Jennifer Fulwiler posted the audio of her conversion story on her blog. Her story is about her journey from lifelong atheism to Catholicism.
A few of the things she said caught my attention because they were so close to my own conclusions. One in particular was about her struggles in discovering what to believe by reading the Bible. After she had concluded there is a God, she was looking how to find him. Her first attempt was not to go to a church. Instead, she bought a Bible and began to read it.
In my own journey, I came to a point where I had to analyze the basis of my beliefs. I had thought that my Evangelical beliefs were the obvious result of clear interpretation of scripture. But when I tried to put aside the biases I knew I held in interpreting the text of the Bible, I started to wonder if the Bible was that clear. I then looked around at all the Evangelical denominations, with their sometimes opposing views on scripture, and concluded that it was not.
Furthermore, as Jennifer put it, this is a system that requires literacy, the printing press, and high reading comprehension skills – a realization I also came to see. These things were just not available until the last few hundred years. What if I had been a person living in France in the year 800? Few people were literate, and even in the unlikely event that I would have been, easy access to a complete copy of the Bible was even less likely, and a personal copy would be unheard of. How would I have even had the chance to read scripture for myself and determine which beliefs were correct?
But what if I was able to have access to the Bible. Would I have come to believe in what many Evangelicals refer to as “Biblical Christianity?”
Throughout history, heretical teachings used scripture to support their positions. History also showed that those who supported heretical beliefs generally did so out of sincerity in the validity of their beliefs. If scripture was so clear and ovbious, why did so many people get it wrong when they interpreted scripture on their own? My own conclusion was that if I were able to eliminate my biases and came to theological conclusion based purely on the words of scripture, it was highly unlikely that I would arrive at all the same beliefs I held as an evangelical.
Jennifer’s experience turned out to be exactly the kind of experiment I had thought about. What happens when an educated person with no theological bias reads scripture? Will that person arrive at my, formerly held, Evangelical beliefs?
As a former atheist with no religious training, Jennifer was the perfect candidate for the theoretical model I had imagined. She had a college education and no biases of what the scriptures should mean.
Her conclusion? The system of reading the Bible and figuring out what to believe based on that alone is “unworkable.” Jennifer’s experience confirms what I concluded about the premise of my evangelical beliefs; the idea that my beliefs came from obvious interpretations of scripture was based more on presumption than reality.
The only resolution I could find was a church with real authority. A church that dated back to Christ and his apostles. It turns out that Jennifer came to the same conclusion. You should go listen to the rest of her story though.