My last article answering the question “Why?” was back in May, about ninety days ago. So I want to offer an epilogue. An extensive answer was asked of me, almost demanded, thus an extensive answer was given. I wonder how many will actually read and consider my thoughts? The line has been metaphorically and literally drawn. Unfortunately, as I offer up my epilogue, I will to some, for at least the short run, remain a heretic and sinner. I have been direct during my presentation answering the question, “Why?” I will be direct in my epilogue.
In my process of studying the Scriptures, one thing has become perfectly clear – to learn and think differently about doctrine is one thing; to learn and to think, and then to act differently about doctrine is a different thing completely. Here is what this experience has taught me.
Family, physical blood, has tremendous pull, tremendous influence. It has more pull than religion for some. Family simply does not expect, does not encourage, does not want offspring to be different than the progenitors. Family is an invisible force, a force that acts like magnetism – the stronger the magnet, the stronger the attraction; the stronger the magnet the stronger the repulsion. Family has what it will tolerate (each family being different in what it tolerates), but family ultimately either pulls itself together, or pushes itself apart.
Religion is family multiplied. Take the factors of family, the pulling together, the pushing away, and add in an even greater strength of devotion, doctrine, belonging, and identity. Challenge or question any of those and the likelihood, the statistical probability increases that the religion will reject and subsequently remove the inquisitor from the community. This is nothing new. It has happened throughout history. But when it happens to you, it is your first time to experience this experience of history. When that happens, what does one do? The pressure is on.
There are inquisitors who will capitulate to family, or religion, or both. With capitulation comes a choice: acquiesce, join the ranks of the organization’s governors and have power, prestige, and influence in the organization; or join the rank and file and remain silent. If the latter is chosen, a whole lot of tongue biting takes place and ultimately acquiescence is achieved, silent consent. Either way, the family, the religion, or both have won.
Yet there are those who choose a “middle ground” work from the inside, attempting to affect the hearts and minds of whomever they can. This is done, sometimes successfully. However, achievement of success (however that might be defined) is slow and those standing against progress (the achievement of success) of attainment are many, the battles many, fatigue increases, one wearies, asking, “What’s the point? Nothing changes.” This person is now, again, the inquisitor, having to make a choice: capitulate or not capitulate.
There was a time I gave silent consent, giving approval within the family, and approval to the religion by the way of the pew. Then I acquiesced and joined the leadership becoming a father governing my family, and minister leading congregations. I grew to understand my lack of knowledge, then grew in dismay and fatigue. And the question of capitulation surfaced. So I know what I am describing. What does one do?
However, there are those who will not capitulate. Those who will not capitulate are sometimes genuinely wrong, and I suppose truly need the darkness to help them see the light. However, there are those who will not capitulate because they are correct and the powers that be are unwilling to hear the inquisitor.
Like I said, the forces of family and religion are powerful, so great is that influence most remain in the family and remain in their religion. Sure the individual has questions, but why cause family disruption, or religious discontent, or heaven forbid, both? So when one chooses not to capitulate to the forces of family, or of religion, or especially chooses not to capitulate to either – beware of the winds that rise.
As I have become keenly aware, family and religion don’t really want to be challenged or changed, things are the way they are because of family and religious sacrifice. Who is anyone to question that sacrifice, for in questioning, that questioner has become heretic, challenging the integrity of family and faith. So, keep in mind the inquisitor, especially the inquisitor who will not capitulate, cannot simply leave.
The non-capitulator is described and potentially labeled as justifying their actions by finding “biblical evidence”. Keep in mind family and religion automatically assume the inquisitor and subsequent non-capitulator has an axe to grind, a hidden agenda, in other words, malicious intent. Now while it is true that a non-capitulator could have once had those things, it is just as possible the inquisitor is no longer those things, or likely never was those things. But you see the philosophies of “the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.” and “a leopard can’t change his spots.” prevail so ubiquitously that one cannot say anything to influence the family or religion to reconsider. Thus, family, religion, or both have projected onto the inquisitor something that may not be true, but emotions and vitriol run so strong that the truth may never be found.
That being said, it is the family, or the religion, and many times both that have presumed truth. That does not mean that the family and or religion are liars, this simply means that family, religion, or both are working from partial truth. Some will see that statement as semantics, but that semantical delineation is important. Thus, just because one does not have complete understanding of full truth does not make one a complete liar seeking falsehood as truth. This is vital to understand.
Since God covers actionable sin, the actions of body against righteousness; then God too covers intellectual sin, the thoughts of mind against righteousness. If one can act imperfectly and receive God’s grace, then one can think imperfectly and receive God’s grace. No Christian I know of proclaims that one has to act perfectly to receive and keep God’s grace. But the insinuation is that Christians have to think perfectly to receive and keep God’s grace. If one has to think and act perfectly in order to receive God’s grace, then what is the point of God’s grace?
Thus Christian thinking, like Christian action, is always subject to revision, subject to knowledge known, subject to learning the unlearned, subject to God’s training in the untrained. It is quite arrogant to go from sinner to saint with the saint thinking they know all there is to know about God and his righteousness. Thus, family and religion are always subject to and in need of God’s instruction.
A family and religion unwilling to ask, seek and knock for God’s instruction, is a family and religion unwilling to receive God’s answer, his revelation, his open door of full truth. Thus, that family, religion, or both are willing to accept limitation, and ultimately in time to come, failure. As refining the actions of righteousness cannot be static, neither can thinking of righteousness be static. Thus, for the family, religion, or both that simply have to be right, they acquiesce that they are willing to be wrong via silent consent.
There is a major humbling truth. When one chooses to become a non-capitulator, one has chosen a hard path. When one chooses to go against family it is a hard path. When one chooses to go against religion it is a hard path. Choosing to go against family and religion is to choose the hardest path, especially when family is part of the religion.
While few currently believe me, I have been led by God’s spirit in the search for truth. Jesus taught that the truth would set one free (John 8.32). However, I recognize that the hardest thing, for several in my immediate sphere, is to accept a difficult reality. The reality is that family and religion, both, believe they have truth – which they do have, because family and religion is based on truth. If I were to leave it at that I think most would be pleased. But a more difficult reality exists; both family and religion have claimed exclusivity to the truth, possessing no misunderstanding; that is a claim to which I can no longer capitulate. This is why in March of 2013, I formally disassociated myself from my religious heritage. I love family, I love the people within the religion, but I can no longer purport religious exclusivity to God’s truth.
I have faith that Jehovah is the one true living God; that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s anointed one to bring about reconciliation; that God’s Holy Spirit operates within the church; that the Bible is God’s word. Yet, I have already received accusations of denying Jesus, and accusations of becoming a minister for another religion. It amazes me that so much is misunderstood.
This misunderstanding stems from several things. I will mention only two. The first of which is communication. Few, so few, have been willing to interact with me regarding my studies of the Scriptures and my learning of various historical, cultural, and social truths affecting Jesus and the First Century Church. Thus, as I have shared my learning, I have been accused of being something akin to an ancient Judaiser. Such reaction shows how unaware some are of my studies and simply displays rude behavior toward my character. Without communication, relationships of family and religion will succumb to failure.
The second thing misunderstanding stems from is unwillingness. Few, so few, have been willing to show willingness to simply appreciate the path that I have traveled. They don’t have to be willing to agree with me, but they should be willing to appreciate one’s work of understanding God’s work within historical human development. So with an unwillingness to appreciate that effort or an unwillingness to investigate further my presentations, came accusations against my character and contempt for the things I have learned. I have experienced these things. I have also been labeled false teacher and heretic.
However, I have hope. I hope, I pray that some of those who have accused me of being a spreader of falsehood, would actually sit down, close their mouths of argumentation, and examine that which I have offered. Those accusers might actually find what a few others found, Ray is correct in his direction of understanding and biblical studies, which has the immediate implication that we did not know or understand what we thought we did. Unfortunately, that is something that some seem unwilling to accept, address, and reconcile.
Throughout this process, I practiced self-extraction. I quietly removed myself from my religion recognizing that other men before me had attempted to help my religious brotherhood. I see those efforts thwarted, torn asunder, by those unwilling, by the very brotherhood whose Bible School I attended. I saw the victims and the tragedy, if one will. I am unwilling to put myself through that kind of turmoil, for a victory that has little staying power.
A fight of faith, for faith, has to have a crown worth having. I am not going to willingly throw myself to the wolves. Wolves don’t care about truth. Wolves care primarily about their own positioning. I consider my readers to be non-wolves, thus I encourage you to separate yourself from the pack and study and think for yourself, just because there is a certain teaching given does not make that teaching true. In whom does my reader trust, God or man? Trust God.
Throughout this process, I contemplated going to the other side, what my religious training labeled “progressive”. With eyes wide open, I can tell you that the progressive side is just as staunch in its beliefs as the religious house I left. I know this because I heard a progressive preacher preach about being kind to those who are not given to heterosexuality. He addressed the heterosexuals about sin, “How about if your sin was put on a church sign?” I understand his point, but that is not how one persuades, such action engenders strife and contempt. This is the attitude of orthodoxy, even if progressive. Progressive orthodoxy is orthodoxy still, and represents unwillingness to let people be people and transgress in both action and thought. Orthodoxy (whether stringent or permissive) builds fences hoping to prevent human transgression, thus trying to prohibit something God himself permits.
Throughout this process, I visited other Christian Churches. Their behavior is as poor as my own religious heritage. Examples need not be given, because the examples would detract from my argument.
Throughout this process, I associated with Messianic Jews. I appreciate their stance for Yeshua (Jesus) and for that, these Jews will always, ALWAYS, receive my support and association. Yet, there are flaws. Examples need not be given, because the examples would detract from my argument.
Throughout this life-long process, I have learned that my religious heritage is no different. That was a difficult truth to swallow. That truth is unwelcomed. Thus those, like me, who acknowledge such truth are labeled and run out. I wanted to make an eternal difference. I was slapped upside the face with an unwelcome reality.
Knowing the history of my religion, I sought not to engage in a fight, enduring a bitter fight, which would ultimately want me removed. If studying religious history has taught me any thing, I do not have to have the actual experience of those things and receive the official orthodox prognosis to know the outcome. Thus, I voluntarily removed myself from my religion before receiving an “official” reprimand and disfellowship. If one can avoid the formalities, why not? It makes it easier for all involved.
However, I attempted to communicate with family. Recall I said religion is family multiplied, so I hoped that within family I would be heard. I was, partially. Yet, even within family, there are some lines that should not be crossed. Crossed according to human relations. But there is another side to that situational truth.
For as long as I can remember, consider that I am forty, I have enjoyed tense, but cordial relations with my parents, and extended family. I truly had no idea or inclination that my personal path to understanding God would drive a wedge. I guess I should have known better. Only a fool believes, right?
In the church pew I learned some things. Then in home Bible Study groups, I learned that I did not know or understand. So I went to Bible School. In Bible School, I learned things that helped me study God’s book. I shared, with moderate success. Then I went into ministerial work. The primary work of a minister is to always, ALWAYS, study God’s word. I shared my learnings, again having moderate success, like before. I left ministry, continued to study God’s word; I again shared my learnings. You know the pattern.
Some say there are three things not to be discussed with family: money, politics, and religion. If we cannot discuss the things most important, then I ask: What is the point of family? And if we cannot discuss the ONE thing that is most important, religion, I then again ask, what is the point of family?
Should family simply be procreation, occupation, and recreation? What about education? Not to be confused with the derogatory term called indoctrination. What about communication? Is family relegated to the dustbin because we simply focus on minutia that does not matter? If so, then it is no wonder that when the storms of life assail families collapse.
Family and faith are intertwined. To have family without faith is family, but family without spiritual strength. To have faith without family is faith, but faith isolated. To have family and faith is spiritual strength and strength of community. But family and religion should not be confused with family and faith – for they are different.
Religion is man’s interpretation of God’s word disguised as God himself. Such is not always truth. Christians compelling fellow community members: to bow this way; to say a prayer this way; to wear certain traditional holy clothes; to worship this way versus that way; to claim there is only one way to be truly Christian is repulsive and unnatural.
Is there a method that God prefers? Absolutely. But if they study God’s word, my fellow Christians will see that God is far more lenient than we might have been taught, and teach. Should I be interpreted as saying that God permits idol worship? Of course not. But I will tell you that I have met more than one Christian who reveres entertainment (pick your type), or occupation (again pick your type), or just about anything America or the World can provide over God. Does this make them idolatrous? I offer another question: Does argumentation of accuracy of interpretation make one idolatrous? I leave the questions for the reader to answer.
To miss Jesus’ teaching to Love God and Love Neighbor is to miss the entirety of the Bible. But does that teaching exclude Jesus and his attentiveness to God’s expectations? NO! Never. If Jesus excluded attentiveness to details, then what is the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount? These things should be self-evident, but they aren’t. Neither is love.
If Paul admonishes the older women to teach the younger women how to love their husband and children (Titus 2.4), then it should be evident that love has to be taught. Is this not the central tenant of Jesus (John 13.34) and of Paul (Romans 13.10; Galatians 5.14; 1 Corinthians 12.31-13.13). Thus, Love of Truth cannot be more supreme than Loving God and Loving Neighbor (Matthew 22.37-40). If done, how is Love of Truth not an idol, no matter how well intentioned?
But the paradox, if one will, is that God does not want truth sacrificed, truth is important. Jesus testifies to the power of knowing truth (Matthew 23.23) and truth is found in God’s Word (John 17.17). Thus, God’s truth supercedes all truth as understood and taught by humanity. Which makes a foundational reality – the most religious and devout person on earth is before God still a liar (Romans 3.4), for no person knows all truth, not even Jesus knows all truth (Matthew 24.36).
This simply means that Christians, no matter age (young to aged), no matter biblical understanding, no matter longevity of service in the kingdom, no matter position, all Christians, A-L-L, all Christians are under constant need to be refined by God’s truth, hence Paul’s correction of Peter’s behavior (Galatians 2.11-13). To live otherwise is to first denounce, then renounce truth. Neither of which should be done.
To live unwilling to continue one’s individual learning or to be part of a group showing themselves unwilling to continue collective learning of God is to invite ignorance. Ignorance leads to arrogance. Arrogance leads to teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. The very thing the Messiah stood against, and a primary reason the Messiah died – to set people free from each other’s condemnational accountability.
Read. Learn. Obey what you understand. Live faithfully before God. Testify about Jesus being the Messiah. Live in the Spirit, let the Holy Spirit guide you and lead you in paths of righteousness. Be at peace with everyone as best as possible, but especially of those who call themselves a follower of Messiah, no matter what you feel their knowledge level is.
All churches, every church, even the most permissive of permissive churches within Christendom, even the most strict of strict churches within Christendom can be a watering hole of refreshment. Seek refreshment. Learn what you can. Be a Berean and that which does not comport with God’s Truth ignore. Always be learning the depths of God’s Truth and re-examine past understandings. Visit and revisit the watering holes. Be willing to fellowship with those who call themselves followers of Messiah, Christ. Associate and live among those who don’t yet know God or Messiah, sharing your faith in the one true living God.
Blessings and Shalom from God the Father and our Master Jesus.