How You Lost Your Faith
I just don’t get it. She slumped backward in the chair, striking a truly mournful pose. I used to believe! You know that I did! I loved being a Christian, and had so much joy in God. But somehow, over the years, that faith has just become impossible to hold on to. I don’t know what happened.
I was getting that burning feeling that comes when I know I have something to say, but fear that my truthful words will be hurtful. Before I could consider carefully, the burning became an action, and I was speaking.
I know exactly how you lost your faith. It all began in Bible college, when your professors taught you to disbelieve in the possibility of propositional revelation. Instead, they taught you that the Bible is a divine and human book. It has errors. And anyone who reads it will make mistakes. As a result, we can’t REALLY know what God is saying. The Bible gives us a spiritual connection to God, but we cannot say, « this is right » or « this is wrong » or « I learned this » from the Bible, because of the component of human error. Does this sound correct?
Yes. That was a long time ago! But that is about what we learned. I remember the teacher talking about humble hermeneutics, and contrasting that with arrogant interpretations. People who thought they could read the mind of God.
Yes. No doubt he would find me quite arrogant. Well, then after you embraced this teaching you began to try to worship a God who did not communicate any specific thoughts, but just gave you a certain sort of emotional experience. This is deism. At that point, you thought this religion would work for you, and you probably felt like you were growing in your faith and were far superior to those who had a more simple faith.
I did feel like I was progressing. But I also envied people with a simpler faith, even as I do now.
However, this deism did not work for you long. You began to ask what Christianity had that other religions did not have? Since God did not communicate directly through Scriptures, Christianity for you became just a vague relationship with the divine. Didn’t other religions have this as well? You began to believe – quite quickly, and quite firmly – that all religions lead to God.
Yes, that is what I believe.
Thus, you slid from deism to relativism. However, relativism is a sort of intellectual death. If everything is true, than nothing is true. If all religions – which contradict on many points – are all equally true, than how can any of them really be right? Because you are such a thorough person, you began to question how we can use religion to find any real sort of answers to how we should live (ethics), the nature of existence (epistemology), or the quest for truth. However, the further you pursued it, the more you realized that religion was, for you, just a sifting soup of opinion from which nothing definite could be determined.
You are giving me too much credit – I didn’t examine my faith THAT much!
You did not sit on a rock and philologize. However, truth has a way of working itself out to its logical conclusion. Throughout your daily life, and as you pondered these things in your heart, you worked them through to their logical conclusion just as surely as if you had thought clearly about them with the keenest of philosophical minds.
Well, thank you for the compliment. …I think?
And this process has lead you to where you are today – pragmatism. You have given up on finding any all-encompassing solutions to the universe, truth, reality or God. You have fallen in love – and I rejoice for you over this! – and you have dedicated yourself to living well, loving well, and raising your children.
You are still drawn to religion, but pick and choose from all religions. You do not pray to one God, but seek help from many faith traditions, based upon your needs. You also believe there is a sort of power in the universe – in herbs, the stars, special rocks and locations – that can be accessed through meditation and herbalism without the need of any particular deity.
Are you talking about my horroscope, my yoga, or my incense?
All of the above, and more besides. If we are honest, you have become a pantheist, and like many pantheists you dabble often in animism. Although these things may be a game, or simply decoration to some people to you even how you arrange the plants in your room (feng shui) is deadly serious.
Now, the progression is quite simple and easy to see. When you let go of propositional reveletion – the idea that God communicates real FACTS, IDEAS and TRUTS about Himself in Scripture, you made your first departure from Christianity. You then began worshipping a God who did not speak (deism). This lead you to relativism, since there was no way to say your God was better than any other. Somewhere between deism and relativism the essence of the gospel – that Jesus alone is the atonement for sins – changed from being the Gospel, to being just one religious symbol among many. Now you are in the place you are now. You are an agnostic when it comes to religion, but you try to keep yourself open to all the options. However, you are primarily concerned with a this-worldly concern for a full and fruitful life. If there is a next life, you hope that by being a good person, and by connecting to the powers of the universe, you will make it to whatever sort of heaven there is. But you do not believe in Hell.
No, I do not.
You have gone from being a Christian, leaning on the grace of Jesus Christ to a non-Christian. You now trust in your own works to save you. Even though you still sometimes go through the motions of calling on Jesus to pay for your sins, you do not worship Him as only God. And your reliance is in your own works for salvation. You do not believe in the Christian God or any of the reality which He described in Scriptures. You have returned again to the paganism which your ancestors had many centuries ago, before Christianity came to them.
At this, she straightened up with dignity and pride. I had given her somehting to think about. Yes, yes! I could hear her thinking. She had returned to the ancient roots of paganism! She was really not turning her back on her Christian heritage, but finding her true heritage benieth and behind it! We said our happy goodbyes and she walked dreamily into the night.
Somewhere, in another world in another place, a nameless professor shuffled his papers and closed his briefcase.
It had been a long summer. There had been another attempt to unseat him. Some had even called him a heretic! (This was ridiculous, because he really was a true Christian, and took his faith very seriously) He had won again. He and his students had out-done the fundamentalists. They had argued for scholarly autonomy – shouldn’t he follow his convictions? They called him a heretic and a liberal. He called them fundamentalists, and implied they were pharisaical. He played the martyr card and stood his ground. The words “witch hunt” and “heretic hunters” were flung about. Finally, the cool voice of reason had stepped in. Someone said that church unity must be honoured above all else. Then there was money. The school-year was starting again, and students, with their money, were coming to be taught. The fundamentalists – shamed into feeling like rabble-rousers – agreed to leave the discussion for next summer. But the debate would never surface again.
And now, school was in session. Tomorrow, he would provide over another class of bright young fundamentalists. He smiled. They wouldn’t be fundamentalists when they left.