10 Years without Christianity – Part 3
Interview on UK Noahide blog, presented by Hesedyahu
Hesedyahu: OK, so we back again with David Dryden, a man approaching the beginning of his 11th year since leaving christianity. And I think it’s about time we start asking some more relevant questions about the beginning of David’s current status.
So David, you’ve already made it plain that you had rejected the idea of rejecting God, and you had come to the decision that the God of Israel was the one God, the Creator of the universe. So it seems like you were already doing questioning some of your own foundations.
David: Yeah. I had become a christian just before I went to university. But I really became serious about my beliefs when I met with the challenges I faced from other christians that I met at university. I had come from a church that claimed to keep the sabbath on saturday. It had some peculiar beliefs, such as not eating meat that Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 had said were unclean, didn’t accept that Jesus was God (this has changed more recently to them adopting a more trinitarian stance with regards to God), and saw the celebration of xmas and easter as pagan and thus didn’t keep these holidays. Anyone who knows anything about christianity knows that these are peculiar and strange beliefs. But it still accepted Jesus as the son of God, as the Messiah, and believed that belief was necessary in his death to get atonement and forgiveness for sin.
But at university I was forced to rethink my beliefs. Christians were telling me that different verses meant one thing or another; that Jesus was either one part of a trinity, or that he was literally God himself, one manifestation of a singular God, that certain practices that I did was “done away with;” and they celebrated xmas and the other holidays as if they didn’t give a damn where the celebrations came from.
Early on, I had to adopt the standard that I would only believe something if it was clearly in the bible – I was a christian so I meant the christian bible then. But some articlesthat I read kept on telling me that the bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, and I couldn’t tell if that was true by just reading the English, so I learnt Hebrew and Greek along the way.
Hesedyahu: Hebrew and Greek? What? Isn’t that overdoing it a bit?
David : Hesed … I can call you that, right? Hesed, when a person wants to find truth, it’s important for them to remove as many obstacles between them and the real thing as much as possible. I couldn’t take their word for it, the people who said the Hebrew or the Greek meant this. I had to find out for myself. Of course, it became obvious that it was also the translators of the Bible that said “the Hebrew and the Greek say this” so it helps to know at least some of these things for myself. I still remember sitting with my christian friends who had taken a course in Greek, sitting with them in some of their lessons. The lecturer kindly let me stay. Learning Hebrew was more of a lonely road.
Hesedyahu: Of course, we can’t go through your whole story here as I still want to get to the nitty-gritty. So why Jesus? Why did you start to question his position in your life?
David : My investigations had led me down a certain road. Certain things had been drilled into me when I started to study the bible seriously. One such thing was that I should not take a verse out of context to prove a point. This brought me into conflict with the “apostle” Paul, who, I discovered, couldn’t seem to quote a single scripture without ripping it out of context. For that same reason, the book of Hebrews was soon cast aside as almost spitting on the plain understanding of the text in order to spiritualize it. Though I grew to despise Paul, I still accepted Jesus as the christ. But then other things started to come my way. The notion of using Isaiah 7:14 to support his virgin birth was undermined for much the same reason as why I hated Paul and his abuse of scripture. I also learnt that the God of Israel had a special name used many times in the “old testament” – I’m not going to mention it here – and it wasn’t Jesus. It was driven home even more forcefully to me that Jesus could not be God, although I had been convinced that he was the Creator previously. Peter, in the book of Acts, said that there was no other name under heaven by which man could be saved and quoted Joel 2 (in christian bibles) to say that by the name of the Lord men shall be saved. But reading Joel 2, I only saw the special name of God, and I know that men were saved by God under heaven by His special name. Throughout all these studies, I started to seriously read the Hebrew Bible, what I called the old testament, and came up with only questions regarding Jesus’ “sacrifice”. I read through the laws of sacrifices in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers in their plain understanding and began to wonder what they have to do with Jesus’ death at all. Their different specifications and purposes didn’t fit with how the new testament portrays these offerings. And places, like the last chapters of Ezekiel, spoke of sacrifices coming back. One particular place said that the future sacrifices were to be for atonement. But that flew in the face of what the book of Hebrews had taught about Jesus being the final sacrifice for sin.
Now you see it, don’t you? Two extremely important pillars of christianity, of my christianity, were being threatened: the virgin birth and the validity of the sacrifice of Jesus. And the weird thing was that they were being undermined by the plain contextual reading of the Hebrew Bible and the Law of Moses. And those questions brought me to a place where I had to ask the important question: why did I accept Jesus as the Messiah?
Hesedyahu: Now, David, you’ve said a lot, maybe even too much. I know we don’t have much time, but what you’ve said and summarized for the sake of brevity can be misunderstood. You know the nature of a lot of mainstream christians. They’ll say you weren’t really a christian, or some of your old beliefs are the beliefs of a cult, or they’d wonder how you could even challenge beliefs that are clearly part of the new testament, or challenge writers of new testament books. How would you respond to all that?
David : I’ll never be able to give answers that will satisfy those who will not like what I’m saying or those who want to misunderstand. Yes, I know the propensity of mainstream christians to throw around the word “cult” for any group that doesn’t accept that brand of christianity, or doesn’t believe there is a division of three with God or doesn’t believe he is three “persons”, or who believes that God’s law wasn’t abolished, or who don’t think it’s acceptable to take pagan festivals and re-brand them with christian themes or continue in such festivals. I can’t be bothered with how people brand me or how they judge my previous beliefs. The basic beliefs of christianity is that Jesus was the promised messiah (a title that doesn’t compel us to see the man as God), and that we can’t achieve righteousness or atonement on our own, making Jesus’ death as a sacrifice necessary. I believed these two things with all my heart and worshipped Jesus with my all. I accepted the whole new testament as true and God-given. The “old testament” just re-educated me, that’s all.
It should also be understood that many christian will condemn me but not because of my way of thinking or the study I went through, but only because my end conclusion is different from their basic belief: that Jesus is not the promised messiah.
And just to clarify something, no, I’m not saying that people need to learn Greek and Hebrew to see what I saw. Many times even christian translations shoot themselves in the foot when they translate the context of a verse correctly enough for readers to question the individual verses used as proof to say Jesus is who they think he is.
Hesedyahu: Good. Good. So we get to the point in your history where you come to the question of whether Jesus is the promised messiah or not. We still need to know how you’d even approach such a question. But that is for the next installment. Thank you all for your time and I hope to see y’all next time.