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  1. #1
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    Why I became a Christian

    This website has been online for over eleven years. I have used it to share my faith and strongly encourage people to believe Christ and the Bible. I have expressed my personal religious beliefs very publicly. But my beliefs have changed a lot in the last couple of years, so it is time to discuss why I came to be a Christian.

    Religious beliefs are largely determined by the mere chance event of where you were born. Folks tend to adopt the dominant religion of the region of their birth unless their immediate family follows a different tradition. But neither geography nor family fully determines religious belief. Temperament and life experience play important roles. Not everyone is satisfied with their inherited religion, while others simply have no interest in the big question of "what it's all about." Some are looking for certainty in this disturbingly chaotic world. Religion gives answers, like a parent telling a child "everything will be alright." Others are catapulted into a search for meaning by the traumas of life. Siddhartha, who became the Buddha, left his sheltered home to begin his famous quest for enlightenment after encountering suffering, disease, and death. Though I can't claim to have achieved his goal, my motivations were largely the same.

    I was born into a traditional Roman Catholic family but was raised by an atheist father. He encouraged me to think freely and question everything. Nothing was off limits for discussion. This influenced me a lot, but other forces came into play. His mother and siblings were active in the church and raised their children in it. He was the "black sheep" of the family. I bonded strongly with his mother because she helped raise me and my two sisters for about three years after our parents divorced in 1960 when I was still an infant. I didn't see my mother again until I was eleven. Grandma played the role of "mom" though one of my earliest memories is her reprimanding me for calling her that. "I'm not your mother, I'm your grandmother" she said. "What's that?" I asked. She said I'd understand when I was older.

    Dad remarried in 1963. He met my step-mother Janet at the Mountaineer's club. We often went camping as a family. That's about all they had in common. Janet became an evangelical Christian a few years later and took us to church though my father refused to go with us. I was put in the Sunday school class and was told that Jesus would come to me if I prayed. So I went to my room when we got home, sat on my bed and asked Jesus to come. I actually thought he was supposed to appear with his famous white robe and a halo. Nothing happened, of course, so I dismissed the whole thing as false. This is my earliest religious memory. Dad and Janet were divorced when I was ten.

    Though Jesus had failed to appear at my request, something about Christianity held my interest. For a while I would bring home Christian books from the library which evoked a fair amount of ribbing from my two older sisters who have remained skeptical of religion their whole lives. When I was twelve, I often would ride my bicycle to Grandma's after my Sunday morning paper route and we would go to church together and then play Scrabble. I think Grandma chose Scrabble because she wanted to encourage my linguistic skills. When I was six I used a little black crayon to write a story about a little black crayon that was calling for help because it was getting used up by writing a story. Grandma read it and said "You're going to be a writer." I really loved my Grandma. She understood me.

    Life was pretty comfortable and my childhood memories are pretty sunny until Monday, April 8th, 1974. I was fourteen years old. My father had begun smoking pot and taking LSD about a year earlier. He shared both with me. I loved those drugs. I thought he was the coolest dad ever. Then at about 11:00 PM on April 8th I was in bed and heard Dad call me from downstairs. I went down and asked what he wanted. He was putting on his shirt. I asked why, and he said "There's about a 94% chance I'm not going to make it through the night." Dumbfounded, I asked why. He said "I'm tired of the whole rat race" and "It's not working out with the only woman I ever loved." I answered "But I love you!". He smirked, and said "That's not enough." He got up and left. That's the last time I saw him. My sisters were out with friends, so I called one of his coworkers from the University of Washington. They were in animal research and had a lot of sodium pentobarbitol on hand to euthanize their subjects. His friend thought he might go there to get the drug and said she would call the campus police to be on the lookout for him. Unfortunately, they missed him. The police arrived at about 4:00 AM to inform us that they found him dead in his car. The police report said they found an empty bottle of sodium pentobarbital about a block away from the scene. There are no words to describe what I felt that night, and what haunted me for years afterwards. I now had intimate knowledge of betrayal and guilt. Betrayed by my only parent, left alone with no one to care for me, and living with an black abyss of guilt for letting it happen. Though I knew, in an intellectual sense, that I was not guilty, that's not how it felt. If anyone was primed for religion, it was me.

    So there I was, a confused, distraught, guilt-ridden, drug using teenager with no responsible adult to help me find my way in life. Uncle Jim, my thirty-eight year old alcoholic uncle who was still living at home with his mother, came to live in our house and did his best to care for the son of his dead brother, but that didn't work out so well. So I was on my own, in a desperate search for someone to help pull out the knife my father had planted so deeply in my back.

    My first religion wasn't really a religion at all. It was just a ridiculous cult started by conman L. Ron Hubbard, famous for little else but writing pulp science fiction. I was walking down the street in Seattle, Washington in 1977 when a Scientologist approached and asked, "Do you want to take a Free Personality Test?". I said "Sure" since I was always looking for answers for my troubled soul. The test was designed to find what Scientologists call a person's "ruin" - the pain in their life that makes them susceptible to religion. They have a prescribed "patter" which instructs them to say things like "Scientology can help you with that" for any personal problem they discover. If someone is resistant to their ploy the are told to "cave them into their ruin" - that is, make them feel like shit. They found my "ruin" in short order and confidently stated that Scientology was the answer. So I signed up and was quickly sucked into the cult. Within a month I was living with other cult members and had forgotten what few friends I had had outside the group. Hubbard devised some wickedly effective techniques to keep people trapped. First, you learn an entirely new language of invented jargon like mest, thetan, reactive mind, and mu which can only be understood by other cult members. They strongly discourage any relationship with non-members which they deride as "wogs." And most effective of all, Hubbard invented an "Ethics Scale" that puts the condition of "Doubt" near the bottom between "Liability" and "Enemy." This means that anyone entertaining any doubt about the cult is one step away from being branded an enemy, and enemies were not treated well. Enemies and critics of Scientology are called a "suppressive person" against whom the Fair Game Policy could be applied. The Policy, written by Hubbard himself, states that anyone deemed an "Enemy" of Scientology "May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." All of this is designed to stop people from asking questions or thinking critically. And worse, it is taught that the only reason a person reaches the condition of "Doubt" is because they have committed sins against the group. It is a very effective institutionalized form of mind-control. Such methods are the sin qua non of most religions and all cults. Given my intellectual temperament coupled with the absurdity of Scientology and its complete ineffectiveness to meet its claims, it is no surprise that I spent a lot of time with the Ethics Officer repenting of my "Doubt." This was a constantly recurring trauma because the only way to rise out of the Condition of Doubt is to admit the sins that supposedly caused you to doubt and to ask each member of your local cult if you may rejoin. It is designed to humiliate and make people feel guilty for asking questions, for the very act of thinking.

    After nearly two years in the cult, I was so thoroughly brainwashed that I joined the Sea Org and signed their notorious Billion Year Contract. I was then shipped down to the headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. But this turned to my benefit because the exalted claims about the super beings (Operating Thetans) at the Sea Org were so obviously contradicted by the reality I saw when I got there. And I was away from all the cult members that I knew personally so they had no influence on me. I began to take long walks alone. I became very reflective and began to admit the truth to myself. I stayed up late listening to popular music that reminded me of the freedom I once had. I finally decided it was time to "blow" (the technical Scientology term for leaving without permission). It was very difficult. My heart was racing when I snuck out the back door, knowing that if they caught me I would lose my resolve. After two years of seeing the world as made up of "wogs" and Scientologists, it seemed to be a very unfriendly and threatening place. And no one spoke the jargon I had been babbling for two years. I was on my own again. I felt very isolated. And worse, I felt like I was risking my soul since Scientology was the only way to be free from the engrams of my reactive mind that would keep me trapped forever if I left. What a villainous system L. Ron Hubbard invented! It took me years to cleanse my mind of that crap.

    I called my mom, who I had met only once, and she bought me a plane ticket to Seattle. I went to stay with Uncle Jim who now was living in a sixteen foot trailer on an empty lot by the Sammamish river we called the "Swamp." He was drunk nearly every day. We had no electricity and just a yard tap for water. I was completely broke and my mind remained very confused after Scientology and my dad's suicide. Jim made sure I had food, a little pocket money, and a place to sleep. He was a collector of junk. We joked about opening a store called "Unk and Junk." He was very intelligent and was always a reader so I had plenty of interesting books available. But I had no electric light, so I would often sit under a lamp by the Cottage Inn cafe to read in the evening. That's where John, one of "God's hound dogs," found me and offered me a hamburger. While scarfing down the rare delicacy, he prodded me to find my "ruin" - the thing that would make me open to Christ. For some mysterious reason, I thought I was too smart for Christianity and told him so. He made my salvation his project and began to visit me frequently at the "Swamp." He would take me to youth group meetings though I did not profess belief. We argued a lot. He tried to give me logical reasons, but his logic sucked and I knew he would never convince me that way. But everything changed when he took us to a three day "Praise The Lord" (PTL) festival in Vancouver, Washington. The first day felt very strange. Everyone was exuberantly proclaiming how God had told them this and God had told them that. Everyone was smiling - filled to the brim with the "joy of the Lord." There were preachers and healers, hours of praise and worship, and special guests like Mike Warnke who told stories about having been a Satanic High Priest (he's since been debunked as a rank liar). All the happy faces made me feel sad. John kept trying to get me to pray, but I just wasn't interested because I didn't believe. On the second day, things changed. Here is how I described it a few years ago when I was still a Christian (highlights in the original):
    The festival overflowed with people professing to know God personally and intimately. I put up with it for the first day, but by the second day my heart began to ache and I became very sad and mad at God for not talking to me! This was my first prayer - "God, why don't you talk to me? You talk to everyone else! Why not me?" What followed shattered my unbelief. God spoke to me. I didn't hear a voice. It felt more like the memory of words heard when not listening. God had gently placed a powerfully insistent command in the center of my mind. The message was very simple: "Read Psalm 27!" That was it. So I took and opened the NASB Bible John had given me and found my way to Psalm 27, not even knowing if there were such a Psalm, being utterly ignorant of Scripture. The Psalm opens with "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?". I liked those words, but they didn't really pierce my soul. That didn't happen until I read verses 9 and 10: "Do not hide Thy face from me, Do not turn Thy servant away in anger; Thou hast been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up."How the floodgates burst open! What a mighty river of tears flowed from my heart and through my eyes! I knew that the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, had talked directly and personally to me, piercing the heart of my darkness!
    Given my personal history, it's hard to imagine a more pertinent verse. I felt that God himself had found my "ruin" and Jesus was the answer. I went and found John and told him what happened. He was thrilled, of course. I slept outside and when I awoke the next morning I opened my eyes to a beautiful blue sky and my first thought was "JESUS!". I exulted in my new found faith and began reading the Bible every day. I was always carrying it with me no matter where I went. Then one day I was sitting at the Cottage Inn (inside for a change), reading my Bible and thinking how wonderful and amazing it was to have the very Word of God ... until my eyes fell upon this passage:
    Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
    I immediately recognized that nothing like that actually happened. I knew that it wasn't true and I felt my faith pop like a bubble. Just like that. I went to talk to a woman who ran a Christian bookstore in my neighborhood. I told her of my confusion and she had no answer. She decided that the problem wasn't with the Bible, but with me. I had a "demon of doubt" she said, and she proceeded to try to cast it out. I told her it felt like she was trying to cast me out. That didn't go over well. There was nothing she could do to help. I left despondent, and wondering about faith and doubt and how Christianity was disturbingly like Scientology in this regard.

    I continued to think of myself as Christian for about another six months. I began attending a community college and my faith waned the more I learned about science, particularly evolution. Then I met a very liberal young woman who had never had anything to do with Christianity and I soon forgot I'd ever been a believer. I followed her to Washington State University and began my degrees in Mathematics and Physics. The more I learned, the less I believed in any religion. I had a brief "flare up" of faith in Christ when I became close friends with a brilliant Christian man who was working on the same two degrees as I, but it didn't last long. I then met an East Indian woman who coerced me into marriage with sex mixed with threats of suicide. She was a Muslim so I tried that faith on for a while but it didn't fit at all. There was nothing compelling in it, and it certainly didn't offer any solution to the pain still aching my soul. The marriage lasted three years, during which I completed my two degrees and began working on a Ph.D. in Quantum Physics. I finished all my prerequisites and aced the preliminary exam, but my soul began to ache more and more and I couldn't finish my dissertation. I quit school in 1987 and went to hang out with Uncle Jim again. We spent six weeks in a cabin in the Cascade mountains. I didn't know what I wanted to do next. Then I had an inspiration. I got a bicycle and rode twelve hundred miles down the coast to California! I thought of the trip as a "vision quest." It was one of the best things I've ever done. The days were peaceful and meditative. The scenery amazing, the air fresh with ocean breeze and the scent of the towering Redwoods. Every day was new and everywhere I went I met friendly people who took me in, gave me a place to shower and sleep. The trip was the best therapy I've could have imagined. I wrote every day in my diary trying to work out all the kinks in my mind.

    I returned to Seattle and didn't know what to do next when I met an old friend who told me there would be a Gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light in Texas. It was an amazing experience. Imagine 5000 semi-clad hippies dancing and singing in the woods. Everyone called each other brother and sister. We all shared food, laughter, and friendship. The love was palpable. Everyone was into some variety of spirituality, most of it would be classed as "New Age" or "Eastern" though Christ was held in very high esteem by many. It was a "hippy religion" if you will. Symbols from all religions were freely adopted. The Family spoke of bringing the New Jerusalem to earth, and the conventional world was called "Babylon." I felt I had finally found my own tribe. I wanted to stay forever, but the Gathering lasted only a week. My ride left before I was ready to go, so I ended up hitchhiking back to the coast. I landed in Santa Cruz and found the town teaming with Rainbow Family who had come for the Grateful Dead show. I met a man who called himself Pan. He had a staff with Micky Mouse on a crucifix, smiling and waving. He gave me a tab of LSD and a copy of his "Theory of Everything" which he titled "A Damned Good Guess." I met a woman who was into the Tarot and we became fast friends. She flew in from Connecticut for the show. She had a vial of liquid LSD. We wanted to trip together but were waiting for the right day. I spent the night on her floor, and when we awoke in the morning, she opened her sliding door and let in the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." We thought that auspicious. We split it all the acid and sat on a park bench above the ocean below a perfect blue sky. The heavens opened and we shared visions of God (to borrow a metaphor from Ezekiel 1:1). That's why LSD is called an "entheogen" - it evokes a direct experience of God within. The vision spanned the universe and all the world's religions and I saw they were one. This became a new goal for me, to find and express the unity underlying all the world's religions and reality. I had become a mystic.

    My mystic quest soon led to a serious study of all esoteric fields. I was particularly interested in the I Ching, Tarot, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and Hebrew gematria (word/number associations). This inevitably led me back to the Bible, the fountainhead of the Western esoteric spiritual tradition. But at that time I was only interested in the Hebrew Old Testament because that's what most of the books were talking about and I knew nothing of Greek gematria. Soon after beginning my studies in earnest, I had a series of profound dreams which took years to decode and ultimately led me back to faith in Christ. The central dream was very simple. I was in a semi-lucid state, floating in blank space. A woman appeared and said "Are you looking for Dumbo? 12 x 44." I awoke and wrote the dream down. After a couple years of study, I became convinced that the essential message of the dream says "Jesus Christ is Lord" and "By His Blood you are saved." I explain how I came to these conclusions in my post called Looking for Dumbo.

    I had many experiences which drew me back to faith in Christ. I was by a river one night, practicing ritual magick which is supposed to enable a person to cause things to happen by the power of will. I thought it would be cool if I could cause a fish to jump out of the water. I tried for about fifteen minutes and finally gave up, someone despondent. I said to myself "I don't know anything." Then I glanced down and saw my Bible. I picked it up, held it to the sky, and said "One thing I know, this book is holy." And a fish jumped, right at that moment! It felt like a direct acknowledgement of what I had said.

    Much of my study in those years was done in my favorite dive, the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle. On a typical night you would see me with a calculator, a notebook, Bible, and a beer. That's where Mike, a Christian who understood the spiritual value of LSD, found me. He asked if we could go to my place, drop acid, and study the Bible. I thought it was a great idea even though I wasn't into the New Testament. It was a transformative night that re-awoke my faith in Christ. Mike read a verse about the Holy Spirit and when I heard the words a blindingly bright phosphorescent white light - unlike anything you could see with your natural eyes - began to emerge from my chest with wings expanding like a dove that filled the universe. I had visions of how the everything was created by the Word. I had visions of rabbis dancing with joy as they came to knowledge of Christ. A little later I randomly opened my Bible to the fourth chapter of Hebrews and felt something tugging my eye, compelling me to look at verse 12 and to make a connection with the verse number:
    Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
    About a year later I discovered the Greek text of this verse has an intricate, self-reflective alphanumeric design which I called the Logos Holograph. The design is based on the prime numbers 73 and 373 which are the values of the Hebrew word for Wisdom (Hokmah = 73) and the Greek word for Word (Logos = 373). The verse number, 412, is the value of the name of the second Hebrew letter, Bet, which means "house" and which symbolizes the "Word" as a container of ideas. The number 73 is a centered hexagonal star number (Star of David) which figures prominently in the Creation Holograph (the alphanumeric structure of Genesis 1:1) and the number 373 is a fractal variation of that pattern (a Koch star) which I called the Logos Star. All of this is explained in the Gematria Reference where you can view the Gallery of Biblical Holographs.

    I had only one fear as I felt the knowledge of Christ awaken within my soul. I feared I might become a fundamentalist like Jerry Falwell. And my fears were saddly realized as my studies led me to an ever increasing certainty that the Bible was the Word of God. This was aggravated by the fact that the only people who showed any interest in my studies were themselves fundamentalists. I was pushed over the top by my discovery of the Bible Wheel in 1995 which fully convinced me that I had objectively demonstrable and incontrovertible evidence that the Bible was the "Word of God." But I didn't fall into the typical fundamentalist error of claiming it was "inerrant and infallible" because I knew that was not the case. Knowledge of the Bible Wheel allowed me to hold the Bible with a "light hand" - I didn't feel I needed to have answers for every little problem because the overall design, which required every book to work, proved that the Bible as a whole was designed by God. This is why I was able to ignore all the problems that now convince me that the Bible is not the Word of God (in the sense used by most Christians). Everything I've learned, all the evidence of the Holographs and the Bible Wheel remains valid as far as I know. Only my interpretation has changed. I'm now mystified by how such patterns could appear in the Bible because I can't attribute them to the God describe in it's pages! How's that for a paradox?

    This is why - or rather how - I became a Christian. I didn't "choose" it at all. It felt more like waking up and realizing what I was. Knowledge of Christ felt innate to my soul. It was the joy of my life for well over a decade. It was not something I could choose to take or leave. I used to say I felt like a pot of dirt in which God planted a seed, and it was the seed that sprouted. I had nothing to do with it really. And I feel the same way now that I reject the Christian faith. It's not really a choice - it's more of a realization. A person cannot choose what to believe. We believe what we believe for a complex set of reasons, most of which are well beyond our own conscious control.
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

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  2. #2

    Beautifully written

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Amiel McGough View Post
    ...... until my eyes fell upon this passage:
    Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
    I immediately recognized that nothing like that actually happened. I knew that it wasn't true and I felt my faith pop like a bubble. Just like that.
    Hi Richard,

    I read it three times, absolutely fascinated by it - a remarkable journey from the "everybody on your knees, fiddle with your rosaries .. " background, through so many incarnations and permutations of spirituality, and contact with a spectrum of assorted conmen, true believers, fundies etc.

    I picked the quote out because IT DID HAPPEN, AND IT IS TRUE - ie Jesus did not blow the prophecy. I can't (not yet, anyway) go public with the info, but I mentioned a little of my background in one of the earlier posts - I became a "refugee" after I was commissioned to write a report for a software sales fraud for my own country's Defence Department and federal police. I found more than they expected me to find, (treason), and had to go on the run. I escaped to what I thought would be a safe country with my six year old daughter. Most fathers think their daughters are beautiful and I am no exception - she is part Thai, part Malay, part Chines, part French, part English, part Irish and was (still is) genuinely beautiful. We had escaped not to a safe haven, but to a country run by a lesbian PM with a taste for little Asian girls, who, with me blacklisted by my own country's Dept of Foreign Affairs, Federal Police and Defence Dept, thought she would have no problem, in acquiring my daughter. We survived over seven winters living rough, hiding and moving - we came through five shootings, multiple kidnap attempts, over 60 burglaries and more. I lost 50 lbs, and 24 teeth during those years.

    But all of that is just background info. During those years on the run, I was given access to documents (they had been hidden in Britain for most of their history, and then smuggled out) from 2,000 years ago - you could in a sense call them "grail documents". What I found in those documents is why I wrote above that "IT DID HAPPEN, AND IT IS TRUE". Stating the obvious, there is more in Christianity, and in the Gospels than the churches know.

    But, getting back to your story, thankyou for posting it -- its is a very special piece of writing,

    Regards,

    P

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by refugeeguru View Post
    Hi Richard,

    I read it three times, absolutely fascinated by it - a remarkable journey from the "everybody on your knees, fiddle with your rosaries .. " background, through so many incarnations and permutations of spirituality, and contact with a spectrum of assorted conmen, true believers, fundies etc.

    I picked the quote out because IT DID HAPPEN, AND IT IS TRUE - ie Jesus did not blow the prophecy. I can't (not yet, anyway) go public with the info, but I mentioned a little of my background in one of the earlier posts - I became a "refugee" after I was commissioned to write a report for a software sales fraud for my own country's Defence Department and federal police. I found more than they expected me to find, (treason), and had to go on the run. I escaped to what I thought would be a safe country with my six year old daughter. Most fathers think their daughters are beautiful and I am no exception - she is part Thai, part Malay, part Chines, part French, part English, part Irish and was (still is) genuinely beautiful. We had escaped not to a safe haven, but to a country run by a lesbian PM with a taste for little Asian girls, who, with me blacklisted by my own country's Dept of Foreign Affairs, Federal Police and Defence Dept, thought she would have no problem, in acquiring my daughter. We survived over seven winters living rough, hiding and moving - we came through five shootings, multiple kidnap attempts, over 60 burglaries and more. I lost 50 lbs, and 24 teeth during those years.

    But all of that is just background info. During those years on the run, I was given access to documents (they had been hidden in Britain for most of their history, and then smuggled out) from 2,000 years ago - you could in a sense call them "grail documents". What I found in those documents is why I wrote above that "IT DID HAPPEN, AND IT IS TRUE". Stating the obvious, there is more in Christianity, and in the Gospels than the churches know.

    But, getting back to your story, thankyou for posting it -- its is a very special piece of writing,

    Regards,

    P
    Hey there Peter,

    Thanks for the encouraging words. It took me all day (about 15 hours) to write. But I'm glad I finally am able to express the truth of what led me to my discoveries and faith in Christ. It is, of course, just a few highlights. The story would fill a book.

    It's great to find a kindred soul. It will be a wonderful day when you can go public with the info you have to share. I'm very sorry to hear about the trauma you have been through, and am very glad that you survived!

    The problem with Matthew 16:28 was not that I have never been able to find a solution, but rather the effect it had on me at the time I read it. I was a very new Christian and had little understanding of the Bible, and no understanding of eschatology. So when I read that verse, it struck me as obviously false and so it popped my faith bubble. But when I came back to faith in Christ years later, especially after having studied the Bible for many years and having set up this forum, I have learned of various possible solutions. The most obvious is that Christ was referring to the Transfiguration that immediately follows in Matthew 17. This is supported by Peter's statement that he saw the "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" on the "holy mount" (2 Peter 1:16). But there may be other solutions, I don't know. I'd love to hear at least a hint of what you have to offer.

    Thanks for sharing, brother-man.

    Richard
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Amiel McGough View Post
    This website has been online for over eleven years. I have used it to share my faith and strongly encourage people to believe Christ and the Bible. I have expressed my personal religious beliefs very publicly. But my beliefs have changed a lot in the last couple of years, so it is time to discuss why I came to be a Christian.
    A very intriguing and transparent account Richard. A lot to digest and rather unforgettable to the reader. Its initial effect on me was a reinforcement of God's Word and I know I will be pondering this testimony for days to come.

    Thanks for sharing.

    John

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jce View Post
    A very intriguing and transparent account Richard. A lot to digest and rather unforgettable to the reader. Its initial effect on me was a reinforcement of God's Word and I know I will be pondering this testimony for days to come.

    Thanks for sharing.

    John
    That's good to hear John. Your comments will be most welcome when you've had time to digest it a bit. I'm not surprised that you found it to reinforce God's Word. That's one of the reasons I felt strongly compelled to write it. I felt a need to balance out all the "negative" things that we've been focusing on since I quit the religion of Christianity. I felt that folks were getting a skewed view, as if I rejected everything without reason. That's not the case at all. The evidence supporting the Bible remains as valid as ever. And I thought that if I told more of the story of how I came to believe, folks would better understand why I have come to reject the traditional doctrines.

    As always, I very much appreciate your input.
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

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  6. #6

    Popping Faith Bubbles - Da Hint

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Amiel McGough View Post
    Hey there Peter,


    The problem with Matthew 16:28 was not that I have never been able to find a solution, but rather the effect it had on me at the time I read it. I was a very new Christian and had little understanding of the Bible, and no understanding of eschatology. So when I read that verse, it struck me as obviously false and so it popped my faith bubble. But when I came back to faith in Christ years later, especially after having studied the Bible for many years and having set up this forum, I have learned of various possible solutions. The most obvious is that Christ was referring to the Transfiguration that immediately follows in Matthew 17. This is supported by Peter's statement that he saw the "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" on the "holy mount" (2 Peter 1:16). But there may be other solutions, I don't know. I'd love to hear at least a hint of what you have to offer.
    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the good wishes. That verse hit me pretty hard many decades ago, and did more than pop my faith bubble too - it left a gaping hole in it, that ate away at my trust in the New Testament, and the Bible in general. I was exposed to various possible solutions, like the one you cited, but they never really solved the problem for me. But what I found in those ancient semi-ancient papers, hidden away in the mountain range where we were dodging Big Nappy's hired thugs, helped solve a lot of the problem. So here comes the HINT:

    Fact (for me anyway): No matter how we bend and twist it, there is NO WAY the Kingdom has "come with power" yet, even if thigs got pretty bright and shiny on a remote mountain up near the Beka'a valley for a few moments.

    Assumption: (And quite a reasonable one based on human experience) Human lifespans occasionally float up over 120 years, eg at the Apollo XI launch, I recall one of the guests was supposed to be an ex-slave who was supposed to be over 130 years old. I don't know if his age was ever verified, but even if it was, he would be an (and how) exception - most humans do not live anywhere near that long - so we reasonably, assume that everyone who was listening to Jesus that day, snuffed it long ago.

    But that is just an assumption - we have no proof that they are ALL dead. (We know , or have strong indications, eg accounts of executions and martyrdom, that SOME of them are dead, and have been dead for nearly 2,000 years - But NOT ALL of them).

    JC did not goof up - some of them are still alive, and having lasted this long, the odds are reasonable that they will make it through to the "Coming with power" Jesus talked about. Ie what Jesus said that day, IS TRUE.

    Regards,

    Peter

    [Re the BIG NAPPY reference -- the rest of the world has worries about "big brother", but in this part of the world the problem has been "Big Nappy" - though the locals managed to export her about 3 years ago - it is a funny story of something like karma striking where it should]

  7. #7
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    Hello Richard
    Thanks for sharing what is a very private and personal story and I appreciate more where you are coming from and where you are going. I hope Rose follows your lead and keeps searching. I cannot make up my mind whether you are both in full agreement as to the validity of some of the Bible. I hope to be able to contribute in a way that will help you to see things from another perspective. I expect you have heard of most of the alternative ways of understanding anyway. All I would say is; hold on to all possible interpretations and not immediately reject anything, especially as you have stated below that you have "come to reject the traditional doctrines". I agree your are right to reject some "false" doctrines and question others. I would like to think you are starting afresh rather than rejecting everything. If you could settle a couple of the negative issues that we have been discussing (the reason you say for writing what you have) relating to the severity of God and His methods used, then like the man who replied to Jesus, who said of him; thou art not far from the kingdom of God.
    Mark 12
    32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
    33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
    34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him,
    Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.
    I think you are still struggling with the "understanding" of God's nature and accepting than He is just. You have held mine and others' feet to the fire and we have agreed to disagree on occasions, nevertheless, the conversations I have had on this forum have not undermined my understanding. I will continue to stand up to the winds of opposition because I know that the faith in Jesus and God is built on the most solid foundations of all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Amiel McGough View Post
    Hey there Peter,
    Thanks for the encouraging words. It took me all day (about 15 hours) to write. But I'm glad I finally am able to express the truth of what led me to my discoveries and faith in Christ. It is, of course, just a few highlights. The story would fill a book.
    I am not surprising it took you so long to write. I have not contributed to this forum from prepared scripts and I have found replying and stating my case has taken me a lot more hours than I expected, even then, a lot more typos get through than I like (incidentally I have returned to Firefox and I am using the inbuilt spell checker).

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Amiel McGough View Post
    The problem with Matthew 16:28 was not that I have never been able to find a solution, but rather the effect it had on me at the time I read it. I was a very new Christian and had little understanding of the Bible, and no understanding of eschatology. So when I read that verse, it struck me as obviously false and so it popped my faith bubble. But when I came back to faith in Christ years later, especially after having studied the Bible for many years and having set up this forum, I have learned of various possible solutions. The most obvious is that Christ was referring to the Transfiguration that immediately follows in Matthew 17. This is supported by Peter's statement that he saw the "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" on the "holy mount" (2 Peter 1:16). But there may be other solutions, I don't know. I'd love to hear at least a hint of what you have to offer.
    On the matter of the interpretation of Matt 16:28 I have regarded this as referring to the event of the Transfiguration that would happen a week later. When Jesus spoke these words, he was speaking to all twelve disciples. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, Only three of the disciples were taken into the Mount so Jesus was correct when he said "some standing here". Obviously not all the disciples would see the event Jesus was referring to. Those who did see the Transfiguration were given a glimpse into the kingdom when Jesus will be with Moses and Elias. We also note that Jesus said; "till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom". This is not to be confused with the prophecy when Jesus will come "with power". Jesus did not say to his disciples at that time they would see him coming into his kingdom with power; just that they would see him coming into his kingdom. Those disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration were privileged in seeing this glimpse of the future and Jesus clearly charged them to tell no-one of what they saw till Jesus was raised from the dead. That is when their lightbulb moment would come and the pieces of the jigsaw would fit in place. After the resurrection, then the things they had been privileged to glimpse they knew for a certainty would be a reality.


    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Amiel McGough View Post
    That's good to hear John. Your comments will be most welcome when you've had time to digest it a bit. I'm not surprised that you found it to reinforce God's Word. That's one of the reasons I felt strongly compelled to write it. I felt a need to balance out all the "negative" things that we've been focusing on since I quit the religion of Christianity. I felt that folks were getting a skewed view, as if I rejected everything without reason. That's not the case at all. The evidence supporting the Bible remains as valid as ever. And I thought that if I told more of the story of how I came to believe, folks would better understand why I have come to reject the traditional doctrines.
    I appreciate the balance you are making, I have appreciated that you are still acquiring knowledge and that you might not given up entirely disbelieving everything in the Bible though squaring Creation with Evolution is always going to be a contentious subject. I have come to the conclusion that not every point you make is that of your own personal view and that anything you have put up as evidence has been as a challenge to my own understanding. We have recently agreed we shall be most likely taking past one another because of our strongly held positions, but at least we know where we are coming from based on our understanding of the Bible. I look forward to continuing discussions on different subjects without the need to confront each others interpretation all the time. I still think there is a possibility you could change your opinions because you have not given up the search. I hope the same goes for Rose.

    I am interested to know what evidence you hold to that supports the Bible. You say your interpretation has changed. I think the author (God) of the Bible has left His distinct mark throughout. I just feel that once you can resolve the problem of understanding the severity of God's justice and getting that into correct perspective from the human moral point of view, you can get back to finding the truth to a greater extent than you have had it before. Those accepted doctrines that you have rejected need correcting in the process.

    There is no doubt about the verse you quoted from Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. . If it was not so divisive we would not have been having the conversations we have had. On the other hand, there is great unity to be gained in having a correct understanding and of course that goes for anyone thinking they have the correct understanding, so as long as those understandings are not undermined and proven to be a false foundation, it will be God who knows how hard we have tried to search out His truth.

    I look forward to our continued chats and maybe resolving the problem of God's righteous judgment. If man had not sinned first and done evil first, God would not have had to do any of the acts that you think are atrocious. I do not think any of God's acts have been more atrocious than man has shown he is capable of doing. God has only dealt to man what man has done to his fellow man. Mankind cannot offer you eternal life. Man has got no hope for the future without God. I think that if you can overcome all the obstacles preventing you getting to see God in the proper perspective, all the wonderful benefits to come will seem even greater in your life than you ever imagined in the past. This is my sincere hope for you.

    Great chatting.

    David

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by David M View Post
    Hello Richard
    Thanks for sharing what is a very private and personal story and I appreciate more where you are coming from and where you are going. I hope Rose follows your lead and keeps searching. I cannot make up my mind whether you are both in full agreement as to the validity of some of the Bible. I hope to be able to contribute in a way that will help you to see things from another perspective. I expect you have heard of most of the alternative ways of understanding anyway. All I would say is; hold on to all possible interpretations and not immediately reject anything, especially as you have stated below that you have "come to reject the traditional doctrines". I agree your are right to reject some "false" doctrines and question others. I would like to think you are starting afresh rather than rejecting everything. If you could settle a couple of the negative issues that we have been discussing (the reason you say for writing what you have) relating to the severity of God and His methods used, then like the man who replied to Jesus, who said of him; thou art not far from the kingdom of God.
    Mark 12
    32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
    33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
    34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him,
    Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.
    I think you are still struggling with the "understanding" of God's nature and accepting than He is just. You have held mine and others' feet to the fire and we have agreed to disagree on occasions, nevertheless, the conversations I have had on this forum have not undermined my understanding. I will continue to stand up to the winds of opposition because I know that the faith in Jesus and God is built on the most solid foundations of all.
    Good afternoon David,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. It was very difficult to write such a "private and personal story" and it is something I never would have felt free to do if I were still concerned about what Christians think of me, since it reveals a lot of influences that Christians would reject as "occult" and so would have put a stumbling block in my effort to share my discoveries with them. It very liberating to be free from that constraint. It is a great joy to be able to be authentic about who I am and how I got here.

    Rose and I have been on parallel paths and have come to similar conclusions, but we are separate individuals and so do not agree about everything so I'll let her speak for herself about how she sees the Bible except to say that we both see that the Bible has a lot of value, and there is much historical fact in it in as much as it is set in real history. But there is also much myth, and it's all mixed together so there is no simple way to say which parts are "valid" and which are not.

    As for me, I think that Jesus was an historical person, but I don't have any confidence about what the Bible says of him. The Gospels were written as "religious tracts" designed to convince the reader of the truth about Christ, so I must judge them in the same light as I would any religious tract. And when I compare the four Gospels, I see many incongruities that make it impossible to "simply believe" them.

    I reject the primitive creation mythology which involves a three-tiered universe with waters above and below a flat earth and similar things. I reject the idea that there is a God who answers prayers and intervenes in human affairs since there is no evidence for that at all, and it is contrary to the evidence we do have that shows the world operates according to natural law.

    You say that I am "still struggling with the understanding of God's nature and accepting than He is just." That's not quite accurate. The real problem is that I understand all too well what the Bible says about God and his nature, and that it attributes things to him that simply are not just.

    I don't understand what you mean when you say that your "faith in Jesus and God is built on the most solid foundations of all." The only "foundation" that you've shared (as far as I recall) is the idea of predictive prophecy. But I think we both know that the evidence for that is very weak - so weak, in fact, that it would never convince a skeptic or anyone who did not begin as a believer. So it doesn't look like a "solid foundation" at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by David M View Post
    On the matter of the interpretation of Matt 16:28 I have regarded this as referring to the event of the Transfiguration that would happen a week later. When Jesus spoke these words, he was speaking to all twelve disciples. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, Only three of the disciples were taken into the Mount so Jesus was correct when he said "some standing here". Obviously not all the disciples would see the event Jesus was referring to. Those who did see the Transfiguration were given a glimpse into the kingdom when Jesus will be with Moses and Elias. We also note that Jesus said; "till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom". This is not to be confused with the prophecy when Jesus will come "with power". Jesus did not say to his disciples at that time they would see him coming into his kingdom with power; just that they would see him coming into his kingdom. Those disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration were privileged in seeing this glimpse of the future and Jesus clearly charged them to tell no-one of what they saw till Jesus was raised from the dead. That is when their lightbulb moment would come and the pieces of the jigsaw would fit in place. After the resurrection, then the things they had been privileged to glimpse they knew for a certainty would be a reality.
    Your explanation doesn't work because of the parallel passage in Mark that mentions the kingdom coming in power:
    Mark 9:1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.
    This exemplifies why I the hair-splitting style of your argument is unconvincing. We can't parse the words of the Bible that closely because the Bible is not sufficiently consistent to support such arguments. But I don't want to get sidetracked into this verse in this thread. If you'd like to pursue this discussion, we should start a new thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by David M View Post
    I am interested to know what evidence you hold to that supports the Bible. You say your interpretation has changed. I think the author (God) of the Bible has left His distinct mark throughout. I just feel that once you can resolve the problem of understanding the severity of God's justice and getting that into correct perspective from the human moral point of view, you can get back to finding the truth to a greater extent than you have had it before. Those accepted doctrines that you have rejected need correcting in the process.
    In my estimation, the primary and best evidence for the Bible is the Bible Wheel, the Isaiah-Bible Correlation, and the Holographs. If I didn't have those things, I would have little reason to believe the Bible is anything but a book produced by fallible humans. The only other evidence that I find compelling is the prophecy of the destruction in 70 AD. But almost all Christians reject that, and so make Christ look like a false prophet or God an ineffective author. Neither gives anyone any reason to believe. I find the Futurist interpretation to be the most damaging to the evidence of fulfilled prophecy as proof of the Bible. Now isn't that ironic?

    Quote Originally Posted by David M View Post
    There is no doubt about the verse you quoted from Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. . If it was not so divisive we would not have been having the conversations we have had. On the other hand, there is great unity to be gained in having a correct understanding and of course that goes for anyone thinking they have the correct understanding, so as long as those understandings are not undermined and proven to be a false foundation, it will be God who knows how hard we have tried to search out His truth.
    I don't see any reason we can't come to a mutual understanding. If your faith is based on facts, then you can share them with me with the assurance that I will believe them (since I'm not a madman that denies objectively verifiable facts). But that brings us to the heart of the matter - your faith is not based on facts. It is based on belief and so it is nothing but a matter of personal opinion. That doesn't mean you are wrong, of course. Opinions can be true even if they can't be proven. It's just that they cannot be argued because you cannot give a reason they should be believed.

    Quote Originally Posted by David M View Post
    I look forward to our continued chats and maybe resolving the problem of God's righteous judgment. If man had not sinned first and done evil first, God would not have had to do any of the acts that you think are atrocious. I do not think any of God's acts have been more atrocious than man has shown he is capable of doing. God has only dealt to man what man has done to his fellow man. Mankind cannot offer you eternal life. Man has got no hope for the future without God. I think that if you can overcome all the obstacles preventing you getting to see God in the proper perspective, all the wonderful benefits to come will seem even greater in your life than you ever imagined in the past. This is my sincere hope for you.

    Great chatting.

    David
    Me too, my friend! It's a rare and wonderful thing when two people with such different views can dialog. We both have much to learn from each other.

    All the best,

    Richard
    • Skepticism is the antiseptic of the mind.
    • Remember why we debate. We have nothing to lose but the errors we hold. Who but a stubborn fool would hold to errors once they have been exposed?

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