Saturday, 14 January 2012

A faith-destroying seminary and a faith-giving God

The following is the testimony of Anita Kupfermann, who pursued theological studies in Germany only to find her faith being destroyed by what was being taught. She writes about how she lost her confidence in the Bible as the inspired and inerrant word of God as a result of the so-called “higher critical method” taught at the Theological College of the German Baptist Union. But God pursued her and by His grace gave her an unshakable faith in Christ and the trustworthiness of God’s word. Her testimony was recently published both in German and in English.

Please pray for the situation in Germany and for God’s grace and truth to reach through to those who are being taught (and those who are teaching!) a false view of God and His word.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

My name is Anita Kupfermann and I would like to tell you about my time studying theology. It is my hope that this little account of my experiences will serve as a warning and an encouragement to you. I would like to warn you of how the so-called “Higher Critical” (Historical Criticism) method left my relationship with God, and therefore my entire life, severely damaged. Yet I equally hope to encourage you! I can testify with great joy and thankfulness that the Lord Jesus Christ, during my time at university, healed my unbelief and called me to follow Him.

I hope and pray that God will be glorified through these pages and that you, the reader, will be encouraged to fully trust the Word of God.

My Time at Theological College & the Higher Critical Method (HCM)

Through my parents I was confronted with the Christian faith at an early age. I regularly went to Sunday School and was baptised at the age of 14.

A full ten years later, whilst working at a nursery, I was gripped by the desire to do something else with my time, something equally meaningful. I wanted to submit myself to the Word of God and reflect on my walk with God.

Although I had been baptised, I realised that I did not know the Bible. I couldn’t say I had a living relationship with God. I longed to know God better, to better understand what being a Christian meant. So, I decided to attend a theological college for ten months. My hope was that these ten months would supply what was missing in my faith.

Right from the beginning of my time at theological college I was confronted with Biblical criticism in the form of the “Higher Critical” method, (HCM). The HCM is the current philosophy of understanding and explaining Bible passages at German universities, as well as at many free-church theological colleges. According to this philosophy the Bible is not understood to be the inspired Word of God but a contradictory, mistake-prone, human work. Just like any other piece of literature it must be critically questioned and examined. This method of approaching the biblical texts normally leads to rejecting the historicity of the Bible - in other words, the historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible is questioned. Simply put, the Bible’s stories are just myths that never happened.

An example of this technique may help explain what it looks like in practice.

Mark’s Gospel has its origin dated back to roughly 70 A.D. According to the HCM, it is categorically denied that it was possible for Jesus Christ to have seen the future. However Mark’s Gospel reports that Christ predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. This prophecy was perfectly fulfilled: in 70 A.D. the Romans razed the temple to the ground. The majority of critical researchers believe that the prophecy in Mark is a fake prophecy, (vaticinium ex eventu). Only after the event, they assume, was Jesus’ prophecy added to the text. The Gospel of Mark cannot have predicted the future destruction of the temple, therefore it must have been written afterwards.

With this fixed, faithless presupposition, the Holy Bible is critically evaluated until all her reports are questionable. A few more short examples give a fuller picture of the results of this modern critical scientific approach to the Bible:

• Adam and Eve never existed. Rather, they are merely literary symbols for all of humanity. Hence, there never was a real fall into sin.

• Noah and the ark is a legend, not a real event.

• The first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses. Instead they were compiled by at least three different writers over a long period of time. Moreover they are, at least in part, contradictory.

• The Ten Commandments did not come from God but slowly evolved from various stories. This happened a long time after Moses had died.

• The conquests such as those that are recorded in Joshua never happened.

• Jesus’ words and deeds in the Gospels were often invented later by well meaning Christians. Therefore, much of the Gospels is simply fictitious. For example; Jesus never talked about His death, much less His resurrection. Furthermore His identity as the promised Christ and as the Son of God was also invented at a much later date.  He never wanted to start a church or reach out to the Gentiles.

• Paul is not the author of the New Testament letters to the Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians and 1 and 2 Timothy, or Titus. Neither did Peter write the letters ascribed to him.

These are just some of countless examples. The theories of the HCM were not taught at this theological college, or in my later studies, to merely acknowledge them. Instead they were taught and proclaimed with conviction. Under the influence of such teaching, the reliability of the Bible was increasingly questioned. I became more and more convinced that the Bible is not the infallible Word of God but a jumbled collection of human, (i.e. imperfect) thoughts about God and life.

An unavoidable question-mark was now next to every person and event in the Bible. Moreover, as well as my new discoveries about the unreliability of the Bible, my ethical convictions were also brought into question. At the college we discussed themes such as homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. Were these perhaps permissible after all? In short, I felt my doubts about Christianity and the Bible grow and grow. If everything is not as it was written then, how could I be sure of anything I believed?

My scepticism blossomed as we took up the theme of world religions in our classes. Faced with a deep crisis of faith, I seriously considered giving up Christianity. My lecturers were so certain that it could only be good for me to give up the fundamentals of my former faith. Only such a “deconstruction” would give me a new mature and responsible faith. Such was their conviction for my life, and I desperately hoped that they were right.

My Time at the Theological Seminary

After these ten months I returned to my old job for a year. During this time I toyed with the idea of furthering my education. As the questions raised by the HCM still occupied my thoughts, I was keen to further study theology. In addition I rather liked the thought of becoming a pastor. So it was that 2007 saw me begin to study theology at the Theological Seminary of the German Baptist Union. I received no call to this by God, even if I tried to talk myself into believing this was the case. I talked with many people about my plans, but not with God Himself.

In the meantime I no longer sought to question the HCM as I was well familiar with its teachings from my previous time at college. However, the criticism of the Bible was to increase dramatically over the next few years.

I can still remember, for example, a lecturer leaving a lecture hall, stopping at the doorway to say, “Tomorrow we’ll kill Moses!” He meant that the following day we would be taught that historically, Moses never existed as the Bible taught. Furthermore I learnt that many of the Old Testament accounts were nothing more than myths and legends; far removed from history and reality. The Jewish worship of Yahweh, - the temple system, services, festivals, and commandments, - was mostly copied from the religions of Israel’s neighbours at that time. Over hundreds of years the biblical texts were added to, changed and consciously manipulated by numerous unknown authors. This is why the Bible is (apparently!) so full of contradictions. If given room to do so, the HCM swiftly gains power, tearing through every point of doctrine like a hurricane, until assurance of faith lies shattered.

I heard many students say that these “academic” discoveries were a great help for them; at the time I agreed, or at least talked myself into agreeing. In reality I was beginning to reap the bitter harvest of my new, “mature” faith. At the end of the second semester I came to the firm conclusion that the Bible was totally unbelievable and thus I laid it aside at the bottom of my bookshelves. I had no more desire to read it, let alone to try and live according to it. I did not pray any more, nor did I ask God for help or wisdom. I was just too confident of my new critical attitude.

Despite having no inner relationship with God, I continued with the outward appearance of wanting to be a pastor. I preached and seemed religious – at least whilst in church! It was a different story when I was with my fellow students. There I did not hold myself back, increasingly getting drunk at parties and losing my distaste for lying and cheating. I especially enjoyed gossiping and slandering the other students. In this case I had a specific target, a group of young men who annoyed me beyond all else. They wholeheartedly believed in the Scriptures as the Word of God. There was a small group of students in my semester who defended the trustworthiness of the Scriptures - even in our classes. This greatly irritated me and other students and thus we delighted to spread rumours about them.

In doing this I was not in the least bothered by my conscience. I had long lost any fear of God or an eternal punishment. The words of warning in the Scriptures weren’t important to me. The god I had discovered through my studies did not get angry, respected people’s doubts and forgave everyone everything. What did I have to be afraid of? Why not have fun and live life to the max? This was my new philosophy for life, and this was how I lived.

However, once the initial euphoria had left, life became worse and worse for me, until I felt there was nothing for me to stand on. An inner emptiness made it increasingly clear that I had no true life or peace. In books critical of the Bible and in conversations I tried to find what I was missing, but to no avail.

Finally I asked an evangelist I met at a church event to pray for me. I longed for a real relationship to God but felt unable to ask Him. It was as if I had lost any ability to pray.

The Change!

A few weeks later the preacher’s prayer was answered. On the 6th December, 2008 the Lord opened my eyes to see my guilt and godless life.

The catalyst for this was a polemical speech given by a lecturer at a film evening at the seminary. Above all, he mocked those who put their trust in the reliability of every word in the Bible. One of those being mocked sat right in front of me and didn’t react. I talked to him afterwards and he assured me that he was not ashamed of his faith. His inner peace and assurance made me stop and think. I asked myself how the rest of the Bible-believers, or “Fundis” (short for fundamentalists) as we called them, reacted to all this.

To my great amazement they did not consider boycotting the classes. Instead they continued to meet together every day to pray for the mockers, lecturers, and the entire seminary. I saw that the Lord was their shield, that He had given them a firm faith. The Bible says that Christians do not live for themselves anymore, but for Him who died for them. Thanks to these young men I was able to see that the grace of God was working in them. They did not feel forced to defend themselves. I did not think this was a normal reaction to such a situation and I was greatly impressed. They simply passed the humiliation that they suffered on to Christ, and so anger or a desire for revenge simply had no hold on them.

After all these events, I drove home to spend Christmas with my family. There I recognised even more that I had despised God through my embrace of higher criticism. I had denied God’s word, rejected God’s grace, and mocked God’s servants. Worse than all, I had called myself a Christian and cared nothing for the atonement Christ bought at the cost of His life. This I realised to be an unbearably dreadful mistake. Over Christmas and with many tears I repented of many things, seeking God in prayer, and rejoiced to know His full and free forgiveness. With a glad heart I bought a new Bible and began to read it eagerly and joyfully; today I enjoy this book as much as I did then!

I called on the Lord Jesus Christ, humbling myself before him. I entrusted my life to Him and told Him that from now on I would believe His Word, no matter what questions I might have. To this day I do not have an answer to everything, but I am fully convinced that the Bible is completely inspired by God; inerrant and infallible in all that it teaches. I thank God from the bottom of my heart for the sovereign grace that He poured over me in letting me see my sinfulness and the Saviour who has given me such forgiveness.

Dear Reader,

I am so happy that you have read my testimony to the end. God has richly blessed my life and by His grace I believe that His Word is truth. (John 17: 17) It is very precious to be able to believe with childlike faith; I do not bother myself with any doubts or so-called academic discoveries that call into question the trustworthiness of the Bible. Instead I find in Christ, the true subject of Scripture, all the riches of wisdom and insight. Let us trust our Lord and Saviour, for then He will bless us. My prayer is that you, too, will be saved from unbelief and that your faith in God and His Word will grow from strength to strength.

In Christ,

Anita Kupfermann

No comments: