I’ve been going through a very strange change, lately. I don’t know if it’s a change necessarily or just a potential change. It feels like a crisis of faith, though perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic. It feels embarrassing, too, but maybe that’s only because I’m telling you about it.
Lately, I’ve been wondering about my faith, my beliefs, my everything on a very basic level. It’s very strange, as I said before, to be in this position, and I’ve had to face the very basic questions I thought I’d answered for myself a long time ago. Among these are the following: Do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God? If not, what do I believe and what don’t I believe? And, do I really give myself the authority to choose? If not, who do I trust to choose for me? And, how do I know I can trust them?
Also, what is the relationship between faith and proof in my life? When do I care about empirical evidence and when do I not? And why? And, when I don’t look to empirical evidence, how do I explain my position to others? And if I can’t figure that out in any concrete way, how to I share my faith with others? How do I argue? Or, should I not argue at all?
Here are my thoughts on that first strain. The second will be saved for a later post.
1.) “Do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God?”
Ask me three years ago, and I would have answered with a resounding, “Yes.” Ask me today, and I would say this: I think that Word of God is inerrant, but the hand of man is not. So I guess the only way to know if the Bible is the inerrant word of God is to ask God if the Bible is the inerrant word of God—to ask God if the hand of man got it right.
The only problem with that is that I trust my ability to interpret God’s words without error about as much as I trust the ability of the whole of the writers of the Bible, the whole of the Council of Nicea, the whole of Christian biblical scholars, the whole of interpreters and the whole of translators to interpret God’s words without error. Sufficed to say, I don’t trust myself (or anyone else, for that matter) not to make even little mistakes that might keep the Bible from being the inerrant word of God. I for sure have trouble trusting our interpretation to the letter (if that makes the intrusion on the sacred less severe).
2.) But, if I even have the slightest doubt that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, what do I believe and what don’t I believe?
Well, I can’t really answer that. I believe that the Bible is godly, for sure, if not inerrant. I feel it’s inspired, as I’ve practiced many of the tenements of the Bible, especially the Big 2, and they have always brought spiritual growth, have synced up with my prayer life, have brought joy and have healed, created and strengthened relationships in my life.
But what about the things I don’t believe? Well, it’s not that I can think of anything I don’t “believe” in the Bible. It’s more that I don’t believe in widely held interpretations all the time. Or, I don’t believe certain stories were meant to be taken literally. Or, I don’t believe that certain things were meant to be interpreted by everyone the same way—or applied the same way in everyone’s life.
I guess my experiences with God, if I can trust them (and I must, really, otherwise I have no faith and what would the point be otherwise?) tell me that God loves all different people—that he knows how to be a father (mother, parent) to all different people. That he says certain things for certain children to hear and certain other things for certain other children to hear. I guess that kind of thinking makes it easier for me to read the Bible. It makes me feel closer to it. But most importantly, that kind of thinking makes me feel closer to God.
But, of course, that brings up the next question:
3.) Do I really give myself authority to choose what to believe and what not to believe? Or, I think to put it more correctly, do I trust myself to choose what to apply to my life and what not to apply?
The answer to this question is what I’m probably struggling with most: do I trust myself to correctly apply the Bible to my own life? (By correctly, I mean apply it in the way God intended it to be applied in my specific life.) No, not totally. That’s what makes this part hard. I am still quite young, quite inexperienced, quite spiritually immature. How could I possible trust myself? I can’t.
But of course, how can I not trust myself to some extent? I’m the human being who knows me best. I’m not God, so I’m not omniscient (I realize that if you don’t believe in God or don’t believe God to be omniscient, this argument doesn’t hold water with you, but this is the framework I’m using). But I am me and I do know me—at least I fancy myself self-aware enough to know myself better than others. So, I don’t trust myself completely, but I do trust myself in part. And I would think that, as I get older and more experienced, my trust will grow.
4.) So, who do I trust in the meantime? Who do I let decide spiritual things for me if I’m unsure or find myself in a state of weakness?
I used to trust my pastor. But, I moved churches years ago and have since discovered that I don’t entirely agree with my old pastor anyway. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t ask his advice and consider it—I would.
I think I can trust my priest. But, I’ve yet to establish a relationship with him—with any of them—so it’s too soon to tell. (This is something I need to do.)
I trust my mother, my grandmother, my father, my aunties and my boyfriend to be great moral compasses. I don’t always agree with them, but I know who I can ask about what. Who never lies? Who never cheats? Who always loves? Who is patient? Who is kind? Who is neighborly? Who is brave? Who loves God?
But even as I listen to others, I still have to decide for myself. Which leads back to the previous question, which is really the question that’s hard.
Will I ever be able to trust myself? Is this an attainable goal? A worthwhile one? Am I just plain wrong and should go back to the old days of fundamentalism? Of establishing my life on an entirely literal interpretation of the Bible?
At the ripe-old age of 22, I predict that, no, I will never trust myself completely. Or, I will never trust myself to always be right. And, no I shouldn’t return to fundamentalism (though time will tell). Rather, I predict that I will grow comfortable with giving myself permission to live the best way I know how, calling on others in times of need—calling on God always.
I hope this is true. In the meantime, I’m trying to enjoy this change, this crisis of faith. I’m trying to enjoy growing up, despite the turmoil. I’m trying to enjoy a time on which I will one day look back and call “the days of my insecure youth.”
Brothers and sisters who are further along in their faith: did this change happen to you? I would love some community here, if you are willing to share.