Engaging with Ex-Christians and their Fringe Indoctrination
When I engage with ex-Christians (turned atheists), 99% of them were once part of fringe groups (whether JWs, Mormons, YECs, KJV-Onlyists, etc). There's a certain sense of irony here. The reason they fall away from their faith (and move into secular humanism) is because they encounter real biblical scholarship (that many faithful Christian scholars engage in), that completely contradicts their indoctrination. Thus, only two options are available to them:
1. Remain closed-minded.
2. Abandon the indoctrinated religious fundamentalism.
Most of the time they choose option #2, but to the detriment of thinking that Christianity can only be viewed through their erroneous belief system. I wish for once that Christians would stop teaching an erroneous view of divine inspiration about the bible. What do I mean? The bible is not a mechanically revealed script from God. It's an organic collection of human documents. Nothing more. The bible didn't fall from heaven (as Muslims believe with the Quran). Thus, when these ex-Christians are exposed to such critical scholarship, any sense of the "feel good" spiritual placebo they experienced in their religious fundamentalism falls away!
So what has genuine critical biblical scholarship provided for us about the bible? That it is a collection of human documents wrapped up in this book we call the bible. Is this meant to impress us? Indeed it should! The very fact that it's a collection of human documents, and yet at the same time is able to address every aspect of the human condition from birth to death, communicates to me that a hidden providence is at play. This is explained clearly in the New Testament:
Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Peter 1:21)
The Greek for "carried along" has strong visual imagery about how the sails of a ship is filled with the wind. However, the captain of the ship has full autonomous control with respect to the direction of the ship. Thus, the wind is analogous to divine providence. If God wanted to direct the biblical author a certain direction, he would. If not, he wouldn't, just as the captain of a ship is dependent on the directional patterns of the winds (he isn't in control of the weather). Thus, as Peter continues to write:
Even the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours, carefully researched and investigated this salvation. They tried to find out what era or specific time the Spirit of the Messiah in them kept referring to when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you in regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who brought you the good news through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. These are things that even the angels desire to look into.
(1 Peter 1:10-12)
These biblical prophets were nothing more than fallible human authors, writing about the most important event to occur in history (an event more important than the bible itself): Jesus, the incarnate Logos. This is something that is completely oblivious to all these ex-Christians that I converse with. As Paul wrote:
Now if we preach that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, how can some of you keep claiming there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then the Messiah has not been raised, and if the Messiah has not been raised, then our message means nothing and your faith means nothing. In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God because we testified on God's behalf that he raised the Messiah—whom he did not raise if in fact it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then the Messiah has not been raised, and if the Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still imprisoned by your sins. Yes, even those who have died believing in the Messiah are lost. If we have set our hopes on the Messiah in this life only, we deserve more pity than any other people. But at this moment the Messiah stands risen from the dead, the first one offered in the harvest of those who have died.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-20)