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.