Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How I Remained a Christian

A commenter (DT) mentioned that many who leave extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalism often leave Christianity altogether. It is true! I have now ended up in a "Bible" church, and although God has given me the grace to keep the faith, I am now utterly apostate in the eyes of the crowd I came from.
I suppose for many such people the inability to maintain a Christianity that is authentic and honest with what they know and at the same time be accepted as a "real" Christian by their friends and families leads them to give up. If you are going to be a second-class citizen anyway, why struggle to be a good Christian? It's just too discouraging.
Another reason is over-broad generalization. The faults of their old extreme right-wing group are faults of Christianity in general. This is truly throwing the baby out with the bath water.
When I realized the faults of my extreme right group I knew we were but a small fringe segment of Christianity. Yet the "doctrinal distinctives" of my group locked me out from even considering participation in those other groups and churches. It smelled fishy and I went off to investigate, and I haven't come back. You might consider it a birth. It wasn't easy, but I came out. I know my roots, but I am not going back.
The discouragement of being considered a lesser Christian, especially the fighting going on between not only evangelicals and fundamentalists but between fundamentalists themselves, tempted me to give up on Christianity.
However I could not shake my conviction that there was a God, and that he had a hand in creating this world in some way or another. I was not persuaded by logical reasons offered by atheists. I also felt there was too much evidence to become agnostic.
For a certain period of time I considered becoming a deist, but I believed in the Biblical and historical accounts of Christ's coming to earth, and I believed He was God in the flesh. For those who claim God wound things up and let them go- Christ is the ultimate intervention in affairs. To become a Deist would require me to deny Christ came to earth or else deny His Divinity. I couldn't do either of those things.
So I am a Christian who has had the opportunity to realize that Christ is truly the author and finisher of our faith. Without Him there is no point to Christianity, but with Him it is the only true way.
So began the process of deciding what kind of Christian I was. I decided I didn't want to be any KIND of Christian, and I was and am opposed to labels, camps, etc. The message of God come in the flesh as Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world and rising again in victory for us is the whole concept of Christianity. It was this concept that formed the unshakable core of my faith. This is what matters. You accept that? Then I accept you as a spiritual brother.
Other than the commands in the New Testament to be holy and pure and the offices and functioning of the church, it's all preferences. Even these basics are written in pen: Here I stand, you may disagree. There is only one thing written in blood, the core message of Christ: I will fight for that. The rest is pencil.
I still hate being despised by many for where I am at. Because of the tremendous negative experience in the extreme-right I have taken the liberty to write a few more things in pen for my sake: rejection of KJVOism, rejection of pastoral dictatorship and discipline, rejection of most topical preaching, rejection of program-driven churches, rejection and identification of legalism as works-based sanctification, and insistence upon full church discipline, among other things. Again, you may disagree and we can still have a relationship. But many of those who disagree with me in these matters will not relate with me. So there is no relationship.
One of my other commentors (Vincent) posted on his blog that he avoids Christians who despise other Christians. I think this is a good rule. If you hate your brother and say you love God, you are a liar, according to Scripture. Some Christians like this avoid using the word "hate," but they do "despise," and will say publicly that they just don't like someone. But God knows the heart, and man can see the fruit.

8 comments:

DT said...

Wow. That's encouraging man.
In rejecting hardcore fundamentalism, it is only by God's grace that He allows us to fall in love with Christ. Christ is Who it's about. And this may sound strange to some, but I think you'll agree - It's Christ first, then the Bible. I really think is one of biggest problems. We say bibliology is the foundation for doctrine, but really Christ should be. I plan on expounding on this more when I relaunch my blog (yeah, that was a plug). I share in your struggles man - I'm glad I found you on here and just want to encourage you to keep Christ in His rightful place in your life!

William Maricle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Maricle said...

Wow. That's discouraging man.

I grew up with you, David, in high school. I know much of what you went through from you personally. I am the son of a full-time Christian worker. I attended Bible college. I have been on staff at a good church. Undoubtedly, I have been privy to more dirt than you, David.

Like young Samuel of the Old Testament, I have been aware of things to be ashamed of in Christianity (what David now calls "extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalism").

Samuel didn't abandon his faith even after watching the horrid spiritual leaders of his day Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas. Later, Samuel's sons became full-time "men of God" who openly practiced vile sin.

Questions:
1. Did the failing of a majority of spiritual leaders invalidate Samuel's "hardcore fundamentalism"?
2. Do you, David Thatcher, scorn David (the son of Jesse) for not abandoning the God of Eli, Hophni, Phinehas, and Samuel's sons?

I am currently in China happily serving the God of David (the one in the Bible).

Still in love with my unchanging Saviour,
William Maricle

David T. said...

Hi, William! Good to hear from you!

You seem to feel like I have abandoned my faith. Which seems odd given the title of this post, "How I remained a Christian."

I received Christ one day realizing that I was 100% dependent, putting 100% faith in Christ, and receiving 100% grace.
Today it is the same. I don't want to be a good Christian. I want to be a weak, failing Christian, 100% dependent on 100% grace. As I look upward to God for my help, that is my encouragement.

This is my Christianity. It is true, I don't identify with IFBx anymore. But it is because IFBx is not a weakness Christianity, but a strength Christianity. A Christianity that finds its success in being strong. A Christianity that finds it's success in pinpointing the right Bible version, wearing the right dress, listening to the right music, reading enough Bible, and praying enough. It finds it's success in being "plugged in" enough to programs and ministries. In short, it finds its success in living up to a standard.

I have failed that standard in your eyes. In doing so, I have lost my faith. However, I can testify to a beautiful dependence in Christ. What does the Lord require of me? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before Him, and to occupy until He comes again. This I do. I pray that God gives you the grace to do the same until He calls you home.

Christ opens doors for me to minister to individuals around me in unique ways. He uses me and sets me in the body as He sees fit.

Your two questions are predicated on the assumption that I split from the IFBx crowd over offenses by the leadership. That would be a false assumption. My initial inability to give up KJVOism and various "standards" kept me from that, although I was mightily offended by several leaders. I studied my way out of IFBx. I decided I needed to prove KJVO to myself. That I needed to prove the standards to myself. I decided that if I was going to stay in that system I needed to be certain that its distinctives were true. I determined they weren't. I personally compiled over 100 pages of notes and facts concerning the KJVO debate before I felt comfortable switching positions. The doors swung open for me to leave.

Your father treated me to lunch in 2002/3 on the behest of my mother. One thing I remember from that meeting is when I asked him if he had read any books disputing the KJVO position. I named off the majors (Carson, White, etc.). He had read none of them. The bookstore at his church (Lighthouse) sold not only Riplinger's NABV but also her "refutation" of White(Blind Guides), but of course, no books from the other point of view. What does it say of a crowd that is willing to sell a refutation but not the refuted work? And it goes further than this. One the major issues (translations, dress, music) the IFBx crowd won't give the other side the time of day. As a matter of fact, at that point, Lighthouse was selling several books by a prominent Seventh-Day Adventist scholar, Samuele Bacchiocchi, that taught against modern women's dress styles and alcohol. (I brought this up to the pastor there in 2007.) Are you getting the picture I am painting? Willingness to partner with heretics in defending pet issues but condemning orthodox evangelicals who dare to read the NIV, listen to CCM, or let their women wear pants.

We are to love the Lord with all our mind. The IFBx crowd pride themselves in their closed-mindedness, anti-intellectualism, and arrogance. It is all defended as "taking a stand." I'm sorry, I can't be partner to that. Yes, there are exceptions, but they prove the rule.

I speak and stand strongly against these tendancies of the IFBx crowd because they are death to true Christianity. It is the difference between teaching that can stand and indoctrination that cannot stand unless it is mixed with stubborn arrogance.Truth has nothing to fear from error. We must be ready to give an answer. In James 3:17 we are exhorted to be open to reason. We are to gird up the loins of our mind. These, truly, are what comprise buying the truth and selling it not.

William Maricle said...

Bro. Dave,

I know that you are a thinker. As a thinker, I can safely assume that you fully realize that the reasons and logic you use in your response don't hold water. Your closed-mindedness is stamped on everything you write by the very fact that you hold a select group of people to a standard that you could never hold yourself or your masters (the authors you have allowed to influence you) to.

Judges 17 & 18 give us a story of a sincere man named Micah. This man believed in the LORD. In a sincere desire to worship and serve Jehovah, Micah made a graven image. He wasn't trying to serve Satan or help Baal. He gave his money and built the idol out of love for God. In our day, Micah would have called himself a Christian. He knew his heart was right and pure.

However, everyone who has read the Bible knows that Micah was very wrong.

How could Micah possibly assume God would accept his worship through an idol? This answer is found in verse 6: “In those days...every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

But God was NOT pleased. God hated, HATED the idol and the smoke that drifted up from its sacrifices.

How can William Maricle accuse a fellow believer like Micah of offending the very God he was trying to please? We can almost hear Micah and his friends bemoaning narrow-minded William for his attacks on the brethren. Micah never bothered anyone or tried to interfere with their style of Jehovah worship. Maricle could be out converting the Baal-worshiping heathen. Instead, he just likes to feud with other brethren who don't see eye to eye with him.

On what authority could William slander Micah? David, the reason I can assure you the LORD God rejected Micah's worship is the Bible. Only by reverting to the authority of the Bible can I know what God really thinks. Deuteronomy 16:22 tells us that God HATES idols. For me that settles everything. I don't need to read a bunch of books by idol-worshiping advocates. I don't need to compile 100 pages of notes. I can stand up and lead a movement for Micah to be stoned based on Deuteronomy 17:2-6. That is what a fundamentalist is—someone who just goes by the plain fundamental principles.

Ironically, in Micah's day no one stood up and condemned Micah's actions. Basically, the “orthodoxy” of his day tolerated or maybe even supported Micah's rejection of those old, confining worship standards of Moses. Micah was just doing justly, loving mercy, and doing his best to walk humbly with his God.

David, what is your final authority?

The Bible? Please don't pretend it's “the Bible.” Your rejection of the KJV means “the Bible” is very arbitrary.

The Originals? Having browsed your blog a little, I was disappointed to discover that you use Greek and Hebrew like you know Greek and Hebrew. You don't. So “the originals” argument would be false.

David Thatchers Brain? You constant appeal to your own intellectualism and logic so much that an honest answer might be David Thatcher's brain as your final authority. However, you and I both know that for you to come right out and say so would prove your ignorance.

Brother, what is your ultimate authority?

William

P.S. It good to be back in touch with you. I have spoken often of you to my wife. I will be praying for you. I was elated to read your mention of your wife. Please let her know that I look forward to meeting her. Do you have any children?

David T. said...

William,

I have one child on the way! Due March 8th. I would love to meet up with you again, and introduce you to her.

You mentioned the story of Micah, who despite having a right heart, violated God's command. Also along these same lines we have Cain, who offered up the wrong sacrifice and was not accepted. We also have the burning of strange fire(incense) in the OT which God judged. Truly they that worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth. Spirit isn't enough, and truth isn't enough, they must join together.

I find no verse in Scripture that obligates me to a KJVO position. Therefore it is open to study and review.

You ask about my final authority. I am not that authority. Sometimes I wish I were, it is always easier when you make up your own rules. But to answer your question, God is my authority. It is as simple as that! But how do we know what God says? His Son Jesus promised to send a Comforter and a Teacher, through which he would bring to mind all of the Lord's teachings. It is through His agency that I am able to understand Scripture at all, for the things in Scripture are spiritually discerned. Do you know that the Mormons have standardized on the KJV when reading and referencing the Scripture? But they do not have the truth. This points out the vital necessity of an indwelling Spirit to open the Scriptures to us. With Him, the worst translation will do, without Him, the best translation will not suffice. How many times have you given what you felt to be a wanting presentation of the gospel and then witnessed a glorious conversion? So it is the Spirit that convicts and enlightens.
Isa 8:20 says this: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Having the light of the illuminating Spirit is equally important to having the word.
And what final authority do you give your disciples in China? No Chinese translation on the market today is translated from the TR. Not even the old Union Version. And yet by the admission of other preachers across the country, Chinese Christians in underground churches are strong in their faith, withstanding persecution and the threat of the same, truly resisting unto blood!
What will we do with the English? The first English translation, that of Wycliffe, was based on the Vulgate, and according to your doctrine should not have even been attempted, as you would not consider the source text trustworthy. The problem was, the TR did not exist yet! The underlying text of the TR was scattered across manuscripts yet to be collated!
Given that you require that God carry out preservation by protecting a single line of texts (good tree) then tell me which TR was the object of God's preservation? Erasmus? If so, which edition? Stephens? Beza? The KJV does not perfectly agree with any edition of the TR that existed at the time. Scrivener, in compiling his TR based on the KJV, not only identified places in the KJV that did not correspond to any edition of the TR, but many places that found their only support in the Vulgate, and some places that had absolutely no manuscript support at all!
Where is your authority? If we don't have the originals, neither do we have the KJV. The original translators manuscript was lost within 100 years of initial publication. You have no way of knowing what the KJV is supposed to say. Every printed edition is acknowledged to have errors by those contemporary to its printing. You are really trusting Oxford, or Cambridge, or Nelson.
Allow me to give you a quote:
"If we say that we can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV (or the TR), we are simply moving the question one step back and hoping no one notices. How can we be certain of the textual choices of Desiderus Erasmus, or Stephanus, or Theodore Beza? How can we be certain that the Anglican churchmen who chose amongst the variant readings of those three men were themselves inspired? Are we not, in reality, saying, 'Well I _must_ have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even _scriptural_ reason to do so, I will invest the KJV translators with ultimate authority.' This is, truly, what KJV Only advocates are doing when they close their eyes to the historical realities regarding the biblical text."
-James White, The King James Only Controversy, p.95

William Maricle said...

Praise the Lord on the daughter!!!

Quick question: Since you and Guru White mock those who feel we "can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV," where CAN I find absolute certainty regarding the biblical text? Basically, where is God's perfect Word?

Question 2: Since according to what you wrote the Spirit can use even the most imperfect book to convey God's truth and since He uses my math textbook to convey much truth about God's creation, can we say that these books containing important truths must all be considered God's Word?

David T. said...

Well actually it's a son- sorry I should been more clear. Although Sarah and I joke about whether when it is born it will be a girl, even though the ultrasound is pretty convincing that it's a boy!

James White is not my guru... for one, I am not Calvinist and he very definitely is. Secondly, if I have come across as mocking, let me apologize. I have asked some pointed questions perhaps but for the intent of establishing fact not mocking you.

"Perfect" refers to the quality of the revelation conveyed in the biblical text, not to the actual, physical manuscripts. Any faithfully translated version is perfect in this sense. So where is the perfect word of God? It is in the KJV, NKJV, NIV, and NASB, to name a few.

Why MUST God give us a perfect manuscript? What obligates Him to do so? And how would we recognize it?

Let me quote Dr. Dan Wallace from his article "Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism." I strongly recommend you read the entire article at http://bible.org/page.php?page_id=1221 .

"(TR/MT advocates say that) the doctrine of verbal-plenary inspiration necessitates the doctrine of providential preservation of the text, and the doctrine of providential preservation necessarily implies that the majority text (or the TR) is the faithful replica of the autographs."

"Preservation, then, for Jasper James Ray, takes place on the same level as inspiration—i.e., extending to the very words."

Dr. Wallace responds:

"Ehrman has ably pointed out the logical consequences of such linkage:

"Any claim that God preserved the New Testament text intact, giving His church actual, not theoretical, possession of it, must mean one of three things—either 1) God preserved it in all the extant manuscripts so that none of them contain any textual corruptions, or 2) He preserved it in a group of manuscripts, none of which contain any corruptions, or 3) He preserved it in a solitary manuscript which alone contains no corruptions.

"The problem with these first and second possibilities is that neither one of them is true: no two NT manuscripts agree completely—in fact, there are between six and ten variations per chapter for the closest two manuscripts.

Is it possible that the NT text was preserved intact in a single manuscript? No one argues this particular point, because it is easily demonstrable that every manuscript has scribal errors in it."

Therefore...

"If the TR equals the original text, then the editor must have been just as inspired as the original writers, for he not only selected what readings were to go in this first published edition, but he also created some of the readings."

"no where does the Bible state how God would preserve the NT text."

"God in His providence allowed in the medieval ages the doctrine of justification by faith to be almost eclipsed from public understanding until the Reformation leaders again called attention to that doctrine. Would Hills have God concerned that an exact form of the New Testament text be available but unconcerned about serious and widespread soteriological misunderstandings?"

"Finally, a general criticism against both the MT and TR positions: the quest for certainty is not the same as a quest for truth. There is a subtle but important distinction between the two. Truth is objective reality; certainty is the level of subjective apprehension of something perceived to be true. But in the recognition that truth is objective reality, it is easy to confuse the fact of this reality with how one knows what it is. Frequently the most black-and-white, dogmatic method of arriving at truth is perceived to be truth itself. Indeed, people with deep religious convictions are very often quite certain about an untruth."

"My own preference is to speak of God’s providential care of the text as can be seen throughout church history, without elevating such to the level of doctrine. If this makes us theologically uncomfortable, it should at the same time make us at ease historically, for the NT is the most remarkably preserved text of the ancient world—both in terms of the quantity of manuscripts and in their temporal proximity to the originals. Not only this, but the fact that no major doctrine is affected by any viable textual variant surely speaks of God’s providential care of the text. Just because there is no verse to prove this does not make it any less true."

As to your second question, God did not inspire those other books, so no they aren't God's Word. But let me caution you here. Just because a given Scripture refers to the "word of God," doesn't mean it is referring to physical manuscripts of Scripture. As a matter of fact, most of the time such verbiage is not referring to manuscripts.