Posted in Christian Life & Theology, Stuff No One Talks About

The Bible Does Not Promise Converts

I just read a personal account of someone who was telling of the importance of church in their life. When speaking of their daughters’ stint from church, they said this: “During the time they were out of church, we worried about them, but the Bible had promised that they would return to their faith.” (Emphasis added). That rhetoric rubs me the wrong way for two reasons: 1) That’s not Biblically sound and 2) it’s reminiscent of cult language.

The Bible does not promise that a child will not fall away from its parent’s faith if taught a thing properly and consistently. That ever-quoted verse in Proverbs is not a die-hard, one-size-fits-all kind of saying.

Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

If this verse were an absolute truth, there would be no need for free will or personal choices. Christianity would be naught but a robotic, mechanical faith with no love as a foundational structure. If this Proverb were to be taken literally, then why is there recorded in Scripture the charge to “work out your own faith with fear and trembling”? If this were true, then atheists and agnostics, as related to the Christian faith, would not—could not—exist, as the application of that verse would make it impossible.

Furthermore, beyond the desire for a spiritual legacy to be left for their children, the writer is implying that the maintainer, so to speak, of a child’s faith, and salvation, is solely on the parent; and should that child walk away from the faith of its parents, then the parents have failed, as a result of the child’s spiritual exodus. In addition to bad theology, that is just blantant grounds for emptional manipulation and abuse. Besides, though we do have a part to play in our relationship with Him, it is God who upholds and maintains our salvation.

Having a relationship with God is a personal endeavor. She who seeks God must come boldly to the throne of grace, and she must come alone.

Posted in Christian Life & Theology, Stuff No One Talks About

Thoughts on Job and Anti-Intellectualism in Christianity

I just opened up my Bible for the first time in a long time and it landed in Job. My eyes landed on 35:5 which says, “God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things we cannot comprehend.” That is the essence, the nature of God, wrapped up in one verse. It makes me wonder why no one ever preaches on the latter half of Job? There are so many jewels within this book and all anyone remembers is that Job lost everything, after Satan got permission from God, and that his friends were jerks in the midst of his spiritual existential crisis. That’s not what the book is about…

I don’t believe there’s any other book of Scripture that has such vast, deep, and real intellectual and analytical questions. This is important. This is probably the beginning of intellectualism recorded in the ancient Script. I mean, where else in Scripture do you have rhetoric like: “Can a man be of any use to God? Can even a wise man be of any use to Him? Does it delight the Almighty if you are righteous? Does He profit if you perfect your behavior?” (Job 22:22-23) Those kinds of queries are the things that we should set our minds on, not if the latest Hillsong/Bethel song is theologically right or not.

The Bible is meant to be a guide for living and as a mirror for our souls. I know my soul needs to be cleaned and renewed. “Does it profit God if you perfect your behavior?” This question bothers me, and I have sat here wondering why. I think I know now. This query spits in the face of religion and, to a greater extent, self-reliance. Here’s why: God created us because He wanted us. But though He wants us—make no mistake—He does not need us. So no, it does not profit God if we perfect our behavior. Our good behavior, or lack thereof, does not have any bearing on Him as a person. It only shows Him where our heart is, whether it’s allegiance is to Him or elsewhere.

Posted in Christian Life & Theology, Stuff No One Talks About

I Wish the Prosperity Gospel was Real

I wish the Prosperity Gospel was real. I really do. For those who do not know what that is, it is a false theology/belief system within Christian doctrine that says “God wants—and even promises! —health, wealth, happiness, and whatever my heart desires.” Of course, the ends to the means is on the part of the Christian to “have enough faith” to essentially change God’s mind or move His hand. Basically, in this version of Christianity, God is a genie, just existing to grant our wishes–I mean, reward us with blessings for our strong faith.

Wouldn’t that be nice? To just declare healing for a physical or mental ailment with just a small twist of Isaiah 53:5? Or to demand—because let’s be real, that’s what we’re doing—financial prosperity (i.e good jobs) because “God supplies all my needs” while having a selective memory and choosing to forget that “if a man doesn’t work, he doesn’t eat” (2 Thes. 3:10)? In a world where instant gratification would be the perfect utopia, it makes sense why we long to prostitute the God who makes demands of us.

If the Prosperity Gospel was real, I think we would be worse off because of it. I can’t speak for all Christians, so I’ll speak for me. I know I’d probably be worse off.

I wouldn’t have to struggle with trusting God to provide, or even doubt His goodness because I would know that He would want me to be happy, that that would be His primary concern, and that He would do anything and everything He could to make my happiness a reality. I wouldn’t have to contend with C-PTSD or depression or anxiety because His flesh was ripped and shred 2,000+ years ago; ergo, I could just claim my healing and instantly be made whole, just like the Scripture says (if you just twist it a little, it says that)! However, on the flipside, if something went awry—if something I prayed for didn’t come to pass—then I would be the guilty party for not having enough faith that God would do what I had petitioned Him to do.

In a world where instant gratification would be the perfect utopia, it makes sense why we long to prostitute the God who makes demands of us.

I think, for me, I want the Prosperity Gospel to be true because, if it were, then I am absolved from any real responsibility in my relationship with God. If this doctrine were true, I could, in essence, pimp God out and make Him submit to me. Per the belief system, if all He wants is my happiness, I don’t really have to adhere to His standards or expectations of living holy. And in that, I’d be no different than an agnostic or atheist.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

The Great Divorce

No, this post isn’t a commentary on the story by C.S. Lewis (just getting that out of the way first). This post is altogether something different. For my readers who have been following my journey from the beginning, this may surprise you (or maybe not, I don’t know). For those of you who just stumbled on this page because you were intrigued by the title, you may have questions. Don’t worry. I’m about to answer them for you. The main thing you need to know about me, that I recently discovered myself, is that I’m a fraud.

The Main I’m a Reason a Fraud? Unbelief

The main contributor that made me aware that I am, indeed, a fraud was this: earlier this week, I realized truly that I don’t actually believe God’s truth with my heart, only with my head. I don’t actually believe God loves me. This is the reason why I can write on this blog about the Gospel, Christian faith, and theology and none of it make a difference in my life.

There are several reasons for this but the main reason is that there is a great divorce between my heart and my mind. Almost like a separate state between the two that I can move in and out of at will. This does not a good Christian make. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing and too often am paralyzed by fear in this Christian walk. Fear of not being perfect. Fear of being too honest with people and having them walk away from me. Fear of being controlled by sin…. and the list goes on.

The Irony of Unbelief (When the Heart and Mind Split)

As I have gotten older, I find that it is easier for me to wrestle with God intellectually rather than to get in the mud with Him and just go at it like Jacob and the angel. And I find that I am a hypocrite. I encourage others to be vulnerable with God, to open up their dark closets to let His light illuminate the deep crevices and secrets they hold dear, yet I still have panic attacks sometimes when I pray. I don’t want to be vulnerable, especially not with a Being I can’t experience with my five senses, a God powerful enough to hold the planets in place while simultaneously not letting my body’s respiratory system collapse.

Ironically, the fact that the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 139:12a that “even the darkness is not dark to You” should fill me with hope, but it doesn’t. It fills me with anxiety. Not necessarily because of any one particular sin in my life, but more so because I am deeply and keenly aware of the fact that I don’t deserve His grace and I wish I did. I wish I could somehow, some way, prove myself worthy of His love. In my head, I know that’s stupid and impossible. Intellectually, I know that there’s nothing I can do to earn His love, as it is a gift and freely given, but my heart says otherwise, and the fact that I can’t do anything to tip the scale and make Him love or bless me more frustrates me in my inner being. Hence, the great divorce.

The Mending of The Great Divorce

Earlier this week, on my birthday in fact, I was talking to my professor-friend Paul Copan about some of these issues, along with more pressing matters, and he offered me not just a listening ear, but wisdom from the great theologian Martin Luther. I told Paul that I felt guilty, confused, fearful and frustrated because I had been praying for months for God to move on my behalf, to see some resemblance of light in the midst of dark shadows, and He remained silent. I went on further to describe to him why I felt unworthy to come before God and his throne of grace. Paul paused for a moment and, in his typical way of doing things, asked if I knew what Martin Luther’s response was to Satan when accused of sin? I told him I had not the slightest idea. He responded,

“It is well-known that in his writings in table conversation Luther would often refer to visits from the Devil, how the Devil would come to him and whisper in his ear, accusing him of all manner of filthy sin: “Martin, you are a liar, greedy, lecherous, a blasphemer, a hypocrite. You cannot stand before God.”

To which Luther would respond: “Well, yes, I am. And, indeed, Satan, you do not know the half of it. I have done much worse than that and if you care to give me your full list, I can no doubt add to it and help make it more complete. But you know what? My Savior has died for all my sins – those you mention, those I could add and, indeed, those I have committed but am so wicked that I am unaware of having done so. It does not change the fact that Christ has died for all of them; his blood is sufficient; and on the Day of Judgment I shall be exonerated because he has taken all my sins on himself and clothed me in his own perfect righteousness.”

I feel like, in quoting Luther, Paul was essentially telling me “Take your eyes off yourself and your sin, and put your eyes back on God with all of you—both heart and mind.” I then confessed to him why I was scared to open my Bible (it was because of a fear that I would come to the Word of God as just a book, a collection of words on pages, as opposed to God’s love letter toward His creation). He disagreed with my reasoning, as I knew he would, telling me that to see the Bible through both intellectual and passionate lenses was what was best, choosing neither one over the other, but both together. My hope and prayer is that I’ll be able to look at God as both an intellectual, inquisitive being who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and as a beloved princess of the Most High. After all, hasn’t He commanded us to love Him “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all our strength and with all your mind”?

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

The Night I Discovered the Bible isn’t THAT Important

I know I might accumulate a lot of hate for this post; or perhaps, no one will even notice my words on this page, but for those who choose to see this to the end, just stay with me. I promise this is going somewhere.

I Have a Secret to Share…

Lean in close… Here it is: God is bigger than the Bible. I know that may shock some of you who read your Bible every day and/or have read the sacred Script forwards and backwards multiple times (even Leviticus!), but sit with that for a minute.

Let me say it a little louder for those in the back who may have trouble hearing my soft-spoken voice:

GOD IS BIGGER THAN THE BIBLE!

How do I know such a heretical thing to be an absolute truth? Ask me. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

The Night Everything Changed (Getting Angry at God)

The night I discovered that God was bigger than a book, the Sacred Book, I was sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom with my Bible (one of five) in one hand and my phone in the other. The person on the other line was my current pastor-friend who had been, at that time, trying to understand why I was hating God and doubting everything that was even remotely associated with Christianity. The conversation, to the best of my memory, was as follows:

“…So, you’re angry with God because of all the terrible things He’s allowed you to go through?”

“It’s not that simplistic…but, basically, yea… I kinda wanna rip my Bible apart.”

“Cuz you’re angry at God?”

“Yea. And I mean, it’s just a book, just like Shakespeare. They’re just words on pages…”

“Do it.”

“Are you crazy?!”

“Seriously, do it. You’ll feel better. I’ll stay on the phone with you. Get it all out.  Tell God you’re angry. Cuss Him out if you need to. He’s not gonna get bent out of shape. He’s a big guy; He can take it.”

“…if I get struck by lightning while doing this, I’m blaming you!”

“You’ll be fine.”

~

As the sound of his laughter faded from my ears, I stared down at my Bible wondering what would happen if my mother were to walk in at that moment. And then, I decided I didn’t care. I can’t remember where I started—I believe it was somewhere in Romans—but page by page I went, ripping the Scriptures to shreds with a pastor on the phone encouraging me to see this through to the end.

I periodically gave him updates like “Luke is halfway done” and “1 Timothy is ripped out,” thinking that he would, at some point, change his mind and tell me to stop. He never did. The only time I paused my tirade on the holy Script was when I hit the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:3b was highlighted in orange and when my eyes glanced over the words, I froze. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”

For a split second, I considered the words of an ancient prophet, of a God to His wayward daughter, wanting to believe that those words were true, but I couldn’t. In my eyes, God had abandoned me and didn’t care what happened to me which, considering the circumstance I was currently in, seemed fair. I knew better than to expect that a “supposedly” loving God would have anything to do with me when I deliberately left Him with no intentions of coming back. The fact that I was tearing His words apart definitely didn’t help either. I continued shredding the ancient words until there were none left. I told my pastor-friend when I finished the annihilation. As I gathered the torn pages and put them in the trash, we talked more.

~

“How do you feel?”

“A little better.”

“See? I told you. And you didn’t believe me….” I swear I could hear his smile break wide open through the phone.

“You are, without a doubt, the weirdest pastor I have ever met.”

There’s a Method in the Madness

Now, before you stone me (put the pitch fork down!), hear me out: That drastic measure actually proved to be beneficial. Sounds crazy, right? I know; stay with me. Looking back, I now see that there was a method to his madness in urging me to release all that pent-up anger: It got my emotions out of the equation and forced me to reevaluate my reasons for leaving the faith (Hint: there weren’t many intellectual doubts that could hold a candle afterwards).

Additionally, it made me aware of the most important lesson I have learned as a follower of Christ: Christ/God is bigger than the Bible. How? Simple: After I threw away the torn pages of what once was my Bible, God did not stop being God.

Take note: if the god you’re worshipping can cease to be powerful at the first sign of a challenge (like a ruined holy Book), then you have a pretty weak god.

I wasn’t struck by lightning, the world continued to spin on its axis, and I still heard my mom laughing at the tv in the living room. Take note: if the god you’re worshipping can cease to be powerful at the first sign of a challenge (like a ruined holy Book), then you have a pretty weak god. But hey, don’t just take my word for it. There is Biblical proof of my seemingly bizarre statement.

Biblical Proof that God is Bigger than the Bible

The proof is within the mini library itself. In John 5:39-40, we find Jesus condemning the Pharisees for their religiosity. He, very bluntly, calls them out by saying, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Breaking Down the Scriptural Proof

Let’s take a look at the first part of that Scripture. “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them….” Though the Old Testament prophets wrote the greatest work of literature while inspired by the Holy Spirit, even Jesus knew that the Torah alone was not a sufficient savior by itself. Essentially, you can read the entirety of the Bible until you memorize every sentence and semicolon, but only God can save you. “…yet they testify about Me…” Jesus is the actual, literal breathing fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies—and there are over 300 of them! “And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

This part of the text did not truly hit me until I left Christianity, which is ironic (trust me, the irony is not lost on me at all!) because this verse, as stated in a previous blog about intellectual Christians and the grace of God, has been my theological fear for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been praised by teachers, parents, and random strangers for my intelligence and I guess, when I started letting myself ask questions about why and how things were, I kinda got carried away. I remember making connections between the Old and New Testaments when I was younger and how excited I felt when something that was previously challenging to understand just clicked. It’s not like I thought I didn’t need God—of course, I did! Didn’t everyone?—but I put Him in a box confined only by Scripture. It’s silly and sad to think about now, but that’s how I lived most of my Christian life before I deconverted. The last sentence of John 5:40 did not truly backhand me across the face until I was sitting in my room with torn Scripture everywhere. In essence, it wasn’t what I had done that made me realize that I was utterly wrong, but what He hadn’t done (kill me right then and there).

Parting Thoughts

Sometimes, drastic measures need to be taken to put you back on the right path. He’s not afraid of a challenge, or even your anger. He can take it. Just be sure you’re ready for the aftermath that will come. If you try to put God in a box, He will bust out of it like the powerhouse He is and leave you looking foolish for thinking you can contain Him. Again, let me reiterate this final point: Scripture alone cannot, and will never, be sufficient in and of itself to save, heal, or comfort you. Only Jesus can. If you try to go at this another way, it will not end well. Trust me.