Wednesday, July 25, 2007

why I am who I am

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.

January 1985
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.

February
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?

February 1986
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.

April
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?

June
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.

December
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.

May 1987
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.

December 1989
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.

September 1990
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???

October 1991
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?

May 1995
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!

May 1996
No change. One year and no change. My entry from last year could be written again, word for word.

April 2000
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.

August
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.


Ingersoll's Vow
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

7 comments:

sacred slut said...

Fascinating story. Was there any thing in particular that led to your enlightenment? It seems, even after all the years of struggle and questioning, rather sudden.

MothandRust said...

Hi Bob...

Neat vow. We've seen the wizard and it's goodbye yellow brick road.

If I'd only had a brain... sigh... I wouldn't have wasted so much life hanging out with strawmen and Aslan wannabes.

Am I even making sense in this commentbox?

Is this the way to alberquerkie? And how does one spell that?

bob said...

slut, the idea that there was no god did not enter my mind, even through all of this suffering...until...I got the internet.
After a particular depressing visit with an old, long lost girlfriend back in '99, who was a Christian, and I began to feel even more discouraged with my condition. One night I used a search engine on the web and, for lack of a better word, "googled" the word "faith". I eventually came to Dan Barkers Freedom From Religion Foundation web site. I was fascinated. I spent the next three hours bouncing from one atheist website to the next. When I was done, I sat there in the dark, awe-struck. I had never even considered that all the turmoil I had experienced over the years was not a product of my spiritual separation from God, but a result if my desire to live by a book that I believed was true. My problem, all along, had been purely psychological.
After my epiphany I bought Dan Barkers book "Losing Faith in Faith". That sealed the deal for me.
And moth&rust,...exactly!

Apologist said...

That is a very interesting story that I am sure many people go through, though not with the same details.

If I may ask a question about science being the source of "truth." Everything is science must go through the scientific method, correct.

How does one test the scientific method to see if it is the best way to determine something in science. Is it possible to use the scientific method on itself? How can we know it works and is efficient, just because it works most of the time? That isn't logical.

Not all things can be tested under the scientific method either.

bob said...

Apologist said...How does one test the scientific method to see if it is the best way to determine something in science. Is it possible to use the scientific method on itself? How can we know it works and is efficient, just because it works most of the time? That isn't logical.

I think it is perfectly logical to use what we currently have. What would you suggest we use besides the scientific method? What would you suggest your Doctor use? And as best as I can tell, the scientific method works all of the time, not just some of the time.

feeno said...

Bob

I only graduated high school because none of the teachers wanted me back. If it had to do with grades I would have spent at least one more year at my high school. Btw, I loved my school and teachers etc. I went to Catholic grade school and high school and it seemed I spent about the last six years in the principles office.

I then spent 4 years as a military policeman in the USAF. When I got out I basically had a few jobs, but like you have been self-employed for over 20 years. And had I known what the future might have been, I definitely would have changed some of my "business decisions" as well. I have run through all my IRA stuff, cashed in all of my life ins. money, and sold 2 pieces of property I owned, just to be broke. So I don't see retirement in my near future either.

I'm telling you all this 'cause our stories seem similar,except you raised boys, I'm raising girls.

I also have always struggled with religion. My Mom was a Baptist when she married my Catholic Dad. I was about 11, and that's when I started attending Catholic schools.

I was never a good Baptist or a good Catholic. I didn't really care about church or faith. I did however start going to Mass with my Dad, when It got me out of going to church with my Mom. Those Baptists seemed like they were mad at everyone and everything. And besides all my friends were at the Catholic church.

Now, I was never actually forced to go to Church, but it did make life a little easier on me if I just went with one of them. But for the next several years I saw what I thought was hypocrisy in both churches. Although being crammed into a 72 nova with 5 of your best friends looking for whatever kind of trouble you can find is a blast, something seemed contradictory about having 3 cases of beer in the car, trying to go get laid, or pick fights with the local public school loser kids, and yet every time we passed a church or cemetery all of my friends would make the sign of the cross?

And at my Mom's church there was always some kind of drama, and every year they kicked another Preacher out the door or the church would split over the pettiest little chicken sh%* stuff. (things like what color the carpet should be.)

I can remember a cool pastor my mom's church had, I went to a Cincinnati red's game with his son and he smoked a doobie under the scoreboard.

And probably the closest thing to a Christian I saw was a couple of Nuns who were my teachers in High School. But even some of them beat my ass on occasion. I remember my 8th grade year at Sacred Heart about 20 of us boys decided to play hookie together, I think there was only 25 boys in our whole grade. We would have probably even gotten away with it, but one of my friends left his lunch at home, and when his mom brought it to school all hell broke out. Picture an old panel sided station wagon, stopping in the middle of the road, 3 old heavy set nuns jumping out of the car chasing 20 dressed up little a-holes all the way back to school. In 1977 at a Catholic school, Nuns could still beat you with whatever they felt like. And that day, they did. (I tend to ramble and get sidetracked, sorry.)

BTW one of those kids, to this day is my best friend, he has grown up in his Catholic faith and is one of the finest Christians I know.

I was Baptized when I was 9 years old in a tiny old country Baptist church. And pretty much for the next 11 or 12 years God was an after thought.

But my oldest sister had a boyfriend, he was the first Christian influence in my life, maybe even my whole families life, I really don't know? He's been married to her now for 32 years.

About the time I met my wife, we were both "out in the world" so to speak. I couldn't get the thought of God out of my mind set. Although I was a Military policeman, I would indulge in a little toke now and then.(IF you tell anyone, you might ruin my chances at a run for the White House?) And I was doing pretty much what most people my age were doing?
But I knew I didn't want to marry my beautiful girlfriend (Now my wife of over 24 years) and take her down the life I felt I was headed. So we began to talk about God and stuff. She accepted Christ soon after, I rededicated my life to him, and we started the journey together about the time we got married in 1985.

Over these last 24 or so years, I often felt a lot of the things you did. I once even felt I was to good for the church. I was gonna stay a Christian, just stop going to church and avoid all those "phonies". But I realized that I wasn't as great as I thought I was, and if God could put up with me, then I should put up with others. I kinda found out I had a plank in my eye and I was always whining about everyone Else's tooth pick.

The Christian walk is like a marathon, we should pace ourselves, be respectful of others, but do only what we feel God wants us to do. Not Mom, not Dad, Not a Priest or a preacher. Realize that I should love all, but am only responsible for myself.

God has been patient with me, I don't deserve his grace, but I'll take it. I've never been scared of God's wrath or judgment. I wanted God's approval, his love. But was never scared of Hell. I finally understood that God loved me no matter what, I didn't need to earn his love. He loved me just the way I am. And if I fall short, so be it, He still loves me. I'm not gonna stress over it.

I'm sure you think I'm a full blown pshyco after this response, but sometimes I get carried away with myself. I don't know if there is anything specific I can answer for you, but I'll be glad to answer any questions you might have.

You want some Irony: 5 years ago we joined a Baptist Church.

I would never tell anyone what kind of church to go to, except one that proclaims Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Hope you find yourself in one like that come sunday morning, even if it's just for old times sake.

Thanks for the space. If you made it through all this and actually read it, wow, thank you.

Peace bro, feeno

Gandolf said...

Hi Bob thanks for sharing.I can understand much of your account of how it can trouble us when thinking and trying to wade through it all for finding understanding of what we are feeling.And especially the second half of your April 2000, as i read it i thought man i could even have almost written this myself.

Had a wee chuckle at Apologists thoughts.And my thoughts were while scepticism is great,it can be taken just that little to far sometimes.When that happens flaws can be found in almost everything.

All the best.