Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Experience of Christianity


The biggest disappointment of some of my family and friends is that I abandoned Christ and His Gospel. Some have called me a wolf in sheep's clothing. Some of you have friends, parents and relatives that feel the same way about you. Here is my response, and it honors The Gospel.

I was an apathetic nineteen year old second year community college student living at home. I had a grade point average of 1.8. The future wasn't bright, but I didn't give it much thought. Within a period of six months, both of my parents became Christians according to the evangelical tradition. Their lives suddenly changed drastically for the better. They began to share what they called The Gospel - a teaching which says that we are sinners separated from a loving and just God who sent His son Jesus Christ to be punished for our sins. If we trust the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are saved from eternal damnation by grace through faith.

I had no idea what they were talking about, but I locked the door to my bedroom one night and began to read through the Gospel of Matthew. I finished the story on the third evening, closed the Bible and folded my hands to pray. To this day I do not know why I prayed. I had not been interested in formal religion and my life was not in shambles. But something compelled me to pray. I didn’t even kno w who I was praying to. I just felt an urge to press my palms together, look through the star filled window at the foot of my bed and whisper, “I believe.” I wasn’t even sure what I was believing. I rolled over and went to sleep.

The next morning, the whole world had changed. I had undergone a psycho-spiritual awakening that changed my life. I felt like Chicken Little after he got hit on the head. My grade point average rose from 1.8 to 3.8. I felt forgiven and clean inside. I had clarity of mind, purposeful direction and an abiding sense of joy, peace and love. I had a conscious connection with a Source I called God.

I began attending a local Fundamentalist church with my parents. The Pastor of the church told me what had really happened in that bedroom that night I read through Matthew. He gave me a book of evangelical theology and I devoured it. I was spiritually famished, soaking up information like a sponge. I wanted answers.

Within a few months I went off to a Christian college and dedicated myself to full time biblical and theological studies. I was ‘on fire for Jesus’, as they say. I went into town on weekends and handed out tracts to the local citizens. I went to nursing homes and rescue missions preaching the evangelical gospel to the aged and down trodden.

I spent one summer smuggling Bibles and medical supplies into Communist Europe. After college, I married a good fundamentalist Christian woman and went on to complete two graduate degrees in biblical studies and Christian apologetics. I then became a minister of an evangelical church and taught part time in a Presbyterian seminary. I was a minister. I was preaching the gospel. My father and many people were very proud of me.


While I was in school, doubts gradually began to form in my mind. I found contradictions in the Bible and was being taught theological doctrines which seemed absurd. But I had been told that this teaching was from God, and part of The Gospel. As the years went by, I became a brilliant theologian and defender of this evangelical gospel, but I was increasingly miserable. Most of the doctrines seemed dehumanizing, out of synch with common sense, exceptionally irrational and emotionally dissatisfying. I contemplated leaving, but stayed for three reasons:

1. First, so much good came to me on that night when I believed, I was afraid that if I doubted or rejected the theological teachings, I was rejecting my spiritual awakening and Almighty God Himself.

2. Second, I was convinced that my doubts and negative feelings were unimportant when compared to remaining faithful to the Truth of The Gospel that had saved me from eternal punishment in Hell. I was told by my teachers that my doubts and depression were from Satan.

3. Third, and probably the most influential, all of my friends, family, success and career opportunties were wrapped up in this new evangelical world where I had made my home.

But as time went on, the original spiritual experience receded and I found that the subsequent religious and ethical training meant less and less to me. I could teach it and defend it skillfully. I received accolades from congregations when I spoke and taught. But secretly I was questioning many of the teachings, and desiring to experiment with a more liberal morality. I was a miserable human being, caught between wanting to be faithful to what I felt was The Gospel of God, and wanting to experience freedom of thought and human desire.


After seminary, and five years of church ministry, I left the pastorate. I had lost my ‘faith’. Like Herman Hesse's Siddharta, I had to leave the religion profession and go find my own way.

But when one has spent so much time mixing his spiritual awakening with the subsequent theological interpretations, the work of dividing them is a little like surgically removing a systemic tumor that has spread its myriad tendrils throughout the brain.

I found my self asking what had happened on that night I read through the Gospel of Matthew. A secularist might say that I had experienced some sort of mental breakdown. A traditional evangelical would say that I met the One true God through Jesus and have been duped by the Devil. I disagree with both, and have chosen a third option. If you are curious about what that is, click here: What is The Born Again Experience?

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