Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Raised Evangelical: Bob’s Story - II

    We continue with our responses to the series "Raised Evangelical" on the blog "Love, Joy, Feminism" (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism).


Section 2: Theology


Question 1: Briefly describe the church your family attended while you were growing up. What role did the pastor play? How large was it? What sort of programs did it offer? What denomination was it? How many times a week did you attend church? How about Bible study or Bible club?


    In many ways the church was a typical fundamentalist Baptist church. It was affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). It had about a hundred members, as I recall, and had the usual round of services and programs: Sunday School, morning and evening worship, Wednesday night prayer meeting, and young people's group. The pastor was looked up to as the spiritual head of the congregation, but was not particularly dictatorial. My father was an especially firm believer in regular church attendance, and I can still remember going with him to church in the middle of bad snow storms (this was central New York State, bear in mind).
    There were two things that maybe made our church a little different. One is that we were a fairly new congregation, and many of its members were adult converts who were serious about their faith. The other thing is that we were one of the few evangelical churches in an area that was predominantly Roman Catholic and liberal Protestant. This tended to make us a little more self-conscious of our identity as a fundamentalist church.


Question 2: When and how were you "saved"? How did your parents and church community respond? Did you have a "relationship with Jesus"? If so, at what age did you form this relationship? Please describe what all it entailed . . .


    Shortly after my parents joined the church a travelling evangelist held a series of meeting there. One Sunday evening he addressed the young people's group. He told us about our need to accept Christ and of the eternal consequences of not doing so. He urged us to make a decision right then and there, but in my typical fashion I wanted to think it over first. At that point I didn't know much theology, but I knew I was a sinner – I had an ego and a bad temper – and I sure didn't want to go to hell. So that evening, by myself in my room at home, I asked Christ to save me.
    At that age there is always a question as to how well I understood what I was doing. I doubt that I could have explained the atonement very well. But in my case, at least, my profession of faith has stood the test of time. I was baptized when I turned ten.
    My "relationship with Jesus" has deepened over time, albeit in fits and starts. It wasn't until college that I learned the meaning of prayer. A friend of mine and I determined to spend a certain amount of time each day in prayer -- I think it may have been an hour a day. I'm not sure that it did much good. Then one night, when I was home on break, I was praying alone by myself when suddenly it dawned on me: do you know who you are talking to? I was awestruck, and maybe a little terrified. The next night I prayed again, only I kept it very short and very reverent, conscious that I was in the presence of Almighty God. I think that that was a real turning point in my life.
    I have often read about the great revivals of the past, but I have only personally experienced it two or three times in my whole experience as a Christian. They are awesome occasions, but ever so rare!


Question 3: How did your family and church view the Bible, and what role did it play in your life growing up and in the life of your family and church? How often did you, your siblings and your parents read the Bible? Were you guided by your parents or pastors in how to interpret the Bible, especially certain passages, or were you generally free to form your own ideas about what the Bible said?


    My father faithfully read his Bible every morning. I knew that when I got up I would find him sitting in his easy chair in the living room reading his Bible and underling key passages with a red pencil.
    Fairly early on I became convinced of the need to read the Bible every day as well. I determined to read through the entire New Testament. So beginning with Matthew 1:1 I faithfully read a chapter every day until I finished the book of Revelation. Unfortunately, when I got done I could not have told you a single thing that I had read! My eyes had looked at every word on the page, but I wasn't reading for comprehension. It wasn't until late that I got interested in serious Bible study.
    Nearly everyone in our church (myself included) had a Scofield Reference Bible. Since nearly all the other churches in our area were either Catholic or liberal, I just naturally assumed that whatever our church taught, Scofield notes and all, came straight from the Bible itself. It wasn't until much later that I learned that there was anything the least bit controversial about any of this.
    There was one preacher who came to our church and laid down this rule of interpretation: "If the plain sense makes horse sense, seek no other sense." And that is the rule of interpretation I have used ever since.


Added Note:


    The modern mind, of course, rebels against the idea of authority in knowledge. "Sapere aude" (Dare to think) the German philosopher Kant famously said. For modern man, his own intellect is the final arbiter of truth.
    There are, however, two considerations that should be kept in mind. The first is the obvious fact that man's knowledge is limited. We cannot observe the physical universe in its entirety, let alone the spiritual realm. We are the tiniest of specks in a vast cosmos, and our range of perception is severely restricted.
    The second consideration is that God is omniscient – He knows everything. Indeed, He is the Creator of everything. Only He can tell us about Himself, about the ultimate purpose and meaning of reality, and about what lies beyond the grave.
    Thus we are dependent upon divine revelation for answers to some of the basic questions of life. We do not deny the facts of reality: let science discover what it can. But we use the Bible to interpret the facts and provide us with a coherent explanation of reality.

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