Tag Archive: Sovereignty of God

“God is With You,” says Sioux Center Christian School Principal Josh Bowar to Students Molested by Curtis Van Dam

god the child molester

Note: As you will soon see, I was very angry when I wrote this post — the eighth post today dealing with sexual/financial misconduct by clergy and church leaders. Day after day, these kind of stories show up in my email in-box. I often feel dirty, disgusted, and depressed after reading them. Is there no end to the predatory behavior of Christian clergy? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer, of course, is no. What makes these stories worse is the fact they are often covered up, explained away, or coated with Grade A religious bullshit. I started the Black Collar Crime series in March. Since then, I have posted almost 250 stories. These reports are but the tip of the iceberg. Most sexual abuse goes unreported. As we are learning with Hollywood’s sexual harassment/abuse/rape scandal, men (and it is almost always men) with power and authority over children and women can and will use that power to satisfy their perverse desires. What makes Evangelical and Catholic scandals worse is the fact that pastors, priests, and other church leaders are naively viewed as pillars of morality and virtue. People, especially children, implicitly trust clerics and church leaders, and these degenerates take that trust and use it harm their charges. 

Curtis Van Dam, a fifth-grade teacher at Sioux Center Christian School in Sioux Center, Iowa, was arrested and charged with sexually molesting numerous students. The Globe Gazette reports:

An elementary teacher at Sioux Center Christian School arrested last month for committing a lascivious act with a student at the school has been charged with an additional 84 counts of sexual abuse involving “numerous” children, police said Wednesday.

Curtis Van Dam, 35, of Sioux Center, was arrested Oct. 23 after a complaint was lodged against him five days earlier for inappropriate conduct with a student.

The latest charges are tied to incidents that occurred over a four-year period, between August 2013 and last month. Van Dam now faces 101 felonies and 39 misdemeanors.

The felonies include 72 counts of second-degree abuse, 12 counts of third-degree sexual abuse, 14 counts of sexual exploitation by a teacher, and three counts of lascivious acts with a child.

The alleged acts took place at various locations, including the private school, the release said.Police Chief Paul Adkins said the investigation is continuing, and additional charges are possible. Adkins declined to identify the number of alleged victims or their ages.

Van Dam, a fifth-grade teacher at the school, was fired following his arrest last month.

Police searched Van Dam’s residence on Oct. 21, two days before his arrest. He is booked into the Sioux County Jail.

Van Dam started teaching at the school after he graduated from Dordt College in 2004.

Sioux Center Christian School was founded in 1905. According to the school’s website, the school has 509 students in grades K-8 for the 2017-18 school year.
In a statement, the school said it removed Van Dam from the school immediately after hearing the initial complaint and terminated him on Oct. 19. The case, the school said, is now “in the hands of our criminal justice system and we trust that justice will be served.

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Evidently, no one, not even God, knew that Van Dam was preying on school children for FOUR FUCKING YEARS. Josh  Bowar, the principal at Sioux Center Christian had this to say to the children abused by Van Dam:

Kids, we want you to know that we consider you brave for telling your parents, the police, and the interviewers what happened to you.  We praise God that your testimony has brought to light a dark secret that none of us adults knew was there. Please know that thousands are lifting you before the throne of your Father in heaven…. Trust Him to restore you completely.

Sioux Center Christian is a Reformed institution. These institutions’ philosophy is such that they believe that Van Dam’s heinous behavior was decreed (or permitted) by the sovereign, all-knowing God of John Calvin (and yes, I know all the arguments Calvinists use to escape the logical conclusion of their deterministic theology). A statement put out by Bowar states:

We have been told from the beginning that additional charges for a former teacher at Sioux Center Christian would be coming. Today, Mr. Curt Van Dam, was charged with 101 felonies and 39 misdemeanors. We have been informed that he was arrested this afternoon. On Oct 18, within hours of hearing a complaint, school officials removed Mr. Van Dam from the school and immediately contacted authorities. His employment was terminated on Oct 19 and we have been in full cooperation with civil authorities since. This case is in the hands of our criminal justice system and we trust that justice will be served.

Though the number of charges do not necessarily reflect the number of students, we are grieved again as we hear the extent of the charges. We’ve wept, now it’s time to weep again. We’ve prayed, now we need to continue praying. We’ve brought our anger and fears to the Lord, and now we need to lay those feelings again at His feet. We need to remember that though the charges are many, it also means that many students are no longer carrying secrets. Kids, we want you to know that we consider you brave for telling your parents, the police, and the interviewers what happened to you. We praise God that your testimony has brought to light a dark secret that none of us adults knew was there. You have played an important role in keeping others safe. Please know that thousands are lifting you before the throne of your Father in heaven… trust Him to restore you completely.

Our focus at Sioux Center Christian continues to be the Christ-centered education of our students, while also providing daily support and guidance to students as needed through their teachers and professional counselors. Tonight, there is a parent group session with All Things New Therapy Services. It is at 6:30pm in our gym for parents. Next Wednesday, Nov. 15, we will have a parent/5th – 8th grade student opportunity with Pastor Aaron & Nicole Baart at 6:30pm in our gym.
We are planning additional specialized support for our students in the months ahead and for as long as it takes. If this news especially hurts because you have suffered or are suffering abuse, we encourage you to bring it out of the realm of secrecy, so that it loses its powerful grip on you. We encourage you to talk to a professional Christian counselor.

We know hearing these new charges is incredibly painful and heartbreaking, but we need to be reminded again that we are walking this road of pain, so that another child need not. In the midst of this hurt, we proclaim hope. Hope in our sovereign God, who is so very trustworthy and true in His promises of life and healing. He gave His only Son, who lived as one of us, died on the cross, rose again, and reigns on high, so that we could enjoy eternal life in Christ’s unfolding Kingdom. As a community of people bound together by our love and care for kids, let us persevere through the trials that lay before us. This will be an enduring process but we rest in our Living Hope, Jesus Christ. Let’s continue to pray and encourage one another. We have been overwhelmed by the love and support shown by our entire community and beyond …you have done more for us than words can define. Be assured that God is good and He is at work mightily in this school. Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Below was not part of our public statement, but we want to share this with those who read the statement. We have all experienced comfort and assurance through Scripture and in songs of faith during this trying time. Here is one Bible verse that has been especially encouraging to us:

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

This is, of course, a horrible story. I find it hard to believe that NO ONE had any suspicions about Van Dam’s predatory behavior. Not one person questioned Van Dam’s behavior? Not one child complained? Not one parent wondered if Van Dam’s was up to no good?

Bowar offered the abused children thoughts, prayers, and Christian counseling. The thoughts and prayers are worthless, little more than empty religious platitudes meant to make adults feel better about allowing a sexual predator to run wild at Sioux Christian. And the Christian counseling? This allows the school to keep the matter in-house. Students will be counseled according to Biblical principles, with, I suspect, a healthy dose of Calvinistic thinking. Will these counselors tell the children the truth; that their abuse at the hands of their teacher was all part of God’s plan for their lives; that God was “with” them through every disgusting, vile act perpetrated by Van Dam.

I wonder if anyone will dare to ask the question,WHERE WAS GOD when Van Dam was violating these children? And while you are at it, explain to these precious children why an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God stood by and watched — doing nothing — while their innocence was ripped away. Shouldn’t God be held accountable for his indifference?

Of course, God didn’t intervene because he couldn’t — he doesn’t exist. Religion might provide a temporary salve to soothe these wounded children, but there is coming a day, perhaps years from now when they are adults, that those abused by Van Dam will have to wrestle with the things done to them by their Christian school teacher. Perhaps then, far away from the empty words of Josh Bowar, they will find healing. I hope they will seek out competent counselors who put them, and not God, first.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Sutherland Springs Massacre: God Answered the Victims Prayers by Allowing Them to be Murdered

hans fiene

Hans Fiene, pastor of River of Life Lutheran Church in Channahon, Illinois (affiliated with the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, a Fundamentalist sect) believes that the twenty-six Baptists murdered at a Sutherland Springs, Texas church service were killed because God was answering their prayers to be “delivered from evil.”  Writing for the website The FederalistFiene stated:

It’s also an act of profound ignorance [to say that prayer doesn’t work]. For those with little understanding of and less regard for the Christian faith, there may be no greater image of prayer’s futility than Christians being gunned down mid-supplication. But for those familiar with the Bible’s promises concerning prayer and violence, nothing could be further from the truth. When those saints of First Baptist Church were murdered yesterday, God wasn’t ignoring their prayers. He was answering them.

“Deliver us from evil.” Millions of Christians throughout the world pray these words every Sunday morning. While it doesn’t appear that the Lord’s Prayer is formally a part of the worship services at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, I have no doubt that members of that congregation have prayed these words countless times in their lives.

When we pray these words, we are certainly praying that God would deliver us from evil temporally—that is, in this earthly life. Through these words, we are asking God to send his holy angels to guard us from those who would seek to destroy us with knives and bombs and bullets. It may seem, on the surface, that God was refusing to give such protection to his Texan children. But we are also praying that God would deliver us from evil eternally. Through these same words, we are asking God to deliver us out of this evil world and into his heavenly glory, where no violence, persecution, cruelty, or hatred will ever afflict us again.

We also pray in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s will be done. Sometimes, his will is done by allowing temporal evil to be the means through which he delivers us from eternal evil. Despite the best (or, more accurately, the worst) intentions of the wicked against his children, God hoists them on their own petard by using their wickedness to give those children his victory, even as the wicked often mock the prayers of their prey.

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Because of Christ’s saving death and resurrection, death no longer has any power over those who belong to him through faith. So the enemies of the gospel can pour out their murderous rage upon Christians, but all they can truly accomplish is placing us into the arms of our savior.

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Despite the horror that madman made the saints of First Baptist endure, those who endured it with faith in Christ have received his victory. Although the murderer filled their eyes with terror, God has now filled them with his glory. Although he persecuted them with violence, God seized that violence and has now used it to deliver his faithful into a kingdom of peace. Although this madman brought death to so many, God has used that death to give them the eternal life won for them in the blood of Jesus.

Those who persecute the church and those who mock Christians for trusting in Almighty God rather than Almighty Government may believe that the bloodshed in Texas proves the futility of prayer. But we believers see the shooting in Texas as proof of something far different—proof that Christ has counted us worthy to suffer dishonor for his name and proof that no amount of dishonor, persecution, or violence can stop him from answering our prayer to deliver us from evil.

Fiene takes umbrage at people suggesting that these deaths are a poignant reminder of the fact that God does not answer prayer. I have no doubt that those who had time to pray before the gunman mowed them down prayed. I am sure they prayed for the Almighty to protect them and keep them from harm. From a rational perspective, it is clear that the Christian God did not hear their prayers, or he did hear them and chose to do nothing. Either way, twenty-six people died. Fiene, providing yet another example of how irrational Christians can be, rejects the obvious and says that the people killed in Sutherland Springs died because God WAS answering their prayers — deliver us from evil. That’s right, God let or commanded the murders to happen because he decided to answer prayers in a way that only a bat-shit crazy preacher could think up. Instead of admitting that God, once again, failed to come through for his children, Fiene cooked up an explanation that I am sure even some Christians will think is crazy. (Please read The Indifference of God )

Lurking under Fiene’s argument is the belief that the God is sovereign over his creation; that everything that happens is according to the will of God; that nothing happens that is not decreed by God; that everything that happens is controlled, orchestrated, and managed by God. The gunman, then, was just a tool used by God to execute his will at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The people who died? Their numbers were up. The Bible states that everyone has an appointed time of death; that God is in control of whether we live or die; that there is nothing we can do lengthen or lessen our time among the living. If the living want to blame someone for the gunman’s murderous rampage, the blame solely rests on the shoulders of Hans Fiene’s God. (Please read Is God Sovereign and Does Everything Happen for a Reason?)

While Christian apologists have all sorts of arguments they use to get around the implications of believing God is sovereign, the fact remains that if God is the first cause, the creator, the ruler of all things, then he is culpable for what happens on planet earth. I give Fiene credit for at least admitting as much.

As atheists, we know that God doesn’t answer prayer. He can’t because he doesn’t exist. Most of the Sutherland Springs victims likely prayed before succumbing to a hail of bullets. Their prayers for deliverance and safety did not help them. God was blind, deaf, and indifferent, as are all the Gods created by human hands. Perhaps the God of Christianity is very much like Baal, spoken of by Elijah in 1 Kings 18:27:

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he [Baal] is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal, suggesting that their God’s inaction was due to him being busy talking to someone, taking a shit, being on vacation, or sleeping. This passage equally applies to the Christian God, who for the past two thousand years has been AWOL. Billions of prayers to God are uttered each day, yet they go unanswered — save God helping Granny find her keys or helping a Christian NFL quarterback score the game-winning touchdown. While twenty-six Baptists being murdered is no small thing, their deaths pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people who die each day because of war, gun violence, starvation, and disease. Where God is needed most, he is nowhere to be found. Only in the alternate universe inhabited by the Hans Fiens of the world can it be said that God is hearing and answering prayers.

What is needed now is sympathy for the victims and families whose lives were shredded and destroyed. Fuck the clergy with their empty clichés and religious platitudes. Let them live with their delusions while rational, thoughtful Americans band together to tackle the immoral gun lobby and gun violence. How much more blood must be spilled before we realize that GUNS GUNS GUNS GUNS are the problem, and the ONLY solution is strict, enforceable Federal gun control laws. How much more blood must be spilled before we do something to fix our broken mental health system. When will we realize that the U.S. military trains men and women to kill; that some soldiers can’t turn off the violence once they return home; that PTSD among veterans is an ignored and increasing epidemic.

There is much we could do to put an end to gun violence IF we will but do so. Or, we could just keep on doing nothing — you know, praying.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Rick Stedman Gives God All the Credit for Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort

rick stedman

Rick Stedman, an Evangelical pastor, recently wrote an article for Fox News that asked the question, Where is God in the Terrible Tragedy in Houston? I tackled the same question last week in a post titled, Hurricane Harvey: Where is God When the Flood Waters Rise? I concluded that not only did God — if the Bible is indeed true — send Hurricane Harvey, he is directly and completely responsible for all the death and destruction. If God is, as the Bible says he is, the divine weatherman, then he alone is responsible for what we humans call “acts of mother nature” or “acts of God.” In the aftermath of Harvey, humanity at its best was on its display as strangers helped and rescued strangers. Over the coming months, humans will continue to help Houston and coastal Texas recover from the devastating rains and flooding.

Stedman sees “God” in the rescue and recovery activities. Since we are all created in the image of the Christian God, Stedman theologically theorizes, this means it is God doing all the rescue and recovery work we see currently going on in Texas. Stedman writes:

When hurricanes like Harvey devastate so many lives, where is God?

That’s a really good question—one which I’ve heard whenever a hurricane, tornado, or tsunami wreaks havoc—and it deserves an honest, though maybe surprising answer.

It’s been said that tragedies bring out the best in people, and that certainly is the case in Houston. In addition—and here is my answer to the question posed above—tragedies bring out the imago in people, the biblical claim that humans are created in the image of God.

We’ve all seen the stirring TV images of people helping others in Houston. What some fail to see is the reflections of God’s own character in these moving images.

Compassionate volunteers helped nursing home patients flee before the rising waters inundated their residences. Did the volunteers always act this compassionately in the past? Or did the enormity of the crisis bring their true design, based on God’s love, to the surface?

In moments of crisis, Stedman asserts, God bubbles up to the top of our lives, leading us to act compassionately towards those who are suffering. Stedman, of course, has no evidence for his claim other than he believes it and the Bible says so.

I propose we put Stedman’s assertion to the test, say later this week when Hurricane Irma blows through Florida. Instead of humans opening up their checkbooks and making donations, gathering needed supplies, or traveling to Florida to aid rescue efforts, we should do nothing. Let’s let go and Let God. Let’s allow the Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Sovereign ruler of All, and the Savior of humankind, take care of Florida. Instead of opening up our hearts to Florida, let’s stay home and busy ourselves with watching college and professional football. Surely God, who balances the universe on his index finger and knows how many hairs are on seven billion heads, can alleviate the suffering and meet the needs of Floridians. You Go, God, I say. Does anyone doubt that Floridians would suffer greatly if everyone who could help didn’t and stayed home?

I don’t doubt for a moment that many of the people who help in time of human need, do so out of religious motivations. That said, their doing so doesn’t mean that the Christian God exists. Humans are capable of doing all sorts of things out of motivations that are untrue. I readily admit that millions of Americans find great value, help, and hope through believing in the existence of God. The same could be said of most of the world’s religions. However, this in no way proves the existence of God. Surely, Bruce, you don’t believe millions upon millions of people act benevolently out of belief in a lie? Yes, I do. History is replete with examples of humans being motivated to do good (and bad) things because of their commitments to religious, political, and secular ideologies. The Mormon Church, for example, is considered by most Evangelicals to be a cult. Yet, fifteen million Mormons worship a God that Evangelicals say is a fiction. Evangelicals say the same the about all other Gods but theirs. This means that non-Evangelicals who act benevolently in times of need and crisis are doing so out devotion to false Gods.

Stedman spends a few moments taking a cheap shot at atheists. Stedman writes:

Think about it: if atheistic materialism is true, don’t you think we would have become used to death in 3+ billion years of life on planet Earth? Wouldn’t we have settled the case that human deaths are par for the course and shouldn’t trouble us more than the death of a plant or pet?

Stedman is evidently ignorant of the fact that thinking, reasoning homo sapiens have been around for less than 500,000 years. As far as getting used to death, while most atheists may be quite stoic and matter-of-fact about the natural process called death, we certainly haven’t gotten used to it, and neither have Christians. No one likes facing the prospect of death, of losing people they dearly love. Christians try to placate their feelings by believing in the afterlife and heaven — a time and place when God’s faithful will be rewarded with an eternity of prostrating themselves in worship before God. Christians deal with death by resting on the promise of Heaven. Jesus — putting his carpenter skills to use while waiting for his Father to tell him it is time for the rapture — is busy building rooms in the Trump Tower of Heaven® for every person who has the right beliefs. While death causes sadness for Evangelicals, they know — or so they think, anyway — that in the not too distant future their room will be ready and they will be reunited with Christian loved ones who have gone on to Heaven before them. (This thinking, by the way, is a gross distortion of orthodox/historic Christian theology concerning death and resurrection.) Death, then, becomes somethings that must be endured, with a divine payoff awaiting beyond the veil.

hurricane harvey

Atheists, of course, do not believe such nonsense. Ever the realists, atheists know, based on the evidence at hand, that humans only get one stab at this thing called life. There is no afterlife, no second chances, no heaven or hell. When death comes knocking at our doors, that is the end for us. All that matters, then, is this present life. Unlike many Christians who devalue the present in hope of finding great reward beyond the grave, atheists embrace life with gusto, knowing that dead people — Jesus included — don’t come back to live. Every homo sapien who has ever walked upon the face of planet of earth has died, or will die in the future. Cemeteries are poignant reminders of the permanence of death. Living in denial of these facts doesn’t change them. Death will, one day, likely sooner than later, come calling for each and every one of us. Knowing this, how then should we live? If we care about our parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, extended family, friends, and neighbors, how should we respond when the Hurricane Harveys of life come our/their way causing heartache and destruction? Why, we act and do what we can help others. Why? Because we love them and desire a better life for those who are important to us. We can extend this farther to people we don’t know. Surely, atheists and Christians alike want to see suffering alleviated and wrecked neighborhoods returned to wholeness. Must we believe in God to care?

Stedman admits that it “appears” that God is nowhere to be found as we survey the havoc wreaked on Texas by Hurricane Harvey. However, according to Stedman, appearances can be deceiving:

God is not absent but is very, very subtle. He hides himself in plain sight, but can be found when we learn how to decipher the clues that point toward his presence. And the clues are abundant right now in Houston.

In other words, God is playing a game of hide and seek. We can’t find him, but, Stedman assures us, God is here, there, and everywhere. Stedman sounds like man who is tripping on LSD. He is seeing pink elephants where there are none. Stedman needs to see God lest his absence invalidates his theological beliefs and renders moot his assertion that God is alive and present in our day-to-day lives.

As an atheist, I believe in giving credit to whom credit is due. When God shows up and does the work, I will gladly give him the credit. Until then, I plan to continue to praising and thanking my fellow human beings for the good they do. They alone deserve my praise and thanks.

The next time Stedman talks with his God, perhaps he can ask him WHY he sent Hurricane Harvey to start with? Explain to inquiring minds, Pastor, why your God caused so much suffering, devastation, and death. Did he do what he did so Christians would look good or have something to do besides watching football? If the Christian God is the compassionate, caring deity Stedman says he is, why doesn’t the Big Man Upstairs make sure the weather everywhere is as sunny and delightful as San Diego? From my seat in the atheist pew, it is hard for me to see a loving, caring, compassionate God at work in his creation. If I were God, I certainly wouldn’t have sent a Hurricane Harvey to Texas just so I could give them a test. In my mind, those who could alleviate suffering and don’t are the worst of people (and gods). The good news is that most Christians are far better people than their God. And hand in hand with atheists, agnostics, and people who worship other deities, Christians can help to make the world better for all who will come after us.

1998: The Theological Beliefs of 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.

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 a expositional preacher. The primary Bible version I use is the KJV. 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 Evangelical 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 the 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. 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, Freddy Price, etal. The modern charismatic movement is an admixture of truth and error and is best described like a mixture of the Corinthian and Laodicean  Church. I also stand opposed to most of the 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 post tribulational, and a-millennial. 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 e mail me and I will promptly reply.

Pastor Bruce Gerencser

Is God Sovereign and Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

sovereignty-of-god

The first verse in the first book of the Christian Bible says, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The verses that follow go on to explain all that God created. His crowning achievement was the creation of Adam and Eve — humans created in the image of God. Adam and Eve would later eat fruit from a tree that God said was off-limits. Their love of fruit brought sin and death into the world. From this point forward, humans broke forth from their mothers’ wombs at variance with God. According to the Bible, newborns come into the world speaking lies. Humans are, by nature, enemies of God. Wanting to repair the fractured relationship between the Creator and his creation, God cooked up a scheme through which sins could be forgiven. In the Old Testament, the Bible says God required blood sacrifices for expiation of sin. Animals were ritually slaughtered and their blood placed upon altars to provide atonement for national and personal sins. In the New Testament, the Bible says that God sent himself to earth in the form of a God-man by the name of Jesus. This Jesus was one hundred percent man and one hundred percent God. After traversing through Palestine for thirty-three years, working miracles and preaching sermons, this Jesus was accused of heresy by the Jews, arrested by the Roman government, and executed. Three days later, this Jesus miraculously came back to life, spent forty days appearing to his followers, after which he ascended to heaven. According to Christians, for the past 2,000 year Jesus has been hanging out in heaven doing God things: building rooms (mansions) for Christians to live in, helping Tim Tebow score touchdowns, helping grandmas find their car keys, and controlling presidential elections. While Jesus, at least according to those who speak on his behalf, is intimately involved in the minutest details of the lives of his followers, it seems he can’t be bothered with important issues such as war, starvation, global climate change, human trafficking, and the Cincinnati Bengals winning the Super Bowl. Why is it that Jesus never seems to be around when you really, really need him?

Most Christian sects can be plotted along the line between Arminianism and Calvinism. While these two systematic theologies are poles apart from one another, both agree that the Christian God is the absolute, authoritative ruler of the universe. While Arminians and Calvinists argue amongst themselves about free will and the order of salvation, both agree that God is sovereign, that he has the whole world in the palm of his hands. This God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The Bible says that none of us can escape the presence of  this God. He is everywhere — the ultimate voyeur.

If everything is created by God, owned by God, known by God, and nothing escapes his ever-seeing eye, isn’t it logical to say that God is responsible for sin? Isn’t it logical to hold God responsible for everything that happens? If humans are not ultimately in control of their lives or their destiny, how then can they be held responsible? If God alone — either through predestination and election or prevenient grace — saves sinners and gives them keys to their Jesus-built mansions in the sky, how then can any of us be held accountable for not becoming Christians? If it is God, through the Holy Spirit, that gives life to dead sinners so they can believe, how then can any un-quickened sinners be held accountable for their depravity? Billions of people, past and present, live in places where Christianity has no influence. People can go through their entire lives without hearing the Christian gospel, yet when they die God will hold them accountable for not hearing that which they had no opportunity to hear. Does this sound just and fair?

Does any of this make sense to you? Wouldn’t it have been better for the Gods — Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit — to cut out all the bullshit and create a universe not tainted by sin and depravity? Surely it was in God’s power  to create an Adam and Eve incapable of sinning. It’s a fair question, then, to ask why God did what he did. If God controls the universe and nothing escapes his sovereign grasp, why all the war, violence, rape, starvation, and terrible contemporary Christian music?

Start asking Christian pastors and laypeople these questions, and you’ll quickly conclude that they really don’t have any answers. Oh, they will spin some sort of elaborate theological answer that will leave you neck deep in quicksand, but don’t expect them to give direct, succinct answers. Most often, apologists for the Christian God will give contradictory or incoherent answers, and when their nonsense is pointed out they will swiftly run to the house of faith, slamming the door while they scream, GOD’S WAYS ARE NOT OUR WAYS! GOD’S THOUGHTS ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS! HOW DARE YOU CHALLENGE THE CREATOR! HE CAN DO WHAT HE WANTS! This screaming is the equivalent of la-la-la-la, I can’t hear you, now fuck off.

A perfect illustration of this can be found in a recent post on the Faith-It website by Christine Suhan. Titled, Dear Christians, Stop Saying ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’,Suhan shows how it is impossible for Christians to develop a coherent understanding of the world while at the same time trying to hold on to Evangelical beliefs. Here’s some of what she had to say:

Have you ever found yourself, in the midst of unimaginable grief, pain, heartache or despair, wondering how you are going to make it through another day? Wondering where your next breath is going to come from? Your world has crumbled beneath you and you are left feeling shattered, empty and hopeless.

And then a well meaning friend or family member comes along and drops the infamous “Everything happens for a reason” bomb. You smile kindly and nod—that’s all you can do to keep yourself from punching them in the face.

….

Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease and death are inevitable parts of the human experience.

We hear people say “Life dealt me a crappy hand” as if pain and hardships are not the norm. We assume that life is supposed to be easy and when things don’t go our way, we feel like we have been wronged. Human beings seem to have an innate sense of entitlement. We think that we are owed a pain-free existence.

But the truth is that human beings are not exempt from the human experience. And struggle is an innate part of the human experience. None of us are exceptions to this rule. We all struggle. We all suffer. We all experience pain, heartache and loss. And sometimes, there’s just no reason other than we are human and pain is a part of the process.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was struggling to find peace with “God’s plan” for her life including the recent death of a loved one.

“How could this possibly be God’s will?” she asked.

Here’s what I’ve come to know about God’s will:

God’s will is not the path we walk, but rather how we walk the path.

God’s plan is never for someone to have cancer. God’s will is not for an innocent child to be brutally murdered. God’s will is not for a teenage girl to be raped. God’s will is not chronic pain, illness, disability or death.

God’s will is not an event that happens to us, it’s how we respond to what happens.

God’s will for us is to walk with Him through the cancer. Through the abuse. Through the death. Through the illness. God’s will is for us to draw close to him in the midst of pain. God’s will is for us to use our painful life events to carry his message of hope, grace, forgiveness and mercy.

God’s plan was never for pain to be part of the human experience. His plan was for us to live in peace and harmony with Him. The human experience became painful when sin entered the world. Our own free will weaved threads of tragedy, loss, heartache and pain into the human experience.

God is not responsible for our pain. We are not responsible for our pain. What happened in the Garden of Eden is responsible for the human condition. And the human condition is hard wired for pain and suffering. God is not causing us to hurt. He is hurting with us. What we do with our hurt is what matters. How we handle tragedy is what brings purpose into our pain.

There’s hardly ever a justifiable reason for the bad things that happen in life. Tragic loss is not laced with inherent specs of good. I used to get so mad when people would say, “You can find good in every situation.” That’s just not true. There was nothing good about being raped. There is no good in murder or abuse.

Suhan takes the shit happens approach. Thanks to Adam and Eve and their progeny’s sin, nature, pain, suffering and death are part of the human (Westworld) experience. According to Suhan, there is no reason or purpose for these things to happen. The problem, however, is that Suhan’s worldview runs contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine. This often happens when Christians try to thoughtfully think about human existence. How can rape or murder be good or have some sort of higher purpose? If God is the sovereign of the universe, why does he permit, either passively or by decree, such things to happen? Surely, an all-powerful God can keep people from being raped or murdered. Why does he idly stand by and do nothing?

According to Suhan, God does do s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g. When a teenage girl is being ritually raped by her pastor or an altar boy is being repeatedly sodomized by his priest, Jesus is right there holding the victim’s hand. That’s right, the God who could stop sexual assault does little more than send victims a BFF text that says, I am with you in spirit. Love, Jesus. Millions of people will go to bed tonight hungry, and the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and sends sunshine and rain for crops to grow, will do nothing to feed them, choosing instead to smile and hold their empty plates. While the risk of nuclear war between the United States and Russia continues to increase, Jesus wants everyone to know that he will be right there with them if they are turned into an ash heap. Is this the best that God can do for us — hold our hand?

If God is the supreme ruler of the universe, the creator of all things, the giver of life and death, and he who sees and knows everything, it is impossible to absolve him of culpability for pain, suffering, violence, and death. God could intervene, but he does nothing. Try as they might, Christian apologists have no suitable answer for a sovereign God’s inaction. The best these defenders of the faith can come up with is that Adam and Eve ate an apple, pissed off God in the process, and for thousands of years now he is been standing by while the Richard Micks of the world rape church children, serial killers murder innocents, and warring nations rain death down on the heads of innocent civilians.

And if this isn’t bad enough, Christian pastors and theologians remind us that there is coming a day when God will end his hand-holding ways, resurrecting everyone from the dead so he can judge them and fit those who don’t measure up with some sort of supernatural body that will survive an eternity of torture in a lake filled with fire and brimstone. This God who couldn’t be bothered with stopping Hitler’s horrendous slaughter of six million Jews, will definitely be hands-on when the time comes to make his “chosen” people pay for their rejection and execution of Jesus Christ. Billions of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and wrong-flavor-of-ice-cream Christians will be awakened from their slumber, only to be cast into hell with the devil, his angels, Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton, and Bruce Gerencser.

Who in their right mind would want anything to do with Evangelical Christianity?

It is for these reasons (and others) that many people turn to atheism. The only way to understand what goes on in the world is to realize that we humans are responsible for what does and does not happen. Countless Christians are praying that God will make sure that Donald Trump becomes president. Their meaningless prayers will not affect the outcome of this election, votes will. It is up to humans, not fictional deities, to put an end to violence and suffering. We are the masters of our universe, and if we want things to be different, then it is up to us to change them. A humanistic view of the world requires us to acknowledge that randomness and luck often affect our lives. Sometimes, we are at the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time. Slight variations in decisions or movement can drastically change outcomes. It is highly unlikely that a jet flying overhead will crash into my home. It’s possible, but the probability is minuscule. And when that unlikely event happens to some unlucky individuals, we must accept it as just that – an unfortunate incident which took lives, but not an act of God. Instead of attempting to develop some elaborate and often contradictory religious explanation of the world that supposedly matches the dictates of ancient religious texts, it is far better for us to just live in the moment and do what we can to improve life for not only ourselves and our progeny, but also for animals and other humans. Interjecting God into the discussion just complicates things. We humanists hope that Suhan and her fellow Christians leave off holding hands with their fictional best friend, and instead join hands with us as we try to combat violence, pain, suffering, disease, climate change, starvation, inequality, and death. Surely God is not so jealous that he can’t put off the handholding until Christians make it to the other side.

Note

faith-it.com is owned and operated by Outreach, Inc., a large Evangelical media and marketing “ministry” located in Colorado Springs. Fundamentalists such as Kirk Cameron, Eric Metaxas, Lee Strobel, Sheila Walsh, Josh McDowell, Benham Brothers, Craig Gross, Ryan Dobson, Frank Turek, and a gaggle of Evangelical sports stars are represented by Outreach, Inc.

[signoff]

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

lauren seitz

Lauren Seitz

Several weeks 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. (Channel 4 report)  I can only imagine the heartache such a loss must cause. No parents ever want 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, 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 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.

Calvinists and Their Love of Theological Porn

size matters

Three Calvinists checking to see who has the largest library

Calvinism is generally described as an adherence 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 or inclination to plumb the depths of Calvinistic theology or 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 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. 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 that 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 belief 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 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 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, the church Mahan pastored at the time, 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. 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 that Mahan isn’t a true Calvinist; he is an Antinomian.)

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 church and the Calvinistic Baptist church is the matter of free will.  When it comes to 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.)

Note

The primary focus of this post is on Evangelical Calvinism, the belief system of men like John MacArthur, Al Mohler, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll. 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.

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 a 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 the 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, end up in 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 who has terminal cancer. Cathy (Laura Linney) has 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.

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Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

everything happens for a reason 2

The Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Muslim, and Mormon, 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 or accident.

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, my wife’s younger cousin’s recent death from Myasthenia gravis—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 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 death 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.

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, and a family having no means of support?

Two years ago, a horrific, violent storm ripped through NW 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?

War rages across the globe. The United States has troops stationed all over the world and is currently waging war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. U.S troops, bombs, and bullets are responsible for tens 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.

everything happens for a reasonI 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 a 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 hungry 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 life of pain has 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. Seven 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.

Note

A good read on this subject is Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens.

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Is God to Blame for Terrorist Attacks? Anne Graham Lotz Says, Yes!

911

Suppose a mother has a toddler who wants to play in the street.  She know her son could be hit by a car if he does, but she wants to teach him a lesson, so she allow him to play in the street.  Pretty soon a car comes down the street, hits her son, and he dies. Is she to blame for his death? After all, he is the one who wanted to play in the street. She just allowed/permitted him to do so. Yes, she could have stopped him, but she thought it important that he learn a lesson, so she let him have his way.

Does anyone think this mother is a good mother? Does anyone think, if this woman has any more children, that they should be removed from the home? Some Evangelicals think their God is just like this mother. According to fundamentalist Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, because the United States turned its back on God, God is allowing terrorists to attack the U.S. Here’s what Lotz had to say on Jan Markell’s Understanding The Times radio program. (you can listen to broadcast here):

In the days of Noah, they were eating, drinking, getting married. There is nothing wrong with any of that. All of those are normal everyday activities. But in Noah’s day they did it all apart from God,” There was no acknowledgment of God. God was irrelevant to them. … I think that is where we are today.”

“I look at some of the things that we get preoccupied with, whether it’s an entertainer or whose baby they are having, or on the red carpet, or footballs being deflated by a quarterback. We zero in on those things and talk about them and we have no idea that we are on the edge of the whole world collapsing around us.That is the strongest similarity of the days of Noah and our day.”

“Today, we are consumed by superficial things. Some of the areas of the world they are not. If you go to Syria or Iraq, those Christians over there, I will guarantee you, are very focused. In America, we are just neglecting God and ignoring Him. I just saw a piece about the rise of atheism, people walking away from the church. In fact, the Christian church is declining, according to Pew Research.”

That is why God sends us wake-up calls. That’s why he allows the terrorists to strike or a tornado to rip through our city, because for whatever reason, we don’t seem to give Him our attention until we are desperate. If we don’t give Him our attention, then He is going to allow things to happen to make us more and more desperate until we do cry out.“…

…”We share the gospel because people whom we lead to Christ right now, it’s almost like we save them twice,” she said. “We save them from an earthly hell that is coming during the tribulation period, which I think we are very close to, and we save them from eternal hell, which is when you step into eternity. The second death is the worst of all when you are separated from God forever.”

9-11? Shooting in Charleston? Terrorist attack in Chattanooga?  Tornadoes? Earthquakes? Tsunamis? All warnings from God. In Lotz’s Bible-saturated mind, since 2008 when the great usurper, Barack Obama, took office, there has been an unprecedented rise in sin and disobedience. Since we live in the Last Days®, it should come as no surprise that God is allowing all these things to happen. He is trying to get our attention. Time is short, repent and turn to Lotz’s God for salvation. Like the mother above, God is simply allowing these things to take place to teach us a lesson. And like the mother who is rightly held accountable for her son being killed, God also must be held accountable for what he allows.

Evangelicals, especially of the Calvinistic variety, think it is their duty to defend God’s honor. They rightly understand that saying God CAUSED these events makes God look bad, so they try to defend the Big Man’s honor by saying he passively allowed these things to happen; he didn’t cause them. Wait a minute. Isn’t God the first cause of EVERYTHING? With causality comes responsibility and culpability.  Either God is in control of everything or he is not. If he’s not, then it is safe to conclude that this God is no God at all.

I could have taken another approach with this post. Lotz wrote that “In America, we are just neglecting God and ignoring Him.” I could have wrote about the petulant, infantile God who maims and murders innocents so Americans will pay attention to him. This God, the Evangelical God, he’s just a bad dude all the way around. Perhaps it is time to lock him up and throw away the key.

A Sovereign God Smashes a Young Family to Death

ellis family

The Ellis family

Here’s a story that perfectly illustrates being at the wrong place, at the wrong time:

A Washington couple who died when a large concrete slab fell from a highway overpass onto their pickup truck were youth ministers in their 20s and parents to a 6-month-old baby.

Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their baby, Hudson, died when a concrete barrier fell onto the cab of their truck as they drove underneath an overpass in Bonney Lake, Washington, James Ludlow, their pastor at EastPoint Foursquare Church, said.

“It’s a tragic event,” Ludlow said Tuesday. “In the blink of an eye, inhale and exhale, and they’re in the presence of God.”

Construction crews were installing a sidewalk on the state Route 410 overpass in Bonney Lake, when a chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds fell to the roadway below around 10:30 a.m.

“We were just heading down the street … and I could hear three snaps and down it went on top of the truck,” witness Dawn Nelson, who was riding in a car behind the pickup, told KING-TV of Seattle. “There was nothing anyone could do. It was just surreal.”

It was not immediately known what caused the “very heavy” concrete structure to fall. Bonney Lake police, the state Department of Transportation and representatives from contractor WHH Nisqually are investigating.

City spokesman Woody Edvalson said the material that fell was part of the original span, which was built in 1992 and has a sufficiency rating of 95.3 out of 100.

Bonney Lake is about 30 miles southeast of Seattle.

Flowers, a cross and a teddy bear have been placed near the overpass. Both the span and road underneath reopened. Debris from the concrete slab is still on the ground, however.

Ludlow described the Ellis family as “great people” who were loved by kids in the church’s congregation….

What a tragedy, a poignant reminder of how quickly one’s life can be snuffed out.

The Ellis family attended Eastpointe Foursquare Church in Buckely, Washington, where Josh and Vanessa were youth leaders.

I am always hesitant to use tragedies like this to make a point, but there is an aspect of this story that I think is important to discuss.

Shane Lance, the worship leader at Eastpointe,  had this to say about the accident:

“It’s just crazy as a friend. I just can’t wrap my head around it, and that does have to do with how random and how freakish the accident was.”

“It feels unbelievable because a split second on either side the cement slab would have fallen right in front of them and they would have been fine or behind them and they would have been fine. What I do know is that there’s no answer to the logic of it and there’s no answer to the question why.”

“We do know God is good; He’s just so good. He’s going to pull goodness out of this situation somehow, even though right now that just feels illogical. And there’s also comfort knowing that they’re with Jesus and they’re comforted and they’re covered by His grace and power now.”

The One News Now report goes to say “The worship pastor adds they know God is sovereign even when it doesn’t make sense.”

According to Lance and Eastpointe Foursquare Church, the Ellis family was smashed to death because the Christian God decreed it to be so. God is the giver and taker of life and he determined it was time for Ellis’s to die. Not content to quietly kill them in their sleep, he dropped a concrete barrier weighing thousands of pounds on top of them as they drove near an overpass.  What should we say about a God who behaves in such a horrific manner?

Lance, seeking for answers as to WHY God killed his friends, believes that the sovereign God he loves and worships only does good and he will surely use this tragedy for a greater purpose. What Godly purpose requires the sacrifice of a young father, mother, and their child? How is this any different from the Aztec Indians sacrificing humans to their God?

Lance’s comments betray the mental and emotional battle that rages in his mind. He wants to believe God is sovereign, God is love, God only does good, yet his dear friends are dead. In the aforementioned article, Lance stated  that the accident “just feels illogical.” When viewed in a religious context, he is right.  How can someone say God is love and God only does good, knowing that the death of the Ellis’s is anything but loving and good? I am sure that cognitive dissonance afflicts many of those trying to make sense of this tragedy.

As a humanist, I don’t think the accident was illogical. The Ellis family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Such things happen every day in every country of the world. 13 years ago, a Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and three young children, were driving along an Indiana road when a tree toppled over smashing their car. The father, mother, and two children were killed. Baptist Press reported:

A small-town Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and two small children were killed Jan. 1 when a dead tree fell on top of their car, crushing the passenger compartment.

Stanley Paul Jones, 46, pastor of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland, was killed along with his wife, Beth Ann Hobbs Jones, 39, and two of their children, Lauren, 6, and Tyler, 10.

Another daughter, Emily, 4, survived and was listed in fair condition at an Indianapolis-area hospital.

There appeared to have been no wind or other circumstances that caused the tree to fall just as Jones’ car was passing underneath on the two-lane road.

How do you explain the deaths that came a few hours into the new year?

Jones was westbound on Hancock County Road 100 South, approaching the intersection with County Road 200 West, about seven miles east of the church he served. There are woods in the area. A dead tree, said to have been 5 feet in diameter, fell just as Jones’ vehicle was passing underneath, according to Hancock County deputies.

“Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re exempt from tragedy,” said William Smith of Cumberland Christian Church, who knew Jones and helped his church. “There’s no explanation for it, but we believe that an all-knowing God is in control of everything.”…

There’s that sovereign God again, the God who is all-knowing and controls everything. Again, like the Ellis family, the Jones family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. But, in both cases, there are humans who are culpable for what happened. While the concrete barrier falling was an accident, someone was operating the machinery that resulted in the fall.  Same goes for the Jones family. The dead tree that killed them was on someone’s property. They likely knew it was dead and could topple over, yet they did nothing about it. The state of Indiana is also culpable. It is their responsibility to make sure that trees along the right-of-way are sound. If they are not, they should be removed lest they topple over and hit a passerby.

Rare is the circumstance where no culpability can be found. I have had several near brushes with death, and in every instance a human was to blame. We recognize that we live in a danger-filled world, where living to old age is as much about luck as it is genetics. For the Ellis and Jones families, their luck ran out and three children and four adults died.

Imagine these families tooling down the road without a care in the world. Maybe they were like Polly and I years ago. We’d spend hours in the car singing hymns and praise and worship songs. Sometimes, we sang along with a cassette tape or a CD. Just praising Jesus, worshiping the wonderful, loving God of the universe. And then,  BAM, the sovereign God of Christianity drops a cement barrier or a tree on top of the car. What kind of God behaves like this? Perhaps Christians need to tell God to please leave them alone; that they are fine without his love, care, and protection.

The Ellis family, according to Shane Lance, is in the presence of Jesus. Theoretically, isn’t this what many Christians live for? Whether by rapture or death, the Christian is free from the world controlled by the prince and power of the air, Satan.  Life is little more than  preparation for heaven. The Bible says, prepare to meet the Lord thy God. Since the present life is transitory and fleeting, the Christian focuses on laying up treasures in heaven. Testimonies are given, expressing the desire to absent from the body and present with the Lord. If heaven and being in the presence of Jesus is the end game, shouldn’t Christians rejoice upon hearing the stories mentioned in this post?  Why all the sadness, grief, and despair? Perhaps, even the Christian has their doubts about what lies beyond the grave. They know what the Bible says, what their pastor says, and what their “heart” tells them, but reality tells them something far different.

I am not certain whether the atheistic/humanistic way of looking at tragedies and death is better, but it is brutally honest. I fully understand the appeal of religion in times of tragedy. People want to desperately believe that their life matters, both now and beyond the grave. While there is no rational proof for such claims, faith allows the believer to set reason aside and cling to hope. The atheist and the humanist must embrace life as it is. Sometimes, life can be harsh and ugly, as in the case of the Ellis family. No thoughtful atheist would ever wish such a tragedy on anyone, but we know that things like this do happen and they may some day happen to us.

Luck, Fate, or Providence?

god is in control

As a Christian, I believed that God was the sovereign ruler of the universe. I believed God held my life in 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 a 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 it to me. When I began to have health problems in the early 1990’s, 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 the Christian convinces themselves that they are a free moral agent, 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 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 a Christian might object, if they believe in a God who is in control, then they must also believe that he is to blame 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 is not. Either he is the first cause, the beginning and the end, or he is not. Either 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 omn’s, God was all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere.

In 2008, God lost control of my life as I began to reclaim my life and 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 someone other Christian answering the prayer.

None of us know 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 crap shoot. Live to your 50’s 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.

Yesterday, 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 went careening down the concrete abutment into the canal. The fall would have likely killed me.

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

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# man. When Polly pulls me out of the car or the recliner I help her. This time? I was dead weight and I almost literally became so.

Lesson learned.

As we were eating lunch today, our daughter with Down Syndrome began choking. Due to her disability, she has a thick tongue and can easily choke. Today 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 live to face another day. Our daughter could just as easily died on our living room floor. Living in the rural area we do, 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. A satellite could fall out of the sky and flatten me. I could be on a plane piloted by a man who intends to commit suicide at 25,000 feet.  While others might be culpable for my death, I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Living is 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. Just last week, 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 every 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.