Out of Fundamentalism
By a former fundamentalist
(This essay copied here from In Humanity's Service. Used by permission.--Merle)
I am smack in the middle of my journey out of fundamentalism. However it has
been a process that has been going on for about 5 years now. You don't just
throw off 30 plus years of indoctrination all at once. Also, lets be honest, it
hurts. I wanted to, and did for 30+ years, believe that this book was God's
words to us. I wanted to believe that there was a loving God, who could and
would help me through the problems of life. I wanted to believe that if I was in
God's will I could expect his blessings on my life, and it hurt like hell to do
all I was expected to do, and then still find my world crashing down around me.
It hurt to pray, and pray, and pray, and never get one answer to any of those
prayers, (except NO I suppose), which everyone is so happy to bring up to me.
I was "saved", or "born again", when I was 9 years old, and I am 49 now. My father was a preacher and pastor, and has been for 30+ years. My Father in law is also a Baptist preacher. We grew up in the Methodist Church, and then later we joined the Baptist denomination. For the past 30 years I, (pretty much like anyone else around me), accepted that what I had been taught by my parents and family about God and the Bible was the absolute truth, based on absolute undeniable facts. Anything in the Bible which seemed to be contradictory, or was impossible to understand, or reconcile with the morals of the Church today, were simply ignored, overlooked, or filed away as something which could not be understood by fallible men, about an infallible God. To keep questioning the unknown areas, or to really seek answers to the hard scriptures, or to still harbor doubts about the scriptures which made no sense, was seen as a lack of faith in God.
I was taught that the Holy Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired, Word of God, directly from God himself. What did this mean exactly? Well it is pretty self-explanatory really. First of it is attested that this book has no errors in history, philosophy, nor any incorrect idiom of science, or natural history. It is God’s very own words, or at the least his words as dictated to man, as the doctrine would imply, so then the implication is that a perfect God, would have sent us a perfect Word. Secondly, to hold to this position one has to accept that “infallibility” means that its message is consistent from beginning to end, and does not suffer the problems of modern books whose ideas and philosophies and viewpoints must undergo revisions every few years when new data becomes available or when new science proves old theories wrong, or simply because human enlightenment has advanced the values of society. Lastly you must believe that “inspiration”, only in the case of the Bible (and this case only) means that; “these words were breathed directly from God’s mouth to men’s ears, and put directly down on paper”. As you can imagine this is a very, very weighty measure of any book, much less one written by many different authors over thousands of years, and assembled by independent church leaders, councils, debate and compromise as the Bible has come down to us. This is however the view of the Bible, which I was taught to believe in, and accept unequivocally as the first tenant of faith; anything else was heresy. However, does the Bible really hold to this standard? Does it meet and pass all critical analysis? Are we allowed to use our God given common sense, and critical thinking when evaluating this book, as we would with any other book in the world?
To even begin to understand the Bible, I was taught that you must first start with a few preconceptions right up front, which must be accepted unequivocally (even without proof) as absolute truths. This is that Jesus is the son of God, who gave his life for us, and rose again to save us, and the Bible is God’s infallible words to man, and our guide in spiritual things. Then with those pre-conditions accepted and set in stone as the saying goes, you can then hopefully begin to interpret the supporting evidence for those "absolute truths", and the supporting evidence of course is the Bible itself. Doing it that way does sort of help to pre-determine the outcome before you even start doesn’t it? However many Christians, like myself, even with the preconceptions set in stone in our minds, do still have trouble interpreting the Bible, even with a strong faith in the basic principles there are still many things which just don't seem to add up. When in doubt about a scripture, or when there are things stated in Old Testament scriptures that we would have moral objections to today, or if there seem to be contradictory statements in other scriptures, we simply fall back to the original presuppositions: Jesus is the son of God, who died and rose again to save us, and the Bible is God’s infallible words to man, and our guide in spiritual things. Therefore it follows, and in fact we are told at that point, that it must be us who simply can't understand the things of God, not that the Bible may actually be contradictory, or actually morally repugnant. This type of reasoning of course, can become a very tenuous juxtaposition to rely on at times, and thus it leads many people to simply decide to ignore the hard scriptures, or the contradictions, precisely because they can't be reconciled with the preconceptions we have all accepted, that Jesus is the son of God who died and rose again to save us; and the Bible is God’s infallible words to man and our guide in spiritual things. We are forever in the mode of defending the very book, the very evidence that is supposed to be the proof and foundation of our Faith, and then in the end we wind up admitting that a lot of this book we simply cannot understand, nor will we ever understand, and somehow this too is in God's plan, because he is God, and he is perfect and his book is perfect and we are not perfect. Does that make perfect sense?
You will have to admit, that this is exactly the opposite of what you and I, and everyone else in the world does, when it comes to anything else in our lives, such as in the study or examination of things like scientific research, or in legal matters, or in the proof of anything in this world which "claims" to have the absolute truth. We don't assume guilt before concrete evidence is presented in a trial. We don't assume someone has absolute truth even before they can prove that they have the absolute truth. If I were of another religion, and I claimed to have the absolute truth, wouldn’t you ask me to prove that I have absolute truth? Yet with the Bible we all accept as absolute truth, even though no proof has been provided, based simply on the premise that others before us, or our parents accepted it as absolute truth, or that my family accepts it as absolute truth. Shouldn't we demand more?
Here is the problem, when you begin to really read the Bible for yourself, you will begin to see that there are things in it, which are so contrary to our morals and standards today, that it becomes impossible to defend. Some examples are, mass murders and genocides; killing of babies by dashing them against rocks in front of parents; oppression of women; acceptance of human slavery; torture of prisoners, murder of non-combatants, rape, execution of religious and sexual minorities; polygamy, the owning of concubines, burning some prostitutes alive; executing brides who were not virgins, and forced marriages of captured virgins, etc. Many people today, even many Christians (other than the most ardent believers) feel that there is so much material in this book that is obviously opposed to the will of God as they view him, that the concept of inspiration is indefensible. The point is, how many scriptures are you willing to simply ignore, or admit that you don’t understand, or cannot be reconciled with the view of Jesus and God which you have come to believe in, before it begins to challenge your preconceptions?
Here are a couple of Scripture Examples:
-"Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man ... , keep alive for yourselves." [Moses was relaying God's orders to his people, Numbers 31:17-18]
-Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished." [This is what the army of the host (God's Army), was commanded to do in Isaiah 13:16 to the people of Babylon]
What were you taught about verses like those above in Sunday school, or did you even realize these commands were in the Bible? I bet your Sunday school teacher never read these aloud. When people tell us that we should go back to the Bible as our guide in moral issues, nobody will bring up verses like these to guide us. Isaiah 13:16 is a command from God, to the Army of God, to kill the people of Babylon, kill their children right before their eyes, and then rape their wives. Is this OK with you, simply because God supposedly said it? Did God really say this, or command this, or did man?
Have you ever really read the Bible for yourself? Have you ever really studied the Bible for yourself? Or, have you pretty much taken for granted what you were taught by parents or elders, and what your Church taught you, and have you really only looked at the scriptures read to you in church, or in Bible study which re-enforced your beliefs? If this is your own personal faith, shouldn't you examine it yourself personally, and read it yourself, and then decide for yourself if it is really words from God? Everyone needs to know exactly what they believe, and exactly why they believe it. Have you ever done this?
Even since my youngest childhood days, I have had a healthy sense of skepticism, about most things in life. Were you this way, maybe just a little? I say healthy because it is sort of naïve to simply accept everything you are told by everyone isn’t it? (This is how people end up drinking the purple Kool-aid, of a cult leader). Was there ever a time when you were reading the Bible and felt that something just simply did not seem quite right, that it just didn’t add up with the view of God, or of Christ that the Church was presenting to you?
Many times you may have seen pictures of a Mom and Dad reading the Bible to their children. Do you think they are reading any of the following verses to their children?: Why are these verses even in a book which is supposed to tell us about God?
A. And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.--Lev.15:16
B. Lev 20:15 And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.
C. . Det: 21:11 And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; 21:12 Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; 21:13 And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. 21:14 And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.
D. Judges 16:1 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
E. Song of Sol:5:4 My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. (more information than I needed)
F: Sng of Sol: 8:8 We have a little sister,and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? 8:9 If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will inclose her with boards of cedar. 8:10 I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.
G: Isaiah 32:11 Tremble, ye women that areat ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins. 32:12 They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.
H: Isaiah 36:12 But Rabshakeh said, Hath my master sent me to thy master and to thee to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men that sit upon the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?
And on, and on,and on, and on it goes, you get the idea.
I just bet you that Mom and Dad are not reading those scriptures from the Words of God, what do you think?
Now, there is another story, which has troubled me as much as any, and it is to be found in the book of Judges. A Levite man was traveling with his concubine through Benjamite territory. At evening time he was invited by an old man to spend the night in his house. That night, while they were "making their hearts merry", a mob of Benjamites demanded the old man hand the Levite over for homosexual purposes. The next part is best told by the Bible itself:
And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go. Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, till it was light. And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.
The Levite then discovered his concubine, dead, in front of the house. He promptly cut her body into twelve pieces (Genesis 19:29) and sent each piece to each tribe of Israel as a declaration of war against the Benjamites. The next chapter of Judges showed that God approved of the Levite's actions for he guided the Israelites through their battle with the Benjamites. Some have said that this shows the punishment of God upon the Benjamites for their wicked actions, but what about the Levite man himself, (he was the one who actually pushed his concubine out to the man and must be by any consideration an accessory to her murder, and the Benjamite host even offered his daughter at first)? It was him who freely offered her up to be abused, and was only upset with them because they killed her, not about the sexual abuse. The next two chapters concerning how they then set about to restore the tribe of Benjamin, and get wives for them by capturing them from other peoples is just as troubling.
The New Testament isn’t all that much better in its views on women.
I don’t know of any Christian Church today which follows the rules given by Paul below, in 1 Corinthians, do you?
I Corinthians 11:4-7
Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
I Corinthians 14:34-35
Do you know of any church, which follows Paul’s directions in these verses today? Why not? Is is clearly laid out right there by Paul, how women are to pray with their heads covered, and are not to speak at all in Church, but for some reason our Churches which claim the Bible as their authority today, don’t abide by these commands. Why not? We have women teachers, women preachers, women who speak in tongues in church, and yet this is clearly in obvious objection to what Paul said. So, are these not the words of God?
What about Prayer?
For me, one of the first points which began to really cause me to start thinking more critically about the Bible, (and in fact is the straw that broke the camels back for me and really changed my view of the Bible), and thus caused me to stop ignoring disturbing scriptures like those on the previous page, is the subject of prayer.
I have had many discussions with many people about prayer. Everyone seems to be able to explain what it is not, but few can explain what it truly is. You see, all the New Testament verses in Mark, Matthew and John, make it appear that you can ask virtually anything in prayer, and it will be granted.
Matthew 7:7 , Matthew 7:11 , Matthew 18:19 , Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24 , John 14:13 , John 15:7 , John 15:16 , John 16:23
If you will just read these verses as they are, plain and simple, you will see that they clearly and most straight forwardly say that you can ask God for virtually anything, and he will meet the need and answer the prayer. The only condition is to believe, with the smallest of faith, the size of that mustard seed mentioned before. Now I know this is not what prayer really is, and you know prayers are not answered this way, and we all know prayers are not answered this way. In fact most prayers are not ever answered. (It is probably a good thing too for a lot of them.) However we come to our conclusions about prayer, not by reading the New Testament, but by applying what happens in the real world to our interpretations of these scriptures. It is real life that teaches us that most prayers simply go unanswered, or as people like to say, “The answer is no”. Here again, I am not arguing this particular point, about yes, no, or maybe. I am talking about why the New Testament writers put it down on paper the way they did, in such an obvious wrong way? They completely overstated the matter of prayer, and the effect it would have. Did they hear God wrong, or was it simply, as I now see it, that they probably just got a little carried away in their zeal, and embellished the whole matter by quite a lot? Whole books, seminars, college courses, dissertations, and meetings are given on prayer, and yet we are all still really confused on this subject. Nobody can say with authority that they understand it. Everyone has their theory on prayer, but you know what, all of their theories are based on what really happens out here in the real world, not on the scriptures of the New Testament.
Many times we have all prayed for the health of a friend, and yet see that friend suffer through pain, operations, treatments, or perhaps die. Many times you and I have seen whole churches pray for people, be it for family problems or health problems, for jobs, or to bring a family back into fellowship. If we were to keep a record, a spreadsheet if you will, of all these prayer requests, and which ones were answered and those which were not, I think we would be surprised to see that most are simply not answered. Friends and relatives are full of advice about how God works by stating: “Well sometimes the answer is NO, or sometimes God’s plan is not our plan, or God may answer it, just not the way we want it.” I don’t know if this is the way it works or not, but it is not what is stated in the Bible verses above. Nothing in the verses above says that the answer will be no, or maybe, or “sort of- but with conditions”, or maybe in a different way. How then can we reconcile the differences? How should we pray, and what can we actually pray for? What are the rules for praying? Are the verses listed above true or not?
Truth is, for God to answer many of our prayers the way we pray them, or the way the New Testament says they will be answered, wouldn’t God have to maintain control of all of our actions and of all the actions of others as well? But that begs the question then: If God really controls everything, do I really have a choice in anything I do, or believe, or in anything else which happens to me? Personally, I see no evidence that God controls everything here on earth in such a total manner. I don't think he decides which trailer park gets hit by a tornado, nor is he deciding who will be raped, or shot today. It is just life happening, and bad people doing bad things, or good people doing good things. For instance, I can pray all I want for my spouse to love me for as long as she lives, and be loyal to me, but unless she decides to do that on her own, God is not going to make her do it, since that would violate her free will. She has a free will just as we all do. We can pray without stopping for a person to be healed of cancer, and it may not happen. We can pray day and night to be spared from some calamity or some evil, and it may not happen. If something good comes from a bad situation it is simply because good people decide to do something good as a result. If God is really in control of everything, then why in his name would he allow all these jerks on TV, supposedly preaching in his name?
The Bible, in only one verse, claims to be inspired of God. However it is this one little word, “inspired”, which has been the pivot point for thousands of years of theological misunderstanding. A person who questions the perfection of the canon or the writings contained in them has come to be viewed as a heretic, or anti-God, or influenced by Satin. The only answer given for the hard questions about the Bible are; “We cannot know the mind of God”, or “only God can give you the understanding,” or “we simply can’t understand the things of God with our human intellect.” It is circular reasoning of course, if you don’t understand something it is your fault, or because you don’t have enough faith. Then on the other hand, the bible says that all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed, to move mountains no less. The truth is that the scripture has never claimed perfection, only inspiration, and that in only one verse, and at the time Peter wrote this verse he had no idea his letters would be included as part of the canon of scripture. It is us who has labeled it as perfect. It claims to be inspired of God, and what does inspiration mean? Well, in every other sense of this word from the dawn of time, it means just what you would normally think it means; to feel led to, or motivated to, or energized to do something. However many would lead us to believe that in this one and only instance inspired means breathed directly from God’s mouth.
If God gave us his words, did he also inspire the selection and preservation of them?
Another point, which began to reverse my long held view of the Bible, is the subject of the “preservation” of his word . You get the impression in fundamental circles that God has preserved the exact words of God since the beginning of the earth. However if you really dig into the ways the Bible came to us, this preservation issue becomes very cloudy, and I mean very cloudy, in fact it is downright opaque. When I began to examine how the Bible came to us, I discovered a much different path, or method, than I would have expected. It is a trail through history which is hard to follow, and in fact hard to even discover, or trace through history in a logical and clearly defined path. In fact there isn’t a totally unquestioned or un-debated direct path, which can be laid out for the development of the canon of the Bible. It seems to rest upon ideological and theological presuppositions as to which path you accept as the correct development path of our Bible. Even the subject of the canon of New Testament scripture, reveals a history of development that is fraught with conjecture, compromise, and speculation about what led to the selection of writings that would eventually make up our commonly accepted Bible today. Some people say the Septuagint, (the oldest Old Testament version of scripture, which contained the apocryphal books), was used by the early Church, some say it was not. Some people say that only the 29 books later declared as canon by the Council of Jamina finalized the Old Testament, while some say that this council was an effort by Jews to slow the rise of Christianity by removing some books from the canon.
Depending on what ideology you decide to look at it from, the history of the development of the New Testament can either be viewed as a clearly defined selection of writings which simply came together as they showed their worthiness and inspiration to the Church as a whole, and was then simply confirmed by the Church councils, OR, it was a collection of writings which was finally granted canonization status through years of, intimidation, compromise, exclusion, and basically through default, by reason of weariness of the debate. The big point which really jumped out at me is the fact that it took almost 300 years after the death of Christ before an official canon of the New Testament was finally accepted by a majority of churches. Think about that. This is like the United States government having meeting, and discussions, and not actually ratifying a Constitution until the year 2076.
Why is it that the new church did not even start trying to assemble these so called “inspired” documents unto a canon of scripture until a couple of hundred years after the death of Christ? If they truly believed these books to be inspired, why wouldn’t they have started collecting and canonizing them, from the beginning? Wouldn't Jesus also have considered this a big deal that the Church have and use the right canon of scriptures after his death? Why did he never address such a thing? A lot of these books, which were later gathered together, were totally unknown to most Christians before about 100A.D. The new Church did not seem to look at these writings as we do today. While they held them in respect, as letters from the apostles would be, they did not view them as sacred scripture, until many years later.
Even if we assume that God inspired all the books of the Bible, and that they are also totally error-free, we still have the question of how do we know that the correct books were added to the canon of scriptures. Was this 200-300 year process also inspired? If so how do we know this? If we jump to the conclusion that this process was also inspired, then why did it take so long for the process to work itself out? Why would God leave his new Church in limbo for hundreds of years?
The early Christian church even used a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint, which is different from the Old Testament we have today. This translation, which was begun in Alexandria Egypt, in the third century B.C., contained an expanded canon, which included a number of the so-called "apocryphal" books which were eventually received by Christians into the Old Testament canon they used. These books were being read in temples during Christ’s time on earth and in the early church. The writers of the New Testament, usually, but not always, chose to quote the Septuagint when referring to the Old Testament. This is significant since the Hebrew text diverges in some passages which Christians hold to prophesy Christ. In reaction to the rise of Christianity, the Jews narrowed their canons and eventually excluded the deutero-canonical books, although they still regarded them as sacred. Even if all the churches during Christ’s time on earth, did not use this version of scriptures it is apparent that a lot of them did, and at least some of the Church’s viewed these so-called apocryphal books, as sacred scripture (the Catholic Church still does). Why did Jesus not address this issue? If there was a version of scripture being used in churches, which contained ‘non-scripture’ (or at the least just historical books), and people still viewed them as if they were sacred books, wouldn’t this have been important enough for Christ to make a statement about? Well, we don’t know why he did not, and nobody does. Also Jesus did not feel that it was important to have the events of his life transcribed while he was here on earth either. (I think it is because he did not intend to create a whole new scripture). The King James Bible also contained those apocryphal books up until the 1880’s.
The Old Testament canon, which is widely recognized today, was not rigidly fixed, until the third century after Christ, by the Jews. The funny thing is that it is this later version of the Old Testament canon of scripture, rather than the canon used by early Christianity (Septuagint, used during Christ time on earth), is the one followed by most modern Protestants today. When the Apostles lived and wrote, there was no such thing as a New Testament and the concept of "Scripture" was much less well defined. The apostles read from the apocryphal books in the Septuagint and used them as reference for their scriptures.
Why did God leave the Church in the dark for hundreds of years, with many not knowing the whole word of God? Even if we decide to accept that the whole process was inspired of God in itself, how far do we take this type of inspiration, because even the King James Bible had the Old Testament Apocryphal books from the Septuagent, in it until the late 1880’s. If God did preserve this word, then why did he allow the Church to read those apocryphal books up until the 1880’s? Was it God then who inspired the 1880's decision to remove them? Did God all of a sudden not want us to read them anymore?
A whole new leap of faith has to be made to assume that the process of the development of the canon of New Testament scriptures was somehow also a divinely guided process. God led the men to write. God led the churches to begin to use the correct writings, (even though it was not determined which ones were correct for a long, long time). God did eventually somehow lead the churchs and the councils to come to a decision about which books and letters were the inspired ones which God had led the men to write, and which writings were not of Gods inspiration. God allowed the process to work itself out over a period of nearly 300 years, before finally inspiring the last council to get it right, at 27 books.
Maybe it is just me, but I can't see the divine path of inspiration, and preservation here.
You see, I was brought up to believe that the words in the Bible are the “preserved words of God” and that it is manifest in the KJV. I did not want to look or examine evidence of the problems of the manuscripts. In fact I wrote a little theme paper, which defended the KJV as the only preserved Word of God. Of course I did not examine all the facts, just the ones I felt proved my point. I believed the Bible so much that there was no way I was going to accept that it may not be exactly the words of God, as spoken to the writers, and thus preserved in the King James Bible.
I grew up in church environments, which were very legalistic, (not by my parents doing thank heaven). If someone in the church had a personal conviction about something, it became a sin for everyone else. However, I have shed all the bonds of this former Legalism, which I was so surrounded by. I never ever really did buy into all of it, but it was so entrenched around me that it was bound to affect me. I always hated the legalism.
However one day I was jolted awake, (well, over a period of 5 years actually). Some things happened in our lives with our Church, the death of close loved ones and the resultant lost relationship with family and church did get me to a point where I had to re-examine what I believed and why I believed it. The journey of discovery has been very unexpected. I discovered that what we call the Bible came to us in a much different manner than I had been led to believe. I saw that the scriptures, which were in use during Christ’s time, had other books in them, which we don’t have today. I also saw that the new church did not even have a New Testament for almost 300 years, and that many of the new churches read other books, some of which they viewed as sacred, but that it was decided later not to add these to the scriptures. This is not the process of preservation I had expected. I had my eyes pried open the hard way, by real life, and began to see that things were not as I had been taught. I will no longer accept anyone’s word for gospel truth liberal or conservative, not even the Gospel truth, unless I can see or examine or determine for myself that it is gospel truth. Right now, at this moment in life I plan on reading for myself, and following the path that it leads me to. What more could be asked of a person? I will no longer be so easily swayed one way or the other.
The bottom line of life and religion is this; until you are face-to-face with overwhelming and unexplainable challenges which completely test and try your faith, and you are forced to decide just exactly what it is you believe and why you have believed it, and that your beliefs either fit into reality or that you have been totally wrong, you will probably never have what it takes to challenge the belief systems which have been ingrained into your psyche from childhood. Most of us simply don’t have it in us to do this, to challenge what we have come to accept as truth, and what our mothers and fathers accepted, and what their mothers and fathers accepted. We use our ideological filters to find those things that agree with our preconceptions, and ignore those that do not. We condemn anyone who does not begin with the same theological and ideological position which we have, that these are the very Words of God. We rationalize that anything at odds with our beliefs are of no consequence. No amount of examination, or research, or documentation, or even archeological finds, will jolt a person from something so deeply held which is so much a part of them and who they are. Maybe the only thing, which can do it, is the harsh reality of life itself, which simply does not match what we read, and are told.
Even if you manage to get to that point in life, it takes a long time to deal with and sort out your thoughts and come to grips with them. I know how hard it is. I am sort of in that middle area myself. The old stories will still have a pull on you. It can be like a child who was told for most of his life that he was useless but shaking off that guilt as an adult takes a lot longer than just the moment of realization that he was lied to. What we were taught, what we were told, what we believed, is so ingrained in us that it takes a long time to shake them off, and is not something done all of a sudden, it is a long process.
I would like to--in fact I would love to--be able to accept that the Bible which tells me of Jesus contains the Words of God (except for the obvious moral issues in the Old Testament of course), however after careful examination I fall back to the original meaning of inspired, that “men wrote as they felt inspired to write,” much like an artist feels inspired to sing, and now I can understand why the Bible looks and reads as it does. A lot of things make sense now, which did not make sense before. God did not write it, or dictate the words. I can understand why the Old Testament with its acceptance of, or at least avoidance of issues like polygamy, bigamy, genocide, incest, women’s rights, and slavery, was written like it was, because it was a book written by men, and thus reflects the views of these men, and their society, not of God. I no longer have to apologize for, or explain the Bible, or try to rationalize what it says against modern day Christian standards, nor even try to explain the results or lack of results of prayer to someone. I can, and do, accept, that it is a book written by men who felt inspired to write about the God they believed in, complete with their own prejudices and un-enlightened views, and even getting carried away a little at times, (about prayer), but nonetheless a book written by fallible men, not an infallible book directly from God.
I have been told many times that: “the mystery of the truths presented in the bible just need to be believed and can’t be fully understood.” However why should I accept such an answer from any person, or any book, that claims to have “the truth” and “the answer.” If I can’t even understand the simplest claims of Christianity through arduous and diligent study, how can I believe that it’s real?
PAUL SAID, "God is not the author of confusion," (I Corinthians 14:33, yet never has a book produced more confusion than the Bible! There are hundreds of denominations and sects, all using the "inspired Scriptures" to prove their conflicting doctrines. Why do people who have had many years of Biblical study, still have such different opinions of what the Bible says, or its truthfulness? Why do scholars trained in Greek and Hebrew even have wide differences in the translations of words? Why all the confusion? Shouldn't a document that was "divinely inspired" by an omniscient and omnipotent deity be as clear as possible, and unite people rather than divide?
"If the trumpet give an uncertain sound," Paul wrote in I Corinthians14:8, "who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air." For almost two millennia, the bible has been producing a most "uncertain sound."
Can you answer all of these questions from the Bible?
I Samuel 17:23, 50 the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name...David prevailed over the Philistine wiith a sling and with a stone and struck the Philistine and killed him.
II Samuel 21:19 And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan the son of Joareoregim, the Bethlehemite, slew Goliath the Gittite.
Eph. 2:8,9 For by grace are ye saved through faith...not of works. (Rom.
3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16)
Or of Works?
"And I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my backparts." (Ex.
What about Matthew's Mistaken Reference
One of the most glaring mistakes in the New Testament is this one by the author of Matthew:
Matthew 27:9-10 Then was fulfilled what has been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price has been said by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”
The problem with this passage is that nowhere in Jeremiah can this prophecy be found. Instead it is found in the book of Zechariah, and it is not really even a prophecy!
Zechariah 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter...
Can you answer all these questions to your complete satisfaction? We are usually and ultimately provided with this standard answer: "Well, we as finite and fallable beings can't understand the things of God who is perfect ". Is this really acceptable to you, for all of these hard scriptures? What about people for whom all of these troubling scriptures are still a big problem, what should they do? Should we simply keep ignoring them, in order to keep faith that this is really the word of God? Are there other scriptures we should be ignoring as well?
Do you want to understand the Bible? Well, guess what, I can help you, I DO have the answers about the bible. I mean I really, get it now. Here is how you can understan it to:
Go back and read the Bible, but this time look at it as a book written, not by God, but by men, whom while claiming a belief in God, they were also polygamists, slave owners, adulterous, incestuous, self righteous, and even genocidal men that also viewed women as their personal property to be bought and sold at will, even their own daughters, and “BAM”, all of a sudden a light will come on for you! I promise it will. You will see and understand that God didn't write this book!! A God who loves me would not have written this stuff, even Paul's views on women in the New Testament.
Faith, believes that which cannot be proven. Legalism is trying to make others abide by your personal convictions, Self-Righteousness is being proud for being that way, but Blindness is deliberately not seeing the facts, especially when they contradict what you have been taught to believe in.