O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Mailbag: The Turning Point

posted by Jason Boyett

I don’t do this often, but today I’m just going to post (with permission) a letter I received from a reader who has asked to remain anonymous. He got in touch after I called for conversion stories. That series begins on Friday, but this story isn’t about coming to faith…instead, it’s about falling away from it.

“I don’t feel like I can say anything about it to anyone I know,” he told me. “Nearly
my entire social network is built on church connections of one sort or
another. I know there are others out there in the same situation. Perhaps they’d be interested in reading my story.”

I think so.
 
—————–

Growing up, my family always went to church because that was the thing to do on Sunday mornings. My parents rarely discussed anything about God or Jesus with me aside from a few stories out of the children’s Bible. I sang solos in the children’s choir, played handbells, the whole shebang. I was baptized and later confirmed in the Methodist tradition. After my parents divorced, neither felt comfortable staying at the same church. My dad ended up at a large Baptist church in town where he met his second wife (the daughter of an old-school Baptist preacher from the midwest). At her insistence, we were soon going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I was never that excited about that church, and at some point my folks agreed that I could go to a different church with a good friend of mine. It wasn’t long before I was very involved there, leading the youth group worship times and becoming part of the “core group.”

Through high school I was involved in Christian student groups at school, often leading worship times at lunch or after school. We had a regular weekly “religious discussion and debate” lunch with the Muslim group on campus. I would actively engage my non-Christian friends in discussions and try to win them over to the faith. In college, I fell away for a bit but soon continued the same pattern. I helped organize a Christian conference for students on my college campus, attended several other conferences locally and around the state, led worship at church and married a godly woman in a very Christian wedding. My goal in life, at one point, was to become a full-time worship leader.

Fast forward a few years, my wife and I are now at a different church where she’s heavily involved in leadership within the women’s ministry and I play every week with the worship band. I’ve organized and directed the music for some Christmas and Easter services, she’s led a small group for women, together we organize a regular church-wide fellowship night. In all appearances we’re a very devout couple. In reality that’s only half true — she’s kept her faith.

If I had to point to one event in my life as the turning point in my faith, it would be a little baby born to some friends of ours. Our friends were both active in their church, very dedicated to Christ. He and I played in a worship band together for years. Our wives were college roommates. Not long into her pregnancy the doctors determined that the baby would have some serious medical problems. Believing in the power of prayer, we gathered together with several members of our church and prayed over that baby, time and again. We declared the healing of God over mother and child. I left each prayer meeting feeling energized and fully believing that the baby would be born healthy.

When the baby was born via emergency C-section, she was immediately rushed into intensive care. There were problems with her heart, lungs, digestive tract — I don’t even know what else. Again, we gathered to pray. Again, we declared a mighty miracle from God himself to heal the child.

Over a period of almost two years, our friends stayed at the hospital more than their home to be with their baby. He eventually had to go back to work to pay the bills, but she literally lived at the hospital for months at a stretch, sleeping on the fold-out bed and eating in the cafeteria. Through countless surgeries and procedures we prayed. We declared healing. We laid-on hands. We asked for grace.

Unfortunately none of that worked. One morning the baby started choking and had difficulty breathing. She died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The funeral was beautiful, with testimonies from countless lives that had been touched, but still left me questioning why.

At some point during that stretch I started looking for answers. I read the Bible. I read books about the Bible trying to understand why God — a loving, caring, grace-giving God — would allow such an innocent, precious child to suffer so much. To be honest, I still can’t reconcile that. I’ve heard folks say that God could use such a struggle to touch others’ lives so that they might know Him better — which happened — but at what expense?

I’ve heard that it was an attack from the Enemy, that we needed to pray, have faith, rebuke the attack. We did, and it didn’t do any good. I’ve heard countless other reasons that are so far off-base of biblical teaching that they aren’t worth mentioning. And yes, I’ve read The Problem of Pain. I don’t think CS Lewis properly answered the question. I don’t think the question can be answered.

Ever since I realized that God didn’t personally write the New International Version I’ve been a word geek. As I read the Bible, I want to go back to the original language, understand the meaning of the original words, grasp the cultural idioms and understandings of the time in which they were written. I’ve been amazed sometimes at how much more meaning there is in Scripture are when you understand the historical context and grasp the metaphors being used. Rob Bell’s work has had a huge effect on my reading of the Gospels — anyone who reads the Bible should read his book Velvet Elvis. I don’t always agree with what he says, but he makes me think.

After Rob Bell, I went even deeper into the “story behind the story” and found Bart Ehrman. His books on how the Bible came to be the Bible are incredibly interesting — and incredibly disrupting — to anyone who believes in the Bible as the inspired, inerrant word of God (as I once did). For years I had known about minor contradictions in the Bible, minor detail stuff. I had found satisfactory explanations for all of them — the genealogy of Jesus in Mark and Luke, differing accounts of the scene at the empty tomb in Matthew, Mark and John, how long Jesus was in the tomb to begin with. Ehrman’s books pointed out even more irreconcilable differences in the details, but also dove deeper into questions of what the Bible really says about who Jesus is/was, how to be saved, the concept of the Trinity, good God vs. vindictive God. Ehrman points out several different and contradictory answers to those questions in different parts of the Bible.

I was always taught that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the books that bear their names — Ehrman questions that (and rightfully so). Reading the history of how the church fathers reconciled the various differing manuscripts for each book (without having the originals) and how they determined which writings to include and leave out made me painfully aware of the role that human beings played in forming our currently accepted canon — much more than I was ever told in church.

The more I read with a critical eye, the more I wonder how much of the Bible was written by man for man’s benefit. How much of our Bible is the Word of God, and how much is simply the “opiate of the masses”?

Should we have “faith like a child” because God wants that, or because the religious leaders didn’t want anyone questioning them?

Is the tithe necessary to God, or because the religious leaders of the day wanted money (or stuff)?

How much of the recorded life of Jesus really happened, and how much of it is mythology built up around Him to support the religious machinery that His followers wanted to create? ( I can’t help but notice similarities and parallels to the Roman and Greek mythology that I studied in school, especially in the Old Testament creation story.)

How much of Biblical history is literal, accurate fact, and how much was written by more primitive people with limited scientific understanding as a plausible explanation for what they saw in the world around them?

In another 2000 years, will high school literature classes write papers comparing and contrasting Yahweh with Zeus, Jesus with Hercules, seeing them all as fictional characters in ancient religions? Will they read excerpts of the Bible and King Arthur myths and discuss their influence on literature through the ages?

All of this makes me question the God that I once worshiped with my whole heart. On stage on Sunday mornings I listen to the lyrics of the songs and rarely can I actually sing them and mean it. I can’t sing about the God who answers prayers when I’ve seen so many prayers go unanswered. I can’t sing about the God who heals when I’ve seen that He hasn’t. I can’t sing about the God who saves without asking why He made us in such a way that we NEEDED saving — why He didn’t make us to His exacting standards in the first place.

It would be incomplete to question God without questioning His church, ostensibly His Body and representatives on Earth. Why is it that we as a church do not follow the teachings of Jesus? Why do we shun those who are not like us? If homosexuality is a sin under our theology, it would be contradictory to welcome unrepentant homosexuals into our church — with that I can agree (and it applies to any sin). Why do we not love them and instead persecute them?

Why do we insist that governments and businesses accommodate our religious beliefs (Christmas holiday displays, prayer in schools, ten commandments in courtrooms) but raise hell when they accommodate other religions (footwashing stations, head coverings, time off for religious pilgrimages and non-Christian holidays)? Why hasn’t He smited (smitten? smote?) smarmy faith healers and the Westboro Baptist Church with a rain of fire, hell and brimstone?

The quick “Christian” answer to these questions is that we, as “fallen and sinful” humans, have corrupted the church. To that I have to ask again, why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God make humans “in his image” who are subject to such proclivities?

And why is it that I am afraid to bring these questions into the light within my church body, or even put my real name with this story on a public website, for fear that I myself will be rejected and shunned by some of my closest friends?

I still can’t believe that the human race and planet Earth are mere accidents of physics and chance. I believe that there’s value in prayer, though I sometimes wonder if it’s only because of time spent in focused meditation and not because of a supernatural being who hears me. There must be something more to this existence than a brief lifetime. Perhaps the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is indeed the one true God. If that’s the case, I’m afraid we’ve somehow gotten it terribly wrong.

—————–

Do you have any response, comment, advice, or answers to this reader’s questions?



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Charlie Chang

posted January 26, 2011 at 7:57 am


Wow. I enjoyed this.



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Stephanie Kandray

posted January 26, 2011 at 8:18 am


Wow, that was some great insight. I usually wouldn’t read such a long post, but I felt led to. As someone who has a bachelor’s degree in both ministry and Bible, I feel as though I don’t really deserve those degrees sometimes. I mean, I earned them, and am still paying for them, but do I deserve that title?
I currently feel as though I am a “surface Christian.” You know what I am talking about. A post like this makes me remember that there is so much depth within the Bible and Christianity itself. It’s easy to skim along the surface, going to church, reading the Bible, praying, etc. But, there is so much more to it. So much to be contemplated and applied. So much.



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Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

posted January 26, 2011 at 9:36 am


All I can say is that, as both a missionary and a skeptic, I have wondered about every single thing this guy brings up…. And I have no idea how to reconcile it all.



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Carole Turner

posted January 26, 2011 at 9:42 am


A better C.S. Lewis book for this subject is actually A Grief Observed, Lewis deals specifically with the issue of death not just pain. He wrote it after the death of his wife. It’s strong and uncomfortable to read at times because it’s so honest. The Great Divorce also by Lewis also deals with a lot of the “Whys” we ask God…or want to but don’t dare too.



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Loren

posted January 26, 2011 at 9:46 am


I can relate to what he feels, some of the questions he has. I haven’t allowed myself to go very far with my questioning for fear of what I might find (or not find). For fear of completely losing God. For fear of being shunned by the church family that say they love me. Heck, being shunned by God himself. But not allowing myself to embrace these doubts, think on them, search for answers, talk with others about them only serves the same result – fear, loneliness, emptiness, bitterness, etc…
So what’s the answer? And if there isn’t an answer, how do we move forward in the this faith? There’s got to be more to living for Jesus than the routine of church, reading the Bible, and praying.
Probably not by chance, I found a deep inner-most peace after reading the recent blog post about lessons learned from Thomas. I loved the point that Thomas still had friends that accepted him and that Jesus didn’t shun him for his doubts/questions. So, there’s some hope.



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Chris

posted January 26, 2011 at 9:47 am


I’m young – only 19 and I’ve only been a Christian for 5 or so years. I started following this blog sporadically when I had a lot of thoughts and now more so I’ve spent more time in the Word and in prayer. And I see myself in this post, I see the questioning me, I see the fearful me.
Call out to God. David is called “a man after God’s own heart,” and he asks in Psalm 13:
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
But do not let the enemy triumph. Do not be afraid. If you think these thoughts, do not keep it within, for that’s only living in darkness, and Satan will come after your heart again and again when you are alone. Jesus says it again and again, “fear not.”
David trusts in God’s unfailing love, his heart rejoices in God’s salvation (Psalm 13:5). It is not us. It is not our faith. It is not our knowledge. It is not what we have learned, or what we can teach. It is not our genuineness, it is not our heart that matters. It is God’s heart that matters the most.



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TinaC

posted January 26, 2011 at 9:53 am


Thanks for sharing what’s really going on on the inside. If there is Holy Ground, this is one of the places it exists… in the intimate, vulnerable, authentic sharing of who we really are.



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Cara

posted January 26, 2011 at 10:22 am


Wow, I have had every one of those doubts and questions. And I absolutely don’t think that they’re bad or even unfaithful. Our faith needs to be nourished through questioning and seeking the truth. I haven’t figured out all the answers, but here is what I have learned for myself:
God exists and He loves me
Just because the Bible isn’t 100% accurate, doesn’t mean that it can’t teach me anything
God doesn’t seem to intervene much physically in the world (I don’t think He heals when we ask, or causes earthquakes, or saves people from them either)
But He does speak to us, give us comfort, and move our hearts
I have had prayers answered, but always through His people, not through anything miraculous
Perhaps the God who judges us so, isn’t actually the God who really exists. Perhaps we aren’t fallen, but exactly as He made us – people on a journey to understand Him and become better beings.
Anyway, that’s where I am right now. I can’t in good conscience believe that the Bible is infallible, or that God intervenes to heal people, because I have seen when He hasn’t. But I know that He’s there and He loves me, because He has told me so.



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Null

posted January 26, 2011 at 10:30 am


Wow. I’ve read this blog for some time now, and never have I felt so compelled to reply. I’m in a similar situation, except in my case, it’s my husband who’s kept the faith. I teach and am a special education aide in my church’s religious education program. I certainly teach and guide my children in the practice of their faith. I have all the questions the letter writer has and then some. Like him, I’ve read all kinds of different writings and books from all kinds of people in an effort to regain my faith. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Like the writer, I can’t even voice my questions, doubts and issues because I’m one of those people seen in the community as a model. So, I go through the motions for the sake of my family, friends and church. But it has been a most gut wrenching, heart breaking deconversion process for the last 10 years. It sucks. I hate it. I never saw it coming. I thought I was secure in my faith. I certainly never anticipated having the experience I am currently wrestling with and living. I have no answers, either. And I cannot unseen what I’ve seen, read and experienced. There is no easy or simple answer and for now, to be honest, I’ve kind of given up on the Christianity of my life up to age 30 and come to believe that deity and religion are more human created and confected. Like the writer, I’ve seen far too many things happen that God seems silent about. What’s even more basic is that by and large and for the most part, being religious doesn’t make people live better lives or be filled with such infectious joy and peace that people are just clamoring to have what they’ve got. Yes, there are those faith-filled people who are indeed light of the world and salt of the earth, but far fewer than the numbers of people claiming to be Christian would indicate. I only see lots of words, with too little example given. I’m not buying. I only keep silent because one conclusion I’ve come to is that the faith of most people claiming to be Christian is threatened by anything less than non-preferential treatment, particularly where the state (government) is concerned. Clearly the free-market of ideas is far too threatening to the Christian faith, so it needs preference on the part of the state, as another prop to show it’s the one and only true way to believe. So far, you’ve failed to convince me and the response of the churches to people with questions and views like mine and the letter writers is condemnation and as seen in one comment in this thread, an admonishment to just pray harder using a scriptural example from the very book that has so many unanswered, contradictory, and unanswerable questions in it in the first place.
Ah well. Take what you like and leave the rest. In all honesty, I don’t see my doubts and questions answered in this lifetime anyway. I’ll just keep getting up every day and do the best I can to live a good life, choosing the right and living it out consistently, as best I can.



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JamesB

posted January 26, 2011 at 10:33 am


I have only been a questioning phase of my faith for about a year now, after twenty or so years never questioning it. I like all of the questions asked here. I have to constantly push myself to ask more and be ok with the answers…or no answers. That takes a lot of courage, so I admire those who have taken it further than I.
For so many of us, immediately after becoming a Christian, we were told about how faith was supposed to be or how it was supposed to look. In most cases we were simply asked to believe in tried-and-true methods or teachings. But then one day we have the courage to admit to ourselves that we have tried many of those beliefs and found them to not be true. What then? Keep lying to ourselves and others?
I don’t know.
Something about my faith in it’s infancy seemed so real and so genuine. I can’t simply abandon my belief in God. Not out of fear as much as out of personal experience. Despite our amount of doubt, I still feel that our beliefs will always land in a place of some uncertainty. Can we ever be fully convinced of something? Better yet, should we be? Or is doubt a key integral to genuine faith?



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David N.

posted January 26, 2011 at 10:51 am


I totally feel you on this, man. Everything single thing you listed. I used to be hardcore involved in ministry to, and then my elaborate systematic theologies just fell apart. I still believe, but I can’t hold anything very firmly. You feel so alone, because admitting the details of your doubts feels like confessing adultery or something. There are no answers for this, just honesty. I will pray, for whatever that is worth.



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Jes

posted January 26, 2011 at 11:01 am


Been reading books and asking a lot of the same questions myself…It’s hard to be the same person along with knowing that there’s the expectation that you have the same faith from Sunday to Sunday when inside you are exploding with questions and doubts. I still can’t muster up the idea that God doesn’t exist though. In some ways, I feel that He’s not always what I want or expect, but I do believe He’s still there. I hope you find some peace and encouragement my friend.



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nnmnns

posted January 26, 2011 at 11:08 am


A lot of people here have come a long way. It’s a shame that their communities and/or their companions aren’t able to handle anything but agreement, but that’s built into most religions and part of the reason they thrive: cut people off from other ideas.
I was fortunate in never having had religion pounded into me. I urge people to give their children the chance to grow up before they have to decide what religion, if any, to choose. Don’t do to them what was done to you.
And think about what these testimonials say about the real number of agnostics and atheists around us but afraid to speak in their repressive communities.



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spa

posted January 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm


Thanks for sharing. It sounds a lot like where I now stand. To go from “knowing” what you have “known” all your life to doubt is not a fun place to be is it? I guess we just have to try to live with the questions. My faith fell apart when my bipolar son took his life. Then I watched my mother suffer greatly the last year of her life. When you loose a child, a mother and your faith within 2 years time there seems to be nothing else you can do but just “be” and live with the questions.



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Don Butts

posted January 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm


All the anguish exhibited by the writer over the mysteries surrounding the apparent silence of God is tragic and easily alleviated by just admitting to oneself that there is no such thing as God, and immediately all becomes clear. Life will go on. Tragedies will come and go. Relax. Enjoy your life. Love your family and friends and offer your help to the poor and sick. You won’t get any rewards in some imaginary “heaven” but you’ll be rewarded in the here and now. Life is good.



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Closet agnostic

posted January 26, 2011 at 12:26 pm


Jason, thanks for posting my story. Writing all of that out was a refreshing exercise.
@Carole – I’ll have to check out that book. Thanks for the tip.
@Chris – that was a very Christian answer.
@nnmmnns – the question of what to teach our children regarding God and the Bible is a huge concern for me right now – something I don’t think my wife and I will easily agree on.



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Christian Woman

posted January 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm


@Chris Very well said. The post written is a struggle that a lot of people struggle with.



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Brandi

posted January 26, 2011 at 12:54 pm


Thanks for your sharing this. I personally am so exhausted of “having faith” and “trusting Jesus” though, when it feels it’s just a faith that means I look like everyone else around me, when in fact I have doubts, and I have questions. I still believe in God, and I believe in Jesus. But I believe we have gotten things so wrong as a people group, and as the church.



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Timm

posted January 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm


I just had a conversation about this last night with my partner, and I have always been fascinated by who really created/compiled/translated the Holy Bible. How much of it has been tainted by the hand of man? I know it was supposedly inspired by God, but come on!
I guess that is the difference between Bible literalists and those of us who question the symbolism and the context of each book. What does God really want us to extract from those teachings? Why do we obsess over small, insignificant details?
In my personal experience, (I’m 27 btw) I have been exposed to a lot of death in my personal life. I also work in HIV services, so I’m a glutton for punishment apparently. It was really difficult for me to understand why God allows certain things to happen. Why does he take the life of my mother in 2001 and my step-mother in 2009 and allow my lonely father to continue living without a spouse?
Why does he continue to allow pain and suffering to reign in the lives of my clients and my friends who are HIV positive? Why does HIV exist in the first place? Why are children born to crack-addicted HIV mothers but other women who can provide good families have miscarriage after miscarriage?
The list goes on and on, and there are no answers. My gut feeling about these questions is that God allows everything to happen for a reason. I can’t explain why he would take a newborn child. I can’t explain why he would allow HIV to grow at an exponential rate. I can’t explain why he would take my mother at the age of 39; however, I do feel that he has control. There have been so many instances in my life when he has provided me with confirmation of his presence, and I KNOW that he exists.
Believing in God is having blind faith. As aforementioned, I believe that he has control over everything and everyone. We would love to know what he knows, but could we even wrap our heads around it? We’re all so interconnected, and I believe that he controls our chaos to a certain degree, but we’re also slave to our personal choices and the choices of others. We cannot take free will out of the equation.
I know this comment is not an answer, and I don’t believe any of us are going to receive a definite answer in this lifetime. In my opinion, it is my responsibility to help and love my neighbors, friends, and family, and try to survive the (sometimes) hell that we call Earth. There’s really nothing beyond that. We’re born, we love, we eat, we crap, we die. The end.
To be honest I think that’s where God’s gift of love is the most powerful. In the midst of our daily grind we have the ability to love and care for one another. We have the ability to be the shoulder that our friends can cry on (or vice versa). We have the ability to love our spouses and our partners with all our heart, soul, and mind. We also have the ability to love and embrace God without knowing him or his agendas fully.
Trust and doubt go hand in hand. We have all been screwed by someone, and we have all felt cheated by God. As a result, we have every right in my opinion to doubt him and his motives; however, I am certain he exists, and I am certain he loves me and, yes, even those who do not believe in him or those of other religions or those who happen to look like terrorists, etc.
The thing I hate most about our religion in America is that it’s so divisive. In the New Testament Paul called for unity in the church (in several different books I might add), and here we are with our separate denominations, and our judgments, and our disbelief that others in different churches will actually go to heaven.
There’s a reason that we’re doubters, and even if we never find the answers that we’re looking for, there’s also a reason that we’re still searching. At least we’re not pretending.



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thevorlon

posted January 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm


this hits close to him, feel like someone else wrote out my story, if the author’s reading this….just know, you’re not alone.



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Kay

posted January 26, 2011 at 2:15 pm


I find it interesting that after almost an entire lifetime of building up faith and belief, it takes just one incident to destroy it.
It happened to me too. I worked for a non-profit that while not faith-based, was definately faith dependent. I worked there for 5 years under a very VERY Christian board, certain and happy that God had me there for a reason. Whenever there were struggles (and there were many), we prayed about it. Anyway, one day the board made me resign. I had worked so many long hours and given my work to God on a daily basis. They fought my unemployment claim, and it took me two months to get another job. I nearly lost my house and everthing I owned. This same board has fired almost all the staff since I left (just so you know it probably wasn’t me), and the non profit is close to going under.
So why did that happen? I got what I thought were continued messages from God telling me to stay there, then he allowed me to be pushed out? I have never felt the type of certainty in faith that I felt there. We always hear that God will either catch you when you fall, or give you wings to fly…Ha! I sure feel like I splatted on the ground with that one.
Anyway, not only am I confused that God let that happen, I am very untrusting of people who call themselves Christians. I find the more alot of them talk about how Christian they are, the less they really are Christian.
I know God is supposed to have a plan for us, but what part of His plan was to make me scared to trust Him and other Christians?



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Your Name Mildred

posted January 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm


I agree mostly with Timm. There are so many things that are not easy to understand but isn’t that what faith is. To trust the things that really matter and have faith that the rest we will understand when it is the right time for us to understand. How do I know Jesus loves me? Why should I obey His commands? Each time I time I question the Lord’s love for me, I think of the scars in His hands.
Incidently our church does not believe other denominations are going to hell. If you have trusted in Jesus it doesn’t matter what church you go to. Following Jesus is all that matters. One sin is just as big as another.



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Closet agnostic

posted January 26, 2011 at 2:57 pm


@Timm – “Why are children born to crack-addicted HIV mothers but other women who can provide good families have miscarriage after miscarriage?” – this is a big one for me. I could certainly understand how God would let folks suffer the consequences (or punishment, depending on your theology) of their own actions. A truly loving father wouldn’t protect his kids from consequences when they screw up. Why, however, would he cause innocent children to suffer from the moment they’re brought into the world? Why are people born to parents who will abuse them, when loving couples who would make great parents are unable to conceive?
@Don – some days I might agree with you, but I don’t know that I’m ready to make that leap just yet.
@Kay – “I find the more alot of them talk about how Christian they are, the less they really are Christian.” Well said. I think it was Gandhi who said “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” I’d put that on my car but I’m afraid it would get keyed in the church parking lot.



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My name means love

posted January 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm


I lost my little brother 2 1/2 years ago and have had those questions ever since. Shortly thereafter my family and I left a very abusive church that left me with even more questions. I identify with this guy so much; he is not alone. So many of us are lost when it comes to a true relationship with God.
I’ve grown up in church, visited countless others, read so many “religion” books, and lead so many kids in youth groups but where do we find the true Truth? Churches are so screwed up, they couldn’t be a picture of who Jesus really is, could they? Who is Jesus? Really?
I get where this guy is coming from. He is like so many of us who search for answers but come up with nothing but more questions.



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Fastthumbs

posted January 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm


Seems to me that many of the commenters really don’t get it… here is a man struggling to make sense of the world and actually has done some of the hard work of researching his religion. Yet these same commenters seem to repeat the same tire old apologetics and just say “have more faith” or “just believe” or “God works in mysterious ways”. Seems they all want to be like the girl in the video “The Story of Suzie” who just blithely lives a Christian life unexamined (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM5n8jESUEk)
To Closet Agnostic:
You are on a road of discovery and the destination is probably be something you’d never would of imagined before your doubts became too great to ignore. There are a lot of other religions (or none at all) to choose from besides fundamentalist Christianity. Here is a website that may help with the apologetics and counter-apologetics: http://wiki.ironchariots.org



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Zach

posted January 26, 2011 at 5:46 pm


I would recommend the author of this letter to begin reading N.T. Wright as soon as he can. Wright doesn’t really dialogue with Ehrman in particular but I believe he addresses some of the issues Ehrman describes. I would recommend reading “Jesus: Two Visions”, which is a dialogue between Wright and Marcus Borg. Borg was involved with the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who, I think, would echo some of Bart Ehrman’s concerns, especially concerning the person of Jesus of Nazereth. Ehrman seems to be reacting, often bitterly, to a certain tradition that many who read this blog can relate to. I don’t disagree that Bart brings up some interesting points and I believe there is plenty that Bart and I or any other thoughtful Christian would agree on but please, my dear author, don’t throw in the towel just because of Ehrman. Please read other voices out there who wrestle with these same questions. Your story sinks deep to my soul and I have no answer for why it happened but I do believe in a God of justice. He will one day right all the wrongs. Peace to you in your journey.



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KatR

posted January 26, 2011 at 9:56 pm


Thank you so much for posting this. I don’t think that we are here by accident. I do believe that there is some sort of “divine” out there, but I can’t swallow the whole “bible is inerrant, toe the line or burn in hell” idea anymore.
I may even choose to continue spirituality through Christianity, but I’m no longer buying what churches are selling.



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted January 27, 2011 at 2:13 am


Fundamentalism/churchianity claims another victim. I think he has the heart of a seeker though, and won’t stay trapped in the faulty ideas of religion.



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Joanna

posted January 27, 2011 at 8:51 am


WOW, he’s asking questions, I have pondered for years especially the point about prayer, that was very insightful when he said: “I believe that there’s value in prayer, though I sometimes wonder if it’s only because of time spent in focused meditation and not because of a supernatural being who hears me.”
I wonder this too. If he ever decides to be open about his feelings toward the church, he should write a book. His letter hit home.



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Kristian

posted January 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm


Prayer has roughly the same effect as placebo. Interestingly enough, in one study, if the person who was prayed for was aware (or thought) that they were prayed for, their recovery times were worse than those who knew they weren’t prayed for. So, it’s cool if you pray for someone, just never let them know that you do.
The difficult questions about god, his existence and goodness, cannot have acceptable answers, and no amount of wordplay by infinite amount of theologians behind infinite amount of typewriters are going to change that. All the suffering and injustice in the world cannot coexist with a good, loving, omnipotent god. Either there’s no injustice and suffering, or there’s no god, or the god that exists is not good, loving and all-powerful.
The human race and the planet we live in is very much flawed in almost every respect. You could credit that to “accidents of physics and chance”, or you could credit that to a designer – but in latter case, you’d be crediting a supreme being of what’s really imperfect, flawed and shoddy work. And that might amount to blasphemy.



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Jessica Gavin

posted January 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm


My heart hurts just reading this post. I know many a skeptic who would call me niave, but I believe (today although talk to me tomorrow when I’m having my own doubts) that every bit of the Bible is what it says it is, inerrant, authoritative; the whole shabang.
My pastor suggested once that when I came across things in Scripture that didn’t seem to add up, put them in what he calls the “quirky basket”. The quirky basket is for things that don’t make sense, apparent contradictions. And as years go by, you’ll realize that things continue to go in, but as the Holy Spirit reveals more truth to you, things will come out of the quirky basket as well once you’ve realized that there was no contradiction after all.
For instance, this article touches upon the 2 genealogies in Mark and Luke (although I think you meant Matthew and Luke since Mark doesn’t have one I don’t think). That “contradiction” was in the quirky basket until it became clear that Matthew traces the kingly line of the Messiah, while Luke the priestly line.
I know the answer that “people are sinners” seems like a cope out for why the church is so corrupt, but I believe it’s the true answer. I would add too that Christianity is named the largest religion in the world, but the Bible calls God’s people a little flock (Luke 12:32) I don’t think the problem is with God or with His Word, but our ideas of what Christianity is based on the people who claim to represent it.
Finally, I strongly suggest coming out of the doubt closet. As soon as you open up to your friends and church family about your doubts, the sooner you can overcome them. Find answers for your questions, or put them in the quirky basket for a later date but don’t go at it alone. That’s way too lonely a road and just what Satan would have you do. I’ll be praying for you; just in case that sorta thing actually works!



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foundmercy

posted January 28, 2011 at 11:40 am


“Perhaps the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is indeed the one true God. If that’s the case, I’m afraid we’ve somehow gotten it terribly wrong.”
That’s it in a nutshell.



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SAS

posted February 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm


Thanks for your courage in sharing your journey. And how encouraging to read so many others who have walked, or are walking, the same type of path. I am a “professional Christian” as well, serving but feeling somewhat hypocritical because of my own doubts. My questions and doubts grew over a period of over 20 years as a believer and minister, but came to a head while deployed twice to a combat zone and having to try to reconcile the promises of Scripture and prayer with the realities of the chaos and randomness of war. Systematic theology, apologetic answers, and “claiming” certain Scriptures just don’t work when young people are daily losing their lives or body parts in combat. My overwhelming desire now is to simply follow Jesus, to allow him to live through my life, so people will know they are loved and accepted by God, and by at least one other person.



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Kirk

posted February 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm


This man touches a sensitive spot in me (as he does others). I studied biblical languages in college and grad school, and have spent years investigating biblical interpretation for many of the reasons he cites.
What I’ve discovered is that in the marketplace of ideas, people don’t have to be right – so long as they’re convincing. Some people will believe anything. Others will believe anything so long as it agrees with what they already believe. We are all gullible – so gullible a little kid with a magic kit can trick us. And yet, none of us believes he or she is gullible. Weird.
The trick on this subject, I think, is not to blindly accept anything – nor to reject anything that’s unprovable. The best you can do (and it IS doable) is to discover what’s most likely to be true. You can really understand the basics of two arguments and weigh them and reach a pretty good conclusion as to which is most likely to be true. But to do that you have to be willing to challenge all viewpoints, including your own predispositions, and that’s hard. When we fail and believe something we later discover to be false … we are hurt and disappointed.
One of the central ideas God presents to mankind is: trust. It is illogical and unreasonable to expect a human being to ever understand Him. But He does want us to trust and obey Him. So if you can get to the point that you believe it’s most likely true that there’s a God, and then reach a conclusion about the bible … then you really have no choice but to trust. It’s kinda like trusting a doctor to perform major surgery – we can’t understand all the issues doctors probably argue about, but we MUST pick one of them and trust him to operate and heal us.
I don’t usually post my real email address, because I despise spam and I want anonymity, too. But in this case I give permission to the host to share my address with this particular man, if he wants it. I’ll be happy to walk with him through his search privately. I don’t know it all, but I’ve already visited some of those neighborhoods, and maybe I can point him in a good direction.
God bless you, brother traveller



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Annie

posted February 21, 2011 at 6:48 pm


I wish I had an answer that could relieve all doubts. I find myself in your wife’s place and my husband in yours and it is hard. I love my husband deeply and am committed to him, but there is lost a common ground that we have always before shared and I grieve for that. It is lonely taking my children to church by myself. It is lonely in the middle of the night to wake up from a bad dream and for the first time not feel like I can wake him to pray for me since I don’t know exactly what he believes now, and I’m honestly afraid of the answer if I ask. I too struggle with prayer, as many have gone unanswered. I don’t understand all of the Bible, or why God makes so many people only save a few, or how the Church who is supposed to be the body of Jesus can so mistreat others both in and out of the church. But almost 2 decades ago as I wrestled in my room with whether or not God was real, I became strongly convinced that he was. And I have seen the depths of my own depravity and know that I can never be good enough, so I must rest in the salvation offered by Jesus, teach it to my children, and hope and pray since that is all I can do that my husband won’t abandon that, that God would not be silent now and would answer his (and your) questions. I do not know if your wife knows of your struggle, but if so I would welcome talking with her. As you said, strangely such things we can’t discuss within our own church but we still need to talk feelings out sometimes. So the blog writer is welcome to share my email if you want it.



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