This was written as a follow up really to my earlier post “Limited edition, one of a kind”
I’ve never been particularly scared to ask questions, to challenge the views of others and express my own. Whilst I am very determined, I try to remain open the possibility I am wrong though I can be stubborn. An infinite being such as God is never going to be explained properly by my finite mind so I try to keep it open. Discussions with atheists regarding religion, faith and evidence for God always left me challenged but inspired. I’ve always tried to take on board what I was being told.
None of this really prepared me for my encounters with those regarded as religious fundamentalists. From the off I was bombarded with scriptures and being told this was the way to interpret them. Because I was still learning the scripture, I took what they said and went with it. Genesis, sin, hell; I went with what I was learning. As time went on, questions began to come to mind. What about evolution? Why would a loving God send people to hell? In my usual manner, I asked these questions to the people who I was discussing these issues with. Sufficed to say, the responses I got took me by surprise. Same scriptures but with the added “why are you questioning God?” in there for extra spice. “It doesn’t make sense to you? You just need more faith!!!” Wonderful! I just need more faith. How do I get that if I can’t ask questions? “Well you’re not asking the right questions” Yeah, that’s just less than unhelpful.
Something I heard Michael Ramsden once say kept coming to the forefront; “If you have doubts and you leave them un-answered, they will erode under your faith until eventually it all collapses” It got to a point where that’s exactly what was happening. I couldn’t reconcile everything I knew with what I was being told. I risked losing it all, but according to some I already was by sending people (and myself) to hell with my theology.
During one of my Google searches regarding homosexuality and the bible, I came across an article by Rachel Held Evans titled “How to win a culture war and lose a generation”  Lovely article which really showed love for others. This resonated with me, this was what I was looking for. When I did a search for more of her work, turns out not everyone saw it that way. Many of the searches came up alongside the word heretic; “ a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church” This made me nervous. Was I a heretic for agreeing with her? I’d already been told I was going to hell, maybe this would just seal the deal.
As I searched on more topics, more names starting popping up; Justin Lee, Richard Beck, Peter Enns, Derek Flood, Jeremy Myers…..each Google search revealed them to be considered heretics. But the more I read their work, the more they made sense to me. Not only with the points they made, but the diversity of the questions they were asking. They had opened up a whole new world to the one presented to me before, yet it was a vaguely familiar one as they vocalized the questions I had been suppressing. They took a lot of abuse for it, but they persevered. To this day, I still don’t know how. But in it I began to see the vague idea of what the Bible was getting at, what it meant to be a Christian.
So with my usual grace of a free falling safe, I dove in…….and re-found what I’d lost; my relationship with Christ. That difficult, slightly odd but totally unique to me relationship with him. Everything became different as I learned to embrace the relationship once more, to look to Him for answers, to try and see things as he does. I have my quirks because He gave me them. Looking at the definition of heresy again, I found something that appealed to my more mischievous and rebellious side;
anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.
I’m not exactly a free spirit, kicking down the doors of convention at every opportunity but I try to make a dent every now and again. I was having drinks with a friend of mine and I was voicing some things about what is expected of a typical Christian. She just said “When I think of a typical Christian, you wouldn’t be top of the list” Not sure what she thought a typical Christian was but I think I got her point. I do things my way, look at the world the way I do, and never been bothered by what most people think of me. I’ve re-discovered that for the most part. I would be lying if I said getting told l’m going to hell and sending others there didn’t hurt. Questioning ones salvation is going to, as well the things they say about others.
Looking back, the people I mentioned (and countless more I’ve missed) have helped shape my outlook on the Bible and my faith. These “heretics”, have quite literally saved my faith and my relationship with Christ. Anytime I find someone branded a heretic by a Christian, it encourages me to go read their work. Doesn’t mean I agree with everything, but it encourages me to think differently about things and to be confident in doing so. It’s also opened my eyes to a great many things. Still lots to learn though, lots to work on but I at least feel more confident to walk alongside Christ once more.
First published 8th August 2013