Changing hearts and minds (or not)
Lately, I’ve been banging my head against the brick wall of stubborn doctrine. That’s how it feels, anyway. And it has convinced me that changing hearts and minds is something only God can do. So…maybe I shouldn’t be trying. But why would Yeshua (Jesus) say “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” if he didn’t mean it?
Have you ever known something so deeply, so assuredly, so incredibly important, that you felt you had to share it with others? We all probably have something like that we hold onto tightly. For many (I hope those drawn to this site), that might be our faith and our relationship with our Creator. Especially in our current culture, others might hold to political or lifestyle views in such a way. These tightly-held beliefs are often referred to colloquially as our “sacred cows.”
I would have never have grown spiritually by continuing to feed my sacred cows: my doctrinal beliefs. They were teachings I had heard from church leaders since my earliest memories. I was raised by a Baptist minister, so I was steeped in church culture and doctrine, and I could defend them in scripture. Then again, those who held differing doctrinal beliefs seemed to back up their views with scripture as well. Something must be wrong in such a situation…and I don’t believe it’s the Bible.
During an extended discussion, an atheist challenged me to not just accept what I had been spoonfed my whole life and instead “think for yourself.” Although I’ve answered and dismissed the most prominent and obvious atheist doctrines to my satisfaction, this point seemed valid. If what I believed to be true was actually God’s own Truth, it would hold up to scrutiny. If something didn’t survive such a test, perhaps it’s not worth defending. And such careful examination might better define the denominational issues we have.
But scrutinizing—or possibly casting aside—the doctrines I held as truth still felt like a betrayal. Regardless, I wanted to know the truth without doubt. I had to approach the scriptures as a student with a blank slate to more clearly understand them. Our “cup” can’t be filled with untainted truth if it’s already full of our own understanding. I begged God to show me his truth, no matter where it led me.
Be careful what you ask for
When you earnestly ask God for something—something actually worth receiving—be ready for it to shake the foundations of your world. God gave me a new burning desire to know the entirety of his message to us through the pages of the Bible. I had never read all of the scriptures before then; they had always come in neat little chunks, usually from a pulpit. I finished all 66 books in about 13 weeks. When you read it in such a short time, you can better keep the entire Bible in context. And when you do that, you’ll find that many of your doctrinal beliefs and interpretations will introduce confusion and contradiction. But if you let go of your preconceived notions, let the Bible simply say what it says and let only that define the context, there is harmony throughout. Well…except for Paul. See more in my footnotes below.
When I came to my current understanding of scripture, I knew I had found something so important yet so overlooked by the Body of Christ that it had to be shared. I felt even more emboldened when I found that many others had also come to the same understanding! Their confirmation not only bolstered my confidence in this new-to-me knowledge but also grounded me in the comforting humility of not being the first to find it. And the first group I found who were sharing their discoveries were doing so with humility as well. Their insistence with every message they shared, to not take their word for it but to “test everything,” was exactly how I came to that point…more confirmation!
When you find a way to make all of the Bible make sense, without contradiction or reading into it what isn’t there, you want to share it. My burning desire to read turned to a burning desire to share. But I wonder now if God was the source of that new desire. What I’ve discovered in sharing is that most people don’t want to hear anything that challenges their doctrinal understanding of scripture. They will ignore your arguments even when scripture itself is plainly refuting it…even when Yeshua (Jesus) himself rails against it! People like their sacred cows. They don’t want anyone disturbing their cozy blankets of doctrinal understanding.
The brick wall of doctrine
When faced with the challenge of the biblical text that refutes their doctrines, one of two things generally happens.
- They end the conversation and have little further communication with me. This leaves me wondering if they’re praying for my delivery from heresy or perhaps gathering wood to burn me.
- I end the conversation because they loop back again and again to grace and a basic misrepresentation of what I’ve said. When they don’t seem to be considering my scripture-based arguments anymore, I can only agree to disagree with brotherly love.
Perhaps this is why there are over 30,000 Christian denominations today. Anyone can apparently claim special knowledge of the scriptures and then create their own new denomination. And perhaps there’s the rub. To Christians I’d like to reach, I just seem like the new crackpot on the block, thinking I’ve got the new corner on the truth.
In reality, I came here knowing I don’t know everything about scripture and look only to the author of Truth for knowledge. I suppose all I can do is share what I’ve found here and hope someone else who earnestly seeks truth might benefit from it. Ultimately, I can’t change hearts and minds. Only God can do that.
As Peter tells us, Paul writes some things that are “difficult to understand.” But there are resources to give you guidance as you work through it. Just remember to test even what those resources say to make sure their advice lines up with scripture as well. I would recommend watching the entire Pauline Paradox series of teachings from 119 Ministries. They provide a tremendous amount of unbiased information backed by a whole-Bible approach.