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Are you Scared?

07 Nov

It’s one thing to be willing to ask yourself life’s tough questions.  It’s another to be willing to live with the consequences of life’s tough answers.  I might just be equally terrified of both.  I think KR Morris did a good job of opening up the subject for us last week but I’d like to take it one step further.

If you didn’t catch his post, check out Pointing Fingers in the Right Place.  His basic premise, just as a recap, was that many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, blame others for the pain in their life and point fingers in all the wrong places, rather than turning the scrutiny on themselves and having the balls to ask themselves the tough questions.

This week I’d like to navigate away from the original path and follow a rabbit trail for a bit to see where it takes us.

I’m convinced that there are certain ideals in every circle of influence that you just don’t question.  They are debates that have long been decided and it’s just understood that it would be counter productive to continue revisiting them.  I can speak best in regard to Conservative Evangelicalism because that’s what I know.  For conservative evangelicals the list of things that you just don’t question is quite extensive.   The nature of the Trinity, the full humanity and full Divinity of Christ, the Inerrancy of Scripture.

Depending on which brand of evangelical and the severity of the fundamentalism that exists, the list can get longer.  The virgin birth, literal 7 days of creation, biblically defined gender roles and the restriction of women from Church office, alcohol consumption, sex before marriage, and the list goes on.  In these, and countless other issues, you just don’t ask why.  And if you do ask why, you answer it quick and move on.

About a year ago the shit hit the fan and I got pissed. I’d had enough.  I was sick of the stereotypical answers.  Sick of the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy that raged in the circles that I found myself in.  So I started asking the questions, privately at first.  Why is sex wrong?  Is it really only for marriage?  Can I legitimately back that up in Scripture?  Why can’t a woman be a pastor?  I wouldn’t settle for the typical, “because the Bible says so” answer.  I wouldn’t even settle for finding the answers in scripture.  I began to ask questions of the Bible itself.  Why does Paul not permit women to teach or exercise authority in the church at EphesusWhy does the Bible seem to call Christians to a life of celibacy?

The questioning spread and got progressively scarier.  I started to question the legitimacy of canonicity.  I started to question the doctrine of inspiration as well as inerrancy and I found that they lacked a certain “set in stone” quality that I had just assumed for the last lifetime.  When the day came that I finally began to legitimately question the authority and legitimacy of the Bible, I was terrified.  I realized that the answers to my questions might lead me away from classical evangelicalism.  They might lead me away from Christianity.  It’s a type of fear that’s difficult to verbalize and almost stopped my journey of questions.

I’ve always said that my goal in life is to seek truth and I’ve more than once dropped the line that “if you can find the body of Christ and prove that it’s him, I’ll be an atheist tomorrow.” but did I really believe that?  Was I really willing to follow-through with such a life, career, and paradigm altering switch.  Was I willing to abandon Christianity, if in fact I found that it was not true?  Some might call this a lack of faith and if you really feel that’s what it is then fine.  The relationship between faith and reason is a different blog for a different day.

The honest answer was that I wasn’t willing to walk away, but I felt that an honest search for truth mandated that I be willing to follow truth no matter what that truth ended up being.

Fear set in.  “I work at a church.  If I decide that the bible is not inerrant, that creation actually took billions of years, and that women can and should be pastors… They may not want me to continue working for them.”  I was terrified.

I’m still working through many of these issues so I don’t have the ending to the story yet.  I can say that as of right now I haven’t found anything that will put me outside the scope of evangelicalism or get me fired.  I do however hold several views that are different than those of the leaders at my church and I’m aware that those views may lead us to part ways in the future but for now I strive for unity, for tolerance, for grace, and for love.

I cannot and will not abandon the questions and the potential implications of their answers.  To do so would eat me alive from the inside out.  My conscience simply would not allow it.  Maybe this is where faith comes in to play.  I have faith that the questions that I ask, though their answers may change the way I think and live, will lead me to truth.  That if God exists, and I believe that he does, this truth will lead me to him.

I believe that faith should constantly evolve and grow.  We have done something wrong when we stop asking questions and dealing with the implications of the answers.

So far my journey has been more liberating, confirming, and inspiring that I could have imagined.  I hope that you have the same luck.

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10 Comments

Posted by on November 7, 2011 in church, Doubt

 

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10 responses to “Are you Scared?

  1. Ray

    November 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    This is Awesome. After reading it the first time I didn’t quite understand what you were saying but I think that is because I was looking at it in its HTML with all the weird italics coding and stuff on it. I missed alot the first time through but this is definitely the way I’ve been feeling over the past several months.
    ˜Ray

     
    • James

      November 7, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      Ray,

      Thanks for the comment bro, I’m glad you understood it better without the interruption of html gobledegook in the way.

       
  2. conniewalden

    November 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Simplicity confounds man, so he makes things hard. God’s didn’t make it hard to be saved; but, man, in his wisdom and pride, took the simple fact that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day, and turns it into complicated “theology”. Keep it simple. Thanks for sharing. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

     
  3. James

    November 7, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks for the comment Connie. I always appreciate the feedback. I’m with you too. The complexity that we have pulled out of scripture is absolutely mind boggling. I understand that any study of Diety, whom we believe to be infinite, is going to be a never ending study and a complex issue but we have to remember that Jesus started his earthly ministry with fishermen, not philosophers. Jesus mission was simple enough for the working man, or woman to understand and grasp. Too often we make the entrance to the kingdom far narrower than Christ ever did.

    Thanks again and check back next week. We should have a new post up every Monday morning.

     
  4. Ender

    November 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    This is exactly what I was getting at in my previous post, Doubt is Not an Epic Failure. I love hearing about Christians who are getting into the dirty work of actual defending their faith and what they believe in. This is such a powerful process that I wish more people would actually go through it, although it is truly terrifying. However, I feel that being able to intelligently defend our beliefs is key as America moves closer and closer to a place of becoming post-Christian. Those that actively are opposed to Christianity (atheists that would seek to disprove it) are able to provide very coherent and well thought out arguments, we need to be able to do the exact same thing. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into the trap of giving Sunday school answers (“the Bible says so”) because these will simply be laughed at by those who do not hold the faith. Let us instead prepare ourselves with intelligent and well thought out responses that give a viable defense of our beliefs, let us become the well educated and well spoken followers that can engage in conversations effectively.

     
  5. Kathy

    November 19, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I just want to encourage you a bit. I, too, went on a crazy journey with God recently that was focused on all kinds of really difficult questions. I actually got to the point one day when I said, “I’m tired of this. I don’t want to think about these things anymore. I just want to go back to the way it was.” And I so clearly heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “I’m not afraid of your questions.” And I remembered that the bible says that He didn’t give us a spirit of fear. And I kept going. And it was too cool. ^_~

    For the most part, I think a lot of these questions you’ve brought up are more obvious than they seem, and for far simpler reasons than deep, doctrinal issues. As far as the authority of scripture, I would say that you must believe that, or what is the point of asking anything in the first place? I mean, again… it seems obvious. If you don’t believe the bible is the inspired word of God, why even call yourself a Christian? Suddenly everything becomes an unanswerable question, because if you can’t trust God’s word for the answers, then I would submit that you can’t get any answers, at least in the scope of Christianity. I don’t think it’s possible to separate Christianity from the bible. However, you have to put the bible into the proper context a lot of times, which I believe is the answer to the Paul not allowing women to teach thing. I mean, back then they simply didn’t KNOW anything. They hadn’t been allowed to learn. But the idea you get from the text is that they were using their newfound and incredible freedom in Christ to interrupt church/worship/whatever for others, so he said for them to be quiet and listen and ask questions of their husbands when they got home. At this point in history, they hadn’t even been able to sit and listen with the men before. So that alone was a great honor. It’d be like us suddenly being allowed to sit in on secret department of defense meetings or something (think something that you vaguely know is happening, but you’ve never been invited into the deep, inner circle) and then expecting that we can instruct them at all on any of the stuff they’re talking about. It’s ludicrous. It doesn’t mean that in a few years we wouldn’t be able to. But at first, absolutely not.

    The issue of women teaching goes to the submission issue, too, which I won’t touch too deeply for now. Basically, the bible DOES say for women to submit to husbands. But I think it’s pretty freaking clear in the text that this comes into play only when a husband does what he’s supposed to do, which is loving her as he loves his own body, and giving himself up for her. But it never says at ANY point that a woman must submit to a man. So men in general DON’T have any kind of authority over women in general. This is solely the part of the relationship between a husband and wife. And I think that’s where a lot of crap has gotten screwed up. It’s really clear, from the beginning, that we were created in the image of God just as the men were. And it says, too, that a husband must treat his wife with respect, or God won’t answer his prayers. It says we are joint heirs, as in, EQUAL heirs to the promise. So the idea that women should be regulated for forever to this quiet position is just downright stupid. Even in the Old Testament, you see examples of women leading men. My favorite example of this is Huldah. She was the prophetess who told the king and the high priest of all Israel (get it… the political AND religious leaders of the ENTIRE country) what to do with the law after it had been found. There’s Deborah. There’s Caleb’s daughters. That’s a cool story. Basically, Caleb died. People had decided that property was only to go to the sons, but these amazing women (I tend to think that you can even infer that it must have been Caleb’s faithfulness and his own clear thinking about God that led him to raise up some strong daughters in the first place.) came up and said it wasn’t fair, and so Moses prayed about it, and wouldn’t you know, but God said, “Duh. Idiots. Give them the land.” That’s my paraphrase, of course. But it’s so obvious that He wants women just as blessed and in just as high a position as men, if only men would get out of the way and let it happen. (I’m not male bashing here. As a mom of two boys, it’s not something I tolerate. I’m just pointing out that this is really what’s been happening for too long in the church, and in the world, and it’s completely shameful that equality for women was something they pushed for before we did. SHAMEFUL. Also, I’d like to point out that it’s NOT the Judeo-Christian model that “thought” of women being second class citizens. In spite of what a lot people want to say, this has been going on for forever. Women have been at least a little lower than men in practically every society that has ever existed on earth, even those completely untouched by Judeo-Christian values.)

    But, yeah… You can’t take one verse out of the bible and create an entire doctrine. Unfortunately, we’re sitting at the tail end of 2,000 years of people doing just that, and it’s been horrible. Thankfully, intelligent people are waking up and realizing some stuff, and things are changing. The Holy Spirit is coming into play like He hasn’t for, again, about 2,000 years or so, and it’s awesome. ^_^

    I’ll address one more thing and then stop. Sex is totally not wrong. Check out chapter 7 of Song of Songs especially and get yourself an eyefull of some graphic foreplay, written about IN the bible. Is it intended only for marriage? Well, first you’d have to biblically define marriage, and I don’t really know of anything off the top of my head, except that Paul says that a son is to leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife (singular), and this is a great mystery. I think, again, the answer to this is kind of obvious, but not with huge, dramatic religious overtones. God made Adam and Eve. One man. One woman. They were made for each other, and meant to spend their lives together with only each other. Sex is meant to be enjoyed in that context, I believe. Not because I’m some prude, but because, seriously… This is the best thing for everyone. You don’t have to deal with messy things like STD’s or unwanted/unplanned pregnancies. Wait until you’re a grown up, for heaven’s sake, and find that person God made for you, and live an awesome, happy existence with all the awesome, freaky sex you want with your partner. It’s simpler for everyone that way. And it does say, again, in the bible, that sexual sin is a sin against your own body. God’s concerned for us in this, not wanting to stop our fun. The man and woman are meant to stay together for their entire lives, respecting each other and enjoying each other, and creating stable families. It all starts there, with that relationship. It might sound quaint, but I really believe that. I think God thinks it, too, because obviously it’s what He made first. He created a family before He ever made the church.

    I know this was an incredibly long response. I encourage you to keep asking your questions. Let God give you the answers. He’s certainly not scared. It’s people being willing to ask these questions that is finally turning Christianity into what it was meant to be.

     
    • James

      November 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      Hey Kathy,

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks even more for leaving a comment. There is a lot to respond to but I think that for now I’m going to refrain. I’ve wanted to write whole articles on several of the things that you brought up so I think I’ll just do that. Stay tuned. We try to update with new posts each Monday.

       
  6. Jamie Robertson

    December 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Howdy,

    My two cents: (I promise this post will be shorter than Kathy’s… :p )

    I appreciate your definition of faith – from what I know of the Biblical Greek, and the social angle that 1st century Jewish folk had, faith is trust based on experience, rather than blind, unquestioning acceptance of inerrancy, 7-day creation, or whatever. I went through a similar “headshot” period a number of years ago, but I remain a Christian because I’ve found satisfying answers to the vast majority of the questions which were gnawing at me. On the other hand, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with certainty, or arriving at a conclusion: as long as you’ve got there with honesty and intellectual rigour, and are willing to re-evaluate your position if you need to.

    So, as someone who agrees with your frustration on somethings (Young-earth creationism, women pastors) and disagrees with you on others (pre-marital sex, canonicity) – I’d say keep going on the journey 🙂

    Out of interest, when you had questions, where did you look for answers?

    Jamie

     
    • James

      December 1, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      Thanks for the comment Jamie,

      I like what you said about being okay with certainty as long as you got there the right way and are willing to re-evaluate. I wish I had said it that way. lol. The willingness to first put in the effort and then hold on to your feeling of certainty tight enough that they wont just slip away but loose enough that your knuckles don’t turn white, is my biggest beef with most Christians. They just don’t get it.

      Thanks for the encouragement to keep on going. I’m planning on it.

      As far as where I went for answers, That could be a post in and of itself. And maybe it will be. I just added it to my idea list. I first went to Bible college and found that every question I answered led me to ask 5 more questions. The pursuit of theology is a vicious and sadistic game. I also began dialogueing with my wife, mentors, close friends, etc… That has been the biggest help and it’s also what led me and a group of friends to start this blog. We had a feeling that we weren’t the only ones that needed to process through this type of stuff and wanted to create a place for other like us to work through their issues.

      Thanks so much for your comments. I’d love to hear from you again.

      James

      P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive blogs by e-mail.

       

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