — I mean God’s — authority and explicitly follow the laws, precepts, commands, and examples found within the pages of the one book that is different from all the books ever written — the Protestant Christian Bible. As an Evangelical pastor, I did the same. Since I had been called by God to preach and teach at whatever church I was currently pastoring, I expected congregants to listen and obey. (Hebrews 13:17)

Bible thumpers believe they are plugged into God 24/7 — that is, except when they, under the cover of darkness, behave in ways that make them entries for the Black Collar Crime series. Bible thumpers believe that their knowledge of the Bible is superior to that of the vast majority of people on earth. Some of them think that they are so right that no church is good enough for them. They are infected with what I call A.W. Pink disease. Pink was a famous early-twentieth-century Calvinistic writer who secluded himself on an island because he couldn’t find a pure enough church to attend.

Having risen to the level of being worthy to enter the inner temple of Biblical truth, Bible thumpers, girded with self-righteousness, fan out across the internet seeking forums to dispense their Trumpian-level knowledge. Scores of such people over the years have made their way to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. These days, Bible thumpers are rarely permitted to sell their faux-gold plated turds on this site. A decade spent dealing with Bible thumpers has taught me that engagement is futile. While I, at times, forget this maxim, I am getting better at just letting Bible thumpers tilt at windmills.

I originally wrote this post in 2017. Over the past five years, I have come a long way in learning how to deal with Evangelicals who only want to cause harm. Life is too short — literally — for me to waste time trying to engage people who only want to viciously, violently, and hatefully attack me and the readers of this blog. On the rare occasions I do engage such people, I do so for entertainment purposes or to provide graphic illustrations of the ugly underbelly of Evangelical Christianity. Such people do a wonderful job turning people away from Christianity.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Family Driven Faith — Part One

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Bruce and Polly Gerencser with son #2, 1981, at Bruce’s mother’s home. Gotta love that porn stache. 🙂

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

For seven months in 2004, our family attended Faith Bible Church in Jersey, Ohio, a vibrant, growing, family-oriented church in central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly, my wife, was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day, and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.”

In a split second, everything changed.  You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises, but they were not to work outside the home. From that day forward, the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.

In the 1990s, I co-pastored Community Baptist Church, a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Elmendorf, Texas (please see I am a Publican and a Heathen — Part One). A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily, candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony of salvation before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman because her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.) She wanted to give a public testimony, but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. This standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and counseled her to disobey her husband. She was baptized a short time later.

This church also believed that “church business” was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings, women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question, they had to whisper their question to a man, and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing, but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.

While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the aforementioned churches, I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to male rule and authority. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to their parents and obey every command given to them.

I believed the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course, what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible, there is no Christianity (in any meaningful sense of the word). As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. The Bible was the final rule and authority for everything, the blueprint for life.

IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything, but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement, is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under-shepherds of their churches, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching their churches what the Bible says (or better put, what his interpretations are). These pastors, divinely called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, are the mouthpiece of God.

Practically speaking, the pastor is the final authority in the church. He is the law-giver, and he alone has the final say on virtually everything. The Bible is clear, the pastor is to rule the church, and church members are to submit to his rule. Pastors spend significant time reminding the church that God says he, the pastor, is the boss. The common phrase used to define this is pastoral authority.

Pastoral authority, IFB style, leads to dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members’ lives. Some churches recognize the problem with one man having so much power, so they have a plurality of elders or a board of elders or deacons. Sadly, all this does is make a group of men dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members’ lives

In a hierarchical system, God and the Bible come first. Underneath God and the Bible is the pastor. Church members are taught that submitting to the pastor’s teaching and authority is pleasing to God, and, if practiced, will bring the blessing of God.

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

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them is marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all, why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home? I taught men that God’s highest calling for them is to be a leader. Men are called to lead the church, home, and government. In my mind, the strength or weakness of any culture, church, or home depended on whether men were fulfilling their divine calling to lead. Children, of course, are at the bottom of this hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother (and according to my three younger sons, their oldest brother). 🙂 Children have one divine calling in life, obedience!

Polly and I have been married for almost forty-four years. We have grown six children, ages forty-two to twenty-eight. Our older children went to a public or Christian school for a few years, but for the next seventeen years, we homeschooled our children. For the first twenty years of marriage, we followed the hierarchical system detailed above. For the most part, Polly didn’t work and I was the breadwinner. I pastored churches full-time, but, due to the notoriously low pay in IFB churches, I also worked a number of secular jobs. For years on end, I worked sixty to eighty hours a week, and in doing so, neglected my wife and children. Regardless of the neglect, I was still the authority in the home. I was the final answer to every question. I ruled our home with a rod of iron and my family feared me. Of course, I never called their fear fear. I called it a healthy respect for authority. I gave the orders and they obeyed.

For many years, my wife (I don’t like using phrases like my wife and my children. While most people see these phrases as harmless, they are a reminder of the past, a past where Polly and the children were treated like slaves and property. I try to avoid using these phrases, but in some instances, they cannot be avoided) and I followed the general tenets of the Quiverfull movement. In the early 90s, we embraced Calvinism and became persuaded that using birth control was a sin. We believed that God was sovereign and He opened and closed the womb. Who were we to stand in the way of God blessing us with more children?

Our first child born under the “let God have his way” form of birth control was a beautiful redheaded girl with Down syndrome. Two years later, almost to the day,  we were blessed with another beautiful redheaded girl. Twenty months later, our youngest child, a son (should I call him beautiful too? Momma says yes!) was born.

Before we could blink, we had three more children, all in diapers. Polly was known in the family as Fertile Myrtle. I was persuaded that if I looked at her, she would get pregnant. I have no doubt that we would have had twenty children if we had continued to abstain from using birth control.

Fortunately, Polly’s doctor intervened and told us in no uncertain terms that Polly’s last pregnancy had taken a huge physical toll on her and any future pregnancies could kill her. We decided, God’s will be damned, that we were not going to have any more children. I was considered a hypocrite for not trusting God in this matter, but I had no desire to be wifeless with six children. Several years later, Polly had a tubal ligation and no more rabbits died.

In part two of this series, I plan to write about how the thinking mentioned in this post affected the churches I pastored and how it affected my family. I want to detail how this kind of thinking almost destroyed my marriage and how abandoning such thinking transformed my relationship with Polly and our children.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser