recovering from inerrancy in the second half of life

I met an old friend for lunch yesterday. He was, once upon a time, firmly ensconced in a career in the ueber-conservative world of “Evangelical orthodoxy”–and he actually had a pretty good gig.

He left because of inerrancy. He could not square that non-negotiable pillar of the evangelical system with (1) how the Bible behaves when you sit down and read it, (2) a modern/scientific framework of thinking that is fully operational in every other phase of his life but not permitted when it came to his faith, and (3) his own experiences with real live people of faith whose very lives were a living testimony to other, vibrant, paths of Christian communion that did not require him to turn a blind eye to the cognitive dissonance created by 1 and 2.

In other words, for him, inerrancy was intellectually inconsistant with itself, was out of step with modern (that’s not a bad word, by the way) thinking, and was out of step with his experience.

My point isn’t to talk about inerrancy here. Besides, I haven’t had my Kashi cereal with strawberries yet, so I don’t have the energy. My friend, now past normal retirement age, left his former subculture 25 years ago and, in the throes of midlife, built a new career for himself. He’s been very happy, and he has also been active in a very-not-evangelical-or-inerrantist-inner-city church. He’s moved on and he’s just fine.

He said one thing, though, that really struck me. He wonders what his life would have been like had he not been raised within the inerrantist subculture, but instead in a community of faith that took Jesus and Scripture seriously but didn’t have rows of fiery intellectual hoops to jump through daily.

Yeah, what if. He’s moved on, but he’s still nursing some deep burns.

It has been hard for him to move past his past that was part of him for 45 years, which stands to reason. To make such a profound shift in midlife is very hard to do. It can be a challenge to put the first half of one’s life in its place, so to speak–to honor your experiences as those things that come together to make you you, but without being limited by them.

And the thing is, he’s not bitter about any of it. As he sees it, his choice is to live now as the person he is, with the experiences he has had, but not to be defined or limited by them, and trust God along the way–but he still struggles with those forces that shaped him for all those years. As he put it, he sometimes feels like a recovering addict.

In other words, he is on a journey, he knows it, he accepts it, and he’s committed to working at it. And it’s all good.

Maybe some of you can relate or be encouraged by this.

open letter to the apostle Paul from a concerned reader
what would the apostle Paul think about evangelicals and the conflict in Palestine?
another article on inerrantist biblical scholars and "protective strategies"
we talk about God too much (what with the internet and our iPhones and all)

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