As you may know, I experienced an extreme crisis of faith after Cindy passed away. I didn’t stop believing, but I wasn’t always so sure what, exactly, I did believe. The only thing I knew for sure is I was angry. I was angry with myself. I was angry with the world. And, yes, I was angry with God… very angry, in fact.
As a student of the Bible for the past forty plus years, I knew scripture and dogma. With a family history in the Southern Baptist and United Methodist denominations, a brief time spent with Seventh-Day Adventists, along with my lifelong position in the Pentecostal movement, I was pretty well versed in what different belief systems taught. Knowing dogma wasn’t the problem. Determining truth was what was keeping me up at night.
CRISIS OF HEART
When I met Deborah, I wasn’t concerned that she was a member of the Roman Catholic church and I a devout Protestant. It didn’t seem to matter to me because, as I thought at the time, “we’re all serving the same God, right?” I never tried to convert Deborah to Protestantism, even though she did try (possibly unconsciously) to convert me to Roman Catholicism. It wasn’t until she broke off our engagement and told me that my religious beliefs, mentioned in casual conversation, were making it difficult for her to openly practice her beliefs. I had no idea I was doing that.
Could our worldviews and expressions of faith really be that different? I had to find out.
I’ve always been a student of Christianity, and religion in general. I’ve read books on Christian apologetics as well as atheist criticisms of the faith. I’ve read books extolling the virtues of abandoning Protestantism for Roman Catholicism and vice versa. I’ve studied religious texts on non-Christian religions and pseudo-Christian groups as well. Now, here I was questioning where the truth really was. I had no interest in determining who was right, after all, this was much bigger than that. I did, however, have a very keen interest in determining what was right.
GOING BACK TO BASICS
To start my journey of faith, I revisited old studies and confirmed my faith in the living God and in Jesus Christ. Then, came the tough part. How does one go about getting to the truth within? After all, man has been trying to settle that for centuries since the truly catholic Christian church morphed into the Roman Catholic church and, later, into numerous denominations. The hundreds of denominations prove that it’s not an easy question to answer.
For me, I knew my first step was to start at the very beginning. I stripped away all of the dogma and, to the best of my abilities, the religious prejudices I held on to. I started with a clean slate, enumerating only these few facts as my bedrock:
- God created everything, including man.
- Man rebelled against Almighty God and sin entered the world.
- God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ to pay the sin debt that man could never pay, so that man could be reconciled to the Creator. This was the greatest act of love the world has ever known, or will ever know.
From there, I decided to use the Bible as my guide and examine every teaching one-by-one.
If a teaching was in the Bible and confirmed in the New Testament, it was to be followed.
If a teaching wasn’t in the Bible but didn’t contradict Biblical teachings or distract from them, it may be allowable. (1 Corinthians 10:23).
If a teaching contradicts what is in the Bible, it was to be avoided at all costs.
Neither traditions of man, nor man-made doctrine can replace the Gospel of Christ.
I suspect that this study will take me the rest of my life, and probably well into eternity, but that’s OK. It’s a worthwhile subject and one which I greatly enjoy.
Once you strip away your own religious prejudices and start to study the Word with fresh eyes, it’s wonderful and thrilling to see all of the truths you can discover that your mind may have skipped over before. It is also saddening to think that the world of Christianity is so split by the details that we forget that the basic commandments of God can be summed up in the two major ones that Jesus left us:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.