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Tag: Lake of Fire

Hello Bruce, I’m a “Nice” Evangelical

hell

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several times a month, I get emails from Evangelicals who want to let me know that they are not like “other” Evangelicals. They want me to know that there are Evangelicals who are nice, polite, decent, kind, and respectful people. That’s great, their mothers taught them well. However, these “nice” Evangelicals aren’t really as nice as they would have me believe. They desperately want to be viewed in a good light, thinking if I just knew that there are “nice” Evangelicals, I would fall on my knees and call to Jesus to save me. As if my entire deconversion hangs on how I was treated while I was an Evangelical pastor.

When I am feeling up to it, I respond to the “nice” Evangelical’s email with a few questions. Questions like:

  • Do you believe that humans are inherently “sinful”; that humans are broken and in need of fixing?
  • Do you think believing in Jesus is the only way for people to have their sins forgiven?
  • Do you believe there is one true God, and that all other deities are false?
  • Do you believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text?
  • Do you believe that a person must be saved/born again/become a follower of Jesus to go to Heaven when he dies?
  • Do you believe that a person who is not saved/born again/a follower of Jesus goes to Hell when he dies?

The answers to these questions will quickly reveal that the “nice” Evangelical is no different from Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Steven Anderson, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Bob Gray, Sr., Bryan Fischer, James Dobson, or Franklin Graham. The “nice” Evangelical and the nasty/hateful Evangelical, both share the same beliefs. The former comes in a nicer, more pleasing package, but inside the package are the same abhorrent, vile beliefs.

Sometimes, a “nice” Evangelical will be coy about his beliefs. When pressed on the question of God torturing non-Christians in Hell/Lake of Fire for eternity, he often replies that he leaves such things up to God. A “nice” Evangelical want me to know that he doesn’t judge, he just unconditionally l-o-v-e-s others. However, if he believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, then he already knows what God says on the matter. Fact: non-Christians will go to Hell when they die. Fact: atheists, agnostics, secularists, and humanists will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of the readers of this blog will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of my Facebook friends will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of my Twitter followers will go to Hell when they die. Fact: and, to make it quite personal, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and most of their children will go to Hell when they die.

The “nice” Evangelical, if he is truly a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Evangelical, is boxed in by his beliefs. There is one God — the Christian God; one way of salvation — Jesus; and Hell awaits all of those who reject him. This is why I respect someone like the late Fred Phelps more than I do a “nice” Evangelical. Phelps just tells non-Christians how it is. He makes no effort to hide his beliefs. The forwardness of such Evangelicals allows me to know exactly where I stand with them. No need for us to play the pretend-friend game or make nice with each other.

Sometimes, “nice” Evangelicals will take a psychological approach. They view me as one who has been wounded by the nasty, hateful, judgmental Evangelicals. They read a few of my blog posts and determine that I have been hurt in some way, and that this is the reason I am not a Christian. In their minds, they think if they are just really, really, really nice to me that I will be overwhelmed by their niceness and fall in love with Jesus all over again. Since “nice” Evangelicals think Jesus is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l, they can’t imagine someone NOT wanting to become a follower of Awesome Jesus. A “nice” Evangelical sees Jesus patiently knocking on the door of my heart, pleading for me to let him in. Isn’t this the same Jesus who says that if I DON’T open the door, he is going to torture me for eternity in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone, a place where the worm dieth not? Isn’t this the same Jesus who will fit me with a special body after death so that no matter how severely he tortures me I can never die?

While there is certainly a truckload of harm and hurt in my Evangelical past, the reason I am not a Christian is because I do not believe the central claims of Christianity to be true. I don’t believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. I don’t believe Jesus was God, virgin-born, a miracle worker, or resurrected from the dead. I don’t believe God created the world, nor do I believe in “sin.” Simply put, I reject everything one must believe to be a Christian. No matter how “nice” an Evangelical is to me, I do not buy what he is selling. Salvation requires faith, a faith I do not and will not have.

Look, I am glad that many Evangelicals are nice people. I am glad they treat me and others like me with kindness, decency, and respect. Their behavior certainly makes the world a better place. That said, I suspect their behavior is a reflection of their tribal training and culture more than it is their Evangelical beliefs. I am glad someone taught them to be decent, thoughtful people. I do, however, wish they would stop wasting their time by trying to “nice” me to Jesus. I have no interest in Jesus, and I think their time would be better spent teaching Evangelicals how to behave in public. As blog comments, news articles, blogs, social media,  and personal emails show, there are a lot of Evangelicals who don’t the first thing about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Instead of trying to save people who don’t want to be saved, “nice” Evangelicals should spend their time getting fellow Evangelicals saved.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Bruce, Did You Ever Pray for God to Abolish Hell?

i have a question

I recently asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave your question on the page, Your Questions, Please.

Dave asked:

[Christian] Fundamentalists believe you can bring anything to God in prayer and he will answer it. They also believe in eternal torture as this god’s punishment for most of the human race. As a pastor did you ever pray that God would not allow such a monstrosity as hell? Why do you think that this plea is not made continuously by people who hold this belief? Is it because they don’t really believe they can change the mind of God, or is it because they relish the idea that nonbelievers will get what they deserve?

Evangelicals believe that the Bible God hears and answers their prayers. While Evangelicals are all over the place theologically on prayer, they believe that God does hear their petitions and answers in one of three ways:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not now

According to Evangelicals, every prayer that conforms to the will of God is answered affirmatively. Why, then, do most Evangelical prayers go unanswered — especially big-ticket items such as the ones mentioned by Dave? Why does God seem indifferent to human suffering, pain, and loss? According to Evangelicals, God saying no or not now happens for one of these reasons:

  • God wants to increase our faith
  • God wants to test us and make us stronger
  • God wants to chastise us for our sins, restoring us to a right relationship with him
  • God wants to bring glory to his name

While I am sure there are other “reasons” for God saying no or not now, these are the big four — the reasons most often cited by Evangelicals.

For thirty-five years, I prayed every day — often multiple times a day. Yet, I never, one time, asked God to abolish Hell. I believed Hell (and the Lake of Fire) was an awful place of eternal damnation and suffering, yet I also believed the people in Hell were getting exactly what they deserved. Salvation had been offered to them by Jesus Christ, yet they rejected it, choosing instead their own selfish desires. Of course, I dared not think too hard on the matter, lest I see multiple glaring contradictions. Had I thought about that matter, I would have concluded that God was unjust and unfair; that eternity in Hell seemed to be determined by who your parents were and geography.

After embracing Calvinism, I concluded that eternal destiny was determined not by making a decision for Christ, but because God had chosen some people to spend eternity in Hell. No one deserved salvation and eternity in Heaven, so God can’t be blamed for sending most people to the Lake of Fire.

I never believed I could change the mind of God through my prayers. God was the sovereign Lord over all, and everything that happened was according to his purpose and plan. People saved under my ministry were converted because God purposed from before the foundation of the world to bring them to saving faith. When I prayed, it was not so God would give me what I want, but so my will would conform to God’s. Ironically, on many occasions God’s “will” aligned perfectly aligned with mine. It was amazing that God often gave me exactly what I wanted. I later concluded that the only person answering my prayers was me; that my prayers were self-fulfilling wants, needs, and desires.

Dave concludes by asking a question that most Evangelicals don’t want to answer: [do] they [Evangelicals] relish the idea that nonbelievers will get what they deserve?

I do know that some Evangelicals relish the fact that I will some day go to Hell to be punished and tortured by God for eternity. I am viewed as someone especially deserving of eternal torture. I knew the “truth” and rejected it. I spit in the face of Jesus, choosing atheism over the one true faith. I have received countless emails and blog comments from Evangelicals who, with sadistic delight, describe what God is going to do to me after I die. Usually, they end with a call to repentance or “praying for you,” but I suspect that many of my critics relish what awaits for me in Hell.

Deep down, Evangelicals need validation; to know for certain that they are right. Their lives are built on certainty; that their God is the one true God; that the Bible is a supernatural book given to them by a supernatural God, a book that is a blueprint or manual for life; that their decision to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ was the right choice, guaranteeing them an eternity of heavenly bliss.

Those who don’t believe as they do will get exactly what they deserve — eternal punishment in Hell. What better way for you to be proven right than for unbelievers to be cast into the Lake of Fire? I suspect some Evangelical zealots will take day strolls to the rim of the Lake of Fire, and say to unbelievers, I TOLD YOU SO! The eternal suffering of unbelievers is, for Evangelicals, vindication of their beliefs.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Why I am Not Interested in a Nicer, Friendlier Christianity

hell

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

I often write about the extreme right of Evangelicalism, the end of the Evangelical spectrum inhabited by churches and sects that nice, friendly Evangelicals like to call Fundamentalist nut jobs. However, as I clearly show in my post titled Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?, ALL Evangelicals are Fundamentalists. Evangelical belief requires theological fundamentalism, a core set of beliefs that one must adhere to be a Christian and considered an Evangelical in good standing. Some who deny this fact are really liberal/progressive Christians living in denial. Raised in the Evangelical church and familiar with its worship and practice, these liberal/progressive Christians don’t want to abandon the only church they have ever known. Their theology puts them squarely outside of Evangelicalism, yet they refuse to accept this, digging their heels in when attempts are made to drag them into the liberal/progressive church. There’s not much anyone can do for these folks. In time, the keepers of Evangelical truth will expose and embarrass them and they will be forced to leave. For now, they play pretend Evangelical.

There’s another subset within Evangelicalism that thinks they are what I call a nicer, friendlier version of Evangelicalism. They are convinced that legalism, rules, moralizing, and the like are the problem, so they attempt to advertise their churches as places that are judgment free; places where sinners can come to find healing and deliverance. However, these nicer, friendlier Evangelicals hang onto theological fundamentalism. While their lifestyle or what they consider a sin might be different from their legalistic brethren, theologically there is very little difference between the two.

Here’s how you force nicer, friendlier Evangelicals to show their true colors. Forget this or that doctrine. Forget everything except what I share next:

Evangelical: The church I go to, First Church of the Most Awesome People in Town, is the nicest, friendliest church in town. We love everyone, and I am sure that if you come to our church you will feel right at home!!

Bruce: Let me ask you several questions. First, do you believe in a literal Hell?

Evangelical: Yes, that’s what the Bible teaches.

Bruce: Who ends up in Hell?

Evangelical: Well, um, uh, I am not the judge, only God is. But the Bible does say that a person must know Jesus as their Lord and Savior to go to Heaven when they die.

Bruce: So, since I am not a Christian and I refuse to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I will go to Hell when I die, right?

Evangelical: (looks down to ground) Uh, well, um, yeah, if you don’t repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will go to Hell when you die.

Bruce: How long will I be in Hell? Is it like Catholic purgatory where I’ll suffer for a time and then be taken to Heaven?

Evangelical: Well, uh . . . (long, long, long pause) if you die without knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will spend eternity in the torments of Hell.

Bruce: Fire and brimstone and where the worm dieth not?

Evangelical: Yes.

Bruce: Since this body I currently have would burn up if I was thrown into a pit of fire and brimstone, does this mean God gives me a new body that will withstand the torments of Hell?

Evangelical: (silently praying the Rapture would happen)

Bruce: And doesn’t this mean that your God created me, killed me, and sent me to Hell with a new body fashioned by him to withstand day and night torture for eternity?

Evangelical: (God, won’t this atheist go away)

Bruce: Is this the God you worship? Why would anyone want to worship such a horrible deity?

Forget all the other doctrines, this is the only one that matters. I don’t care how nice or friendly Evangelical churches thinks they are, if they believe in Hell, then they are party to their God’s savage, endless torture of billions of people. They might smile more or practice friendship evangelism, but the result is still the same: those who don’t repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ go to Hell when they die. (Please see We Love People and Are the Friendliest Church in Town.)

The next time you run into a nicer, friendlier Evangelical, go for their jugular. Ask them point-blank if they believe in Hell. Their answer(s) to this question will tell you all you need to know. Personally, I have no interest in being a part of a group or being friends with anyone who thinks that I will burn in Hell for eternity because I am not like them. This kind of thinking is no different from the thinking of the demented killers portrayed on Criminal Minds. Our God is an awesome God, the Evangelical says, and He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. And if you refuse to accept his gracious, wonderful offer of salvation, our God will someday torture you for all eternity.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Will There be Different Punishments in Hell and the Lake of Fire?

how to get out of hell

Just when I thought the Bible God couldn’t be crueler, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher names James Bachman found a way to make God a bigger dick than I ever thought possible. Bachman, pastor emeritus of Roanoke Baptist Church, in Roanoke, Indiana, is the author of the ‘Parson to Person’ column that appears weekly in the West Bend News. Two weeks ago, Bachman answered the following question:

Are those who are in hell receiving less punishment than they will after the judgment?

Bachman replied,

Yes, their present punishment in hell is equal for rejecting Christ and not believing on Him. – “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:12. Hell is a terrible place of continual torment in flames. – “And in hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke16:23-24)

At the end of this world all unbelievers will be delivered up from death and hell to be judged justly for additional punishment according to their own sins. – “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”(Revelation 20: 12-14)

An earthly illustration would be a bad criminal being put in a county jail until after his trial and sentencing. Then he is sent to prison where he
will spend the remainder of his sentence. For unbelievers who start out in hell, they will have to spend the rest of eternity after their judgment in the lake of fire, still experiencing hell but also at the same time, additional suffering for each of their sins.

….

Most IFB preachers believe that Hell is a temporary holding place in the bowels of the earth for non-Christians after they die. Then, at the end of time, the inhabitants of Hell will cast into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14-15 says:

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The Lake of Fire, then, is the eventual permanent residence for all non-Christians. Billions of people will reside in the Lake of Fire, subject to excruciating torture day and night for eternity. Why? Because they were born to the wrong parents, lived in the wrong country, worshipped the wrong god, or believed the wrong things. Sure, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Donald Trump will be there, but most of the inhabitants of the Lake of Fire will be just ordinary, good people who, on balance, tried to live good lives, or people such as Jews in WWII who were systematically slaughtered by the Nazis, or people who were blown to bits by mankind’s war machine, or children who died ignominiously of curable diseases, thirst, or starvation.

Many of the residents of the Lake of Fire will end up there without ever hearing the name of Jesus or the Christian gospel one time. Evangelicals such as Bachman explain how this is just by saying that no sinner deserves salvation; and that all sinners deserve Hell and the Lake of Fire. Consider yourself lucky if you are one of the elect, the chosen ones. Such lines of argument fall flat, failing to adequately explain how a just God could banish people, through no fault of their own, to the Lake of Fire for not hearing the gospel. Really, God?

Evangelicals also argue that according to Romans 1 and 2, all humans have moral consciences given to them by God, rendering them without excuse. Further, all any of us need to do is look at the created universe and connect the dots. Somebody bigger than you or I created the universe! In 1960, gospel artist Mahalia Jackson sang:

Who made the mountains, who made the trees
Who made the rivers flow to the sea
Who hung the moon in the starry sky
Somebody bigger than you and I

Who made the flowers to bloom in the spring
Who writes the song for the robins to sing
Who sends the rain when the earth is dry
Somebody bigger than you and I

(He lights the way) He lights the way
(When the road is long) When the road is long
(And He keeps you company) He keeps you company
(With His love) With His love to guide you
(He walks beside you)He walks beside you
(Just like he walks with me) Just like He walks with me

When I am weary, filled with despair
Who gives me courage to go on from there
And who gives me faith that will never never die
Somebody bigger than you and I
(Somebody bigger than you and I)

I am more than willing to admit that it is possible for someone to look at the night sky and conclude that a creator of some sort created everything — a deistic God, perhaps. However, how one gets from A GOD to that God being THE GOD of Trinitarian, Protestant Christianity is a whole different discussion. Evangelicals answer this objection by saying that if an unbeliever — say an aborigine in Australia — looks at the night sky and says to himself, “a God of some sort created this,” the Christian God will either take that into account on judgment day (giving them lesser punishment in the Lake of Fire?) or will send an Evangelical missionary to their door to tell them who, exactly, created the universe.

Evangelicals go to great lengths to cover their asses on the question of what happens to people who have never heard the gospel. Press them long enough, and Evangelical apologists will eventually appeal to mystery, the alleged justice and fairness of God, or God’s thoughts and ways not being our thoughts and ways. Evangelical Apologetics 101 teaches that if your answer to a difficult question is lacking, just appeal to God’s unknowing ways or run to the safety of the house of faith.

Where Bachman’s God becomes especially cruel is when those who land in Hell are punished further in the Lake of Fire. In Luke 16, we find the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16 tells that the rich man died, went to Hell, and is tormented day and night. According to Bachman, the rich man went to Hell because he rejected Jesus Christ. Never mind the fact that the Bible says otherwise; that the rich man went to Hell because of how he lived in light of those suffering around him. He was indifferent to the plight of Lazarus, and now he is being punished in Hell for his indifference.

Bachman believes that the inhabitants of Hell, some of whom have been suffering for thousands of years, will be delivered from Hell, only to be re-judged for their sins and cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer worse torture than before. Imagine the rich man getting his release from Hell, a brief respite from pain and suffering, only to be told that he was headed for a more violent torture chamber, one that will remind him for all eternity of all the ways he slighted the Christian God and broke his rules. Bachman’s God wins the “Worst God Ever” award.

Years ago, I was listening to a cassette tape of a sermon by evangelist Rolfe Barnard, a Calvinistic Southern Baptist preacher. Back in the day, Barnard was, by far, my favorite preacher. Barnard described the Lake of Fire as a fiery, smoky pit located outside of the New Jerusalem — the home of God’s elect. On judgment day, says Barnard, the elect will stand nearby and watch as God judges their friends and loved ones and casts them into the Lake of Fire. On this day, there will be no tears. God’s chosen ones will praise his name and give glory to his holiness and justice every time he tosses a person in the Lake of Fire. Imagine the perverseness of this illustration. Imagine standing by and watching as God throws your children and spouse in the Lake of Fire, knowing that they will be horrendously tormented for eternity. “Praise Jesus! My son is facing the just desserts for his sin and rejection of Evangelical Christianity!! Woo Hoo! Jesus, you are awesome!” Talk about sick, disgusting theology.

Evangelicals make all sorts of theological arguments. I am weary of them all. I just want to know what they believe about judgment, Hell, and the Lake of Fire. Forget all the ‘splaining and Bible proof-texting. Just tell me whether or not all non-Evangelicals will be tortured by God for eternity in the Lake of Fire. How you answer this question tells me all I need to know about you as a person, your God, and your religion.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Angels: You Can’t See Them but They are Real

Sometime before the Christian God created the world, he created angels. Created higher than humans, angels are God’s gofers — doing whatever God commands them to do. Angels are sexless beings, spirits that cannot be seen unless they take on a corporeal (i.e. human) form. The most famous angel in the Bible is Lucifer (Satan, Devil, Beelzebub, Dragon, Serpent, Abaddon, Morningstar). Lucifer, along with one-third of the angels in Heaven, rebelled against God. The rebellion proved to be a failure. God cast Lucifer and his followers out of Heaven. These fallen angels (demons, devils, unclean spirits) made earth their home. According to the book of Job, Lucifer, called the accuser of the brethren (Christians), still has access to Heaven. He’s considered the god of this world, the prince and power of the air. Lucifer walks to and fro on the face of the earth, looking for people whom he may fuck up (devour). Some day, Lucifer will once again wage war against God. This war will fail, just as the last one did. After Lucifer is defeated, and Jesus renovates — what a great show for the Home and Garden TV channel! — the heavens and the earth, Lucifer will be cast into the Lake of Fire — the final home for Lucifer, fallen angels, Christopher Hitchens, Steven Hawking, Steve Gupton, Bruce Gerencser, and all (billions and billions) non-Christians.

I typed the previous paragraph from memory. It’s been fourteen years since I preached my last sermon, but the vestiges of a lifetime of serving Jesus live on in my mind. I can’t remember what I did an hour ago or yesterday, but religious beliefs learned over the first fifty years of my life live on. Some days, I wish I could have a Men in Black mind wipe, erasing all the religious nonsense that clutters my mind. Other days, I am glad I still remember this stuff. Thanks to a lifetime of reading and studying the Bible, I don’t have to spend much time researching Bible verses or Christian theology. I may be an apostate reprobate, but Christianity lives on in my mind.

Ask Evangelicals about what Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus believe, most of them will tell you that these groups are cults, sects that believe all sorts of crazy nonsense.  When asked if their beliefs are just as crazy, Evangelicals will take offense, saying that their God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is the one true God, and there is nothing bizarre, fantastic, or foolish about Christianity. After reading what I write next, readers are invited to decide whether a room should be booked for Christianity at an insane asylum.

Evangelicals believe that there is a spiritual dimension all around us. We can’t see or hear what goes on in this dimension, but it is as real as the Twilight Zone. How do Christians know this spiritual dimension exists? The Bible, on more than a few occasions, speaks of this dimension. Christians are already used to believing in an imaginary God, so it is not a stretch for them to believe in the existence of a non-corporeal spiritual dimension.

Evangelicals believe that this spiritual dimension is inhabited by Lucifer, fallen angels (demons), and heavenly angels. Day and night, God’s angels and Lucifer’s angels fight one another. Think of it as an endless MMA match. According to the Bible, non-Christians are influenced and controlled by Lucifer and his minions. These fallen angels can and do possess humans, causing them to do all sorts of abominable things — you know, like voting Democrat. Evangelicals are fond of blaming Lucifer and fallen angels for much of the evil we see in the world. Never mind the fact that the book of Job teaches that Lucifer can’t do anything unless God gives him permission to do so. Remember that the next time an NRA-loving Republican senator blames Lucifer and his followers for a mass shooting. Lucifer may have pulled the trigger, but it was God who gave him the order to fire.

Lucifer also tempts, corrupts, influences, and leads Christians astray. While most Evangelicals don’t believe fallen angels (demons) can possess followers of Jesus, they can and do oppress them. In fact, the more godly Evangelicals are, the more likely they are to come under demonic attack. Charismatics, in particular, have wild imaginations when it comes to Lucifer and his influence over Christians and non-Christians alike. Spend an hour or two reading the CHARISMA website and you’ll come away wondering how the whole lot of them haven’t ended up being locked up in padded cells.

I am sure many Evangelicals believe that I am under the influence of Lucifer; that I am more than likely demon-possessed. Maybe I am, but just remember that if I am, it’s Jesus’ fault. He’s the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He holds the world in the palm of his hands. He possesses the keys to life and death. No one, according to Evangelicals, is born or dies before God says so.

Take a moment to stand in your front yard or in the middle of your living room. Glance left, right, forward, back, up, and down. According to Evangelicals, all around you is a spiritual dimension filled with God’s and Lucifer’s angels. Sure would be nice to see these angels and not have to take their word for it. If an angel showed up at my bedside tonight with an authenticated message from God, why I might, for a moment, ponder the existence of spiritual beings. I say “for a moment” because if I do happen to see an angel, it is more than likely that I am either drunk or high on drugs.

Rational, skeptical humans know that there’s no such thing as angels. Believing in the existence of such beings is a hangover from our pre-science past; back in a time when the unexplainable was attributed to God, Satan, or angels. We now know better — well some of us do anyway. Sadly, millions (billions?) of people believe that we are surrounded by invisible angels. They have never seen an angel (and if you say you have seen one, pictures or I don’t believe you) but because of religious indoc . . . as I was typing this, my browser crashed. Was this an angel trying to stop me from making fun of him? Anyway, because of religious indoctrination, Christians believe without seeing. That’s the essence of faith. If people believe in a virgin-born, resurrected-from-the-dead Jesus whom they have never seen, believing we are surrounded by angels is not too much of a stretch for them.

Just remember, with FAITH all things are possible.

What were you taught by your parents and pastors about angels and an unseen spiritual dimension? Did you read books such as  Frank Peretti’s novel, This Present Darkness? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

Believing Humans Have Eternal Life is Harmful and Wastes Life

eternal life
Cartoon by Mark Lynch

I am not suggesting that the reality of death isn’t painful, but just because something is painful doesn’t mean it can be avoided, or even that it should be.  I believe the promise of eternal life is a coping mechanism, and I don’t like it.  Pascal’s famous wager posits that if there is even one chance in a million that God exists, you should bet your life on it, but to me those are terrible odds.  Indeed, it may well be that the greatest mistake in this world is to live as if you have endless time…when in fact you don’t.

Bart Campolo, Why I Left, Why I Stayed, p. 133

What would Evangelical Christianity be without the belief that humans are eternal beings that will either dwell in Heaven (God’s Kingdom) or Hell (Lake of Fire)? Evangelicals give up a lot of living in order to earn a room in Heaven’s Trump Tower. I say “earn,” because despite talk of grace, Evangelicals know that gaining a golden ticket requires work and effort on their part. There are sins that must be confessed and forsaken, and Christians who wallow in the cesspool of the “world” likely will end up in Hell with Adolph Hitler, Barack Obama, and Bruce Gerencser. Thus, Evangelicals religiously attend church, pray, read their Bibles, witness, give tithes and offerings, buy Christian literature, listen to Christian radio, watch Christian TV, support Evangelical political candidates, and fight against abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage. These same Evangelicals try their damnedest to follow the sexual mores of the Bible. From the moment they awake in the morning until they fall asleep at night, Evangelicals focus their minds on God, Jesus, the Bible, Christianity, and making sure that the evil agenda of Satan and the Antichrist is defeated. (I am aware of the fact that not all Evangelicals are zealots; that many of them are nominal, in-name-only Christians, but millions of Americans are committed followers of the Evangelical God. It is these people who are the focus of this post.)

Those of us who spent much of our lives living and breathing Evangelical beliefs and practices often find ourselves lamenting the time wasted serving a mythical deity. I was fifty years old before I saw the “light” and divorced myself from Jesus. From the age of fifteen to the age of fifty — thirty-five years — I devoted my life to Jesus and did all I could possibly do to live according to the teachings of the Bible — failing miserably, by the way. None of my six children played sports or enjoyed many of the things “normal” children do because their Dad demanded that they, too, devote their lives to Jesus. My children, for the most part, were either educated in unaccredited private Fundamentalist schools or home schooled. Rarely were they given the opportunity to do something that was not connected to either school or church. My oldest son attended over three thousand church services and heard virtually every sermon I preached. The same could be said for Polly and the rest of my children. We lived and breathed God, the Bible, and the church. To what end? What did we gain from such a life? So much wasted time. Hours, days, and years squandered with no hope of a do-over or a second chance. Lost time is just that — lost. All the weeping and wailing in the world doesn’t change the fact that the time wasted in service of a myth is forever lost.

Ephesians 6:16 says, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. James 4:14 states, Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. And Proverbs 27:1 says, Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.  For Evangelicals, these verses are reminders of the brevity of life and the importance of serving God while they have the opportunity. Amos 4:12 speaks of preparing to meet God. Evangelicals believe that this life is preparation for the life to come; that the pain, suffering, heartache, and loss faced in the here and now is meant to keep them from becoming attached to the world. 1 John 2:15-19 states:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Evangelicals are implored to not love the world with its pride and lusts. Someday, according to the Bible, Jesus is going to return to earth and destroy the heavens and the earth, making all things new. Knowing this to be “true,” Evangelicals forsake the world, knowing that, in the end, they will be glad they did. And for those Christians who love the world and its fleshly desires? Their behaviors reveal that they aren’t True Christians®.

Evangelicals know that life is short. Psalm 90:10 says, The days of our years are threescore years and ten (seventy); and if by reason of strength they be fourscore (eighty) years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.  All too soon, death will come knocking on their doors, thus it is crucial to live life in such a way that when Jesus calls their number he will say to them, well done thou good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord (Matthew 25:23).

It is too bad that Christians don’t live their lives according to Solomon’s book of wisdom, Ecclesiastes. Solomon reminds people of the brevity of life, and the best any of us can do is eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. And therein lies the point of the Bart Campolo quote at the beginning of this post. This life is the only one we will ever have. This is it. No re-dos. No second chances. No reincarnations. No coming back as ghosts or angels. Every breath, every heartbeat brings us one moment closer to death. I am sixty years old. If I live to age seventy, this means my life is six-sevenths gone. If I live to eighty, three-fourths of my life is in the rear-view mirror. I currently take drugs that prolong my life. Without them, I would have already gone up in the smoke of the local crematorium.

There are moments in the night when pain keeps me from sleeping, and I lie in bed listening to the tick-tock of the clock on the nearby nightstand. Tick-tock, tick-tock, two seconds of life is gone. Sixty tick-tocks and a minute is gone. Thirty-six-hundred tick-tocks and another hour of my life is dissipated into the night. Someday, sooner and not later, readers of this blog will be greeted with a post from my wife or one of my children. It will say that on such-and-such a date at such-and-such time, Bruce Gerencser drew his last breath. Cause of death? Life.

Knowing this to be true, I refuse to spend my time chasing ghosts, goblins, and gods. I refuse to offload the present in the hope that I might receive some sort of divine payoff from a mythical deity. Life is meant to be lived in the here and now, with no promise of tomorrow. Yes, it is okay to plan for the future, but not at the expense of enjoying the present. Campolo says belief in eternal life is harmful because it is, above all things, a lie; a lie based solely on some words written in an ancient religious text thousands of years ago. Believing this lie causes people to miss out on all that life has to offer. Believing this lie changes relationship dynamics, pitting believers and unbelievers against each other. If Heaven and Hell are real places, then it stands to reason that Evangelical concern for non-Christian family, friends, and neighbors is warranted. However, there is, based on all we know about the universe, no Heaven or Hell. The only heaven and hell any of us will ever know is that which is lived in this life. That’s why I want, with what little time I have left, to live and raise a little hell, and make earth as heavenly as I possibly can.

Let me conclude this post with the advice I give to new readers on my ABOUT page:

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

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

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

Will Murderous Evangelical Pastor Christopher Gattis Go to Heaven When He Dies?

christopher gattis

As the Black Collar Crime series has shown, Evangelical pastors can and do commit all sorts of crimes, including — in the case of Missouri-Synod Lutheran pastor Christopher Gattis — murder. Gattis stands accused of murdering his wife, stepdaughter, and the stepdaughter’s boyfriend on Thanksgiving Day.

Gattis worked for and was a member of a church that believes “the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God and the only revelation on both beliefs and practice.”  Lutherans believe people must persevere until the end to be saved (as do Calvinists). The difference between Lutherans and Calvinists, according to Douglas Sweeney, chair of the church history and history of Christian thought department and director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is that Lutherans believe:

….the elect will certainly persevere in faith. God is not impotent to carry out his decrees respecting salvation. But not everyone who is born again is among God’s elect. It is possible for regenerated people to apostatize. So perseverance is largely a matter of walking in step with the Spirit, persevering, and encouraging other people to do the same.

According to Sweeney, Martin Luther believed that there were sins that could result in people losing their faith. Luther wrote:

“it is necessary to know and teach that when holy people—aside from the fact that they still have and feel original sin and also daily repent of it and struggle against it—somehow fall into a public sin (such as David, who fell into adultery, murder, and blasphemy against god), at that point faith and the Spirit have departed.” Luther, Smalcald Articles (1537), 3.3

None of us can know Christopher Gattis’ “heart.” For the purpose of this post, I am going to assume that he was a good Missouri-Synod Christian who loved Jesus, and the moment he committed the very public sin of homicide, the Spirit of God took flight from his soul and Gattis is now a sinner in need of conversion.

Using murderous, adulterous David as an example, Luther believed that when King David publicly sinned against God, faith and the Holy Spirit departed. Gattis, much like David, had a record of misconduct. In 2010 he was accused of public intoxication, and in 2012 he was charged with assault and battery.  Kevin Defford, his victim in the assault, said the following to the NBC-12:

“He was on edge that day, was my thinking,” says Kevin Defford, who is the victim in the 2012 case.

Defford was delivering samples of a newspaper with his son and tossed one onto Christopher Gattis’ driveway.

“On the way up, he had come from his driveway and was standing in the middle of the road,” said Defford.

He says Christopher Gattis threw the paper at his face and started yelling, even going as far as to pull out a box cutter.

“The fact that he pulled the box cutter, it had me thinking about my son at that point, and that’s why the police were called,” says Defford. “But again, it seemed like he was on edge that day when I met him.”

Christopher Gattis was found guilty, but the charge was dismissed once Christopher Gattis paid restitution. Now knowing this man is connected to a triple murder has Defford shaken.

“Now it makes me wonder a little more um, what might have been,” he said.

blood of jesus

It seems that Gattis has had several bouts of faithlessness. The good news is that if Gattis repents — telling God, my bad, Jesus. I promise never to kill anyone again — he can, once again, become a man after God’s own heart. No sin — no matter how perverse, vile, disgusting, or evil — is beyond the forgiving power of the miraculous blood of Jesus. For Gattis, restoration is but a prayer away.

Or is it?

Evangelicals love to talk about how bad they were before they became new creations in Christ Jesus. As anyone who has sat through a Baptist testimony time can attest, wild claims of depravity are quite common. The greater the sin, the greater the grace needed to save sinners from their sins. Over the course of the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, I never heard believers minimize their sinfulness. Oh no, the bigger the sinner, the better. This is why the history of Evangelicalism is filled with stories about people who were once witches, Satanists, and mob hit men before J-e-s-u-s saved them. Such people regale congregations with stories of murder, sexual abuse, demonic possession, sacrificing infants to Satan, and all sorts of perversion. Yet, Jesus somehow, some way, reached down into their wretched souls and saved them. (Of course, many of these wild testimonies are lies straight from the mythical pit of hell.)

Murderers present a real conundrum for Evangelicals. They know that David was a murderer, yet God forgave him, and he was considered not only a man after God’s own heart, but also a relative of Jesus. Evangelicals read and hear stories about murderers whose lives were transformed by the mighty working power of the triune God. This must mean, then, that murderers can be saved too, that even killing your family or strafing innocent men, women and children with weaponized drones is within the purview of Jesus, the savior of humankind. But, is it really? What does the Bible say on the matter?

Revelation 21:8 states:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Revelation 22:14,15 adds:

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. [OMG! all dogs go to hell!]

The writer of First John said:

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)

Speaking of reprobates — those beyond the grace of God — the Apostle Paul said:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:26-32)

Paul emphatically states in Galatians 5:19-21 that murderers shall not inherit the Kingdom of God:

 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Did Christopher Gattis, by murdering his family, cross a line of no return? Has his nonrefundable ticket for the Lake of Fire been punched? Or, is there still hope for Gattis; that if he really, really, really says he is s-o-r-r-y that God will say to him, aw shucks, Chris, I forgive you. The Bible is incoherent on this matter, as it is with virtually every other theological, cultural, and social issue Christians say the Bible addresses. God said it, and that settles it, right?

Of course, there is no God, so flesh-and-blood humans are left with the unenviable task of trying to figure out why Gattis picked up a gun and murdered those closest to him. Was he mentally ill? Was he under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Did he shoot them in a fit of rage? If so, what caused him to be so angry? So many questions, and regardless of the answers, Gattis, if convicted, should spend the rest of his life in prison (and I know some readers think this is a death-penalty-worthy crime).

I grieve for those left behind in the wake of Gattis homicidal rage. And for those who attempt to paper over this tragedy with God, prayer, and faith? Child, please. Stop excusing bad behavior with nonsensical theological arguments and clichés. What’s next? — God needed more good angels so he used Christopher Gattis to send his family to heaven; that God always works things out according to his purpose and plan? Enough, already. (Please read Sutherland Springs Massacre: God Answered the Victims Prayers by Allowing Them to be Murdered.)

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.