Friday, December 09, 2005

Examining The Roots Of My Faith

I was raised in a "Christian home." My parents had been "born again" as adults. They had both been raised in a very liberal Methodism where apparently they had never heard or understood that it was not just church attendance that made you Christian, but it was personal acceptance of Christ that made one His true follower. After attending a home Bible study they had been invited to by friends, they both became convicted that they needed personal faith in Christ. A short time later they both had conversion experiences. After receiving Jesus into their hearts by faith, they were born again and were baptized in a swimming pool near Denton, Texas in 1950 something. I remember watching from the poolside as my parents were immersed by the pastor of our church, Alden Gannett.

This fresh newfound faith was the atmosphere into which I was raised. One evening at bedtime prayers my mother presented me with the option to receive Christ into my heart. So when I was only four years old and I did receive Him and He has been with me ever since - now 54 years. I was taught that the Bible was the infallible word of God and walked in that precept for many years - but then my faith took a turn when I began to see the fallacies and inconsistencies in the scriptures. Until then, my faith was based on the accuracy of the text, but something changed.

All along my faith has been experiential. God has not been with me all these years because I believe the right doctrines and always confess the right words. It is only because He is faithful and true and I know Him as a personal friend. His love has filled me with the joy in which I now stand. Nothing can ever remove the love we share. Recently an interview on the radio caught my attention - the interview was conducted by Diane Rehm with Bart Ehrman, who is a professor of Biblical studies at the University of North Carolina. I normally give little attention to intellectual discussions I see on TV or hear on the radio because they are not dealing with faith issues - they are only dealing in the intellect - scientific issues. This is why I see no conflict with Darwinian theory and my faith. To me, that whole debate is asinine. My faith has nothing to do with scientific discovery - but it also has nothing to do with whether the Bible is accurate or infallible.

Dr. Ehrman's credentials were impressive. What caught my attention was description of his own conversion experience - how through Campus Crusade for Christ he was introduced to the evangelical brand of Christianity and then he attended Wheaton College, a noted conservative fundamentalist evangelical Christian college in Illinois. He then proceeded to further educate himself at Princeton Theological Seminary where he received his doctorate. He explained on Diane's show that after studying and learning the scientific evidence behind the New Testament scriptures that he now described himself as a happy agnostic. This caught my attention. I recognized the lingo he used. He spoke "Christianeze" fluently. It was clear that he had had a "conversion" experience when he was college age. According to my belief system, if he truly accepted Christ into his heart back then, he remains a Christian now. But I think there are many so-called Christians that like Dr. Ehrman, who received a "papier-mâché faith" - and at the least little spark of controversy or critique or criticism, it bursts into flames and disappears into a puff of smoke.

My faith is an experience. It is about the God who is there - Jehovah Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35) Faith built on the externals such as people and things will ultimately crumble under the scrutiny of time or at the challenge by any other ism. But faith built on experience, an encounter with the God who is there can never be denied. Moses always remembered the burning bush. He knew, no matter who questioned it, that God spoke to him that day on Mount Horeb - even though he could not necessarily convince others, he knew. Originally I came to understand my faith based on the infallible word of God - but now I know that the scriptures only provided the road map to Mount Horeb where Jehovah Shammah introduced Himself to me 54 years ago. The accuracy or inaccuracy of those words cannot refute the experiential knowledge of the Holy that I have. For me the Word of God is not a book translated through the ages of time, but it is a living experience - God speaking to me each day in my heart.

Rev. Bob Ellis


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