There are many things that I have had to bring myself to value the hard way. One such value that was brought to the light through much turmoil is the usefulness of questioning authority. That very phrase in itself is a death wish in some contexts! In America, depending on the context religiously or politically the spectrum usually ranges from ostracism as the extreme all the way over to picking on the odd man out among a group of friends. Should we pretend that such surrounding factors don’t actually influence our present beliefs? On the flip side a community that is filled with acceptance and love, all predicated upon the truth claims of their religion can also highly influence the ultimate position that one takes regarding faith. Why? It is because there is a clear price to pay even when being honest about what we personally believe or doubt.

Around the time I turned 15 years old a new kind of authority was brought into my life. We joined a very different church from what we had ever been involved with before. It was a church that believes in utilizing authority first from the Bible and then transferring its representation into the Pastor and other leaders within the church. So this is essentially what happens within conservative churches that take the Bible and its alleged authority literally, modern people read and study an ancient set of sacred texts and then take it upon themselves to claim that their knowledge has been reasonably bridged with what is called the knowledge of God.

It gives ordinary minds the authority to speak on behalf of almighty God. Why? Well, because salvation through Jesus, it is said, puts these people in connection with the one true God. The one source of all knowledge and truth. To question this basic assumption, at least within contexts that do not value higher forms of critical thinking, is grounds for making your local Pastor wonder whether you should be considered a part of the fold. Now, I do not want to misrepresent the broad spectrum of conservative Christianity when I say this. I have happily met some conservative minds that are far more willing to question the authority of their Pastor as well as the authority of their Bible on a regular basis. The difference for these questioners of authority is that they believe at the end of the day that reality can be reconciled with their Bible.

I am far more appreciative of conservative Christians that value critical thinking. I have seen the difference clearly within my life and among the many people I’ve had the joy of knowing personally. So why do I take it one step further? I have learned, at least with regard to my own honest assessment about the kind of knowledge that I’ve gained, that it is highly presumptuous for me to claim that I have access to the knowledge of God within this world and the modern context that I find myself in. I suspect that the same can be said of the vast majority of religious thinkers today. I could be wrong, but as I have evaluated the kind of knowledge that I possess as well as what many openly admit within their own religious paradigm, I think that a case can be made for a humanity that lacks access to very relevant knowledge that could put the God question to rest.

The difference appears to stem from what kind of methodology one favors as most effective for drilling down on truth claims. Atheism utilizes skepticism as a rather useful tool wherever it is justified. I truly feel empowered to think when I put this cap on. All the best to my readers regardless of what position you take for yourselves!

2 thoughts on “Where I Come From

  1. Hello H4T,
    It’s a sad thing to hear someone has rejected God because of their perception about the Christians in the church. Your post displays that you’ve found a foundation for your skepticism by connecting a pastor to your choice. I’ve counseled quite a few people that pivoted on that point. Either (a) they were already angry at family who valued God or the church, or (b) they were doubtful of what they were taught in the church and just looking for a scapegoat, or (c) an immature Christian(s) misrepresented God and inspired rejection of Him. Which ever was the cause of your estrangement, I’m sorry for your loss.

    Pastors aren’t special. They are just people who (hopefully) God gifted with a passion to study and teach His Word. I’ve never felt like I had any more authority than a librarian. As a pastoral counselor, I simply help people find answers in Scripture, and in the process try to love and encourage them. My training gives me the opportunity to help others connect-the-dots, which is useful when you’re researching a book written by 40 people, between 3500 – 2000 years ago. It can be a challenge for new Christians to “see the forest for the trees” when they first start reading the Bible.

    Coming from agnosticism to a Christian faith, I recall the emptiness and lack of answers that accompanied denying God. It was very helpful to me that, as I accepted the unlimited evidence of God, a group of thoughtful and mature Christians took me in and loved me through understanding it. I also had a pastor that just stuck to living a Christlike life and helping people understand God’s word. The overwhelming majority of pastors that I have met do what my first pastor did. But pastors are people, too.

    I have known a few pastors that were awful. I’ve watched them misunderstand the authority of God’s Word as authority that they personally had. I’ve seen some churches reject them, and other churches fail because of them. Being a Christian does not change the fact that you are a person. Hopefully, it will change how you think and act as a person. The best sermons I have ever known were the ones that were lived, rather than preached.

    I also wanted to talk about the Bible and genre. I’ve known atheists who take Scripture out of context, either mistakenly or out of deliberate deceit. The Bible is highly contextual, full of referential language, poetry, art, history, prophecy, wisdom, instruction, and even sexual lyrics. So often, I see people pidgeon-hole all Christians as fire & brimstone literalists when they assert a perceived discrepancy in the Bible. I went to a very conservative seminary, and learned creation in theistic evolution as well as progressive creationism. Bible scholars are highly skeptical people for the most part, and we argue from numerous perceptions, not just our favorite flavor. Far too many critics of the Bible use an 8-second-sound bite to deliberately claim error, when the only error is in their misunderstanding and unwillingness to learn.

    Finally, I wanted to thank you for your candor and honesty. It very well may be that you never formed a true, saving faith. There are plenty of folks that experience no connection to God, nor do they care about the Bible, even though they were raised in church. This, too, is expressed by Jesus.
    Matthew 22:14 (NLT)
    14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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  2. Thanks for your well meaning comments appliedfaithorg, but I’m afraid you’ve misunderstood my actual position in regards to why I shifted out of faith. I shifted out of a faith position primarily because I could not reconcile my own knowledge with what is called the knowledge of God. I highly suspect that this is true of all forms of religion. You are certainly entitled to think to yourself that the nature of my previous belief in God was entirely different from your own present state, but I would just ask you to strongly consider whether it is possible to view the situation differently? Is it possible that what you perceive as God’s presence in your life is really not all that different than what entirely different faiths believe in regards to a separate God or set of gods? What I am getting at here is the realm of subjective confirmation. What many consider to be God speaking in some way, shape, or form. What can make any person of any religious position so sure that they are in fact communicating with and accurately representing an unseen God? Is Christianity the only religion that claims a vibrant connection to the divine? A sure relationship with a supernatural source? Why should anyone play favorites in this regard?

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