Why I changed – Biblical studies scares my buddies

This is the conclusion of a series (Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4) that recounts my journey as a zealous fundamentalist who held many strong dogmatic views and realized these were deeply flawed when placed under careful scrutiny. The aim of this series is to encourage us to admit we are fallible, can be wrong, and sometimes, we need to change our beliefs. I genuinely hope that we can learn to ask difficult questions and be unafraid of change.

Biblical studies scares all my buddies

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of the Bible to my worldview. I grew up with a traditional (sometimes called “literal”) reading of the Bible as my epistemological foundation. This means the biggest questions to life, existence, meaning, morality, teleology, and more, were directly based on the Bible (many were not based on what the text actually says, rather the idea that the text is the source). For just about any question someone could ask me, the final evidence for the answer would be “because the Bible says so.”

What is right? What is wrong? Why is lying bad?  Why do people die or live? What things are good? What should we do in life? What is existence? What is outside of our world?

All of these questions were answered through the epistemic framework that was built solely on a traditional reading of the Bible. At the time, if someone were to grab a hold of this biblical foundation from underneath me, and pull it out like a rug, I would fall into an existential chasm of nihilism. I would literally have no answers, for anything. I would be unable to respond to simple questions about myself like “what kind of thing am I?” The Bible was my only foundation for any kind of knowledge that could be certainly known, and I was not philosophically equipped for anything else.

And so the Bible guided my views, even when I made radical changes. For example, as a young child I forged into the difficult-to-comprehend portions of the Bible to try to grasp at its deep hidden truths. I read the book of Revelations and tried to estimate a date for the rapture based on the fact that I believed the Bible taught this. But later I changed positions and thought that most eschatological views I grew up with were unbiblical because a more in depth reading had showed me so. This move happened because I thought the Bible said one thing, and later another, whatever the case, I would be willing to trust the Bible on anything.  This picture with a quote from Pastor Peter LaRuffa during the HBO documentary Questioning Darwin is probably a pretty accurate depiction of my own former view.

wpid-Photo-Feb-18-2014-802-PM

Though I might have tried to argue that people just misunderstand the Bible, if there was such a 2+2=5 situation.

In retrospect I can see that my unwavering devotion to the Bible often led me on a journey of many twists and turns, a journey that would result in the loss of friendships, fortunes, and fame. The Bible led me to be a young earth creationist and a gap theorist. It made me a Pentecostal who later evolved into a charismatic only to become a cessasionist. It made me be an Arminian who became a Calvinist only to flirt around with Open Theism. It made me accept the idea of a God who would torture people for eternity, but later took me to the belief that sinners in hell would be annihilated like the biblical  imagery of chaff burning in a fire.

I was willing to follow the Bible into whatever ideological direction I believed it was taking me. In fact, to the dismay of my friends, I did follow it.  But I didn’t’ read every part of it with as much enthusiasm as I thought I did… and that would change everything.

It all started with the Bible

About a year and a half ago my wife motivated me to reread the Bible, and envisioning myself as the grand spiritual leader of our family I agreed that we should do another Bible reading marathon.

I had read the Bible before as a teenager, twice, from beginning to end, but to be honest, at the time I had no idea what the heck any of it meant. In my later, adult spiritual development, I spent most of my time confined to only half of the book. To this day I own a few Bibles with most of the New Testament, Psalms, and Major Prophets vigorously highlighted in multiple colors. I had preached somewhere around two hundred sermons from the Bible. I had read at least two dozen theological books, written by leading conservative theologians about the what the Bible taught (including Wayne Grudems extremely thick Systematic Theology). And of course, I had spent the previous six years listening to at least one sermon a day. While most people listened to music, I listened to sermons, thousands of them. For example, during the two years I spent in clinical training for nuclear medicine, I would listen to two hour-long sermons/theology lectures a day, one on the hour-long bus commute there, and another on the way back. This was my life! To sum all of this up, I certainly thought I knew what the Bible said. In fact, I sincerely thought that there were very few people I personally knew who could top my theological and biblical knowledge. Looking back at this fact, I still think it remains mostly true, the one or two exceptions among my friends all have graduate degrees in the field.

So as I started rereading the Bible, I had a very good expectation of what was there. I knew it like the back of my hand. But this time was very different, instead of reading assorted chapters from different places, I tried to read it in one linear direction. Instead of stopping every few minutes to read commentaries that explained away strange things, I wanted to grasp a comprehensive picture of the whole process without interruptions and without other people telling me what I had just read.

Like before, each day I started off with a sincere prayer, asking eagerly “Lord show me your truths in these words, let them speak into my heart.”

And so I jumped into the Bible, enthusiastically hoping God would speak to me with his inerrant word. To make the experience more interesting than previous times, I decided to do something new and supplemented my reading by listening to an audio version of the text instead, often stopping to more closely look at a passage in the text. This time my journey only lasted about 25+ hours until I got stuck in a disillusioned rut somewhere in 2nd Chronicles.

It took me less than a month of daily reading/listening to the Old Testament to start questioning the inerrancy of the Bible.

Half way through this short journey I remember the first time I said to myself “I don’t want to read the Bible anymore.” Hearing this thought scared me, it felt so foreign and sinful, but it expressed my deepest feelings. I had come to God, hoping for his word to illuminate my heart and make sense of everything, but instead I got a plethora of frightening and confusing ideas. I had read them all before, but never taken the time to consider what they really meant. As biblical scholar Paul Wiebe wrote on behalf of the American Academy of Religion “one of the enduring contributions of biblical studies in this century has been the discovery of the strangeness of the thought-forms of the biblical literature of the ‘western’ tradition to us.” And I had previously let that strangeness fly by, but not this time.

Drowning in the tears of a dying faith

As I continued on my journey, this time as an adult, again being reminded of what the Bible actually said, as opposed to what I had thought it said, I continued to be disillusioned and heartbroken. I spent numerous nights an eager fundamentalist “crying out to God” hoping he would answer my questions and help me understand. And I continued to barge ahead, forcing myself to gulp down large buckets of Scripture, fighting the confusion and disenchantment with each swallow. Inside my soul a battle raged, my heart fought against the biblical books that showed instances of an all-loving God commanding people to chop up small children and infants or threatening to force parents to eat their babies (Leviticus 26:29, Deuteronomy 28:53, Jeremiah 19:9, Ezekiel 5:8-10).

How could a God who loves us force the death of these innocent children? How could a loving God permit people to be used as slaves, and encourage masters to beat these slaves? It wasn’t consistent with my Christianity! I wrestled against biblical texts that promoted sexual slavery, the kidnapping of women to be brides after first killing their families, or the the kidnapping of young girls who were virgins as gifts for warriors, and other horrible atrocities, all purportedly permitted by an all good, all loving God. I fought it until I simply couldn’t, and I gave up.

I wept.

I was a grown man, an amateur theologian, a preacher, a youth minister, a pastor candidate at a large mega-church. I thought I knew everything, but here I had no answers anymore, just the lament of a dying faith. I was sick to my stomach. I wanted to vomit.

It didn’t make sense. In every sermon I had heard, and the hundreds I myself preached, the Bible was an amazing compendium of writings from dozens of human authors, that came together in a perfect symphony to share one elegantly cohesive message of love. Yet the text I was reading was nothing like it should be. It was filled with putrid violence, vengeance, misogyny, the condonement of vile ceremonies and superstitions. It was riddled with hundreds of contradictions and inconsistencies, scientific inaccuracies, strangely anthropomorphic views of a God who delighted in the smells of burning flesh. I grasped at the last source of hope to me, I decided the only way to save my faith in the inerrant Bible was to read the 615 page book by Dr Norman Giesler that purportedly explains away all of these issues.

I started the book, eagerly hoping to find all of the answers therein, after all, Giesler is an accepted authority by conservatives on this issue. I plowed halfway through the book finding more disenchantment on every page. Had this been a Mormon author, I would have laughed at his ridiculous verbal gymnastics. Had this been a Muslim trying to defend the inerrancy of the Koran, I would have never let him get away with such preposterous ad hoc rationalizations and contortions. But because he was a fundamentalist Bible believer, part of my tribe, I desperately wanted him to be right. I rooted for him during the first two hundred pages, even as I bit my lip, seeing each distortion and fallacy in his argument. Eventually I couldn’t take it, again I felt sick and nauseous. A few days in, somewhere past the halfway point, I closed the book with a final cringe. I looked around, and noting that there was no witnesses I said to myself “I don’t believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.” (Ironically enough a friend later told me of another person who lost faith in the Bible, precisely after reading the same book with Gieslers defense of the contradictions.)

Putting down my Bible with fear and trembling

So I put aside my presuppositions, and set out to find what Bible scholars said of the “good book.” After some research I realized that most scholars were liberals who rejected the inerrancy of the Bible, and my own journey had only mimicked that of most of the great intellectuals of the last few centuries. Some of the most important names in biblical scholarship, like Friedrich Schleiermacher , Albert Schweitzer, Rudolf Bultmann, and Paul Tillich all grew up in a staunchly conservative environment and after engaging with the biblical texts became liberals or skeptics. What I found even more ironic was that, just like me, all of these liberal scholars were the sons of very conservative protestant pastors. 

I jumped into historical and textual studies of the biblical texts themselves only to find something even more distressing. The early Christians didn’t have one Bible, certainly not the one I held in my hands, they had a plethora of books that they frequently passed around and copied, but there was no strict canon in the first few hundred years. In fact, even after the dates conservative pastors offer for canonization, there was plenty of biblical confusion. For example, the Codex Sinaiticus (a 4th century “bible,” that is one of our best preserved manuscripts used by most scholars today to reconstruct the New Testament) includes the epistle of Barnabas & Shepherd of Hermas right in the middle of the of the “Bible”; it also excludes many sections of Mark, Matthew, Acts, and so on. Another example, the Codex Claromontanus (6th century) excludes the books of Philippians and Hebrews, but includes Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Acts of Peter, and Revelation of Peter (different than Revelation of John). But besides the fact that different groups of people used different books, there were striking differences in the books themselves. We simply don’t have the original manuscripts of the new testament , and we could only figure out what was on them by using modern sciences to try to estimate what they originally said. What we do have is a collection of thousands of fragments with at least 300,000 variations between all these different ancient manuscripts.

I learned that the “Bible” in my hands was one of many reconstructions by scholars, not a supernaturally passed down text that had never changed. We have (a) many different versions/translations based on (b) multiple different printed Greek texts, (c) based on compiling bits and pieces from thousands of different fragments/manuscripts, which contain (d) hundreds of thousands of differences called textual variants.

The more I read, the more I realized that mainstream biblical scholarship confirmed all of these things I was discovering, and even more so, had been grappling with these issues for hundreds of years. The oft repeated mythical stories that warned about the dangers of higher education, which often include an enthusiastic young preacher who goes to seminary (“cemetery”) and comes back doubting everything are not so mythical. From the world famous evangelist Chuck Templeton (who preached with Billy Graham for many years) until going to Princeton to engage in Biblical Studies, to Robert Funk, the agnostic historical Jesus scholar who had been a fundamentalist in his youth, these myths are real, they are the stories of thousands of people who lost their zeal after engaging in biblical studies. As the top conservative New Testament textual scholar in America, Dan Wallace, said:

  • As remarkable as it may sound, most biblical scholars are not Christians. I don’t know the exact numbers, but my guess is that between 60% and 80% of the members of SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) do not believe that Jesus’ death paid for our sins, or that he was bodily raised from the dead.
  • Also from Dan Wallace: “In one of our annual two-day meetings about ten years ago, we got to discussing theological liberalism during lunch. Now before you think that this was a time for bashing liberals, you need to realize that most of the scholars on this committee were theologically liberal. And one of them casually mentioned that, as far as he was aware, 100% of all theological liberals came from an evangelical or fundamentalist background. I thought his numbers were a tad high since I had once met a liberal scholar who did not come from such a background. I’d give it 99%. Whether it’s 99%, 100%, or only 75%, the fact is that overwhelmingly, theological liberals do not start their academic study of the scriptures as theological liberals. They become liberal somewhere along the road.”

And I too had found myself on that same road. I didn’t want to go down this path. 

An unwilling and disheartened sojourner, after trying so hard to prove its veracity and failing, I reluctantly gave up my faith in the Bible.

Why did I do it? What do I have to gain?

What often hurts, as I find myself being misunderstood and harshly labeled by others is that I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be born into a culture that would build my epistemic foundation on the Protestant canon of the Bible. I didn’t ask for this to be ripped out from underneath me. I didn’t want to start questioning the veracity of the Bible. I didn’t eagerly set out to invent errors and contradictions for some evil personal agenda. I didn’t ask for our reality to be what it is, but against all of my deepest wishes, this is the way things are. I can’t change the facts, as much as I would like to! My desire for honesty, fairness, and truth refuses to let me to pretend otherwise. I am here as a reluctant skeptic, I did not come here willingly, but only after there was no possible way I could still justify my views and remain honest at the same time. I can’t plug back into the matrix anymore and pretend it all makes sense, because it doesn’t.

Over time, the disenchanted emotion of a disillusioned young man slowly wore off and I began to move on. In the last year I spent a couple hours every day time reading books by scholars from differing sides, as well as listening to many hundreds of hours of lectures, debates, and etc. After which I stand convinced that the reason conservative biblical scholars are so few (and so loud) is because there are good reasons as to why most scholars reject conservative views of the Bible. In the meantime, I’m still reading and thinking on this issue because it fascinates me, and now I’m learning to rebuild my world from scratch, after my biblical foundation has been ripped out from under me. That said, I haven’t noticed much of a practical difference, most of the things I once considered wrong are still wrong, while I now I simply reject the biblical laws that promote murder, genocide, and violence, without trying to justify them by saying “God can do anything he wants, we deserve torture.” In fact, I’ve noticed that most of us already approach the Bible with a preconstructed moral system, and then use this personal moral system to pick and choose that which we like or to reject that which we don’t (usually by saying something silly like “oh that’s meant for a different culture.”)

So what now, where will this journey finally take me? Quite frankly, I don’t really know, but I do know that intellectual honesty is now more important than ever. I am willing to believe whatever is true, regardless of how crazy or ridiculous it is, but first I must know it is the truth. Not because some authority told me, or because someone strongly feels it is true, but because I am justified in knowing that it’s true. At this point, I don’t want to believe, I want to genuinely know.

17 responses

  1. A friend of mine sent me a link to you blog and I just want to thank you for writing this! It describes what I’ve been going through ever since I started attending a christian university, a place where I thought would make me be stronger in my faith, but instead injected me full of doubt in the bible. It is indeed a painful spiritual process and it’s a little comforting to know I’m not alone.

  2. Hi Yuriy,

    I’ve been reading your blog for about 7 months. I have been on a journey similar to yours, and many of your posts have been very helpful for me. I made a commitment to critical thinking, wherever that might lead, and you have helped me feel not alone.

    We started in different places, but we both ended up rejecting Biblical inerrancy. I have gone further than that. I have no idea if I will ever come back.

    I wanted to write to commend you for your bravery. You may get a lot of criticism for openly questioning and rejecting inerrancy. What you have written can feel threatening to Christians. Some may respond well, others may not. Hang in there. If something is true, it will be true regardless of how hard you poke at at and question it.

    Know that you are not alone on your journey. Many others have come to the same conclusion. Many others have stayed right there, and many others have gone even further. Wherever you end up, there will be others who share your views and who will be able to empathize. And they have not plunged into nihilism… There are other ways of thinking that work.

    Never stop asking questions. Always be open to the possibility that you are wrong, but if you have good reasons for thinking you are right, don’t hold back.

  3. Yuriy, this is one of the most brutally honest and moving blog posts I have ever read. I hope your peers will commend you for it, and for the fact that you have the courage to attach your real name (if in fact you are) to your innermost thoughts, which is not too common in the internet age.

    When I read this, though:

    “I don’t want to believe, I want to genuinely know.”

    I fear a bit for you. If you are generally happy with your life – your peers, friends, family, community – then it may be best to devote your efforts to reconciling your beliefs with what you’ve discovered so far. If you slavishly devote yourself to the pursuit of “knowledge,” “truth,” etc. in a framework that you consider epistemologically rigorous based on the readings that you’ve mentioned above, I’m afraid it will inevitably lead to one major conclusion…one that, in retrospect, will not have served you well.

  4. Yuriy, as a fellow human being living in the trenches of existential reality, I have to say that this post disappointed me. Giesler = Pastor Peter LaRuffa. I mean, yes, for Giesler, 2+2=5 on most days. Most. How could you degrade yourself by reading him? I vomit more from his weasel-wording than from watching Benny Hinn use imaginary sabers to take out crowds on any given Sunday. One sentence: guy needs to retake his Logic 101 entrance exam. Boy, where to begin? As a fellow skeptic, I sometimes think God exists (most days I vacillate between “yay” and “nay”). If God exists, which, today I think He/She/It does, I’ll place my bets on Jesus (the historical figure minus the apocalyptic worldview–unless you take a paradoxical “Slavoj Žižek approach” and argue that Christian apocalyptic atheism is the answer to all the world’s problems!). That is, Jesus probably comes closest to giving us a glimpse of an objective reality which exists in God. Now, this implies that one can somewhat trust the Gospels – and by somewhat, I’m leaning towards, well, let’s see, shit, I’ll go with 90% reliable. Probably more, since textual variants and scholarly theories are irrelevant and subjective, respectively. Given that, if God exists–and that is a big IF–God would, I assume, and this is an ASSUMPTION, that God has a teleology. (For an atheistic defense of teleology, read Thomas Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos.”) Proceeding from that, I would then be tempted to look for a rational explanation of “being/existence.” If evolution is true–there’s no reason to doubt it much, unless you take Nagel’s approach and see ID as a potential asset in the scientific disciplines–then evolution has a teleology: evolution of the human being into a better human is, itself, a teleological objective. Finally, the question becomes, and this is the most difficult one: who or what, if anything or anyone, thought up such a teleology? (It seems irrational to assume that a rational objective such as teleologically-driven evolution is itself nothing but blind chance–both in origination and in consummation.) If blind chance is by necessity at work, then it is impossible to argue that “evolution” is taking us somewhere; since that would imply that evolution has, indeed, a teleology. Rather, if no teleology exists, then one should assume that chance itself is, in and of itself, teleologically-oriented–that is, chance is the teleological end-goal which results from more chance. (A bunch of non-sense, really–in my opinion.) Given the fact that most biologists are physicalists, it is hard to believe that “chance” plays much a role when they describe electrical impulses following neuronal pathways. Biologists don’t resort to “chance” in their physicalist approaches; that is, when a biologist or a neuroscientist examines nerve impulses, one does not assume that chance (whatever that means) is causing the impulse. Rather, the scientist knows (or, more accurately, believes) that nothing outside of a purely naturalist explanation exists for the origination of the nerve impulse: it is caused by a previous cause. In other words, scientists (most of them) are (and have to be) reductionists. Now, the only problem I’m having is, as I stated earlier, the issue of chance. First, one must define it. What is chance? Does chance presuppose reductionist “cause”? Does chance, like lying in the Kantian worldview which presupposes universal truth telling, presuppose order and that which is planned? If so, then chance itself is not a universal but contingent on the universal (the universal being the opposite of chance which is, ultimately, “design” or “that which is planned” (be it “planned” by the universe [Nagel] or by some God [religion]). That is the question. Today, I’m a theist. As for tomorrow, we’ll see. :)

  5. Hi Yuriy,

    I was where you are at almost three years ago. Doubt is ok, for nearly half of the 150 Psalms have sections of severe doubt regarding God’s love, justice, care, and even his existence. If they struggled with it, we will too. Doubt produced by critical thinking is a *healthy* and good thing, and if you doubt God because of your studies and reflection, don’t worry, God can handle your doubt and bring you through, even if it takes years.

    God gave you a mind and wants you to use it. I’d encourage you to read the likes of Peter Enns, Mike Heiser, John Walton (which you’re familiar with), James McGrath, and other progressive evangelical scholars. They aren’t afraid of truth, wrestling with the hard questions, and the deliverances of reason. You and I have been schnookered into the lie of “biblical inerrancy” by well meaning fundamentalists and the good news is that there’s no logical reason to reject the existence of God or the general message of the Bible when you understand the purpose and place of Scripture; which isn’t to defend it’s own inerrancy but to ultimately testify of Jesus using the messy and broken Bible that God has providentially given us. Is our Bible inerrant? Absolutely not! Is it sufficient for faith and godliness, absolutely! (2 Tim. 3:16-17). I’d recommend Peter Enns’ new book “The Bible Tells Me So”. It is an excellent read and covers the stuff you referred to in your journey and offers some easy to read yet scholarly solutions for the problems you’ve ran into.

    Shalom to you my friend,

    SD

    • Thanks for the recommendation, I am very familiar with the works for all Peter Enns, Mike Heiser, John Walton, as well as dozens of postevangelical scholars. I haven’t read Enns new books, but enough of his previous material that I have a good idea about his “incarnational model.”

      I would not say the answers are compelling, or else I would be on the other side of the divide, however, I do admit they are more honest than the evangelical-fundamentalist method I grew up with.

      Best to you

  6. ” I don’t want to believe, I want to genuinely know.”

    Our life is based on belief. You will never genuinely know and will waste your life trying to know.

    You choose to believe in God or in anything else besides God because there obviously is a way that we have come to be. Me and you are here for a reason. The fact of the matter is that it does not come down to knowing things.

    “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭8‬:‭1-3‬ NKJV)”

    Eve out of her curiousity (wanting to know) ate the forbidden fruit. And because of that we have the burden of sin.

    “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

    “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (‭John‬ ‭3‬:‭12, 16, 18‬ NKJV)

    Believe. Believe. Believe.

    Out of all the books you read and research you did and all the people you mentioned did anyone of them ever come to a conclusion. I don’t think so because you still seem confused. They dont know more than you or I do. Or anyone else on the face of the planet. They just believe based on certain things.
    You choose what to believe Yuriy. What you seem to want is knowledge. You don’t seem to want to know the lord more than you want knowledge and that is what brought you to this point. When you truly seek God genuinely is when things will start to make sense.

    Praying for you.

    • Why should I believe what you believe, instead of in Thor? Or Allah? Or reincarnation? Or one of the many millions of beliefs?

      Thats why I want to know something is true, not just randomly pick 1 out of 1,000,000 things and blindly believe it.

  7. Hello Yuriy, you linked to this blog post on the thread. I have read it, and the other 4 in this series, along with some other recent stuff you have posted.

    I have a comment pending on your most recent post, but I thought I’d post here also since you linked to it.

    I would like you to know that I am an inerrantist, and I’m not ashamed of it. I have read Peter Enns. I also remember when he was causing the ruckus in Westminster Theological Seminary and how everyone was scared about what would happen to Biblical scholarship since he himself went liberal. Needless to say, conservative Biblical scholarship has continued to flourish. see Michael Kruger at RTS.

    You quoted Dan Wallace, on a specific point about the journey of the modern liberal biblical scholars, though he himself is a conservative scholar who upholds inerrancy and is a leader in textual criticism. Have you watched his debate with Bart Ehrman, or James White’s debate with Ehrman. Surely, you have?

    You say: “I did not come here willingly, but only after there was no possible way I could still justify my views and remain honest at the same time. I can’t plug back into the matrix anymore and pretend it all makes sense, because it doesn’t.”

    If I may ask, doesn’t make sense according to what? Logic? Morals?

    I’d really like to engage, I think it would be a profitable use of our time.

    Hope you and Inna are doing well,
    Artur

  8. Hi Yuriy,

    I am intrigued by your story. At this point in your journey, in light of the above, where does this leave your conclusions of God? Of Christ? I am interested to know whether your issue is solely with the “inerrancy” of the Bible, or by logical extension also includes the broader traditional tenets of the Christian faith?

    Thanks,

    Jason

  9. As I write this, I do realize you published this over a year ago…

    It was “way back” in 1983 that I reached this point that you are describing for yourself. I’d come to realize that the spectrum of Christian positions on the supposed divine inspiration of the Bible were nothing more than Christians trying to cling to their belief that Bible actually has anything to do with any actual god, against the realizations of their better judgment (i.e., despite the conclusions of thinking about the matter from a rational perspective). Continued belief in the Bible as a conduit, in some manner, to God, was a matter of desire, not the logical implication of any actual evidence.

    At the time it was a daunting realization, and I’d like to say I stared at it unflinchingly, but it did cause me to flinch a bit. You wrote, “I was sick to my stomach. I wanted to vomit.” For myself, I would have described it as a deep dismay, and that dismay stayed with me for several months.

    I’d been through the arguments dozens of times. I’d come to recognize the numerous fallacies (some of which I observe in some of the responses right here in the responses section, such as manifestations of the ever-popular god-of-the-gaps argument of which so many, many people are just not able to see the fallacious nature). I’d come to recognize the excuse-making nature of the copious malleability of biblical interpretation – how, for example, concepts like ‘God inspired the writer to write in the language of the people in the context of their own cultural understanding with their technically incorrect concepts about reality intact’ were utterly vacuous in regard to being evidence of any actual god-like knowledge in the first place; how, for example, the framework hypothesis was just another one of the cornucopia of excuses designed for the very purpose of rendering the text immune from being taken seriously in regard to any real world implications that would show that it was wrong. A vast rhetorical framework of circular reasoning motivated to prop up the notion that “What the Bible actually teaches” can never be wrong. Where, for example, acknowledging that the Noah story is a religious myth rather than a historical account, instead of becoming an “Of course. This is how we know the Bible doesn’t have anything to do with any actual god, because it was written by men in the context of their own particular culture and theological beliefs.”, become a “So the Bible isn’t really teaching that there was an actual worldwide flood around 4,300 years ago, but is intended to teach spiritual lessons by the writers out of the context of their encounters with God.”

    So you experience the deep dismay. It makes you flinch. And then you move past it and keep going. Because once you’ve seen the light, the darkness just isn’t all that compelling any more.

  10. Yuriy,
    As I read through your posts, I see just how fundamentalist and literal/inerrant your upbringing was. I would say it was extreme beyond anyone I’ve ever met in the US! I’m sorry you had to go through the radical shifts in thought that are bound to occur in a thinking individual. However, the thing we have to ask, is how might you have faired growing up in a moral but Biblically moderate or liberal family? Here’s an example from my life:

    Reading the full New Testament through by myself after college was a profoundly positive experience. It was the first time for me, and it was the bigger overal story that got to me, rather than fine details on obscure passages. If something sounded weird or didn’t make sense, I moved on assuming either the meaning was lost in history, or that it was unimportant. When I think back, I had no assumption that God wrote this for me and it was 100% perfect. So what did I learn? My own background questions like “how can the entire world be saved, beyond some small specific group of people?” was answer… Christ. A central touch point for the world along with some very deep and meaningful teachings. This along with the wild idea that God loved me, that there was meaning in life. Wow, I was taken in!

    Now when I later got skeptical and tried to read sections as an ultra rationalist scientist, of course I found problems. What I have subsequently discovered is this is not the point of the Bible. It’s not a series of propositional truth statements dropped directly from heaven. It’s a grand story and narrative that has to be taken together and from a higher level. When you do so there is great meaning and usefulness there. When a scientist observes the radio signal from a distant satellite, it is not the pure theoretical signal he sees. Rather is has been collored and modified by noise, attenuation, etc. However that doesn’t mean something of the original can’t be recovered. It means he must take time, filter it, process it. The same is true of the Bible.

    Finally, the church should not treat the Bible as a bird in a cage, something contained and static. It should be allowed to fly and change as the world changes. More like taking care of a garden rather than maintaining a museum piece.

    Thanks for sharing your deep thinking and vast research into these topics!

    Josh

  11. I am unable to understand how someone like Yuriy could be involved in church ministry without knowing the Scriptures (Tanah + New Testament).
    Instead of spending hours listening to sermons or reading books, why not study the entire Bible? Unfortunately, many Christians reject the Torah (as if it only applied to the Israelites)and then become confused and ask questions like: why do I go to church on Sunday and don’t observe the Sabbath (4th commandment)? All the pieces of the puzzle come together only when one accepts the entire Bible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *