A hard left turn

By Evan Plante

June 06, 2022

In 2005, I had a crisis of faith. Well... it wasn’t really a crisis of faith. It was a crisis of hermeneutics. (Hermeneutics is the study of how to interpret the Bible.) This crisis had been building since the early 70s when I became a Christian, but it reached a tipping point 35 years later.

You see, I grew up in the heavily Roman Catholic area of Central New England in the 50s and 60s. I knew that protestants existed... like Chinese people or Australians existed... but they did not impact my day-to-day life. In fact, I had never even heard the word “evangelical,” and I was clueless about the cultural Christianity in America’s south.

That being said, I was only culturally Catholic too — but it wasn’t their fault. The religion never “took.” But I wasn’t an atheist. Just the opposite. I was chronically and acutely spiritual. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was a panentheist —and panentheists are theists... which is a step in the right direction. Perhaps this is why when I first heard the gospel in 1970, it rang true to me. So I put my faith in Jesus Christ, and I’ve been his disciple ever since.

I bring up my history to make the point that I was raised in an evangelical desert... and that I had some catching up to do. So I consumed the Bible ravenously, developed a Christian vocabulary and learned the standard doctrines. I couldn’t make sense of all the doctrines, though... and now I know why. Many were the inventions of people... not the teachings of the Bible or Jesus. As a result, I have suffered from varying degrees of cognitive dissonance all my Christian life.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental/emotional/spiritual tension that exists when one’s embedded beliefs are challenged by overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But let’s be honest; it’s never just about the beliefs, is it? It’s about the culture. It’s about what people we love and admire believe. It’s about the investment we’ve made in our education... and the myriad corrections we’ve made as a result of that training to live more Christlike lives.

But note this well: I wasn’t losing faith in Jesus. I was seeing him more clearly every day! I was losing faith in the Bible... or how everyone around me understood the Bible, anyway... so something had to give. I designed Mainsail Ministries to be the hammer that would either construct or deconstruct my faith. I would follow the data wherever it led... and try my best to make objective conclusions.

But Mainsail was not just a hammer; it was also a website... one that holds the record of my religious investigations. I started Monday Musings to keep people current with my findings, and after many years of earnest investigation, it has served its purpose. This is its final issue. But let’s get back to my story.

In 2005, I threw down the gauntlet... because I needed certain questions answered. Does God really exist? Or have I bought a bill of goods? Is my self-awareness illusory or do I really have a soul? If God and my soul exist, then what is his complete revelation to humankind? ... because the Bible does not square with all the data — and conservative evangelicals say that the Bible is inerrant! That’s a lot to ask in any investigation, so here’s how I proceeded.

First and foremost, I set aside everything that I already “knew” about God, the Bible and creation. This involved setting aside doctrines — which are built on religious and philosophical presuppositions. I also abandoned any hermeneutical templates. I would read the Bible as if it were a normal book to see what it said; this is the definition of exegesis.

Secondly, I would study everything that could be studied — on or off the planet! Things like science, cosmology, philosophy, textual criticism and comparative religion were squarely on the table. As you can see, this was going to be a bare-knuckled fight!

Well... now the fighting is over — and do you know what? I wasn’t fighting against God. I was fighting against the Christian culture. Here are my findings.

First and foremost, the Christian culture saves no one. In fact, it’s largely a political entity... one that does more harm than good. The Christian person, however — Jesus Christ... who is life, love and truth... he does a lot of good. Don’t fall into the trap of confounding the person of Jesus Christ with the culture that bears his name. Christianity has become a religious juggernaut... the type of thing that Jesus fought against in his day — the type that killed him!

True Christianity is a lot simpler than those who pedal the gospel would have us believe. If you listen to the Holy Spirit and follow the right Jesus — the saving, not the condemning Jesus — you will be free indeed... and you will be fruitful with the right kind of fruit.

So, what is my status now that I’ve completed this investigation?

I remain a disciple of Jesus Christ. I remain a student of the Bible, creation and God’s revelations. I also remain your servant. The difference is that I have taken a hard left turn. I want to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ on his terms, not on human terms. I want to know Jesus without Christianity’s cultural accretions.

This is why I am walking away from Conservative Evangelical Christianity. Progressive Christianity has a more biblical — a more Christlike Jesus than does Conservative Evangelical Christianity. And since I only have a few years left, the thing I don’t want to do is support the religious industrial complex at the expense of Christ’s people.

As you can see, atheism is not necessarily the result of a religious deconstruction. I am more spiritually aware today than I have ever been — and I wish you were all as I am now —  but finding truth is a process. If you'd like to touch down with me about these things, write to me at evanplante2@gmail.com. God bless you.

Evan Plante