One Foot in Christianity, One Foot in Agnosticism – In a Faith Crisis
November 2016. (There is a moderate amount of swear words in the post below)
Some of the points in the post, in brief (the long explanation is below):
- I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior before I was ten years old
- I have read the entire Bible.
- I spent many years reading books ABOUT the Bible (e.g., books about its formation and history)
- I spent years reading Christian apologetic literature
– so do NOT tell me that I “do not understand Christianity” or that I was “never a REAL Christian to start with”
- I currently have doubts about the Christian faith and/or aspects of the Bible
- I have not rejected Jesus Christ Himself
(he’s pretty much Christianity’s only good feature or selling point, as far as I can see at this point)
- I am not an atheist
- I am not a Charismatic
- I am not a “Word of Faither”
- I was brought up under conservative, Southern Baptist and evangelical teachings and churches
- Even though conservative Christians claim to believe in the Bible, they
- cannot agree on what the Bible means or how to apply it – this is a huge problem as I see it in the faith
- they diminish the role of the Holy Spirit or deny Him and that He can work for Christians today, because they are “hyper sola scriptura” and have reduced the Trinity to “Father, Son, and Holy Bible,” (this is also problematic),
they usually do this because they are hyper-cessationist and paranoid or hateful of Charismatic teachings or practices
- they teach that most to all of the biblical promises are not for Christians today but are only for the Jews of 5,000 years ago, there-by teaching that the Bible is NOT relevant for people today (this is also problematic)
- If you are a Christian, do not act like a smug dick about any of this and immediately disregard any points I have to make about God, the Bible, or other topics, because in your view, I am a “Non-Christian who was ‘never’ really saved” -not to mention, that is not even true.
I was in fact “truly” saved, and I am / was, a “real” Christian.
- No, I don’t want to enumerate a detailed list of reasons why I have doubts about God, the Bible, or the faith.If I were to provide such a list or explanation, your average Christian would only want to debate each and every point to argue me back into fully believing. (A witnessing tip to Christians: doing that sort of thing is NOT an effective way of “winning back a lost sheep to Jesus.”)
I find that people who are both Christian and Non-Christian (and several other categories of people I bump into on Twitter and other sites) get frustrated when they cannot easily box me in.
People seem to be more comfortable with labels, but I’m not sure what label I would give myself these days.
I have briefly tried to explain my current religious beliefs on my Twitter bio, and I explain them a little more on my blog’s “About” page and have mentioned them in a post or two over the course of the last few years I’ve been blogging here.
Here is my background:
I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior prior to turning the age of ten.
That means: I believed that Jesus took my sins upon himself, he was without sin, he paid the price for my sins, and was raised from the dead three days after having been crucified – and if I believe in all that, if I put “saving faith in” Jesus (as opposed to mere intellectual assent), my sins have been forgiven by God, and I go to heaven when I die.
I read the entire Bible through when I was 18 years old, and afterwards, I read a lot of the Bible in the years after. Prior to that age, I had read portions of the Bible when younger.
In my twenties, I read many, many books and blogs and articles about Christian apologetics.
Therefore, I am very familiar with the common arguments and proofs Christians use to defend their beliefs in Jesus Christ, God, and the Bible.
Some time around my late 20s into my early 30s, I also read many books about the Bible.
I read a lot of material about the formation of the Bible, the formation of the canon, how scholars study the biblical manuscripts and use textual criticism to piece together the readings of the biblical autographs, and so on.
(In light of every thing I have just written, I find it extremely, EXTREMELY arrogant when Christians who barely know me tell me on Twitter, this blog, or other sites, things such as, “I bet you never read the Bible in your life!,” or, “I bet you were never “truly” saved to start with.”)
My parents, my mother especially, were very devout Christians who took me to church during a lot of my childhood. (We were Southern Baptists.)
Some time a few years ago, I began having doubts about the Christian faith, and to a point, with the Bible.
Therefore, I no longer feel comfortable identifying completely as a Christian – but I’ve not totally jettisoned the faith, either. Does that mean I am not a Christian? I don’t know what it means.
I find it funny or, at times, arrogant, that Christians online who don’t know me, or my heart, or my experiences, and what drives me to have doubts, think they can determine if I am a Christian or not, based on any of this, or what I write in a short Twitter bio.
I disagree with atheism.
I think agnosticism looks tenable, as does deism. But I have not rejected Christ.
I don’t know quite what I am.
The closest I can come to a current description of myself is to say I am “somewhere between Christianity and agnosticism.”
(That is part of the description I have on my “Solo Loner” Twitter bio.
From this one bit on my biography, atheists, or liberal social justice warriors, scream at me that I am a Christian, but cranky or condescending Christians who get argumentative with me tweet me with the accusation that “you are not even a Christian.”
I’m sorry to aggravate both groups, but I’m not fully on either side. It’s very hard to explain to anyone, or even for me to make sense of for myself.)
However, this explanation – that I am somewhat a little of both, partly Christian and partly agnostic – seems to anger or frustrate a hell of a lot of Christians, liberals, and atheists online.
I’ve got one foot in agnosticism and one still in Christianity. That does not make me fully a non-believer, and maybe not fully a believer either, unless you consider “accepting Jesus as your Savior” to make me a 100% Christian.
I did accept Christ as my personal Lord and Savior when I was a kid, and according to most Christians, that makes a person a Christian. I have not rejected “Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” but I question other aspects of the Christian faith.
One of the rudest, most condescending, infuriating things I have seen by practicing Christians are for them to brush aside my concerns or arguments, all because I am in a faith crisis.
I’ve had a few of these sorts of Christian jerks on Twitter (and other sites) see that I am “somewhere between Agnosticism and Christianity” and assume (quite incorrectly) that I am a full-blown atheist who never accepted Jesus as Savior or who never read the Bible.
Such jerk Christians will therefore say to me, if we are disagreeing over a theological or social topic, “You don’t understand, because you are ‘not saved.'”
They won’t even deal with the substance of my points or arguments but just dismiss my comments or views right out of hand, which is so RUDE.
Jerk Christians will immediately disregard any points I make, because in their feeble minds, they assume I am “spiritually dead” and cannot “understand the things of God.”
All this, even though I accepted Jesus as my Savior before I turned age ten, so yes, the Holy Spirit indwells me too, buddy – assuming He exists. I am not “spiritually dead and unable to discern the things of God.”
I am so glad that during my years as a “full” Christian, I did not tell ex-Christians I ran into on the internet things like,
“Oh, I am just going to disregard your points, because you were obviously never a ‘real’ Christian!”
I do admit that when I was younger and saw people say things like, “I am an ex-Christian; I USED to be a Christian,” that I felt confused by that and wondered to myself, “Does this mean they were never ‘saved’ to start with or what? How could someone ever just give up on Christianity like that – I don’t understand.”
However, I NEVER used my doubts or confusion about people who “de-converted” to be rude or dismissive towards them or their points. I did not use my confusion or doubt as some kind of tool or battering ram to shame the person with, or to silence them.
But you Christians out there – stop doing that.
If you meet someone online or in person who says they are an ex-Christian or are having a faith crisis, don’t just out of hand blow off their arguments, concerns, or reasons for why they doubt. That is not only arrogant, but you are never, ever going to get them to reconsider going back to the faith with that attitude.
CHRISTIANS WHO ASK, ‘WHAT ARE YOUR DOUBTS’
I do not like responding to Christians who want to know EXACTLY what my issues with the faith are.
I hate responding to that. It would take me five million pages to explain what my problems with Christianity are.
If you have read my blog before, you should already be able to figure out what several of my issues are.
Some of the problems I have with the faith cannot be articulated, or not easily, or not quickly. (And certainly not in a single 140 character limit tweet on Twitter.)
I would have no idea how to get all the thoughts in my head and feelings in my heart pertaining to my faith crisis into words on a blog post. I’m not sure I’d want to do so, either.
I hate explaining to Christians exactly why I’m not 100% Christian any more. That is due to the fact that for every reason I give you, you, the Christian, will go into “Debate Mode,” where you will want to come up with a rebuttal to every point I make.
Most Christians will want to argue Bible verses with me, or start quoting verses at me, to try to convince me why I should remain a Christian, or why the Bible is true, or why they feel my doubts are wrong, inconsequential, and stupid, and so on.
No thank you. This is not an intellectual debate for me, or it’s more than an intellectual exercise. It’s painful. It’s personal.
And, as a reminder, I am already very familiar with the Bible – don’t assume that you quoting verses at me is a magical remedy, or that you can argue Bible with me and win me over.
I just find it so annoying that Christians cannot just accept that some folks go through a faith crisis and leave it at that. They treat you like you are a heretic dummy who’s never even seen a Bible before.
HOW TO HELP THE PERSON UNDERGOING A FAITH CRISIS
One of the best ways you can help a quasi-former Christian stick to the faith, or come back to it, is just be empathetic, supportive, and admit you don’t have all the answers.
Christians are really loathe to admit they don’t have all the answers to people’s doubts or problems. A lot of them think they do have the answers, because they are Baptists or Protestants who assume that the Bible has all of life’s answers (but it does not).
Some Christians over-simplify and say, “Jesus is the answer.”
No, Jesus is “not the answer” for every single thing in life.
Years ago, when I had to get new brake pads on my car, I had to take it to a mechanic. In that instance, a mechanic was the answer to my problem, not “Jesus” and not “the Bible.”
Trying to win the Doubter back to the faith should really not be your only or primary goal, if you are a true believer and a Bible-banger.
Maybe it shouldn’t be a goal at all? The more you try to cajole, argue, or push a Doubter such as me back to Jesus or the faith, you are actually pushing us (or me) farther away.
Don’t make a Doubter a “project” you feel you must work on.
I can usually sense if a Christian is talking to me only because I am viewed as a project that they must “fix” to win back to Jesus, and that is a turn-off.
LIKE GRIEF OVER DEATH
Assisting someone who is doubting the Bible, Jesus, or God, or whatever, is similar to how to assist a person who is in grief because their loved one just died. There is NOTHING you can say to erase that person’s grief.
The best you can do for the one in mourning is to hold their hand and just BE THERE next to them as they cry.
Just listen to them.
Do not judge, resist the urge to debate, resist the urge to give suggestions or answers, etc.
It’s all very similar to someone like me who is doubting how much of the Bible is true, is God really real, and so forth.
There is no religious platitude, Bible verse, or intellectual argument you can make that will change the person’s mind or “win them back.”
If the Doubter screams, bitches, moans, complains, or cries about God and how God is a great big jerk who let them down, resist the urge to defend God’s reputation.
If the Doubter reels off a list of complaints about abusive churches she has been to, or how most Christians are hypocritical, rude, or insensitive douche bags…
Resist the urge to utter stupid Christian cliches such as,
“Well, gosh, if you feel Christians are hypocrites, if you find the perfect church, don’t attend it, because you’ll just mess it up, har har, hee hee, ho ho.”
Don’t employ legalistic proof texting where you say things like, “See, the Bible COMMANDS believers to attend a local church, so get off your ass and go to one now.”
Here is the proper reply:
“Hey, I know. Sometimes other Christians can in fact be big, fat jerks or huge hypocrites. I am sorry they have let you down before.”
Just let the person get the anger and hurt out and don’t judge the person over it.
Don’t argue with them, tell them they are wrong, or debate them, or convince them to give church one more try.
CHRISTIANS WILL DIMINISH YOUR CONCERNS
Another reason I don’t like discussing these things with Christians is that they will diminish my concerns.
For example. One reason of 56 million I am not fully Christian currently is due to unanswered prayer.
(This is not up for debate or discussion: if you are a Christian, I warn you now, do not leave me a comment trying to convince me that God does indeed answer prayers, and that I must be doing something wrong that is causing God to ignore my prayers – this is the VERY sort of thing I am talking about, Christians who DON’T GET IT.)
I have prayed over and over for the same three or four things for many years.
One thing I prayed for was the healing of my mother – and God turned a deaf ear to that. My mother died. God did not heal her, in spite of all my petitions.
(The other stuff I prayed for did not come to pass, either.)
If there is a God, he is turning a deaf ear to my prayers, even though he says in the New Testament that anything I pray for in the name of Jesus will come to pass. That is a big fat nope. I don’t know why God makes promises in the Bible that he does not keep.
There are Bible verses which say if you trust in Jesus, he will meet all your needs. I don’t really see that one as being true any more, either.
Now, if you are a Christian, the appropriate, wise, and sensitive reply to this complaint or doubt of mine is to say,
“Hey, I am sorry. I am sorry you are hurting. I do NOT KNOW why God did not answer your prayers for X, Y, and Z.”
But do you Christians reply in that fashion? Hell no.
You Christians like to victim- blame, or you are too quick to jump to play the role of God’s Defense Attorney.
You Christians will sit there and say insensitive trash like (and you have no way of knowing if any of this is true, but it doesn’t stop you from saying this garbage),
“You must have sin in your life, or unforgiveness in your heart, or you are praying from wrong motive, and that is why God has not granted your requests.”
Or you butt-head Christians might say things like, “You must be a Word of Faith-er, you are selfish, and you are selfish for expecting God to answer your prayers.”
I blogged more about this topic here, by the way:
Jiminy Cricket on a Ritz Cracker, even though I make it plain on this blog I do not entertain dissenting views and so on, I still had a lady named “220lily” drop by this blog a few months ago where she victim-blamed me on this very unanswered prayer topic.
You can read her infuriating, victim-blaming posts to me in the comment box here: (Link): “One Stop Thread” Page
Side Note: That is one of the VERY reasons I have a moderated blog, by the way.
This “Lily” woman seemed nice at first, (kind of) so I approved her first post or two to appear on the blog, but after I approved her first post or two to appear on the blog, and she then had unfettered access, she ramped up the obnoxiousness a bit more.
(I ended up blocking her.)
Do NOT come on to MY blog, where I plainly state I do NOT entertain dissent, to blame me for shit that is not my fault (like unanswered prayer), especially after I have said time and again on this blog that one reason I am fed up with the faith to start with is this victim-blaming trash and no empathy from Christians over these very subjects.
THE BIBLE SAYS WHAT IT SAYS
Another thing I find frustrating about all this is how Christians are so quick to deny what the Bible says, and most Christians claim to be sola scriptura-ists who take the Bible at face value.
No, you type of Christians sure as hell do not take the Bible at face value, nor do you take what it says seriously.
The moment a quasi-believer such as myself points out that some Biblical passages and promises don’t work or come true – such as the verses that state, “Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do,” Christians will argue (I have actually heard them do this on podcasts or have seen it in Christian magazine articles and so on), Christians will say things like,
“Well, erm, um, no, that’s not what those verses means! Jesus was not REALLY saying ‘anything’ you pray for, that he will do. That text only means if you pray for help in spreading the Gospel, God will always honor that request!”
However, that’s not what the text itself says – and yes, I’ve read the whole thing in context.
Christians will come up with these arguments to weasel their way out of what the Bible flatly and plainly says, because they do not want to admit that many biblical promises or concepts don’t work in real life, or that they do not come true for a lot of people, who are, or were, sincere believers who had plenty of faith.
DIVERSITY OF INTERPRETATION
One of my biggest issues with the Bible is that sola scriptura-ists who “take it literally” cannot and do not agree on what it means or says or how to implement it.
It makes no sense to me to sit there and say,
“Hey, this book called the Bible was written by God through men, and it’s infallible, it’s inerrant, and the ultimate source of spiritual authority and contains the answer for every life problem,”
-when those making this claim cannot and do not agree with each other on what the book says, or when and how to apply it to life’s problems.
For more on that, I direct you to these posts on Scot McKnight’s blog:
(Link): Biblicism Revisited 1 – on Jesus Creed blog
(Link): Biblicism Revisited 2 – on Jesus Creed blog
(Link): Biblicism Revisited 3 – on Jesus Creed blog
(Link): Biblicism Revisited 4 – on Jesus Creed blog
Posts on that topic (or similar) on my own blog:
The Bible is not as clear as so many sola-scriptura Christians say or believe it is.
(The Bible may be clear on some subjects, but not so much on others. In some cases, though, even if a verse is “clear” in meaning on one subject, different Christian denominations will disagree on when, how, or if to implement it.)
(By the way, the Bible did not help me conquer my former clinical depression, my anxiety, my codependency, or other problems.
What did help me with a lot of those issues were books by psychologists and psychiatrists, some of whom were Christian, some not.
To teach people that the Bible is “the answer” for every thing in life is a falsehood.)
SOLA SCRIPTURA OR BIBLICIST VIEW DENIES OR DIMINISHES THE HOLY SPIRIT
Also, I find that SS (sola scriptura) adherents deny the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, in effect or outcome, or they needlessly limit the Holy Spirit.
You SS guys act like Jesus left Christians the Bible, but when Jesus was departing, he told his disciples, “I leave you the comforter, the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus did not say, “I leave you with the Comforter, the Bible.”
I’d like to remind you at this point, I was raised Southern Baptist, not Pentecostal. I am not a Charismatic.
But I fail to see how a person can be a Christian today and act like a Christian is to rely ONLY on the Bible and not a combination of Bible, prayer, AND the Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit’s ONLY role is to convict people of sin, you are telling me that the HS (Holy Spirit) is an ineffective, useless dud to me in other areas of my life.
What is the point in the Spirit living in my heart if he is incapable or unwilling to do bup-kiss, nothing, nada (aside from the sin convicting thing)?
Okay, so the HS convicted me of sin when I was a kid, so I accepted Jesus as a kid as a result, and the HS lived in my heart – so what? How does any of that help me now, with the rest of my life?
As far as I can see, based on what sola scriptura advocates teach, the Holy Spirit is this redundant aspect to the life of a Christian.
The Holy Spirit is, they are teaching, about as useful or needed to the Christian in his or her daily life, as the Appendix is in the human body, or the belly button is to the adult human (though the belly button does make a nifty lint catcher).
I wrote about this topic months ago:
(Link): Hyper Sola Scriptura
MOST CHRISTIANS INADVERTENTLY TEACH THAT THE BIBLE IS NOT RELEVANT OR NOT FOR CHRISTIANS TODAY
Out of one side of their mouths, a lot of Christians will say, or behave as though, the Bible is relevant to people’s lives today, but then turn around and say or teach the opposite.
For example, a lot of Christians will use the Bible as a Life Handbook of sorts, where they think any one can turn to get financial guidance, wonderful diet tips, or ideas on how to repair a faulty marriage, and they will encourage you to view the Bible in that way.
Some Christians will encourage you to look to the Bible for all its promises of healing or to see how God will answer prayers, and tell you to “stand on those promises,” and God will help you out.
But then, a lot of them, even conservative sola-scriptura-ist Christians, will mock or ridicule Christians who believe that certain biblical promises or ideals can and should work for believers in present-day America.
Many Christians argue and bicker on the applicability of Jeremiah 29: 11, which reads,
- “11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Some Christians act as though that Old Testament verse is applicable to Christians today, while another set say no, that promise was only intended for a specific set of Jews thousands of years ago.
While I do think viewing the Bible as a “[Blank] for Dummies” book (that is, as a handbook for all issues in life) may be naive or wrong, I find it just as bad, or perhaps more so, for these other Christians to say or act as though none of the Bible is applicable today (outside of convicting of sin and pointing to Jesus as Savior).
If you’re telling me that all to most of the Bible is not, or cannot, be for me today, but that most of it was written ONLY for Jews in Israel of 4,500 some odd years ago, and that the New Testament was ONLY for the earliest Gentile believers, who lived 2,000 years ago, then you are conveying to me that the Bible is of no import or use to me today, an American who is living in the year 2016.
Why would I want to bother reading, believing in, or abiding by a book that you say is not for me today, but only for Jews or Christians 2,000 or more years ago?
You’re saying that the Bible serves no purpose for me today (outside of pointing me to a savior for my sins, that is – but still, you are saying the Bible is of little or no use for me in other ways or areas of my life).
You’re saying the Bible is ineffective for me today. So why should I bother with it?
By the way, I note how funny this is. Among other things, it’s the conservative Christian handling of the Bible that causes me to doubt it – not secular feminism or liberalism.
The minute a Christian starts voicing these sorts of doubts or arguments, your usual, “on fire” Christian will start saying things like,
“Oh, you must be reading blogs by atheists, and they’re messing with your mind, and turning you from God or the Bible.”
I find this funny, in a way.
I reject the Christian teaching of “gender complementarianism,” (I used to believe in it for many years) but a lot of current gender complementarians assume that I reject gender complementarianism, or have some reservations about the Bible, because I was supposedly influenced by secular, left wing feminism (or by atheists).
No, most of my current issues with the Bible stem from conservative Christianity itself, and what they teach about the Bible, or how they misapply it.
To put this another way, my current misgivings or problems with the Bible did not arise from reading secular feminist articles or atheist blogs, but from reading and observing how Christians behave towards the Bible, how they deal with it, how they misuse and abuse it, and how they cannot agree with each other upon what it means. (Ironically enough.)
SIDE NOTE. ROMAN CATHOLICISM AND THE BIBLE
I also do not agree with the Roman Catholic approach of using Church Tradition and a Magisterium to grapple with these issues.
I think Catholicism uses those methods to create a ‘forced unity’ or a ‘faked unity.’
Roman Catholics make up stuff that is not even IN the Bible and say it’s true, such as Mary’s Bodily Ascension, or her supposed Perpetual Virginity.
In some ways, Roman Catholicism is just another branch of Protestantism in this regard, and in a manner of speaking.
Therefore, I cannot figure out why some evangelical Protestants dump Protestantism for Catholicism (especially if it’s over this plurality of biblical interpretation issue) – you are just jumping from one messed up, leaky ship to another messed up, leaky ship.
Meanwhile, I am over here on a canoe looking at both ships thinking, “WTH? Everyone is messed up about this. Nobody has it figured out. They all have problems with the Bible.”
The Roman Catholics are no more solid on biblical problems and subjects and conflicting interpretations than Protestants or Baptists are
(even though Roman Catholics like to believe they are. Yes, I spent a few years reading a lot of books about Catholicism, including books by former Catholics and blogs by current, practicing Catholics).
I went ahead and spelled out a few reasons I have issues with the Christian faith these days, and remember: resist the urge to argue with me about it if you are a Christian.
Don’t tell me on Twitter, or my blog, or in e-mail, how I can and should completely trust the Bible, in spite of some of the problems I mentioned above.
Don’t try to explain away, rationalize, or justify unanswered prayer and don’t blame me for my prayers being ignored by God.
I’m not going to find any of that convincing.
If you are a Christian, STOP telling people who are in a faith crisis, or who are ex-Christians, that they have never read the Bible, or were never really saved. Because they probably did read the Bible and were truly converted at one stage.
Christians: STOP being a condescending jackass, stop just brushing the points away made by ex-Christians or folks in a faith crisis, because in your erroneous view, they must have “never been really saved to start with” or “don’t understand the Bible.”
By framing the situation in that way, or acting that way, you are pushing such people further away from the faith – is that what you want?
You might want to read this page on another site for more insight or advice:
Related Posts on this Blog:
(Link): Hyper Sola Scriptura