The Death of Grace and the Loss of a Soul

At the link below, you will find a question concerning an atheist inside the church house. The man, once a sincere believer at a ‘hyperconservative’ church, has lost his faith over time. Frankly, in this bit of exchange, I can see why. I too have struggled with my faith when I watch leaders give such false assumptions of Scripture or become hypocrites, speaking vanity and lies. But, in my faith, I have reason to believe. Further, I have yet to surrender the responsibility for my morality to another.

The man, whose wife is still a believer, sits in the pew every Sunday, listening to things which are clearly spoken wrongly. In the instance he relates, below, we find a death of Grace and then so much so, the loss of a soul.

For example, Deuteronomy 22:13-21 discusses Israelite laws addressing a daughter’s virginity. (These verses relate how if a young husband accuses his young bride of not being a virgin, it must be investigated by her father and the city elders. If she is found to be a virgin, the husband must be fined, whipped and must remain married to her for life, but if she is found to not be a virgin, she must be killed by stoning.)

The teacher and elders said we should teach our daughters to not have sex before marriage because god hates it and he demanded death for it in the past. They said that a few deaths for fornication would solve a lot of our problems with premarital sex in this country.

After hearing the tirade continue for about 5 minutes, I asked the teacher if he would kill his daughter if she sat down with him and told him she had premarital sex. His exact words were “I sure would like to kill her if that happened.” I responded that no sane parent in this day and time would kill their child, and in fact, no one in the room would do it. A parent may be upset, angry, frustrated, or feel any number of emotions, but they would not kill their own just because of a supposed biblical fatwa in the Old Testament. Furthermore, how is it just that the man only gets a fine and a beating if he is wrong, but the woman gets stoned? Should we adopt the ancient Near Eastern practice of viewing women as property?

via Friendly Atheist by @hemantmehta » Ask Richard: Should an Atheist Try to Change His Church from the Inside, Or Get Out?.

Are we still to follow the Law? The Ceremonial? The Ritual Purity? Or, under Christ, do we find completion of those things, in that we no longer seek to eradicate sin in such a barbaric manner.

This verses that he mentions are every bit as inspired as John 3.16, but the time for the punishment instructed by them have come to an end. One of the things that we must remember is that Fundamentalism is often times counter-intuitive to the nature of the Scriptures and even God Himself. Does God change? No. Not in His Nature, not in His Holiness – but has He given us a ‘flat document’ or has the interaction with humanity, as humanity has changed, grown?

We no longer kill our children for disgracing us, or treat women as property, or slaughter lambs and doves to cleanse us of our sins at a yearly appointed time. Further, we long kill homosexuals, adulterers, cheaters, nor commit genocide in the name of God. As humanity has changed, as we moved from the Law to Grace, our interaction with God Above has as well. While sins are still sins, we find that holiness is spiritual, not physical.

But, the one thing that never seems to change are those in power who have that secret revelation of literalism and the aversion to change and education. What has it produced? It has produced a man who would roundly criticize Muslims for honor killings but suggesting the same to his flock?

More than anything, it has produced the erosion of faith. We are men and women, and as such, we question. We are curious of the things which we know not. This is why we have looked above for That Which is and why we continue to explore hidden things, and rediscover plainly seen things. When this man who first started to ask questions, and to seek for the very life of his faith, was confronted with so illogical notions which shows neither the Grace of God or the historical accuracies of salvation, he begin to lose the battle. Further, where was the minister here? Did they not see the struggles of the flock? I have to remember that the Good Shepard left His 99 to search for the 1. One. Just one was enough to leave the comfort of home to search for the answers for the lost.

Can we not the do the same?

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8 Replies to “The Death of Grace and the Loss of a Soul”

  1. Joel

    Good post. I see this type of attitude in some ministers and chaplains that I have known at various times. I agree that this is one of the big reasons for the erosion of faith in this country. The imposition of near East customs that were historically part of Judaism on Christian people is painful to watch and painful to listen to when you see it happening in front of your eyes. I have had to struggle with faith and realize that any kind of fundamentalism ultimately produces the same fruit.

    Peace, Steve+

  2. Hello, Joel,

    I write the advice column at Friendly Atheist that responded to the letter you have discussed here. I want to thank you for your positivism and your rejection of the deplorable attitudes of the church described in the letter. I hope that your more humane reading of your religious principles continues to prosper, and to gradually replace the destructive and retrograde influences of some of your brethren.

    That said, I want to clarify a misconception about atheists that often is perpetuated by stories like the one in the letter. The misconception is that people become atheists mainly as a reaction to abuse at the hands of clergy or flock, or because of lamentable social policies by a church.

    I have counseled and corresponded with many hundreds of atheists, and while such episodes are sadly too frequent in their stories, it is very rare that these experiences are the main cause of their loss of faith. Many come from religious backgrounds where the people and the policies have nothing objectionable, nothing abusive or loathsome. Often they have only warm and loving experiences in their religious community, and it is with great sadness when they realize that they can no longer be a part of it.

    By far, the foremost cause of apostasy is that over a period of many years the person’s mind gradually develops a need for convincing evidence for the claims and assumptions of their religion, beyond the reassurances of their clerics or the attempts at logic of apologists. The rational part of their mind continues to grow and to have a hunger that cannot be satisfied by urging from others to “just believe,” or the offered examples of “evidence” in support of the beliefs that are simply too thin or too full of holes to satisfy them.

    Most of them have tried very very hard to keep their faith and make it work for them, but it just didn’t.

    Think of it like someone developing a biological need for a certain kind of food that is not available where they live. No amount of trying to make the local food resemble or taste like what they need, no amount of compensating with some other food will help them. They steadily become malnourished and sick, and will eventually perish unless they go to where they can find the nourishment that they need.

    It is not that they are somehow “better” or “worse” persons than those without this need, they are simply different.

    I offer this insight to you hoping it will help you to understand people who lose their faith. You have and will continue to encounter them in your community. Perhaps if you understand them more accurately, then the shunning, ostracizing and hateful abuse that they often suffer from the faithful when they leave can be avoided. Sadly, they are often treated in very “un-Christian” ways when they have done nothing to provoke it. Some may have some bitterness or resentment toward their religious background that is connected with such painful experiences, but for the most part, their actual loss of faith resulted beforehand from having a built-in need that faith, though earnestly applied, could not fulfill.

    Please be good to your apostates, accepting them and releasing them with love. They are not your enemies; they can even be very helpful allies. Mutual understanding is far more important than mutual agreement. I wish you and your fellow Christians peace and good will.

    Richard Wade

    1. Richard, thank you for your kind words. I have tried, of late, to understand the limitations of Christian in securing the faith in some. I cannot add commentary to your words here, but to hope that others will read them.

      For me, some dear friends of mine are atheists, and indeed, I believe their point of conversion was due in part to the religious experience; however, as you point out, this is not the reason for many. I do hope that we, as Christians, can come to treat those who are different than us in the same way we believe Christ treated those who disagreed with Him.

      Thanks again, Richard.

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