Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Guest Post: Our Biggest Mistake by Neil Carter, former Calvinist Christian
from OUR BIGGEST MISTAKE...
by Neil Carter, former Calvinist Christian leader
"1. We took the Bible seriously. We read the Bible.
This was a big mistake.
2. We prayed for the things the Bible told us to pray for.
3. We shared our faith with others. Boy was that a mistake.
4. We believed God was a person who wants to be known through an intimate, personal relationship.
What this miscalculation did for me was it set up an expectation that I should be able to sense, perceive, hear, and know this Person through direct, immediate contact, spirit to spirit.
5. We believed them when they said the Bible doesn’t contradict itself.
Related: “The Absurdity of Inerrancy.”
6. We landed in leadership positions and got to see how the sausage was made, so to speak.
7. We loved people the way our faith told us to, but soon found ourselves “on the outside,” kicked off the reservation for doing so.
Related: “Five Times When Jesus Sounded Like a Humanist“
It’s one of the great ironies of the Christian faith that if you really try to live the way Jesus taught us to live, you may very well find yourself put “outside the camp” just like he was, hung metaphorically on a cross of your own just as he said you’d be.*
Some of the honorable mentions I could have included:
We studied apologetics and defended our faith against its natural enemies until we realized we were on the losing side.
We tried to be “New Testament” in the way we did church and then discovered that doesn’t work.
We attended creation science conventions. That should pretty much do it.
We were told to follow the evidence wherever it led, and it led us right out the front door."
By Neil Carter, former Calvinist leader
Neil, you make so many powerful points. And most of them are very similar to my own experiences of how my very serious efforts to be Christ-like is what led me to choose to leave the Christian religion.
While, I completely disagree with your choice to embrace atheism, I understand how that seemed like a strong possibility after your rejecting Calvinistic Christianity.
Instead, I chose the Enlightenment and the Society of Friends, Quakers.
There are a few other differences between us:
#1 You wrote, "We hear that we weren’t authentic enough, or we weren’t fully surrendered to the will of God, or we had some unconfessed sin in our lives, or whatever."
You and many former Christians get tagged with those accusations, but I don't remember hearing them much.
Rather, it was claimed that I was NEVER a Christian to begin with, not when
I was a Baptist youth minister, not when I was an elder, etc.
I wonder if you have been accused of "never having been a Christian," too?
#2 Then you wrote, "I felt God. I heard God. I knew God, in personal experience.
There’s just one problem. If you take this relationship too seriously, if you come to it with too much expectation that reality will match what you were told to expect, you will one day fall hard upon the cold ground of self-honesty whereupon you realize you have been conjuring this relationship through your own imagination your entire life."
That didn't happen to me.
I never could feel God, never heard God, never felt I knew God:-( On the contrary, I spent a whole lifetime wondering why I wasn't experiencing what our leaders, theologians, and most other Christians claimed was happening for them.
I still wonder why I felt like an outsider who doesn't experience what everyone else is talking about.
Sometimes at revival meetings, when the call came to come forward and be saved, I wanted to get up and go forward and experience this wonderful relationship,
BUT reminded myself, that I was already saved!
The very troubling question was then why didn't I feel all of the stuff the evangelist had just preached?
So I lived by faith, but my doubts were severe, sometime much worse than other times. I once even gave my testimony at our church in central California, admitting that I didn't "feel" God. The text I chose was the one from Isaiah, where the prophet says that God will give us "beauty for ashes,"
that what I had experienced all of my life (I was 38) was God had given me "ashes instead of beauty.":-(
I thought I might get a lot of counseling, and probably negative feedback from the other members, but it didn't happen. I don't know why. Maybe some of them also were talking the talk, but didn't really experience the Christian God either.
#3 I didn't have to deal with Calvinism, like you did, since I never believed in that god. In fact when I first encountered Calvinism, it was a new leader who claimed Divine Command Theory--that whatever "God" commands becomes moral.
The leader told everyone, and me specifically, especially that God was commanding me to go and kill people! Then he proceeded to "prove" this with the Old Testament.
That horrific experience was the death-knell, however it took me years because I thought I could disprove him and his claim. I still thought that there was a 'true christianity' different from Luther, Calvin, and Augustine.
But the more I studied church history, etc. the more I realized Christianity was on his side.
So I finally left.
Lastly, you wrote, "It’s one of the great ironies of the Christian faith that if you really try to live the way Jesus taught us to live, you may very well find yourself put “outside the camp."
That is your strongest, most convincing point!
Most of the other things you mentioned happened to me, also.
But this was a clincher. The more I worked and worked to be like Jesus, the less and less I fit in the churches my wife and I were members of.
In fact, most of the church members in their beliefs and actions were extremely NOT like Jesus.
Yet I met individuals who weren't part of "born again" creedal Christianity who did think and often act according to Jesus' ethic.
For a long time this confused me to no end! Why were "born again" Christians (like Trumpers now) so self-and-nation centered, so intolerant, so unjust, so for war, even nuclear war!??
Yet, people I knew personally who weren't "born again" worked for human rights, opposed war, were compassionate, emphasized honesty, etc.
And many of these "born again" Christians claimed that Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't a Christian, etc.
I don't agree with Neil's conclusion that atheism is true.
On the contrary, I am more intellectually convinced of theism now than sometimes when I was "born again" Christian.
But his article is honest, heart-searching, and lucid.
In the LIGHT, seeking for the GOOD, and the Truth,