If you are questioning beliefs you were taught in fundamentalism or evangelicalism, your journey might be going smoothly or it might involve a lot of fear and uncertainty. It is not easy challenging beliefs we once deeply held. Over a period of time I questioned a number of fundamentalist beliefs I was taught. While the transition was not easy neither was it terribly traumatic because I was convinced that each belief I abandoned was very misguided.
However, there came a point that was tremendously traumatic for me. I wrote about this a few years ago in a piece titled My Spiritual Crisis.
Grieving the Loss of God
Suddenly, I encountered an issue that plunged me into more than a year of deep agony, despair, and grief over the loss of God. It was tied indirectly to my accepting that the story of Adam and Eve was not historical. But that was not the issue that brought on my deep agony and despair.
I believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, but I understood that not all passages were literal or historical writings. Some passages are poetry and should be read as such; others are stories or parables that make a point. But I believed that what was there was inerrant. Concluding that the story of Adam and Eve was not historical caused me no stress at all.
However, in the process of assimilating this new understanding of Genesis, a related issue surfaced that almost destroyed my faith entirely. It concerned Paul in Romans 5:
Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
It seemed clear to me from the preceding development of the argument that the trespass condemning all people was the trespass of Adam in Eden. The problem was that Paul seemed to think Adam was an historical person and that the story of Eden was an historical description. He also seemed to historicize 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.
And so it seemed that Paul thought Adam and the Garden of Eden were historical, which I was convinced was not the case. Paul was WRONG! Paul was NOT inerrant!
Accepting Adam as unhistorical did not affect my faith at all, but this realization that Paul was not inerrant 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 inerrant 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. I had lost my confidence in the Bible and in God’s existence. It was a time of despair so painful that I didn’t know if I would survive or ever be whole again. My spiritual journey was over and my religious beliefs were in ashes.
And the ashes were cold.
Dealing with Confusion, Grief, and Existential Chaos
Recently I read an article by Emma Higgs in which she talked about her journey away from ‘the static belief system I was taught to hold above all else, and dealing with the confusion, grief and existential chaos this process has entailed.’ That phrase just reached out and grabbed me: confusion, grief, and existential chaos. That describes precisely what it felt like to me.
Have you had such an experience during your journey–confusion, grief, despair, despondency, depression, deep agony, or existential chaos? Are you having such an experience right now in your life?
Then you are not alone.
When we begin questioning beliefs we have been taught to be the very revelation from God, it is often difficult to process through them—especially when we are warned constantly to not be carried away by false prophets or not to ‘lean to our own understanding’. And even more so when these warnings are accompanied by threats of eternal torture in the fires of hell. Some level of apprehension and hesitation can be expected.
But the reality is that these false, harmful, and misguided beliefs that have been handed down through generations of biblical interpretation in our particular tradition really are in error. And those of us who are honest and who think for ourselves must work through that.
But Here is the Good News!
I did hit bottom. My spiritual journey was over and my religious beliefs were in ashes. But then I found traces of hope and began to emerge on the other side of the chaos. Unexpectedly, I began to realize a new perspective that 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.
And there I found that I was clear of the harmful burdens of fundamentalism and in touch with the God who loved me. The new perspective was trust in Jesus, his teachings, and his example instead of trust in an inerrant Bible. I write about it at Discovering Jesus as the Foundation of All My Belief.
So if you are dealing with confusion, grief, despair, despondency, depression, deep agony, or existential chaos—don’t think it will never end. It will; and when it does you should be totally free of the burden of the harmful beliefs of conservative Christianity. If you have questions or need spiritual assistance now, feel free to let us know in the comments section or ‘Contact’ us from the menu above.
The existential chaos does not last forever!
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