October 31, 2014

The Journey Continues

Editor’s note:  I met Erick as a co-worker in a company where very few self-identified as Christians.  Erick however did.  It can be a difficult journey in our part of Canada.  Here is the latest installment in Erick’s story published this week.  He blogs at:  Sempiternal Being.  He has given me permission to share this segment with the community that is Internet Monk. 

How does his story resonate with your own?  Are there similar experiences that you have had that you think would be helpful to the conversation?  Your thoughts are welcome. We will be returning next week with another excerpt from Michael Spencer’s book:  Reconsider Jesus

JourneyThe Journey Continues

By Erick Gaudreau

Where to start?

Well let’s see. It’s been quite some time since I’ve sat down to really blog. And, I guess there are a few reasons for that.

Firstly, I’ve been busy. It was a lot easier to sit down and write when I was laid off work and had a lot of free time on my hands.

Secondly, I’ve struggled with where to go with this. At the beginning I had a lot of readers encouraging me in my journey in faith – towards God. And well truth be told, I’ve probably moved further away from God than towards him. As a result of that, I’ve kind of felt like maybe I’ve failed those that have been reading along. But, this is my journey and my walk, you may not agree with it, you may not understand it, but it’s my walk and my journey.

Truth be told, in the last year-and-a-bit I’ve come to question Christianity as a whole and as a result question the deity that is “God”. I’m not atheist and would probably consider myself more along the lines of an agnostic. But even that doesn’t seem to cover it. I believe that there is some sort of higher power, a god, who and what that is I don’t know. Truthfully, no one does. Every faith and belief on this planet has a god or higher power, some have many. How do you know which one is right? You don’t. You live your life according to the tenets of that faith and die in the belief that on the other side you will receive the appropriate reward for your faith.

What if they are all right? Or, what if you’re wrong? Then what?

You see the truth is, I think faith and religion (this is to describe faiths as a whole and not the “relationship” that people have with their god) works for some. It’s a set of rules and guidelines in which to live our lives. If you follow this set of rules and accept these things than you’re living a good and right life and will reap your reward in the afterlife. It’s a tool that people use to get through trials and turmoil. Some people use it as a means to become “whole”.

Well, I am seriously questioning it all. You see, I’ve experienced “supernatural” things that I can’t explain, so in my upbringing as a Christian these would be considered divine, maybe even miracles. But, when I’ve prayed and petitioned God for His intervention, healing and deliverance in other areas I got nothing. And, I’ve heard all kinds of answers as to why God “can’t” do it or that it’s a process and it takes time. “Well, God can’t change you or fix that all at once, you wouldn’t be able to cope.” Really? I call bullshit! If God created the universe in 7 days, then I’m sure he can fix our little problems. And, if we are talking about the God of the Bible then how you do explain the lepers that his son healed, or the paraplegic man, or the blind people, and let’s not forget about the dead that were raised. I’m sure that must have screwed up their lives, or afterlife, a bit. So, why is it “ok” to fix their lives but that doesn’t work in today’s day?

Another one that I don’t get it, how we determine what is sin and what isn’t sin. There are sins that are spoken of in the Bible that are commonly practiced among Christians today and yet other sins are still huge taboos and faux pas. And, depending on your religion within the Christian faith the sins are different. So, where do you draw the line? Is everything in the Old Testament no longer valid and the New Testament is the new rule book? Or is it a combination of both? Seriously I don’t even know where to start.

I know that “religion” is a creation of man. Well isn’t the Bible a book written by men? So, how do we know that they got it right? One guy has a “vision” and all of sudden BAM pork and shrimp is ok to eat. Hold on, wasn’t that a sin in the Old Testament? So, what’s right? Do these rules change? And who decides that they change? How come that guy was right and ok to change the “law”? Can sins change today?

So, if you’ve made it this far you’ll see that my journey has taken a different path then where it seemed to be heading. In summation, I think I believe that there is more than likely a higher power, a god. I’m just not sure that I buy into Christianity and the Bible anymore. I guess my faith just isn’t there.

Comments

  1. I’m afraid I have very little to say to you Erick. Not because I haven’t felt and thought some of the same things you are feeling and thinking; I’ve had many doubts, and still have doubts.

    But I started doubting my own doubts a long time ago. Doubting my doubts made it possible for me to slowly, inductively develop my faith, testing my experience and understanding against the claims of the Christianity, until I ironically reached a point where all my efforts were revealed to me as the working of God’s grace in my life.

    From what you say, it’s evident that you haven’t started doubting your own doubts. When, and if, you start doubting your doubts, faith may become possible. I’m afraid that until you reach that point, anything I might have to say to you would only alienate you further from any likelihood of faith, and I don’t want to do that. I hope what I’ve said so far hasn’t had that result.

    Be well, Erick, and God bless you.

    Until that time,

    • It is not as if there are only two possible belief systems–Evangelical Protestantism or nothing–and that “doubt” is equally hazardous to the claim that (to steal a phrase from Landover Baptist) “donkeys can talk, and people can fly, and a man named Jesus lives up in the sky”, and to the contrary hypothesis.Erick has identified certain well-known shortcomings of monotheism and Christianity. Would you have him “doubt” that they are false? And would you offer the same advice to a Buddhist? Or a Scientologist…?

      Some forms of Christianity are more intellectually and ethically savvy about such things than others, and perhaps Erick will gravitate to one of these. Or perhaps he will remain (I guess this is what he’s saying) SNBR. Or deepen his skepticism until even the idea of a Higher Power seems a little ridiculous. That too would be entirely reasonable.

      • SBNR. Curse my lexdixia!

      • Wexel, we start from where we are, not from where we aren’t; my advice to a doubting Buddhist would be no different: honor your own experience and understanding, and doubt your doubts, always using rational judgement as a tool.

      • Heck, I was a Buddhist at one time, Zen Buddhist that is.

      • I wouldn’t “have him” (Erick) doubt anything. I certainly don’t believe that if he started to doubt his doubts it would automatically lead him back into Christianity, and I definitely have no interest in seeing him end up in evangelicalism (I don’t know why you would think that I did: I’m a thoroughly ambivalent Episcopalian, thank you very much).

        I”m enough of a theological inclusivist to not worry that anything that Erick does or doesn’t do or believe can lead him beyond the reach of God’s grace, which I trust operates in ways that, if I knew all the particulars, would probably outrage me to the point of apoplexy. That might be one reason God doesn’t fill me in on all the details of his workings.

        But there certainly does seem to be room for honest self-doubt in what Erick wrote in his post.

        For instance, it seems reasonable to me that he might doubt his own assertion that he is sure that no one knows who or what the “higher power” is; how does he know that? Actually, he doesn’t know that. There may well be those who know better than he does the identity and nature of this “higher power.” If he had enough self-doubt to keep an open mind in this matter, he would not be far away from having faith as a mustard seed (even as a particle of anti-matter would do).

    • I would simply like to agree with Robert, who shares a similar version of faith with me, and is much more articulate in explaining it than I am.

      My faith is certainly a gift from the same God you doubt, but it is built on Truth, insofar as I (and millions upon millions of Catholics from 33 AD to the present) can discern. To paraphrase CS Lewis, Christ clearly existed upon this earth, and His words are pretty clear…..meaning to many of us that we can decide if He was a sociopathic liar, mentally ill with delusions of grandeur, OR, the Son of God He claimed to be. Given the number of people who have suffered and died in His name, I have to go with door #3.

      So, what I understand or agree with or can explain about God is irrelevant….if Christianity is TRUE. Best thing is….He is big enough and tough enough that He can handle our questions, anger, frustrations and lack of understanding.

      Best wishes on your journey. It is also said that God speaks to us as a community in a public language suitable for the dining table or fire–side, but He also has a special message for each of us, spoken in private, like the language of spouse alone in a bedroom. I pray that you can hear this voice when you are ready….

    • Robert, thanks for your comments. Doubting my doubts is an interesting concept and idea and I reply to this message I’m contemplating what this looks like.

  2. Hi Erick,

    I’ve been on quite a journey myself, a painful one that still hurts me today. The things that happened to me were partly brought about by my faith, I suffered for what I thought was right and the suffering kept going and going for many years. In all of this I questioned God, I tried to find a reason why and none was given. All that I had worked for was taken from me, the people whom I had gone out of my way to help turned against me, I was used and discarded. Yet in this time I felt closest to God, much like I did when I was young and idealistic and poor. One minute I would hate him and the next i felt embraced by him and taken apart to be with him. It’s hard to explain but I feel if this suffering was lifted then I would also go back to being distant from him. Yet there are times when I feel like I have taken beyond my abilities.

    In regards to you question about what is sin, I think we should read the Bible from the heart and not as a textbook, Christ is the fulfillment of Gods plan, he is the final Word from the Father. The Old Testament laws were good and just, yet they pointed to a greater reality. In the case you mentioned about pork, it might sound crazy but maybe one of th reasons it was forbidden was to show us, when the time had come, that the forbidden Gentiles are now welcome to Gods family. I’m not much of an evangelical nor a Catholic, to me my Bible and rule is Jesus, I place my faith in him only.

    • Not just “what is a sin, and why it is a sin” but WHAT is SIN? If we start there then the individual categories and definitions begin to fall into place.

  3. Nicely done, Erick.

    Every religion, except for Christianity, is based upon something that we should, ought or need to be doing to ascend to the ‘Divine’.

    In Christianity, God descends to us. Does all that is needful, and gives it to us freely, as gift.

    Some believe this (through faith, which is also a gift) and yet many do not.

    I don’t do this often, but once in a while I think it may be helpful that a writer listen to something. Something quite pertinent to what you have written and your situation.

    If you will;

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/a-resurrection-perspective.mp3

    It’s not too long. A bit over 16 min.

    • So salvation is given freely, and unlike other religions, there is absolutely nothing which we need to do.

      Except believe this father far-fetched claim.

      And (since the devil presumably believes, but is not saved) submit to it in some way.

      Hello…? No wonder the New Atheism is so popular!

      • Belief (intellectual assent)… and faith (trust)…are two completely different realities.

        The devil believes…but places his trust elsewhere (in himself)…and not in the Living God.

    • I listened to the audio clip posted and found some interesting points to contemplate but also brought out more questions and to a level a certain frustration. I think I am going to need to listen to it again when I can take notes.

  4. Well said Steve!

  5. Jeffrey Hughes Sr. says:

    Erick,

    I’ve been exactly where you are ……

    the only advice I can give you is to seek knowledge. study world history particularly religions and they are orgins.

    in order to know where we are going you need to know where we came from.

    always seek the truth it is liberating and will bring you closer to the Creator and the universe

    stay blessed and be a blessing to someone else

  6. …again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”

    This is us. Food rains down on us from heaven and sustains us in the desert, and we complain that it’s not what we ordered.

    No doubt the desert is hot, dry, filled with unfriendly creatures and hazards of all sorts. It’s lonely, it’s unpleasant. There is suffering. No doubt about that.

    And it’s tough, never being able to store up enough to know for sure that everything will be ok. Having to go to sleep empty handed and wait for your share in the morning.

    But on Friday night there’s always enough to last until Sunday morning.

    Maybe no leeks or melons, no side of hummus and tzatziki, fresh olives and nice wine. But manna.

    “He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

  7. Erick,

    Most, if not all of us have to work through those questions–sometimes more than once. When I read this from Thomas Merton it resonated powerfully in my heart. It doesn’t answer all of our questions, but it does call us to question our questions.

    Magnificent lines from Barth:

    “Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that he ought not to take his own unbelief too seriously. Only faith is to be taken seriously; and if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, that suffices, for the devil has lost his game.” —Dogmatics in Outline

    This is one of the great intuitions of Protestantism. And, of course, from a critically Catholic viewpoint, one can find fault with it: but why? To say “only faith is to be taken seriously” can be understood in the light of that Christian— and Catholic—humility which puts all its trust in God. Our “good works” are necessary, but they are not to be “taken seriously.” The Catholic dogma of justification never told anyone that he had to take his good works seriously in the sense of trusting completely in his own righteousness, for to take one’s good works seriously is to be a pharisee. Only faith is to be taken seriously because only the mercy of God is serious. And if we put too much emphasis on the seriousness of what we do, we not only make the judgment of God the most serious reality in our life, but we are in fact judged: we are judged as men who have taken seriously something other than His infinite mercy. He who takes mercy seriously will hardly sin seriously. He who takes his own works seriously will not be kept, by that seriousness, from sin. It is pseudo-seriousness. It is not good enough.

    What about unbelief, then: if faith is to be taken seriously, it follows that unbelief is also serious. No, because in taking faith seriously it is God whom we take seriously, not ourselves, not our faith. I do not take faith seriously as something which I definitively possess, but I take seriously God Who gives me faith and renews that gift, by His mercy, at every moment, in spite of my unbelief. This I think is one of the central intuitions of evangelical Christianity, and it is something which we must all learn. It is something, too, which many Protestants have themselves forgotten, becoming in¬stead obsessed with faith as it is in themselves, constantly watching themselves to see if faith is still there, which means turning faith into a good work and being justified, consequently by works. “To believe is to be free to trust in Him quite alone” and to be free from every other form of dependence and reliance. This is true freedom, and from it springs the capacity for every good work, for it removes all obstacles to love in our hearts.

    Barth stresses the fact that God must not be regarded as “pure power” in the sense of unbridled and arbitrary potentia. His power, potestas, is the power of love and truth. It is not the infinite, arbitrary will that flies into action unchecked by any responsibility to anything but its own whim: He is responsible to His own Love and His Truth. His power is the power of love. “Absolute power,” power responsible only to itself is the program of the devil—it becomes the ideal of man who thinks that the “power” to sin is essential freedom.

    Barth’s concept of evil: that which has been denied existence by God, and which we affirm by our own choice, thus attempting to give it existence in spite of God.

    The world is the theater of God’s glory—says Calvin, following Augustine. Man is the witness of the great acts of God, and “has to express what he has seen.” It is a great conception, but it is inadequate. I like better St. Irenaeus, who brings it even closer: man himself is the glory of God, but this glory in himself is not a spectacle which man contemplates. It is something that he lives. Gloria Dei vivens homo. I think it is most important today to get away from the idea of God, God’s glory, God’s attributes merely as “objects” which man contemplates, and then praises. Even though man may see nothing whatever of God, his life may still be filled with God’s glory. To say that he will “know” this in another world is all right, as long as we remember that we do not know precisely what we are talking about.

    (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pg. 333, Thomas Merton)

  8. Travis Sibley says:

    Mike, thanks for sharing this with the iMonk community and thank you, Erick, for having the guts to speak your thoughts!

    Most if us who mature in whatever spiritual path we choose have doubts. Or at least those of us who have a brain to think about things critically. Nothing wrong with questions and doubts.

    I don’t have time this morning to say much but will say that I have told many of these same things to my own family.

    I spent most of my life as an atheist but converted to Christianity about 15 years ago. And it was just that, a choice.

    After a brief time when I was overwhelmed by the thought if being lives so by God I began to question everything. And because of these questions and seeking answers my faith and beliefs have changed drastically. Some would look at me and call me a heretic because I question things like biblical inerrancy, a six day creation, a 6000 year old earth and so forth. But my journey is only mine.

    The only part I will address about aim is the whole Old Testament pork and catfish prohibition. Being an RN u believe that God was protecting the ancient Israelites with this command as the animals he forbade are all meats difficult to make and keep clean of and from bacterial and parasitic infections. With modern cooking and refrigeration techniques they are safe to eat now. The same applies for his commands to burn any house and its belongings down that were found to have mold growing. Old school infection control!

    Take care and keep moving forward!

    • @Travis…..I am also a nurse and have had the same thoughts! (Sorry that this is off base for Eric…) The kosher laws of separating meat and dairy—more prevention of cross-contamination. Avoiding dead bodies/washing if touched….ditto.How far away from camp the latrines needed to be? More of the same. And the laws about menstruation and bathing meant that a woman was re-joining her more-than-eager husband in the marital bed JUST before ovulation….a GREAT way to aid in the command to be fruitful and multiply!!

      Change of subject, also for Travis….not believing in biblical inerrancy, a 6000 year old earth, and 6 24-hour day creation does NOT make you a heretic, except in small circles with the Christian faith. We Catholics see no contradiction between evolution of the earth, palentology, and a planet of millions of years that took a few millenium to cool off and settle down. In fact, it was a priest who came up with the “Big Bang” theory! We DO see the hand of God in it all, the ensoulment of human beings in the image of God at some point, sin, and Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for us all. Most of the rest are details……

  9. Joe the Amused says:

    Maybe you are trying too hard? This may not work for you, but this is what I would do: Drink some wine, hug a baby, give a passionate kiss to your wife, walk in the grass barefoot, read a psalm, and then kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and think of all the things you should be grateful for — starting with The Incarnation.

  10. Thank you all for you comments. It’s been interesting to read the perspectives of others who don’t know me and therefore I can take their comments at face value and not look at our history.

  11. The man Jesus described as the greatest prophet to ever set foot on the earth, facing his imminent death, doubted himself and everything he had done. That became for him a moment of investigation. (He sent somebody to check it out because he was locked up). We investigate just like John did because life has critical junctures where utter dissolution becomes the road to solution. Doubt – I say get used to it. There’s more to come or more where that came from. I would guess John lived without any until he was saturated and overwhelmed by it. His light and his darkness were extreme. Most of us live with a more moderated pattern through life and there’s no escaping it. What would we call a faith that excluded any possibility of questioning? ” …are you the one or do we seek another?”

  12. My journey has been very different from yours, Erick. Whereas you question why God doesn’t work supernatural wonders in your experience, I question why he has in mine. Why give me that curing and not someone with a more serious form of the illness? I struggle with survivor’s guilt, and also the feeling I need to do more with all this extra time I suddenly have been given.

    Truth be told, I would be much happier if he had quietly gifted men and women with the intelligence and supplies to invent a drug that helped all of us, rather than giving this healing to me. I would have praised him none the less, believing him the creator of that intelligence and the chemicals they work with, but I wouldn’t struggle with these feelings. Others, though, would label it him “not doing the miracles” in our age that he did in other ages. So I suppose for them, especially of those who have experienced my journey with me, this boosted their faith and quieted their questions. It left me with more questions, not less.

    God doesn’t seem to mind questioning, ungrateful, even ranting prayers too much. Not every psalm ends with a happy conclusion. He seems to appreciate us directing our ranting, questioning thoughts at him anyway. And so it is the psalms that I lean on in times like this, full of emotional honesty as they are.

  13. Kenny Johnson says:

    I’ve always been a skeptical believer and still am. I think I have more doubts now than I’ve ever had in the past. The things that keeps me in the Christian faith is hope. I find the hope and promise of Jesus as King and of God rescuing the world WORTH believing in. So I hope that it is true and that keeps me going. Because for me, the alternative seems so bleak and meaningless.

    I know someone above has already written, “It is not as if there are only two possible belief systems–Evangelical Protestantism or nothing” but for me the alternative is “nothing.” The hope and promise of Christ is not found anywhere else. It’s certainly not found in agnosticism or atheism.

    And to be honest, if I was to lose my faith, I’d probably be (reluctant) nihilist.

  14. Peace From The Fringes says:

    Erick, I am in a place that sounds very much like yours with the possible difference that taking these steps has brought me more peace and joy than “religion” ever did. The struggle is over.

    Being able to look a thing (anything) in the eye and analyze it through study, history, intuition and the advice of trusted friends — rather than shoving it through a filter of the text of one particular book — has opened up my soul and spirit.

    My belief in God has never left me and my heart tells me that he has sent himself into our world countless times. He has spoken and continues to speak to every heart in every country and at every time. To believe that Jesus is the only way to reach God makes about as much sense to me as to claim that there is only one flight between New York and LA. It just does not compute for me and, if I’m being honest with myself, it never really did.

  15. I also came to doubt my religious faith. Sociology does give us some window into how and why religious faiths developed. A study of religious history can give one a jaundiced view of just how and why books made it into the Canon and which ones didn’t. Archaeology and science have revealed what we should already have known that many of the stories in the OT were meant to be mythological stories and not facts. A fact that is horrifying when you consider that the Adam and Eve story was used to justify outright misogyny for a good 1800 years!

    And given the people I encounter today who claim to have visions and prophecies, makes me wonder if those who had them in the past were just as disturbed. Did Paul really have a vision on the road to Damascus or did he just discover a more compelling myth for his fanatic tendencies? Did Jeremiah really speak with the Almighty or was he just a grumpy old man?

    So in the end I do believe that religion is a way for people to cope with a hostile world and to lay out blueprints for living their life and signposts along the way. I don’t believe any is superior or truer than any other. I guess in that way, I’m a very modern pomo person.

    I do, however, have some understanding that there is a deity or a force out there. And I decided to go with my family’s heritage and chose its traditional religion of Judaism. Understand, I could have chosen any religion in the world, I chose this one as having some meaning to me. I don’t literally believe any of the foundational myths, but I do believe that the ancient Israelites might have encountered in some chance way that divinity and wrote through myth and story about their own stories with it and each other. I don’t believe the Law was given on Sinai but that it was hard won through dealing with life via trial and error and borrowing from other cultures along the way.

  16. Jerry Goodman says:

    He sounds just like the writers of the Psalms, a great picture of human struggles. I read from a source, unsure where. Paul before Christ was doing for God, now God is doing through Paul. Insert your own name in place of Paul and watch the journey within.

  17. Thanks for sharing this with such openness and honesty. Your journey is your own and different from any other, but I don’t think anyone who thinks seriously about issues of faith hasn’t wrestled with serious questions and doubts. Maybe different ones from what you have expressed, but just as real. And I think those who claim they don’t have questions or doubts are either lying, thoughtless, or brainwashed.

    My own journey has involved more doubt about institutional Christianity, particularly the evangelical variety. Gave up on those kinds of churches several years ago. And I question a lot of stuff in the Bible, particularly how much was influenced by human culture of the time. The reason I haven’t lost faith is that Jesus remains compelling to me in a way that I just cannot shake. I certainly haven’t found anyone better to follow. So I trust him with my doubts and come to view all the other issues as secondary. This is not a popular position to espouse in a lot of Christian circles, so I don’t. Imonk is one of the few safe places to exchange ideas and be honest. I’m glad you are here.

    • My own journey has involved more doubt about institutional Christianity, particularly the evangelical variety. Gave up on those kinds of churches several years ago.

      That makes two of us. And the irony of it all is that Evangelicalism tries SO HARD to brand itself as anti-institutional.

      And I question a lot of stuff in the Bible, particularly how much was influenced by human culture of the time.
      All of it was. And yet, it is, I believe, somehow profoundly still true, nonetheless. I have found that the more I have trouble accepting things in Scripture, the more likely it is I have missed their deeper meaning. The point isn’t that Jericho actually fell or that Jonah was actually swallowed and vomited up. Those things may or may not have been literal, actual, historical events, apart from the editing influence of human perspective. But if those stories aren’t from start to finish about Christ and have a deeper meaning for the Christian, they are a waste of time.

      • Sorry. My original should have read, “how much it was influenced by human culture.” In other words, to what extent.

        Having said that, I’m not so sure all of it was; there may be some real exceptions. For example, some of the visions and some of the OT prophets words read powerfully precisely because they were not influenced by the culture; often they condemned it.

        • I agree! I would go as far as to say all of scripture is prophetic in that way. It is timeless and transcendent throughout, not just in certain portions. But it is somehow simultaneously the product of human cultures in that it uses their language, and communicates in terminology and phrases that the people of the original audience understand well. Language is a part of culture.

          As to how much of it was influenced by human culture to the extent that it corrupted the original message, that I am reluctant to even speculate on. I’m happy to just accept the text as it is and allow science, reason, and tradition to enlighten and shape how I understand it over time.

  18. Many Christian teachers don’t understand the New Covenant. So how can they teach it? Let’s Talk about Jesus has a whole study of the New Covenant. Look it to it

    http://www.lovinggrace.org

  19. In Transition says:

    Thanks for telling us part of your story Erick.

    Are stories similar or different from our own more helpful/encouraging/challenging? I honestly don’t know.

    Here’s a piece of my story for the willing reader:

    I grew up in a home that had no religion or spiritual pursuit or practice. I was loved and we had a lot of fun. We even had fun making fun of the “church people”. I, however, for as long as I can remember, have been interested in God. And I believed what the Bible said about Jesus from the first time I read about Him. I believed, when as a ten (or so) year old, I saw a man on TV, with his nose right up next to mine as he sat close the camera and I stood close to the TV, that what he said about Jesus forgiving me of my sins was true. And through forty (or so) years of life I have always believed. It probably doesn’t need to be said that I’ve had plenty of other things (than belief) with which to struggle. But I’ve always believed.

    So my story is very different from the skeptic. I suspect that others have had my experience. I discovered that i had belief. I noticed that it was with me. I experienced it as something I was equipped with, or at least something that had been given to me at a time further back than my memory reached.

    With that as my starting deck, my play has been “to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” My pursuit has been to get to know God and attempt to work with Him as he changes me.

    My testimony is that I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. The belief that I started with has been proven (in my mind of course) to be set on a solid foundation. God has shown himself to be faithful as a Father, a friend, a healer, a provider, a lover of my soul and so much more. I’ve enjoyed Him. I have worshiped Him in joy on Zion, I’ve sat with Him in peace by the river, and (maybe most importantly) have experienced the fellowship of His sufferings (as He’s drawn near in my many times of trial).

    I know I haven’t offered answers to the skeptics by recounting my experience. I can and have entered into that discussion. I thought this time, however, maybe I could honor Erick’s willingness to relate his story by just relating some of my own.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      IT, you seem to be on the complete other end of the bell curve from the skeptics. Came to Faith with no groundwork, definite moment of conversion, always believed ever since. The ideal Testimony Night Testimony all these Evangelicals try for, (And if you read Left Behind Volume Whatever, the only thing we have to look forward to for all Eternity — Never-ending compulsory Testimony Night.)

      And it has its drawbacks. Primarily the assumption (reinforcing the Evangelical tropes) that it’s what’s Normal, placing a burden on those of us who didn’t get there the same way. The danger of not being able to empathize or understand someone on another point of the bell curve. The danger of Spiritual Pride/Christianese One-Upmanship, whether being put on a pedestal as a Shining Example or the more common “I Did It This Way, So You Have to Do It The Same Way.”

      • In Transition says:

        IT! Ha! Love it.

        Well, HUG, I probably wasn’t able to fully represent myself with such a short story because I did have a moment (or moments/time period) of conversion. It’s just that I readily and quickly believed the good news when (and each time) I heard it. While some may struggle with “believing”, my struggles have come in many other areas. And some of the things that come hard for me come really easily for others.

        Regarding normal, I could be wrong, but I’m thinking my story is not normal.

        Regarding “being a shining example”, I’ve known many folks that had to work through lots of doubts in order to come to belief, who seem to me to be a lot more like Jesus than am I.

        Regarding “You have to do it the same way,” I think the only “way” that anyone could ever proclaim as THE way would be the person called The Way. :-)

  20. I find my own struggle with doubt results in a rather schizophrenic divide between believing in a wildly active spiritual reality full of mystery and the presence of the unseen all around us… or a stark nihilistic atheism. I’m not sure exactly why this is how I swing, but I’m just an ‘all-in’ sort of gal: either there is God and a reality beyond just the immediately physical, or our self-awareness is just an unfortunate evolutionary curse.

    I think this tendency always made me uncomfortable in my Evangelical past which tried to apply a sort-of scientific proof to all things biblical, and of course they don’t add up. Since leaving my old church I’ve had the freedom to spend some time with my doubts and misgivings; there, I found a profound fear and sadness when I was left with a functional atheism for a little while.

    Since that ‘spiritual low point’ for me, I realized that I was not quite ready to give up on a faith that I still had a gut feeling that held some sort of truth and meaning, and I started reading again, looking to see if there were other voices that could reconcile what seemed like nonsense to the reality around me. This could be a very long story, but in short, (thanks much to the amazing variety here at IM) I have discovered the amazing depth of the other and older lines of Christianity and that what I had learned in Evangelicalism was only one, small corner of what this faith can look like. I’ve discovered that I long for the mystery and here-and-now presence of the God of the older faiths, and in this I have found something that I think looks like faith, looks like peace.

    I still have doubts and anxieties, and I imagine that I will for the rest of my life. I do not know if something will happen in the future that will cause me to decide to break from religion altogether, but I hope it does not. I guess my point here is that I was at a point that I had to give my secular doubts their proper time, and now I am giving God my openness and effort to make His point, if he is indeed there to make one. I concede, that I know that I want the hope that a belief in the spiritual affords me; I concede, that I am not strong enough to face stark atheism in the face without descending into nihilism. This is where I’m fair to myself. But I am, for what it’s worth, keeping pace on a journey. I pray that I find MORE of God as I continue, and I would pray the same for the author of this post.

  21. Years later my atheist dad told me the story of when he asked God to reveal himself. God gave him no answer. (Which was kind of him, considering Dad asked to be struck with lightning.) Dad concluded there’s no God, and proceeded to become one of those obnoxious know-it-all atheists. Thanks to his lousy example, in my teenage years he probably drove me further towards God than anything else. Some kids rebel by ditching church; I rebelled by going. So, y’know, there’s that. Sometimes God can best use you as an atheist. ‘Cause there are more than enough obnoxious know-it-all Christians.

  22. Erik, props to you for being honest and questioning the “system.” Though we both know that the complexities of life are never resolved to our satisfaction, I do hope in our searching you are able to find better answers than the ones that have been given you.

    It’s a set of rules and guidelines in which to live our lives. If you follow this set of rules and accept these things than you’re living a good and right life and will reap your reward in the afterlife.

    I’m truly sorry if you have ever been told Christianity has anything to do with this. Christianity is the complete and utter antithesis of this.

    how you do explain the lepers that his son healed, or the paraplegic man, or the blind people, and let’s not forget about the dead that were raised. I’m sure that must have screwed up their lives, or afterlife, a bit. So, why is it “ok” to fix their lives but that doesn’t work in today’s day?

    That’s a good question, but Christianity and the Bible don’t answer it. Attempts to force an answer from the New Testament result in doctrinal innovations that destroy faith.

    Listen, you are asking a ton of questions, but honestly, none of them are new. I would encourage you, for your own sake, to not shuck it all of with Occam’s razor and join the cynical ranks of the disillusioned formerly religious, but actually look and see how the Christian faith has responded to these questions in the past. Avoid anything written in the last 20 years, or answers by trendy religious celebrities. You will find that if you cut past the hype of consumerist religion for the quiet, still voice of ancient tradition, that it may not necessarily answer all your questions, but it can give you the kind of truth that does provide hope for today, and not just after you die.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      …but it can give you the kind of truth that does provide hope for today, and not just after you die.

      Fluffy Cloud Heaven When You Die has done as much to discredit Christianity as any of the Crusades or Witch-Hunts. It turns everything all ethereal spiritual, wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, completely divorced from reality. so why bother?

      There’s a reason the original Christian afterlife was Resurrection of the Body into a fully-debugged Cosmos 2.0.

      And why Judaism (the main root of Christianity) places a lot of emphasis on Living Your Life.

  23. Like others, I too thank Erick for his honest post. I also like how it has drawn out similar testimonies from so many others. Sometimes I wonder if Christians (or any religious types) who assuredly and confidently speak of their beliefs even have a true faith. Have their beliefs have ever been shaken by doubt and circumstances? Are they living in some kind of fantasy world? Have they deluded themselves or been hypnotized by someone? Sometimes about the only thing I feel completely confident and assured about, as a Christian, is my salvation. Everything else…well, I have moments of great wavering.

    As I read Erick’s journey, the book of Hebrews came to mind. While written specifically to the Jew who had become a Christian, I think it offers something to any religious person, not just those who come from Judaism. (In fact, I often use it to call into question Christian practices.) I think it speaks to the problems of any “religion,” the man-made aspects. Though the author is clearly asking the reader why they’d go back to Judaic practices when they’ve known and tasted the simple salvation of Jesus Christ, I could use that argument with any practitioner of any religion. Why would you want to confession every Friday when there’s Christ? Why would you want to believe you need to be reincarnated until you get it right when there’s Christ? Why would you want to face Mecca and pray five times a day when there’s Christ? Why would you want to think you have to go to church every Sunday and maybe even Wednesday and you better be sure to give 10% of your earnings (pre-tax) when there’s Christ?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is this: In response to Erick’s statement, “I’m just not sure that I buy into Christianity and the Bible anymore,” that’s because they’ve been made into something they’re not. But in terms of Jesus Christ, why would you want to turn to someone or anything else?

  24. SopwithCamel says:

    My best advice, and it is very short, is stay motivated by/seek love, and don’t be afraid. Good luck, Erick.

  25. From Erick’s closing paragraph:

    In summation, I think I believe that there is more than likely a higher power, a god. I’m just not sure that I buy into Christianity and the Bible anymore. I guess my faith just isn’t there.

    This is one of the weakest summaries I’ve read in a long time and would earn at best a C+ in a freshman comp paper: “I think I believe…”; “more than likely…”; “I’m just not sure…”; “I guess…”

    What does “I think I believe” mean?

    Erick, you are asking the right questions, and you should keep asking them, but you seem indifferent to whether they have answers—or perhaps you have made up your mind about the discrepancies in the bible and insist upon a literal, carved-in-stone interpretation, which is unfair to the bible. Judaism, as a revealed, evolving faith grounded in history—and Christianity, by extension, can’t be held to that impossible standard. Rules that were good for semi-nomadic Hebrews may not be necessary for urban Gentiles.

    Some of the details in the bible do appear to conflict, but either truth exists or it does not, and this really does matter, or we’re all meaningless. I’m hearing you say, “whatever” to the question of truth.

    • Ted, I sympathize with what Erick has written and how he has written it because I understand his statements like: “I think I believe.” I think that if we say we are CERTAIN about things, we set ourselves up to fall if later we find that we were wrong. Even Jesus said not to swear on things but let your yes be yes and your no be no. So, we can note that we are leaning one way or the other about an issue. I realize that belief in God is not just another “issue” but if we are unsure about what we believe, we may as well just say that.

    • The standards of college term papers favor a more persuasive, argumentative style rather than the relatively confessional one of a spiritual blogpost.

      You are the second person here to introduce a false dichotomy between theism or nothing. Maybe the Zen Buddhists (after Robert F., above) are right! Or maybe there is more than one path that offers truth and meaning. God and Jesus are symbols, just as Buddha is (or whatever it is that Zen believes). Since these boil down to matters of opinion, Erick’s hesitancy is only natural.

  26. I have been observing the conversation today rather than participating as I felt that there were other people on Internet Monk who would have much more sage things to say than me. I do want to thank everyone for keeping the converstaion civil and being respectful to Erick as a guest among us.

  27. Hi ERICK,

    first of all, thank you for your honesty and for sharing about your journey with us

    some advice: stop worrying

    I don’t think you will find the ‘answers’ you need through complicated theology or doctrinal knowledge. . .
    from what I can pick up from what you wrote, there is a possibility that you need ‘something more’ than intellectual learning can provide

    so a suggestion:
    next time you feel an impulse to show kindness to someone in need of it, act on it . . . in doing so, you will have spent time in the Presence of the God Who is love :)

  28. How timely…this was in my daily devotional:

    “I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go.

    This is where I want you to be. You ask that I deliver you. Then do not be uneasy about it; do not teach Me, and do not teach yourself; surrender yourself to Me. I am competent to be your Master. I will lead you in a way that is pleasing to Me. You think it wrong if things do not go as you feel they should. But your thinking harms you and hinders Me. Things must go, not according to your understanding but above your understanding. Submerge yourself in a lack of understanding, and I will give you My understanding. Lack of understanding is real understanding; not knowing where you are going is really knowing where you are going. My understanding makes you without understanding. Thus Abraham went out from his homeland and did not know where he was going (Gen. 12:1 ff.). He yielded to My knowledge and abandoned his own knowledge; and by the right way he reached the right goal.

    This is the way of the cross. You cannot find it, but I must lead you like a blind man. Therefore not you, not a man, not a creature, but I, through My Spirit and the Word, will teach you the way you must go. You must not follow the work which you choose, not the suffering which you devise, but that which comes to you against your choice, thoughts, and desires. It is there that I call you; there you must be a pupil. There your Master has come to you.”

    — Martin Luther, The Seven Penitential Psalms

  29. My word of advice would be first that you cannot base your decision of Christianity by what you see in other people. People will always fail and I cannot say I have ever met a Christian that is living what I believe Jesus spoke of when he left the earth, even myself. However, from my experience with God, I have come to discover that God’s faithfulness is just as dependable as are human failings.

    My second offering to you is this: God is completely incomprehensible to our human minds. If the simple thought that you can hold on to at this point is that there is “some sort of God” out there. Then surely, at the very least, he is something/someone that is greater than us and perhaps we can grasp that the created being may not be able to completely comprehend the Creator. I personally believe that is true. I don’t think if I were in your place and having your doubts that I would be able to think through it all logically and come out in any better spot than I was in before. My research of God from the bible reveal to me a God that I cannot understand. I don’t know why he works the way he does. Most things about him don’t make a bit of sense to me. Especially his unending, unconditional, sacrificial love and grace. Unconditional love is a foreign concept to any human raised by and around other humans. We have no experience with which to compare it to because we humans are incapable of it. (Except by the Spirit of God through us.) I guess I say all that to say that I understand your questions, your doubts. It can be maddening to try to understand and compare what seems to be inconsistent throughout the bible or denominations of Christians.

    However, I have had my own personal experience with God that has caused me to know without any doubts that He is real and to know who He is. And you must have your own personal experience with God to remove your doubts, to know him beyond those doubts. No one can tell you about him and it be revealed to you. But he promises that if YOU seek him, he will be found by you.

    And I have to add, hopefully as an encouragement to you, that in my personal experience it has been those dark times, when God did not answer my prayers and yet I chose to trust him that I came to know him in a more real and intimate way than I ever had before.

    On my knees for you.