The Heretic in Me

The Heretic in MeI’m beginning to scare myself.

Why?

Long-held doctrines that I’ve held unswervingly to for years are beginning to teeter in my mind.

I can’t decide if this is good or bad, but one thing is for sure…it’s making me more humble. (You know you’re humble when you can brag about it.)

The Subtle Shift in My Theology

I’ve been noticing this shift for a while, but I was bowled over by it this morning on my walk to work. I was listening to a message by Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and I found myself agreeing with nearly everything he said (He is a fantastic speaker, by the way).

I remembered the first time I was introduced to this book. It was about 5 years ago. I was the Senior Pastor of a church, and someone gave it to me and told me I must read it.

I got through twenty or thirty pages before I tossed it in the garbage can. Literally. I think his book is the only book I have ever thrown out. I have books on my shelves written by Muslims and Mormons, none of which I have thrown out. Miller’s book got thrown across the room as hard as I could and into the garbage can (True story!).

Now, I find myself laughing and agreeing with what he is saying.

What Happened to Me?

So I asked myself this morning, “What has happened to me in 5 years?!?”

Some would answer “You went to seminary.”

That might be true. Seminaries (sometimes) have a way of making heretics out of us all. But just as one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure, so also, one person’s heresy is another person’s cardinal doctrine.

It is just that I seem to have fewer and fewer cardinal doctrines. Several of my “Doctrines to die for” are no longer so important.

Fewer Doctrinal Hills to Die On

Hills to Die On“What doctrines?” you ask?

Not the “core fundamentals” like the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Jesus, and justification by faith alone in Christ alone. If I ever start to have misgivings these, please, somebody come kick me in the head…hard. I will defend these to my grave.

No, I am raising questions about various doctrines within ecclesiology, eschatology, angelology, and a few others.

How is this happening?

Some of these beliefs of mine are being undermined by the weight of exegesis. In other words, Bible study is making me doubt some of the theology I have been taught.

Below are a few areas I feel toppling.

Note that they haven’t toppled yet; they may right themselves, or like the Tower of Pisa, just lean over a bit. But I do not hold to these things as firmly as I once did.

I still believe these things to be true and biblical, but I am now aware of different ways of approaching these doctrines which require further study on my part.

My Current Leaning Towers of Pisa (why some might call me a heretic)

Leaning tower of PisaHere is my current list of doctrines which I am questioning, and which might cause some to label me as a heretic:

  • A literal, six-day-24-hour creation 6000 years ago. (Was Moses really writing a scientific treatise on how the universe began?)
  • “Messianic” prophecy in the Old Testament. (It’s not all about Jesus. But see #3 below).
  • Biblical Hermeneutics. (It’s all about Jesus, even the entire Old Testament.)
  • A future seven-year Tribulation. (Some of the passages which seem to teach this may not do so after all.)
  • Church. (The way we “do church” today is at best ineffective, and at worst, sinful.)
  • Eternal, conscious torment in hell. (I am NOT a universalist or an annihilationist. I’m just not sure hell=torture.)
  • The fall of Satan and his angels. (The Bible doesn’t seem to clearly talk about this.)

These are just a few of my own personal heresies. 

Now you see why I have to go into church planting. There are not many churches in the country that would hire a pastor who has misgivings about this list of doctrines. (Are there any?)

The simple act of raising questions about these doctrines will probably cause some to brand me as a heretic.

In fact, in some churches and ministries, if I started to investigate alternative understandings for these doctrines, I’d probably get fired or cause a split.

…Maybe I should just sell cars or clean carpets…

2012 Update

As it turned out, I did get branded as a heretic. This post was written in December of 2007. Two months later, after some blog readers informed my boss I had written this post, I was fired from my job at a Christian publishing company.

And guess what? After months of searching for a job, I ended up cleaning carpets! I may be a heretic, but I am also prophetic! Kind of scary. 

Here are some of the posts that explain more:

Eventually, I will write a book with chapters on each of the seven doctrinal areas above. Make sure you subscribe to the free email newsletter to get news, information, and a free copy of this book when it comes out.

Until then, what are your thoughts on any of the seven doctrines above which I had questions about? What do you think of branding people as heretics? Do you think a church or ministry should fire pastors and employees who begin to question their personal beliefs? Join the conversation below!



Comments

  1. says

    Jeremy,

    When I read your list, my stomach began to turn, literally. I began to get sick in my stomach, literally.

    I am very concerned about #’s 1, & 4 of your list.

    I have had the benefit of living in town with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) since the day of my new birth. Many of the professors at the Southern California Seminary, have degrees from the graduate school at ICR. I have taken both biblical and scientific creation classes. I have read many books by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb and others. There is too much evidence for a very young earth.

    I am saddened to see you teetering on premillennialism.

    Thinking about you teetering on these well established doctrines really concerns me.

    Recently a Free Grace brother changed his whole soteriology to include any and all works-salvationists who simply believe that Jesus is God.

    All of this makes me want to divorce myself from people. I just don’t understand how people, who know better, will get wrapped up in so much error.

    I take some hope that you are merely teetering and have not given them up.

  2. says

    Oh, and by the way, we will eventually be considering all of these items (and others) in the theology forums over at Free Grace Churches.

    We will be looking at the exegetical evidence (or lack thereof) for these points, plus practical ramifications for discipleship that are involved. Come join the conversation!

  3. says

    Antonio,

    I just am not as sure as I once was about these doctrines. I hold them a little more humbly and will be able to get along more easily with those who don’t hold them.

    And besides, I am not questioning “premillennialism” at all! I am only questioning the 7-year Tribulation. I am still a firm Premillennialist. I believe in a future, literal, 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. I am just not as sure as I once was that it will be preceded by a seven year tribulation.

    Regarding ICR, they called at GES yesterday and will have a booth at our National Conferece in March and will be giving at least one workshop. I am excited about this! I am not leaning toward “theistic” evolution.

    Anyway, I knew this would be a dangerous post…

  4. says

    I do think that a sic-day creation is taught in Genesis 1. But I think there is a gap between the first few verses, so there is an uncertain period of time in pre-history during which God’s kingdom was administered by angels.

    I doubt that a gap can be used to explain alleged geological ages, but you never know. I do get a bit tired of the dogmatism and arrogance of some Six-Day Creationists. Their polemical use of humour shows a lack of humility.

    “Church. (The way we “do church” today is at best ineffective, and possibly sinful.) ”

    Yes, I think so.
    Have you ever read the writings of JN Darby?

    I believe the church is in ruins. No congregation today can truly claim to be a church.

    You have a Baptist church, a Pentecostal church and a Methodist church in one town. Which one is the church? Can there be more than one church in a locality? That would mean Christ is divided.

    Christians seem to think anybody can just form a group and call it a church.

    It would be better to meet simply in homes and refrain from trying to appoint officers and call ourselves Such and Such Church

    With regard to Satan, that depends on how one interprets Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.

    There are a lot of mysteries with regard to these things. I htink the mystery of it supports the view that it occurred before the creation week of Genesis 1 in pre-history.

    I think there were two falls of angels. The fall of Satan and his angels, and the fall of the Sons of God in Genesis 6 who are now imprisoned.

    It is good to re-examine our theology from time to time. But as Antonio, points out these issues are vitally important.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

  5. Rachel says

    Jeremy,

    You said,

    “There is not a church in the country that would hire a pastor who has doubts about this list of doctrines.”

    Of course there are many churches who teach non-traditional views of the doctrines you’ve listed above, so I’m sure you could find some church that wouldn’t care. Just pointing out that there are lots of churches in this country. Don’t put them all in a box.

    Regarding your list, I am not dogmatic on all of them either. I thought I would give you links to some articles I have read regarding some of your points above. I would like to caution you in one area though. Be careful that “questioning traditional views” does not become your “god”. It is good to question our beliefs, in so doing we either change or become stronger. But it is easy to become enthralled in the questions, such that it becomes more desirable to ask questions rather than really look for the answers. By all means, question. But look for the answers, and be willing to accept the truth, whether that means a change from traditional views or an embracing of traditional views.

    “A literal, six-day-24-hour creation 6000 years ago. (Was Moses really writing a scientific treatise?)”

    Try True Origins (as opposed to Talk Origins), Answers in Genesis, and the index of issues in Genesis from Tektonics (I LOVE Tektonics, many of these links will be from there). Also, Moses didn’t have to have a “scientific treatise” as his purpose for writing to have meant 6 literal 24-hour days. And something to think about if you’re considering evolution in any form – is it possible for death to exist before sin, or did sin bring death? Of course evolution has death as one of its integral parts. If you plan to accept evolution in any way (theistic, deistic, etc.), you will have to accept that death existed before sin, which is rather difficult to reconcile with Scripture.

    ““Messianic” prophecy in the Old Testament. (It’s not all about Jesus. But see #3 below).”

    Not quite sure what you mean here. But from what I’ve read over the last couple of years, using “prophecy” as a proof that the Bible is true doesn’t work too well. Of course the Bible IS true, but the way that the Jewish authors (including the NT authors) used prophecy is kind of different. Try Glenn Miller’s article on the issue (if you don’t know, his website is the Christian ThinkTank and is another one of my favorites – he’s got tons of stuff, so feel free to browse his subject or topical indices). The article is pretty long, but if you want to truly understand the topic and hold to or dismiss any view, you’ll need to take the time to go through something like that thoroughly.

    “Biblical Hermeneutics. (It’s all about Jesus, even the entire OT.)”

    Don’t really know what you’re referring to here, so can’t comment.

    “A future seven-year Tribulation. (I am having trouble finding good evidence for this.)”

    I’m not completely convinced of this anymore either. I do think the Tribulation is literal, but it’s possible it already happened. This view is known as preterism. I don’t mean so-called “full” preterism (heresy). But “partial” preterism is something I’m looking into. R.C. Sproul is an advocate of preterism (I’m sure you’re not thrilled with all of R.C. Sproul’s views, but hopefully you won’t let that cause you to discount EVERYthing he teaches). Here’s an article about preterism on Tektonics, it’s a good start.

    “Church. (The way we “do church” today is at best ineffective, and possibly sinful.)”

    Hmm, not sure about the “sinful” part, although I’m sure there are some practices in certain churches that are sinful. I think some of what you have to say about the church today is good and needful, but I also think some goes too far. Remember that cultural issues need to be considered when reading the methodology of things like “church” in the NT. But overall, yes, “the church” is “at best ineffective”, although we might disagree on which areas and <why.

    “Eternal, conscious torment in hell. (I am NOT a universalist or an annihilationist. I’m just not sure hell=torture.)”

    I’m not really into the Dante-esque “eternal torture of fire” either. Here’s another article by Glenn Miller about the nature of hell. And here’s the “H” index from Tektonics, scroll down to the “hell” entry.

    “The fall of Satan and his angels. (The Bible doesn’t explain when or how this happened…anywhere).”

    No doubt those who disagree with you here will point to either Ezekiel 28 or Isaiah 14. I’m not sure on this anymore either. I think it is possible that neither Ezekiel NOR Isaiah are talking about Satan. Here’s another article from Tektonics about that.

    Lastly, I see on your sidebar that you are currently reading the Honor… book by deSilva. Good book! I own it as well. I encourage you to go down that road of cultural/social understanding of the world of the Bible. Another good book is Handbook of Biblical Social Values. Check out the work of the Context Group, it’s fascinating and very eye-opening.

  6. says

    Jeremy,

    You said:

    “my doctrines of ecclesiology, eschatology, angelology, and a few others are being undermined by the weight of exegesis.”

    I think it would be helpful to us all if you cited some of this “weight of exegesis” that is leading you to change your position on these doctrines.

  7. says

    Matthew,

    It looks like you and I are traveling along similar paths…especially in regard to the church. With all these areas, as you point out, it all depends on how certain passages are undestood.

    Which brings me to Jonathan’s request… There are passages which I used to understand a certain way, which I am now beginning to think might not teach what I’ve always thought they have taught. In the past, my theology has been directing my exegesis, rather than the other way around. Now I am not sure these passages don’t say what I’ve always thought they said. Since I always try to study all sides of a passage, I have seen that there are compelling reasons to understand certain key texts in different ways. Eventually, I hope to present some of these ideas over at the new forum: Free Grace Churches. I may or may not discuss them here.

  8. says

    Rachel,

    Wow. I must confess to you that I had you “pegged” completely different! I am sorry for that. My respect for you has just shot WAY up. It looks like you and I may have more in common than I previously thought. Ha ha.

    I will definitely check out the links you have posted. That Tektonics site sounds wonderful.

    Thanks for the reminder about there being churches out there who would hire me. I did go over the top with some hyperbole there. I tend to do that from time to time… Also, your reminder to not make “questioning traditional views” my god was very timely. Thank you.

    Regarding the “Handbook of Social Values” book, I already own it, along with a few dozen others by Malina, Pilch, and deSilva. That website you mentioned about contexts sounds great. I think this field of social and cultural backgrounds to the Bible might be one of the most important areas of hermeneutics, and may be one of the most neglected. I am doing my Master’s thesis on the concepts of honor and shame as a primary social value of the NT world. The study is very eye opening, and has led to a different perspective on how I read the NT.

    Anyway, I REALLY appreciate your comment. If it’s okay with you, I might venture back to your blog from time to time and continue the conversation…

  9. Rachel says

    Jeremy,

    That’s great that your thesis will be on honor and shame! I will look forward to it. I completely agree that the social/cultural world of the NT is an area that has been sorely neglected, yet has many ramifications for how we interpret the NT (this goes for the OT as well, e.g. the law that says that a rapist must marry his victim – sounds terrible to us, but once the culture is understood it actually makes really good sense). Tektonics is a site devoted primarily to answering atheists and skeptics, so as a result the site answers just about every “difficult” passage (from a skeptical perspective, not necessarily difficult “in house” passages). He frequently answers these questions by utilizing the social understanding of the biblical people. If you have time (haha), just browse around the scriptural index, it’s fascinating.

    I messed up in my post above on a couple of the links, I didn’t type them right so they didn’t show up. So here they are again…

    Glenn Miller’s article on the use of OT prophecy

    Tektonics article about preterism

    Thanks for your comments Jeremy, and of course you or anyone is welcome at my group blog. Actually the top article is one of mine about grace, I’m sure you will find the information very familiar… :-)

  10. says

    Jeremy,

    Nothing wrong with questioning the scriptures or doctrines either, the apostle Paul said for us to “examine all things; hold fast to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) John recorded Jesus’ praise to the Church in Ephesus, “You have even put to the test those who refer to themselves as apostles (but are not), and have discovered that they are false.” (Revelation 2:2) Then there is the example of the Berean’s in Acts 17. There are some other premier passages that bear on this process as in Acts 15 (mentioned earlier) and others that tell us to look and test and hold on to. In a very funny way the scientific community owes its method to God and the Bible.

    On the other hand, Paul told Titus about Elders, “He must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught, so that he will be able to give exhortation in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it.” (Titus 1:9) And for those under their authority, “stand firm and hold on to the traditions that we taught you, whether by speech or by letter.” (2 Thess 2:15) Even in the Old Testament Moses told the Israelites, “Be careful to do just as you are taught.” (Deuteronomy 17:10b).

    Don’t get me wrong, your points are valid, the issue of creation for instance. One of the elders in the church that I was a fellow elder in invited a 6-day creationist to speak one Sunday. I talked to him before, and said that I respected his opinion but that there were another views just as valid and just as biblical. He said he would mention these. Afterwards, seeing some of the errors in his presentation I e-mailed him asking him if he realized that his word study of the Hebrew word for “day” was in error. It also occurred to me that he did not do the study himself but was parroting stuff out of books, not the bible. He never answered me so I asked the elders if I could present the other views and more likely what Moses was trying to convey which was not a literal 24 hour day but the greatness of God. To me a literal 24 hour day should not be a test of orthodoxy because we also have a thread of Natural Theology which includes science that has very heavy evidence that things are really that old. I still lean very much to a gap theory, but I don’t slam brothers and sisters who hold a different view.

    Also, I have and still question the value of Seminary (I hope my professors and president don’t read this!). I believe that one of the reasons the local church is weak is because most believe that you have to be seminary trained to minister to others. I’m proof that isn’t true. I now go to seminary to acquire the things my pastors have said that I lack that they didn’t have time to provide me. In fact three of them at different churches (military doesn’t let you stick in one place for very long) said after getting to know me, looked at my library and said, “you have already put yourself through seminary, now all you need is the original languages and exegetical and homelitical work.” This is not word for word but each of them in essence said the same thing.

    So I finish with this, test it, hold on to it if it good. Reject those things that do not pass the test, but keep an open mind as we all are being built up in our faith day by day.

    Your brother,

    Jim

  11. says

    Jim,

    Thanks for the words of advice and encouragement. I completley agree with you that the church should be the primary training ground for church leaders. I hope to be involved with a church someday that provides adequate training for such people in the church.

  12. says

    Questioning is good — but be sure to seek answers from God’s word and godly people. Questioning too easily becomes a euphemism for disbelief.

    Why question the literal 6-day interpretation? The simplest reading of the Genesis account yields that understanding.

    You’re not, you say, making room for evolution … so why adopt something other than the simple interpretation?

    Holding to evolution as the origin of the world and all that is therein makes good philosophical sense if and only if you reject the idea of a God … or even of gods. Holding to 6-day creationism makes good philosophical sense if you believe, as you insist, on Scriptural inerrancy.

    A compromise really suits neither side. So … why? You feel science is not on the side of a 6-day interpretation and don’t want to be labeled a “flat-earther”? Read Ken Ham and some of the others from ICR. They’ve done a top-notch job on this.

    Hell not equaling torture … again, why? “where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” is not a place you’re going to urge anyone to go … so why argue it’s not quite as bad a place as Dante and the old-time preachers told us?

  13. Believer Bill says

    Jeremy,

    I know I don’t know you from Adam, but since coming from a “Christian” college where questioning was the modus operendai (not sure if that is sound Latin…), I understand your arising doubts. However, the key here is where your focus and gaze is placed. Is your approach to interpretiation based upon the glory of God and the work of Christ? I have found that when my focus is on self or others, the Word of God becomes fuzzy and distant. But when I bring a humble, Christ-centered approach to interpretation, the Lord makes things more clearer. I am not saying that this mutually exclusive of a literal hermeneutic or get charismatic, but rather, what is your mind been centered on…? Apart from Him, we can do nothing. Everything we are, do and ever will be hinges on Christ. What He is, has done, and forever will be…

    Look to Him,
    BL
    Col 3:1-4

  14. Rachel says

    Jeremy,

    You said to Jonathan,

    “Since I always try to study all sides of a passage, I have seen that there are compelling reasons to understand certain key texts in different ways. Eventually, I hope to present some of these ideas over at the new forum: Free Grace Churches. I may or may not discuss them here.”

    I’m wondering, if you listed for us here the doctrines you are considering changing your mind on, why wouldn’t you discuss your ideas about them here as well? If you think there are some “compelling reasons” to change your views, then why wouldn’t you share them here, and others can see them and either change as well or possibly present “compelling” reasons from the other side? It does seem kind of like “hit-and-run” for you to post that you are considering changing on some major issues, but then potentially not give any reasons as to why.

    The question has been raised, why did you post your potential changes-of-mind publicly? As I’ve noted, I am also considering changing on some of the points you listed, and while I’m not hiding that fact, I’m also not broadcasting it to everyone either. Perhaps your answer as to why you posted this will help explain why you might not post your reasons for changing.

  15. says

    Hi all,

    Please forgive me if I don’t reply to all your questions…

    Daniel, I have read Ken Ham’s books and much of the literature from ICR. We need to understand that there is a difference between the “literal” reading of a passage and the “contextual” reading. A contextual reading reads the passage not in our own context, but in the context in which it was written. If we understand the social and cultural context Moses was writing in, then our “literal” interpretation of Genesis 1-2 might change. Also, a truly “literal” intepretation must allow for figures of speech and the use of imagery. I think that some of this might be going on in Genesis 1-2. If I discuss some of this here, I will present some of these ideas. The same goes for any discussion about “hell.”

    Bill, thanks for the comment. You are absolutely right about where our focus needs to be. I have no desire to be controversial or to come up with new doctrines just to make a name for myself. I sometimes feel that “professional scholars” come out with things they do simply to get published, or make a name for themselves. However, it is not enough to just say “I am trusting the leading of the Holy Spirit to help me understand this text.” I don’t think you are suggesting that approach…but there are many who do. In such situations, what happens when two “spirit led, God glorifying, Christ centered” believers disagree on the interpretation of a passage?

    Rachel, the reason I am thinking of not posting anything about these topics is that I’m not that interested in being controversial. As many bloggers realize, being controversial is what gets readers. I feel that if I am being controversial just to get readers, I am doing it for the wrong reasons. Sure, it’s easy to point the figure, and call people out, and rant and rave, and write posts that get people excited, but I don’t think such behavior is glorifying to God. This post of mine might have been too over the top for me, so maybe I shouldn’t have posted it at all. Arguments between believers always leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It makes me not want to be associated with Christians. See the post I made today about this.

    If I do post, I may post at the forums on Free Grace Churches.

    The forums over at Free Grace Churches are (so far) a pretty fair and gracious place to discuss all areas of theology and church practice, and do have some fairly controversial posts. IF I decided to post on these topics, and if I decide to post them there, I may link to them here…but we will see.

  16. says

    Just for the record…

    1. Even though I titled the article “The Heretic in Me” I do not think that if I were to end up believing any of the seven things I am questioning that I would be a heretic. All I meant was that some would consider me to be a heretic for holding such beliefs. As it turns out, some are calling me a heretic just for considering such beliefs. Gotta love “Christians.”

    2. To my knowledge, niether Bob Wilkin nor Zane Hodges are considering changing their views on any of these seven doctrines. However, I do not think they would consider me a heretic for wanting to study such doctrines more closely in light of Scripture.

    3. There are two primary reasons I am unable to discuss these seven doctrines here on this blog. First, I dislike theological debate among Christians. It tends to serve no purpose except making a bunch of Christians mad at each other, which in turn turns off unbelievers from Christianity. God is not glorified by such things. It’s a lose-lose-lose-lose situation.

    Second, the weight of the Scriptural evidence which is causing me to question these doctrines would require several dozen posts for each doctrine. It would get very boring and technical. This sort of study requires theological journal level writitng, not short blog posts. If, once I arrive at some conclusions, I am able to succinctly post these conclusions and a few basic reasons for my decision, I may do that here. The forums at Free Grace Churches are set up so that individual books and passages can be discussed more easily. Though still not ideal for such a study, it would be easier to do it there in that setting than in a blog setting like this.

    P.S. I tried to post a comment on another blog (one critical of me) that my plunge into “heretical liberalism” is worse than they think. The comment was blocked. What I wrote is that I am growing out my hair, and it almost covers my ears! So I guess it’s true: I must be a heretic after all.

  17. Believer Bill says

    Jeremy,

    In response to your question…simply put: one or both would be wrong. If the Lord is very intentional in His Word as far as communicating a message to mankind, then there must be one correct answer to every doctrinal and interpretive issue. Granted, He has not made all clear to us, however, all doctrine has been clearly laid out such as the Gospel, Eternal Security, eschatology, the Christian life by grace, etc. A literal, normal hermeneutic coupled with a Christ-centered, grace-oriented approach will normally yield the proper interpretation. But if we look to what’s popular within Christendom or what do the “big players” think, we may very well be led astray…the Spirit uses logic and reason to bring us to the answers…but it must be supported by Scripture as a whole.

    Bill

  18. says

    Bill,

    Excellent answer. I completely agree with you.

    Of course, practically, even when the approach you suggest is used, there are still many passages where Christians will end up with different interpretaions. Certainly, one or both of them are wrong. But how can you tell which is which?

    Recently, I have become aware of different intepretations to key passages which are related to the seven doctrines I listed above. These different interpretations are not all from “big players” but do come from people who, I believe, are Christ-centered, grace oriented Christians, using a literal hermeneutic. So, rather than just reject what they are pointing out from the text because it disagrees with my traditional understanding of those texts, I feel compelled to consider what it is they are saying in light of Scripture as a whole. After all, the first to present his case seems right, until another questions him (Prov 18:17).

  19. says

    Jeremy,

    I was just surfing over at de-Conversion and hopped a link from there to here. Just wanted to post a word of encouragement.

    re: the question of what church would hire you… I think your questioning will make you far better equipped to be a pastor. You will be able to relate to, and suggest ideas to, average folks who ask questions like these all the time. I would far rather see a pastor who admits he doesn’t have all the answers than a pastor who thinks he knows it all.

    Just about everything else I was going to say, your friend Rachel has already said (above)… so be encouraged, you are not alone.

    From a politically independent Anglican middle-of-the-road evangelical seminary student sister in Christ,

    Peg

  20. Believer Bill says

    Jeremy,

    In response to your most recent question, I believe that we know which interpretation is correct by how their conclusion lines up with its context, immediate and more wide-spanning.

    Since we are on a roll of asking questions, I believe an important question to ask yourself at this point is: do I believe in absolute truth? If so, does this apply to all areas of life and doctrine? Questions are a good thing, but when we abandon the search for answers is when we get into trouble (James 1:5-8)

    I trust that you will return to the Word of God to sort out these concerns.

    Bill
    Heb 4:12

  21. says

    Hmmm ;)

    All very interesting comments.

    In regards to absolute truth, I believe in it absolutely. However, as Bill has said, I dont think that EVERYTHING is black and white. Somethings are relative and sometimes the Holy Spirit can speak to me about a particular passage and be saying something to me, while to someone else he may be saying something else. I guess in a ‘multi layered truth’ kind of a sense.

    I must say one thing, as I read so many of these blogs regarding the church and christianity, so many of them are so intellectual, and to me often too intellectual. I think that the church has far more pressing and ‘simple’ concerns than a debate over premillenialism and the like.

    I think that the church needs to be looking at “what does it mean to BE the church?” What is that sposed to look like in my day to day life? How does it affect the wider community around me? How should me being a christian affect my relationship with my next door neighbour? (whom right now I don’t even know – and feeling a little guilty about going off to India this weekend on a mission trip when I dont even know the guy next door?!!)

    I’m as keen as anyone for a discussion about old earth/young earth (i’m a young earther for the record – at least I think I am ;) But rather than all this constant intellectual bollix, let’s sort out some of these basic issues first. There are people within a 1km radius of me tonight who are being abused, starving, lonely, addicted, suicidal, hopeless, dying and going to hell (whatever it was that Jesus ‘saved’ me from ;). And I’m not writing from India, I’m writing from Australia.

    My point being…we (the church) have bigger fish to fry and just wonder if we really have time for what seems to be intellectual irrelevant BS?

    Or it could be just me. :)

  22. Ray says

    Jeremy: I just found your blog, as linked from the de-conversion.com web site, following the discussion there. I am an ex-Assemblies of God minister (25+ years ago!). I won’t discuss any of the topics you have raised, but I will only encourage you to ask questions, challenge every single doctrine, and (as much as is possible) refuse to accept any single side of an issue without investigating other reasonable answers as well. Independent thinking and personal examination is the only way to ensure that what you “believe” is what you really believe. You were born with a brain, and you are perfectly within your rights to use it completely. I would also say that without heretics, infidels, and others willing to push the limits and look outside, we would still be living in caves and spearing wild animals for supper!

    Good luck to you in your travels, wherever they may lead.

  23. says

    I came home from work today to find some strange e-mails in my inbox… which makes me think I need another clarification comment about this post. So, for those who are wondering…

    I have not rejected the traditional, evangelical, dispensational explanations for any one of the seven doctrines stated above. I said this both at the beginning and the end of my post, but people seem to be skimming over that and writing me some “nice Christian emails” about my slide into heresy.

    All I am doing is investigating some exegetical evidence that has recently been brought to my attention regarding these seven areas of doctrine. If you think it is wrong to question such things, then that is where we disagree.

    In fact, some who are upset at me are my friends within Free Grace theology. Ironically, the only reason I am “Free Grace” today is because I was willing to consider exegetical evidence for a view that was contrary to what I had held and been taught my entire life. If I lived under the idea that it was wrong to question what I have always believed, I would still be a five-point-hyper-Calvinistic proponent of Lordship Salvation today.

    Also, based on one or two of the emails I received, it looks like some people may be trying to get me fired. Come on…really? Do you really want me to lose my job just because I have some questions about my beliefs? I am aghast that someone can even think this way! Doesn’t the whole process of growing in the knowledge of Jesus and Scripture require that we regularly question and challenge what we believe?

    Sure, I know that if I were to reject two or three certain doctrines listed above that they would be at odds with the doctrinal statement of the Grace Evangelical Society. But I have not rejected them. And if I were to reject any of them, I have enough integrity to leave quietly on my own.

    I am nowhere near the caliber of Luther, nor will I have his impact, but I wonder if this is how he felt when he posted his “95 Theses”? I’ve only got seven.

    Anyway, you can sense my frustration. I am upset. I mean…trying to get me fired?!?! I am beginning to see the truth of the wise advice from someone on another blog that if I am going to pursue these questions online, it might be best to do it anonymously.

  24. says

    Jeremy,

    I pretty much reject all of the above and I’m still very much a Christian (and very happy)! Take the plunge, man. ;) My friend Meg used to be a fundamentalist and she writes a lot about her reasons for rejecting pre-mil dispensationalism on her blog: http://megsoapbox.blogspot.com/ if you’re interested.

  25. says

    Hey Jeremy,

    I think that it’s great that you’re willing to be open-minded and question your beliefs. Accepting doctrines just because others tell you to is like the blind leading the blind when it comes to faith. If what you’re being taught is true, then you should be able to discover and come to that conclusion on your own anyway.

    It’s 5am, so I’m sorry for not being able to explain myself very well. I found a link to your blog from the de-Conversion website, and contrary to what some of your visitors here believe, de-C welcomes both believers, and non-believers alike. You’re free to join in on our discussions, and no our aim is not to de-convert you from your religion. I find it nice having open-minded and intellectual Christians contribute to the blog, because it gives me (an atheist) something to think about. My lack of faith is due to the lack of solid evidence, reason, and skepticism in Christianity. I’m hoping that Christians who have these qualities are willing to share, and that you are one of them.

    Anyway, do what you feel is right regardless of the pressure, and I wish you best of luck with whatever you decide :)

  26. says

    To the believers on this blog, I appreciate the link to de-C it was interesting to read the bio’s of those who contribute. Since this is a semester in Hebrew I may wait to participate. But some thoughts came across my mind after reading some of the discussion here and there.

    One, unbelievers have excellent questions, and I enjoy my conversations with atheists and agnostics. We find common ground just as Paul found common ground in the Areopagus (Mars Hill), Athens. It was then that the Apostle Paul delivered his famous speech about the identify of “the Unknown God.” According to the account in Acts 17.

    Two, in relation to the above, we have good answers. Truth is not some elusive thing or something that doesn’t exist. It has a source, God. Someone asked do we believe in absolute truth. Yes, there are many examples of this, the best one is death, it is absolute. I’m trained as a scientist before I started training as a theologian. An empirical example, if I hit you with a baseball bat (forgive the analogy – I was military before I was a scientist) you have an extremely high probability that your going to get hurt, and the fact that the person wielding the bat is trained with hand weapons, makes it a near certainty that your going to get hurt badly. There are other examples of where truth as understood in the recent generations is defective. Questions are good if your unbelieving friend(s are) seeking, if their mind is already made up it is unlikely that any amount of evidence is going to work.

    Three, God commands us to give them the answers. 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.” Other passages are 2 Corinthians 10:5; Jude 3, 22; Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:24-25.

    One lesbian and one atheist at work are asking a lot of questions, why – because they are responded to “with courtesy and respect.” This has happened many times in my walk with Christ. In fact, I have jeopardized my position there to give them the answers as I have been warned by HR once. A soul is worth more than a job.

    To my unbelieving friends, my last and best example of Truth is Jesus, being the God-Man (Son of God) and Israel’s Messiah (the Christ) He is the embodiment of Truth. (John 14:6) I hope that if I meet you on the street or blogosphere you will see His reflection – not mine.

    Courage and strength,

    Jim

  27. says

    Jeremy,

    That is sad that other believers would commit such an act. Sometimes I wonder if people know how to discern meaning from reading words. If there is anything I can do please let me know.

    In His Strength,

    Jim

  28. Diane says

    Jeremy, Help! I just (not too long ago) finished reading Zane’s book, “JESUS God’s Prophet” and it reafirmed that the CHURCH WILL be taken out in the Rapture immediately before the 7 year Tribulation. It was all based on the Word, “parousia.” Have you carefully checked through that book? It’s powerful~!!! Thanks.

    Diane

  29. says

    Hey Jeremy:

    Re: people trying to oust you for asking questions

    There was a group in recent history that expected total obedience with no questions or doubts. It was the Communist Party in the USSR.

    my $.02

  30. says

    Hey Jeremy, sorry about being a couple of years in my response. I was always a little slow and in my old age I am not getting faster.
    Doubts about?

    • A literal, six-day-24-hour creation 6000 years ago. (Was Moses really writing a scientific treatise?)
    • “Messianic” prophecy in the Old Testament. (It’s not all about Jesus. But see #3 below).
    • Biblical Hermeneutics. (It’s all about Jesus, even the entire OT.)
    • A future seven-year Tribulation. (Some of the passages used to teach this may not do so after all.)
    • Church. (The way we “do church” today is at best ineffective, and possibly sinful.)
    • Eternal, conscious torment in hell. (I am NOT a universalist or an annihilationist. I’m just not sure hell=torture.)
    • The fall of Satan and his angels. (The Bible doesn’t seem to clearly talk about this.)

    Don’t worry, I am not ready to burn you at the stake yet, and I trust you are moving cautiously to work through some of these issues. Everyone change his mind about some things over time. But some of these issues do not represent “cardinal doctrines” and some do. Allow me to begin where you did, at Christian.

    First of all, for even the young earth people (of which I am one) do not hold to the six thousand year view. The issue is not about when this happened. I think that it it is fairly evident from Scripture that iit was by almost any estimate based on what we know about Scripture and history that it was “relatively” recent. The question is really about the length of the days, and that is where the slippery slope enters the picture.

    Why not a different understanding of the three days related to our Lord’s death and resurrection? The issue of Moses writing a scientific treaty seems to me to be a ”red herring”. The only valid question is, was he right in what he said and Jesus seemed to think he was.

    I have never been called a “heretic” because I believe that the number of specific prophesies about Jesus may be greatly exaggerated by some popular writers. There is great apologetic and interpretive value in what we call the prophetic portions of Scripture, but I do not think that the 300 plus prophecies that are supposed to refer to Jesus all do. Some clearly do. Some may not. Maybe I have not read all the same commentaries on this but I typically only read this argument of the 300 prophecies in some less than careful works.

    That does not mean they are wrong but when I look at these pasages, I cannot see prophecies of Jesus in them. When people say that it “is all about Jesus” they may need to do some explaining, though the heart may be in the right place when they say this. Being a Dallas Man and knowing first-hand and even personally some of the writings of many of the great dispensationalists (past and present) I do not need to tell you that hermeneutics is important but not always for the reasons (or conclusions) some attribute to it.

    To read Scripture without a commitment to a historical-grammatical approach to interpretation does not guarantee that everyone will connect the dots (doctrinally) as they should. It is the best, and I believe the only way to insure that anyone and everyone (with or without) a seminary education can know what God means by what he says. Take that away, and it is about systems leading to the right way to look at Scripture, rather than Scripture being the standard for evaluating truth and error.

    I agree that not every passage popularly used to teach a 7 year pre-tribulation rapture does surely many do so. In fact, some of them definitely and obviously do not do so, as most good dispensationalist commentaries will point out. Some passages used to teach some of the things we consider non-negotiable truths do not teach what it is claimed they teach. Still a non-negotiable truths is sttill non-negotiable. The issue is, does Scripture teach this or that. A lot of detractors of the pre-tribulation 7 year Rapture engage in what I call “slight of mouth”. So what if a particular passage does not teach a pre-tribulation rapture. If you have one in mind, do not misuse it this way. Again, most good commentaries will point out these misuses and then point those passages that do teach this.

    If I understand your comments about the church and you are being critical of the church, this could be said about much of the church at the end of the first century. I would say that since you have a Bible and can compare the way it should be done with how you believe it is being done, can then do it right and do it better. Isn’t what we are supposed to at least try to do?

    There is of course a lot of things about church life (in most churches and maybe all churches) that could use serious improving. But just do not throw the baby out with the bath water. I suspect that when we do finally get to heaven, we will discover that this very imperfect thing called the church was the greatest source of comfort and good on the earth save our Lord Himself.

    Concerning the “Eternal, conscious torment in hell”, take what the Bible actually says about hell and its duration” and if you do not believe some of the things that some people think is unscriptural and cannot find it Scripture just ignore it. In my 42 years in the ministry I have never even heard anyone say that this is what you must say about hell in great detail. Only provide details if they are explicit or implicit. Who is going to fault you for that? I would add however, that the eternally and bliss of heaven seem juxtaposed to the eternality and suffering of where the lost go. It would seem that if bless is certain and eternal so is suffering.

    What we can all be assured of is that the worse it will be for the eternally lost is “just”. For me, that is a very frightening prospect. When I hear people complain about hell it is usually because they think it will be worse than the eternally lost deserve. In reality it will be exactly what the eternal lost deserve. If heaven is going to be good for all and better for some, hell will be bad for all and worse for some. It could not be otherwise.

    Concerning the fall of Satan and Angels I must have been hanging out in the wrong churches. Evangelicals agree that enough is said in Scripture to give us the big picture on these matters and some details. As with matters related to hell, if you do not see it explicitly and implicitly taught in Scripture, ignore what is not there and I have a hard believing most folks will want to have you even tarred and feathered. Maybe you have been hanging with a tougher crowd of church folk than I have.

    In Christ, George

  31. says

    Sorry folks I posted in the middle of the night on the other side of the world and my head was up-side down in time. When I looked at the post this morning I could see (lots of mistakes) that I could not see last night. So I have made a few corrections but probably not enough to claim inerrancy.
    Hey Jeremy, sorry about being a couple of years late in my response. I was always a little slow and in my old age I am not getting faster.

    Concerning doubts about:

    • A literal, six-day-24-hour creation 6000 years ago. (Was Moses really writing a scientific treatise?)
    • “Messianic” prophecy in the Old Testament. (It’s not all about Jesus. But see #3 below).
    • Biblical Hermeneutics. (It’s all about Jesus, even the entire OT.)
    • A future seven-year Tribulation. (Some of the passages used to teach this may not do so after all.)
    • Church. (The way we “do church” today is at best ineffective, and possibly sinful.)
    • Eternal, conscious torment in hell. (I am NOT a universalist or an annihilationist. I’m just not sure hell=torture.)
    • The fall of Satan and his angels. (The Bible doesn’t seem to clearly talk about this.)
    Don’t worry, I am not ready to burn you at the stake yet, and I trust you are moving cautiously to work through some of these issues. Everyone change his mind about some things over time. But some of these issues do not represent “cardinal doctrines” and some do. Allow me to begin where you did, at creation:

    First of all, for even the young earth people (of which I am one) the six thousand years ago view has never been considered very important. Henry Morris, the father of the modern creation movement, explains why in his examination of the biblical data related to such a matter. The issue is not about when this happened (6 or 10, or 15 thousand years ago). Still, I think that it is fairly evident from Scripture that is was by any estimate (based on what we know about Scripture and history) “relatively” recent. The more important and mostly unrelated question is really about the length of the day in creation. That is where the slippery slope enters the picture.

    Why not a different understanding of the three days related to our Lord’s death and resurrection? The issue of Moses writing a scientific treatise seems to me to be a ”red herring”. The only valid question is, was he right in what he said? Jesus seemed to think he was.

    Secondly, I have never been called a “heretic” because I believe that the number of specific prophesies concerning our Lord’s first coming is greatly exaggerated by some popular writers. There is great apologetic and interpretive value in what we call the prophetic portions of Scripture, but I do not think that the 300 plus prophecies that are supposed to refer to Jesus all do. Some clearly do. Some may not. Maybe I have not read all the same commentaries on this topic but I typically only read this argument of the 300 prophecies argument in some less than careful works.

    That does not mean they are wrong but when I look at certain passages used this way, I cannot see prophecies of Jesus in them. When people say that it “is all about Jesus” they may need to do some explaining, though the heart may be in the right place when they say this. Being a Dallas Man and knowing first-hand and even personally some of the writings of many of the great dispensationalists (past and present) I do not need to tell you that hermeneutics is important but not always for the reasons (or conclusions) some attribute to it.

    To read Scripture without a commitment to a historical-grammatical approach to interpretation does not guarantee that everyone will connect the dots (doctrinally) as they should. It is, however, the best, and I believe the only way to insure that anyone and everyone (with or without) a seminary education can know what God means by what he says. Take that away, and it becomes very subjective. It can easily be about systems leading to the right way to look at Scripture, rather than Scripture being the standard for evaluating truth and error.

    Third, I agree that not every passage popularly used to teach a 7 year pre-tribulation rapture does but surely many do. In fact, passages use for this purpose definitely and obviously do not teach a 7 year pretribulation rapture , as most good dispensationalist commentaries will point out. Some passages used to teach some of the things we consider non-negotiable truths do not teach what it is claimed they teach. Still a non-negotiable truth is still non-negotiable if it is clearly taught somewhere else in Scripture. The issue is, does Scripture teach this or that. A lot of detractors of the pre-tribulation 7 year Rapture engage in what I call “slight of mouth”. So what if a particular passage does not teach a pre-tribulation rapture. If you have one in mind, do not misuse it this way. Again, most good commentaries will point out these misuses and then point out those passages that do teach this.

    Fourth, if I understand your comments about the church and you are being critical of the church, this could be said about much of the church at the end of the first century. I would say that since you have a Bible and can compare the way it should be done with how you believe it is being done, can then do it right and do it better. Isn’t what we are supposed to at least try to do?

    There are of course a lot of things about church life (in most churches and maybe all churches) that could use serious improving. Just be sure to not throw the baby out with the bath water. I suspect that when we do finally get to heaven, we will discover that this very imperfect thing called the church (in all its sometimes confusing manifestations) was the greatest source of comfort and good on the earth, save the person of our Lord Himself.

    Fifth, concerning the “Eternal, conscious torment in hell”, take what the Bible actually says about hell and its duration”. If you do not believe some of the things that some people think is scriptural is scriptural and cannot find it in Scripture, just ignore it. In my 42 years in the ministry I have never even heard anyone say that this is what you must say about hell in great detail. Only provide details if they are explicit or implicit in what Scripture says. Who is going to fault you for that? I would add however, that the eternality and bliss of heaven seem juxtaposed to the eternality and suffering of where the lost go. It would seem that if bliss is certain and eternal for the redeemed, so is suffering for those who die in unbelief and rejections of our Savior.

    What we can all be assured of is that no matter how this eternal suffering is experienced it will never be other than “just”. For me, that is a very frightening prospect. When I hear people complain about hell it is usually because they think it will be worse than the eternally lost deserve. In reality it will be exactly what the eternal lost deserve. If heaven is going to be good for all and better for some, hell will be bad for all and worse for some. It could not be otherwise.
    Sixth, concerning the fall of Satan and Angels I must have been hanging out in the wrong churches. Evangelicals agree that enough is said in Scripture to give us the big picture on these matters and some details as well. As with matters related to hell, if you do not see something explicitly or implicitly taught in Scripture, ignore what is not there. I have a hard believing that most folks will even want to be “tarred and feathered” if you fail to teach what you cannot find in Scripture, especially on matter such as this. Maybe you have been hanging with a tougher crowd of church folk than I have.

    Hey Jeremy I am probably way behind the eight ball, but I hope these questions do not reflect a change in the more basic doctrines of the Christian faith.
    In Christ, George

  32. says

    George,

    Good to hear from you! I think you and I are thinking along the same lines here. To this day (as well as when I wrote this post) I can in good conscience and with full conviction sign a doctrinal statement like that of DTS or GES or most any decent Bible church.

    All I was trying to do in this post was spark some thinking and dialogue about a few doctrines that I thought warranted some further research and study.

    As you saw from the comments, some people misunderstood what I was trying to do, and lashed out accordingly. Some people believe that certain doctrines should not be questioned or challenged. I believe that if we hold to truth, all questions and challenges should be welcomed. But some feel threatened when this is done.

    I am sure you have experienced some of this reaction with your own books on Calvinism.

    Thanks for the comment (and for the edits!). Do you want me to delete your first comment?

    Jeremy

  33. Sarah says

    it has often bothered me that two devout Spirit-filled Christians can have opposing views on the same scriptures. how do you discern which is right?

    the part that bothers me about 6 day creationism is what it says about God. Why would there be archeological evidence of a very old earth if it is young? Is God the Great Pretender?

    And how do you reconcile the different creation stories which have different orders of creation? and the two different Noah stories?

  34. says

    Sarah,

    GREAT questions. Something more “poetic” is definitely going on than most care to admit.

    I especially appreciate your first question about Spirit-filled believers. I have recently had many discussions with Christians who seem to believe their understanding of Scripture is correct because “the Spirit revealed it to them.” It’s like the Christian trump card.

    The only possible response to such an argument is “Well, the Spirit revealed my view to me, too!”

    I personally think that most of these debates and arguments come from basic, foundational misunderstanding of how the biblical text is supposed to be read and used. It’s not there to help us win arguments and answer all our questions. It is not “the road map to life.” It is simply a story that gives us parameters for our the ongoing story in our life might look.

    Look up NT Wright’s paper, “How Can the Bible be Authoritative?” for some help here. It’s on the internet. This paper really helped me a lot.

  35. Andrew says

    What is wrong with annihilationism?
    Many people are beginning to adopt this doctrine (although Seventh-Day Adventists have held to it for a long time–and they have compelling scriptural weight behind it).
    Numbers, of course, is not a scriptural argument here–but it might ease the loneliness just enough for some to gather the courage to investigate the scriptures..
    It’s the least contortionist position of all the views out there–including NT Wright’s understanding.
    I think it deserves serious consideration.
    One good treatment is the chapter “Worst Lie Ever Told” in the book Searching for a God to Love by Chris Blake. “Forever” doesn’t necessarily mean “forever” and I think that if you’re willing to question young-earth creationism, then annihilationism deserves an honest appraisal.

    • says

      I have some theological problems with annihilationism, aside from any exegetical evidence (or lack thereof). I am just not convinced that God would completely obliterate for eternity something He has created.

      I will certainly try to obtain that book you mention and check out the chapter. I am always looking to stretch my thinking.

  36. mands81 says

    I am reading your newest posts to your oldest.I have never been to bible school but I consider myself in the journey of education concerning the bible.more than any opinions that you have what concerns me most is how “brothers and sisters” through their comments responds to someone who thinks differently from what is perceived as absolutes(not sure if that’s the right term) in scripture.I wonder did the apostle believe half the things that are seen as church doctirine today?how did the disciples who did not have the new testament or the ability to read follow Jesus?I appreciate your questioning.In my experience we are too quick to try and fix someone or use the scriptures as a control mechanism and to slow to practise empathy and love.
    .p.s I didn’t understand half the terminolgies being used in this whole discussion.

    • says

      Mandy,
      Yes, Christians can be pretty mean to each other. I don’t know if you have seen much about the new book coming out soon by Rob Bell. The book isn’t even on the shelves yet, and people are being just plain nasty toward him. It is very sad.

      I agree that much of what we hold as doctrines today were probably not held by the early followers of Jesus. We have added much over the years. So be encouraged. You don’t have to know everything being discussed in this post or in the comments. The early followers of Jesus probably didn’t know much about it either, and they were better followers of Jesus than most of us.

      I added an “archive” page today which might help you read through the posts if that is what you are doing. The archive is listed in the top menu.

  37. After the Pulpit says

    The opposite of faith is not doubt but certitude–the kind of black and white fundamentalism that is the bane of many of our world’s religions.

    I applaud your honesty and open questioning. I have walked a very similar labyrinth.
    I remember a rainy night in Trafalgar Square London a number of years ago. I was on a European soul searching trip having graduated from Moody Bible Institute and feeling utterly pissed off with the cruelty of certitude that I had experienced there. That said, I was scared of the questions that were bubbling up in my soul–really scared. So, sitting there in the great square I vowed to God that I would never walk away from my core beliefs (many of which you’ve stated) and that if I was inclined to, would God please take me before that ever happened.

    Well, all of your leaning towers of doctrine have fallen for me. And I’m still alive! The sky did not fall. In fact I feel a great weight off my shoulders.

    Anyhow, peace to you!

    • says

      Wow. That is an amazing story.

      I too have felt fear at some of my questions. Your story is an encouragement to me.

      Do you still believe in God? Where are you on some of the other doctrines of Christianity?

      • After the Pulpit says

        I guess I’m guided by other questions now Jeremy, even though my position in the church (interim pastor with an eye on the exit sign) compels me to entertain them on occasion.

        Truth is, I really don’t dwell on–

        a) if there is life after death in the way I used to envision it,
        b) whether God exists in an objective, verifiable sense (don’t know how I’d
        ever prove such an ephemeral, numinous ideal in words anyway)
        c) whether I or anyone else is “saved.”
        d) whether biblical events/persons “actually” happened/existed.
        e) most other traditional/conservative theological questions.

        I just don’t give these questions much heft anymore. Words like “God” “Salvation” “Redemption” are the ingredients of a semantic soup that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and if I’m overstuffed with them (as I have been most of my life) I’m left with a horrific case of indigestion and gas. Frankly, they trigger memories of cruel fighting, condemnation, division, and despair. Sometimes I want to throw up when I hear John 3:16 because of its haunting memories of being used as a sledgehammer, fire insurance contract, etc. Sad.

        Anyhow, I resonate and find solace in the mystic Meister Eckhart’s prayer – “I pray to God to rid me of ‘God’.”

        In analagous terms, I’d rather smell a rose than try to name it, possess it, classify it, write treatises about it, and explain what it smells like to another.

        I’m passionate about finding life before death, the extraordinary in the ordinary, the divine in the daily, and the flesh and blood of human community. I’d take a deep/meaningful conversation with a human being (of any faith/non-faith) over a volume of systematic theology any day. That’s where I find the story of faith embodied. I have no issues with the Christian faith when viewed through the poetic lenses of the human story. Unconditional love almost always is crucified, but life and love have the last word. That’s my hope in this oft messy, oft cracked, oft broken, yet incredibly beautiful and good existence.

        The big guy in the sky is fine without my beliefs about him (and of course in my old circles it was always a “him”). I’ve come to suspect that the old pie in the sky is full of cherry pits anyway ;)

        Thanks for the opportunity to think more on this Jeremy,
        Best Regards,
        Peter

        • says

          You have a way with words and ideas, that is for sure! Thanks for sharing part of your story here.

          How does the current church you are an interim pastor with view your current beliefs? What kind of church is it if you don’t mind me asking?

          I sometimes wonder if I could ever go back into the pastorate with some of my beliefs (and doubts).

          • After the Pulpit says

            It’s a Lutheran church.

            I guess I share my beliefs but I tell them slant. I mostly employ a kind of narrative, theo-poetic, story-telling style of preaching that is generally appreciated and only rarely parsed out by parishioners intent on trying to pin me down.

            That said, there are times when I preach with my fingers crossed and I don’t like that. I am on way out of ministry actually. It’s no longer a good fit for me if it ever was. The work is meaningful to be sure, and I have the skills needed, but I have rarely felt joy in the work. 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad for a while but after 12 years in the pulpit I’m looking forward to stepping out. Currently I’m studying in a part-time career counseling program at a local university and working part-time at the church. As soon as the congregation call’s a new pastor (which should be very soon), I’ll focus on my new calling as a career counselor, workshop facilitator, writer and blogger (just launched–www.afterthepulpit.com)

            I resonate with your own concerns and probably wouldn’t recommend going back into the pastorate. It’s sad that doubts aren’t welcomed more in the pew but that’s the case. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s gospel text which focuses on the man we derisively call “Doubting Thomas.” I love the man! He’s the only one among the disciples who has the courage to honestly express what everyone else is thinking and, in turn, he’s blessed for sticking his neck out with his doubts.

            Hope you are likewise blessed Jeremy for doing the same.

          • says

            Thank you. I hope your new career path is fulfilling and enjoyable. I am in a new career path right now too, and it is rarely fulfilling, which is one of the reasons I blog and write. I find these activities challenging and fulfilling. I am going to subscribe to your blog, and I look forward to reading what you write.

  38. says

    It saddens me to hear the “H” word flung around so frivolously these days just because a fellow believer may have differing views. Little do some people know that the word was once used to actually have people excommunicated from the church or put to death. Although heresy does exist, I think we should be extremely careful and certain before it is ever used.

  39. says

    Man Jeremy. I wish we lived in the same city. I would love to get to know you and pick your brain. Tongues was an issue I have struggled with. I attended a church that taught against speaking in tongues and made you sign saying you would not teach it in their churches. Then I went to a charasmstic church and witnessed it.

    Keep the faith brother! And keep writing. I love reading your stories.

  40. Jason O'Steen on Facebook says

    I’ve been in 1 Timothy for 3 months and it gets far deeper than I ever realized before. It’s shinning light on a lot of false teachings I’ve fell for.

  41. Antonio da Rosa says

    Still no job :( but God has been providing… I had an interview last Friday for a job I really want. They said if they wanted me that they would get back to me to set up a second interview by tomorrow. Please pray I get this job…

  42. Sam says

    Finally. I read this post and the comments. You’ve come a long way, but you’re not there yet. It’s too bad you had to lose your job because of this post, but in so many ways aren’t you glad you no longer have to pretend you believe all those things? Ironic, huh? Religious employers require their employees to pretend and lie, or they get fired. That’s religion, and sadly it has almost nothing to do with Jesus.

  43. says

    Awe come on now fellow heretic…surly there are thousands of churches that would hire you in a heart beat. I mean, with all the heresy in most of them, surely you can find several that teach the stuff you believe.

    Anyway, after losing my mother to breast cancer, and all of their prophecies and teachings of the Word of Faith lead to no where, but failure, well it makes a thinking person start to question what they were taught and believed, ya know? Unlike some people, I never once thought God or the Bible was my problem. So I clung to the faith that God’s word and Spirit (not other men’s books) would lead me to THE Truth. And what do ya know? For ONCE I was right! For the first time in the history of my salvation, I read my own Bible for myself, and only with the help of the Holy Spirit. Everyday, he uprooted false teaching after false teaching and broke down stronghold after stronghold. Question after question I had was answered from his word, and by his word. After I read all the Bible and had my firm foundation, only then did the Lord allow me to seek other sources. Since then I have found the Bible to be true when it reveals that the closer we get to Jesus’ return, the more people will gather teachers to themselves, those who fill their itching ears with words they want to hear. It will get worse until THE falling away occurs, the one that Paul told the Thessalonians would precede the Anti-Christ.

    Honestly, once one understands what heresy is, it’s not such a horrible word. There are worse things like being a false prophet / teacher, a hypocrite, and even worse is an apostate. Those who error in theology need gentle correcting, but if they refuse sound doctrinal correcting then they are to be marked and removed from fellowship until they repent. Jesus was always verbally correcting the theological errors of the Pharisees and Sadducees,and even the churches in Revelation. Paul and other apostles wrote letters to churches that were giving heed to seducing spirits and false doctrines. Jesus was not verbally kind to hypocrites (word and deed didn’t match). However, no tar and feathering, no being placed in the stocks, no whippings etc. were ever employed. As for apostates, well, they are the most angry and vilest of people. They are headed for destruction without hope.

    The Bible is clear regarding teachers of Scripture; they will be held to a high standard and will have more to answer for. That should scare the unholy poo out of anyone who wants to teach and loves God. Those who don’t fear or love God will unashamedly use ministry as a means of financial gain, and to obtain a personal following. It’s like Paul said in Romans 16:17-18 ” I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Jesus and Paul’s doctrine are one in the same and it is sound. Anyone who teaches anything contrary to what they taught, is in error. There is no such thing as half sound doctrine. Either it is sound, or it isn’t. As for not being perfect, well, that applies to our sin nature, not the willful or ignorant teaching of unsound doctrine. The teaching of sound doctrine is NEVER negotiable in Scripture.

    If we allow men to make us doubt sound biblical doctrine that is in the Bible, or lead us in false teachings with their use of subtle (an attribute of Satan)and vain human reasoning, supported with wrested Scriptures, then we are in grave spiritual danger. I allowed the Word of Faith preachers to teach me their unsound doctrine and I held them in more esteem than Jesus. But because Jesus was not about to let Kenneth Copeland and The Word of Faith Bunch lead me to hell, he did something amazingly drastic. He killed my mother with breast cancer to get her to repent of her adultery and false teachings, and to get me out of Word of Faith witchcraft. I am living proof that The Lord still disciplines those he loves, and that terrible “spanking” he administered saved two lives, my mom’s and mine. What a good Father and Savior he is. According to the Word of Faith theology, that “negative” confession would illicit the gnashing of angry teeth, reviling, and ultimately get me stoned as a heretic ; ) Praise God!

    • says

      Thanks for sharing a bit about your journey. Yes, there are worse things than heresy… such as pride! Of course, pride often results in heresy.

      Anyway, I am glad that God, by His Spirit and through Scripture is leading you into truth. Keep studying, keep seeking His face, keep reading, and most of all, keep humble!

      • says

        Thanks for the admonishment, and exhortation….pride is a real killer, that’s for sure! That’s definitely one of the bad fruits of the Word of Faith heresy – pride! Paul knew very well that it is very hard (yet not impossible) to keep from allowing knowledge to puff one up. Paul admonishes Timothy that godly teacher’s need to be gentle, and patient, yet firm and unyielding in sound doctrine, now, how’s that for a paradox?! = )

        Cheers!

  44. says

    Michael Camp’s book ‘Confessions of A Bible Thumper’ was a real eyeopener for me. He does a great job of demonstrating the falsity of many of the Church’s long-held doctrinal views.

    I also recommend Gary DeMar’s book ‘Last Days Madness: Obsession of The Modern Church’, he successfully debunks the rapture, the seven day tribulation period and more.

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