- Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Second, in turning away from historic Christian theological convictions the church lost the ability to answer big questions and to articulate with clarity how Christians actually change. I was desperately concerned with having answers for skeptics regarding why we should believe the Bible, whether there were any evidences for God's existence, and other such questions. There seemed to be not only little interest in teaching these things, but outright irritation with those who insisted on getting answers and seriously discussing those subjects. This lack of clarity as to who God is and what God is doing in the world, and the unwillingness to articulate how it is that we actually change, in my view, was far more pernicious, more insidious; it was the very reversal of Christianity. It presented God as having no agenda of his own, as existing for no other reason than to serve our agendas and cater to our desire for the things of this world. I couldn't harmonize this presentation with the Bible. It seemed to actually promote what God abominated! "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes himself to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). The more I read the Scriptures the less many of the preachers I knew looked like faithful shepherds and the more they looked like the wolves they were commissioned by Christ to guard the sheep against. Again the Scriptures are clear: "Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep" (Ezek. 34:2-3).
Because of this departure from historic Christian teachings, the church was unable to adequately answer questions regarding how it is we actually change. I was very much concerned with getting deep, biblical answers for how to deal with the conflicting desires I wrestled with in my own heart. I felt that I loved God, but not enough; I felt I hated sin, but I was still drawn to it. I could very easily identify with Paul, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:24). I was extremely hesitant to voice my struggles, because I wasn't even sure I was supposed to have them. When I finally began to express them, I was angered that no one seemed to have a clear understanding of my struggles. Surely the Bible had a clear, consistent way of answering these questions? Some would direct me along mystical lines. If I'd pray and fast enough, I could decisively win my battle with things like lust, bitterness, anger, and other carnal impulses. I tried this, but the temptations were not only still there but seemed to grow even stronger. Others made me feel as though the answer lay in simply trying harder, but I didn't know how to try harder. Besides, this advice seemed to be condemned by the Bible itself! "These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (Col. 2:23).
My desperation for answers and desire for direction in transitioning into the gospel ministry led me to enroll in a program at Hartford Theological Seminary specifically designed for preparing African-Americans for ministry. That the school was equally committed to training Muslims for ministry should have sufficiently raised questions about the level of commitment to historical Christian truth lurking behind the walls of that institution. Yet, I was naive. I entered, excited about the possibility of obtaining solid ministry training.
I left the first class utterly bewildered, trying to process the professor's gleeful assertions of the Bible's supposed mistakes and general untrustworthiness in its recounting of historical events. I determined I would reject that part of his lecture and practice what my mother taught me as a child: "Son, don't believe everything your teachers tell you. Learn to swallow the meat and spit out the bones." I bent the knee in complete defeat a month later after being severely and publicly reprimanded for expressing some reservations about a section of the professor's lecture. I concluded I had better escape while I still believed that God authored the Bible!
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