Nate Cartel

Sojourner, husband, father, writer, artist, neighbor

Where I am Going

28th of May, 2014

I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly because not having a job I expend all my creative efforts in finding one.  Writing resumes, cover letters, and doing research for positions are way more intense than anything I have known- including taking graduate level physics, math and political science classes as an undergrad at Umass and seminary.  A secondary cause for my lack of blogging is that I simply don’t like the attention- both positive and negative- that this blog was receiving, or where my blood pressure was going.

Within the next few weeks I will post a few more entries about my journey and then delete everything in have posted thus far.  I intend to start from scratch, finding passion in something once again.  I would end now, it would better serve me and my family, but I have gotten so many of the same responses to my new-found apostasy that simply aren’t true, they need a rebuttal.  They mainly focus of these “attacks” (for lack of a better word, though I submit they are not all adversarial) are about my pride, how we end where we begin, and I am simply lording over the bible.  I reject all of these, and desire a sincere conversation about the issues without talking points, ad hominem arguments, or other empty threats.  These are issues that I feel need to be addressed honestly and thoughtfully from both sides.

I have a new-found energy today.  If I had the time I would write all the posts tonight.  I had a really good Facebook conversation 230 comments so far- about God, goodness, and theology that didn’t devolve into slander and slurs.  That makes me think there may be room for some dialogue yet.  I also came across some terrible arguments about some points I made, which gives me more zeal to continue.  That being said, I have decided to stand by my decision to change this blog entirely.

I dont like having to be constantly theologically and philosophically “on,” and I think to do this sort of blog right you need to be.  You have to be ready to reply and discuss at, if not a moments notice, close to it.  Otherwise things go sideways quickly.  As I have looked at my life and what I want out of it, whats most important, and where I can make the most impact, it is not on the internet.  There are blogs and sites more able to deal with the doubts that lead me to where I am that I think I could.  Patheos atheist channel, the skeptics annotated bible, and a rudimentary google search pull up resources and intellects much more powerful than any I posses.  I will finish my story to complete the narrative and then be done.

What will happen to this waste of electrons in cyberspace, to steal from a college friends blog site?  Funny enough, it will become a food blog.  I love to cook, have a ton of original recipes, and a food journey that is, I think, inspirational.  I became a vegetarian and then a vegan, and then discovered my family had celiac and had to adapt to that new reality.  Without wheat or barley, veganism simply isn’t a viable option.  I still hold to my discovered ethic though, which has made menu planning interesting to say the least.

Expect me to continue my faith journey on Facebook and in private conversations.  This place will be a refuge though.  One where people of faith and no faith can come to eat amazing food.  Mostly Paleo, always gluten-free, and sometimes decadent.

Hope you will all eat it up…  See what I did there.  I still welcome your feedback and now recipes

Blogging is so Elitist- or Why I Haven’t Posted in a While

6th of May, 2014

imagesIt has been over a week since my last blog post.  There are many reasons for this, mostly I haven’t had the time or desire to sit down and construct a post.  When I was a pastor, I viewed blogging as part of my job.  When I began my journey out of pastoring, the blog became a place for me to work out some of my frustrations and eventually, doubts.  I was sure in the almost four months that I left Vita Nova I would have gotten a job.  The steady rhythm of going to work and returning home would tether the rest of my daily routines.  The blog would again be a good outlet.  That hasn’t happened.

I have had interviews.  Lots of interviews.  Phone interviews, Skype interviews, in person interviews, multi-round interviews.  None of them panned out.  The hourly positions I have applied for unanimously believe I am too qualified to work there and will be gone within the week.  I understand their position.  It is true that if a better job came around, I would not stay at Panera or Walmart, but honestly, who would.  At this point they would have gotten at least four months of work out of me, which in a college town is like ten years of faithful employment.  On the other hand, translating ministry experience into “real world” work is tremendously difficult.  No one really knows what a pastor does, so I have to translate it for others, and then convince them I am not lying, and then convince them I will excel at the job.  I apparently haven’t done a very good job at it, since I’m still at Starbucks at ten in the morning on a weekday blogging in-between job applications.

You would think being unemployed would give me more time to blog and write.  I guess in some way that is true.  I literally have nowhere to be and nothing to do, except, you know, to find a job.  In practice, the further I get from employment, the less time I have to blog.  I am busy filling out applications, hunting down new job leads, attempting to make ends meet, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  It took time to apply for unemployment, only to find out I was not qualified because I was a pastor.  It takes time to go to food banks to get groceries- especially with our families food allergies.  It takes time to research the company you are interviewing for.  In some sense I have all the time in the world, in another, I have very little time that is mine.  Which has made me realize, blogging is a sort of elitist activity.  You need to have time to do it, and as I have experienced, the poor and unemployed simply lack that commodity.  When you have eight hundred dollars left in your savings account and no way to grow that number, writing to the internet at large is far less of a concern.  Your time is better spent figuring out how to pay your bills and feed your family.

Maybe that is why we don’t really connect with the plight of the poor in the way we could.  They are silently working multiple jobs, running around in their free time to anyplace and every place that will help them, and at the end of the day need to sleep instead of blog.  It’s just a theory, but I think it is a good one.

The other reason I have not blogged as much, as of late, is that I have found it more stressful than relaxing.  Every post has raised my blood pressure and put me on guard.  I realize what I have been blogging about is polarizing.  I do get that.  I really do.  In ways others could not understand, I get it.  I don’t expect my blog pots to go unanswered.  In fact, I have welcomed replies and push back on the blog and on Facebook.  I realize that liberals and agnostics are running to my defense while evangelicals are decrying my apostasy.  It is only natural.  We are tribal, and I am switching teams.  Look what happens when a Red Sox player moves to the Yankees.  It is not pretty.  Tribalism tends to bring out some of the uglier parts of humanity.

I had decided last week to change my blog entirely, for this reason.  I really enjoy writing, and thinking, and sharing my thoughts, but have no taste for controversy, being a poster child for either side, or engaging with some of the more abusive emails and messages I have been receiving.  That being said, at least for the next few posts I do intend to keep the content similar to what I have been writing, if only to give public answers to many of the derisive comments I have generated.  After that I may just start talking about kittens or something else truly worthy of the internet.

There are myths and Christian logical fallacies that I feel need addressing before I move on to something else.  I know my blood pressure will be raised.  I am girding myself for more rounds of less than generous messages.  I would say I don’t really want to do this, and that’s partially true.  Partially it is false though.  I do want to do this.  I want people to see they can’t believe everything they are saying to or about me.  They can’t believe that where you start, that’s where you’ll end up, for example, or they would never do evangelism.  They can’t believe I wanted God to not be true, or maybe they can, but it is false.  They can’t believe their world view is based on evidence and then say my evidence against it is wrong because we are fallen creatures.  Or if they do, they can’t accept their own evidence either.

I will post more about these things because it is conversations that need to be had.  And I say conversations.  I am not claiming to have found some sort of enlightenment.  I am claiming I don’t know about some things.  I am up for the conversation.  I wish those who claimed I am not were as up for it as me.  I do not expect everyone to agree with me, or like what I am doing.  That would simply be foolish.  But lets debate the issues.  Lets talk theology and philosophy and psychology and belief and science and everything in-between without stooping to name calling or questioning motives.  Lets stick with the issues, weigh the evidence, and come to a closer approximation of truth, rather than running to our corners, closing our ears, shutting our eyes, and pretending the Emperor’s clothes are fantastic.  Lets do that.

Heaven is for Real, but “Heaven is for Real” is not Real, for Real

29th of April, 2014

imagesEven though I have become agnostic, I still have many evangelical friends.  Over the past few weeks my news feed has been full of articles and videos denouncing the book/movie “Heaven is for Real.”  I get it.  I do not think a three-year old boy who was coached and coaxed by his dad for more and more details about his experience actually went to heaven and came back.  On that point, I agree with the skepticism of the evangelical leaders railing against this fanciful account.  I do think the boy had an experience he believed was heavenly, there has been much written about near death experiences, to make me think they are as real as dreams or hallucinations.

I have no qualms, per se, with people decrying “Heaven is for Real.”  In fact, I think we would all be better off if more people realized that this kid did not go to heaven, as evangelicals are quick to tell us.  I do have problem, however, with the attack from conservative christian circles.  (I have no idea if other religious traditions think the account true or false, since I did not run in those theological circles.)  My problem is not that people are discounting this boy’s reality.  My problem is that when I have asked those same Christians, who believe in the supernatural, who believe other men in Scripture had received visions of heaven, who believe Samuel’s ghost returned, presumably from heaven, for where else would he have been, how they can be so sure this boy is lying, the only retort I have gotten is that it is not in the Bible.  The Bible says he must be lying or deluded because if he wasn’t his vision would be in the Bible, therefore he is mistaken.  It is a circular argument to be sure.

On some level, that is fine.  It is their belief.  They can stand on the Bible and declare, “Thus saith the Lord,” however, as I have journeyed and doubted and looked for answers, one of the burning questions that kept returning was how can we judge which visions are legitimate?  What is the yard stick by which we measure?  Let me add, it cannot be an exclusive theological yard stick, at that.  What I mean is our yard stick to judge whether the miracles of the Koran or Book or Mormon are legitimate cannot be that the Koran or Book of Mormon says they are.  Evangelicals, I expect, would agree with me here when it comes to the latter two cases.  They do not want to credit God with Joseph Smith’s experience anymore than I.  They reject wholeheartedly the idea that God spoke after Revelation, even if another holy text says so.  The same argument must apply to the Bible, then, if we are to consistent in our method, logic and judgements.  We cannot say one vision of heaven is better than another simply because it is in the Bible and the Bible says it is better.  To do so is intellectually disingenuous, ends any conversation, the ability to question, find truth, and so much more.

Without an a priori assumption that the Bible’s visions and miracles are legitimate, while others are not, how can we begin to decide which indeed are legitimate, if any?  John MacArthur blatantly states, Heaven is for Real, Delusions are Not.  He admits that many people see false visions, have hallucinations, and delusions.  Why not the Biblical writers?  What yard stick are we to measure such things?  Why is the testimony of a twenty-five hundred year old parchment worth more than many people saying they have had visions today?  I am truly asking for answers to these questions, but have been unable to receive a consistent one yet.

Of course, there is also the demonic, which I probably need to address, as well.  It could be asserted that the Biblical accounts were God ordained, but Satan is also giving false visions and miracles to fool and deceive people away from gospel truth.  Indeed, in a Christian chat board about Sri Sathya Sai Baba- a hindu holy man, or god, or charlatan, or whatever- whose followers claimed for him the same miracles that Jesus followers claim he performed, said as much.  This begs the question, though, if Satan’s miracles, visions, etc., look identical to God’s, how are we to tell the difference?  Sathya Baba has millions of followers, only a few years after his death and purportedly did more miracles in front of more people than Jesus did.  And there is more record of them.  Why reject him and accept what Jesus did?  If his movement is growing faster than Jesus’ was after his death, could it not be that God is really into Sathya Sai Baba?  Should we not head the advice of Gamaliel In Acts 5

34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

One of the proofs given for Christianity’s veracity is its rapid growth.  Baba’s growth has been more rapid.  Shouldn’t that give us pause?  What will his followers number five hundred years from now?  A thousand?  Two?  And what of the rise of Islam?  should we see its growth as God-ordained.  Muslims certainly think so.

I could go on.  Most of my protestant friends would reject the visions of Mary seen around the world, while my catholic ones would attest to the truthfulness of Fatima’s vision for various reasons.  Who is right?  How do you know?  What is the yard stick you are using to measure, and can you use it to measure your own world view as well?  If not, I submit it is not a very fair tool.  If I measured the square footage of my house by a ruler smaller than that which I measured yours, I hope you would protest.  I would add value to my estate through trickery and sleight of hand rather than honest acquisition.  If I claimed a higher value for the dollars in my pocket than the dollars in yours, you would not think that very fair.  We must have a predetermined value to begin measuring, testing and exploring than can rule out any or all faiths if the evidence is lacking.  We cannot simply say something is satanic or delusional because it does not fit into our pre-conceived theological box and claim the miracles we chose to believe in are divine.  That gets us no where closer to truth, and in fact, probably moves us further away.

I am comfortable saying the Biblical writers and the boy in “Heaven is for Real,” believed what they saw.  So do many victims of alien abduction, demon possession, ghost sightings, and other supernatural phenomena.  I can trust they were and are not trying to purposely spin lies- at least most of them.  The accounts are so vivid and detailed and traumatic, I have a hard time thinking they fabricated such stories.  That doesn’t mean I think they happened in a reality external to their own consciousness though.  Modern science has made great strides in understanding consciousness and brain chemistry, these things can all be explained with a naturalistic understanding of the world.  That doesn’t mean I am anti-supernatural, or trying to explain away evidence as is so often claimed of the agnostic.  It does mean though, when there is a non-extrodinary explanation that fits so much divergent data, I will choose it.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

I think MacArthur is correct in his assessment of delusions- they are not real, really.  They exist only in the mid of the one who was deluded.  One explanation fits the data for demon possession, fairy sightings of the nineteenth century, alien abductions, angelic visits, near death experiences, and heavenly visions, among other things.  That explaining is they were all delusions.  That is simply a more appealing explanation than standing entrenched in a theology and explaining away every other phenomena we do not like, or threatens our world view, giving many and multiplying reasons why some visions should be believed while others discarded as false, trickery, witchcraft, delusions, or satanic in nature.  If it is a delusion for one, why not a delusion for all?

Of course I understand this is in no way a closed conversation.  I am truly interested in the answers to the questions I posed, and ones I have not thought of.  I cannot deal exhaustively with all the points I and others have raised on the issue of visions in this post, and am sure I have made assumptions.  I promise to post comments as I log in to the blog, regardless of their theological bent, so long as they are appropriate in content- i.e., no cursing.

On Innerrancy- How I Began to Loose My Faith

21st of April, 2014

imagesBefore you read this post, let me make state a few things up front.  First, this blog is not meant to be a discrediting of Christianity.  I have been open and public about my burnout, but that is not an indictment against Christians.  Many of those I am close to are lovely Bible believing conservative or liberal Christians.  As I have been writing about my burnout and my doubt, it is just that- my story.  Others are surely permitted to have a different story.  Second, I realize I am bias.  We all are.  The person who believes in inerrancy is biased, as is the one who rejects it.  I have tried to do my best in this post to explain why I began to doubt and where that doubt lead, but also provide resources, via links, to the opposing position.  More than this, I have tried to choose resources from both sides, but even more from of the camp I left, that are not jokes.  What I mean is that the men who I link to that hold to inerrancy are some of the better theologians in their camp- at least with readily available internet content.  I welcome feedback on this blog.  I always have.  Your comment has to be approved by me, not to quell dissent and present a one sided argument, but to prevent spam.  I hope some of you reading will have better resources than the ones I listed and will direct both myself and my readers to them.  So long as you are respectful, your comment will be published the next time I log onto this account.  That being said, here is how I began to become an agnostic.

A few weeks about I posted about given up some doctrines and beginning to indulge my doubts.  In that post you will find links to the doctrine of inerrancy, and some links that refute it.  Simply put, the doctrine of inerrancy held to by conservative denominations and churches, like the Southern Baptists, PCA, and Pentecostals, among others, states the Bible is wholly without error or contradiction.  As I began to study more in-depth, though, I began to find more and more contradictions in Scripture.  The doctrine simply did not stand up to its own assertions anymore.  To be fair, there are others who say it does.  I understand their arguments and some of the ways they try to make contradictory texts compliment each other, I simply do not believe this case anymore.  It is too hard a pill for me to swallow.

As I blogged about this, I have been told by many Christians that 1. inerrancy doesn’t matter, 2. it doesn’t mean what the doctrine actually says, and that 3. I should focus on Jesus instead of doctrine, indeed, some denominations and theologians love Jesus but reject inerrancy, NT Wright probably the best known of the former category.  I don’t know if I have space to reply everything I wish in this post, but I have come to disagree with all three positions.  First, words have a meaning.  Inerrancy has a meaning.  It is well defined.  If we chose to not hold a definition because we don’t like it, we do no service to theology or even general communication, for that matter.  The SBC makes you agree to the doctrine of inerrancy to plant a church with them. They hold it dear. That is their prerogative.  However, since I could not sign that paper anymore, I could not in good faith plant with them.

Some have said they see the clear contradictions in some details of the Bible, but that does not violate inerrancy.  God inerrantly chose to communicate everything he sought to, even if humans erred in their memory of an event.  The contradictory stories of the resurrection (I will get to them in a moment, since they were the catalyst for my journey) only vary in degree, not kind, they say.  In fact, it has been said that since  they contradict it makes a stronger case for their validity, since humans have faulty memories.  Four witnesses of an accident would not remember all the details exactly the same.  Since four gospels have four different accounts, but agree on the main event, they are to be believed all the more.  This is Wright’s position.  He believes this indicates the gospel story it was not a conspiracy, nor did the writers consult each other and “fix” their divergent accounts.

Ok, but that begs the question, if their memories were faulty on the account of Easter, the most important date in Christianity, and a date we would assume they all remembered more vividly than any other, how can we trust their memories of anything else?  I hope I would remember the day my friend and teacher who I saw murdered all of a sudden appear before me resurrected.  I will return to this in a moment.  The retort I have gotten is that God made sure all the important things were recorded accurately.  None of the contradictions in the resurrection story affect doctrine.  They are minor details about many angels were at the tomb, who entered the tomb first, why they went to the tomb, when the rock was rolled away, who told the disciples Jesus was resurrected, who Jesus appeared to first, why he appeared to them, how many times he appeared, and his commands to the disciples about where they should go and what they should do.  Matthew says the disciples were to go to Galilee where he would meet them and Luke tells us Jesus said not to leave the city.  Not a minor difference in the least.  Did the disciples misremember where they stayed for forty days?  How can I trust them when they tell me Jesus said thus and thus?  The claim that the contradictions do not effect doctrine leaves out that they incredibly effect the doctrine of inerrancy.  All of these discrepancies only deal with the resurrection.  The problems get bigger when we look at the crucifixion, and then the gospels as a whole, not to mention the Bible.  (Admittedly that last link has an agenda- as do we all,and some of the contradictions are poetic rather than natural.  I do not buy all the websites arguments.   Some are wrong. I link to it because it is the most exhaustive list I have found, and we can make up our own mind on each piece of evidence presented therein.  For a fairer take on inerrancy and contractions, see here)

Ok, so there are some differences.  Lots of them.  Not one gospel agrees to the details of the resurrection.  But, as I have been told, if we all saw a fire and reported what we saw, we would all have differing accounts.  None would be right, but there would be truth in our stories nonetheless. The fire still would have happened.  Without delving into that argument here, I would add, though, that “God is not like man, that he should lie,” the Holy Spirit was writing these books, albeit through fallible men, and would God really allow the story of his resurrection to get so muddled that what his final commands where do not agree in differing accounts? That seems like a big mistake.  Go and make disciples while returning to Galilee or stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon you?  It cannot be both.  If the Holy Spirit could not ensure than Jesus final command was passed down accurately, how can we trust he could ensure anything else could be passed down accurately.  More than all of this, John tells us the point of his writing is that we would believe, but having so many discrepancies does not help the case of belief, at least in my case, it hurt it.

Like I said there are arguments for inerrency that try to weave a cohesive narrative together from these divergent accounts.  I simply cannot believe them.  Besides, loads of Christians don’t believe in inerrancy.  CS Lewis, Tolkien and even Augustine could not sign the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy.  Maybe I should simply run to Jesus and forget about the doctrine?  That is what I did for the first two months since my crisis of faith, it was advice I was more than happy to follow.  Let’s stick to Jesus, admit that people remembered some minute details incorrectly, and progress forward as a more liberal Christian.  Lewis was a superior intellect and he had no use for the doctrine, so why should I?  (This is a logical fallacy, by the way, and the same arguments can be made to believe any religion, or lack there of.  There are men and women of every religion, Christianity, Islam, Bahai, Buddhism, Atheism, etc that have a superior intellect.  That doesn’t mean they are right.  Appeal to authority doesn’t prove anything but the authority believed.)  I have already highlighted the problem here, though.  If there are mis-remembered details, both large and small, in the resurrection, how can I trust there are not misremember details other places?  How can we be sure the other memories bear any resemblance to what Jesus actually said or did?  Indeed, to trust Jesus one has to trust the texts about him.  If they are errant one place we should assume they are errant others, should we not?  Is it reasonable to believe that even though Matthew places Jesus birth around 6 BCE under the reign of Herod the Great, and Luke around 6 CE when Quirinius was governor of Syria, a difference of twelve years, they correctly recorded all his teachings?  I cannot see how.

Again, we are told the Holy Spirit made sure all we need for faith and practice was recorded correctly.  But he did not make sure that Jesus’s birth or death was recorded accurately.  Why assume he made sure Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount was?  It is not something I can at present do.

The I left more progressive Christianity when I began reading Carl Sagan’s book, “Demon Haunted World.”  In Chapter 8, On True and False Visions, while discussing the merits of repressed memories and hypnosis (he’s against them) he writes”

“The University of Washington psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has found that unhypnotized subjects can easily be made to believe they saw something they didn’t. In a typical experiment, subjects will view a film of a car accident. In the course of being questioned about what they saw, they’re casually given false information. For example, a stop sign is off-handedly referred to, although there wasn’t one in the film. Many subjects then dutifully recall seeing a stop sign. When the deception is revealed, some vehemently protest, stressing how vividly they remember the sign. The greater the time lag between viewing the film and being given the false information, the more people allow their memories to be tampered with. Loftus argues that “memories of an event more closely resemble a story undergoing constant revision than a packet of pristine information.” There are many other examples, some— a spurious memory of being lost as a child in a shopping mall, for instance— of greater emotional impact. Once the key idea is suggested, the patient often plausibly fleshes out the supporting details. Lucid but wholly false recollections can easily be induced by a few cues and questions, especially in the therapeutic setting. Memory can be contaminated. False memories can be implanted even in minds that do not consider themselves vulnerable and uncritical.

Sagan, Carl (2011-07-06). Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Kindle Locations 2223-2247). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.”

Of course I cannot copy the entire chapter, but in it he list experiment after controlled experiment where people remember wrong- either through direct manipulation or a desire to make the questioner happy, or a myriad of other reasons.  If that is true about people remembering a video shortly after watching it, how can it not be more true about people recalling events decades after they occurred.  I now fully appreciate why Tim Challies, Al Mohler, and John Piper, arguably some of the most influential evangelical leaders today, insist upon inerrancy.  Nothing can be guaranteed without it.

Reluctantly, and with great mourning, I gave up the idea that Jesus can be known in an historical sense.  What is true and what is error is impossible to dissect.  Of course, as I have tried to show, others looked at the same evidence and came to different conclusions.  As I delved deeper and deeper, I found more errors, misquotes, failed prophecies, and other difficulties- each with its own individual explanation- I came to believe that the single explanation, that the Bible was written by men and not God was more plausible.  I can to this conclusion kicking and screaming, begging God that it were not so, but the evidence hit a tipping point, and here I am.  CS Lewis says he was nagged by the Hounds of Heaven until he believed.  I have just the opposite story.  I longed for them to nip at my heel, but found only shadows.

Accelerating Disbelief

18th of April, 2014

imagesTwo months ago when I began to talk about some of my doubts, I was sure I could regain some semblance of faith.  Many of my friends who left said they thought they would remain a Christian, too, just not of the same variety they once were.  There are after almost as many flavors of Christianity as people.  (This partially lead to my agnosticism, by the way- something I will explore in the future.)  I told them I had no intention of leaving the faith.  Many of them gave me sympathetic messages saying they can’t speak for my journey, and they hoped I could keep it.

For a while I refused to read books or articles from the skeptic’s perspective.  Even as I was exploring inerrancy, it was always within circles that claimed Jesus as Lord, Second Member of the Trinity.  I refused to entertain “liberal” theologies, expect, I guess, when it came to inerrancy.  I figured I could ask my own questions and find Christians who have answers to them.  Christians who remained in the faith, although with a slightly different outlook.  I certainly did not need to find the answers to other people’s questions, so why read the skeptics?  At least for a while.

Last week I did begin reading the skeptics.  By this point I had more problems with my faith tradition than when I first began.  I thought I was going to end up Catholic, seriously.  Doctrines I had believed in I doubted.  As I found more and more inconsistencies in the Bible I began to doubt it even more.  The answers of evangelicalism simply did not add up.  In the course of a week actual thoughtful skeptics gave better answers to my questions than the best theology I had read.  Why are there errors in the Bible?  It was written by men.  Why did what were theologically open and closed handed issues change as science progressed?  The church did not want to be embarrassed anymore.  (The Catholic Church and Luther and Calvin thought ill of a heliocentric universe because the Scripture was clear the Earth was at the center.  Today I doubt many Christians believe that.  They would say it is an open-handed issue, and Scripture is silent on it.  The church did not think that for the majority of its existence though.)  Why do we not kill heretics anymore?  Culture will not suffer it.

All of these answers, and many others seem so much more logical to me.  They fit the data better.

Last night I told Facebook I was agnostic is a snarky way.  In the same way I have posted snarky things about a lot of things.  I think it may have been a preemptive stoke to the notes I knew I would get the next day.  Maybe I’m more of an ass than I think.  I know I have a lot of emotions. I am angry.  I feel like I was duped.  I feel foolish.  And sad.  There are many beautiful things within the Christian narrative that I cannot in good faith accept in anymore.  Who doesn’t want to be a child of the Most High God, rescued in the nick of time and given an eternal paradise?  Mostly I am weary though.  Loosing ones faith is exhausting.  Fighting to not lose it and watch it slip away, even more so.  Grasping at straws and trying to find answers that will satisfy takes quite a bit of energy.

I have been cautioned by both evangelical pastors and atheists to keep my new-found agnosticism quite, though for very different reasons.  My motivation for blogging has been questioned.  I have been introduced to total strangers.  I had thought a long time before beginning to blog about all of this.  I could have easily shut the site down, changed its content completely, or just passively let it remain dormant.  All of those things may happen yet.  Why continue then?  A few reasons.

First, writing is cathartic for me.  It helps me figure out what I am feeling and why I am feeling it.

Second, although I know of resources now, I had none when I began questioning everything I had believed in.  I felt trapped.  I felt I had to hide.  It was hell.  I figure maybe others need to hear its ok to doubt.  That there are other sides to arguments.  That sometimes Christian apologist attack caricatures of other world views, and not actually the world view itself.  (I was guilty of this, and was unaware I did it.)

Third, and I mean this truly, it is to let those close to me know where I am without having a million conversations about it.  Talking takes quite a lot of energy for me and I’m not great at explaining things on the spot, so if we can already know where I stand, the conversation will probably go better.  At least we can cover new area.

When I began having doubts I thought it would be a long process that would end with me at a different church.  It turns out doubt accelerates upon itself.  When one begins asking questions about one aspect of doctrine, there is no reason to not ask questions of others.  This leads to more questions and more doubts, though I realize that is not true of everyone.  The final straw to go was the idea that the God of the Bible is good, all the time.  I had clung to this loving God who came to save everyone on the Cross.  I see him no more.  When that happened I had to admit to myself I no longer believed.  I was agnostic.

Divorcing My Faith Revisited

16th of April, 2014

imagesYesterday I blogged about how leaving the ministry and the old theological circles I ran in is far more like a divorce than anything else.  I have not only had to leave a job, I have lost some friends, and more acquaintances.  Not everyone is gone from my life, and others who had been in the periphery have become closer.  I have had to begin restructuring my entire life.  What I had built everything upon is now no longer a primary part of it.  I am sure I would have had some sorrow moving from one church to another,  but that is not what happened.

Yesterday I primarily spoke about how leaving the ministry felt like a divorce from my end.  Tonight I am trying to look at it from another perspective.  I do not intend to presume what all of those in my life have felt or are feeling.  Nor do I suspect I can ever fully grasp how my departure has left those in the church I used to pastor.  Some things can only be known by experiencing them.  I do know about the feedback I have received, though.  Many were hurt, angry, and sad.  If leaving the ministry is like a divorce, my old congregation, above all, was the party left with all the baggage.  They were in the dark until I announced I had lost my faith and could not preach or lead them anymore.  They were the ones left with the house and the bank account, but also with all the questions.

I can’t know exactly what they are feeling, but I can infer a bit.  When I was a pastor I had trusted friends and fellow elders walk away without so much as a good-bye.  For some of these people I saw the signs and was able to insulate myself for what was coming.  For others, I was blindsided, much the way I blindsided my church.  I was deeply wounded that they would not have talked to me earlier.  I was angry at how they could abandon me and those who loved them so easily.  I was sad, believing some left in sin.  I understand it more now.  Someday maybe those I hurt will understand as well.

Since I have left, a lot of friends who are no longer conservative evangelicals have contacted me.  Over and over I have gotten the question, “How did you get out when you were so deep in?”  I understand the sentiment, but think the question is wrong.  It presupposes that I was trying to get out, or that we all want to get out, but we are stuck.  Admittedly I did feel stuck for a few months before I quit, but the moment I did I saw how truly free I had always been.

On the flip side, some of my more conservative evangelical friends have asked how I could do this.  Some, I am sure, mean how could I do this to them.  Like the spouse left behind, they need answers.  It seemed all was well at dinner the night before, how could I walk out the door on them now?  This, too, seems like a legitimate question, but I assert it is also flawed from the outset.  It also imagines I had this planned.  Maybe not from the start of church planting, but somewhere along the way, I planned to burn out and leave a shipwreck in my wake.  The question makes it seem like I wanted to leave, like it was a choice I had.

In reality I had no choice but to leave, and the situation in its entirety had no good choices.  I could have continued to lie to myself and others.  I could have remained in the theological box I knew so well.  I faked it for months, why not longer?  That is no choice, though.  That would have been as much a betrayal as what actually happened, probably more so.  Nor could I have remained the pastor of a church that was Southern Baptist and Acts 29.  Both organizations believe in inerrancy, and I simply do not.  Now, my church could have pulled out from these organizations, but it was founded upon principles I no longer believe in.  I would have had to convince every elder, deacon, and member that what we had believed in for so long was wrong.  I doubt they wanted or want that.  The moment I became honest about where I was, I honestly could not pastor the church I began any longer.

Finally, as I speak with others, regardless of the camp they fall into, there is an assumption that I wanted this to happen.  Either I was trying to get out or leading maliciously when I was a fraud all along- possibly not even a Christian.  I did not want this to happen.  Many of our beliefs are not choices, they are things thrust upon us.  The reason I stayed as long as I did was because I was sure I was just “in a desert,” in a bad place.  I had been told we all have doubts, but eventually they go away.  Sure, sometimes we can push them out of our mind, but these doubts would not leave.  They returned stronger every time, and with other questions to boot.  I desperately wanted them to simply vanish.  I wanted to plant another church.  I wanted to preach.  I didn’t want to have a crisis of faith. I didn’t want to come to believe that what I was taught at seminary was false.  I didn’t want to wake up one day and think that everything I had done was for naught.  No one wants that.

I know it doesn’t seem fair.  I know it feels like I was more in control of the situation than others.  In some degree they are both true statements.  In others ways they are both false.  I don’t think I was in as much control as others think, although in the position I was, I did hold all the cards.  The congregation had no say in my departure, but I assure you, neither did I.  Sometimes the fates are cruel in that way.

Of course my leaving ministry isn’t exactly like a divorce.  There are reasons people stop being committed to the other that is surely their own fault.  For some, it may seem like I have become less committed through my own actions.  I have been told I was too prideful and arrogant, not praying enough, or in the right way, not reading my Bible enough and not reading the “right books” enough.  (And by right, they mean books that do not indulge skepticism.)  In the end, I was not having faith.  Maybe all of that is true.  I am inclined to respectfully disagree.

In the end, maybe it doesn’t matter.  I have hurt others, and for that I am sorry.  People feel betrayed and bewildered.  I understand.  That was never my intention.  People are angry with me, sad for me, happy for me, and excited for me.  I can not control others reactions.  None of us can.  All I can do is let people know I never intended any of this. Someday, when the proceedings are finalized, maybe we can be friends again. Sometimes in divorces that happens.  In the mean time, I do regret some things, and not others.  No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes.  The saddest part about human relationships is that we can only be truly soul wounded by those closest to us.  As a pastor, I was close to a lot of people.  That means my fall out has more consequences than an average Joe.  I am sorry for that as well.

The Joy and Sorrow of Divorce

15th of April, 2014

imagesIt has been over two months since I left the pastorate, longer since I began to question some of the more conservative theological pillars of evangelicalism.  For the first few weeks of my journey, I was ecstatic.  I was finally able to be open about who I had become.  The stress and strain of pastoring that had been crushing my soul was finally off of me.  I did not have to carry other people’s burdens in the way only a spiritual advisor can.  I did not have to counsel anyone.  It was like I had been born again.  I use that term very intentionally.

Save for the first few days of leaving, which were a blur, during the first month, I was happier than I had been in recent memory.  I had a spring to my step.  When people asked me how I was, (always in a sober tone I might add) I would reply jovially, “I’m great,” to their utter disbelief.  I would have to explain I really was great.  I was better than I had been in months.  I am not sure many of them believe me even now.  How could I be happier without the Jesus I had loved so much?  How could freedom mean I may possibly going to Hell?  How could forgoing my calling for merely a “job” give me more joy that faithfully following God’s commands?  I must have been deluded, or trying to delude myself and everyone else.  I needed to come back to the fold before I went full apostate- the direction I know I am going- lest I face a worse Hell than others.  Fear of hell is not really a fear when you doubt it exists, though, anymore than a fear of dragons would keep most modern-day people from venturing into caves.  Hell was not going to stop me on my journey for truth.

I had been warned my one of my behaviorist friends that me leaving the ministry and my theology behind would be far more like having a divorce than simply leaving a job.  I imagine when a divorce first happens, the party that initiates the proceedings is happy.  Happier than they had been in a while.  After all, if they were not unhappy, there would be no reason to leave.  I’ve also been told that after the initial excitement, the new reality of being divorced gives way to a deep sadness.  Not that they regret the decision, per se, just that they are sad, even as they are happy.  There are good memories along with the bad.  More than this, humans have an incredible ability to focus on the good once they get a little distance from a trauma.  They mourn the good, even as they rejoice to not have any more bad.  Not to mention what the other party goes through, the one who didn’t want the divorce or possibly never even saw it coming.  And let’s not forget about the children.

When my friend told me to view my departure as a divorce, I agreed with him.  I could see why he would give me that advice.  I was not simply moving to a different job, I was leaving a life behind, complete with social rules, old “family,” networks, and  behaviors.  I very rarely pray anymore, and never at length.  Leaving ministry for me, wasn’t a lateral move into a secular job market.  It was a death and a rebirth.  Last month, after multiple rejection letters from prospective employers, diminishing returns on time spent job searching, and the shear boredom than being unemployed is, my jubilation gave way to apathy.  I was still happier than I had been in a long time, but the adrenaline was gone.  New life patterns took over, and days became normal.  That isn’t a bad thing.  There would be something drastically wrong with me if I remained perpetually on cloud-nine and the dwindling savings account number and stress of paying bills didn’t affect me in some way.  For a person to be fully human, events have to affect them and have an effect on them.  It is software and robots who care nothing about the outside world.

Last week, for the first time since I left ministry, I mourned.  This also is not a bad thing.  I have been drawn continually away from evangelicalism, and some of it I will miss, I do miss.  There are hymns and prayers that move the soul, there is the “mission,” and the fellowship.  Late at night I put on one of my old worship music playlists and wept.  Not because I had repented of my unbelief, but because part of me wishes I could.  I have great memories of being part of a church, of being a pastor, even if I have a lot of bad ones as well.  It seems that the final stage of divorce is upon me, or was upon me, or I was just sad one night and longed for something that cannot be anymore.  To tell you the truth, there is still a lot of anger and pain and sorrow mixed into my feelings about the church, church planting, seminary, and everything else.  Just like in a divorce, I am happier now for leaving, but that doesn’t mean I am not sad at times.  And angry at others.  And all of them at still yet others.

The journey so far has been anything but simple, and I imagine it will get more difficult before it is done.  As the days pass into weeks, and the weeks pass into months, I find myself further and further away from what I staked my life upon for so long.  The old arguments simply are not holding up anymore.  A friend gave me a book called “Why I Believed,” by an ex-missionary.  He thought his story may resonate with me.  So far it has.  I had decided to stay away from angry atheists, and even not so angry ones for a while.  I have now begun indulging their arguments.  Some of them seem reasonable, and others less so, but that is sort of the point.  Hear everyone, let them have the platform, and chose whose world most coincides to reality.

I’m sure I will be sad again.  And I’m sure I will read articles and books that contradict some of the agnostics who I avoided in seminary and now intend to read.  And I’m sure that regardless of where I come out some will applaud and others will jeer and still others will be slightly indifferent.  And all of this seems far more like a divorce than even my friend could have known, complete with kids I no longer see.


Captain America Two! and being very ill

13th of April, 2014

imagesThis weekend has been nothing if not interesting.  Sarah and I celebrated her birthday, our ten year dating anniversary, we visited some friends on the other side of the state, I had a job interview at a bar (seriously), and we were fortunate enough to take four of our four kids to the doctor today for different illnesses.  That’s right we scored one hundred percent.  We deserve some sort of medal, by the way, for walking out of the doctors with four living breathing children.  A ten by eight room with a stethoscope, a bench, and a medical waste box is no place for a family of six whose median age is five.

Sarah’s guest post has been received well.  I expected as much.  When she has guest blogged in the past she has always surpassed my readership.  In real life, and in writing, she is far less guarded than me, not to mention her gentle character and not-as-arrogant personality.  I’m hoping to have her become a more regular part of this little waste of electrons in cyberspace.

As of this moment, I don’t have much to say.  I have a lot of ideas, from why Catholicism is more coherent than evangelicalism, to why agnosticism may be the most coherent of all.  It has been a humbling experience to go from the person in a church who always had all the answers to the person who has none.  Not that it is necessarily a bad thing.  One of the reasons I burned out was the constant expectation to know what to do.  During my tenure as a pastor there wasn’t one person who didn’t, at some point, expect me to save them.  I say that tongue in cheek, but it’s more true than most want to believe.  I had to convince those with similar crisis of faith they were wrong, help those with addictions to stay sober, and give general advice on everything from job interviews to how to grieve a death.  Pastors today are the shamans of yesterday.  We bridge the gap between the seen disorder of this world and the supposed unseen order of the heavenly realm.

I will be exploring that idea, and some others, family health permitting, later this week.

Tonight, I want to keep it light.  I’m in a great mood, even though our savings is about out.  I had a job interview last night and another coming this week.  It is sixty degrees out as I write, and I have a bike ride planned for this week.  More than all of this, Sarah asked to go see Captain America: Winter Soldier for her birthday date.  I love that women for many reasons, this being one of them.

As a movie, all I can say is Captain America 2 is “amaze-balls.”  I don’t use that term lightly.  For two and a half hours I sat on the end of my seat with a s**t eating grin on my face.  It was not only the best Marvel movie ever made, it was the best super hero movie ever made; that includes Batman: The Dark Night.  I have no critiques to offer, and those who do are stupid and you should punch them in the face when you meet them.  When the movie ended both Sarah and I thought about staying for the next showing, only we have kids who needed to eat, a babysitter who needed to go home, and we both are pretty sure stealing is wrong.  All minor issues to me at that moment, but Sarah felt more strongly about them, so we went home.  I plan to see the movie every day this week until our savings is zero.  I know it’s not the best plan, but sometimes the best plans get laid to waste, so I’m going with it.

And after CAWS, that is Captain America: Winter Soldier, for those of you who don’t do geek speak, there was Marvel Agents of Shield.  It certainly had a slow start, but complimented CAWS perfectly this week.  More than all this, my son asked to watch the Avengers again.  I could not ask for a better screen viewed weekend.

As the weeks go on from my leaving the ministry, things have become far more serious and more light.  Money is a constant issue, especially with our household food allergies, but on the other hand, I’ve remembered how to not take myself so seriously. There are things that have become clear as crystal and things that have become more cloudy.  I apologize for this disjointed blog post, but that may be a perfect analogy for where I am.  Disjointed.  CAWS gave a brief moment of escape, sanity, and purpose.  Everything else has seemed like it was shot on low definition for a tube TV.


My Wife’s Struggle

10th of April, 2014

imagesFor about two weeks now I have promised a series of guest blogs from my wife Sarah.  Tonight I finally make due on that promise.  She is not a writer like myself, we have been terribly ill, and she takes care of our kids all day, so writing these posts has been a labor of love.  Mostly labor, but she loves me a lot.  In tonight’s post she talks about what one of the hardest parts of my burnout has been for her.  In the future she hopes to post about what being a pastor’s wife was like, why she hopes I never become a pastor again, and how our relationship has been morphing and evolving during the past few years, and months.  Here is her post:

I have tried to write this blog about ten times now, and it never comes out quite right. What can I write that hasn’t been said?  What can I do that hasn’t been done? I guess the point of a blog is to look at the world and tell it where you are and what you see. Well where I am is heartbroken and what I see is heartbreak; and yet for me there is something bigger- a deep well of joy.

I read an article today about the schism in evangelicalism. I have watched with fear for the past couple of years as I saw it grow. The article went into many of reasons why this split has happened, and what needed to happen now; a lot of which I agreed with, but it ended with little hope for resolution. I believe this shift is part of what led to Nate’s burnout.

We as Christians have been taken along in the cultural shift my husband calls the Aprés Post (or after post modern).  Our culture seems to have become more tribal in nature. For example, take people’s responses to the movie Frozen (this is Nate’s post about it that has links to what I am about to say), they were upset about women being too weak in the movie, and upset the women were too rebellious (I think they missed the Little Mermaid, by the way). They even went so far as to accuse the movie of having a secret gay agenda. Every tribe seemed to interpret Frozen through their own cultural lens from the safety within their camp, myself included. In the past decade Christian denominations have become our tribe and the lines have been drawn more clearly.

How does this lead to heartbreak? This is not true of every Christian but many of us have started to care more for our tribe than our Christ. We have set a culture where honest questioning is “dangerous and prideful”, (these things that well-intentioned men told Nate via text as soon as they found out he had some doubts) rather than allowing people to come humbly to the Cross. I have been wondering if the image we self promote in the media and in our neighborhoods about what the defining characteristics of a Christian are today looks like Christ or something else?

As Nate has been publicly exploring his burnout, we have had many friends who have left the faith contact him. This has been especially painful for me, not because I don’t want them to talk, but because many of them had been my friends at some point too,  And then they suddenly they were not as interested in being friends with me when they left the church. I know for a fact that most of these people did not scale back our friendship into oblivion to be malicious. I think most did it, at least partially, out of fear. They were afraid of my reaction, but that makes it almost more painful.  As I hear the stories of those who left the faith simply looking for a kind word, or feeling like there was no way to share their doubts safely, or like Nate, lying to hide the doubts from others, or simply removing themselves from church and people’s lives, I’m struck by how hurt I am that I was put in a category of not being a safe person to talk to. I see evangelicals, including myself, looking for reason for another’s walking away or questioning their faith, or whatever, and chalking it up to simple reasons that fit neatly into our theological box, when the truth is usually so much deeper. I have yet to see doubts expressed by people without also seeing a deep soul-wound in the doubter; not to say it all comes down to the person being in pain and seeing things wrongly, but that there is always more to our questions than we think.  I believe without addressing those soul-wounds, no amount of theology can answer anything.

One of the hardest things in all of this for me has been that Nate hid it for so long. I felt betrayed, and that betrayal is still overwhelming at times. It was kept silent in the darkest hours of the night.  It led to increased debt.  Even when I was let in, I felt like I could not have my own feelings because my pain paled in comparison to his. I was not afforded the opportunity to journey together with Nate, or seek my own answers to his questions. When he asks questions now, it feels aggressive.  It feels like he already has his answer, and he wants me to quickly agree. I know that is not the case, he has said as much.  We have tried to talk through some of it, but when I don’t agree it’s painful.  At some point Nate and others made an assumption about my character, and decided that my reaction wasn’t something they could deal with. In his case, at least, I was somewhat unsafe. When he finally told me about where he was, I said he had to tell the elders immediately and leave ministry. I said if he didn’t, I would not attend Vita Nova with him and tell others myself.  I do wish there was a safe way for pastors to question, but I am not sure how that plays out yet.

I have another friend who simply left the evangelical church to find a home in the Catholic one.  All of a sudden they felt labeled as “dangerous” and “a project,” which is probably accurate, but why? I saw her fear as she told me.  She was practically begging that I not put her in the non-believer box and walk away from our friendship. That reaction didn’t occur to me for a second, but it did breaks my heart that she would expect and experience that from others, and that she had fear in telling me what church she was apart of. Why should we label those we love as dangerous when we can dig deeper ourselves. Nate has a pastor friend who has continually said to Nate that though he disagrees, he loves Nate and will keep loving him, regardless of where he comes out after all of this. This is the love of Christ, as I see it.

The thing I come back to over and over is if I and others want to be Christian we need to look like Christ. His harshest words were always for the religious elite. Those putting extra rules on the backs of the people. I want to be a person who washes feet. I want to be a person who is safe.  I want to love recklessly. I want to be able to have doubts and seek answers. I don’t know how this all plays out, but if God is in control then I have nothing to fear no matter the path we take. This situation has caused me to reevaluate what my faith looks like- to dig deep, as they say. I want to spend less time on theology and more time acting like God.


Defining Terms

4th of April, 2014

imagesOver the past few months I have been talking about my journey away from being a pastor.  Some of my posts have been about practical hardships that church planters and pastors face that are often unseen by others.  As of late, I have spoken more about my break with conservative reformed theology.  Needless to say, those are terms not everyone holds the same definition to, although I had forgotten this and was speaking freely assuming people understood what I meant.  Some have not.  So I intend to define my terms and explain a little why I have had what feels like a divorce from the theology I  once expounded from the pulpit.

When I first became a Christian I had no idea there were different camps of theology.  I imagine this is true of most people who convert later in life with very little church experience.  I could not have told you the difference between the Catholic, Lutheran or Baptist church.  Indeed, until I began seminary I thought most of Protestantism was pretty much identical, even if Catholics and Orthodox churches were slightly different.  I entered seminary ready to learn, be challenged, and have dialogue.

In college I studied physics, math, and political science.  I took a lot of comparative literature, philosophy and history classes in my free time.  I was well-educated, well read, taught to explore ideas and come to my own conclusions.  I finished my undergraduate degree taking graduate level classes where I thrived in the culture of conversation.  Even if a professor did not agree with a conclusion, they often presented the other side fairly and with almost equal time.  There were exceptions to this rule, my Marxist Economics class being one of them, but on the whole we read books that presented various opinions and ideologies and were trusted to find truth on our own.

That is what I expected seminary to be like.  I expected a Masters Level experience.  I expected lots of diverse reading, long conversations, and exploratory written assignments.  I don’t want this to be a post bashing my school.  My professors were wonderful people.  They made time for the students, entertained questions, and sacrificed  a ton to fly to Boston every weekend to teach the classes I took.  My over all experience of seminary as a whole was positive, I think.  I am slightly bitter and a little disappointed in it as well.  I can’t speak for all Mdiv programs, and I’m sure even with any given institution an individual experience varies widely depending on what electives one takes, which professors one is assigned, and a myriad of other factors, but intellectually my experience was lack luster, to say the least.  My first seminary class was easier to pass than anything I took at Umass- even the throw away gen eds.

When I say conservative reformed theology, I mean, for the most part, the driving systematic theology at my seminary.  As far as I know all of my professors were young earth creationists.  If there were other opinions, I didn’t hear them.  They certainly didn’t force their students to be likewise, but they didn’t give much air time to other perspectives.  In one of my systematic classes we watched multiple videos about how the science of evolution was wrong, citing specific examples of animals that simply “could not evolve.”  Many of these videos were put together by Ken Ham of the creationist institute I have referenced in the past.  When the teacher accidentally showed a pro-evolution video that explained scientifically how the exact example they were using to discount evolution,could have evolved, the teacher’s reply was, “That is a lot of steps.  I think it is easier to believe God just made it that way.”  To which the class burst into rapturous praise that the well laid out argument we just experienced was put in its proper place so succinctly.  Even though I was never reprimanded for agreeing with physics that the Universe is very, very old, there certainly was a culture that kept me from being more open about it.

By my last semester at seminary I had taken the pill, so to speak.  I stopped questioning what I was taught and simply took it in as the right way to interpret things.  Sure, I still had my own opinions, but they were being driven deeper and deeper down so that I would not stick out.  Most of them had to do with science, and I figured that was not a big deal, so why be the squeaky wheel.  When it came to other theologies, I simply believed what they told me to believe.  This meant that although I was now educated about other theological positions, it was in a cursory way that gave me just enough information to tear them down, never really considering the other side.  When I was taught that the Fall ruined mans ability to reason, I nodded.  When I was told that all of Orthodox Christianity has held this position, I concurred.  When I was told to read these mens blogs and books and stay away from these others, I did it.  I didn’t want to become a heretic after all.

As I have gotten some distance, spoken to lots of people, and began doing my own research, it turns out theology isn’t that cut and dry.  Some of the louder voices in the conservative evangelical circles I was a part of would have us believe that it is.  There exists an “in” and an “out,” often defined by them.  They are the vanguards of the faith, and of those who are out-of-bounds for orthodoxy.  My podcast stream was full of people who two decades ago would have been labeled fundamentalists, but they wear current clothes and read secular websites so that label doesn’t quite fit.  I had no idea they were the minority.  They were the only voices I heard.  I had become entrenched and didn’t even realize it.  Last week one of the people I read said CS Lewis is one of the most dangerous theologians you can read because he is not an innerrantist and is wrong on many things.  I would have been prone to agree with him six months ago, or at least become convinced.

I know that this post doesn’t exactly clear up much.  There are still words that are so fluid they make have lost all meaning.  But it is my attempt to help others understand what I mean.  I have come to believe there are many vibrant strands of faith that don’t rely on a systematic I was taught was the systematic.  While none of my professors would call someone who differs with them a heretic, and while they acknowledged that different churches hold different teachings, that is not the same things as allowing them to come to the table as an equal partner.  I had been told by many that this narrow stream of Christianity was Christianity.  Not so bluntly, not in so many words, but I was told nonetheless.  It turns out the tent if far bigger than I had ever imagined.

Tonight I am busy passively watching Harry Potter.  I have much more to say on this subject, but this post has become long enough.  I also am reticent to given names, institutes or blogs because as wrong as think these men are now, they were not malevolent.  My faith journey feels much like a divorce, as I said above, but that doesn’t mean I should trash my ex.  They believe fervently what they believe, and they have that right.  I also doth know where I will land in my journey.  For the past few months it has felt like I found paradise, but I know enough about humanity to know that often oasis turn to deserts overnight.

Finally, I know I was sort of flippant about the many messages I have received.  Some of that was planned, to be sure.  I have found I have very little patience with people I have never met trying to convince me in a Facebook message that I should stop this journey are run head fist back into the circles I just left.  One the other hand I have loved some of the interactions I have had with many others.  Awkward doesn’t always mean bad.  It just means that it is weird.  Weird is sometimes ok.  I want this blog to be a place of dialogue and interaction, so please continue to post, message me, a call.  Just don’t assume anything and definitely don’t tell me you have a word from the Lord.  I simply won’t believe you.

Sarah was supposed to post tonight, but after multiple messages and clarifying conversations I thought it best to write first.  Plus she is sick, because we were supposed to go an a date and see Captain America.  The only thing I believe about predestination at this point is that my family is always predestined to be sick when it is the worst time to be.  Everything else comes down to free will and advertising.