As I said in my intro, while I believe there are some areas where her parents dropped the ball–and I shall get to them in the next installment, as they are instructive–we must be very careful here: they could have done everything right, and that does not–in any way–guarantee that Rachael Slick would have grown up to be the perfect Christian woman that every Christian mom and dad hopes for their daughter to become.
Yes, Rachael Slick is responsible for her atheism. I say that not to pile onto her. In fact, as I said before, I have no interest in her condemnation; quite the contrary: I would love for her to see the error of her ways and enjoy the grace of God.
As I read her account, there are some things that stand out about her:
(a) For one, let’s look at the questions she wrestled with:
As my knowledge of Christianity grew, so did my questions — many of them the “classic” kind. If God was all-powerful and all-knowing, why did He create a race He knew was destined for Hell? How did evil exist if all of Creation was sustained by the mind of God? Why didn’t I feel His presence when I prayed?
While it is great to feel God’s presence when you pray, that is not a compulsory requirement of prayer.
Rachael, did it occur to you that there is no evidence that Joseph “felt” God’s presence with him as he endured hardships that would make yours pale in comparison? Early in his life, he had some dreams that were indicative of future greatness. And yet those “dreams” were dashed quickly: he was beaten within an inch of his life by his own brothers, sold into slavery by his own brothers, framed for a crime he didn’t commit, forced to spend upwards of at least ten years in an Egyptian prison, during which time even people for whom he had favorable words had forgotten him.
Did it occur to you that, during those years, there were times when Joseph didn’t “feel” God’s presence?
When you look at the hard years that Zechariah and Elizabeth endured–not having children of their own, dealing with the derision of their community that looked down on them as an accursed couple–is there any evidence that they always “felt” God’s presence when they prayed? Think of how many times they must have prayed for a child, and yet–year after year–no baby.
Think of all those years where Jeremiah poured his heart out to his fellow Israelites. They rejected almost everything he said. As they rejected his warnings, he witnessed–firsthand–the decline of his country. He suffered along with them. Think of how many times he must have prayed for relief, only to experience more suffering.
We experience evil, sadly, because of the curse of the Fall. As we experience this–as a result of our own sins, the sins of others, and even the curse of Sin itself–it should provide insight into to the love of God, as it is a miracle that He redeems anyone.
As for the dynamics of Lucifer’s rebellion–which was THE original sin–we know only what God has made known to us. There are mysteries that we do not know, and may never know. A rational Christian faith, however, does not require that I must be able to answer every question to my satisfaction. We must remember that, as fallen, imperfect beings whose range of vision is finite, there are some issues to which–while it is okay to ask the questions and mull over them–it is hardly logically necessary in order to receive the Truth that God HAS given us with sufficient clarity.
And that brings me to the premise of a race that is “predestined” for hell. While that is certainly a very unpleasant premise–and, trust me, the dynamics of how this will be worked out in the final judgment is not for you and myself to settle, as there will be many surprises, some pleasant, others not so much, on that day–it should give one pause as to the gravity of the call of God to repentance. Rather than get bogged down over how God will judge the African who never hears the Gospel, I have a responsibility to answer that news as I am hearing it. As do you.
(b) Let’s look at the dynamic that led to her unraveling:
This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?
Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws.
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.
I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness. The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you.
Well, Rachael, it does beg the question: are you really interested in the answers–because there are some pretty darn good ones and you are totally overlooking them–or are you simply rebelling against your upbringing and embarking on a path that seems right to you, all because that seems more “liberating”?
To answer your question about the Old Testament and the New Testament,
(1) There are some laws–that applied specifically to Temple worship–regarding ritual purity that are no longer in play because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ supersedes the animal sacrifice system.
Now that we have THE Sacrifice–once and for all–the OT laws that pertained to the vagaries of the sacrifice system are no longer in play, because they have been superseded. After all, once THE Atonement has been sacrificed in time and space, there is no need for more sin offerings.
Moreover, now that we have THE High Priest–risen from the dead, sitting at the right hand of God, interceding for us, we no longer need a Levitical priest to go to the “holy of holies” on our behalf. Jesus–sitting at the right hand of God–is all the High Priest we need.
We also have the right–FREEDOM–to boldly approach the throne of grace. Remember Esther? She was worried about the real possibility of a death sentence for approaching the King, who was her own husband. Similarly, it was not uncommon for High Priests to enter the Holy Place and be struck dead; that is why they had a rope with bells attached, so the other priests could pull them out if they died.
Contrasting that, you and I can approach the King of the Universe–boldly–and not fear death.
That is the fundamental way in which the OT relates to the NT.
(2) Along those lines, the OT gives us a portrait of several things:
(a) the nature and character of God;
(b) how that nature and character are reflective in His expectations of us;
(c) our nature;
(d) what life is without Christ;
(e) the futility of humans–even with full knowledge of the Law–without Christ.
The world–without Christ–leaves us with many unpleasant realities. While the OT law was a major step up for women in those days, without Christ the major inequities remained. Purification periods varied for baby girls versus baby boys. Aunt Flo created a monthly dilemma of ritual impurity for women. Anyone stricken with leprosy was–barring a miracle–ostracized from society.
And slavery–a most unpleasant topic–was reflective of the human condition. People don’t generally choose to be slaves; they cannot do anything to earn their way out of it; while in slavery, they are subject to the will of their master.
Even then, Scripture provides (a) a pathway to freedom for Israelite slaves, (b) a marginal incentive for Israelites to free non-Israelite slaves, and (c) each of those things are a portrait of God’s love and plan for redemption.
Ditto for leprosy: a leper could do nothing to cure himself, as leprosy was incurable. Barring provision from God, a leper was subject to life as an outcast. It is a portrait of who we are, sans Christ. The compassion that Jesus showed to lepers is indicative of the compassion we are called to show to those who do not know Christ.
When a covenant was put into place, it was binding until either (a) the death of one of the parties, (b) one of the parties broke the covenant and was then subject to death, or (c) the covenant in force was superseded by a new covenant.
While God’s morality and character are absolute, the nature of His relationship with humanity changes. The OT Covenants are reflective of God’s extension of love in their pericopes, even as they pointed to Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have a covenant that supersedes the old. As a result of that, some terms and conditions of the old covenant–that were tied to systems that were specific to the old covenant–are no longer in play. They weren’t nullified; merely superseded.
Still, we get very specific directives for Christian living in the New Covenant, and those have many commonalities with the Old. The most important one–to love God with all heart, soul, strength, and might–is still in play. Jesus decreed that. Ditto for the command to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. As Jesus said, all other commands hang on those two.
And that leads me to the next point:
I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort?
I didn’t know it, but I was free.
For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death. I had trouble coping with the fact that my entire childhood education now essentially meant nothing — I had been schooled in a sham. I had to start from scratch in entering and learning about this secular world. Uncertainty was not something I was accustomed to feeling. Though I had left Christianity intellectually, my emotional beliefs had yet to catch up.
As David pointed out in a comment in the last thread, it sounds to me that your abandonment of Christianity is more of an effort to get away from the guilt of what you know to be wrong: having sex with your boyfriend. It reminds me–from my readings about Alfred Kinsey–of Kinsey’s rejection of Christianity. Rather than accept that your human lusts are what they are–and that any serious Christian will battle with them, sometimes unsuccessfully, and often find need to go to the throne of grace–you’ve chosen to punt on the truth so you can feel better about yourself.
If God is right, then you’re in major sin. If God is wrong, then you can go on guilt-free. You’ve embraced the latter.
While there is much to critique about your upbringing–I’ll get to that in the next installment–it DOES come across to me that you are overtly spiting your parents, and your nonchalance at doing this strikes me as breathtaking in arrogance.
and now, for her finale:
Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful.
Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.
You are showing that you understand neither freedom nor pleasure.
Even if we were just discussing matters in our temporal world, your arguments don’t hold water.
(1) It may strike you as a surprise that the most sexually-satisfied demographic group is married, conservative Protestant women. It is also empirical that devout Catholic couples–i.e. conservative–not only enjoy sex more, but have it more frequently, than anyone else.
Ergo, it seems to me–based on hard evidence–that your abandonment of Christianity, which was rooted in no small part in your desire to have guilt-free sex with your boyfriend, is actually a step toward less (not more) pleasure in that regard.
You’re trading a birthright for a bowl of soup. Thankfully, if you repent, you can get your birthright back. Esau, OTOH, is still hosed.
(2) You are looking at freedom in a vacuum, as the greatest virtue. I understand how tempting that is; after all, I’m a libertarian in my political leanings. Still, where in your calculus does love–including charity–factor?
I say this not to kick dirt in your face, but rather to call you to at least give thought to reconsider…