The last post closed by explaining how the doctrine of the security of the believer serves to keep people in the faith: It is impossible to lose your salvation, so if you supposedly leave the faith, you must never have had faith in the first place. You did not give God a sincere try. So you remain, and try more earnestly. Also, if someone you know leaves, then he must not have been a true Christian, so whatever reasons he gives are obviously invalid. You need not be tempted to leave on his account!
The doctrine originates with verses like this one. Jesus is speaking about his followers (John 10:28).
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Even as a Christian, I had questions about this (Maybe no one will snatch them out, but can they walk out on their own?). And not every evangelical holds this belief. However, for the purpose of this post let’s assume the doctrine is correct: someone like me must never have been a true Christian.
I suggest that this immediately puts the believer in a bind– one that I have never heard any believer acknowledge.
On November 7, a roomful of Christians will interview me for an hour on the subject of why I left the faith. Starting with this post, I’d like to get a head start on the discussion. I hope some people who will attend the forum will read these posts and leave comments or questions.
Let’s start on an optimistic note and observe that my story, of leaving the Christian faith in middle age, is actually very rare. (It is far more common for young adults to leave, but I won’t have much to say about that.) We midlifers are notorious for our crises. Why don’t more of us leave the church?
There are obvious reasons, such as decades of sensing God’s presence, of seeing answers to prayer, and of forming Christian friendships, but in this post I’d like to focus on some less-obvious reasons.
Today I was invited to participate in a forum in which ex-Christians such as yours truly are invited to answer questions such as “how [we] cope with life without the support of Christian belief and Bible promises.”
Here is how Robert Ingersoll, “The Great Agnostic,” answered that question over a hundred years ago.
The universe is on its way to a slow, cold death.
In the meantime, global warming is causing record levels of wildfires.
Worst of all, Donald Trump is still at the top of the polls.
How can a serious-minded beagle keep his head up?
You may think Donald Trump was out of line when he famously said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump may be wacko, but be honest, now: Although we may not characterize Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists with the exception of “some, I assume,” it’s easy to believe that immigrant populations are probably more crime-ridden than the rest of us. After all, they’re poor and desperate. That spells more crime, doesn’t it?
The data say otherwise!
I’d like to refer you to two remarkable studies. The first is from the Pew Research Center. Follow the link for the whole study, but here’s the graph that says it all.
The graph shows that first-generation immigrants, a quarter of whom are undocumented, commit crimes with substantially less frequency than the rest of us. Continue reading
On July 4, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered a riveting speech to the citizens of Rochester, New York. Douglass’s theme was white America’s hypocrisy in celebrating Independence Day while a seventh of the population was in chains.
I encourage you to read the full text here. It’s lengthy, but I promise that you will consider it time well-spent.
Slavery was the culture-war issue of Douglass’s day. Today, marriage equality and LGBT rights are front and center. I’d like to apply a portion of Douglass’s oration to these modern issues by excerpting a portion of his speech, interspersed with instructions that today’s conservatives give to LGBT people. Not every word of his applies, but most do.
Argue your case and be patient. Don’t offend us.
I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light?
When my daughters were small, we used to dance with one of them standing on my feet: I would dance and she would go along for the ride. Our course was up to me, but she enjoyed wherever I would take her. Sometimes, there wasn’t even any music — no external justification for the dance, if you will — just a light-hearted communion between father and daughter.
That’s what came to my mind when I read this passage from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The wise man, Zarathustra, is speaking to the pre-dawn sky.