Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Leaving the Faith – Really?

Question MarkWhat’s up with so many people ‘leaving the faith’? Why are they doing it?

First, we need to define two terms:

What does it mean to ‘leave’ something or someone?

What does it mean to leave ‘the faith?’

I understand walking away from a weak belief in something, but ‘leaving the faith?’ That’s hard to fathom for several reasons.

 

Leaving

Primary definitions for the word ‘leave’ include: ‘go away from; to go out of or away from, as a place; to depart from permanently; quit.’

In each of these primary definitions we see the idea of leaving a place where we had been. If someone told you that they had ‘left’ Philadelphia this morning, you would understand them to mean that they had been in Philadelphia for some period of time before leaving the city to travel to another place. By definition, a person who ‘leaves’ something or somewhere has to have physically had something or been present somewhere before they would be able ‘leave’ that something or somewhere.

What people are claiming to be leaving in our context is both a something and a Someone. By definition they would be claiming to leave something they had been present in for some time and Someone they had known personally.

The Faith

Primary definitions for ‘the faith’ include: ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something; belief in God or in a set of religious doctrines.”

The ‘faith’ that many people are claiming to ‘leave’ is known as the ‘Christian faith.’ That’s the complete trust or confidence in Jesus Christ and the claims He has made about Himself.

People who follow the ‘Christian faith’ are known as ‘disciples’ or ‘followers’ of Jesus Christ. Claiming to have been a member of the Christian ‘faith’ would imply they had joined according to membership guidelines determined by the Founder.

First, let’s learn something about the Founder of the Christian ‘faith.’

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-3, 14

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:13-20

Based on who the Founder is, let’s hear what He said about people becoming His followers:

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38

The Founder of the Christian ‘faith’ personally called more than a dozen men to become leaders of ‘the faith’ and to teach people how to follow the Founder and what guidelines would be necessary to following Him. Here are a few of the guidelines for becoming a ‘follower’ of Jesus Christ.

1. Agreeing with God about who we are without Christ.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Ephesians 2:1-3

2. Understanding that our spiritual salvation is totally dependent on God’s love, grace, mercy and kindness.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

3. Repenting before God judges the world.

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:29-31

4. Trusting in Christ alone knowing your life depends on it.

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.’ Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” Acts 16:25-34

Being a ‘follower’ of Jesus Christ brings about a radical change in the life of a human being.

 “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:40-47

Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Acts 26:19-20

But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:20-24

Really?

Given all that the New Testament teaches about what it means to be a true ‘follower’ of Jesus Christ, I need to ask a question: REALLY?  True followers of Jesus Christ are ‘leaving the faith?’ People who have bowed their knee to the Lord Jesus Christ in true humility and repentance are ‘leaving the faith?’ People who have known the depth of God’s love and mercy for their soul and had full confidence in the truth of God’s Word are ‘leaving the faith?’ People who have seen the life-changing power of the Gospel in their own lives are ‘leaving the faith? People who have been involved in sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others and have seen the Holy Spirit change lives through the power of the Gospel of Christ are ‘leaving the faith?’ Really?

A Personal Story

I was once accused of ‘leaving the faith.’ I went forward during a church service at the age of ten and said I wanted to ‘join the church.’ That meant attending several classes, praying a prayer and being baptized. I did those things and become a young member of our church. I was allowed to attend ‘church meetings’ at the age of 12. That’s where I started learning about the underbelly of the church and I didn’t like what I saw.

Something else I did at the age of 12 was begin studying yoga and martial arts. In addition to learning about stretching and self defense, I also learned about world views other than Christianity. I went on to study Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. I especially liked Buddhism and Taoism because they were related to my martial arts training. I also loved to read and spent a lot of time at the library. I came upon the writings of David Hume and Bertrand Russell and read everything by them that I could find. I identified with what they wrote about religion.

Interestingly, at the same time I was finding great agreement with ancient Eastern mysticism and with agnosticism and atheism, I was still very involved at my church. I often won contests about Bible knowledge, sang in the choir and was a leader in the youth group. You might imagine what people thought and some said when I became an atheist in my late teens. Some accused me of ‘leaving the faith.’

Question: was I ever ‘in’ the faith so that I could ‘leave’ the faith? I know I wasn’t because of what I learned it meant to be a Christ follower. (See above) I became a Christian after investigating the claims of the Bible (see here for current study) and determining that the evidence for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ outweighed the arguments against it – arguments that I had strongly presented as an atheist radio talk show host. I learned what it means to have a ‘personal relationship’ with God after I repented of my sins and asked His forgiveness and His Holy Spirit cleansed me from all unrighteousness. Everything changed on the day I was ‘saved’ and ‘sealed’ for God’s service.

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Conclusion

I seriously question how many of the people claiming to ‘leave the faith’ today were actually ‘in the faith.’ Most of the ‘former Christians’ I’ve talked to and those whose stories I’ve read, talk about Christianity in an ‘experiential’ way. I’ve heard stories about how they began attending churches or youth groups or campus groups because of friendships with people in those groups or because they were attracted to someone in a group. When relationships changed or when they were challenged about what they believed, they ‘left.’ Even more young people ‘leaving’ the faith grew up in churches and, like me,  stop attending church during or after high school. Many, like me, were never really ‘in’ the faith, so their leaving the church doesn’t seem to apply to the meaning atheists and other non-Christians are giving to people leaving churches. Leaving a church or youth group is NOT the same thing as ‘leaving the faith.’

So, what do we do about this? I suggest we do everything we can to help people who claim to have ‘left’ the faith. Love them and offer to discuss their reasons for leaving with ‘truth and reason’ (Acts 26:25) and “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

We also need to do a better job of preparing children and teens in our churches to face the challenges from unbelievers they will meet during their lifetime. If a child trained in a martial arts class for 18 years, I would expect them to have a Black Belt and be able to defend themselves and others against personal attack. If they couldn’t, I would seriously question the teaching abilities of the instructors in that class. If a child trained in a church for 18 years, I would expect them to be a strong follower of Jesus Christ and be able to defend themselves and others against spiritual attack. If they couldn’t, I would seriously question the teaching abilities of the instructors in that church. Does that sound reasonable?

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Faith&SelfDefense

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35 thoughts on “Leaving the Faith – Really?

  1. Sorry, I’m still not understanding how it makes your point. Correct me if I wrong, It appears you were asking questions more then making a point? Questions because you are having difficulty accepting the fact someone could be a devoted Christian and the leave the faith?
    Do you think they are lying?

    • Hi, Ax. I don’t think they are lying about their experience. I believe they believe they were Christians within their understanding of Christianity. There is the problem. They believed they were Christians based on their understanding of Christianity and then had a “crisis of faith” and left it. Why did they leave their belief in the supernatural God? Lots of different reasons, so I like to hear people’s stories. What I hear a lot is a misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian, a misunderstanding of the Bible, incorrect expectations of what they thought Christianity would be that didn’t materialize. Most of the excuses I hear are poor excuses, but I don’t think they are lying.

      People can be “devoted” to that which is true and they can be devoted to that which is not true. I was a devoted atheist until I learned atheism was not true and theism was true. Devotion is not the test of truth. If it was, then every belief would be true since many people are devoted to it. I think people can believe they were devoted Christians and stop believing. I think people can believe they were devoted atheists and stop believing God does not exist. I don’t think they were lying.

    • Let me recap…
      They believed they were Christians and now the believe they were wrong and now believe they are not Christian anymore.
      So you believe they are wrong.

      Are you saying that someone could be wrong about what they believe?

    • I’m saying that people can believe things that are wrong. It happens every day all around the world. That goes to the importance of having evidence for what is true. God exists or He doesn’t. Jesus rose from the dead or He didn’t. Coming to a knowledge of the truth is a process of searching through the evidence. What I often see and hear from people who say they left Christianity is that their knowledge about Christianity was not correct. What they thought was Christianity was not what was taught in the Bible. That includes clergy quoted in the Clergy Project. No wonder they had problems with their Christianity “not working” for them.

    • If people can believe things that are wrong,
      could you be wrong about your belief in Christianity?

    • If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then my “faith” is empty and useless. If the resurrection of Christ is not true, then my belief about Christianity would be wrong. Therefore, we return to the definition of faith – having confidence in evidence.

      In the context of my article about “Leaving the Faith – Really?”, most people’s stories I’ve read and most people’s testimonies I’ve heard where they claim to have been Christians and left because they no longer believe in the supernatural “rarely” have to do with the evidence of Christ’s resurrection. So many of the reasons people give for “leaving” Christianity are about unanswered prayer, hypocrisy among Christians in their church, bad things happening in their lives, deaths of people they loved, etc.

      Here are a several quotes from the Clergy Project from people who said they were Christian ministers. They are similar to the reasons I’ve heard for many years. You can read the contexts here – http://clergyproject.org/stories/

      “But the hypocrisy, dishonesty, naiveté, and general lack of compassion of many missionaries caused me to begin doubting the point of missionary work. After three years of work overseas, I decided to return stateside and I knew I wouldn’t be continuing in the ministry.”

      “But when you live this kind of life for a few years, you start noticing that more often than not, these promises fail to materialize. You begin collecting answered prayers, because they are so rare. You notice that bad things happen to you as frequently as to your non-believing friends. You make bad decisions thinking that God told you to make them, only to realize that you must have heard him wrong. You cannot turn a blind eye anymore to prophecies that failed to become fulfilled, to miraculous healings that were promised but never happened, to people for whom you prayed so hard but were never “saved”, and dozens of other situations where the Bible promises you something but you never get it. What do you do then? You start building excuses, the fine print of your Pentecostal personal theology.”

      “In time I got married to a non-Catholic and had two children. I began practicing the Church’s method of birth control (rhythm) and got pregnant immediately. I tried again and got pregnant just as quickly. I was told that I couldn’t pick and choose which rules of the Church I wanted to follow. I decided that no god would ever expect a woman to leave herself open to having a baby every time she had sex. The Catholic Church and I eventually parted ways. Since my husband wasn’t Catholic he didn’t mind.”

      “Finally I graduated from seminary and served the church in its publishing house working with educational material for churches and then with church missions. During this period I had several ethical and moral crises. The moral and Christian / biblical ethics were very confusing and contradictory to me. All this mixed with a fanatical Calvinism left me extremely confused. Finally, I realized I could not continue in the church as a pastor and decided that I would live my life outside the church until I had found the answers I was seeking. It was not that difficult, except for the fact that a degree in theology means nothing for jobs.”

      “I wish I had seen the whole pitiful truth all at once a long time ago. It would have saved me from a lot of bad decisions. But the process was incremental, epiphanies gathering, gathering, until their weight was undeniable. It was the accumulation of immoral behaviors by “the elect,” from old-fashioned Southern racism to the callous dealings with loved ones who “fell into sin.” It was the accumulation of scriptural discrepancies and horrors, the mismatched accounts and genealogies, the brazen endorsements of genocide, human sacrifice, and slavery. It was the accumulation of prayers that never got answered, of times in need when Heaven’s best and only help was indistinguishable from the work of family, friends, and neighbors. It was an accumulation of knowledge of “the world” (a negative term in the UPC) through my education, exposure to history, to philosophy, to the power and limitations of language, and to beautiful, genuine nonbelievers who behaved more “heavenly” than any zealot.”

    • That’s very interesting. However that didn’t really answer my question. I’ll rephrase it slightly.
      Is it possible you be wrong about your belief in Christianity?

    • I, like you and other human beings, can be wrong about beliefs. We are fallible. That’s why investigating truth claims methodically is so important. Is it possible you can be wrong about your belief about Christianity?

    • On a scale from 0 to 100, 0 being no confidence and 100 being absolutely confident, where would you fall on that scale in your belief?

  2. In response to your comment “I seriously question how many of the people claiming to ‘leave the faith’ today were actually ‘in the faith.'”

    http://clergyproject.org/

    • Hi, Ax. I’m familiar with the clergy project and believe it supports my point. Thanks

    • First, what is your definition of faith so I can work within it?

    • Hi, Ax. Working with “my” definition is not necessary. Look at the definition of “faith” in English, Greek and Hebrew and we’ll work with those. Thanks!

    • Would you agree that the evidence for the unseen from the Bible is the same as belief without evidence?

    • No, I don’t agree. “Evidence” for the unseen from the Bible was “seen” by many of the people in the Bible. Hebrews 11:1 reads – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Several things we see here: “substance” and “evidence.” The Greek word translated “substance” is ὑπόστασις. It means “assurance, confidence, guarantee, reality.” The Greek word translated “evidence” is ἔλεγχος. It means “proof, persuasion, evidence.” Hebrews 11:2 reads – “For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” The Greek word translated “testimony” is μαρτυρέω. It is a verb that means “give evidence, bear witness, give a good report.” The following verses list specific elders who encountered the invisible God in a variety of situations.

      Another point about Hebrews 11 is to note that it is toward the end of a long letter. That means there is a context that comes prior to chapter 11 and knowing the context would help greatly in understanding chapter 11. So, we go back to the beginning of the letter and read in its context. The first verses of Hebrews read – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” The letter of Hebrews begins with a context of God speaking to His people by the prophets and by His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s Hebrews 1:1-2, which is a long way from Hebrews 11:1-2 that we looked at in the previous paragraph. There is a LOT of evidence between that should be examined and understood to come to a correct interpretation of how the “unseen” has “seen” evidence.

      That’s why I don’t agree with you “that the evidence for the unseen from the Bible is the same as belief without evidence.” God has given us a wealth of evidence, but we need to “see” it to believe it.

    • Ok, since you don’t agree with my definition, let’s go back to my original question so I have something to work with. I’m trying to understand, so I need to work within your frame of mine. What is your definition of faith?

    • As I mentioned earlier, the definitions for “faith” found in English, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries are helpful in understanding how people today and in Bible times understood “faith.”

      English:

      Oxford Dictionary – “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”

      Cambridge Dictionary – “a high degree of trust or confidence in something or someone.”

      Dictionary.com – “confidence or trust in a person or thing.”

      Koine Greek:

      πίστις – “faith, belief, trust, confidence, guarantee”

      πιστεύω – “believe, have faith in, trust in”

      πείθω (root word) – “confident, assured, convinced, persuaded by what is trustworthy”

      Hebrew:

      Verb form (believe) אָמַן – “to confirm, support”

      Noun, adverb form (faith) אֱמֶת – “truth”

      Noun (faith) אֲמָנָה – “support, fixed provision”

      I don’t think it’s helpful to, as you wrote, “work within your frame of mind.” The term “frame of mind” comes from the idea of a “mood, mental attitude or outlook.” Working within a person’s “frame of mind” is not a good place to begin in determining whether a belief is true or not. Moods, mental attitudes and outlooks can change from day to day, even hour to hour. That is a slippery place to determine what is true and what is false. Wouldn’t it be better to look at facts, evidence, and determine truth from that perspective?

    • Since you won’t give me your definition of faith, can I propose this one taken from one of your sources?

      “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”

    • Why do you say that I “won’t give” you my definition of faith? I’ve written hundreds of articles about faith where I share my views. In fact, the statement of purpose under my website title is “Building Confidence Through Evidence.” In the article, “Short Post About Defining Faith” (https://faithandselfdefense.com/2015/01/13/short-post-about-defining-faith/), I wrote that the “Christian faith is ‘confidence based on evidence.” That’s based on the meaning of the Greek words in Hebrews 11:1.

      Faith is confidence based on evidence. That is my preferred definition based on the Greek language. The English definition leaves out trusting someone or something based on evidence.

    • Ok, thank you for that.
      So to you is faith is confidence based on evidence.

      Is there anything that couldn’t be taken on faith?

    • Based on my definition, the question would be – “Is there anything that couldn’t be taken ‘on confidence based on evidence?'” Am I correct that what you mean by “taken” is believed?

    • Is there anything I could not believe in based on faith?

    • In which way do you think it supports your comment?

    • Hi, Ax. The Clergy Project home page begins with this question – “Are you a religious professional who no longer believes in the supernatural?” Religious “professionals” no longer believing in the supernatural, or behaving as if they don’t believe, is nothing new. The Old Testament prophets addressed the religious professionals of their day, even as Jesus Christ addressed the religious professionals of His day.

      How does someone become a religious professional who no longer believes in the supernatural? It begins in the home, in the church, in the seminary, in the denomination. As the Apostle John wrote – “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (1 John 2:18-19) The Apostle Paul wrote – “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29-30)

      So many of the stories I’ve heard from people who say they “left the faith” are told by people who were not told the truth about what it means to be a Christian.

      As I wrote in my article –

      “People who have bowed their knee to the Lord Jesus Christ in true humility and repentance are ‘leaving the faith?’ People who have known the depth of God’s love and mercy for their soul and had full confidence in the truth of God’s Word are ‘leaving the faith?’ People who have seen the life-changing power of the Gospel in their own lives are ‘leaving the faith? People who have been involved in sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others and have seen the Holy Spirit change lives through the power of the Gospel of Christ are ‘leaving the faith?’ Really?”

  3. Simple. If you want to know as many true things as possible, then you have to cast faith aside. Why?
    Is there anything that someone couldn’t take on faith?

  4. I have lived most of my life “in the faith” but I sincerely cannot say I am still in the faith, but rather changing my faith. I no longer can believe what today’s church says about hell, holy trinity, “salvation” and the virgin birth/divinity of Jesus. There are so many ways to interpret the Bible. And so many books that the ancient church excluded from the Bible, it makes me wonder. And what makes me truly sad is the claim that many believers make that implies that people like me “were never truly believers ” , or true Christians. It is the person’s fault that the religion they believed in for so many years no longer makes sense . I have been blind by faith but now I can see more.

    • Hi, Noel. If you are interested in exchanging ideas about ‘faith’ (trust), I’d be glad to share some ideas with you. Here are some areas we could discuss:

      1. ‘I have lived most of my life ‘in the faith.’ How do you define ‘faith’ and living in that faith?
      2. ‘I sincerely cannot say I am still in the faith, but rather changing my faith.’ How do you see yourself changing your faith? Is it something you’re doing or is something else changing your faith? How will you know when you arrive at the ‘true faith’?
      3. ‘I no longer can believe what today’s church says …’ Which ‘church’ is today’s church? Is it the one in the Bible or a denominational version?
      4. ‘about hell, holy trinity, ‘salvation’ and the virgin birth/divinity of Jesus.’ What is ‘today’s church’ saying about these Bible doctrines and what about their teaching can you no longer believe?
      5. ‘There are so many ways to interpret the Bible.’ How many ways? Which ways do you find true and which ways not? What is the proper way to ‘interpret’ any writing? Would that apply to the Bible?
      6. ‘so many books that the ancient church excluded from the Bible.’ When did the ‘ancient church’ exist? What books did that church exclude from the Bible? Did the ancient church have any good reasons to exclude some writings from the Bible? If so, do you agree with their reasons? If not, why not?
      7. ‘what makes me truly sad is the claim that many believers make that implies that people like me ‘were never truly believers,’ or true Christians?’ Do you think it makes believers said when people who claimed to be believers no longer believe? If so, what might be their reason? If not, why do you think that?
      8. ‘It is the person’s fault that the religion they believed in for so many years no longer makes sense.’ What reasons can you think of for why a religion no longer makes sense to someone who once believed the tenets of that religion? Is it the person’s fault? How so?
      9. ‘I have been blind by faith but now I can see more.’ How did ‘faith’ blind you? What is it that you can see now that you couldn’t see before?

      I look forward to continuing the discussion.

      Mark

    • Mark, I appreciate the challenging questions. I will do my best to answer each one, but keep in mind I am not a scholar, journalist, or scientist; but I do think things through.

    • ooops… I accidentally clicked enter before completing my comment…
      anyways…
      1. I define faith in believing in Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God, the Bible as the perfect and complete word of God, believing in the power of Jesus’ blood to “wash away the sins of the world” , the Holy Trinity, the Second Coming, and living life based on these beliefs by reading and attending religious events (mass as a Catholic and services as Pentecostal).
      2. Changing faith means that I am continuously evolving (you can read more in my post https://livingthekingdom.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/spiritual-roller-coaster/ ) and not stagnated in simply believing Jesus is the only way to God and that I must confess my sins in order to be “saved.” from eternal damnation (by a loving God). I may never know the “true faith.” (if there is one)
      3. Today’s church is a denominational version. Here is a post about my views on today’s church https://livingthekingdom.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/church-help-jesus-instead/
      4. The denominational version (Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, etc) teaches that hell is a real place reserved for Lucifer, fallen angels, and all the souls that do not accept Jesus as their personal savior. The Holy Trinity is the teaching that God is three persons (which many say is implied in the Bible although not directly stated), Salvation is taught as escaping eternal damnation through belief in Jesus’ atonement, and his virgin birth and divinity is explained as Jesus being equal to God. I am not 100% sure what all of these teachings really mean, except that they sound more and more like mythical . I have read of many ancient stories with similar themes and plots (i.e. Mithras).
      5. There are too many ways to interpret the Bible that I cannot count. I truly don’t know how to interpret it, except to try to follow what applies to my current life (loving my enemies, helping the poor, forgiving, etc.), I also don’t know for sure how to interpret any book, except through my own personal experience, NOT only on how others tell me to interpret simply because “God told them so.”
      6. I presume the “early church” existed from the time of Constantine (who made Christianity to official religion of Rome for political reasons), to maybe the Renaissance , again I don’t know all the historical evidence at the moment, I apologize. These books would include the gospel of Peter, Judas, Mary Magdalene, and The Epistles of Ignatius. I don’t know why they were excluded except that they did not conform to the teachings of ancient church. (i.e. the divinity of Jesus)
      7. I don’t know if believers feel sad when other people claim they no longer believe.
      8. I meant that some believers think it is the person’s fault for thinking that their faith no longer makes sense, which explains the notion that the person “was never a true believer.” In my own personal life, I was taught that my doubts were the works of the devil and that I could not please God if I doubted. It makes no sense that an all powerful and loving God could put conditions upon me. Is He gracious or Judging? Can he be both? I am a finite, imperfect, doubtful human being, why am I being labeled as “not a true Christian or believer” if I express my increasing lack of faith? Could God accept me and love me regardless of my lack of faith? If so, I have not felt that love through a “true believer” yet.
      9. The faith in Jesus alone would not let me consider other ways to live , such as doing yoga and meditation, accepting gays, using reason to understand God, accepting other religions, etc. God has been limited to the God of the Bible.
      But again, I don’t claim to know all the answers. I don’t think anybody really can. I am continuously learning and growing. Which is why I am having this conversation with you. Thanks again for the discussion.

    • Hi, Noel. I’ll read through your posts and get back to you. Thanks!

    • Hi, Noel. I read your posts and find your love for God and others stimulating and refreshing. I also have problems with churches and denominations and how they present themselves as representatives of God. Christians are confused today because they hear so many different voices and don’t know which is true.

      You mentioned that some of the primary teachings of the Bible “sound more and more like mythical” and gave examples of ancient stories with similar themes and plots (e.g. Mithras). Many scholars disagree that the stories about Jesus are mythical or attached to ancient myths. I’m a journalist by trade, which means I’m curious and skeptical. I checked into many of the myth claims years ago and continue to keep up with what’s coming out and haven’t seen anything yet that supports those claims with evidence. You might find these websites helpful – http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-myth.htmlhttp://www.reasonablefaith.org/jesus-and-pagan-mythology .

      Studying the Bible is similar to studying other books to understand the author’s intent. The method is important to understand and follow. I wrote a little about my experience studying the Bible methodically here – https://gracelifethoughts.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/rightly-dividing-the-word-of-truth.pdf . I’ve used this method for 40 years and have found it helpful in determining the Holy Spirit’s purpose for inspiring prophets and apostles to write what we have in the Bible.

      From what I’ve investigated about the ‘early church,’ it has existed since the 1st century AD. Reading 1st, 2nd and 3rd century documents demonstrates that the church and its New Testament teachings existed long before the time of Constantine. These early Christians believed they were to follow the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42), so they compared writings purporting to be Christian to see if they met the apostolic test. Were they written by Christ’s apostles (e.g. Matthew, John, Paul, Peter) or known associates of the apostles (e.g. Mark, Luke)? If not, the early church leaders did not include them in their readings or the Canon of Scripture.

      You mentioned that ‘it makes no sense that an all powerful and loving God could put conditions upon me.’ Why not? Would you agree that loving parents would put conditions on their children to guide them and ensure their safety? God is our Creator and knows best how our lives can be lived to the fullest. Conditions that He places on His creation are there for our good. As Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

      Jesus also said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ He presented Himself as the only Way to God. I don’t believe you’ll find God through other means.

      Thanks for writing and I look forward to hearing from you again!

      Mark

    • Well said.

  5. Truth2Freedom on said:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  6. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
    Excellent piece with a lot of thought provoking realities to consider!

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