The Guesswork Christian

Most Christians I know have a problem.

Their life experiences and interactions with people do not match up with the Bible. This new knowledge and understanding lends itself to a life of grays… and the Bible does not tend to lend itself to a life lived in the grays.

Biblical truth often becomes subjective and left to the complete and total interpretation of the reader. You can find almost any biblical scholar to back you up on any point or perspective. And if that doesn’t work, then you just move forward and have faith that God is big enough to figure it all out in the end. Faith is the ultimate answer for any question offered…and how can one argue with that.

This was first evident to me when I discovered as a teenager that my father, a deacon in the church, was previously divorced prior to marrying my mother. It was a shocking discovery for me, one that shattered the image I had of my father for a period of time. As I heard the story, my dad fought in World War II and shortly after he entered the service, he met a woman whom he rushed to marry. Apparently, after realizing it was a mistake, he ended it a short time thereafter.

When I found this out, I had questions. If divorce was a sin and didn’t qualify a person to be a deacon in the church, why was my dad allowed to be a deacon? I asked my mom and she said that the church realized that the first marriage was a mistake, didn’t mean anything and looked over it. I finally talked to my pastor, the one who ordained my dad and he pretty much said the same thing. My father was a good man, had asked forgiveness from God and there was no reason that he shouldn’t serve God as a deacon regardless of his previous mistake.

But still, the way I read the Bible, divorce was a sin. Although I was only a teenager, I knew there were clear rules about divorce and to not abide by those rules meant you could go to hell. Actually, the way I read it, my father was still married to the first woman and that he and my mother had committed adultery. In other words, now my mother was in danger of hell.

It was all very confusing for my youthful, literal brain. My pastor, who believed in Biblical inerrancy, was saying that everything was fine and that I shouldn’t worry, but I just didn’t get it. Either the Bible was true on these points or it wasn’t right?

Eventually, I came to read more and understand more. Just as importantly, ultimately I became dulled to my strict interpretation of the Bible. Over the years, as a pastor, I spoke less of sin and more of grace.

Most Christians I know still have this problem. They are constantly seeking to justify and explain away the parts of the Bible that do not fit with their life experience. Most of my Christian friends still speak more of grace than sin, believing that God will figure it out in the end. Faith again becomes the ultimate answer. They talk about faith and their beliefs as truth, but to me, it just seems like a lot of guesswork.

13 thoughts on “The Guesswork Christian”

  1. It took me a long time to learn to embrace gray over black and white. But I’ve found it more satisfying than black and white ever was. (www.livinginthegray.com)

  2. Bruce – I am not quite sure I completely understand the question. It’s kind of a difficult hypothetical to answer.Lowend – The church was the social system in which my faith was established. You cannot establish any belief system in a vacuum. I guarantee the church experiences you have effected and still effects your beliefs today. If you say it doesn’t you are being dishonest. By the very fact that you are trying to have faith MINUS their influence says volumes.Bottom line: I stopped basing my faith on churchianity several years ago. I DID SEPARATE THE TWO!!! And THIS IS what my journey looks like minus the church.

  3. steve,Your words are very revealing, and I really apreaciate your openess and honesty…having said that: you’re a fucking idiot!…kidding…In fact, please do not misconstrue any of my comments as being more than my humble observations and personal beliefs.Christianity = ChurchI disagree. Sure the two are intertwined, but not the same. After Jesus brief visit, there were Christ followers who occasionally got together to hash out their questions over scripture and enjoy eachothers fellowship. The closests they had to any kind of name was “the Way”. Much of todays symbols and titles weren’t introduced until much later. Not saying it was all bad…but human none the less. Being a Christ-follower or believer in Christianity was (and still is IMO) a very personal thing that has little to nothing to do with any kind of church organization.punishing GodI knew those words weren’t going to land very well. From my understanding of God’s desire to fellowship with His creation, He is angered and saddened by our actions (just as He rejoices with us as well).church = God’s shitty PR firmI believe it was His wish that the church become a light of truth for him (and some are…okay very very few!). Have we failed miserably, and will we continue to do so? Of course. Exmpl: If you drive through South LA and look out at the majority of those who live there, would you judge their race based on what you saw? Hopefully not. Surely you would find those who are a proud representation to their people and neighborhood…that doesn’t mean that the ghetto isn’t still full of really bad examples.I’m not sure where this idea came from that Christianity should be pretty and shining for all to come and enjoy…the more the merrier. From everything I’ve read and experienced, following Christ is messy, not-so-fun-all-the-time, and definitley not for all (though still available).

  4. Steve, do you think you’d still be a Christian (presuming you have given up on that)if you had been reared in a more “ambigious” environment, where doubt was allowed to play a greater role in your faith?

  5. My journey is much more interesting since jettisoning the church, though I admit that it probably won’t blossom until I stop paying the church any mind at all.By the way, interesting side note: my blogger validation key for this post is “insin”.

  6. I have struggled with this since I was 14 (two years after I became a Christian) and found two different accounts of Judas’ death in the Bible

  7. People have a natural self-interest in rationalizing their choices. Church people are no different.I think all of us have to find a way to come to grips with the differences between what the Bible says and how we live. Some folks do that by saying that God will excuse their behavior, some folks change and other folks resign themselves to dealing with the consequences of their actions.

  8. I don’t ultimately have a problem with the Church’s failures. It’s a human institution so it’s going to be screwed up. If God exists he is quite capable of talking to me outside of his people, I just don’t think he does.“Being a Christ-follower or believer in Christianity was (and still is IMO) a very personal thing that has little to nothing to do with any kind of church organization.”I think by and large people fall away from the faith when they stop going to church. I knew that was a possibility when I stopped attending. I WANTED to believe it was a personal relationship, so I pursued God outside of the church daily, but by and large without the trappings and social network supporting the beliefs in God and Jesus, I think it was easier to begin looking at the bigger question: Who was God to me? What was that “relationship” I had so often talked about? These are important questions that lead many people to very different conclusions. It’s either real to you or it isn’t? I did a test. I decided to stop living my life like God existed for one entire day and see what happened. I would normally pray or talk to God throughout my day and run things thru the God-filter. I stopped doing that for one day and you know what happened? Nothing. Not one thing was different except that I didn’t feel like I had that safety net of God. The sky didn’t fall, I didn’t get struck by lightening, I didn’t begin to sin more as a result… I just stopped the merry-go-round I was on in which I believed in something that I used as a backdrop to my life and as a prop or “crutch” (as some would call it). My life hasn’t been any worse since that day and I can argue that it’s been better and a lot more relaxed.My loss of faith ultimately has very little to do with life handing me good or bad circumstances. Certainly these things played a role in my questioning some things about God’s existence. But Christians rejoice when someone finds God and a strengthened faith thru the trials of life, why shouldn’t we also be happy if they discover another paradigm of truth for themselves, even if it no longer looks the same as ours??

  9. Well the site is called “Stupid CHURCH People” not “Stupid God”.And Christianity IS the Church IMO. If not what else is it? Christianity is the religion formed by the Church. So yes I judge Christianity in light of the Church.Also, I don’t think I can punish God if he does exist (and your presumption is he does)…. that’s a self-important view that I do not share. Whether or not I believe in him doesn’t really change much in the grand scheme of things. And if he doesn’t exist what does it matter to any of us right?Yes, my view on the church effects my view of God. No doubt. How could it not? The Church and Christian’s (by the Bible’s own definition) are to be representatives of God, his hands and feet, “they will know him by our love” and all of that. As I’ve said before, if we are to know and see God, and his followers are his way of sharing himself with the world (which presumptively it is), he had better get a new marketing strategy.There’s a lot of good done by Christians. There’s a lot of good done by people of all belief’s (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist) and there is a lot of good done by people of non-belief in God (atheist and agnostic). I write about my negative experiences with the Church (and I write about good things too sometimes) because really it is all I know. I could write about God more, but what would could I really say.

  10. Taking the guesswork out of faith is what Americhurch is all about, Steve.“God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

  11. I guess what I keep hearing from you is that sure, you pried yourself away from church, but it seems as though you where still trying to interact with that same church God…as opposed to an encounter with a God that hasn’t been shaped and formed to the churches liking.As to your ‘God litmus test’…to be honest, my first reaction was: hmmm, that seems awfully short sighted. Again, I’m not trying to critisize your journey, or even attempt at convincing you of anything. I’m learning from your journey as much as you are. I guess if one was seriously entertaining the idea that there might be a Creator (considering all that that implies), how long should one wait for a ‘sign’? What would that that sign look like? Would He/She/It be confined to my time table? Again, I wonder what your expectations of God are built up on? You say you left the church to find God…but what’s that neat little saying about people from trailor parks (not you, God…).When I left Germany (my parents home and church) and moved to the States at 17, a large part of that journey was my wanting to leaving God. Now obviously (to me anyway) I never left God, or I should say, He never left me. But what I did leave, was the God of my parents. I openend myself up for everything and nothing, and the God I ended up finding (after a very long dark spell), looked quite different then then one I had been raised with.I rejoice in your divorce from the church-god you spent much of your life with. May you find and experience the God who is not bound by church bi-laws or organized agendas. May you encounter the One who put as much love and care in to every fiber of your being, as He did this amazing little rock we call earth……or not.

  12. To tag along with BA’s question, it seems to me as though the church did far more shaping of your Christian belief system than anything else. Once the church was removed, it seems as though that belief crumbled as a direct result.A while ago I stopped including the church as a foundation or building block of my Christian faith–though so many churches will be quick to tell you this is their essential role.I too wonder what your journey with God might have looked like minus the church? And could you ever seperate the two?

  13. steve, Yes, my church background has definitely shaped my belief, but part of my journey has also been scrubbing a lot of that the bad off and embracing the good (IMO).I don’t doubt that you have/are doing the same. All I can do is respond to your writings, and it just seems as though most times you reference your belief in regards to Christianity it is often tied to negative church experiences.IOW, I wonder if your disillusion of what church REALLY is to you has had a direct impact on your view of God? And if so, how do you feel about that? Is that fair towadrs God to punish Him for what the church did wrong?Not accusing…just observing.thanx

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