I was talking with a friend the other day, over Skype, about all the different beliefs I’ve since shed over the years. He remarked to me that his transformation and deconstruction out of religion and into an actual relationship with Christ had created an incredible feeling of freedom, like a giant weight or burden had been lifted from his chest.
I had to agree.
But, then I started to wonder about why this is the case. Why do we feel so free when we jettison doctrines like Eternal Conscious Torment? Why do we experience a sense of elation and joy when we discover that God really IS like Jesus, and not like Zeus or some other angry, vengeful, wrathful, violent Deity?
I would suggest that we experience a sense of freedom in these cases because those who created these ideas and doctrines did so specifically to manipulate and control us.
Simply put: Following the teachings of Jesus makes for a pretty lousy religion. [That’s why most Fundamentalists and Religionists love the Apostle Paul much more].
Jesus asks us to love one another as he has loved us. This alone should be our only focus. Failure to love in this way should be our only definition of heresy.
But, early on, leaders looked for short cuts to control the people in their assembly. Fear was the easiest way to do that, and unfortunately, it caught on.
For example, John Chrysostrom and Basil – two pre-Augustinian Christian leaders – were both drawn to the doctrine of Eternal Suffering for one simple reason: It worked to keep people in line because of the fear it generated.
Other doctrines that benefit from this fear-factor are “The Wrath of God”, “The Rapture”, “Tribulation”, “Losing Your Salvation”, “The Unforgivable Sin”, etc.
None of these doctrines are relevant to you if you understand that Jesus is the clearest possible picture of what God is really like – and has ALWAYS been like.
If you recognize that the doctrine of Eternal Suffering wasn’t the dominant view in the Church until after the time of Augustine in the Fourth Century, and that most of the verses used to support it are actually misunderstandings of Jewish Apocalyptic Hyperbole (and not actually about what happens to us after we die), then almost all of these fears disappear. What remains is a secure realization that everyone is loved by God, forgiven by God and welcomed by God into His eternal embrace.
That is the sort of thing that resonates with what Jesus said about how the truth sets us free, and how it is for freedom that we are set free and how if Christ sets us free, then we are free indeed!
[Insert freedom and feelings of joy, elation, acceptance and endless love here]
Religions are fueled by fear and thrive on control. Jesus came to set us free from fear. His perfect love totally obliterates fear, “because fear has to do with punishment, and the one who lives in fear has not been perfected by love” (See 1 John 4:18)
So, if you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to abandon fear. Refuse to be controlled by it. Resolve to live by love and to experience the freedom that only comes through Christ.
You’ll be so glad you did.
**Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community.
Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean.
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