Tag Archive: Sin

Is Satan Real?

satan clutching the world

Yes and no. Satan is real to the degree that people believe he is. Evangelicals, in particular, believe that Satan is a living, breathing fallen angel. Evangelicals are Biblical literalists, so when they read what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about Satan, the Devil, or Beelzebub, they believe what they are reading is non-fiction and biographical in nature. In their minds, Satan is every bit as alive as Jesus. He is a roaring lion who walks on the face of the earth seeking whom he may devour. Satan is a tempter who finds great joy in causing Christians to fall into sin. The number one excuse Evangelical preachers give when accused of sexual misconduct? No, not “I DIDN’T DO IT!” No, not “I thought she was eighteen.” No, the number one excuse given by Evangelical preachers is, to quote Flip Wilson, “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!” 

Video Link

According to Evangelicals, Satan has a large army of demons, and in legion with one another, they do their damnedest to tempt Christians to sin against God. Satan dangles the wares of the world in front of them, and in moments of weakness, they give in and sin. Much like the red scare in the 1950s McCarthy era, Evangelicals see Satan under every bed. Try as they might to bind him and cast him out, Satan continues to afflict God’s chosen people. He is their arch nemesis.

Believing Satan is real allows Evangelicals to escape personal responsibility for bad behavior. The thinking goes is that if Satan had not led them astray they wouldn’t have sinned. Dammit, Satan. If you hadn’t tempted me, I never would have had sex with my secretary! Just exchange “sex with my secretary” with whatever sin they are accused of committing. Wait a minute. I thought Evangelicals are indwelt with the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t having God living inside of you provide an inoculation against sinning? How is it possible that the voice of Satan drowns out the voice of God? Evangelicals regularly attend church and do all the religious stuff they are expected to do, yet they continue to sin in thought, word, and deed. What gives?

Of course, Evangelical preachers have all sorts of answers for the continued Satan-fueled sinfulness of Christians, one of which is that they are a work in progress (sanctification) and God is not finished with them yet. Fine, I can understand that. We all grow and mature as we age. None of us is the person today that we were when we were in our twenties. However, it is Evangelicals who demand non-Christians perfectly obey the moral teachings of the Bible. Who is the primary driver and funder of the culture war? Evangelicals. Who is it that has a hard-on over homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex? Evangelicals. Hear a voice screaming long and hard in the public square about “immorality”? Who is it? An Evangelical. Everywhere we look we find Evangelicals who feel they are the morality police. Yet, these same people don’t practice what they preach.

If Evangelicals can use Satan as an excuse for their bad behavior, why can’t non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and pagans do the same? After all, the Bible says that non-Christians have been taken captive by Satan and he does whatever he wants with us. Which makes sense, as the Bible also says that Satan is our father. Damn parental training, right? If only God had been our father . . . oh, wait, he doesn’t seem to be a very good daddy either.

Here we are, it’s 2018. We live in an enlightened scientific world. You would think that believing Satan is real would be banished to the dustbin of human history. Unfortunately, Evangelicals still live in a world where a real Satan is required to explain evil and behaviors deemed to be sin. Over the past decade, I have been told by Evangelicals countless times that I am a tool of Satan. How else to explain my deconversion from Christianity? Satan made me do it!

As an atheist, I firmly believe that culpability for good or bad behavior rests with the person committing the act. While there may be mitigating factors, we are the ones who do what we do. We are responsible for our actions. Imagine how different Evangelical churches might be if personal accountability was preached? Instead, congregants are told that they are broken and need of saving, and even after Jesus saves them, Satan lurks in the shadows ready and able to tempt them to “sin.” Church members are encouraged to continually prostrate themselves before God, begging for his care and protection. Paul reminded first century Christians that they were powerless without Jesus; that the Christian life is one of constant battle with Satan and the flesh. Preachers tell congregants to attend church every time the doors are open, tithe, pray, tithe, read the Bible, tithe, and fast, and maybe, just maybe, when Sister Verily Voluptuous walks down the aisle, they might be able to withstand having “impure” thoughts. And you Christian ladies, the same goes for you too. Don’t think for a moment you are exempt. Your longing looks at Brother Wellhung Hunkubut have been noted! Time to follow the lust-prevention plan mentioned above.

I have long argued that Evangelical doctrine infantilizes church members; that it teaches them they are powerless and weak and in need of constant religious care; that without Jesus they will run headlong into sin and act just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Hey, don’t tar us worldlings with that brush! We’re better than that, and when we aren’t we accept responsibility for our bad behavior; all without God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Christianity, and preachers. Granted, our “sin” lists are much smaller than those of Evangelicals, but we can and do behave in ways that are harmful to others. When I harm others, I apologize and, if necessary, make restitution. No Satan or “flesh” to blame, no God from whom to ask forgiveness. I am to blame, end of story.

I am sure some smart-ass Evangelical will attempt to argue that good behavior requires God/Christianity/Bible, but based on my observations of the Evangelical landscape, that methodology is not working out too well. It seems to me that neither God, nor Christianity, nor the Bible is stemming bad behavior. Catholic and Evangelical churches alike are overrun with pedophiles and skirt chasers, and Christians watch porn at the same levels as their counterparts in the world. Christians seem to, in every way, live their lives in the same manner as those they damn to hell for not believing Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Light. But, Bruce, a recent study said Christians are HAPPIER! Take that! Yeah, delusion will do that to you. Eighty-one percent of voting Evangelicals voted for the worst American president in American history, so it is clear that their happiness, at least politically, is derived from lies. And I readily admit that the promise of a room in God’s Trump Hotel® in the afterlife might make me happy too, but there is no evidence for the fulfillment of such a promise. We live, we die, end of story. Solemn, at times depressing? Sure, but life is what it is. You can either choose to live in a fantasy world, or you can see things as they are, and not how religious gurus tell you they will be some day.

Did you attend a church where Satan was alive and well? Did you fear Satan? Where you tempted by his wiles and devices — or thought you were anyway? Please share your stories in the comment section!

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.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Unsaved People are Evil Regardless of What They Do

john piper

John Piper

Pastor John, hello! When something huge and good happens in a society — like a faulty government system is fixed, or slavery is abolished, or minorities are given more equal treatment, or anything of the like — is God secretly at work in that moment inspiring things to happen? What is God’s role in positive social changes?”

Christian Good

Well first, let’s be sure that we have a distinctively Christian view of the term “positive social change.” Whenever we’re talking about change among unbelievers, the term positive must always be qualified in our minds so that we don’t stop thinking like Christians and simply think like unbelievers.

Christians know that all so-called positive deeds done from a heart of unbelief, or disregard for the glory of God, or disregard for the eternal good of people, or disregard for reliance upon the mercies of God in Christ, those deeds — no matter how beneficial they are in the short run for our prosperity or health or freedom — still are acts of rebellion against God, so they are not positive in the ultimate sense.

I’m assuming that when Jim asks about God’s role in positive social change, he means change for the short-term benefits of people, like rising material standards of living and greater health and more safety and more freedom to act out our convictions, even if the short-term benefits for society are not accompanied by spiritual awakening or faith in Jesus. So, that’s the question I’m asking. What’s the role of God in those kinds of societal changes? That’s what I assume he’s asking.

….

Here’s my conclusion in answer to Jim’s question “What is God’s role in positive social change?”

God is always involved. He is always ultimate. He is always decisive. This of course means, as anyone would immediately infer, that he’s also ultimate and decisive over the so-called negative social changes as well.

God rules all things either by his positive agency, more or less directly causing things, or by permission, which is equally wise and equally purposeful, since God knows what everybody is going to do, and he permits them to do evil.

— John Piper, Desiring God, What Part Does God Play in Positive Social Change? September 24, 2018

Catch-All Bible Verses: I Will Set No Wicked Thing Before My Eyes

calvin and hobbes tv 2

Last week, I wrote a post entitled, Catch-All Bible Verses: Is the Human Body the Temple of the Christian God? Today I want to deal with another catch-all Bible verse, Psalm 101:3:

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Evangelical preachers love this catch-all verse because it allows them to demand of congregants abstinence from seeing and using things or having contact with people, churches, and ministries they have deemed “wicked.”  Whether something is wicked is determined by the pastor’s personal interpretations of the Bible, social, cultural, and religious experiences, and personal preferences. In other words, something is wicked because the pastor says it is, end of story. Since he is the man of God, the one chosen by Jesus to lead and teach the church, congregants are expected to believe and follow his “Biblical” pronouncements. If he says a certain behavior or inanimate item is wicked, then congregants are expected to nod their heads up and down and say, Amen brother, preach it!

Things labeled “wicked” are considered off-limits — Kryptonite to true Christians. Congregants, wanting to be obedient to God and his man, the pastor, bow — at least outwardly — to the subjective pronouncements of church leaders. Diversity of opinion and freedom are discouraged, if not outright forbidden. Congregants are expected to fall in line, obey, and follow Pastor Pied Piper. People who dare to think for themselves and publicly disagree with the man of God are told to either conform or leave. In some churches, non-conformity is viewed as rebellion against God’s established order. Erring congregants are brought before the church to be critiqued, judged, and disciplined. People are given two choices: excommunication or submission.

In 1994, I found myself, as the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, at odds with my fellow pastor, Pat Horner. (See I Am a Publican and a Heathen.) I disagreed with Horner — the founder of the church — on a number of issues, and due to the increasing hostility of our disagreements, I decided to resign from the church and move back to Ohio. Horner informed me that I couldn’t resign and that since the church decided whether I could be a member, it was up to them to decide whether or not I could resign. I, of course, refused to obey his pronouncements. I packed up my family and our meager belongings and returned to Ohio. As we were leaving, Horner had gathered congregants together for a disciplinary meeting. The subject? What to do about the Bruce Gerencser problem. I was deemed wicked and rebellious by Horner and his sycophants, and after the “facts” were presented, the church excommunicated their co-pastor. In their minds, my refusal to play by Horner’s rules was grounds for excommunication. To this day, the church continues to consider me a heathen. My current atheistic beliefs and lifestyle are proof to them that excommunicating me was the right thing to do. Polly and our six children were not excommunicated. Horner and the church decided that my family was under my satanic control, and should not be held accountable for my “sins.”

My excommunication is a good example of a pastor determining what is “wicked” and then demanding that congregants not set that wicked thing before their eyes; the wicked thing being a flesh-and-blood human being. This catch-all verse can be used to label people, inanimate objects, and behaviors “wicked.” Pastors, then, are able to bend and mold congregants to their wishes; that is, unless they have a rebellious member such as Bruce Gerencser. Then, church discipline is used to cut the offender from the church and put the fear of God into the hearts of congregants.

The churches I pastored, with one exception, didn’t excommunicate rebellious church members. Instead, I was the gatekeeper. I determined who stayed and who had to go. If I determined through much prayer and fasting — just kidding, my determinations were based on my personal opinions, beliefs and practices — that someone was no longer a good “fit,” I would encourage them to seek out a church that would better meet their needs.

Over the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, I ran off a lot of good people whose only crime was that they disagreed with me on a matter of doctrine or practice. Instead of embracing differences of belief and practice, I demanded fealty to my beliefs, interpretations, and practices. For many years, I believed it was sinful to own and watch TV. In my mind, if there was ever a human invention that was wicked, it as the television. I am sure Polly and my children can remember our TV being unplugged and having a piece of paper taped over the screen that said, I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.

Several years ago, I wrote a post titled, The Preacher and His TV. Here’s some of what I had to say:

My wife and I married in 1978. One of our first purchases was a used tube console color TV that we purchased from Marv Hartman TV in Bryan, Ohio. We paid $125. We continued to watch TV for a few years, until one day I decided that watching TV was a sin. This was in the mid-1980s. After swearing off watching TV, I decided that no one, if he were a good Christian anyway, should be watching television. One Sunday, as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt Perry, Ohio, I preached a 90-minute sermon on the evils of watching television and going to the movies. I called on all true Christians to immediately get rid of their TVs and follow their preacher into the pure air of a Hollywood-free world.

To prove my point, I gathered the congregation out in front of the church for a physical demonstration of my commitment to following the TV-hating Jesus. I put our TV in the church yard and I hit it several times with a sledge-hammer, breaking the TV into pile of electronic rubble. Like the record burnings of the 1970s, my act was meant to show that I was willing to do whatever it took to be an on-fire, sold-out follower of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Just before I hit the TV with the sledge-hammer, a church member by the name of Gary said to me, Hey preacher, if you don’t want that TV I’ll take it. How dare he ruin my sin-hating demonstration! I thought at the time. I gave Gary a scowling look and proceeded to knock the devil right out of the TV. I am happy to report that not one church member followed in my TV-hating footsteps. What church members did do is make sure that their televisions were OFF when the man of God made an appearance at their home.

….

From 1998 through 2005, I purchased and got rid of at least six television sets. I gave one TV to the local crisis pregnancy center. I also gave one set to my son. The rest I sold at a loss. Why all the televisions? you might ask. Simple. After watching TV for a time, like a moth to a flame, I was drawn towards watching shows that I promised God I would never watch. Dear Lord, I promise I will only watch G or PG rated programming, and if there is any nudity, cursing, or gore I will immediately turn off the TV. No matter how much I wanted to be holy and righteous, I found that I loved watching programs that contained things that I considered sin.

My “sinning’ would go on for a few weeks until the guilt would become so great that I would say to God, you are right God. This is sin. I will get rid of the TV and I promise to never, never watch it again. Out the TV would go, but months later I would get the hankering to watch TV again and I would, unbeknownst to Polly, go buy a television.

It is clear now that my beliefs made me mentally and emotionally unstable. I so wanted to be right with God and live a life untainted by the world, yet I loved to watch TV. One time, after I came to the decision to get rid of yet another TV, Polly arrived home from work and found me sitting on the steps of the porch, crying and despondent. I hated myself. I hated that I was so easily led astray by Satan. I hated that I was such a bad testimony. Look at ALL that Jesus did for me! Couldn’t I, at the very least, go without watching TV for the sake of the kingdom of God?

I have written before about my perfectionist tendencies. I wanted to be the perfect Christian. God’s Word said to abstain from the very appearance of evil. Psalm 101:3 was a driving force in my life: I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Television was a wicked thing, I told myself, yet I continued to battle with my desire to watch sports and other programs on TV. Needless to say, the advent of internet, brought into our home a new way for me to be tempted to sin against the thrice holy God I pledged to serve, even unto death. I’m sure that my children will remember me putting a sign above our computer that quoted Psalm 101:3. This was meant as a reminder that we should NEVER view inappropriate, sinful things on the internet.

My three oldest children, now in their 30s, continue to rib me about my TV-crazed days. One of them will periodically ask if I am ready to get rid of our flat-screen TV. Their good-natured ribbing hails back to the day when their Dad acted like a psycho, buying and selling televisions. At the time, I am sure they thought I was crazy, and I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

….

calvin and hobbes tv

I replayed the aforementioned battle over TV numerous times in my life. The object of my righteous anger changed, but the end result was the same: that which I deemed wicked had to go, and if congregants really, really, really loved Jesus, they would agree with me and excise from their lives that which the man of God labeled sinful. The goal was holiness, so who wouldn’t want to be as pure and holy as possible? Congregants would try to conform to my pronouncements, but for the most part all this did was turn their lives into a game. Church members lived one way at church or in my presence and another way when away from the Holy Spirit — AKA the Preacher or Pastor Bruce. Little did they know that I did the same. Try as I might to live out the teachings of the Bible and to strictly govern my life according to my interpretations of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, I failed too; not because of a lack of desire or commitment; but because I set for myself and others an impossible standard. I was human, as were the people I pastored. Much like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world, Evangelicals have wants, needs, and desires. They do what they do because they are human. No matter how much Evangelicals preach, pray, and deny their humanity, in time their “flesh” wins.

And that’s okay. Life is meant to be lived, not denied. Evangelicals love to say, only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. The humanist version, however, goes like this, only one life, twill soon be past, and then you’ll be dead. There’s no God, Jesus, church, or preacher to please. All that really matters is this present life. Love, laugh, and enjoy your brief existence on planet Earth. It’s the only one you’ll ever have. Each of us determines for ourselves how we want to live. As an atheist, I still have  certain “wicked” things I won’t set before my eyes; you know, things such as women with size 20 bodies in size 10 spandex, fat men like me parading around in public with no shirt, and Fox News. That’s about it. Each to his own, I say.

Did you grow up in a church where Psalm 103:1 was used to label things, people, and behavior wicked? Did your pastor demand congregants live according to his moralistic pronouncements? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

Songs of Sacrilege: Everything is Made to Last by Ciaran Lavery

ciaran lavery

This is the one hundred seventy-fifth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Everything is Made to Last by Ciaran Lavery.

Video Link

Lyrics

Woke up in the afternoon again
Where you been? Where you been?
We go waltzing through the past
Everything is made to last
Maybe Jesus knows my name
I can’t be sure, I can’t be sure
I sin like an every day man
Nothing ever goes to plan

[Chorus]
Ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh
Living outside, living fast
‘Cause people wanna be alive and a part of the dream
It all lights up to a God they’ve seen
But I wanna be alive and a part of the dream
Ooh-oh-oh
Ooh-oh-oh

Night crawls through my window again
Let it in, I let it in
Not sure if this feeling’s gonna pass
So leave me where the shadows cast
Wonder if there’ll be a change
In everything, with everything
We sin everyday because we can
I’m afraid of what I am

How “Thirsting” for God Led to Dehydration and Almost Killed Me

thirsting for god

I grew up in churches that believed Christians were to give their hearts, souls, and minds to God. Followers of Christ were implored to lay their lives on the altar and give everything to Jesus. The hymn I Surrender All aptly illustrated this:

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow;
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power,
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Now I feel the sacred flame;
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

“I surrender my life to you, Jesus,” I often prayed. “I’ll say what you want to say, do what you want me to do, and go where you want me go.” Jesus commanded his followers to take up their cross and follow him. Those who were unwilling to do so were not his disciples. The book of First John had this to say about what Jesus expected of people who said they were Christians:

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:3,4)

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. (1 John 3:6-10)

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4,5)

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. (1 John 5:18)

If these verses are taken literally, one thing seems clear: most people who profess to be Christians are what some preachers call “professors and not possessors.” These people have prayed a prayer and embraced cultural Christianity, but they know nothing of True Salvation®. These verses, taken at face value, show that God sets an impossible standard of living.

Evangelical pastors have all sorts of explanations for these verses:

  • There are two classes of Christians: spiritual and carnal. Both are saved, but carnal Christians still live according to the dictates of the “flesh.” Carnal Christians are “babies” in Christ. Readers might remember that this is how some Trump-supporting Evangelicals justified the President’s un-Christian lifestyle. He is just a babe in Christ who needs to mature in the faith, these pastors said. Thus, spiritual people will live according to these verses, and carnal Christians won’t.
  • People become Christians by believing a set of propositional truths. What truths must be believed vary from sect to sect. After they are saved, these newly minted Christians are encouraged to attend church every time the doors are opened, tithe, pray, give offerings above the tithe, study the Bible, give to the building fund, and follow the church’s teachings. Not doing these things will result in a lack of blessing from God in the present and a lack of future rewards in Heaven. Once people mentally assent to the gospel and pray to Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, they are forever saved. (This is why some Evangelicals believe I am still a Christian.) These verses are a lofty goal Christians should strive to achieve, but if they don’t, no worries, they are still saved.
  • Saved people have two natures: the spirit and the flesh. The spirit cannot sin, but the flesh can. The verses that talk about not sinning refer to the spirit, not the flesh. Christians still sin in the flesh, but the spirit is sin-free.
  • These verses must be interpreted in ways that give them nuance, harmonizing them with the rest of Scripture. It’s hard to not conclude with this approach to these verses, that what pastors are saying is that God didn’t mean what he said.
  • These verses are to be taken literally. The Bible commands us to die to self, crucify the flesh, etc. Salvation is conditional. Do these things and thou shalt liveDon’t do these things and you will perish and go to hell. No one can know for sure if he or she is saved. Calvinists say that followers of Christ must endure to the end to be saved. And even then, God, on judgment day, will be the ultimate judge of whether a person’s good works reached the enter into the joy of the Lord (Heaven) level.
  • Some Christians believe that the Holy Spirit takes up residence in people’s lives the moment they are saved, but that there is a separate, special baptism or infilling of the Spirit that can take place at a later date. Often called being baptized with Spirit or a second definite work of grace, those who receive this second filling of the Holy Spirit live lives wholly consecrated to God. Some Christians believe in what is called entire sanctification — a state of sinless perfection. People who are entirely sanctified no longer sin. When doubters point out certain less-than-Christian behaviors by the sanctified, they are often told these bad behaviors are mistakes, not sins.

thirsting for god 3

I spent much of my Christian life seeking to love Jesus with all my heart, soul, and mind. I didn’t know, at the time, that there’s no such thing as a heart or a soul, but I took the commands to live this way as saying that I was to give everything to Jesus. I was to die to worldly pleasures and desires. I was to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. My desires, wants, and needs didn’t matter. All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give, I told myself. My life belonged wholly to God, and he had the right to do whatever he wanted with me. I was, as the Apostle Paul said, God’s slave.

Add to these beliefs my conviction that the Bible is the very words of God and that I had an intimate relationship with God where I talked to him (in prayer) and he talked back to me (through the Holy Spirit), it is not surprising that my life was in a state of constant turmoil. Peace? How could I have peace when there were sins to be confessed and eradicated. Remember, Evangelicals believe that all of us of daily sin in thought, word, and deed. Unlike Catholics who seemly to only sweat the big stuff, Evangelicals believe any thought, word, or behavior that does not conform to teachings of the Bible (and the leadership of the Holy Spirit) is a sin. Jesus, himself, taught this when he said in Matthew 5:28, But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Imagine how difficult life was for me when virtually everything I did in life was potentially a sin. Worse yet, I had to judge my motives for doing anything. Giving $50 to a homeless person was considered an act of compassion, but if I gave the money so people would think well of me, I had sinned against God. And then there were sins of commission and omission. Not only could thoughts, words, and deeds be sins, but failing to do something could be a sin too. Murdering someone was certainly was a sin, but so was not trying to stop abortion doctors from murdering zygotes (Greek for babies).

What I have written above about my spiritual quest can be summed up this way: I had a thirst for God. I needed God more than anything. I wanted his presence and power in my life. I read Christian biographies of great men who were devotes seekers God, men such as Hudson Taylor, E.M. Bounds, C.T. Studd, John Wesley, David Brainerd, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Adoniram Judson, George Whitfield, George Muller, Nate Saint, and Jim Elliot. These stories stirred a yearning in me that, for many years, could not be quenched.

Of course, living this way is impossible, despite what preachers might tell you. Trust me, there’s not a preacher on earth, dead or living, who met the mark.  But Bruce, what about the Christian biographies that suggest otherwise. Like all biographies, Christian ones are an admixture of truth and fiction. Unfortunately, Evangelicals only want to hear stories about winners; stories about people who were victorious; stories about people they could aspire to be. The recent death of Billy Graham has brought out all sorts of fantastical stories about the barely human Graham. Much like the Beatles decades ago, Graham has been made out to be bigger than Jesus. For those of us who don’t buy the Graham myth, we know the rest of the story. All we need to do is look at his two children, Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz. Both of them are hateful, mean-spirited, caustic Fundamentalists. Where did their beliefs come from? The notion that Billy was not a Fundamentalist is laughable.

It took me until I was in my 40s before I realized that striving for holiness and perfection was a fool’s errand; that no matter how much I devoted myself to God and the ministry, my life was never going to measure up. Decades of denying self had destroyed my self-worth. Jesus was preeminent in my life, but Bruce was nowhere to be found (and my wife, Polly, could tell a similar story). I spent a decade trying to be a “normal’ Christian, but I still battled with thoughts about not doing enough for the cause of Christ; not doing enough to win souls; not doing enough to advance God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth. By the time I left the ministry in 2005, a lifetime of thirsting for God had led to dehydration and almost killed me. I have no doubt that my commitment to serving God day and night; to burning the candle at both ends; to working while it is yet day, for night is coming when no man can work, played a part in my declining health. And, at some level, I knew this, but I told myself, it’s better to burn out than rust out.

Come November, it will be ten years since I walked away from Christianity; ten years since Jesus and I divorced; ten years since I realized that the Bible was not what Christians claim it is; ten years since I concluded that the Christian narrative was false. Once the Bible was no longer central in my life, I was forced to build, from the ground up, a new moral and ethical framework. This, of course, required me to abandon or set aside the countless beliefs, commands, and laws that had governed my life for fifty years. Most of all, I had to find the life that had been swallowed up by God, the Bible, and the ministry. Somewhere along the way, Bruce Gerencser died, and I had to find where and start over. I had to answer two crucial questions: who are you and what are you?  For a few years, this process was quite painful, and without regular counseling sessions with a secular psychologist, I doubt that I would have been able to undergo it. Not that I have, in any way, arrived. I am still reconnecting with who I really am. I am still learning about my emotions; emotions that I had, at one time, surrendered to Jesus by laying them at the foot of his cross.

Rebooting your life at age fifty isn’t easy, as anyone who has done so will tell you. This is why most people who leave Christianity do so at much younger ages. By the time one reaches one’s fifties, it is hard to abandon a lifetime of beliefs, practices, and experiences. On one hand, I felt, and continue to feel, a great sense of freedom. I am now free from the bondage of religion. Much like the Israelites and their flight from the bondage of Egypt to the Promised Land, my Promised Land journey has been fraught with uncertainty and doubt. I wish I had come to the light decades before, but crying over what might what have been accomplishes nothing. I live in the here and now. My present life is all I have, and once it is gone, that’s it. No heaven, no hell, no afterlife. This is why I encourage people who leave Christianity to focus on the here and now. Evangelicals are fond of saying, only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. For the atheist, this little ditty goes this way: only one life, twill soon be past, and once it’s past you’re dead, so you best get to living.

In 2008, I was psychologically dehydrated, near death. It was only when I realized I was doing this to myself that I began to find strength and healing. I remain a work in progress. I will never arrive, but as the old gospel song says, I’ve come too far to turn back now. This blog will remain one man telling his story; a running biography of my former life as a Christian and my present journey as an atheist and a humanist. I have a story to tell, a story of death and resurrection. Thank you for continuing to walk along with me.

Songs of Sacrilege: Heaven Laid in Tears (Angels’ Lament) by Draconian

draconian

This is the one hundred sixty-seventh installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Heaven Laid in Tears (Angels’ Lament) by Draconian.

Video Link

Lyrics

Behold the skies, they’re full of lies… in disguise
Behold the skies, they’re full of lies… in disguise

O, creator, so long we have fallen to our knees
So long we have murdered our honor, while protecting thine

Behold the skies, they’re ful of lies… in disguise
Behold the skies, they’re ful of lies… in disguise

And we, warriors moulded in the blood of his vanity
The silent, loyal shepard who tends my light is dead… in me
So let the night take thee in her arms,
And dry these tears into her embrace
It’s the end of pretending and defending…
God’s holy light

El-shaddai, we serve thhe, henceforth… no more
Show me heaven, show me guilt… embrace the pain
We must suffer to realize, we must despair again and again
No longer our knees we shall bend, no longer fold our frozen hands
We long for the darkness, our flames still burn for mother night…
Behold us now, as we cry, soon to die… to rise again

Behold the skies, they’re ful of lies… in disguise
Behold the skies, they’re ful of lies… hear our cries

I have seen us bathing in blood to defend his very glory
I have seen us kneel and praise for nothing…
I have seen him dying in our eyes
I have realized that god owes us his

Songs of Sacrilege: Resurrection by Erection by Powerwolf

powerwolf

This is the one hundred sixty-seventh installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Resurrection by Erection by Powerwolf.

Warning! This song contains sexually graphic lyrics.

Video Link

Lyrics

When purgatory’s waiting
And the girl immaculate
The highest of commandments dictates to copulate
No grave is animated, you’re buried all alone
So let her work a wonder
And wake your flesh and bone

Resurrection by erection
Raise you phallus to the sky and you never die
It’s resurrection by erection
Raise your bone up to the sky and you never gonna die
Hallelujah, resurrection

The funeral is calling
The mortuary blow
Between my legs I’m waking
I rise from down below
Why do you think believer
God gave you carnal lust
So pray to get a hard on
Before we turn to dust

Resurrection by erection
Raise you phallus to the sky and you never die
It’s resurrection by erection
When you wake up from the dead, and the angels give a head
Hallelujah, resurrection

(Resurrection!)

(Resurrection!)

(Resurrection!)
Now I want my resurrection
Oh, I long for resurrection
All I want is resurrection now

(Resurrection!) Nooooooooooowww!

The devil and the maiden
Prepare for going wild
The new messiah calling
The purgatory child
Before my flesh is fading
The virgin has a turn
The third of days we’re climbing the point of no return

Resurrection (Resurrection) by erection (by erection)
Raise you phallus to the sky and you never die
It’s resurrection (resurrection) by erection (by erection)
Raise your bone up to the sky and you never gonna die
Hallelujah, resurrection

Songs of Sacrilege: Cry for the Moon by Epica

epica

This is the one hundred sixty-sixth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Cry for the Moon by Epica.

Video Link

Lyrics

Follow your common sense
You cannot hide yourself
Behind a fairytale forever and ever
Only by revealing the whole truth can we disclose
The soul of this sick bulwark forever and ever
Forever and ever

Indoctrinated minds so very often
Contain sick thoughts
And commit most of the evil they preach against

Don’t try to convince me with messengers from God
You accuse us of sins committed by yourselves
It’s easy to condemn without looking in the mirror
Behind the scenes opens reality

Eternal silence cries out for justice
Forgiveness is not for sale
Nor is the will to forget

Virginity has been stolen at very young ages
And the extinguisher loses it’s immunity
Morbid abuse of power in the garden of eden
Where the apple gets a youthful face

Eternal silence cries out for justice
Forgiveness is not for sale
Nor is the will to forget

You can’t go on hiding yourself
Behind old fashioned fairytales
And keep washing your hands in innocence

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Franklin Graham Defends Donald Trump Against Allegations He Had an Affair

franklin graham

President Trump I don’t think has admitted to having an affair with this person [porn actress Stormy Daniels]. And so this is just a news story, and I don’t even know if it’s accurate [Why does Graham believe pathological liar Donald Trump over Stormy Daniel?].

I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago [there’s no evidence for this being true]. He is not President Perfect [no shit Sherlock].

We certainly don’t hold him up as the pastor of this nation and he is not. But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, he does have a concern to protect Christians whether it’s here at home or around the world and I appreciate the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom [gag me with a spoon].

Our country’s got a sin problem, and I believe if these politicians [Democrats and liberals] in Washington would recognize the moral failure of so many of their policies [hot button social issues] that maybe we could fix it [I thought only Jesus could fix our “sin” problem?].

— Franklin Graham, MSNBC News Report, January 20, 2018

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Explains Conformity to the World

bob gray sr

Bob Gray Sr, retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, Longview, Texas

Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

The Scripture says “be NOT conformed” rather “be ye transformed.” The secret is the mind and in the renewing of the mind by being transformed and not conformed to this world.

….

Someone says, “I’m addicted to movies, pornography, or to internet pornography.” I don’t believe it for a minute! You can quit it right now and walk away from it. It’s not addictive like narcotics or liquor. You can quit that junk if you would produce enough character, decency, discipline and Christianity. The Bible says we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. God is saying because you are justified be not CONFORMED to this world, but TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind.

….

God has given to the Christian a little world within a world with our local church, Christian schools, and Christian colleges. If you are in one of the Christian schools and are living a loose moral life you are a traitor to the cause of Christ, to the school, to the college, to the local church and to your pastor. Nobody ought to ever cause themselves to be expelled from a Christian school because of being immoral loose living, bad music, pornography, or sexual promiscuity. No member of a local church should ever be involved with immoral activity for you are in essence a traitor if you do.

Thus we have a little world within a world. This bigger world we live in is a godless world and we are forced to interact. Some have to interact with worldliness at home, or in a secular business, or a secular school, and unfortunately sometimes there are students in the Christian school who are worldly and you find yourself having to interact with them. However, I would be ashamed of myself if I were thick with the wrong crowd in a Christian school. I’d be ashamed of myself to be thick with the wrong crowd in a Christian college.

Now, we are required in some ways to interact with a godless Christ-less world. May I point your attention to whom this passage was given? The passage of, “be not conformed to his world but be ye transformed” is a passage written to the Christians in Rome. They were corrupt, pagan, skeptical, and a perverted people. The entire environment was not only un-Christian but also anti-Christian. The Bible says this book was written to the saints in Caesar’s household.

We have this admonition, “be not conformed to this world.” What does that mean? It simply means dress like a Christian and not like Paris, or Hollywood, or New York. It simply means males ought to have haircuts that look like a male and not the Beatles or Justin Bieber. God is saying to his people I would rather you have Dr. Lee Roberson as your hero than Arnold Swartznegger. I would rather you have Jack Hyles as your hero than Garth Brooks.

….

Paul is saying it is possible to live in the midst of a Roman moral quagmire without lowering your flag of purity. Please listen! That means that it is possible today also to do the same. It is possible today to live in a society controlled by TV, Hollywood, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and the Internet and still live for God via the renewing of the mind.

It is possible to live in this sex crazed, Hollywood infested world, HBO world, Cinemax world, Showtime world, and hip-hop music, and be not conformed to this world. If it is possible for the saints at Rome then it is possible for the saints of today!

….

Paul is saying to the saints in Rome man is not to become a creature of his circumstances or the toy of his surroundings, or a piece of clay molded by his peers, but he is saying do not be conformed be ye transformed. It bothers God when his daughters are quick to take up the hairstyles of modern day Romans. It bothers God when any of his children are quick to pick up the modern appearances and so desperately want to be accepted by the modern day Romans.

It probably occurs because God’s people spend more time reading “Glamour Magazine” than the Bible. Young Christian ladies spend more time in “Sixteen Magazine” than in their own Bibles. It bothers God when his sons are so quick to get a tattoo or pierce their ears simply because of the modern day Romans.

God is telling his children they are not to copy this pagan world. There is a difference between dressing appropriately and going gaga over the latest styles and so quick to embrace them simply because we want the Romans to love us. We are not to pattern ourselves after this modern world.

If the world lies on a beach in their underwear then God’s people ought to do the opposite. If the women of this world wear their shorts and man’s apparel then the Christian ladies ought to do the opposite. We are in the world but not of the world!

….

It thrills God to see his children around town reflecting Scriptures rather than society. When he sees the boys with decent haircuts and without their pants hanging down to their ankles with their underwear showing. God loves it when he sees his young ladies dressed in modest clothing without a vampire look. I thank God I belong to a church where members dress right and people around town know they belong to Longview Baptist Temple.

— Bog Gray, Sr, Solve Church Problems, Do Not Read This It Could Change You: Conquer the World’s Gravity, January 7, 2017

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Bible Scares the Gay Right Out of a Woman

my beliefs are right

This is the one hundred and sixty-fourth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is an Anchored North video detailing a woman’s conversion from lesbianism. While the young woman in the video desperately wants to believe that the Evangelical God, by his oh-so-awesome grace, has delivered her from the “sin” of homosexuality, when in fact all that has happened is that she has allowed a few Bible verses to corrupt her thinking and scare her straight.

Video Link