My Religious Legalism journey:
Learn: I was taught and thus learned the teachings and rules of the Roman Catholic Church, which I tried to obey for some 20 years to Be "good enough" and Behave "good enough" in order to Become a "good" Catholic. When I finally realized my best efforts would never be "good enough," I left the teachings and rules behind to go in the opposite direction – into the "far country" of humanistic psychology.
Unlearn: I had to unlearn certain man-made doctrines, such as: "The Roman Catholic Church is the only true church and religion." Especially this one: "If you leave the Catholic Church, you will go to hell."
Relearn: I replaced feelings of guilt from disobeying Church teachings with a new feeling: I'm OK and can Become better (i.e., Self-actualizing) by focusing on the positive promises of the Human Potential Movement.
My Humanistic journey:
Learn: I read humanistic psychologists (Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Arthur Coombs) and took courses to learn news ways of Being and Behaving so I could Become Self-actualizing: the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.
Unlearn: Some 10 years of Self-centered pursuits occurred before I finally realized I was not Self-sufficient, my Self-esteem went up and down in accordance with my feelings, my Self-image depended on what others thought about me, my life was not Self-satisfying and I would never gain Self-fulfillment no matter how arduously I tried. So, I unlearned all the Self-focused promises of the Human Potential Movement, and by God's Grace avoided those even more unrealistic promises promoted by the New Age Movement.
Relearn: I had been a seeker of learning as a youth, and later decided to become a professor so that my avocation (learning) and vocation (university professor of what I learned) were in alignment. When professing what I learned about humanistic psychology came to an end, I was still a seeker – but of what now?
Becoming Born Again:
Learn: During this part of my life journey I learned many things: I learned that every member of my family (Dad, Mom, two sisters and their husbands and five children) had Become Born Again, each in his or her own way. From books I read and discussions with Christians whom God brought into my life, I learned that even the worst Prodigal Son (like me) can return home from self-centered living in the "far country." From reading The Bible and books about the Bible, I learned that this is the Word of God – written over a 1,600 year period, in three languages, by 40 different Holy Spirit-inspired authors from all walks of life, with unmatched consistency of message, accurately transcribed from the original texts, preserved and passed down through many generations despite persecution, as relevant today as when it was written. This got my attention. So did reading books by atheists who became Christians, such as C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell (while writing his book to refute Christianity, McDowell's book became Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith). This led to my learning that Christianity is Jesus Christ – having a personal relationship with Him because of saving faith in who He is and what He did. To prevent blind faith, I studied worldviews: James Sire's The Universe Next Door was especially helpful in gaining an intellectual faith that Christianity is more than a religion comprised of doctrines to believe and rules to obey – it is Faith in the faithfulness of a personal God who causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). I learned that Theism is the only worldview that satisfactorily answers questions about the origin of life and the universe, about the source for moral right and wrong, about living life in a satisfying manner. The "big picture" I learned is this: my story is part of history, which is really His Story about each of us because the Triune God of The Bible is the Creator of all Creation. God personally intervenes throughout His Story:
> by fulfilling His Will (that human beings choose to love Him and thus exercise their free will to please Him – instead of practicing Religious Legalism or pursuing Humanistic License),
> by fulfilling His Purpose (to redeem humans from their sinful ways, to become His children, to have a restored relationship with Him),
> by fulfilling His Plan (having His Son live as one of us, as the Way and the Truth and the Life, and then die to pay for our sins, and rise again so we also can have new birth).
Unlearn: The hardest thing I unlearned is this: I cannot Be or Behave in any manner to merit Becoming Born Again because Jesus' death and resurrection is what makes this possible. Being and Behaving to Become a "good" son, a "good" Catholic, and a "good" Self-actualizing person never achieved these goals during my life journey. Just as my Mom and Dad had always loved me and sacrificed their lives for me and my sisters, so had Our Father in heaven so loved us that he sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to live and die and rise again to redeem those who have faith in Him, and then sent the Holy Spirit to guide our Being and Behaving so this Becomes more Christ-like (how Jesus thought, spoke and acted).
Relearn: Perhaps I'm a slow learner, because each day it seems I have to relearn some part of what I've said above. Perhaps, this adage is really true: "it is easier to take the boy out of the country than take the country out of the boy." Most of my life I was taught to Be and Behave in certain ways to Become a "good" son, Catholic, and person. So, after Becoming Born Again I continued to do what I had been taught – trying to Be and Behave so as to warrant Becoming Born Again. It seems I must relearn each day that this new birth is a spiritual rebirth that is caught by Believers, and once caught, this spiritual rebirth then enables more mature and more complete Being and Behaving transformations – because of guidance from the Holy Spirit who indwells Believers who are truly Born Again. To unlearn prior learning, I continually remind myself that only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (caught, not taught) sets me free from anxiety, guilt, unproductive habits and other enslavements so I can live life more abundantly. Jesus came to give Believers eternal salvation with Our Father, with Him and the Holy Spirit, in heaven. He also came to give Believers present salvation in this life (True Liberty in Him) once this is caught through a personal relationship with Jesus. I find I must keep relearning these truths I just described – because Christianity is Christ, Christianity is not a religion comprised of man-made teachings and rules but is faith in Jesus Christ, Christians are Christ's name-bearers. In gratitude, we want to please "Our Father who art in heaven" because of the spiritual rebirth we receive as an unearned free gift by having a saving faith in Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. No religion provides this. This is why I Became a Born Again Christian, as I describe in my Spiritual Memoir.