So as of now I have gotten out of what I would call a “extreme philosophical dead cold Christian theology” as in I was Christian in name only but didn’t really have much of an evangelical/biblical relationship with Jesus Christ and treated God and faith as abstract things and the Bible as an old, dusty, outdated and (I regret that I for a brief time held this point of view) irrelevant book that was bound to its past and had nothing for us in the 21st century say some nice feel good sayings from Jesus Christ. I have been having a turning a heart of stone to flesh experience for a while for the last two weeks and it has been eating at me. I feel as if I am on a tightrope as of now, trying to keep a good balance of being faithful to faith and scripture while also making sense of science, history and anthropology and I am stuck in a real thin shaky middle. On one side, is a time when I was a stereotypical YEC evangelical-fundamentalist’s Christian and the other a dead in the heart Christian in name and philosophy only. Does anyone have any advice that can help me navigate this crazy walk I have found myself on? If so that would be nice as I am stuck in-between a rock and a hard place as they say. Thanks and God bless.
Wow. Thank you for your transparency – I admire that. What comes to mind first is the quote from the end of Tim Keller’s book:
During a dark time in her life, a woman in my congregation complained that she had prayed over and over, “God, help me find you,” but had gotten nowhere. A Christian friend suggested to her that she might change her prayer to, “God, come and find me. After all, you are the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep.” She concluded when she was recounting this to me, “The only reason I can tell you this story is—he did.”
Thanks, I love the quote. Really changes the mindset a bit a lot.
One Bible verse from Proverbs 8:17 is helping me a lot as of now, “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.” @Dale
Doubt is part of faith. Only a fundamentalist needs to know everything with certainly. So maybe you’re in a growth phase. At my church on Easter, when of course we get many people who don’t usually attend services, our rector would tell the doubters that they were welcome.
Many have claimed to have sought him, on their terms, not his.
You may have seen that I’m all about God’s providence and timing – Acts 17:26-27 is a favorite:
…having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.
Be careful not to be impatient, though – I have plenty of personal evidence, if I could reassure you. (That reminds me… I have a couple of Co-instants Log entries to make. )
For me when I hear these things what I most often believe is that the persons cross road is not with God and the Bible verses science but with a specific boxed in version of god and interpretation of the Bible vs a specific conclusion taught as the correct International of scientific data.
Many people often say if you’re a Christian then it means you believe the Bible literally and others say that if you’re truly believe in science then it means you must reasonably conclude atheism is the end result. But neither of these things are true.
Why can’t God use fictional stories to convey his truth in genesis? The Torah is full of examples of fiction. God spoke to people through ambiguous dreams of statues. God spoke to people through poetry Jesus himself used parables and metaphors all the time. Jesus did not literally become a tree. There was not really a prodigal son. Revelation is nonstop metaphorical. There is no reason not to believe God used the same tactics in genesis. It went through thousands of years and a handful of people in 11 chapters and then spent dozens of chapters spanning 40ish years.
Also people forget that the Bible is just as much man driven as godly. God used the Holy Spirit to inspire the word. It was not automatic writing where the Holy Spirit possessed the writers. There is a reason why we see at least 40+ distinct writing styles. There is a reason why we see the same concepts and metaphors used in other faiths in the same area. If god inspired a message for you to write it would be up to you to use concepts and the the vocabulary you had to explain it.
Also people forget a Jesus was also just a man too. He was not half man and half god like Hercules. He was not a man pretending to not know everything. Such as he had no clue when the end was. He did not know everything. God emptied himself into the form of a man and became just like a man. Jesus was not different from us. Otherwise his sacrifice would not count. He had to face the same temptations just like us.
Sin is a choice. Jesus chose to never sin. He still felt all the things we felt. He was still a boy who got flooded with hormones as a teen. He still would have gotten erections and noticed beauty. He was a man. The difference is that he chose to never sin. He pursed the life God called him too. That was the whole point of God becoming man. Jesus was not immune to sin. He overcame it.
I brought that up because I feel it ties into why interpretation matters. I’ve met people who believed Jesus was perfect not by choice but by design. That he was immune to all the shortcomings of being a human. But he had a choice and he made the right choices. Just because some people paint Jesus as this or that or paint the interpretation of genesis as this or that does not mean anything.
It does not make Jesus any less of a person that he used parables and metaphors to explain truths instead of just being blunt with realism and it does not make Jesus any less that as a baby he pooped on himself and needed to be changed by his mom and it does not make the writers of the Bible any less that they used their own worldviews, concepts, and language to explain the mysteries God shared with them and it does not make God any less of a God because he chose to sometimes explain truths through fantasy.
Maybe none of that helped you. But it really helped me when I use to think Jesus was perfect because he was a robot essentially void of humanity and was just God pretending to be a man essentially to fulfill a loophole and that the Bible was this perfect creation that was like
Golden tablets coming down from heaven and men barely had anything to do with it. Realizing Jesus was also a man , that God became a human, and ect… really helped me.
For me another thing that helps is obviously being consistent in fellowship with others. God lines out a lot about us being present in the body with other believers.
Also the great commission. What good is a lamp under a blanket. We are commanded to preach the gospel to the lost, and to baptize those that repent and confess Christ. Acts 2:38. Adding unbelievers to the body. Some parts of the Bible are wrapped in mysteries. Some is pretty straightforward.
My advice would be to not be afraid to trust your intuitions and experiences without dissecting them or making them pass some “rational” test. God gave us multiple faculties for accessing truth.
Also, meaningful things take time to build and grow and develop. You can’t rush the process because some stages are uncomfortable.
Thanks for sharing. Hope your ventures into new territory are ultimately rewarding in many ways.
I can agree with that. My issue was when I realized that I was in a sense “dead” spiritually and not in a full relationship with Christ as I should be and in doing it has been making me shed some stuff I had on me and how I had distanced God’s Word from me as I had treated it like any other ancient work of text and at the time (unfortunately) saw real no value in it since it was so “ancient” and “outdated” to “us” in the 21st century. But, I have seen that the text is ancient yes, but it is so relevant to us today more then ever. It has made me squirm in my skin at times but as you have stated, this is a growth process. In an unintended vain effect, in my attempt to understand the ancient context of the Bible (especially Genesis 1-11) it made me cynical to the Bible and treat it like an outdated book and in turn it made me turn God, Jesus and faith itself into a theological-philosophical exercise and creed that had no real substance and had me put God in a deistic manner, there but far away and no longer caring or relevant to us in the 21st century.
Indeed I hope this turns out for the better and I believe it will.
Our faith does not make life go away. Thus we tend to go through times when we get wrapped up in life. And for us intellectual types that usually means getting wrapped up in thought. It is way we have learned to live after all. But that leaves us with a need to reconnect emotionally with God.
Solidarity. I know what you mean about cynicism. One Proverb that keeps coming to mind for me (for some reason) is 18:17:
In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
I thought I had everything understood (mostly), then I realized I didn’t, then I over-corrected a little bit because of that, and yeah, it does feel a bit like a tightrope sometimes. I just keep telling myself Jesus is the one I’m following. I need reminders from myself and from God’s people about how much bigger all of this is than me, no matter which phase of the process I’m in or how much more I happen to be leaning to one “side” than the other. God bless.
I wish to thank everyone for their replies so far as this has been an almost emotional-spiritual revival type of experience for me in terms of knowing that I CAN have a relationship with God and that His Word is for ME TODAY as it was back then so long ago to the original readers/hearers. I can almost relate my experience to that of one of my “modern” hero’s of faith, John Wesley, within his Aldersgate conversion
I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Indeed it does feel like it for me right now, but I have hope that I will be off this tightrope soon!
Tell God Quinn. Coherently and otherwise. Walk and talk with Him in green space, watching out for people noticing! Tell Him in the shower. Keep taking communion. And know that you are among friends here. We are all in this together. Walking naked. And it’s OK. Walking in fear, in ignorance, in doubt, in confusion. And that’s all OK. God walks with us. He has done so in all of that in solidarity. He remembers. I say the simplest rote prayers too.
Be kind to yourself. And if I may add to the thoughtful words of the community you belong to here, be kind to your brain. I know that sounds really strange. But when you’re going through a major change in perspective, your biology is trying to keep up with you, which means it has to prune some old network connections and build some new ones. And this is a lot of work as far as your biology is concerned, so if your life permits you to take some extra time to rest, that would really help. If you can veg out in the evening and watch something light and entertaining but not educational, it frees up your brain to do what it needs to do during this time of change. Good food, long walks, less computer time are all small things you can do to help you cope with this transition. Keep reminding yourself that the brain usually needs about 6 weeks (at a minimum) to grow a new neuron, and you’ll probably be growing quite a few, so don’t judge yourself about the time it takes to get through the shaky middle. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just how your biology works.
Please check in with us often and let us know how we can help.
Thanks for the advice. I guess for Lent I can give up overworking/overthinking myself (I tend to do that a lot. )
I’ve learned to pay attention to the signals my body is giving me when my brain has maxed out on overthinking (which I also tend to do). That’s when I know it’s time to bake some cookies or watch The Big Bang Theory. If I had a garden (like @MarkD), I might do that, but alas, I now live in an apartment. I also confess to a certain fondness for shopping for a new sweater or top on the sale racks. There’s nothing like going through the sale racks to take your mind off the “big ideas” of philosophy.
P.S. It’s very popular these days to recommend meditation of the kinds that originated within different schools of Buddhism. I’ve personally found that for those of us who are over-thinkers, the intensive focus required by meditation makes things worse, not better. Quiet, active contemplation or conversation with God (which has long been a part of Christianity) is okay. But getting out of your head and into your heart is the challenge, and traditional forms of meditation such as still-point don’t really help with that.
I started out the same as you, raised in independent Baptist churches in the South. There was more certainty in ideas and less love for one another, especially people with different views and opinions, in that environment. The baggage is difficult to leave by the side of the road.
I think one way to move forward is to focus on what you can do for others, to show the love of Jesus Christ.
Good advice that I heard at church is to do for one what you’d like to be able to do for everyone.