I believe that the Scriptures (the Christian Bible) are the inspired words of God, without error (in the original manuscripts), and meant to be binding upon all people, in all times. I have based my entire worldview, and life, upon the teachings of the Bible. Whenever I have questions about anything, I go to the Bible first, to find my answers. Not everybody believes the Bible to be the word of God, or at least do not see it as the only word that God has given us. Some people think the Bible has mistakes, and can’t be trusted as a guide. Others see it as a collection of fables and myths. To those who view it that way, my dependence on the Bible may seem foolish. Yet, there was a time when I myself had doubts about it’s reliability. I want to share with you the story of how I came to question the Bible, and what made me finally accept it as the ultimate authority. Let me tell you about my faith journey.
I was raised in a Christian home. My parents took my brother, sister and I to church every Sunday. We attended a non-denominational church which taught the Bible verse-by-verse in a systematic fashion. It was an informal setting, people often showing up on Sunday in jeans and a T-shirt. We sung contemporary worship songs, mostly. In addition to the main service for adults, there were classes for children, right up through high school. Usually, I preferred to stay with my parents in the main service. By the time I reached sixth grade, I felt very out of place with the other children my age. Having been home educated since first grade, I couldn’t identify too well with those who were attending the regular schools. It’s not that I was anti social, or that I didn’t know how to communicate; around other homeschoolers I had no difficulty socializing. My mom signed us kids up for soccer, baseball, music lessons, dance, gymnastics, etc.–though not all at once! I could get along with other people just fine. I think the main reason I had such an antipathy toward the junior highers, and later the high schoolers at our church, is that they all had their own groups. I was an outsider to them. Besides that, they all seemed superficial. The way they dressed, the things they talked about, the disrespect they showed to the teachers sometimes, all contributed toward my viewing them with dislike. So I stayed away. The sermons given by the head pastor in the main service were easy enough to understand. And I truly enjoyed them.
I was mostly a thoughtful and serious child. As a sixteen-year-old, I discussed theological issues with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons who came to our door. I studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses for about a year, before the ladies I was studying with and I decided it wasn’t going anywhere. I just wouldn’t budge, and neither would they. Around this time, I began attending a local youth group at another church. Many of the other kids in the group were also home educated. Besides church on Sunday, I went twice a week to Bible studies with the youth group. On Wednesdays, we had an informal get together during which we played outdoor games, sang songs, had discussion time, and generally hung out. On Mondays, we had an in-depth Bible study, which I loved.
At home, my brother and I, who were closest in age (my sister was much younger than us), spent a lot of time poring over our home education materials. All our curriculum was from a Christian perspective. We used A Beka mostly, in addition to a world-view course written by David Quine, called World Views of the Western World. For the course, we had to read some of the classics, so we took turns reading out loud to each other Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Plato’s Republic and Virgil’s The Aeneid, including works by Christian theologian/philosopher Francis Schaeffer. (I highly recommend this curriculum to home educating moms who are looking for an outstanding classical high school course for their children.) On my own, I also read a variety of classic books such as The Man in the Iron Mask, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Tom Sawyer and The Diary of Anne Frank. I first read the Bible through cover to cover around this time. Our exposure to an assortment of literature was rich. I do not believe that we lacked anything substantial in our education, and I personally couldn’t have asked for anything better. However, if you were to ask me what I would do differently if I could go back and change anything, this would be it: I would have implemented a serious study in biblical apologetics. The worldview course was excellent; however, I believe I needed a basic, intense course in defending the faith. Something addressing the most attacked biblical doctrines. As you continue to read, you’ll see why.
By the time I was eighteen, I had begun attending the community college. It was a smooth transition for me; none of the work was too hard, though some was challenging. My first full-time year at college was a success, with an almost perfect grade average. Plus, I had my driver’s license, and two jobs: the first teaching classes to little children at a dance studio, and the second busing tables at a restaurant. Not bad, for a start.
After my parents broke up my relationship with my first “boyfriend” (we were more like friends who flirted), something strange started to happen to me. At first, I was fine with the breakup, after I got over the initial two weeks of crying. I think what I missed wasn’t so much the guy, but the attention. Here was someone who actually paid attention to me, who thought I was pretty, and told me so. Here was someone who talked about our relationship as if it would continue forever. Nobody else gave me that kind of attention. There had been other guys in the youth group I had been attending, but they had all gone on to college or career training, and not one had ever suggested that he wanted to keep in touch with me. It all left me feeling ugly and unwanted, at a time in my life when I longed to be cherished and desired. Looking back, I don’t think I completely disagree with my parents’ decision. I believe they only wanted what was best for me; they were trying to preserve me from getting deeply entrenched in a relationship that might have done more harm than good. However, they could have done more to try to connect with me during that confusing and overwhelming time in my life.
Let me tell you something: teenagers won’t usually just come out all of a sudden and tell you what they’re going through, so don’t expect that. They want to see first that you’re really, truly interested in what’s going on inside them before they take the risk to open up about their struggles. Why? Because they’re afraid that if you knew the truth, you’d reject them. Don’t we as adults do the same thing? You wouldn’t reveal your inner conflicts to someone you think would be completely unsympathetic, so why would you expect your teenager to? If you’ve made a habit of constantly brushing your child’s emotions and ideas to the side, don’t expect that all of a sudden, something’s going to change once he/she becomes a young adult; if your child couldn’t trust you to listen when a youngster, then that same child will know you can’t be trusted to listen once he/she is older. And yet, your support during the turbulent transition into adulthood is essential. I’m not condoning coddling your child; I’m simply saying, Care enough to pay attention.
Besides feeling unattractive, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. When I was thirteen, I told my parents I wanted to have a career in dance, but they disagreed. That was the only thing I had ever known for sure that I wanted to do. I loved dance, but I think they didn’t see a future in it for me; so, even though my mom continued signing me up for a few classes, I knew I would need a lot more support to ever be any good, and I never got it. Another consideration may have been the money and the travel time that would have been necessary for me to train as a dancer. My parents simply may not have had the resources, or the time, for that sort of thing. And that’s okay. Nevertheless, after my dream of becoming a dancer never even got a chance to lift off the ground, I felt completely directionless.
And that, my friend, was a recipe for disaster. Feeling ugly and unwanted plus having no direction equals vulnerability to … a promiscuous lifestyle. At least, that’s what it ended up meaning for me. I feel sorry for the choices that I made during that period of my life. I won’t go into details; just know that I experienced enough ugliness to know the meaning of shame and regret. Interestingly, some of the guys I became involved with were not even that spectacular. I was just looking for someone that would like me. I honestly didn’t think that any really nice man would think twice about me.
I’ve thought a LOT about that period of my life, and have attempted to understand why I acted the way I did. I believe that one very significant factor which contributed to my waywardness, was a lack of communication with my parents, especially my mother. She never was one to show much interest in how I was feeling, or why. I never felt the freedom to be able to tell her what was going on inside. And the times I had tried to talk to her about things that were important to me, she hadn’t listened, which didn’t give me much assurance that I could trust her to listen to my personal struggles as a young woman. So, at a time when I didn’t have any friends, didn’t feel confident enough to look for any, and didn’t have anybody I could really talk to, I naturally began to slip downhill. Please don’t misunderstand, and think that I am saying that my parents were to blame for all my bad choices. Far from it: I am accountable for my decisions, and no one else. However, I do feel that there were certain less-than-ideal factors that contributed to the situation, and influenced my behavior. No one can be a perfect parent. No one. I know my parents did what they believed to be best, and I deeply appreciate their decision to home educate us, and to teach us the truth from the Bible. They made some mistakes; but don’t we all? My life isn’t ruined because of it, though I often wonder how things might have been different if they had been better at communicating with me. Might I have been spared some of the turmoil? Or would I have continued to stubbornly focus my attention on everything I didn’t feel was right in my life?
Tied in to all of that was a growing disappointment in God. I had formed the expectation that somehow, when I graduated from high school, all the details of my life would just fit in place. God would engineer a romantic encounter with my future husband; we would share our first kiss under the moonlight; we would plan a beautiful wedding, joyously experiencing physical intimacy for the first time together on our honeymoon; then, we would move into a small, but quaint first home. Needless to say, my expectations were unrealistic. Not because that sort of thing can’t happen, but because I was expecting God to conform to the script that I had written for Him, instead of trusting in His timing. When things didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned, I blamed God. At that age, even after all the reading and studying I had done, I still wasn’t able to articulate what I was going through. I don’t think I even realized at that point that it was God Who I was mad at; I just knew that I was unhappy. For awhile, I thought God and I were fine, when we were not.
At this crucial transition point from youth into adulthood, my beliefs were being put to the test. I had grown up being taught, and accepting without question, the Christian faith. Now that I was becoming my own woman, did I want to make that faith my own? I didn’t realize it at the time, but part of my unrest was due, not only to my disappointment in the romance department, but to a need to know myself.
It came as a shock to my parents when they overheard me talking to a friend on the phone, telling him that I didn’t even know for sure if Jesus was God, or that He had ever really existed. After everything I had learned at home and at church, was I now denying the faith? I think I was a great disappointment to them at that time, even though I know they still loved me very much.
Not too much time passed before I became pregnant. Some people suggested that the best thing might be to get an abortion, though they never pressured me–just left it up to me to decide. However, I NEVER even once considered getting an abortion. I knew that what had begun to grow inside of me was my child, not just a lump of tissue. I loved my baby right from the start.
Amazingly, though I ended up going through a hell of a terrible time dealing with problems resulting from my poor choices, my life didn’t end up being the disaster it could have been. I have been blessed by God with a second chance. He has redeemed my shameful past, bringing me to repentance and new life in His Son, Jesus Christ.
I believe this verse from the Bible:
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
What I experienced at that time in my life was a detour. But as I got older, I realized the wisdom of my parents’ teaching, and chose for myself not to depart from the truth they had reared me with.
I want to share with you here the doubts that I had regarding the Bible as God’s word, and Jesus as God’s Son. Maybe you will be able to relate. Here is a list of what were my main concerns:
- How do we know that the authors of the Bible actually heard from God? Couldn’t they have just written down what they wanted to, and then said that it was from God?
- How do we know that the prophesies in the Bible were given before the events happened? For example, take the prophesies in the book of Daniel about the major kingdoms of the world (Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome): wouldn’t it be possible for someone to have recorded these things afterward, pretending that they had already been prophesied?
- How do we know that as the Bible was copied over and over, nothing was lost? Is the Bible we have today an accurate record of what was originally written down?
- Why do we have so many Bible translations? What are the differences among them, why are there any differences at all, and which one contains the word of God?
- How do we know that the books which are currently included in the Bible, are the ones God intended to be compiled? How did people go about deciding which books, or letters, to include and which ones to leave out? Doesn’t that show human manipulation? Why don’t Evangelical Christians use the Apocrypha?
- Why did God only speak to the Jewish people? Why don’t we (Evangelical Christians) consider the Koran to be inspired by God, or the Indian Vedas? What about the Book of Mormon? How about supposed “revelations” that some claim come from God?
- Did Jesus really rise from the dead? The Bible says that lots of people saw Him; but couldn’t they have gotten together and decided they would all say that they had seen him, when they had not?
- Can the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life be trusted? Is it possible that the authors of the New Testament just made up what they wanted to believe, instead of what actually happened?
- Are there any sources outside of the Bible itself that mention Jesus? What do they say about Him?
- How do we know that Jesus did all those miracles? There are so many con artists today who trick gullible people into believing that they have power from God; could a man named Jesus have convinced others that He was able to perform miracles, when there may have been a natural explanation for the events that occurred?
- Did the man Jesus ever exist? How do we know He wasn’t a myth popularized by a people hungry for a Messiah?
Those were some of the questions I wrestled with as a younger woman. Some of those points had been touched on during my home studies, yet I wasn’t satisfied. Not yet. Later on, I began to do my own research, and to find answers. I’ve come a long way from where I used to be, and I look forward to telling you more about it, in future posts. Books have been written tackling these theological issues; I’m not going to be writing a book here! However, I would like to write about the arguments that finally convinced me to accept the Bible as the word of God, and Jesus as God’s Son, Who died for our sins and was raised physically from the dead.
I know many people can relate to my journey.
It’s good to have questions and doubts, as long as they are coupled with a willingness to search out the truth. We should analyze what we believe, and why. We should be open minded, and willing to accept the most reasonable argument as the answer. I don’t want to be a shallow-minded person who is too fragile to be able to respond to controversy.
Read Segment II of My Faith Journey to read about how God began to speak to me about my need for repentance.