Archive for January 24th, 2011

On Testimony: The Foundation Of Faith- Part 1

Posted on January 24, 2011. Filed under: Atheism, Personal, Religion |

This is part one of a two part post on Testimony.  Part two will be an autobiographical testimony of how I left the faith and became an atheist.

On Testimony

If there is one thing I am addicted to from my years of being a Christian, it is testimony.  The church I attended loved testimony.  Every week, a member of our congregation would stand before the whole church and bare their soul, witnessing to the glory of Christ.

To this day, every time I wander onto a Christian blog, the first thing I look for is ” The Testimony”.  I naively keep expecting that I’ll find something different; yet I always am let down to find that testimony is a formula, everyone takes the same road to Christ.  Testimony is a relatively new invention in the church.  Years ago, everyone was a Lutheran because their parents were Lutheran.  Everyone was a

This is exactly like my old church....well almost.

Christian because they were expected to be a Christian.  To testify would be to express the concept that there is a choice- that faith was an option chosen among alternatives.  In a global society, one with innumerable denominations and Gods and philosophies, testimony is a way to acknowledge a thought process that winnowed down all those options to a resolute belief.

My obsession with testimony is as much a product of the necessity of it as the logic of it.  The renaissance value of knowledge was a latecomer to the Christian Chastity Ball, but when it came it asked us all to dance with the scientific method.  It changed the sullen duty of stepping to the waltz  into a Sadie Hawkins affair.  The problem is that nothing really changed.  We all claim that we danced with the debutante, when we all were leaning on the walls.

Just once I would like to hear someone testify that they were born into the faith.  That they resolutely held to its values because it was all they ever knew.  I’d love to hear that they had doubts, yes, but never bothered to follow them further than a quick reference to scripture.  They have been fulfilled in their life and chose to stay the course.  I want to hear that they never really questioned the word of God and here is why.

Why does doubt have to figure so powerfully in testimony?  Why must everyone come to Christ through a dark and lonely path?  Why must we all see the depths of “rock-bottom” before finally being lifted to His side?  Just once I would like to hear an honest testimony.  A personal testimony.  It is as though there is a script that we all must follow to get to His glory. Almost to a one, every Christian I know has been one since childhood, we all went to school together, we talked, we were friends.  If I am to believe the testimony, I have to admit that I was woefully ignorant to the challenges my friends faced in their walk with Jesus.

From testimony, I know this:

  1. Almost every Christian has been an atheist, or flirted with Wicca, or Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Paganism.  Every single one has doubted enough to abandon the faith for some alternate philosophical possibility.
  2. Virtually every one of these people has felt entirely unfulfilled by any other way of thinking, as though there really was no merit to any other option.
  3. Each of these people has been overcome by the temptations of a material world, they made bad choices: drugs, sex, lack of self-respect.  They have seen the dark side, they have let it take hold of them.
  4. Most received a personal message from Jesus that led them right to the church that either their close friends attend or they were born into but left.
  5. This process led to them accepting Jesus into their lives, and they live happily ever after. (Mostly)

The problem I have is that I have evidence that suggests that this never really happened.  Some might surely be drawn from experience, but much is hyperbole.  If my Christian friends wavered in the faith, they certainly never let on to me.  If they were reading books on Wicca, or Satanism, or Hare Krishna sometime between Sunday Service, Harp and Bowl, and Youth Group, then they managed the devilish details quite well.  I never had a clue.

So when I was called on to give my testimony, I tried desperately to duck out.  I had never really given other faiths a fair shot, I led a

Is the question "Why does no-one in my church listen to me?"? Then yes.

pretty blessed life, I was comfortable with my God.   I had doubts from time to time, to be sure, but I never followed them further than a reassuring passage from the bible.  My favorite passage, the one that I turned to most frequently, was Job 5:17- “Blessed are those whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”  I never really thought of adversity as a bad thing.  I was decidedly not a Christian worthy of testimony.  When it came time to face the music though, I read the lyrics all the same.  It ate at me.  It was the first step toward the end of my faith.

What captured my imagination about testimony as a Christian was listening to how other people had made the mistakes so that I didn’t have to.  What captures my imagination now is what testimony says about Christians in general.  They are either worlds away from the faith I witnessed in my youth or they are that scared twenty-two year old boy rehashing hyperbole to make everyone happy.  I don’t really care which one they are.  I’m so divorced from both now that all I can muster is self-satisfied curiosity.

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