It was not hard to decide how to approach a fresh view of Scripture. Jesus first. Always Jesus first. I would start with the Gospels. It was going to be fun, because I had spent most of my spiritual study time with Paul. So I opened up the Gospel of Matthew and everything began to fall apart.
Since I was trying to read it for the first time, his words seemed charged with new power. Love your enemies. Do unto others. Walk the extra mile. Repay evil with good. I had known it all before and had lived a life doing my best to practice it. But I could feel its full weight now and it was incredible. I stood in awe of the Christ all over again.
But there was more underneath the ethics. Something that troubled me when I first saw it. Without Paul as a filter through whom to interpret Jesus, he no longer seemed Evangelical. He spoke of people being saved for acts of charity and damned for an unforgiving spirit. He sat with people of other religions and never tried to convert them.
The next few steps were harder and more complex than I’m able to express in this little post. I had a commitment to be honest with myself and the text, no matter what the authorities said. I began to see inconsistencies. They were nothing new – I had already read the Bible cover to cover more than once. I used to have ready answers for the discrepancies between the inclusive love and compassion of Jesus and the violent intolerance of Moses, Paul and Jehovah. But those ready answers didn’t seem to hold water anymore. Suddenly the stories of the Old Testament were tales of misogyny and genocide. Paul’s ideas were typical examples of sexism and homophobia.
Those are big things to say, I know. Big huge things that I don’t even bother trying to back up. I bet that’s frustrating, and I’m sorry for that. But my purpose in telling this has never been to ‘de-convert’ anyone. I have no desire to pick apart the Bible and lay it open to specific criticisms in this post. Maybe there will be time for those kinds of discussions in the future. For now, I just want to tell my story. And my story leads me here:
I could not think of a good reason to have ever considered the Bible the authoritative, infallible Word of God in the first place.
Obviously, everything changed after that.
I had only known about sin and atonement through the Bible. I had only felt guilty for failing to keep a cosmic standard of behaviour because of the Bible. I had only believed in a personal God because of the Bible. And now the Bible was just another wonderful piece of literature. That’s when I had to admit a surprising truth to myself – I was in no way a Christian.