Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary | INFJ Forum

Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by myself, Dec 2, 2009.

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  1. myself

    myself Permanent Fixture

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    http://www.kwdaniels.com/wib/WhyIBelieved.htm

    I found this guy through www.infidels.org

    Such an interesting book. I have been hooked on it for a few days. This is the first online book I've read. Really great writing, and entirely fascinating. It's free too.

    "Daniels is well read and obviously knowledgeable about Christianity. Most importantly, however, he has retained a sense of respect and compassion for believers. Yes, he thinks they are wrong about their religious claims, but he has not turned his back on them as fellow humans. It is likely that many Christians will struggle to reconcile the wisdom and challenges found within Why I Believed with their own beliefs. The author’s impressive logic and intelligence, combined with a sensitive approach and his top-notch credentials as a Christian missionary, make it impossible for anyone to dismiss him as an angry crank or an irrelevant outsider. Daniels walked the walk, believing and serving with far more sincerity and dedication than most believers do. He writes:

    I invite Christian readers to consider the possibility that my apostasy is a result not of divine or diabolical deception but of a simple weighing of the evidence. . . . It might be that I am wrong. It might be that I have not sought God sufficiently or studied the Bible thoroughly enough or listened carefully enough to the many Christians who have admonished me. . . . Maybe. But the knowledge that billions of seekers have lived and died, calling out to God for some definitive revelation without ever receiving it, or receiving revelation that conflicts with the revelation others have found, contributes to my suspicion that there is no personal God who reveals himself to anyone.

    This is a book I will give to Christians because it is forceful and devastating to their irrational beliefs without belittling or mocking them. That Daniels is able to make such a powerful case against Christianity is impressive enough; that he is able to do it without drifting into attacks and name-calling makes Why I Believed an important book that should be read and discussed by both believes and nonbelievers."

    Just check out this table of contents. I'm at chapter 4 now. It's quite a read.

    Chapter 1: Motives and Methods
    My purpose for writing
    My approach to my readers
    Two kinds of believers
    A look ahead

    Chapter 2: My Journey from Missionary Bible Translator to Humanist
    Introduction to my story
    Life as an evangelical Christian
    Life as a nonbeliever

    Chapter 3: Why I Remained a Christian: Pre-deconversion Perspectives
    The influence of other believers
    The design of the universe and of life
    The superiority of Christianity over other worldviews
    The foundations of morality
    Purpose and meaning
    Fulfilled prophecies
    The Resurrection of Jesus
    The reliability of the Bible
    Miracles and answered prayer
    A personal relationship with a loving, almighty God

    Chapter 4: Why I Hesitated to Examine my Faith Critically
    The sum of all fears and costs
    Psychological inertia
    Accident of birth, benefit of doubt (ABBOD)
    The virtue of faith
    Sanctified exceptionalism
    Good and bad
    Focus on the flaws of the foes of the faith
    Insulation
    The big stick
    The ease and security of a package
    A set-apart identity
    Moderation inoculation
    But what about you now, Ken?

    Part II: My Reasons for Believing: A Critique

    Chapter 5: The Influence of Other Believers
    Exemplary believers
    The myth of individual faith
    Accident of birth, benefit of doubt (ABBOD reprise)
    Tradition and authority
    Fear of others’ reactions
    Christian fellowship

    Chapter 6: The Design of the Universe and of Life
    Suspicion of the scientific establishment
    Excursus: the age of the earth
    Evolution
    Naturalism versus supernaturalism
    The origin of the universe
    The origin of God

    Chapter 7: The Superiority of Christianity over Other Worldviews
    Deformed to fit
    The numbers game
    Deism
    Conclusion

    Chapter 8: The Foundations of Morality
    A typical discussion
    The limitations of faith-based morality
    Not perfect, just forgiven

    Chapter 9: Purpose and Meaning
    Anthropocentrism
    Mortality and meaninglessness

    Chapter 10: Fulfilled Prophecies
    Prophetic presuppositions
    The “seventy weeks” of Daniel 9
    Jesus’ failed prophecy

    Chapter 11: The Resurrection of Jesus
    The apologetic stance
    Presuppositions
    The location of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances
    Arguments for the Resurrection

    Chapter 12: The Reliability of the Bible
    The unity of the Bible
    The integrity and trustworthiness of the biblical authors
    The archaeological confirmation of the scriptures
    The beauty and wisdom of the gospel

    Chapter 13: Miracles and Answered Prayer
    Miracles
    Answered prayer

    Chapter 14: A Personal Relationship with a Loving, Almighty God
    Excursus: the possibility of losing one’s relationship with God
    Marriage to Jesus
    The Bible and Jesus as personal savior
    The reality of a personal relationship
    God’s power and love

    Chapter 15: Fear of Eternal Loss
    Pascal’s Wager
    Appeasing the living
    Defenses of the doctrine of hell

    Chapter 16: Questions, Answers, and Final Thoughts
    Are you happier now than before?
    Have your morals changed?
    Do you ever doubt your doubts?
    Do you ever feel guilty about your decision?
    How do you relate to your wife and family?
    Parting thoughts
     
    #1 myself, Dec 2, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  2. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    It appears almost all of his concerns stem from issues with Evangelical Christianity and that particular world view...which, contrary to popular thought, does not actually (or accurately) represent Christianity as a whole. In fact, upon reading his work, I am amazed at how huge the differences are, especially when played out to some logical conclusions!! I can see where he is coming from...but I certainly find his assumptions to be based on a very limited (although pervasive) perspective.

    It reminds me of a several books written lately....one by a bible scholar who became an atheist because he couldn't make incongruities in the Bible jive. Now, from what I could tell, this was a bible scholar who...according to other Christian traditions...didn't even fully grasp the book he was studying!! How sad...yet totally understandable.

    This is becoming a very common theme....people leaving a faith they never truly understand in the first place. The saddest thing is that even leadership is of little help. I fully suspect this trend will continue and frankly, I can see why....honest seekers coming to the end of their rope. But the assumptions require scrutiny from the very start...and that will likely not happen.
     
  3. Gaze

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    Good post. It seems that it is becoming increasingly acceptable to dumb down, misinterpret, and misrepresent the Bible and Christian faith because of disagreement with or misunderstanding of Christian beliefs or principles.
     
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    #3 Gaze, Dec 2, 2009
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  4. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    It's true....even scarier that some churches build their entire construct/foundational experiences on ideas that are supposedly "in the Bible" that aren't really "in the Bible"...not really. Yes, one can find a verse here and there but in a holistic sense? No...there is more to it. It is a slippery slope to approach the whole thing from verse and chapter perspective....as it is the mindset that comes out of that. Trouble is, that is all many people know.

    I do most sincerely wish this gentleman well...he seems an honest soul. I would suspect that his journey, dispite his current piece of documentation, is far from over.
     
  5. Gaze

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    Yes, and what i think is more distasteful is the need to put down believers simply because the person writing does not find a justifiable basis for their own belief. It's pretty much justifying a false argument which says, "If i don't believe or can't find imo opinion a reasonable basis for belief, then you shouldn't believe either."
     
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  6. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    True...maybe it's because people see religion as archaic...the realm of fanciful, outmoded superstitions...rather than something far more substantial, valid, and real. As I've said elsewhere, we are caught in a very curious moment in history, so in a way I can see why this would happen. Heck, I can even sympathize!!!

    Not sure how things will go, but I'm glad there are some very good people engaged.
     
  7. OP
    myself

    myself Permanent Fixture

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    What other Christian traditions are you referring to?

    Why not view a truth seeker in a more positive light? Why so sad?

    Ken addresses this issue in his first chapter.

     
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  8. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    There are other Christian traditions that have very different constructs for identifying truth. They might not seem like important distinctions, but they appear to be wildly important when one spins them out into real pastoral life. My own approach originates in the Roman Catholic community in which experience and history play a role along with the Bible. There are many facets to this.


    It is sad not that a seeker go another direction...in regards to the exoteric dimensions of religions, a seeker almost MUST go in another direction to get any progress. What is sad is that more complete information is not available to the seeker...that assumptions do not have a readily available counter-balance, that people feel trapped within their traditions. Obviously Ken is speaking from his own religious experience, and frankly were I in his shoes I would probably have drawn the same conclusions as he has. However, he is not the first to run into the holes found in contemporary religion (and surely not the last). Some find a way through it, some don't. I did...and continue to...but I am working in a system that is diverse, not particularly restrictive, and has broad underpinnings. Reading Ken's account makes me thankful for this. Many of the issues he found himself blocked by I can walk right around. That a path is defined and handled in such narrow terms...that is sad.

    Thing is, I live here in the Bible-Belt...and Wycliff is right down the road...the kind of system Ken describes is everywhere. It's really not for me either.
     
  9. Barnabas

    Barnabas Time Lord

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    to understand why it is sad you have to look at it from an almost strictly chirsitan perspective, That someone who had been a leading light in the Church has now become lost to the world and again is dead in his sin.

    I fear that scripture is correct.
     
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  10. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    I didn't want to give the impressoin that this kind of thing only happens in evangelical of fundamentalist churches. It happens in my church, too...big time. Lots of reasons why and frankly, I can't say that I blame them in the least........from a certain prespective!!!

    If it is a choice between believing things on a myth level from our youth and honest intillectual inquiry, I think you'd have to go with honesty every time. Anybody would tell you this. My only caveat in this is that in general, it is our assumption that have failed us. Many leave a church they never fully know.

    In an ideal world (this is how it theoretically works anyway) one can move from the mythic/magic ideas of our youth into deeper forms of awareness and knowledge, but this process seems to be institutionally broken in many cases. I mean, it's all there, it's just that the institutional links that move us forward are missing.

    In the end (and I have experienced this myself) our journey into the deeper things comes full circle and we can actually revisit/resee the ideas we were presented early in life and see that, yes, they were absolutely so...but on a far deeper level than we might have imagined. This type of integration is pretty amazing.

    I commend the author for his interior honesty...clearly his path will be an interesting one and well worth reading about in the years to come.
     
  11. OP
    myself

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    "I, like many evangelicals, was eager to examine critically the origins and history of Mormonism, and rightly so. But it was not enough to apply the scalpel of critique to others; I had to apply it to myself. And it would not do to apply the scalpel in a token or mediocre fashion; I had to apply it as mercilessly as I expected non-Christians to apply it to themselves...

    ...I had to be willing to subject my views to a stronger dose of skepticism than the skepticism I tended to apply to other points of view, or I could never hope to compensate for the illegitimate tendency to give my own worldview the benefit of the doubt. I reflected on the extent to which Muslims must apply the scalpel in order to see the error of their ways and leave their faith; that is how assiduously I had to apply the scalpel to my beliefs, my scriptures, my Jesus, the miracles of my religious tradition, my answered prayers, my favorite apologetic proofs, and my god."
     
  12. randomsomeone

    randomsomeone Well-known member

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    He scrutinized a good bit...trouble is, from my perspective his assumptions were way off. Quite interesting really.
     

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