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Why did I change my mind about Christianity?

(Text as at 19/09/2007 01:07:41)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)

What changed your mind?

You ask what happened to my Christian faith. Again, I presume that this is a psychological / historical question. Just as one can fall into faith for unsound reasons, one can fall out of it in similar circumstances. The important considerations really relate to now, not then. I’ve documented the “now” elsewhere1, so all that’s needed here is to try to remember the original psychological motivation for even considering these matters.

I think it all started with the formation of the OBT. When I left Parkminster I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t sign up to any package deal, but, of course, I did. Then over time we (the young people’s group) started to rebel somewhat against the exclusivity of the “two callings” teaching and the separation from Christians and churches in our localities. In itself this wasn’t much of a challenge doctrinally, and the intention wasn’t really to engage fully on that front, but on the practical front. My own rather inexpert contribution revolved around being a Trustee of a (hoped for) Christian Home for the Physically Handicapped. At this stage Julie and I couldn’t, wouldn’t or at least didn’t become full members because of our anti-sacramentalism and belief in conditional immortality. Eventually a more broad-minded (or more business-like) pastor came along to Romford Evangelical Free Church who, while he knew our beliefs, allowed us into full fellowship by allowing us to interpret the tenets according to their letter rather than spirit (eg. believing in eternal conscious torment “as the Scriptures teach” – well, we did, because the Scriptures taught that there wasn’t any. So what we believed on these matters was in accord with the Scriptures, just not as interpreted by those who wrote the tenets). I think this was a grave mistake. It set up a tension in which “the life” (belonging fully to a Christian community) was more important than “the truth”. When we moved to Billericay we joined a C of E which, though evangelical in a sense, was so open and inclusive that it was difficult to determine what was believed and why. The life was all important – “just get on with it”. That’s when I stopped attending church meetings altogether.

This was going on in parallel with the influence of various books I was reading. I’ve mentioned the eye-opening impact of A.J.Ayer’s Language Truth and Logic elsewhere2, Then there was "Barr (James) - Escaping From Fundamentalism", which I’d reviewed somewhat positively in Search, to such general consternation that I had to resign as a Trustee of the OBT. Then there was The Chosen, by Haim Potok, where a modern-day Hassidic Gaon escapes from the confines of the position he has been nurtured to occupy. The analogy here is somewhat loose – I’d identify myself rather with the bright, studious but unexceptional Reuven rather than the prodigious Danny, but you can mix n’ match these analogies. I’d read books on liberal theology in my early days as a Christian, hadn’t been impressed, and continued to remain so. While this might initially have seemed a good thing, it meat that when doubts about fundamentalism set in, there was no resting place before outright agnosticism, a position confirmed by the “all or nothing” approach by most in the OBT.

I suppose my main motivation was the desire for an integrated worldview, and not wanting to have to “believe 6 impossible things before breakfast”. The approach our little group had (and has, I believe) is that once you admit any error into the Scriptures, the slippery slope to total unbelief sets in. This is nonsense, and if I’d resisted this notion more forcefully I might have persisted. Indeed, I’m not even convinced that some of my major worries have anything to do with inerrancy, but rather the proper interpretation of Scripture – the early part of Genesis 1, for example can be taken to be intended as a poetic description rather than a literal account. But I just can’t believe in a literal Adam, certainly not one created bespoke from the dust. I suspect a literal Adam was accepted in NT times, and that the form of the NT arguments presupposes this. But, I could see God working round human frailty and lack of scientific knowledge to get across the fundamental message of the universal sinfulness of mankind. But I can’t see this as the result of a cosmic fall of some sort, but rather as a consequence of the laws of nature, which would make God ultimately responsible for it all. This would mean that divine atonement would still make sense. But this is all highly heretical. I’ve not really tried to develop anything more substantial, partly because any such creative repair might be no more than self-delusion.

I suppose my main psychological concern was that those who ought to have been concerned about the issues I was, weren’t; which led me to think that most Christians were just out for the life and the hope, and not for the truth. Maybe what others do or are concerned about is irrelevant (one may have to plough a lonely furrow), so after some dithering (my Mensa and ISPE days), I decided to hone my thinking skills by doing some formal philosophy so that I could come back to the problem with a clearer head.

This is what I’m doing at the moment.

Table of the Previous 2 Versions of this Note:

Date Length Title
08/09/2007 16:55:12 5043 Why did I change my mind about Christianity?
05/09/2007 20:45:36 2200 Why did I change my mind about Christianity?

Note last updated Reading List for this Topic Parent Topic
19/09/2007 01:07:41 None available Sylvia's Questions

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Problems with the Christian Worldview Psychology. T1      

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

Status: Philosophy of Religion (Summary of Progress to Date) Sylvia's Questions      

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References & Reading List

Author Title Medium Source Read?
Barr (James) Escaping From Fundamentalism Book - Cited Barr (James) - Escaping From Fundamentalism Yes

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