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Answering a Personal Attack: My Response to a Former Preacher Turned Atheist

Friends: Recently I’ve been challenged by a former preacher-turned-atheist by the name of Bruce Gerencser. His article is entitled “Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of ‘Friendship’” and you may read it here.

Bruce rightly criticizes Christians for what I call conditional, blackmail-type, temporary “friendships” in order to evangelize them. And when conversion doesn’t take place, these Christians drop their lost “friends” like a hot potato and move on to what Bruce calls another “mark.”

Here is what I wrote to Bruce:

Bruce:
I’ve thought quite a bit about how to respond to you and your post entitled “Beware of Evangelicals Coming in the Name of ‘Friendship.’” I believe you first mentioned me in your blog back a few years ago when you took issue with my position on premarital sex.

I posted a preliminary comment on your blog a couple of days ago asking you to read my book “Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World.” I think you’d be surprised at how much you and I agree with one another.

I don’t want to be like an “Amway or Herbalife peddler.” I’m deeply concerned with your very accurate statement that “many Evangelicals . . . are content to let us go to hell in peace.” I also don’t want to “irritate, bug and harass non-Christians.”

[Just a minor correction — I am now retired from my teaching position at CIU].

I agree with you that “most church members keep their faith to themselves.” I’m not at all interested in “fake friendships,” Bruce. [I’d be glad to send you the pdf of my book if you wish. You and I may disagree, but I’d like you to see that we’re attacking the same problem of insincere, conditional, blackmail-type, temporary friendships]. We all have a worldview that we want to “share” with others, right?

I don’t know Katy Morgan, but your attack on her article seems unfair. Is she really advocating fake friendships with the aged?

You write: “There are six Evangelical churches within five miles of our home. Want to know how many times the pastors of these churches have knocked on our door to introduce themselves, invite us to church, or share with us that wonderful salvation they prattle on and on about on Sundays? Zero.” I agree with you that that’s sad. But if they did visit you, would you criticize them for their “fake friendship”?

“Never content just to be decent, thoughtful, genuine human beings, Dixon, Morgan, and company scour the countryside looking for ‘opportunities’ to become fake friends with young and old alike.” Wow, Bruce. You don’t know me.

You “divorced” Jesus 12 years ago. I’m sorry you lost all your Evangelical friends. They are rightly criticized for abandoning you. Jesus is clear that those who turn from the faith (either morally or doctrinally) should be treated as tax collectors and pagans. How did Jesus treat tax collectors and pagans? He sought them out! He befriended them. But He told them the truth about forgiveness.

You speak of your friend of 50+ years and that he is one who is “willing to let me go to hell in peace.” I’m glad you have that friendship. Would you be angry with him if you found out that he prays for your re-conversion?

I appreciated your point about true friends, as you reminisced about A.V. Henderson’s sermon. I want to be an exception to your comment that “When they don’t get what they want from us — our salvation — they move on to other marks.”

You write: “I am quite happy to be left alone in my debauchery and apostasy. I just wish the purveyors of friendship evangelism would leave others alone too.” I agree with your attack on conditional friendships and I am with you in meeting the temporal needs of the elderly, etc. You write: “However, attempting to befriend people as a means to an end — salvation — is repugnant. None of us like being used, and that is exactly what Evangelicals do when they target people for evangelization.”

Again, Bruce, I think we have a lot in common. But if I’m a true follower of Jesus, I would not just want to meet your temporal needs, but deeply care about your eternal needs. Wouldn’t that be consistent Christianity?

Blessings. Larry

Please feel free to leave a comment below if you wish!

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2020 in friendships

 

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Some Thoughts on FRIENDSHIP — From an INTROVERT! (Part 4) THE OLD TESTAMENT ON FRIENDSHIPS! (Part 3)

Who cares about FRIENDSHIP?  The answer is, we all should!  And I, especially as an introvert, need to do some serious thinking about my relationships (or lack thereof). I’m excited about getting to write two books this year (probably) about friendships.  The first, tentatively entitled With Friends Like These . . . Biblical Friendships from Job to Jesus will examine the Word of God on the importance of friendships — with both believers and unbelievers! Let’s review a bit:

We noticed in the Pentateuch that Adam needed human companionship, that God actually had the Levites kill their friends for idolatry, and that two men specifically (Abraham and Moses) were called “the friend of God.”

In the History Books we mentioned the beautiful friendship between Jonathan and David and how it is perversely viewed as a homosexual relationship by some today, causing many men not to get close to other men out of fear!

In the Poetry Books of the Old Testament we see in the book of Job the importance of “helping” a friend in pain.If one’s view of God and reality is flawed, advice given can be adding to one’s pain. The Psalter has much to say about friendship, especially the pain of friends’ turning away when life becomes hard (see 31:11; 38:11; 41:9; 55:12-14; etc.). David declares he is “a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts” (Ps. 119:63). The book of Proverbs reminds us that the rich have many friends (19:6). The righteous choose their friends carefully (12:26) and we are warned that gossip separates close friends (17:9).

One of the most critical points about friendship made in the book of Proverbs is found in 27:6 where we read, ““Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” None of us likes to be wounded, but there are useful wounds from those who love us which are far more valuable than empty expressions of affection. Similarly, Proverbs 27:9 says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (27:9). Very practically we are told in 22:24 that we should “not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.”

Let’s (lastly) think about the section of Scripture called the Major and Minor Prophets. The prophets were often treated as outcasts, especially when they preached judgment on God’s covenant people! Messages of condemnation are not fertile soil for developing friendships! The distinction between the Major and the Minor Prophets is not a commentary on their messages. The Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel) are longer than the Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).

In Isaiah 41:8 we have a wonderful reference to the patriarch Abraham as Israel is referred to as “you descendants of Abraham my friend.” Jeremiah rebukes God’s people for their ungodly divorces and their prostitution. And they are surprised that God is bringing judgment on them! Jeremiah quotes their perverse prayer in which they address the Lord: “Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth,5 will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.” (Jeremiah 3:4-5).

God’s impending judgment will ruin relationships among His covenant people, and through Jeremiah the Lord says, “Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.” (Jeremiah 9:4-5).

Jeremiah specifically says that Judah would be turned over to the Babylonians and the Lord would make His people “a terror to yourself and to all your friends” (Jeremiah 20:4). The “trusted friends” who preached peace, Jeremiah says, will cause “your feet [to be] sunk in the mud; your friends have deserted you” (Jeremiah 38:22). Daniel and his friends were in danger of being executed, but the Lord rescued them (Daniel 2:13, 17-18). Obadiah predicts that “your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it.” (Obadiah 1:7). Micah says, “Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the woman who lies in your embrace guard the words of your lips.” (Micah 7:5)

In our last reference in the Prophets to friendship, we have the fascinating text in Zechariah 13:6 that reads, “If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’” Some see that text as Messianic, for even the Lord Jesus’ closest friends deserted Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2019 in friendships

 

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Some Thoughts on FRIENDSHIP — From an INTROVERT! (Part 4) THE OLD TESTAMENT ON FRIENDSHIPS! (Part 2)

Two books on friendship — who needs ’em?  The answer is — I DO!  As an introvert, I try to avoid people, large crowds, telemarketers. But God in His humor has me writing two books on . . . friendship! This first book is tentatively entitled With Friends Like These . . . Biblical Friendships from Job to Jesus. We began in our last post thinking about the Old Testament on friendship.

While our study must be cursory, we noticed in the Pentateuch that Adam needed human companionship, that God actually had the Levites kill their friends for idolatry, and that two men specifically (Abraham and Moses) were called “the friend of God.”

In the History Books we mentioned the beautiful friendship between Jonathan and David and how it is perversely viewed as a homosexual relationship by some today, causing many men not to get close to other men out of fear!

Let’s take a brief look at the Poetry Books of the Old Testament this morning.  What do we see there?  The book of Job lays out for us the truth of being with a friend in pain. It also shows the danger of trying to “help” one’s friend through their pain when the helper’s view of God and reality is flawed. Job’s three friends each lecture him on his sin and his need to repent.  And they are wrong in their assessment (see Job 42:7). Theology is important, but can be used as a weapon to further hurt the wounded.

The Psalter has much to say about friendship, especially the pain of friends’ turning away when life becomes hard (see 31:11; 38:11; 41:9; 55:12-14; etc.). David declares he is “a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts” (Ps. 119:63).  The book of Proverbs reminds us that the rich have many friends (19:6).  The righteous choose their friends carefully (12:26) and we are warned that gossip separates close friends (17:9). One of the most critical points about friendship made in the book of Proverbs is found in 27:6 where we read, ““Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” None of us likes to be wounded, but there are useful wounds from those who love us which are far more valuable than empty expressions of affection. Similarly, Proverbs 27:9 says, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (27:9). Very practically we are told in 22:24 that we should “not make friends with a hot-tempered person; do not associate with one easily angered.”

In our next and last post on the Old Testament’s advice on friendships we will look at the major and minor prophets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2019 in friendships

 

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