Archive for September, 2008

Okay, so if I had to start my story somewhere, I’d choose the early summer of 2007, but right now I think I’d rather start with this picture of a squirrel that I took this week. Enjoy.

Anyway, early during the summer in 2007, I met with a good friend of mine from high school. He had studied a lot of theology, and during the drive home from the meal, our conversation turned to Christianity. He brought up Calvinism, of which I had never heard before. Calvinism is particularly known for what it has to say about predestination—that God, as the omniscient and omnipotent creator that He is, has the right to say where each human being will end up at the end of his or her life. At the time, it sounded to me that believing this would be to believe that we, as humans, don’t really have free will. Whoever God created us to be, we’ll be, and wherever He intends for us to go, we’ll go, and there’s nothing we can do about it. This scared me a lot. (I plan on focusing a separate post on this topic of predestination later.)

My friend also recommended a preacher named Paul Washer to me. Brother Paul, as he likes to go by, is a southern Baptist preacher who has gone and started ministries in Eastern Europe and South America, namely Peru. I listened to a sermon he gave at a church camp in Alabama. In this shocking sermon, he told the more than 6,000 listeners that he figured the great majority of them would be in Hell when they died. His main point is that here in America, Christians are taught to believe that as long as they pray “the prayer” and ask Jesus into their heart, He will undoubtedly do so. He takes the verse Matthew 7:20, which says that people are to be identified “by their fruits,” to support the claim that if you’re a Christian, there should be obvious evidence of it. Someone should be able to look at you before the change, and then look at you afterwards, and see a major difference. You should be turning away from your sin and look different than the rest of the world. (Go here to watch the sermon for yourself.)

I listened to this, and realized that all that of which he was accusing the listeners there in Alabama could have been charged against me as well. I admitted to myself then that, according to this man, who I believed (and still do) was speaking the truth, I was not a Christian. You would not see any major difference between how I lived before I became a Christian and afterwards. In the words of Brother Paul, I “looked like the world, smelled like the world, sounded like the world, and loved so much that was in the world.” I could sin again and again without pausing but for a couple of seconds to ask forgiveness, and there were even certain sins where I didn’t even feel any guilt at all.

Pairing this realization up with what I thought I knew about predestination, I came to the following conclusion: not only was I not a Christian, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I was going to Hell when I died. And for some reason, I was okay with this conclusion. For the rest of that summer, and for most of my trip to Spain in the fall, I was a fervent believer in Christianity, but believed myself excluded from the Good News that it preached.

It wasn’t until the end of the year, during my trip to London, where I found a book called The God Delusion by atheist Richard Dawkins, that I began to let my beliefs about Christianity turn negative.

Well folks, I apologize for the bad timing and sudden ending of this story, but I’m tired, and it is simply becoming too long for one post. I will tell the other half next time. (Click here to read it right now) But here, have another squirrel picture. 😀

-hasta pronto

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During my time in agnosticism, I obviously had many different questions and doubts about Christianity. One particular objection that I remember having is one that I find pretty simple to refute now. I chose to start with this objection because it requires no outside research and extra work on my part, which many of the other topics are going to involve.

I remember thinking to myself that the only reason I was ever a Christian was because my parents raised me that way. Most of our family and friends were Christians, and when someone has certain beliefs and values, they tend to pass them on to their children. If I were born in the Middle East, say, odds are that I would be Muslim. Looking back now, I don’t really see why I considered this one of my objections. I guess it just bothered me that one’s religious beliefs seemed partly dependent on the region of the world in which one grew up. The majority of South Americans are Roman Catholic, the Middle East is known for its Muslims, and most Indians are Hindu. So any children born in these places are very likely to be raised with the dominant values and beliefs of that society.

But of course, to believe something just because someone else does or because most people do isn’t a good idea. That would be foolish. I don’t believe the New Testament just because it’s part of the Bible and my pastor tells me to. I believe it because I have seen strong evidence that the books of the New Testament are historically reliable and true. I’m not a Christian because my parents raised me so; I’m a Christian because I’ve realized that I am fallen – I deserve eternal death. But God has forgotten my sins – He’s forgiven them and thrown them out into the depths of the sea so that He doesn’t even remember them anymore! I have faith from Him that He is the only one who can – and does – save me, give me eternal life.  My mom and dad first brought me to church and let me hear about Jesus, but they are not my reason for believing what I believe.

Likewise, people who were raised in other countries can look critically at their own belief systems and decide for themselves whether or not they’re worth believing. I hope they are not content to just take their society’s word for it.

So in the end, what I thought was an objection to Christianity was actually just a general objection to blind beliefs with no basis or regard to other possibilities. Silly me. 😀

-hasta pronto

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