In my favorite poem by Robert Frost, Nothing Gold Can Stay, he reminds us that like the seasons of nature, life is one season melting into another, and quickly fading away. This is my attempt to document each season in my life and my family.

On The Bible

Filed under: Faith,Me — Rachel at 10:22 pm on Friday, August 9, 2013

I am lost. I am lost, and I find myself in a very peculiar place. In the past, anytime I found that I had strayed too far from God, I knew the answer to my problem. It was the Bible. Go and read the Bible, and you’ll find your way back. That’s a fantastic answer until it doesn’t work anymore.

I am a person who has a lot of questions. I’m not afraid to ask them, either. Sometimes, there are no answers. Sometimes the questioning costs me more than I bargain for. Both of those things seem true in this situation.

I had a lot of questions about the Bible. How did we get the Bible as we have it today? How do we know that what we have is what God intended for us to have? Who gets to decide what is Scripture? How do we read and interpret it consistently? I asked these questions and many more. Then I did some research. I read a lot of books. I started researching the Bible a couple of years ago, so I don’t remember the names of all the books I read. The one that had the biggest effect on me was called “The Canon of Scripture” by F.F. Bruce. It was a good book. I reviewed it here on my blog after I read it.

What my research gave to me was a better understanding of how we came to have the Bible we have today. What it did not give me was peace or satisfactory answers. Questions became doubts. I know a lot of people are afraid of asking questions for this very reason. They don’t want to have doubts about their faith. They like having answers without having to ask questions. This doesn’t work for me. I would rather have doubts and questions than best guesses disguised as truth.

I guess what I ended up with was a lot of doubts concerning the authority of Scripture. For some Christians, this wouldn’t be as troubling to them as it is to me. However, the churches that I was brought up in practically worship the Bible. They sing songs about it. They memorize it in bulk. They propose that it is almost miraculous in its lack of contradictions (which, I hate to tell you, is a preposterous assertion). Preachers tell stories about kissing the pages. Children are taught to adore it. They believe in the Bible. They believe it is the last word on any argument. It is quite literally the foundation of their faith. It was the foundation of mine.

Things have changed for me, though. I don’t view the Bible in the same way I was brought up to view it. I can’t. The things that I have learned have forever changed the way I read the Bible. For instance, if I know that a certain book barely made it into the canon and there was much argument against its inclusion, my mind gives that book less weight than, say, the Gospels. If I read passages that seem misogynistic or supportive of some atrocity such as slavery, I ask myself, “Do I really believe this passage reflects the character of God as I know it?” If it doesn’t, I refuse to accept it.

I know some of you are probably horrified to read what I am saying. I understand. Really, I do. There’s just no going back for me. I can’t unlearn what I have learned.

So, on an intellectual level, I have a hard time finding solace in the Scripture like I used to. I hesitate to find guidance from certain passages like I used to. For a long time, I just stopped reading the Bible. I couldn’t get out of my head long enough to feel anything in my heart. I felt betrayed, to be quite honest. Like I had been sold a bill of goods. Therefore, I felt pretty lost. I still do.

I find myself now overcome with the desire to find God again. I just don’t know what that’s going to look like. I was despondent over the idea that I don’t know how to be a Christian without thinking that every word of the Bible is authoritative. I just can’t keep doing mental gymnastics to try to fit passages that seem to fly in the face of the God revealed elsewhere in the Bible and to my own heart into my worldview. For instance, for a year or two, I was trying to understand Calvinism. I was even embracing it. It made me angry with God to start with. Friends that I discussed it with just flat out refused to accept that it could even be a possibility. The main point of contention was the idea that the God they knew and loved could create a person with the intent to send them to Hell (Romans 9). For me, though, I believed that the Bible should be taken literally for the most part, and, as such, I had to accept the parts I didn’t like with the ones I did. If a passage seemed to misrepresent the God I knew, I assumed I didn’t understand it well enough or I had misunderstood God’s nature. The end result was that I had basically lost my love for God. I still believed in Him. I just didn’t love Him like I used to. He seemed cruel to me. Now, thankfully, I don’t feel the need to interpret the Bible so literally or stringently.

I’ve talked about this subject with several people who I believe know and love God. Men and women of various religious persuasions. I think the idea that I’ve come away with is that I should read the Bible aided by the Holy Spirit. I believe that, as I read, His Spirit will testify with my spirit and show me the truth. The parts that resonate I will hold on to. The parts that make me love Him and desire Him I will cling to for all I’m worth. I won’t worship a book anymore. I want to learn how to worship Him. I want to learn how to let Him speak directly to me. I will respect and love the Bible. I will view it as Christianity’s sacred texts—the best efforts of good men who loved God but wrote from inside their own experiences. I will search the Scripture and ask God to guide me to the truth. . Because I have been very lost, and I need Him to guide me back home.

11 Comments »

Comment by Angie

August 10, 2013 @ 1:30 am

I understand so much of what you are feeling. And I think you found the right answer. God will guide you and you will grow in him because it is a one on one relationship. Keep your heart open for him to reveal. Love you

Comment by Shannon Meadows

August 10, 2013 @ 9:28 am

A raw, honest description of the struggle that most recovering fundies eventually go through as they escape from the brainwashing of Biblical idolatry. Welcome to the Light Side. We have cookies, too. :)

Comment by Dorcas

August 10, 2013 @ 10:00 am

I’m sure it was difficult to write this. Scary, even. I am praying for you. I understand more than I want to express right now.

Comment by Vineese Childs

August 10, 2013 @ 11:17 am

Wow…I certainly admire your transparency and honesty Rachel. I too have felt and learned as you have that God is not always black and white as I was taught as young girl and as I too have shared so many times. I am seeing his shades of gray, and I call it grace. Keep on asking the questions because one thing I know for sure, you will never have all the answers. xo

Comment by Rachel

August 10, 2013 @ 11:28 am

Thank you for your comments. They are always so encouraging after I’ve written a post that is challenging for me.

Dorcas, it is scary to a certain extent. I know I will be judged and found wanting by a lot of people. I have learned, though, that when I write about something like this, I get a lot of responses from people saying, “Yeah. I get that.” That’s enough to make me want to keep writing. Also, to be honest, I’ve already lost the respect and relationships with “my people”. There’s not much left to lose in that category. Makes it a lot easier to be brave. ;)

Comment by Rachel

August 10, 2013 @ 11:31 am

Comments via Amy’s Facebook:

Kathy-Roland Depew: This grieves me.

Kathy-Roland Depew: Have you read The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

Patricia Nichols: Beautifully written. Clear, honest, intelligent, and God-honoring.

Rachel Harmon: Kathy, which part grieves you?

Rob Horton: I liked

Kathy-Roland Depew: That you are feeling away from God and lost and are struggling to find truth. I am praying you find the answer.

Rachel Harmon: Thank you. I appreciate your prayers.

Vineese Barlow Childs: I shared this with our pastor who is all about questions. Love it!

Vineese Barlow Childs: I wish I had the courage to post it to my own page. Maybe someday.

Rachel Harmon: Courage comes much easier for me these days. I’ve already alienated myself from “my people” to the point that I don’t have anything left to lose anymore. Let the haters hate. I just want to have my say.

Thank you for your comments. They are very encouraging.

Comment by Rachel

August 10, 2013 @ 11:34 am

Comments via Rachel’s Facebook:

Allen Hickman: Keep the Faith! He WILL lead you

Gretchen Sumner Gregg: Your blogs are always thought provoking..I love it! Your honesty and openness are inspiring. I think you have a point, we should never stop asking questions. God is way too big to fit into any box …even the bible.

Anne Backus: Great blog. Next time we get together we need to have this discussion.

Rachel Harmon: Thanks, guys!
Gretchen, your last statement was spot on!
Thanks for commenting.

Comment by Mark Hunsaker

August 13, 2013 @ 9:01 am

Hi Rachel,

I’m a friend of Amy’s and by way of her Facebook page I stumbled across your blog here. Thank you for your words, they are very honest and very courageous.

I love how you describe not wanting worship a book. This is a problem a lot of people suffer from, as many Christians are raised to believe this.

Another problem is that many of us were taught that the Bible is a “handbook for life” or a “manual” for living or something like this. Your research demonstrated how that view can be very problematic. And, may I add, what about the language barriers? What about how the original texts were written in Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT)?

So as someone who has sort of seen you walk by on your journey, may I offer a single thought for you to kick around as you walk. See what you think of it:

What if the Bible had a single, primary purpose: to teach us about Jesus. To teach us about how He created everything, how He has a penchant for working with and through families, to teach us about how He was born, lived, died, and most importantly how He rose again? To teach us about how He has gone to prepare a place for us to live with Him?

It is interesting, then, to see how the text looks really different in this light. Try reading it from this point of view and see what you discover. Just a thought from a passer-by.

In the mean time, you are in my prayers as you journey.

–Mark

Comment by Joy B

August 15, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

First of all, I love you! I am putting myself out on a limb by even commenting. :) We have both known for the past several years that we have disagreed on several issues, some big, some little. My heart breaks for you as I read your post, because I know you are truly hurting! And that hurts my heart, too. You are more intelligent than I am, and I could never get into a theological debate. I just want to point out that the Bible is a book of faith. I truly believe man wrote what God wanted them to (II Pet. 1:21), not just what they thought was a good thing to write. Psalm 138:2 is also very interesting where God says His word is honored above His name! But these things have to be believed…through faith! Think of all the O.T. stories – Elijah on Mt. Carmel, the Red Sea crossing, the fiery furnace. If you tried to research and analyze them, you would NEVER believe them! They are impossible…except with God. Just a few thoughts. I’m sure you’ve already thought of them. The Bible IS God’s Word! But it can never help you if you don’t have the faith to believe it.I love you. Please know that most of all!

Comment by Dorcas

August 17, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

I didn’t mean scary because of people’s opinions. There is that too, of course. Scary to be sort of adrift…not sure how to put it. It was “safer” to be certain, even when wrong.

Comment by Rachel

August 17, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

Absolutely. I feel very much adrift. No place to let down my anchor. Wondering if I will ever stand on solid ground again.

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