Born Cynic – Born Again

I was raised in a Grace-Brethren church (non-denominational)
Christianity to me for the first half of my life was (I felt) a legacy. A religion passed down to (and expected of) me. For a while I was fine with that – until I began having serious doubts. I knew I believed (or thought I believed) the things I claimed to – simply because that was what had been spoon fed to me since I was knee high to a duck. I also had little doubt that had I grown up in a Mormon, Catholic, Hindu, etc… Household, I would claim dispassionate allegiance to those beliefs instead.
I was 20 years old and afraid of looking too closely at” Christianity” lest my fears be confirmed – that I would not believe it. That is exactly what happened. I spent three and a half years searching for another “Truth” to explain the questions I had that would not go away.
I studied evolution, (micro and macro) that held the most promising slot for a while, I studied eastern religions, including the popular Islamic beliefs, I studied a lot. I like to study.
I went back to study Christianity since I never really studied its claims, I simply looked at the beliefs at face value and rejected them. I started studying carefully – from almost a reverse-apologetics stand point.
The problem was that in reading the history of the Bible (including extra-biblical – yet historical books or references, including Flavius Josephus) I began to find it difficult to discredit. The Bible – 66 books, written by over 40 human authors, over the course of 1,600 years and yet contains one single and brilliantly recorded message. Additionally, so far in every archaeological discovery and record,(that I have seen so far) the Bible has proven to be accurate. (A couple SMALL examples: In 1993 a 9th century inscription was found at an ancient mound named, “Tel Dan” in Israel. Words carved into some volcanic rock refer to “The House of David” and also “King of Israel” – the first discovery outside of the Bible to mention the monarch that existed. Another: In 1986, the oldest known text of the Bible was translated and verified to not only mirror OT writings – book of Numbers – but it proved to be over 2,600 years old – over 400 years older than Dead Sea scroll findings.)
These examples are given only to accurately communicate the methods I used for checking up on the Bible.
After I could no longer (with a clear conscience) ignore the fact that the Bible was (in my opinion) historically dependable, I gave it a chance and I read it.
Suddenly the “proving” became less and less important, because- I was being changed.
The book was changing how I thought and how I responded to others. I also learned a few things. Like:
“Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)
There is NO absolute proof, that is the point.
“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is no hope at all, for who hopes for what he already has?” (Romans 8:24)
That is not to say that I worship blindly, I believe that God (though demands faith) also works through reason and structure. I have sought to make prudent efforts to test the reliability of scripture while at the same time, having faith in what is not clear..
I believe BECAUSE I have faith, not because I have proven anything beyond doubt to anyone, no…
I believe because the change in ME could not be denied. And if I am wrong, if all this is smoke and mirrors, then as the Apostle Paul said,
“If we have hoped in Christ in this life ONLY, we are of all men most to be pitied”

What do YOU think?

comments

Comments

  1. teshomey says:

    Ame, Amen, Amen! …..We walk by faith, but not by sight.

    • alethesia dipsos says:

      Thank you for validating and saying (much more concisely!) What I have been groping for! Indeed, faith not sight, Amen!

      • Your description was very useful, too. Because, it is edifying (and interesting) to read the details on our individual journey with our Lord Jesus Christ.

        YT

  2. alethesia dipsos says:

    Anon-em,
    First, let me thank you for the kind words about my testimony, that truly means a lot to me.
    I love your questions!!! You my friend are a man after mine own heart! I believe this is how the Bible, even God should be discussed! Your questions are excellent and I am very excited to get to them!
    Before I do, I wanted to mention that since you are in fact an atheist, normally I would not quote scripture at all. For what benefit is there to quote a book that means nothing to you? Makes no sense.
    However I think it may benefit the conversation by adding clarity to WHY I have certain beliefs. (and pray you forgive me if it offends you)
    *** I want to be clear that I would not and will not use verses to: offend, try to convert, convict, judge nor for any other reason at all. I have no place, desire or right to judge, condemn, convict, etc.
    That is none of my business.
    On the same level of priority, It would be against my conscience, based on what I know about you, to try and convince you of my beliefs whatsoever!
    Besides, you are very well versed in the Bible. I know – that you know – what you are talking about (which makes this all the more fun!)
    With that being said, let’s get into it!

    Question:
    “does that mean that if there were no such proofs available, such as those you detail, you would still “believe”?”

    Answer:
    At this point, correct – my faith in God no longer requires more evidence. A more honest answer is that I will choose to believe and have faith in the things I hope for UNTIL the Bible is proven beyond doubt to be false -or until I die and discover the truth first hand.
    Put another way, IF Christ’s dead body (skeleton) was undeniably found and authenticated – —
    At that point, the only verse that would mean ANYTHING to me would be:
    1 Corinthians 15:32
    “If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.”
    I would cease living the way I am, it is not easy to live according to the beliefs that I now hold dear. If their value was revealed to be worthless and my hope empty, then I am chief among fools and would correct the mistake at once! I would happily and passionately carry out every desire of my heart.
    Had the information that I sought NOT been there in the first place, would I have the faith I have now? I don’t know… I would like to think that God would reach me in another way but – but it is my belief that God works through logic and reason as much as he works through faith. My understanding of who God is dictates that, although He requires faith from me, He does not ask for blind faith.

    Question:
    “Are you aware of the VAST amount of archaeological evidence that supports the illiad (for example)? If you would maintain that ancient carvings are “proof” of the existence of characters in the bible (i.e. god) would you acknowledge then, the necessity for you to use the ruins of the ancient city of troy as proof of the existence of zeus? If not, why not?”

    Answer:
    I find it not only ironic, but funny as all hell that you mention the iliad! I had a real problem with that for a long time. You are quite correct in what you say, the Bible and the iliad are nearly identical in what they offer historically. Though, the iliad is (to me) found lacking in some ways which I will explain more in the next question’s answer. The iliad DOES PROVE (in my opinion) as much about its OWN claims as the Bible does. With that confession, are ruins of troy proof that Zeus existed? No, nor is the Bible able to prove that God exists by any similar self assurances. .
    They BOTH gain(ed) some street credit in my mind, however. And as evidence supports or condemns one side or another (I mean regarding ANY book that claims to hold such secrets not only the Bible or iliad) my belief would shift in equal measure. What I found (specifically regarding the Bible vs iliad) was that one book explains those burning questions I have always had, such as:
    How was the world made?
    Why was it made?
    Why are we here?
    Is there a moral code that should be observed?
    Why do we feel guilt? Should we?
    Who is pulling the strings if any are pulled?
    How was man made to populate the earth?
    Why is mankind comprised of different hues and tongues?
    What happens when we die?
    Etc…
    The Bible may have been hard for me to believe (to say the least) but AT LEAST it took on the hard questions and gave an account. I found that this was not the case in many other books of religion, belief, etc.
    I also admit that perhaps Zeus did exist! Perhaps he exists still! My beliefs do not restrict that possibility. Do I believe in multiple gods then? Not at all. I believe there is but one God (who is somehow three)
    Perhaps though, Zeus was the same God I serve but they called him a different name, maybe he was an angel, perhaps a demon, perhaps and alien perceived to be a god, I don’t know… I think they are possibilities.

    Question:
    “do you agree that testing the validity of people or places in a a book is not a means to test the veracity of the story?”

    Answer:
    Yes! I absolutely believe your statement to be true! You have a sharp mind, that seems to quickly and shrewdly find the heart of the issue, what a gift!
    Back on point though, well said and a very legitimate concern. My response is that I needed a place to start. At least by proving (or proving false) claims the Bible has made (in relation to secular history) gives me a place to start. Having said that, do I think it’s POSSIBLE that:

    A) Authors of the Bible were corrupt men, manipulating situations through the years for their own selfish motives and that just because they got some historical information correct doesn’t mean that they were right about anything else?
    B) Even if honest men, they could have misunderstood what they witnessed? Meaning, nice enough guys but not wise enough to understand the difference between a natural disaster and an “Act of God”?
    C) They engaged in good old self-fulfilling prophecy because they were religious nuts?
    Absolutely, any of those are possible. Which is why I decided to continue to study but – instead of trying to discern whether the Bible could be found reliable regarding secular history, (I was sufficiently satisfied that so far, regarding historical accounts, it was reliable) I searched for any and all archaeological
    evidence that might substantiate the supernatural claims of the Bible. (Even if they are judged by history to be natural disasters, or easily explained scientific occurrences – in fact I believe they are the same)
    So, I searched secular history for records and or accounts of similar “miracles” or “Acts of God”
    I was surprised by what I found. And by the way, much of this was before I had any access to internet at all (not that I would have trusted MUCH what I found on the internet) so I had to gather my info from good old books – for what that is worth.
    Anyway, I was surprised to learn (though you may not be) that MANY other ancient civilizations give an account of a “Great Flood” like the Noah’s Ark story.
    From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Hindu story of Manu, Satyavrata in the Puranas, even good old China has a story of Nüwa and a Great Flood. It goes on and on. Did that then PROVE to me that the Bible is true? No, but the flood records AND the multiple stories from all around the world that depict destruction of the earth AND one family alone being saved was pretty strange. (Not every historical account included ONLY one family but many did)
    After the flood (according to the Bible – as I’m sure you know) comes the so called “Tower” of Babel story where man’s language is confused and he is spread to the four corners of the world.

    In India – the Hindu religion tells of the god Brahmain that tears down the tree of man that grew too high in the heavens and full of pride. To further punish them, Brahmain confused their languages and spread them over the four corners of the earth.

    Mesoamerica – Aztec belief is that only a man, Coxcox, and a woman, Xochiquetzal, survive, having floated during a large flood that covered the earth on a piece of bark, found themselves on land and begot many children who were at first born unable to speak, but subsequently, upon the arrival of a dove were endowed with language, although each one was given a different speech such that they could not understand one another.

    Greek mythology states that Hermes under Zeus, confused the language of men and spread them over the earth because of man’s lawlessness.

    Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal describe language as being given by the god Pūluga to the first man and woman at their union following a great deluge. The language given was called bojig-yâb-, which is the language spoken to this day, according to their belief, by the tribe inhabiting the south and south-eastern portion of middle Andaman. This language is described by the inhabitants as the “mother tongue” from which all other dialects have been made

    What I got from all this (and more, I’m just afraid I’m boring you) is that –
    For every detailed description of a major event in the Bible, there are shadows of it found all over the world. Sodom and Gomorrah too made for interesting study. Now none of this proves that my God exists but it starts adding up. It is not in my character to believe in magic or myths or to believe in anything that does not have ABSOLUTES that I can cling to. Regarding the world we live in, I came to understand that (likely) none of us will ever know the facts of how we all came about.
    In the absence of an Absolute, I chose to believe that which spoke to my intellect AND my heart. I studied evolution quite diligently and there came a point for me where it literally took MORE faith to believe in it than the Bible.
    Then, when I studied the Jewish religions and beliefs (both in and separate from the bible) I really began to believe.

    Over 2,900 years ago, Israel (Judah) was captured by the Babylonian. King, Nebuchadnezzar. Without going into all the details (I am more than happy to though if you wish) it was written that their captivity would last 70 years. It did. The Bible also predicted the exact number of years it would be until Israel became a nation again.
    In 1948 it happened. No one thought it possible, even those who knew the prophecy. Only 3 years prior, the Jews had been the target of genocide and had one third of their race wiped out. They were scattered all over the world and yet it happened.
    I found the Bible also predicted that it would happen in 1 day. It did. Through even more amazing chains of events that happened that day in 1948.

    It became too much for me to continue doubting. Sorry for the breathy answer but I wanted you to know well – that I did not base it all on mere historical facts, that would only serve to prove that men could accurately point out landmarks and record the passing of time.

    Question:
    “what is your intepretation of genesis – particularly in the context of evolution?”

    Answer:
    I believe in creationism. Not a strong point for proving one way or the other I’ve found I believe Adam was created from dust and Eve from him. I can’t defend it at all, there is no proof… If the missing link is ever found, I will change my views (and I’m not talking about Ida either, I mean the REAL missing link)

    Question:
    ” Do you maintain the the earth is very young, or very old?”

    Answer:
    I have no clue. I don’t buy into the 6,000 year old earth theory like most Christians do. Were they six literal days or six 1,000 year days? I don’t know. How long were Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden before they sinned? A hundred years? A million years? An hour? I don’t know. Unfortunately, I have not found any evidence that makes it clear. I also don’t know “where” the world came from other than from God’s speaking it into existence.
    Do you have any theories on this one? I’d love to hear!

    Question:
    “Does the fact that the bible is cannonized from a variety of “selected” books mean anything to you? My concern is that by “choosing” books, the bible was particularly and deliberately “constructed” – i.e. books that didn’t conform or hold a storyline were rejected. Thoughts?”

    Answer:
    The fact does not bother me anymore. It did for a while and if I think about it long enough, it may again but if there are other “inspired” writings, that’s great! I have read several that MIGHT be like Tobit, Judith, The book of Enoch, etc… Maybe they are inspired, maybe they are not. The councils that all decided the fate of “The Bible” seemed to have done a good job and their criteria for discerning which to let in (over all) I think were sound. Is the Canon closed forever? I don’t know… In the past, I have been more concerned with the fact that not one piece of scripture is an original.
    I can’t deny that it is certainly possible that picking and choosing was involved, especially regarding Faith vs Works. James was almost not let in because of this. Jude almost didn’t make it because of its obscure references to angels, etc. Omitting books that do not fit is necessary but then you do run the risk of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Having the faith that I do (in an all powerful God) I believe that even if certain inspired works are “lost” or restricted from the Bible, the information in such books must not be essential to salvation.

    I hope I have done an adequate job presenting my beliefs. Also, I did want to add that one thing that I thought lent credence to Jesus Christ is that two of his (half) brothers – one who previously had not believed in who Jesus claimed to be – wrote books of the Bible. Which meant that THEY ultimately believed that Jesus was who he said. That struck a chord with me because you can fool a lot of people but if your own brothers – who have seen you everyday, who know all about you, who would be more likely to be jealous and doubt, nonetheless came to believe in (and profess) Jesus. That says something.

    All in all, not only can I not prove God’s existence, I can’t prove – or even KNOW for certain of my own salvation. I believe that when I die I will go to heaven but I am not positive – God alone can judge me. My job is to have faith, hope and love. To these ends I strive. I have made many mistakes and committed many sins but I will never be justifiably accused of “knowing not who I worship” So I will continue to test the scriptures against all things and all things against the scriptures.

    • anonymous-em says:

      What a very, very interesting and complete response.
      Thanks again for your honesty and open-ness. I have learned a lot from your information – to be sure.

      I think there is perhaps only one point that I think I want to persue for now. You mention that:
      “What I found (specifically regarding the Bible vs iliad) was that one book explains those burning questions I have always had”

      Why do you need the questions to be explained? Is it not enough to simply understand that, at this point, they can’t be answered?

      You indicate later, your “need to find a place to start” – again, why do you need such a thing?

      and again, a little later: “It is not in my character to believe in magic or myths or to believe in anything that does not have ABSOLUTES that I can cling to.”

      Would you settle for an absolute, such as “humans do not know”? if not, why not?

      Oh – and one more point if I may: in the context of genesis, you mention Tif the missing link is ever found…” which missing link are you talking about? the entire evolutionary series of hominids is understood and factually validated – there is no such thing as a “missing link”!

      And a comment too – just a little inconsitency I noticed from some interpretations of the bible – some people maintain that the days of creation are, as you suggest, possibly thousands of years long. However, it is also the case that christianity holds the sabbath as a rest day, because this is what God did. My question to these people is – if god actually took thousands of years for his sabbath, how many years should humans take for theirs?!
      But yes, we do have a very good idea of how our planet was formed, both theoretically and from direct observation. We can easily witness planetary systems being formed in other parts of our Galaxy. This does not answer where the matter came from in the first instance, but it does describe the subsequent processes.

      Many thanks for your reply!, I am looking forward to many discussions!
      Anon-em

      • alethesia dipsos says:

        Anon-em,
        How much I enjoy our discussions!
        To your questions:
        “Why do you need the questions to be explained? Is it not enough to simply understand that, at this point, they can’t be answered?

        You indicate later, your “need to find a place to start” – again, why do you need such a thing?

        and again, a little later: “It is not in my character to believe in magic or myths or to believe in anything that does not have ABSOLUTES that I can cling to.”

        Would you settle for an absolute, such as “humans do not know”? if not, why not?”

        Answer:
        I no longer need the evidence because of the faith I have. Before I had faith (before the change in me) yes, I felt I needed answers. Why? Because I refused to believe that mankind would be left here without a clue. As I mentioned, I require no evidence any longer. I still feel duty bound to study everything and try to understand what I CAN and to learn what I can, all else I humbly let remain a mystery.
        To me, lack of understanding / knowledge / etc will never be absolutes. I admit that I will not know the answers I had asked in this world, but I will not give up trying to understand – but not at the expense of my faith or my job to love others.
        The emphasis I placed in my response on “my desire to know, my need for absolutes, etc was not intended to reflect my current state of mind but to help you understand why I HAD searched so long and hard for answers. The broader point I hoped to make was that the more I learned, the less it began to matter because of the change working in me. Now I am confident in my ignorance of secret things, but not to the point of abandonment of (my) reason and (limited) intellect. As I also said. I believe that God works through faith and reason.
        I admitted that I do not know about the 1,000 year as a day. I don’t believe in that either but mentioned it in order to address popular beliefs and to admit that I cannot say for SURE. Which I still can’t say for sure though I doubt it. I could sure use a 1,000 year rest!

        • anonymous-em says:

          That’s causality backwards!…

          A poor joke, I know.. anyhow.

          So if I understand properly, you USED to demand knowledge, but you demand it no longer, because you have faith?

          Has faith given you knowledge, or simply suppressed the demand?
          I think the latter is the case – “the more I learned, the less it began to matter”

          In this case, do you think that a similar process operates for other people too?
          In your daily life, how has such a change affected what was your natural curiosity? do you continue to question things, or accept them “as described” (for the want of a better phrase…!)?
          Given that you longer seek to have your questions answered, does it matter to you that the process leading to your current state is still nebulous, undefined and unclear?

          Another question I thought of last night is – while you have explored a number of other religions and myths, how satisfied are you that you explored “enough” to “know” that you settled on the “right one”? – however again, perhaps this no longer matters?

          • alethesia dipsos says:

            If your joke was poor, mine is in debt!

            Your statement
            “So if I understand properly, you USED to demand knowledge, but you demand it no longer, because you have faith?”
            Previously I was not satisfied unless I could find absolutes. None were found. My faith is absolute and I suppose (I myself don’t claim to FULLY understand the change that took place in me, hence “suppose”) that I feel God replaced my “need” to know, with peace through faith.
            On that foundation do I now rest on my laurels and question nothing? Certainly not! Having assured myself in the beginning that the Bible (in my estimation) was sound, true and inspired by God, those questions which remain a mystery no longer plague me. No question plagues me other than those that pertain to my salvation. Hence, is the Canon closed? What of predestination vs free will? Etc. Truly awe inspiring questions. Fun to discuss but and I have (as also mentioned) always worked hard to not be accused of “worshiping that which I do not know” because I feel a responsibility to test all things, but if answers are not found, I am just as happy.
            Again, unless the gospel be proved wrong, my faith is paramount above all including knowledge.
            Regarding other religions and my study – it would take 100 lifetimes to study to scratch the surface of all religions. I have a clear conscience in my testing of them. I found a few that I considered more interesting than the Bible, others much easier to live out and so on. The search I did (and I freely admit I would have liked to have indulged more) only solidified my belief (through the conviction of my heart) that the Bible was Truth. I saw reflections of Biblical truths at every turn but the source is what I went back to. Again, not to my pleasure, I was not excited to adopt certain beliefs as my own, nor certain behaviors, but further study of His word changed that too.
            To:
            “In this case, do you think that a similar process operates for other people too?”
            I say, I find my own faith mysterious and perplexing. I have no clue how others may change or how they have been effected. That is something you have made me curious about. However I will also say that many I have spoken with and many friends (that believe) never seemed to struggle as much as I did with needing to know.

  3. anonymous-em says:

    Hello alethesia,
    An interesting testimonial – I’m not going to try to convert you of course!

    There’s a few things I’d like to ask you – since you seem to be more informed than most (theist and atheists too).

    Specifically – what is your intepretation of genesis – particularly in the context of evolution. Do you maintain the the earth is very young, or very old? Is man created directly from earth, or does the evidence convince you otherwise? More particuarly, where do you maintain the earth came from – if you have an opinion. Perhaps ultimately, do you hold as fact that God created the universe? If so, do you know when?

    Does the fact that the bible is cannonized from a variety of “selected” books mean anything to you? My concern is that by “choosing” books, the bible was particularly and deliberately “constructed” – i.e. books that didn’t conform or hold a storyline were rejected. Thoughts?

    Much of your testamony seems to draw on the extrapolation from the actual existence of people mentioned in the bible as necessarily proving that a God exists. Are you aware of the VAST amount of achelogical evidence that supports the illiad (for example)? If you would maintain that ancient carvings are “proof” of the existence of characters in the bible (i.e. god) would you acknowledge then, the necessity for you to use the ruins of the ancient city of troy as proof of the existence of zeus? If not, why not?

    I REALLY liked your comment; that you have made efforts to test the reliability of scripture – do you agree that testing the validity of people or places in a a book is not a means to test the veracity of the story?

    My typical (and rather caustic) response in this case is to point out that while “london” exists, we cannot use “peter pan and wendy” to conclude that peter pan exists – overlooking the somewhat facetious example, are you able to defend your conclusions with this example in mind?

    Overall, the final comment you left : “I believe because I have faith, not because I have proven anything beyond doubt” – does that mean that if there were no such proofs available, such as those you detail, you would still “believe”?

    Many thanks!, I hope you view my questions as simple queries, not as caustic or arrogant points. I am genuinely interested in your replies.
    Anon-em

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