How I got so screwed up

As my 200th post, I’m going to give you a little insight into my background, how I think, and what led me to where I am right now. Of course I don’t think I’m really all that “screwed up”, but for those who do think I am, I thought I’d give you a bit of an explanation.

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While growing up in three different Southern Baptist churches, being involved mostly with other Christians living the Christian life, I saw little that made me think anything was missing about my own faith.

In high school I recognized the dangers of Fundamentalism (proper) through experiences with one of my school curricula, the Independent Baptist-based A Beka Book Publications. There writ large I saw a host of devout, well-meaning Christians who believed things that I found wholly incredible, despite the fact that by normal evangelical standards my church was quite conservative. I was amazed to think that this type of self-described Fundamentalists would think that I was teetering on the edge of damnation for believing the way I did. I knew that I, at least, was sincere and well considered in my beliefs, and that my relationship with God was as authentic as it could be and none the worse for rejecting what these sincere Christians believed.

As I got older and started jobs outside that tight-knit faith community, I began to see what “outsiders” thought about that community. Naturally, as someone genuinely sold on the faith as it had been presented me, I was defensive of what I thought was valid, yet I just couldn’t cook up enough hubris to simply chalk up everything the world thought about Christians to unregenerate, unenlightened, truth-despising nonsense. I stood firm on the general fabric of my faith; the enticements of the life of my unbelieving peers couldn’t sway someone who had so long enjoyed communion with God and seen His provision in the lives of his community. I remain a believer in the Christian God. But because of some intrinsic desire for intellectual honesty, possibly to distance myself from the dangers I was spooked by in Fundamentalism, I realized that those bedrock beliefs were not enough to sell me on everything else that my faith community had assumed to be true, particularly as I came across other sincere believers pointing out what they saw as errors in the stereotypical evangelical mindset. For instance, despite my highly entertaining Chick Publications’ magazines and tracts telling me otherwise, I personally came to the conclusion that Roman Catholics are not indirectly worshipping Satan with an entirely separate religion; Catholics do not even, as many Protestants believe, spit on Jesus’ sacrifice by worshipping Mary or deny the grace of God in favor of works. These sorts of things helped acclimate me to being at odds with many in my own community.

I went to a conservative Christian school for college. After a short stint in the music department, I was inspired by a teacher who brought out historical-grammatical aspects of the Old Testament. Looking back now, I see that these aspects were, as ever in the evangelical community, carefully selected so as to complement or bolster rather than refine or revise the typical conservative understanding. I switched my major to Bible and Theology. I learned the stuff they taught me, but I didn’t adopt much of it as my very own; nor, I should say, did I find overmuch at this time that I discarded outright. I put everything on the back shelf, and scrutinized it as I had the time.

As it would happen, a profound love for the Bible that I nurtured since early childhood continued to encourage me to understand it as well as I could. I certainly didn’t want to be wrong about what it actually is, and I had as yet been unconvinced, disappointed, and disgusted by some of the attempts at harmonization of niggling Bible conflicts that I had run across. But my encounters with Fundamentalism taught me that if you can find one flaw, you couldn’t trust that there weren’t more.

In a vital turning point for me, I ran across C. S. Lewis’s views on Scripture. Any longtime reader of this site will notice his influence, particularly in some cracking good quotes of his, all of which opened my eyes to how human the Scriptures were — were intended to be — and that they should be embraced warts and all; that to despise the Scriptures for being human is to reject God’s plan for those Scriptures.

This wasn’t the end of my journey, of course. I flirted with that realization for a few years, keeping it in the back of my mind as a back door I could use were I to run across any errors in Scripture that couldn’t be explained. But before I came to the point of admitting outright errors, I came to understand the vital importance of determining genre, which soon affected both my eschatology and my view of Genesis.

Please note: I’ve been accused of taking my stances on the nature of Scripture because of a desire to compromise for science. But It wasn’t until my view of Genesis changed somewhat late in the process that I really looked into evolution. Even though I had become skeptical and even critical of some creationists like Kent Hovind (of whom I must admit to being enamored when in high school), I was shocked in my Christian college that my biology professor taught the entire course without mentioning creationism once, explaining then-current scientific understandings of abiogenesis and evolution without so much as a disclaimer. It wasn’t until after I graduated from my undergrad college that I really settled down to look at the science/creationism debate with my new understanding of Scripture and Genesis in particular, under the influence of fellow believers who, like my biology professor, accepted evolution.

Anyway, that’s a start. And if I haven’t told you personally, I’d like to thank you warmly for reading this blog of mine.

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