I had a man come to the door a few weeks ago, clutching some white paper, neatly folded. I opened the door cheerfully and he told me he was from a local town, specifically a church in a local town. Being me, I love discussing theology, belief, the bible and people’s opinions about all of it, and we stood on the doorstep and talked for about 15 minutes, before he left me his ‘questions and answers’ sheet to fill in .. two of them, of the twelve that the members of his church give to newcomers to help them learn about God and the Bible. When we had done all twelve we get a free bible (it’s very pretty, he said). Pretty? Ok, I can add another to my collection. Lovely!
Weeks passed before I had time to sit down and really peruse those little booklets. We are very busy with renovations at the moment, and everything else had been on the backburner. When I did sit down, after promising I would when he came to ‘collect’ my answers to the leaflets the last time, I treated them like anything else biblically based – study ‘critically’ (that does not mean judgmental, it means a ‘close review’), check all the quotes, and then corrected a couple .. amazing how small corrections might change a meaning or two. Then I realised how I was supposed to answer them – copy the text out of the bible, word by word, onto the indicated spaces on the form .. they even gave me one space for each word. Umm.. that’s not really my way, and I had told the man I was a theologian and would write my thoughts, which he was happy to receive .. so I did.
He arrived for the first lot of answers, we had a brief chat, he left, leaving another pair of readings and questions to answer .. love it. Great fun!
Next visit I handed over the next set of answers, and he handed me over to his wife. The ‘women take care of the women’ in their church. Ok, no problem, she had written some comments to my first lot of answers, so I commented on her answers (because she wanted to have a ‘discussion’) and presented them with the second lot of answers. Lovely!
I could say here ‘after that it was all downhill’? The first Bible Study had been on ‘Evidence for the Existence of God’. The second ‘the origin of Evil’. The third was ‘the Good News’ (who is Jesus etc), the fourth on ‘nations in prophecy’, which really had nothing much except criticisms of various countries around the world, and their leaders, and a world history review .. which was very interesting. Plus there was a DVD to watch, which wouldn’t work on my TV, so I found the program on YouTube and watched it there. The concepts ‘reached’ (not stretched) so far, some fell over .. but .. everyone is entitled to their beliefs, whether they agree with mine or not. So I answered their questions and added comments of my own, and then looked at the next two booklets. In the meantime the lady had come back to get three and four …
The next day, Sunday, I checked my letterbox and found a letter, neatly written. In it it said that they were very sorry that their bible study booklets were raising so many questions and doubts in me. I stood there thinking ‘what doubts’ .. or what ‘new’ doubts and questions had their booklets raised? None that I could see. No, instead I had been doing what I usually do .. asking for answers to the tough questions. I know from a conversation that I had with that lady, the second time she came to the house, that they didn’t ask tough questions, just focused on the ‘good’ stuff .. the good stuff? That meant they ignored the things they didn’t want to think about, like the story of Job, and other things I have mentioned on this site before. It puzzles me that people choose to ignore the nasty side of ‘god’, and yet focus on the Messiah of Retribution that Revelation describes is coming to collect all the good Christians, and send the rest of the heathens to hell. Do they ever stop and wonder which side they will be placed on, when he turns up? Or if it will actually be Jesus, who taught only love and peace .. this guy with a flaming sword, or a sword in his mouth, and his horde of angels bent on destruction?
Booklet five is ‘Signs of Christ’s second Coming’, and the sixth is ‘the Second Coming of Christ’. I shall review them too, and write my comments, though the people are no longer interested in the answers. I regret not getting the other six, perhaps I should have played the game, but it would have been a game, and not truth, if I had answered in the way they expected me to. There is a huge difference between being a ‘believer’ and being a ‘theologian’, though I know plenty of theologians, including me, who continue to believe in Jesus Christ, as both man and God. I have my reasons, though they are not based in the infallibility of the bible, which has proved to be full of contradictions. A friend even asked me about the unicorns mentioned in her KJV just the other day.
I am not you, but you have as much right as I do to find God in your own way. I will not abandon you when you ask the tough questions, when you tell me where I am going wrong with my thoughts, when you yell and rant .. this has all happened to me. Oh no, I wasn’t doing the yelling, I was on the receiving end .. from someone a long time ago. I am going to hell, according to them, because I don’t believe ‘their way’. Well, I believe that God, being omnipotent, is large enough to encompass all our beliefs and be ‘God for all people’, not just ‘God, my way’.
What do you believe?