About

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I have a strong evangelical Christian background, having been a pastor’s kid (my dad went to Dallas Theological Seminary and Talbot School of Theology), being heavily involved in lay church leadership for all of my twenties and working as a research/teaching intern for a brief time with two Christian apologetics think-tanks (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Probe Ministries). To varying degrees, I have also studied/experienced Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal and numerous types of non-modernistic/fundamentalist/American-styled/evangelical Protestant traditions in Christianity.  Also, I studied philosophy, religion and history at Auburn University and Georgia State University.

I was a Christian until age 32 (now I’m in my late thirties).  I was well educated, lovingly treated by other Christians and committed to following God the best I knew how.  But, I was blind to many basic and important aspects in common skeptical challenges to this religion.  Even though I was in the process of pursuing a career in professional Christian apologetics evangelism during my early to mid twenties, many of the challenging assertions of skeptics didn’t make full sense to me (especially as humanistic moral objections toward an apparently all-loving/knowing/powerful creator God).  A few key doctrinal issues drove me out of the faith gradually.  Years later, I was able to think in a different way about various other theological/philosophical topics and vantage points that didn’t occur to me or feel spiritually/emotionally/intellectually safe to really openly address while still in the Church.

Beginning in the late 1990s, I became focused in my intense personal studies and discussions with fellow Christians (including evangelical Christian philosophers/theologians) on the doctrine of creation and the “cultural commission,” “cultural mandate” or “creation mandate,” which, as Wikipedia says, is “the divine injunction found in Genesis 1:28, in which God (YHWH), after having created the world and all in it, ascribes to humankind the tasks of filling, subduing, and ruling over the earth. It has served as a basis among both Christian and Jewish peoples for all manner of cultural activities: economic engagement, scientific inquiry, literary exploration, military expansion, and alternately, exploitative as well as conservationist responses to the natural environment.” My intention was to understand the positive meaning of this biblical teaching so that we humans could pursue our most healthy purposes and participate fully within the rest of nature, not over nature.

I eventually decided that Christianity and the Bible:

1) Greatly over-emphasize the sin/salvation paradigm in place of the creation/natural context.

2) Substantially diminish our understanding, and thus our experience as well, of God’s immanence/femininity (as opposed to God’s transcendence/masculinity, which, by far, is given the most attention and esteem).

These two themes of teaching/practice have had many negative consequences on religion and society (including subtle or overt dehumanization and ecological neglect/destruction). The effect of Christianity’s and the Bible’s excessive investment in the theology of the cross (including making it the visual and conceptual symbol of the religion) developed a sub-context (sin/salvation, wickedness/grace) into a primary context. Instead, I believe it would have been far more beneficial and sane to have chosen a type of creation-centered philosophy/theology/spirituality, which I describe here. Within the Christian/biblical tradition, this creation-centeredness could have been founded on the visual symbols and realities/concepts/doctrines such as the “bread of life”, the “abundant life” or the “Trinity.” Church history, medieval/modern history and Western thought/lifestyle would have been significantly different and probably more humane if this had been the case.

In 2006, I left the evangelical church and around 2010 I realized that because I so strongly held these beliefs I could no longer be considered a Christian of any type, whether this be Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. I gradually came to reject the biblical doctrine of the atonement and the excessive brutality of the Judeo-Christian God. I don’t deny that there is a lot of love and compassion in this God as well. But, by looking at the evidence in the Bible, the natural revelation and my own experience…..I conclude that the real God is both good and evil (not necessarily to an equal degree). Sometimes I love God. Sometimes I hate God. Sometimes I like God. These are feelings and thoughts that both come to me unexpectedly and which, at other times, I distinctly choose based on my interpretations/experiences of this very mixed up world that contains many wonderful things and many horrible things. Logically, I must hold God centrally responsible for most of the conditions in the universe because of the very limited power of the human will to change much of it. This is not pessimism. I believe in a view of life that I call positive realism, which is an attempt to acknowledge the harsh aspects along with the truly beautiful elements and the possibilities for greater fulfillment that are ever-present.

Since 2009, I’ve attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation and generally agree with their principles. I still believe in God and pray/repent for specific actions, although to a lesser degree than in my Christian days. Regardless of my several remaining Christian beliefs/ethics, I cannot overlook my severe disagreements with Christianity. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong and so I continue to dialog with strangers, leaders, friends and family members who are Christians, whether evangelical or any other type. I also enjoy talking with and learning from people of other religions or no religion at all.

I look forward to hearing your opinions.

Sincerely,

Andy Rhodes

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You may contact me directly at andyrhodes111@gmail.com.

I also express my spiritual, intellectual and emotional journey with life and God through other forms of creativity, which I’d love to hear your thoughts on:

Political Analysis             Music              Digital Art and Photography             Poetry

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9 comments

  1. Very interesting…I fully support this type of honest expression. It takes a lot of courage to think things like this through rather than just follow the herd and adhere to the status quo, especially if the influences in this area began in childhood. I believe we all know somewhere deep down what is “right” in this world in a way that we don’t fully understand…some people call that God, some call it conscience, some call it intuition…but whatever you call it, it’s there. Debating over the particulars isn’t something I feel the need to do, because to me it’s all the same thing. I can however understand the struggle and journey that a person takes along that path and I think that getting feedback and putting your take on the subject out there is a good thing. I just hope that you don’t get too many overly critical “trolls” on your page because they disagree with you and can’t bear to have their reality tunnels expanded a bit in order to accept yours. Best wishes and thanks for sharing!

  2. Agreed! I have a background in the ‘pentecostal’ christianity belief system; as this was what I was raised in. Today, I have no interest in religion, especially not of this type. I’ve reverted back to what i eloquently describe as ‘the indigenous model’ 😉 What we were / are … what our ancestors believed / trusted / based their lives around. And that is all about nature / respect / balance. It works for me 🙂

  3. Hello,

    With your permission, I would like to become a follower of your site. Love your honesty about where you were and where you are now. I don’t have any formal training, nor am I an intellectual in any sense of the word, so don’t expect me to be able to add much to your world. But I do love to learn and have a tendency to ask dumb questions from time to time.

    rob

  4. At the risk of a less than original response, I too thank you for visiting/following my blog, which led me to yours.
    I was not brought up within a faith environment, and found my own quite late in life (compared to many I know). I still struggle with many areas of Christianity, which includes the vengeful -v- loving God. There’s quite a lot I don’t understand when people start talking about different theologies, churchmanship and the many labels given to particular ways of worshipping.
    I love the honesty of your post, even if I don’t ‘get’ it all. I like the questions you ask, of the faith and of yourself. Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts. I am looking forward to reading more and hope there is something in the conversations that provides a different perspective, even if not agreement, to whatever topic is discussed. I will no doubt be way out of my depth, but hey! I won’t learn anything new if I don’t step out of my comfort zone. Good to meet you, as it were 😊

    • Thanks! I’m glad that you found my writing sincere. I’m trying to honestly engage these issues. I didn’t want to leave Christianity. But, over many years I became convinced that I had to leave. I increasingly saw the Bible and its God as far more unethical and inhumane than the opposite.

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