In the 1999 film ‘Fight Club’, Edward Norton’s character has an epiphany. Sobbing into Meat Loaf’s weirdly ample bosom, he confesses ‘I let go… I found freedom. Losing all hope was freedom’.

Watch the clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtIEquOkDpo

I have had a similar experience dawn on me. I didn’t mean to find it. I was pretty happy up to my eyes in Evangelical Charismatic church culture. I was director of worship at a large church and studying for a degree in Theology at the local Bible College. I had run prayer rooms, street missions and been in an evangelistic rock band in my teens and twenties. I was convinced we were right and was set to show the world! I treated my faith as both an identity and a superstition to live by, the Bible being the magical spell book in the middle of it all. Taught from a young age that this book was the literal word of God, I would read it in large swathes, and in short bursts. Growing up in Western civilization, I was completely comfortable with the violence of the Old Testament. Every film I watched affirmed that violence was the way to get things done. God was God! If he wanted to kill, then that’s his divine right! I didn’t really question anything – I had too much invested in ‘the truth’ to do that. All my family were believers, so everyone dear to me would be alright in a rapture scenario!

I was young, and so impressionable. I was part of the ‘revival generation’, and I planned to give my whole life to winning souls for Jesus and storming the gates of heaven in prayer.

But then things got more complicated. I got married and had children. Over the first decade of my marriage, and over the arrivals of 3 beautiful children, my simple Christian world-view would be rocked to it’s core. As my twenties drew to a close the questioning began. Before long I had allowed myself to deconstruct the classic Evangelical view on Hell, and this was the first in a line of domino-doctrines. When you marry someone, or Father a child, you are forced into a relationship where you lose control. You have to review your ideas about God through the filter of your own relationships. Moral and ethical quandaries are ten-a-penny. Questions about the nature of freedom, freewill, punishment, restoration, correction, justice, salvation and where they fit in loving another came rushing at me.

And so, like a good Christian, I would turn to the Bible for help. But which bit? Understanding God across 66 books seemed not just difficult, but pretty much impossible. How on earth was I to reconcile a God that is ok with genocide, and yet is meant to be ‘Prince of Peace’? The tensions between the God as literally understood in the OT and then revealed in Jesus Christ were too much. There were just too many contradictions. Even in the New Testament where a literal reading of passages such as 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 seems present an entirely different Jesus to the one who prayed forgiveness for his executioners in Luke 23:34*.

Some Christians are able to simply believe, as I once did, and these tensions do not disturb them. I cannot live that way and have peace. My fear of God being violent, self-centred and merciless to those who have failed to comprehend Him is very real. It’s fear that is strongly backed up by a literal reading of the Bible.

Which is why losing all hope of it being understood that way is freedom. I am learning to unlearn all my zealous evangelical literalism because for me, not only does it not stack up, but I believe it makes people ill. If you become what you behold, and you behold a violent, religiously petty God, guess what you start to manifest? You don’t have to look far for proof.

I believe there is a way for me to follow Jesus and have a relationship with my heavenly Father. It is to trust in distrusting the Bible as something that must be swallowed whole, no questions asked. I can now see the Bible not as a magical book of spells, or as something to be worshiped as perfect in it’s self. It’s a collection of 66 books, many of which have mysterious beginnings. I understand the Bible as a rich resource, which reveals truth: Jesus. I no longer try and make Jesus fit the Bible, but let the Bible fit around Jesus. There are passages that dazzle me in their brilliance – reflecting the glory of Christ. There are passages that horrify in their brutality, which serve to make the revelation of Christ so much more of a healing balm. I no longer feel the desperation and frustration of trying to reconcile what horrifies me with that which draws me to overwhelming hope, as somehow the literal words of very confusing God. Biblical literalism and inerrancy has become a system. And I see Jesus, calling us out of our boat-like systems, onto the water where we can stand, against all logic and laws – with our eyes on him.

* And even this verse isn’t in some of the earliest manuscripts!

by Dave Griffiths

Twitter: @davegriff

24 Responses to “Swallowed Whole, No Questions Asked? Part 12 In The Scriptures Series. (by Dave Griffiths)

  1. Erika on

    Wonderful liberating words! I especially identify with how living through one’s own familial relationships begins to change how you view God’s character. It wasn’t until our own kids, now grown, became teenagers that life in our ‘Christian’ community became confusing…and things unraveled! How they were treated (judged) by leadership, and even ourselves, caused a lot of cognitive dissonance which we tried to resolve by dismissing what was in our hearts (which were obviously wicked anyway!) and just being obedient to what we were taught were God’s desires. After years of marginalizing our own young adult children because of their life choices, the realization that we weren’t manifesting the love of God became overwhelming. It’s true. You become what you idolize. I didn’t like what I had become and had to honestly take a hard look at why my most treasured relationships weren’t working out. Instead they were ‘sick’, as was my own heart and thinking. My husband and I had to let go of years of indoctrination in the Biblical inerrancy system. It was a relief to say the least, but difficult in that we lost years of investment of our time, money, energy and talents to a man-made kingdom posing as an expression of the kingdom of God. It has been a hard lesson but worth all the pain.

    If we truly believe that Jesus is the full expression/image of God the Father, then literalism must go out the window! Revamping our perspective of the Bible to make it ‘fit around Jesus’ simplifies and untangles so much. Instead of forcing and contorting every word and story to make it seem consistent and literally true, we must subordinate the Bible to fit the Jesus model. Even Jesus did not take his Jewish scriptures (the Torah) literally, but often adjusted, corrected, subverted and omitted parts of it to show us that God was bigger, better and more loving than people believed. ……….Now I’ve gone off track so I’ll stop! 😉

    Reply
    • Andre Rabe on

      Thank you Erika – I trust your story will touch the many who are currently in the situation you were in. A literal inerrant way of interpreting scripture has damaged so many of the most precious relationships, whereas Jesus found a way to love enemies! I want His way of interpreting scripture!

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      • Erika on

        Thank you, Andre, for being a voice to restore the Bible to its healthy life-giving place of pointing to Jesus and his ways. And, I forgot to say that after leaving the bondage of the cultish ‘church’, our relationships with our children and their families were restored. We do have one child still enmeshed in the group, but we are ‘good’ as long as we don’t criticize or challenge…surprise, surprise! But I have unending hope that that will change as well, even if only when their own children reach those critical teen years.

        Reply
  2. Anton van Zyl on

    Thank you, whomever wrote this. I am still struck at how many people hold on to “doctrine” imposed on them by some religious group with dubious intentions. Jesus is freedom from indoctrination, and once we understand that in Christ we are made in the image of God, we start seeing the cracks in religiosity. To borrow from a recently published sentiment: “dans le Christ je suis Adam”, in Christ we are Adam, recreated in the image of God. From this vantage point we interpret all of scripture, and find amazing freedom to live.

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  3. Jeff Payne on

    God was murdering nephilim giants not real people. Protecting race from Satan. So stop tripping and read your Bible again sir? Or once

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  4. Adam Robertson on

    God is God and we have to let him be God. God is the creator of the universe, he can do what he wants. The moment we start stipulating what it is that is right or wrong for him to do we put ourselves in his position. There would be no right or wrong without God, just a random chain of events with no purpose. How do we find out about the God of the bible? Through the bible, no place else. Therefore if we cannot trust the bible and live under its authority we cannot trust the facts about him in the bible and therefore cannot trust him. There’s no picking and choosing, these things follow logically. Believe in what the bible is, what it says it is and what Jesus says it is even when approaching ‘difficult’ or hard to understand passages, or we pack up and go home. Jesus outside of the bible is a Jesus we have made up in our minds, a Jesus that fits comfortably into the way we wish to view the world, a Jesus who comes nicely packaged without any difficult times, or hard teachings. A Jesus who ultimately sits under our authority. I plead with all who read this, put King Jesus back on his throne and submit to him as Lord and his word the bible which is living and active and the only way to accurately find out about the Character of God.

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      • Terri Whiddon on

        Adam! Right on! It’s dangerous to pick what we like and understand about the Bible and discard the rest! That’s what these folks are doing. If ya don’t get it toss it. Not me. God reigns and His truths are timeless.

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    • Terri on

      Adam, you’ve said it all, and very well indeed. If we don’t understand everything in the Bible it’s ok. He is God and we are not. He is a God of mystery because if we knew everything, then what? The entire Old Testament points to the Saviour to come!! And He’s mine. I don’t struggle with things disclosed or not in the Bible. This is a sneaky ploy of Satan’s to keep us distracted. Keep the main thing the main thing! Everything wasn’t hunky dory in Bible times and it’s not now. We need God now more than ever. I’m at peace because I know Jesus and He knows me. Shine for Him!

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    • xnlover on

      Adam, you wrote, “Jesus outside of the bible is a Jesus we have made up in our minds, a Jesus that fits comfortably into the way we wish to view the world, a Jesus who comes nicely packaged without any difficult times, or hard teachings. A Jesus who ultimately sits under our authority.” Until you realize that we all read the Bible selectively, giving some passages greater weight than others and trying to harmonize contradictions that refuse to be harmonized – even you do this, Adam – you will fail to open yourself to the God who is behind the Bible and who wishes to transform your heart and mind into the heart and mind of Christ, so that you, too, might be called a child of God and might reflect the grace and peace of God to the world as Jesus did. May you be blessed.

      Reply
  5. Martin on

    I was attacked with the Bible just the other day, a lady wanted to know why I left the church she told me that a verse in revelations that she was studying said what God had against his people was we tolerated wicked people.

    I was thrown right off. How could Jesus die for a world that he could not tolerate. I believe when people follow the Bible they stop following Jesus. They believe the Bible is the way the truth and the life and not Jesus.

    I agree that the Bible is a great reference to what happened in the past, that men wrote the Bible and that we need to learn to read it in context. Otherwise it can destroy instead of saving.

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  6. Patricia Pollock on

    The paragraph that starts “Some Christians are able to believe, as I once did…..” is absolutely spot on as far as I am concerned. Then the next paragraph “..but I believe makes people ill…” is again spot on. In Australia, apparently (and I can believe it) there is a greater percentage of Christians who are mentally ill than people who are not Christians. In Australia one person in four suffers from a mental illness, so if the percentage is greater among Christians what is it? One in three perhaps?
    Personally I have been through four decades of debilitating depression which at times has been excruciatingly painful and I am so very grateful to people like Andre and Mary-anne and the writer of the article above because of the freedom the truth they present brings. I love that scripture that says “I am the way, the Truth….” Who is the truth? Jesus. It is Who is the truth, not what is the truth. The truth is a Person not a book.

    Reply
    • Dave Griffiths on

      Thank you for your words Patricia. The truth is indeed a living person; with whom we are forever united. As Andre says, we are part of a living narrative and not held down by a dead canon. I believe the bible’s sole purpose is to reveal the living one; who is true.

      Thanks again for your words.

      Reply
  7. Jan on

    This describes something of my experience. We all have different lives, twists and turns, ups and downs, so when I came to a really bad down I prayed for support and clarity in a very real way. It came. I was amazed. I am now something of a mystic in that I listen to the Holy Spirit and don’t use the bible as some sort of guru or instruction manual. I have some different beliefs than 30 years ago, but fundamentally my relationship with Jesus has grown stronger and more intimate. I still read my bible, and with so much excellent teaching out there in wifi land I have come to an understanding that is comfortable for me. I am aware I am on a journey. A real journey through life and faith, and I don’t and can’t know it all, but I know what I know is truth and life, and can now live in confidence to share His love and grace.

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  8. Caroline Hemingway on

    Wow Dave, this was like reading my own story – so well described and everything I have been through. when you start asking the questions that don’t make sense after years of blind faith it is like going down a rabbit hole (in a good way) and there is no going back. Love the way you expressed it and made me feel that I’m not insane 🙂

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  9. Peter on

    Beautiful thread this …. I can totally relate to this it was not so long ago like a year to be exact that I too have my eyes open to the truth and right context of scriptures. … I start to study under biblical scholars that help me unlearn and embrace the scriptures in its proper contexts… what this did for me is I started to see the heart of the Father as a Father of love and love us to eternity…. what a liberating and such freedom that brought me that I started to embrace this Fatherhood of God and not the schizophrenia type Father who is ready to swipe me when I’m out of bounds. We all looking I should say the world is hungry for love and they guessing if this God loves them to the earth and back ! .. and the truth of the matter is He is totally bit religion says other wise … “when the people hear right they will behave right ” about the love of God …

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  10. andre van wyk on

    Thank you to the writer of this post!

    It is so true for me too that when I had kids and was faced with would I ever want to turn my back on this little one if he/she makes life choices that offends me…that I started seriously questioning the version of
    god that I was taught or indeed saw being
    depicted in the OT as being very capable of
    doing exactly that!

    In fact…for me reading Richard Dawkin’s God Dilusions fuiled the fire in my belly to look for the real God in the scriptures. And why? Because Richard Dawkins ‘believes’ in the god alot of Christians believe in …the confusing god found in an inerrant literalist reading if those 66 books.

    I now firmly believe in the God that found me before I was lost…Jesus as the true image of God for us, with us and in us x

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  11. Sellappan on

    Wonderful post! My story (and I believe many others’ stories) was similar. True many of us went through unnecessary suffering. But thank God His grace has brought us home. In that we rejoice! God bless all,

    Reply
  12. Barb on

    Just curious how the writer got from his first place to his final place, with Jesus on the boat? Is there any tips to help the disenchanted?

    Reply

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