I am not to comfortable talking in depth with the local folk about my leaving the faith, mainly due to the trust factor. As a self employed person, if word got out that I was a non believer, I would stand to loose a good portion of my business. In my part of the country, probably 95% of the population are professing Christians. Why would they want a non believer performing my service when they could use the Christian down the road?
I became a believer at 17 years old back in '74 or so. I came to the conclusion, through people witnessing to me, religious radio, and reading the bible for myself, that I was a lost sinner, worthy of punishment in hell. I accepted the gift of salvation that God offered, which was by way of trusting, by faith, in what Jesus accomplished on the cross.
Jump ahead to the early 80's. I was in the military, married, and had a young son. I was attending at a local Independent Baptist church. Jesus was my life. When the doors of the church were open I was there. I would take vacation time to attend daily services during revival. I taught Sunday school, was in prayer groups, went on visitation, witnessed to my co-workers, studied my bible and prayed daily. Life was good.
Sometime in '84, I began to get disillusioned with organized religion. I felt that the church was going in the wrong direction. Not enough emphasis was on total surrender to Christ. There was too much talk of increasing membership and participation. I felt that the direction should be on brokenness before Christ. People were not open and honest. We were more of a social club than a body of believers.
Now understand, we were probably one of the more spiritual minded churches in town, yet I did not think we, as a body, were spiritual minded enough. I read constantly: Watchmen Nee, Jessie Penn Louise, David Brainard, Reese Howells, Andrew Murray, Roy Hession, etc. I wanted to experience the deeper life. I wanted nothing less than to be a helpless glob of flesh in the hands of Master Jesus. I was of the mindset that the only way the Holy Spirit could control me, use me, was if I allowed him to expose every area of my heart that was still under my control, under the control of the "self", the old sinful nature.
In '85, I got orders to another part of the country. We moved, had two more sons, and could not find a new church home. We bounced around for a year or so, but never seemed to fit in. I still went to church on occasion, but my wife stayed home with the kids. I would go on a Sunday evening or Wednesday evening because experience taught me that, it is at those times that you got to see the "real" church. I never did find one.
I happened upon a fellow Christian one day while eating lunch. He saw me reading my bible as I ate. We talked and became friends. He was of the Pentecostal persuasion and I was of the Baptist (I never called myself a Baptist, just a follower of Christ). We soon began to discuss our differences and would meet one night a week to study and debate. It was a wonderful time because I now had some serious fellowship, and had some incentive to study. This lasted for almost a year, eating lunch together, meeting one evening a week for debate and study.
All good things must come to an end. My friend, I found out, was no different than 99% of the Christians I encountered. They believed what they had been taught and had not really learned anything on their own. My beliefs transformed as a result of our discussions, and I came to doubt some of my long held beliefs because of what he shared with me. I became more open to what I could learn from the bible rather than hold firm to what I had already believed, had already been taught. He, on the other hand, had his feet firmly stuck in the mud of his denomination and would not even consider that what he had been taught may not be scriptural. We parted ways, never to talk again.
Something happened to me the day of our last meeting. All of a sudden, I was aware of the fact that I really didn't know anything. Sure, I knew what I read in the bible, and I knew what I thought it meant, but there were millions who thought it meant something else.
I found myself as a man without a country. I could not find any church or denomination I could agree with. I wanted to know the truth and not follow the traditions of men. I prayed. I prayed more. I studied, more and more...but nothing came. I felt God was ignoring me, and perhaps had been ignoring me all along, because what I had in essence was 8 years of desiring, yet never really attaining what I thought was true, one on one communion with my God, the creator of the universe.
At about this point in my life, I started my journal.
A man is what he say’s he is, not what he appears to be, or what he claim’s to be, but what his conversation reveals him to be. The inner man is revealed by his words. The tongue and the heart are always in complete fellowship. Matthew 12:34-37.
Don’t try to explain bible doctrine to a lost person. The only thing they should be acquainted with is the gospel of the crucified Christ. They will be forever curious about things they disagree with. When their curiosity surfaces, share Christ crucified. Never get into an unnecessary conversation about doctrine with them, especially, if before hand, you believe they might disagree with you. Phillipians 2:14.
Complete surrender is necessary for salvation. If I am not willing to die for Christ, then he is not mine. Upon acceptance of Christ, one possesses all of Christ. Will He dwell in a temple that is not entirely His? Will He enter a heart that He cannot control? Will He save that soul that is not completely surrendered? Matthew 16:24-26.
I am troubled over this theology of “willingness”. I have often thought to myself and told God, “I am willing to go where ever, do what ever, and be who ever you want me to be”. I am beginning to wonder if God is pleased with willingness. Take the word “willing”, and write it next to the word “desire”. You see a difference. The definitions go from: “favorably inclined”, to, “an intense longing”. Willingness seams to be nothing more than indifference. Is God seeking those who have a “take it or leave it” attitude concerning His will, or those who will settle for nothing less than His will?
Through lack of discipline, I have neglected these notes for a year. Many thoughts of great importance are gone, never to be recalled. What can be more important than the meditations of my mind? If they can’t be recalled, then whatever good may be in them can’t be applied. If they can’t be applied, then I waste a lot of time.
God has been faithful to me, as I have been studying some subjects these past few months. Subjects that there seems to be much disagreement over. I have based my beliefs on the teachings of man for so long that, when challenged, I have been without defense. I find there is no one I agree with and I find no one genuinely desiring the truth. My stand on these subjects is not dogmatic. I am open for spiritual persuasion.
Water baptism : Defended as necessary for salvation by some, as an outward sign of obedience by others. What is the mode? Sprinkling, pouring, immersion. Who's name do you speak during the ceremony? (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38) The arguments have been made for years. I wonder if water baptism, whatever its mode or purpose, might have ceased with the end of the apostolic age. (The completion of the New Testament.)
Holy Ghost baptism : Misunderstood by many, especially those in Pentecostal denominations. Upon acceptance of Christ, He comes to dwell in us and places us into his spiritual body. This “baptism”, or “placing into” is explained in the later part of 1 Cor. 12:13.
Tongues : Cults have sprung up around this spiritual gift stunting the spiritual growth of millions. I have never seen it done according to the scriptures. (1 Cor. 14) I believe it ceased with the apostolic age.
Tithing : I am amazed at how man finds it difficult to live under the grace of God and is therefore constantly placing himself under the law of God. A person should give of their money, (Which is Gods money upon salvation.) as moved by God. God is to be glorified, not paid back.
Eternal Salvation : Will God take this gift of salvation back when a person sins? This is another doctrine that strengthens denominational barriers. I have yet to find substantial scriptural evidence for either belief, but I find it hard to grasp the idea of God snatching so precious a gift out of the heart of a Christian because of the sinful nature once again regaining control of the individual. It seems contrary to His nature to give us this “pearl of great price”, out of love and divine grace, as unworthy as we are, to then tear it from within us the moment we perform unworthily.
Pastoral Duty : In my Christian experience, the Pastor of the church has stood in front of the congregation three times a week and preached a sermon at them. Surely this is not New Testament worship. I see nothing in this practice but following the traditions of men. During the average church service, there is little room for the Lord to move people’s hearts. Everything is so predictable. Seldom have I attended church expecting to meet with God. The question then is,” Why go to church?”, or if we do go, ”What will we do if we don’t here a sermon?” The only answer can be - “surely God will show us.”
The Holy Trinity : I never considered this doctrine as questionable. I couldn’t understand it, but neither could anyone else. It seems that the scriptures do show a plurality in the Godhead, but I don’t believe this plurality is a separation of persons, but a distinction of attitudes, or modes of operation that God uses in dealing with man.
A true test of humility doesn’t occur very often, but when it does occur, Christians often fail. To admit you’re wrong after a minor remark, is no great feat of the humble attributes. Consider this test :
1) A doctrinal belief you have had for years has never been challenged until now.
2) All you can do to meet this challenge is to quote other people, not scripture.
3) Substantial biblical and historical evidence is given to prove your belief wrong.
4) The person presenting this evidence is physically, emotionally, and spiritually younger than you, and he is also from a different denomination.
5) If you are wrong, then so is everybody you have trusted for so long.
But remember; truth in one area does not prove infallibility, and error in one area does not prove carnality.
This past week I have been experiencing thoughts and feelings I haven’t felt before. After many months of studying books on the tongues movement, water baptism, the book of Acts, and discussing these subjects with a member of a different denomination, I am wondering if I know anybody who is experiencing genuine biblical salvation. I know of nobody who is living in the manner that is spoke of in the scriptures, especially myself. In considering Matthew chapter 5, 6, and 7, the attitudes spoken of by Jesus the Christ are nonexistent in the lives of professing Christians that I have encountered. All I have met are foolish men. (Matt. 7:26) I have lived the life of a foolish man. There has been little audible, and much less visible evidence to support my profession of faith. Why talk about it if I’m not living it?
I have reached a point in my life, which I guess could be called a valley. A spiritual Death Valley. It seams as though I have abandoned all that I once believed. Faith in the claims of the scriptures seems to be so weak, almost undetectable. I can’t honestly say that I have experienced anything during my walk as a Christian that would confirm what I claim to believe. I can offer no testimony of answered prayer, no victory over sinful tendencies, no boldness in sharing the bible with others. Maybe I have not been, as the Bible says, “born again”. Could it be that I have mistaken an intellectual curiosity, for scriptural faith? I wonder if the gospel seed that was sown many years ago, in my heart, found only rocky places where the soil was shallow. (Matt. 13) I want so badly to accept the spiritual claims of the Bible, but I find no evidence to support those claims. The evidence I am looking for is in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. I have read of people who could be called meek, merciful, pure in heart, and persecuted. (Matt. 5) People such as David Brainard, Reese Howels, and Richard Warmbrand, but I have never been acquainted with even one such person in the flesh. Where are all the “Christians”? Is the spiritual aspect of the Bible all fairy tales? Where are the over comers (1John 5:4,5), where are the lovers (1John 3:14-18), where are the righteous (1John 3:4-10), where are the holy (1Peter 1:13-16), where are the wise (James 4:17,18), where are the good (Titus 3:1-8)? Does anybody posses these God-given qualities? Does anyone really care more about his brother than he does for himself? I want to be one of those people, but for right now, I would settle for just meeting one.
It has been six months sense my last entry. As I can see, nothing has changed. My mind is very cold toward God, yet my relationship with my wife and boys has seemingly not been affected by my turmoil and complacency about religious matters. Emotionally, I’m fine. I don’t break down and weep, I don’t lose my temper, and I don’t fall into deep states of depression. My job performance is unaffected. So, how has my abandonment of all religious exercise affected my life? I don’t go to church, pray, witness, tithe, study the scriptures, etc., yet I’m still a productive member of this society. The only reason that I am not a very happy person seems to be that I miss being “religious”. I miss the routine, the theological arguments, the holy feelings, the confidence that I wasn’t going to spend eternity in hell with the heathens, yet I don’t seem to miss God. The only reason I can see, that I don’t miss God, is that I have never known Him personally, intimately. I’ve known Him only from what I have heard and read. Is that how you get to know the creator of the universe . . . talk about Him, read about Him? I think I really want to know the true God. I want to leave all ideas that I have about him, in the past. Even those that were truth, because I have no way of knowing truth from a lie at this point in my life. I just can’t trust my judgment in these matters. I must be taught by God Himself. I want God to teach me what a real servant of His must live like, inwardly and outwardly. I want to belong to Him, as a servant.
Since my last entry, in my judgment, there has been no spiritual improvement. There seems to be definite signs of worldliness in my attitudes and actions. Two years ago I would have been in agony over my thoughts and my choice of words at certain moments. I am obsessed with photography. I spend a lot of time thinking about equipment and techniques. I feel guilty about this, but I’m unsure why . . .it is my job.
Over the past two months I have had a renewed interest in God. The desires of wanting to trust Him, obey Him, rest in Him, and really get to know Him, have started to stir in me. The confidence that I once had, that God was real, has been revived. I have prayed for the first time in over a year. I have talked to Josh about the Lord for the first time in over two years. He still remembers and is still sensitive. I asked Caleb who God is, and he didn’t know . . .had no idea. This hit me very hard.
I spent the 19th of last month with Don. This was beneficial and, I believe, instrumental in my renewed desire for the Lord. My heart was dealt with as Don spoke. This is what I have prayed for recently. Thank you Lord.
Since my last entry, I have had very little thought of God. Occasionally a twinge inside, maybe a little desire left, trying to surface. Maybe the Spirit of God? I don’t know. I don’t think like a child of God.
I don’t talk like a child of God.
I don’t react like a child of God.
I don’t live like a child of God.
Am I a child of God??? I refuse to be a “sham” Christian. I will be real, or nothing. Terry and Ray visited last weekend. Since then I have had renewed interest in the truth. But I believe I want the truth simply to prove others wrong. Can I seek after the Lord as much as I seek after the truth? Is finding the answers as important as finding the Lord? Where do I stand with God? Am I a Christian or an infidel? Have I been born again or deceived? Is Christ my savior or my judge? I honestly don’t know. Do I want to know???
Since September 1990, I have not talked to any Christians except The Smiths in June of this year. Where are they? Do you have to go to church to find Christians? Well, I’ve tried that before . . . they’re not there.
My spiritual condition is unchanged. I dislike most people. Their attitudes ether anger me or bore me. My faith in God is dwindling daily. I love my boys dearly though . . . why can’t I love God?
My spiritual and emotional condition is disastrous. I see myself as a complete failure in every area of my life. I feel I am as close to being a ship lost at sea in a hurricane as a man can be. I don’t know which direction to try to steer toward, therefore, I drift, a victim of my circumstances. I am inconsistent, indecisive, temperamental, lazy, thoughtless, uncaring, vulgar. I hate my job and the people I work for. All this affects my family adversely. My boys aren't given or shown discipline. My wife worries about me. I am rapidly approaching 40 and my future is bleak. I don’t look fondly at my past because of where it has led me, financially, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Where can I find relief? How can this downward spiral be halted? I need to find rest somewhere, somehow, or I am going to sink!
No change. One year and no change. My entry from last year could be written again, word for word.
In a matter of a few hours, the answer to my suffering for the past twenty five years has appeared. I now see with telescopic vision what has been hidden from view by superstition. It’s as if I have been released from leg chains in the hold of an 18th century slave ship and transported to a world of such natural beauty that I can’t find a point to begin observing it for fear that I will miss something in another location. The truth has broken through the thick shroud of old bible leather that has covered my eyes for so long.
I no longer believe in a god!
Christianity, as I have known and experienced, is the biggest fraud that mankind has ever exposed himself to!
The bible is the work of men. It is a mixture of one part fact, to five parts fiction.
Science, not religion, is the source of truth in the world.
The guilt, self doubt, and worry that plagued nearly every waking moment of my life for the past twenty five years, has been replaced with a new wonder, a sense of adventure, and a freedom that can only be had when one is no longer shackled to a belief system that threatens to punish you for every human thought, word, or deed. There is no heaven, no hell, only birth and death, and what ever you can learn, enjoy, and contribute in between.
There is so much to observe, absorb, ingest. I feel like a child. Like a vacuum, sucking up everything I see and hear. I worship life, love, knowledge, truth. I believe this journal is complete.
When I became convinced that the Universe is natural -- that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world -- not even in infinite space. I was free -- free to think, to express my thoughts -- free to live to my own ideal -- free to live for myself and those I loved -- free to use all my faculties, all my senses -- free to spread imagination's wings -- free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope -- free to judge and determine for myself -- free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past -- free from popes and priests -- free from all the "called" and "set apart" -- free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies -- free from the fear of eternal pain -- free from the winged monsters of the night -- free from devils, ghosts and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought -- no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings -- no chains for my limbs -- no lashes for my back -- no fires for my flesh -- no master's frown or threat -- no following another's steps -- no need to bow, to cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain -- for the freedom of labor and thought -- to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains -- to those who proudly mounted scaffold's stairs -- to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn -- to those by fire consumed -- to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.
--Robert G. Ingersoll