Menu Close

Tag: Once Saved Always Saved

Dear Bruce, I Think You Are Still a Christian

horse
Free at Last!

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

I’ve been blogging for thirteen years. Different iterations of this blog, with different names, but with one goal: “telling my story; recounting my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism.”

Thousands of posts, and tens of thousands of comments. When I started blogging in 2007, I was still a follower of Christ — a progressive, emergent (emerging) church Christian.

I was still going to church, still reading the Bible, still praying, and still trying to find a Christianity that mattered.

I never found it.

I did find that I was just an ass in the pew, an offering to be collected. I had talents and gifts that any church would benefit from, but I found that pastors were quite territorial and allowed no one to get near their throne.

Twelve years ago, after a tremendous amount of study, angst, and gut-wrenching heartache, I finally concluded that I was no longer a Christian. Try as I might, I couldn’t square what I knew about the Bible and the church with Christianity. As I tried to find a stopping place on the slippery slope of reason, I found there was none. Liberal Christianity, Unitarianism, Universalism, all provided a brief respite, but ultimately failed to stop my slide to atheism.

Atheism became the label that best described my belief about the Christian Gods, gods in general, and religion. Technically, I am agnostic on the God question, but in my day-to-day life I live with nary a thought about God, thus I call myself an atheist.

I have no need of God, a God, any God. I am an A-T-H-E-I-S-T.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I receive emails from Evangelical Christians who say they believe I am still a Christian; that deep down I still have a longing for God and faith.

Every time I receive such a letter, I think, “how can anyone read my writing and come to this conclusion?”

Just because I write about and critique Evangelicalism doesn’t mean that I am still a Christian. One man even suggested that the fact that I capitalize words such as God and Bible are proof that, deep in my heart-of-hearts, I am still a follower of Jesus. Or, to apply Occam’s razor, I capitalize these words out of habit. Which is more likely?

I recognize that if Christians read my old writing from my early blogging days, they might conclude I am still a club member or that I still really, really, really want to be a Christian. However, anyone who seriously invests time in reading my story from start to finish can only come to one conclusion: “Bruce Gerencser was once saved, and now he is lost.”

My goal is to keep telling my story; to keep exposing the hidden, dark secrets of Evangelical Christianity. I am grateful for the fact that I have far more reach today than I ever did in the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches. Sometimes, I feel physically and emotionally overwhelmed, but I remind myself that what I do matters.

I know my writing deeply resonates with many people, and it gives a voice to their thoughts and struggles. I also know my writing angers and infuriates many Evangelicals. They write and talk about me, preach sermons about me, mention my name at prayer meetings, send me nasty and hateful emails, and leave arrogant, self-righteous comments on this blog.

The latter are going to do what they do. I can’t stop them, nor do I want to, because their anger and indignation are reminders to me that, next to marrying Polly, the single best decision I ever made was the day I walked away from Christianity. They’ve tried bombing me with email spam, using bots to leave massive amounts of comment spam, spreading rumors and lies about my story, my mental fitness, my marriage, and children, and have even threatened to kill me . . . yet here I am.

The readers who matter the most to me are the lurkers in the shadows, laden with fear and doubt. They have questions that aren’t being answered by their pastors or churches. Their eyes have been opened to what is going on around them. Are they atheists in the making? Maybe, but I doubt it, and I don’t care. My goal is facilitation, not evangelization. If I can help wanderers as they journey on through life, that’s good enough for me.

Others who read this blog are post-Evangelical or post-Christian. They are trying to find purpose, meaning, and peace, sans God, Jesus, or religions. Now that their lives are no longer defined by their religious beliefs, they are left with the task of shaping new lives for themselves. It’s not easy, and I want to do what I can to provide a safe, friendly place for them to hang out. If telling my story helps them in some small way, I am grateful.

In the Biblesee Bruce, you just mentioned the Bible and this PROVES you are still a Christian — there’s the story of the Good Samaritan, a man who helps and cares for a man beaten and left for dead along the side of the road. Religion, especially Evangelical Christianity, beats people up, often leaving them for dead alongside the road we call life. I want to be like the Good Samaritan, lifting up those who’ve been beaten, robbed, raped, and scarred by religion. If I have a calling, this is it.

In many ways, I am a far better man today than I ever was when I was a member of God’s exclusive club. I no longer have to view life and others through the lens of the Bible and the teachings of Christianity. I am free to live life on my own terms, and embrace others as they are. That I have LGBTQ people who read this blog astounds me. Back in my Evangelical days, my life had no room for such people. Well, my life had no room for anyone who didn’t think, act, and believe as I did. As a Christian, I lived in a monoculture, a world devoid of diversity. Today, my life is filled with multifariousness. I am a much better man, husband, father, and grandfather, thanks to the people I have met through this blog.

So, to those who are convinced I am still a born-again Christian, I say: why would I ever want to go back to Egypt, to the land of leeks and onions, toil and bondage? Why would I want to return to a worldview governed by the ancient writings of fishermen and sheepherders? Like the proverbial horse that escaped his corral, I am free, and I have no intention of returning to the bondage and slavery called Christianity.

If some people can’t see and understand this, I am not sure what more I can do for them. They’ll just have to keep hoping that I will someday walk back into the church and say, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, “I’m B-A-C-K.”

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.

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.

Can Anyone Really Know They Are Saved?

saved or lost

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Yes.

No.

Maybe.

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

The Bible says:

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 a 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 (Churches of Christ); sects who famously fight over the Greek word eis (for) in Acts 2:38. The Baptists believe people are baptized eis (because) their sins have been remitted, but the Campbellites — who were excommunicated by the Baptists for preaching baptismal regeneration — believe people are baptized eis (for, in order to) have their sins remitted. Neither group believes the other is “saved.”

Most Christians interpret the aforementioned verses, and others, in a basic, generic way:

I am a sinner. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. Three days later Jesus resurrected from the dead. Believing this message to be true, I admit I am a sinner, I repent (turn from or change my mind) 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. This post is not a doctoral thesis on “Christian Soteriology Through the Ages.”

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 a Christian, yet “once saved, always saved.” One noted Evangelical writer, R.B. Thieme, 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 soteriological belief of most Baptists and Evangelicals. Salvation becomes “fire insurance.” People don’t want to go to Hell, so they get saved. Whew, that’s over. Next! How ’bout them Cowboys!

Coupled with this belief is the notion that the believer will be rewarded someday 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 Heavenly rewards. The nature of this loss of rewards is never clearly defined. Maybe their mansions won’t have indoor plumbing or satellite TV? (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 makes it looks like they are preaching a “live like hell, still go to heaven” gospel.

To counter this, they teach that Christians who live carnally (worldly, fleshly) will be chastised (beaten, corrected) by God in this life. If a carnal Christian is not chastised, it is proof that he was never “really” saved. 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 what 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 sects believe in conditional salvation. Arminian sects include Freewill Baptists, Methodists, Wesleyans, Churches of Christ, Seventh Day Adventists, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostals, and others.  They believe a person is saved by grace, but kept by works (works they perform by and through 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.

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 Arminian 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 (Preservation) of the Saints, Calvinism

The final school of thought is the Calvinistic school. Calvinist groups such the Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, some Southern Baptists, Sovereign Grace Baptists, and Episcopalians, to name a few, 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 (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 cannot 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 deconversion story, Calvinists conclude I never was saved.  I didn’t persevere. I had received common grace, but not God’s special, saving grace. In other words, God toyed with me, and then said “fuck you, go to Hell.” The contradiction in their conclusion is that they cannot know if I might yet persevere in the future. Perhaps, I am just going through an atheist phase, and I will return to Christianity at some later point and time.

Calvinists cannot 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 cannot know for sure they have made it to the finish line. 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 Christopher Hitchens, Steven Hawking, Steve Gupton, Gandhi, Bruce Gerencser, and all those who preached the false gospel of Arminianism.

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.

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.

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.

Bruce, Have You Committed the Unpardonable Sin?

bible made me an atheist

Bob, a regular reader of this site, asked me the following question:


I do have a question for you and was curious on your answer.

I know you know the scriptures as far as what they say, so you will most likely have an answer.

Based on the scriptures concerning blasphemy it is my understanding from past teachings that blasphemy definition by Pharisee’s was saying that a person could forgive sins or someone claiming to be God. Jesus then talked about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and no forgiveness.

Based on these few scriptures, in your opinion from what you know of your past Bible teachings, do you think that you have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit? Not because of your walking away, but rather by the things that you have said? I am asking based on your knowledge of what the Bible says, not whether you believe in the Bible today.

Hopefully I have worded this respectfully enough for an answer.

Wonderful question. Hopefully, I can provide an adequate and satisfactory answer.

Matthew 3:22-30 says:

And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Ligonier Ministries, the teaching ministry of Reformed Evangelical R.C. Sproul, interprets Mark 3:28-30 this way:

Although Jesus does not specifically define this sin, the context reveals this transgression as the persistent, knowing, verbal attribution of the work of God to Satan.

First, Mark’s comment “for they were saying” (v. 30) as he narrates Jesus’ response to the scribes shows that the blasphemy Jesus has in mind is a verbal sin. The scribes were sinning with words, with statements against our Savior. Moreover, the same comment from Mark means unforgivable blasphemy is a persistent sin. “Were saying” is in the progressive voice, which conveys ongoing action. The scribes spoke against Jesus not merely one time; rather, they were so hardened against Him that they continued to associate Him with Satan.

Such hardness is particularly noteworthy because it came from the resident biblical experts. So, we cannot understand what Jesus means by the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unless we recognize the scriptural knowledge of our Lord’s opponents. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus held the religious leaders to a high standard. Christ expected them to know the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, so well that they could rightly identify God’s work (Matt. 23; John 3:1–15). So, the blasphemy of the Spirit does not arise from mere ignorance. When people know the Scriptures well and yet not only fail to recognize Jesus as Messiah but also openly reject Him, they are standing on perilous ground.

Blasphemy of the Spirit, then, is not the occasional bad thought or episode of anger against God. Such things are sins, to be sure, but they are not the persistent, deliberate rejection of the Lord’s work that shows itself in a willful attribution of God’s actions to Satan himself. Such blasphemy is unforgivable not because the Lord is unwilling to forgive but because a person guilty of such sin has fully and finally hardened his heart against the grace of God.

What, exactly, is the unpardonable sin? While Evangelicals disagree among themselves about the unpardonable sin — what it is and who can commit it — Sproul’s interpretation is held by many Christians. As an Evangelical pastor, my interpretation aligned with Sproul’s; that the unpardonable sin is ascribing the works of God (Jesus) to Satan; that those who commit the unpardonable sin cannot be saved/redeemed.

Bob wants to know, based on my knowledge of the Bible, if I believe I have committed the unpardonable sin? The short answer is no. While I certainly, with great gusto, blaspheme God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, I have never ascribed the works of God to Satan. The reason for this is simple: much like God himself, I believe Satan is a myth. It would be silly of me, then, to give credit to Satan for works allegedly performed by God.

The “works of God,” without exception, are the handiwork of humans, as are works ascribed to Satan. Gods, regardless of the sect, are fabricated by humans, and the only “powers” deities have are those which we give to them.

Now, if I transport this discussion back to the days when I was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, and I had run-in with Bruce Gerencser, the atheist, I most certainly would have said that he was a blasphemer against God; that he had committed the unpardonable sin.

Having said that, the notion that there is an “unpardonable sin” leads to all sorts of problems theologically for Evangelicals.

Is there a difference between the “unpardonable sin” and reprobation, as found in Romans 1:18-32?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 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.

According to Romans 1:18-32, when a person, who by nature, knows God exists and refuses to acknowledge his existence and worship him, that person becomes vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart is darkened. Southern Baptist evangelist Rolfe Barnard preached a sermon on reprobation where he said that for the reprobate, the lights go out on their way to Hell. In other words, God gives humankind the “light” of creation, conscience, and divine revelation (the Bible). The person on a path to reprobation rejects the light given to him by God, and, bit by bit, the God’s light within him becomes dimmer, until God says, “that’s it for you,” and he unplugs the light. According to Barnard, countless people are as good as in Hell as if they were already there. Once God turns out the light in a person’s soul, there’s no hope for them. That person has crossed a line of no return.

In a sermon from Luke 11:35 titled, When the Lights Go Out on The Road to Hell, Barnard said:

I want to talk some tonight, if God’s Spirit will help me,
about this last danger. I am speaking on “When the Lights Go Out on the Road to Hell.” And they are going out for men and women all about us. I can’t prove it, but I believe that America is made up largely of men and women who cannot be saved. I believe they have played and trifled with truth too long. And there is one thing that God Almighty gets angry about; it’s the people who treat lightly any move that God makes to bring light on our pathway. That sure is serious.

There comes a time when God Almighty will reprobate a
man, will reject a man. He rejected Pharoah. He rejected the nation of Israel; and it appears to be by the blank expression on people’s faces that many, many people in America have been rejected, because God has had them under His long-sufferance to the point where He cannot be God and deal with them any more. And so He just rejects them and they begin to live in hell here on this earth and
hell in time to come.

Both the unpardonable sin and reprobation lead to the same place: outside of the saving grace of God. Once a person reaches this place, they can’t be saved, and their eternal destiny is sealed — even though they may live for another fifty years.

These Biblical “truths” lead to several glaring problems for Evangelicals.

First, Evangelicals are fond of saying that no sin is so bad that God can’t or won’t save you. No matter what you’ve done, God is willing and able to save you, the thinking goes. However, it seems that the unpardonable sin and reprobation place a person beyond God’s wonderful, matchless grace.

Second, most Evangelicals — Arminians excepted — believe that once a person is saved, he cannot lose his salvation/fall from grace. He can lose his eternal rewards, but once saved, he can never become unsaved. Thus, since I was saved at the age of fifteen, no matter what I say or do, I am still safe in the arms of Jesus, and when I die, I will go to Heaven.

How is it possible to square once-saved-always-saved with the fact that someone can commit the unpardonable sin or God can give them over to a reprobate mind? Doesn’t this contradict what Evangelicals say about the nature of God’s saving grace?

Arminians — the children of Jacob Arminius and John Wesley — have no problem explaining these contradictory beliefs. According to Arminian theology, a follower of Jesus can fall from grace. 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.

Hebrews 10:26,29 says:

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

….

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?

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches. At the age of fifteen, I made a credible public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. For thirty-five years, I lived my life as a committed, devoted follower of Jesus. No one, at that time, doubted that I was a Christian.

Today, according to Hebrews 10, I am sinning willfully. I have trampled under my feet the blood of Jesus and have contemptuous disregard for the Holy Spirit. According to Hebrews 6, if those who have been enlightened by God, tasted the Heavenly gift, been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come, reject these things, if they fall from grace, it is impossible for them to be saved again.

The Message translation, poignantly translates Hebrews 6:4-6 this way:

Once people have seen the light, gotten a taste of heaven and been part of the work of the Holy Spirit, once they’ve personally experienced the sheer goodness of God’s Word and the powers breaking in on us—if then they turn their backs on it, washing their hands of the whole thing, well, they can’t start over as if nothing happened. That’s impossible. Why, they’ve re-crucified Jesus! They’ve repudiated him in public!

I think it is safe to say, that I have repudiated Jesus in public. Thus, I have fallen from grace, lost my salvation (which I can never regain), committed the unpardonable sin, and God has turned me over to a reprobate mind! In other words, when it comes to God/Jesus/salvation, I’m fucked!

Of course, these things do not worry me in the least. Since I reject the Bible and its teachings, believe the Christian God is a myth, and reject the central claims of Christianity, I am not concerned one whit over whether I am saved/lost or a reprobate. I admit that in the eyes of Christians, I daily, without apology, commit the unpardonable sin; that my writing, if judged by the teachings of the Bible and the gaseous pronouncements of so-called men of God, is, in every way, blasphemous. Anyone who promotes reason, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry is, according to Evangelicals, a blasphemer. Refuse to accept the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God? Deny the existence of God? Reject the claims of Christianity? Believe that Jesus was a but a man who lived and died, end of story? Find the “miracle” stories found in the Bible silly and laughable? You, my friend, in thought, word, and deed have committed the unpardonable sin. In the eyes of Evangelicals, you are a reprobate. See you in Hell.

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.

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.

Is There Only One Plan of Salvation?

saved or lost

To 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 eternity in the Lake of Fire. God, in his infinite wisdom, made a way for us to have our sins forgiven. Once we avail ourselves to 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 lives, one of Heaven’s angels puts a door hanger on a room in the Father’s House that says RESERVED.

Countless American Christians have prayed the sinner’s 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 to you 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 and do 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 they were never really Christians.

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 I was saved, I can never lose that salvation
  • 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!

billy mays

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 couldn’t be saved. Does this no-salvation-for-you only apply to Jews alive during the days Jesus walked 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 hellfire.

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 people, 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 respective theological systems, they remain 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.

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.

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.

Bruce, Were You Ever a “Real” Christian?

real christian

One of the common lines of attack Evangelical critics use against me is what is commonly called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.  Rational Wiki explains the “No True Scotsman” fallacy:

The No True Scotsman (NTS) fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when a debater defends the generalization of a group by excluding counter-examples from it. For example, it is common to argue that “all members of [my religion] are fundamentally good”, and then to abandon all bad individuals as “not true [my-religion]-people”.

….

NTS can be thought of as a form of inverted cherry picking, where instead of selecting favourable examples, one rejects unfavourable ones. The NTS fallacy paves the path to other logical fallacies, such as letting the “best” member of a group represent it. Thanks to these remarkable qualities, the NTS fallacy is a vital tool in the promotion of denialism.

Simply put, “no matter what you say Bruce, you never were a REAL Christian.”

I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. At the age of fifteen, I made a public profession of faith at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. Coming under the Holy Spirit’s conviction, I went forward during the invitation, knelt at the altar, repented of my sins, and asked Jesus to save me. Several weeks later, I went forward again and professed publicly to the church that I believed that God was calling me to preach. From that time forward — until I walked away from Christianity in November 2008 — my heart and mind were set on worshipping, serving, and following Jesus. I committed myself to daily prayer and reading and studying the Bible. At the age of nineteen, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. While at Midwestern, I met and dated the beautiful daughter of a Baptist preacher. We later married, had six children, and invested our lives in building churches, helping others, and evangelizing the lost. Simply put, we loved Jesus, and whatever the Holy Spirit led us to do, we did it — even if it cost us socially or economically.

That’s not to say that we were perfect Christians. We weren’t. Speaking for myself, I was temperamental, prone to mood swings that ranged from palpable excitement to brooding darkness. I now know that I was dealing with undiagnosed depression; that what I really needed was competent professional help. It took me more than a decade to see someone once I realized I needed help. Why so long? I grew up in a home with a mother who had serious mental health problems. (Please see Barbara.) I knew the shame that came from having a loved one who was viewed by others as “nuts” or “crazy.” I certainly wasn’t my mother — as my counselor has frequently reminded me — but I didn’t want my wife and children to have to bear the stigma of having a husband/parent who had mental problems. It was enough that they had to bear the brunt of my mood swings behind closed doors. I didn’t want them to bear that burden in public.

I am sure an Evangelical zealot or two is itching to ask, “Bruce, did you ever “sin” against God?” Silly boy, of course I did. I daily sinned in thought, word, and deed; sins of omission and sins of commission. Let me ask you the same question, “did you ever sin against God?” That’s what I thought. Of course you have. Whatever failures I had in my life, and they were many, doesn’t negate the fact that I loved Jesus (and the church) with my all my heart, soul, and mind. I spent the prime years of my life — ruining my health in the process — laboring day and night in God’s vineyard. I chose a life of poverty so I could provide the churches I pastored with a full-time preacher. There’s not one former congregant who can say of me that I didn’t give my all to the church; to preaching the gospel to sinners and teaching the saints the Word of God. Critics will search in vain for anyone who knew me at the time that would say of me, “Bruce was not a real Christian.” Several years ago, a woman who knows me quite well, told a family member, “if Butch (my family nickname) wasn’t a Christian, no one is!” And that’s my testimony too. There’s nothing in my story, when taken as a whole, that remotely suggests that I wasn’t a real Christian.

What happens, of course, is that my Evangelical critics skim over the book of my life, choosing instead to just read the last chapter; the chapter where Bruce, the Evangelical pastor is now Bruce, the atheist; the chapter where Bruce rejects, criticizes, and stands against everything he once believed; the chapter where it is clear to Bruce’s critics that he is a reprobate and apostate. After reading the last chapter, my critics conclude, “Bruce, you never were a real Christian.” Once critics come to this ill-informed conclusion, it is impossible to change their minds (and I no longer try to do so).

The biggest problem my critics face is their theology. Most Evangelicals, particularly Baptists, believe that once a person is saved, his salvation cannot be lost. Once adopted into the family of God and married to Jesus, you are forever a member of the Christian family. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:31-39:

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

Jesus himself said 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.

Did my long years as a Christian show that I was a sheep who had heard the voice of Jesus and followed him? Of course they did. If that is true, and it is, then based on the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, I was a born-from-above child of God who had been granted eternal life by God himself.

Many of my critics can’t bear to admit that I was ever a “real” Christian. They can’t bear to think of spending eternity in Heaven with me, an avowed atheist. So they take a lice comb to the hair of my life, looking for anything in my beliefs, practices, or conduct that reveals that I was not, according to their standard, a real Christian. Their minds are made up: I was a fake Christian. I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Never mind that the evidence of my lived life suggests otherwise. Instead of admitting the obvious, these keepers of the Book of Life strain at the gnat and swallow a camel finding ways to “prove” I wasn’t a real Christian.

On one hand, I agree with them. It is absurd to think that I am now a Christian, and that Heaven awaits me after I died. There’s nothing in my present life that remotely suggests that I am a follower of Jesus. A few critics, unable to square their theology with the sum of my life, take a different approach. According to them, I am still a Christian, and there’s nothing I can say or do to change that fact. This line of argument is equally absurd.

It is not up to me to help my critics make their theology fit the narrative of my life. All I know is this: I once was a Christian, and now I am not. I think of my life this way: At the age of fifteen, I married Jesus. We had thirty-five years of blissful marriage. However, at the age of fifty, I divorced Jesus, and fell in love with rationalism and freedom. When asked about my marriage to Jesus, I say, “all in all, we had a good life together.” There are times when I wistfully look at my marriage to Jesus and yearn for the “good old days.” Stupid thoughts, to be sure, knowing that humans tend to sanitize their past, ignoring or blocking out the bad things that happened. Sure, Jesus and I had a good life together, but he’s no match for my current lover. I could never go back to the leeks, onions, and bondage of Egypt, having tasted and enjoyed the wonder and freedom of the Promised Land.

Some readers, particularly lifelong atheists, often ask, “why does this matter to you, Bruce? The Christian God is a myth. Christianity is built on a foundation of lies. There’s no judgment, no Heaven, no Hell. Your life as a Christian was built on a fairytale!” As a godless heathen, I certainly agree with these sentiments. However, I WAS a devoted Christian for many years. I WAS a committed, sacrificial pastor for decades. It’s impossible to honestly and faithfully tell my story without sharing the fifty years I spent in the Christian church. Years ago, I had a social worker offer me some advice on how to write an effective résumé. She thought that my religious education and ministerial job history were turnoffs or red flags to many prospective employers. She suggested leaving these things off my résumé. I replied, “so what do you want me to do with the huge holes in my work history? Should I just put I was in prison for twenty-five years?” She was not amused.

My past is part of who I am. I can’t and won’t ignore the “Christian years” to make my story more palatable. Nor can I ignore the chapters that are presently being written. Are not all of us the sum of our experiences? Why is it we have no problem when someone says, “I was married and now I am divorced. Several months ago, I met someone who might be the right person for me.” That’s my life. I was married to Jesus, divorced him, and eleven years ago I met someone new; someone who has become just the right person for me. All I ask from Christians is that they accept my story at face value; that they allow me to tell my story honestly and openly without attempting to deconstruct my life. When Christians comment on this blog, I accept their claims of faith without question. Even when they promote bad theology or say contradictory things, I allow them to tell their stories on their own terms. If I have learned anything over the years it is this: there are millions of Christianities and millions of Jesuses. No two Christians believe the same things or worship Jesus in exactly the same way. To discern who is and isn’t a “real” Christian is an impossible task. Who am I to say to a follower of Jesus: you are NOT a real Christian. All of us bring unique books to story time. Mine just so happens to be one of devotion to Jesus and loss of faith. Regardless of what my critics say about my past, I know what I know. After all, who knows my life better than I do? And so it is with you.

Last week, I had a Christian contact me, asking for advice on how to set up a blog and how to rank well with search engines such as Google and Bing. I gave him some general advice. The first thing I told him is this: “I encourage everyone, Christian or not, to tell their story. Blogging is an excellent way to do so.” I am convinced that the best way to help others is by telling our stories. Sure, there’s a time and place for polemical writing; attacks on the text and teachings of the Bible. I am certainly more than willing to take an axe to the roots of Christianity and the Bible. However, I have learned, as a public speaker and a writer, that the most effective way to reach people is by telling my story. As such, this blog will always remain “one man with a story to tell.”

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.

Bruce, the Christian Atheist

salvation card

Recently, a self-identified Evangelical Christian apologist left the following comment:

Both you and Ray [Boltz] were very passionate about the Lord for many many years. And Ray still is. I don’t believe in people losing their salvation so I look to you as a brother who got very very weak in his faith. I think Ray is a very strong believer who has found a liberal church to condone his lifestyle. So are they all unsaved because they don’t see it like us?? I say who are we to make that judgement call??? If you believe in Christ from your heart you are given eternal life period..you are saved. I believe you both have done that.

The commenter is a proponent of the doctrine of once-saved-always-saved. At the age of fifteen, I asked Jesus to save me. For the next thirty-five years, I was a committed, devoted follower of Jesus. For twenty-five of those years, I pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Based on my decision at age fifteen, the commenter mentioned above concluded that I was still a Christian — once-saved-always-saved. While I know this doctrine well — having grown up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement — I have long believed that this idea is absurd. Yes, I lived as a Christian for four decades, but there’s is nothing in my life today that remotely suggests that I am still a Christian. I have spent the past decade opposing Christianity in general, and Evangelicalism in particular. I proudly self-identify as an atheist and agnostic. Yet, according to this commenter, because I sincerely prayed the sinner’s prayer at age fifteen, I am still a Christian. There is nothing I can do to divorce Jesus. We are married, no matter what I do or how I live. I can fuck every other God and make a mockery of my marriage to Jesus, yet I am still married to him. Nothing, according to the Bible, can separate me from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:31-39) Think, for a moment, about the men featured in the Black Collar Crime Series. All of these men likely had similar religious experiences to mine. The difference, of course, is that they raped and sexually molested children and took advantage of vulnerable congregants, and I did not. Yet, according to the aforementioned commenter, these vile, disgusting “men of God” are still saved, and when these men die, they will inhabit the same Heaven as the children and congregants they harmed. Is there any Christian doctrine more disgusting than once-saved-always-saved?

Look, I get it. Evangelicals who believe in once-saved-always-saved are hemmed in by their literalistic beliefs and interpretations of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Instead of stating the obvious — that people can and do walk away from Christianity — proponents of once-saved-always-saved are forced to defend the indefensible. Christian salvation is reduced to a momentary transaction in time, and once the transaction is completed salvation is sure and secure. Are there Bible verses that teach once-saved-always-saved? Absolutely! But there are also verses that teach the perseverance/preservation of the saints and conditional salvation. Any and every doctrine Christians believe can be justified by the Bible. The Bible is a book that can be used to prove almost anything. When I am asked if the Calvinists or the Arminians are right, I reply, “they both are.”

The Bible speaks of there being a “faith once delivered to the saints.” This suggests that Christianity is singular in nature. However, it is clear, at least to me, that there are numerous Christianities, each believing that their sect/church is True Christianity®. Christians can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion. Millions of theological tomes have been written, each defending a peculiar theological system. According to Evangelicals, the Bible can be understood by children, yet pastors spend years in college learning how to interpret the Bible. Their church office shelves are lined with books that break down the Bible into singular words and clauses. Baptists and Campbellites fight to the death over the one Greek word in Acts 2:38 — the word eis. Evangelical Internet forums and Facebook groups are filled with people who spend their days and nights debating the nuances of this or that interpretation of the Bible. Once-saved-always-saved is one such interpretation.

From Pascal’s perspective, once-saved-always-saved is a good deal. I have said the prayer, and now I am headed for God’s Heaven when I die. No matter what I say or do, a room has been reserved for me in the Father’s mansion. (John 14:1-6) Sweet deal, right?

I have decided to call myself a Christian Atheist®. Sounds crazy, I know, but is this not the logical conclusion of once-saved-always-saved? I am in every way an atheist, yet because of the prayer I prayed at the altar of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio at age fifteen, I am a Christian. Or so some Evangelicals say, anyway.

I feel embarrassed for Jesus. Well, I would anyway, if he were still alive. But, he’s not. Jesus’s bones lie buried somewhere in the sandy soil of Palestine. Consider what I am saying here. I deny that Jesus resurrected from the dead. Is not Jesus’s resurrection central to Christian belief and practice? How can one deny Jesus’s resurrection and his divinity and still be a Christian?

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.

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.

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.