Fundamentalist, Interrupted

Today we have a guest post by Robb Ryerse, a former fundamentalist pastor who has just released a new book about his transformation away from fundamentalism. If you’d like to hear more from Robb he’ll be on the Ragamuffin Show tomorrow night at 8.

When I was in high school, some of my friends and I wanted to play some basketball in the church gym on a Sunday afternoon. I called my uncle, the chairman of the trustee board, and asked for permission. He said, “No.” Sporting events weren’t allowed at church on Sundays. I could hear his TV in the background. He was watching the game.

For two summers in college, I did a pastoral internship at my home church. One morning, our senior pastor announced that I would be attending a sacred music conference sponsored by Patch the Pirate’s Majesty Music. I was going because he thought my CCM (Steven Curtis Chapman and Steve Camp) was too worldly.

In college I dated a girl who was King James Only. Though I attended a proudly fundamentalist Bible college, we weren’t taught to exclusively use the KJV. But she did. And so, every day for the two months that we dated, I proudly carried my KJV Ryrie Study Bible to chapel. The day we broke up was the last day I opened that particular Bible.

I’ve had countless conversations with church people about all sorts of “important” issues: Whether or not smoking is a sin. Whether or not a Christian can have a tattoo. If it’s acceptable for a believer to vote for a Democrat. If Christians should boycott Disney. What is the appropriate length of a lady’s skirt.

Like so many others who grew up in fundamentalism, I’ve experienced my fair share of condemnation and craziness. And eventually, it all got to be too much. I had to leave fundamentalism.

Ultimately, however, it was not the legalistic dos and don’ts that drove me away from the fundamentalism of my upbringing. It was something much more, well, fundamental than that.

About eight years ago, I was pastoring a fundamental Baptist church where I was preparing to preach through Genesis. I knew all of the answers I had been taught – literal seven-day creationism, a literal walking-talking snake, a literal garden with a literal angel with a literal flaming sword.

And I also knew the questions that began to gnaw at me:

• Why do Genesis 1 and 2 sound like they were spoken in two different voices?
• Where did Cain’s wife come from?
• What happened to the dinosaurs?
• Doesn’t a global flood feel like a bit of an over-reaction?
• How could God be willingly tied to such a family of scoundrels?

These questions exposed that the pat answers of my fundamentalist upbringing were no longer resonating with me. If the answers I had always been told were shaky, maybe the whole system was too. This I knew with certainty – if I verbalized the doubts I was experiencing in a sermon, I would be fired.

This realization sent me spiraling into a spiritual depression, a dark night of the soul, that lasted for many months. When I eventually emerged from it, my own fundamorphosis was well underway. A fundamorphosis is the theological transformation that frees someone from fundamentalism.

My fundamorphosis has freed me to embrace grace and mystery like never before. I now have a belief system that is big enough to handle my doubt. I am very comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” I don’t feel the need to convince everyone to agree with me nor to condemn them when they don’t. I think I’m a lot more humble, honest, and hopeful. More than anything, my fundamorphosis has been about becoming something fundamentalism never encouraged. I became authentic. I am finally free to be me.

Robb Ryerse is the author of the new book Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn’t Lose My Faith. Available now on Amazon. He is the pastor of Vintage Fellowship (www.vintagefellowship.org) in Fayetteville AR. He blogs at www.thegrenzian.com.

 

144 thoughts on “Fundamentalist, Interrupted”

    1. Likewise. It’s a terrifying place to be, yet though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…Thou art with me.

      I never lost faith in God, just Fundamentalism. That likely means I had idolized the system, and God used its own flaws to help me realize what rubbish it is compared to an authentic relationship -doubt and all- with Him.

      Robb, thank you for being brave enough to share your fundamorphosis with us! It is encouraging to hear of others who have shed old beliefs and found their faith grow more vibrant as a result.

    2. I was having a discussion with an atheist a while back. She stated that when she moved away from Christianity, she had an epiphany: if there was no God, there’s never been a God and nothing has changed. I thought that was a rational way of looking at things; I don’t agree there’s no God, but I think the thought applies to anything about Truth.

  1. The questions from Genesis never seemed to bother me, and even now as a person who has questioned some ideals from Fundamentalism, I have no issue telling someone that I do not know the answer.

    My biggest issue has been the blatant hypocrisy like not playing basketball, but watching the game. Not going to a movie theater but renting the same movie. Not liking the music of Steven Curtis Chapman or M. W. Smith but singing their songs with a few tweaks. That is the bigger issue in my opinion.

    I realized a long time ago that some of the “pat answers” of fundamentalism were right and some were probably wrong. I figure I will never have answers to all my questions this side of heaven and I might as well accept that. God is sovereign and in control and his Word is perfect. If I don’t understand everything, it’s probably my fault.

    Attempting to make answers up to fit a philosophy is dangerous and people that have an answer for everything should probably be questioned.

    1. I like this. I’ve come around to this point of view in the past year or so, in part due to my exposure to this site. I know what I believe. I know certain rocks of truth. I know that God loves me and sent His Son to take the punishment I deserve. Everything else… if I’m wrong, oh well. I’ll figure it out in heaven. 🙂

  2. I had a very similar experience in my own “fundamorphosis.” I was far less bothered by the standards than I was by some of the deeper theological issues. I was still wearing skirts, not going to the moving theatre, and not listening to any secular music when I started questioning the “sinner’s prayer” theology. That led me to start doubting the KJV only teaching, tithing, the works-oriented preaching, and the position on women. In fact, I think I came to the conclusion that women could preach before I had the courage to listen to Billy Joel.

    What bothered me the most was when I started having these deeper theological issues, I decided to check out some of the “wicked” evangelical churches for a different perspective. After all the preaching I heard, I expected something radically different. Instead, I realized that, in a lot of ways, mainstream evangelicals were fundamentalists without skirts and KJVs. We were separating from them so violently, even though their beliefs were almost identical to ours.

    1. Petrichor, your story is so interesting to me. Thanks for sharing!

      For me, I was willing to go along with a lot of the outward standard things that I didn’t agree with because I loved the people I was pastoring and knew that going along was a means through which I would have an opportunity to serve them. What changed for me was when I started being motivated by fear instead of love. When I was too scared to be honest and to be myself because it would cost me my job, that’s when I knew something in my life had to give.

      1. No problem Robb! Thank you for this post. I plan on buying the book.

        There was also a lot of the fear/man pleasing motivation driving me. Part of it was that I had heard so much preaching about the evils of certain things that I was afraid that giving in and doing them would make God angry with me. Part of it was that I, too, was in a leadership position, and was afraid how the girls in my youth group would react if they found out I had turned away from the standards. And then a big part of it was pride. I had spent so long feeling like I was better from other people for abstaining from certain things, that getting rid of a religious safety blanket.

    2. This is one of the things that truly grieves me: that I spent nearly 40 years of my life fearing and isolating myself from Christians whose beliefs are nearly identical to my own. What a shame! How contrary to Christ’s own prayer in John 17.

      In 2010, as we were leaving the IFB, my husband and I attended a dinner for an Evangelical Pastors Network. I was very nervous, knowing that I was directly defying everything I’d been taught for years. Imagine my chagrin when I read through the group’s statement of faith: there were all the fundamentals of the faith — the virgin birth of Christ, His atonement for sin on the cross, His physical resurrection, etc. I’d been told that they compromised the essentials of the faith, but they DIDN’T!

      At BJU, we recited the creed everyday, as if THAT was what made us distinct from other believers, but that was utterly untrue. Many, many Christians hold to every statement of that creed, and yet we were taught to hold ourselves aloof from them and consider ourselves holier than they. I repent of blindly accepting what I was told, of being arrogant, and of excusing my arrogance with claims of righteousness.

      1. Your last sentence “I repent of blindly accepting what I was told, of being arrogant, and of excusing my arrogance with claims of righteousness” has really moved me this morning. Thank you for writing it.

      2. PW strikes once again! Your answer fits with the exception I backed in to fundiness through the homeschool movement after being raised an Anglican*. Just read the cannons in the back of my old prayer book again the other day. Hummm. Sounds pretty fundamental to me. LOL

        To top it off The Kid (who is a music major at a Church of God college) put a link on my FB of her choir singing Evensong. I still knew all the words and was so moved. I really am a homesick Anglican.

        *I will admit that some of the clergy and parishes went way off the rails with things like Buddah on the alter and clergy that did not hold to the cannons of the church in anyway.

      3. PW, I can relate! When looking for a church after our move, we would first look at doctrinal statements on the church websites. I read many great statements, but thought, “How can they really believe all that? They have a PRAISE BAND!!!” 😳

        1. Isn’t it funny how we made one style of music a test of faith? I had a hard time adjusting to the idea that people with drums and guitars could be praising God. I had to retrain my mind with passages like 2 Samuel 6 (Michal’s scorn vs. David’s joyful dancing in worship) and Psalm 150.

  3. Think I’m going to get this book. I have a cousin that recently left her IFB church because she said the pastor related wearing lip gloss to some passage about a whore with glistening lips or some bolony. She doesn’t like this site because she thinks it borders on mocking and I tried to explain to her that it’s because she isn’t “over” being a fundy. She said she doesn’t think she’ll ever be over it. I keep planting little seeds hoping that they will find fertile soil.

    1. uhhh. read his bio. hedidn’t lose his faith, and dude’s still a pastor. just because he reads his bible through a different lens than you doesn’t mean you should be sad for him.

    2. Thanks, IBFNoMore. Obviously, I would encourage you to get the book for your cousin, your cousin’s husband, you siblings, your pastor, your neighbors. Heck, just order a ton of copies and hand it out to random people on the street.

    3. This site can be intimidating. In the IFB, we were isolated from people who thought differently from us and we rarely heard people voice dissent.

      It took me a while before I became comfortable with the idea that I can still be on this site even though the views of other commenters are often widely divergent from my own.

      1. If you think this part is bad, just try the forum section.

        I think that’s why so many read here awhile before posting.

        There is a habit of people who just left the IFB to become hardcore liberals and atheists and they don’t like it for anyone else to post otherwise b/c THEY are the only ones who are truly recovered.

        I hope you keep posting Robb.

        I too have kept the fundamentals of the faith, but I haven’t been to church in 10 years. It won’t matter b/c gas will be so expensive, no one will be attending church anywhere!! 😈

        1. Thanks, Mominator. I have lurked here for a long time, and Darrell was kind enough to read and write an endorsement for my book. I guess this is my SFL coming out party.

    1. thanks for taking your story and sharing it in a public way. it easy for us to express in the anononimity of the internet the same conclusion you have reached. Big props to you for putting yourself & your story out there. good luck homie

  4. this is so sad. I’m glad this man left fundamentalism, but saddened that he lost faith in Bible because of it. You can throw out the church, the movement, the extra-biblical standards, the hypocrisy, the lies . . . but once you throw out the Bible you’ve got nothing left. Fundies didn’t write the Bible. Don’t let them wreck it for you. A hard lesson I’m still learning.

    1. Who said I lost faith in the Bible? I think of it much differently than I used to. And that has actually freed me to love the Bible more now than I ever did as a fundamentalist.

    2. uhhh. read his bio. hedidn’t lose his faith, and dude’s still a pastor. just because he reads his bible through a different lens than you doesn’t mean you should be sad for him.

      1. that “different lens” being that the flood didn’t happen, and the Bible is a patchwork of lies? No thanks.

        1. If you’ll read the post again you’ll note that he does NOT reject them (at least not in this post). He question(ed) the received wisdom about them. And apparently came to different conclusions about them. That really is a lot different than “rejected the bible”

        2. Per his church website, Vintage Fellowship is “an emerging” church. This combined with the above post leads me to initially respond with a kind “No thank you.” Having said that, I realize my first impression is not necessarily the truth.

          Just as I’m sick of the ultra fundys, I’m also sick of the the diet coke of a faith propogated by the likes of Brian Mclaren, Tony Campolo, and Rob Bell. When it comes a point that you can’t have any assurance in the inerrancy of the Bible, then you might as well hang up your Christian hat and stop playing church.

          I have much more respect for people that just claim not to believe anymore than I do for people that pretend to be believers and then vomit all of this postmodern crap that preaches absolute uncertainty about everything.

          If I can’t trust the content of the Bible message at all, then I might as well say that I cannot be certain that Jesus is God, or that He is the only way to heaven, or even a way at all. It is much better just to call yourself an agnostic and study religion than it is to still hold on to Christianity but not be sure if the Bible is completely correct.

        3. Micheal, What if by scholarly and diligent study of the text in all of its contexts, origin and path to canonicity one can determine what has been interpolated by early zealots or authored by who it was claimed to be authored by? What if the men you put so much faith in, whom have long been dead, were wrong about a books inclusion in the cannon? (there are different cannons used by different Christians around the globe) There has been more manuscripts discovered with differences to later known manuscript.
          The Jews do not believe Jesus was the Christ because they do not see him fulfilling their ancient prophesies of their messiah, they study their scripture with a fervency that most Christians lack.
          You may not buy into or have never really studied into scripture deeply, but to broadly dismiss any one else that does not believe exactly like you and not allow room for nuance and discussion is black and white fundy thinking.

        4. @Teddy-Ball-Game

          When you start bringing up “manuscripts” and you start implying God is unable to preserve his word that is when I tune out. People like yourself couldn’t show us where the “book of Lord” is if your life depended on it. People like you believe that God’s word is somewhere out there in a bunch of manuscripts we can’t even hold in our hands. The position you take always leaves you with no infallible Bible. Without the Bible you know nothing about God’s ways, promises, mankinds history nor the Salvation of God.

          People like yourselves feign themselves to be scholars and are in fact liars who try to turn people aside from the truth and to trust in lies. Thank God for the King James Bible, the true Bible in English. It would be good for you study Jeremiah 36 chapter because it shows that God is able to preserve his word.

  5. +10 for an awesome word: fundamorphosis. I even added it to my dictionary in Word. Robb, thanks for sharing you story, especially your spiritual depression. I believe it is a true mark of transformation from fundamentalism when you can admit you have been spiritual depressed. Darrell, thank you too!

    1. Thanks, J. That’s very kind of you. Honestly, my dark night of the soul was the most significant aspect of my transformation. My fundamentalist upbringing didn’t prepare me in the least for it. I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon in a fundamentalist church about the dark night of the soul. I almost lost my faith completely.

      1. I struggled for almost a year with spiritual depression before I came out of it. I learned so much from it, and looking back I would not change that year for anything. I came out of the depression and knew I needed to leave the IBF. I was scared to tell my wife of 6 months that I wanted to leave the IBF, but she graciously followed and God has slowly been transforming her for these last 2 years. We get a lot of flak from our families, most of who are still in the IBF. The power of our awesome and gracious God for transforming lives still amazes me.

      2. Robb,
        you state that you were in the darkness, losing your ‘religion.’ As you were losing faith in religion and belief system, was your faith in the object of your religion, Jesus, ever shaken?

        If yes, what restored that faith, and could you speak to that process?

        Or is that spoilers for the book, and should i just buy it already?!?! 😛

        1. Shoes, yeah, I cover this in the book. But ultimately, there were three things that pulled me out of my spiritual depression and drove me to discover a new way to be a Christian. First, I read A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. I know some people hate McLaren, but this book really helped me. Second, I had a few close friends to whom I was able to express my doubts and questions. They listened and loved me anyway. Maybe a different kind of church community was possible? And third, I wanted to be motivated by faith and love rather than fear. Fear is an effective but cruel motivator. I think the way of Jesus is living by faith and love. I knew that I couldn’t stay in my fundamental Baptist church. And so, we took the biggest risk of our lives – we left to start a new church. We got separated from. We had awful things said to and about us. But we were on a whole new adventure to see if we could be followers of Jesus in a new way. It’s tough to be depressed when you are so exhilarated!

  6. Hey everyone…save your questions and ask Robb yourselves tomorrow night 7-9pm CST. He’ll be my guest and I plan on grilling him like a KGB agent.
    Okay not really but I do have questions I want to ask and hear his response on. I am concerned that the pendulum can swing too far in response to Fundieism. (Not specific to Robb here so don’t panic) I’m interested in hearing his take. Also…if you don’t want to call in, you can email me questions at craigd2599@yahoo.com. I LOVE to interview and I try to ask questions that maybe the listener wasn’t expecting…I hope that by the end of the show we all know Robb a lot better and that will help us understand his escape from Fundie-ism. Darrell put the link on the header for this post. I hope you’ll join us. The studio line is (646) 564-9564

  7. I never bought into the standards side of fundamentalism. I never thought the KVJ was the only version acceptable to God. I never thought the pastor was infallible, and that we were to blindly follow him. But I was a fundy. I still struggle with judging people by standards that were imposed on me. And I struggle with seeing things in black and white. But instead of arguing my point, now I try to sit back and think, research and pray before I respond. And SFL is a great place to see things from a different perspective.

  8. I needed to read this today and look forward to reading this book. We left Fundyville this past Christmas, and I’m still detoxing from a lot of garbage. I’ve been reading SFL for about 3 months now and have been very encouraged that it is God leading me away from fundamentalism much to the consternation of old friends and family. Being in the Deep South, I haven’t yet found a place where I feel free to be myself, and honestly, I don’t have much hope of finding a church in my area that is not bound by traditionalism. But I do know my heart is closer to God, and my marriage is stronger all because I’m not going to a man-made church.

    1. Welcome to the other side! The pressure you no longer feel to be a perfect Christian is great. Detoxing takes a while, I’m 2 years into it and still have a way to go.

  9. Thank you! You have successfully put into words the journey I think we all go through at some point. I am recently just out from all the craziness, so I am still struggling with depression and everyday decisions….but like you said, I can tell that change is already underway. I can tell I’m getting more and more comfortable thinking for myself and not giving pre-programmed responses to things. I’m having to completely re-train how I think, and it’s a work in progress, but knowing I’m not alone gives me hope. 😐

  10. The fact that this book is endorsed by Brian McLaren already gives me the impression that this book is going to be about a whining “victim” complaining how he was abused by fundamentalists and vying for a spot as a “cool” Warren/Bell look alike within the emergent movement. The mistake that is made by so many of us who come out of the fundamentalist movement is that we focus on man and what bad they have done rather than focusing on God and his redemption in our lives. There is abuse of some form in every movement from the Catholics to the emergents to the mainstream denominations.

    1. LP…and here I thought I was gruff and aggressive. How’s that Dale Carnegie class coming? Why don’t you call tomorrow night and ask that as a more gently worded question.

    2. He also gives away Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis to prospective visitors to his church. That tells you pretty much where he has headed.

    3. A pet peeve of mine is those who don’t understand labels but want to hang them on others regardless. One of those terms is “emergent”. This term is often used by people meaning “contemporary” which is not “emergent”. And to place Warren and Bell on the same theological or ecclesiastical plane is frankly ridiculous. Warren has been outspoken in his criticism of Bell’s theology and what he has labeled “heresy” on hell. By his account Warren grew up in a healthy Christian home (validated to me by his brother) and has never expressed any portion of doubt in his faith. I count Rick a friend and am moved to defend him at times against such foolish claims.

      1. jb, wasn’t referring to warren as emergent. Just said Robb looks like a cross between warren/bell physically. 😛 Look at his pic.

        MKX – stabbed and bleeding? Did that happen when he was told he couldn’t play basketball on Sunday. LOL.

        1. lol . . .
          +10
          if I’m going to hear more about fundamentalist abuse, I’d rather hear it from someone who actually was abused. Sounds like Robb just didn’t like not getting his way!
          I’m still confused as to what the dating in college story is supposed to illustrate. Oh, wait–Robb’s pragmatic, me-centered nature? Makes sense now.
          I just finished reading the reviews for Velvet Elvis and I need to go quietly retch now. It’s people like this who give fundies the fuel to keep going!

      2. Agreed! Sometimes I think Rick is a bit too megalomaniacal…like having his entire church go on a diet. But certainly not an Emergent. I think Emergents are the people who have Paul rushing to the throne about 30 times a day asking God “I gave my life for THIS??!!”

    4. “Whining victim”?! Do you tell someone who has been stabbed and is bleeding to stop whining? Why then, do you get to vilify those who were wounded in their spirits? Peddle your tough-it-out macho garbage somewhere else. You don’t get to dictate what someone needs to do or say to heal. Sorry if not everyone heals the way you prefer. 🙄

  11. Have purchased the book and look forward to reading it. Only been out of fundy a short while. Finding a new church has been a struggle as we feel compelled to stay with what we know but so want to step out and trully love God and know truth rather than man made idol worshiping of the mog.

  12. If “Where did Cain’s wife come from?” is a stumper question, you shouldn’t be in the pulpit, fundamentalist or otherwise.

    1. True. But he said he was doubting his fundamentalist answers. The only one fundies could proffer would be that she was his sister and God allowed that kind of thing at the beginning. Obviously he read somewhere that there was another answer and it “obviously” had to be that there were millions of people already.

      1. I agree with Anti-anti-fundy. This is not an issue of fundamentalism, this is an issue of basic Christianity. Robb’s questions posed in the post above do not address issues unique to fundamentalism; they strike at the heart of the Bible’s integrity–something that all orthodox Christians, Catholic, evangelical, fundamentalist, and everything in between, agree on.
        seriously? why does the book of Genesis sound like it was written by different people? Doesn’t the flood sound like an overreaction? How could God willingly be tied to a pack of scoundrels? The typical fundy answers to these questions are that God has a right to be angry at sin since He made us, and that he “tied himself to a pack of scoundrels” because of, you know, grace?
        But these are not only “fundy” answers . . . these are basic Christian answers. This man is not rejecting fundamentalism; he is rejecting basic Christian orthodoxy. Some have defended him saying that he does believe his Bible, he just views it through a different lens. To me, he doesn’t seem to be making any effort to reinforce the fact that he still believes in the truth and reliability of Scripture. Oh yes, he believes in Jesus . . . but Jesus is revealed in Scripture. They are inseparable!
        I’ve never noticed different voices in Genesis, but then, I’ve never looked for them either.

        1. @Robb…this is why I called you this afternoon. Imagine the switchboard tomorrow night.
          FOLKS!! You don’t have to agree with Robb’s destination! Honestly…I don’t agree with it completely either. But he is an engaging guy who is asking legitimate questions and as such at least respect that he may STILL be morphing…thus the title. I promise you tomorrow night when Robb appears on my show I will ask him some of the questions you are asking and the ones you haven’t asked yet. But I plan on showing respect. PLEASE call in tomorrow night and ask him yourself!

        2. Legitimate questions like “Where did Cain get his wife?”?? What about this one, “Could God microwave a burrito so hot that even he couldn’t eat it?” Compelling.

    2. Oh, I know that much of what I believe is only because of the school I went to. I have been in a reforming mold for 5 years since leaving Fundystan. And God has been remaking me, but on the simple questions he brings up, I am not much in doubt.

  13. Something that has been immensely healing & healthy for me since leaving fundystan is to read others’ stories and expand my interpreted views of life, religion, God, etc. Something I learned years ago was God is not shocked or outraged by my questions and doubts. I’ve had many conversations with God about things in the Bible I do not understand or have answers to reconcile my thoughts. He has yet to shame me, punish me or shun me like I would’ve experienced in the IFB. He has been nothing but kind, gracious loving & patient as I walk through my journey and rest in Him. I commend you for putting yourself out there and sharing your journey and your honesty about who and where you are. I am greatly looking forward to reading your book!

  14. Robb, I have gone through a similar metamorphosis. I made my exit from fundamentalism while in my senior year at one of fundamentalism’s “ivy league” schools. My desire is to pastor one day but am still trying to work through some things first. Perhaps my biggest struggles is the GLBT issue. My brother has been in a monogamous gay relationship for 10 years and my attitude toward him early on caused him a lot of pain and a break in our relationship. Since walking away from my IFB upbringing our relationship is, thankfully, on the mend but I still struggle with accepting his homosexuality. At this point in my journey I still believe homosexuality is sinful, although I am not convinced beyond the point of certainty. The fear of causing others the kind of pain I caused my brother keeps me on the sidelines of ministry. Anyway, that’s where I’m at. Kudos to you Robb. Looking forward to reading the book…on Kindle of course.

    1. Drew, I also have a LGTB sibling, and I’d recommend Christopher Yuan’s book “Out of a Far Country” to you. It has greatly helped our family understand and come to terms with the gay issues. Check out Christopher’s speaking schedule, as well, and I’d greatly recommend hearing him speak, if at all possible.
      http://www.christopheryuan.com/main/index.html

    2. Drew, human sexuality is far more complicated than I was taught it to be growing up in fundamentalist churches. I don’t really address LGBT issues in my book, but my own journey has been own of getting to know people, developing friendships with those I had been taught to condemn, and ultimately, to try to see people as people rather than as part of some big group. I can say this – my life has been deeply enriched by the friendships I developed over the last few years. I don’t think we can err when we are on the side of grace. Thanks for your encouraging words, and I wish you well as you navigate some choppy waters.

      1. We absolutely need to get to know people and love them where they are, but are you willing to call homosexuality what it is? Is it a sin or not biblically speaking? I’m not speaking of condemning someone because they’re homosexual, but telling them the truth about sexuality in the Bible especially if you are a spiritual leader. Again, I’m not talking about picketing or yelling or calling names, but lovingly telling them the truth of what the Bible says. We should never offend with our attitudes, but we should be willing to tell the truth in difficult conversations. You can make the Bible a lot of things, but pro homosexual is definitely not one of them.

  15. I still believe the fundamentals – that the Bible is the very Word of God, salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, who was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life, died and rose again for our sins, and will return for the church His bride. But I can no longer call myself a fundamentalist, because the word no longer means “one who believes the fundamentals.” Now, to the world and to 99% of fundies, it means: “One who believes the fundamentals of the faith as I believe them, the non-fundamental points of the faith as I believe them, and holds the same standards as I do about proper worship, dress, music, behavior, and thought.”

    And, what’s more, I’ve realized that there ARE other viewpoints in this world. I believe that God has given every man the liberty to believe and act as he wishes to, and that every man will give account to God (NOT ME!) at the end of his life. And I can now have civil debates with my very liberal family members and end them with differing opinions, but smiles on our faces. I think that step away from Fundystan deserves a little celebration. 🙂

    1. / Yay!!!

      This is me celebrating! 🙂

      I too hold to the fundamentals, but I can’t call myself a fundamentalist for the reasons you say. It really is wonderful to stop trying to be the world’s policeman and instead to love, to live out the Gospel, to speak truth gently and graciously, and to trust God’s Spirit to work in people’s lives.

      1. pastor’s wife – I know you don’t know me, but I love you! your heart of love and compassion, and your willingness to stand up for what you believe always make my day a little better. Maybe because my mom’s a pastor’s wife… 🙂

    2. Sadie – I also agree with you. In fact I would say that I actually have a stronger belief in the Bible now than when I was in a fundy church. The problem with fundydom is that they add so many man-made teachings to the scriptures that they change the basic truths contained therein…therefore if you follow their teachings, you actually end up believing something contrary to the Bible. I have found that it is much easier to just read the Bible and accept it as it is plainly written.

      As for the passages that are tough to understand and/or comprehend, I am reminded of the counsel that Spurgeon gave to a young a student who was trying to reconcile a “problematic” passage: “Give the Lord credit for knowing things you don’t understand.”

  16. For me, it was chucking the fundy part out, and delving into who God really IS.

    My journey began when I studied Psalms and circled words like lovingkindness and mercy.

    Those are words I never heard spoken nor felt in a fundy church.

  17. I understand that the stance “there can be many versions/interpretations of truth, and they’re all ok” seems peaceful and freeing–a way to avoid taking sides that can be diametrically opposed.
    The problem is that there IS a side diametrically opposed to that stance: the claim that absolute truth DOES exist and should be sought.
    So the problem of conflict has not really been avoided at all.

        1. ok. I really am intrigued by what you have to say and I don’t mean to come across as personally attacking you (anonymous forums tend to bring out our ferocious sides occasionally). If anyone has rejected fundamentalism, I have–in fact my screen name makes it clear that they also rejected me (on the basis of extrabiblical standards.)
          I just don’t see the value in believing that absolute truth exists, if we can’t absolutely grasp any of it. When Fundy U, fundy church and fundy friends kicked me out in the cold, my Bible is what brought me through my own dark night of the soul. I can accept the proposition that some biblical truths cannot be fully grasped, and thus should not be dogmatically argued, by finite minds. But I cannot accept the proposition that the Bible is simply what we make of it–that there is nothing to defend, no non-negotiable doctrines that define me as a Christ-follower. For me, I found that the very essence of my faith lay in my ability to keep believing in the integrity of the Bible and the character of God, despite my inability to reconcile them in my finite mind using pat answers. A faith in a Bible whose credibility I must constantly evaluate doesn’t seem like much of a faith.
          I simply do not see the connection between a literal interpretation of Scripture and the hypocritical ban on Sunday basketball playing or pants-wearing. These do not seem like facets of the same problem. Perhaps you can enlighten us in your radio appearance.

        2. EFF,
          Not to jump into the conversation uninvited, but I think you should consider the difference between a “literal” interpretation of Scripture and a “literary” interpretation of Scripture. The difference is that the first approach makes an a priori judgement about what constitutes truth, and the second presumes that the text is true, and tries to come to terms with the meaning of the text on its own terms. The philosophical syllogism underpinning the literal approach goes something like this:
          1) All truth is empirical/rational (a modernist construct, btw)
          2) God’s word is truth
          3) Therefore, God’s word is empirical/rational (i.e. literal)

          In the interest of fair disclosure, I am a confessional Lutheran and believe that a great deal of the text is “literal” (obviously many of the Psalms, prophets, etc. are not). However, that is not a presupposition I hold; rather, I arrived at that conclusion by asking “what is the author trying to say”. It may seem like picking nits, but I think the difference is profound and worth taking into consideration.

        3. I understand that; though I still don’t see the connection between extra-biblical fundamentalist standards and higher criticism.
          As a dyed-in-the-wool fundy child, teen, and college student, I was always taught that one should evaluate whether a passage should be interpreted literally based on its context. Thus, I was led by fundies to the same conclusion you’ve arrived at: certain passages like Psalms are obviously not literal; Matthew is mostly literal.
          However the questions of Cain’s wife, different voices in Genesis, God’s moral questionableness in the book of Genesis, etc. are not really questions concerning literal or non-literal interpretation of Scripture. They deal rather with the integrity of scriptural principles, whether literal or figurative.
          For instance, let’s suppose the Genesis flood didn’t really happen; it’s a word picture designed to illustrate God’s character. All right. Well, if that character is overreactive, capricious and cruel, as it seems to Robb, then it doesn’t matter whether or not the Flood literally happened. The question is whether we reject the teaching of the story, whether or not it’s literal.
          Same thing with “How could God be tied to a pack of scoundrels?” I don’t see how the literal/non-literal/literary lenses come into play here. Either God joined Himself to sinners (literally or not, who cares) or He did not. To reject this idea is not to reject a literal interpretation of scripture, it is to reject the truthfulness of scriptural principles.

        4. EFF I think you are trying to connect a dot that was not necessarily intended to be connected. Robb can clarify for himself, but in my opinion extra biblical standards are a symptom. They are red flags that there is something wrong with the hermeneutic and theological ideals. It is also a marker of a cult atmosphere. As for the textual criticism I was always taught that this was wrong in fundystan. Now I know that an absence of textual criticism is nothing but unscholarly. It is fine to believe something and to take something just by faith or tradition. But I am not a Jew. My heritage does not cause me to give add any more weight to jewish tradition or lore. Having said that, most Christians when they say they have “studied the bible” mean a very shallow study conducted within the walls of their pre-fabricated denomination. Rarely does one search beyond into the relms of canonization, cultural context, proven authorship of a book, etc. Most are not willing to consider all evidence whether coming from an avowed atheist or believer. How is it then all Christians claim objectivity? I am becoming suspicious that objectivity is the exception amongst those who claim to be believers and also claim to “study”.

        5. Good point Teddy Ball Game, on a whim I picked up a “Modern Scholar” lecture series on the Hebrew Bible from my library. Basically it focuses on how the Hebrew Bible (what we call the OT) came to be and the historical context behind the different types of books. Really, really fascinating set of lectures and certainly nothing I ever heard discussed in church.

        6. EFF-
          That’s pretty much my point. Genesis, for example, is not about “6 literal 24 hour days” of creation. The author makes that most clear. It is about God and his character, ownership, and creation of the world. I would add though that it is not higher criticism (something of a misnomer), nor objective examination of the contexts, subtexts, and presuppositions of our hermeneutic; rather, the issue is with faith. Liberalism and fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin – they only accept the text as authoritative when it lines up with what they already believe.

    1. I cautiously say (because I am not talking about Robb; I don’t know of him well enough) that sometimes what happens is people leave one false, man-centered viewpoint and fall into another. They are quick to jump on any bandwagon. So they end up down a different path, but in pretty much the same results as before.

    2. Excom – My thoughts exactly. I completely reject fundy man-made teachings, but accept the Bible as absolute truth. In other words, the Bible sheds light on fundies, fundies do not shed light on the Bible.

        1. That is correct. I would rather be judged for conclusions reached on my own (through study and prayer) than by blindly following someone else. I believe that “seek and ye shall find” is the principle in practice here. The Bereans were held up as a positive example in this regard.

          BTW, in reference to your screen name, I am wearing a handsome pair of cap-toed Ferragamos at the moment.

        2. and there are certain truths in scripture that aren’t really up to that much subjective interpretation. “I am the way, the truth and the life” can’t really mean much else than what it says.

        3. But EFF, you are assuming that passage in the book known as “John” was actually authored by an eye witness or actually by John. There is significant debate about this. Some scholars even believe that the book of “John” was written 50 years after Mathew, Mark and Luke by early Christians and shows an evolution of theology in the deification of Jesus of Nazareth at the time it was written. You may reject this, but can you prove it? You are therefore using faith and relying on early church leaders and tradition to accept your “litteral translation and interpretation” of a passage of scripture.
          I am not saying I agree with the afore mentioned criticisms I am just saying that they are out there are your dogmatic approach kind of looses its zing when everything is considered.

        4. sorry, but if I can’t be confident that John wrote John then I might as well toss my Bible. Faith in a book with a fabricated author is downright ludicrous.

        5. EFF not every one shares your extreme dichotomous mentality. Martin Luther proposed to throw out a few books including Hebrews, James and Revelation. I would argue that he probably studied over his lifetime more than you have at this point in your life. So do you think he should have then proposed to throw everything out?

        6. you’re missing the point. It’s not about determining a particular book’s canonicity. If you don’t believe James is canonical, then fine. If you don’t want Hebrews, fine. Go through and determine which books you believe are canonical, based on your research and/or reading of tea leaves.
          But once you’re satisfied that that book is in the canon, are you willing to treat it authoritatively? Which books measure up to your standard? Which ones are you going to follow and revere as the holy, inspired words of God? Do you have them picked out yet?
          Or is the “I’m not sure what’s really inspired but everything’s up for inspection” posturing really just something handy to hold in your back pocket so that you don’t have to be accountable to ANY scripture as authority?

        7. EFF, I said nothing about “tea leaves” (although the disciples used a similar method to choose Mathias to replace Judas).

          Yes, some people may in fact come to the conclusion that scripture does not have ANY authority. Some may be in the middle of their “journey” to find out what they believe about scripture and its place in their life. You have obviously accepted the western cannon as authority, how did you come to this conclusion? Some people may land on a conclusion that they believe you can study and figure out what is most authentic and what was translation / scribal errors or which scripture was not in the originals therefore believing in the authority but not necessarily the inerrancy of the copies we have today.

          I am just trying to lead you to a point that there are more options and nuance than what fundies indoctrinate people to believe.

  18. I mostly find recent Christian books to be shallow, formulaic, and man-centered (VE, Radical, et al.). As for this one, I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if it follows that trend. But based on this post, I wouldn’t be interested in reading it. So there’s a conundrum. Maybe everyone who’s buying it can review it over in the forums?

      1. Thanks. And to you as well. It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but it sounds like many on here may be helped by it. If they are, then that’s great.

  19. I submit my theory that every one constructs and makes up their own God and Jesus. Sure, some are based on their people group / tribe/ parents / etc. but it (their God / Jesus) is then conformed to how they want it to be.
    Why else do we have 2000 years worth of denominations and camps in Christianity alone? Is this not how the early church leadership formed the cannon; those that garnered the most support for their theology picked which books were canonized? Where there not books selectively omitted for whatever reason?
    I too am in a journey, as I believe every one is, but I purposed this time to dig deeper and ask the harder perhaps unanswerable questions.
    Those that tisk-tisk at Robb Ryerse writing a book about his journey: do you not see any value at all to some one publishing his journey? You may consider it minuscule or pesky, but to some it may be of value because of where they are currently in their journey.
    What if “faith” is like a scaffolding that we all personally construct? Our parents / teachers/ society may help construct some of the layers of that scaffolding. Every one is on a different layer of their scaffolding at different times in their lives. When the winds of reality and reason and critical thinking blow on us it may knock others further down a level than another person. Or the “winds” may not blow as hard on one person as it does another because they are in a bubble that has been placed around them. Some are able to deconstruct the scaffolding and climb off of the scaffolding. Some believe that God has to construct the scaffolding and only their scaffolding is correctly put together. Maybe this is a poor word picture. But as I said I am on a journey as well.. and I am trying to search the veracity of the answers I was indoctrinated with in fundystan. ❗

    1. a journey is only as valid as its destination. If there’s no defined destination, it’s not a journey, it’s a wandering, and should be self-identified as such in the interest of full disclosure.

      1. Why can’t a journey be just about the journey? Why can’t wandering be a journey? The Israelites wandered for decades, yet there was an actual journey which took place.

        I believe what looks to others to be wandering is actually God teaching me to trust Him on my faith journey. The “end point” of the wilderness journey was different for each individual, so why can’t our spiritual lives be similar?

  20. I also feel a great sense of freedom to be me after allowing myself to let go of the need to believe what the fundamentalists believe. Even bigger than that though, is I’ve found the freedom to LOVE. To love other people regardless of their beliefs and to accept them for who they are. To create real relationships where I don’t need to be evaluating their walk with God or subversively trying to convert them. Allowing myself to doubt is very freeing as well. I can accept that it may take me a while to figure something out now. I don’t feel the pressure to have every answer. The world may be more complicated now that it’s not black and white, but I no longer believe the truth is black and white.

  21. Robb,

    Checked out your page, and was surprised to see Dr. Carter and Russ Warner, men I know (or in the case of Dr. Carter, knew). Kind of surreal to see them populate the same list as McLaren…but I guess stranger things have happened.

    If your escape was from the GARB, you had it easy, my friend. Next to the IFB, the GARB looks positively liberal.

    1. Andrew, thanks for the comment. You are right that to some, the GARBC is liberal. The church that ran the Christian school my wife attended growing up separated from the GARBC for being too liberal. So funny.

      I know what you mean about Dr. Carter and McLaren being on the same list. I loved Dr. Carter so much. He was so great to me and my wife. We miss him dearly … but he would have a fit over me now.

      1. Just for the record, I didn’t say the GARB (or any subset thereof) is liberal…I merely compared it (favorably) with the IFB.

        My Dad studied under Carter at BBC (BBS, at the time), and I would very much have liked to.

        1. My husband and I both grew up GARBC (in different states) and I would definitely classify both of our churches as fundy-lite. Later after we met and married, he was a youth pastor at a fundy-lite GARBC church in another state. I would agree that compared to other IFB churches, a lot of the GARBC seems balanced and reasonable (at least in my experience).

          I also know of churches who separated from the GARBC because they thought it was too “liberal.”

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