Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why I Can't Believe in Your God: Part 2- Thou Shalt Not Question

To make a long story short, I can't accept the image of God portrayed in the Bible. Not because I know too much or I lack the faith, it's just that the theistic image portrayed in the Bible is no longer relatable in the 21st century. Some monotheistic believers would state that the divine transcends any notion of intellectual inquiry and examination while pointing out the physical "evidence" supporting their leap of faith. We are creatures of thought and curiosity. We are born curious and denying ourselves, and especially others, the ability to question only serves to chip away at our humanity.

Born and raised in the Bible Belt, I was taught to believe that the Bible is 100% completely infallible and inerrant, and to question the word of God (i.e. the Bible, its history and the various orthodox interpretations) is often equated to a full frontal assault on God. There is absolutely no room for exploration and interpretation thus creating a stagnant, static climate in the journey to experiencing the divine within Christianity. What is commonly forgotten (and ignored) in conservative Christian circles is that the same creative and spiritual interpretations and readings done by non-inerrantists is similar to the creative and spiritual interpretations done by apologetics, pastors, and Sunday school teachers. Unless you're reading all of scripture 100% literally, you've entered the realm of metaphor and interpretation. And if scripture passes through a human filter for interpretation in 21st century sermons and lessons how can we not consider the human factor when scripture was first penned? For Christians to question the validity, authority, and personal experiences of all other religions except their own reveals a deep desire in controlling their identity and reality as Christians. Except it's difficult to connect with another human being, let alone evangelize to them, when they stay in their comfy bubbles of security.

My issue (today) is not with Christianity but the stagnant theology within Christianity which suffocates the limitless creative Word at the focal point of the faith. (Although I should point out that there are A LOT of social issues within Christianity that must be dealt with by the Church if it wants to continue preaching the message of universal love.) I grew up a Christian (SDA) but during my teen years I noticed there was a much larger world, a larger story, beyond what I've been fed which caused me to branch out beyond the confines of the faith. Many believers would say that my peering out of the Christianity box was Satan leading me astray from God. On the contrary, I find myself deeper in thought about the divine than I ever did in my youth, and the only "straying" I've done is from a particular set of theologies in a vast sea of beliefs. It is the God structured from these beliefs that I can no longer swallow, not because I'm overwhelmingly sinful, but overwhelmingly curious. How can I be damned for all eternity by the same God who imbued us with curiosity, awe, and wonder for the universe? How can the same God create countless diverse lifeforms and then ask us not to study and question their origin and downfall? How can the same God encourage us to know Him through the Word and then place restrictions on what we may or may not query? No scripture is entirely inerrant, or even divine, because all scripture must be read and interpreted by man.

I ask so many questions that I now consider it a spiritual practice. Flip through my archives and all you'll find is post after post filled with questions. Why? I believe how we wrestle and live with a question is much more fulfilling than cranking out an easy answer. Anyone can crank out an answer and sell it to the crowd, religions have been doing that for thousands of years. We are creatures of exploration and I can't imagine the human race ever running out of questions to ask or corners of the unknown to explore.

7 comments:

Sammy said...

I couldn't have put it better myself. I left the Christian church when I was a teenager too. When I was 9 or 10, I created a little scandal by asking why the Bible said Adam and Eve were the first humans if Neanderthals existed before them (I had just read a book about prehistoric humans, and noticed Adam and Eve looked like modern humans). I always loved science, especially astronomy, and I could not believe in a God who would condemn me for knowing the universe was 13.7 billion years old, or condemn anyone to everlasting hell for any reason for that matter. The God I know would do no such thing.

captron52 said...

How true my friend! Another great post Sam! I agrew ith you totally on this!

Al said...

Lots of valid questions and observations here. I particularly liked: "What is commonly forgotten (and ignored) in conservative Christian circles is that the same creative and spiritual interpretations and readings done by non-inerrantists is similar to the creative and spiritual interpretations done by apologetics, pastors, and Sunday school teachers. Unless you're reading all of scripture 100% literally, you've entered the realm of metaphor and interpretation." So, even the literalists are far from 100% literalist.

I can't quite figure out why even literalists disagree on lots of stuff, yet all say they are only teaching the Bible.

I tend to accept that Jesus is the 'Word of God', and that he (not the Bible) is the reference point for what God is like. Sure, much of what we know of Jesus is from the Bible, but the representation of one who is loving, compassionate, and just is (for me, at least) pretty straightforward.

I love your reference to asking questions as being a spiritual practice. I agree!

Sabio Lantz said...

"My issue (today) is not with Christianity but the stagnant theology within Christianity..."

I personally can't imagine any twisting and gymnastics they could do to make a non-stagnant theology. Heck, all they have are the 4 stories and the theology of Paul. Pretty vacuous, if you ask me.

But Christianity stopped speaking to me a long time ago. And the perennial question of Christian philosophy only make me yawn now.

Unknown said...

Sammy- Thanks for visiting. I visited your site last week and I love the layout and your writing.

Al- I love asking questions but I love finding questions which lead to more questions. And down the rabbit hole we go.

Sabio- I've witnessed a lot of mental gymnastics attempted here in the Bible Belt to make stagnant theology appealing, especially to the younger crowd (the churches down here are hemorrhaging young people). As for a non-stagnant theology, some liberal Christians avoid the need for gymnastics by questioning everything that defined a Christian in the first place. These post-modern Christians are more interested in the global story of us than in the theology which makes up the tribal story of Christianity. These guys, I like. Of course they're not considered "real" Christians by the more conservative groups.

Doug B said...

"I find myself deeper in thought about the divine than I ever did in my youth." I can relate to that. In fact, it describes my experience to a tee. The religion of my youth was just that. When I became an adult I put away childish things. I no longer have need of that old framework to find spiritual enrichment. But an open, inquiring mind is essential.

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