Asking Questions About Christianity — My Journey

Why am I writing this blog?  I am just a Christian layman.  I do not claim to be a theologian or a philosopher.  What I have done for 40 years is to spend a considerable amount of time reading, thinking, and asking questions about life and Christianity.  The result is that I believe to have found some answers.

I was raised in the evangelical Protestant Christian community.  I attended Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening services for the first 20 years of my life.  I attended Christian high schools for four years.  I studied theology at a Christian Bible institute for two and one-half years.  During most of this time, I believed what I was taught; I asked no questions.  There was no reason to question.  The Christian community of which I was a part was so convinced they were right, they had long ago stopped searching for the truth.  If any questions were asked, they were solely to find ways to support their belief system.

What changed my thinking about asking questions was attending a Christian Bible institute which put me in the middle of a major metropolitan city.  I did not see Christianity having a major impact on that city and I started to ask why.  The entire Bible teaches us how awesome God is.  Colossians 2:9-10 tells us God’s power was embodied in Jesus and we are complete in him which means all Christians have access to that power.  My question was:  Why do we not see this power displayed in Christianity?  No one has accused modern day Christianity of turning the world, let alone a city, upside down as the people of Thessalonica accused the early Christians (Acts 17:6).  Why?

So I began to raise various questions about Christianity.  Unable to obtain satisfactory answers at the Bible institute I was attending, I became rebellious, flouted the rules, and was summarily dismissed.  For the next 25 years, I wandered a no man’s land in regards to my beliefs.  The questions I had about the Christian faith remain unresolved and I could not subscribe to any of the philosophies of the secular world or the other religions because they too had problems within their belief systems.

My questions (which we will discuss later in this blog) surfaced because of contradictions between what I observed in the world and what I was told the Bible said.  The questions I asked were nothing new; they have been asked for ages and the readers of this blog undoubtedly have at times asked similar questions.  The fact that we still discuss these problems demonstrated Christians have not been successful in answering them.

During my search for answers, I heard or read many explanations by various Christian authors who attempted to explain the seemingly contradictions between the Bible and what I observed in the world.  However, those explanations sounded more like an argument thought up to justify an already established position rather than an honest inquiry into the truth.  Gopi Krishna, the mystic from India, recounts his experiences and expresses how I felt:

I thirsted for rationality in religion, for the worship of truth, whatever and wherever that might be.  There was no spectacle more painful for me than the sight of a conscientious and intelligent man defending an absurdity which even a child could see through, simply because it formed an article of faith to which he must hold at any cost, even if that cost included the sacrifice of reason and truth. [1]

A typical Christian response to Gopi Krishna’s statement would be that at times God’s ways will be above our understanding (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Because God is infinite and we are finite, it is to be expected we would have difficulty understanding why God does everything the way he does.  However, relying on Isaiah’s statement to justify all manner of irrational belief is mistaken.  Isaac Watts, who most Christians remember from the hymns he wrote, says:  divine revelation cannot be “inconsistent with reason; for intelligent creatures can never be bound to believe real inconsistencies”. [2]  David Elton Trueblood, a Christian philosopher, tells us that if we allow contradictions in our belief system, intelligent discourse might as well come to an end. [3]  How can we expect people to take Christianity seriously if we do not resolve these contradictions in major tenants of our beliefs?

Pascal maintains there must be a resolution of all contradictory passages in the Bible or God has no meaning at all. [4]  The God who gave us a rational mind cannot expect us to ignore it when the issue of our religious beliefs arises.  Trueblood describes the approach we must take when we examine our religious faith.

There is really no hope for the Christian faith apart from tough-mindedness in matters of belief.  If God is not, then the sooner we find it out the better.  If belief in God is not true, it is an evil and should be eliminated from our entire universe of discourse.  False belief is evil because it diverts energy from practical tasks that require attention.  If prayer is not an objective encounter with the Living God, we shall do well to make this discovery and give up the nonsense as soon as possible. [5]

Several times during my Christian upbringing I remember hearing from or reading about people who stated they were dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God.  In other words, the evidence for Christianity was so compelling to them that they were persuaded to believe even though they did not want to believe.  I distinctly remember feeling just the opposite.  I wanted to believe in what Christianity taught.  I was totally immersed it for my entire childhood and teenage years.  But because of unanswered questions, I felt like I was being dragged kicking and screaming out of the kingdom of God.  For twenty five years my associations with Christians was minimal (except for my family).  For twenty five years I rarely read the Bible.  Every time someone would give me a book to read that was to answer my questions, the book would contain information that confirmed the validity of the questions I was asking.

So where did I go to find answers?  Strangely, the answer was to go back to the Bible.  My various readings lead me to the conclusion that I needed to read the Bible again.  It was a paradigm shattering experience because the Bible was so familiar but at the same time it was so new.  What I read took me by surprise and I started to organize my thoughts by writing them down.  As I went through the process of re-evaluating the claims of Christianity, I discovered my complaint against God had been misplaced.  As happens so often the course in human affairs, God is blamed for much that is not of his doing.  The problem, as usual, is with us humans.  We are fallible, we are creatures of habit, we are products of our culture, and we find it difficult to think “outside the box” in which we have grown up.

The purpose of this blog is to stimulate a discussion of how God relates to us.  It, at times, does not conform to traditional Christian belief.  What I have tried to do is to look at what the Bible says with an open mind.  My search for what the Bible actually says has not always taken me in the direction I always wanted to go but that is to be expected.  I make no claim to have found all the answers.  I am quite willing, as all of us should be, to modify my beliefs provided the answers to the questions I have raised are logical and based on the Bible.  I only ask of the readers that they have the same openness to the ideas presented in this blog.

________________________

1.         Gopi Krishna, Living with Kundalini (Boston:  Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1993), p. 80.

2.         Isaac Watts, Logic:  The Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry after Truth (Morgan, PA:  Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1996), p. 263.

3.         David Elton Trueblood, General Philosophy (New York:  Harper & Row:  1963), pp. 9-10.

4.         A. J. Krailsheimer, Trans., Pascal:  Pensées, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England:  Penguin Books, 1966), p.106.

5.         David Elton Trueblood, A Place to Stand (New York:  Harper & Row, 1969), p. 19.

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2 Responses to Asking Questions About Christianity — My Journey

  1. Craig says:

    I always appreciate honest transparency. it’s a good way to kick off a blog too. I have a similar journey in that I began questioning the nature of the church or validity of it. It seems in the NT that the beat down, ostracized and forgotten flocked to Jesus and yet in our time the general rule is that those same people in our culture want nothing to do with what we call “church.” Something is wrong and I tend to think it has more to do with us than Jesus, ya know? I attended a Bible Seminary for 3 yrs and took a class on Early Church History where we studied the first 600 yrs of the church. After that class it was impossible for me not to ask questions about how we got from the NT church life to what we see from Christianity today. I still have so many questions and I’m not shy about asking them. I look forward to the discussions you raise.

    • admin says:

      Craig:

      Thanks for your response. I agree the problem is more with us than Jesus and his teachings. Stay tuned and you’ll see how I arrived at that conclusion.

      Don

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