Questioning Religion, Keeping Faith

Sunday Morning Musings:  Over the years as I have changed physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, I have also come to realize how little about most of these changes I have talked with anyone.  Even today, there is still little discussion about our growth.  I measure the height of my grandchildren each time they visit.  I marvel at the books they read and the knowledge and wisdom they are gaining.  As their hormones change I also realize the moodiness that is present. Yet, most of our discussions are very informal and some don’t even take place at all.

From a theological point of view it was only when I entered the ministry that I began to learn more about what was simply called religion.  For the most part I accepted what I had been told as simple fact.  It was even suggested that it was better not even to question some of the long held ideas or theories of the church.  If I needed an answer I could just turn to a catechism.  One of my favourites was the Westminster Catechism of 1648, especially the very first question that asked about the chief purpose of humans.  The answer was to enjoy God.

However, the more I studied and learned about God, I found it harder and harder to “enjoy” God.  God was all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing who blessed goodness and cursed evil.  Of course, goodness and evil were defined by the church which claimed its authority from scriptures (and/or the Pope).  Naturally, I wanted to know where these writings came from.  Why was there a difference in the number of books in what was called the (Roman) Catholic Bible and the Protestant one?  Why some writings were excluded altogether?  Was any consideration given to including writings not found until the 20th century?  My whole understanding of the Bible itself came under question.

Over the years other elements of my Christian beliefs also began to become troublesome for me.  Jesus was always pictured as “meek and mild” except for the temple scene, but that was considered an abnormality.  For the most part Jesus was viewed as God incarnate who came to save the world from hell. Of course, my mind struggled with this notion in a couple of ways.  If I proclaimed the name of Jesus, would I be saved from eternal torment?  Did Jesus really come just to die on the cross for my sins?  In other words (not words I learned without seminary training), Jesus’ death was considered as “substitutionary atonement” in that God wanted/needed to punish someone for all the evil that was present in the world and Jesus fit the bill.

What did such a requirement tell me about God? It certainly was not a God that one could enjoy.  As a result I began to move away from much of my early teachings.  I had to develop a different understanding or I would have nothing (sadly, many have taken this route).  One of the first things I needed to do was to accept being loved by God because God is love.  God was not some super-being who either didn’t care or cared so much that I was nothing but a puppet.  I had to be concerned more about the here and now, as opposed to the hereafter.

The bottom line me became not my religion but my faith.  For too long I had simply accepted the church’s teachings.  I no longer can do that without asking lots of questions (without musing). What is more, I have come to accept that there are not always nice and neat answers to all the questions asked.  My catechism is still being written and I can enjoy God much more easily.

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