Finding Faith, Losing Faith

Some of you know of my interest in patterns in stories of conversion, about which I have written in Turning to Jesus and Finding Faith, Losing Faith (with Hauna Ondrey). One of the elements of conversion is that each conversion entails an apostasy, that is, to come to one thing one leaves another thing. This led to a chapter in Finding Faith, Losing Faith that was an “Anatomy of Apostasy.” We examined the reasons people give for walking from the faith.

Recently my friend and co-Patheos-blogger Pete Enns posted about this very theme and I found his conclusions similar to the ones I found.

Anyway, here are the 5 main challenges I saw in your comments.

1. The Bible, namely inerrancy. This was the most commonly cited challenge, whether implicitly or explicitly, and it lay behind most of the others mentioned.  The pressure many of you expressed was the expectation of holding specifically to an inerrant Bible in the face of such things as biblical criticism, contradictions, implausibilities in the biblical story, irrelevance for life (its ancient context), and the fact that the Bible is just plain confusing.

2. The conflict between the biblical view of the world and scientific models. In addition to biological evolution, mentioned were psychology, social psychology, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology. What seems to fuel this concern is not simply the notion that Scripture and science offer incompatible models for cosmic, geological, and human origins, but that scientific models are verifiable, widely accepted, and likely correct, thus consigning the Bible to something other than a reliable description of reality.

3. Where is God?  A number of you, largely in emails, wrote of personal experiences that would tax to the breaking point anyone’s faith in a living God who is just, attentive, and loving. Mentioned were many forms of random/senseless suffering and God’s absence or “random” presence (can’t count on God being there).

4. How Christians behave. Tribalism, insider-outsider thinking; hypocrisy, power; feeling misled, sheltered, lied to by leaders; a history of immoral and unChristian behavior towards others (e.g., Crusades, Jewish pogroms). In short, practically speaking, commenters experienced that Christians too often exhibit the same behaviors as everyone else, which is more than simply an unfortunate situation but is interpreted as evidence that Christianity is not true–more a crutch or a lingering relic of antiquity than a present spiritual reality.

5. The exclusivism of Christianity. Given 1-4 above, and in our ever shrinking world, can Christians claim that their way is the only way?

These issues aren’t new. We all know that. They keep coming up, which is sort of the point. I understand that some may feel they have found final and universally applicable answers to these issues, but the fact that these issues don’t go away tells us something: either the answers aren’t all that persuasive or the answers aren’t getting to where they are needed.

Whatever the reason, in my opinion, opening up and talking about these things with others also on the Christian path should not be the exception but the rule.

As for my own challenges, I resonate with all of these on some level. My personal top challenges–those nagging back seat issues that keep forcing their way to the front seat–are: various issues of intellectual implausibility, few and far between “God moments,” random suffering, and the fact that Christians can be complete jerks to each other and everyone else (I being chief among them, to borrow Paul’s words).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Thin-ice

    As one who de-converted 4 years ago, after 46 years as a born-again, Bible-believing evangelical with a Bachelor of Theology and 7 years as a missionary in Europe, I will concur with the reasons given above, but add one more. And this one may be the most important, because it led me to careful examination of other crucial issue such as the inerrancy of the Bible. It is the concept of Hell.

    As a father of two sons, I could not conceive of anything remotely similar to the state called Hell, in which a supreme being (supposedly full of mercy and love) will condemn his children to an eternity of torment (torture, separation from God, emotional barrenness, use whatever convoluted terminology is popular in evangelicalism to take away the sting) just because we did not believe and trust correctly, and that we sinned. The vast majority of humankind try to live decent, caring lives: sure they may occasionally make a moral mistake over the course of 70 years on average. Is that a good reason reason to punish them for trillions of years? C’mon, you don’t believe it any more than I do now, but the implications of not believing it are too traumatic for you to consider. But I did it, and I’m loving life the same, and probably more so, than I did as a believer in God.

    (And to those like “resident” and “scot” who think I did not love Jesus with all my heart and soul, please read my comments further down the page.)

  • http://www.yeshua21.com/ Yeshua21.Com

    Sometimes a myth is a story that is true on the inside whether or not
    it happens to be true on the outside. Whether or not Adam and Eve ever
    actually existed– and whether or not the gospel accounts are historical
    in every respect –these traditions ring true inasmuch as they reflect:

    1) our innocence in the garden of God (cf. infancy and early childhood)

    2) our eating the forbidden fruit (cf. the formation of the egoic mind,
    our perception of duality, and our growing sense of alienation)

    3) our egoistic pursuit of happiness and/or security in some combination of:

    * sensual indulgence
    * material prosperity
    * social recognition
    * legalistic (and/or ascetic) ideals

    4) the possibility of a moment of clarity that reveals the emptiness and/or futility of # 3

    5) the possibility of our recognizing the light of the world which reconciles us to God and reveals the Way, the Truth, and the Life

    6) the possibility of finding perfect peace and rest in “aware presence” and “alert stillness” (cf. the peace of Jesus)

    7) the possibility of participating fully in the flow of life, here and now (one life, transcendent and immanent… A new creation that is at once holy human and wholly Divine).

    Good News! Take up your cross–the kingdom of heaven is at hand! :)

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/skeptics-corner/critical-reflections-on-bible-based-belief-systems/

  • Guest

    After looking at these ’5 points’ above, they appear to be matters of the “head” overtaking the “heart”. As someone immersed in the ‘scientific method’ for several years due to my college degree, and then being born-again just 2 months shy of my 29th birthday, I understand the battle of head vs. heart. Especially after the new-birth. But God doesn’t live in the ‘head’ of man, He lives in the ‘heart’ of man.

    There were several statements in those points that I would like to disagree with: about “implausibilities in the biblical story, irrelevance for life (its ancient context), and the fact that the Bible is just plain confusing.” Come on, are you kidding us? To be born-again is to be indwelt by God’s Spirit and to allow Him to teach us; He speaks at the spiritual level, the Bible makes PERFECT sense then, and we get an understanding that’s completely ‘logical’, yet, transcends the logic of the natural mind (1 Co.2). Those statements are simply ‘head-talk’. They make cognitive reasoning skills “king” when we use terms about the Word such as “implausibilites”, “irrelevance”, and “confusing”.

    “Scientific models are verifiable, widely accepted, and likely correct, thus consigning the Bible to something other than a reliable description of reality.” They may be “widely accepted” but that has NOTHING to do with many of them being “likely correct” or always “verifiable”. It all depends upon with scientist you’re talking to. To say the bible isn’t a “reliable description of reality” is nonsense (again, the head is getting the better of them). The Word of God doesn’t concern itself with attempting to explain all of the details about nature because salvation isn’t found there. It’s found in an understanding of the development of covenants and God’s progressive dealing with man. It keeps the main thing the main thing.

    You talked about many of the emails you’ve received “that would tax to the breaking point anyone’s faith in a living God who is just, attentive, and loving God.” My negative experiences aren’t an indication of God’s love; His sending of His Son does. I’ve had kidney failure (now have a transplant), had a threatening blood clot, and cancer in the past 13 years (now cancer free). What’s that got to do with God not being loving? He didn’t do those things to me. We live in a fallen world, with a fallen system, around fallen people, doing fallen things. Stuff happens! Remember, there’s also a satan (adversary) out there who is stealing, killing, and destroying. Let’s put the blame where it belongs, not on God.

    Scot, I agree with you when you said, “practically speaking, commenters experienced that Christians too often exhibit the same behaviors as everyone else, which is more than simply an unfortunate situation but is interpreted as evidence that Christianity is not true.” The Body of Christ isn’t where she should be– for many reasons– and it’s said that her testimony isn’t stronger. It’s time our leaders began teaching the Word of God under the anointing of God, and demonstrating both it’s character and it’s power.

    You transparently made this statement, ” My personal top challenges–those nagging back seat issues that keep forcing their way to the front seat–are: various issues of intellectual implausibility, few and far between “God moments,” random suffering, and the fact that Christians can be complete jerks to each other and everyone else.” For me personally, those aren’t difficult issues at all. I would love to know more details about the “intellectual implausibility” you’re referring to, but I live continually with “God moments” due to what some would call the ‘Charismatic experience’ and experiencing the anointing of God flowing into others bodies in physical healing and various other gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Co.12-14. One of the things giving people so much “intellectual” difficulty today is that they ‘haven’t’ experienced what Jesus said when he stated, “I will endue you with power from on high.” (Lu.24:49)

    My new-birth experience transformed my life mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I saw the futility of human reasoning vs. revelation from the Holy Spirit almost immediately. As I’ve spent many years now walking with God, experiencing His presence supernatually on a regular basis, and living according to the principles in God’s Word, my life has been forever altered. I don’t live in a world of ‘illusion’ where I ignore what’s plainly right in front of me in the way of physical/natural evidences; but neither do I look to those things to explain ‘reality’ to me. I’m more than a mind and a body; I have a spirit. And the Holy Spirit has plugged me into that reality that is true reality– which is Christ Jesus. “In Him”, Paul said, “are hidden all the tresures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col.2:3) Once our eyes are opened to this reality in a sufficient measure, a person will never go back to the other way of living again.

    Thanks for the post, Scot. These are definite problems/challenges we are confronted with today from people; but they’re not without an answer. His name is Jesus! I realize that that’s too ‘simple’ for some; but in order to get help we have to come to him simply because, as Paul wrote, “If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” (1 Co.3:18)

  • Sam Rosa

    Hi. I would like to know what is the alternative for Christianity since from science to other religions all the points above seems to, at some level, also be ‘true’? I’m a so called christian but I cannot see any other way of living and believing that doesn’t hold the same problem that others find in Christianity. I have chosen to leave the other religions, science, philosophy, worldviews to embrace the biblical affirmation of hell, heaven, One God…… Someone called me naive a few days ago. I thought about this and then I came to the conclusion: naive is a person who thinks that they know a way of thinking, believing, behaving that doesn’t contain the above affirmations.

  • scotmcknight

    Guest, did you observe that this post is by Pete Enns?

  • residentoftartarus

    It sounds to me like you lost your faith in traditional evangelical theology because it affirms such things as biblical inerrancy and eternal conscious torment but not necessarily in the person of Jesus Christ. Which makes me wonder, who (or what) exactly you were serving those 46 years.

    In any case, there is a very important lesson here for all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. If we make the foundation of our faith anything other than the person of Jesus Christ (e.g., our pastor/family/church/culture, a particular theology, the Bible, etc.) then we run the risk of that foundation coming undone after nearly a lifetime of service to that faith.

  • Larry Chouinard

    Another difficulty are those Christians (names withheld) who claim their experience(s) ought to be normative for everyone.

  • scotmcknight

    I have observed the same. In my reading of apostasy stories I was struck how rarely anyone “missed” Jesus. It seems “religious affections” played no role. I say this without minimizing the seriousness of the stories I have read.

  • Phil Smith

    I would suggest that “hell” (especially the type of hell you describe) falls into category 1, in so far as it is a doctrine derived (in part) from certain interpretations and applications of the Biblical texts.

    Although, why you would reject “God” simply as a result of rejective a certain facet of evangelical biblical interpretation makes me wonder (without being rude, hopefully) how thorough your Bachelor’s degree course was.

  • Eldorado Pastor

    I missed that, Scot. I apologize. Thanks again for this re-post from Enns.

  • Eldorado Pastor

    Did someone do that here?

  • Larry Chouinard

    Really?? Count the first person singulars in your post alongside the claims of a superior God connection that has made you immune to any intellectual ambiguities, lack of God-moments, and has provided you superior insight into the biblical text. Perhaps some of us struggle with a holistic spirituality that takes seriously both the head and heart. It seemed to me to be a bit arrogant to claim that if I just experience Jesus and the Holy Spirit like you do all these issues described above would disappear. I wish you the best in your spiritual journey and daily God moments.

  • Tom Verenna

    Scot, not sure if this interests you but I have a little discussion about my journey here:

    http://www.bibleinterp.com/opeds/ver368003.shtml

  • Christyinlosangeles

    But you can’t separate Jesus from the heaven and hell question – or at least I can’t. If God condemns much of the planet to eternal torment because they don’t follow Jesus properly, and Jesus is also God, and He had to die because I was so bad that God couldn’t stand me any other way, then He is a very different, and scarier, sort of person than if there is no hell.

    if you take original sin and hell and substitutionary atonement off the table, then it changes the calculus entirely. (And forever exiles you from all evangelical circles.) Christianity becomes about its effects in THIS life, not the one to come, and the exclusivity of Christianity becomes a moot question. And I get that people say it’s all about the person of Jesus Christ, and I like the guy I read about in the Bible – but the Jesus that I hear a lot of Christians talking about bears NO resemblance whatsoever to that guy. So what does it mean to follow Jesus, when Christians disagree vociferously about what he was about, the moral demands he makes, and what kind of Savior he was or wasn’t?

    I think for most people, once you ditch hell, it comes down to whether or not Christianity and Jesus help you live in the world more compassionately or better make sense of the universe. I think for some people, it does, and they stay in the Christian fold. For others, it doesn’t. Christianity was psychologically destructive for me in a number of ways, and my emotional experience of Jesus was primarily one of overwhelming guilt, (which I realize was mainly due to the projection of said Jesus I was presented with that had little to do with the actual guy) so once I decided that there was no hell, there simply was no reason for me to stay within Christianity. (And no, I don’t miss Jesus either – although there are times I miss the idea of having someone out there to pray to who could magically swoop in and solve my problems. It would be so much easier than the daily slog of figuring out my own stuff. )

    I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but for a lot of people, the hell thing is pretty central. For others, it isn’t. I think a lot of the divide is due to subjective experience. If you have a lot of positive experiences centered around Jesus, then maybe hell feels like more of a side issue. If you don’t, then without hell, there’s no reason to stay a Christian. I’ve had this discussion before, and realized that hell always loomed WAY larger for me than for a lot of people with similar backgrounds. I don’t understand how the existence of hell doesn’t poison one’s entire conception of God, but I’ve had to accept that for some of my friends, it just doesn’t.

  • archie

    I find that people deconvert because they stop listening to God and start disobeying by listening to those who do not believe God. People also forget that love disciplines and has rules and breaking those rules means that punishment is coming.

    It is not like God kept the lake of fire a secret or who would be going there. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection would mean nothing if people got to go to heaven no matter how they lived. It would be unfair to those who lived good lives to see sinners, rapists, false teaching believers enter into heaven.

    People get caught up looking at a very minute part of the whole picture and do not think about the broad picture. They can’t bring themselves to accept the fact that nice people will be sent to the lake of fire but they forget that God made the rules and the majority of people on earth don’t follow them. they want their own way.

    In other words, people deconvert because God doesn’t do things their way.

  • Phil Miller

    It would be unfair to those who lived good lives to see sinners, rapists, false teaching believers enter into heaven.

    I’m fairly certain that there will be plenty of these people in heaven… God seems to have a soft spot in His heart for sinners…

    Reminds me of something Brennan Manning said:

    “Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the
    countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front
    of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands
    (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch
    in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no
    other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman
    who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best
    she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged
    with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions;
    the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his
    people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually
    abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the
    street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’,
    whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.

    ‘But how?’ we ask.

    Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’

    There
    they are. There *we* are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful,
    who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing
    the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung
    to faith.

    My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I want to address your “missing Jesus”… an important point. It’s complicated to speak to briefly, but my experience has been fairly similar to that of Thin-ice. From long and careful hearing/reading of other Christians’ “personal relationship” with Jesus and/or The Father, I’d say mine was pretty typical, suffice to say for brevity. About 4 of the 5 pts. above played into my slow, carefully considered “de-conversion” from Evangelicalism but I never ceased to believe in God; I set about, around 13 yrs. ago now, to look closer at the historical AND spiritual reality of Jesus.

    I remain “unorthodox”; “apostate” to certain relatives and probably most Evangelicals/traditional believers. But I have re-committed to Christian community and worship in a very Progressive setting (a United Church of Christ church). This, Process Theology, and the awesome, mature perspective of the developing “Integral Christianity” (I just glowingly reviewed a book by that title by Pastor Paul Smith of KC) have well satisfied that sense of wanting to still be demonstrably and emotionally connected with Jesus/God. I never felt I left God at all or “lost my faith”!

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Christy, thanks for the extensive sharing! I think you’re right about the variation of experiences influencing concepts of hell, etc. Similarly, how logically and systematically one thinks. You sound high on that scale. Thus, I think you rightly see that WITHIN a traditional Xn theology (esp. but not only Evangelicalism) punishment for sin (“original sin” with its inevitable sinful thoughts/acts) is central… core. “Systematic theology” as worked out trying to harmonize diverse teachings in the Bible requires it and requires (in the predominant systems) atonement, generally considered “substitutionary” (if not “ransom” or “moral influence”).

    All that “inside” language to affirm that the more serious, studied and “biblical” (per the predominant theologies) one is, the more critical is a belief in some kind of eternal punishment (via not accepting atonement, by faith). No one seems to be able to define exactly what faith (or faith with some level of attendant “works”) saves one from it. That is, when pressed for specifics or with possible exceptions, it gets very murky, giving good cause for thinking people to question the entire “system” (which is way too systematic–and exclusive– for its own good, or ours)!

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Sam, I agree that systems (religions, philosophy, etc.) that do not contain exclusivist claims, or improperly reduce-down reality are hard to find…. But they DO exist. To examine much, they do require both openness and some real thought: two I have found greatly helpful are closely related and intertwined: Christian Process theology and “Integral Christianity” (the latter the more developed in worship/”practice”)… I have some personal knowledge of a few of the recent developers/”explainers” of both and they are people of “heart” as well as “head”, tho the thought can be intellectually challenging.

  • residentoftartarus

    Christy,

    In my opinion, if a follower of Jesus discovers a problem in their theology then the appropriate response isn’t to abandon their spiritual walk with Jesus but to retool their theology. For me, this has meant slowly moving from a traditional evangelical theology to a form of Christian universalism. Moreover, this process of theological change has not only not diminished my sense of personal devotion to Jesus but, in fact, has significantly increased it!

    I’ve discovered that there’s a great deal of theological flexibility within Christianity, which tells me that we shouldn’t give up on cultivating a spiritual relationship with Jesus simply because we can poke holes in the traditional theological systems.

  • ajginn

    archie, you seem to be sincere but you are really naive if you think people only deconvert because they stop listening to God. I was an ardent evangelical for 35 years. I taught the Bible for over twenty years to a range of age groups, I served as chairman of deacons twice in my church and as the chairman of a pastor search team. I never once stopped listening to God. Rather, I pleaded with him to show himself to me for years to remove the nagging doubts in my head about Christianity. He never did. If God exists – and there is no evidence that he does – then he abandoned me despite promising to never leave nor foresake me. That’s not really a god worth following.

    Anyway, I’m much happier now as an atheist. My worldview is no longer plagued by doubt, guilt and superstition. Christianity promises to bring freedom but it only ever brought me misery.

  • ajginn

    “I will concur with the reasons given above, but add one more.”

    I guess you missed this. Hell was only the icing on the cake for Thin-ice. He clearly had issues with all the other problems of Christianity. He finally decided, as did I, that there was no “there” there anymore.

  • residentoftartarus

    No, Thin-ice is very clear that his anxieties about the classical doctrine of hell “led [him] to careful examination of other crucial issue such as the inerrancy of the Bible.” For Thin-ice, hell was not the icing on the cake but the spark that ignited his unbelief.

  • ajginn

    The only source that tells us about Jesus is the Bible itself. If that source is not credible (i.e. it contains numerous errors that can’t be overlooked), why would anyone trust it to provide a truthful picture of Jesus himself? Heck, the gospels don’t even agree with each other. Can you honestly say that the Jesus of Mark is the same person as the Jesus of John? One Jesus tells everyone who discovers something miraculous about him to keep quiet. The other Jesus runs around like a Zen Superman telling everyone within earshot he is Yahweh. Which one is the real Jesus?

  • ajginn

    You’re correct, but the OP seemed to indicate that his only issue was hell (which is a pretty big one I might add).

  • residentoftartarus

    ajginn,

    The problem with this sort of argument is that it assumes that God must be revealing everything written in the Bible if he is revealing anything at all through the Bible, including details about obscure battles in Joshua-Judges. However, there are other ways of understanding God’s revelatory purposes in the Bible. In my opinion, God is not revealing everything written in the Bible so much as a religious narrative that sees the story of Jesus as the eschatological continuation of the story of Israel. On this understanding, would-be followers of Jesus are invited to locate themselves within a larger narrative that provides needed context for their lives. In particular, this allows me to see the problems you raised as relatively minor/incidental features of the biblical text that don’t count against the main narrative of the four canonical gospels, which informs my personal devotion to Jesus.

    For another take on biblical authority see NT Wright’s “The Last Word” if you’re still interested in this sort of thing.

  • Nils von Kalm

    Scot, I wouldn’t mind hearing about your “various issues of intellectual implausibility. ” Would you be able to briefly share about these?

  • kenny Johnson

    I’ve come to terms with some of these over the years, but #3 is the one that is toughest for me right now. I’ve honestly never felt like I’ve felt the real presence of God. But I also struggle with things like the seeming futility of prayer, suffering, etc. The other things I struggle with are the “various issues of intellectual implausibility.”

  • archie

    Insulting me is no way to have a discussion. i am not naive. I just love it when people list their ‘credentials’ as if that means that God owes them something or it puts an end to any contradictory point of view.

    Are you through with your pity party? You taught the Bible for 20 years and you were an evangelical for 35 and you are saying in all that time God never showed himself to you, never answered your prayers, never did anything for you?

    Then God is supposed to jump at your call just because you do what is the right thing to do? What were you looking for when you pleaded with God? Something unrealistic?

    How do you know he abandoned you? Maybe you stopped following him? Why is it always God fault? i am sure there is more to your story than the perfect picture you paint of yourself.

  • archie

    I really do not care what Manning says. it seems you are jealous. Of course, sinners will be in heaven it is because they repented of their sins and followed Christ’s teaching.

    i was referring to unrepentant sinners. Those deconverted people I have read, all do the same thing –they list how good they have been and how unjustly they were treated by God.

    Yet not one lists one thing from God’s perspective or says that they failed him.

  • archie

    Hell is a part of the unchristians life not the believer’s. Why would you worry about hell if you were not destined to go there? I am sure you all know some nice guy who lives a very good life but won’t make it to heaven and will be sent to hell and you do not like that.

    Well God made the rules for salvation and even if nice guys do not follow God’s rules then they will not go to heaven. If God let every nice guy skate by the rules then Jesus’ life death and resurrection was in vain and a waste of time.

    Those who did follow the rules would be lead to sin via jealousy, envy etc., and that i snot right. You need to look at the whole picture not the parts that appeal to you.

  • http://profiles.google.com/xzelan Alex Smith

    archie primarily
    because we are commanded to try to love others even more than ourselves, and
    that implies we should care about their fates even more than we care about our own.

    Also Matt 25:31-46 seems to say God’s so connected to humanity that caring-for/neglecting people is compared to caring-for/neglecting
    Him. Why wouldn’t His compassion and connection continue into the next age?

    It doesn’t have to be extremes of “Just let everyone in as they are” or “Only let a few in special ones in”. I believe Jesus is the only way but I don’t put any limits on when & where someone finds that way (with the Spirit’s help).

  • http://profiles.google.com/xzelan Alex Smith

    There are many, at least in my circles, who promote ECT as central to the Gospel, whereas studies & even the comments here (e.g. Australian Communities Report 2012 by Olive Tree & McCrindle Research) have shown that ECT is in the top 10 reasons people reject it :-(

    Thankfully I discovered Evangelical Universalism so I no longer think ECT is the best interpretation of the Bible, but sadly many leave Christianity without even hearing about this orthodox alternative.

  • Eldorado Pastor

    Wow, Larry. Your inferences abound: “Immune to ANY intellectual ambiguities”; “superior insight into the the biblical text.”

    What I find interesting is that it ISN’T when people’s “faith” is challenged that they become upset; it’s when we challenge their “unbelief” that they become angry. Many people seem to ‘look’ for excuses to not believe the simple truths of the Bible. I don’t know if that fits your scenerio or not; but no doubt it’s common.

    Did the Apostle Paul talk about his constant battle with unbelief in God or His Word year after year? How about Peter or any of the other NT writers? None of them did. I’m sure someone could argue that ‘they’ got to see Jesus and hear him either in person or in a vision. But Jesus said, Jn.17:20 I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.
    I’ve definitely had my share of mental battles over the years (expecially during the first year after being saved), but the renewing of the mind has become a progressive reality. Actively pursuing it pays great dividends.
    I certainly didn’t mean to sound “arrogant” as you stated, but I am ‘confident’ in the ability of the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit, to renovate the mind, bring close intimacy with God, and to empower us to be demonstrators of Jesus in both Word and supernatual deed.
    In fact, this empowerment was the ‘normative’ expectation of the early church– and should be ours now. I’m so simple-minded that I just expect those things to be true for my life; and they ‘have’ been. And according to God’s Word, yes, we can all expect what the Word says is ours.
    We come into salvation from all kinds of backgrounds. And those backgrounds, whatever they may be, have shaped our minds and have to be overcome by the Word. If we get caught up in ‘questioning’ the validity/ dependability of the Word, then we’ve just destroyed the foundation for our hope. All sorts of problems result from that.
    Bottom Line: I’ve found the Word to work itself out into the experiences of my life as I grow more and accept it at face value. I make no apologies for that. I believe God is able to take us wherever we are when we come to Him and bring us in to an incredible intimate walk with Him.
    Larry, you sound very ‘defensive’ at my comment. I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone and if I came off that way to you, then please accept my apology. But again, I am confident in my walk with God and am enjoying the fruits of that.

  • Thin-ice

    You nailed it. Biblical textual criticism exposes this a major problem with the four gospels.

  • Thin-ice

    “Which makes me wonder, who (or what) exactly you were serving those 46 years.”

    Your question implies that it is impossible, or highly unlikely, that if one’s belief is correct enough, that it will ever change. And by further implication, my faith for 46 years was faulty or incomplete. I get this all the time from evangelical christians.

    On the contrary, I’ll bet you could have found almost no qualitative differences between your faith now in Jesus Christ, and what mine was before I de-converted. The only difference, is that I threw the prohibitions away for honestly confronting doubts (“don’t listen, it’s Satan trying to destroy your faith”, among other things). I unshackled the rational side of my brain and let it go free and unfettered. I followed wherever it led me. I did not want to leave my faith family, the most wonderful and supportive group of people I have ever known. I had no bad experiences in the church. But I just could not deny where the path of rationality led me. I refused to live any more according to a discredited belief, even if it was painful to leave it behind. The truth was more necessary to me than emotional comfort and support.

  • Thin-ice

    I could not agree more, Christy

  • Thin-ice

    I stopped at your “Progressive” Christianity for about 6 months on my journey out of faith. It was very unsatisfying. Almost anyone there can make up a concept of an all-loving deity, no hell, and it will be accepted as valid. I didn’t need any kind of deity to maintain, or even enhance, the moral behavior that I was living during my life as an evangelical. If we strip Biblical Christianity of all it’s magic (literally) and threats of eternal punishment, then why keep the outer shell? Because it is no more than an empty shell by that point. I am much more fulfilled now exploring the natural world and universe, learning more about science, and loving my fellow human being without reference to any kind of spirituality.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I appreciate the reply. I’m wondering if you explored very much of Process philosophy/theology (Whitehead and Hartshorne, then Cobb, Williams, Griffin, and others)? What they, particularly Griffin that I’m aware, point out is that the reductionism of science is it’s own kind of irrationality…. It systematically has come (esp. in the last century or so) to set aside strong evidences challenging to what Griffin calls naturalism “sam” – sensationistic, atheistic, materialsitic. The “sam” approach was set up primarily in reaction to standard “supernaturalist” theism, along with appropriate limiting of territory via measurement, experimentation, repeatability, etc. The point is reaction against the simplistic, reductionistic prevalent theism.

    This is just now beginning to be corrected for, such that some “respectable” scientists can begin (tho not go very far, very fast) to explore the mystical via more sensitive measuring systems and a theoretical physics which allows for such within a unified view of reality that is both somehow “spiritual” and matter/energy. (Christian and other mystics would be saying “I TOLD you so”). This is where Process “resides”, emphasizing truths, as equally as possible, that come via scientific endeavors and via those often called spiritual… or long traditions of wisdom and truth not obtainable “scientifically.” Integral Christianity is in a similar position, a more recent development along the same lines.

  • residentoftartarus

    Thin-ice,

    I was only implying that your faith might have been misplaced. In my experience as someone whose been a Christian for roughly two decades, there’s a thin line between placing one’s faith in a particular theological system versus the person of Jesus.

    Once again, it sounds to me like your faith was primarily based on the correctness of a particular theological system that then collapsed when you finally allowed yourself to rationally examine that system and acknowledge its difficulties. I would argue that true faith in Jesus doesn’t shrink from rational scrutiny like this and allows for development in one’s theological understanding as difficulties arise.

  • Thin-ice

    Ditto, ditto, ditto. I’ve said your exact words many times as a Christian myself, to people who seemed to be doubting. I’m sure you by now have studied and examined the weak, nearly non-existent body of evidence that the person depicted as Jesus in the gospels (and there are hundreds of discrepancies between them concerning important details in his biography) actually existed. Virtually NO extra-biblical references exist – and those that Christians posit exist are almost certainly forgeries and interpolations by Christian scribes and copyists, including the most notable, in Josephus. I myself had a love affair with Jesus which lasted decades. Don’t give me this BS about my faith being based in a particular theological system: Jesus was at the heart and core of my faith for 46 years. How dare you posit what my belief was like! You’re just like all the others: “he couldn’t have had a faith as genuine as mine, because if he did, he never could have left his faith.” You’re denying the free will of man, if you think that once a belief is correct, it is immutable and frozen in place. That smacks of Calvinism, in a perverted sort of way.

  • Thin-ice

    “I’m wondering if you explored very much of Process philosophy/theology…”

    Why in the world would I? I worship nothing now (including science). I am happy, content, and am kind and considerate to my fellow humans. Theology and philosophy have nothing to offer me that I don’t already possess.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I can see that your current interests would leave you with little or no motivation to explore something different of a religious or even “spiritual” nature — even a sort of “Golden Mean” like Process. I have no problem with that… I don’t think it affects either your eternal destiny (I do believe in the evidences for continuation of consciousness, but not traditional “heaven” or “hell”). Nor does it your ability to be moral, compassionate, etc., as you mention.

    My q. came out of you saying how Progressive Xnty was unsatisfying; and you rightly cited how folks there often make up whatever they feel like, with little or no solid reasoning. The reason I asked about Process specifically is that that problem mostly does NOT pertain to Process. Rather, it is carefully thought-through and intellectually rigorous (one of the reasons not many people even know of it, let alone explore it much, besides it being “heretical”). Maybe just something for the “back burner” in case a philosophical/spiritual interest ever re-emerges for you.

  • Thin-ice

    I appreciate your sharing your particular area of interest. And I don’t believe in any eternal destiny, or “soul” that survives our physical death. What you call “evidences for continuation of consciousness” would be interesting. I presume you must be speaking of end-of-life out-of-body experiences that some people have re-counted after coming back from clinical “death”. These have been studied extensively and the claim that it is some kind of spiritual state has been thoroughly discounted. In fact, they have been experienced and described by astronauts and jet test pilots undergoing physiological stresses in the brain due to lack of blood and disruption of neural synapse functions. Other than this phenomenon, I’ve heard no one present any rational and testable evidence for the existence of a soul and its’ surviving death. If you have any geniune scientific evidence of life after death, I would be fascinated to hear it (with citations and references).

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Actually, I CAN point you to “scientific evidence of life after death” in more than one form. Issues of consciousness and the “mind-body problem” are interlinked, so actually it is tough to isolate just “soul” existence or continuation of consciousness. So the following resources tend to be broad or varied and cover various aspects or combos of the related issues involved. Most of them are not real recent, as I encountered them around 5-12 or so years ago while I was looking into these areas particularly. (I still do a bit, but am not up on what may be the better sources that are more recent.) There are several things I could say to introduce them individually, but in the interest of time/brevity, I will let you explore about the authors/titles mainly on your own, via Amazon, the direct website (in 1 case), etc.

    The main comment I’ll make is about David Ray Griffin, as he is a remarkable scholar and one of the key recent developers of Process theology. I’ve heard him and briefly met him on a couple occasions, as I have his comparably talented and caring, “relatable” mentor (originally as an academic) and colleague, John B. Cobb, Jr. (Both are still writing, last I knew, while retired, at ages 73 and 88 or so.)

    I’m citing 2 of Griffin’s many books as esp. pertinent to our conversation: “Parapsychology, Philosophy and Spirituality” (’97). This is addressed more toward a skeptical scientific audience than a religious one and gives a good summary of the key issues pertinent to the idea of a “mind” and/or “spirit” distinct from physical bodies. While it touches on NDE’s as one aspect, it is far from as detailed as some works re. them (some of which have taken on the skeptics you seem to refer to, and the alternate explanations, of which there naturally are many). Nor does it reflect, of course, the significant research in the 15 yrs. since it’s publication.

    The other by Griffin is, I think, a classic, and more readable as a “summary” type book of short length (just 114 pp. of text): “Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith” (2004). It lays out what I consider a very clear and accurate picture of how and why we’ve gotten to the silly stand-off between “religion” and “science”, as to any meaningful collaboration and cooperation (or even mutual respect in many cases).

    A few other great sources on various aspects of consciousness, the soul, etc., all from people either with scientific credentials or a self-taught scientific mindset:

    1. “Miracles of Mind” by Russell Targ and Jane Katra

    2.“The Way of the Explorer” by Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell

    3. “The Soul Genome” by Paul Von Ward and the related and more up-to-date website: http://reincarnationexperiment.org/ . On this website, if you read the Eliz. Barrett-Browning case, it gives examples and some summary info on the methodology of Von Ward and his collaborators. The book, though from an earlier stage, develops it further also… This is a quite different approach than earlier (or current) mere examples/stories of even supposedly corroborated cases of reincarnation (as I believe some have been, but not to rigorous standards of typical science). I wouldn’t say refutation of this kind of work is impossible, but I’ve not seen it done… and the work is still evolving and the data being further compiled under relatively new standards and approaches, as Von Ward readily admits… you’ll note he repeatedly is careful to say real PROOF is a high standard not yet reached. However, to me, his work, combined with others like Dr. Ian Stevenson and his successor, already reaches “beyond reasonable doubt.”


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