Theology

how in the world did I change my mind?

If you’ve been here for any length of time you should be pretty well aware of that fact that I grew up in Christian fundamentalism. It was everything, my entire world, for the bulk of the aware-of-Jesus-and-could-understand-sermons portion of my life. And then I grew up and decided that I didn’t agree with … well, pretty much all of it. Except for the God and Jesus part, which even believing in he/she/they was a struggle for a few years. A while after I’d decided well, I think I’m still a Christian but what does that even mean I started a blog to sort it all out and here we are.

Handsome and I have had a few conversations about this, because there’s a not-insignificant part of me that wonders how is anyone still a fundamentalist? It makes no sense, and is based on a lot of claims that are … well, in retrospect, I find it more than baffling that I ever accepted those claims as true, although I give myself a little wiggle room because I was a child and the second I was exposed to real information I started investigating and bam I wasn’t a fundamentalist anymore.

And that’s when I sort of stumbled into the answer to the question “how did I ever manage to change my mind?” After all, it’s not something that everyone easily does, especially when it comes to politics and religion. I was explaining my thought process to my partner and realized that I had some things going for me that a lot of grew-up-in-fundamentalist-Christianity people don’t have, and it wasn’t actually a “BAM! YOU’RE NO LONGER A FUNDAMENTALIST!” it was more “well, hello piece of information that seems to contradict something I’ve been taught, let’s look into thi– … whoah.” It has been, as the subtitle of this blog suggests, an ongoing journey.

Thing I had going for me #1: I was not a man.

I’ve casually mentioned this in a few things that I’ve written over the past few years, and talked about it in my BBC radio interview a few weeks ago– as a woman, I faced a lot of things that a man didn’t have to face. I was forbidden from doing things I deeply loved. I was shamed and mocked and belittled for being the sort of woman I am– feminine, but rambunctious. Introverted, but outgoing and occasionally loud. Ambitious in directions that no one approved of. I was told no an awful lot.

If I had been a boy and then a man, I wouldn’t have faced any of that. My rampant curiosity, my deep interest in theological discussions, my ability to stand up in front of people and shout about things– all of that would have been directed toward turning me into a “preacher boy.” I would have been one of the most amazingly privileged people in the fundamentalist community, and everything about who I am would have been nurtured and praised. Leaving behind a system that affords you a lot of power and opportunity is a lot harder to abandon than a system that is hell-bent on squashing you.

Thing I had going for me #2: I was not straight.

I was doggone terrified during high school because I thought I might be a lesbian. I thought the boys around me were repulsive (I was right: they were all, without exception, horrific misogynists and would have been controlling husbands) and combine that with the passing fanciful thoughts I had about kissing my best friend and I was in serious trouble. I rarely ever let myself think about it and when I inevitably did, I forced all those thoughts under the bannerhead of “I AM NOT A LESBIAN WOMEN ARE JUST PRETTY THAT’S IT.”

But that whole not-being-straight thing compounded with the not-a-man thing and by the time I got to college I was more likely than my straight male peers to think that this whole fundamentalist Christianity thing was total bunk.

Thing I had going for me #3: I was curious.

This isn’t to say that fundamentalists can’t be curious. Of course they can be. But their curiosity is … restrained. It has limits. The nature of fundamentalism means that there are some answers that they’re indoctrinated to reject out of hand, without investigation. But, because I was a bisexual woman and less averse to some answers than they were, I was predisposed to ask more meaningful questions and more willing to accept answers that disagreed with what I’d been taught.

I was also lucky.

During my sophomore year I had to take an Old Testament Survey class, and one of the assignments was to write a review of this book that was dedicated to how the King James Version is the Only True Bible blah blah blah. I’d grown up in this movement. Every church I attended or even visited until I was 23 was a strict King James Only church. One of the assigned textbooks I had to read every year since fourth grade was about the topic, and it was something that I was pretty interested in. It was a sticking point between me and some of my friends, and I even got into some late-night fights with roommates at summer camp about how it’s impossible to become a Christian if you read a different version of the Bible. Yeah, I know, I was that person.

Anyway, the book they assigned us was ridiculous– and that was coming from me, a staunch KJV-Only Supporter. At the time I was writing that paper, I stumbled across God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson and … well, nothing was ever quite the same. I’d picked it up at Barnes & Noble because the back copy made it sound extremely favorable toward my position (“It is the greatest work of English prose ever written”), and in fact, Nicolson is rather enamored with the Authorized Version and its history. But he approached it not as a theologian invested in defending the Textus Receptus, and was completely uninterested in proving that the KJV is superior to all other translations, or that the Sinaiticus was worthy of the trash heap and nothing more. That perspective allowed him to tell the story of how the Authorized Version was compiled and translated and it was … eye opening, especially since some of the verifiable facts he related blatantly contradicted several fundamentalist positions concerning Scripture and its interpretation.

That single book is what started this whole deconverting-from-fundamentalism process, because once you’ve opened your world to the idea that maybe some of the things you’ve been taught are wrong, Christian fundamentalism will inevitably collapse. It can’t stand up to rigorous questioning.

But, you have to get to the place where you’re willing to question it, and in a sense I’m rather fortunate. If the circumstances of my life had been different– if I hadn’t belonged to an abusive cult, if I’d had male privilege, if I’d been straight, if any one of a number of things had been different, I might have been happy in my ignorance and unwilling to rock my own boat.

 Photo by Jason Bötter
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  • In its original sense, being a Christian meant being Jewish (and believing in the Torah), as Jesus and his disciples were. Being Christian was never about the divinity of Jesus, or any other man, as a divine messiah was unthinkable to Jews of that era. Unfortunately, the teachings of Jesus were replaced by the dogma of the Church and thus the twisted logic of what we now call Christianity.

    • Most Christians (especially Western Christians) are actually more followers of Paul than they are followers of Jesus.

      • Exactly. That was sort of my point. Paul didn’t expound on the teachings of Jesus.

      • Jason…I have made the same observation about Jesus/Paul when it comes to evangelical preachers’ sermon texts. I graduated from a conservative Xian college. For reasons rather similar to Samantha’s I migrated to the Episcopal Church where, on Sunday, the Gospel for the day (as assigned in the lectionary) was read from halfway back the middle aisle…among the people. The the sermon was almost always from the text. On “Christian” radio and TV the sermons are most often from the epistles or OT….the Gospel is actually not preached very often.

  • For me it was the politics. I noticed the very unChristlike attitudes/actions/positions of most fundamentalist Christians and how they attempted to justify themselves with the Bible – and the mental shell game it took to keep up with their thinking. That was the breeze that knocked over the house of cards for me.

  • I wouldn’t say I was ever a fundamentalist, but as a new Christian in college I had that shiny new-toy happiness about finding Jesus that I probably intimidated a lot of people. I made peace with the “hard stuff” (6-day creation with no evolution, hell, homosexuality, etc) by simply not thinking about it. I started unraveling after a year at a conservative seminary, where I was surrounded by strict Bible Belt fundamentalists who clearly never interacted much with anyone who thought differently than they did. Suddenly I was a liberal, which no one in their right mind would ever have thought to call me before. Then my agnostic father died, and a family friend asked if I ever witnessed to him so he could go to heaven. I couldn’t ignore hell anymore. And once I started delving into that…I’m not sure what to make of Christianity anymore.

    I find it encouraging to know I’m not the only one with serious problems with this faith, but still desire to hold on to what’s good about Jesus.

  • sara

    Wasn’t fundamentalist, but I relate to this list. My curiosity has always been there, and never stifled, though never encouraged either. I was too afraid to really look into things at first, especially when it came to the same-sex stuff.
    What was the first step in leading me to where I am now, was dating my fiance, who was an atheist at the time (so of course I faced tons of opposition from friends and family.) He was always respectful of my beliefs, yet questioned me, challenged me and it pushed me into a place where I began to reexamine everything I believed, on a more base theology level.
    The second step, a more personal level, was my Christian roommate coming out to me as bi; this was before I was out to myself, so I was nervous at first, thinking, “if she’s able to reconcile her faith and sexuality, what does that mean for me?” I wasn’t ready to admit anything to myself yet. But I made the decision to support her, and from there, we had plenty of good conversations about it, and I started reading up on it on my own, and over a year later, was finally at peace with myself.
    So all that, in conjunction with not being a man, as you said, let me look at scriptures and faith in a new light. I’m definitely in the same boat of “God/Jesus=yes” and “everything else=uh probably not” right now, and it’s honestly a huge relief.
    Thank you for writing by the way, your posts have really been helping me!

  • I think for me, it was the blatant hypocrisy and beliefs that contradicted scripture. Nearly all.of the leaders preaching against pride and moodiness were some of the most prideful, moody people I had ever met. Christianity wasn’t about following Jesus, it was about following all the arbitrary purity rules that the leaders had distilled from completely irrelevant verses. Fundamentalism is full of seriously unhappy, fearful people. I don’t know of anyone who actually enjoys living under its bondage.

  • jesuswithoutbaggage

    I never rebelled against fundamentalism. Instead, over many years, I questioned one belief after another: legalism, KJV-only, hell, dispensationalism, the reality of Satan and demons, anti-evolution, inerrancy, substitutionary atonement, condemnation of gays. None of this was rebellion, but early along the way I realized I had little in common with fundamentalist anymore.

    However, though I had a year-long crisis over inerrancy, I discovered Jesus as the foundation of all my belief.

  • I am also glad I’m not the only one who has been struggling with basic Christian doctrine. I was a catholic and then Pentecostal before I left organized religion completely … I have learned that today’s church follows Paul’s teachings more than Jesus. I have also felt a little uneasy with “abandoning ” the basic Christian teachings, but I realize that my fear is based on the same manipulation that the church has used to keep me under its control . Coming out of the closet has been a slow and painful experience but liberating at the same time .

  • Rashell

    Honest Question: If the bible is not what the fundamentalist believes it is and is rather just a book of man-made prose how is it that we can accept the portions that deal with Jesus’ existence and teachings?

    I am at the point where I would just toss the whole thing out, but I have a really hard time letting go of the idea of Jesus.

    Is that simply due to thorough brainwashing?

    • Nine

      There’s a pretty big leap between “not what the fundamentalist believes it is” and “just a book of prose”. It’s important to remember that the modern Bible is a collection, a library of different books, written at different times by different authors. The Fundamentalist believes every word came directly from the mouth of God and is therefore literally true, but a progressive believer (or a scholar of any faith/lack thereof) is able to approach each book on its own merits.

      The Old Testament, for example, represents the history, mythology, and poetry of the ancient Jewish people. It remains the best account we have of a big chunk of their past. The more overly mythological sections – the creation myths, YHWH laying waste to armies, etc – can be evaluated as such. The more strictly historical sections – who was king at what time, where cities were founded, who fought who, who conquered/enslaved who, etc, – are extraordinarily accurate and are frequently corroborated by other accounts and by archaeological evidence.

      The New Testament is similar. The Gospels are written as accounts of the life of a contemporary person from four different authors. Ancient Roman records confirm the basics of the Gospel account of the life of Jesus – There was a man called Jesus of Nazareth, he was born a Jew, he challenged the Jewish religious authorities and by extension the rule of Rome, he assembled a sizable cult following, and was eventually crucified. Similarly, when the Gospel authors tell of Jesus’ teachings, they corroborate each other. They differ slightly where it comes to precise wording, but there is broad consensus about what Jesus taught. These accounts may or may not be prone to exaggeration or fabrication, that is for scholarly study to discern.

      The remainder of the New Testament largely consists of letters written after the death of Christ. They are written from the apostles to the various new, fledgling Christian churches. Some of these letters can be reliably attributed to Paul and the other apostles – others are widely agreed to be forgeries, imitations written hundreds of years later and fraudulently (or simply mistakenly) attributed to the apostles. A Fundamentalist sees these letters as no different from the teachings of Christ – divinely inspired and absolutely unarguably true. A scholar or progressive Christian may look more carefully at them and determine whether or not their teachings are consistent with the character of Christ.

    • jesuswithoutbaggage

      Rashell, I think you are on the right track to abandon the fundamentalist understanding of the Bible, while at the same time holding on to Jesus. I am a former fundamentalist who no longer believes the Bible is the word-for-word voice of God.

      However, after a period of crisis over the issue of inerrancy, I discovered Jesus and his teachings and actions to be the foundation of all my belief. I talk about that crisis and discovery at https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/about-tim-chastain/my-spiritual-crisis/.

      • Rashell

        Thank you – I’ll definitely check out the blog.

        It has been a pretty frustrating last few years for me – I was pretty hardcore fundamentalist until just a couple years ago and it seems the ground beneath my feet re: God/Jesus/The Bible/Religion/Meaning of Life has been eroding the last couple years as I began to question things and then one day I looked down and it was just GONE.

        Even just trying to figure out where to begin to untangle the mess is pretty overwhelming. It seems every time I begin researching to find answers I get bogged down in theological jargon. It almost seems I’ll either need to take someone else’s word for things (done enough of that already :P) or get a theology degree to find out what I really want to know.

        Just gotta keep searching ’till I figure it out 🙂

        • Unfortunately, a theology degree won’t due – too much disinformation. However, you could go on a personal search for the truth and see what develops

        • jesuswithoutbaggage

          Rashell,

          I think it is common for a person leaving fundamentalism to feel lost and disoriented at first before they begin to find direction. I encourage you to continue on the journey and not give up in frustration. Even though you are accustomed to authorities, I don’t think you should take anyone’s word as authority; always question what you hear and determine whether it makes sense. Read as widely as you can from helpful sources.

          By the way, I try to avoid theological jargon on my blog.

        • Tim

          If you don’t mind sharing, what was the event or circumstances surrounding the erosion of your previously hardcore fundamentalism? It may be that something in the events of the unraveling could be a useful pointer to what or why or how or even whether you would want to invest the time in trying to satisfy your desire to untangle the mess. Sometimes people decide that it just doesn’t matter that much to their daily lives and just put it on a shelf for awhile, and that’s ok.

          If you pursue digging for answers in the hopes of finding something that will hopefully ultimately make sense to you, you will have to accept some people’s words as authoritative. You can’t live long enough to master all the disciplines (from original languages to an understanding of religious cultural and historical contexts, literary criticism, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, sociology, archeology and all the rest). Long enough to dabble in them, perhaps, not enough to master them all and come up with the one true perspective which no one ever thought of before in the history of ever. It’s just too daunting.

          There are three sort of general ideas of paths you could go down, or maybe pick a combination of them, depending on your skills, your interests, your personality, and your personal relationships. The first path is the scholarly path – through an institution or on your own, read widely. If you read widely enough, you’ll begin to see the whole landscape of the thoughts that have gone before and the arguments that persist between one scholar and another. You’ll be able to spot the cranks and conspiracy theorists. You’ll get a feel for the shape of good and bad arguments, and ultimately, you’ll find scholars who resonate with you, who you feel like you can trust. This is a long and arduous process which can’t be rushed. The second path is the relational path. Talk to your friends neighbors and relatives about what they believe and why and find your own understandings through dialogue with people who seem to you to have wisdom, sound judgement, and integrity. If it’s clear that what they believe is working for them, it may work for you. The third path is the religious institutional path. Each religious tradition has it’s own scholars who have wrestled with all the hard issues and found comprehensive answers that work as a whole. Fundamentalism’s roots are shockingly shallow. Most branches of Christianity do not share that flaw, and it may be that you could find a mentor/community in another branch who could aid you in your search. Best of luck.

  • Alyson

    What changed my mind the most was that fundamentalism made so many big promises, and I kept learning the hard way that it couldn’t keep them. That’s why they always have to fall back on promises about what’s going to happen when we die. It creates and exacerbates many of the problems it claims to solve. Fundamentalism is its own worst enemy.

    Why do people stay? I don’t know. Maybe their experience has been different, maybe they don’t feel deceived and manipulated. But I have observed that people are usually aware of the cognitive dissonance on some level.

    I stayed because I thought I had nowhere to go, and I wanted it to work so badly. I thought everything was my fault. All the people I was close to, including my family, were fundamentalist, and I didn’t want to strain the relationships Fundamentalism is so deeply engrained. It was my whole world growing up as an isolated home-schooler.

    • You listed all the key elements: “I had nowhere to go”; “All the people I was close to were fundamentalist”; Fundamentalism is so deeply engrained”; “It was my whole world”… it’s called cultural indoctrination. People don’t even understand why they believe. Much of accepting the belief system happens in the subconscious mind. You can be glad that you’re out.

  • I hesitate to say that I was ever a fundamentalist. As a homeschooler who used A Beka curriculum, I was certainly exposed to it a lot, but I saw a lot of what they said for the crap that it was. However, I absorbed a lot more of the fundie mindset than I realized at that time. It started to crack in 2011, but it really caused problems in early 2012.

    You see, as a very systems-oriented person who mentally deconstructs things down to their base components without even thinking about it, I took fundamentalist views of total depravity to its logical conclusion, which leads to self-loathing, hatred for all of humanity for being flawed, and a gnostic disregard for the importance of the physical world which in turn leads to suicidal thoughts because if the physical world and everyone therein are hopelessly screwed up, why not simply bail out on life once one has become a Christian and secured hell avoidance?

    I eventually quit thinking that without really solving any the problems, so I more or less spent 2012 just trying really hard not to think about my religious issues. I found iMonk and Christian Monist in early 2013 and that finally gave me peace of mind and showed me that there was something to Christianity beyond fundamentalism.

    So in short, I left fundamentalism because I spent time actually thinking about the beliefs associated with it and I found that I could not live with them. I haven’t completely sorted out what I think about everything, but I’m comfortable with that because I trust that God will sort everything out as well as it can possibly sorted.

    Another thing I’d like to mention is an idea I recently had for your next review project, Samantha. You’ve reviewed Christian books about marriage and sex, but what about a website? Back in my early adolescence, I never felt comfortable with asking my parents about sexuality, so I turned to the Internet. I primarily used Wikipedia for basic information, but I also found a Christian sex advice site too. It is primarily aimed at very conservative Christians, so it fits the profile of something you’d review. I’ve included a link below.

    http://site.themarriagebed.com/front-page

  • Fundamentalism turned virulent for me in the late 70’s with the takeover of the SBC. Until that point at the seminaries there were students that were pre, post and a, but after 1978 anyone who didn’t sign on to The Late Great Planet Earth was a heretic. The Baptist Faith and Message was changed to include man as head of household and inerrancy. Kind of stupid to say in what paragraph that the Bible must be interpreted literally and in another one that Baptism is the symbolic depiction of the Death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Then came Sanctity of Life days where anyone who was against criminalizing abortion lost friends and were driven out of the church. When the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth rejoined the SBC is the day when the influence of Biola College and all the Baptist Bible Colleges they spread through the south by the likes of J Frank Norris destroyed Baptist freedom for fascism.

  • My family’s involvement with fundamentalism came gradually, and later in my youth, so I have more of a pre-fundie memory that most. We also were never *quite* as fundie as we could be. (My dad in particular retained an old-earth view, listened to the Beach Boys, and wasn’t doctrinaire about the end times.) It really was with our involvement with Bill Gothard during my teens that we went fundie. I vacillated between trying really hard to believe it all and fighting against it, but I feel like I never completely ended up drinking the Kool Aid. I made a much stronger break after I moved out on my own, and continued to reject doctrine after doctrine as I supported myself, dated and married, and had kids.
    I didn’t really look at it as a break with fundamentalism, however, until I really started exploring my wife’s past with her. (She spent some horrid years as part of Jonathan Lindvall’s group, and it has been a recovery process.) The other triggering event was an ongoing attempt by my family to enforce Gothard’s rules on my wife, which didn’t end well. It was as a result of this break that I decided I had to start actively exploring my rejection of fundamentalism and blogging against it.

  • Wife and I attended two of Gothard’s training sessions. It was slick, well presented, made a lot of sense the first time. The second time I found a chink in the armor. On prayer he said you could pray a fence around someone and God would give that person no joy in the sin they were committing so they would either repent or accept Christ.
    1. It violates the doctrine of Free Will.
    2. It is sympathetic magic, that God can be your voodoo doll.
    3. It makes you more important than the Holy Spirit in converting someone.
    The whole house of cards came crashing down for me.

    • Bill Gothard is such a creepy fraud. Thank God you got out quickly! My best friend from childhood grew up in a Gothardite family, and wow. It’s so damaging and kooky.

  • Caroline M

    This is so cool! Not that you went through all that, but that your disadvantages ended up being actual advantages, because without them you might be enslaved in your mind. I think this often times myself. If I’d been a man, would I have been content to stay in a church where women couldn’t even teach teenage boys? If I’d been mentally healthy and not depressed, would I have been OK with Calvinism? Sometimes the worst things are the best things, because they set us free.

  • Tim

    Thanks for sharing this. As I’ve read your blog for the past few months, I’ve more than once wondered how, in general, someone moves from believing one thing that they’ve grown up with to believing something else. How does that happen? I think it happens in different ways for different people, and it depends in part on the specifics of the particular set of beliefs. But I really appreciate you providing the introspective view into your own change. I think the factors you mention – the culture being personally uncomfortable for you, your natural curiosity, your exposure to data that just didn’t fit the framework you’d been taught, and your willingness to question some of the very basic assumptions – all make sense as working together to move someone of your personality type and analytic mind. I like the explanation because of the way it explains how two people growing up in the same environment and exposed to the same information can react in opposite ways, and I wonder whether the first factor, comfort or discomfort within the culture, is maybe the overwhelming factor in most cases.

    I’m a guy and I consider myself to be straight-ish, but I only really remember feeling mostly uncomfortable within fundamentalism. I did not have the personality to ever be groomed as a preacher-boy. I was insatiably curious, and although I lived mostly inside myself (inside books) and did not pay a whole lot of attention to what was going on in Sunday school or church, by the time I was middle-school aged I had already come to the conclusion that some of the dogma of my elders was just on-its-face illogical and couldn’t be accepted. To cite one thing of many: in the version of fundamentalism I grew up in, all alcohol is bad. But Jesus’s first miracle was to make wine for a party when the wine ran out. How does that make sense? And the explanations when you try to dig into something like that? I could have accepted the contradiction if presented with a reasonable explanation or just the idea that it’s a mystery. But the truly ridiculous explanations are even worse than the original assertions.

    To a fish, what is water? As an eleven or twelve-year-old, I didn’t know that there was such a thing as fundamentalism or that I was in it; I just knew that most of the adults in whose care I was raised believed things that just couldn’t be believed. But books convinced me that this is true for almost everyone who has ever lived, and my parents, relatives and members of the churches we attended were for the most part kind and good people who were not perfect but trying their best, and I got that. When I was seventeen I went to a secular college away from home and stopped going to church and it didn’t seem like I was leaving beliefs behind; it just felt like I was growing up and pursuing my own goals as an adult.

    I never had a crisis of faith in the sense of doubting the existence of God. My experience of belief in God is that it feels to me as though it is on the same order as my belief in the validity of my sensory perceptions or my belief in an objective external world. I’ve pondered arguments against those beliefs, but in my gut I can’t really embrace fully doubting them. I know it’s different for other people; that’s just my experience. And when I got married my wife and I found a lovely community of believers and for both of us the practical aspects of real friendships and acceptance, real care, concern and support were substantially more important than specific beliefs (which, in this case, happened not to be fundamentalist.) I didn’t seriously look at fundamentalism from a critical standpoint until many years later when a friend of mine became a Christian (which I thought was on the whole a good thing) within a fundamentalist church and began trying to convert me to her newfound beliefs. I cared about her and wanted to see where she was coming from. It was painful, as an adult, to hear some of the dogma from my childhood and for the first time to really research it in an objective, systematic way and to feel compelled to pour cold water on at least some of it.

    I wonder how uncomfortable the culture of fundamentalism really is for the majority within it. I just don’t know.

    • For me, the tipping point was teaching Sunday school at my church. We were reading a passage from the Bible, the one about seeking the truth and the truth will set you free. A five year-old girl asked me this question: “Why do we have to seek the truth?” It took me 30 years to find the answer – 30 years, because the truth is not self-evident and it’s not even in the Bible. Of course, my minister, my church and my religion were useless when it came to answering that question.

      • Tim

        “What is truth?”

        • Spot on. It’s a question within a question.

  • Heina

    Are you me (except I was Muslim and was bi)? Thanks for writing this.

  • KP

    Growing up, I attended a church that was pretty conservative politically, but was never really strictly fundamentalist. But I actually was told quite a bit that I could grow up to be a pastor or apologeticist. Not because I was outgoing or good at speaking, but because I was a really good student (or rather, I should say, they had that reaction because I was a really good student while also being male). I never really saw myself in that role, but I did go off to college thinking I would end up being a Christian professor, fighting in an ideological struggle for the legitimacy of the Christian Worldview (TM) to have a voice in the secular academy. That impulse was so strong that, despite not really being a fundamentalist, I’d kind of adopted an us-vs.-them identity that I retained for far too long after entering a PhD program (which I stayed in far too long, even after mostly losing that us-vs.-them mentality; it took me several years longer and a wretched humanities professor job market to realize I should drop out and find a different trajectory in life).

    But what actually led me toward a progressive view of religion/Christianity were mostly internal forces within the most liberal corners of evangelicalism (which were even less liberal 15 years ago than they are now, especially on same sex marriage). My parents (especially my mom!) were very insistent on the idea that only men should have leadership positions over men in Christian settings, but I kept finding myself in situations where I experienced great leadership from females. This happened mainly in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship during college; that it wasn’t an official “church position” made it more “safe” for them to have female leaders, but it allowed me to see women as fully capable in the role of, say, a Bible study leader or a chapter president. (I’m far too liberal for IV these days, as they are implicitly inerrantist and still are anti-same sex marriage, though they’re usually conveniently quiet about it.) I started to question the creationism/anti-science of my youth when I read _Creation and Time_ by Hugh Ross. Ross is an old earth creationist who denies evolution, and he argues that the Genesis account could basically line up with the real history of the earth if you think of “days” as longer periods of time. I especially had liked how he quoted pre-Copernican church fathers who interpreted Genesis “days” the same way, since they certainly weren’t crafting their interpretation to fit scientific observation. I don’t much like the arguments of Ross any more (I see Genesis as a non-inspired literary account of who Israelites thought God was, and I find evolutionary history to be one of the most fascinating things to read about), but the key is that his insider status in evangelicalism gave him an entry into my thinking, and it basically licensed me to think more broadly and flexibly about the nature of biblical interpretation and the relationship between science and Christianity. Finally, toward the end of college, I started reading Stanley Hauerwas, thanks to his occasional inclusion or mention in essays in InterVarsity Press volumes. Hauerwas is unapologetically pacifist in his understanding of Christianity, and reading him and a few others (like Jim Wallis) was an entry into rethinking the political landscape and Christianity’s relationship to it, especially questioning why conservative Christians are so often pursuing the best interests of the most powerful in society. In retrospect, it still seems strange to me that it was reading Christian authors that led me to a more liberal view of politics, and not the extreme-left leaning literary theorists that permeated my formal education.

    Even now, when I’ve long-since dis-identified with evangelicalism and moved toward universalist leanings with serious doubts about the historicity of the resurrection, I wonder if part of the reason I find myself still wanting to claim Christianity is because I know so well the power of the insider’s internal critique for opening up space for an evangelical or fundamentalist to begin to ask serious questions about the often intellectually-stifling environment they grew up in. I want those voices to remain active within evangelicalism instead of being actively stifled or pushed out, as they often are in the more fundamentalist branches of Protestantism. I shudder to contemplate it, but I might still be a conservative evangelical today had there not been fissures within evangelicalism that I could exploit to critique it.

  • SAVED BY GRACE ALONE AND FAITH ALONE?—BY STEVE FINNELL

    Calvinists often make the statement we are saved by grace alone and by faith alone. This is in and of its self a conflicting proclamation. You can believe one or the other, but cannot believe both.

    Definition of alone: separate, apart, to the exclusion of all else.

    It take unbridled self deception to say “I believe I was saved by grace alone and saved by faith alone.”

    To be save by grace alone means that God does everything for you. Grace alone suggests that men have no free-will. Grace alone means that God forces men to have faith so that they might believe and be saved. Grace alone implies that men repent only because God makes it impossible to resist. Grace alone means that men are baptized against their free-will. Grace alone means that men only confess Jesus as the Son of God because God gives them no other choice.

    Faith alone, taken at face value means men are saved by faith alone. If you are saved by faith alone, then you do not need grace. If you are saved by faith alone then you do not need to be baptized in water.

    You cannot on one hand say I was saved by grace alone and then say I was saved by faith alone.

    There is no verse Scripture that says, “Men are saved by grace alone.”
    There is no verse on Scripture that says, “Men are saved by faith alone.”

    The Bible says men are saved by grace. (Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.) It does not say men are saved by grace alone.

    Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (It says men are justified by grace, however, it does not say grace alone.)

    Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.(Men receive forgiveness from sin because they believe in Jesus, however, it does not say men receive forgiveness by faith alone.)

    Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;(It says men need to repent so their sins may be wiped away, but it does not say repent only.)

    Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;(It says if you confess Jesus as Lord you will be saved, however, it does not say confess Jesus only.)

    Acts 2:38 Perter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (It says if you are baptized your sins will be forgiven, but it does not say baptism only.)

    The Bible teaches we are saved by grace, but not by grace alone.

    The Bible teaches we are saved by faith, but not by faith alone.

    The Bible teaches that we are saved by confession, but not by confession alone.

    The Bible teaches are sin are forgive because we repent, but not by repentance alone.

    The Bible teaches that are sins are forgiven because of water baptism, but not by baptism alone.

    GRACE: Romans 3:24
    FAITH: JOHN 3:16
    REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38
    CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10
    BAPTISM: 1 Peter 3:21

    THERE IS NO SAVED BY “ONLY” FOUND IN THE BIBLE, WITH THE EXCEPTION BEING THAT JESUS IS THE ONLY SAVIOR! (Acts 4:10-12)

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