I've been reflecting on how I've experienced this faith crisis of mine. In some ways, it's reminded me of a game of Jenga, where each player takes turns pulling a block from a tower of blocks until the whole tower collapses. There are many different blocks to choose from, but the end result of the game never changes. Crash!
My questioning started over the concept of hell (block 1). My initial questioning left me with a willingness to reexamine all sorts of issues I would have feared studying before. Researching the evidence for an old earth and evolution led me to reevaluate the Genesis account of creation as well as many other stories in Genesis. It became apparant that many of these stories contradicted clear scientific evidence(creation, Noah's Ark ). (Several blocks here.) I then revisited the literalist/inerrantist view of scripture I had tried to maintain. The contradictions in scripture and the prophesies which weren't, suddenly became very obvious. Why had I never noticed? (More blocks pulled.)
Without the ability to view scripture as divine writing on the wall, I was left trying to discern what to make of it. If there's no literal Adam and Eve with their original sin, why do we need a savior? And why did Christ have to die, really? There's more than one interpretation offered in the Bible, not just the penal substitutionary theory of atonement, as I was taught. What do we really know about Christ and how much can we trust what scripture says? What about the Old Testament stories of genocide that leave most of us squeamish? What about the treatment of women in the Bible, do they reflect the culture of the time or could they really reflect how God views women? How much weight should I give Biblical teachings on divorce and homosexuality? What if hell is a concept borrowed from surrounding cultures? Can there be anything to it? If not, what's left of Christianity without a hell to save people from? (More and more blocks pulled). What Christ centered narrative can be constructed that has integrity? How many blocks are left standing?
One thing that seems to still be standing is my need/desire for the metaphysical. It may be a personality trait, I don't know. One thing I have observed, however, is that the more I detach from my religious practices, the more I find time to be alone in nature, the more I immerse myself in music, the more I seek out moments of meditation, introspection, and peace as well as moments of wonder and thanksgiving. I continue to make meaning and to connect with others. Feeling less fettered by the binds of doctrines and practices that entangle my mind has not led me to hedonistic pursuits and a nihilistic outlook. I am still left open to the idea that God exists and allows us to transcend the material, but I don't think He/She/It looks much like what I've imagined most of my life.
Like A Child sent me a link to a post which resonated with me because the man who wrote about his doubts is a Christian who is from my denomination (church of Christ). He has degrees in both theology and archeology and has undergone quite a transformation in his beliefs. He writes a bit about this Jenga effect I discussed:
The problem, of course, with dismissing biblical creation and the flood is that Jesus mentions both of them (Mark 10:6 and Matt. 24:38-39). Christians are reluctant to let go of creation and the flood, because doing so places Jesus in the awkward position of repeating mythological stories that are not historical. An even greater problem for some with conceding that much of the Bible is not historical is that the result is not an exclusively "Christian" God. While some aspects of biblical historicity may be discounted and a distinctively Christian understanding of God retained, the honest scholar must concede that, followed to its logical end, the resulting view of God is more like a cosmic God -- a prime mover that better resembles a deistic God of the early universe -- than it is the personal, pocket God of modern evangelical Christianity.
And it is this contemplation of the theological chessboard seven moves from now that terrifies most Christian scholars into an immobilizing silence -- within both the academy and the church -- and stops them from taking the next step or even speaking aloud of its consideration. I am here to tell you, it's OK. Some may call you a heretic, but coming out of the skeptical closet will free you to understand faith in a whole new way.