Possibly Protestant?

I may have come a Christian in the Protestant sense over the weekend, but I am still slightly skeptical I meet that definition.   There is a lot that could be said, but all I really know is that I had a “conversion” experience.  The way I see things has changed.  I can’t explain why the change happened, but I link it to my accepance of this fact:  justified guilt and pain can turn to joy in the mind without effort or rationalization. When I acknowledged this fact, the way I look at things started to change quite dramatically, and it has brought me what is best described as joy.

I am very focused on not resorting to “spiritual” matters to explain my position. I say “fact” because I was convinced of this proposition by argument, not by any spiritual experience.  The strange thing is I came out of thinking about the argument with a different view. I also realized that explaining this fact to other people is not straightforward, understanding the strength of the argument is also hard to explain to those who don’t seem to “get it”. I also felt a bit embarrassed for not really getting it earlier, it doesn’t feel like a brilliant discovery, but more like a recognition of something that lots of people have already figured out. Maybe I have been convinced to be a Christian again.

30 thoughts on “Possibly Protestant?

  1. “Stokholm Syndrome”…yeah, right.

    That is for people who are captive. Not those who have left captivity for freedom. The pure gospel with NO strings attached…is freedom.

    You might want to give it a try yourself, sometime.

  2. It is possible that i am willing myself somehow, inducing the joy, but it is like acknowleging the fact of money and finding joy in that, money may be imaginary, but joy is real even if it is “only in my head”

  3. I didnt say the joy was not real. In the simulation of the world that runs in your head you changed a rule or two and that changes the outcome of many calculations to be in your favor – elation is a proper response.

    Church teaches you the rules that make you a broken sinner deserving of hell in a game you cannt win. If someine helps you then adjust things so you don’t have to lose it should feel good. The trouble is there is no reason to believe the game is real.

  4. But i dont believe in an afterlife or hell, i believe in life, not games. It may be a simple correction in thinking, but it seems to be the same sort of correction found in christian teaching, and it seems to work without making metaphysical claims about the game, it appears to be a fact that some people turn guilt to joy consistently by thought, that is the only claim i accepted, i just found that when i acknowledged that fact my outlook dramatically changed by assimilating that fact into the other facts of reality, i am really not sure if i am a christian by any standard, but this thought regarding guilt and joy seems to match what jesus and paul taught.

  5. I agree that it may be that i changed the rules, maybe that is the only thing i did, but it may be the first time i effectively did that, which seems remarkable

  6. I understand the solipsistic argument and largely agree with it, and I believe you are right that everything I see is an illusion. But within that illusion, it feels a lot more like I am seeing some fact of the world that others can see than as if I am seeing a vision that only I see. Its like I corrected a sort of color blindness with thought.

  7. I don’t know that I am any different than most atheists as far as the metaphysical claims that I do accept, but when I acknowledge the depth of mystery that we are stuck in joy shows up, also very mysteriously. I do not attempt to explain the mystery, I only accept the facts I can put into words. That is probably the best way I could explain this phenomena to an atheist.

  8. Keeping clothes tidy brings some people joy, perhaps it is the same sort of mystery of joy I am talking about here- but without having to fold the clothes. Not having to fold the clothes seems to change everything.

  9. Really interesting Jared. I’m looking forward to how you continue to explore the world with this new paradigm. I also feel the confusion you express in the joy.

    Church teaches you the rules that make you a broken sinner deserving of hell in a game you cannt win.

    Or it could be that a church articulates what you already experience.

  10. Jared, I am still coming to know this site, but your wording is intriguing, very carefully written so as not to take a position. Its good you might ascribe this to Christianity and an acceptance of Christ, “in the Protestant” sense. I do pray that you have come to accept Christ through your acceptance that guilt can turn to joy without effort.

  11. I did choose my words carefully, I am trying to carefully document how I “saw the light”. To be honest, what I experienced fits precisely with the way Protestants talk about salvation. I also understand that Jesus and Paul may have been the first people to see salvation in the way that I am seeing it now. I can see how reasonable it is for Protestants to preserve Paul’s language very carefully. It is easy to see why Jesus is proclaimed the Son of God. However, I have chosen to remain very spare in the propositions I accept. I am not sure if it is the best method, but it has seemed to work in a very surprising way.

    I lost all faith in God several years ago. I gave up all my beliefs, probably in order to get out of a state of confusion. I began to see the world in a very dark way. However, my oldest daughter who is 16, came to live with me, and I it became clear that I had to get out of the darkness I was in, for her sake if not my own. She is active LDS and I began attending church with her. However, I was struck by how new and unusual LDS beliefs seemed to me after years of studying and thinking about orthodox Christianity. I wanted my daughter to at least be open to orthodox Christianity because it seemed to be more uniformly positive than the LDS variety.

    I might have been sparked out of my hopelessness when I attended church with Tim several weeks ago with my daughter. During the “praise” part of the service, I had a very typical “spiritual experience” I felt the feeling that I would have described as the “love of God” as a Mormon. I was struck by how the subtlety of the praise song, the lyrics described the feeling of salvation in a very intimate way and did not repeatedly mention Jesus (something that generally turns Mormons off). I found that by simply following along with the lyrics without reflection produced a very emotional reaction in me, tears were streaming. However, I am very distrustful of any sort of “spiritual” experience like this. I have had literally thousands of experiences with what the LDS call the Spirit. I have seen and experienced things that can only be described as miraculous in response to my prayers. But experience and education had taught me that these feelings and experiences were not proof of any particular religious position.

    Around the same time I recognized the dire difficulties with philosophical pessimism and cynicism, the problems with the Tolstoyian Christianity that I had adopted while I was young and had shaped my worldview. I had discovered Tolstoy’s religious writing as a cadet at West Point, and it was the primary reason I end up leaving the academy. Due to the twists and turns my life took after that, I found myself in a deep depression, I did not see a way out. With strange irony, I found myself practicing appellate law, reviewing hopeless cases of convicted felons, face to face with the brutality of the crimes as well as the brutality of their upbringing and the brutality of the government. I couldn’t stop thinking about individual and collective guilt, it brought home Tolstoy’s conclusion it is nearly impossible to escape participation in evil.

    I thought if I focused on philosophy rather than my experiences, I could at least build a more stable positive worldview that would withstand my skeptical bent. My reading of Joseph Smith and Tolstoy, and my study of philosophy as an undergrad, taught me to be very skeptical of orthodox theology. After many years I thought I understood it well enough, but I still thought it was confusing and based on antiquated philosophy. I began searching all my past reading to try to carefully formulate a way to talk about God that I believed was immune to the confusion that I had experienced by choosing beliefs based on “the Spirit” or through adopting the views of a particular philosopher. This led me to the approach I have been taking, trying to rethink most of my past beliefs, stripping things down to what I could explain without reference to controversial positions. There is a lot more to tell about what caused the epiphany that I experienced last week. The arguments for an immediate salvation from guilt became inescapable, and then I seemed to see something that I could not explain, the joy came quickly afterwards.

    I may even be an Evangelical, I feel like I have to explain this somehow to people, especially my children and the people I love. I don’t take any sides because I am not sure orthodoxy is the only way to see this “light”, although I can see why it might be important. I am still thinking about that. All of my family are LDS or post-LDS. I spoke to all of them about this and I could immediately see that it would be very difficult to point out this light using scriptural language because they have essentially already blunted the sharpness of Paul’s language and see salvation as wrapped up in establishing Zion. I still have a hope that I can explain this light in a way that LDS people can readily accept it and enjoy its benefits. But I see a lot of challenges, my caution in how I describe the argument and my experience is partly due to these challenges.

    The joy that I feel seems to be persistent, to the point that it does not seem to be coming from inside myself, it is not a spiritual feeling of the sort that I am very used to. It is very much like what theOldAdam explains, I feel like a prisoner of guilt who has been released to freedom. It seems like I might be permanently out of jail because this sort of salvation does not seem to have anything to do with what I do or what I think. I can “see” it, even though I might not be able to explain it or understand it. It appears that for anyone who sees the world this way, there is always cause for joy. Being aware of this seems to be changing my life, I have to thank everyone who has participated in this blog over the years, especially the die-hards. It strikes me as cliche to say it, but in an important way, I was blind, but now I see.

  12. Jared, I appreciate the detailed response to your story. I did not expect that, and hope that I did not seem presumptuous in pointing out the vagaries. I am new here, as you know, and am trying to figure folks out to the extent you can on an online forum. I certainly don’t want people to reveal that which they wish to keep to themselves. Nonetheless, you may have noticed that I like the concrete and identifiable. I find definitions helpful, as without them, its hard to know what is being discussed.

    I have never been Mormon, but I understand leaving the system can be difficult. To that extent, I appreciate the struggle you have been through. While I am tempted to give my opinion on some of the struggles you bring up, I don’t know if that is helpful or warranted. We all grow in different ways and I believe God will lead anyone who is searching for Him to the right place. it sounds as if He has you going in the right direction.

    I am enjoying participating at this blog, as it challenges my own positions and assumptions. We should strive for new ways of thinking and new ways of understanding our faith. The truth will never change, but we should always grow towards a better understanding of it. I am pleased to have found a place that allows me to do so. I hope, too, that I contribute to that aim for others, as well.

    Jared, I thank you for sharing.

  13. Thanks for filing in the details. I’m praising God for your new outlook on life. I think most would see the parallels with a “born again” experience. At once, you were lost and then you were found.

    I still have a hope that I can explain this light in a way that LDS people can readily accept it and enjoy its benefits. But I see a lot of challenges, my caution in how I describe the argument and my experience is partly due to these challenges.

    This makes great sense especially knowing you and how you approach faith.

    There is a lot more to tell about what caused the epiphany that I experienced last week.

    Can’t wait to hear it.

    This is the first week of Advent and the question we put before our kids was “What does Jesus have to do with hope?” Based on your post, I think “a simple fact” for you is “hope”.

  14. When I was in high school I first read Romans 4:4-5, that God justifies a person when they stop working for it and start trusting God who justifies the ungodly. “Justifies the ungodly? To the one who does not work?” It was at the same time insulting and yet the best news in the world. And I knew I needed grace that went to the “bottom of me.” I felt defeated by God. Then God forgave me. Best news in the world. My life will never be the same.

    Grace and peace in Jesus, who justifies the ungodly like me (Romans 4:4-8),


  15. Jared, would you say that Jesus is the source of freedom from guilt and pain or is the ability to turn to joy something anyone can do on their own?

  16. That is an interesting question, I hesitate to say that the man, Jesus was the source. Frankly, don’t know what the source of this sort of freedom from guilt or pain is, it just appeared as a fact. In my philosophy, I found God to be the source of all of the facts of the world, God must also be the source of this.

    Guilt is hard to define, but for me it was a very hard fact of my life, and most everybody else’s life. It seemed easy to temporarily sooth and rationalize guilt, let it go, or merely accept it, but when I looked at things as honestly as possible, I knew my guilt was justified by my deepest convictions, and because of those convictions, I was not capable of escaping this guilt by anything I did. I had to admit that I was crippled by it emotionally, it prevented me from doing anything that would not bring on more guilt. I couldn’t say that nothing mattered, that position makes no sense to me, so the guilt stuck. It showed up in the form of a paralyzing depression. I accepted that this was life and I would have to get by in this sort of crippled state, doing the best I could, but I knew that it was not enough.

    I opened up my mind to the possibility that the simple fact was that somehow the guilt could be wiped away, and I remembered images and stories of this happening. I saw the nature of guilt as being stuck in our nature and our relationship with the world and each other, rooted in the nature of human behavior.

    When I accepted it as a fact that some people have actually felt justified guilt wiped away mysteriously, i.e. through God, it seemed immediately to be the case with me. It came after recognizing that most religions have a mechanism of atonement, but Jesus and Paul announced that salvation was a simple fact. The fact that this could happen seemed to be the greatest evidence of what could be termed the love of God. It seemed like this, if anything, must be the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seemed that merely accepting this meaning of words of Jesus brought the change.

    I suppose the simple answer to your question is that I expect that anyone who accepts the words of Jesus as fact may be able to experience this sort of epiphany, but some may be incapable. (Huh, I may even be a Calvinist of sorts)

  17. Jared, I read this today and it made me think of something you said.

    2CO 3:13-16 NIV

    We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

  18. Thanks Tim, It seems like I understand what Paul was saying a lot better now.

    (Perhaps it is no wonder that my one of my worst grades in college was in the New Testament class I took from the BYU philosophy department.)

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