Dealing with the Confusion, Grief, and Existential Chaos of Leaving Fundamentalism or Traditional Evangelicalism

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

grief03

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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83 Responses to Dealing with the Confusion, Grief, and Existential Chaos of Leaving Fundamentalism or Traditional Evangelicalism

  1. agentle01 says:

    Thank you Tim, It was so good to read about your journey as it encourages me in my journey as well. I had a similar journey, except that I wasn’t a fundamentalist, rather Moderate Charismatic-Evangelical. If I may I would like to add the story of my journey as well, in the hopes that it will encourage others, that we are indeed OK and still have the Love of God and can model the life of the historical Jesus to follow. http://www.changedbeliefs.blogspot.com Be blessed.

    Liked by 4 people

    • newtonfinn says:

      Thanks for the link to your uplifting and liberating story of the growing pains of faith, as one takes what has been received and does the inner work to make it one’s own.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agent, I read part 1 of your journey back in January and responded to you there, but I only just now read parts 2 and 3. It sounds as though your journey is proceeding well, but I am sorry for you loneliness and loss of relationships; it seems to be common for us who change our views. However, I hope you are less lonely as you discover others who are on similar journeys.

      Thanks for sharing your posts!

      Like

  2. Anthony Paul says:

    Thanks Tim for such an open and honest account of your personal pain in your move out of Bible-centered christianity. I can only begin to imagine the sense of total loss and brokenness you must have felt in making the decision that you could no longer hold on to that “life jacket” which you had grown into over so many years of prayer , study, and devotion to that all-too-prevalent church-taught Bible-centered belief system. Strange isn’t it how we have to let go of so much which is so important to us before any real growth in the knowledge of God (and of ourselves as well) really starts to take hold of our lives. Painful as it may have been for you, many of us here are more than grateful for your experience because it has been the source of much of our own personal growth and enrichment.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. tonycutty says:

    This is great. Three things: first of all, it stands to reason that an established ‘denomination’, for want of a better word, does build up a layer of detritus – baggage! – that is all assumed to be correct doctrine, whereas in actual fact it is stuff they have picked up along the way and they no longer know why. Secondly, doubting the structure of the spiritual box we were brought up in is a normal part of Christian growth, as I’m sure you’ve read on my recent blog series. And finally, another way of looking at Paul’s writings is to think of him as being a bloke just like us. A guy to whom Jesus speaks directly – and Paul does say as such – and who writes of his experiences and his beliefs for the benefit of his parishioners. In that sense, he’s no different from us, and although his b̶l̶o̶g̶s̶ letters are far more widely read than we are, still he’s trying to write down his current understanding of spiritual truths, which are only ever seen through a glass darkly. Just because he wrote half the New Testament doesn’t mean we should put him on a pedestal, as I am sure Paul would have agreed 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tony, what do you mean that Paul’s writings are more widely read than ours? Can this be true! Well, it surely is and I am glad. As much as Paul is misunderstood by some folks I agree with you that he was much like us–but he had some tremendous insight that I am pleased we have access to. Though Paul is not inerrant I think his letters are extremely important to us.

      I really like what you said about, ” that is all assumed to be correct doctrine, whereas in actual fact it is stuff they have picked up along the way and they no longer know why.” I think this is exactly the way it often is.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ken Hogan says:

    Remove constructs like historical context, metaphor, and nuance from analyses of any writings – what remains are binary views that dilute the value of ANY literary work. Somehow we go to school, learn these concepts, then are compelled to check them in at the door when we read scripture. The resulting tunnel-vision is what we label “inerrancy”. To your comment about Paul and Adam, his broader point is still intact for me whether I believe he was using a metaphorical Adam or not. It’s wonderfully liberating to freely consider both with impunity! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ken, I really liked what you said, “Remove constructs like historical context, metaphor, and nuance from analyses of any writings – what remains are binary views that dilute the value of ANY literary work.” This is direct and well stated.

      And I agree with you that Paul’s point is legitimate no matter whether or not he considered Adam to be historical;.

      Like

  5. Hi Tim, I just wrote an article of my own journey from fundamentalism over at Christian Feminism Today. I also wanted to tell you that I mentioned your blog in my article, because it really was instrumental in my recovery. If you’d like to see the article, here is is:

    https://eewc.com/my-journey-from-fundamentalist-to-feminist/

    Thanks again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • newtonfinn says:

      What a powerfully moving and courageous story you tell! No doubt that JWB has been a lifeline for many in similar shoes. Will be visiting your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Kayla, I agree with Newton that your blog post told a moving and courageous story. But it was so sad I wanted to cry. Unfortunately, these harmful, burdensome, and unkind situations are not uncommon among fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals.

      However, I am glad you were finally able to break free; and I am glad we could be of some help to you. That is the primary objective of the blog–to assist those who need support in their journeys away from the burdens and the baggage.

      Please let us know if and when we might be of further help, and thanks for mentioning us on your post.

      Like

      • Thanks for the reply! There is really no reason to be sad for me. I have moved on, and I don’t worry about who I used to be or the things in my past anymore. I see too many people who can’t let go, and that stops them from being and doing great things.

        Like you, though, I feel very sad and hurt for the many people who are still caught under fundamentalism. But I am comforted to know about the many communities like your blog and Christian Feminism Today who are saving slews of people by the day.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kayla, I am glad you have moved on. I am sad for people who are struggling with their beliefs but, like you perhaps, I am more sad for those who are still caught up in the burdens of fundamentalism.

          Like

  6. newtonfinn says:

    While I was lucky enough to remain uninfluenced by fundamentalist forms of Christianity during my childhood and youth (being spiritually nurtured in a rather liberal family and church), there were my own kinds of existential battles to be endured and fought through in coming to understand how Jesus, who had claimed me as Lord and Master, should be understood in the non-exclusivist framework in which my mind and heart were evolving. Rather than say it less well in my own words, let me link to an essay that indicates the place I eventually came to stand. It differs from Tim’s place in certain respects, but also shares a lot of common ground. Readers of JWB might want to ponder how this perennial wisdom perspective might be helpful–or not helpful–in their own spiritual journeys.

    https://www.cutsinger.net/pdf/perennial_philosophy_and_christianity.pdf

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anthony Paul says:

      “…there were my own kinds of existential battles to be endured and fought through in coming to understand how Jesus… should be understood in the non-exclusivist framework in which my mind and heart were evolving.”

      Most of my 73 years I have seen God through the lens of a salvational- exclusivistic christianity. Several years ago something took a turn inside of me and I started seeing the Divinity as someone far different — He became God-For-Us (humankind) and not just God For Christians. My belief is perhaps best expressed by these lines in James Cutsinger’s article, “…one begins to sense that the Son or Word, far from being limited to a single religion, is the divine principle behind all revelation and the eternal source of salvation in every authentic tradition. Though truly incarnate as Jesus Christ in Christianity, he is salvifically operative in and through non-christian religions as well.”

      This expresses the core of what I have come to believe about Jesus’ statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; when the christian religion appropriated this teaching for itself it lost any sense of universal credibility because it essentially separated itself from the spiritual poverty of a world to whom this message was to be delivered.

      Thank you for sharing this link with us. I have found it most enlightening and helpful in that it gives an intelligent and cohesive voice to some of my own contemplations.

      Liked by 3 people

      • newtonfinn says:

        You and I, Anthony Paul, are close in age and, it seems, even closer in whatever partial and imperfect wisdom the aging process might have brought. I’m glad that this essay resonated with you as it did with me, when I stumbled across it a short time ago. Its message was in keeping with one of the mentors who long guided my walk with Jesus and with whom you’re likely familiar: E.F. Schumacher, who moved, in the course of a lifetime, from Marxism through Buddhism to Roman Catholicism. Cutsinger’s essay refers to NT scriptures that point in the direction of perennial philosophy, and it might be useful to allude to others in the course of JWB discussions. Probably my favorite is 1 John:1-5 and especially its conclusion: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

        Liked by 2 people

        • Anthony Paul says:

          Newton, thank you for your comment… I would like to quickly elaborate on one aspect of this side bar discussion. Lately I’ve started pursuing a coarse of reading which includes the contemplatives in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. I’m reading about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, Thomas Merton’s “Dancing in The Water of Life”, and several books by that other Franciscan, Richard Rohr.

          Personal experience has made me come to believe that we all put way too much emphasis on using the Bible as the major source for discovering who God is in our lives… in fact I personally found the Bible to be almost as much of a hinderance as it was a help in moving away from the mainstream religious narrative of our time. Please don’t misunderstand… the Scriptures are a great and valuable resource for which we are all grateful… but it carries its own scars of centuries-old baggage and I’ve found it to be almost as much of an impediment as it is helpful. I reasoned why not go right to the Source for the help I need; why not go were the ancients went to find God. These were men and women who struggled with literacy and for whom Bibles weren’t even available even if they could read. I’m learning to pray and to spend time in quiet contemplation of the vast and often scandalous freedom and love which God has for His creation… and this has been a marvelously humbling and richly rewarding experience.

          Liked by 3 people

          • newtonfinn says:

            Hear you loud and clear. I went so far as to write and publish my own synoptic gospel, stripped of as much theological baggage as I thought possible, while staying true to the earliest Jesus tradition. If you want to take a peek, here it is:

            Liked by 2 people

      • ancadudar says:

        Anthony Paul,

        “He became God-For-Us (humankind) and not just God For Christians.”

        About two years ago I kept waking up in the middle of the night hearing the words “what I did, I did for everyone”. And then I would have this thought in my mind and this question. The question was, I am the way, truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me, and then I would hear/think why can’t that be true for everyone? Who says that after a person dies, that Jesus can’t reveal Himself to them, that they can’t bow and acknowledge Him and receive Him right there? There is no Bible verse against this idea. If anything, the NT says that Jesus preached to the dead. There is one Bible verse that says it is appointed for man to die once and then comes judgment, but I think that is speaking against the idea of reincarnation, not against Jesus revealing Himself to those who have died already. Jesus also said that He will draw all men to Himself. Also, during those times when I would wake up in the night, I also had questions about hell being eternal. I don’t believe that hell is eternal nor that people go there just for not knowing Jesus. I think it will be a place of temporary correction for those that have truly done evil and never changed for the better while on earth. For all we know, just being in the presence of God and His light might be enough to purify some people on the spot. Perhaps His goodness and love will erode away any ugliness left in a person and leave just the gold behind. I think Jesus will save almost everyone. Waking up at night and hearing/thinking these things happened intensely for about a year. I did not believe in Bible inerrancy at the time, but I was starting to view and interpret bible verses differently than the traditional way, I was beginning to question why the traditional interpretation is the only one when those verses could just as well have other explanations that integrate better with the overall message of the Gospel. After I studied Ephesians five and began to read resources form Bible scholars, not theologians, I stopped believing in Bible inerrancy as errors came to light and an understanding of polemics and it’s tie with later church development and the whole canon process.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Anthony Paul says:

          ancadudar… WOW!! You’ve really said a lot here that I can relate to… I won’t get into specifics, but I still usually have some of my best and most interesting thoughts about God just as I am waking up… I’ve read that this is because our fully conscious mind often acts as a reducing valve or filtering device for some of the deeper more meaningful realities that we may know but which are hidden in lower levels of consciousness. We need to continue to seek God out at much deeper levels and stop seeing Him/Her as “out there”… remember, She’s as near as your own heart (Paul said, “Don’t you know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?). I can’t help feeling that something truly marvelous and wonderful is rising to the surface within you. Don’y try to control it but do leave yourself open to wherever the Holy Spirit of God takes you.

          I like to use the word “awaken”… I believe that the Spirit in you has started to awaken you to the reality of who you really are (Zen masters call it “the face you had before you were born”) and who God is in you.

          Please continue to tell your beautiful story… this is very important for all of us to know, but even more so for you to continue for yourself as you move forward in your journey. May you be continually blessed as you discover the abundantly extravagant love of God in your life and in the lives of those around you.

          Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Anthony, I think this is an excellent response.

            Liked by 1 person

          • ancadudar says:

            Anthony Paul,

            “ancadudar… WOW!! You’ve really said a lot here that I can relate to… I won’t get into specifics, but I still usually have some of my best and most interesting thoughts about God just as I am waking up… I’ve read that this is because our fully conscious mind often acts as a reducing valve or filtering device for some of the deeper more meaningful realities that we may know but which are hidden in lower levels of consciousness. We need to continue to seek God out at much deeper levels and stop seeing Him/Her as “out there”… remember, She’s as near as your own heart (Paul said, “Don’t you know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?). I can’t help feeling that something truly marvelous and wonderful is rising to the surface within you. Don’t try to control it but do leave yourself open to wherever the Holy Spirit of God takes you.”

            “I like to use the word “awaken”… I believe that the Spirit in you has started to awaken you to the reality of who you really are (Zen masters call it “the face you had before you were born”) and who God is in you.

            Please continue to tell your beautiful story… this is very important for all of us to know, but even more so for you to continue for yourself as you move forward in your journey. May you be continually blessed as you discover the abundantly extravagant love of God in your life and in the lives of those around you.”

            Thank you Anthony Paul, your words are so beautiful! I wondered if what has been happening to me these last few years had to do with another level of consciousness, but in the Christian “language” these concepts of awakening or consciousness are not really allowed. I’m becoming convinced that there is so much more to these things. The waking up so often around the same night hour hearing all of these things has really transformed my life. The same with now how when I go outside in the evenings to sit alone, I constantly hearing that God is transcendent, that He is all around, that he can be seen everywhere. I feel and hear this pull to live out the teachings and love of Jesus way beyond the boundaries and theology of the Chruch, almost like the Church is not wide enough to contain the depth and the truth of the fullness of God. Like their boundaries are too tight, too small. Like God wants to overflow. What’s even more interesting is that I’m now meeting people of different faiths that are drawn to me for some reason, and I feel no need to convert them, just to love them, to help them in whatever their need. It’s weird because even random people have walked up to me in restaurants and asked to sit and talk, the conversations have led to friendships and keeping contact. I just love them and speak with them and then eventually when we share about our religions I tell them I’m a follower of Jesus. There is so much acceptances there from both sides. I can’t see how I fit into the restrictions of the church anymore.

            I really enjoy reading many of the things you share here Anthony, so inspiring!

            Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Ancadudar, you said, “The question was, I am the way, truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me, and then I would hear/think why can’t that be true for everyone? Who says that after a person dies, that Jesus can’t reveal Himself to them, that they can’t bow and acknowledge Him and receive Him right there?”

          I think you are on target here. You touch on something I feel strongly about myself; I have written a couple articles on this subject if you are interested.

          Liked by 3 people

    • newtonfinn says:

      Tim, when you get the chance, please correct ANOTHER spelling mistake made by a rapidly aging boomer. It should read “perennial” in the last sentence. Even when I repeatedly proof-read these days, I often fail to catch these kinds of errors. Am I the only one whose spelling is going down the tubes in, what’s let call, the late autumn years?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Newton, thanks for sharing this link on perennial philosophy. I found it very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beth says:

    Your journey mirrors mine in so many ways – that sick feeling that comes on you when a triggering event makes you take a hard look at what you’ve been taught your entire life; when the scales fall from your eyes and you see that you’ve been immersed in a belief system and way of life that is very cultish and, worse, that you’ve been all-in to a movement that dulls the mind, judges – and shuns -all who don’t agree. It’s been seven exceedingly painful years for me. I find myself happier than I’ve ever been, free of the burden of legalism. I am ok with not knowing all the answers and fully accept the Bible for what it is… a guide, written by men, compiled by men… all doing the best they knew how at the time. Unlike your journey, I have become less and less convinced of the deity of Jesus but remain open. I have a comfort about the larger God, but I can’t put my finger on it. The hardest part of all of this is the shunning of my family who simply don’t know what to do with me and who fear for my eternity. I am an alien to them. Fundamental Christianity is very isolating and when your entire life revolves around the church, there is a homogeneity, a lingo and immersion in a way of life that is very dulling. I was always taught to mix with my own kind for fear of being led astray. When I finally mixed with others who were non-believers, from other faiths, or from more liberal Christian backgrounds, what I found was an explosion of love, acceptance, morality and intellect that I couldn’t get enough of. Non-Christians blew away every Christian I had ever known in the “love thy neighbor” department. Now, when I hear the “lingo” – like “God told me,” or “it’s a God thing” – I cringe and see with different eyes how it makes them look to the rest of the world. I’m so relieved I’m not that person anymore, living in a bubble with all of my bubble-mates, all knowing. It actually feels better not knowing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wow Beth! Your comment contains so much wonderful insight! You have had quite a transition but you seem to have become very stable in your new views.

      You express the experience very well as… “That sick feeling that comes on you when a triggering event makes you take a hard look at what you’ve been taught your entire life; when the scales fall from your eyes and you see that you’ve been immersed in a belief system and way of life that is very cultish and, worse, that you’ve been all-in to a movement that dulls the mind, judges – and shuns -all who don’t agree. It’s been seven exceedingly painful years for me.”

      This is so familiar to others who are on the journey. I am sorry for your seven years of pain, but I love the happiness and freedom you describe, “I find myself happier than I’ve ever been, free of the burden of legalism. I am ok with not knowing all the answers and fully accept the Bible for what it is… a guide, written by men, compiled by men… all doing the best they knew how at the time.”

      Well said! And you are in great company.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      Beth. It might be of comfort to you that I have become convinced that that Jesus, although the Son of God, was not and is not part of God. The idea that he was God, or part of God, came out of the attempts to understand the words written by men, assembled together by men and given the approval of men.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ancadudar says:

        Chas,
        Do you have any educational materials that you recommend about what convinced you that Jesus was the Son of God but not a part of God? Thanks

        Like

  8. samzabotney says:

    And this differs from being a “Recovering Catholic” in what way????

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam, I am not sure at all that it differs except in some of the specific issues. My reference is to fundamentalism and conservative evangelicals because that was my background and the background of many of my readers. But I have Catholic readers who are on similar journeys and people form other traditions as well.

      Like

  9. Chas says:

    Tim, thank you for your post, and the linked one to 2013. It has helped me to understand why you are so reluctant for me to suggest that much of what we have in the Gospels came from one man. It also raises a question. Previously, you depended on belief that the bible was inerrant, but has it not now made you dependent on belief that what we have in the Gospels about Jesus is inerrant?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas, I think the answer to your question is No. I do not consider the writings in the gospels inerrant, but I do think they, together, paint a consistent portrait of the teachings and example of Jesus. I agree that many of the details require a closer analysis than what ‘inerrancy’ doctrine provides.

      Like

  10. Chas says:

    Tim, it should not surprise us that Paul thought that Genesis was inerrant, since he too must have believed that all scripture was inerrant, as we once did. The writer of the Gospel(s) must also have believed that this was so, as he seems not to have been aware that the book of Daniel was written in the second century BCE and refers mostly to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, with the abomination that brings desolation referring to the desecration of the temple. The writer therefore assumed that all of it was foretelling what was to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas, the NT writers, including the gospel writers, used the OT in ways that are inconsistent with that of modern-day inerrancy advocates, so I would not say that they considered the OT ‘inerrant’, but I think they did see the OT in ways that were current with the thinking and culture of the Jews of their day.

      I agree with you that part of that includes searching the OT for passages predicting, or referring to, Jesus. Some of this was simple midrash on their part, but it seems that they did try to apply outright predictions of Jesus as well.

      Like

  11. Neecer says:

    Thanks for the article! I have a question that may be off the subject a bit…but do any of you still go to church? If so, which one? I really have a hard time going to my former church (Evangelical) or my sister’s church which I really used to enjoy going to (Anglican)…I was raised Catholic, but cannot stand to go a Catholic service. If I am honest with myself, I don’t believe church is even necessary (though the church communities themselves do a lot to help those in need). Suffice it to say that I am on a journey as well, and have been for some time..with many bumps along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anthony Paul says:

      Hello Neecer… sounds like you and I have traveled the same path so I can relate. I haven’t been part of a church community (except this one at JWOB) for twenty years now but that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that christian fellowship is not necessary… on the contrary, I believe that we’re meant to work and learn and grow together in community with others. I’ve just not been fortunate enough to find a church that is open enough and free enough to accept people who are not afraid to believe in a God who can’t be defined and contained by some kind of religious doctrine or top down biblical teaching. Most churches I’ve known require you to at least tacitly accept some set belief system which, for me at least, says more about the rigid doctrines of that church hierarchy than it does about the loving nature of God or the people who worship within those walls.

      I don’t know how badly you want to be part of a church at this time but if I may I would like to suggest to you that you try to find a “heretic” church — hard to find because they don’t advertise themselves as such — from a historical perspective, the heretics were often closer to the truth than mainstream christianity. I’m not trying to be funny here… I believe that the historical record will support my contention that there was never a time when the church did not persecute with extreme prejudice anyone who dared think outside the neatly wrapped religious box.

      Good luck to you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Neecer says:

        Thanks Anthony Paul. I do not know of what you speak when you say “heretic” church…it is something I will have to read about. I live outside of a small town, with other small towns around it, so I do not have much to choose from…I will just have to make more of an effort once I feel the “pull” to find another church…thanks again for your comment!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Anthony Paul says:

          I’m sorry if I caused some confusion with my “heretic” comment… my mistake…. I was merely exaggerating a point which I would have done better to omit because it probably reflects my own bias against mainline fundamentalist christianity than it says about the church in general.

          Like you, I was also raised Roman Catholic but after high school I dropped out of religion altogether; but the Spirit would not let me rest there. After many years I started going to an Evangelical Church where I came to believe that I could live among like-minded christians who would be following the teachings of the Gospel… and I gave my heart to that church and those people and something wonderful started to happen: I became a different person… I fervently studied the word every day, listened to radio broadcasts on christian stations, read books written by fundamentalist writers, attended Bible studies every week, I tithed my share every week, I helped out at the church wherever I could, and we even held hospitality dinners at our house for several of our church brethren because I just couldn’t get enough of being with those I had come to love so much; while also experiencing a new love of God for allowing me the privilege of such joy… it was fun for me too… I loved it! (That’s BIG for me… I can be pretty tight at times, HA!)

          I took the pre-membership classes for that church on two different occasions but something always held me back and I just couldn’t go through with becoming a full fledged member of the church. Over several years (I was there about 8 years ) I started to notice that although there was a lot of preaching and sermonizing about the Gospel and a lot of smiling and hand shaking going on, there just wasn’t much else to it. I could write I book on specific cases where needs were not being met — a family with an alcoholic father, for example — the church kept them at arms length instead of embracing their need as Jesus would have done. My wife who attended church with me always felt that this church was cold and indifferent — and there were others we had come to know who stopped attending for the same reason.

          I finally left the church… not for theological reasons… it was more personal then that… the church leadership did something that hurt me badly and I guess I never quite got over it. I was bitter for a long time. I vowed that no church would ever get another penny from me… and I have not entered a church since. Had I stayed (as some suggested I should have and “worked to change the church from within”) I fear that I would have been the very best fundamentalist I could have been… But there would have been no growth. The Spirit has led me to see things quite differently now about who God is in the world… as Emmanuel, God with us, He is not just with us as fundamentalists or mainline christians; He is with us all as fruits of His beloved creation. I’ve come to see the Gospel as being Good News for the entire world and not, as some understand it, that it is good news only for those who have said “Amen” to God… it is God who has reconciled the world to Himself through Jesus Christ while not counting our sins against us… that is indeed good news for all and it is here that I find the rest that Jesus promised as I lay my heavy burden upon Him.

          Thank you for hearing my story… I know the Spirit will guide you to where you need to be just as long as you keep your heart and mind open in the knowledge that He will indeed complete the work He has begun in you. May He bless you powerfully!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Neecer says:

            Anthony Paul,
            Thank you so much for sharing! I believe He will guide me as well, but it make take a little more open mindedness on my part as I have soured on any type of church at this point. It is experiences like yours that really upset me because I do not know how churches can exclude or hurt anyone–but they do. And when I share what I think about Jesus and that I no longer believe in hell (“of course you don’t believe because it is your pride talking, etc., etc, etc.”), OH THE LOOKS I GET! Other people just DO NOT want to hear what I have to say, but I MUST hear what they say, LOL! It is such a difficult road to travel at times. Thank you again for your words!

            Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Neecer, you said, “OH THE LOOKS I GET! Other people just DO NOT want to hear what I have to say, but I MUST hear what they say.”

            Ain’t that the truth!

            Liked by 1 person

    • Neecer, I don’t know if you are gay-affirming but I have found that gay-affirming churches tend to be progressive in other areas as well. Here is a list of gay-affirming churches by state (or Canadian province) and by city. It might be helpful.

      https://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church/list-churches-by-state/?loc=GA

      Like

  12. Paz says:

    Thank You Tim and others, for sharing such enlightened journeys of “awakening” and for the helpful links. This is also for me personally, a continuous learning and evolving process between the known and the unknown… I think Christ is ALL transcendent (overcoming all religious boundaries and even overcoming death itself). I believe in the Universal message of Christ of nurturing kindness and compassion, as He demonstrated to us in His unconditional Love for humanity and creation, and in His accomplishment of the full potential of the Spirit in human experience.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. ancadudar says:

    “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?”
    I am having some of this now. It’s only in the past few months that I came to the belief that the Bible is not inerrant. This came about through my seven-month study of Ephesians 5 which led me to the study of Biblical texts from a scholarly textual criticism point of view instead of from a theological one. There is a good reason why theologians and textual scholars don’t usually communicate, they are like oil and water. I am just now beginning to wake up to the politics behind the texts and epistles we have in our Bible. There is a massive history behind them, so much political stuff going on. Has anybody ever woken up the fact that Christianity was a murderous theocracy for a 1000 plus years? What did the Romans find so appealing about some of its theological positions that it found it beneficial to merge Church with State? The theology side of it is like an illness, seriously these people have boxed themselves in on false pretenses when they decided that the Bible is inerrant and therefore must start all of their theological positions within those boundaries desperately trying to reconcile every contradiction, including ones that can never be reconciled, ignoring all flesh and blood facts that are right in front of them, all and any reality that does not measrue up to a verse or two, the depths they would go to and the harm they would cause just to meet the criteria of inerrancy!

    I keep wanting to weep, especially over this women’s issue and submission doctrine that the fundi’s have taken on. Every time I go outside at night to weep so that my family does not hear me, I keep hearing a voice in my mind and deep inside me, and a peaceful feeling all over my being that says don’t worry, I am in the whole world, I can be found everywhere, I am not limited to the Bible, I am transcendent, I’m all around you, just listen, just hear me and I will lead you. I am seriously not a new age person, nor am I into nature stuff, I just keep hearing what I believe is the voice of God telling me that He is all-encompassing and transcends any and all boundaries and boxes that man has put Him in, He is the ancient of days. Sure, parts of the character of God and testimony of Jesus can be found in the scriptures, they bear witness of Him, but He is transcendent even beyond them. He is only captured there in small glimpses. He spoke within frames that man could understand within their time. What I don’t mean by this is that He can be found in other religions, etc. I mean that I feel and hear that His presence is everywhere and that He loves the whole world and it’s people and all of His creation so much, that what He did, He did for everyone, and that He will personally speak to the heart of anyone who seeks Him and will lead them into all truth. I believe many who don’t even know His name yet, know Him, they bear His character of love. What did Abraham do before he had either an Old or New Testament? Yet God showed up to him in Spirit and in truth.

    I’m not sure where to go or what to do from here. I love the people of God and I want to fellowship with them, but I cannot accept the poisons that are entangled in the Bible along with the good parts. I’m really not sure where anyone got the idea that the Bible is inerrant, that is just simply not the process under which it evolved or was canonized. So much of what is in there is man’s view, mans grief, man’s solutions. I think I am going to take this journey just between me and Jesus, only focusing on what is recorded about Him.

    This is so painful to watch, this Christian fundamentalism that has taken over everything. It is becoming murderous lacking in any humanity or common sense. I once got into a discussion with a fundamentalist Muslim over the morality of Islam. We ended up discussing the texts that allow old men to marry and molest or rape infants. When pressed hard enough about it, he erupted and asked me what’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with marrying and molesting babies? If the holy book says it’s ok, then it’s ok. All his humanity and any sense of natural morality left the picture once his text was threatened because at the heart of it, everything else must go and inerrancy must stand!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anthony Paul says:

      ancadudar…
      We can hear your heart speaking here… in the tradition of the contemplative life, you’re awakening to the reality of God’s Spirit speaking to your soul… and it’s beautiful….

      You say: “I’m not sure where to go or what to do from here.”

      But you already know the answer to that question: “I keep hearing a voice in my mind and deep inside me, and a peaceful feeling all over my being that says don’t worry… I’m all around you, just listen, just hear me and I will lead you.”

      Liked by 2 people

    • newtonfinn says:

      Wow. The piercing honesty is almost overwhelming. Thank you for these words of spiritual fire which should edify us all on our respective journeys toward Abba, the God in whom, as Jesus taught, there is no darkness at all.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Ancadudar, you mention that you are going through some of this right now. Let us know if we can help in any way as you work through it. But it seems you are well along in your journey. Only a few months ago you found that the Bible is not inerrant, yet you already seem to have rebounded well. This is the issue that took me more than a year of despair to work through. Good for you!

      You said, “I keep wanting to weep, especially over this women’s issue and submission doctrine that the fundi’s have taken on.” So do I; it is so depressing and wrong. I have written a couple articles about Christian patriarchy; if you are interested I can share the links with you.

      I really enjoyed your comment. Feel free to continue interacting with us and, again, let us know if we can be helpful.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ancadudar says:

        Thank you jesuswithoutbaggage

        “Only a few months ago you found that the Bible is not inerrant, yet you already seem to have rebounded well. This is the issue that took me more than a year of despair to work through. Good for you!”

        Thank you, but I am confused now on how to witness to people about Jesus. I feel the love, presence, and goodness of God all around, and I have so much peace now, but I am not sure how to dissect and consume the Bible now because I do believe parts of it capture the truth about God and some of it is inspired. I mean I learned about Jesus and His character from the Bible, so some of it is true.

        “You said, “I keep wanting to weep, especially over this women’s issue and submission doctrine that the fundi’s have taken on.” So do I; it is so depressing and wrong. I have written a couple articles about Christian patriarchy; if you are interested I can share the links with you.”
        Thank you, I have read many of them these past months, and find them so healing and helpful. I am still reading through them under that section.

        Here is a brief sum up of what I found during my research on Ephesians 5. I have resources I drew on to back most of these things up.

        I am really, and I mean really digging into this women’s issue now. I’ve come to identify it as Roman-Greco values of gender given Christian symbolism. The trail goes pretty deep, Ephesians 5 is almost concept for concept a Roman ideal of gender with Jesus being added in there. The word “head” is a Roman symbolism for the Emperor and patronage. Head was used for the Emperor being the one who feeds the Empire by giving it wheat and beer, clothes her through wealth/money, protects her through the military, and provides direction for his “body” the Empire, and in turn, the “Body” gives him her full submission/obedience and gives him honor, thus submit in EVERYTHING. This is ancient Roman patronage! A system of exchange between two unequal people. These things are found written on marriage papyri from the Roman Empire. The husband is compared to being Head like Christ is Head as SAVIOUR OF THE BODY! It is in that context the husband is “Head” in comparison to Christ. And The Roman Emperor was called the savior of his Body, Christ being a replacement for it in Col and Ephesians.

        Jesus is depicted earlier in Ephesians as being the true “Head” in place of the Emperor, for the true “Empire”, the Chruch. Jesus, as it’s “Head”, represents as figurehead victory on behalf the Church in the unseen heavenly realms. He fights her unseen spiritual enemy, He feeds, nourishes, and grows His Church. All of this is a running theme earlier in Ephesians and throughout Colossians.

        The part of a man loving his wife like he loves himself, his own body, is almost word for word a part of Stoic teaching, nothing Christian about it. The part about his cleansing her fits in with the Roman view that a husband disciplines his wife and performs the spiritual rituals on her behalf. You can see in the writings of four early Chruch Fathers that they take a view that they need to discipline and correct their wives to “sanctify” them. The whole Epistle is suspect of being from early to mid second century. And some scholars did a reconstruct of Marcion the heretics version of Ephesians, and they believe that Tertullian added some of the Jesus and His flesh parts in there to counteract Marcion’s teaching that Jesus did not have flesh. Scholars can explain this better how there is a word break in there that interrupts the flow when the theme speaks of Christ and His Church, and it being a great mystery. They believe that part is interpolated possibly by Marcion.

        Ephesians 5 was supposed to be taken more as symbolism and liturgy than literal. It is giving wives a reason to continue and submit to their husbands as was the cultural custom, by drawing on the provisionary and protective aspects that a husband offered a wife in those days, and comparing it to Christ’s provisions to His Chruch. No one from the early Chruch Fathers took it literal or as something they must roleplay. This is a new phenomenon where fundi’s think it has some mysterious spiritual value if they mimic it. It’s almost superstitious the way fundamentalist try to live this out.

        So to get all of this information, I have been studying for the past seven months just on Ephesians. I drew on many sources about the ancient Roman Empire, and how their society ran. Especially focusing on gender relations throughout Sparta, Rome, and Greece. Something strange came up as I was studying why they kept women from being allowed to possess wealth and basic access to owning property, voting, self-governance, etc. Something strange came up, very strange in fact. There might be some biological reasons in how women interact with men that possibly fuels patriarchy. The curse mentioned in Genesis 3:16 took on a new light. The word there describes an unhealthy craving the woman has for the man, and he, in turn, rules over her. So I started to look for information on the matter, and it’s kind of lead me on a path to consider the possibility of evolution. Do you have any resources on evolution jesuswithoutbaggage?

        Liked by 1 person

  14. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Hey Guys, some of you might remember that a couple times in the past I have not had access to my computer because I was in the hospital for almost a week. Well this time it was my computer that was in the hospital (repair). Starting right now, I will start viewing your comments.

    Sorry for the delay!

    Like

    • newtonfinn says:

      Tim, I hope you’re overjoyed to see that while the “captain’s” computer was down, the “crew” here at JWB (or is it JWOB?) stepped up and kept a lively conversation going on the crucial subject of your post. Some of us, I’m sure, were getting a little worried about your absence and sending prayers your way…just in case. Think what the internet might be if there were more websites like this one, using an electrical current to create spiritual energy and community.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. As most of you know here, I am the so called Fundamentalist in the group. However I’ve certainly had my share of church crisis’ and faith readjustments. First from rejecting forms of legalism that I was raised in. And later from recognizing the Calvinist views of a church we attended for a decade, and realizing I couldn’t embrace them. I felt like that revelation really woke me up and caused me to study more deeply what I really did believe. It wasn’t the only reason we left that church, and although I had a great deal of sadness and heart ache as a result, it strengthened my personal faith. I do find solo scriptura to be in error, as God speaks in ways that are some times hard to even explain to others, through events and dreams and even visions. As far as inerrancy, perhaps my understanding of it is different than most. I believe and trust the Bible because of the Spirit personally living in and through the words. It has little to do with how the Canon developed and certainly the church has been corrupt many times. God is bigger than all that and able to speak to all those who will read his word with open hearts. I would also say I am very fortunate to now attend a church that gives back to communities, to the poor and to anyone truly in need. I spent a lot of time trying to understand God. Now I just want to walk closer to Him and be salt and light to whoever he sends my way. My struggle these days is how best to do that.

    Liked by 3 people

    • newtonfinn says:

      Glad to see you on this new thread, ww. I’m with you in much of what you say here about scripture, Christian history, God, the walk of faith, and what sounds like a church that would warm Jesus’ heart. You’re blessed to have found it, and vice versa.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wild, this is a very inspirational and encouraging story. Legalism was the first issue I dealt with when I began my journey of examining my beliefs. You have also had a journey, which many really have not had; they simply believe what they were first taught without questioning its validity.

      I really like your concluding sentence, “Now I just want to walk closer to Him and be salt and light to whoever he sends my way. My struggle these days is how best to do that.” I think this is where all of us are who really follow Jesus.

      Like

  16. Megan L. Martinez says:

    Thank you so much! Finding your page was like finding treasure. It’s has helped me when I was feeling real low, didn’t think it would end. I love Jesus but not all the strict stuff. I just didn’t feel right, yet I didn’t want to give up on Jesus either. I’m feeling so much better now I understand how to love Jesus and what He stood for, not man made stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Megan, I am so glad that you found the blog to be helpful! If you ever need support or have a question, just let us know.

      Like

  17. I still deal with it, even though it’s been years. I wrote a whole bunch of posts about it as well: https://nyssashobbithole.com/main/category/existential-crisis/

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Nyssa, your post is heart-wrenching. I am so sorry for the pain you endured, but I know you are somewhat recovered from it. You said: “I was plunged into spiritual darkness and doubt.” I really appreciate that you now do a great service to others in exposing and counseling regarding abuse from the narcissism you encountered.

      Thanks for commenting here; I hope more people check out your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. 🙂 Yes, I have recovered from the pain of narc abuse, but still deal with the existential crisis, still wonder if God’s really there or just created by man. I believe it was the Slacktivist who recently wrote that Christians with a fundamentalist background really struggle with learning that various figures in the Bible never existed, or that evolution really happened, because literalism is so tied up in how they were taught about God.

        Liked by 2 people

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Nyssa, I am afraid Slactivist is correct. Many conservative believers go through a period of crisis when they begin to question beliefs they have been taught (like inerrancy or literalism). I think part of the reason for this is the absolute certainty in which they are presented and the warnings of not ‘leaning to your own understanding’ (Lean on our understanding instead).

          The most extreme warning is that you will burn in hell forever for questioning. But I say ‘Do not question’ = ‘Do not think’.

          Liked by 2 people

  18. Honest Faith says:

    Thank you for this writing. I went through a big “deconstruction” moment in college back in 2001 and have been trying to find my way to a re-construction of of “Faith” since that time. I had a massive shift back in 2016 which lead to me starting my new ministry in “Honest Faith”. If you are curious there’s more about that here ( http://thehonestfaith.com/2017/04/04/a-life-of-worry/ ).

    Anyway, my point is that I came to the realization, as Yoda put it in “The Last Jedi”, “Page turners, those are not.” The Bible was never meant to be worshiped. It’s just a collection of writings. Some great inspirational writings, but nevertheless, a collection of writings. Once I started to read the narratives, poetry, and legal documents for what they were they came to life. The biggest step for me was the giving up of of the romanticized idea of the passion. I commented about this on your previous post. I read Bart Ehrman’s “How Jesus became God” and it kind of shattered me, in a good way. I think I placed too much emphasis on the book being holy, rather than the message in the book being the thing that was holy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Honest, so many of us are going through religious deconstruction and reconstruction! And it is sometimes a painful process. I really like your insight, “The Bible was never meant to be worshiped. It’s just a collection of writings. Some great inspirational writings, but nevertheless, a collection of writings. Once I started to read the narratives, poetry, and legal documents for what they were they came to life.”

      A similar thing happened to me. The Bible is so much richer and interesting now.

      Liked by 1 person

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