From: Stacy B.
hello, i am new to the Christianity debate. I am a Christian but i do not knock on peoples' doors, i try to smile and live quietly. the reason i am emailing you is that i am working on some classes in Biblical studies and may like to contact you in the future for your viewpoints. i am sorry that you have become agnostic, but that is between you and your creator.
i just hope to be able to gain your input and if i can quote you in my thesis, i would ask your permission first and would not be disrespectful. my paper is on penecostal religion. you seem to be open to expressing your opinion. and i hope to have an honest open discourse from you along my way from time to time. i am not trying to convert you, i just appreciate your honesty. ps: i am also going to contact kevin henke and ask him the same thing.
sincerely, stacy b.
Stacy B. writes:
ED: Hello Stacy,
Sorry I haven't written sooner, I have been "researching" and finally have a direction in front of me.
ED: I see.
I have a question for you. What does "salvation" mean to you? Now the reason I am asking you this is because of something I am going thru. I was always taught that if you love the Lord and you believe that Christ died for your sins, then you could go to heaven. Sounds rather simple. Did not understand why some turned away.
ED: Look up the word "salvation" in the first three Gospels. It appears in them only once, in the case of a former cheating tax collector who meets Jesus and decides to return all he's stolen from people and more. And Jesus says to him, "This day has salvation come to this house." Throughout the first three Gospels, Jesus says everything typical of a Jew of his day and age concerning "how to inherit eternal life." He stresses deeds above all if you read the lengthy sermon in Matthew, chapts. 5-7 (I think those are the right chapters). And that sermons ends that those who "DO" these things are like those who built their homes on solid rock, while those who call out "Lord, Lord" and even perform miracles, don't impress God at all. Many times in the first three Gospels Jesus is asked "How can I inherit eternal life?" And Jesus answers first and foremost, "follow the commandments," in another case he simply says, "Love God and love your neighbor as yourself." This is exactly the same answer attributed to a famous rabbi of Jesus' day and age, Hillel, who taught, "Love God and your neighbor as yourself." The "Sheep" and the "Goats" in a parable in Matthew are also separated based on what they "DID," or "DIDN'T" do. To the Jesus of the first three Gospels, actions plainly speak louder than words. Also, in the first three Gospels Jesus is asked how to pray and teaches folks to pray directly to God, and adds that concerning forgiveness they need only pray this, "Forgive us, as we forgive others." Again, that is a typical Jewish teaching for that day and age. What is remarkable is how these teachings of Jesus in the first three Gospels got turned around in the final Gospel, attributed by the church to "John." John's Gospel has a man named Nicodemus coming to Jesus "at night" to ask him "how to be saved." This is a secretive meeting not recorded in the earlier three Gospels. Did such a meeting take place, or was the story added later in the Jesus tradition? Jesus spoke in public and in daylight many times concerning "how to inherit eternal life," and he stressed all of the basic Jewish teachings of his day. But here we have Jesus being approached at night and teaching something quite different. For the first time the phrase, "born again" is introduced, along with the necessity of having specific beliefs about "God giving his only begotten son, " and the necessity of believing in that, in order to obtain eternal life. And if you don't believe in that, "you are damned already." (John, chapter 3). Digging deeper, one also notices that only in John's Gospel does John the Baptist proclaim Jesus to be "The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." There is no such phrase or teaching of John the Baptist in any of the earlier three Gospels. It appears to many scholars that the fourth and last Gospel is stressing a different theology than the earlier Gospels, which stressed actions above all, "give to all who ask, asking nothing in return," and which stressed direct forgiveness, "Forgive us Father, as we forgive others." The Fourth Gospel is now stressing belief in Jesus above all things.
Well, while working on my paper, I have met a wonderful group of pentecostals and their gate into heaven is narrower than the one I had envisioned. So, I can see how exposure to only that viewpoint would make someone feel disappointed or rejected or perhaps hopeless.
I am not saying I disagree with them, I am just glad to have more than one viewpoint as I do my research.
I guess I am emailing you, because I would like to hear what you were taught was the path to salvation, and what caused you to leave the fold so to speak.
ED: Many things caused me to leave the fold. I already mentioned how I compared the Gospel's teachings on what was necessary to "inherit eternal life," and on "forgiveness," and concluded that the first three Gospels were different from the last written Gospel. I studied the way Old Testament verses were used by New Testament authors, or rather misused, cited selectively, and even in half-verse forms. Some New Testament authors even appeared to make up prophecies, like the one, "To fulfill what was written, 'He shall be called a Nazarene,'" or, "It is written in scripture, out of his bowels shall come rivers of living water." I read Evangelical Christians, like George MacDonald (C. S. Lewis' spiritual mentor), who was a universalist Christian, and like Macdonald, I grew to have increasing trouble reconciling love with eternal punishment. In fact, I had trouble reconciling the Bible with astronomy, geology, biology, though I know all of the attempts made by conservative/inerrantist Christians who claim to have done so. I mean, when the devil takes Jesus in Matthew up to a "very tall mountain" in order to "show him all the kingdoms of the world," a flat earth is implied, just as in the Old Testament when Daniel has a dream of a tree lying "at the center of the earth," which is "very tall" and could be seen "to the ends of the earth," written during a time when ancient maps of Babylon did indeed portray the earth as being literally quite flat. Elsewhere in Scripture the sun is said to "hasten to return" to the place from whence it rose (Ecclesiastes), or in Job where "God guides the constellations [across the sky] each in their own season," when in fact that is not what "God" is doing, since "God" at most is merely moving the earth round in the the earth's seasons, and the constellations only appear to be moving. So that verse is erroneously speaking about what "God" himself is doing. I cannot go into all the things I learned when I compared the "resurrection" stories in the New Testament. But it is plain that the books of Moses as well as the stories of Jesus were stories written "about" such people, not by them, and we will never know with surity where each story came from, or where individual stories came from. Take the "raising of the many" found only in Matthew. Just two little verses, found nowhere else in Scripture, yet Mark contains all the verses before and after them. Did Matthew add those two verses, or did Mark leave them out? Those two short verses in Matthew state that when Jesus died there was an earthquake that opened many tombs and many saints were raised, who then entered the holy city and appeared to many after Jesus' resurrection. Funny thing to leave out of every other Gospel and out of Peter's sermon on the resurrection and Paul's letters on the resurrection, yet only Matthew knows about this. Why indeed did the apostles only begin preaching that Jesus was raised after seven weeks had passed? Why did so many people see Jesus enter Jerusalem before he was crucified, yet only the eleven apostles saw the resurrected Jesus exit Jerusalem through the streets as Luke's Gospel says? Yes, read Luke, in which the raised Jesus appears to the apostles, eats some fish to convince them he is no spirit, but flesh and bone, and then he "led them out to Bethany" a town near Jerusalem and "rose up." So this "flesh and bone" Jesus, eager to convince them he was "not a spirit," put some fish in his belly and "led them out to Bethany," and then "rose up." Seem to me he was walking through Jerusalem with the apostles. Not exactly a triumphal exit out of Jerusalem, seen only by the apostles. None of those "raised saints" appear to have been there either. And the "ascension" story is itself a later development, not found in either Mark or Matthew. Later, in Acts, Luke added some time between Jesus' appearance to the apostles and his ascension into heaven, added "seven weeks" in fact. Anyway, those are some of the myriad of questions I had to deal with, and I do discuss a few others in greater depth in my long foot-noted testimony in LEAVING THE FOLD: TESTIMONIES OF FORMER FUNDAMENTALISTS. I also struggled with the fact of the goodness of ordinary people and non-Christians and people of different religious beliefs, even cultists, like Mormons who had strong family values, and adopted crippled children. Could these all be going to hell?
If you did encounter someone or a group that made you feel that the gate was narrow "eye of the needle" sort of thing, and that that is why you walked away, I can understand the hurt that can cause. I am sorry if that happened to you. Sometimes we get pushed away by the very ones that are supposed to be pulling us in, perhaps that is why our path has to be a personal one in many respects.
Well, I don't have all the answers, I am still learning myself. But, I would like to hear what you viewpoints were and what they are now, and what happened to get you to where you are.