Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Afterlife Plans 4 U – ACT NOW! Offer Ends Soon

In Heaven, Hell, Life, Reincarnation, Suffering, The Bible on June 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I’m not sure if I skipped the midlife crisis stage or if I just couldn’t afford it, but all of a sudden I started thinking about the end of my life. Basically, someday, I’m going to die…. This is normally a conversation stopper, even if only conversing with the self. But I guess I got tired of ignoring it, or something.

Actually, I’ve learned that accepting our impending death is what people do when they reach their 40′s and 50′s so maybe I was just following the book. Either way, I am happy to say that I have found peace when it comes to closing my eyes on this life as I know it.

I mean, I’d prefer not to fall 40,000 feet to my death in an explosion of fire or lose a long drawn out wrestling match with a ferocious animal, but no matter what happens, I know that everything and everyone are going to be okay.

Somehow I had avoided the whole topic of dying for four decades. Maybe I thought in the back of my mind that I would be the one person to defy death. Or maybe I just believed that I was going to heaven and that was that. There was no need to concern myself on the matter any further. I made a rash decision based on perhaps some many quick decisions made before me.

But now I have serious doubts about the traditional Christian doctrine of heaven. After taking an honest-to-self look at what the Bible might say about the issue, I really can’t see any support for some separate place or utopian state of bliss apart from earth. And it’s not just the Bible. I can’t find this evidential support anywhere. The idea of heaven as some far away place appears to be based solely on myth.

When Jesus used the word “heaven” it seemed to be in full compliance with Jewish tradition and the words of the prophets when they spoke of the age to come on earth. It was the day when God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven – when heaven and earth will become the same essence. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.” Isaiah continues to say that God will “swallow up death forever” and “wipe away the tears from all faces.” Swords will become plowshares and spears will become pruning hooks. This is heaven which is on earth.

It seems that some prominent guy (female voices were rarely recorded in history) catches on to some scriptural interpretation and over time, it becomes a doctrine written in stone. And this stone has had a tendency to crush anyone who might have proposed a viable alternative to these interpretations.

In this case, the Christian doctrines of heaven and hell (both invariably linked together) were first  rejected by the Roman Catholic church because they came from pagan sources, from my understanding. Eventually these beliefs, which included purgatory, were adopted by the institutional church at large and while there may be some variation, they are now considered facts of truth by Christians all over the world.

Believers now get to choose between a variety of end times views such a premillenial, postmillenial, amillenial or a pretribulation, mid-trib, post-trib rapture. You can also discover partial preterism, full preterism, futurism, progressive dispensationalisn, historicism, idealism and sometimes it’s a tough choice when you’re out shopping for eschatologies.

I always liked the pretrib rapture idea because, well, it got me out of a seven year tribulation. Escapism from a God of wrath sounded pretty good to me. The only problem was that I never really took the time to think about and question what I believed. It was pretty much a rash decision to take care of the scary death idea as quickly as possible.

Facing death, as well as the possibility of the worst-case scenario such as torment in a never-ending inferno, helps me to think about the issue with more logic. I was also forced to genuinely consider the possibility that maybe life is simply over at death. I can tell you that these theories are not as frightening as we might anticipate them to be. And I will explain why in a minute.

So how do we know which afterlife plan to choose, if any? And how do we know somebody didn’t mistranslate or misinterpret one word in the Bible upon which the entire end of the world hinges? While we’re on the subject, how do we know anything?

I’m going to veer a little off topic (ha, like I’ve never done that before) and explain my personality…. I love trapping someone into a philosophical debate where I ask endless questions and propose even more endless answers. When my victim looks like a deer caught in the headlights, I order another round of lattes and keep talking of course. I’m a joker, I’m theoretical, passionate and my rationale is in your face. But I haven’t always been this way.

I always wanted to be the quiet, sweet flowery girl sitting in the corner who looks like she’s going to break if you step on her toe. I’ve tried to be this person and I always felt out of place, awkward – like something wasn’t right. This is because it wasn’t me. When I’m the dorky, arbitrary, cynical smartass me, I feel alive. I’m in my element. Conversations flow. Life flows. It’s that split second victory when a puzzle piece twists to land in just the right place.

In that sense, I guess you might say that I know something, at least as far as I can know anything. I know what’s right for me personally, and I know what doesn’t work for me personally. I’m tempted to say that figuring things out is half intuition and half trial and error, but I’ve learned that diverse human beings can’t be stuffed into formulas. My truths might not work for someone else because we live in unique as well as common environments.

I can only assume, based on my own life experience and consciousness, that it’s possible to know things even in a state of ignorance or diversity. Even a baby knows when to laugh and when to wail. In fact, kids might be more in tune with their truths than us adults. Maybe this is only because infants don’t have as much to lose as someone with a longer investment in a lifestyle.

But life experience is still a great teacher. There have been moments in my past where I found myself walking for miles out in the cold, dark rain… just walking because I’m in so much emotional pain and anguish, that’s all I know to do. I’ve also cried for hours with my face pressed against a cold bathroom floor. I’ve faced hard reality when I’ve had to admit to certain failures, or acknowledge that I’m not as fabulous as my illusion….

And I now know that it’s possible to make it through something really painful or difficult. How do I know? I guess I just know. I’ve been through it. Through living, I’ve also observed a pattern. For every death that I’ve died, I’ve risen stronger than I was before. I’ve noticed this pattern in other people too, as well as in nature.

Everything seems to be in a constant state of breaking down and building up in various degrees. The breaking down isn’t only allotted to some people while the rewards go to another. It happens to everyone. Everything is born and everything will eventually die. There is no escape from life.

And it doesn’t end. When a piece of wood is burned in a fire, it doesn’t disappear but is transformed into different chemicals that are assimilated back into the atmosphere. More trees and other forms of life are created from this atmosphere. Existing matter doesn’t ever vanish; it is only altered. Existence also doesn’t have a beginning if we look at the time and space continuum of the universe.

As the life cycle continues, many scientists assert, the universe is intrinsically expanding. It isn’t expanding into further space outside of itself, but within or among itself. It is continually in motion and continually in the process of metamorphosis.

This is why I believe that life continues after death. I can say that I know this, as far as I know anything. It only makes sense to me. The majority of the world has always believed in reincarnation. Christians might have an aversion to this concept except that they believe in reincarnation too, if they embrace any kind of theory of rebirth in a new body. While Christians might believe in a reincarnation into heaven or hell, someone else might consider earth as that heaven and/or hell.

I also believe that this continuing life is essentially good, not evil. This is because of the sheer brilliance and cohesiveness of all that exists. Evil seems to be generally characterized by ignorance rather than genius wisdom. There is too much depth and intelligence in the world of life to be meaningless, pointless, illogical or only temporary.

So you see, there is definitely a risk when considering all viewpoints. The risk is that we might find that the thing we fear could be true. But as long as we avoid facing our phobias, they will manipulate our peace. If we face them and discover agony or vexation, then we can learn to accept its purpose and rise above it. And chances are, we will realize that we had nothing to fear in the first place. We might even stumble into heaven, or some kind of reincarnation.

As far as afterlife plans go, I’m curious to know what’s on the other side but patient enough to appreciate the ebb and flow of the here and now which, I imagine, will only continue just as the universe continues in eternal time and space. Although the world is ever changing, it can be trusted to persist and thrive because it is self-sustaining. Just as you and I can keep going with increasing strength after experiencing some excruciating obstacles.

Whatever I believe, it’s nice to be courageously true to myself and my beliefs, and to rest in knowing, as far as I might know.

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  1. I’ve seen how daunting you can be in a conversation before Elizabeth. I find it very interesting to see you talk about the fun you beneath all those questions. :)

    Thanks for sharing about how you relate to these big issues too. Anytime you want to talk (if ever) feel free to do so.

  2. Okay , my life is just as complex and busy as yours and you speak my mind and thoughts, so when I read your stuff I always want to comment and say Yeah you got it, Awesome, You go girl…..but honestly never have the time. So today I will take the time…. I want to cheer you on… and for you to know …that every blog entry I read I am cheering you on… even when I dont comment. Got it!!!!!

    Youre Awesome!!!! Keep being you and being true to yourself!
    Love and Hugs xoxo

  3. I love you. Your honest look at life…and death. And facing truth head on, winning the prize of ‘freedom’ each time you do.

    And that you share it with any of us? Well, that’s just pure gold.

  4. Hi.
    An offering. As we hear in scripture, we are born under the law and thus in death. In other words, under the law means “short of God’s maturity”, under or below the standard of life as in eternal life.

    In Jesus’ witness, if it is believed by one, we see that it was His body that was resurrected by life from within it. That body was then shown in scripture to be free from “the law” spoken of above. His body was no more limited to the constraints of time and space. That may be acceptable as the “heaven” condition you talk about, or as equality with eternal life. The spirit which is life and is eternal, never dying, is who God is, the spirit of life. That life, the nature of life being all that real love is, gives itself to things that do not have it, and finally over time gives us equality with it. The spirit of eternal life is the father of all life and when that life is who we are in nature, our body is completed as a creation and is eternally alive with all the abilities that the only true God of “everything” and every condition, is. We then are the author and finisher of life eternal also. One.

    Eternal life is the father of all life.
    The nature of life is holy, being every attribute that love really is {Love does no evil to any neighbour}/
    The body becomes the Son that the father, eternal life\love is in and is one with love.

    To have real power, love must be a feeling of condition of existence, and be eternal, not being able to be dethroned in us by hate,anger, greed, envy etc. Then death is dead..

  5. Elizabeth, I’m convinced you are my mouthpiece lol!

  6. Elizabeth.

    In regard to your and all people dying. I assume you are speaking in the above essay about physical death, and I would like to know how you feel about the scripture in 1 Cor. 15 that says we shall not all sleep but we shall ALL be changed. Do you accept this scripture as possibly true and if so how do you understand it.
    There is no obligation to reply to this message or on this topic. I do not mind if you do not reply because you do not feel you want to or would like to. Just a bit curious, but not trying to force you to say anything about anything you do not want to talk about.

    Thanks, ken

  7. Elizabeth,
    I’d like to talk to you about being a guest on our radio show.

    Please send us your details and the best time to call VIA the contact page on our website.
    Drew
    http://www.drewmarshall.ca

  8. I’m a Christian who believes in reincarnation. My beliefs label me as a heretic by some and others don’t even think I should call myself Christian at all. But I have thought about and studied the issue (of afterlife) for years and it only makes sense to me.

    Here is a link to a blog post in which I explain why I believe in reincarnation:

    http://christianheresy.blogspot.com/2010/12/reincarnation-in-christianity.html

    I know it’s long but I think it’s a worthy read for those who are interested in this subject!

    • Heb 9:27 it is appointed to mankind to die once, but after this the judgment.
      When fallible beings put their thoughts life and eternal destiny in opposition to the word of God in the Bible I cringe. God has given everyone the free will to hang their life now and through eternity on what ever they choose. I choose the Bible and the confirming personal relationship I have with the Son of God, Jesus. I have personally experienced everyone of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. I have and do hear Gods voice through His word and in my heart. I have had and do have words of knowledge and wisdom, supernatural healing’s physical and even mechanical, tongues and interpretation of tongues and others.Visions and dreams, that have brought true leading, direction and deliverance to myself and others through these gifts.I have also experienced and do experience Love, joy peace, long-suffering, temperance, meekness, patience and self control. If anyone is truly interested I am willing to share specific occurances that I have experienced. The Bible says to share the Word of God and the word of your testimony. I can and will do both to any interested person. He loves you very much and I also do my best to allow Him to love all people through me. See some of what I believe to be truth about Gods Word The Bible below.

      Inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible
      by Matt Slick

      The Christian Church as a whole claims that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. This means that God is the one who moved through the writers to communicate to us the words which God wanted us to hear. This inspiration, however, is not a dictation, but a movement of God’s spirit through the writer, utilizing the personality and style of the writer. Inerrancy means that all that is written in the inspired documents is without error. Now, there is a comment worth mentioning here. Inspiration and inerrancy applies to the original writings, not to the copies. In other words, it is the original writings that are without error. The copies, sadly, have copyist errors in them.

      Therefore, when critics of the Bible point out apparent contradictions, what they are doing is either failing to understand the context of the passages they are examining, or they have encountered a scribal copying error. The fact is that there are indeed copyist errors on the biblical documents and they account for many alleged contradictions. Remember, it is the autographs (original writings) that are inspired and inerrant, not the copies. The copies we have now are copies of inspired documents. The copies are not themselves “inspired;” that is, they have no guarantee of being 100% textually pure. Does this then mean that we can’t trust the Bible? Not at all. The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are 98.5% textually pure. The 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and occasional word omissions like the words “the,” “but,” etc. This reduces any serious textual issues to a fraction of the 1.5%. Nevertheless, nothing affects doctrinal truths. In fact, nothing in ancient history even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents. If the New Testament is disallowed, then all other documents of ancient history (Plato, Aristotle, Homer, etc.), must also be disallowed because the biblical documents are far superior in their copying accuracy than any other ancient literature in existence. See the chart below for further information on this.

      Nevertheless, following is a list of the types of errors that have crept into the Bible:

      Dittography – Writing twice what should have been written once.
      A good example would be writing “latter” instead of “later.” “Latter” means nearest the end. “Later” means after something else.
      Fission – Improperly dividing one word into two words.
      Example: “nowhere” into “now here.”
      Fusion – Combining the last letter of one word with the first letter of the next word.
      “Look it is there in the cabinet… or Look it is therein the cabinet.”
      Haplography – Writing once what should have been written twice.
      A good example would be “later” instead of “latter.” “Later” means after something else. “Latter” means nearest the end.
      Homophony – Writing a word with a different meaning for another word when both words have the exact same pronunciation.
      Meat and meet have the exact same sound but different meanings. Also, there and their and they’re are another example.
      Metathesis – An improper exchange in the order of letters.
      Instead of writing “mast,” someone writes “mats,” or “cast” and cats.”
      Does this mean that the Bible we hold in our hand is not inspired? Not at all. Inspiration comes from God and when He inspired the Bible, it was perfect. Our copies of the original documents are not perfect, but they are very close to being so. The critics often mistakenly assume that even the copies are supposed to be perfect. But when I point out that God never said the copies would be perfect, they then ask how can the Bible be trusted at all? Quite simply, it is redundant in its facts and information sufficiently to guarantee accuracy.

      Compared to other ancient documents, the New Testament, for example, has far more textual evidence in its favor than any other ancient writing. Please consider the chart below.

      Author When Written Earliest Copy Time Span No. of Copies
      Homer (Iliad) 900 BC 400 BC 500 years 643

      Ceasar(Gallic Wars) 100 – 44 BC 900 AD 1,000 years 10

      Plato (Tetralogies) 427 – 347 BC 900 AD 1,200 years 7

      Aristotle 384 – 322 BC 1,100 AD 1,400 years 49

      Herodotus(History) 480 – 425 BC 900 AD 1,300 years 8

      Euripedes 480 – 406 BC 1,100 AD 1,500 years 9

      New Testament 50 – 90 A.D. 130 AD 30 years 24,000

      This chart was adapted from charts in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, 1979, pages 42 and 43.

      If the Bible cannot be trusted as being reliable because it has only a small percentage of copyist errors, then neither can the above documents be trusted that have far less textual support.

      Therefore, we can see that the Bible is an ancient document that has withstood thousands of years of transmission with remarkable accuracy and clarity. We can trust it to be what it says it is: the word of God.

      Especially if your own personal salvation and relationship gives current real evidence and tangible confirmation to the heart and soul of what the written Word says. Healing conviction deliverance and a loving personal relationship with the living Christ hear and now. Are there trials, pain suffering, chastening, love, comfort, peace and joy? YES and sometimes all at the same time!
      Serving the flesh/world is often easy and some fun for a season but ultimately never worth it.
      Serving Father God and Christ is very often hard and yet always worth it.

      Daily we are asked choose this day whom you will serve God or your flesh.
      As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Better now and forever in my estimation. Oh also in the Bibles/Gods.

  9. Heb 9:27 it is appointed to mankind to die once, but after this the judgment.
    When fallible beings put their thoughts life and eternal destiny in opposition to the word of God in the Bible I cringe. God has given everyone the free will to hang their life now and through eternity on what ever they choose. I choose the Bible and the confirming personal relationship I have with the Son of God, Jesus. I have personally experienced everyone of the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. I have and do hear Gods voice through His word and in my heart. I have had and do have words of knowledge and wisdom, supernatural healing’s physical and even mechanical, tongues and interpretation of tongues and others.Visions and dreams, that have brought true leading, direction and deliverance to myself and others through these gifts.I have also experienced and do experience Love, joy peace, long-suffering, temperance, meekness, patience and self control. If anyone is truly interested I am willing to share specific occurances that I have experienced. The Bible says to share the Word of God and the word of your testimony. I can and will do both to any interested person. He loves you very much and I also do my best to allow Him to love all people through me. See some of what I believe to be truth about Gods Word The Bible below.

    Inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible
    by Matt Slick

    The Christian Church as a whole claims that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. This means that God is the one who moved through the writers to communicate to us the words which God wanted us to hear. This inspiration, however, is not a dictation, but a movement of God’s spirit through the writer, utilizing the personality and style of the writer. Inerrancy means that all that is written in the inspired documents is without error. Now, there is a comment worth mentioning here. Inspiration and inerrancy applies to the original writings, not to the copies. In other words, it is the original writings that are without error. The copies, sadly, have copyist errors in them.

    Therefore, when critics of the Bible point out apparent contradictions, what they are doing is either failing to understand the context of the passages they are examining, or they have encountered a scribal copying error. The fact is that there are indeed copyist errors on the biblical documents and they account for many alleged contradictions. Remember, it is the autographs (original writings) that are inspired and inerrant, not the copies. The copies we have now are copies of inspired documents. The copies are not themselves “inspired;” that is, they have no guarantee of being 100% textually pure. Does this then mean that we can’t trust the Bible? Not at all. The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are 98.5% textually pure. The 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and occasional word omissions like the words “the,” “but,” etc. This reduces any serious textual issues to a fraction of the 1.5%. Nevertheless, nothing affects doctrinal truths. In fact, nothing in ancient history even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents. If the New Testament is disallowed, then all other documents of ancient history (Plato, Aristotle, Homer, etc.), must also be disallowed because the biblical documents are far superior in their copying accuracy than any other ancient literature in existence. See the chart below for further information on this.

    Nevertheless, following is a list of the types of errors that have crept into the Bible:

    Dittography – Writing twice what should have been written once.
    A good example would be writing “latter” instead of “later.” “Latter” means nearest the end. “Later” means after something else.
    Fission – Improperly dividing one word into two words.
    Example: “nowhere” into “now here.”
    Fusion – Combining the last letter of one word with the first letter of the next word.
    “Look it is there in the cabinet… or Look it is therein the cabinet.”
    Haplography – Writing once what should have been written twice.
    A good example would be “later” instead of “latter.” “Later” means after something else. “Latter” means nearest the end.
    Homophony – Writing a word with a different meaning for another word when both words have the exact same pronunciation.
    Meat and meet have the exact same sound but different meanings. Also, there and their and they’re are another example.
    Metathesis – An improper exchange in the order of letters.
    Instead of writing “mast,” someone writes “mats,” or “cast” and cats.”
    Does this mean that the Bible we hold in our hand is not inspired? Not at all. Inspiration comes from God and when He inspired the Bible, it was perfect. Our copies of the original documents are not perfect, but they are very close to being so. The critics often mistakenly assume that even the copies are supposed to be perfect. But when I point out that God never said the copies would be perfect, they then ask how can the Bible be trusted at all? Quite simply, it is redundant in its facts and information sufficiently to guarantee accuracy.

    Compared to other ancient documents, the New Testament, for example, has far more textual evidence in its favor than any other ancient writing. Please consider the chart below.

    Author When Written Earliest Copy Time Span No. of Copies
    Homer (Iliad) 900 BC 400 BC 500 years 643

    Ceasar(Gallic Wars) 100 – 44 BC 900 AD 1,000 years 10

    Plato (Tetralogies) 427 – 347 BC 900 AD 1,200 years 7

    Aristotle 384 – 322 BC 1,100 AD 1,400 years 49

    Herodotus(History) 480 – 425 BC 900 AD 1,300 years 8

    Euripedes 480 – 406 BC 1,100 AD 1,500 years 9

    New Testament 50 – 90 A.D. 130 AD 30 years 24,000

    This chart was adapted from charts in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, 1979, pages 42 and 43.

    If the Bible cannot be trusted as being reliable because it has only a small percentage of copyist errors, then neither can the above documents be trusted that have far less textual support.

    Therefore, we can see that the Bible is an ancient document that has withstood thousands of years of transmission with remarkable accuracy and clarity. We can trust it to be what it says it is: the word of God.

    Especially if your own personal salvation and relationship gives current real evidence and tangible confirmation to the heart and soul of what the written Word says. Healing conviction deliverance and a loving personal relationship with the living Christ hear and now. Are there trials, pain suffering, chastening, love, comfort, peace and joy? YES and sometimes all at the same time!
    Serving the flesh/world is often easy and some fun for a season but ultimately never worth it.
    Serving Father God and Christ is very often hard and yet always worth it.

    Daily we are asked choose this day whom you will serve God or your flesh.
    As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Better now and forever in my estimation. Oh also in the Bibles/Gods.

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