My evangelical faith: Death by a thousand cuts

There are thousands of reasons why the Bible is not “The Word of God” and Jesus not the eternal Son of God. Evangelicals and other Christians are not aware of most and the few they may know are easily dismissed as anti-God, anti-miracles secular liberalism. My own evangelical Christian faith died a slow death. It was not a single argument but a series of reasons which resulted in catastrophic faith failure.

My pilgrimage to undercover the truth about who Jesus was (and was not!) began over almost forty years ago. The beginning of the end of my faith started the moment I was saved and accepted Jesus in my heart as my own personal savior, as most evangelicals believe. It was soon after when I realized I knew nothing about the Bible or my faith that I purposed to devote my life to studying the Bible, so I might “know him better.” It was this resolve which drove me to dedicate my life to biblical study.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing… to faith!

There has never been anyone more certain his/her faith was real and beyond dispute than I was. No matter what anybody said, e.i., scientists, philosophers, academics etc… , my personal relationship with God through Jesus was beyond doubt or question. You can’t deny what is real, and an experience is by definition — undeniable.

The validity of one’s personal spiritual or religious or mystical encounter with God is profoundly powerful and self affirming. Think of those who have had alien or ghost encounters. Try telling them it is imaginary. The difference with religions is these are said to be generated by religious writings and similar experiences by innumerable others. Can millions of people all be guilty of fantasying the existence of God?

If you answer, “Yes” to this question, you must also acknowledge this has been the testimony of billions of people over millennia practicing different religions and belief systems which are irreconcilable to each other. In short, they can’t all be absolutely true and contradictory at the same time.

Christians have no difficulty dismissing the religious beliefs of ancient Egypt as delusional or regarding Greek mythology as entertaining literature, but when it comes to Jesus and the Bible, suddenly it is beyond repute. The naïveté in this thinking seems too obvious to mention yet it is how evangelical Christians see themselves. They have a monopoly on truth. But I digress. As a devout evangelical, I would have had no problem accepting this believing all others to have been wrong.

Many conservative evangelicals literally believe the mind they possess can be an enemy to God and truth. Paul’s teaching seems to argue in favor of this. He maintains as fallen creatures and inheritors of Adam’s sin nature, we are incapable of righteousness. Righteousness is a reflection of who God is ergo our depraved condition but us at enmity with God. Let’s look at a few key verses.

5“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8)

 14“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

18Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” [quoting from Job 5:13] ; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile [quoting from Psalms 94:11].” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

These passages are intended as a built in safety or faith guard against inner destructive thoughts or doubt about God or external philosophical attacks on spiritual matters. These and other verses allowed me, a recent Bible school graduate, to meet privately with my (secular) philosophy professor, a man of great distinction in his field, in an attempt to “sway” him to my way of thinking. In hindsight, my confidence was unequalled in brashness and stupidity.

It is an incredible feeling to go through life as an evangelical Christian certain you alone possess all the answers to the mysteries of the life while non believers walk around in spiritual darkness. I remember feeling fearless wherever I went and whomever I met. I was invincible because I was a soldier of Jesus Christ clothed in his spiritual armor against the forces of evil.

10“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17)

This passage may be unknown to many Christians and not relevant to many more. For me, it gave my life unimaginable meaning and endowed me with unspeakable power. Nothing and no one could stand in my way except me.

That last statement sums up the entirety of my Christian experience from beginning to end. Only I could destroy that which I created. I did not matter what friends and family told me or the articles they sent debunking my Christian faith. I laughed it all away. The one thing I could not escape, however, was my own doubts. To these I directed my mind to, as I thought at the time, resolve them and in turn strengthen my faith. I was wrong.

For those who read this and my other articles, I fully understand and appreciate the quest you are on. What I do not understand is where you are on the path of discovery. You may be ready to hear what I have to say, you may not. At least I hope I can plant a seed which will one day bare fruit. And that fruit is illumination.

Our minds are the only thing we have on which to rely.

This statement should be self evident and were it not for religion, it would be beyond question. Our world testifies all around us of the incredible resource our minds our. The scientific, medical and technological achievements we have made as a civilization are breath taking. Conversely, the damage and suffering caused by religions has never been more evident and becomes more so each day. I’m not debating mankind has been equally guilty of abusing technology for his own selfish ends but this is not the fault of science but of mankind’s relentless and arrogant pursuit of power, glory and wealth. And we are paying the price for this hubris and trying to make things right.

My point is simply, if we allow an outside force or influence like the Bible be our ultimate authority at the expense of our own intellect, we are guilty of sacrificing our own ability to judge what is true or false, right or wrong. It is tragic to think we would willingly relinquish our own powers of rationality for that of untested and unverified claims grounded in ancient superstitions.

It is my prayer those mired in a belief welded to an inerrant or infallible Bible exercise their own independence and step away to examine with their own powers of reason the foundation of their faith. The first question one must ask themselves is how they got to this place of faith to begin with. Was it through an honest and objective investigation which led them to it? Or was it through indoctrination and socialization as a child? Was it in an act of desperation or through a crisis experience? Or was it as a healthy and happy adult engaged in a sincere quest for answers? Was it through coercion from one professing to know the Bible? Or was it through independent study using critical analysis devoid of a faith bias?

Leaving a faith that one has invested their lives in and which has provided a great deal of hope, comfort, strength, joy and assurance in return is not easy. It is spiritual suicide. However, if it has all been based an illusion, what are you really losing? Hope even if false, is as beneficial as if it is real. Every lottery ticket is a winner before the draw. Christianity is no different. It is the divine lottery which promises every ticket holder a guaranteed place in heaven. The only catch is, you don’t find out if there is a prize until you die and then it is too late.

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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