For the last 12 years or so, I’ve been going through the long, slow and painful process of Deconstruction. That has meant questioning and re-thinking everything I thought I knew about the Gospel, Salvation, the Crucifixion, Resurrection, the Second Coming of Christ, the Bible, the Church, and pretty much everything in between.
Along the way this process has meant tossing aside some beliefs that I discovered were based more on tradition than on anything Jesus actually taught, or what the earliest Christians believed. And it’s also meant revising and reforming my views on ideas I once held dear.
But as I’ve jettisoned toxic doctrines and abandoned bad theology, there’s one thing I can never let go of: Jesus.
For many Christians, however, it’s letting go of Jesus that eventually leads to the collapse of their faith and the beginning of their misery.
I’ve received hundreds of messages and emails over the last decade from Christians who tell me that they miss Jesus and wish they could pray again. But, due to the fact that they let go of their belief in Jesus years ago, they’re left with an aching hole where Christ used to dwell. And the pain is too much to bear.[NOTE: I have to stop and mention that many former Christians who have let go of Jesus say they are happier now than when they still believed in him. This article is about those who let go and wish they didn’t].
Many of those who contact me and share their struggle with me ask me how I held on to Jesus, or want me to explain why I still believe that Jesus was a real person, or that Jesus said or did any of those things we read about in the Gospels.
My answer is usually two-fold:
One, I believe – like infamous former Christian turned Atheist Bart Ehrman does – that Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person.
As Ehrman points out, there are many reasons to accept the fact that Jesus was an actual historical figure. We have incidental mentions by Paul that the mother and brothers of Jesus are still alive when he is writing his epistles. We have numerous other historical references to Jesus by pagan sources, and we also have the early existence of the Christian sect which was composed of people who went to their death’s proclaiming that this Jesus who they followed – and was crucified – was seen alive by them three days after his death.
I also believe that the Gospel accounts are remarkably accurate about the teachings of Jesus and there are numerous details that give us very good reasons to trust they were written by people who lived during the time of Christ.
My second reason for believing in Jesus is personal, and subjective. I have experienced the presence of Jesus first-hand. I have experienced miracles, answered prayers, dreams and even [on one occasion] an open vision from God.
Even before I knew what a Christian was I used to lay in bed and talk to God as a young boy. It was only when I was in Third Grade that I actually went to church, walked the aisle and got baptized. But I knew God and talked to God long before that.
So, I know that this isn’t very helpful for those who have walked away from Jesus and who never had any such experiences. I have talked to numerous Christians [and former Christians alike] who tell me they have never heard the voice of God and never felt the presence of Christ in their life. Many have said they have prayed for these experiences and never had one. So, I know it’s not as easy for some as it has been for me.
But, I wonder if some of those who say they have never heard the voice of God and never experienced the presence of Christ just don’t understand how to recognize such things. In other words, maybe they HAVE heard the voice of God, or experienced something, but they didn’t realize it at the time.For example, when I say I have “heard the voice of God”, I don’t mean I’ve heard an audible voice with my ears. What I mean is that I have had strong impressions or thoughts that often interrupt my own thoughts with phrases or ideas that are not my own. That can take many forms. Sometimes a dream, sometimes a strong feeling, and other times a word from a friend sitting across the table from me at a Starbucks.
Still, it may also be the case that not everyone has these sorts of experiences. If this is so, then those who question their theology are likely doomed to drive right off the edge of the cliff once they’ve started to pull the threads of their Christian faith until there’s nothing left but a pile of yarn.
But, what if those who have never had these experiences – and who have deconstructed their faith until they have no faith at all – could learn to hear God’s voice? What if they could start to experience God’s presence even though their faith in the religion is dead?
Well, that’s something I’m very interested in helping people to learn how to do. Because I do believe we can experience the Divine presence of God. I do believe we can hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Just like anything else, we have to learn how to put ourselves in the position to experience these things, and we have to practice listening and place ourselves in a posture of receiving. But I do believe it’s possible.
What do you think?
NOTE: If this is something you’d love to learn how to do, I invite you to join me at Square 1. This is a new 90-day transformational coaching experience starting Sept. 30. You can learn more here: www.BK2SQ1.com
We are only taking 12 people on this journey from Deconstruction to Reconstruction and there are only 10 seats available.
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.