In Christian fundamentalism you are taught to distrust yourself. Instead of trusting yourself, you are taught to trust someone else. In particular, you are taught to trust your pastor and dozens of people who lived thousands of years ago (some of whom never revealed their identity).
In other words, you can’t use your own judgement, because it can’t be trusted. But you can use it to trust the judgement of others, even people you’ve never met. There is no lack of irony in this.
Nobody ever seems to wonder how it is that they can even recognize the truth by listening to a preacher or reading the Bible if they can’t even trust their own judgement in the first place. If you can fool yourself, others can fool you too. And if you are capable of recognizing truth in the words of others, you are capable of recognizing it in yourself.
Some people act like God himself wrote the Bible. This belief exists because people want to be lead. We want life to be laid out in black and white. It makes us feel better. We don’t want to grapple with the uncertainties of life. It makes us feel insecure. We want something we can anchor ourselves with.
But the Bible was not written by God. It’s possible, and likely, that parts of it were written under inspiration. But the Bible is not one book, it is many books containing many truths and falsehoods. You have to sort it out in your own heart and through education. This is how you learn truth. If we insist that the entire Bible is literally true and inspired, then we will remain in ignorance and believe a lot of foolish things.
When we read the Bible there is a tendency to believe that it is speaking to us directly, but in reality the various books and letters in the Bible were written to specific people living thousands of years ago, in a culture alien to our own. The Bible should be read in that context.
The Bible is not as authoritative as your church or favorite preacher wants you to believe. In many cases, they mean well, but are mistaken. In other cases, it’s in their best interest for you to believe in the absolute authority of the Bible (and the preacher as its messenger). It is useful in giving them authority and influence over you.
“Holy Scripture” is only holy insofar as someone says that it’s holy. And it’s only the final word until someone comes along and says it’s not. Jesus himself contradicted scripture. Jesus and the early Christians came along and totally disrupted what the Jews had been taught from the Torah (Old Testament). And right from the beginning, no Christians could totally agree about what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Even the two leaders, Peter and Paul did not totally agree, and today Christians are more divided than ever.
If you believe what you read in the Bible, it will become real for you. The true parts and the untrue parts. Find out what is true and what isn’t, otherwise you might be better off without it. There are many people who would have been. It would have been better for the Crusaders to have never known about it. That is, better for their victims.
You don’t have to believe something just because someone with a confident voice says so. Let them present you with the evidence that what they are saying is true. And read the works of professional historians and real biblical scholars who have provided evidence that much of what is taught in church is not true. Listen to both sides before making a judgment.
We tend to go looking for God outside of ourselves. But God is within. God is found in peaceful moments, and rarely if ever through the words of fiery preachers. What the fiery preacher gives you is not God. The fiery preacher excites your emotions, but does not lead you to the quiet inner presence of God.
There is no evidence that Jesus’ sermons were loud and emotionally charged. Don’t make excuses to yourself for why the preachers’s words or tone are not consistent with the Bible. And don’t make excuses to yourself for why the Bible is inconsistent with itself. If you are noticing inconsistencies, you are discovering truth.