I was raised a Christian. In fact, I was pretty zealous. Scarily so. However, several years ago I had a crisis: I had a mental break down compounded by the loss of my first love, many deaths in the family, and other things. I am naturally a skeptic; in my biblical studies I attempted to test the veracity of scripture. I had long wondered if the scripture we have is truly the Word of God or just a pale shadow of what He wants us to learn. Time and translation have a way of diluting things. I also have been drawn to Buddhism since I was very young. I was well read for a kid and teenager.
Anyway, I fell into a deep dark depression. I even started having suicidal thoughts. I prayed and begged and studied, but God was silent. Not that I expect to hear a voice or anything. I wasn’t that type of zealot. When I hit the darkest depth of depression I turned toward the quiet voice that urged me to turn to Buddhism for help. I picked up the Dalai Lama’s book “How to See Yourself as You Really Are” and Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step.”
They changed my life.
As a Christian I was taught the Church of Christ was the only “true” church. Everything else was at best, sinfully mistaken. Buddhism was pagan and certain to land you in hell. The tough stances filled me with cognitive dissonance. It didn’t help that my biblical studies shook the foundations of my faith. I discovered the history of the bible and how politics more than God influenced what entered the canon. Many of the books themselves were altered to make them more acceptable for those in charge. Heck, even just a horizontal reading of the gospels showed how inconsistent the writers are with facts. They don’t even agree on the order or timing of the crucifixion events.
I still consider myself a Christian; although I cannot in good conscious attend worship services that do not adhere to what the original church practiced. They would just have a regular meal together where they would thank God for the fruit of the vine, the bread ( yes. the Lord’s Supper was practiced regularly. At least every Sabbath. Remember, the first Christians were Jewish) and then they would eat a full meal. While they ate someone would read a letter from Paul or another emissary from the mother assembly in Jerusalem. Finally they would give thanks, perhaps sing a hymn, and then go home. No sermons, no elaborate practices. Just dig around in Paul’s epistles if you want to see this practice.
Anyway, all of this made faith difficult for this skeptic. It certainly didn’t help that the church, Bible, and God didn’t seem to be there during my deepest need. It is possible God pointed me toward Buddhism for help because He understands my need for deep study and reason. Belief without testable facts is supremely difficult for me. I don’t feel without first knowing. My Bible studies have lead me to conclude it is a very human document. It may be inspired by God, but inspiration is not the same as dictation. I do believe it is a Word of God, but not complete. There are too many other historically valid documents that didn’t make it into the canon. Even the Bible itself provides a veiled warning about the dangers of blindly accepting scripture as is (often out of context, in this case the context of history). In the scenes of Jesus’s temptation Satan uses scripture to tempt Jesus to do wrong. In Genesis, the omission of just a single word caused the sin of Adam and Even.
I often wonder if perhaps the Bible we have is incomplete considering all the Gnostic texts and other texts that date from the same time period of the Gospels and epistles.
Don’t get me wrong. I WANT to believe. I work very hard at it. I even sometimes envy those who can believe so readily. Belief without verification or evidence is very difficult for me. It doesn’t help with how useless the church and the Bible were when I was in my deepest depression. Of course my mind was poisoned by doctrine that Jesus would be ashamed of.
I now consider myself a Christian Buddhist. There is no contradiction. In fact, Buddha and Jesus taught the same things. They just had different approaches. Buddha’s analytical approach just work better for me.
Well enough of this personal history. I just wanted to let other people who wrestle with doubt and faith know they are not alone in their experiences. I urge you to study in depth and seek out other view points than the ones just offered by your church or doctrine. Perhaps that small voice is God telling you to do so.