Much of Christianity here in the West has taken an interesting turn. Rather than being an experiential communion with Life Himself, it often takes one of two forms: a set of beliefs based on a particular interpretation of the Bible or a platform for social morality and progress. The drawbacks to the latter idea I have already written about here.
In regards to the former group, “being right” is of the utmost concern. In these circles, topics such as apologetics and “defending their faith” are popular. It makes sense though. For them, Christianity is a philosophical system comprised of particular beliefs and doctrine. Challenge those things, and their entire religion can potentially come crashing down. The more extreme folks in this group are often labeled as fundamentalists, which may or may not be an accurate label since that term is so widely thrown around these days for Christians who have conservative ideas.
The main disadvantage to this kind of belief system is that it is the biggest manufacturer of disbelief. Bart Ehrman is a prime example. Though he is agnostic, he was a former fundamentalist who eventually figured out that there are a number of contradictions in the Bible. When coupled with being unable to find a rational explanation for the suffering in the world, he could no longer adhere to the philosophical system labeled as Christianity. When one’s faith is literalistic sola scriptura, it is not unusual to find that the scriptures do not hold up well to modern trends in historical, scientific, and literary criticism.
I have seen people say that if Adam and Eve were not real, then they can’t believe anything in the Bible**. That is the danger we are faced with when our faith is based on a book and a belief system. We need something deeper. Something much deeper.
I am not surprised when I encounter people in Eastern Orthodoxy who say, “It was either atheism or Orthodoxy.” Many people have discovered, and continue to discover, that while man cannot live on bread alone, he also cannot live on a belief system or the Bible alone. While the Bible is often called the “Word of God,” it is a bit of a misnomer. The Word is Jesus himself. The Bible points us to Jesus, but it is no substitute for life in Christ.
I think there is a fear that gnaws at our subconsciousness. What if we are wrong about all of this? What if someone blows my faith to smithereens and I can no longer believe in God? Then what?
The point I wish to make is not to disparage the Bible as being useless, or even beliefs as being vain, but to encourage people to enter into communion with God. The entire purpose of the scriptures is to point us to an understanding of God so that we can develop communion with Him.
I have found just that communion with the Spirit through the disciplines, teachings, and way of life in Eastern Orthodoxy. There is a fullness here that I never knew before. And it is not that I have stopped having questions. I’m currently involved with a group that frequently “sits with the questions” of life and spirituality.
So, I am still asking questions. But I have found that they do not carry the emotional weight they once had. My boat no longer rocks violently when scholars attempt to disprove God or the Bible. I still care deeply, but I am ok with not knowing many of the answers. In Orthodoxy, I have learned to have a faith based upon communion with Christ and His mystical Body, the Church.
What do you think about having your beliefs challenged? Does it bother you to hear people discuss errors in the Bible? What would you do if you, like most early Christians, had no personal copy of the Bible, but could only get to know God through prayer and the teachings from Church? What would it change?
As noted in the comments below, I stand corrected regarding Bart Ehrman’s given reason for leaving Christianity. He states it is due to suffering in the world and not because of textual errors in the Bible.
**Also, when I wrote this some years ago I had more liberal leanings. Nowadays, I do believe that Adam and Eve were literal people. The age of the universe is still on the table for me, but there have been recent scientific discoveries that show the universe may be younger than we suspect (things like the horizon problem with cosmic microwave background radiation throw a wrench in scientific theories). Regardless, scientific ideas are in constant flux as new discoveries are made each year. When we begin interpreting the Bible through science (even things that are supposedly “facts” today), then we will have a theology that is changing with every new discovery and theory, which is not what Christianity has ever been.