Hi, my name isn’t William Simmons, but I’ll be going by that anyways.
In the Beginning:
I grew up in a religious family, with devoutly serious parents. We didn’t handle snakes or anything, but we were members of a fundamentalist group that believed the bible was inerrant, and that there was only one true interpretation of the bible and one true sect of Christianity.
A lot of emphasis was placed on biblical knowledge. A common phrase that I grew up with was “speak where the bible speaks, and remain silent where the bible is silent.” We often scoffed at those who seemed to rely on emotion to guide their worship or theology. “Study to show thyself approved” (2 Tim 2:15) and “not everyone who says unto me, “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of my Father…” (Mat 7:21).
My parents were loving, hardworking and very reasonable and intelligent people. I could understand the merits of the Sermon on the Mount and the teaching in passages like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, as well as many of Paul’s teachings. The moral code of the Christian was admirable and noble in my mind, so the entire thing seemed very reasonable. I had always been taught that the bible was from God, and that true science supported the bible, while some “scientists” tried to find or create ways to prove the bible wrong, just so that they could live their sinful lives without guilt. I had been told that all archaeology confirmed the bible. Plus, when good things happened to me, that was God rewarding me for being a true believer and when bad things happened – I assumed God was either looking out for me, ensuring the bad wasn’t worse than it was, or that I was being tried in some way – or that it was just one of those things that happen naturally and that I shouldn’t let it affect my faith.
I studied my bible and prayed always. I wasn’t a perfect little boy or young man, but God and his Word were on my mind always. I will say that I was better than most of my peers, although that makes me feel guilty of pride to say so.
The Rift Appears:
All through my life I had noticed many things that I didn’t understand in the bible, but I wasn’t sidetracked by them – at least at first. I knew the bible was true, and I knew that my intelligence and knowledge were limited, so it was easy to dismiss things as simply being over my head while I focused on the moral issues and building the character traits that we read about in the NT.
Then there were my friends. Most were not religious, although a few were very religious, but from other denominations – and therefore sinful whether they knew it or not. I tried to teach them, tried to show them the truth. Almost always they just didn’t see it or didn’t seem to care.
There were a few who did care, but who didn’t see it my way. I’d wonder to myself why they couldn’t see the truth and how they were able to convince themselves of a lie… which then made me wonder if I was doing that… was I guilty of what I thought they were guilty of; that is, truly believing in something that was actually wrong? And I realized that if I wanted them to reconsider their upbringing and their faith and their understanding, that I should be willing to do the same and let the bible show the truth of the matter.
In discussions with these friends I eventually came to disagree with a few points from my own brand of Christianity. This didn’t faze me too much though – where I attended church services, it was our goal to follow the bible, but I reasoned that since people were fallible, that it only made sense that fallible people would make a few mistakes without realizing it, especially when people have differing life experiences and differing intellectual capabilities, so that fact that even some of the more vocal and prominent members of my sect had a few things wrong, all of a sudden seemed likely.
But how do we get around these honest mistakes? If we can only worship God the right way, then why don’t we always separate ourselves from people who don’t, no matter how small the infraction seems to be, and even then, how could I know that it wasn’t me who was guilty of the honest infraction?
Well, Romans 14 showed that there’d be misunderstandings and that that would be okay – you shouldn’t cast other brethren aside because they see some things differently from you. But 1Cor 1:10 says to speak the same things – well how do we do that and stay in accordance with Romans 14? We do our best I guess, and study the scriptures – it should be a lifelong endeavor to grow in knowledge. So I reasoned further that we should be united in Christ, and not let the petty things separate us, and that a simple rule of thumb would be then to not argue over things that don’t affect me directly.
We talk about modesty, but since the bible gives no clear definition of it, we shouldn’t fight over it. This goes back to the book chapter and verse approach of the “speak where the bible speaks, and remain silent where the bible is silent…”
Overtime, and as I got older, I could see more and more of my brethren who didn’t view it the way I did, and others who didn’t really seem to take it as seriously as I did – or even as seriously as my friends from other denominations did. I got tired of hearing sermons that condemned other denominations – many times the preacher was wrong or inaccurate when explaining the denomination’s views or doctrines and at times, I could see where my preacher was violating the “speak where the bible speaks, remain silent where the bible is silent” mantra by asserting the “bible says this,” when it didn’t, or “the bible condemns this,” when it didn’t – how then were we better?
Overtime I realized that my denomination didn’t have the monopoly on the truth like I once thought they did. I felt like I had become better able to examine my current position more critically and more honestly now. This change in my view on truth and on my particular denomination wasn’t easy.
I had always heard people claim the bible was full contradictions or errors, but they never could really show anything substantial – at first. When I was around 30 or so, someone brought an issue to my attention of historical significance. I had once been a history major in college, and so the mention of it hit me immediately, although I didn’t immediately give in. I searched and read, knowing that there was a good explanation… except I never found it.
I could actually remember thinking about that issue before, but shrugged it off because the bible is just true. The memory of those issues and the memory of me realizing that I been wrong before in regard to religion and the truthfulness of denominations were coming back to the forefront of my mind as I studied this issue.
I never found a good resolution. So I studied other things that had come up in my mind before, but that I hadn’t allowed myself to pursue for whatever reasons. Rather quickly, it all began to cave in. Once I stood back and let myself ask the question that I had never asked before, “how do I know the bible is from god,” it all became very clear.
My reasons as to why the issues in the bible weren’t really issues began to seem silly to me; they began to seem like desperate and irrational attempts to maintain a position that couldn’t be maintained – much the way I viewed those of opposing religions or denominations who did the same for their “false” religions.
Once the internal issues became clear, I saw that science actually had firm footing on theories like the Big Bang or in regard to Evolution. I learned that a scientific theory wasn’t just a fancy name for a “guess.” I saw that archaeology didn’t always support the bible – and not just in matters of missing evidence, but that there were actual contradictions.
The logical issues followed immediately thereafter, and then, when I realized that my faith had always been in man, I knew the real truth of the matter. God had not given me the bible, or told me it was true, and the bible even admits that it was written by men. Everything I knew about god had come from men – so how could my faith be in god and not in man? I don’t think it could have been.
I am not trying to question God. I am trying to question the claims that men make about god.
So here I am, not certain of much except that all the religions I have seen have man’s fingerprints all over them.