Discovering Jesus as the Foundation of All My Belief

My Spiritual Crisis (Part 3–Conclusion)

Against an increasingly solid scientific case for evolution, creationists defend an historical view of the story of Adam beyond all reasonability. This appears a bit odd since the Bible rarely refers to Adam after the first chapters of Genesis. He appears in a few genealogical lists, but the only other writer to mention Adam is Paul.

In 1 Timothy 2, the writer uses Adam and Eve as an argument against women having authority over men. First Corinthians 15 mentions the historical Adam in Paul’s argument for the resurrection of believers. The most crucial passage, though, is Romans 5. Here Paul argues for faith in Jesus’ work of justification rather than trust in our own personal good works. Paul seems to consider Adam an historical figure.

If the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

While accepting that the Genesis stories are not meant as historical accounts is not necessarily a big issue, this conclusion leads directly to the inerrancy of Paul. Not only does Paul seem to consider Adam as historical, but Adam figures significantly in Paul’s theology—especially in regard to his teaching of sin in Romans 5.

The failure of this theological plank has a tremendous impact on the rest of evangelical theology. If Adam is not significant in himself, Paul makes him very significant. Paul’s fallibility on this important matter would lead many fundamentalists and evangelicals to the pit of confusion and despair.

In My Despair, I Catch a Glimmer of Something NewJesus without Baggage by Dick FordIt certainly had that effect on me, but out of the darkness of my despair came a glimmer of something new. As I read the stories of Jesus from the memories of his earliest followers, I found him to be compelling. I was drawn to him. Though I could no longer depend on the authority of an inerrant Bible to accept what his followers wrote to be true; yet I was drawn to Jesus.

Now, I have been impressed by other people of whom I have read. Gandhi is an example. Others include Socrates, C. S. Lewis, and Gautama. But the Jesus I met in the writings of his followers was intensely compelling in a way different from the others. Here was a person I could trust. He is accepting, supportive, inviting. He is concerned with me and my welfare and he claims he can do something about it.

How people fare in their biographies has a lot to do with their biographers, but though I have only met Jesus through the memories of his earliest followers—I trust him. I trust him when he tells of the Father; I trust him when he offers peace, reconciliation, and rest; I trust him when he promises eternal life.

On What Basis Do I Trust Jesus?

If I trust Jesus, the question arises, ‘On what basis do I trust him?’ Authority of the Bible is not the basis, because I have come to understand that this is an unrealistic approach to the Bible. The absolute reliability of his followers is an inadequate basis because they are human. Their memories could be faulty; they could have misinterpreted Jesus’ words and actions; and they certainly wrote in response to issues of their day, so their writings have a measure of agenda.

That being said, their writings do not seem to have the marks of invention, lies, or fraud. The person of Jesus stands out; his character is consistent though all the witnesses. The earliest followers were transformed by him and their reports about him transformed others. They transform me. But, in all of this, I know that they could be mistaken or that I am mistaken.

What other basis do I have to trust Jesus? The answer is—none. In the end, I accept the Jesus I find in the writings of his followers by faith. As it turns out, I trust Jesus by faith alone. This sounds very fundamentalist-evangelical, but it is not; often they do not really trust Jesus by faith alone—they trust the Bible by faith alone. I have no safety net, but, for me, trusting this Jesus without a safety net is more than satisfactory.

How does my journey compare to, or help with, your spiritual journey?

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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71 Responses to Discovering Jesus as the Foundation of All My Belief

  1. Peggy Witt says:

    I really liked the end of this topic! Praise God!

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  2. This begs the question then, What do you believe and why? I would be interested in seeing future posts on what you do personally believe and why. David

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    • Tim Chastain says:

      Thanks David for an excellent question. I hope I have given a clear indication on what I believe on some things, and I hope do more as time and space allow. I am happy to address your question specifically, but it is a bit general in scope. What do I believe about what? If you can clarify, I will bring a specific answer.

      In the meantime, I can say that I believe that Jesus broke into history and brought us good news about the Father that we did not previously understand. Jesus also resolved our feelings of alienation from the Father. And he died and was resurrected to give us eternal life and to provide for our own resurrection, after death, to live with him forever.

      I look forward to your further questions so that I can respond to them. Have a great day! ~Tim

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  4. Mark says:

    Hey Tim. You are on an interesting journey. We are often broken so we can be reshaped. Be careful that you don’t try to pull the mat from under people without having the strength to catch them when they fall. I am someone who loves Jesus above all, am not a YEC and and yet I find the Genesis stories to be full of compelling truth, I don’t need adam to represent anyone more than every man, and I find in Paul’s writings insights far too deep to be merely human. I do not however feel the need to reject Bible having a big B. I pray that you will be further enriched with more of the treasures that are in Jesus than you have at present.

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    • Jesus Without Baggage says:

      Thanks Mark, I know it is important to observe a proper balance when dealing with issues of doubt in what we believe, but if we do not question our beliefs they are never our own. I never want to cause people to lose hope, but the other side of losing hope is to hope in destructive rules and doctrines that get in the way of hearing and following Jesus. Thanks again for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Chad Kidd says:

    Tim – interesting Journey! I appreciate your honesty and thoughts about some very weighty issues. I just saw your comments on another blog – that is how I find most blogs. One question I have is this: Why not believe the story of Adam as a literal human? You are still free to believe what you want of course.

    I also question some of the things Paul says – especially in his later writings to Timothy/Titus: Seems like he was picking up some baggage of his own, and the church wasn’t even that old yet! However, I am unsure of when we can pick and choose which parts we want to believe.

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    • Chad, I agree that we have to read Paul carefully and within the context of his culture. While I admire him as a person who worked through what Jesus means with great insight, he is not infallible.

      I have no objection to people accepting Adam as an historical person, but I cannot see how this works or why we would want to do it. I have a post devoted to this very subject that will go live in a couple weeks. I hope you read it and let me know what your think!

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  6. ecrawford333 says:

    Thats an interesting conclusion. I just signed up to “follow” you and look forward to hearing more about Sola Yeshua 🙂

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    • I tell you the truth–it was a stressful frightening experience! But I am so glad I went through it; I feel that I have such a clearer outlook on things now. Thanks for following me; I had signed up a few days ago to follow you as well.

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  7. Hi Tim:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I find it interesting to learn from the experiences of others. I have a a couple of honest question, which largely stems from my ignorance of your faith tradition which is different from my faith tradition (which does not adhere to creationism as a scientific belief):

    First, what is it about creationism as a science itself that was core to your former belief in God and Christ that resulted in your crisis of faith?

    Second, after you rejected creationism, how did you reconstruct your theology to become a believing Christian?

    You may have answered in other posts but I have not found them yet. Thank you again for sharing your journey and your excellent blog.

    Peace,
    W. Ockham

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  8. Hi William of Ockham, those are good questions!

    Though I was a creationist, it was not extremely important to my belief in God. Once I understood the first chapters of Genesis to be intended as something other than a historical description of creation, it was not difficult to abandon creationism.

    However, that meant that Adam was not historical either, so it wasn’t long until I realized that if Paul thought Adam was historical, then Paul was mistaken and the Bible was not inerrant. It was the loss of inerrancy and the insecurity that the Bible did not give me a solid basis for believing in God that plunged me into the depths of crisis (for over a year).

    It was only when I realized that it was the person of Jesus that drew me that I was able to trust in Jesus and not in an infallible book. Jesus says much about the Father, and I believe in the Father only because of what Jesus says about him.

    Thanks for the questions! If this does not answer them inadequately, I am happy to answer additional clarifying questions.

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  9. Alice says:

    As I read the stories of Jesus from the memories of his earliest followers, I found him to be compelling.

    By this, do you mean what is written in the New Testament or were there other writings?

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  10. Gilbert Jorgensen says:

    Your website has been such a blessing and encouragement to me. My spiritual journey mirrors yours in many respects. I especially appreciate the refreshingly honest way that you deal with these real issues, yet point our sights higher in a way that strengthens our faith. That is so critical. Thank you so much!

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  11. Gilbert, I am so glad you have been encouraged by my blog. And your comment that I deal with real issues in an honest way, yet point higher to strengthen faith really makes my day! This is exactly what I wish to do, and I often feel that I don’t do it well.

    Thanks for your comment; I hope to hear from you further. Your comments are always welcome, and I would love to hear your story.

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  12. Michelle says:

    Oh this is simply beautiful. You have no idea how much I relate to this. It is scary feeling as though the ground is shifting beneath your feet, but who wants to live in a house built on sand, anyway? I trust the words of Jesus because they resonate deeply within my spirit as truth, and that is enough for me. I also trust the Holy Spirit to lead me in the right direction.

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  13. Hi Tim
    Jesus without baggage is certainly part of that narrow way with the gate that is straight. . . and few there be who are on it. Thanks for your integrity in sharing the things you share.
    I just spent a couple of years of my recent past chasing that same false prophet that those in Ephesus publicly called out and threw out. I guess I thought my responsibility was to be the ‘bounty hunter’ who brought him in, and I had him cleanly in my cross hairs many times. Then one day I woke up and realized I had become just like those in Ephesus. That false prophet had become a strong-man and was controlling the reasons I woke up every morning . . .it was then that I realized I had left my first love. I needed to repent.

    I needed to define, for myself, what, how, and why I believed in Jesus too. Not by adopting any more religious, catchy phrases like I had used in the past, I just wanted the Truth, God’s Truth . . . and it needed to be kept short simple , understandable and have integrity before Jesus eyes. (put in a nutshell, so to speak) After months of soul searching this is what I found.

    For the “First time” in the history of mortal man,
    The Holy Spirit was put in the position of being G-d’s chosen Teacher and Guide (The Personal Trainer) for those who believe in Him; instead of a ‘mortal priesthood’.
    Jesus is the ‘ONE’ who made this possible by the works He did here on planet earth.
    That is why Jesus is the “Messiah”.
    And That Is The Gospel which Jesus asked his disciples to spread to the ends of the world.”

    Now, finally, I am reconciled to my ‘first love’. and it sure feels good.

    Have a great day in Jesus,
    Just a believer

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Randy, thanks for your heartwarming comment.

      Isn’t it so easy to get caught up in chasing down and judging others? And isn’t it so refreshing to realize that it is not our job! I am so happy you got rid of this baggage and simplified your way of following Jesus–that is what it is all about!

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  14. Peter says:

    It’s hard to visualise how two people could have been on such different journeys and end up with so many thoughts in common. I’m 78 and I’ve been on a journey away from a traditional Anglican church (where I had been treasurer for 8 years) for more than 40 years. Then in 1995 the Sabbath-keeping cult that I was attending announced that much of their theology was misguided and I was forced to reconsider just about everything I had ever been taught. I spent several years exploring the emerging / emergent / house church scene. I had never been even an Evangelical but over the last few years I have learned so much from contacts with former Fundamentalists, about why people believe what they believe, often as a result of divisive, denominational theology.

    I’ve recently finished writing something of the story of a very long journey on my blog.

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    • Hi Peter,

      I agree! It is interesting that we have arrived by completely different paths to so many common ideas.

      I read the posts on your blog, and I noticed a comment from my buddy, Christian Evolution. I subscribed to your blog via RSS, so you probably did not receive email notification on it.

      You refer to the self-examination of the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God and the subsequent change of doctrine. I am somewhat familiar with that, as I read a book on the story and also have read about it in articles and in other places. I think this was probably a good step, but the mentor they chose was quite fundamentalist; I think it was Biola College. Afterwards, the Armstrong movement split into a multitude of factions committed to the Armstrong traditions.

      I welcome you to Jesus without Baggage. A number of regular readers here come from a rich variety of backgrounds and by different journeys.

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  15. Anna says:

    I really enjoyed your story – it mirrors mine in some ways. I went/am still going through depression because I know longer view God or the Bible the way I used to.I used to believe in Jesus because of the Bible, and figured that if I only live according to the word then life will work out the way it’s meant to (I suppose I was committing a kind of idolatry in that sense). But there were some things in that book that I couldn’t bring myself to believe. I lost faith, but I firmly believed I had interacted with God before and that He was true, it was just me who was misunderstanding Him. To help me recover and try to get back on path with God, I read a lot about NDEs (Howard Storm, for example, is someone i figured had a true experience due to the fact that his life changed drastically after death). The problem is that I don’t know how to fully know God if the book we were given as a blueprint isn’t truth. Looking at it now, I suppose there is great spiritual truth in it, and I’m slowly grasping the idea that the Bible is more about how each individual perceives God instead of a guide that defines who He truly is. I just hope my heart is right- that I’m not going through this to try to make life easier by ridding myself of responsibilities or that I’m only questioning the Bible because it isn’t ‘cool’ anymore and I want to impress the people I admire (who are far from accepting christianity) by being ‘new age-ish’. Faith is a journey, that’s for sure.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anna, I certainly understand the depression that can occur when our faith in what we were taught as the truth begins to fall apart. As you know from this post, I found my answer in understanding Jesus more clearly (in my opinion). My foundation in life is completely restored and it is a more solid than the one I was taught and accepted.

      Though I still do not understand everything I would like to understand, I have an amazing peace about what I do understand and no fear or trepidation. I hope you arrive at a similar peace on your journey.

      I began to read about near-death experiences around the late 1970s. I don’t know what to make of them–they could be psychological in nature, or they might be something more. They did make me think about new things, however.

      You said, “I don’t know how to fully know God if the book we were given as a blueprint isn’t truth.” I also used to think the Bible was the blueprint of all truth–including truth about God, but now I believe it is merely what a number of people over time thought about God. The important thing to me though is that Jesus gives us the clearest understanding about God that we have, in my opinion; God is a loving Father who seeks reconciliation with all of us, instead of the angry, violent, vindictive god that is often depicted by Old Testament writers.

      We have no reason to fear the Father because he has only our well-being at heart. His love for us can help us to love ourselves better and to love others as well. This leads to reconciliation and peacefulness.

      I hope you continue to visit the blog and to interaction if you like.

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  16. jr116 says:

    Reading through these three posts was really intriguing and touching to me, as a Christian who is right in the middle of this journey figuring out what she believes and doesn’t believe about many things. I was raised Hindu, became a Christian a few years ago, and now I’m… figuring it out. I just started a blog myself, embracingdoubt.wordpress.com, sort of as a way to document my “figuring it out” journey. It’s scary indeed, as you mentioned yourself, so I’m encouraged to see that others are also going through these things and are still able to hold on to Christ. Thank you for sharing your story.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi Rani, I am sorry for the delayed response; from December 16th I have had very limited access to my computer. I read your recent blog entries and I think we are travelling on the same path together! I hope you continue to visit and comment; we can help each other as we journey along.

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  17. waywardyeti says:

    Thanks so much for creating this blog, I thought I was the only one. I came to walk in faith on a walk across America, but had serious misgivings about the bible and the christian point of view. I had no intent to become a christian soldier in their army of inyolerance. In the end, like you, I decided to let God show me the right path by faith alone.
    Thanks again and look forward to the read.
    Tom

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wayward, I use to think I was somewhat alone as well, but I began to discover that there are many who are working through our religious baggage and finding a new path. I am glad you found us here, and I hope you continue to visit and contribute.

      There are still many others who feel alone in their doubts and struggles and who need to hear from people like us.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. zanspence says:

    I am excited to have stumbled on your blog. I am in my early 30s and I have always been involved in a form of fundamentalism until last year. I have only stayed a Christian just because I love God and I believe true Christianity is more compelling than any other religion or philosophical belief. I spent most of my life as a Seventh Day Adventist and then for 4 years was part of an extreme Charismatic church with an “apostle”. So you can see I am familiar with legalism.lol. In both churches I missed Grace completely. And I can honestly tie my tendency toward past legalism with dysfunction and values from my childhood and family. I think there is more of a tie between psychology/dysfunction and legalism than has been written and researched about. After dealing with the legalism I had to deal with the underlying theology of both churches. And even though there are Adventists and Charismatics who aren’t in works I feel that their doctrine sure lends fertile soil toward it. I think that a reformed church is best for me. I am looking for bare bone Christianity. What church do you now attend?

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Zan, I am glad you found us! I hope you enjoy being in contact with a like-minded group online. I know it is often difficult to escape legalism because the mindset of legalistic groups is that if you abandon legalism, or the groups theological worldview, you are in real trouble with God.

      Your comment is intriguing: “I think there is more of a tie between psychology/dysfunction and legalism than has been written and researched.” You are probably right; I would like to see the results of some good research.

      I hope you are able to find a good congregation for you. Too me, denominations don’t matter as much as they used to; I just want a good congregation. Presently I am attending a Presbyterian, USA (PCUSA) church. But I would be just as happy in another denomination–but not likely a very conservative one.

      I hope you continue to visit and interact with us! ~Tim

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  21. Ruth Womack says:

    I found this really helpful though I have gone in a different direction.finding Jesus through the stories at Sunday School..coming to love him and want to follow him..then put off by fundamenalism . I am an English Christian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      So you have been on a journey as well! We all have different journeys, but it seems that ours have brought us to similar places.

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  22. anniejoebarnes says:

    Wow. It is life-saver that I stumbled on your blog- I am trying to read every article! I have felt miserable and alone for a very long time. Your crisis of faith describes what I’ve been going through– except I could never make it to the other side because I felt very alone and confused… until now, where I have found other people are on this same journey. For many years I kept getting caught in the snare of Biblical inerrrancy. I would read the Old Testament and feel sickened about it, and then decide I didn’t believe the Bible, and then go to church and be told again about the supreme authority of the Bible, and feel terrible and defective and faithless for not believing every word. Now I’m beginning to see that fundamentalist Christianity puts it’s faith not in Jesus, but in the “inerrancy of the Bible.” What a terrible burden to have to shoulder… that unless we believe and embrace every word– even the brutal, violent, oppressive words– that our faith has no foundation. I love the conculsion you came to– to base our foundation and faith in Jesus– not a blood-thirsty, archaic collection of propaganda-infused stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anniejoe, I am so happy that you found the blog, and this article, helpful. This is what the blog is all about: assisting and supporting those who are questioning the things they have been taught.

      You are certainly not on your journey alone. There are many, many of us on similar journeys away from harmful beliefs. I hope you continue to find support as you continue reading the articles, and if you have issues you would like addressed don’t hesitate to let me know.

      BTW, I don’t know how anyone can read the OT as an inerrant document and not feel sickened by it. You are not alone.

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  23. Anthony Paul says:

    As a new arrival to your wonderful blog I am trying to read through many of the older posts but I have decided to start in the most obvious place after your “Comment Policy” page, i.e., your own story, “Discovering Jesus As The Foundation of My Faith”. I found it to be insightful and honest in ways seldom found in people of faith… many of whom are shackled by the dogmatics of “church”. I can’t honestly say that I have come to all of the same conclusions you have as regards the story of The Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve; I see it, and indeed the entire story of the fall of man, more as God’s Word to us in allegorical terms and not as literally (word-for-word) revelation. As such, I have come to an intellectual, spiritually satisfying place for myself in the belief that The Creator has a great deal to say to us through The Book — just perhaps not in ways that the fundamental/evangelical churches seem to suggest. I guess you might say that I am about where you were back in 1993… I look forward to continuing this journey with you and what appears to be quite a wonderful group of souls treading the same path. I pray that The Holy Spirit guide us in this endeavor.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anthony, each of us has our own journey. Often we walk the same road but do not come to the same place. I have no problem with those who’s conclusions are different from mine; I am not an authority. But I feel special kinship with those who have left religious baggage behind.

      If you have not yet read the About Page, you might wish to read it soon; it serves as an introduction to the entire blog. It is also my landing page:

      https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/

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  24. Hi Tim. I’m a catholic priest, and I found very interesting your point of view and your comments. Talking about the end of this particular issue, I think you make a really good point for us to understand the doctrine of Sacraments. And the end of the day, the only thing we have to “explain” (Dear God, how lost we have been in this desperate need for explanation) the sacramental aspect of our faith is through faith itself. Of course theories and doctrines might help to the understanding, and we embrace them as a support for our understanding and exposition of the faith. But once you get there, you realized the only way to grasp the whole of the meaning of Sacramentology (and Theology, and Christian Life, and everything). is through faith and by faith. I might understand that your sense of faith is not the blindness acceptance of certain things (like many people are used to think) but the existential approach to the presence of God in your life that brings meaning to it. Faith as a relationship, faith as a friendship, as a fellowship.
    Thank you for your honest and meaningful posts.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Diego, I agree that my sense of faith is not blind acceptance of certain things. But I am not sure it is an existential approach to the presence of God in my life that brings meaning to it, though that description might fit after parsing the terms and their application.

      In fact, I don’t use the word ‘faith’ much because it is often ambiguous and even burdened with baggage. My word is ‘trust’. I trust the Jesus I discover in the gospels written from the memories of his earliest followers. Though each gospel is written by humans, the character of Jesus that comes through is rather consistent, clear, and compelling. I trust in Jesus’ message, his teaching, and his example.

      I believe in the Father, and trust the Father, only because of what Jesus says of him. While my relationship with God is not based on blind acceptance of doctrine or biblical proof-texts, I am not certain it is existential either. Perhaps it is only a matter of semantics.

      I do believe in relationships. I think the most important thing we can learn about God is that he wishes us to be reconciled (with ourselves, other people, and with God). He is a God of reconciliation rather than alienation.

      What do you think? Am I saying similar things as you with different words?

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      • Anthony Paul says:

        “I believe in the Father, and trust the Father, only because of what Jesus says of him… I think the most important thing we can learn about God is that he wishes us to be reconciled (with ourselves, other people, and with God).”

        I am following this discussion with a great deal of interest; I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a simpler or better expression or description of one’s belief in the Gospel as your comments as partly encapsulated in the above quote.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Anthony, I am glad you like the statement on God. I think a perspective on God can be simple once we work through, and sometimes eliminate, the theological speculation that has accumulated on the subject.

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  25. Dear Tim. My Christmas season kept me away from our discussion. Anyway, I think this is one of the timeless-like discussion. I agree that in order to discover and to create a new way to express out our beliefs (trusts) new words and expressions must be settle. But also I believe language is a “baggage” itself, the kind of baggage that helps us out to communicate our thoughts (not the only one, though). Language, as a “human stuff”, although limited is alive. We create realities through language. The genius of the Christian-Jews tradition teaches us God is Word (that just blows up my mind!). Our job is to enter into a deep relationship with that Word. That’s why I think semantic matters. We can always redefine words and concepts to get new meanings. Let me share with you a little bit of my experience. I’m a new “English speaker” (my native language is Spanish), and I really enjoy reading blogs, paper, essays, and other writings that give me some new theological vocabulary. Pretty much I’m “redefining” the meaning of my theological concepts and ideas in this new language. What I found interesting in your blog is the way you try to approach your spiritual experience with new concepts and words. Sounds like a Cartesian experiment, very close to Meister Eckhart’s and several mystics’ experience in defining God out of new words, new expressions and new meanings.
    My ultimate question would be, can we express out our faith without any baggage, knowing that language is a baggage itself? Or is there an specific baggage you’re talking about?
    Peace!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Diego, I agree with you that there is baggage in our very use of words. And, in fact, we might never understand precisely what another person means by their words. We often have a tendency to infuse our own understanding into the words of others.

      However, you ask: “Is there an specific baggage you’re talking about?”

      I do have specific ideas about the word ‘baggage’ on my blog–Jesus without Baggage. That baggage is the harmful doctrines and practices many of us hold that prevent us form following Jesus effectively or presenting the good news effectively to other people–baggage such as belief in angry god, eternal punishment in hell, inerrancy of the Bible, and such things.

      If this is what you are asking, it is clearly stated in the introduction to my blog at https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/. This should explain my entire overall perspective, should you wish to read it.

      If I missed answering your question, just let me know.

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  26. I have been led also to a point of “trust only.” Having gone through my own crisis of being, loving, living and “dying,” I have found that Truth is a Person: Jesus. It is now the authority of God’s Spirit within me who confirms the One with whom I have fallen into love: Jesus…

    …It is disconcerting and frightening to leave the certainty that fundamentalism asserted, as I learned to embrace paradox and mystery and my own place in God’s Great Tapestry. I hold all this in tension, and not always comfortably, but I am freer and I am intellectually and spiritually honest…

    …God for me has become bigger and bigger, while I have become smaller and smaller – yet my significance has not diminished at all, and I am aware that I am being held in safe-keeping by my Lover, who calls me Beloved.

    Blessings & Joy!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ANTHONY PAUL says:

      Brittany Renee: I would not diminish the power or the beauty of what you have just written here by being redundant so I will just say, “AMEN!!!”

      I would like to say, however, that your thoughts are so like a familiar light which I have seen while on my own journey in searching out the true nature and quality of The Being we call “God”. I have personally run the gamut of Christian belief from Roman Catholicism in my early years to evangelical protestantism in my adult years and I have rejected them both as I have found the business of religion to be the mere perpetuation of symbols and myths with the god construct meaning little more for me than that of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

      As you have rightly said, it is very disconcerting to leave the safety of certainty as you are moved by The Spirit to discover newer realities and so, I will confess something personal to you: it feels so very lonely sometimes to be out there by myself without a community of other believers who are going through their own journey of discovery and with whom I can physically interact; Please don’t misunderstand… this blog and the thought-provoking work of Tim Chasten is itself a wonderful blessing… but it is no substitute for real human contact. The idea of “church”, be it liberal or conservative, no longer appeals to me because I have found that the churches I have attended at least are more concerned about the “business of religion” than about each of us sharing the work of The Spirit as He continues to reveal Himself in our lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As I have moved into what Richard Rohr calls “second half of life faith” (a “place” where non-dualistic, “both/and” thinking eclipses dualistic, “either/or” thinking, where *being* becomes more our focus than *doing*), I find myself in two main faith communities: I keep a “foot” in those parts of the Church which nurtured my faith, ones more traditional in form, outlook and practice, and now I am also part of the Church which is able to rest in the paradox of a God we really cannot fully understand, in a “place” most would not willingly go…

        …We rest in the tension of accepting our *whole selves* before God (not just, the *good* parts), eschewing our egos in favour of who we are when our beliefs have been shattered, when. everything is stripped away. Believers in the former part are deeply suspicious of we in later part because our experience with God and ourselves does not fit into the cookie-cutter, “proof-texted,” formulaic-certainty mold we are taught early in our faith. In the former, we are taught to “climb” upward in our faith, and in the later we realize now we must descend to the lowly-points where we find our Lord and Love waiting. We fight against going low early in our lives, but in our later half, we realize we must go low, where loss is actually our gain…it’s a mystical, contemplative place where our *experience* with God becomes more real than anything we have ever learned *about* God. The former seems to relate more to ideas about God, and in the later, we are forced by life (engineered by God!) to relate to God more as a person, an intimate relationship. The former talks about this, but the “noise” of our competing egos seems to make real, consistent intimacy a rare thing. In the later, more and more is stripped from us so that all we have left is God, this is one way to think of “going low.” Another way is that “going low” means that rather than pushing away, fighting and denying my sinful weak parks, I accept that these are part of me to, and that they will be redeemed also, and instead of a futile fight which cannot be won, I “invite my demons to tea” and I cease to give these things my energy, and (paradoxically) they are weakened and reduced…

        …Anyway! To possibly address your concern more directly, I have found that I can worship and fellowship with many others in traditional congregations, but that fellowship must be at a relatively surface level (because they don’t yet “get” where God has/is taking me). And I worship and fellowship with others who are in a place similar to where I am now, whether they are “two or three gathered” in person, or whether we meet together online (from places and times all over the globe). The former, most comfortable with either/or thinking would not want to be part of the later group whom they recognize as “not of our tribe,” whereas we as both/and folk can find commonality with many.

        Does any of this make sense and possibly help?

        Liked by 2 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Anthony, you say: “it feels so very lonely sometimes to be out there by myself without a community of other believers who are going through their own journey of discovery and with whom I can physically interact.”

        I know the feeling, and I am glad there are online communities (here and elsewhere) that can take up some of that slack. But nothing is the same as local, face-to-face community of like-minded folks.

        Like

        • ANTHONY PAUL says:

          Tim, your affirmation of my feelings on the subject are indeed welcome. I find it very interesting that you stopped short of offering any kind of advice as to how I might work my way out of this sense of alienation… Thank you for that!!!

          I find solace in the thought that we are all a continuing work in progress moving ahead moment by moment and knowing that I will be a different (hopefully, better) person tomorrow by virtue of what I have learned from like-minded brethren wherever I may find them.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Anthony, you are right about the lack of specific advice. The fact is we are all on our own journey, and journeys tend to be very personal and individualistic. I don’t know how to speak specifically to someone else’s situation. But, as you say: “we are all a continuing work in progress moving ahead moment by moment and knowing that I will be a different (hopefully, better) person tomorrow.” I think this is wisdom.

            Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Brettany, I really like your statement: “It is disconcerting and frightening to leave the certainty that fundamentalism asserted, as I learned to embrace paradox and mystery and my own place in God’s Great Tapestry.”

      I believe our spiritual lives are much richer when we leave the calcified, unbending, unthinking systems of fundamentalism.

      Like

  27. notdodgy says:

    I have noticed a lot of people have gone through the process of “deconstruction” and ended up without any faith.
    I think being able to hold the reality of a bible that is what it truly is and holding on to a faith in Jesus himself is really important.
    I am convinced Jesus and his teaching still transforms lives for the better.
    In the story of Jacobs ladder he makes a progression from the house of god (bethel) to el-bethel – the god of the house of god.
    You have progressed from the bible to the Jesus of the Bible.
    😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dodge, I have noticed the same thing; many people who question what they have been taught wind up rejecting harmful, misguided beliefs but they reject Jesus along with them.

      I think this is a sad result, but don’t think one is not of indoctrination until they put ALL their old beliefs on the line. And this is what sometimes happens; but though I think it is a great loss to them I don’t think God holds this against them.

      Like

  28. In my own crisis of faith, as I was trying to understand myself and my circumstances, I found myself avoiding the Bible as I could hear the unsympathetic, intolerant voices of my former Evangelical brethren in even the most benign verse…

    …In the process of prayerfully working through my issues, what had seemed so cut-and-dried gave way to an uneasy sense of freedom: “I am walking on water here, is this really safe?”

    God’s Spirit led me to consider ideas and people I had been told to reject (as illegitimate on their face) – I was gently asked to humble myself to go with God together into “places” and thought, without the assumptions and “baggage” I had acquired in my almost two decades of walking with Jesus…

    I lost the comfort of certainty even as God gave me a peace about myself.

    I gained a much greater appreciation for paradox and mystery than I had ever known, but this was also scary, like as when I was a non-swimmer, stepping into water over my head.

    …Freed, but uneasy, my “safety-net” of the Bible, of my church family (locally and world-wide) vanished beneath me, and I was on a tightrope, over a chasm – Jesus became my only resource, His love my only bit of safety. I remember the times in years past when God brought me through the darkest points: “no one can tear you from me, not even you.” So I ventured forth, avoided the institutional church, the Bible, and certsin sorts of people…

    …Meanwhile, Jesus was my growing strength, and I fell into love with Him as we continued to work through very difficult things together, healing from past traumas, clarifying my own identity, building a new life that brought the best of the old with the promise of the new.

    Through the difficulties, God was always *so gentle* with me, though I often experienced great pain and longing and loneliness in this stretch of seasons: transition from old to new, resurrection though my body never died – blossoming, *becoming*…in all this, I grew more secure in the “invisible” love of Christ, and the promises of His Spirit to hold, teach, convict and make me like Jesus…

    …I grew more secure in my identity as a human being, as a woman, as a child of God deeply beloved. This gradually made-up for the loss of certainty, the scaffolding of dogma, and made me more comfortable and resilient in the face of almost overwhelming mystery…

    …AND as I have been renewed and so strengthened, I was able to step back into the community of believers at large, and I find that I am able to approach the scriptures again, tenuously with a new way of looking and appreciating, as the hurtful voices fade and I see with new eyes, and I see that I have been given, a new gift: “Queer in the Spirit,” which God uses to help heal other’s souls & spirits, as God loves others through me. I am *so blessed*!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ANTHONY PAUL says:

      Brittany… and we too are so blessed to have you here sharing your very personal experience and vision of Jesus. You state it all so beautifully. Although our personal experiences may be quite different, your spiritual journey and gradual awakening resonates within and strikes a very deep cord. The feelings which you express so well as you are carried along by that movement of Spirit within has me somewhat mesmerized — like a tune I may have heard somewhere before which seems to haunt the spirit but which I presently cannot totally recall.

      Your story is nothing short of “awesome!!”

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Brettany, thanks for sharing your experience going through the dark and frightening (terrifying!) journey from conservative belief. I certainly resonate with your experience. And I love your statement: “I lost the comfort of certainty even as God gave me a peace about myself.” Certainty is the bedrock of conservative religion–but it is a false foundation.

      It is interesting that we don’t hear much about people who have left that environment changing their mind and going back to it. I think is the peace and clearer vision we find.

      Like

  29. schrammbo1965 says:

    What you said at the end is a perfect explanation of why the Bible IS inerrant.
    It does exactly what it was supposed to do. It shows us what Jesus is like. That’s it. That is exactly what it was written to do. Jesus came so that our sin might be forgiven. The Bible shows that we can trust Jesus. I see it this way:
    Your belief in why I did something does not change my reasons.
    Your belief in why your wife committed adultery does not make it so.
    Your belief in what the Bible says does not and will not ever make it so. That book says “God loves you. He sent his son so that he could teach us who God is, and so that we could have a living relationship with God. Like beloved children that he wants to help to grow up to become just like him.”
    No fundamentalist hate or fear can EVER make that message change. That message will always be the only reason we have the Bible, so the Bible is innerrant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Schrammbo, your creative treatment of inerrancy is very interesting and I like it very much; the Bible shows us what Jesus is really like! I can accept that but, of course, it is not what fundamentalists mean by inerrancy.

      Like

  30. moksman says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience of your crisis, Tim. A lot of it resonated with me. I plan to spend a lot of time here reading your blog 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Moksman, I am glad you found something useful in the blog. I hope you continue to do so. You are free to comment as you wish.

      Like

  31. Dennis says:

    I fear this will end to be a long comment.
    To make it clear from the beginning, I,too, have returned to Jesus as my spiritual foundation after years of rejecting the Bible and God. I turned to many other paths to fill my spiritual void, and although I learned a lot about the idea of god, the human potential, etc.,etc., there was always something that these paths couldn’t couldn’t give me that I had as a child.

    I grew up in a country setting. My mother was a failed christian who I now understand constantly chastised herself from falling from the faith. She tried to make up for this by constantly sending me to sunday school land to church. I hated it, not because I disagreed with so much they tried to teach me, but because they talked about God as someone who was separate from us, someone who lived someplace else. This was totally contrary to what I felt and experienced every day.

    As a child, I accepted God, because I felt his presence everywhere around me, and even within me.
    I used to go out to a distant farm that had hills overlooking one of the Great Lakes, and I would sit there and talk to God as if He were sitting right beside me. The christians I met insisted that God was in heaven and that my sinful nature separated me from Him, and yet it never felt that way to me. Yes, I was a sinner, I often found it quite easy to do things that I knew were bad, but I never experienced God as separate. I did often feel that I disappointed Him, but I never felt that He turned His back on me.

    When I rejected the bible for the same reasons that you mention, I turned away from Him as a childish idea that I needed to grow up from. As it does for many, this tore my life apart for many years.I tried to restore myself with many alternative paths, philosophies and religious ideas from everywhere. But that Living Presence was not there. And no matter how much i tried to tell myself that this was a childish idea to leave behind me, the empty feeling never went away.
    And neither did my respect and admiration for Jesus. No matter how much I criticized the bible and the Ideas of God that others had, I always had to admit that I admired Jesus’ qualities and secretly wanted to be like him – – – a loving and compassionate person who never rejected anyone.
    Slowly, bit by bit, I found writings and ideas about how we could keep Jesus without the fundamental doctrines, and secretly felt a connection to them. Publicly, I felt too embarrassed to admit this.

    Then I came across a book by John B. Cobb Jr. called “Jesus Abba: The God Who Did Not Fail””.
    This book re-introduced me to the understanding that Jesus never referred to God in the same terms and by the same names as the writers of the old testament did. God was not “All-Powerful”, a “Supreme Ruler” who must be obeyed. Jesus only had one word for God: “Abba”. An Armenian word meaning “Father.” He experienced God as a loving and supportive parent who only wanted the best for His children, including wanting them to grow and learn to manage their own affairs.
    Reading this helped me to understand that Jesus experienced God in the same manner that I had as a child. And caused me to take Jesus back into my life. I’m still seeking to understand all that He taught, but I now know I have the right foundation restored.

    And in case there may be criticism of the writer and book who restored Jesus to me, I’m not claiming that he’s right about everything. But he was right about this one thing: the proper way to think about and to experience God (because it IS first and foremost an experience!) is as a loving parent who will always be there to support you.
    He is the only one I have ever found that taught this understanding of God from experience and not just as something someone else taught Him. And He always taught that everyone could experience God in the same way.
    I now accept Jesus as the Son of God, even though I still work to comprehend the full meaning of that, and God has been restored as the One who supports me always.
    This was Jesus’ legacy: not just his example, as pure as it was, but His understanding of the true nature of God.

    Well, I did warn you that this would be long. I hope you managed to make it to the end.
    I love your website. It’s wonderful to know that there are others who are being restored to Jesus in spite of the crap that the world is filled about Him.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dennis, you have had quite a journey–and one with a great ending (so far–your journey isn’t over yet!). You put it into a wonderful story that flowed so well that I was at the end of it before I knew it.

      I am glad for your journey and thank you for sharing it.

      Like

  32. anca says:

    Thank you “jesuswithoutbaggage”. What a beautiful testimony!

    I want to share a few things in regards to my views about Paul and Bible “inerrancy”. Sorry if this is a bit long and jumping to different topics.

    I personally do believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but not in a 7-day creation. While I believe that Adam and Eve were created whole and did not evolve, I do believe that all the other elements evolved slowly. I take the Hebrew meaning of eons in reference for “day” as it’s the word used in Genesis. Eon is an unspecified length of time. It’s used in Revelations in reference to the 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth. So it can be at least that much going forward for just one eon, can go into millions.

    In regards to Paul, I’ve come to realize the same thing about Paul over the last couple of months. I recognize Paul as an authority figure in the building of the faith, but not as an absolute authority who was inerrant, not a replacement for Christ’s teaching and character. Simply, I think he was wrong about a couple of things. My realization came in regards to the women’s issue of submission. Then again, while digging deeper, I was astonished to find out how much his genuine epistles were interpolated and how basically 6 of the 13 epistles attributed to him are forgeries. It’s really hard to deny the evidence for the forgeries once examined. They also have a theology that directly contradicts what Paul had said earlier. You can almost certainly forget the Timothy’s and Titus being authentic for one-third of the words surveyed there were never part of Pauls vocabulary from his authentic letters, multiple words not even coming into existence until after 100 AD once Christians began to make coin their own terms in reference to themselves as an organization. NO writer changes over one-third of his vocabulary within a few years, let alone in a culture where learning to write and compose took decades of training.

    In Ephesians 5 vs 23-24, the word “Chruch” (Paul always said Assembly or Ecclesia) was not in use until after the 100 AD’s when early Catholicism began to spring up and the Christian movement was starting to recognize itself as an institution. This is when the hierarchy was introduced into the epistles and new epistles were forged for the purpose of introducing it through exploiting Pauls authority, Paul already being dead. Sadly, those are the only epistle that permits Christians to own slaves, require submission of wives, and remove women from ministry. The effects of which have produced needless suffering for the past 1900 years. Sad too because the early church was built off the backs of women and slaves, yet those are the very people who were targeted and become entombed after the forgeries! What was a concession for the sake of culture and temporary relief of persecution, became a few generations later to be thought of as God sanctioned order!

    Have you ever wondered how Christianity became Imperial, and why it was so easy for the Roman government to take over the religion and merge it with the State? Well, it’s because the glove fit so well with Roman imperialism, all that excessive hierarchy – blind obedience to Partafamilas in the family from slaves and wives, male-only ministry, Bishops in place of Spirit-led ecclesia, and docile attitude towards government tyranny. I believe that it’s possible that the 7 churches in Revelation were being warned to break away from the imperialism and subvert it from within, else suffer extinction by being consumed by it. Consumed it was, just two centuries later!

    Early Christian groups were also fighting for power over doctrinal views. Some comparisons below for two existing groups at the time.

    “The historical Alpha Christianity is not simply Jewish Christianity, but a Jewish Christianity operating with only half of the Decalogue, free of the Sabbath pieties and Pharisaic complications which Jesus in Mark so conspicuously violates. Jesus’ own statement of the commandments of God is given in Mark 10:19:
    You know the commandments: Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.

    That makes six – the part about fraud is in Deuteronomy (Deut 24:14-15), but not in the Decalogue proper (Deut 5:7-21). Several early documents, including the Didache, reflect this form of minimal nomism, and include the rule against defrauding, which became something of an Alpha signature. One such text has been preserved intact in the New Testament: it is the Epistle of Jacob (“James” in some English Bibles). This is a circular letter of advice and guidance for the young churches. It nowhere mentions the death of Christ, but instead shows how the Jesus followers can live together amicably (the distinctive rule against fraud is at Ja 5:4). This text at one point wars with Paul in Romans, over the issue of faith versus works. Faith to Paul means belief in the atoning death of Jesus, and Works to Paul means any idea that obeying the Jewish law or any part of of it is relevant to salvation. This dispute has been much played down in recent times, but it deserves attention because it sharply defines two different and incompatible kinds of Christianity, as of about the year 57, a generation after Jesus’ death. Here it is.

    Rom 3:20-24. Because by works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for through the Law cometh the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

    Jacob 2:14-18. What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

    Rom 4:3. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

    Jacob 2:20-24. Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that man is justified by works, and not by faith alone..
    This war of quotations was part of the primary opposition within Christianity at the time, and for decades afterward. Recognition of this more specific kind of early Christianity, we believe, can clarify many of the otherwise perplexing passages in the early texts which continue to exercise the commentators. The opponent in many of these passages is not some ill-defined “heresy,” or incipient Gnosticism, but this simple and also radical approach to Jewish tradition, under Jesus’ simplifying leadership. We can at once see why Saul the Pharisee persecuted these early Christians, since they eliminated at a stroke all that he as a Pharisee was committed to. And we can equally see why Paul the Convert, having abandoned all the Law in his enthusiasm for the meaning of the Resurrection, continued to oppose the Alpha Christians, who preserved part of the Law as the center of their hope of salvation.” https://www.umass.edu/wsp/alpha/index.html

    I personally hold to the views of James holding that they are centered around the love that Jesus talked about.

    “Pure and undefiled religion is to care for the orphans and widows.” James 1:27

    “Do not defraud anyone because the workers of your fields and the harvesters are crying out against you and their cries have reached the ears of heaven!” James 5:4

    – there goes slavery and one-way submission in marriage. Give every worker his wages, give the wife her rights, and let the women minister for they were the earliest workers and harvesters of the fields.

    And finally, what Jesus said, “Love God with all of your heart, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

    I will take those any day over “predestination” and fundamentalist “faith only” doctrine that ironically comes with a bunch of damnable rules and works one must follow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anca, you cover a lot of ground here, and it is apparent that you have a good grasp of early church history. I totally agree with you that not all the letters attributed to Paul were written by him, but I would not necessarily call them forgeries. It was common in ancient times for authors to write in the name of or tradition of an earlier author. This is true even in the Old Testament–think of the three authors of Isaiah.

      But what you say is good to keep in mind because there is quite a bit in the later ‘Pauline’ writers that does not match up with Paul’s authentic letters, and it sometimes causes great confusion in transferring Paul’s respect and ‘authority’ to things Paul never said.

      Speaking of Paul’s authority, I really like your statement: “I recognize Paul as an authority figure in the building of the faith, but not as an absolute authority who was inerrant, not a replacement for Christ’s teaching and character. Simply, I think he was wrong about a couple of things.” I agree.

      Considering the faith and works issue between Paul and Jacob, I don’t see the two writers as really being in conflict. Paul emphasized faith over the keeping of laws (works), which was a legitimate concern in the early church; but some in the church took him to mean that works did not matter at all.

      Jacob, I think, was responding to this ‘faith only’ attitude among some believers that was a distortion of Paul’s teaching. But when Jacob emphasizes the importance of works, he is not talking about the ‘works’ (Law) that Paul rejected but actions consistent with Jesus’ teaching that we love and care for others, as you point out.

      So I don’t see a contradiction between Paul and Jacob but between their interpreters. In fact I have a high appreciation for both of them.

      Anca, thank you for this most interesting and stimulating contribution!

      Like

  33. Pingback: Dealing with the Confusion, Grief, and Existential Chaos of Leaving Fundamentalism or Conservative Evangelicalism | Jesus Without Baggage

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