Tag Archive: Once Saved Always Saved

Devout IFB Christian Struggles with Understanding my Story

somerset baptist church 1985

Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and kids, 1985

What follows is a discussion I had today with a devout Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian.  As you will see, Jack (not his real name) genuinely had a hard time wrapping his mind around my story. Schooled in IFB soteriology, Jack cannot fathom someone being saved, and then lost. In his mind, that’s impossible. Yet, here I am. 🙂

Jack: Hey Bruce, I just read a little about your life and your description of how IFB preachers are treated like Demigods. I was saved in 1981 and God changed my life and Christ is my Saviour. I went to Hyles Anderson College for a little bit. I’m back with the Lord. The Lord seems to have restored me and I’m happier and have more peace and am winning souls consistently. Are you saying that none of this is real to you anymore? What about God, and Heaven and Hell and Judgement? I’m just asking I’m not trying to argue. I’m curious about your response.

Bruce: I’m an atheist, so no, I don’t think there is a God, Heaven, Hell, judgment, etc. You might find these posts helpful:

https://brucegerencser.net/why/

Jack: Are you familiar with Dr. Jack Hyles?

Bruce: Yes, I’ve written extensively about Hyles and his son.

Jack: So what about getting saved, you never believed in that?

Bruce: Yes, I was saved, and now I’m not.

Jack: You really believe you were saved? How can you lose your salvation when the Lord comes into your heart?

Bruce: Don’t let your theology get in the way of reality. Countless people faithfully follow Jesus for years and then deconvert.

Jack: You don’t believe in being born again, and the Lord coming into your heart, and you becoming a new creature?

Bruce: Of course I did, but now I don’t.

Jack: So you don’t think that really happens?

Bruce: I “believe” it happened. All religious experiences are psychological in nature. We can believe all sorts of things that aren’t true or convince ourselves that certain experiences were real.

Jack: I believe the Lord really did come into my heart; there has been an internal change that cannot be denied! IT IS REAL! My desires changed, and my outlook, and I’m in the Light now, I see things differently! By faith!

Bruce: It’s “real” because you think it is. You want, need it to be real, so it is. And that’s fine.

Jack: You don’t think peace and comfort and joy and God’s love is real. I experience it!

Bruce: You “experience” what you believe those things to be. Again, all religious experiences are psychological in nature. Devout believers in other religions have similar “experiences.”

Usually, when an IFB Christian contacts me, I roll up my sleeves and ready myself for a bloody fight. Either that or I just say fuck off and turn on Sports Center. I sensed that Jack really wanted to understand my story, so I decided to briefly engage him in a discussion. I thought, “maybe, just maybe, I can get Jack to look beyond his narrow Fundamentalist theology.” I am not sure I accomplished that, but I hope that I planted a few seeds of doubt that might germinate and cause Jack to rethink his worldview. Not every online discussion has to end in hostility and conflict. I am content to put in a good word for reason, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry and move on.

Trained by the late Jack Hyles and his acolytes at First Baptist Church in Hammond and Hyles-Anderson College, Jack believes that once a person prays the sinner’s prayer and asks Jesus into his heart, he is a Christian; and once saved, always saved. In Jack’s mind, there’s nothing I can say or do to separate myself from God (Romans 8:35-39). Because I prayed the sinner’s prayer at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, at the age of fifteen, I am forever a child of God, and Heaven awaits me after I die. No matter what I have said or done in the intervening forty-seven years, nothing can undo what took place one fall night years ago. I could become a Muslim, commit mass murder, or sexually molest children — it matters not — once saved, always saved.

IFB Christians such as Jack are left with two possibilities after reading my story:

  • I never was a Christian
  • I am a backslidden Christian

The first possibility is absurd. There’s nothing in my past that suggests that I was anything but a devoted, committed, sincere follower of Jesus. The fact that I am now an atheist does not magically erase my past (or the knowledge I have about Christianity and the Bible). The only honest explanation for my past is this: I once was a Christian, and now I am not.

The second possibility is equally absurd. There is nothing in my present life that remotely suggests that I am a Christian. Anyone who reads my blog surely knows that I am not, in any way, a Christian. Not an Evangelical; not an IFB Christian; not a liberal Christian; not a progressive Christian; not a Christian humanist; not a Christian universalist; not a Christian, period. I am a card-carrying atheist, a member in good standing of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

When someone tells me that they are a Christian, I accept their “testimony” at face value. Jack says he has been an IFB Christian for thirty-eight years. I believe him. It’s his storyline. Who better to tell his story than Jack? I just wish that Christians would do the same for Evangelicals-turned-atheists. “But Bruce,” Christians say, “the Bible says yada yada yada yada.” What the Bible purportedly says is not my problem. I get it. Jack can’t square my story with his peculiar theology. Countless Evangelicals have the same problem when they read my story. Again, that’s not my problem. I know what I know. Ask anyone who knew me when I was a Christian: Was Bruce a “real” follower of Jesus; a True Christian®? To a person, they will say, absolutely! Either I deceived my wife, children, in-laws, extended family, friends, college roommates, professors, ministerial colleagues, and congregants, or I really was a Christian. What’s more likely? Trust me, I am not a very good liar. Me not having been a Christian is akin to the moon landing being a hoax.

Stories such as mine will continue to cause cognitive dissonance for IFB Christians such as Jack. All I can hope for is that by reading my story, they will have doubts and questions that will lead to further investigation and inquiry. Fundamentalist Christians can and do change. I once believed as Jack did, and so did many of the readers of this blog. Yet, we are now unbelievers. Deconversion is a slow, agonizing, painful process. Some people cannot bear the questions and doubts, so they retreat into the safety of the house of faith. Others, however, are willing to suffer through the process, believing that truth and freedom await them on the other side. There’s a gospel song that says, we’ve come this far by faith, we can’t turn back now. For people such as myself, we’ve come this far by reason, we can’t turn back now.

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.

Dear Charlie, I’m Only Going to Say This Once

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

Warning! Trolley cars of snark ahead. You have been warned.

Yesterday, Charlie, a Trump-loving IFB preacher, sent me the following message on Facebook (all grammar in the original):

i only going to say one thing, and i wll never bother you again. God does exiist, and you need Jesus as your Savior. Hell also exists, and you are headed there. of course we are all entitled to our beliefs. So i will respect yours. and i hope you would respect mine. hope to see you in heaven one day.

Charlie was raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Educated from elementary school through college in IFB institutions, Charlie is certain that his peculiar beliefs are right. Charlie attends Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton, North Carolina. If that church name sounds familiar to you, it’s because I wrote about it last week, about Jon Jenkins, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Gaylord, Michigan becoming the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist.

What follows is my letter to Charlie:

Dear Charlie,

This is my response to the message you sent me on Facebook. I am only going to say these things once, and once said, I promise to never, ever contact you again. Not that I contacted you in the first place. For whatever reason, you took it upon yourself to contact me, thinking that your seven preachy sentences would somehow cause me to rethink the sixty-two years of my life, and hopefully lead me to repenting of my sins and asking Jesus to save me. I hate to break it to you, Charlie, I am already saved! Don’t you believe in once-saved-always-saved; the belief that once saved, a person can never lose his or her salvation? Well, I want to share some good news with you: I was gloriously born again at age fifteen and called to preach a few weeks later at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. I spent the next thirty-five years devotedly following after Jesus. Granted, I am now an atheist, but remember, once-saved-always-saved.

You say God exists, yet you provide me no evidence for your claim. Should I just take your word for it? How do you know that your version of God is the true and living God? If I said to you that the true and living God was Loki, would you accept that without me providing evidence for my claim? Of course not. You could point to the natural world and say, SEE, GOD CREATED EVERYTHING! My reply is simple and direct, WHICH GOD? There’s nothing in nature itself that proves the Christian God is the creator of everything. Now, if you told me you were a deist, and your God set everything in motion and then said, “there ya go, do with it what you will,” I might at least listen to your claim. However, there is no evidence for the God of Evangelicals/Independent Baptists/Young Earth Creationists being the creator of the universe. Believing your God created everything is a faith claim. Even the Bible admits as much in Hebrews 11:1,3

 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

….

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Did you read what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God said, Charlie? “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Believing the Christian God created everything requires “faith,” a faith I do not have. I am unwilling to “faith-it.” If you want me to believe in your deity, Charlie, you are going to have to prove his existence to me. If not, I will remain in unbelief.

You go on to tell me that I need Jesus as my Savior. Charlie, why do I need Jesus as my Savior? What is it that you think I need to be saved from? As I mentioned previously, I was saved at age fifteen. At age nineteen, I left home and enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan to study for the ministry. While there, I married a beautiful IFB preacher’s daughter. We just celebrated forty-one years of marriage. Our marriage was saturated with Jesus 24-7 for many years.

Are you now saying that Jesus failed in some way when he saved me forty-seven years ago? Jesus promised that he would never leave me nor forsake me, yet the extant evidence of my life suggests that Jesus has left the building and is never, ever coming back. I am beginning to wonder if Jesus is like Baal in 1 Kings 18. I am sure you remember the story. The Prophet Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a God-off. Whoever could call fire down from Heaven would be the winner. My favorite part of the story is when Elijah mocked Baal’s prophets, saying:

Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

Elijah said that Baal’s inaction was likely caused by him talking to too much, taking a shit, being on vacation, or sleeping. Funny, that is exactly what I think about the Christian God. Wherever he is and whatever he is doing, one thing is for certain, he has no interest in helping people — well outside of helping Granny Louise find her car keys. Look around, Charlie. Look at all the war, violence, suffering, hunger, disease, death, and losing seasons by the Cincinnati Reds. If God is all that you say he is, why does he sit on the sidelines of the human experience and do nothing? My Gawd, man, your God couldn’t even protect children from sexual assault at your new pastor’s former church. If your God can’t protect innocent church children from IFB preachers/deacons/Sunday school teachers/evangelists/Christian school teachers preying on them, what good is he? (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.)

Your message to me goes on to say that Hell is real, and I am headed there. How do you KNOW Hell is real, Charlie? Can you take me there so I can see for myself?  Supposedly, Hell is in the bowels of the earth. Don’t they have cell reception in Hell? I thought Verizon’s signal reached everywhere. Perhaps you can check this out for me. I would sure love to talk to my dear friend Steve Gupton, Christopher Hitchens, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and Stephen Hawking. I want to know about the weather in Hell and make sure that they are taking care of my condo until I arrive. Oh wait, I am not going to Hell! Once saved, always saved, right? Ah, the absurdity of Evangelical theology.

You said one thing I agree with, “we are all entitled to our beliefs.” You, Charlie, are free to believe what you want. As a fellow evolving primate, I respect you as a person. Most of the people where I live think as you do. Life would be miserable for me if I didn’t respect my neighbors and try to get along with them. That said, when it comes to the beliefs themselves, I don’t respect your beliefs, and neither do you respect mine. Let’s put to rest the notion that we have to respect the beliefs of others, no matter how crazy those beliefs are. Sorry, but I can’t do that. Your beliefs are irrational and contradictory. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense) Such beliefs cause all sorts of political, social, and personal harm. The psychological harm done by Evangelical beliefs runs deep, and the best thing that could happen is that Evangelicalism dies a quick death. While it is unlikely that I will live to see that day, I hope that one of my grandchildren will be there holding the pillow over Evangelicalism’s face as it draws its last breath.

You end your message with a passive-aggressive statement: “hope to see you in heaven one day.” First, why do you think I won’t be in Heaven, Charlie? Remember, once-saved-always-saved. Even you can’t take away the salvation given to me by the triune God of Christianity. Second, you do realize that no one goes to Heaven or Hell when they die, right? I know you have been taught differently, but orthodox Christianity teaches that when people die their bodies go to the grave to await the resurrection of the dead — the resurrection of the just and unjust. Until that day, Heaven is populated with God, angels, and spirits. It’s only when Jesus returns to earth that all humans will be resurrected from the dead, judged, and then fitted with bodies suited for eternity in God’s eternal Kingdom (Heaven) or the Lake of Fire (Hell). When I die — and believe me, that’s going to happen sooner, and not later — my body will be cremated and my family will scatter my ashes along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. There I will remain — intermixed with sand and lake water — until Jesus reanimates me and gives me a body that will withstand the whoop-ass he plans to put on me for eternity in Hell. That is unless, once-saved-always-saved, right?

Ask yourself this, Charlie, why would I want to spend eternity in Heaven with the likes of you? You see me as little more than a soul in need of saving. Imagine the praises that would come your way if you were instrumental in winning the infamous Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser back to Jesus? Man, when it comes to making the Soulwinning Top 100®, bagging me would surely be a Top Ten conversion!

Well, Charlie, you went for it and lost. Did you really think you could say anything that would cause me to reconsider my decision to divorce Jesus in November 2008? Did you read any of the posts listed on the WHY page? If you had read even a few of the posts on that page, you would have quickly learned that I am not a prospect for your supercalifragilisticexpialidocious IFB salvation. Been there, done that, remember?

I know you meant well, Charlie; that the Holy Spirit told you to message me; that you felt a momentary “burden” for Bruce Gerencser. I hope that the content of this letter will cause you to pause the next time you feel “led” to contact strangers on the Internet. That “feeling” you think is the “Holy Ghost,” is likely just the Taco Bell bean burrito you had for lunch.

Be well.

A sinner saved by reason,

Bruce

P.S. I am kidding about all that once-saved-always-saved stuff. I have never believed I am still a Christian. You are required to believe I am because your soteriology demands it. However, I know that people walk away from the Christian God all the time. Scores of people do it every day. In my case, I once was a Christian, and now I am not. I am, according to the Bible, an apostate and reprobate. According to the book of Hebrews, I am beyond God’s saving grace. And I am okay with that. Life is good — without God.

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.

Evangelicals and the Gay Closet: Is Ray Boltz Still a Christian?

ray boltz

Most Evangelicals believe that once a person is saved, he is always saved; that nothing can separate him from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39). This belief, of course, causes a real problem for Evangelicals when they hear about people who were once Evangelicals and lived according to Evangelical interpretations of the Bible, but no longer do so. I was a once-saved-always-saved Evangelical pastor for twenty- five years. My lifestyle was one of devotion to Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit was evident in my life (Galatians 5:22,23). No one, at the time, doubted I was a Christian. Today, I am an apostate; a false prophet; an atheist. My deconversion poses a real problem for Evangelicals. If I were truly saved, I am still saved. If I can’t fall from God’s grace, I still have it. No matter what I say or do, if Evangelicals are right, I am still a born-again Christian. Out of the will of God? Sure. Backslidden? Sure. Awaiting God’s chastisement? Sure. But, I’m still a Christian, nonetheless.

Of course, such thinking is unpalatable for many Evangelicals. They can’t bear to think that a blasphemer such as I am is still a Christian. They can’t stomach the thought of me being an atheist, yet still getting a mansion — albeit a much smaller one — in Heaven after I die. For these people, the answer to their queasiness is to say that I never was a Christian; that I was wolf in sheep’s clothing; that I was a Satanic angel of light. This line of thinking is ludicrous for the simple fact that everything I said and did from the age of fifteen to the age of fifty said to the world that I was an out and proud follower of Jesus Christ. And I was indeed. As a person who knew me quite well years ago said, “If Bruce wasn’t a Christian, nobody was!”

While queuing up some music to listen to today as I write, I came across several songs by Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) artist Ray Boltz. You might remember some of his signature songs: The Anchor Holds, Thank You, I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb.

Video Link

Video Link

As a pastor, I found Boltz’s song, Thank You, quite helpful when I was doubting whether the work I was doing was making a difference. Boltz’s song reminded me that I would have to wait until I got to Heaven to see the fruit of my labor.

In 2005, Boltz retired from the Christian music industry and later divorced his wife. In 2008, Boltz came out of the closet and admitted he was gay. What follows is an interview Boltz gave about being gay and still being a Christian. Please take the time to listen to this video. Boltz is honest and open about his life, and is actually quite compassionate towards people who attack him for being gay.

Video Link

Boltz’s “testimony” poses a big problem for Evangelicals. Here’s a man who was loved, respected, and revered by Evangelicals, yet now he says he is gay. “How can this be?” Evangelicals wonder. “All those wonderful songs he wrote, yet he had “gay lust” in his heart the whole time! Stop! My head is hurting!” Evangelicals are forced to say either Boltz was never a Christian, or that he still is a Christian. Remember, most Evangelicals believe homosexuality to be a sign of a reprobate heart; that there is no such thing as a “gay” Christian; that there will be NO LGBTQ people in Heaven. This means, necessarily, that Boltz was NEVER a Christian — an absurd notion if there ever was one.

A 2018 Thought Co article titled, Christian Singer Ray Boltz Comes Out, Says He Lives a Normal Gay Life, details how many (most) Evangelicals view Boltz’s coming out:

Reactions from fans regarding Ray Boltz and this news has run the gamut of emotions. Some are heartbroken and feel like Boltz needs to pray harder and he will be cured of his homosexuality. Boltz did say in the article that he had been praying for change almost all of his life. “I basically lived an ‘ex-gay’ life—I read every book, I read all the scriptures they use, I did everything to try and change.”

Other fans view him as almost a victim of the devil’s lies, of society’s “everything’s good” attitude, of his own sin. Some fans look up to his decision to go public so that people can see that gay people can love and serve the Lord.

There are some that feel that his “giving in to the temptation of sin” and “succumbing to the homosexual lie” wipes out every shred of value that his music ever had in the world and that he should be “shunned from the body of Christ until he repents and changes his ways because he can not receive forgiveness until he actually repents from the sin.”

Boltz believes he is still a Christian, albeit one far from his Evangelical roots. He currently lives with his partner and attends a gay-affirming church in Florida.

Were you a Ray Boltz fan? Were you still a Christian when you heard about him saying he was gay? What was your response? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Note

Read Boltz’s New York Times interview about his post-Evangelical life.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Bob, the Saved Rapist

barbara gerencser 1978

Mom and Bruce, Rochester, Indiana, 1978

Bob was my mom’s brother-in-law. Married to my dad’s sister, Bob was a rough-and-tumble truck driver and dirt-track race-car driver. Bob’s parents were devout Fundamentalist Baptists. Bob was raised in the church, and at the age of seventeen he walked the sawdust trail at a revival meeting and asked Jesus to save him from his sin. According to Baptist theology, Bob was now an eternally saved child of God.

After high school, Bob left home and abandoned the Baptist faith of his parents. Over the next six decades, Bob lived as if God did not exist. In every way, he lived as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. He was a booze-drinking skirt chaser known for sexually harassing and assaulting women. Female family members knew to steer clear of Bob lest they find themselves a target of his sexual advances. Age didn’t matter to Bob, and more than a few teen family members endured his touches, squeezes, and other demeaning behaviors.

Women got “used to” Bob’s sexual assaults. Viewing him as harmless, they would recount to me, “Oh, that was just Bob being Bob.” It was the 1960s and 1970s, after all, and that’s just how men were, I was told. As I will share in a moment, Bob was anything but harmless.

In early 1969, we lived east of Farmer, Ohio in a farmhouse owned by my dad’s sister and brother-in-law. I was in the sixth grade at Farmer Elementary School. One day, I was home from school sick. I spent the day in bed recuperating. In the early afternoon, Bob pulled into the drive. I figured he was there to see my mom, so I stayed in my room. A short time later, Bob left and I heard my mom calling my name. She was crying, saying that Bob had just raped her. She asked me to go to the neighbor’s house and call someone (I can’t remember who). I did, but no one ever came to our home.

You see, Mom had mental health problems — lots of problems. This meant, of course, in the minds of “healthy” people, she couldn’t be relied on to tell the truth. Bob was well-known in town. Bob would never rape anyone. Yes, he was a “little” too friendly with women, but, hey, that was just “Bob being Bob.” A few months later, we moved to Deshler, Ohio. Mom never talked about Bob after that. I suspect that she buried the rape deep in the recesses of her mind, right next to memories of her father repeatedly sexually assaulting her as a child.

Bob died a few years ago. His funeral was held at the local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Bob’s parents helped start this congregation and were pillars of the church for decades. I attended the funeral, wanting to see what kind of send-off the once-saved-always-saved Baptists would give Bob, the Saved Rapist. The pastor giving the sermon spoke of the night sixty years prior that Bob had been gloriously saved, and that he was now in Heaven with his mom and dad. The pastor never mentioned that Bob hadn’t darkened the doors of the church since the 1960s and he, in every way, lived a life of debauchery. The pastor cared more about protecting the memory of Bob’s parents than he did telling the truth. I have seen this behavior countless times over the years: degenerate people preached into Heaven, all because they mentally assented to a set of theological propositions. And therein lies the vulgarity of once-saved-always-saved soteriology. It’s the same theology that says I am still a Christian, and that no matter what I say or do I will go to Heaven when I die. Just pray the right prayer, believe the right things and Heaven is yours!

As the funeral service went along, I found myself becoming increasingly angry. I wanted to rebuke the pastor for his lies. I wanted to scream at the congregation for their willful ignorance of what kind of man Bob really was. Most of all, I wanted to be my mom’s voice. Not a mile away, Mom lay silent in her grave. Oh, to bring her to life again so she could give testimony to what Bob did to her! On that day, I so wished that there was a Hell. If anyone deserved endless torment, it was Bob. Alas, there is no Hell, so the only satisfaction that comes from Bob’s death is that no other woman will ever have to suffer the indignity of being sexually assaulted by him. I wish Mom had been alive to see Bob meet his end. Unfortunately, fifteen years prior, Mom turned a Ruger .357 on herself, pulled the trigger, ripping a hole in her heart. Her beautiful, tragic life instantly came to an end at age fifty-four, due in no small part to men who saw her as an object of sexual desire and gratification and not as a thoughtful, intelligent — and yes, beautiful — human being she really was.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Bruce, You Never Knew the REAL Jesus

who is the real jesus

I have been accused hundreds of times over the years of never having been a True Christian®. The gist of this accusation is that I met, worshiped, and followed a counterfeit Jesus. If I had I encountered the REAL JESUS and put my faith and trust in him, I would have become a True Christian® and would still be a follower of Christ to this day. The Bible gives cover for this argument when it says:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

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. (I John 2:19)

According to Evangelicals who say I never met the REAL JESUS, the angels of light in my life — parents, pastors, professors — were actually tools of Satan used by him to deceive me. And true to my training, I then became a false angel of light too — deceiving the churches I pastored and pulling the wool over the eyes of my colleagues in the ministry; that is, if any of them knew REAL JESUS themselves.

The fact that I no longer profess to be a follower of Jesus is further evidence that I never met the REAL JESUS. Had I met the REAL JESUS, I would have continued in the faith; I would have continued pastoring churches. That I now stand in opposition to Christianity and the teachings of the Bible is clear evidence to Evangelicals that whatever Jesus I followed over my fifty years in the Christian church, he was not the REAL JESUS.

A good example of this thinking can be found in the recent blog comments by Rod Rogers:

Yes, but you now claim that you are not a christian and therefore you never were a christian, right? You have painted your self into a corner. Either you were a liar for years or you are lying now; but you have to choose. My point is that God is always God or there never was a god. You have claimed both. Very sad.

Bruce, you don’t go from preaching God’s word, studying and praying daily and then wake up one day and say God never existed. That never happens. Somewhere you came to a place where God didn’t meet your expectations. I don’t know where that happened but it happened.

“Each aspect of my life must be judged in its context.” Ok, YOU said you were a Christian, said you were a preacher. In that context, were you preaching the truth or preaching a lie? Preaching a lie makes one what? “All I am saying is that I once was a Christian just like you, and now I’m not.” And all I am saying is that by your own admission you believed in once saved always saved. Now you don’t believe in God at all. By you own theology you yourself believed either you were not saved to begin with or you preached a lie. You are in a corner.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Either you never were a child of God or you still are.

Bruce, it doesn’t matter what happened when. The only thing I am assuming is that you are telling the truth when you say that you were an IFB. If you were ever IFB then you believed in OSAS. You just don’t want to admit the truth. Your comment, “It’s like saying, I’m divorced now, so that means I never was married”?”, has nothing to do with my comment; its Non Sequitor.

I’m 64 years old and have met a lot of people and you are the only one who claims to have lived at the foot of the cross and woke up one day and renounced it. Sorry, I don’t believe that.

Rod is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). As such, he believes in the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”  According to this doctrine, once a person is saved, he can never fall from grace, never lose his salvation. Built upon a foundation of intellectual assent to a set of theological propositions, most proponents of “once saved, always saved” believe that I am still a Christian; that I am just backslidden or out of the will of God. I say most, because some “once saved, always saved” believers can’t bear to fathom that someone who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29) can still be a Christian. If I am not now a Christian, in their minds, that means I never was a Christian; that in decades of pastoral experience I never came in contact with the REAL JESUS.

Calvinists fall into “once saved, always saved” crowd, albeit they believe that a person must endure to the end (death) to be saved; and even then, some people who thought they were saved will wake up in Hell, realizing that they never were one of the elect. What a con job, right?  Much like many in the “once saved, always saved” IFB crowd, the Calvinists who knew me have concluded that I never met the REAL JESUS. If I had met the REAL JESUS, I would still be in church, availing myself of means of grace. That I am now an outspoken opponent of True Christianity® is proof to them that I was a false Christian.

In 1994, I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church — an independent Calvinistic congregation — in Elmendorf, Texas. While at Community, I became friends with Jose Maldonado, pastor of Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church. I had met Joe in the fall of 1993 when he and Pat Horner — my soon to be co-pastor — came to preach a conference at the church in Ohio I was pastoring at the time.

I resigned from Community in the fall of 1994. You can read more about that debacle in the series titled, I Am a Publican and a Heathen. After leaving Community, I had no further contact with Maldonado. Imagine my surprise, then, to hear that Maldonado, sixteen years after our last contact, took to the pulpit to let people know that I was now an atheist; a man who never knew the REAL JESUS.

Here’s a short audio clip of Maldonado “exposing” me as a false prophet:

You can listen to Maldonado’s four-part sermon series or read transcripts of his sermons here.  You also might find interesting the post titled, Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.

The hilarious thing in the whole “Bruce met a false Jesus” saga, is that “once saved, always saved” Baptists and Calvinistic Baptists bitterly oppose one another, each believing the other preaches a false gospel. In other words, each side believes the other has never met the REAL JESUS.

As you can see, the core theological problem for both groups is that True Christians® are eternally saved. The Bible says in John 10:27-29:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Those who hear the voice Jesus and follow after him are given eternal life, and are held safe in his hand. No man is able to pluck Christians out the hand of Jesus. The problem with this argument, of course, is my life as a Christian clearly shows that I heard the voice of Jesus and followed after him. There’s nothing in my storyline that remotely suggests that I was following after a false Jesus; that I was a sheep in wolves clothing; that I was a false prophet. Yet, here I am today, having safely jumped out of the hand of Jesus, an out-and-proud apostate. “How can these things be?” Evangelicals ask themselves. Zealots such as Rod refuse to accept my story at face value, suggesting that there is some part of my story I am not sharing lest I give away the “real” reason I am no longer a Christian. This leads people to concoct all sorts of conspiracies about my loss of faith.

How about we let Occam’s Razor tell the story here: I once was a Christian and now I am not; I once was a follower of Jesus and now I am not; I devotedly loved Jesus and now I don’t; that the telling of my story is an honest, forthright reflection of my life as a Christian and an Evangelical pastor — theology be damned.  Christians holding to Arminian theology believe followers of Jesus can do fall from grace. In their minds, I am just one more sad example of someone who chose not to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Works for me.

Here’s what I know for sure, I once was saved and now I am not. It really is that simple. It is not up to me to help Evangelicals square their theology with my testimony. Can’t make my story fit in the narrow confines of your rigid theological box? Tough shit, not my problem. I have no doubt I met numerous times the REAL JESUS. A mythical being, to be sure, but I most certainly had a torrid love affair with this Jesus for most of my adult life. Just as I would never doubt a sincere Christian’s testimony of faith, all I ask is that Evangelicals grant me the same courtesy. This will never happen, of course, because their theology bars them from doing so. Their intransigence reveals the real truth behind this discussion; that the question has never been meeting the REAL JESUS; that what really matters is believing the right sectarian doctrines; that Evangelicalism is inherently a text-based system; that what really determines entrance into Heaven is checking off the right boxes on the Beliefs Checklist. The Evangelical gospel is this: BELIEVE THESE DOCTRINES AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED. It’s never been about the REAL JESUS.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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Will the Pastor-Turned-Atheist Bruce Gerencser Go to Heaven When He Dies?

bruce-gerencser-heaven-after-death

It never ceases to amaze me the places I find my story being cussed, discussed, diagnosed, and deconstructed. The latest discussion is currently going on at the Baptist Board: A Christ Centered Community. The focus of the discussion is whether Bruce Gerencser will go to Heaven when he dies. Baptists, for the most part, believe that once a person is a saved, he is always saved. This doctrine is variously called once-saved, always-saved or eternal security. Calvinists call the doctrine the preservation or perseverance of the saints. The end is the same: a person who repents of his sin and puts his faith and trust in Jesus is eternally saved and Heaven will be his home after he dies. No matter what I do or how I live my life, be it as an adulterer or murderer, when I die angels will carry me into the Christian God’s Heaven.

Some Baptists, unwilling to allow such a miscreant as I into God’s Heaven, take another approach. He NEVER was saved, they say. This argument, by far, is the silliest I have heard over the years. What in my life as a Christian and a pastor points to some sort of fatal defect in my understanding of the gospel? Why shouldn’t my sincere testimony of faith be taken at face value? Can those who say I never was a Christian give any evidence for their claim? Of the thousands of people who heard me preach, called me pastor, or were colleagues of mine, who among them said at the time, Bruce Gerencser is not a Christian? Not one person. My life by any reasonable measurement was one of faith and devotion to Jesus Christ.

Presently, I am an atheist and a humanist. I am quite clear and forthright about how I view the past: I once was saved and now I am lost. Arminian Christians — those who believe a Christian can fall from grace and lose their salvation — have no problem squaring my storyline with their theology. They readily admit that I once was a committed follower of Jesus and now I am not. While on one hand this issue is of no importance — the Christian God is a work of fiction and of human origin — it does matter to me that people accept my story at face value. When Christians give testimony about the when, where, why, and how of God saving them, I believe them. While I certainly think there are psychological, sociological, and cultural reasons for such stories, I do accept at face value that Christians believe their stories to be true (as I did as a Christian for many years). All I ask is that Christians do the same, regardless of whether they can square my storyline with their peculiar theology. It’s my story, and who better to tell it than I?

I hope readers will stop by the Baptist Board and read their discussion. The comment that amused me the most was the one that said, “I think it would be very interesting to sit across the table from him, maybe a different doctrinal take would have yielded different fruit.” I would love to know exactly what “doctrinal take” would have led to a different outcome for me spiritually? Having spent the years from ages fifteen to fifty studying the Bible and reading countless theological tomes, I highly doubt that there is a theological system that I am unfamiliar with. Unlike some of the men on Baptist Board (I know several of them), my theology changed over the years. I began my life as a Christian and a pastor as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). I left the IFB church movement in the late 1980s, spending the next decade in Sovereign Grace and Reformed Baptist circles. In the late 1990s, my theological (and political and social) beliefs began to creep leftward, finally finding a home in Emergent/Emerging/Red-letter Christian circles. When I left the ministry in 2005, my theological views were such that I no longer considered myself an Evangelical. In the three years between leaving the ministry and walking away from Christianity, I committed myself to seeking out a Christianity that mattered. During this time, Polly and I, along with three of our children, attended over one hundred churches. You can see the list of churches we attended here. I concluded after three years that Christian churches are all pretty much the same — social clubs that exist for the benefit of their members. Regardless of their ecclesiology, soteriology, and liturgy, churches are pretty much like hamburger joints: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Sonic, Carl’s Jr, or Five Guys. The way the hamburgers are cooked and with what condiments they are served with vary from chain to chain, but one thing remains the same: a hamburger is a hamburger. So it is with Christians and the churches they attend. No matter how special they think their church is, once the bun and condiments are removed, what’s left is a 1/4-1/3 pound round hamburger. Except for Wendy’s, that is. Perhaps they are the One True Hamburger Joint®.

I certainly wouldn’t mind there being life after death — that is, as long as it is not the Evangelical version of heavenly bliss. I have no interest in spending eternity praising and worshiping the Christian God. Now, if Heaven is a pain-free version of the present, beam me up Scotty, I’m ready to go. However, if Heaven is as Evangelicals say it is, count me out. This life is enough. Live for today, for tomorrow we die. And then? Nothing.

There’s No Such Thing as a Former Christian

saved or lost

Like Hotel California, once you are in you can’t get out.

Once you are saved, you can never be lost.

Once God’s hound dog, the Holy Spirit, tracks you down you belong to God forever.

Or so says Charles Smith:

If you scour the world-wild-web for any amount of time using atheism as your search term, you will undoubtedly find pages and pages of sites laced with the famous proclamation, “I used to be a Christian.” While this may be intriguing to the seeker, desiring a glimpse at the testimony of a formerly professing believer turned cynic in hopes of discovering reasons to remain religiously repulsed by Christendom, or possibly the opposite – looking to see if their retroversion experience is sensible – one thing is certain…there’s no such thing as a former Christian.

Cultural Christianity is quite the phenomenon of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries…

After “leaving the faith,” these misguided, false-converts then find their voices in the blogosphere, social sites, chat rooms, discussion boards and every other form of digital media outlet known to man – exhaustively expatriating as many “cardboard Christians” as they can sink their flaw-full claws into. Ironically, if they would spend as much time truly investigating and begging with a contrite heart, “God, please show yourself to me!” they would discover that He is absolutely faithful to do so – and the door the Lord has once opened, can be closed by no man.

These poor misinformed “ex-Christians” were never truly reborn of the Holy Spirit of God. They followed the crowd in church, were dunked under water, consumed crackers and gulped grape juice, sang songs, talked the talk, looked the part, memorized verses and so many other religious acts, but never came to a saving faith found in a relationship with the only begotten Son of God. Like so many of their contemporaries who weren’t led to the foot of the blood-stained cross of Calvary, they never saw their sins in the mirror of the ten commandments and consequently, never realized the magnitude of their debt – owed to a God who, because of His perfect love and justice, must punish sin – and they never saw the spotless Lamb for who He was and is, the ransom payment – the sacrificial substitute – who carried their sins before the Father and said “I will take their punishment.” Their prideful hearts of stone never crumbled under the weight of such a love and therefore, they simply socialized and enjoyed the music and learned to get along. But, of course, anyone who goes through a “phase” knows, it wore off and they moved on and Jesus wept…

Let the reader understand, just as you can’t become unborn once you have evacuated the womb, you also cannot become un-born-again. It is impossible to un-ring a bell, un-cook an egg or un-kill the living. If you are a spiritual seeker, please know that there is no such thing as an ex-Christian and if you want the truth, please look in a good Bible teaching church for assistance. If after reading this you still claim to be a “former believer,” you just do not understand…

While Smith’s argument certainly might apply to cultural or nominal Christians, it falls flat on its face when it comes to people like me, those who were sincere, committed, devoted, sold-out, on fire, consecrated, dedicated, sanctified followers of Jesus. While it is quite easy to dismiss those who never really took Christianity seriously, what about those of us who did? Did I really spend most of my adult life deceived, never having come to faith in Jesus Christ? Only in the echo chamber of Smith’s mind is such a claim possible. The only way he can square his theology with the life of someone like me is to say I never was a Christian, and since theology always trumps reason, Bruce Gerencser never was a Christian.

Look, I understand. I really I do. Christians like Smith can not fathom anyone walking away from their Jesus. Why would anyone want to walk away from J-E-S-U-S, the most awesome God-man in the world, the biggest, baddest God is the entire universe. Why would anyone walk away from a golden ticket to God’s Motel 6? No more pain, no more suffering, no more death…who in their right mind would turn down such an offer?

But I did, others have, and more will continue to do so. Evidently God didn’t want us bad enough to keep us.

Is There Only One Plan of Salvation?

saved lost

o hear many Evangelical preachers tell it, salvation is a transaction between God and humankind. Humankind is wicked, vile, and sinful, unable to do good and headed for hell. God, in his infinite wisdom, made a way for us to have our sins forgiven. Once we avail ourselves of this super-duper sin-erasing way, we have a ticket to heaven that cannot be canceled. The moment we pray to Jesus and ask him to forgive us of our sins and come into our life, one of heaven’s angels puts a door hangar on a room in the Father’s House that says RESERVED.

Countless American Christians have prayed the sinners prayer and are certain that when they die they will wake up in heaven. They have successfully pulled the handle on God’s Salvation Dispensing Machine® and down the chute came a Fire Insurance policy that guarantees payment upon death. It is the only insurance that pays off AFTER you die.

Eternal security, also known as once-saved-always-saved, is a central tenet of many an Evangelical preacher’s soteriology. Once in the family you can never leave the family. God’s family is like the mob, once you are in, you are in for life. What better thing to offer sinners than a guaranteed home in heaven that costs them nothing more than a few heartfelt words:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen

The Bible says in Romans 10:9,10,13:

 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Arminians, those who believe you can lose your salvation, object to the doctrine of eternal security. According to their theology, Christians can lose their salvation. Good works are necessary to maintain one’s salvation.  Calvinists also object to the doctrine of eternal security. They emphatically believe that a person must persevere, hold on until death. And if they don’t, this is proof that the person never really was a Christian.

Based on what I have written above, this means that someone such as myself, a reprobate, a denier of God and his offer of salvation, a man who once was saved, who once followed Jesus is either:

  • Still saved because once you are saved you can never lose it
  • Unsaved because I lost the salvation I once had
  • Never was saved

Over the years I have had numerous Christians tell me that one of these three statements is an accurate description of my present state. All of them are quite certain that they are 100% right about my standing with God and where I will end up when I die.

Every Christian sect would agree that salvation and eternal destiny are THE most important issues every person must decide. Amos 4:12 says, PREPARE to meet thy God.  Surely then, God has made the whole salvation thing crystal clear, right? Nope.

Take the aforementioned verses in Romans 10:9,10, 13. It seems clear that belief=salvation=eternity in heaven.  John 10:28 says:

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

and 1 John 5:13 says:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

and Hebrews 8:38, 39 says:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

These are the verses on which the once-saved-always-saved believers hang their hats. Of course, Arminians and Calvinists both have arguments and rebuttals to the once-saved-always-saved interpretations.  I once heard an Arminian preacher explain John 10:28 this way:

No man can pluck you out of God’s hand but you can jump out by yourself.

The point I am trying to make is that the whole notion of Christian salvation is hopelessly convoluted, complex, and contradictory. Right now, Evangelical preachers reading this post are:

jumping man

They are certain that THEIR soteriology, THEIR plan of salvation, is the right one. As I have stated numerous times, the Bible teaches multiple plans of salvation, with each plan contradicted by other Bible verses. Let me illustrate this. We already know what the once–saved-always-saved preacher says. Are there verses that contradict his salvation plan?

Hebrews 3:12-14 says:

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end;

This passage seems to be quite clear. A brother (brethren) can have an evil heart of unbelief and walk away from God. He will only have salvation and eternal life if he is steadfast to the end.

Can a person, for a time, fall away, and then come back to Jesus? Is it possible for someone such as I to repent of my sin, renounce my atheism, and return to following Jesus? Countless Evangelical preachers would say, YES! It’s never too late. As long as you are a living, breathing soul, you can be saved.

But wait a minute!

Doesn’t Romans 1 and 2 talk about people who can’t be saved, people who have been given by God over to a reprobate mind? Isn’t it too late for them? And what about the Jews? John 12:37-40 says:

But though he (Jesus) had done so many miracles before them (the Jews) , yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

God blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of the Jews so they would not understand and be converted. In other words, these Jews could not be saved. Does this no-salvation-for-you only apply to Jews alive during the days Jesus walked through the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem? Evangelicals argue endlessly over the Jews and whether they can be saved or even need to be saved.

Now, if I can, let me land this plane. Consider a few passages from the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:4-6 says:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

As a Christian, I was once enlightened and I tasted of the heavenly gift. I was made a partaker of the Holy Ghost, tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come. I am now an atheist and I have repudiated all that I once said I believed. According to Hebrews 6:4-6, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to ever be saved again. Why? Because I make a mockery of Jesus’s atoning work on the cross.

The writer of Hebrews reiterates this in Hebrews 10:29-31:

Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Granted, theologians and preachers of every persuasion have explanations for the multiple, contradictory plans of salvation. Many will dismiss the Hebrews quotes with a wave of the hand saying, these verses apply to the Jews not us. Others will open their sect’s systematic theology book, turn to the section on soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) and “prove” that any salvation scheme but theirs is wrong and will likely lead to eternal damnation and hell fire.

Here’s my point. If Christian theologians and preachers can’t agree on something as basic as salvation, what hope is there for those not trained in theology? How can they, without the preacher telling them, read the Bible and find out for themselves the way to heaven?

From cover to cover the Bible is a convoluted, contradictory mess. Try as theologians and preachers might to “harmonize” the Bible to fit their theological system, it remains unable to simply answer the question, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16 and Mark 16) Even with the passage that asks the question what must I do to be saved, Christian preachers argue amongst themselves over whether salvation requires baptism.

All of what I have detailed here is evidence that the Bible is very much a human-made book. Surely if the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible as many Christians sects and preachers believe, one would think that the manner in which someone is saved, how one comes into right standing with God, would be clear. It’s not.

Let me finish this post with Bruce Gerencser’s salvation plan:

Live well, do good works, and die. The only heaven and hell you will experience in this life is what you and your fellow human beings create.

Straight from the mouth of Bruce Almighty, written down on this inspired, inerrant, and infallible page. Thus saith Bruce.

050516

Can Anyone Really Know They Are Saved?

saved lost

Yes.

No.

Maybe.

What do I mean by the word “saved”? Delivered. Redeemed. Set free. Bought by the blood. Justified. (Looked at by God just as if I never sinned.)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.(Romans 10:9, 10)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8.9)

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3,4)

Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9)

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16

Oops. Scratch that last one. Don’t want to start a war between the Baptists and the Campbellites. (Church of Christ)

Let me set aside, for a moment, the fact that these verses teach several different salvations. Most Christians interpret these verses, and others, in a very basic, generic way:

I am a sinner. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. Three days later he resurrected from  the dead. Believing this message, I admit I am a sinner, I repent of my sins, and by faith I trust Jesus to forgive me of my sins and save me. I am trusting Jesus to save me and keep me until I die. By putting my faith and trust in Jesus I know I will go to heaven when I die. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

There are three basic schools of thought when it comes to salvation. I know there are various shades of each of these. Please, spare me the emails and comments that say I didn’t properly describe YOUR TRIBE.

Once Saved, Always Saved

There is the “once saved, always saved” school. According to this school of thought, once a person is saved he can never be un-saved. No matter what the person does, no matter how the person lives, he is saved forever. A person can stop attending Church, stop doing ANYTHING that remotely suggests that he is saved, yet “once saved, always saved.” One noted writer even said that a person could go to the altar and be saved and then leave the Church, curse God, and live like a heathen the remainder of his life…it matters not, “once saved, always saved.”

This is the belief of most Baptists and many Evangelicals and fundamentalists. Salvation becomes a form of “fire insurance.” People don’t want to go to hell, so they get saved. Whew, that’s over. Next!

Coupled with this belief is the notion that the believer will be rewarded some day for doing the right things in this life. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

So, people might be “once saved always saved” but if they don’t live right they will lose their rewards in heaven. The nature of this loss of rewards is never clearly defined. Maybe their mansion won’t have indoor plumbing? (John 14:1-6)

Some “once saved always saved” believers realize that their version of salvation really looks bad. They know their brand of salvation looks like it is preaching a “live like hell, still go to heaven” message.

To counter this, they teach that Christians who live carnally will be chastised (corrected) by God in this life. If a carnal Christian is not chastised, it is proof that they were never “really” saved. After all the Bible says in Hebrews 12:8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Countless once-saved-always-saved Baptists have told me that I am still a Christian. No matter what I do, no matter I believe, I can never, ever lose my salvation. I suppose if this is the case then there will be a lot of atheists in heaven.

Conditional Salvation, Arminianism

Arminian groups  hold to a conditional salvation. They believe a person is saved by grace but kept by works (works they do by the power of God, so it is really all of grace). In this school of thought, people can only know they are saved in the present moment. Their future salvation is conditioned on them doing the right things. This is the belief of groups like the Free-Will Baptists, Methodists, Wesleyans, etc.(groups who trace back their heritage to John and Charles Wesley and Jacobus Arminius).

A believer can do certain things that will result in the loss of salvation. Some Arminian groups believe you can only lose your salvation one time. In other words, “once saved, once lost, always lost.”

The Bible says in Hebrews 6:4-6:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Other Arminian groups believe a person can repeatedly be saved, lost, saved, lost, saved. They often talk about a line that is crossed, when a person goes from a state of grace to being lost again. I have asked repeatedly over the years exactly where that line is and no one can tell me. I have been told by more than one Arminian preacher, “You just KNOW when you have crossed the line.”

Arminians have no problem explaining my life. It is quite simple to them; I once was saved and now I am lost.

Perseverance of the Saints, Calvinism

The final school of thought is the Calvinistic school. Calvinist groups like the Presbyterians, some Baptists, Episcopalians,etc adhere to what is commonly called the five points of Calvinism (which were actually articulated as a reply to the Arminians). Point number five is the perseverance of the saints or the preservation of the saints.

The perseverance of the saints is “once saved, always saved” with a twist.  Calvinists believe salvation is a work done totally by God. From start to finish it is God who does it all. A person can not believe, exercise faith, or do anything apart from God giving them the power to do so. Those whom God saves, God keeps. Now, God only saves a certain number of people. God knows exactly how many he will save. They are the elect. They have been predestined to salvation. No one but the elect will be saved. Everyone else need not apply.

The God who saves is the God who causes believers to persevere to the end. If they don’t persevere to the end, then that is proof they were never saved to start with.

After hearing my story Calvinists conclude I never was saved.  I didn’t persevere. I have received common grace but not God’s special, saving grace. In other words, God toyed with me and then said fuck you. The contradiction in their conclusion is that they can not know if I might yet persevere in the future. Perhaps I am just going through an atheist phase.

No Calvinists can know for sure they are saved. They can HOPE they are. They can constantly examine their lives to see if they are availing themselves to the means of grace, but until they die they can not know for sure they are saved. They MUST persevere to the end to be sure. They are hoping God comes through for them, but they won’t know for sure until the end. After all, they too could be deluded. They too could be following a false Christ. Perhaps God is just toying with them too and they will end up bunking in hell with atheists such as I.

Imagine a person going from church to church trying to find out the one true Christian message of salvation. You would think Christians could agree on the most basic of truths, salvation.

But they don’t.

I am convinced that Christians better hope that God is a universalist. If not, hell is going to be filled with Christians.

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