As I mentioned in an earlier post, as part of my own spiritual healing in this new year, I will be taking a close look at the “box” in which I grew up, testing a number of evangelical and mainline teachings. I want to see for myself how my religious instruction relates to the overall message(s) of Scripture. (I have deconstructed Scripture passages before – for example here, here, and here.)
I approach this exercise without hostility –I am only seeking to honestly reckon with my (mostly former) status quo. Basically, I want to see what in my upbringing was of God, and what was manmade.
There is no shame in questioning beliefs – in fact, it’s a good idea! If we refuse to interrogate our spiritual status quo – the box in which we live – what does that say? Are we afraid that our beliefs won’t stand the test? Are we too lazy or busy to bother grappling with Truth?
I want to understand the box in which I live – my spiritual status quo – and I’m willing to put it to the test. I started this journey in 2014 and it’s still ongoing. It has been time well-spent.
“Us” and “Them”
I can’t remember a time in my life when the world wasn’t divided into two groups – the saved and the unsaved. Us and Them. Those who accepted the free gift and those who rejected it. I rejoiced that I was one of the Good Guys, and my heart broke for all those who weren’t.
What was this binary worldview based on? The Bible, of course! “That’s what the Bible is all about – getting saved and becoming an Us, so that you can spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus.”
I was told that “the message of the Bible is unified and perfect.” Here’s how Got Questions (tagline: “Your questions. Biblical answers”) explains it:
The unity of the biblical message is further reason for why one should believe the Bible.
The Bible was written over a period of approximately 1,550 years, with at least 40 human writers, most of whom did not know each other and were from varying backgrounds (king, fisherman, tax collector, shepherd, etc.).
The Bible was written in various environments (desert, prison, royal court, etc.).
Three different languages were used to write the Bible, and, despite covering controversial subjects, it carries one harmonious message.
The circumstances surrounding the writing of the Bible would seem to guarantee its fallibility, and, yet, the message from Genesis to Revelation is uncannily consistent.
What is the Bible – really?
So, what is this “harmonious message” that is “uncannily consistent”? The standard answers include:
- The Bible is God’s love letter to us – the revelation of God to us (John 1:1–5) – where we can learn about His character and nature.
- The Bible is our handbook for life – it shows us God’s will, so that we can keep ourselves pure (Psalm 119:9, 11).
- The Bible is God’s Word to humankind – it teaches God’s desire from the beginning to have a people of His own (Leviticus 26:12), and how we, who are broken by sin and disobedience, have been forgiven through the sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Is that what you were taught too?
These points make perfect sense (and I will be writing more about each of them in the future) – if you look at only the recommended verses, and stay away from the rest of the Bible.
If you look at all of the Bible, you will find that, while some passages do seem to be “God’s love letter,” other long stretches portray God as vindictive, cruel, and sadistic – even commanding that His people carry out ethnic cleansing.
This is the reality. The Bible is not exactly what they said it was.
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How long does the cycle continue?
I’m sure my teachers and preachers meant well. They wanted to raise a crop of good Lutherans, but at what expense? Telling us only what they wanted us to know about God and our holy book, shielding us from the parts that are awkward, shocking, or contradictory (in other words, parts that could potentially lead to a loss of faith). So…it was for my own good that they lied to me?
Most if not all Christian denominations and other faiths no doubt do the same. Most of us never realize it because we are also taught not to question those in spiritual authority over us – that is, we are taught not to think for ourselves. It’s cookie-cutter religion, formulaic. “Believe this – trust me, it checks out.”
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment: most likely, they too were taught these doctrines, and then told not to ask questions or think for themselves.
At what point does someone stand up and say, “I’m not so sure”? Well…how about right now?
I’m not so sure. As far as I can tell, those in spiritual authority taught me things about God and the Bible that are not accurate, and they hid the truth from me by cherry-picking Bible verses.
This may sound harsh, but it is true – anyone who has, like me, questioned what they’ve been taught, knows that it’s true.
As I deconstructed my faith a few years back, it was hard to leave behind some of the teachings I’d grown up with. I didn’t just up and walk away from the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, for example. But when I took an honest look at the teaching, and compared it to what the Bible really says – and (this can not be overemphasized) used my brain – the truth I found meant more to me than what my denomination had taught me.
This is not to say I think I’m smarter than my teachers. I’m just taking personal responsibility for my faith walk, thinking for myself, seeking God freely. Making my faith my own.
(Note: this journey really began after I saw blatant hypocrisy and bigotry in my conservative Christian community – a subject which I will share more about sometime.)
Outside the box – more to come.
As long as I assumed the inerrancy doctrine was a God-breathed fact, I couldn’t touch it. You don’t question God! But you know what they say – “never assume,” even after 50 years. We’ve got more boxes to examine and think outside of, so stay tuned.
(If you are energized by challenges to the evangelical status quo like this, you’d enjoy my blog. Sign up for my free newsletter here! If you would like to comment, please pop over to my Facebook page. All of my posts are there and open to constructive comment! I welcome your thoughts.)
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