Grieving the Loss of God

My Spiritual Crisis (Part 2)

Discarding my belief in creationism plunged me into more than a year (1994) of agony, despair, and a deep grief over the loss of God.

If you wish to read Part 1, go to
How Rejecting Creationism Led to Deep Spiritual Crisis

As an evangelical, I believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. My understanding was not as extreme as those who believe every passage should be read literally and is inerrant to each word and detail. I understood that not all passages are literal or historical writings. Some are poetry and should be read as such. Others are stories or parables to make a point. Apocalyptic passages, such as Revelation, are written to comfort those in crisis and are not intended to be prophecies of the future.

Perhaps some would say I was more committed to the authority of the Bible than to what some evangelicals consider inerrancy.

In 1993, I accepted that the early chapters of Genesis were not meant to be read historically, but rather as a corrective tract against crude Mesopotamian mythology. This re-opened for me the entire question of creationism and evolution. It did not cause me stress but simply meant that I needed to completely re-evaluate the issue in light of my new discovery about Genesis.

However, in the process of assimilating the new understanding of Genesis, a related issue surfaced that almost destroyed my faith entirely. It concerned Paul and the fifth chapter of Romans. Within a lengthy argument about Jesus’ work of justification, Paul stated:

Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

As is clear from the preceding development of the argument, the trespass condemning all people was the trespass of Adam in the Garden of Eden. The problem to me was that Paul seems to understand Adam as an historical person and the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden as an historical description.

One might contend that Paul’s comment was simply referring to a familiar fictional story like ‘Just as Rip Van Winkle slept through the revolution, you are in danger of missing the significant event of our time!’ However, Paul seems to historicise Adam earlier in the chapter,

Death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam.

The fact seemed clear: Paul thought Adam and the Garden of Eden were historical. Paul was WRONG! He was NOT inerrant! And this did not concern a mere cultural opinion like long hair; this involved a major doctrinal issue.

despair - pixabay public domain

Public domain image from Pixabay

While accepting that the Genesis creation and flood stories were not historical did not affect my faith at all, this revelation that Paul is not infallible and authoritative soon sent me into depths of despair. My faith in the authority of the Bible was shaken to its core. And if the Bible was not authoritative, then on what basis could I believe in God? How could I hold to any religious belief?

This spiritual crisis led to more than a year of despondency, depression, and a grieving over the loss of God. Toward the end, I read a book called God and the Philosophers that helped a little in accepting the possibility of God, but it did not really resolve anything. I had lost my confidence in the Bible and in the existence of God. My spiritual journey was over and my religious beliefs were in ashes.

And the ashes were cold.

Unexpectedly, I began to realize a different perspective. It restored my spiritual foundation in a way that inerrancy of the Bible never could. In fact, had my trust in inerrancy not collapsed into ashes, I probably would not have discovered this new perspective.

Learn more about this development in My Spiritual Crisis (Part 3).

Articles in this series: My Spiritual Crisis

How Rejecting Creationism Led to Deep Spiritual Crisis
Grieving the Loss of God
Discovering Jesus as the Foundation of All My Belief

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This entry was posted in creationism, doubt, inerrancy, Paul. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Grieving the Loss of God

  1. Pingback: How Rejecting Creationism Led to Deep Spiritual Crisis | Jesus Without Baggage

  2. chrisjwilson says:

    You have an interesting story Tim and I can see elements of my own story within it. I grew up reading and hearing the creation account from the bible and hearing about Evolution in school (with regular trips to the National History Museum in London to look at dinosaurs who lived 60+ million years ago) I never saw these as contradictions and never had an issue with the contradiction. The only time I started to face these issues was when I came to University and found that at different points Atheist and Christians told me I had to believe in a literal 6 day Creationism.)
    One point I would call you on is where you say that some parts are poems and imply that this means they aren’t valid or factual or historical. A poem can be figurative, exaggerative and false but It can be true ( for example, roses are indeed red, the fact that there is a poem that states this doesn’t make it any less true)
    A final question to ponder. Can Adam be historical and evolution still hold true? (I’m sure you’ve thought about this before but you seem to take it for granted in the post)

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    • Hi Chris, thanks for your comments and questions. They are thoughtfully written.

      You are correct that poems can be true, but sometimes they do not intend to describe facts or history. Poetry also uses literary devices that should not be understood as facts such as, “The river a ribbon of silver was; coming down from the chocolate mountain.” If this were a verse from the Bible, some readers would insist that some rivers are made of silver and some mountains are made of chocolate. But again, I agree with you that a poem is not ‘untrue’ just because it is a poem.

      Regarding Adam, there are those who believe God used evolution to produce mankind, but at some point he chose one of them to become Adam–an intelligent human, who then became the father of us all. However, in my opinion there is nothing to suggest this in the Bible, and it seems the only reason to hold this view is to preserve an historical Adam for some reason.

      Thanks again for your comments! I enjoyed them! ~Tim

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  3. Pingback: Discovering Jesus as the Foundation of All My Belief | Jesus Without Baggage

  4. Marc says:

    Tim, Perhaps there is a middle road to consider concerning the creation of the cosmos, life on earth, and the history of mankind. That the universe’s age exceeds 13 billion years and that the earth’s age exceeds 4 billion years are scientific facts. That life has evolved on the earth for over 3 billion years in a process of increasing complexity is also a scientific fact. Although many believe the Darwinian model of macro-evolution is the best scientific basis to explain the process that produced new species, this has not yet been establish as a scientific fact. Because the story of origins preserved in the Scriptures is Christ-centric, Adam and Eve could well be historical figures regarding the human ancestry of Jesus Christ and the point at which God provided human beings with a spiritual and intellectual capacity found in all modern humans. With this model we can date through the generational patriarchs of Genesis to a point in time about 14,000 years ago when this took place. This chronology would also allow for a local flood in what is now the Persian Gulf 8,000 years ago that corresponds to the rising sea levels associated with the glacial melt of the last ice age. The Hebrew word often translated earth can also mean land. From a modern perspective when we hear earth, we think of the entire world not the land viewed from horizon to horizon. We must remember that the revelation of history in the Scriptures is all about Jesus Christ.

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  5. ecrawford333 says:

    Very well said Tim. Many people share your story which is why i think we must be (lovingly) vocal about the facts so the only voice people hear arent the Kent Hovinds of the world.

    Like

    • Thanks Eric,

      I too think we must share the news that things are not always as we have been taught. Many will not listen, but it is worth the effort if some find comfort and support in their struggles against religious baggage.

      Like

  6. Pingback: Creationism and Tim Chastain’s spiritual crisis | lotharlorraine

  7. lotharson says:

    Dear Tim, I just posted your testimony on my blog.
    I think it would be extremely interesting if you were to interact with my atheistic commentators.

    Lovely greetings in Christ.

    Like

  8. Marcus Ampe says:

    Talking about the loss of God and accepting the possibility of God, you left many questions. I do hope you came to find the true God and fully came to understand who Jesus is, not God but the son of God. I was already pleased you came to find the love of this man and about the importance of his teachings, which normally should be followed by those who call themselves Christians.
    Good luck with spreading his message and showing the Way to God (the heavenly Father of Jeshua, Jesus Christ).

    Like

  9. Pingback: How Rejecting Creationism Led to Deep Spiritual Crisis | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Pingback: Discovering Jesus as the Foundation of All My Belief | Jesus Without Baggage

  11. Pingback: We Do Not Inherit Original Sin from Adam | Jesus Without Baggage

  12. I guess I have many questions but we have to start somewhere. If Paul’s writings are in error, what do you believe about the other Epistles, and about the gospels? Is the Holy Spirit the inspiration behind these? If not what is the basis for believing Jesus words? Is your only argument with Paul over Adam? I tend to think it could be deeper. This should get our conversation started. Of course I have many more questions. Jerry Parks

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Jerry, I think this IS a good place to start. It is not so much that I think Paul’s writings are in error but that they are Paul’s writings–not God’s writings. So whatever Paul wrote came from his thoughts (he was a great thinker) and applied to the contexts of the churches to which he was writing. This is a much different understanding (and I think a more reasonable one) than my older belief that everything Paul said carried the inerrant guarantee of God.

      This is similar to any other writer of any time; writing is a human activity–not a magical or divine one. So the quality and accuracy of what any writer says is based in the writer. This would also be true of all the other writings in the Bible, including the New Testament. However, I don’t think this is a bad thing.

      I respect Paul highly, but I no longer take what he writes as God’s propositional truth. So I don’t think I have an ‘argument’ with Paul; I just think some of his writing has more impact than other parts, and I benefit greatly from that without having to agree with everything Paul wrote.

      So how does this relate to believing Jesus’ words? I have a high level of confidence in the reporting of Jesus’ words and actions as recorded from the memories of his earliest followers who actually heard them. Jesus’ words and actions made a tremendous impact on them (obviously) and they told people about it all their lives, and this became the basis of the gospels. So I think that, for the most part, Jesus’ reported words are quite trustworthy, though they are probably not word-for-word what he said but convey the essence of it.

      Let the conversation continue…

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  13. Cheryel Lemley-McRoy says:

    As a biblical Hebrew student, I have come to see that, at the very least, our English translations are not inerrant. Jesus spoke in Hebrew idioms and euphemisms which the Greek translators were unfamiliar with, and so transliterated them, resulting in our misunderstanding of what Jesus meant.
    And learning that the first century Church Fathers didn’t consider Paul’s letters to be scripture, they made additions and comments before making copies and sending them on to the next church, resulting in codices that are all dissimilar, I have come to distrust Paul’s letters.
    For me, Jesus Christ is the inerrant Word of God, and all Scripture must be evaluated through Him.

    Like

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