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Tag: Sovereignty of God

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: God is Behind Every Murder and Rape

john piper

Hello, Pastor John [Piper], and thank you for APJ! I write because last year someone very close to me was assaulted and murdered. At the time of the tragedy, I had not devoted my life to Christ. The pastor at the funeral service said, ‘I don’t think it was God’s plan for this to happen.’ I remember feeling so lost and angry. I gave my life to Christ a few months later. But I still don’t understand why my loved one would be murdered if God is omnipotent. Does God allow sin to roam unchecked? Does the Bible say anything about God allowing such awful sin to happen, and why? I am a new Christian with a lot to learn.

It’s difficult for me to know what the pastor at your friend’s funeral meant when he said, “I don’t think it was God’s plan for this to happen.” Maybe all he meant was that God never does anything wrong and never sins against anyone. But it’s one thing to say that God never does wrong, and it’s a very different thing to say that God does not govern or oversee or direct or control the wrong that happens in this world. If that’s what the pastor meant — that God doesn’t do that — I think he’s mistaken, because the Bible teaches from cover to cover that God does, in fact, govern all the details of the world, including the bad things that happen to us and to our friends.

….

So God’s counsel, God’s wisdom, God’s purpose always comes to pass. That’s what it means to be God. Not the devil, not nature, not fate, not chance, not sinful man — nobody and nothing can thwart the plan of God.

….

In other words, from the tiniest, most insignificant happening, to the largest global happenings, God governs all things.

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So, when you feel that you can’t understand why God does what he does, let your heart rest here: the worst suffering and the deepest sovereignty meet at the point of greatest love — the cross of Christ. So rest there.

— John Piper, Desiring God, Is Violent Crime Under God’s Providence? November 19, 2021

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

1998: The Theological Beliefs of Evangelical Pastor Bruce Gerencser

bruce polly gerencser our fathers house west unity
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio Circa 2000

Excerpt from Our Father’s House website, circa 1998. Edited slightly for spelling, grammar, and adding links

Often I am asked “what does your church believe about__________?”  This is not an easy question to answer because our church is a body made up of individuals, and even in a smaller church like Our Father’s House, there are “differing” views on what the Bible says about some things. We do not set any particular creed or statement of faith as a requirement for membership in the church. Rather, if a person has repented of their sins, and by faith trusted Christ for salvation, AND has a desire to be taught the Word of God, we encourage them to become a part of our assembly. We accept the Apostle’s Creed as a summary statement of belief. Please see our church constitution for further information.

So, when asked “what does your church believe about__________?” it is better for me to say what “I” believe and to share the viewpoint that “I” teach from.

I am an expositional preacher. The primary Bible version I use is the KJV [I later moved to the ESV]. Some church members use the NKJV.  Usually, I preach on random passages of Scripture, and at times will preach through books of the Bible. I believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. It does not just contain the words of God, it IS the Words of God, every jot and every tittle.

I am an Evangelical. I willingly embrace all those who claim the name of Christ and walk in His truth. I believe the denominational fragmentation that is seen today is a dishonor to the God of Heaven. The world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. One of my desires is to promote love and unity among God’s people. Lest someone think I am an ecumenist, I oppose the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement. While I readily grant that there are many Roman Catholics who are Christians (and I embrace them as such), the official doctrine of the Roman Church is salvation (justification) by works.  In the name of Christ, I embrace God’s people wherever they may be found, but I strongly oppose the false gospel of works taught in many churches. A sinner is saved (justified) apart from the works of the law. (or any other work like baptism, joining the church, being confirmed) Sinners are not saved by works but UNTO good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

I am a Non-Cessationist. I believe that spiritual gifts are for today and that they are in operation today. While I would not call myself a charismatic, I do find a common bond with men such as John Piper and Martyn Lloyd Jones and ministries such as People of Destiny [now Sovereign Grace Churches]. I do not believe that many of the so-called charismatic gifts exercised in many Charismatic/Pentecostal churches are of God. Such churches preach a gospel according to the Holy Spirit, not a gospel that finds as its foundation Jesus Christ. Any gospel that requires a person to speak in tongues, evidence the fullness of the Spirit, etc. is a false gospel. I also stand opposed to the modern prosperity gospel preached by men such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Frederick Price, et al. The modern charismatic movement is an admixture of truth and error and is best described as a mixture of the Corinthian and Laodicean churches. I also stand opposed to most of the Charismatic teaching regarding demons, territorial spirits, and demon/spirit possession. There is a real Devil who can and does possess his children (John 8:44) and our battle is with him, but much of the spiritual warfare teaching is according to the philosophies of men and not of God.

I believe in the validity of the law of God. God’s law is pure, holy, and true, and man is enjoined by God to obey. I emphasize that the believer is to progress in sanctification and holiness. Saved people LIVE like saved people. I find much in common with the good men and women. of the Chalcedon Foundation. They are a small voice in a large wilderness declaring the validity of the law of God.

I am a Calvinist. I believe in the Sovereignty of God and that salvation is of the Lord. No man can save himself. I do not believe man has an innate ability to believe. Unless the Father, by the power of His Spirit, draws a man to salvation, that man will never be saved. I believe in the perseverance (preservation) of the saints. God keeps His own until the day of salvation. I consider the doctrine of eternal security preached in many Churches to be a perversion of the truth because it denies a connection between the saviorship and lordship of Christ in a man’s life. There is a direct connection between a man who is saved and how he lives. The same God who saves a man has also ordained that that same man would live a life of good works. No holiness, no heaven! While I consider myself a Calvinist, I stand against hyper Calvinism and its denial of the free offer of the gospel. I also reject double predestination as a doctrine rooted in the philosophies of men and not the Word of God. As a minister of the gospel, my desire is not to convert Arminians to Calvinists, nor is it to promote a system. I preach Christ. Calvinism is the best description of how and why God saves a sinner. I, without hesitation, affirm the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith as an accurate statement of that which I most surely believe.

I am posttribulational, and amillennial. I believe the church will go through the tribulation, and that there yet awaits a day when Jesus Christ will come again and judge the world.

I believe in the Lordship of Christ. We do not make Him Lord, HE IS LORD. Because He is Lord, we are called on to live holy, separated lives. The standard for such living is the Word of God. I reject all man-made standards of living, for God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. Legalistic standards of touch not, taste not are rejected as the philosophies of men.

My favorite theologians and authors are JC Ryle, Wayne Grudem, Donald Bloesch, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Watson, Gardiner Spring, John MacArthur, and most anything written during the Puritan era. Truly a minister is known by the books he reads.  My favorite bookstore is the Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service. They are an excellent source of sound doctrinal books and, of course, they carry a large supply of Puritan books

So there you have it . . .this is not all I believe . . . but I have given you enough so that you can decide what kind of preacher you think I am. After you decide, if you are still interested, please do stop and visit. We will be delighted to have you as our guest. If you have a question please email me and I will promptly reply.

Pastor Bruce Gerencser

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Where is the God Who Created the Brain-eating Amoeba?

lauren seitz
Lauren Seitz

Several years ago, Lauren Seitz, 18, traveled with her church youth group to North Carolina to sing at churches and nursing homes. Seitz, a member of Church of the Messiah United Methodist Church in Westerville, Ohio’s youth music ministry team, planned to attend nearby Denison University in the fall. Instead, thanks to Seitz contracting primary amoebic meningoencephalitis — an infection caused by a rare “brain-eating” amoeba, Seitz’s parents are forced to bury their daughter. I can only imagine the heartache such a loss must cause. No parent ever wants to face the death of their child. My heart aches for Seitz’s parents, sister, and extended family.

When I read stories such as this one, I ask myself, where is God? In Lauren Seitz’s case, I ask, where is the Creator God who created the brain-eating amoeba that cost Seitz her life?  While I have no doubt that Seitz’s parents, family, and fellow church members will find great comfort from the countless religious platitudes that will be uttered, I hope they will dare to ask hard questions about God’s culpability in Seitz’s death. If the Christian God exists and is the Creator, he created the amoeba that caused the infection that killed Lauren Seitz. This same God is supposedly the supreme sovereign over everything, yet he allowed a rare “brain-eating” amoeba to enter Seitz’s brain and kill her. Surely, it is a fair question to ask WHY? What could possibly be gained from snuffing out the life of Lauren Seitz, or any other child for that matter?

All the standard answers will be given:

  • We must never question God.
  • God’s ways are not our ways.
  • God plans to use this death to test and try Seitz’s parents, family members, or fellow church members.
  • All things work together for good.

These and other shallow, meaningless answers will be brought forth, all meant to exonerate God from culpability in the death of Lauren Seitz.

If Christians dare to push beyond these empty answers, daring to shake an angry, questioning fist at God, perhaps the silence they hear will tell them all they need to know about their God. The Christian God, according to the Bible, does not owe anyone an answer. When the Apostle Paul dealt with this issue in the book of Romans, he stated, who are you to question God. He is the creator and he can do whatever the fuck he wants to do. Okay, Paul didn’t say fuck, but his message is clear, God is the Creator. He does not owe us an explanation for what he does. He is the Almighty, and we are but cretins who will soon be turned into worm food or dust.

But perhaps God’s silence tells us something else. Perhaps this God is a figment of the imagination, a relic of days when humans had no explanations for what happened in their lives. We now know better. Scientists can tell us exactly what killed Lauren Seitz and why. What we are then left with is the fact that life can be cruel, causing untold suffering, heartache, and death. For Seitz, she inhaled water that allowed an amoeba a quick pathway to her brain. Wrong place, wrong time — a wonderful, thoughtful young woman dies. Heartless, I know my words here are harsh, but they reflect life as it is, not as Christians, by faith, hope it will be.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Calvinists and Their Love of Theological Porn

size matters
Three Calvinists checking to see who has the largest library

Calvinism is generally described as adherence or commitment to five theological points (TULIP):

  • Total Depravity (total inability)
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement (particular redemption)
  • Irresistible Grace (effectual call)
  • Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints

Simply put, Calvinism is a system of theological beliefs that states:

  • Every person, thanks to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, is born a sinner, alienated from God, and deserving the wrath of God and hell. Every person is dead in trespasses and sin, unable to do anything about their sinful condition. Total depravity is also called total inability. An unregenerate (lacking spiritual life) sinner is unable, by his own power, to seek God and salvation. Unless God gives the sinner eyes to see and ears to hear, he can never understand the Christian gospel and be saved.
  • From before the foundation (creation) of the world, God determined to whom he would give salvation. Only those whom God gives salvation will be saved. God knows exactly who will be saved. Those not chosen by God will never be saved, neither can they be since God did not give them the means necessary to seek and find salvation. No one deserves to be saved, and there’s is nothing anyone can do to merit salvation. Those who are saved are given spiritual life only because of the unmerited favor of God bestowed on them when the Holy Spirit caused them to effectually respond to the gospel. From start to finish, Salvation is of the Lord.
  • Jesus died on the cross (shed his blood) to provide salvation only for those whom God, the Father has chosen to save (the elect).
  • Those whom God has chosen and Jesus died for, will, without fail, at a time appointed by God, be saved. God will save every person he intends to save. When the Holy Spirit begins to draw a person to Jesus, if the person is someone God intends to save, he will be unable to resist the Holy Spirit.
  • Those granted the glorious, wonderful Calvinistic version of the grace of God will persevere until death. God, by his almighty power, will preserve the chosen, regenerated, and converted sinner until the end.  If someone falls away before the end, say someone like a Calvinistic preacher named Bruce Gerencser, this is proof that he was never were one of the elect (chosen).

Got all that? I’m tired just from typing it. The short version is this: God is Sovereign, Salvation is of the Lord, no others need apply.

For most Christians, Calvinism seems like word salad, loads of theological jargon that only those schooled in Calvin-speak can understand. Calvinism is what I call an intellectual man’s wet dream. Most Calvinists are drawn to the intricate and intellectual aspects of the Calvinistic way of thinking. Let’s face it, Brother Billy Bob down at the local Baptist church has neither the time nor inclination to plumb the depths of Calvinistic theology nor read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. All Brother Billy Bob knows is that he was a drunk and Jesus saved him! Hallelujah!!

The men and women drawn to Calvinism tend to love intellectual pursuits. They love reading long, wordy books that purport to impart knowledge and understanding that most mere humans do not have. Most Calvinists end up building a substantial library of books. At one time, I had a library of over one thousand books. Once, a church member came into my study and, upon noticing my large library, asked me if I had read every one of the books on my bookshelves. He was astounded when I said, Yes, every last one of them.  Years later, I came to understand that the size of a Calvinist’s library is akin to the size of a man’s penis. Size matters. The bigger the library, the greater the theological prowess.

Instead of just enjoying the grace of God and the wonders of unconditional election and particular redemption, Calvinists tend to spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they are right. There’s always a new book to read, a lecture to listen to, or a new video to watch. They are like a man or woman watching YouPorn videos. Click, ooh, ah, click on another video link, ooh ah, ah . . . and so it goes. From video to video the porn-seeker goes, hoping to find a video that will stir his passions even further.  This is exactly what many Calvinists do. Ooh, the free offer of the gospel, ah, double predestination, ooh, ooh, supralapsarianism, ah, ah, ah, I’m going to . . . the regulative principle. 🙂 They are always looking for the latest book that will provide them some sort of new insight into their depraved condition or the grace of God. Unlike the porn-seeker who finally realizes that once he’s seen one porn video he’s seen them all, Calvinists continue to seek those which they think are deeper understandings and experiences with God. This is why most Calvinists become intractable as they age. The longer they study, the surer they are that they are right.

A perfect example of this is the Facebook group: Calvinism Fellowship, Debate & Discussion Online Discussion Forum. The administrator for the group, Nick Schoenberger, posted the following and turned it into a sticky so every reader would see it:

At this time of year, there always seems to be an increase in the number of 2nd commandment violations we have in CFDD, so I’m pinning this post in the hopes that we can avoid having to take action by preventing such posts in the first place. In short, any posting of an image that portends to depict a member of the Godhead will be removed and may result in a temporary or permanent ban of the poster.

Reference: Westminster Larger Catechism Q109, 110 and 2nd Helvetic Confession Chapters IV-V

In other words, don’t post ANY artists’ renderings of Jesus. Such pictures are a violation of the second commandment:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:4)

Instead of enjoying the holiday season, Schoenberger is more concerned about a blasphemous picture of Jesus being posted to the forum.

Those who frequent the Calvinism Fellowship, Debate & Discussion Online Discussion Forum seem to be focused on the minutest detail of proper doctrine, who is and isn’t saved, and attacks on the evil theological system called Arminianism. There’s also a good bit of self-flagellation and groveling before the thrice Holy God of Calvinism. Calvinists are experts at not only pointing out the sins of others, but also digging down into the depths of their own souls (minds) to find long-buried affronts to God. Is it any wonder that many Calvinists have doubts about their salvation? They see little niggling sins in their lives and this causes them to wonder if they truly are one of the elect. Of course, if Calvinists are true to their doctrines, they cannot really know that they are saved until they die. Remember, Calvinists must persevere unto the end to be saved.

Calvinists, in their never-ending pursuit of intellectual nirvana, often lose sight of humanity. They become so infatuated with intellectual porn that they fail to notice that real flesh and blood people surround them. They metaphorically equate the porn they see on the screen with sex with their spouse or significant other. As Calvinists continue down the path to theological perfection, they become like Elijah who believed that he was the only remaining true prophet of God. It’s hard not to picture the lone Calvinist in a room masturbating to his own theological thoughts. Instead of drawing Calvinists towards inclusion, their beliefs often lead them off into closed-minded exclusivism. Calvinist Henry Mahan, pastor of Thirteenth St. Baptist Church, told me years ago when I asked him about the other churches in Ashland, Kentucky, Well Bruce, God doesn’t need more than one true church in town. In other words, Thirteenth Street Baptist Church was the only church God needed in Ashland. They alone preached the true gospel of Sovereign Grace. Pity all those other Christians in Ashland who just so happened to attend the wrong church or had wrong soteriological beliefs. Of course, if God wanted to save them he would lead them to visit Thirteenth Street Baptist Church so they could hear Mahan preach to them the true gospel. (And I’m sure some Calvinist is going to read this and say to me, “Don’t you know that Mahan isn’t a true Calvinist? He is an Antinomian!” Sorry, but Mahan is a Calvinist who is also an Antinomian. Wikipedia explanation of Antinomianism)

God’s chosen ones will likely find this post offensive. How dare I equate their beliefs and their quest for understanding the “deeper” things of God to pornography, a devotee of the doctrines of grace will say. Yet, for those of us who at one time pulled up a stool at the John Calvin Pub and drank deeply of Calvin’s predestination brew, the pornography connection is, on one hand quite humorous, but also quite depressing. We are reminded of a day when we valued theological purity over people. Our thoughts hearken back to a time when we were willing to eviscerate anyone who did not hold to the same “truth” that we did. We are painfully reminded of good people who left our churches because they could not or would not accept the five points of Calvinism. While Calvinists roundly dispute the notion that the five points equal the gospel, if you attend their churches, read their blogs, or peruse their forums (such as the one mentioned above) you will find that significant verbiage is expended disparaging non-Calvinists. The fair-minded observer will quickly discern what message Calvinists are trying to convey: believe like us or you will go to Hell. The only qualitative difference between the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and Calvinistic Baptist churches is the matter of free will. When it comes to the exclusivity of their beliefs, both believe that they are the purveyors of the one true gospel. (An interesting fact is that many Calvinistic Baptists were at one time Independent Fundamentalist Baptists. While their soteriology changed (the doctrines of salvation) their Fundamentalism remained.)

The primary focus of this post is on Evangelical Calvinism, the belief system of men such as John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and John Piper. I’m well aware that there are many shades and nuances to Calvinism. Writing a post that covered all of them would result in a document with more words than the Bible.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

John Piper Says People Are “Ugly” Because of Sin and Satan

john piper

Recently, Evangelical Calvinist John Piper answered the following question:

Pastor John, why did God make some people ugly and unattractive? How can I accept the fact that God, though capable of making me beautiful or at least average looking, chose to create me in an unattractive manner? As an unattractive person myself, I can say life is tough for us. Our opinions and ideas are most often sidelined. We have it tough in offices and schools and colleges. I can’t express in words how difficult it is to be confident.

This is straining my relationship with God. Clearly, in the Bible there are some features described as examples of beauty. I count dozens of verses in the Bible that speak of physical beauty.

….

Now I know God is concerned about what we do with our bodies. And he cares about our bodies. So why does he make some of us so unattractive?

Piper replied:

Ugliness and disfigurement have their roots in the origin of human sin. Now listen carefully, because this could be so easily misunderstood: the roots are not in a person’s particular personal sin, but the origin of human sin in Adam and Eve, which infected the whole human race. In his wisdom, God decreed that there would be physical manifestations of the horrors and outrage of sin against God. This does not mean that everyone’s disability or everyone’s disease or everyone’s disfigurement is because of their own sin.

….

So, the point is that Romans 8 gives a global explanation for why there is such a thing in the world as ugliness and every form of physical misery. God brought the physical world, the bodily world, into sync, into correspondence, with the moral world. He made physical ugliness and misery correspond to moral ugliness and misery, even in some of the most godly people on the planet. Every bodily or material burden in the world should point us to the burden of sin. Every ugliness should point to the ugliness of sin and Satan.

Satan is a real secondary cause under God. He is immediately responsible for many physical horrors. Jesus said that in Luke 13:11–16. There was a woman bent over for eighteen years. So picture her: she’s probably walking at a ninety-degree angle, with horrible scoliosis. And Jesus says, “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed?” (Luke 13:16). So, all physical ugliness and deformity and misery points to the moral ugliness and deformity of sin and Satan.

According to Piper, physical “ugliness” is caused by inner “ugliness” — sin. Piper tries and fails to distinguish between Adamic sin and personal sin. People are “ugly” due to the sin nature all humans inherit from Adam, not because of any particular sin they have committed. However, it is impossible to separate a skunk from its smell. Sinners sin, so it stands to reason, according to Piper’s Calvinistic theology, that individual ugliness is a direct result of personal sin.

Piper also says that human “ugliness” is also caused by Satan. Note carefully what Piper says: “Satan is a real secondary cause under God.” Under God . . . Piper, a loyal, devoted member of the John Calvin Fan Club®, believes the God of the Bible is the supreme ruler over all things. Nothing happens apart from his purpose, plan, and will. Satan/Lucifer is a fallen angel who tried to overthrow God’s rule, a created being under the absolute control of God. This means that everything Satan does is decreed or permitted by God. (Read the book of Job if you doubt Satan is under God’s authority, rule, and control.) Thus, if you are ugly, it’s the Devil’s fault. Or your fault. Not God’s fault, of course. God controls everything, but he must never be held accountable for his actions. God is the playground bully who steals everyone’s lunch money and beats them senseless, but when called out on his behavior, he says, “who, me? It’s their fault, not mine.”

Piper’s God is a disgusting being, and so is he. What kind of person looks at the debility and suffering of others and says to them, “Hey, it’s your fault. Don’t blame God.”

I find it interesting that Piper never defines “ugliness” or “beauty.” It is evident the person who sent Piper the question is talking about his or her physical appearance. Is there more of a subjective standard by which to judge ourselves and others than physical appearance? How do we determine who is ugly and who is beautiful? And why do such vain, superficial judgments matter? Even the Bible says, “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Some of the most attractive people in the world have ugly hearts (minds). Piper is one such person, as are countless other Fundamentalist preachers. Think of all the hate mail I have received over the years from Evangelical Christians — hateful, nasty, judgmental emails and social media messages. I have no doubt that some of these Evangelicals are “beautiful” people, however their behavior suggests they have ugly hearts.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Playing In Traffic: Don’t Worry, God Will Protect Us

the big c

If the Evangelical Christian teaching on the sovereignty of God and God’s personal, direct intervention in our lives is taken seriously, it often results in Christians acting foolishly and irresponsibly. It often leads to fatalism. The thinking goes something like this: God is in control. Nothing happens that is not part of God’s purpose and plan for our lives. Christians live fearlessly, knowing that God is controlling and directing their lives. All they need to do is surrender their will to his, dying to self (cue the song I Surrender All). God promises Christians he will never leave them or forsake them. He promises to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He promises, promises, promises . . .

Back in the real world, Christians fail, get sick, have accidents, lose their jobs, get divorced, file bankruptcy, and die just like the rest of us. Despite the promises of God, their lives are no different from the lives of godless atheists. They “think” their lives are different, but any cursory examination proves otherwise.

A scene in an episode of the Showtime hit The Big C illustrates how Christians often deceive themselves. The Big C is a comedy/drama about a woman — Cathy (Laura Linney) — who has terminal cancer. Her son Adam (Gabriel Basso) has turned to Christianity as his mom continues to struggle with the reality that she is dying. The Christianity the show portrays is a mix of Lutheranism, Emergent church, and Evangelicalism. Adam starts attending a Bible study where he meets a girl. She is “saving” herself until she is married, so she only will have anal sex with Adam. In her world, anal sex and oral sex are not really “sex.”

One evening, Adam is out with his girlfriend and they come to the curb of a busy, traffic-filled street:

Girlfriend: (starts praying) God help me to help Adam. Let him know your love and protection like I do. Let him give over his life to your loving hands.

GirlfriendOkay, RUN! (and grabbing Adam’s hand they begin to run across the street dodging cars)

AdamOh shit!

Adam: (Upon safely reaching the other side of the street) I can’t believe we did that, we could have died.

GirlfriendBut, we didn’t because God protected us. Just like he protects all of his children.

This is EXACTLY the way many Evangelical Christians think.

Never mind that if this same scenario was played out again, it is likely they would have been killed. Perhaps they escaped death a second time. All that would mean is that they were lucky the first two times. They might run out of luck the next time they try to cross the road. And if Adam and his girlfriend were hit by a car and killed? Christians have an out for that too. It was their “time” to die. God called their number, end of story! To God be the glory.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

everything happens for a reason 2

Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Muslim, and Mormon churches, along with many new-agers and spiritual people, believe EVERYTHING happens for a reason. They all believe that God or the Universe or some sort of divine energy/consciousness orchestrates our lives and that nothing happens by chance, accident, or luck

According to people who think like this, everything that happens in our lives is part of a bigger purpose or plan. No matter what happens to us, it happens because it was meant to happen.  In keeping with this way of thinking, the irresponsible, dumb-ass, youthful driver who pulled out to pass a slow-moving truck on a double yellow line and missed hitting Polly and me head-on by a few feet was acting according to some greater purpose or plan. If he had hit us, our deaths would have happened for a reason.

As I think back through my life, my mom’s suicide at age 54, my dad’s death from surgery complications at age 49, my sister-in-law’s death from a motorcycle accident, my wife’s favorite uncle’s death at age 51 from a rare heart virus, these all-too-soon tragic deaths had no positive effect on those left behind, and their deaths certainly, outside of releasing several of them from pain, had no positive effect on them. If these deaths had some greater cosmic purpose, I’d sure love to know what it is.

When Polly’s sister was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005, several family members suggested that if one soul got saved through Kathy’s death then her demise would not have been in vain. While I still a Christian at the time, I made it clear to everyone standing there that if the choice was between Kathy still being alive and someone getting saved and avoiding Hell, I’d choose Kathy living every time.

everything happens for a reason

As I look at the world, I see pain, suffering, and death. I see hunger and thirst. I see violence and deprivation. I see poverty, animal abuse, and environmental degradation. Yet, I am told that all these things happen for a reason. Pray tell, what is the bigger purpose or plan for these things? What reason could there be for children starving, a woman being raped, a family having no means of support?

Years ago, a horrific, violent storm ripped through northwest Ohio. People and animals were killed, buildings and trees were destroyed, and millions of people were left without electricity for days, all during a time when temperatures were setting new record highs. Again, what is the bigger purpose or plan for these things? To increase generator sales?

War rages across the globe. The United States has troops stationed all over the world and is currently waging war in numerous countries. U.S troops, bombs, and bullets are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocent civilian men, women, and children, along with enemy combatants. Again, what is the bigger purpose or plan for these things?

It is not enough to say that the Christians God has a perfect plan and we must not question him. It is not enough to quote Romans 9:20:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Or Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I not only question this God, I charge him with gross negligence and malfeasance. Any human acting as this God does would be considered a manic, cruel, serial abuser of his fellow human beings. Such a God we would or should not want as family or friend, yet billions claim this God as their friend, confidant, family member, and lover. They fawn over and worship this God who is so inept that he can’t even feed a starving girl in Africa or quench the thirst of a homeless family in India. While this God always seems to come through for Granny when she can’t find her car keys, he is AWOL when it comes to relieving his creation from pain, suffering, and death. Forgive me for saying this, but this God is not worthy of obeisance and worship. If I’m going to worship anyone, it is going to be my fellow humans who devote their lives to reducing the suffering of others. They are the gods who are worthy of worship.

I prefer the agnostic/atheist/deist way of looking at life. Shit happens. Good and bad happens to one and all, and often what comes our way has no purpose or reason. It just h-a-p-p-e-n-s.

This does not mean that I cannot learn from the bad things that happen in my life. My own physical debility and chronic pain have been quite instructive. My past experiences have indeed helped to make me into the man I am today (good and bad).

But, to suggest that God or the universe or some divine energy/consciousness is behind how my life has turned out?  I reject any such notion. I gladly embrace what my life is and all that helped to make it what it is, but I have no place in my life for some sort of divine puppeteer pulling the strings of my life. Twelve years ago, I reached up and cut the puppeteer’s strings, and from that day forward my life has been my own.  It is an admixture of my own choices, the choices of others, genetics, and random events and circumstances.  I need no other explanation, nor do I need a God to make my life more palatable. It is what it is until it isn’t.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: God Requires Christian Couples to Have Children

john piper

It is normal, beautiful, fitting, natural, and normative, according to Scripture, both explicitly and — I would say — implicitly in many places, for a married couple to have children. This was God’s plan from the moment of creation; it was part of what was “very good.” “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”

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This is the whole drift of God’s word: children are a gift; children are a blessing. When they are withheld, it is a heartache — sometimes even a judgment.

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What a sadness when many modern women, shortsightedly I think, choose to forgo that blessing, while millions would literally give their right arm to have it. That’s observation number one: it’s just the way Scripture leans.

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Of course, we don’t know whether we will have a disabled child or not, who changes our lives forever. Of course, we don’t know whether a child will break our heart with unbelief. Of course, we don’t know if our child will live six hours and then die. And of course, we do know that our children will demand enormous, focused attention. We do know that to raise a child in the Lord demands spiritual desperation and prayer and focus and attention. We do know that there will be financial demands from our lifelong commitment to this child. We do know that there will be thousands of hours that you must deny yourself an immediate felt need in order to do good to this child.

But from the standpoint of God’s word, none of those possible heartaches and none of these guaranteed stresses are reasons not to have children, because the Bible does not share the modern viewpoint that the aim of life is the avoidance of hardship. On the contrary, the assumption of the Bible is that through many tribulations we enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22), and that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (James 1:3), and that there’s joy to be found through giving ourselves away. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

In other words, almost all the arguments for not having children are built on a worldview radically different from the Bible’s worldview.

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There’s another problem with presuming to think that we can do more good by not having children — like, for climate change. The problem is: we simply do not know whether our child will be a debit or a credit to the human race — a curse or a blessing, a taker or a giver. We don’t know. He may be a freeloader with a big carbon footprint, or he may be the genius who invents the very means of saving millions of lives. Who do we think we are? My goodness, who do we think we are to predict that our children will be a loss rather than a gain for the world, and for the glory of Christ, whom we can believe and pray to?

We don’t know, and it’s not our business to know. Our business is to give them life and raise them up and do what we can to build into them every dream and every possibility and power and blessing for the world — and for the glorifying of God.

And my final observation is that not one couple in a thousand decides to have children by sitting down and calculating the effect of their child on global warming, or the replacement rate for the population so that thirty years from now the workforce will be big enough to sustain the aged, or whether we will certainly have enough resources to establish the child in a fruitful location. It just doesn’t happen that way — not for 99 percent of couples. And I’m suggesting it shouldn’t happen that way; we’re not smart enough for it to happen that way, and the Bible doesn’t encourage us to have children with that mindset.

— John Piper, Desiring God, Are Christian Couples Required to Have Kids? August 3, 2020

Luck, Fate, or Providence?

god is in control

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

As an Evangelical Christian, I believed that God was the sovereign ruler of the universe. I believed God held my life in the palms of his hands. I believed God controlled every aspect of my life, and that life and death were determined by God alone. I believed I wouldn’t die one moment before it was my time to go; that God penciled a death date next to the name of every person ever born. I believed that God had a purpose and plan for my life. I thought this way for almost 50 years.

I have faced numerous circumstances where I could have easily been killed. Accidents, stupid mistakes, exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals, bad decisions by myself or others, serious sickness, and being at the wrong place at the wrong time . . . I could have and should have died long before today.

But here I am, and until 2008, I gave the Christian God all the credit for my continued existence. God wasn’t finished with me, I told myself, wiping my brow after surviving yet another near brush with death. As disease and pain continued to ravage my body, I lived with the calm assurance that God still had plans for me. In some ways, this is a great way to live. No worries . . . God’s on the job and nothing will happen unless God wills it.  The Apostle Paul had the same view:

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. Romans 8:31-39

I willingly subjected myself to a life of poverty because I thought if God wanted me to have more money or a better house and car, he would give them to me. When I began to have health problems in the early 1990s, I saw them as a test from God. God wanted to make me more holy or stronger. God wanted to root out the deep and secret sins that no one but him could see. And no matter how painful the process was, I knew that God loved me and was in charge of everything.

God’s providence: the belief that God knows what’s best for us and doesn’t give us more than we can bear, is actually fatalism. While Christians convince themselves that they are free moral agents, their belief system says differently. Proverbs 16:9 states:

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

Proverbs 20:24 states:

Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?

Consider these verses:

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:3

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20

That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Isaiah 40:23

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6

O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. II Chronicles 20:6

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. I Chronicles 29:11-12

I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Job 42:2

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Isaiah 46:9-10

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?  Romans 9:21

Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Lamentations 3:37

Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. Psalm 135:6

But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. Job 23:13

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. Deuteronomy 32:39

For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? Isaiah 14:27

The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: Isaiah 14:24

And these verses are but a small sampling of the Bible verses that declare that God is the boss. He is in control of everything. Of course, this opens up a huge problem for Christians. If God is in control of everything, if nothing happens that God does not decree, purpose, and plan, what about sin and evil? At this point, most Christians run from their beliefs, denying that God has anything to do with evil and sin. However, the Bible says:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45:7

That’s right, the Bible says God creates evil. No matter how Christians might object, if they believe in a God who is in control, then they must also believe that he is culpable for evil and sin. Dance any theological or philosophical jig one might, there is no escaping God being the creator of evil. But, but, but . . . no buts. Either God is the CEO of the universe or he’s not. Either he is the first cause, the beginning and the end, or he is not. Either he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, or he is not.

Believing this way had a profound effect on my life. Instead of realizing that much of what happens in a person’s life is due to good or bad luck, I saw God behind every action, event, and circumstance. Like King David, I said:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. Psalm 139:11-12

God was omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. For those not schooled in the omnis, God was all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere.

In 2008, God lost control of my life as I began to reclaim it along with the personal responsibility that came with it. No more trusting God’s providence or letting go and letting God. No more puppet strings or “trusting” God to work out everything in my life according to his purpose and plan. As I began to reorient my life according to fact and reason, I was forced to reinvestigate past claims of miracles, moments when God reached down and supernaturally kept me from harm or death. I concluded that every God sighting in my life but one could be explained through natural means. All the supposed answered prayers were really Bruce or some other Christian answering the prayer.

None of us knows how our life will be beyond the next breath. For all I know, this could be the last blog post I write. The Bible is right when it says:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

No one knows what tomorrow will be like. We can plan for the future, but we have no promise that things will work out for us. Life is crapshoot. Live to your 60s and you will realize you are lucky to have made it old age. The best any of us can do is make responsible decisions based on reason and probabilities and hope things work out for us.

Several years ago, Polly and I took a road trip to Ottoville, Fort Jennings, and Delphos. Like most of our trips, I took my camera equipment with me. As we were wandering around Delphos, we stumbled upon a lock from the era of the Miami and Erie canal. Getting down to the lock was a bit treacherous for me. I wanted to get as close as possible, so I gingerly walked down the concrete abutment to the lock. I didn’t fall, slip, or trip. Lucky me, I thought.

After ten minutes or so, I was ready to return to the car. I had two paths I could take. I could retrace my steps or make a big step and little jump to ground level, Polly said she would give me a hand, so I chose the latter. Polly reached down, took my hand, and began to help me up. And then, our world went crazy. Polly couldn’t pull me up completely, and I violently fell forward, knocking both of us to the ground. If my weight had been balanced slightly the other way, I would have no doubt gone careening down the concrete abutment into the canal. The fall would have likely killed me.

The good news? My cameras escaped damage, though one body does have a slight scrape. The hood on the lens kept it from being smashed. Polly ended up with bruised knees and I suffered a twisted ankle and hip and a nasty, bloody contusion on my left leg. 

I know I was lucky. I should have retraced my steps. This was the safe and prudent choice. However, Polly was standing right there and she said she would help. Why not, right? She helps me out of the recliner and car all the time. What neither of us counted on was how difficult it is to pull up a 350-pound man. When Polly pulls me out of the car or the recliner, I help her. This time? I was a dead weight and I almost literally became so.

Lesson learned.

Several years ago, as we were eating lunch, our daughter with Down Syndrome began choking. Due to her disability, she has a thick tongue and can easily choke. This day was different. For the first time, she couldn’t clear her throat. Polly administered the Heimlich maneuver three times before the food was dislodged. I was one second away from calling 911.

This scary circumstance reminded us that we need to pay careful attention to how our daughter eats her food. I talked to her about chewing her food, taking small bites, and not eating hurriedly. She was scared, we were scared, but we all lived to face another day. Our daughter could just as easily have died on our living room floor. Living in the rural area we do, we know that sometimes it is impossible to get quick emergency help. We were lucky, and we know it.

Every brush with death should cause us to reflect on why it happened. Were we culpable? Could we have made a better or different decision? Sometimes, shit happens.

Living is a dangerous proposition. Smart is the person who understands this and acts accordingly. Thinking that God has the whole world in his hands only leads to delusion and discouragement. God isn’t coming to save the day. In 2015, a German airline pilot flew a plane into the ground, killing everyone on board. I am sure, mixed in with the screams, were pleas to God to stop the plane from hitting the ground. Prayer lost out to physics and everyone died.

How about you? How do you live your life? How do you determine risk? Have you ever escaped death after making a decision that should have ended your life? If you once believed in the sovereignty of God, how does a world without a God affect your decision-making process? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser