12 Months, 12 Religions
A young Christian practices 12 faiths in one year and his surprising conclusion.

29-year-old Andrew Bowen became a Christian in high school, but says that he took "a nose dive into fundamentalism. It just ignited a furnace in me." His journey with God since then has been challenging. When his wife experienced a complicated pregnancy that ended tragically, Bowen says he plunged into a "two-year stint of just seething hatred toward God."

Last year he decided it was time to explore what he really believed. He began Project Conversion. With the aid of religious mentors, Bowen practiced 12 different religions each for one month including: Hinduism, Baha'i, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhisim, agnosticism, Mormonism, Islam, Sikhism, Wicca, Jainism, and Catholicism.

His journey is reported by Amanda Green on the Religion News Service blog. It's well worth the time to read. Not only does Bowen's attitude toward religion reflect that of many younger people, but where he lands may surprise you.

It appears from Bowen experience (a full book is in the works) that he wasn't necessarily searching for truth as much as help. He is able to articulate what he appreciated about each faith, and what useful lessons about life he discovered in practicing them.

We sometimes joke that our religious consumer culture treats faith like an all you can eat buffet where people come to church picking and choosing which aspects of Christianity they want, and which they don't. Bowen's story takes this metaphor a step further. His sample platter approach to religion may help us all understand why younger people are not showing as much fidelity to a single faith or church. And it also highlights the need for pastors to be more conversant with other religions, their beliefs, practices, and appeal.

I encourage you to read Bowen's story and then share you thoughts about what it here.

April 24, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 33 comments

hilltop

May 15, 2012  10:50pm

Another verse that some would prefer not be in the Bible is this: "In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel." 1Cor 9:14 The NT talks about preachers, deacons, elders, and teachers. Their qualification for these roles is also written about. It talks about them meeting on Sundays and also collecting money and people being held accountable. The KJV mentions Bishops also.

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elegance

May 15, 2012  4:15pm

Just one final thought for Tim. You have chided us for not wanting to do our own Bible study and I'll give you that - sort of. But just something to think about: the printing press was not invented until the 1400's and the Bible did not become available to average folk like you and me for a very long time after that. The average middle class person did not even know how to read until the last hundred and fifty years or so. So what were all those Christians supposed to do, sit around and chat about what their own concept of God was? I submit that a thorough and logical reading of both the Old and New Testaments would lead any logical person - whether they were a born again believer or not - to conclude that God's plan for the post ressurection church included growing, organized groups of people who had a hierarchy of authority among them. Your one-on-one-only prototype doesn't really go anywhere or accomplish the great commission that has been seen as the Good News has been preached throughout the world. My husband was saved at a Billy Graham crusade over 40 years ago. Thank the Lord for the great evangelists and preachers who have helped us along the way.

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Karen

May 07, 2012  9:18am

Tim and Sheer, I do think we need to filter our American individualism into this mix, and recognize the inherent disdain we seem to have inherited in this culture for authority–and not just its abuse. In light of that, I am interested to hear, as was Deanna, about who or what holds Tim accountable for the integrity of his Christian life and the exercise of his spiritual gifts, i.e., what are the practical instruments of the Holy Spirit's conviction in Tim's life, apart from the Scriptures themselves (or at least his take on the Scriptures). He speaks a lot about mutuality. He has some perceived sense of his own responsibility/authority or he would not be involved in a community as elder or speaking into this forum. How, in practical terms, is his own obedience (by this I mean willing submission out of reverence for Christ) to others in the Body a part of his life?

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sheerahkahn

May 03, 2012  1:25pm

"I cannot find a direct set of rules in the New Testament for the structure of the church under the new covenant because there are examples of one on one fellowship as well as examples of groups..." The current structure of the church is a amalgam of religious traditions stemming from the melding of Judaic and Roman (read: Gentile) traditions. Rabbis in the gentile church were replaced by "Pastors" or, as time went by, priests, though with a centralization of authority being a bit more dogmatic in the gentile development. As this system of tradition developed in Europe the systems of single source teaching stems from the early days of the Roman Church where only select individuals versed in the scriptures were allowed to teach due to the gnostic heresies. As time goes on you can see that this developed into single source teaching up through the Reformation, and then moving across the ocean where this process of has been modeled for quite some time. This is a historical tradition, right or wrong, it is what we have right now. The functionality of having a single source voice box has the advantage of specialized knowledge locked up in one person, or, as in some churches, a group of persons while the rest of the "laity" willingly pays someone else for the effort they themselves should be expending in their spiritual growth. In general, it's a tradition we're dealing with, and not really so much a biblically mandated structure. If we were to articulate a biblical mandate it would be an oligarchy of elders doing the organizing, while the teaching would be an "open ended" discussion from the communal group. Not sure how that communal form would work with today's American individualistic "don't cross this line of my life" structure or expectation. A difficult conundrum to figure out.

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Tim

May 03, 2012  12:02pm

Elegance This is not a rabbit trail at all. Mr. Bowen's faith was stunted by his experience in one-way communication driven teaching with very little if any mutual relationship with "the teacher". " I cannot find a direct set of rules in the New Testament for the structure of the church under the new covenant..." I gave you this very scripture but you either did not read it or have filtered out it's deep significance. Read Heb. 10 - the whole chapter. At the beginning the uniqueness of the new covenant - the new and living way" - is layed out. The specific application of it's reality is that believers "consider how they can spur one another on to love and good works, not giving up the habit of meeting as some is but encouraging one another...." There is your structure for new covenant meeting - one another dynamic. It is repeated through out the NT. There are NO instructions for crowd oriented - platform driven dynamic. There are just a couple examples of a larger group at the very beginning of Acts, but nothing there after and no instructions for that. "...because there are examples of one on one fellowship as well as examples of groups." Can you build a system that consumes millions of $ of "giving" on a couple examples or occurances that contradict progressively explained specific instructions? Organic church saints are accused of building their theology on situations in Acts rather than the whole NT. Our orthopraxy is based on the Epistles instructions, not the situations in Acts. If you base your function on situations in Acts, as you are doing, then it is the institutionalized form that is falling short. I was clueless to the full structure of Heb. 10 and ALL the one another specific instructions for many years even though I had memorized them. But then I learned. Once we know the truth and continue in old ways, our hearts are no longer pure. The end of Heb. 10 has a VERY stern warning on this. Deanna You confuse my teaching, rebuking, correcting and instructing in righteousness ( 2 Tim. 3:16) with judging. I am merely a messenger of God's Word. A requirement of an elder is that he is "able to teach". I'm doing it in one another dynamic, where the richness of the Word of Christ will dwell with all wisdom. See. Col. 3:16. Of course I have no right to judge. I'm not doing that. Elders have no authority. They only have oversight, not over bossing, over talking, over thinking, over visioning or over anything else. Jesus has been given all authority so we can make disciples, baptize, and teach obediance in everything - including one another driven meeting. Elders are not to do lording or bossing, just teaching, watching and example setting. 1 Peter 5. Verses translated elders who "rule" are miss translated because this directly contradicts 1 Peter 5. Your faith is suffering from centuries of power oriented leadership that flows from bad translation and bogus traditions of men, rather than servant driven teaching straight from Jesus and the apostles teaching. Serving and ruling do no mix except in the corrupt rules of men that "nullify the commands of God for the sake of their traditions." Be a Berean, look up all I have said for yourself. Acts 17:11. Do you have permission to test the teaching of your elders or do you just take it all in? "Test everything, hold on to that which is good" 1 Thes. 5.

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Deanna

May 02, 2012  8:28pm

Tim, you have zero right and zero ability to attempt to judge another person's faith based on what you think is correct for church preaching. It may be time for you to place yourself under an elder's authority for correction and reproof. That is one thing you cannot do, and only God can do. Do you remember the qualifications for deacons and elders, or have you swung so far away from the biblical description of churches now that you can't recall?

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elegance

May 02, 2012  6:47pm

Okay, Taylor and Tim, we seem to have gotten off on a rabbit trail that is extremely far from what this original post was about. I cannot find a direct set of rules in the New Testament for the structure of the church under the new covenant because there are examples of one on one fellowship as well as examples of groups. If our hearts are pure before the Lord and we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth then where two of us (or more) are gathered in His name, there He is right in the middle.

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Tim

May 02, 2012  4:43pm

Elegance Of course I am familiar with these passages. Are you familiar with the passages Paul taught that this "right" should be refused, and then gives the reasons for why? Read all of 1 Cor. 9. The end of his argument for the right to be paid is a complete reversal of all those reasons for the right. His reasons for refusing it are of greater strategic value for kingdom building. Also see Acts 20 for his instructions to the Ephesian elders (pastors), and 2 Thes. 3 where he states his example is to be followed. The only time Paul ever received gifts was from the Philippians when he was in Thessalonica. There is no example or story of anyone never working in the market place so he could dominate the gathering of believers in one-way communication. The scriptures used to justify this tradition are severely twisted. There is no reason for why a man should never work in the market place and hog the teaching when the saints gather. There are many statements for why the teaching should be shared and entrusted to others so one man never has to do 99% of the expression of truth when the saints gather year after year after 30 years. Even the instructions about not muzzling do not say one man is to do all the teaching and no market place work. If he teaches once a month, he can still work a job and not be muzzled. If you want to keep your thinking and understanding of scripture sealed inside the box of tradition, and only what you have experienced, and only what you enjoy, and only what God has used to benefit you, then your faith will remain very small, in contrast to "more noble faith" where believers compare what they are told with the scriptures to see if it's true. Acts 17:11. Much of the NT is rendered meaningless by pulpit and pew routines. Is it strange that you can only fulfill Heb. 10:24,25 in a church picnic, not during what is called "worship"? That picnic time is far more reflective of the NT then the $2 million /year "worship" hour. (My previous church was 1200 members and $1.5 million per year just for inside the walls programs. How many times have you heard a hired lecture on Christ's suffering? 20? 40? How many more do you need only from a professional talker? Are the men in your church still unable to articulate from their own hearts about the suffering of Christ in a way that will stimulate your faith? The perpetual dependency of all the saints in your church demonstrates you have no concept of the purpose of teaching - which is to "fully train" others to be "like" the teacher. Luke 6:40. God is looking for full reproduction of the teacher - the exact opposite of perpetual dependency to the teacher. Your willingness to interact demonstrates you are fully capable of taking your faith out of the box and moving towards the full likeness of Christ. Walk by faith (into areas you have not yet experienced) not by sight. (Reject clinging to what you have seen and enjoy.) Leave Ur, just like this blog is titled. Sitting in the pew, week after week is staying in Ur. There is no call for pulpits and pews anywhere in scripture, and this costs millions every year for just your group of saints. The call IS for mutual participation by God's people to build their faith towards greater "love and good works." This costs zero. When 100% of your giving goes beyond yourselves, your love and good works multiplies exponentially in soooo many ways.

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Tim

May 01, 2012  4:57pm

elegance "my pastor lectured on the Bible this morning and boy was it awesome. ... He did not let tradition or personal comfort trump God's Word but rather gave us more upon which to feast." It seems pretty clear the expectations for gathering God has for you given in the scripture and I passed on to you were rendered meaningless. God asks you and the saints each bring part of the feast, not devote 75 - 85% of your giving to buy a hired Bible lecturer and a cathedral for 2000 people to all face crowd experts driving the expression. In heaven we will not merely see the backs of heads of the rest of the members of the body of Christ. We will face Christ himself and each other His bride. When we do that now, we have a much better expression and preparation for then. "Then this discussion won't matter. LOL" What we do and don't do now, and the scripture we reject or obey now will matter then.

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Karen

April 30, 2012  9:14am

"When we sing and pray as a congregation it is just a small taste of heaven." Yes, very true! I often joined in worship with a small charismatic fellowship years ago. We had some sweet times of teaching and fellowship, but whenever Tim comments, I can't help but think of the great beautiful liturgical "dance" between celebrants and congregation (leader-priests and priest-participants, if you will) in my Orthodox congregation (where, incidentally, the priest(s) ask forgiveness of us his "brothers and sisters" at least twice during this liturgy, wherein we respond with "God forgives"). Even what is liturgically scripted in the classic historic Christian worship of God's people (the "script" coming almost entirely directly from Scripture!), is entirely mutual and interactive between leader and people, and between the people and leader together as the people of God and God.

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