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Mike Edwards

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We must use our moral sense and brains when reading a Book. At least non-Bible folks understand no Book can be proven to be supernaturally controlled, much less be perfectly interpreted. The Bible has been used to support either hierarchal or equalitarian relationships between the sexes. It’s a big deal! History has proven appointing men as authority over women exclusively is conducive for atrocities women face at the hands of men. We cannot avoid and we must ask which interpretation is morally likely of a loving God.

Mistranslations require moral brain power.

Ed Oxford reminds us certain Greek words were not translated as homosexual until 1946 in some bible versions. Before it was translated as boy molesters. A big deal uh? See here. Certain words are translated as Hell over 50 times in the King James version. The NIV uses the word hell 14 times. Some translations don’t use the word hell once. It’s huge if God did or didn’t create a torture chamber for infidels. See here. We can’t avoid using human moral judgment in understanding God’s character since translation isn’t perfect. 

A Book couldn’t be a Creator’s only type of communication.

We don’t all agree on the correct interpretation or translation. We can’t even prove biblical writers weren’t on the same spiritual journey we all are on – discovering what God is really like. Meanwhile, the majority of people born into this world never had a Bible. Most rational people advocate the golden moral rule being a valuable guide in relationships in determining good from evil. A Creator may inspire such intuitions. Problems often begin when we insist on our understanding of an inspired Book and abandon common moral decency.

What if terrorists at least valued their intuitions than just their beliefs about a Book?

Terrorists claim murdering or beheading others for their beliefs isn’t evil. Would terrorists accept their wives and children being beheaded for different beliefs from another group claiming a Book is direct God-speak? Even terrorists deep down want to be treated with loving kindness. Terrorists can only defend their belief according to a supposed infallible Book. It cannot be proven any Book is word for word inspired by God. What if terrorists or extremists were open to questioning if a Book was entirely inspired by God or why there isn’t universal agreement on interpretations? 

We must trust our moral intuitions because of mistranslating, misinterpreting, etc.

We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly. How we ought to love one another is surely the same as how a loving Creator loves us. Good thing there is no magic book to definitively tell us what God is like. We would just use it as a club to beat people into believing. Moral intuitions are fallible but at least they should join the party of fallible interpretations. We will disagree but civil discussions are more likely than claiming a Book is infallible.

 

by Rocky Glenn

Although it’s been several months since I’ve last written, I’ve been sharing with you for four years now my life of being raised a churchboy. My efforts to reveal the questions, thoughts, and struggles I’d lived with for most of my life was also an admission of the beliefs and practices I had not only misbelieved myself but also taught and forced on others. I can’t really recall any expectations I had when this all began, but what started as a simple detailing of the struggles to free myself of the guilt, unworthiness, and shame grew into a journey I never expected. All I remember is I had such a joy and excitement over the love, peace, and acceptance I had finally found after searching for so many years I simply did not want to see others lived trapped by the life I was escaping. It was an unraveling and deconstructing of the person I was as I tasted true hope and freedom in a way I had never experienced before.

At times I’ve written out of hope, at times out of anger, and at times out of frustration. I’ve shared memories from childhood, stories of adolescence, and struggles from marriage and being a parent. Support and encouragement have come from friends and family I’ve known many years as well as new friends and acquaintances I’ve met along the way. Others I’ve shared life with have been less supportive sometimes making their feelings known, most just simply walking away. My admission of being wrong for so many years was simply too much for them to accept so in return they could no longer accept me.

The process of dismantling so much of what you’ve built your life on is treacherous and not a pain-free, easy experience. In efforts to distance yourself from your former self, you can actually become an anti-version of your former self. All the zeal, fervor, and passion I used to have for my religious ways took over in my efforts of being anti-religious. Memes and social media posts were often shared with an attitude of shock and awe to push the envelope and poke the bear of those stuck in my former churchboy ways. I once again became caught up in a mindset of us versus them – only this time it wasn’t Christians versus The World . . . it was legalistic, rule-abiding, traditional Christians versus grace loving, liberal, free Christians. So, once again I’m here to admit I was wrong.

This struggle and discovery are what has kept me from writing for the past four months. This time the undoing of myself wasn’t to be done publicly but was something to be done by myself and simply for myself. I distanced myself from all the things I had surrounded myself with throughout the journey: no podcasts were listened to, no blogs were read or written, and badges of being done with religion were removed from social media. During this time, I received the greatest support from my loving wife and the two men I have come know as brothers through Done with Religion, Jim Gordon and Mike Edwards. Other than those three, few have had any insight to the thoughts bouncing around inside my head.

So, is this a farewell from the blogging world from this former churchboy? I can’t say and choose not to speculate. With that being said, I want to take the time with what I feel have revealed themselves as the three undisputable beliefs which now govern my life:

God Loves You (and Me)

There is nothing that will ever change this. Nothing I can do will make him love me more, nothing I have done has made him love me more. Nothing I don’t do will make him love me less, nothing I haven’t done has made him live me less. He loves me as I am right now in this moment, not for the person I may or not become.

Love is the Only Thing That Matters

Love is the greatest force in the universe. Love is more important than being right, and love can overcome any wrong. Love is displayed in actions not words.

There is No Supposed To Be

We spend most of our life chasing the idea of how we think things should be. If we let our lives be governed by the first two beliefs above, we can learn to let go and enjoy life in the moments as they happen.

I have enjoyed sharing my life with all who have read over the last four years. This may or may not be the final post I ever write. If you would like to keep in touch, I am on most social media sites but for the sake of privacy I am more selective than I have been previously as to who I connect with. If you reach out, please introduce yourself.

Finally, if you are interested, listed below is a list of some of my favorite posts (or series) I’ve shared over the years.

Rocky, aka ChurchBoyNoMore

Favorite Posts from the Last Four Years

by Jim Gordon

I have talked a lot about the church system, pastors and leaving the institutional church. I do not want anyone to think I am against the organized church. Even though we are divided with denominations and various interpretations of the bible, we should be united in love for God and for one another.

My parents took me to church when I was so young I did not know what church was, and I was faithful just about every Sunday for the next 58 years.

Many good things happen in church, many good friends are made in church, a lot of good information and knowledge about God, love, grace and hope are found in church.

For my wife and I, we grew very dissatisfied with the method of church that is so common today. We would rush to get ready, rush to get there on time, shake a few hands, sit and listen to a few people do all the talking then rush out to get on with our day. There were times when we participated with the various meetings and opportunities the church offered and there were times when we only went to the planned meetings on Sunday and Wednesday.

I want to point out that if you enjoy gathering together on Saturday or Sunday with other believers in an organized service, there is nothing wrong with doing so.

While I personally do not believe church attendance is a must to be a follower of Christ, many people do believe so. That certainly does not make us enemies. Whether in the organized church or not we are all people who love God and are brothers and sisters in Christ. God loves us all just the same.

For me, a few things I look at differently about church is that I do not believe true church is a building, a place, or an organization. I believe Church is people and it does not matter if you attend a building or not. If you want to meet in a building that is OK, just realize you do not have to. We are the temple of God.

Pastors are not the mouthpiece or middle men/women of God. They are fellow brothers/sisters in Christ who are to support, encourage and build up others in their walk with God. The Holy Spirit lives within us and the Spirit is our teacher and guide.

Sunday is not the sabbath. That was old covenant. Many people call Sunday the Lord’s day and I agree, but I also say Monday is the Lord’s day just as every day is the Lord’s day. This (today) is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

I no longer believe in tithing. That also is old covenant. That is not to say we are not to give but we give as we determine in our heart. We give to help others, not to support a religious system. If you regularly attend an organized church then you should give to help support it. There are salaries to be paid, mortgages and utilities to be paid and various expenses to keep the organization running. Yet giving to those causes is not tithing and not required.

So basically, what it boils down to is that each of us in our own way want to love and worship God and we want others to know of God’s love. How we go about it, if we attend a building for a religious service with others or if we do not, makes no difference. We can go out daily knowing the Spirit of God lives within us, teaches us, guides us and shares the love of God with others. We do not need to look at each other and think the other is wrong for the way they choose to follow God. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and we are called to assemble together in the commonality of showing the love of God to all we meet.

By Mike Edwards

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You may believe God inspired and approved every word written down in the Bible. We still must discern the writer’s meaning and application to our circumstances. Personal interpretations are not infallible. Opposing sides often demonize one another by declaring their view of God according to the Bible is right. It is said since Jesus was God in flesh, Jesus is the final authority in understanding God. We still though have to interpret Jesus’ words. Scholars hardly agree what Jesus advised on divorce. Which interpretation is best when two reasonable interpretations exist?

Did you know scholars disagree about women and gays according to the Bible?

Bigotry or a Book, where every word is thought to be inspired by God, are main reasons different treatment of women from men are justified. Two plausible interpretations exist on most major issues when speaking of God’s character. Many defend that the Bible teaches God proclaims women cannot be in authority over men in roles such as a priest or pastor. Scholars also proclaim the Bible teaches roles are based on gifts not gender. See here. Scholars disagree if the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. See here. These views have impacted billions of lives!

How would a Creator convey what like since any Book is subject to interpretation?

Is it possible a universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated is one way a Creator would communicate what is good versus evil? After all, half the people born in this world didn’t possess a Bible. I don’t know any God or non-God person that doesn’t advocate the golden rule being a valuable guide in relationships. How would we want to be treated if in that person’s shoes? Which view is most loving from a human perspective?

Even those who claim God is a mystery imply God speaks through our moral intuitions.  

Many claim God is a mystery because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters, who would agree humans were created in God’s image, are using their moral intuitions to imply God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but this doesn’t mean anything goes. Only terrorists, because they don’t question a Book, believe a good God encourages beheading for unbelief.

Choose understandings of God with fewer negative human consequences.

Many recognize as bigotry if we chose business leaders based on gender than gifts. Putting men in leadership positions over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part, which can be conducive for abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men. It is hard for men to twist mutual submission to suggest husbands make the final decisions in a stalemate. It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Ask them! Why would anyone choose to be gay based on the condemnation and bigotry faced? Which interpretation? Err on the side that doesn’t contradict your intuitive sense of a loving God. Discuss with others. You are free to choose the most loving way.

 

by Jim Gordon

To take this title literally would be something that would make me mad and upset. In the midst of a pandemic some think it is spiritual to show they are not afraid and can ignore all that is being said because God will take care of them.  They tend to think it shows a lack of faith on their part to take the precautions many are calling for. Many say trust God and throw caution to the wind.

I do believe we will make it through this time and I do believe we can trust God to provide for us. Yet I do believe we have minds and common sense to do what we can, without panic to protect ourselves and to protect others.

The one statement that so many pastors and church organizations use to promote church attendance is the one mentioned above, forsake not the assembling of ourselves together. I have always been told that means we need to come together every Sunday at a designated place to sit through an organized meeting led by the pastor. If we fail to do so we are certainly not being the ‘good’ Christian we are supposed to be.

Yet to me, and especially in this time we are going through, this phrase speaks more to assembling together by helping one another, encouraging one another, checking on one another.  The dictionary describes assembling as bringing together or gather into one place. That does not necessarily mean a physical place but a place of agreement, a place of commonality for a similar purpose.

Now is the time to physically keep your distance, but it is also time to assemble together in the sense of fulfilling a common goal of caring for your fellow human being. It is time to put aside differences and join together for the purpose of caring for one another and supporting each other through these difficult times.

By Mike Edwards

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Those who didn’t grow up with the Bible maybe aren’t familiar with the Holy Spirit. Some Bible translations refer to the Holy Ghost which may bring Casper the friendly ghost to mind. We can think of the Holy Spirit as God’s Spirit or Presence. Even the Bible suggests to look for God’s guidance through a Spirit than a Book (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). The context of these passages though suggests guidance in spiritual or moral truth as opposed to future, specific, individual decisions.

A word of caution when advocating God’s Spirit or the Holy Spirit speaks to us today.

Christians often encourage being still and listening so you can hear the Spirit’s voice. Such statements without explanation leave others feeling spiritually inferior or confused. You aren’t less spiritual if you can’t distinguish a supposed voice from inner impressions. At least I can’t. We can’t really know when personal desires impact our understanding of God’s voice. This doesn’t mean God can’t guide us through intuitions and the influence of others.

How might God speak to us morally?

A Book such as the Bible can’t be our only moral guide. Biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures interpret differently what God guides morally regarding divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, etc. One possibility for a universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated is an external force communicating through our moral intuitions. Common moral sense isn’t the enemy when making moral decisions. Be careful though because rational folks often don’t agree what is our moral obligation when it comes to important matters.

How might God speak when we disagree what is moral?

Rational people don’t always agree morally concerning immigration, climate change, abortion, health care, taxes, or responding to evil dictators that murder their own people. Truth often exists on both sides of the fence. Certainty has led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Calm, open dialogue allows evaluating the most loving approach to complicated challenges we face. Certainty isn’t always less chaotic than uncertainty. See here.

God isn’t hiding an unknown future in non-moral decision-making.  

A predetermined future makes freedom nonsensical. God can’t know an undetermined future. God isn’t keeping secrets. God can’t tell you if your partner will end up betraying you or the job you take won’t be phased out. Many who speak of an “inner voice” assume God knows the future. God took risks creating us free; we must take risk making decisions. Stay connected with God choosing the wisest path at the time based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. Do all the good, in all the places, to all the people you can.

What about biblical examples of clear guidance?

There are biblical examples where God communicated clearly. It was infrequent but if God speaks to you through a burning bush like Moses (Ex. 3), through a donkey (Numbers 22:28), or a voice from heaven that others heard like Paul (Acts 9), you might want to take notice. This just isn’t my personal experience or most I come in contact with. Inner impressions, often thought of as God’s voice, are not the same as clear communications.

Maybe the Spirit speaks or guides us through an indescribable, quiet influence.

Don’t we recognize the Spirit’s influence when we have wronged someone, we quickly confess and make amends? Maybe all we have to do is be open to the Spirit’s influence. Humans inspire by their example without speaking. When I am trying to discern the Spirit’s influence, and often it is about relationships, I aim to make a wise decision if to take the risk. If it works out, I don’t know if coincidental or not. In an unknown future God doesn’t know if it’s going to work out either.

I admit I have minimized God speaking clearly to us but if God was more demonstrative, we might use it as a club to beat the Truth out of people like we have with the Bible. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow the road traveled of learning and reflecting leading to lasting convictions. Much of moral knowledge isn’t hidden. Honest open dialogue, not claiming certainty, best leads to loving decisions when there is disagreement. Future decisions are open. One is surely guided by the Spirit of Truth when following Jesus’ example and not demonizing others when there is genuine disagreement.

For another view consider Woodland Hills sermon series beginning January 26, 2020. See here.

by Jim Gordon

— John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
— John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
— John 5:39-40  You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

The Word is not just written words in a book. The Word mentioned here is Jesus, the Living Word.

So many of us focus on which version of the bible is the true word of God. These verses state that the true Word is alive and living within us. The true Word is not a book at all.

If we were never again able to read from the bible or hear it read to us, we still have the Living Word of God within us to teach us and guide us.

It is good to read our bibles no matter what translation we prefer because the written word is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. Yet the bible is not God and is not part of the trinity of God. It is not Father, Son and Holy Bible.

We need to remember that the bible was written by humans who were inspired to tell how they related to God, how they understood God, how they interacted with God and what they thought God was saying to them.  The true Word of God is Jesus who lives within each of us through the Holy Spirit.

We can read the words on the pages of the bible and learn about grace and the love of God, but it is the Living Word within us by the Holy Spirit that brings to life and power the words we read. Jesus, who is the living, inerrant Word of God has final authority over any written words which we call the bible.

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