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Email From My Former Pastor


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About two months ago my wife and I informed the session of our PCA church that we no longer believed in the basic tenets of Christianity and were leaving. About four days later the pastor and another elder sat in my living room, listened to some of the objections from my wife and I and proceeded to tell us he had answers for all of them. Two days after that meeting we got an email from the pastor in which he stated there was a lot of material for us to go through or as he put it “enough reading for a semester at RTS.” He started with some book recommendations for us that dealt with canon formation and inspiration along an invitation to dialogue through email about the books. I told him:

 

 

I’m not interested in beginning a course load that’s the equivalent of a semester at seminary. You are the one who is the seminary trained pastor. You should be able to condense these arguments without us having to go through hundreds of pages of old Princetonians just to get to the point…So before you send over any books for starting points of discussion, whet my appetite with what you think are their best arguments in addition to which specific question we’ve raised they address.

 

 

He did not. Regardless, I agreed to read and discuss what he sent and offered the alternate suggestion of actually engaging the text of the Bible itself since that’s what was creating the most problems for me. I sent him my comments on Exodus 1-19 (about 7,000 words or less than 18 pages typed) with the caveat, “I’m just throwing some stuff out as a starting point so you can see why I don’t view the Bible as inspired, inerrant and infallible anymore.” This was his response in a larger font and bold type:

 

 

You've sent me an almost 7500 word email with about 100 questions and assertions–– most of which appear to stem from an extremely skeptical and anti-supernatural posture. Even if I thought it necessary to answer this barrage of questions, there simply isn't enough time to do so. You may view this as a cop-out, but it would take me hours upon hours to answer this first installment of your questions…Perhaps you will see my unwillingness to answer your questions as some kind of a concession. It's not. It's just an unwillingness, at this point, to engage at the micro-level (ie massive emails with dozens of questions)...Perhaps you will spend some time with the resources that we will send you now. But please know that I'm not looking to debate with you and spend hours responding to your myriad questions (something that you mentioned you weren't interested in doing either, if I recall correctly).  Rather I hope to provide you with some helpful resources in order to answer some of your deep philosophical and theological questions, if you are interested.

 

 

I responded by reminding him that he was asking me to read and respond to nearly a thousand pages of works from professional theologians about subjects he wanted to discuss. I told him I did indeed see it as a cop-out on his part and that I was very disappointed to see my objections dismissed out of hand. I summed it up thusly:

 

 

What I'm hearing is that you're not interested in even considering my objections. You refuse to engage me on the points I wish to discuss. You will not approach me as an equal. You want to dictate the terms of the discussion and preach at me. This is not a dialogue. Your sermons are available online. If I want to hear them I can access them.

 

 

I got a book on canon formation in the mail a couple of weeks later. It had been mailed directly from the church. He couldn’t even drop it off at my house. I decided to humor him and give it a shot. I read it and wrote a 10 page response that I gave to another elder who actually had the balls to stop by and pick up the book along with my comments.

 

This was the email I got last night from the pastor in response:

 

 

 

It was with sadness that I read over your comments on "Canon Revisited." Of course, I appreciate the fact that you read the book–– not many in your position would have. But it is clear to me that there is a deeply skeptical and even cynical heart driving your doubt.  [my name], while we could argue all day about epistemological grounds, presuppositions, and biases that we all live with to some degree or another, it is obvious that you are as "biased" and "certain" in your doubt of and disdain for the Christian Faith as any Christian believer may be in his faith in, and love for the triune God and His inspired Word. Christ lived, died and rose again in the first century. He blessed and supernaturally superintended the formation of the Canon. Even with all the mystery in the process, I believe that.  Christ radically changed my life 20 years ago (I know that you call this an emotional experience). He answers my prayers in ways that are gloriously unexplainable apart from the truth of God's Word. You may call it superstition or emotionalism or intellectual weakness, but I will, along with Scripture, and Christians throughout the ages, call it faith.  I recognized that there is much mystery and difficulty wrapped up in history and the doctrine of Scripture. None of it has, however, caused me to question the veracity of it all and to throw out the whole. Things niggle at me from time to time in the study while studying Scripture, but the answers I receive from commentators or theologians or historians almost always satisfy. When they, at times, do not completely satisfy, I'm happy to trust that a good answer will be provided in time (and I'm not talking about the fundamentals of the faith, here, but rather, small issues that emerge from time to time). I suppose this is why I would have hoped you would have come to us before you were so utterly entrenched in your doubt. 

 

I have written, re-written, and erased a dozen paragraphs. My desire is not to cross swords on these issues. I suppose, at the end of the day, what I really want to do is to express my love to you, [my wife], and the children, and to let you know that we miss you very much.

 

With Love,

 

 

 

My desire is not to cross swords? What does this mean? I wasn’t worth the effort? I’m hopeless? He’s afraid? This man was my friend. Our children played soccer together. I traveled with him into the heart of the violent slum of a developing country to preach the gospel. He’s letting me go this easily? All I get is the tu quoque fallacy, a fedeistic appeal to his subjective experience, an admission that he regularly engages in confirmation bias and the accusation that I should’ve come to him earlier? After all the effort I put into reading and responding to the topic he chose? He just wants to express his love? What the actual F*ck?!

 

I know he’s at a loss and saddened and this is really rocking his world, but what he’s effectively done by avoiding my arguments is remove any doubt I ever had that my objections cannot be reasonably addressed and that at the very least his version of Christianity is utter bullshit. I guess I can thank him for that.

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About two months ago my wife and I informed the session of our PCA church that we no longer believed in the basic tenets of Christianity and were leaving. About four days later the pastor and another

When I left and told my pastor, all he said was "Your problem is you think too much."

WELL ain't this fuckin' disappointing.   Why the hell can't we get Christians who actually know their shit as well as the non-Christians do and are aware of their own religion's objective history as

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I got similar responses from my Father-in-law pastor. 

I should have come to him sooner, I should have asked him more questions.

I asked a couple, and got lame responses, and knew I needed better answers. I did not bother trying with him after that.

I understand your frustration with his response. 

It feels like they are throwing out years of relationship, simply because they cannot answer the tough questions you pose. 

They are scared.....

Not of you, but of losing their own faith if they really seek an answer, and find , like you did, that there are none.

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To cut through all the words and get to the heart of the matter: In order to see a reason to believe Christianity you must first assume that it is true.  That is how Christianity operates.  Then you must assume that the Bible is the word of God.  If you won't do that then there is no path getting to Christianity is true.  And of course any idea that only seems true when we assume it is true has a problem.  You are lost to this pastor.  He might get a tithe by investing his time somewhere else but he won't get anything from time he wastes with you.

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I thought you did a great job answering his questions and reading the junk that he wanted you to read.  You should be upset that he gave you that lame duck response, especially since the bible specifically says in 1 Peter 3:15:

 

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

 

One of the most sad things about Christianity is that he is choosing that you cannot be friends anymore, which is contrary to what his own bible says.  There is no "atheist philosophy" that says you cannot be friends with him.  It's just a shame....

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I do find it amusing that most of the time, it seems that if you would have let them intervene early enough, they could have talked you out of it.  But now that you've gone to far, there's no going back.

 

Isn't that basically saying "Well, now that you've seen the truth, I can't convince you of the lie any longer"?

 

Wouldn't it be simple for these people to call on their god and give you the answers you need?

 

I continue to pray the same thing each night and ask one question "If there is a supernatural power, please make it obvious, then indicate which supernatural being you are, then indicate which scripture, if any, I'm supposed to be reading".

 

So far, no response. 

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I'd be crushed too, to see a letter like that. It'd make me feel like I'd been betrayed, crushed, my friendship worthless. I know what that feels like--sometimes even ex-Christians do it. But to see a man who'd preached at your side, whose kids played with your kids, turn away from you now? That can't be easy.

 

It's rather telling that he expected you to do all that work, when he couldn't be bothered to do even a tiny fraction of it himself. It's very clear to me to see the power dynamic he perceives between the two of you.

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I think you called his bluff when you saw his stack of books and raised him a 7000-word list of questions. In all fairness, if someone sent me such an email, I might refer them to some relevant books, especially if the questions were on one subject and not all over the place. But I'd still sum up an answer instead of saying they need an attitude adjustment.

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Christ radically changed my life 20 years ago (I know that you call this an emotional experience). He answers my prayers in ways that are gloriously unexplainable apart from the truth of God's Word. You may call it superstition or emotionalism or intellectual weakness, but I will, along with Scripture, and Christians throughout the ages, call it faith.

 

What he calls faith I call self-deception.  There is no reasoning with someone who makes a statement like this.  If you argue with him, it always comes down to "faith." He has it and you don't.

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It's just a cop out, and that's all it is. He realises that you are not on the edge of leaving, but have in fact already crossed the edge to the other side and to spend any time convincing you would be futile. This is completely true. Rather than admitting a difference of opinion, he blames you for being close minded and so forth so he can save face.

 

My former pastor had a PhD in Biblical Studies so he kinda knew the Bible (and all the apologetics) very well. Despite this, once he noticed I wasn't being won over by his arguments he called it exactly like yours did, I was close minded and hard hearted and there was no use discussing it further.

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It's just a cop out, and that's all it is. He realises that you are not on the edge of leaving, but have in fact already crossed the edge to the other side and to spend any time convincing you would be futile. This is completely true. Rather than admitting a difference of opinion, he blames you for being close minded and so forth so he can save face.

 

My former pastor had a PhD in Biblical Studies so he kinda knew the Bible (and all the apologetics) very well. Despite this, once he noticed I wasn't being won over by his arguments he called it exactly like yours did, I was close minded and hard hearted and there was no use discussing it further.

Again they mirror the true nature of their overlord just as they have been told to by this overlord.

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Wow. I totally get where both of you are coming from--having lived both (and currently reside on your side of things!)

 

He doesn't want to "cross swords" with you because he knows it's pointless. I think this means you are officially a lost cause to these guys. Your conversation with him just proves that there is no dialogue possible between believers and ex-believer skeptics. Once you've found the red and white suit at the back of your parents' closet, it's hard to get excited for Christmas.

 

He'd have earned more points with me if he'd said, "Meh. It's complicated. I believe but I could be totally wrong, Shall we go for a beer?" beer.gif

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I do find it amusing that most of the time, it seems that if you would have let them intervene early enough, they could have talked you out of it.  But now that you've gone to far, there's no going back.

 

Isn't that basically saying "Well, now that you've seen the truth, I can't convince you of the lie any longer"?

 

Wouldn't it be simple for these people to call on their god and give you the answers you need?

 

I continue to pray the same thing each night and ask one question "If there is a supernatural power, please make it obvious, then indicate which supernatural being you are, then indicate which scripture, if any, I'm supposed to be reading".

 

So far, no response. 

 

Exactly, how could a god (that existed) let you slip away?

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Oh, who knows, maybe Yahweh is tuckered out from all those miracles and genocides he pulled in the OT and NT. Or maybe he's gotten into whatever inter-dimensional WoW game gods play and it's like those stories you read about toddlers dying of neglect because their parents are raiding nonstop.

 

Do you suppose it might be useful to tell the guy what fallacies he's fallen into, and how his dismissal of your concerns has finally erased all the last of your possible doubts about your decision? He sounds pretty well-educated, and he confesses that he has doubts sometimes.

 

His reliance upon his testimony bothered me quite a bit. Christians often fall into that trap of considering their subjective feelings supreme, when that's about the worst reason ever to make big decisions. Transcendant and happy-fuzzy feelings are nice, but they don't trump actual evidence, in my opinion. I've had some fabulous, intense (and utterly subjective) experiences while delving into paganism, way stronger ones than I ever had while in Christianity, to be honest, but I'd never consider them proof of anything or use them as leverage with which I could try to strong-arm someone back into a repressive faith system. Is this guy the pastor just because he can talk a really good game?

 

I'm thankful that you got the confirmation you needed, though. I'm guessing Pastor Dude didn't demand you attend seminary and read hundreds of pages of bullshit to join his church, but now that you want to leave, suddenly it's essential? Pfft.

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Here is what I read:

"I really want to help you out! So much so that I'm going to send over a ton of material and we will discuss it together. I care!"

"Oh, you have actual questions? I don't have a prepared response to those questions. Some of them would take a lot of time for me to find an answer to. No, no, I said you read these books. I know what to say after you read them."

 

"Whoa, you actually read them?! Well....ok.....but wait, they didn't convince you? Well, I guess I just have god and you don't. See ya!"

 

Hell at least he cared enough to say something. 4 years serving as a youth volunteer, then a youth leader and a Sunday School teacher, my husband spending about 7 years playing in the worship band and you know what I got back from my pastor when I sent my "see ya later" email?

 

Nothing.

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I got similar responses from my Father-in-law pastor. 

I should have come to him sooner, I should have asked him more questions.

I asked a couple, and got lame responses, and knew I needed better answers. I did not bother trying with him after that.

I understand your frustration with his response. 

It feels like they are throwing out years of relationship, simply because they cannot answer the tough questions you pose. 

They are scared.....

Not of you, but of losing their own faith if they really seek an answer, and find , like you did, that there are none.

Father-in-law pastor? That’s heavy, man. Kind of puts my bullshit into perspective.

 

I do suspect it’s fear of doubting his own faith. He has so much to lose if he ever admits to himself that he’s wrong. I told him as much. He said I was being cynical. He likes to call me that.

 

To cut through all the words and get to the heart of the matter: In order to see a reason to believe Christianity you must first assume that it is true.  That is how Christianity operates.  Then you must assume that the Bible is the word of God.  If you won't do that then there is no path getting to Christianity is true.  And of course any idea that only seems true when we assume it is true has a problem.  You are lost to this pastor.  He might get a tithe by investing his time somewhere else but he won't get anything from time he wastes with you.

Yeah that’s why presuppositionalism is such an effective mind trap for the intellectual contingent of Christians.

 

I thought you did a great job answering his questions and reading the junk that he wanted you to read.  You should be upset that he gave you that lame duck response, especially since the bible specifically says in 1 Peter 3:15:

 

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

 

One of the most sad things about Christianity is that he is choosing that you cannot be friends anymore, which is contrary to what his own bible says.  There is no "atheist philosophy" that says you cannot be friends with him.  It's just a shame....

You’re right, but quite honestly, I don’t think we would’ve been friends in any context other than Christianity. His jock, alpha, always-certain personality type and the way he was always so dismissive of contrary points of view was always kind of grating to me even when I agreed with his perspective. I could be cordial around him, for sure. But I have no idea how we would sustain a conversation. Truthfully I have other friends that I’ll miss much more than him.

 

I do find it amusing that most of the time, it seems that if you would have let them intervene early enough, they could have talked you out of it.  But now that you've gone to far, there's no going back.

 

Isn't that basically saying "Well, now that you've seen the truth, I can't convince you of the lie any longer"?

See, this is what’s so weird. That’s not even in line with his theology. His doctrine of regeneration and his interpretation of 1 John 2:19 necessitates thinking that no amount of early intervention would’ve prevented this. This makes his whole, “If only you would have come to me sooner” argument seem like he’s trying to absolve himself.

 

When I left and told my pastor, all he said was "Your problem is you think too much."

That was the warning that both my mother-in-law and the pastor at my last church gave me years ago. It’s interesting they were able to see that intellectual inquiry would lead to apostasy. It makes me wonder if they might be emotionally clinging to the threshold as well.

 

It's rather telling that he expected you to do all that work, when he couldn't be bothered to do even a tiny fraction of it himself. It's very clear to me to see the power dynamic he perceives between the two of you.

Yeah, my entire interaction with him reads like a power-play from the beginning. I didn’t want to think that before, but now I can’t help but see it that way. He’s just not used to playing on level footing with people because he can usually hide behind his robe and the letters before and after his name.

 

I think you called his bluff when you saw his stack of books and raised him a 7000-word list of questions. In all fairness, if someone sent me such an email, I might refer them to some relevant books, especially if the questions were on one subject and not all over the place. But I'd still sum up an answer instead of saying they need an attitude adjustment.

He kept going on about “macro” issues and saying he didn’t want to get mired in details. I kept pointing out that when it came to my problems with the Bible, the devil was in the details. He insisted, I relented and engaged his “macro” issues and now we see where that got us.

 

 

Christ radically changed my life 20 years ago (I know that you call this an emotional experience). He answers my prayers in ways that are gloriously unexplainable apart from the truth of God's Word. You may call it superstition or emotionalism or intellectual weakness, but I will, along with Scripture, and Christians throughout the ages, call it faith.

 

What he calls faith I call self-deception.  There is no reasoning with someone who makes a statement like this.  If you argue with him, it always comes down to "faith." He has it and you don't.

 

That’s what my uncle’s appeal boiled down to after all his arguments for the historicity of the resurrection. Subjective experience. Good for them. What do I get from God? A book full of contradictions and double-binds and a bunch of people around me talking about how excellent it is. Sorry, but God should be able to do better than that.

 

It's just a cop out, and that's all it is. He realises that you are not on the edge of leaving, but have in fact already crossed the edge to the other side and to spend any time convincing you would be futile. This is completely true. Rather than admitting a difference of opinion, he blames you for being close minded and so forth so he can save face.

 

My former pastor had a PhD in Biblical Studies so he kinda knew the Bible (and all the apologetics) very well. Despite this, once he noticed I wasn't being won over by his arguments he called it exactly like yours did, I was close minded and hard hearted and there was no use discussing it further.

They wouldn’t do that in other situations and claim they actually cared for that person. If their wives wanted a divorce and gave them a list of reasons, would they just look at the list and say, “Well, you’ve obviously made up your mind; go ahead.” Hell, no! They’d fight! If not, then that would pretty much be confirmation that they didn’t care for that person as much as they said they did.

 

 

It's just a cop out, and that's all it is. He realises that you are not on the edge of leaving, but have in fact already crossed the edge to the other side and to spend any time convincing you would be futile. This is completely true. Rather than admitting a difference of opinion, he blames you for being close minded and so forth so he can save face.

 

My former pastor had a PhD in Biblical Studies so he kinda knew the Bible (and all the apologetics) very well. Despite this, once he noticed I wasn't being won over by his arguments he called it exactly like yours did, I was close minded and hard hearted and there was no use discussing it further.

Again they mirror the true nature of their overlord just as they have been told to by this overlord.

 

Yep. He defines love for them. “My steadfast love that endures forever…unless you doubt me. In that case, you’re fucked.”

 

He'd have earned more points with me if he'd said, "Meh. It's complicated. I believe but I could be totally wrong, Shall we go for a beer?" beer.gif

That would’ve been nice. If I’d have come out of a mainline denomination, that might have been the case. The brand of Christianity I’m coming out of doesn’t allow for that.

 

Oh, who knows, maybe Yahweh is tuckered out from all those miracles and genocides he pulled in the OT and NT. Or maybe he's gotten into whatever inter-dimensional WoW game gods play and it's like those stories you read about toddlers dying of neglect because their parents are raiding nonstop.

 

Do you suppose it might be useful to tell the guy what fallacies he's fallen into, and how his dismissal of your concerns has finally erased all the last of your possible doubts about your decision? He sounds pretty well-educated, and he confesses that he has doubts sometimes.

 

His reliance upon his testimony bothered me quite a bit. Christians often fall into that trap of considering their subjective feelings supreme, when that's about the worst reason ever to make big decisions. Transcendant and happy-fuzzy feelings are nice, but they don't trump actual evidence, in my opinion. I've had some fabulous, intense (and utterly subjective) experiences while delving into paganism, way stronger ones than I ever had while in Christianity, to be honest, but I'd never consider them proof of anything or use them as leverage with which I could try to strong-arm someone back into a repressive faith system. Is this guy the pastor just because he can talk a really good game?

 

I'm thankful that you got the confirmation you needed, though. I'm guessing Pastor Dude didn't demand you attend seminary and read hundreds of pages of bullshit to join his church, but now that you want to leave, suddenly it's essential? Pfft.

Yeah, maybe Yahweh is musing, or taking a piss, or he’s on a trip, or perhaps he’s asleep and must be awakened.

 

I’m not sure if pointing anything out to him at this point would be valuable and I’m not really inclined to, given his reluctance to engage me. In the meantime, I’m venting and letting myself cool off before I respond. I don’t want to play the role of the jaded apostate too fully.

 

I’ll never be able to convince him that his subjective feelings are unreliable. His testimony is so similar to other preachers and missionaries I’ve known and heard of going back to people like Paul and Luther who had “Damascus Road” experiences. That’s some powerful shit that I doubt I’d be able to break through and that’s why he’s falling back on it.

 

Here is what I read:

 

"I really want to help you out! So much so that I'm going to send over a ton of material and we will discuss it together. I care!"

 

"Oh, you have actual questions? I don't have a prepared response to those questions. Some of them would take a lot of time for me to find an answer to. No, no, I said you read these books. I know what to say after you read them."

 

"Whoa, you actually read them?! Well....ok.....but wait, they didn't convince you? Well, I guess I just have god and you don't. See ya!"

 

Hell at least he cared enough to say something. 4 years serving as a youth volunteer, then a youth leader and a Sunday School teacher, my husband spending about 7 years playing in the worship band and you know what I got back from my pastor when I sent my "see ya later" email?

 

Nothing.

You pretty much nailed it the way I read it. But you’re right. At least he put up some semblance of a fight, but I can’t help but wonder if it was all just to save face.

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Thats really sad. He must be afraid of losing his faith.

 

Most Christians I know do not want to have discussions about their faith with me, but I have known 2 awesome exceptions. One girl, who is one of my best friends and a guy who I became friends with a few months ago. We were able to have honest, real, genuine conversations. It was really cool.

 

At the end of one of the conversations with the girl she said "I know it doesnt make sense. I know it is illogical. But I cant not believe."

 

At least she is honest!

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OP - reminds me of a touching sequence from Elfquest after the elves have destroyed an entire mountain to rescue their kinfolk. All through the series, a shamaness and her husband have been lifelong worshipers of the elves, but in one shocking event they see that the elves aren't really supernatural beings or divine in any way. But she still calls the elf chieftain "bird spirit" as she offers him her hand up out of the rubble. He stares at her in shock and says, "You still believe?" The shamaness smiles and replies, "I still love." VERY DEEP I KNOW RIGHT

 

I bet your friend is pretty cazh with the whole religion thing. If she's honest enough to know that there's no proof of any of it, one would hope she's honest enough to realize that she could be wrong. I don't need to know someone's really really real to love the idea of him/her, try to live up to that what I imagine are that being's highest ideals, and live my life in a way that would bring honor to that being. Doesn't matter if it's the Biebs, Apollo, or Jesus Christ, I guess. She still loves, and maybe in that situation that's what matters most to her. Maybe one day it won't be; it wasn't for me, or for you. But it's a really important step to take. As Westley has said, anybody who tells you life is anything but pain is just trying to sell you something.

 

Still very touching to hear such honesty on display.

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It is situations like this that highlight exactly how stupid the christian belief it :(

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I debated myself on the issue of whether or not to even reply. I finally sent him this today:

 

 

[pastor’s name],

I did not expect you to have a positive reaction to reading my comments on the book, but those were my honest, candid thoughts. I understand your lack of desire to “cross swords” over these issues. I can see how it may come down to a simple cost/benefit analysis. Based on the way in which you presume to know the condition of my heart along with your tu quoque, it appears you have judged me to be too far gone and therefore not worth much more effort than a brief appeal to your subjective experience, an admission that you regularly engage in confirmation bias and your expression of love. While I can’t really blame you for that, I also can’t help but feel a bit slighted after putting forth a good bit of effort.

 

That aside, I want to address something that has come up in virtually every correspondence and conversation that you have had with me over this. You keep repeatedly lamenting the fact that I didn’t come forward earlier, as though that would have somehow resulted in my remaining in Christianity. I don’t understand this. It seems to me that your own theology runs counter to the notion that coming forward earlier would’ve made any difference in the end result. I know in addressing the subject of apostasy with the congregation you brought up passages like 1 John 2:19. Doesn’t this passage suggest that coming to you earlier would’ve only prolonged the process at best? If we were not of you, going out from you was inevitable. People like former missionary Ken Daniels did exactly what you are talking about and in the end all it did was create more confusion, heartache and hurt feelings. As far as I’m concerned it was the difference between pulling off the band aid slowly and ripping it off all at once.

 

According to the Bible, doubt is a sin. No one ever commends Thomas for his skepticism. He’s known as “doubting Thomas” not the guy who had a reasonable expectation of evidence to verify an extraordinary claim. Doubt is a sign of weakness. I had every reason to believe that admitting to sexual sin would’ve been met with more understanding and sympathy than expressing the kind of doubts I was having. I was a respected member of the church. Think and say whatever you want, you will not convince me that had I come forward with my doubts the respect and esteem I enjoyed would not have been diminished. A cloud of suspicion would have always been around me from that point on, regardless of how few people were in the loop. Do you not see what I felt I had to lose had I made my doubts known early on? Can you not see how the church as an institution is set up to squelch even minor outward expressions of doubt and dissent and to purge those who would express such things? Whether or not you see things this way is irrelevant. This was my perception.

 

While I will gladly acknowledge my skepticism, I deny the charge of cynicism. I must say that I find that repeated accusation odd coming from someone who believes human beings are born depraved and that the thoughts of men’s hearts are only evil continually. If anything it is my overly optimistic outlook that has resulted in much of the frustration that I have endured over the past couple of months. I thought, and still do, that other people I know might have the courage to take a long hard look at the claims of Christianity without assuming those claims must be true from the outset. I thought that, like me, they might reach the point where they would rather know what is real than simply remain comfortable. I thought there might be other people who were willing to face the fears of losing friends, alienating family and admitting they were wrong. I thought there might be others who could fight through the uneasiness and stare down the empty threats of eternal damnation, hopelessness and despair. I recognize that it would take an even greater amount of courage and humility for a respected and well-connected member of the clergy to do this, but I still think it’s possible. Others have done it and there was support available for them. While you may not ever be willing to go that far, it is still my hope that you will moderate your views someday.

 

You’ve conveyed a degree of sensitivity to my frank remarks in the past, so please know that the preceding paragraphs were not intended to be a spurning of your expression of love. Quite the contrary, it is partly out of a desire to reciprocate love that I even bothered to enter into a dialogue with you in the first place. I felt I owed you that much. That is one reason why I put the effort into reading and responding to the topic you chose rather than insisting on discussing things that I was concerned with. I did this even after I was told the whole exercise would be a pointless waste of time. I did not heed what now appears to have been a prescient warning. That would have been cynical. I will also choose to believe that your expression is genuine and sincere and not merely because you think God commands it. It would be easy for me to call motives into question, given what I know of Christian doctrine, but again, that would be cynical.

 

Several of the folks from [the church] have thought it necessary to petulantly “de-friend” us on Facebook. Others we were close to have cut off contact. Only one (other than you and [the associate pastor]) has even bothered to reach out to me rather than approaching [my wife]. Of course, none of this is surprising since they were reminded by their pastor that, as apostates, we are worse than the people who crucified their savior. In spite of this, we still love and miss many at [the church] including you, [his wife] and the kids. There is more I wanted to say, but I fear more words will likely only make things worse. We wish you all the best.

 

Love,

 

[me]

 

 

I figured I probably still came off sounding like a bit of a jerk, but I decided some of the things he said needed to be addressed. I'm still not sure if what I wrote was more for his benefit or mine.

 

Anyway, here is what appears to be his final reply before the session meets tonight to excommunicate us:

 

 

 

Dear [my name],
 
Though you will understand that our hearts continue to break over these matters, and thus will always feel the need to remember you, [your wife], and the children in our earnest prayers, I want to express that I sincerely appreciate your candor and overall friendly tone in this correspondence. I do want to comment, however, that though my faith/experience is subjective as a thing in itself, it is directed to that which is objective, namely, the first century person and work of Jesus Christ, the witness of the apostles, and their first century written testimony.  If Christ was proven to have never existed or to have never been raised from the dead, I would indeed be a man most to be pitied. In addition, my comments about your coming to us sooner are pastoral and from a human perspective, since I do not pretend to know the secret things of God. From my limited and finite perspective, this situation could have been remedied. And as long as you and [my wife] are breathing, I will pray for a change.
 
This evening our session will be discussing the next step of church discipline, and I know you are not surprised by this. But please know that if you ever begin to honestly "doubt" your doubts and skepticism, and if you ever begin to "question" your disbelief in Christ, we are here for you ... whether a week from now, or twenty years from now. As you know, the whole goal of church discipline is restoration to fellowship with Christ and the church. 
 
Your Humble Servant,

 

 

Yep. They're done with me. Maybe after I get that excommunication letter I'll have a better sense of closure. Perhaps I'll get it framed and hang it in my office.

 

It's funny how he's retreated to the "first century person and work of Jesus Christ, the witness of the apostles, and their first century written testimony" and then goes on to place the burden of proof on those who would seek to "prove" conclusively that Jesus never existed or was never raised from the dead, like that would actually change his mind. He's speaking like an evidentialist who subscribes to natural theology when all along he's claimed the moniker of presuppositionalist.

 

You can only move the goalposts so often before you run out of real estate.

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I would have loved to have gotten even that much correspondence from the Catholic church.


I was told by the Archbishop that my doubts didn't matter since I'm excommunicæ latæ setentiæ and therefore anathema and going to hell no matter what I believe or don't believe.

 

I did frame my excommunication, but I lost it when I broke it off with my insane ex. It was pretty cool. Signed by the Pope John Paul II and everything.

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H.A., I know this must be terribly hard to see. You loved and trusted this person and he's basically shat on both your love and your trust. Yes, he'll be there for you if you re-convert, but until then, fuck off and stop bothering him with your silly ration and evidence. Ugh! Talk about "being that guy," huh?

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I just wanted to give you kudos. I think you handled this with integrity and class. Also, I've read a bunch of your posts (from your extimony and elsewhere) and have found them very enlightening. It's a pleasure to have you here. :)

 

(And by the way, I think you forgot to take your wife's name out of one of the letters. XD)

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