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Archived Letters

Wednesday, November 20, 2002                                                                                       View Comments

To: Dave VanEllen, Webmaster of Ex-Christian

Dave,

I found your testimony very well written, carefully thought out and genuinely persuasive. Not knowing the best way to communicate with you or your site I have attached a pdf document. The first page is a response to your testimony, the second page an essay inspired by one of your contributing members.

Taking the time to respond to you has been well worth the effort to me personally, and I hope you find my thoughts worth your while to read. I will continue to enjoy your site - your articles reflect a mind I truly respect.

Best Regards.

David Hooten

below is the pdf file's text reproduced without editing

Your testimony resonates with those who, like you and I, have sorted through their own faith fallacies. Those of us who have actually wrestled with the problems you’ve described so well have no difficulty authenticating what you have written. Your transparency gives you credibility, but your capacity to articulate true experience is what gives your message its persuasiveness.

Some of what I write may have a similar affect with your posting contributors, perhaps less persuasively considering the conclusions I have drawn. My essay is certainly different from any I’ve seen posted here, but like yours it touches nerves that make it a bit unpopular in Christian circles. My own past struggles with faith were not caused by my religious bent, nor from hypocrisy in the church (nor my own for that matter). I was never a victim of coercion. These conditions simply complicated my confusion. Why did I struggle? I had faith in a belief – in short, God was not real to me like trees are real.

What does it mean to have faith in belief? I had no first hand knowledge of God objective enough to describe, I could however quite proficiently discuss what I imagined about Him. A Christian who relies on belief in God’s presence is an ex-Christian waiting to happen. I always considered myself a true follower of Jesus Christ, and perhaps I was. For 25 years I strove to uphold religious righteousness where my only certainty was clearly failing the standard I held to be God’s. To then be judged again by others (failing just as miserably in some other area of their lives) made me feel ever more pathetic since I rarely saw their hidden struggles – religious
hypocrisy at its finest.

Questioning one’s personal righteousness is normal, perhaps healthy, for any Christian, but many of those with doubts, like mine, question not their walk of faith but their literal awareness of God – very few will freely admit that even to themselves. Here’s the test: How can a person truly know anyone whose reality they struggle with? One can not both know and doubt. That fact was unpleasant, but facing it put an end to my religious complacency. Some “believers” wake up to this same fact to conclude by some authority there is no God to honor – they choose a new faith in atheism.

Trading one faith for belief in another was no solution for me. I continued searching. One thing I did learn through my trouble, I am an intelligent, very rational person and possess more self-awareness than anyone I know. If Scripture was not true and the people who wrote of their experience with God made it all up in their imaginations, then there was no God to fear at all. Having long ago proven to myself that no other religion describes a tenable God – I was fully prepared to become an atheist. If you thought it was difficult to defend Christianity, try proving to yourself atheism is true without relying on anything beyond your own objective experience, your own rational mind and your own senses. You are the only authority on earth who is an expert in what you truly know – rely on that before accepting any claim as your own.

What did I find? First the presence of God is tangible. He is not a kind of energy or a force, He simply is – I have no other words to describe Him. I did not hear a voice, I did not see a vision and I did not feel a touch. The best description I can offer someone seeking God is by allegory. God’s presence filled my mind as the ocean would a water glass. The experience is one of awareness not of sensation, like understanding a book has an author then knowing him by his work. Awareness requires no effort, comes without warning and removes all doubt.

So where does faith come into play? God never expected me to have faith in beliefs, only faith in His covenant.The Bible is clearly a compilation of writing from people who describe in very human terms, truly indescribable experiences with an incomprehensible God. They each add something unique about their own encounters with one Creator who I recognize from my own awareness of Him. Their combined perspectives added to mine reveals a complete promise I know I can trust – and so I do. To honor the only God there is, the only way I can, I follow the best I am able what is written in the one place I find His promises. I feel badly for Christians who struggle to please who they merely believe in because discontent in their secret lives holds misery which they pass on to everyone around them. As for atheists, agnostics and non-Christians I have no argument at all, but I do make an offer. If you ever tire of believing, I can clearly describe how I know.

My essay follows.

Respectfully, David Hooten

Testimony of a Man Like Me

“Earnestly seek truth, Learn to live truth, then Discover truth as your life-long journey.” [ - David K Hooten 1997]

“I was once a true believer…” begins the cynical testimony of a man who caught my attention with words from my past. He dismissed his “faith” for the fallacy it was, and turned his confidence inward putting faith in himself. As a child I put my faith in something he never found – had our belief been in the same fallacy our testimonies would have ended in one accord.

Many “religious” never discover the god of their faith because God is not in what they chose to believe. One may find comfort in “believing” yet never have their god confront them. Sincerely believing what is not true is the trap religion offers when the god it serves is less than the one who is there. Without truth behind one’s faith, belief is not worth holding.

Reading my journal, written through my darkest season, you would find an arrogant man who alone was rightminded in a world of wanderers. Having never kept a journal before, and never written another since, I captured three years from the mind of a stranger who just happens to be me. It is unnerving to watch the god of my own making destroyed by my maker - God.

My childhood faith was in its innocence true, my fortune or my destiny? Perhaps both. I grew up to righteous teaching from godly instructors with honest failings. I spoke to God as my friend in prayer, with commitment to this Jesus more real in my eight year old mind than it could ever have been once my innocence had died. And die my innocence did.

Materialism in every sense the god of our natural world seduces the soul with his veils of honesty, hiding lies in folds of truth. Christianity tinted with legalism betrays itself as a contest between the wills of men, forsaking service to the will of God. Evangelists of science spoke of knowledge and of myth, while Elders answered questions with compromise and drift. Rationalizing my doubts became as autonomic as breathing, while maintaining faithfulness to Christ an unrelenting struggle. Hypocrisy consumed my faith like a cancer until the shell of my soul was laid bare. If I was still a Christian then, God alone could tell.

Being right for a moment makes no one righteous – I wish I had considered that when I let my love betrayed move from hurt to my unmaking. Nineteen years is much too young to marry, and four years of marriage too soon to let it die. I created my own dilemma, a commitment to the God I would not feel in a relationship of pain I knew was real. To divorce a deacon’s daughter can leave a Christian quite alone. Impressions can convict the guiltless.

Disappointment, rejection, mistrust, doubt – there are many formulas for unmaking the mind of a man, creating a new person who looks at life only through a cynic’s eyes. There is little room in the heart of a man consumed with indignation, much less room for Comfort’s motion buried deep within. For fifteen years I remained secure behind walls of self-control. I let no one close enough to harm me, and none to help me heal. My second wife was no exception, much loved on my terms and in my way. Ten years is too long for a human being to be loved like this, as my wakeup call arrived in the hollowness of her eyes. What the of loss of our child, the waste of our dreams and the death of our brother did not move, the tears of God broke through. Divorce does not just happen to anyone, not to a Christian, not twice. What had I become?

Absolutely alone, but for a presence waiting patiently within. In the year that followed, my faith was reduced to an illusion that God was only as real as my inventive mind could imagine, and the Bible a creative ploy by persuasive men bent on controlling the feeble minded. In his mercy God granted me my disrespect while I minimized the Spirit and criticized his Son. I was bared open with sincerity for the first time since an eight year old boy repented for his failings and asked his savior in. Jesus honored His promise to the pureness of faith in that small child, and in me by his word He will remain.

My journey returned me to the place where I’d begun, humbled before my God’s undeniable presence. What plagued me with confusion is buried with my past, leaving room to fill my soul with what truth alone can bring. Faith is unshakeable only when you have absolute confidence in its truth. Mine moves no more.

Rev 3:19-20 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (NIV)