Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Innocence Lost

18 Comments

By nature, I suppose, I am a bit gullible.  Maybe naive is a better description.  I’ve never viewed that as a bad thing.  There is some appeal in the innocence of naivete.  I tend to take what I’m told or things I read at face value. For those who have never experienced the loss of that, maybe they are skeptical by nature, it would surely be hard to understand the mentality of such trust in the words and thoughts of others.  I have wholeheartedly bought into theologies and ideals that others espoused simply because I held that person in such high esteem, had such an immense amount of respect for them, that I never even really questioned what they said.  There are no words to describe the grief and turmoil that accompany the realization that all that trust has been misplaced. Not because these people have done anything wrong.  They sincerely believe the theologies they espouse, so I hold no anger or ill will toward them. I still have great respect for them.   I have been a sheep content to follow, to my own detriment. 

Those are difficult things to admit about yourself.  Sometimes the hardest person to face is yourself.  That’s what this journey is all about.  I’m finally figuring out who I am and what I believe. This blog has been one of the best things I’ve done in this quest. It’s given me a voice that I wouldn’t otherwise have, it’s given me a place to say how I feel and what I think, wrestle with the reality of my existence and experience in a way that is difficult to do in my local community.  People have come along beside me in support, offered a listening ear and given validity to my doubts.  At one time I thought the only reason anyone came along side another was in the power of the Holy Spirit.  My experience here has taught me different.  Feeling empathy and wanting to reach out to others to lift them up and encourage them, to be a support, is innately human.

I have many questions and no easy answers.  One thing that is changing on the inside of me is that I’m no longer content to be a sheep.  The need to know why I believe certain things has never been greater.  So the search continues but not with nearly the angst I had even a week ago.  There is peace in acceptance.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have doubts and they aren’t going away any time soon. 

The online community of doubters has rallied around me and offered a respite and comfort.  The one thing I don’t have any desire for at this point is to be told what I should believe.  This is something I need to wrestle out.  That does not mean that suggestions and advice are unwelcome.  Surely that would be foolish on my part.  Fleshing out ideas and other perspectives is the entire point of this blog.

There are some 38,000 denominations within Christianity.  Many of those claim to be the “one true church”.  I have never bought into that.  There are certain core tenets that are present within most of those which I believe are requirements to be a “true Christian”, namely the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.  Clearly that means different things to different people. Some groups have a wrong interpretation of scripture, or maybe they all do.  They can’t all be right. How would you know if your group’s interpretation is the right one?  Maybe another is. I would hazard a guess that each one of those 38,000 denominations think they are the ones who have it right or there would be no need for division.  You may be hardcore fundamentalist, moderate, liberal/progressive, agnostic or atheist.  I welcome all ideas and thoughts from every one of these. 

At this point I am leaning toward agnosticism because I don’t feel I can trust scripture as inerrant or the word of God, and if it isn’t what’s the point of twisting and turning and bending myself to follow the doctrines and laws held within them? I mourn the loss of that naive notion.  On one hand I wish I could turn back time to before the moment I decided to research my beliefs, on the other I’m glad I decided that I can handle whatever the truth reveals.  To be certain if I do leave Christianity it won’t be done lightly because I don’t take my faith seriously.  No, it will be most assuredly because I do.

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18 thoughts on “Innocence Lost

  1. " The one thing I don't have any desire for at this point is to be told what I should believe. This is something I need to wrestle out. That does not mean that suggestions and advice are unwelcome. Surely that would be foolish on my part. Fleshing out ideas and other perspectives is the entire point of this blog." I struggle with this lately. Not that anyone has been critical (except for the obvious troll guy who was the reason I enacted moderation), but just feeling empathy for all these diverse points of views, though often diametrically opposed. I'm glad you are starting out your journey with a motivation to pave your own path. This blogging venture should give you an opportunity to do that, which you have been deprived of for so many years. Resist the urge to be a "puppet" again. Sometimes, I just step away from the computer, take time away from church, and start again a few weeks later when I feel like my own person again. It shouldn't be this hard!!!

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  2. Congratulations! I think you've arrived at a perfectly wonderful place. Agnosticism is perhaps the truest place to be, and in fact, we are all of us across the entire spectrum from atheist to 'true blue believer' agnostics to one degree or another. For not a one of us knows. And a mature faith, in the end, requires that you fashion your own theology. No one can, it seems to me, reasonably accept each and every tenet of any particular faith system. Growing in our spiritual lives means precisely determining truth, and then examining it again and again, and revising, adding, subtracting, and refocusing as new information and new ideas come to us.Being agnostic frees you to examine other faith traditions. You may find that buddhism, or a nature religion speak to you. You may find that Judaism makes your heart soar. You may find that simple spiritual living is your cup of tea. I am reminded of something I read about fundamentalism recently. Breaking free is like finding out for the first time that the parents you revere and look up to are wrong about something. As an adolescent, learning this, we often give our parents no credit. They have fallen from the pedestal. As we grow up, we find that they are right about a lot of things still. Thus might be Christianity. It is not all wrong perhaps just because your illusions of inerrancy have been dashed. You may come to find that there is still much that is worthwhile. Only time will tell.

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  3. LAC says:I'm glad you are starting out your journey with a motivation to pave your own path. This blogging venture should give you an opportunity to do that, which you have been deprived of for so many years. Resist the urge to be a "puppet" again.I've been a "puppet" in more ways than one. I've been hesitant to share much really personal information here because that would be a dead give away to anyone I might personally know. Suffice it to say I've been a doormat, so no more of that for me. Some folks might think I'm having a mid-life crisis but I'd categorize it more as a "coming-of-age". You're right, it really shouldn't be this hard!!

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  4. One of the most troubling things I saw during 25 years in the ministry was that people believed whatever I believed. They trusted me and as a result developed no theological belief of their own.In their defense I presented myself as the answer man, a man sent from God. The man of God speaks the Word of God to the people of God. The practical effect of this is that people did not think for themselves. If the Preacher said ________ then that was good enough for them.Bruce

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  5. There is nothing inherently wrong with following people we trust. There is too much information out there to be a “know-it-all.” At some point, we must rely on others, and naturally, we rely upon those we trust the most.I would hope those we trust are willing to admit they are wrong. That causes even greater trust (in my opinion.) And, for those who trust us, we must be willing to admit we are wrong, and allow them to find their own path. Easier said than done.

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  6. Bruce,I've done plenty of Bible study on my own, though I must confess until recently I'd never done much study about the Bible. I really thought Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels. I had no idea that it was disputed whether or not Paul wrote all the letters attributed to him. I'd never considered whether Moses wrote all of the books of the Pentateuch. I've been a conservative evangelical fundie. I subscribed to the Ken Ham school of explaining Genesis. I listened to James Dobson every morning and American Family Radio all day long. I listened to Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, Ravi Zachariah and a host of others daily. I went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I took Beth Moore Bible studies, I've done Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God. I've led Experiencing God and multiple Bible Studies by Beth Moore and John Ortberg. It just never occurred to me to find out the origins of the Bible. My pastor, my Sunday School teacher, all the pastors I listened to on the radio all told me I could trust the reliability and inerrancy of the Bible and I never questioned it. Of course I've always had questions about some of the morality and inequality in the Bible, but I just pushed it out of my mind because if the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who am I to question it. If it's true what difference does my like or dislike of the message? So even though I've had doubts I felt like it would be a sin to even give consideration to them. There are things that have happened, however, that sort of pushed me to explore my doubts.

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  7. DagoodS,I'm not tainted on trusting people. What you say is very true. The people I'm referencing don't believe they are wrong, they are my Christian friends and they aren't questioning their faith. Most of them I'd still trust with my life, just maybe not so much my faith. I think my new motto is "trust but verify". :~)

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  8. D’Ma,I trusted the same people. You are right—they do think they are correct. What surprised me, in this process, was their unwillingness to even address the possibility they might be wrong.These are the people I discussed and debated theology and politics with. Everything from abortion to children in hell to predestination to Adam’s navel (*grin*) to sex to divorce to giving to homosexuality to…well…you name it. Nothing was off-limits. Yet when I discovered things like maybe the gospels weren’t written by the attributed authors—even something basic like the Synoptic Problem—they didn’t want to discuss. Didn’t even want to address it. Didn’t even want to remotely consider the possibility they might be incorrect.Or, with those strangers more willing to talk, didn’t want to address the implications of the possibility. Didn’t want to address the actual arguments of the skeptics.

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  9. I was taught in College that I was supposed to be a confident leader. Charging hell without a squirt gun leader. Not "knowing" was considered a sign of weakness. Within the framework of the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Church I did know most everything. I learned my craft well. I studied hard. I sincerely wanted to help the people I pastored. I sincerely wanted them to have every question answered.However, there is a huge world of knowledge outside of the Evangelical/Fundamentalist paradigm. That's where the questions come from.I sheltered myself, my family, and the people I pastored from the world of questions. After all we had a "know-so" salvation. When the questions began to push at the foundation of my faith the house began to sag and then it finally collapsed. I came to realize that I unintentionally hurt people by passing myself off as the "answer man." I discouraged them from asking the "hard" questions. I doubly discouraged them for seeking any answers outside of the Church.I remember meeting with pastors for fellowship and we would discuss some of the "harder" questions about the Bible. No matter how questioning we were, we were quite certain that God would give us the answer. Of course we also believed that any doubt at all was from the devil.The world outside the Church can be a scary place. The questions are many and the answers tend to be multiple choice.There are times I miss the comfort of a "I know whom I have believed" faith. All the hard work being done. Just "letting go and letting God." It was easier to live life when all the questions had answers and the answers could be found from Genesis to Revelation.Bruce

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  10. DagoodS,I haven't raised any of these questions with my evangelical friends. I know the answers I'll get. They'll throw more Ken Ham books at me than you can shake a stick at. There will be lectures on how I just need to have more faith, pray and read my Bible and the Lord will reveal it all to me. I could be getting impatient, but I've waited for about 20 years on the "big reveal". Somehow I'm doubtful it's looming near in my future. More than anything I think that they would perceive my doubts and questions as a threat to their own faith. This is my journey. I'm not interested in turning anyone else into a doubter, but I'm beginning to wonder if they reason they won't even consider that they might be wrong isn't because they're afraid they are.

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  11. Bruce,By most accounts I've lived a pretty sheltered life myself. I definitely sheltered myself from any outside influences that would be a threat to my faith. As I said before I had doubts but was too afraid to even give credence to them so I dared not delve into any area that might feed that doubt. No instead I ran harder in the other direction, toward the Bible and deeper into fundamentalism. In my insane world that was a survival mechanism. It's not that there weren't other ways to survive, it's just that I dare not utilize them.

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  12. D'Ma,I'm glad that your journey is beginning to feel a little less emotionally tumultuous. One familiar theme I see on so many of our blogs is what a time of upheaval doubting brings. The process is much less intense for me now, though I still grow weary of it sometimes. It is a breath of fresh air, though, to feel unencumbered by what one "ought" to do or think.Like A Child,I hear you about struggling with feeling the tug of opposing perspectives. It's a bit strange to lean toward both atheism and Christianity simultaneously. The exchange I had with Neil on Christian Doubt felt slightly uncomfortable because I was questioning/opposing comments from a Christian apologist and here I'm suppose to be a Christian too. I'm aware of all the perspectives out there and I know that no matter what I say, it won't set right with someone. It gives me pause when constructing blog posts, particularly knowing my Christian friends are likely to be concerned with some of what I write. It can be hard to live within the tension of being honest while not wanting to disappoint others.

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  13. Doordonot: the tension that you referred to terribly exhaustinf at times. Sometimes i want to reveal my identity, but then i always stop myself with the reality of christian culture and what people would think. I feel, if i have any chance of regaining faith, it must not be pressured or forced. The exchange at marks blog was difficult. Pete enns book dismantled the core of neil's argument for me, so i felt it best to step away, for my own sanity;)

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  14. D’Ma,I trusted the same people. You are right—they do think they are correct. What surprised me, in this process, was their unwillingness to even address the possibility they might be wrong.These are the people I discussed and debated theology and politics with. Everything from abortion to children in hell to predestination to Adam’s navel (*grin*) to sex to divorce to giving to homosexuality to…well…you name it. Nothing was off-limits. Yet when I discovered things like maybe the gospels weren’t written by the attributed authors—even something basic like the Synoptic Problem—they didn’t want to discuss. Didn’t even want to address it. Didn’t even want to remotely consider the possibility they might be incorrect.Or, with those strangers more willing to talk, didn’t want to address the implications of the possibility. Didn’t want to address the actual arguments of the skeptics.

    Like

  15. Bruce,I've done plenty of Bible study on my own, though I must confess until recently I'd never done much study about the Bible. I really thought Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels. I had no idea that it was disputed whether or not Paul wrote all the letters attributed to him. I'd never considered whether Moses wrote all of the books of the Pentateuch. I've been a conservative evangelical fundie. I subscribed to the Ken Ham school of explaining Genesis. I listened to James Dobson every morning and American Family Radio all day long. I listened to Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, Ravi Zachariah and a host of others daily. I went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I took Beth Moore Bible studies, I've done Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God. I've led Experiencing God and multiple Bible Studies by Beth Moore and John Ortberg. It just never occurred to me to find out the origins of the Bible. My pastor, my Sunday School teacher, all the pastors I listened to on the radio all told me I could trust the reliability and inerrancy of the Bible and I never questioned it. Of course I've always had questions about some of the morality and inequality in the Bible, but I just pushed it out of my mind because if the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who am I to question it. If it's true what difference does my like or dislike of the message? So even though I've had doubts I felt like it would be a sin to even give consideration to them. There are things that have happened, however, that sort of pushed me to explore my doubts.

    Like

  16. Congratulations! I think you've arrived at a perfectly wonderful place. Agnosticism is perhaps the truest place to be, and in fact, we are all of us across the entire spectrum from atheist to 'true blue believer' agnostics to one degree or another. For not a one of us knows. And a mature faith, in the end, requires that you fashion your own theology. No one can, it seems to me, reasonably accept each and every tenet of any particular faith system. Growing in our spiritual lives means precisely determining truth, and then examining it again and again, and revising, adding, subtracting, and refocusing as new information and new ideas come to us.Being agnostic frees you to examine other faith traditions. You may find that buddhism, or a nature religion speak to you. You may find that Judaism makes your heart soar. You may find that simple spiritual living is your cup of tea. I am reminded of something I read about fundamentalism recently. Breaking free is like finding out for the first time that the parents you revere and look up to are wrong about something. As an adolescent, learning this, we often give our parents no credit. They have fallen from the pedestal. As we grow up, we find that they are right about a lot of things still. Thus might be Christianity. It is not all wrong perhaps just because your illusions of inerrancy have been dashed. You may come to find that there is still much that is worthwhile. Only time will tell.

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  17. Where do I start? I've been reading some of your posts.I'm in the UK and I've been outside the walls of 'traditional' Christianity for some 40 years and spent some 20 years as a member of the Worldwide Church of God – which over the years had been described not unreasonably, as both a cult and a sect. In 1995 I was forced for the second time, to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught when the church, from the top down, publicly recognised that some of their theology was misguided.We had 'known' that we were the one and only true church because nobody else (even the Seventh Day Adventists) kept the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days as we did.That was a traumatic experience and resulted in disastrous family breakups (but that's another story).I cannot remember ever doubting the existence of God.A close friend of mine said about ten years ago, "Peter, you have the knack of asking the awkward questions to which there are no easy answers". It was in 2003 that I really became aware of this movement around the world that was then being referred to as 'the out of church Christians'. With hindsight I can see that since then I have been learning so much about WHY people believe WHAT they believe.I came to the conclusion a few years ago that I was not an evangelical – that I was not a warrior but a gardener!I am not unfamiliar with the Southern Baptist Church – I have been in touch over the years with a few former members – so I know that some of my suggested interpretations will seem to be rather extreme.I think it's fair to say that I've recently realised that I have a faith that I no longer have to defend. I know that I don't know all the answers, and I know that I don't have to know all the answers.We are all on a unique journey – we all see life from a slightly different perspective – and there are very few 'right' answers – because our views of life change as we mature – just as children see things differently as they grow up and become aware for example that Santa Claus isn't real.I only finished rewriting my blog a couple of weeks ago and asked some friends to consider how the format might be improved. It was LAC who made the first comment and that brought me here. Maybe the story of my 40 year journey might be helpful to others.

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  18. Thank you for your candor and honesty. I do doubt the existence of God as I've known him. That doesn't mean I think there is no God, I'm just not sure He's the God of the Bible. I'll have to get over and check out your blog. I definitely think we all go on this journey differently and can benefit from the experience of others. It's just that when it comes to "experiencing God" I don't think those who have can "give" that experience to those who haven't. Don't know if that makes any sense. Because it seems to be experiential you can't grasp it unless you've experienced it for yourself.

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