Monday, November 17, 2008

The One That Started It All

Steven Carr, in a comment to Exploring The Matrix, brings back to me the scripture that made me what I am today - an atheist.
Matthew 18:17 - If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
I was about 20 years old and attending an Episcopal church when the minister gave a sermon on a passage including this verse. In his sermon he explained that Jesus could not have said this because at the time there was no "church" for someone to listen to. Jesus followers were not that organized. This saying would have to have been added by the early church.

Now, there are those who might make arguments that the priest's analysis was flawed but 25 years ago this comment set off a train of thought. I said to myself, "If you can't trust the Gospels what possible basis do you have to be a Christian?" Of course this is horribly simplistic. My wife once accused me of being a fundamentalist atheist and I suppose she is right. However, I no longer base my lack of belief on this passage or this line of reasoning. The important thing was that it forced me to step back and look at Christianity, and theism in general, with a critical eye. I started reading. I reflected on things that I had read previously. By the time I recognized the complex reasons people have for being Christians I had trained myself in skepticism to the point where there was no turning back. There is too much fishy about the origins of Christianity and the foundations of the belief in God for me to go there again.

Now, what would happen if I suddenly became "convicted"? Would I be true to my fundamentalist nature? Or would I retain my skeptical outlook concerning the absolute accuracy of the Bible become a "liberal", perhaps mystical, Believer? Interesting question.

1 comment:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

I think that trust is indeed the issue. One's trust can primarily be in the text, as yours was, or the Church, as mine was. But, as you state, that you trained yourself in skepticism, it became hard to overcome. This is true also because everything becomes suspect, as all things are seen and understood in so many different ways and for so many varied reasons.