Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Hard Truth

I have been working on this post in my mind for a long time, while this may seem abrupt, it really is not.

I have been holding two contradictory belief sets in my mind for most of the last seven years and I have now decided that I can no longer continue to do this.  The two contradictory belief sets are on the one side Christianity and on the other side science and reason.  I am well aware that many people are able to reconcile these things, I cannot.

Seven years ago I was coming out of a twenty five year long period of being an avowed atheist, interspersed with brief flings with Baha'i and various eastern philosophies.   Being lonely and confused about life I went to several churches seeking “spiritual fulfillment and community.”  I tried Roman Catholic churches and Episcopal Churches, then a Seventh Day Adventist church and a strange Seventh Day Baptist church as well.  My main criteria at the time was that they have services on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, since I work on Sundays.  I had no theological preferences, most of them seemed to preach the same thing, be nice to people and love them and believe in God and Jesus.  Yes, I know that is not the gospel.

Then, 7 years, 1 month and 3 days ago, on Thursday night, August 19, 2004, I first attended Messiah Lutheran Church.  I wrote in my blog that night “Tonight I went to Messiah Lutheran Church over in Danville. I felt like I was at home :-)”  I really felt like I was back in the church of my childhood and this was a comforting thing.  I felt welcomed and warm when I was there.  The sermons were stimulating and the liturgy wonderful.  A rather cursory investigation into the LCMS website turned up no weirdness that I could see and the theology was solidly Protestant.  In fact, when I read about Lutheran theology, it seemed to be the most faithful to what was taught in the Bible of all of the churches I’d ever been to.  Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone etc.  Before long, and without needing to go through Adult Catechesis because I was a “confirmed Lutheran” already (a mistake I think), I became a member of the congregation.

It was several months afterwards that I first encountered a huge problem.  That was when, in a sermon, the pastor preached almost in passing, that evolution was false, that God created the earth recently and Adam and Eve were literal and historical human beings.  I had never actually encountered someone who believed that!  I have never bought into the literal Genesis story, especially not Young Earth Creationism where they deny pretty much all of science (both evolution and the big bang) and say God created the earth about 10,000 years ago and created Adam and Eve as the ancestors of humanity, who then "fell" and all of the stuff that comes after that.  I thought it was all metaphorical!  I was stunned and dismayed, I didn’t know what to think.  I know from a life long passion for archaeology and paleontology that the earth is much older than 10,000 years and that humans have evolved from a common ancestor with the apes.  But when I realized that truly believing Adam and Eve were real people who fell was actually essential to Christianity making any sort of internal sense, I tried to figure out how it could be true in some way.  Somehow, for almost seven years now, I've managed to keep on saying, "I don't believe that” or “I don't understand that,” or even, “that's just plain wrong,” but always with the addendum that “I trust God will explain it to me someday."  I felt as though I were looking at a square and declaring that I believed it to be a circle and I was fervently hoping God would someday explain to me how that could be.

For seven years, in order to justify my continuing to hold these contradictory ideas, I have conducted with an open mind an intensive study of several schools of creationist thought, from Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis (Young Earth Creation) to Reasons to Believe (Old Earth Creation) to Bio-Logos (Theistic Evolution) and read dozens of books on all sides of the subject by both believers and non believers.  Along the way I also read the Book of Concord and prayed morning and night and used the Treasury of Daily Prayer faithfully, studying the Bible and Lutheran theology almost daily.  I read Walther and Luther's works and CS Lewis and Bonhoefer and many others, desperately looking for a way to have it all make sense, to no avail.  What I wanted was the warm feelings of community and of love that I found at church, and I tried my best to believe what was taught so I could stay there.  All along the warm emotional feelings of love and community seemed to mostly make up for the fact that it did not make any real logical sense to me. 

Warm fuzzy feelings are not Truth, and Truth is very important to me.  Recently, in the process of trying to think very clearly and deliberately about living in complete honesty, most especially with myself (which I started focusing on as a result of learning about Asperger’s Syndrome actually), I have concluded that continuing to pretend that I have not yet made up my mind about these things is simply not honest or true and I have finally given it up.  I finally realized that I do not believe in the God of the Bible. The hard part is telling people I love, and who love me, that I do not share their belief in God, which is why I'm posting this to my blog today.
Not that I begrudge the last seven years at all, it’s been very nice, and the study of all the various creationist ideas was fascinating, even if it is atrocious science.  In fact, I think the last seven years have been quite good for me, I have learned much about how science works, and about logic and reasoning by studying the several different sides in this issue. 


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