I should now explain what I meant by my “Christian” status being complicated. For much of my adolescence and early adulthood, I was rigid in my regard for the Bible as Scripture. I performed mental acrobatics to reconcile the Old and New Testaments, but certain pieces kept eating at me. I decided that the Old Testament was an expression of the same fundamental truths as found in the New, but that there was a disconnect such that I could not understand why the Old was appropriate to its era. Then my brother explained to me that he had given up that fight, and my house of cards collapsed. Questions flooded in and I decided all that I had believed was useless because I could no longer be confident of the foundations (as the New Testament required the Old and both were perfect).
But then I found myself becoming something I did not want to be. I had forfeited my reasons to be moral, so why was I disgusted at the prospect of becoming immoral? I quickly began trying to justify my ethics, and this meant reestablishing my belief in God without the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I described to an online atheist friend that I was stuck; I did not want to be where my questions (the worst of which I am omitting) had landed me, but I could not return to where I was before. My only option was to press forward in hope that the pain would ease further along the way. And I could not express any of this to any Christians except my brother. I had no right to lead others where I was until I knew I was going somewhere good. (I still don’t know that, but I trust people to not read this if they can’t handle it. The anonymity of the Internet is useful, since I can vent to few people personally.) And I didn’t want to tell my brother that he had hurt me by expressing himself.
At this time I had a habit of listening to free LibreVox audio books on my smartphone while lying in bed waiting to grow tired, as an alternative to using the computer which can make me stay up later. That night, after expressing myself to my online friend, I listened to The Princess and the Goblin, and this blog’s title comes from it. The enchanted spider-web is a plot device which leads the two protagonists to safety. It will only lead them forward and never back, and it leads one of them through an area of great peril to save the other from certain death. When I listened to that part of the story, I found it a very apt analogy for my recent experiences and what I hoped would be my future. I speculated that this might be an answer to my pleas for answers, aimed at the God whose I was uncertain of.
Within the next week or so, I found a way to ask a friend of mine whether he was in a similar position without causing him to be. To my selfish delight, he was. Finally, my misery had company! I also overcame my reluctance to talk to my brother about it, and he didn’t even seem to realize he’d done anything that might be wrong. I was both relieved and offended, but I kept it to myself; it was a much less unpleasant secret than the old one. He believes that morality as universally understood is evidence of a creator and expressed in various religious texts including the Bible. The alternative sources for morality are evolutionary genetics and social convention, and he found them both unsatisfactory. I haven’t yet researched this for myself but it’s my working hypothesis for now.
Soon a Calvinist coworker attended church with me one Sunday, and I slipped up by revealing that I disagreed with Paul’s thing against women leading men in church functions. He pressed the issue on Facebook and I finally gave in, explaining that I didn’t believe the Bible like I used to. It was nice to express that to someone who would disagree, because it helped me understand my new opinions. On the other hand, I discovered some beliefs of his that I found unsettling, and I also found (and my brother later confirmed) that Christians can be surprisingly resilient in the face of reason. I didn’t know I had seemed so dense when I had been on the other side of the argument. But at least this saved me from the guilt of dragging him into the mess I was in.
My brother explained to me that he had come to terms with his unanswered questions, and I began to hope that I might do the same and thereby reconstruct some semblance of theology. At this point I think I’ve mostly managed that. I believe Jesus was basically right. Moses is an enigma; if Jesus knew what he was talking about he seems to have validated Moses, but their teachings seem at odds with each other. Everyone else’s writings are worth considering but sometimes wrong. I try to glean further explanation of what Jesus said from the rest of the Bible, and from literature in general. But whatever doesn’t further this end given my limitations, for the sake of morality I must not consider it Scripture.