A friend of mine is a thoughtful agnostic. She was raised in a religious tradition, but after much reflection, she has come to question whether there is a God. Recently, she started dating a Baptist who reads the Bible daily. That raises two questions – (1) what does daily Bible reading say about a person, and (2) can the couple flourish?
Because I was raised as a Roman Catholic, I was not taught like many Protestants to refer continually to the Bible for guidance and inspiration. Instead, I was taught to listen to the clergy. Thus, the concept of reading the Bible daily is a bit foreign to me.
My initial reaction was that reading the Bible over and over would be similar to saying the rosary over and over – i.e., what some Protestants call mindless chanting. But upon further reflection, I can see how a thoughtful reading of the Bible would be no different that thoughtful prayer. Doing this daily would help an individual avoid becoming a Sunday-morning Christian.
So what does daily Bible reading say about a person? It says the person takes his religion seriously. But can a thoughtful agnostic and a serious Baptist flourish as a couple?
An agnostic believes that the existence of God is unknowable. A serious Baptist believes with all his heart that God exists, but more importantly that non-believers are doomed to an eternity in hell. A few months ago, I blogged about this concept while reviewing Red McCombs’ autobiography:
- Another example of his family’s religiosity – his mother Gladys was raised in the Church of Christ, but started attending a Baptist church with her husband. Gladys’ mother was a die-hard proponent of the Church of Christ – “Gladys, are you still going to that Baptist church?” Upon being told that Gladys was attending it, and loving it, her mother calmly added, “You’re going to hell, Gladys. I’m sorry but you’re going to hell.” That’s taking your religion seriously.
Red’s example involved a different denomination thinking Baptists were doomed to hell, but I think it works in the other direction, too.
Fortunately for nonbelievers, there is some new thinking regarding hell that is percolating through the evangelical community. Last year, a cover story in Time magazine described this thinking and profiled its leading proponent, evangelical minister Rob Bell, whose new book is titled Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. In my blog, I noted the following:
- The article goes on to explain that Bell believes in Jesus, but “he is just unclear on whether the redemption promised in Christian tradition is limited to those who meet the tests of the church. It is a case for living with mystery rather than demanding certitude.” This position, of course, raises a concern to traditionalists that “to take away hell is to leave the church without its most powerful sanction. If heaven, however defined, is everyone’s ultimate destination in any event, then what’s the incentive to confess Jesus as Lord in this life?” Or as I have often suggested, many believers seem to begrudge the lifestyle of nonbelievers, and it makes them feel better to think the nonbelievers will get what they deserve (hell) in the afterlife.
Thus, it seems that the agnostic and a Bell-like Baptist can certainly co-exist, but I question whether they can flourish. How can someone who takes his religion seriously have as a soulmate someone who disagrees on something so fundamental to his life?