Why I Doubt Christianity


[This is a personal letter from me to someone I will keep anonymous, posted on my main blog byroniac.blogspot.com and my mirror blog, byroniac.wordpress.com. This email was sent to a private individual before I made my agnosticism publicly known.]
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X,
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Sorry for taking so long in getting back to you. I have been thinking about this for several days, and I kept wanting to wait until I had exactly the right words. If I did that, you would not get a response until sometime Q4 2014 or Q1 2015. Lol. So, here is my best attempt to answer your original question. I want to apologize in advance for writing what I know will be personally very offensive to a Christian, and I have no desire to offend you, but I wanted to be honest (and actually, in that spirit, I need to confess that I wrote most of the next three paragraphs before coming back to this first paragraph and adding this as an apology).
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I would really like to say that I have left the faith for intellectual reasons. I do have intellectual reasons, but they came later. My first reasons have been emotional, and looking back, have been building to a head trying to reach critical mass for a rather long time, several years I think, since about 2005. But the process itself has been very gradual, slower than boiling a frog in a pot. It just seemed to happen over the course of a few months, because six months ago I felt I was a strong Christian theist struggling with a few spiritual doubts as to how God viewed me, and all that related stuff.
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I am really not sure I remember what came first. I think it probably began with a serious spiritual dissatisfaction with God and my life under His providential care (so I believed then). I started getting less and less out of church, so I wondered what I was doing wrong. I tried to justify my feelings by saying, God just didn’t move today. But others would occasionally seem to actually be touched by the Spirit, so I supposed. Then I started wondering if I was praying enough. I prayed more. Then I started wondering, is there unconfessed sin in my life? None that I could think of. I had (and this is deeply personal but probably not surprising at all to you) problems of lust and covetousness (not of money, but of social success and friendships and relationships and such), but these were ongoing confessions in my prayer life, with associated ups and downs but no real deliverance. I was desperately lonely and could not understand the providence of God in my life to allow not only crushing loneliness, unanswered prayers (forgot to mention, a rather big omission that) in various and numerous requests to God, but also the apostasy of near and dear friends who held devoutly to the same religion of Christianity that I held to, and the absence of saving faith in so many family members (again, more unanswered prayers) who were variously Catholic, or nominally religious at best, some not hostile but completely apathetic to religion (something I just for the life of me could not understand, especially with all the wonderful experiences in the Christian faith I had, wonderful relationships inside the church at least, at one-time a very growing and healthy spiritual life, and the like, and how could anyone not want more than the daily grind of a never-ending rat race offered by the world?). I even began doubting my election in the sovereign grace of Christ, having no real proof for it with which I could satisfy myself (and I had been given several times the spiritual tests given by Peter to see how one’s personal spiritual growth lined up with the expectation and assurance of the Scriptures, and probably other passages which I cannot remember right now).
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Finally (and I wish I could pin it on the calendar, for reference’s sake if for nothing else) one day came the fatal thought: what if it is all bogus? That little seed of an idea, much like in the movie Inception, germinated into a juggernaut that at first I could not resist and later had no desire to contain. I bought and began reading atheist books. I learned to doubt the Scriptures, and see real contradictions (sorry, this is my personal view) that I could not resolve intellectually. I began to see other Biblical problems that made plenty of sense intellectually from a theological standpoint, but which I could no longer justify emotionally and ethically. I had for some time been secretly in heart doubting rather strongly anything in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. I could not make myself believe any longer in a global flood. Miracles or not, the operation of such seemed absolutely absurd and the reasons for which have made the Christian God in my view to be a moral monster worse than and less deserving of worship than Hitler. Christianity, according to Calvinism, is one of the most diabolically absurd and hateful systems of religion ever invented by man. To think that God who could save a billion worlds filled with billions of souls in a billion different galaxies decided to save only a small remnant on a single planet in an obscure part of a lesser galaxy, and predestined these elect before time to salvation and them alone, is a horrible decree beyond my personal ability to describe. That hell is an inescapable death camp for the eternal torture of souls created by God solely for His glory in their judgment and damnation, and according to some Calvinistic perspectives, for the enjoyment or at least spiritual enrichment of the saved elect who can perpetually view such a monstrosity of injustice and evil, and glorify God for the same, is absolutely abhorrent to me. If such a God does exist, I would never worship Him, and would gladly rebel and suffer eternally than offer so much as a hint of praise to such a monster. My morality such as it is, imperfect as it is, wrongly exceeds that of the Biblical God, which leads me to believe either He does not exist, or is not correctly identified by the Bible.
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This is getting rather long, so I think I will end it here. I am well aware what Romans 1 says, and can no longer believe it. I fear that and other warnings less and less each day. Perhaps that means my heart is hardened until the full measure of sins gathers for God’s judgment and my own eternal perdition. Perhaps I am actually elect but never yet genuinely saved, because as bad as I am now, I can be no worse now than any other sinner before he or she is found and redeemed by the grace of God. Or perhaps I am elect, saved, and have entered a very dark time spiritually where I acutely feel the absence of the Holy Spirit and the chastisement of God, feel myself hardening in hatred and rebellion from God, and am awaiting some rather severe discipline where God will either strike me dead and take me home to end my spiritual folly, or by His mercy allow me to live but suffer incredible physical and spiritual chastisement before returning to faith. I think this option is less and less likely, because as 1 Cor 12:3 (KJV) says, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” And, it does not bother my heart or my spirit to say that the Bible is false, Jesus was either a liar (intentionally, or by reason of insanity, or sincerely mistaken), lunatic, or simply non-existent, and that God (at least the Christian God) is a lie.
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I think I have covered all the possibilities, and also made my position known. I have no animosity towards Christians, and because I no longer believe in the Christian God, I only feel animosity towards its religious conception of God and the absurdities in Scripture of requirements for the exercise of Christian religion. I am an ordained Southern Baptist minister, but I have not made my views public, and have no desire to preach or minister publicly or otherwise (I am still debating on how to proceed). Hebrews 6 still scares me a little, but I am rapidly losing the capability to even care and feel mostly apathy instead. Perhaps that simply means what is written there is true. More likely, from my personal perspective, it is simply psychological programming to explain apostasy and its usual finality to the faithful in such a way that acquits God or the church of any otherwise necessary blame. Simply put, Jesus Christ is not my Lord and Savior. I do not trust Him or His (supposed) Bible. I have no hope of salvation and I am quickly losing my fear of Hell or any Second Coming (incidentally, full preterism or hyper-preterism as it is called by some is an interesting attempt to defend the many failed prophecies of Christ and the apostles which promised a first-century return best I can tell from Scripture).
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I am not sorry to say that I am happily resigned to be an infidel.
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Hope this helps,
Byron
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P.S. I am very sorry for the offensive nature of what I wrote above, X, as I have no desire to offend or disrespect you in any way, though admittedly I am disrespecting and denying your religion and cannot help doing so if I am honest and going to sincerely answer your question. Please forgive me for any offense. If I were in your shoes, reading this, I would merely think of the tail end of Romans 3:8, “…whose damnation is just.” I would also endeavor not to pray for such a person unless I believed God specifically and unavoidably put such a prayer request on my heart. I used to believe God to be completely sovereign, and that He would work out the details. I’m not important, but I believe apostasy happens every day, and that most in the church, including often pastors themselves, do not really believe any of this, just like I no longer do. I am still the same person I was (according to Calvinism, possibly never regenerated in the first place) and I enjoy the fellowship I have with Christians. I have no desire to be mean or hateful to my Christian friends, or to repeat what I have said to you unless I discover they are open to apostasy and unbelief. I enjoy debating, and I would love to debate Christianity at times, but mostly I’m trying to re-prioritize and just get on with my life and pursue the things I enjoy: computers, reading, secular entertainment and the like.
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Wish you the best!

Genesis 2:19 in the NIV


[This post is from byroniac.blogspot.com which is the primary blog.]
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I ran across another problem in the NIV (1984) recently, at Genesis 2:19, which reads, “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” (//link). The NIV (2010) reads very similarly, “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” (//link). The words that I emphasized in blue are past perfect in English, but I read that the original Hebrew is simply past tense (//link). I am disappointed, though in general I love the translations. I feel that this is an interpretation more than a translation, to prevent the general context from suggesting that Adam was created before the animals. These are great translations, but I think I like the NASB, ESV, and NKJV better.

Why I’m not a Liberal Christian


[Below is a recent email to a friend which I am republishing here with slight modifications for privacy.]

X,

You said something like I need to get back to why I first loved Jesus, not be a Christian for intellectual reasons. I have a hard time understanding that. It’s like you’re telling me, get emotional about Jesus but don’t worry if He’s real or not, or if Christianity makes sense or not. I first became a Christian for an emotional reason, because I felt a need for Jesus. It’s not been until a few years ago that I seriously started investigating my faith and trying to determine how solid the foundation is, and what evidence and reasons I had for being a Christian. So I started challenging my faith by forcing myself to be open-minded and read opposing points of view and listen to criticisms the other side(s) offered. I guess having an open mind started me down the slippery slope in the first place, but it doesn’t help that I had emotional issues with unanswered prayers, inexplicable circumstances in my life in which the context of a sovereign God made sense only by way of faith and mystical thinking, and a realization that my own obscurantism served more as a comforting layer of insulation than a protective coating for truth. It’s not that I don’t want to be a Christian, or that I’m insisting it couldn’t possibly be true. It’s just that I’m trying to resist what my head is telling me after looking at every piece of evidence I can find and reasoning from that instead of “faith-based” assumptions, thoughts that tell me that Christianity even if true is mostly improbable, and I shouldn’t be faulted by God or anyone else for not finding it convincing or feeling obligated for faith without sufficient and convincing evidence (I would consider a personal revelations and/or miracles from God, even if I could not prove them to anyone else, to count as sufficient and convincing evidence also).

This is part of the reason why I do not understand your liberal Christianity, though I like it a lot more than fundamentalism. Simply put, if the Bible contains scientific and historical errors, why trust ANYTHING it has to say? It does not matter if, as you say, the Bible is simply a guide from God for salvation and Christian living, because that is not an acceptable basis for believing in it even as a general guide (you would not treat any other book this way, except perhaps works of fiction or personal opinion pieces, and even then, you would draw upon reasons outside of the text itself for agreement). If the Bible is partially inspired and trustworthy, then which parts? And how do you tell? And if there are no good answers to these questions, then why should the Bible be any more important than any other book, say, for example, some grandmother’s cookbook? I simply need more reasons to believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible than emotional ones, and no, I am not simply trying to reduce everything to an intellectual argument or understanding either. The foundation for most of the faith comes from the miracles and revelation given by God and recorded in the Scriptures. This is why the Bible cannot simply be a guide to salvation or for Christian living, because those same passages about salvation and living for God are directly or indirectly tied to miracles and revelation recorded as Scripture for reference by believers and to witness to unbelievers. The Bible must be more than a collection of good ideas or ways to feel better emotionally about wearing the Christian label. And perhaps it is my fundamentalism that makes me think this way, but how else should I (even could I) think about it?

Well, I wanted to say more, but I hope that explains where my difficulties are. Can you answer these please? I’m not looking for debate, or trying to be argumentative. I just need answers, thanks.

Byron

[Edited for a typo.]

Disappointed in the NIV


Reposted from byroniac.blogspot.com:

Just a quick note. I just finished reading a skeptical (and excellent, in my personal opinion) book, “Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary” by Kenneth Daniels (//link) (sorry, I do not have a page number because I read the Kindle edition and do not know how to determine it). I was alarmed to find that the NIV, which I like, apparently translates Ezekiel 20:25 (//link) incorrectly, compared to the KJV, NASB, and others. The new 2010 NIV has this verse correctly translated, apparently (//link), and I would very much like to get this version in leather-bound. I am disappointed with the 1984 NIV somewhat over this issue, so I will probably focus my efforts on the NASB or ESV, which I prefer over the KJV personally. I’m still happy that the NIV is more popular than the KJV, because even though it’s a good translation, I hate reading in it and from it. Seriously, people, it’s time to move on.

Link #1 to source: http://www.kwdaniels.com/wib/WhyIBelieved.htm#The%20unity%20of%20the%20Bible
Link #2 to source: http://books.google.com/books?id=-Ww3fYhIZ_YC&q=ezekiel+20%3A25#v=snippet&q=ezekiel%2020%3A25&f=false

No Longer a Christian


OK, everyone. I’m no longer Christian, and I’m tired of pretending and sorry for lying. I guess I am agnostic, perhaps Deistic in my thought patterns. I apologize for not telling everyone sooner, especially family, but there were very few people who knew this. Now I wish to make it public. I admire my Christian friends even if I do not share their religion. Best wishes to all, and to everyone a good night I guess.

BaptistWorld and SBCLand


I’ve been a member of the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) since the early 1990’s. I have a fond memory of my Dad, who did not go to church himself, coming to the recognition service at the local Baptist church where I belonged where the church celebrated all of its graduating high school students. That was a long time ago, and I can still remember it like it was almost yesterday. I remember my mom at the high school graduation ceremony itself, and how happy I was to graduate and begin a new phase of my life. I was also very happy to be a Baptist as well, as I felt that of all the Christian denominations out there, Southern Baptist fitted me the best. I felt both happy and comfortable, and believed I truly fit in and always would.

God took all of that away.

I am still trying to figure out the how and the why. My life is vastly different now. My theological beliefs have changed. And though the struggle is sometimes difficult, I am grateful to God for removing hindrances to my personal walk with Christ. Don’t let anyone fool you; pruning is difficult! But I look forward to the blossoms of the flowers that will come in due time.

First, let me state what I am not. I am not an agnostic, or an atheist, or a heretic, or anything of that sort (as if you could not tell from my previous paragraph). My basic beliefs on the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, resurrection from the dead, inerrancy of the Bible, and His certain return in judgment have not changed. My ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) has changed. So has my eschatology (doctrine of the end times and judgment). So has my pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit and spiritual relationship to God). Underneath all of these changes has been the foundational catalyst of a changing soteriology (doctrine of salvation) in how I view God’s salvation of unworthy mankind. To put it simply, I discovered that God really does save people, as He pleases to do so, and their very desires for Him, for His salvation, and prayers for mercy and grace all find themselves rooted in God in whom they originate. Salvation is of the Lord! (Jonah 2:9, partial quote).

A lot of things in my religious thinking have changed. Denominational constructs are primarily mental vanities. They exist only because true believers operate at differing levels and understandings of spiritual maturity, so that disagreements are not only a given, but unavoidable. I do not believe that denominations themselves are inherently wrong, but that without proper care such can be elevated above Christ, as an idol. I believe paper membership to a physical building for a fixed weekly schedule is mainly worthless. The Holy Spirit does not need it, and church secretaries accomplish nothing in the spiritual realm by producing, organizing, and approving of all the required religious paperwork it takes to properly attend to worship in physical buildings dedicated to the ongoing practice of human religion. I do not believe that tithing is mandated for the New Testament New Covenant church. And though I believe the Presbyterian paedobaptism (infant baptism) to be in serious error as opposed to the proper mode of credobaptism (believer’s baptism), I am pleased to count many as brothers and sisters in Christ, whom I honestly count as unintentionally disobedient to the commands of Christ in this regard but cheerfully obedient to His other commands beyond any mere sense of duty. Though I primarily vote Republican, I no longer have the confidence I once did in politics especially in the work of social redemption of our current American culture. Perhaps I still retain too much confidence here, and too little in Christ, and this should be my familiar self-rebuke to rely solely on Christ. So, I am no longer impressed with a paper pedigree to a physical building set aside purely for religious purposes perhaps two (one and a half?) days a week, and I feel neither should you, if you are truly a believer.

Sheep sanctification is far better than goat religion. Christ is our Redeemer, Savior, and Judge. Rather than offering up to Him empty religion, let us take up our cross daily, die to ourselves, and follow Him.

Help me, O God and Savior Jesus Christ!

The Best Way To Talk To (Some) Fundamentalists


(Rant mode activated. Beware. Insincere apologies forthcoming.)

1. Don’t.

Happily, this does not apply to all fundamentalists, just most of them. There are no specific methods to identify in advance who these fundamentalists will be (that I currently can see), other than to engage in conversation first and the scenario just described will usually become obvious. You will probably not need any help in this area, unless you are one already.

2. Don’t always expect any interest on their part, or even the courtesy of a reply.

There are multiple reasons for this. Usually it boils down to the idea that said fundamentalists find themselves entrusted as the sole guardians of truth, which must be defended at all costs, remaining impervious to mere human reasoning and the inherent deception of a secular (to them) point of view. Please understand, the humility of the fundamentalists compels him or her to share the portion of truth entrusted to his or her own care, and when resisted, to patiently give one or two admonitions to repentance before whipping out the trustworthy all-purpose Stamp of Heresy TM. Also understand that such stamping need not occur publicly, but can be accomplished virtually in the fundamentalist’s mind without manifesting any physical evidence of its occurrence.

3. Don’t necessarily expect much engagement with ideas or even the Scriptural texts themselves, beyond the casual copy and paste prooftexting which has proven so popular and effective in terms of expressing majority opinion and reticence to any minority viewpoints. A text without a context is a prooftext, as someone has foolishly said, because prooftexts are self-evident, context is irrelevant, and why do we really need to discuss the text anyway? At these points, I typically try to interject the concept of the sacredness of tradition, without much success but no small amount of personal frustration.

REMEMBER: If you are NOT a Fundamentalist, then my good sir or madam, you are simply MISTAKEN.

God’s House


Please take the time to read this excellent four-part article if you are interested found at Word of His Grace.

http://www.wordofhisgrace.org/godshouse.htm

Also, on an unrelated note, you can find the latest article (Secret Sins) from Free Grace Broadcaster below. I have not read this article yet. However, I can easily endorse this site and its contents so far.

http://www.mountzion.org/fgb.html