From a catchy little song I learned as a child, this scripture planted itself in my mind upon waking. Over and over again it plays and it makes me glad—glad for a day so far unwritten and unspoiled.
As a child, I rose with the resolve of a new day; a day given to me by the Lord and laid open for my success in righteousness. Each day I tried, experiencing failure more often than not. By some rotten thought or misplaced action I was sullied, but another chance lay ahead in a new day. Tomorrow, I’ll be better. Tomorrow, I will be righteous. I shall begin anew for He will make me white as snow.
As an adult, I wake beneath an open window through which the sound of the neighbors chickens travels through. A classroom-sized whiteboard full of quotes, to-do lists, and drawings of sharks takes over the wall at the foot of the bed and is the second thing I see each morning. There is coffee in the kitchen. And eggs and bacon and even a kiwi or two. Who or what made this day possible is irrelevant. It is here. Today is the new day. Not a moment can be wasted wishing after a better tomorrow. It is constant.
I feel at peace—even joyful. I revert. When the doors open and I am released into the world for the week, I grasp desperately for a firm hold, feeling lost and alone—tragically abandoned by my god, who does not exist in the way I have always recognized Him. The silence is deafening.
This is all part of an experiment, though I’ve not yet arrived at the purpose of it. So far, it has cast me into a strange moment within myself. I feel that I am existing as two people. In order to make sense and take advantage of my experiences within the church, I feel I must be genuine. Irreverence wasn’t ever something I was very good at and now, as an Atheist, I am confronted with a challenge. Sitting in a pew, Bible in hand, I bow my head in prayer, nod in agreement, and mumble “Praise the Lord”. During a point of the service where congregants gather, hold hands, and join together in 15 minutes of constant, fiery prayer, I accept a tissue from my favorite Deacon and fight to hold back the sobs. When the doors of the church open and I am released, it’s like a time machine jumping me up 5 years and an existential crisis later. These two people cannot exist in harmony with one another—certainly not both within my own brain.
I never thought I’d say this, but I believe it’s time to guard my heart against God.
I had a sort of breakthrough with my faith today. For the past 6 years, I’ve been intellectualizing it, thinking it through. My conclusions and beliefs are sound and well reasoned. I am proud of my spiritual accomplishments.
But in dark times, the desperate ones where I begged and pleaded for love and for things to change, I sought comfort in the arms of the Lord. My tears were washed away. I felt his arms around me. I took refuge, strength, and comfort in Him. And yet he is not real. That was not real. It was an exercise of my mind to cope with suffering.
And oh, how I suffer now with no refuge save within myself. My loss is overwhelming, and I pray to a God I do not believe in or trust. I know what it is to wrestle angels and battle demons. Tis a rough war.
Thanks to Facebook, I am connected with people via the internet I may never have known otherwise. Case in point, the very talented husband of a dear high school friend whose response to a message of mine is pictured above. Both are intelligent, budding musicians of the Christian persuasion with their fingers in the pie of the internet. And so, like the small town that Tumblr is, it was just a matter of time before something ruffled my feathers.
Now, I must say before I begin dissecting things that I bear no ill will here. I intend to attack statements, not people, for my own personal clarification. And so, if any ill will is festered by this post, let angered parties understand: this is not about you. Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty!
The original post simply stated, “we can be sincere and wrong at the same time, our subjective experience must yield to the objective authority of scripture”. Like a puzzled pup, my head was cocked. Instead of reblogging and picking that complicated little sentence apart, I sought clarification and received it. Too many times I’ve come across Christians who were unable to coherently explain their beliefs or had no concrete idea what their beliefs actually were and, lemme tell you, it breaks my little Christian heart. :) Thankfully, this was not one of those times.
And now, for careful dissection from start to finish. First, “being inwardly sinful beings we must look outside ourselves to find ultimate truth”. I do not believe we are inwardly sinful. Every man has his own moral compass. It leads him naturally to act poorly though he thinks well & act well though he may be wicked. Perhaps this natural moral progression is what we like to call “sin” but it is only the moral evolution of a man. If a man does not feel he can learn from himself because he has been made to believe he is an awful teacher, he will look elsewhere for lessons. Additionally, if ultimate truth does not exist inside of man, I would argue that it does not exist at all. A man left alone with his thoughts sans outside influence, if he is inclined to look for it, will find ultimate truth within himself but he has to look for it. If he does not believe it is there he may never think to check and therefore overlook it entirely.
Secondly, my answerer states that ultimate truth “is the word of God” and that’s just poppycock. A bunch of inwardly sinful men wrote the collection of works we call the Bible whether or not their messages were dictated or inspired by a spiritual being. An even larger group of inwardly sinful men assembled these works from different places, translated, re-translated, misinterpreted, misused, and translated again. Now, I do not deny that there is truth to be had within the pages of the Bible. Galatians 5:22-23 (from a letter written by Paul to early Roman Christians) states that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” While here I believe Paul is identifying “Spirit” with the Holy Spirit (a member of the Godhead along with Jesus and God), I think our interpretation of this is too small. Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit dwells in all of us. And it does. But I would argue that the Holy Spirit is us, and the proper implementation and examination of our humanity will cause us to both reap and sow these essential characteristics. I have born more ripe fruit in my disbelief than ever I could have tried in my belief though my belief was pure and true. The “word of God” being the Bible, I can attest that unless you are able to disregard 85% of the word, you will not find ultimate truth within its pages.
“The truth of Gods word is unaffected by emotion, culture and any other influence that affects the human perspective.” Essentially, I see where my answerer is going with this. The essential truth of the Bible can be applied anywhere, anytime though it is not exclusive to the Christian Bible. But where is this essential truth biblically? Here I think we may differ. I do not believe that the truths of the Bible ly in whether or not a man was swallowed by a whale or taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire nor in that a man died for my transgressions and rose from the dead three days later. These truths are much simpler and easier to swallow. They capture the essence of humanity—our love for one another, our struggle to keep our heads up in the face of our enemies and that of the world—our need for a purpose and a light at the end of the tunnel. The Bible teaches us many things but it cannot be the extent of our learning nor the focus of our teaching.
“In other words, what I “feel” and what I “think” must be conformed to scripture…” I wouldn’t think “conformed” would be the right word here, but I get where he’s going with this. Essentially, we must check ourselves to scripture to make sure we’re doing it right. And if scripture has a tendency to do it wrong? That’s a dangerous slope to slide down on a trashcan lid, to be sure, but it works if that’s what you’re going for. I’m not. I want a legitimate sled. Trashcan lids may be time-tested, but they’re fools play if you know what you’re doing. My ultimate truth resides within me. What I “think” and “feel” is conformed to the base line of my ultimate truth. If I think or feel incorrectly, I am the first to know and the first to correct it. There is no middle-man within me; I answer to none save myself. There is power to be had in taking personal responsibility for both the weakness & the strength. I fill my own cup and it runneth over. Perhaps I ought to learn to pour. ;)
In the end, there is no such thing as objective authority. All authority has its own agenda, God’s agenda being the worship and reverence of himself. It is difficult for me to be instructed by an authority whose personal philosophy contradicts that which, under threat of punishment, he commands his students embody and obey. The general philosophy of scripture is not wrong, it is simply lost in a sea of absolutes when there are no absolutes, absolutely.