A reader of my blog recently asked a good question that I want to answer with a post. They wrote:
Reading through your blog, we seem to have some of the same struggles and attitudes about what is generally passed off as Christianity. I see you have just started seminary, and so I have to ask whether your about page is due for an update. You have probably answered this in your past posts, but am I curious how you went from falling away to starting seminary.
First, the easy question. Yes, I should update the about me page. It’s been a long time and could definitely use an update. Thanks for pointing that out.
Now for the big question: How did I go from falling away to starting seminary? I decided to leave the church and faith back around 2007 or 2008 (I don’t remember specifically), though the frustration and questioning began well before then. For four years, I didn’t do or think all too much about faith other than be really critical of Christians and the church. But, I clearly remember not a day passing where I didn’t think about God in some way.
In 2012, we moved down to Texas. My wife had been asking me about church, and I told her I would be willing to try and find one and attend with her. I wasn’t interested in going because I wanted to become a Christian again. My main reasons were to support my wife in her desire to go, and I was mildly curious about hearing a sermon again. We eventually found one and started attending.
I actually didn’t mind going. I found it interesting to spend time analyzing sermons and Christians again. After four months of attending church, I decided to start reading the Bible again. I was tired of needing to rely on and trust other people’s interpretations and understandings of the Bible, and wanted to see for myself again. I wanted to try and redefine what Christianity was about directly from the Bible, and wipe away all the gunk and grime in my understanding of it that built up from an entire childhood and adolescence of being raised in the church.
To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Past efforts to read the Bible always ended quickly. But this time I felt that I was feasting off of it and was unable to feel full. In the course of a couple months, I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and had purchased and started reading through a commentary on Mark.
I then was struck with a difficult question: Am I just coming back to the Bible because it is what I am most comfortable with and it’s what I know the most about? Do I just feel like I might want to believe it because not doing so would depart the comforts of what I was raised with? This was a difficult question to deal with because there is no way to know the answer with certainty. Any answer is completely subjective.
Ultimately, this made me take a few steps backwards. The enjoyment I was having reading the Bible, and the openness I had toward it faded a bit, and I became more skeptical again. Did I think about God daily because I was uncomfortable with the idea of “going to hell” if I didn’t believe? Or, was God the one reminding me of himself, in a way saying “hey, don’t forget about me, I want you to know me”? I didn’t know. I couldn’t figure it out.
I prayed hard for an answer, for a sign of some sort. It never came, that I noticed at least. This led me to a point of frustration with God. I remember Jesus saying something in the Sermon on the Mount that I was trying to trust in, which says:
7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! – Matthew 7:7-11
I was seeking, knocking, yet I didn’t feel like God was opening the door. I was asking God for something to help. I don’t feel like I got a snake, rather it felt like he just never even came to the door. How was I to understand this? The text doesn’t state any timeframe for how long one must seek, knock, or ask. Was I being impatient? Was there something else going on? Or was I simply trying to find something from a God that does not exist?
At that time, I decided that I should explore some other religions and see if I’m missing something elsewhere. So I read about them in books and online articles, and decided to try and meet with some people of other faiths and ask them questions about their faith. I found this to be a very enjoyable experience. It was the first time in my life that I was open to learning about other faiths (unlike my immature Christian ideology that all other faiths were horrible and satanic and there was nothing to learn from them). I initially met with a Hindu man, and two different Muslims that belonged to different sects of the Islamic faith (one was mainstream, and the other was Ahmadiyya). I tried to meet with a Jewish rabbi, but they really weren’t interested at all in meeting and made it difficult enough to schedule something that worked that I had to give up.
After all my reading and meetings, I came to the conclusion that the Bible was still the most intriguing to me, though in the back of my mind I still had to deal with the question of “am I drawn to the Bible most because this is how I was raised?”. I did feel better, given I had done some good reading and investigating into faiths around the world, but what if I had been raised in India? Would I still be drawn towards the Bible?
The question that I wasn’t asking was, what if I have just been fortunate to be born into the Christian faith? It’s certainly just as possible that the Bible is true, and the reason I’m drawn towards it is because the God of the Bible wants me to be. So I decided to direct my focus to understanding the Bible.
I started reading the Bible more and interacting with my pastor on his sermons. I started reading more articles and following some solid Christian bloggers. I started reading books on the Bible (one of the most helpful books I have read so far is called According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy). I found that I was spending a lot of time reading, studying, and talking with people about all of this, and I was really enjoying it.
It was then that I started to wonder if perhaps some structured Biblical training would be helpful. So I started looking into seminaries (last fall). Interestingly, almost at that exact time, we found out that Truett Seminary just announced an open house for their Austin extension campus, which was less than 20 minutes away. I went and checked it out and liked what I saw. Not long afterwards, my wife and I went up to Waco for a couple days to check out a “preview” of the seminary there. At that point we were both confident that I should apply. I was accepted a month later, and just this week I started my first two courses.
I am a bit different than your average seminary student. Many of my classmates are there to become pastors or do missions work. I’m still unsteady with what I even believe. But, what we do have in common is that we are there to learn more about the Bible and about God. I am certain that there is something drawing me to the Bible. I don’t know for sure if it’s God or something else, but in the case that it is God, I’m going to use this time in my life to investigate it. I continue to hope and pray to know the truth!
I hope that sufficiently answers the question of how I went from falling away from the Bible, to starting seminary. I’m always happy to answer any further questions.