Monday, May 29, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
I received a recent email from a lady who has begun to seriously question her faith. She asks many good questions, and brings an interesting perspective to the debate. I share it with you here.
I am a christian who has been struggling with my faith lately. Many of the things mentioned in your site are in some ways similar to what I am going through. First I'd like to say that I have not and will not question the born-again experience that you claim to have had. I know of a few people who were at one time born-again but are no longer. Christians have to come to understand that one can indeed have been on fire for Christ to later no longer believe in what they used to. I think the root of that belief is fear that one can lose their salvation. That is why some believe in the once saved always saved doctrine; which is based on fear. I know of a current pagan who described himself at one time as being a very spiritual christian. So it is indeed
possible to no longer believe.
I started out in a very strict pentecostal church-- no pants, make-up, movies, secular music, etc. I became disillusioned with that group and moved on to another which is much better. What really caused me to begin questioning was not science or the so called pagan influences of christianity (which after personal study, I find to be false), but this whole issue of faith. I just can't take any more of being told to believe for things that aren't going to happen. I'll give you an example: I met a woman whose son was killed in Iraq. She did so much praying for him to come home alive. Unfortunately, he died there. I had a brother who was there twice, and I did not want to "step out on faith", as many christians put it. I'd rather not believe for something and end up disappointed. As it turned out, my brother came back alive. My point is, I had no faith, and I had a great outcome. This woman had faith and her son died.
That isn't the only problem. Just about every woman has a desire to parent. However, I've spoken to many married christian women who have fertility problems. Yet, being a teacher, I see teen girls getting pregnant all the time. I also know of single church going women who have children without being married. Something is wrong with this picture, [quotes Psalm 127:3, "children are an heritage of the LORD"] My point is if children are a reward from God, then why are those who commit fornication rewarded with children while so many who are married do not get such a reward? I thought the wages of sin was death, not a reward. I have also heard about a British study which shows that a woman is more likely to become pregnant by a man who isn't her husband. So if that study is true, a woman is more likely to be rewarded if she commits adultery, another sin. This makes no sense at all. I want to make it clear, that I have not read the study. I have only heard about it on a medical documentary (the Discovery channel).
There is also the issue of tithing. Most churches teach that we will be cursed if we don't tithe. Yet, I have yet to see the windows of heaven open after giving so much to the church (as claimed). I'd have to admit that most people do not know of my feelings. I am known as a good christian woman and others would be shattered to know that I have such questions. I have even had others tell me that they admire my faith and have been led to Christ by my witness. Again, these people do not know that I have been questioning lately. This is only half of my story.
In all honesty, I am not sure where all of this will lead me. I wonder if I simply need a new denomination or a new outlook all together. With that said, I have decided to weigh all of my options. I will study more of the bible "contradictions" as well as other faiths more closely than I have. I even decided to challenge the God of the Bible. If he and his word are all they are claimed to be, it is up to him to prove it. No one should have to spend time debating or proving God. We are only human so it is up to God to prove who he is, not us. My study will lead me one of two ways. Either I'll find that the God of the Bible is a hoax, or my relationship with God will be stronger than ever after my study is over. In fact, all faiths and atheists have to prove their cases. Others may disagree, but I could never align myself with any group without evidence/credibility (whether believers or those who do not believe). Whatever the case, this is something I need to do.
I hope that my email did not bore or confuse you. I just needed to speak about this with someone who will hopefully not be judgmental or harsh.
Thanks for listening.
Yes, it could well be that many refuse to think that a Christian could stop believing, because that would then mean that they too could someday stop believing. If they think that the result of not believing will be horrible torment in hell, then it is hard to bear the thought that they too might someday not believe. So many refuse to think that it can happen.
Many 0f us have found that our observations of the world do not match what faith says it should be. There comes a time when we realize that our observations are not deceiving us, and that faith really does not work as claimed.
It is good that this lady began to study and question. She is on the right track, and can expect an exciting adventure of discovery ahead if she continues this course. I wish her well.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
His questions are shown in bold.
First, you state you were "born again". Would you describe what that meant to you?
When I was a fundamentalist, being born-again meant that I had put my faith in Christ alone for salvation. Before that I had lived with a horrible fear of hell which dominated my life. I was constantly accepting Christ into my heart, begging for forgiveness, confessing my sin and my faith in Christ, etc., but never quite sure if I had done it right. After reading the tract What Must I do to be Saved I determined that faith alone was sufficient, and put my faith in Christ alone. This greatly relieved the fear of hell, for I now believed that I was safe from the torment.
Later, after fundamentalism had failed me and I had spent years in apathy, I had a second experience in which I determined that I needed the help of God, and set out once more to live in fellowship with him in a close relationship with Jesus Christ. I thought that the God of the universe was now with me, guiding me and talking to me on my way.
Second, in light of your answer and in conjunction with your "change of mind", how did that change your concept of being "born again"?I now see the first experience as a natural result of the relief from the immense fear of hell that I had experienced in early life. Having lived with that fear, and then later finding relief, it gave me a tremendous boast in life. I now see that this experience was nothing more than a relief from artificial fears.
The second experience is harder to explain. I was in despair before my "walk with God", and had great hope afterward. I now see that the reason for that hope is because I was committing myself to something, and was working to make a better world. I now think that I could have had the same experience by committing myself to many other views. I tell more about my story here.
Christians have a wide range of views about my experiences. I have had many people express their opinions about my experiences in my past debates. And they can't seem to agree.
Third, you obviously have a reasonable grasp of the Christian worldview. Do you believe that within that view, there is an explanation for your experiences?
Some think my experiences were bogus because the true Christian experience comes from the Catholic church, and I was not there. Others think my fundamentalist experience was the correct one, and that since one cannot lose salvation, I am still saved. Others think my fundamentalist experience would have been correct, but they will tell me I never really believed (even though I know I once sincerely believed). Others would think my fundamentalist experience was bogus, but that my later evangelical experience was real, and that I was therefore a child of God and am still a child of God (but backslidden). Others think my evangelical experience was real, but they think one can lose salvation, so they think I lost mine. Still others think my evangelical experience was an ersatz replica of true evangelical experience, and never valid. And some think that neither the fundamentalist nor the later evangelical experience were valid, but that Christianity is instead about following the Sermon on the Mount, and not about born-again experiences. One Christian even told me I was not "saved" back in my Christian days, but I am now! (see this thread, post 294).
So are one of these Christian views the "coherent and predictive" truth about my experiences? If so, which one?
To see more of the confusion about what is required for heaven, see Requirements for Heaven.