If you’re new to the party, HERE are the previous posts in this series. If you want to skip the history and prefer the twitter version, I’m having an ongoing conversation with a born-again atheist. When I say “born-again atheist” I mean he was a born again Christian, but is now an atheist.
Note: This post is my response to AtypicalAthiest’s two part answer to my question:
“How did you – a self-professed born again Christian – become an atheist?”
(These posts are weeks behind the actual emails we are sending.
In reading over this post again, I can already see something I’m going to have to retract.)
I had to stop reading your reply to my first question for a few minutes because I was completely overwhelmed. I am honored and humbled that you would share this with anybody, much less me, someone you hardly know. I’m not just blowing rainbows.
SERIOUSLY. Honored and humbled.
One of the conditions of this interchange is that I get to be authentic with you, so I believe I have to tell you, in full disclosure, that I am praying for you. I said before that I will never be able to reason someone into a faith in Christ. I honestly believe there is absolutely nothing I can say that will poof you into a Christian, so I’m not even going to try. I know I will not say something brilliant that prompts you to exclaim, “oh my gosh! That’s IT! THAT’S what I needed to hear in order to have faith!” I can’t convert you. I can’t “save” you.
But I believe God can.
So my prayer for you is simple: “Lord, please soften AtypicalAtheist’s heart and open his mind.”
And I’m praying that God will equip me for these conversations.
And I should probably tell you, I pray like a widow. (Luke 18:1-8 – a parable Jesus told)
But back to your testimony. I do want to respond to some things, but I have to show you something first:
The inscription shows my mom gave this to me for Christmas in 1980. I was 16. It was a good first Bible, but it isn’t an authorized translation. It’s not actually a translation at all, it’s a paraphrase. Check out the explanation HERE:
He describes The Living Bible by saying “It leaves out details from the Greek manuscripts and makes up its own details out of thin air. It “reads nice” but it reads wrong.” (One cool thing this guy did was to show the same verse in about 30 different versions.)
I don’t know when, but after a few years of reading The Living Bible, I suddenly SAW the word “paraphrased” and it hit me. Paraphrased? pshhh. I can paraphrase. What does the BIBLE say?
I started collecting translations. The only paraphrase I use these days is The Message, and I view it more as a commentary. You can find many translations online too. My go-to site is http://www.biblegateway.com and for researching original language and some thorough commentaries, I use http://www.blueletterbible.com. For everyday reading, I use ESV (English Standard Version) and for mid-level learning, I have parallel bible (two versions, with verses side by side on the same page) containing the NIV and The Message, but when I want the most literal translation, I go to NASB (New American Standard Bible). When I need even more help, I go to my friend, who has just embarked on a plan to read the Bible this year – in GREEK.
okay, NOW back to your testimony.
You attended a Baptist church and a Nazarene church. In the seventies. That explains a LOT. Heavy doctrinal rules. Conservative. Fundamental. Legalistic. Arrogant, unchecked theocracy running rampant.
Christianity buried so deep in religion,
it’s almost impossible to find.
And I have to admit. I would personally like to smack the crap out of the legalistic, deluded, Christians you were exposed to.
Much evil has been done in the name of God.
And I repeat. I would like to smack the CRAP out of the legalistic, deluded Christians you were exposed to.
Instead, I’ll settle for sending a message to them via the internet, passing back through time:
yo. lean over. so I can smack you on the back of the head. WHAT were you thinking? idiot. How many people have believed you? How many people have rejected God because of your confusing, unbending interpretation of a punishing and unreasonable God?
okay. I’m done. for now.
When I was younger, I found myself bombarded by some of the same conflicting and nonsensical rules and confusing interpretations. How did I handle it? Well, when I was 11 or 12, I told my pastor – in front of a classroom of my peers, that something he said was stupid. Here’s the back story on that one:
Then, I auto-piloted through church until I was fifteen, when I accepted Christ. That’s when I started searching. I seek knowledge. It’s what I do. Because I have issues (that’s another story). But also because I know I’m not all that special. Somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone has gone through whatever it is that I’m going through. And I’m convinced someone wrote about it. I’m usually right. And I can learn from both their discoveries and their mistakes.
When I first became a Christian, I began attending a Southern Baptist church. It was 1979. Southern Baptist. Lots of rules. I wanted to know WHY. I questioned everything I was told. And quickly learned that expressing doubt equated to heretic. So I toned down the questions and sought answers on my own. Since I was a new Christian, I didn’t really know how to do that, and my spiritual grown was sloooowwwww. It was a confusing time. But when I was told something I believed was wrong, I knew this:
it was the people who were getting it wrong.
Because people are flawed. People are subjective. People have issues. They interpret everything through their own filters.
So I sought knowledge. On my own. So I could interpret through my own filters. 🙂
My husband will tell you I have a problem with authority. (I will concede that I failed submission school.) Bottom line? I’m in charge of my own learning, thankyouverymuch. I seek information from every source I can find. I call myself an incurable bibliophile and I love to hear people’s stories. But if someone tells me something that doesn’t sound reasonable, I research it.
I was in my 20s when I started reading books on apologetics. Not because I wanted to be able to defend my faith, but because I wanted answers. It was about that time I purchased Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Volume I. If I was going to depend on the Bible for answers and wisdom, I needed to confirm the Bible was a verified historical resource. I mentioned before that ETDaV was a difficult read, but it provided some of the evidence I was searching for and spurred me to search for more. At this point, I have a stack of books on apologetics, all read because I was seeking answers to my own doubts. I still refer to them. Because I still have questions.
I don’t read much fiction. I like to say that I keep all my fiction books at the library. But I devour non-fiction. I read commentaries and books on theology, because I want – and need – to think outside my own filter. I know my perspective is skewed by my past. I am rarely, if ever, satisfied by my own interpretation of something I learn. Hence the voracious reading. Authors are my favorite conversationalists. My journal and my blog are my favorite therapists and my clearest mirrors. And I talk to people. People who hold similar beliefs and people who believe very differently that I do.
I’ve learned from experience, that when I depend wholly on myself, I find what I’m looking for.
Because when I seek knowledge in a vacuum, sometimes, what I find isn’t truth. Sometimes, what I find is rationalization and support for what I want to believe or do.
I hate it when that happens. It’s not logical. It’s not pragmatic.
That’s one reason I’m willing to read the book you recommended.
Something I find compelling about your history is that you refer often to religion and doctrine, either by stating the actual word religion or through your description of elements of religion and doctrine. I want to think about this a little more, but the gist is this: I don’t see a relationship with Christ evidenced in anything you’ve shared. All that religion and doctrine? You’re going to hear this a lot from me. Are you ready?
Irrelevant. What does all that have to do with CHRIST?
NOT irrelevant to your life. Clearly, your LIFE – your marriage, your parenting, everything – have been significantly impacted by all that (warped) religion and doctrine. When I say irrelevant, I mean that religion and doctrine have nothing to do with a relationship with Christ.
You said you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior. It sounds to me like you accepted Him as your Savior, but your discipleship was so corrupt that your relationship with Christ was wrenched apart before you ever got a chance to experience Him being Lord of your life. Like I said, I need to think on this some more.
I know there’s more in your testimony that I want to respond to, and I haven’t even begun looking up the verses you included in your answer to my question “Why do you view faith in God as unreasonable, illogical and irrational?” But in the meantime, I have a question. To what are you referring when you say God commanded the killing of children? Is that a reference to Elijah’s bald head incident or something else?