The Bible—its own worst enemy
I believe that people convert to Christianity for emotional reasons—not logical ones. I also believe that people deconvert from Christianity for emotional reasons. Even though the explanations given often center around logical contradictions that deconverts found in Christianity, the actual reason they leave is that their negative emotions become a greater motivator than whatever positive motivations they got by having faith.
Cognitive Dissonance is one of these negative emotions. Once I began engaging my brain, and applying it to my faith, I found myself in a cyclone of emotions, and kept arriving at a single conclusion: Christianity is Sophistry. No matter how I would applied apologetics to my faith, I could not determine how to apply a Biblical viewpoint to the modern world. These conclusions, of course, were not so clearly defined in my mind at the time. All I knew was one thing: I felt horrible.
One primary source of confusion was due to my own doctrine. As a fundamentalist, I believed that the Bible was the inerrant word of God. Yet I could not escape the fact that the modern Christian church’s application of that Word of God is conveniently aligned with modern society. The intolerable parts of the Bible were excused away (sometimes with the very logical reason of “well that was a different time”) yet other parts of the Bible were clung to as if they were impervious to the changing of time. But there was no Biblical explanation to indicate why some of those passages were still to be adhered to, and others weren’t.
Why didn’t women leave town when they were on their periods? Why weren’t we stoning adulterers? These types of questions were answered by saying that Jesus ended Old Testament law by dying on the Cross. But Jesus himself contradicted this in his Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Don’t think for a minute that I came to get rid of the Law: I came to fulfill the Law in every detail.” (Matthew 5). Christians read this scripture and actually imply its total opposite—that Jesus really DID mean that he was abolishing the old law.
OK, fair enough. I began operating as a Christian with the understanding that the Old Testament really wasn’t valid anymore.
So then I started wondering … why do Christians consistently refer to the Old Testament for guidance? If Jesus established a new paradigm, then nothing in the Old Testament could be relied upon to represent God’s new covenant with Christians. But even the New Testament writers consistently referred to Old Testament Laws as if they were still to be obeyed.
When Paul was called before a religious tribunal, he offered this defense for himself: “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all.” (Acts 25:8)
So if Paul believed that Christ abolished the Old Testament law (to which he was referring) he was denying it to this tribunal. Again, in Acts he said, “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers (Acts 28:17).”
And later, Paul wrote this:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them. (Romans 2:14–15)
Here, Paul is clearly serving as an apologist for the Jewish law—the Law of Moses. He’s saying, “Look how logical it is! Some of these laws are naturally performed by even Gentiles.”
To say I became “conflicted” would be an understatement. It truly seemed to me as if Paul were merely trying to juxtapose his faith in Christ with the Law of Moses so he could make it work within his culture. If this were true, it meant that modern Christians got it all severely wrong.
Or, Paul was a tool, and that Paul was wrong for trying to apply it to his culture—that Christ’s message transcended culture. If that were the case then modern Christians still had it all wrong, and that Paul’s letters weren’t inerrant at all.
Or, that Paul or Jesus never intended to negate the Law of Moses, and that we should still be sending women out of the village when they’re on their period, and that we should still be stoning disobedient children.
The least tenable of resolutions was, in my mind, the one Christians chose. They abolished the Old Testament law but embraced the New Testament message of redemption. I could understand this only in regard to not needing to Sacrifice animals anymore, but there were wild inconsistencies in every other aspect. [Note: not all Christian sects followed Paul’s method. However, Paul’s method is the one that survived through two millenia into today.]
This was the inerrant word of God, sent to me by a loving Lord to save my soul. And yet, I wore out my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance trying to make sense of it all, and could not succeed. God might as well have been speaking to me in French.
I continued to feel horrible …