|أحمد محمد لبن Ahmad.M.Lbn|
مؤسس ومدير المنتدى
عدد المساهمات : 27085
العمر : 67
|موضوع: Chapter 1: First Steps الإثنين 21 أغسطس 2017, 4:52 pm|| |
Chapter 1: First Steps
Not very long ago, I wanted my faith to remain as it always had been. At the time, I was an evangelical Baptist. To me this meant that I believed that Jesus (PBUH) was God Incarnate and that he had died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. In return for this, and also because of my obedience in baptism and communion, I received the grace of forgiveness as a gift from God. I was also taught that as an additional benefit of my belief, I would gradually become a better person and, more importantly, a better servant of God as the Holy Spirit changed me from the inside out. I believed with all my heart that this was what was taught by the Bible and that the words of the Bible were literally true, although I understood that it was necessary to consider the context and experiences of the peoples who had been originally addressed. I knew that the Bible was the Word of God to His people.
As a child, I had been raised by my parents to be a Lutheran. During those early years, I wasn't bothered by questions about my doctrine. Actually, I don't even recall that these basic facts and assumptions all Christians are expected to accept had even been identified to me when I was a child. For me, Christianity was going to Church, believing in God as revealed by Jesus and the rest of the Bible, and trying to do what was right. I lived secure in the knowledge that God would love me no matter what I did, as long as I worshipped "Him" and did my best.
Being raised in the family and community in which I was, my religious identity as a Christian was pretty inevitable. Although I knew many people who didn't believe in God at all, they really made little sense to me. I didn’t understand how someone’s belief or disbelief in God could influence God’s existence. It seemed to me that either God was real or He wasn't, independent of what anybody “believed”. Since it seemed impossible to me that God would not exist and since I wanted to be on “His” good side, I looked for information about God from the world around me. I was surrounded by people who claimed to know God and so I listened to them, followed their teaching and accepted their guidance.
I still have vivid memories of my childhood Faith in God. I have seen the word "immanence" used to describe the awareness of God's presence, and it is generally spoken of as if it is a rare experience that some people try to create within themselves with meditation, drugs or religious ecstasy. Immanence has been a part of my daily life since long before I knew the word, sometimes in the background as a comforting presence, and sometimes otherwise. As a teenager, one evening I was riding my bicycle between two fences along a path when I heard a voice in my ear say, "Duck!" I did, immediately and without thinking.
When I stopped to investigate, there was no one visible for hundreds of feet around me, but a fine piano wire had been strung between two fence posts across the path at such a level that it would probably have cut off my head at the speed that I had been riding. Another time, the same voice made me back up in traffic just before a semitrailer drove over the front of my car. My mother tells me that as a pre-school child I frequently reported visits by something I called "The Blue Giant", a glowing, friendly entity who came by at night to see how I was feeling. I apparently told her that this was my Guardian Angel. An awareness of God and God's messengers was part of my life before I had any religious knowledge or training.
When I was young, I didn't need to understand any of this to accept it. My mother said that I welcomed my Blue Giant visits and looked forward to them.
The voice that infrequently commanded me was one that I simply obeyed without thinking, sometimes to my confusion and frustration. Once, when I was about sixteen years old, a married woman was obviously making a attempt to seduce me when I simply got up and started to walk away, paralyzed from the waist up, wanting to return but completely unable to control my legs! None of these events had a life shaking impact on me, nor did I feel any need to share them with others. As I grew up they were easily explained and categorized within Christian doctrine and incorporated into my developing Christianity, subject and subordinate to the religion and theology that I was learning.
I first started to develop difficulties with Christianity when I entered adolescence and began to examine the “Grace of God” as it was taught in the Church that I attended. I had learned that sins were rebellious thoughts or actions of mine that were not part of God's plan for me, which I should have avoided, but which I instead chose to knowingly and willingly participate in. I had always understood that I was forgiven for all of my sins because of God’s goodness, not my own. Since I knew just what I was capable of, this was reassuring to me. I also understood that my failure to be perfect was inevitable.
My teachers said that I had not been made perfect by God and it was only through the work of God that I could ever become better than I was.
In a way, I believed that God was responsible for my imperfections. “Original Sin” (which I understood to be the capacity for sin that came as a consequence of my free will, rather than some leftover guilt from my ancestors) was something God had bequeathed to me simply because I had been born human, not as a result of any decision of my own. Since I thought that my faults before God-my-Judge were a consequence of my existence, and preordained by God-my-Creator, it seemed fair to me that God played a necessary part in, and was in a way responsible for, their correction.
I accepted this because I knew how weak-willed I was when it came to choosing between pleasure and righteousness. What was important to me was that I had always been taught that I could unconditionally count on God’s forgiveness and help because of my belief and my baptism. This gave me a certain measure of control over the eventual fate of my soul that my religious instructors later called my “assurance of salvation”.
My problem was that very little was taught about repentance and obedience to God by the people I was listening to. Although this made my faith a very convenient one to practice, it was uncomfortable for me to read the Gospels, because Jesus seemed to stress repentance and obedience very, very strongly. I sometimes found myself in situations where my own behaviour, as well as that of my friends and religious teachers, stood in stark contrast to the behaviour of the men and women of the Bible. I stepped back and watched myself and others and realized that there was little impetus to obey the moral code expressed in the Bible, even though we all professed to follow its teachings.
Since we believed that our drive to transgress was inborn and that our salvation was a result of God’s direct intervention in our lives, and because forgiveness was assured and God’s punishment made impossible by our Faith, most of us generally lived by the prayer: “O God, make me perfect, but not yet!”, so that we could continue to live as we wanted, rather than as we knew that we should.
It seemed to me that few people actually took God very seriously. Since we could always count on the mercy of God, we all had little cause to do what we knew was right. I was frequently present at tearful scenes of repentance both preceded and followed by joyful and wanton disobedience. I generally tried to enjoy this sort of life myself. Unfortunately, whenever I actually sat down and read the Bible, I found Jesus condemning just this sort of hypocrisy.
Since what I really wanted from my faith was certainty about my future fate and God's judgment, I felt uncomfortable with the apparent contradiction between what the Gospels said and what we, the people of the Church, practiced. I decided to examine the fundamentals of my Faith. I figured that it would be very simple for me to find out where I had gone wrong and to fix it.
After some study, prayer and reflection I decided that I could blame the inconsistencies and problems that I was discovering not on myself, but on my teachers’ departure from pure Bible teaching into broader areas of religious philosophy. The pastor of the church that I was attending at the time, and the people who had taught me my religion, were all very well educated.
Because of this, the majority of the lessons to which I was exposed came from sources outside the Bible, even though the Bible was supposed to be the basis of all of our beliefs. Sometimes, it seemed that the Bible verse that was used as the starting point for a class seemed quite far removed from the conclusion that was finally reached. This left me with the uncomfortable feeling that I was relying too heavily on the opinions of others, and not enough on the opinion of God.
I knew that Christianity was supposed to be accessible to anyone, regardless of education. I grew concerned that frequently my pastors and teachers seemed to be showing off their superior intellectual skills and knowledge instead of teaching from the Word. I left the Lutheran Church to seek out a group that focused on scripture straight from the Bible and who had a healthy distrust for intellectual manipulations. I ended up in the Baptist Church.