My Deconversion: A Former SGM Music Leader Leaves the Faith

"Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings." – Victor Hugo

Hubble
Dusty Pillar Amongst Newborn Stars-Hubble

Sometimes, as we deal with issues such as the problems at Mars Hill and Sovereign Grace Ministries, we can inadvertently overlook the deeper issues of the faith. Our perceptions and doctrines of the faith are forced fed to us by the evangelical leaders du jour who tell us that their view on the faith is unsurpassed. We lurch from issue to issue, forming hard and fast "beliefs" on secondary doctrines of eschatology, creationism and, currently, Neo-Calvinism. In each of these areas we argue vociferously, believing that issues like premillennialism or the age of the earth are salvific doctrines.

We forget that there is a world which is watching and questioning our pat answers. Sometimes I wonder if we give our glib responses because it is too hard to struggle with difficult issues. It certainly is nice to tell people that the earth is 6000 years old and not have to think deeply about the complexities involved. We can then get back to picking out next "Christian" presidential candidate and building a nice coffee bar in our church so people will come to the Lord.

Pastors like John Piper seem to have no trouble telling people that God collapses bridges on purpose in order to help John to repent. But some people then ask if such a God is worth worshipping. We Christians huff at such comments because,well, you know, we know that God is good. But, if push comes to shove, we really can't explain it all that well, can we?

About 6 years ago, I discovered a site called Ex-Christians.net link. I was curious about those who claim to have been Christians and yet no longer believe.This site challenged my assumptions.  In some ways, this is a coming out for me. You see, I used to believe that people who walk away from the faith were never really Christians. That is what I had been taught. However, after a number of years of reading stories on that site, talking with ex-Christians and reading a whole bunch, I have come to believe that some of these folks had been Christians. I could not negate their years of service, theological studies, evangelical efforts and their sense, at one time, of a God who was there.

I read, with horror, comments placed at Ex-Christians by Christians who told them they had never been Christians in rude and condescending ways. Many said that these folks were looking for an excuse not to believe. They seemed to overlook the fact that many of these people had served as missionaries and pastors. They had done the BSF, Campus Crusade, Young Life thing. They led Bible studies, led music and attended church whenever the door was open. And something happened. For each of them, that something is different. Not all of them were hurt by the church. Many of them simply began asking questions for which they received answers that did not address their issues.

Last week, one of my pastors declared, with great certainty, he is a Christian. So had many of these ExChristians at one time or another. I asked another pastor to help me puzzle this through. I asked him if people could have been Christians and then stop believing. He always answers in questions in order to make us think.  His question this time, actually answered my question. He said "If these persons were never Christians, even if they believed they were, how do you know that you are really a Christian?" Think about it.

"Doubtful" has been a polite, thoughtful and kind commenter on this site for a long time. He has agreed to tell his story. I am hoping that our readers will understand the courage that this step takes. Stephen Covey has said "Seek first to understand, rather then to be understood." Some of us need to listen. 

Also, you can find "Doubtful" over at his new blog, Christian Agnostic here

Doubtful, thank you for your willingness to educate all of us. You will always be welcome here at TWW! (I have bolded a couple of pertinent comments that I find of particular interest.)


Before I tell you about how and why I de-converted from Christianity, let me give you a brief tour of my previous Christian life. Ready, steady, go………

My Christian Life

I was raised in a Christian home in the Northeast, and attended an Evangelical Presbyterian church from age 7 until my mid teens. It was at the age of eight that I responded to a Sunday school teacher’s presentation of the gospel and prayed to receive Christ into my heart. I was involved with the church youth group and Boys Brigade up until High School.

In High School, I was involved with Young Life and became a student leader (Campaigner) was actively involved with the Young Life club at my school, and also involved in the trips to Saranac Lake and Lake Champion. In college, I continued with Young Life as a volunteer leader. I led clubs, led campaigner Bible studies, organized trips to Young Life camps, volunteered for work crew, and led worship on leadership retreats. I also had some involvement with Campus Crusade, including a week at Daytona spring break, Intervarsity, and Chi-Alpha. Not to mention that I also helped fund and promote a couple of Christian concerts at my school (it was a public University, not a Christian school).

After college, I worked full time at my local Christian bookstore. I worked there for 14 years as a store manager, music buyer, gift buyer, and staff trainer (did I mention that I also scrubbed some toilets in my time). After the bookstore, I was hired by a Christian division of Warner Music. I served as a sales rep. for the Northeast and then the entire West Coast. I spent almost every waking hour in Christian bookstores, helping to market and promote the latest Christian music and DVD’s. I worked in this role for almost 10 years , before changes in the industry forced Warner to lay off almost 90% of our division.

Personally, I had gotten married to a woman I met in college. We had met at church, got married ina Calvary Chapel and soon began attending an SGM church. I served in the worship band, was part of a church planting team where I also served in as a worship leader. After leaving SGM, we helped with a local Vineyard church plant where again, I served on the worship team and became a small group leader. Attended some pastoral training conferences with Vineyard and was on unpaid staff at another Vineyard church on the West Coast. This is the brief version of my Christian life and involvement in the church….

I mention all these things in the hopes, that no one will come along and say that I must not have had enough information, or that maybe I had never really been a Christian. It’s frustrating to have that thrown at me, considering that I was committed to Christ in both a personal and professional way. I truly believed with all that was in me, and tried to be Christ like in all that I did. I read the Bible as much as possible, and was reading books about the Bible or Christian life when I wasn’t reading the Bible. I’m not sure what else I could say to convince someone that I had been a Christian.

The Circle Doesn’t Go Unbroken

There’s an old folk gospel song that asks the question, will the circle be unbroken? For me, it would be broken, and I’ll try to describe some of the key issues that lead me from my faith to an agnostic point of view…

When I was involved with SGM churches, as many here know, there was a huge emphasis on gender roles. The pastors of SGM preached often on the subject and it was hammered home in the small groups (called care groups) that men should lead their homes and women and children should submit to their husband’s authority. They also preached that man, woman, and child should be submitted to the local church’s authority, in other words, the pastors. I won’t repeat all the abuses that were rife in these churches, as they have been well documented….but it did lead me to a scriptural conundrum. SGM and their teaching on pastoral/ marital authority roles were consistent with what was taught in the New Testament. They took the face value teaching of Paul and Peter, applied to today, and followed it to its logical conclusions-which led to all sorts of abuse, neglect, and pain to all involved.

I began to wonder why God would have such confusing and hurtful passages in Scripture? I tried desperately to find alternative views, that would allow me to see some sort of wisdom from those passages, but as much as some of the alternative views were attractive, I could not wipe away the fact that scripture spoke of women as a lower class of human than men. Men, by accident of birth, were to be the leaders and rulers in home and the church, according to the plain reading of the Scriptures. This bothered me because of the abuse I had seen up close…

I started to explore the early church, to see how they handled these scriptures. What I found was even more diverse that I had imagined. Some early church movements seemed to have women Apostles and deaconesses, even alluded to in the New Testament, while other early church movements saw women as a seed of the devil, only to be saved through childbirth, but not to be trusted in any other way. Needless to say, the history of the early church provided little relief.

Another issue that began to creep up, was the history of the Scriptures themselves….some scholars on the Women’s issue (like Gordon Fee) argued that many of the texts about women being silent and submitting, were additions to the text, and that they should not be binding on the church, since they were of dubious origin. At first I was relieved, and started to see that this indeed might have been a case of cultural bias being written in to the Scriptures. But the relief was short lived….

I began to realize that if these texts, had been possibly added, than there might be other texts that had been added or changed as well. The more I researched the issue (among Evangelical scholars) I realized that the issue of contradicting manuscripts was a major issue. One fact I came across that blew my inerrant mind, was the fact that over 7,000 copies exist of Paul’s letters, and every single one is different than the other-no two are the same. But the final blow came when I was reading a history of the persecution of women accused of witchcraft. It was a terrible history of both Catholic and Protestant churches using the Bible to condemn and kill thousands of women on the flimsy charge of witchcraft. It occurred to me, that so much of this pain, murder, torture and fear mongering could have been avoided except for the Bible’s teaching on women. Why would God allow this to be so? The more disturbing thought, was that if it was a result of someone adding or changing the text, then why didn’t God prevent it? It’s a question I’ve yet to get an adequate answer…

I have many friends who are seminary trained, full time clergy/ pastors. I have summed it up for them this way, “If the Bible is the most important message that God could ever hope to say to mankind, and it is supposed to be reliable and without error in the original form, than why didn’t he bother to make sure it would be preserved without error?” It just seems unbelievable to me that God would not bother to keep the scriptures from being corrupted (or lost, as in the final chapter of Mark). I’ve had a couple of my friends admit that this bothers them as well. I’ve had others say they agree with my approach to textual criticism, yet they disagree with my conclusions. But I can no longer put my faith in a book as the infallible word of God, when it so obviously has been changed, let alone has contradictions within the text itself. Once this house of cards fell, my faith was no more.

My Life After Christianity

I am one of the lucky ones, when I finally built up the courage to tell my wife that I no longer believed, she listened, asked some questions, and then told me she never thought the Bible made much sense. She was, in fact, a functional agnostic. She had always been a Christian, because she had no choice as a child. As a wife, she supported my faith and chose not to take issue with it. It was a huge relief, I know of other instances where the believing spouse divorced the unbeliever or made life such a battle that the relationship suffered greatly.

As for my kids, after about a month, my wife and I decided to tell our kids that we were no longer Christians. We let them ask questions, which were many and also told them that we would not be raising them as Christians. We didn’t forbid them to have faith, we just let them know it would be their choice, not ours, what they chose to believe or not to believe about God.

The hardest part has been the reaction of friends and family. For the most part, we are now viewed with suspicion by many in our family. We recently received a letter from a family member, in which he describes us as deceived and followers of Satan….sigh….My wife couldn’t even read it. This same rhetoric has been leveled at my children at school. My one son came home confused, because a friend told him he was a Satanist if he didn’t believe in God. My daughter had the threat of hell preached to her at a sleep over. No fun, but that it is what the Bible Teaches, so I am not surprised. It is still not fun to know that you are regarded as unintelligent, uninformed, deceived, and following the lies of Satan.

One Final Note

This is kind of my coming out to the Christian blog community….let me explain. A few years ago I began blogging over at SGM Survivors under the handle of Musicman. You can read my story at this link.

If you read it, you will see that it is from a Christian point of view. That’s because, I was still very much a Christian when I began to participate on SGM Survivors and the Refuge. I have nothing but respect for Kris, Guy, Jim, and Carol and for the price they have paid to allow us Survivors to have a voice on the internet. As I began having doubts, I also began reading the Wartburg Watch. When I started to post, I would do so as doubtful. Recently, I began a blog, http://christianagnostic.wordpress.com/ , it’s my way of beginning to think out loud about many of the issues I dealt with as a Christian. I still enjoy participating here and at the SGM blogs. I did not want to be dishonest about where I am now (no longer a Christian) but since the purpose of the sites are Christian, I did not want to be seen as adversarial. I occasionally will pipe up, but I try not to comment on theology or give advice about what to believe. I still have much sympathy for anyone who’s been abused and I try to support and affirm folks, even though I no longer share their faith.

As always, thanks to the Wartburg Watch for being a place of lively discussion and for the personal warmth I have felt from Queen Bees of TWW!

Lydia's Corner: Jeremiah 39:1-41:18 2 Timothy 1:1-18 Psalm 90:1-91:16 Proverbs 26:1-2

 

Comments

My Deconversion: A Former SGM Music Leader Leaves the Faith — 198 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing!

    I see you listed many things you were apart of and grew up in and made it apart of even your professional life. I guess my only question is, were you ever free?

    This coming from someone who was trapped in the milieu of cultural christendom (conservative politics and all) and never thought twice about not being right with my god.

    Peace,
    Cal

  2. Doubtful, do you think that SGM helped you along in your rejection of Christianity or do you think that it would have happened no matter what.

  3. Thanks for sharing the story. I’m sorry for the hateful things that have been said to you and your family as they have no content of love coming from people who claim to be following a man who spoke at length about love. In the last couple years I’ve been having a break with a traditional view on the scriptures(my NT professor at a state university called it the ‘foundations beginning to shake’ when he went through it). There wasn’t a critique of them that you mentioned that I would split hairs on. It has led me to one thing that has kept me…that no matter what kind of scholar approaches it, there does not seem to be any denial that a Rabbi named Jesus walked this earth, taught a message of hope, and was executed with the good of a people in mind. Whether that good was anywhere from atonement of their sins to a social revolution can’t be proven but the simple fact has been enough for continued studentship. If we go by reason, which many Christians would tell us not too, it does seem like the scriptures reflect as much humanity as divinity if not more. It would be hard to disagree with your findings. Honesty is scary. Thank you for sharing and I hope that you find love and grace wherever life leads you.

    @ the section that Dee wrote above Doubtful’s story. I would agree that people who are no longer Christians could very well have been Christians in the past but doesn’t absolutely any shred of logic in an argument against that go out the window if you change the language from ‘Christian’ to something closer to the original like…’student of the way of Jesus’? Could someone really argue that another person was never a student of the way of Jesus? I just posted a blog title ‘why I am not a Christian’ (but a student of the way of Jesus) that talks about how our language has lost meaning. I think another backlash of that is the term Christian has made room for silly arguments like this one. A term that Jesus never applied to his students.

  4. Musings from a survivor:

    I can tell you the date and time of when I was born again.

    But sucked into churchianity, I can also tell you the day and time I–for a time–believed I had lost my faith.

    I had–I lost my grip on Jesus Christ because I let others take His place in my life. I let the church, the pastor, friends, family, etc take it.

    When they turned on me I spurned them–and Him.

    But in His grace He never lost His grip on me! I can also tell you exactly where and when I received my faith back, when He restored the joy of my salvation.

    No, I never lost it. I don’t personally believe anyone who has been born again can lose their salvation. Lose their faith, yes. Lose their assurance, yes. Label themselves an unbeliever, yes.

    I say all this not to argue with the poster. He has told us his story exactly as he has lived it.

    It is possible he did all those things, and yet never was truly born again. Possible, mind you, not likely.

    And it is just possible he too has lost his grip on Jesus, but is still held tightly by the Lord.

    It is possible that what he no longer believes in is the system of Christianity.

    And it is possible God has some wonderful blessings waiting for him when healing from the system is complete.

    Real born again Christianity isn’t churches, seminars, praise bands, books, or blogs.

    It is glorious freedom in Christ.

    I pray the poster finds it.

    Linda

  5. doubtful,

    Thank you for allowing us to share your testimony. I’m very sorry for what you and your wife have been through. I enjoyed all those exchanges we had over at Survivors and Refuge.

  6. I really cannot understand why anybody could imagine that rudeness and condemnation would help anyone walking away from the faith or struggling with it. Surely the very least that we can do is listen to one another with respect, even when we 100% disagree. in fact, especially when we disagree. If we only respect the people who tick all the same boxes that we do, then we haven’t loved at all, just got caught up in team spirit. The rudeness and cruelty that some people think they have a right to inflict in the name of Jesus never ceases to shock me.

    Doubtful, I don’t have to agree with your conclusions to honour your honesty. I am equally sure that you will not be offended by my saying that I pray you may find peace, healing and truth, whatever journey that may take.

  7. While he brags about those who sacrifice their lives for his cause, he (and others like him) indulge themselves on the finest:

    hershaelyork
    Dining in the President’s Dining Room at @SBTS with my lovely wife @tanyayork. I’m smitten. http://yfrog.com/mt20whj

    Christianity at it’s Finest and where future pastors are branded…..

  8. doubtful… I am so very sorry for the painful words and actions toward you and your family (as well as for the abuses you experienced at SGM).

    The issue of whether someone is/isn’t “a Christian” is, imo, best left to God and not to us, though I did not always think this way.

    Evangelical/charismatic churches are oversold the idea that conversion or faith has to be a big “aha!” moment. For a lot of people, it’s not. And some folks say that as best they know, they have believed ever since they can remember.

    After having gone through a toxic “church” experience (being kicked out was part of it) and almost 10 years of gradually “deprogramming,” I am – perhaps surprisingly – still a believer in Jesus. I am awfully gun-shy about churches, though, and I’m sure that some of the people whom I knew would say that I am now “unsaved.”

    During my late teens to mid 20s, I spent a lot of time with Catholic charismatics, including a fair number of priests and nuns. From them I learned that doubt and questioning are OK; that they are an intrinsic part of faith… although at the time, I didn’t get that in the way that I do now. And the church I was raised in – Lutheran – sees it in pretty much the same way.

    I am thankful that I was exposed to views that were very different to what was adhered to in the evangelical/charismatic churches that I attended because that’s been something to fall back on, albeit in a long-term, gradual manner.

    doubtful, I can see why you are agnostic. Hope you don’t mind my saying that you and yours are in my thoughts and prayers… no matter where you go, I am sure you will be OK.

    all the very best to you and yours,
    numo

  9. wow…thanks for the questions…I’m actually finishing up a night shift at work, so I’ll try to get back to some your questions as I can….

  10. Cal-

    That’s a good question…I’d say that I was pretty free…I was way more liberal in many opinions-even as a Christian. I was often the one, even younger who felt free to challenge or honestly question something without feeling condemned.

    I don’t think I realized what I was signing up for when I got involved with SGM. Trying to untangle and emerge from SGM was way worse than I could’ve anticipated…but part of that is the deceptive nature of their culture.

    Not sure I’ve answered your question…but those are my initial thoughts.

  11. I have a lot of respect for doubtful (aka Musicman). I know him but don’t know who the hell he is if you don’t understand that and are curious I will try to explain.

    I have been plagued with doubts myself and then blessed with doubts because now I realize that I have an inquisitive mind and that God (yes, I’m still a believer) made me this way with my unique temperament and I am going to joy in my doubting and my drive to explore-test the hypothesis, look outside the box.

    Oh, yes, second paper was officially published yesterday (second author this time) and I have the twisted mind of a researcher and I don’t fit into the churchianity mold because I want facts, proof, really itty bitty insey weensey P-values and I want a God that isn’t offended or threatened by a good challenging question now and again.

    So, I’ll question and doubt and wrestle along with my dear friend that I will be surprised to someday discern his identity “Musicman” and one thing I know, this applies to all of us: this story hasn’t had its ending and I am excited because it is going to be a fantastic ending for Musicman and the rest of us.

    But actually using our brain for thinking and hypothesis testing and such stuff instead of defining our hair do on the basis of our submission to our husbands (gratus Gothard.) Imagine that!

    Go, doubtful (Musicman), go and shine!

  12. Robin-

    Being involved with SGM did not cause me to lose faith…I was involved with the Vineyard as a worship leader for almost 10 years before exiting church, and then another 5 years as an unchurched Christian before realizing I no longer could say I believed…

    I will say, that the shock to my system, from leaving SGM was agonizing, and it did cause me to question everything…I spent months reading Philip Yancey, Church History, Catholic History, reformed History, piles of books on spiritual abuse, etc… to try and sort out the utter loss we felt from the shunning and deceit we experienced.

    But initially no, in the long run it might have pushed me along to deal with doubts I had pushed to the back burner.

  13. Thanks for the answer.

    In free, I don’t necessarily mean of merely action (though it’s apart of it). My own story a little: I was raised in a psuedo-catholic home where I began to really be driven by American conservative politics. I was ready to join the USMC, but I washed up feeling a failure from a military school (began having an emotional breakdown and left). I was so driven to find truth when, I think, Truth found me. It took me sometime (a couple of months) to understand the implications of “When the Son makes you free, you are free indeed”. No longer was I in a paradigm, trapped to argue this or that (for me, American history and politics) and revise. I could have reality shattered apart, everything blown away (including church history), and realize there was but a pierced and crowned lamb who remained. Still a hard road!

    Due to my disposition, I seem to lean existential :). However, I mean ‘free’ in a universal shattering way.

    If you ever have time, I’d recommend reading ‘Ethics of Freedom’ by Jacques Ellul. Interesting read, believer or non. It’s a little heavy handed on the sociology and philosophy but it’s enjoyable (about half way myself!).

    Cal

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  15. doubtful,

    Thank you so much for your story…it made me uncomfortable, in a good way. My husband and I have been talking about it since he got home.

  16. “Our theologies have consequences. My hope is that Paul and Jonna Petry — and others like them — will reconsider their theological predispositions in light of what’s happened to them at Mars Hill. I hope that they will seek a theology that is more loving, open, and progressive.”

    from Tony Jones blog…

  17. “he describes us as deceived and followers of Satan” If I had a dime for every time I was told that about myself. The your a dog returning to its vomit, cloud with out rain, spiritual abortion (my personal favorite), scum, spiritual filth, and I could go on. I always thought that was just part of being a “Christian” being ripped to shreds like that.

    I know this is rather pathetic on my part but it did effect me to some degree because I loved these people. I think the one thing that really strikes me about being a part of the American Religion is the utter loneliness and emptiness of the entire venture.

    I grew to learn that we are born alone, live alone, and for sure we will die totally alone and because we are so evil and sinful affronts to God we have it coming and should not complain. I’m sure I am missing something there but that is really not good news.

  18. doubtful

    Thank you for being vulnerable. I find it hard being vulnerable at times, because it doesn’t fit the open handed issues, it doesn’t always sound “right,” but I know overall my fighting for genuineness has been more amazing than not. So – worth the risk.

    And a question for everyone-

    Thoughts on children learning about Jesus saying the only way to the Father is through Him? Then, the children communicating in very basic black and white words, “if you don’t love Jesus you’re going to hell? ” It sounds so harsh, but what does the bible say? Just trying to work through this…

  19. DB-

    Blessed with doubts is an interesting way to put it…and congratulations on the new paper being published.

    Deb…thanks, the survivor sites have been like a family for me…just the fact that there is a little place on the net where someone understands the craziness that is/was SGM has been invaluable.

    Robert-

    I’m sorry to hear it, even though I’ve heard it myself, it still shocks me that others feel so certain that I will burn in hell for eternity. I actually have a weird take on this…

    I was talking to a family member who is an extremely committed Christian. I talked honestly with him, but it was not an easy discussion. He brought up the idea that my decision to abandon faith might mean eternal separation from God.

    My response was that I trust in the Sovereignty of God…and I meant it. I further explained, that if God really loves me as much as I had believed and was taught by the church, than he would figure a way out to communicate it. I wasn’t being flip, just trying to be honest, that I doubt the truth claims of scripture, but don’t doubt that if it is true, that God could find a way to confirm it to me personally.

    I’m not sure if this helps…because it didn’t with this family member, oh well…it was worth a try. But i am truly sorry for the insults you have endured.

  20. Lynne and to everyone who has offered to pray…thanks, I am not offended. To me, the fact that you would take moments to think about my situation and pray shows care and concern…and I appreciate it.

  21. Once you truly know Jesus – you can never un-know Him. The Christian life is not found in a practice or a principle – only in a person – the Lord Jesus Christ. It is hard to believe that your life is better without Him. He will always love you.

  22. Queen Momma

    “Thoughts on children learning about Jesus saying the only way to the Father is through Him?”

    Answer is this….

    “My response was that I trust in the Sovereignty of God…and I meant it. I further explained, that if God really loves me as much as I had believed and was taught by the church, than he would figure a way out to communicate it. I wasn’t being flip, just trying to be honest, that I doubt the truth claims of scripture, but don’t doubt that if it is true, that God could find a way to confirm it to me personally. “

    I the passage you’re referring to, QM, is John 14:6. For context, I’ll put the verses 5-9:

    “Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
    Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
    Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

    There is so much here… but to the question QM asked, this is what I see: Yes, Jesus is the only way to the Father (as he is the Father?), but it is only our religious dogmas that try to limit the ways in which He can draw people to himself. From my own experience, I believe Doubtful is in the perfect place to begin to really see Truth….

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  24. Jeanette Altes

    Thank you for your input. After going through my own crisis of faith, I do agree with you about being in that place, a place to know you don’t “have all the answers.” But, how to relate to my children… The bigger picture of love God and love people runs our household, and what love actually is, so over all I know that I need to trust God that He will meet my children where they are at, and I will keep teaching them the power of words and that there is no law against love. Yet, the bible says there is a hell, a separation from God. Such trigger words for little mouths that they don’t understand the years of pain behind them for another person…

    Thank you for your input. It helps me to wrestle through this. My kids are going to say tactless things in life, whether it be about approaching hell in a conversation or that Momma talks too much (which incidentally was actually meant as a complement from my child’s heart; I just have too much adult baggage to have even seen it that way!!).

  25. Cal-

    I think I see what you’re saying now…I did have a time like that. A few years after leaving the abuse of SGM, I began reading What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancey. He totally rocked my world and I began to try and just love, and be, without having to always be right. I don’t know how else to describe it, except that I would read a chapter from that book, and then re-read it again.

    Not long after losing my faith, I still had a copy and began to thumb through it. My take on it now, is that Yancey was having to recast the Christian Faith in a way that taught folks to be kind, moral, and non-judgemental and trying to make it fit into a Christian worldview.

    I am grateful for what Yancey showed me ( a better, more loving way to be) But in the end, he’s really just emphasizing parts of the Bible and ignoring the other parts of the OT/NT that don’t fit his ethic (which I still can admire).

    Not sure if I am making sense, but I did have a certain amount of freedom, as you described.

  26. Jan-

    I hear what you’re saying, and I guess it’s hard for me to say with objectivity that my life is better. But my own take is that my life is better without faith, Jesus, or the Bible.

    I don’t expect you to applaud or even agree…but that is my ( and my wife’s) opinion on the matter.

    The scary part for me, was I had no idea whether my life would be better or worse…but I chose to be truthful. I had no idea that my wife harbored doubts about the Bible, for all I knew, she might divorce me. I also wasn’t running from sin in my life…I wasn’t having an affair, addicted, or abusing anything or anyone. I simply could not continue to believe in the testimony of Scripture, given the evidence.

  27. Doubtful: I believe that you were a Christian; and, perhaps, while you may not think so, you still may be. As a Christian and a former pastor, there are some things in the Bible that I don’t understand. But I have chosen to believe because the Christian life requires faith.

    The abuses regarding the submission of women to men are committed by ignorant and foolish bullies. I don’t have a lot of time to comment this morning as I have to go to the doctor. But I’ll stop by your blog.

    I’m not trying to change your mind. Just would like to chat. Whether or not you believe is your right, and I respect that.

  28. Two facts always have given me pause…

    One is that people were able to have a grace relationship with God based on the person and work of Christ BEFORE anyone was ever called “Christian.” And…

    Two is that it is recorded that Jesus called John The Baptist the greatest born of woman at the moment of his greatest doubt.

    What does all this mean? Nothing….perhaps! But it gives me pause.

  29. Robert

    I am so sorry that you have been treated by supposed Christians in such a manner. Sometimes, I think this faith I accepted as a teen has been refashioned into something totally unrecognizable to me. I am beginning to understand the concept of the remnant through all of this. I have been given good friends throughout my life who stood by me both in physical crisis (a sick child) and it an emotional crisis when I made a stand against a grave injustice. Although I was derided by some “good” church people and a few pastors, there were some who joined in the efforts.Even today, some of these folks pray for this blog and those who find their way here.

    Robert, there are religionists and there are Christians. Religionists resemble the Pharisees, heaping rule upon rule and judgment upon judgment. Christians, on the other hand, get grace. And when they get the grace, they have no interest in condemnation.The ones who condemn need to do so because, deep down inside, they do not follow the Jesus of love and grace. They still want to work their way to heaven. Wade Burleson addressed this in his talk “Does your theology trump your love?” I think we need to print that talk here and will do so soon.

    Robert, God has forgiven you and remembers your sin no more. It is removed as far as the east is from the west.And it is OK to complain. he gets it.I pray you will find some true Christian friends who will be there for you. Please know that we care as well.Also, here is a link to EChurch rom 2 weeks ago. Wade discussed Divine Amnesia.It might be of help to you. Divine Amnesia

  30. Queen Momma
    Here is the problem with black and white in that issue. Most of us believe that babies who die go to heaven. Many believe that the profoundly mentally handicapped ill go to heaven. So we know that there are already exceptions to the rule.

    I like what one of my pastors said to a group of eclectic pastors from around a liberal college town when asked if only those who believe in Jesus go to heaven. He said something like this. I am well aware of my shortcomings and am very grateful that Jesus will stand with me when I face God one day.I know I need Him. God is the ultimate judge and who gets in and out is above my pay grade.You will all have to deal with yourself as you prepare to stand before both a just and merciful God.

    We can teach out kids that we are assured heaven through Jesus but also remind them that babies and the mentally challenged will one day be in heaven as well.Then teach them that only God judges in the end and we leave it in His Hands. Besides, I agree with CS Lewis. There are apt to be some surprises in heaven-both who is there and who is not there.

  31. Pingback: THE BURNING CHURCH UNITED STATES

  32. Hey this is my first time commenting on this site… but after reading this testimony i just felt led to respond.

    Being a female, a lover of God, and confident that one of the major ways God has gifted me is in the area of leadership, those more “difficult” passages in the NT have often been a source of conflict in my heart. I recently read a book called, “Why not Women?” by Loren Cunningham (the founder of YWAM). It was a great education for me in learning how those different passages have been misinterpreted, misapplied, and sometimes even mistranslated.
    Anyway, I highly recommend it to anyone wrestling though these issues.

    And to the greater question of “how could God allow all of this misinterpretation, mistranslation, and abusive church stuff?” Honestly, I think it breaks his heart. Truly. God created Adam and Eve with the ability to choose. I believe all of us still have that same ability. (This is not to bring up some Calvinist/ armenianist debate, except to say that in my opinion a HUGE problem in these neo-calvinist movements is that when taken to its logical conclusion, their theology comes across more as fatalism than anything else. Which really does a huge disservice to the portrayal of the heart and character of God) So all that to say, just because sinful people warp and twist the words of the Bible to suit their “pet philosophies” doesn’t mean that the Bible itself is false, or that God is unloving, uninvolved, or nonexistent.

    What i do see is this: blogs like this and others making it more difficult for leaders to oppress, suppress, or falsely lead people in their ignorance. I really see this as the love of God at work in our day, and His justice and intolerance of His character being misrepresented at the hands of men.

  33. Doubtful- I so appreciate your words…When you say you are “no longer a Christian” do you mean you totally no longer believe in God at all? Or just the trappings of Christianity as we know it?

    I am a Christian but am experiencing many of the same questions and confusion that you share. Primarily, I now believe that some of the Bible- much OT and some NT- are likely not directives from God but are rather cultural interpretations or adaptations of what the writer believed was God’s will. Ok, fine. But if you think consistently, as you seem to, you go on to further question if ANY of it is true? Who decides? Do you pick what you want and ignore what you don’t?(This works well for most of us…)

    Some Christians say they only believe in the Gospels, and all the rest is interesting background info.

    I guess you could say I am at the point that I have a closer personal relationship with Jesus now, but am very skeptical of much of the rest?

    All this to say, back to my original question- what do you mean you are no longer a Christian? You reference a continued belief in God’s sovereignty. Is that theoretical, or possible, or do you believe in that?

    How valuable, though painful, is your story for all of us, many of whom walk in the world of make believe and pat answers to open ended, hard questions!

    Just a note to those who mentioned teaching kids about eternal damnation-my oldest son, who is a now a therapist, had to stop teaching kids Sunday School (he spent summers teaching inner city kids ministry) when it involved making a bunch of at risk kids from broken homes recite that they deserved hell and eternal damnation…he just knew in his heart that this was not the way to illuminate these kid’s lives with the love of Christ.

  34. Queen Momma.

    I feel exactly as you do. My kids go to a school with moslem children, hindu children, sikh children in turbans, children whose families practice buddhism. Their families’ traditions are precious to them, full of meaning and significance. Full of deep family heritage. They are kind, honest, and lovely people.

    And I am going to saddle my children with the rhetoric that they are all going to hell?? With the subtle information that if they don’t dress like me, eat like me, use language like me, go to church like me, celebrate christmas and easter like me — all this surface data, the complexities of being born into a family’s cultural history being beyond my kids’ scope of understanding — it means they’re outta luck??

    I really don’t think so.

    Like you, I emphasize treating people the way you want to be treated, kindness, respect, peacemaking. I describe empathy, knowing this develops over time.

  35. I suppose it’s possible that this person even now is a believer, just very confused and wanting to give up the law he’s been fed for years.

    He should listen to Rod Rosenbladt’s message “The Gospel for those Broken By The Church” And some more recent Tullian Tchividjian (he’s realized the wrongness of his moralistic preaching previously, and corrected it to focus more on grace).

    This is what a focus on personal transformation does. It creates beaten down hopeless Christians who know they can’t measure up. We are all beggars telling each other where to find bread. And we see people like Mark Driscoll shaming people who exercise discernment, only listening to people who preach the truth (lumping them together with anyone who just church-hops for selfish and shallow reasons)

    (here is where he does this: http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/158714-mark-driscoll-the-crisis-of-conference-christians.html?p=1)

    Rod Rosenbladt “The Gospel for those broken by the church”
    Free download:
    http://www.newreformationpress.com/blog/nrp-freebies/the-gospel-for-those-broken-by-the-church/

    Coral Ridge’s LIBERATE conference:
    http://www.crpc.org/media/series/2012-LIBERATE-CONFERENCE

    Tullian advises pastors not to preach moralism:
    The Pastor and his Message
    http://www.crpc.org/media/sermon/tullian-tchividjian—-the-pastor-and-his-message-

    In particular this bit got to me:
    “you know this if you’re a pastor. You’ve counseled people, you know this. I don’t care how good they look or how hard they are trying, or how successful they are appearing, they are afraid, they are insecure, they are failing, they are ashamed, they are guilty. Every one of them. So what do they need to hear? Do more, try harder? This is what they need to hear: ‘Be of good cheer, my son, your sins are forgiven. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Fear not little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. to GIVE you the kingdom!” — Tullian Tchividjian

    He goes on for another several minutes reading verses that set us free. It brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

    Another thing he said:

    “So when it comes to our preaching here is a good litmus test. Whether it’s a sermon, book, blog, post, or a tweet, if the lasting impression you give causes people to focus more on what they must do than on what Christ has done, the gospel has not been communicated. It’s that simple.” Tullian Tchividjian

    In essence we put people on a treadmill of works and then wonder why they are giving up and fleeing the church, but the Pharisees who think they can accomplish righteous behavior stay!

  36. Paul Burleson,

    Your comment about John the Baptist was really important! Thanks for sharing your godly wisdom.

  37. Perhaps cognitive dissonance / disequilibrium exist for a purpose – a God given one.

    In my experience the institutional church and even more so fundigelicalism exist to keep people trapped in their discomfort via threats, intimidation, peer pressure, etc., etc.

    It is for freedom that you have been set free. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. If Jesus is the way then the path you take to truth and freedom must be Jesus.

    Thanks for sharing Doubtful. You will arrive safely on your journey.

  38. Intellectual faith is never saving faith. Jesus said that the way to salvation was narrow. Many are called, but few are chosen. Sadest part is that after having the knowledge, the judgement will be that much greater, and, their poor children… Also, with the gentleman never knowing where his wife stood on the issue is an example of poor communication in the household. I think he needs to reavaluate before his last breath occurs. Faith IS the substance of things hoped for AND the evidence of things UNSEEN!!! Grace is still available!!

  39. I’m guessing most fundigelicals don’t really believe much of what they claim to believe.

    They, unlike you Doubtful, are just not truthful enough or are too scared to admit it.

  40. Laura-

    You asked a question that I asked many times

    “Who decides? Do you pick what you want and ignore what you don’t?(This works well for most of us…)”

    The problem I have with this, is that there doesn’t seem a way to know and it ends up looking like moral relativism.

    Some say silence in the church, I say they can pray and prophesy. Some say divorce is a sin, others not. I could list 100 issues where the scriptures are unclear…

    But the lack of clarity on such weighty issues, causes me to believe the Bible is not God’s word.

  41. Doubtful
    I was moved by the honesty of your story. Trust me, you are not alone. You raise honest questions that deserve answers. Might I suggest a book that, if carefully read, will shed some light on many of your concerns. The title is “Mount and Mountain”. It is a dialogue between a Baptist Minister (Dr. Michael Smith) and a Jewish Rabbi (Rabbi Rami Shapiro) discussing the 10 commandments. I know both of these men personally and they approach the subject without bias or pretence. This book is not fluff. It is serious theology and well worth the read. It offers no pat answers. However, it does open the door for a new way of thinking and understanding God. The publisher is Smyth & Helwys and it is available from Amazon.

  42. Jerry-

    I can see how you might think my wife and I had poor communication on the topic…but I assure you, there is more to the story than that.

    It’s not that I didn’t know my wife had struggles with the Bible or her faith, it’s just that we both assumed she had been fed a “bad” or “wrong” version of Christianity. She was given very little choice about what to believe and she resented it… but she would have never called herself an agnostic or atheist. She just didn’t think the Bible made much sense and left it at that…

    I was never forced by family (though I was raised as a Christian). My family let me explore music and books well outside the Christian mindset. So I never resented their input, in fact, I was the one who initiated reading through the Bible when I was young(around 10).

    When I began to explicitly raise my own doubts, she kind of looked at me like “Well of course it doesn’t make sense”. These werre the exact questions she had raised as a child, and had been basically told to shut up and believe.

    My changed belief allowed her to voice her own concerns…

    I hope that sheds some light on the topic.

  43. Jerry-

    One last thought….I actually have thought about my last breath a lot. Death does not scare me.

    What concerns me now, is knowing that this is the only life I will ever live. I want nothing more than to show love to those I have for a brief moment. As the Indigo Girls sang -nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal.

  44. Eagle-

    I haven’t….is there a link, or is it a book?

    Just the title reminds me of how knotted my heart would be, the weight of the world on my shoulders type of feelings….

    I am working on a post that talks about the emotional weight that a lot of Christian ministries dump on the average Christian. Even in the last years of my faith, I considered much of it to be nothing more than emotional abuse, that was spiritualized.

  45. Eagle-

    Thanks for the link…I am sorry for the pain you’ve endured. In the end, how we treat each other, when they are weak, reveals our true character.

    I am glad to hear you have one friend that has stuck by you…I also have 1 friend who is a believer, but is just a great friend. Friends are hard to come by in middle age, and I treasure those relationships.

  46. Doubtful – I’ve read your stories on survivors years ago and have seen all your posts. I completely understand how your came to your conclusions. And I don’t judge you at all. I went through MANY of the same questions you have, totally get it! Even had “born again” fungelicals tell me I was going to hell because I dare to disagree with them.

    Good luck, hope to see you around online.

  47. Doubtful–

    I get you. One of the things recently that made me not trust the Bible overall, is coming to terms with how we all interpret Scripture differently, sometimes through different hermeneutics, cultural landscapes and so forth. I mean, there are entire books and arguments written on kephale. Yet, we still can’t agree to how the term is being used in this ancient literature.

    That’s the difficulty with the Bible, it is ancient literature. There is so much about it that we should know, that we need to know, that I find seems quite impossible. I sometimes wonder that God knowing all the answers and all the keys to it all, isn’t so caught up in us getting it 100% right. But at the same time, there is so much used to abuse adn control others, and I firmly believe he is not happy with that.

    That’s why I believe for the most part that a person who loves God, believes in Him/Christ, has the indwelling holy spirit which leads and guides us, but still not perfectly. And that I think is more valuable than trying to live by Scripture, which proves impossible and very difficult, and sometimes is not appropriate for the current culture and world we live in.

    I do not trust in the reliability of Scripture. Bottom line. But I do trust that God is who he says he is: that he is loving, kind, merciful, gracious, slow to anger. I do believe his plan for salvation for my life and that it is done and was done at the Cross. I simply believe that God is real. That he saves us through Christ. And I think because of that, the holy spirit does live in me and causes me to become more like Christ: compassionate, real, exciting, loving, persevering…and more.

    But as you stated, with all the letters from Paul and the different translations with none of them matching… well, I find that entirely disturbing.

    Do you think as a Christian that I can trust God by faith, that he is altogether good and finally will resolve all these matters without believe in the inerrancy of Scripture?

    Faith can be strong or weak and yet, lasting. Sometimes, it can totally disappear. My spiritual journey and the abuses and confusion have caused me to loose faith at times. But it seems that with every revelation of “this isn’t God” or “that isn’t God” or that is abuse or that isn’t truth, makes me trust God more and man a whole lot less. I seemed to have discovered more of his grace; so much more than while I dont forget that there will be judgement, it’s hardly ever at the forefront of my mind.

    All of this, these sites, the abuse stories, the questioning of the reliability of doctrine, theology and Scripture, make me just want to run to God. To seek him earnestly. to believe by faith that he is real and that he loves me. If for anything, that’s all I feel I can believe in this present distress. It is sufficient for now.

    My prayer for you is that regardless of all these other things, that God personally does the work to meet you where you are, that he accepts you for where you are, and loves you for where you are. That his love would transform your heart–not to that of some Bible toting believer, but to that of a heart confident that God is love and that he loves you. That he is real and that he is there. Bare bones belief.

    For me, it’s the only confidence I truly need each and every day, that Lord are you there? Are you real? Do you love me?

    May there be peace and comfort towards you, goodness and joy; and the good news that you really are loved by your Creator.

    I hope that doesn’t offend you or cause your heart trouble. Prayers sometimes hurt more and cause more pain than to bring healing. I’d gladly erase this if at your request.

    Thank you for also sharing your story. I have learned a lot being here after my own abusive church situations. AFter reading your story, with all that activity, I almost suffocated reading it. I coudln’t have imagined that much of my life being taken over by church activity and my faith. That was unreal!

    ExChristians.net, this site, and stories like yours have helped me to open my heart and ears towards those who no longer believe, adn have a compassion that I would have never had otherwise. My how the mighty judgements fall, the doctrines and theologies disappear, when your heart is touched by the living God. I truly believe through your stories and others’ experiences, that God has ministered to my legalistic and judgemental heart and given me one of compassion and flesh.

    It is a much better heart to carry around. A lot less heavy. More light. More willing to share in the burden of caring for and loving others in ways that truly matter. Thank you for all that you have taught me today. I do send you love.

    -trina

  48. Eagle–

    I have Yancey’s books too. They have been very helpful for me. I loved Where is God When It Hurts? It was very healing for me. You are right, stories of grace, love and redemption are hardly found in the local church. But all the places you mentioned, I think, in my own heart, that those are all the places where God really is… in real people, in real situations, in real honest brokeness… outside of theological frameworks, ecclesiastical polity, dogma, doctrine and the like. The church doesn’t want to believe that God is everywhere, and that a person could meet God in such places. But God gets to choose where he will be, not the church. God gets to choose how he will meet us. Not the church. I dont even believe that “Scripture” might necessarily point out all the ways in which God can encounter a person.

    I do believe there are mysteries to God–as He has said, if at least much of the Bible is true in describing God’s character… I do believe the aspects of his Character that he gives us. But if those things are true, it seems to easy for us to forget and allow these numbskull pastors to preach to us and tell us different. In the end of my journey in Reformedland, God was a big judgemental, a-hole, and woudl not intervene because of his own Sovereignty.

    But your stories here, the truths that we can now examine, think about, question and consider reveal to me a more loving and gracious God; a God closer to the descriptives found in the ancient Scriptures than any “god” preached to me from the pulpit in the last 2 years.

  49. Dee, I am not sure if you really want an answer to your question as you added a “happy face” at the end of your comment. “Knowing” in a biblical sense is communion – the devil does not have communion or union with Jesus. Doubtful expressed a “knowledge” of the Christian life and activities – but to truly know Jesus is much more than that – is life and peace. He demonstrated his love by dying for us, so we could be reconciled to God. The gospel is simple, but it is complete.

  50. Freedom-thanks, good luck as well.

    Trina-

    I am not offended that you pray, not at all. Your journey sounds very similar to mine, and how I tried to reconcile my faith and doubts.

    Although I still can appreciate Yancey and authors like him, I still question why God would allow the scriptures to be so easily misunderstood in the first place?

  51. Jan–

    I believe very wholeheartedly that Doubtful had communion with Christ. His heart was completely sold out. If you cannot deem that from his narrative other than activities and Christian “life”, whatever that means, then maybe you might want to dig a little deeper.

    Isn’t it what he said in the beginning, so that noone could come by and say well, you never really were a believer in the first place. That is hurtful. You cannot judge from his statements, activities, involvement whether or not he knew God, i.e. had communion with Him. And just because he chooses to no longer have such doesn’t imply that it was never there.

    You say “to truly know Jesus is much more than that–is life and peace.” Are you implying that Doubtful didn’t truly know Jesus? Not everyone who truly knows Jesus always resides in a state of experiencing the abundant life or even peace. There is much hardship in following Christ and living in a fallen world. The overall endstate of every one whom God loves will be life and peace… but today, it very surely may storm and cast upon us doubt, fear and unbelief. But if nothing shall remove us from such life and peace, then it doesn’t matter how much we doubt, fear or do not believe.

    I am confident that Doubtful’s actions in ministry and church life was a product of what he believed and knew in his heart, and that those actions and commitments flowed from such belief, not the other way around.

  52. Doubtful–

    That is a good question. This I wonder: Do all of my questions about God and why he chooses or allows certain things need to be answered before I can believe in Him by faith? I’m still workign on that answer.

  53. Doubtful–

    Also, some people believe it impossible that you can throw out the Bible yet not throw out God… because otherwise, how could you know Him. I’m not so sure that’s entirely true. I do believe that Scripture can be useful and helping in knowing about God, but again, is it the only way that he chooses to reveal Himself and meet with those whom he has created?

  54. Jan
    I put a smiley face because some folks do not know the difference. However, how do you know that Doubtful didn’t feel like he knew Jesus during his early years? Many people have convinced me that they “knew” or had a relationship with Jesus which changed later on. In my years of conversations with those who have left the faith, I have come to believe we are unable to say that they did not know Jesus.

  55. @doubtful: so glad you could post here and be so honest and open.

    @TWW: thanks so much for posting this, I have read it before, but have found the comment thread really amazing. The thing about your reading on ex-christian, and opening up to questions and doubts, it really shows a depth of thought and compassion and ability to understand that is so often lacking. It is rare to find an inter-faith dialog like this in many (most?) evangelical/fundamentalist circles.

    @eagle: “I’ve read, read, and read like you would not believe. Its so consumed me in some ways I feel like I lost part of my life. Its kept me up until 2 or 3 in the mornings at times, becuase I want answers.

    I was very much there, maybe for a couple of years, sigh. I am past it at this point though, and can enjoy reading books on religious subjects and still get a good night’s sleep. It seems to be a requisite part of going through the faith struggle. For me, coming from an fundagelical-type church (same as doubtful’s), books became my best friends for a while, because nobody else understood and nobody else could dialog with me, converse in the same framework of asking questions.

  56. jimmy-

    I don’t know you, so I don’t have any emotion invested in your sentiment.

    But if you were a friend or family member, I would assume that you were implying, that if I face any hardships in the future, you would view them as my own fault and that you would not be willing to help me through those hardships…which I think is sad.

  57. Doubtful–

    Jimmy is truly an evil troll. It would be better to ignore him, as I do every day and scroll happily past anything he writes, to the other comments. I let Dee and Deb deal with him. I’ve never seen someone in my life that close to heartless and psychotic that it’s useless for me to try and even stomach half the sh*t he says. It’s so not worth my energy. People try and explain stuff to him over and over again, but for the past year and a half I’ve been on this blog, I’ve not seen this man change for the better. He truly comes across a very lost cause in deed, and THAT IS sad.

  58. Scripture itself shows us that there were many who knew God without knowing the scripture. The Bible, as we know it, was not around in ancient times, yet God was able to reveal himself. It seems to me that the law and the Bible itself can be elevated to a point where it, in effect, replaces God. Didn’t Jesus have words for those who did this with the law? The Pharisees were using the law, along with all the extras they added to it, to abuse people. Jesus was not happy with this. He summed up the law in two commandments.

    Doubtful – when I read your story I still hear you wanting to live out one of these two. Jesus didn’t come to heap more law on our heads, but the laws of God will be written on our hearts. I see them written in yours. You desire to live your life now by caring for others. Isn’t that what Jesus did in his short time on earth?

  59. Jimmy
    Now I am getting upset. There are times to show empathy and a time to be harsh. I am sorry that you are choosing harsh. doubtful has heard it all. Why not show some love and patience. Please do not do this to doubtful again or I will not approve your comment.

  60. doubtful
    I have just warned Jimmy. He has upset a fair number of people on this blog. This time, he has gone a bit too far. I am considering my first comment delete for cruelty.

  61. (I commented once or twice before under a different moniker, but I decided I should be consistent across the blogs on which I comment, so my permanent moniker will now be Moniker!)

    Trina, you hit on some things about the Bible that I have thought about, too.

    I can understand being disturbed by the knowledge that the Bible hasn’t been perfectly preserved down through the centuries. This is how I’ve processed it up to this point: The Bible was written by men. It’s a collection of writings by human beings who experienced things or heard about things from others and wrote those things down, over a huge number of years. Do I believe God inspired them? Yes, but what does that mean? Does it mean that every single word was dictated to them by God and that they wrote it down like automatons? No, I don’t think so. God uses people to do all kinds of things, but since we aren’t perfect, nothing we do is absolutely perfect. The Bible, as we have it, is not “perfect.” There may be some discrepancies, but in the most important matters – what I would consider the bare essentials of the faith – I don’t see any conflicts that would shake my faith in God.

    The Bible is a book. It’s the story of God’s unfolding plan of redemption, as viewed by different writers in different times. There is truth contained in it, but it is not THE Truth. Jesus is THE Truth. The Bible contains many of the words that God spoke, but it is not THE Word. Jesus is THE Word. The Bible contains principles for living and tells about eternal life in Christ, but it is not THE Life. Jesus is THE Life.

    Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) Even Jesus made the distinction between the Bible and Himself. He’s saying, “Look, life is in Me, not in the Bible.” If there was no Bible, that wouldn’t have any effect of the existence of God. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit exists apart from the written down book about Him. I think the Bible is a wonderful blessing, but I don’t think it’s essential for life or salvation. The fact that the Bible didn’t get passed down perfectly intact and that some people have used it to abuse other people doesn’t alter the fact that God exists, God loves, and God redeems.

    I don’t know if I’m making a whole lot of sense. I’m still processing a lot of this stuff myself – detoxing and unlearning some faulty doctrine after leaving SGM and seeking the truth. These online discussions are so beneficial. Thank you, Doubtful, for sharing your story here and at Survivors, and thank you, TWW Ladies for your labor of love!

  62. atimetorend (like the name)
    Thank you for your kind words. It was our desire to make this a site that people of all beliefs could feel comfortable in expressing themselves. We always hoped that some folks might see that not all evangelicals are dogmatic and uncaring. Now, Jimmy, on the other hand….

  63. Dee-

    Thanks-I take no offense at what Jimmy said-so don’t delete him on my account.

    I’m sure I might have said similar things in the past, thinking myself bold, without realizing how it came across…

  64. Scripture itself shows us that there were many who knew God without knowing the scripture. — Bridget2

    In Medieval theology, this is called “the Baptism of Desire”, closely-related to the concept of the “Virtuous Pagan”.

    The most widespread fictional example of the concept is Emeth the Calormene in Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle.

  65. Moniker—

    That really inspires deep thought–seeking to understand the difference between the Bible and Jesus. What you said makes a whole lot of sense to me. I couldn’t have said it better. Yes, I think that’s what I think. I think, in particular, Reformed theology, and a lot of Christendom, put the Bible above God himself. The Bible becomes the idol, the desired–whereas, Christ/God is overlooked in some way and forgotten. So much that it becomes difficult for people to understand that Jesus loved others. Jesus saved. Jesus healed. Jesus cared. Those basic but very profound things He did. I think that’s the point, as you stated, God is love. God redeems. God saves.

    I firmly believe that the entirety of God cannot be contained in Scripture. I also believe that God is elevated beyond words written about Him. Taht’s what I mean when I say as I run towards God, I run away from all these things, even the confusion that Scripture and the inerrancy within can bring, and just barehearted towards God.

    There’s this longing to just know and see God face-to-face with nothing between us. The purity of that; the sensibility; the clarity of that moment can be nothing short of beautiful and sufficient. I know we dont have it now, but I definitely look forward to it. I know God understands my heart when I say to Him, Lord, all I want is you. He knows what I’m asking and WHY I’m asking.

  66. atimetorend-

    you said

    “books became my best friends for a while, because nobody else understood and nobody else could dialog with me, converse in the same framework of asking questions.”

    Yes, this reminds me of a quote from the movie Shadowlands, where CS Lewis says “we read to know that we are not alone”…I would paraphrase that “we read to know that we aren’t crazy”

  67. Moniker
    Welcome under your new “moniker.” I have come to view the Bible as infallible.In that light, it is sufficient for leading us into an understanding of the problem of man, Who created man, the solution and the coming “Coming.”I have yet to find anything that so comprehensively deals with what I see in such a coherent fashion.

    The Bible is not so clear as to the secondary issues. If it were, there wouldn’t be so many denominations with so many beliefs. We would not be fighting over TULIP, age of the earth, baptism, charismatic gifts, the number of sacraments, and on and on. Of course, everyone who believes that the are correct about these doctrines are absolutely sure they are interpreting it the only way it can be interpreted and the rest of us are idiots. (Take the Calvinistas, for example…but every group has them.)

    I still remember the daughter of a well known Bible teacher who “proved” to me that there is only one way to interpret anything in the Bible and she had “proof” that her daddy’s way was correct. I stood there in shock as she told me that anyone who believed in charismatic gifts was totally unbiblical. Although I am not personally charismatic, I thought that was one of the nuttiest things I had heard.

    You are right. Our salvation is found in the person of Jesus not in the story of the person of Jesus. The story can illuminate the issues but the story is not the means.

    Thanks for you insights!

  68. Jimmy is truly an evil troll.

    People try and explain stuff to him over and over again, but for the past year and a half I’ve been on this blog, I’ve not seen this man change for the better. He truly comes across a very lost cause in deed, and THAT IS sad.
    — Trina

    Either infamous alt.fan.furry USENET troll Mike Hirtes got religion and is witnessing how Godly he is to us Heretics, or “Jimmy” Bond managed to jump Planck’s Wall from Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier.

  69. Poor Jimmy simply behaves like a grown man with a room temperature IQ and a 2 inch long penis; weak, impotent, angry, doesn’t know what to do about it, and couldn’t if he did.

    Either ignore him or pity him.

  70. Trina and Moniker –

    That is exacly where I am at these days with the Bible and God.

    Trina – your last paragraph above is lovely. It really does remind me of my own conversion, quite simple, no religion involved, just me being real and wanting to know God. It was a profound moment to the extent that if all scripture was found to be mangled, false, or made-up, I would still believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

  71. Bridget–

    Thank you 😉 I love this “It was a profound moment to the extent that if all scripture was found to be mangled, false, or made-up, I would still believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.”

    At moments where I have questioned God’s realness, I am often reminded by looking beyond myself, into the heavens, at the earth, at all these things and I feel that they do declare his glory. I also do consider myself, all the complexities about being human, and can only believe, by faith, that something good and loving created me. I understand when that’s not enough for others, especially to save their faith. But nature and humanity—what we are, how we are made–generally pulls me back in and helps me to stand in awe of God.

    Just as it is found to be unbelievable that we were made by some ghost in the sky, I find it the most reasonable explanation. Something and someone far beyond the limited capacity of human intellect. I think and hope that I’ll always believe in the Creator–whether I’m mad at him or deeply in love.

  72. Doubtful:

    Thanks again for responding.

    I guess we’ll just disagree, from the OT and NT, I look at it all with Christ Jesus. The OT as shadows and the NT as the biography/implications of the incarnation/life/crucifixion/resurrection along with the receiving of His Kingdom. I’m a skeptic at heart, and sometimes given to cynicism (and I have my doubts, but faith invites them I think); but somehow I always fall back to Peter’s words “Where else do we go? You have the words of Eternal life”. I’m also a fan of Ecclesiastes 🙂

    It really sucks you were ever trapped in an abusive, toxic, religious atmosphere where it’s all program and theater. I realize that the only thing there is, alone or in fellowship, is to follow the lamb wherever he goes.

    Anyway, thanks for taking any time to respond and read my rambles!

    Cal

  73. Eagle:

    I’ve asked the same question. I always wonder that when Jesus speaks of future false teachers and false prophets if He was weeping. Somehow we forget that Jesus tells us how we judge a false teacher is by His fruit/work and yet Christians (both real and religious addicts) go on squabbling, shouting and whining about little doctrines here and there. Thinking themselves wise, they became fools.

  74. I think and hope that I’ll always believe in the Creator–whether I’m mad at him or deeply in love

    *Love* this!

  75. Jimmy said on Fri, Mar 23 2012 at 01:40 pm

    “Doubtful, you are now your own savior. Don’t screw up brother.”

    Sorry, I have been busy writing today’s post and am just catching up on comments.

    Jimmy has learned well from his idol John Piper who infamously Tweeted:

    “Farewell Rob Bell.”

  76. Jerry and Jimmy —

    Find a way to thaw the ice in your bloodstream.

    Now on to ignoring you.

  77. Loved the Victor Hugo lines at the beginning of this thread!
    Here’s a good corollary:

    “…A robin redbreast in a cage
    Puts all heaven in a rage.
    A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
    Shudders hell through all its regions.
    A dog starved at his master’s gate
    Predicts the ruin of the state…”

    — From The Auguries of Innocence by William Blake —

  78. First of all {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{MM}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}. For some reason, I was wondering if “Doubtful” was you.

    I can so relate to what Trina’s been posting – I can’t just quote one post or even part of one post. You’ve said all that I have thought about for a while now.
    And Bridget – your 2:00 PM post is excellent – I totally agree.
    Moniker, this is just SO GOOD & freeing:

    Jesus said to the Jewish religious leaders: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) Even Jesus made the distinction between the Bible and Himself. He’s saying, “Look, life is in Me, not in the Bible.” If there was no Bible, that wouldn’t have any effect of the existence of God. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit exists apart from the written down book about Him. I think the Bible is a wonderful blessing, but I don’t think it’s essential for life or salvation. The fact that the Bible didn’t get passed down perfectly intact and that some people have used it to abuse other people doesn’t alter the fact that God exists, God loves, and God redeems.

  79. Jerry & Jimmy – do you guys ever REALLY think about how Jesus dealt with people like you (“I thank you, God that *I* am not like *that man*.) Doesn’t it ever scare you that you might be one of those to whom it might be said: “Depart from me. I never knew you.”?

  80. “Our little systems have their day:They have their day and cease to be;They are but broken lights of thee And thou, O Lord, art more than they.”- Tennyson

  81. So I was mulling over this stuff while I was out weeding the garden, and thought I’d throw this out there:

    What if the Bible isn’t so much God’s deliberate written revelation of Himself to man as it is man’s attempt to record his experiences with God and to explain what he has discovered, or what has been revealed to him, about who God is and how He works?

    Also, does anyone recall any other instance of God actually writing something down for man other than when He gave the law on Mount Sinai?

    This post has really set my mental gears to turning. Lots to think about and good fuel for conversation around the dinner table tonight!

  82. Good thinking Trina! It sorta begs the question: Is God bigger than the Bible or no?

    And Doubtful, it took me the better part of a decade to de-program myself from the Calvary Chapel cult. After that, I ran afoul of even the liberal wing of the Lutheran Church (ELCA) when I questioned the doctrines of Original Sin & Penal Substitution.

    At present, I would consider myself a Jeffersonian Deist who believes in the divinity of Jesus. In fact, one of my favorite stories of his divinity, is at the end of John’s Gospel where he’s grilling fish for himself and his friends after his bodily resurrection from the dead.

  83. Interesting thoughts, Moniker. Certainly a different way of looking at it that makes some sense and doesn’t preclude God from using Scripture to speak to us.

    As to your second question, John’s Gospel – Chapter 8 – gives us an account of Jesus doodling in the dust. Oh, and in Daniel there was the hand that wrote on King Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s son)’s wall that his days were numbered and that he’d been found wanting and his kingdom to be given to the Medes and Persians. Hence the saying ‘the writing’s on the wall.’

  84. Well at the risk of being tedious, Doubtful, I would like to understand more clearly if you a) Don’t believe in God at all because you have looked behind the curtain and no longer accept all the stuff that we are told we must believe in the Bible, or b) Have some type of belief in God but want nothing of the system of religion we call Christianity, or C) First decided there is no God and therefore see no use to anything that goes with Him (I think probably a or b ?)

    If its a, I would say that I have known people who believe so totally in a concept like the young earth creationism that I really fear if Jesus Himself told them it was wrong, they would fall apart like a house of cards.As though it is really the creation theory that they worship, not the Creator.

    You seem too analytical for that kind of faith. So, did you once feel that you had a relationship with a real God? If so, did you just cease to believe, or have you just become a sort of skeptical Deist? Would you call yourself an atheist?

    I must say that you show a more “Christlike” attitude toward your critics than most professing Christians would.

    I am interested in your experience and appreciate your honesty.Share when you can.

  85. RE: Moniker on Fri, Mar 23 2012 at 05:25 pm:

    You truly do have mental gears in motion. I have often had inklings of this very thing but could never quite articulate it like you just did. Thanks.

  86. Laura-

    Good questions…let me try to be clearer. I do not believe in the God of the Bible because I am pretty convinced that the Bible is the work of fallible humans and is no different than other holy books of other faiths. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain truth or beauty (it does)-I just don’t see it as the word of God or entirely reliable.

    That said, I hesitate to use the word God in my current belief system, because for most, it means the God of the Bible (hence my hesitation)….but there has to be a life force in the universe. Whether it is a personal being like the God of the Bible or just the masterful collage of the base forces of the universe, I don’t know. I think evolution makes sense and that the evidence supports it pretty well…I guess agnostic is really what I am…how’s that for a rambling answer?

    I guess I’d go for a mix of a & b for my answer.

  87. Jimmy: Perhaps you should get the beam out of your own eye; then, you can get the speck out of others.

  88. mm hmm, enjoying the conversation here. To add to what Moniker, Muff, Trina, Ellie, & others are mixing (as in stirring):

    It is such a wonderful relief to no longer have to pressure myself to believe that the bible is infallible and inerrant and every word inspired by God himself, and know I am still legit.

    The way I see it, God has always been wanting to engage with people, for pleasure, for fun and enjoyment, because he has love and therefore wants to have opportunity to love (action verb) and develop relationship with people where love is exchanged back & forth, and to organize a team together along with him to live life with beauty and wholeness and soundness all together with all creatures and all creation (and learn to mitigate the resistance together).

    (major anthropomorphization! — [correct form of word, just looked it up to make sure])

    At various times and places, people began to notice him (“Hello…. hello….. I already know your name. Let me tell you my name. You’re a valuable person. I’m pretty cool myself. Let’s get to know each other.”). I see the bible as a collection of people’s encounters with God — audible, visual, experiential in one way or another. These encounters were passed down orally. At some point they were written down. Some writings aren’t necessarily encounters with God but thoughts about God. Some of these thoughts are more “inspired” than others (“inspired” meaning glistening with an unusual punch of truth or beauty that somehow is recognizable). Some thoughts are nice but a little ho hum, not all that profound. Some thoughts are very much laden with cultural ideas of the time, and whatever truth they have to them is hard to extract.

    My main thought on all of this is that all this information is many generations away from the original encounter, the original thought (generations as in iterations, copies made from copies made from copies, etc.). Embellishments, editorializing, copy errors.

    So, generally speaking, I read the bible with a view to the forest & not the trees. And God isn’t unavailable nor inaccessible — I find I’m getting to know him quite well, no textbook required.

  89. “So, generally speaking, I read the bible with a view to the forest & not the trees. And God isn’t unavailable nor inaccessible — I find I’m getting to know him quite well, no textbook required.”

    Love this…thank you.

  90. Add this to the mix. Many people even Jews in the 1st Century were illiterate. They knew Torah and the prophets by what the priests told them it said. (Same with Dark Ages if you think about it) And they were taught oral law. Even guys like Peter and John probably only studied until age 14 or so. We know this because Jesus found them working and if they had gone on to study they would not have been working according to how rabbincal study went in the 1st Century. There is a reason Jesus started His ministry at age 30. It followed the pattern for being a rabbi.

    Fast forward to Jesus. Some of them must have been shocked at the things Jesus said concerning the OT and how He not only interpreted it but lived it out. And by what he said to the leading “religious” leaders of the day. Not only that but there was no NT at Pentecost. What took place concerning Christ as Messiah was only “told” to people.

  91. By the way, we cannot understand the Word in full at without knowing the historical context and the Holy Spirit illuminating truth or urging us to dig deeper. That is what makes proof texting so insidious.

  92. After reading TWW for a long time it’s obvious that Jimmy is a bored psycho ( oh and surfer) dude who wants attention. His comments are creating the desired effect. He’s playing mind games with y’all and it’s working. His typical MO: snarky comments that evolve into mean comments to create havoc, then after evreryone responds in anger he lets the dust settle for a short while, then its back to mr. nice guy comments and the cycle starts all over again. He probably does not want to get kicked off this blog, it would ruin all his fun. Bet if everyone ignored him he would eventually have to go elsewhere for attention. Although I have to admit sometimes his stupid stuff can be marginally entertaining.

  93. All hail the ‘God beyond God’. The all encompassing ONE.
    Dr.Paul Tillich came into my life recently.
    For that I’m grateful. May our collective sanity remain intact, puny theologizing notwithstanding.
    Good evening.

  94. Doubtful,

    What blessed me about your testimony is your sensitive heart towards women and the pain you felt upon realizing the ways in which some scriptures have been used in oppressive ways toward God’s daughters. That tender heart has more in common with Jesus’ heart than a lot of powerful professed christians out there…

    Personally, I used to be really concerned about my children marrying someone “godly”. After decades of marriage which included some of the most intense marital heartaches you can imagine with my “godly” husband, I have told them that I take it all back. It’s far more important to marry someone who loves and respects them as an equal than someone who has a christian looking sheepskin.

    If I had my druthers for a marriage partner for my daughter, I’d pick a tender hearted man after your heart over an MD clone in a blink! Bless you!

    Love, Charis

  95. It’s far more important to marry someone who loves and respects them as an equal than someone who has a christian looking sheepskin.

    Indeed.

    I might be married now if I hadn’t felt so pressured to restrict myself to supposed Christians.

    I have a hunch that I’m speaking for lots more women between 35-55 or so who have never married… I’ve known a bunch of others like me and am absolutely mystified as to why we were so ignored.

    But… I am so glad that I didn’t get married to some “nice xtian guy” whose beliefs are just so much window dressing. *Especially* one who’s a complementarian. (As were most men that I met in That Church and elsewhere.)

    Better to be on one’s own than in a bad marriage.

  96. Ellie-

    Sad by your comment. I simply stated God’s WORD. It applies to every one of us. God’s Word is sobering and should be taken literal. I was certainly not trying to be judgmental or cruel in any way. I actually think Jesus would look upon doubtful with the same eyes he looked at Simon Peter with on the day he betrayed his Lord. After all, He paid a great price for doubtful. However, having said that… the Scriptures are very clear about blasphemy. Unfortunately, once atrophy occurs in the heart, there may be no turning back. But in any case, if I stop believing God’s Word, then there are no absolutes and everything becomes relative. So then, I can fabricate whatever belief system I want to fabricate in my mind and be good with it. (I think this is what Jimmy was referring to & doubtful understands this) BTW, I ended my little statement with grace still being available. That should have given you a clue that I was not being arrogant and was being sympathetic.

  97. Doubtful
    Thank you for clarifying. I guess I was just a little mystified by what you had stated regarding your wife. There was never a time, a statement, a conversation, an attitude that forced some concern? That’s what I meant by “no communication”. Listen, I have no apologies for God’s Word. I am sorry for the mistreatment from Church leaders. If you only knew what I have been through in the last 30 years, you’d be blown away. Really. But, at the end of the day, it will be Jesus I will stand before and have to answer to. I realize just how much of a depraved sinner I am and how much I am in desperate need of unmerited favor. Introspection is what keeps me level headed. You should not fear death, Jesus took that sting upon Himself, what you should fear is the consequence of your decision. Warnings are never meant to be mean, there actually an act of love. Please reconsider.

  98. Jerry–

    It’s not that you are being mean. It’s just that you assume much by the way of thinking that your interpretation of Scripture is the correct one. Many of us here would interpret differently than you and you cannot say that we don’t take Gods word seriously. In my study and opinion, the bible should not be taken literally. It was not meant to be followed literally. If that be the case, please tell me the date and time you gave up all your worldly goods to the poor and followed Christ? I’ll wait….

    You think you take Scripture literally but I’m sure I can comb the word real quick and find a bunch of things I can assume rightly that you do NOT do. So don’t tell us you take Scripture literally because that makes you a hypocrite and a liar.

    There are verses that are no more separated by three sentences that most Christians take the former as allegory and the latter as literal without any real understanding other than its what they believe.

    There are true students here of Gods Word, most especially those who have left the faith. You can try and go head to head with an atheist or agnostic or non-believer all you want but in most cases they understand and know scripture far better than you ever will.

    God is beyond the Bible. Belief in the scriptures word doesn’t verify or affirm any absolutes in this world. God himself determines those things and still has compassion and love towards those who struggle with understanding them.

    You can’t speak for God. And you speak so finite abut a matter in which you have not been deemed a judge. Only God can judge the heart and the final story in ones life. You have no vision far enough to see what the outcome will be. You should remain silent on those matters. It is not kind or loving or Christ-like to predict or declare that someone is possibly forever doomed beyond redemption. Redemption and forgiveness, compassion and mercy are far-reaching… Far beyond any limited narrow-minded literal, arguable interpretation of Scripture you may have. Don’t be so quick to think that Christ stands in support of your apologetics…

  99. Jerry—

    Also, this: Listen, I have no apologies for God’s Word. I am sorry for the mistreatment from Church leaders. If you only knew what I have been through in the last 30 years, you’d be blown away. Really. But, at the end of the day, it will be Jesus I will stand before and have to answer to. I realize just how much of a depraved sinner I am and how much I am in desperate need of unmerited favor. Introspection is what keeps me level headed. You should not fear death, Jesus took that sting upon Himself, what you should fear is the consequence of your decision. Warnings are never meant to be mean, there actually an act of love. Please reconsider.

    That is not an apology and it really isn’t compassion. I hope that you wouldn’t tell a child who was abused by their father that hey, even though dad abused me I still love him because I did this right! Or I was able to overcome… Or I made the right decision… Or I persevered…

    In Doubtful’s eyes, dad abused him. Therefore, if dad is all-knowing and merciful, then he understands why doubtful feels the way he does. You’re not really sorry for what this man has experienced at the hands of other believers, because your non-apology seeks to correct him, tell him he’s saved and doomed all in the same sentence, and didn’t choose well as you did in the aftermath. You don’t say these things in love. You say them in pride and self-justification. You say them without understanding the deep groans of the human heart that only the Spirit understands. You continue to answer for God and you fall extremely short of his never ending compassion…

    You cannot fathom when deep cries to deep… You cannot interpret the groans of a spirit… You cannot bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted; the faithless; the feint and weary… Who do you think God is talking about in those verses, Jerry?!? who is he making those promises to? Who is he promising to heal and restore? To create praise on the lips of the mourners? Who is he coming down from his high and holy place to dwell with the contrite and lowly and spirit?

    He’s not only talking about the Christian who was abused but maintained his faith… He’s talking about the lost… Those who have turned away because of a false gospel preached them.

    You make doubtful responsible for the outcome of this situation, his non-belief, while God has made Christ responsible by crucifying Him for it. Let the Lord do the bidding for this mans heart before you seek to continue to condemn him by your broken theology.

  100. For God so loved the world!!!! Not the Christian… But the world. God loves all his creation. Christ came to save the world NOT to condemn…. But we are sealed with a promise… But we have been given everlasting life… Nothing can separate us…

    Apparently, to some, God can’t handle lapses in faith, so the seal gets broken, the everlasting life becomes finite, and behold there is condemnation afterall…. Because God forbid should we believe and get sealed and given everlasting life, then not believe then God chooses to renig on all his promises too… Because its His right ad his good pleasure to break his own promises… And apparently something CAN separate us.. Is God a liar like that?

  101. I get the feeling that those promises rent kept because of much action on our part or our own works… But probably because of the free gift of life given by that guy who chose to hang on a tree for it all… So that we could have it…independent of our wavering hearts and often weary minds…

  102. Trina,
    No problem. Then after Genesis three, it’s all allegorical? You know… what hurt is there to interpret the Bible in a natural, historical, literal, grammatical, contextual, hermeneutic? That spells safe to me.

    Redemption is far reaching, but it becomes null and void if you decide God and His plan for mankind does not exist any more. Why is there a need redemption then?

    You’re right in your assumption. Most on this site are much smarter than me.. I am only self-educated. But I do have love and concern. That is my apologetic. Love does no harm. Challenging and sharpening one another is not unloving. Right? I am dogmatic on the essential fundamental orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith, and as far as I am concerned, if were to give lets say an atheist or an agnostic 50%, and if they end up being right, then I was the fool, however, if I am right in my belief that- God has spoken, and that He has given us enough information to show me my position without Christ, and my need for Christ, along with who Christ is, and what happens if I reject His offer, then by believing my sins are atoned for by the sinless hypostatic, incarnate God-man, I am safe. Then the fool has all eternity to think about his pride, and how declared unto himself..there is no GOD> (sorry for the run-on’s..it’s late)

    And regarding my situation. Yeah, my prayer has always been to be used by God. Through MANY hard testings, I’ve come to understand that that might mean total self denial. Well, I used to make very good money but God gave poverty(by U.S standards).I’ve been forced to trust Him daily for my every provision for quit awhile now. I focus on orphanages as a result. I once enjoyed being a Pastor in a large church movement, but since I take the Word literal, when Jesus said “Go” (matt 28) I went.. and went.. and went again… and became margenalized. Many years of church planting has caused great stress upon my family and my marriage. I have suffered the loss of so much, but I am strangely very thankful. I have also been persecuted for my faith. Once I had a broom stick shoved down the back of my pants in order to provoke me. One man hated Christ so much he spit in my face as a result of my “sharing and being a constant and non-confrontational example” for Jesus. Oh and Trina, since you’re waiting.. one time, a co-worker (now a converted Christian) was thoughtful enough to make me an 8″ metal crown because of my faith and trust in Jesus, and set it high on a platform for all to see and admire!

    These are just a few of the things that have taken place in my life. Anyways, I do not want to talk about me, nor do I not want to invade anyone’s space here. I know that I am not very welcome, but I do have to say that it has been very enjoyable. I love good conversation…especially with a Grande hot Americano in hand! 🙂 I pray for doubtful. God can handle his question and concerns

  103. Ellie-

    Thanks for the shout out and the hugs…

    Charis-

    I recently was reading a blog from a divorced mom, who finally woke up and divorced her husband to get out from under the abuse. as you can imagine, it’s been a painful journey to read…one of her posts really struck me.

    She has a new man in her life, a man that loves her and is honest, caring, and just sounds like a really great guy. But here’s what confused me and also blew me away…they have chosen to not get married.

    She explained that after being in an abusive marriage, she wants to wake up every day and know that the only reason her man is still with her, is because they love each other and choose to be together…not because they have a legally binding contract, but a bond of love.

    After an abusive marriage, who can blame her for this…your sentiments for your daughter reminded me that above all, love is what is really needed in a relationship.

    I am sorry to hear that you went through heartaches in your marriage.

  104. Jerry-

    It sounds like your family is suffering by your introspection and fervor to be used by God. Does your family see you as a tender loving man that also loves Jesus, or do they see you as a man who is so driven to be used by God, that he is willing to ignore the needs of his immediate family?

    If you are wrong about God(and to be blunt-I think you are), than you have spent the last 30 years alienating and frustrating the most important people you could ever have the chance to love…your wife, children, grandchildren, etc…just so you could feel that you were used by God. You should reconsider, while there is still time.

    Just my two cents, since we’re in “iron sharpening iron” mode….

  105. Dee, My focus on reading your article was here: “I won’t repeat all the abuses that were rife in these churches, as they have been well documented….but it did lead me to a scriptural conundrum”.

    Its been said that you should not let church put you off from being a Christian. It is sad fact that we are hurt within the church environ and sometimes mislead (pastors and Christian friends are ultimately sinners too). May I suggest that your spiritual journey post-conundrum could have gone an entirely different way.

    Cheers.

  106. Somewhere
    I am bit confused. I had one bad church experience. I used that experience to better understand those who have been hurt. Hence, this blog was born. I still believe that some people who have lost their faith, believed in Jesus at one time.
    Also, one of my pastors knew a woman who had been beaten severely as a young child “in the name of Jesus.” Whenever she heard the word Jesus or church, she would begin shaking and crying.Is it her problem?

  107. Jerry
    Warnings can be ill received and one must be given judiciously. I am so glad you know about your own life and that you are so good at introspection. So are other people.In fact, it was introspection that brought doubtful to this point.Do you not think he understands the decision he has made? Do you not think he is well aware of what the Bible says? He has lived it.
    So please show some respect for the life he has led and stop beating a man who has heard it all. Maybe the best thing for you to do is pray. Sometimes less words are better.

  108. Jerry
    You are on our blog. We have made it patently clear that we are Christians. I have no idea what you are talking about half the time. I get it. You have been “persecuted.” However, could some of that have been caused by a lack of sensitivity on your part? Could it be that you think you are loving but you are not? Could it be that you are 100%correct about your interpretation of the Bible and the rest of us are not? Is their a problem with rigid literalism. You betcha and you demonstrate that problem.

    Finally, how does someone living at US poverty standards afford a Grande hot Americano?

  109. Doubtful:

    Thank you for posting your story here.

    I have to say that it makes me sad, too. I hope that you find happiness going forward.

    My prayer would be that you come back to the Christian faith. I say that not to be condescending, but just because that’s really what I hope. I trust that you will understand the sentiment.

    I have had some friends and acquaintances with stories similar to yours.

    What is interesting about your story is the extent to which questions about gender seemed to be the beginning of the unravelling of your faith. I am not sure that I have ever heard that before. Most folks who have questions on that count move on to other churches that have views more to their liking.

    The one common concept, however, is that the questions related to gender caused you to look at the text and that looking at the text raised questions that you could not honestly answer, and that took you to your present circumstance.

    It’s a small world. I probably know the very people at Warner with whom, or for whom, you worked. I think that they are gone from that company now, too.

    I would be interested in hearing exactly what you have embraced (not simply rejected) in terms of belief.

    It does not appear that you believe there is no God (sorry for the double negative). I appears that you believe that there is a God.

    If I were to guess, you have concluded that God has simply not communicated with mankind sufficiently such that we know how to relate to God or how to live.

    People the world over have such different concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, how one should relate to God etc. It’s pretty obvious that everyone is not right.

    I would be shocked if you had abandoned such concepts. Most people have a pretty fixed idea of what they believe is right and wrong, and you clearly have a sense of right and wrong, though I would guess it is primarily informed through a scriptural construct generally.

    I would be interested in hearing how you have processed through that, but you owe me nothing, and it’s fine if you would rather not respond.

    Finally, I think the thing that I found refreshing about your piece is its honesty. I have often wondered how much “belief” out there is masquerading. Your state, in my opinion, if infinitely better than faking belief, or staying in a system because it’s comfortable and provides you with a living.

    Take care.

  110. Paul Burleson always has the best comments.

    No matter how I strain and strive and work on mine, his are always so good.

  111. Anon-

    Thanks for the thoughts…interesting that we might have crossed paths before…I’m running to my son’s High School baseball games today (double header-woo hoo!). So I’ll be offline until tonight…I’ll get back to your question when I’m back online.

  112. Elastigirl,

    Impressive use of the word, anthropomorphization (not checking the spelling. I feel like I’ve met a kindred spirit when I encounter another person that uses that word frequently. Personally, I like the way it rolls off the tongue 🙂

  113. 7 syllables, even. That’s 1 more than onomatopoeia (correct spelling — just double checked on that one, too).

  114. RE: Doubtful on Sat, Mar 24 2012 at 04:28 am:

    You wrote:

    “…If you are wrong about God(and to be blunt-I think you are), than you have spent the last 30 years alienating and frustrating the most important people you could ever have the chance to love…your wife, children, grandchildren, etc…just so you could feel that you were used by God. You should reconsider, while there is still time…”

    You have written about the very thing that I was just going to comment on. During my sojourn with the Calvary Chapel cult I’ve seen many well meaning people give so much of their hearts to Jesus that there’s none left for anybody else. I’m glad I woke up before it was too late. Those people didn’t love me any more than the man in the moon. My family did. They loved me with the real McCoy, not with some brutal ideology concocted from the pages of Scripture.

  115. Trina – What you or I think about Doubtful’s spiritual state is not that important – God’s opinion is what matters. “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:23. Spending eternity without Jesus will be much worse than a few hurt feelings – there is nothing preventing Doubtful from putting his faith in Jesus Christ – the grace of God is a wonderful thing! Blessings!

  116. Somewhat off topic, but hopefully, an encouragement for all those who choose to be genuine and vulnerable on here (especially Doubtful and his willingness to engage in thoughtful conversation)!

    I found some great talks on http://www.ted.com/talks

    Check out the talks by Brene Brown on “The Power of Vulnerability” and “Listening to Shame.”

    Also, Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts.”

    Another thing I teach my kids about people: God made us and said it was very good!! Thanks for the input. I was sick for the last day and a half – blah!

  117. Anon-

    Just wanted to report, my kiddo was winning pitcher this afternoon…there is something magical about watching your own child succeed in life. Sorry…just had to brag on my kid….

    You really asked some great questions…some of them are topics I plan to post about over on my blog, but let me give it a go on a few.

    First off, I totally understand your sentiment. It’s exactly what I hoped and prayed for when I interacted with former Christians. And yes, the whole gender issue was the true catalyst for digging into the history of the church and the scriptures (canon).

    As for the Warner folks, I totally miss ’em and the fun we had working together…they were genuinely good people. I still have some contact from time to time.

    As for what I have embraced, well, I don’t know how to label it. But let me try to describe it:

    I do not currently believe in a personal God, like the one of the Bible. Since I don’t find the scriptures to be credible, I have no other firm evidence for a personal God. I do believe in truth and that morality is when one seeks consent and approval, before acting in a way that affects others. In other words, we remember our actions have consequences beyond ourselves.

    But I believe that our sense of right and wrong is culturally based and biased. The common thread, is that humans are creatures of community. I do believe in the truth of community. It allows us to survive and thrive as groups, as well as individuals.

    Isn’t this why so many of us got sucked into cults or abusive relationships? We wanted to be wanted, and we wanted to know that our efforts were helpful to others… We seem to be wired for each other.

    Finally, you are right that my sense of right and wrong are primarily informed by the Bible. It’s why I chose to call my blog the Christianagnostic…I was trying to acknowledge that my culture and worldview has been primarily Christian. But I no longer limit myself to the Bible, and in fact think many Biblical concepts pose danger if they are taken at face value.

    Thanks again for the questions….

  118. Muff-

    I had a lot of contact with all the big Calvary Chapels when I used to sell to their church bookstores. They were some of the nicest folks, but so many of them were pushed down and burned out….it was hard at times to see the stress they could be under…I’m glad to hear your family was there for you.

    I even got to spend some time with the director of the Lonnie Frisbee Documentary….talk about way more than I ever wanted to know about CC.

  119. “I simply could not continue to believe in the testimony of Scripture, given the evidence…”

    Yo MusicMan,

    Thankz fer da yearz of blog comentz!

    Take five bro, Da pizza’s on me!

    Have fun!

    Sopy ;~)
    ___
    Sheryl Crow – “All I Wanna Do”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oG02lbgrcqI&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    George Benson – “Take Five”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0KOzrMUt10&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    Comic relief: “Who’s on first?”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sShMA85pv8M&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  120. Sopy,

    Thanks for sharing the “Who’s on first?” clip. It immediately brought Rainman (Dustin Hoffman) to mind.

  121. Doubtful,

    It took a lot of courage and honesty to write this.

    It makes me think about the 1 John 4:20 – If anyone says he loves God and hates his brother, then he is a liar. You’ve interacted with many of these types of liars over the years, I’m sure. It’s easy to “love” someone you don’t have to put yourself out for. The way God wants us to serve him is by loving even our enemies and the least of these. How much more should we love and care for those we are walking beside as friends and fellow Christians? Instead, people are hurtful. selfish, and self-righteous. This, to me, is a no brainer, but sadly, most people do not recognize it. Who wants to be part of THAT faith? Not me.

    The greatest of these is love. Greater than even faith and hope. It sounds like your priorities are in the right order.

    I’ve always been impressed by your kindness and honesty in relating to others, and am even more impressed now.

    Peace to you, MM.

  122. Doubtful:

    Thanks for the response. I understand what you are saying.

    Congrats on your child’s success. It is fun to see that.

    Good luck to you.

  123. Doubtful, Trina, Moniker, et al.,

    One thing I’ve learned on this thread is that not all refugees from evangelicalism or church in general believe the same things.

  124. Charis said “Personally, I used to be really concerned about my children marrying someone “godly”. After decades of marriage which included some of the most intense marital heartaches you can imagine with my “godly” husband, I have told them that I take it all back. It’s far more important to marry someone who loves and respects them as an equal than someone who has a christian looking sheepskin.”

    I say, Yes and Amen, sister!

    Now that I’ve been out of SGM for a little while and starting to see things more clearly, I realize how blessed I’ve been to have a husband who isn’t so “godly”. Not that he doesn’t love Jesus, because he does and he has since before I met him. I knew that he was God’s choice for me, and I always loved him (and liked him, too) but, as time went on, I would find myself being critical and discontented in my heart because he didn’t seem to meet up to the standards of “godliness” that they always taught about at church.

    The biggest flaw that I thought he had – believe it or not – was that he didn’t correct me enough! Godly husbands, you see, were supposed to lead their wives and “serve” them by pointing out their sins on a regular basis. We would have these small couples group meetings and other occasions when we (husband and wife) were supposed to tell each other what strengths and weaknesses we saw in each other. My husband would encourage me with things I was doing well, but then when asked what areas I needed to improve in, he would almost always answer, “I can’t really think of anything.” And I would be frustrated because he wasn’t coming up with something to correct me on! I equated that to a lack of spirituality or something. Isn’t that crazy? Here he was, just loving me, and I was dissatisfied.

    We are open and honest with each other. We do have conflicts sometimes but we work them out, and he does let me know if he thinks I’m wrong about something, but he doesn’t go fishing for sins in my life. He loves me like Jesus loves the Church, and I am a blessed woman!

  125. Ellie UNITED STATES on Fri, Mar 23 2012 at 05:01 pm

    ‘First of all {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{MM}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}. For some reason, I was wondering if “Doubtful” was you.’

    No I am not “Doubtful” 🙂

  126. Oh, MM – I think she meant “Musicman.” I did the same thing.
    I ought to have said, “Peace to you, Doubtful”

    Sorry for the confusion!

  127. Doubtful,

    Thank you for telling your story and for being gracious to answer commenters’ questions. I have struggled with some of the same questions and thoughts you shared. My best to you always!

  128. Thanks Wendy….

    Mommy2Boo-Thanks for your kind words….I was just telling my now 6’3″ son that you used to babysit him when he was only a squirt. peace to you too…

    Sopwith…thanks for the pizza…we’ve been sitting here hoping Baylor might mount a comeback, but it’s not looking good.

  129. Wanda
    Our mutual friend, me, had a suggestion. he said that Driscoll has no more authority to punish people who were not members than we do. So, he suggested we start excommunicating some folks we think are difficult, like MD.

    So, I am developing a new service. Wartburg Watch goes into the “protect the sheep” business. If anyone gets thrown out of a church for such things as the “sin of questioning” we make them an official member of Wartburg. We then can make them members in good standing and then offer to write letters of recommendation to their new churches. In fact, we could offer to make phone calls on their behalf to their new pastors!

    Then, we could also offer to come alongside our “members” if they are called into disciplinary sessions with their old churches. Thy would only have to help us with the plane fares. I am willing to sleep in basements or on couches.Can you imagine the fear and trembling if Dee and Deb showed up for a church disciplinary hearing?

  130. MM,

    I thought you were Musicman (aka Doubtful) too! Ellie and I communicated with him over at SGM Survivors and SGM Refuge when his moniker was “Musicman” (MM for short).

    Thanks for clarifying! 🙂

  131. I’m confused,, in the post above, It said you were Musicman…. (whose comments I was so encouraged by over these last couple of years, btw)

    In the post above you said: “This is kind of my coming out to the Christian blog community….let me explain. A few years ago I began blogging over at SGM Survivors under the handle of Musicman. You can read my story at this link.”

    But you’re not MM?? sigh…..still confused

  132. Confused,

    We have a new commenter who goes by the moniker “MM”. I was confused as well, but MM and doubtful have different IP addresses, so they are not the same individual.

  133. “Then, we could also offer to come alongside our “members” if they are called into disciplinary sessions with their old churches.”

    Now you are talking. Don’t forget Arce’s letter!

  134. Musicman: Kan tuck eee…back to da Big Easy, lickin’ dayz chopz. Izn’t  it amazin’ what maintain’in a ten point lead will do fer ya?!?

    Dat reminz me of a story:

    Jesus: ‘Heaven?’

    Sopy: ‘hmmm…’

    Sopy: ‘I surez am not walkin home.’ nope. nada. zip. zilch.
     
    Jesuz: ‘den get on da bus n’ leaves the drivin’ ta us!’

    Sopy: ‘fair enough’ sure thing! ‘how much?’

    Jesuz: ‘ Ma Dadz got ya covered, son…’

    Sopy: ‘Way Cool!’

    Sopy: hey, Jez, ya gotz room fer dis here monkey’ strapped ta ma back?

    Jesuz: ‘Naaaaaa! ditch da vermin, k?’

    Sopy: ‘Jez, ya wanna lend me a hand?’

    Jesuz: ‘Sure, er… done.  Howz dat?  feelz bedda?’

    Sopy: ‘Yeah, I was sure wonderin’ how Ize was gonna loose dat thing?!?’

    Jesuz:  ‘No problemo, juz had to ask, huh?’

    Sopy: yeah…feels bed’da alls ready… Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Sopy: Zzzzzzzz… dreamin’…

    …Jesuz sayz to da twelve, I sayz no man can comez ta me, exceptin’ it be given unto him of my Father. 

    (hmmmm…from dat time many of his disciples hit da road, and would hang no mo wit Jesuz…)

    …Jesuz: (unto the remaining twelve) ‘You guz gonna split too?’

    …Pete: ‘Wherz we’ze gonna go? Youz got the only game in town (eternal life).’

    *
    97x…bammm the future of rock n’ roll…

    (grin)

    hahahahahahaha

    Sopy ;~)
    ___
    Comic relief: Rainman – “I’m definitely not wearing my underwear…”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if8dDNhaea0&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    Blues Image – “Ride Captain Ride” 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3Tj8dsRdxk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  135. Sorry about the confusion everyone… I haven’t followed SGM Survivors or SGM Refuge so I didn’t realise MM was used there 🙁

  136. Hi Doubtful,

    Really interesting to read your thoughts. I love people who can share from the heart. Every single person in the world has to think about big questions and come to answers that make sense to them.

    I have thought a lot about the institutional church and as to why it can harm people and actually do the reverse of what it is supposed to be doing. I have observed many ‘Christians’ doing all sorts of things in the name of their faith which to me have not always been helpful.

    Where I have come to in my journey is this – If I stopped being a Christian would Christ stop being Christ? I cannot get past that question. I can change, but can He?

    I am nearly 60 and have thought about this all my life. I was raised in a Christian family but spent a lot of time away from faith.

    I have decided based on the best evidence that I have that Jesus is the Son of God and no matter what other people do, I will continue to follow Him. I had to decide this. When I settled this with Him it was as if an enormous weight was lifted off me. I’m free, but it is not because of me, it is because of Him.

    On twitter I am @JesusIsTheFocus and my life mission is now to simply tweet about Him. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe that He does, and that is good enough. He will build His church in spite of ‘Christians’.

    All the best with your journey. I will pray for you. I beleive that if Jesus revealed Himself to such an outcast as me, He can reveal Himself to anyone.

    Ken

  137. It’s okay, MM…now that we all know,we can keep it straight. Sometimes, Musicman would sign “MM”, but his name at the top always said Musicman. Yours is MM, and now Musicman goes by doubtful, so… Um, yeah. It’s a little confusing. 🙂 But we can do it! No worries!

  138. MusicMan,

    “I can not (for the life of me) believe that you are not in there somewhere”…   RainMan.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if8dDNhaea0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    …”The day the music died?” Don McLean, American Pie

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sisMs9A2EhQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    One must feed one’s spirit upon the water that only the Spirit of God can provide. All other sources are secondary. Even as there is no life apart from the living God, there is no light apart from Jesus. Not unlike gravity, and the laws of physics, that is just the way it is. He is the true source of all light, in that He is that light. Apart from Jesus, there is no light-only darkness. These are God’s words not mine. I holy concur with their findings.

    You are more that welcome to grope in the ‘dark’, if you wish…it is your prerogative, and you are entitled to it.

    However, I have a flashlight here if you need it. Take mine.

    When suffering this type of malaise, ones mission, should they choose to ‘accept’ it, is to find a ‘clear’ source upon which to nourish their spirit. I don’t think anyone will find that apart from God’s Word, but kind folk are welcome to try. 

    Be creative.

    Failure in the attempt will result in atrophy of the human spirit.  A condition prevalent in American society today.

    *
    Faith is not a requirement to post comments this web blog, so please continue to share, if and when you are able.

    My canteen is full, you are welcome to it. I have plenty O’ ta spare… (grin)

    hahahahahahahaha

    Sopy ;~)
    __
    …by streams of living water
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sz-1uks5UrY&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    Sven Weisemann – Streams Of Living Water
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YguM9iC7-AI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  139. Hi Mommy2boo and Deb!

    Thank you – I will stick with MM then…. My daughter gave me a nickname and shortens it to MM when messaging me 🙂

  140. R u beating da Air?

    HowDee YaAll,

    As in boxing, for example, one is apt to  “buffet the air” again and again as long as they have not learned to know the secret that any life apart from His life, is no life.

    What?

    In the Christian life our relation is to a Person, not to a doctrine. Christ left us a solid example. We may be led astray by doctrines, and we may grow extremely weary of them, but growing weary of looking up to the (C)hrist and walking in His footsteps, is another story.  How blessed this ‘focus’ is for us, especially in a time when so many conflicting voices are call’in  sayin’:  “Here is our Card-Board-(c)hrist!” , He is here”…Follow (h)im. 

    Taken a dump is one thing -dumpin’ (C)hrist is another…

    …beating da air? hmmm…

    A boxer might be said to beat the air when practicing without an adversary. This was called σκιαμαχία shadow-fighting. Or they might purposely strike into the air in order to spare his adversary; or the adversary might evade their blow, and thus cause them to spend their strength on the air. The two latter may well be combined in Paul’s scripture metaphor: (Paul strikes straight and does not spare) “Therefore I do not run like a man-running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man who beats the air.”

    Compare that to Virgil, in the description of a boxing-match: “Entellus, rising to the work, his right hand now doth show upreared, but he, the nimble one, foresaw the falling blow Above him, and his body swift writhed skew-wise from the fall. Entellus spends his stroke on air.” “Aeneid,” v., 443. Morris’ Translation.

    “Many a ‘grand’ effort is made by Christians, only later to be recognized as merely beating the air. The energy has been expended for absolutely nothing…

    Is this a clear demonstration of a simple but profound lack of wisdom, skill, perseverance, or focus?

    …go figure

    *
    further more…

    “For I satisfy the weary ones, and refresh everyone who languishes.” -Jeremiah 31:25 

    Where is the disconnect?

    Is there is a failure of plan?

    Is there is a mistake in regards to what is to be done or what should be done? 

    Invariably, there is often, among Christians, very little “aim” or object; hence no “plan;” and the efforts become simply wasted, scattered, or inefficient; leaving many an individual to question -that they may have  spent their ministry or their (c)hristian course mainly, or entirely, “in beating the air.” 

    One does well to so run, not uncertainly – but looking straight to the goal; Running straight toward it; casting away every weight, ever  encumbrance-  regard not anything that stands in the way. Fighting not as one that beats the air – for this is a proverbial expression for an individual missing their blow, and spending one’s strength, on empty air. 

    …be as a prize fighter who puts a skillful aim into their ‘focused’ blows.

    Dinggggggg! (isn’t dat da bell?)  

    …no bloody noses now! -grin-

    hahahahahahahaha

    Sopy ;~)
    ___
    J. Cole – “The Warm Up”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di0DkvTZB0E&feature=youtube_gdata_player
     Mercy Me – “In you”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-86VTOuZWQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  141. Now this is gonna be hard for me, I’ve “known” MusicMan as MM for 4 1/2 years. I didn’t even know there was another MM. Guess I’m gonna have to type MusicMan out now. 🙂

  142. Ellie –

    Musicman is known as Doubtful on this blog. Might be best to refer to him as that here at WWT. I know it’s challenging for those of us who know him by another name. I just look at is as a way to plump up those shriveling brain cells of mine 🙂

  143. So I just proved my point – should be “TWW” not “WWT.” Feel free to have a laugh at my expense (eye roll)!

  144. I’ve lurked quite awhile and have read lots. I’ve thought about this post for days….

    I read/hear/agree with Ken Miller’s post.

    After more than 12 years overseas (as missionaries)….living outside the American “Christian” bubble, I have had more doubts than at anytime in my life.
    “Why do I believe what I think I believe?”
    “Why am I living over here?”
    “Is western style church really the best/only/right way to do things?”

    Suffice it to say that if we returned to America tomorrow, we would most likely not join a traditional church, nor a contemporary, nor any kind of church outside what we see practiced in the New Testament. It’s the way we’ve lived and related to our folks in Asia for the last upteen years….and it’s been the most encouraging.

    I still struggle with questions; there is an ambiguity that has to be lived with in following Christ, b/c there are so many unanswered questions.

    However, after seeing what I’ve seen and heard over the years (evil spirits healing people; medically documented before and after tests/MRI’s etc, fortune telling that’s true/happens) HOW can I deny there is a God when I see the evil present and active all around me?

    This same evil is all over America, in a different form. Apathy; b/c after all….materially there is very little suffering in America compared to most of the world. What need of evil spirits when materialism abounds? Why do we need a God when we have it all.

    How can I doubt when I’ve seen again and again how my family has been protected, diseases diagnosed quickly, safe travels and lots of stories about it….over many remote places….?

    So, even today, when I find myself confronted with doubts…..I remember what I’ve seen and experienced.

    Throw out the western style church, get rid of “this is how it has to be done”, throw out young earth, old earth, etc, but don’t throw the baby (God) out with the bath water. He is not all those things.

    I’ll pr for you doubtful. It makes my heart sad to see what conclusion you’ve reached….I pray that you’ll be able to see the Truth through all the garbage.

    Blessings to you,
    Jenn

  145. Jenn-

    Thanks for your thoughts…I understand what you’re saying about evil spirits. I used to spend some time with missionaries, and reading the likes of C. Peter Wagner, Charles Kraft, and others that spoke about the worldview differences they found in their missions work. Especially concerning evil spirits…

    I guess my question is this….why does God only do these things in the remote places? Why not for all to see, so that there is no doubt?

    I’m glad your family is well – but I have friends who are missionaries and they had a baby die? I worked with another whose sister was electrocuted while on the mission field? I had a roommate whose best friend committed suicide while they were living at a missionary base – he was then told it would be wrong to talk about the suicide and was not allowed to grieve his friend….it really messed him up.

    I just don’t see it, I guess…couldn’t God have done something for these families?

    Not trying to argue, just my current thinking…

    Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers.

  146. Jenn
    Thank you for you interesting and heartfelt comment. I am interested in this statement. “Suffice it to say that if we returned to America tomorrow, we would most likely not join a traditional church, nor a contemporary, nor any kind of church outside what we see practiced in the New Testament” Could you please define this?

  147. doubtful,
    I hear you. As of this morning (here; were 12 or 13 hours ahead of you) a friend of ours was taken to a local (3rd world) hospital. It’s suspected she had a stroke. Today had been a scramble for so many folks. But you know…none in that family or us helping would want to be walking through this without His peace and knowing that His hand is in it all….why is this happening? I don’t know. Again….all the ambiguity….

    dee,
    I think, after years of such close fellowship with our local friends and expat friends in house churches….we’ve realized what we’ve missed in our growing up years in the States: too many programs, too easy to get lost in the crowd, too easy to hide and not let yourself be known.
    Too often, in the times we’ve been back in the States, we’ve felt so out of it; everyone is too busy to slow down and be friends, too busy to share their life with you, etc.

    Sometimes we think about “what if we retire one day”….maybe we will, maybe we won’t. But we think we’d really like to live outside the Bible Belt and just “be” a light and live in community with others and be church…meet people where they are, love them, and hopefully see them come to follow after God….not all the stuff it seems the Western Church has made him to be (programs, do’s and don’ts, etc)….but to truly know and love Him.

    I hope that makes it a little clearer.

    Please don’t misunderstand me. We love our home group in the States and we have close relationship with several other groups that help in our work. It’s just that for us personally….we have seen/experienced church/body life in a way that is truly real and without superficiality here. Yes, there are conflicts and disagreements…..but I tell you, when you are committed to Christ….you work it out. For us, house church is a good fit.
    For others, it may be a larger body….that’s okay.

    Blessings,
    Jenn

  148. mr. doubtful.. Eastern Orthodoxy has dealt with spiritual transformation for a long time. They understand the stages of faith, from early cataphatic triumphalism, to apophatic maturing. Most Western religion remains stuck in the cataphatic: defining God and faith via “win-lose” logic and propositional argument. The Orthodox see spiritual maturing as an apophatic stripping away of religious identity and cherished ideas we had assumed were “of God.” They recognize that we rarely see Jesus how he is, but how we are.

    I don’t think you’ve lost faith at all. I think you’ve stepped into a new maturity, questioning everything, letting go of religious baggage. Some of the best traditions have wrestled with this (Eckhart, Chrysostum, Aquinas, etc. etc.). You are not alone.

    At the other end, I’m told, we look back at our journey and see that perhaps 98% of what we once held sacred was a product of religious culture and tribal politics. What remains? Someone asked Jesus that same question: what’s at the center? If everything unessential was stripped away, what would remain? I think Christ’s answer reveals that he didn’t come to create a new religion but to free us from the trappings of religion and religious identity.

    Most people do not venture far from their religious comfort zone, and most religious organization is structured to keep it that way. I’m encouraged that you’ve transcended the matrix, and hopeful that your will to love will increase many fold.

  149. John L
    What an interesting explanation about the beliefs of Eastern Orthodoxy. My dad was non-practicing Russian orthodox. Well, I shouldn’t say non-practicing. He attended every festival possible! Those pierogis were the best!

    I, too, went through a time of intense questioning which brought me to where I am now. I see God more clearly by understanding how big He is. I hold to the creeds but now reject the latest doctrine du jour. for example, we all made it through the Late Great Planet Earth stage, survived the Moral Majority, rejected the health and wealth gospel and are now into Neo-Calvinism and YE creationism. What will come next?

  150. Jenn
    I am sorry for the trial of your friend.
    I am a great believer in different permutations of the church in terms of style and the living out of the Word. So long as people are believers and studying the Bible, style does not matter. One faith, one body, one church-differing styles.

  151. I too had rejected the God I was raised with, the one I had asked into my heart many times. But I never knew God. Long story short, one day I told God I wanted to know Him. I was 30. Everything changed. I believed. I now happen to believe that the Bible is actually preserved well enough even in our fallible translations that we can understand the heart of God. The problem seems to be that most people don’t trust their own intelligence to study it for themselves. And when I say study I don’t mean just reading it. If I take every verse and chapter in its context I see something totally different from complementarian and predestined to heaven or hell theology. Of course just a little looksy into the original scriptures confirms to me what I see on the surface. For me the scriptures have been proving that what I have been experiencing is true and real. And so far every contradiction that atheists have said is in there, I have easily found explanations. I am so happy about that because without that I guess I might consider that my relationship with Jesus is just a figment of my imagination. But he is as real to me as anything in my life is real. So to deny Jesus would simply be a lie for me.
    I really don’t know how anyone can live the ‘Christian’ life with nothing more than an outward belief that the Bible is God’s word without knowing God personally. God changed me from the inside in one day. I haven’t changed back for 21 years.
    Frankly Doubtful, my opinion is that you are right where you are supposed to be, as long as you are honest about it. If God is real you will find out. But Please if you have a day like I did where you experience what only you could possibly know is God knocking at your heart, say yes. You do have choice. And I don’t care how many times you may have said that same ‘rhetoric’ to someone else when you believed in Christianity. None of what I just wrote is rhetoric to me. Happy truth seeking.

  152. Guys & Gals (I know….),

    Here’s the question – Does one have to use the name (label?) Christian in order to be a true, saved, believer in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit? Can one just simply be a true saved
    believer without taking on the title of Christian? My answer is, and I think has to be, YES! Yes you can be a true saved believer without the title, name or label of Christian.

    I am I wrong here??? Comments???

  153. Further on this concept – can a person be considered a true believer if there is a question regarding scripture?? I belive the Bible, as we have it, to be the word of God and the fact that it has survived as long as it has and the original manuscripts that it came from have survived intact for as long as they have certainly attests to the fact that God has kept things together. I’m not sure I can completely go out on the limb and say that there are errors in scripture but if there are any I would be more inclined towards the physical person (human being) that put pen to paper rather than God being wrong – he’s not and can’t be wrong.

    Other thing mentioned in the article was Paul’s writings – one must remember that they are letters from Paul usually addresed to a specific individual or group of believers (congregation if you will) and many times Paul states that what he is writing is “his take on it” while other times he states clearly that what he is writing is directly from God so one has to consider that aspect of Paul’s writing.

    I’m not ready to throw out scripture by any means – think that would be a foolish thing to do – however I’m not going to discount/throw out a person in terms of being a believer just because they have questions about scripture or even questions about God for that matter. Legit questions are not necessarily indication of a persons salvation one way or the other.

  154. The Guy
    Glad to hear from you,BTW. Still am planning to post your comments on overhearing conversations in a laundromat.

    No one says you have to say anything when you are saved. However, there are lots of people out there who believe they are saved but not by Christ. That is certainly their right and privilege. However, it can cause confusion.

    I tend not use the word “saved.” Instead I usually tell people that I am a Christian. If I know that might shut down communication, I will say I have a deep faith or that I am very religious. That usually prompts questions on the part of the other person. My goal, always, is to open the door to conversation. It is my desire that these folks I meet will find what I say intriguing, not off-putting. And usually, it works.

    It’s kind of like what to say when I am asked what I do. Sometimes I say I blog or edit a blog. Then people usually ask about what. So I then say about issues of faith that deeply concern me or I say i write about churches that have hurt people.The latter usually gets them going.

  155. The Guy from Knoxville asked: “Further on this concept – can a person be considered a true believer if there is a question regarding scripture??”

    Consider that the first century church didn’t have the scriptures as we now know it, and they were true believers, weren’t they? The apostles went to the Gentiles and preached the gospel, people responded and were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then after a short time the apostles left the new church to preach in other cities. The churches thrived and grew without the benefit of the Bible. How is it possible? Because Jesus Himself dwelt in and among them.

  156. Dee,

    The questions in the first response were not ment in a negative way as such but with the thought that just because one doesn’t use the name Christian does not make them an unbeliever and is not an indicator that they never were a believer to begin with. It was a come back to those who split hairs so much that a decision to not use Christian is equal to not ever having been a believer to begin with and while that could certainly be true in that sense I do not think it’s the case in every situation. One can most certianly be a true beliver/follower of Christ and not use the name/title Christian – that’s what I was getting at.

    I understand on the word saved/salvation – only thing that came to mind at that moment and you are right on the use of the words since the day in which we live many believe salvation is attained by various ways other than a realtionship with Christ and in that sense saved/salvation can mean many things to many people.

    Did you get the email I sent you and Deb yesterday about Lifeway survey/poll? I thought it was interesting if not rather funny in a way.

  157. Moniker,

    Yes you are right – question is more directed at those today (our day) that automatically religate a person to the status of having never been a beliver to begin with if they have legit questions about scripture or God. It’s true the early church didn’t have a book that had scripture as we have it though old testament was available but ususally on scrolls insted of a book.

    Christ being among them as you said was how things happened and one of the reasons that miracles and wonderous works of God took place – these served to make God known and draw people to him as believers/followers and they were given the Holy Spirit – God’s earnest, God’s seal if you will.

  158. So I’m wondering why it’s any different now. If people could be believers back then without the Bible, why would we make a big issue by of it now and doubt someone’s salvation because they have questions about something that didn’t even exist back then? And we don’t have any problem believing that those people were believers. Just sayin’. It’s illogical.

  159. Moniker,

    The issue is that we have a segment of folks in the church these days that assume that anyone who has questions about scripture, about God etc are no longer Christian or have never been a Christian to start with. This all comes down to people having legit questions and concerns about things in their walk and people denigrating and castigating them for having “such questions” to begin with. In other words, if you’re a real believer then you won’t have “such questions” (whatever they may be) to begin with. Issue I have is that the conclusions that these folks reach, though well intentioned in some cases, are just not true in every situation. I’m a believer and I have “issues” and “questions” from time to time but does that make me an unbeliever? Some in the church think so – I know better….. you do too. Besides, this discussion wasn’t meant to be about things in the early church…. we’re talking present day.

    I’ll give you one example of a present day situation that gets and has gotten much ink in the headlines in church/christian circles – the issue of Young Earth Creationism (YEC) – you have folks in the church running around telling others (in and out of the church) that anyone that does not believe in YEC, literal six 24 hour day creation, earth being 6,000-10,000 years old etc can’t possibly be a true believer – incapable of becoming one either and if they were and question this now they are no longer considered a believer. These are questions about scripture and about God – failure of a person to accept this is treated as a salvation (sorry dee – can’t do better here) issue… that it determines whether a person is a true believer or not. There’s no way that’s true. I believe in creation as stated in Genesis btw but there are some who question it (scripture here) and are tossed aside as unredeemable by a number in the church these days. It’s this kind of thing I’m getting at.

  160. “Here’s the question – Does one have to use the name (label?) Christian in order to be a true, saved, believer in God, in Christ, in the Holy Spirit? Can one just simply be a true saved
    believer without taking on the title of Christian? My answer is, and I think has to be, YES! Yes you can be a true saved believer without the title, name or label of Christian.”

    Wasn’t that name given as an insult by unbelievers? Believers referred to themselves as “The Way”.

    The word “Christian” means everything and nothing these days.

  161. The Guy from Knoxville
    What do you mean you believe in creation as stated in Genesis? I do, and I think it means something different than you.

  162. The Guy
    Ken Ham believes that i am in danger of denying the doctrine of the atonement. Guess what that means…

  163. Folks – think you have totally misunderstood where I’m going with this……….think, think, think! I don’t have issue with the use of Christian for a believer, or folks who have questions about scripture or God or creation…. whatever. All this was about, and I obviously didn’t do a good job explaining my position, is people denegrating/castigating and deeming people who have questions to be non-believers or if a believer and then have issues after the fact they are then said to have never been a believer to begin with – I don’t know how to make it clearer on this.

    As to the creation issue – that was merely an example and what I said about it was that I take Genesis as the way it happened – in other words I’ve no issue with God taking six 24 hour days… he’s more than capable of doing that but whether I believed that or not is not a salvation critical issue! If he took 6,000 of our years to do it (1,000 = 1 day For Example) so what of it – it’s not a salvation critical issue that’s all I was saying. Happen to believe the earth is a little older than 6,000 years which doesn’t affect the time frame that God used for creation – earth may very well have been here before anything was created on it as we know it. Well, too much into things – stop – this is for another time/post.

    Point of all this is (in my responses anyway) is that people, especially in the church, tend to make things salvation critical that are not salvation critical – doesn’t mean that these issues are not important – they are but not salvation critical.

    Sorry Dee for using salvation so much – just don’t know a better way to state it and most here know what I mean anyway for the most part. Ken Ham…… well….. think he fits in what I’ve been saying – we’re totally lost w/o hope if we don’t see it his way which makes my point clearly. Now, I’m done with this unless I’ve made some glaring over-the-top mistake somewhere. I’m not an unbeliever I can assure you of that.

  164. Sorry, one last thing lest someone misunderstand “salvation critical” – by that I mean whatever the issue is it does not determine ones eternal destiny – where you spend eternity. Most all of us here know the gospel and know the “ins and outs” etc with regard to becoming a beliver – a follower of Christ and last I checked my position on creation, end times… whatever does not determine eternal desitny – what one does/dosen’t do with regard to Christ does.

  165. Guy– I think I totally understand your point and agree. Does one have to use the label? Well, on the other side of the same coin, I’d been using the label Christian back to earliest memory (infant-baptized and raised in a liberal church)  but was NOT a true saved believer.  After I WAS saved and began associating with evangelicals, they’d say things like, “this will be your first Christmas as a christian”  and I was perplexed–‘”What?? I’ve always been a christian’ — only I’ve put my trust in Jesus now.”
    In hindsight, I think my primary motive in turning to Jesus was to be saved from hell. Yet I did not believe in any such place, literally, before or for some time after. The “symbolic” hell I could see I was headed for in this life was very real and very, very frightening.  
    BTW … I think Mr Piper might say I was never really saved, because I was not born again “as a Christian hedonist” by desiring God as my pleasure and treasure. (however– indescribable Joy came my way, quite by surprise)       

  166. The Guy

    We’ve been calling these “salvation critical” issues as open handed or close handed issues. We’ve also come to find, if someone believes something to be a close handed issue, it kind of stops any discussion over it. It took us awhile to identify that between banging our heads against the wall after church on Sundays…

  167. More muddle! Ever since I started looking critically at religion as a whole, I’ve always wondered what other “christians” think of the insane number of denominations. I mean, religion is now like a lottery to figure out which sect gets into the ‘Heaven’ club. To retort above comments: the Bible HAS changed over the course of history. Parts of the bible were very obviously repurposed from Roman and Greek mythology, like the story of Sampson = Hercules. Jesus = Dionysus. And the list goes on… There were 81 books at one time, then 64, 24… etc. So people nowadays are really just picking and choosing which of “God’s Words” to read and follow. Most denominations don’t even like each other because of differences between stories, myths, or beliefs. Religion does nothing but separate and brainwash people. Have fun being ignorant.

  168. I skimmed through the comments, but didn’t notice anyone mentioning Peter Rollins, who would be a good person to read when doubling Christianity.

    About Young Earth Creationism, it kind of pisses me off that I used to believe it, because I have a much better understanding of Genesis now than I did as a kid. XD But when you are a kid, and all these Creationists explain the world to you, it can feel pretty good to understand everything and get to know all this awesome stuff barely anyone else does.

    There are several contemporary examples of “seven-day-story-structure” being used to tell stories which happen over lengths of time vastly greater or shorter than seven literal days, both before and after Genesis was written. This is the way the culture often told stories, similar to the way we use acts in plays (“Day One” like “Act One”).

    In addition to this, the story of the creation of man, mirrors the idol making rituals of antiquity. You would not miss these things if you were living when Genesis was written. And so I don’t think you can say that the author didn’t know he was making this comparison. So what was he trying to say? I doubt whatever it had anything to do with the age of our planet.

    I wish more of these people (Ken Ham, Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard) would take context into consideration when teaching and studying the Bible.

    “Who wrote this particular book?”
    “When did he write it?”
    “Which culture was he from?”
    “How did they do things?”
    “Who did he write it for or to?”
    “Why?”

    Context should be like, taught in every church, instead of all this garbage about how rock music is evil, and women should wear bonnets over their Christ like curls in public. You’d have much healthier Christians.

    That said, I am not a Christian anymore. So I fully respect Doubtful, and can relate to his journey. Same deal with those who remain Christians despite doubts. Y’all should check out Peter Rollins and also maybe Brennan Manning and Gerald G. May. Water From a Deep Well by Gerald L. Sittser is awesome, and explains how people have connected with God and interpreted the Scriptures in different ways since Jesus. I’d recommend it too. Gives perspective.

  169. kait
    Thank you for taking the time to comment on our blog. You are most welcome here. You explanation on context was right on. I am often flummoxed by Christians who have no problem ignoring the wearing of the veil for women but go nits if you don’t see Genesis their way.Also, thank you for your honesty.

  170. Can I just give a wholehearted endorsement of anything written by Gerald Sitser…not that I agree with his faith, I don’t. But his writing is so achingly transparent. My favorite of his was his Grace Disguised.

    Thanks Kait for the reminder on his books….

  171. I realize this is an older thread, but I saw that Doubtful reposted the main article of this thread over at his blog (which he linked to when commenting earlier today at Phoenix Preacher).

    It’s really cool to see that the commenters here – for the most part – were kind towards Doubtful, though I’m sure most here disagree with his decision to ‘deconvert’.

    The church is not a safe place for people to express their doubts, much less admit that they have come to a place where they decide they are no longer Christians.

    While I have struggled with periods of doubt in my own life, and have my own issues with the church, I simply cannot consider deconversion or renouncing my faith, even with all of the questions and doubts that have run through my mind. But I’m not going to blast Doubtful, or the many other men and women, who have chosen to go that route.