I was raised in the tradition of American-style fundamentalism which declared the Bible (King James, to be exact) to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God and the end of all revelation from God. It was proclaimed with unceasing vehemence and in no uncertain terms that those who strayed from its literal words were heretics and assuredly on their way to eternal torment in hell.
This state of ultimate certainty was a great place in which to be; it was a comfort to know that we possessed The Truth while everyone else was being held in blindness by Satan, the Father of Lies.
This certainty made me feel that I was better than the vast majority of people because, unlike them, I had resisted the pull of Satan and had not fallen into his evil trap that led to all sorts of sin and punishment.
Oh, yes! We sang songs about their erroneous ways! We made fun of their deception with much enthusiasm as we sang:
I’ve got the belief that baffles Bible Baptists down in my heart. (Where?)
Down in my heart. (Where?)
Down in my heart. . . .
We had it — knew it –all.
Truth is, I had my God right where I wanted him (and I my God was definitely a ‘him’): in a box, limited by my ultra-dispensastional, biblically sound, understanding of him, with all the chapter-and-verse citations to back me up.
Then one day a friend from Melbourne came to visit for a few weeks. Shortness of space meant that he shared my room. At the end of the day, he got out his Bible and (gasp!) to my horror and dismay it was a Living Bible–and a paperback at that!
. . . He didn’t get it!!!
I could not believe someone could be so blind! But then Satan was a crafty bugger and this was one of his best and most well-used tricks.
(Another one of the devil’s tricks was to make people enjoy rock music, and it wasn’t long before my friend had me really enjoying Neil Diamond–but I never would let on to anyone that I actually liked it. …Still won’t.)
The end of the story is that this friend started me on a trajectory of questioning, studying, and thinking that continues even now.. I lost contact with him around 20 years ago and never told him (possibly because I didn’t yet realise myself) how much that one incident changed my life.
I hope I can be open enough today to the possibility that someone who sees things different to me may be the catalyst that changes my own perspective and, therefore, the path my life takes.