Afraid of Becoming a Heretic

Growing up, I always wanted to have the right answer.  Most of it stemmed from the desire to be praised by adults, whether they be my mom, a teacher, or someone else in authority.  I was the kid that never raised my hand unless I was absolutely sure I was going to be correct.  Fortunately, I’ve mostly grown out of this.  In most situations, I’m not afraid to ask questions, even if there’s a chance that people will think I’m foolish.  I’m now able to recognize that asking questions is what brings me the knowledge I desire.

When I say I’ve mostly grown out of this (I can still be reserved in new environments), there is one crucial area in which I’m still tentative about asking questions: my spiritual life.  My first semester in Scriptures class left me with doubts aplenty.  I have less “right” answers than I’ve ever had before.  So much so, that I’m quite overwhelmed at my lack of certainty and feel stuck.  I wouldn’t outright admit to being afraid to ask spiritual questions, but I am.  After almost 35+ years of simply believing everything I’ve ever been taught about God and the Bible, it’s been extremely difficult to start thinking for myself.  I almost feel like I’m always one step away from heresy.  After all, no one ever wakes up and decides to become a heretic.  It just kind of happens when you voice your beliefs and others decide you’re wrong and brand you as such.  And then burn you at the stake.

It is this fear (of being a heretic, not being burned at the stake) that has paralyzed me in my thought process.  I am not sure where to turn.  Most Christians would tell me to just read the Bible and let the Holy Spirit guide me.  The problem is that is what I’ve done my entire life and I think I need something different (I feel heretical even writing this – see?  I told you).  I need the words of someone who has been where I am to encourage me on my journey and tell me to revel in it.  To tell me that it’s ok to not know what you believe.  To help open my eyes to new ways of thinking.  To encourage me to challenge everything I’ve been taught.  To tell me that my questions don’t make me a heretic.

To get out of my current state of paralysis, I need to find these voices in my life.  Maybe I’ll start with this.

“The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.”– Peter Abelard

 

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More of a Wanderer Than I’ve Ever Been

It was during my intro to scriptures class that I started really questioning everything I believed.  I learned about epic stories such as Gilgamesh that predate any biblical writings but are very similar to Bible stories such as creation and Noah.  There was a moment of crisis when I came to the realization that those stories might have been the basis for the same stories we find in the Bible.  It was only natural for me to start questioning the Bible as a whole.  That was a rough semester for me, to put it mildly.  With my Scriptures 1 class this semester, I’m about to do it all over again except in greater depth. Continue reading

Burlap Jesus

I’ve been a Christian for a long time.  Long enough to see items in Christian bookstores go through their cheesy phase.  Testamints, anyone?  Remember, it’s not just a mint, it’s a mint with a message.  I worked in a Christian bookstore in the mid-90s and one of the trends was to take t-shirt slogans and put a Christian spin on them.  Budweiser became Bloodwiser.  Gold’s Gym became The Lord’s Gym.  They were so prevalent and so horrible, they turned me off of Christian t-shirts forever.  Forever.  During my most recent stint in a Christian bookstore, I discovered they hadn’t gotten any better.  Now there’s one for sale that has the outline of Darth Vader and underneath it reads “I am not your father. God is your father.”  Nope. Continue reading

Who is the Clumsy Pilgrim?

I have been a Christian since I was five and have been in church all of my life.  I thought I knew a lot about God, the Bible, and everything that goes with it until I entered seminary in August 2015.  I quickly realized that, just like Jon Snow, I knew nothing.  Well, not exactly nothing, but pretty close to it.  I found myself sitting in the company of severe doubt almost immediately.  I did a good job of not panicking, telling myself over and over again that everything I was feeling was completely normal.  My fellow students were helpful in reassuring me that this was the case.

I am currently in my third semester of seminary and still don’t have it all figured out.  Honestly, I don’t think I have anything figured out.  And I’ve made peace with that.  It’s ok to not have all of the answers.  Let me repeat that.  IT’S OK TO NOT HAVE ALL OF THE ANSWERS.  In fact, I’m convinced that I will leave this earth without having all of the answers.  One of the main reasons for this is that I’ve realized God is so far above me that my puny, human brain could never understand all that there is to understand about God.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about that before.  I hadn’t until I read a work called The Mystical Theology by Pseudo-Dionysius.  It’s from around the 5th or 6th century and although it’s a difficult reading to be sure, it’s one that had a great impact on me.  the author suggests that in order to truly know God, we must leave behind everything we know or feel because God is beyond everything that can be known or felt.  In other words, we can never truly understand the goodness of God because he is – yes I did write this in an essay for an exam – gooder than our goodest good will ever be.  Let that sink in for a moment.  We talk about the goodness of God all of the time.  “God is good – All the Time – All the Time – God is Good.”  Did you ever stop to think that our view of God will continually be lacking because we are fallen humans?  I’m not saying that what we say about God is always wrong.  I’m just saying that there will always be more to God than what we understand.  If this doesn’t overwhelm you, you’re a stronger person than I am.

And that’s just a little of what this blog is about.  It’s about theology.  Please don’t get scared off by that word.  Theology is Greek for “talk about God.”  Do you talk about God?  Then you’re a theologian.  It’s not just for those with PhDs, but it’s for you and me, too.  It’s also about life.  I don’t know if you know this, but life is messy.  Since March 2015, I’ve lost my husband to suicide and my mom to illness.  I’ve been the spouse of an alcoholic.  I’ve hurt others and been hurt deeply.  I want to start the conversation about the messiness of life so that you and I don’t have to suffer this mess in silence.

Journey with me as I struggle with life and theology while making mistakes along the way.  I am The Clumsy Pilgrim.