My Journey Toward Independent Thinking
My present intention is to focus these articles on the concept of individual liberty, and particularly as it relates to liberty of thought and conscience in spiritual and religious matters. I’ll no doubt branch out into other areas of libertarian thinking – for instance political implications – but I expect the main emphasis will be religious and spiritual.
I was raised in an evangelical and fundamentalist Christian family and church(es), and it ‘took’ with me from my earliest childhood. My mind was ‘enslaved’ from the beginning to unquestioning acceptance of the Bible as the inerrant ‘Word of God’, and it took me until I was in my mid thirties to escape that enslavement. Even though I did begin to show a tendency to independent thinking as I entered High School – and in fact became known as a ‘troublemaker’ because of the way I challenged the ‘doctrines’ I was raised to believe – this independence was strictly within the boundaries of Evangelical and Reformed Christianity. For instance, I was raised in ‘free will’ churches, and taught that God had done everything He could to ‘save’ humans; now it remained up to us to ‘decide for Christ’, and this free will ‘decision’ is what would make the difference as to whether or not we would be ‘eternally saved’. But after reading Biblical interpretation of the ‘Reformed’ persuasion (Protestant Reformers such as John Calvin and Martin Luther) who taught ‘Sovereign Election and Predestination’, and the absolute efficacy of the ‘blood of Christ’ to secure the salvation of ‘all for whom He died’, I embraced this ‘Calvinistic’ theology whole heartedly. I made it a point to try to ‘open the blind eyes’ of my friends who were deceived by the ‘free will’ theology, and of course made myself unpopular. So I had started down the path of independent thought, but I was still a long way from true ‘free thinking’ as all of my ‘theology’ still had to be consistent with, and provable by, the ‘inerrantly inspired Word of God’ (the Bible). It was still unthinkable to question the validity of anything taught in the Bible; I could question Biblical interpretation, but not the Bible itself.
As I progressed in my thinking, I moved away from the ‘any moment rapture’ teaching which is so popular in Evangelical Christianity today, embraced a form of Postmillennialism (the ‘gospel’ will triumph in the earth, and the whole world – or at least the vast majority of mankind – will be genuinely ‘saved’ before Christ returns), then moved into Presbyterian views on infant baptism and church government, etc (I was raised in ‘baptistic’ churches). I don’t guess it’s necessary to recap every step in my spiritual journey. It was only after I had embraced a Pentecostal or Charismatic form of Christianity (without giving up the Presbyterian/Reformed viewpoint, which my Reformed friends assured me was totally inconsistent) that the foundations of my faith got knocked out from under me. I had come to literally expect that whatever I asked of God ‘in faith’, I would receive; yet it seemed that not only did I not receive anything I asked of God, but I actually got the opposite of what I prayed for. Things got to the point that I could not pray for people to be healed of sickness, for fear that God would kill them just to spite me! And I couldn’t practice ‘reverse psychology’ with God – praying that God would kill the sick person – because God would know what I was doing, and what I really desired, and would ‘grant’ that request! Not that I could ever bring myself to pray that anyone would die anyhow.
I soon reached a ‘final straw’ situation, and ‘told God’ that if that was the way He was going to be, I would rather serve the Devil than Him! I had to immediately qualify that statement by admitting that I didn’t have any interest in human or animal sacrifices. I can look back on that with humor now, but I wasn’t laughing then. Interestingly, I was still so attached to the Bible that I continued to think that there must be a key element I was missing that would validate the Bible while explaining why it wasn’t ‘working’ for me (and in fact for Christians in general. They got so excited over ‘answered prayer’ precisely because it was such a rare occurrence.). I started reading New Age and Eastern Religion books searching for this ‘key’. I did find a new way of looking at the Bible, but it required giving up the fundamentalistic viewpoint of its literal, historical accuracy and infallible ‘inspiration’ by God. I discovered a new freedom to ‘think outside the box’; to question the accuracy not only of the ‘interpretations’ of the Bible I was formerly committed to, but also to question the accuracy of the Biblical authors themselves. I found that there was a great deal of misunderstanding of the Bible within ‘orthodoxy’, but there was also a great deal of error in the Bible itself.
In future posts, I will look at some ‘orthodox’ misunderstandings of the Bible, and also some misunderstandings and errors of the Bible authors themselves; but my aim will be not so much to negatively criticize the Bible or any particular viewpoint, but to encourage people to embrace a personal freedom to think for themselves and form their own conclusions in all matters. Hopefully those who have already started on this journey of liberty will be encouraged to continue, and those who are still bound by someone else’s chains will find the courage to break them and shake them off. LET FREEDOM RING!