The B-I-B-L-E and My Evangelical Upbringing

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and by him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile
everything to himself,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace
through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it. Colossians 1:15-23

Growing Up Evangelical

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God
The B-I-B-L-E

Did you ever sing this song? I remember singing it as a kid and it came to my mind as I’ve been thinking about my Christian upbringing. I love this song. It speaks a simple truth that kids can understand but adults have trouble grasping: the Bible is true and can be trusted. By the grace of God, I still stand alone on the Word of God.

I’m saddened as I think of people I know that have fallen away throughout the years and as I think of the many people I don’t know that have departed from the truth. People that now have come to reject the Bible and reject the authority of God. They memorized Bible verses with me at AWANA. They went to Vacation Bible School with me. They went to youth group with me. They went to church. They memorized Scripture. They sang the songs. What happened? They started out well…what went wrong? I explored this here. My purpose here is to describe and reflect on some of my experiences in Evangelicalism.

I was raised around the prosperity gospel and in Pentecostal churches as a young kid. My mom watched Joyce Meyer, Ken Copeland, John Hagee, CBN, and Charles Stanley during my childhood. When I was 8 my mom led me in a sinner’s prayer. My dad was kind, loving to me, and generous. However, he was not the spiritual leader of the home (I’m not intending to insult him but just sharing the reality). My mom taught me what she knew of God and the Bible. I wasn’t taught to be a Berean or a critical thinker. I wasn’t taught presuppositional apologetics. I wasn’t taught about doctrines and sound theology. I was taught the basics. I went to an independent baptist church from 8 years old all the way through high school and college.

I may have been saved since eight years old but I didn’t really own it for myself until after college. I had heard verses like John 3:16 and Romans 3:23 many times in my life. I had heard, memorized, and recited all of the great salvation verses. I prayed the sinner’s prayer. I went to released time at school, AWANA, and youth group. I went to Vacation Bible School. I sang songs like: “My God is so big”, “Jesus Loves Me”, and “The B-I-B-L-E”. I watched VeggieTales. You know, “God is bigger than the Boogeyman, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV.”

While I love that song still and it has some good intentions, it doesn’t say enough. The boogeyman isn’t real. Godzilla isn’t real. The monsters on TV are not real.

Death is real. Bullies in school are real. Sexual temptation is real. Abuse is real. Porn is real. Anger is real. Cutting is real. Contemplating suicide is real. Divorce is real. Murder is real. Infidelity is real. Doubts are real.

I’ve been thinking about these songs and looking back and reflecting on some of my personal experiences:

  • Is God bigger than my singleness?
  • Is God bigger than my feelings of mediocrity?
  • Is God bigger than a plane crashing into two skyscrapers that I saw on TV in 5th grade?
  • Is God bigger than my loser job at Mcdonalds working 3rd shift?
  • Is God bigger than my fear that I’ll never realize what God’s will for my life is?
  • Is God bigger than my failures?
  • Is God bigger than my depression, depersonalization, and derealization?
  • Is God bigger than my loneliness?

Yes He is…at least that is my answer now. It wasn’t always the answer. My answer was…God is bigger…if I just pray hard enough and do the right things and serve in the church. I said the prayer. I asked Jesus into my heart. But I don’t know if I was regenerated. I was moral and not holy.

You may have asked some of these questions in your life:

  • Is God bigger than losing my loved one?
  • Is God bigger than the bills that need paid when I’ve just lost my job?
  • Is God bigger than my alcoholism?
  • Is God bigger than my drug addiction?
  • Is God bigger than my shame?
  • Is God bigger than the regret I have over my past sins?
  • Is God bigger than my sickness?
  • Is God bigger than my ugliness?
  • Is God bigger than my breakups/divorce?
  • Is God bigger that my cancer diagnosis?
  • Is God bigger than my cheating spouse?
  • Is God bigger than parents going through a divorce?
  • Is God bigger than the sexual, physical, emotional abuse that I experienced in the church or from a relative (or any abuse scenario)?
  • Is God bigger than my attraction to the same sex that I’ve been praying and praying for Him to take away…but He hasn’t?
  • Is God bigger than two kids killing 13 people and themselves in a Colorado school on April 20, 1999?
  • Is God bigger than hurricanes?
  • Is God bigger than a Las Vegas shooting?
  • Is God bigger than a Texas church shooting?
  • Is God bigger than racism?
  • Is God bigger than someone killing 17 people in a Florida high school on February 14th, 2018?
  • Is God bigger than the wickedness and depravity of this world?

“God made you special and He loves you very much” right? “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do!” right? I’m sure that many people would respond to the questions on that list by saying…”If God is so big, then why did He let X happen?” Many kids in American Fundamentalism (AF)/American Evangelicalism (AE) were taught about God’s love and about how important it was to trust in Jesus.

However, I believe they weren’t taught about the magnitude of depravity that exists in the world. They weren’t prepared to face these kinds of realities. Many were taught that we were saved as long as we prayed a prayer and we were truly sorry. We were taught “Jesus loves you” but not “all who seek to live a godly life will be persecuted”. We were taught how we should stand on the Bible but we weren’t taught how to study and interpret the Bible properly. I was taught 2 timothy 2:15 in AWANA. I recited this key verse many times. However, I never knew what it actually meant until I became more discerning in 2013. Bad theology has run rampant in the American Church over the past 50+ years. What AF/AE became in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s was flawed and most AF/AE kids were set to fail.

The doctrine of regeneration is something I think many AF/AE kids missed out on. I have been in the church all my life but didn’t learn about regeneration until I began to study reformed theology over the past couple years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard John 3:16 quoted and taught in my life. I can also say that as a kid and teen I had never read it in context with the verses that precede and the verses that follow verse 16. I also did not read it in the context of the whole chapter and in the context of the whole book of John or put it into to context with the entirety of Scripture. I didn’t even know about the importance of context. These concepts were absent from my childhood and teen years in the church.


There are many times in my life that I could have easily given up on God and walked away. Just read the news or go on social media and you will see the depravity of humanity on display. Why should anyone believe in God if He lets tragedies happen? Is it all just a big setup? Why did Got make us and put that tree in the garden if He knew what would happen? Does He arbitrarily damn some to Hell and choose others to be saved? If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the years it’s this: don’t just believe what people say (especially strangers on the internet) but compare what they say to Scripture. The Bible has answers to these hard questions. You may not like the answers but they are there nonetheless.


The Exvangelical Community: How Did We Get Here?

The Ex-Evangelical Community

This is the introduction to my series of articles on the Ex-Evangelical Community.

We are facing a problem in the West, specifically here in America…many people have left or are leaving churches, especially millenials. Consider what Ken Ham writes in his book, “Ready to Return“:

Today, few Americans are aware of the spiritual epidemic that wiped out the land of our Christian forefathers. Even fewer are aware that the same epidemic has reached our own shores, spreading like a virus.

American Christianity could in a sense become almost extinct in less than two generations — if Christians in this country don’t act quickly and decisively. Respected pollster George Barna was one of the first to put numbers to this epidemic, finding that six out of ten 20-somethings who were involved in a church during their teen years are already gone. Since that research was published in 2000, survey after survey has confirmed the same basic trend. Many of the 20s generation are leaving the Church in droves with few returning.” (1)

Rachel Held Evans (someone who I would classify as an Ex-Evangelical) mentions the exodus from churches/Christianity as well in her book, “Searching for Sunday“:

In the United States, 59 percent of young people ages eighteen to twenty-nine with a Christian background have dropped out of church. Among those who came of age around the year 2000, a solid quarter claim no religious affiliation at all, making us significantly more disconnected from faith than members of generation X were at a comparable point in their lives and twice as disconnected as baby boomers were as young adults. It is estimated that eight million young adults will leave the church before their thirtieth birthday. (2)

It’s a fact that we have lost many who were raised in the church and/or in a Christian home. Many Ex-Evangelicals come from fundamentalist backgrounds. If it wasn’t for the grace of God I would probably be an Ex-Evangelical myself. I’ve lived through the American fundamentalist Christian subculture. I know the good aspects and the many bad aspects of fundamentalism. Many of the churched (people raised in the church or Christian homes) who have left Christianity or abandoned orthodoxy (is there a difference…I don’t think there is) have been through very confusing, hard things and many have been hurt in the church.

Lebanon Churches

You might think people leaving the church is mainly a problem in the big cities or the postmodern, post-Christian beacons of the country (West Coast, New England). On the contrary, it’s happening minutes away from me in “religious” Lebanon County:

More funerals

The number of American adults who attend church regularly is declining and weighted toward the elderly, with people born before 1946 far more likely to attend church on a weekly basis (51 percent) than millennials (27-28 percent), according to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center.

Despite its reputation as a religious community, Lebanon County is following the trend, said Lebanon Valley College Chaplain Paul Fullmer. One reason for the attendance decline may be that people no longer feel an obligation to darken church doors unless they truly want to.

“I think there is a growing social acceptance of agnosticism and atheism,” Fullmer said.

Christ Church UCC at 200 S. White Oak St. in Annville still has about 80-90 attendees, but the congregation is aging, pastor Don Mason said.

“We’ve had a lot more funerals than we’ve had people joining the church,” Mason said.

The congregation is battling secular activities like sports leagues and television shows that compete for potential attendees’ time, the attractiveness of concert-style worship services offered at many megachurches, and negative views of church among millennials, he said.

Modern feel

Since many young people did not grow up attending religious services, churches often struggle to attract them if they do not make their worship experience understandable and familiar, Fullmer said.

Lifeway Church certainly meets that requirement. It worships in Regal Cinemas at the Lebanon Valley Mall, and uses movie theater seating and a portable stage that is installed each Sunday for the service.

Pastor Jimmy Nimon had 66 congregants when it started in September 2015 as a church plant of Ephrata Community Church, and it now has about 225 — enough that he’s scrambling to train other leaders to help minister to the congregation. Most of the attendees are either people without a church background or who were already unengaged in church because they had been hurt at a previous church, he said. (3)


You’ve got a problem if 75% (or higher) of attendees at your church are over 60 years of age and you don’t have many new attendees under the age of 40.

You’ve got a problem if you have more funerals than new people joining the church.

We’ve got a problem if people are being hurt in churches.

We’ve got a problem if agnosticism and atheism are rising and orthodox Christianity is on the decline.

Why the Church Lost Millenials and Many Others

I want to share why I believe we have come to our current situation of people leaving the church in droves before I begin to analyze and critique the claims of Ex-Evangelicals. I’m a Millenial. I was born in 1991 and have always been raised around the church, Christian subculture, and Christianity. I’ve lived in the very religious and conservative Bible belt Lebanon County, Pennsylvania most of my life. I’ve been actively involved in the church all my life. I’ve gone to Sunday School, Children’s Church, and VBS (where I walked up the aisle at least two years in a row because I wanted to go up to the front like everybody else…I didn’t actually know what I was doing when I went up front).  We have so many churches in the area that some kids would go to multiple Vacation Bible Schools over the summer. I went to AWANA and youth group. I’ve volunteered at AWANA and VBS.

I’ve seen many fall away throughout my time in the church. I can think of hundreds of people I personally know that had gone to some church activity, their parents were Christian, or they were involved in the church that now have no interest in God and many openly reject God altogether. I’m sure you can think of at least a few people who have left Christianity. We have to wonder how it could be that so many have turned away from the truth? Why are so many de-conversion stories being shared on and off the internet?

Jesus tells us why people depart:

As a large crowd was gathering, and people were coming to Jesus from every town, he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some seed fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the sky devoured it. Other seed fell on the rock; when it grew up, it withered away, since it lacked moisture. Other seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with it and choked it. Still other seed fell on good ground; when it grew up, it produced fruit: a hundred times what was sown.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen.”

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. The seed along the path are those who have heard and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the seed on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy. Having no root, these believe for a while and fall away in a time of testing. As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. But the seed in the good ground—these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, produce fruit. Luke 8:4-8, 11-15


While Jesus gives us the basic reasons for why people leave, I believe it is important to look more specifically at why so many today have left and are leaving. I believe there are many Ex-Evangelicals in the U.S. today because these things have happened over the past 60+ years:

1. Parents more and more relied on the church to teach their kids about God. Many kids were not well-trained by their fathers (or the church) in presuppositional apologetics, discernment, critical thinking, biblical hermeneutics, theology, and doctrine.

   I think one of the saddest passages in the Bible is judges 2:10-12, “And all that generation were also gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel. . .abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them.”

   After Joshua and all the first generation of parents who entered the Promise Land died, the next generation served false gods! It took only one generation to lose the spiritual legacy that should have been passed on.

   What happened? In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, God had given clear instructions to the fathers: “These words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

    Obviously, the parents in Joshua’s day did not teach their children as they should have — and in one generation, the devil had those kids! While it’s ultimately a matter of God’s grace that anyone is saved, God has given parents an immense responsibility to do their part. Over and over again, the Jewish fathers were told about their crucial role but they shirked it (see Ps. 78).

   Sadly, this same situation already has occurred or is happening now in Western nations once influenced by Christianity. Many fathers today are not carrying their God-given, God-commanded role to be the spiritual head of the house and to take the responsibility for training their children in spiritual matters. (1)

Or the opposite happened, fathers/mothers rammed the bible and theology into their children’s minds and did not allow critical thinking or questions. Cruel, authoritarian parents that used fear to instill Christianity into the hearts and minds of children. Paul gives fathers a wise admonition:

Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

2. People were taught bad/poor/watered down theology and/or they were taught false teaching in the church and at home. I will briefly share examples and plan to examine them in more detail in future articles.
Examples (there are more but these come to my mind):

  • A pastor telling you that you have anxiety & depression because you are harboring sin in your life, or because you have a demon.
  • Hyper calvinism:

Most Calvinists reject as deplorable the following hyper-Calvinistic and destructive beliefs:

– that God is the author of sin and of evil

– that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect

– that the number of the elect at any time may be known by men

– that it is wrong to evangelize

– that assurance of election must be sought prior to repentance and faith

– that men who have once sincerely professed belief are saved regardless of what they later do

– that God has chosen some races of men and has rejected others

– that the children of unbelievers dying in infancy are certainly damned

– that God does not command everyone to repent

– that the sacraments are not means of grace, but obstacles to salvation by faith alone.

– that the true church is only invisible, and salvation is not connected with the visible church

– that the Scriptures are intended to be interpreted by individuals only and not by the church.

– that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority

– that the grace of God does not work for the betterment of all men

– that saving faith is equivalent to belief in the doctrine of predestination

– that only Calvinists are Christians (Neo-gnostic Calvinism) (4)

  • Poor teaching about the “unforgivable sin”. This leads to or has led to some Christians living with anxiety and fear about whether or not they committed the sin.
  • Christian camps similar to what you would see in the documentary Jesus Camp. I didn’t go to Christian summer camp. I’m sure there are some good ones but it wouldn’t surprise me if most are bad.
  • Churches poorly addressing homosexuality. Actual homophobia (I don’t agree with the claim it is homophobic to call homosexuality a sin. It’s not the only sin and it isn’t the root sin. The root sin is unbelief) …hating LGBTQ people. Calling them abominations and sodomites. Anti-LBGT preachers that end up actually being caught in homosexual activities (a simple web search will give you plenty of examples but Ted Haggard is a notable example). Conversion therapy and “Praying the gay away”:

When I was 12, I knew I liked boys. One day I was watching Six Feet Under on HBO and saw David and Keith kissing. This was the first gay couple I’d ever seen on TV and it was in that moment I realized, “Well, shit, I’m gay.” At this point I was still heavily involved in the Baptist Church. Growing up with a single mom, I had to go to daycare so she could work and support our family. I went to the church’s preschool and daycare every day after school until I was 13. I was taught that choosing to be gay was wrong, vile and against God: “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” When I had this epiphany that I was one of these people I had been taught to hate, I wanted my feelings to go away. I cried and prayed for God to change me, taking this sinful carnal need away.

The next week at Sunday school, the youth worship group was advertising a summer camp to “renew your personal relationship with God.” I took this as a sign—an answer to my prayers. I asked my mom if I could go to camp, telling her I wanted to go to be with friends and be with God. So I raised the money through fundraisers and set off to for the mountains.

When I arrived, I was shown my cabin. Our days were spent at daily services and Bible study groups, broken up by activities and days at the lake.  Pamphlets shared guides to passages in the Bible for sins that afflict human nature.  I focused on why it was wrong to be a homosexual, searching for advice to transform myself. I flipped through the pages of scripture, highlighting and underlining passages, hoping to learn, see, and be enlightened. I questioned if this is what I believed—was it even what Jesus would have believed?

Soon after I came out, I left the church, abandoning my faith.  I no longer felt welcome or accepted in the space I’d spent much of my childhood.  My friend Ryan said that when I left, the other kids gossiped about me, saying, “Thomas is gay now! He stopped coming to church and isn’t a Christian anymore.” The final service I attended was during the same week as the vote on Prop. 8, the decision for marriage equality in California.  The pastor talked about needing to save the sanctity of marriage at all costs, advocating against supporting gay marriage.  He even said, “The church shouldn’t help find a cure for AIDS. We should just let them die from it.” These words dripped from his mouth like venom off the fangs of a snake. (5)

Rachel Held Evans shares a similar account from someone named Andrew:

“What sort of church did you grow up in?” I asked.

In response, Andrew pulled out his smartphone, scrolled through his pictures for a moment, found what he was looking for, and then handed his phone to me. On the cracked phone screen was a picture of the editorial page of a church newsletter. As I zoomed in closer, I could see the article was about the same-sex relationships, which the author described as sickening. To the left of the headline, a silver-haired man in a suit and tie looked back at me with eyes that looked familiar.

“That’s my dad,” Andrew said. He’s a pastor and he published this right afte I came out.”

My heart sank. For every teenager like me who knew only love and acceptance growing up in church, there were teenagers like Andrew who felt like strangers even in their own homes.

The sixth of seven children, Andrew grew up in a small, fundamentlist Presbyterian church in the South where his father served as a pastor. There was much Andrew loved about his tight-knit faith community—its emphasis on Scripture, its commitment to evangelism, its familylike atmosphere—but as Andrew approached his teenage years, he found himself at odds with some of the church’s more legalistic teachings, particularly his father’s ban on contemporary Christian music and insistence that only the King James version of the Bible be used in church and study. While his father emphasized reverence, righteousness, and self-control, Andrew had always displayed a tender, open spirit and an emotional connection to God. He scribbled endlessly in prayer journal during his father’s sermons, conversing with God as a close friend.  Though he occasionally rebelled (the first time Andrew saw a movie in a theater, he was eighteen years old, and he snuck out with friends to catch The Hunger Games), Andrew loved Jesus deeply, passionately.

Which made his secret all the heavier.

About the time his friends started talking about girls, Andrew started noticing boys. Having been raised to believe that sexual orientation was a choice and that same-sex relationships were an abomination, Andrew feared his impulses were a result of sin, sin he begged God to purge him of night after night and day after day.

A 2012 entry from Andrew’s prayer journal reads:

I’m so scared. I don’t want to be an outcast . . . do you care what I’m going through, God? Why did you make me this way? What are you trying to teach me, God? I lift my hands to You. I’m in Your hands . . . Give me faith! Please! I can’t hold on much longer.

But no amount of prayer or Bible study, or self-discipline could change Andrew’s orientation. Finally, after struggling with bouts of depression and despair, Andrew came to terms with his sexuality. He left home to attend college in St. Loius and he found a new church that accepted him as he was. His new faith community even arranged for him to be baptized, an experience Andrew had longed for since childhood.

“I was always denied baptism and communion growing up,” Andrew said. “My dad always told me I wasn’t manifesting enough fruits of the Spirit in my life. He wanted me to wait untill I was good enough, holy enough.”

Andrew formally came out to his family on the Thanksgiving break of his freshman year. It didn’t go well. Now Andrew lives in his dorm room, cut off from his family and working to pay for his education on his own. The last time he spoke to his father, Andrew was told he was going to Hell. (2)

Stories like these make me sad and angry. Yes, homosexuality is a sin. However, I don’t believe that same-sex attraction is a sin. So many in the church have treated it as a sin that God takes away if people try harder, pray harder, and read the Bible more. We then have teens (and people of any age really) who realize that they are attracted to people of the same sex and they are told that the way to stop those feelings is to do something on their own power. A works based solution instead of a grace based solution. Churches have told them to muster up faith and stop the feelings by their own effort instead of telling them to look to Christ and His finished work on the cross. Many churches give them the law and no gospel.

There is a difference between someone approaching a pastor and saying “I realize that I am attracted to people of my sex, what should I do? I feels like it’s sin but I can’t stop my feelings” and someone who says to themselves “I am actively engaging in homosexual activities and I don’t want to give it up. So I will find a church that accepts my lifestyle so that I can continue in sin and not be obedient to God.” A pastor needs to respond to the doubter with care and with truth. Don’t call the person who says they struggle with same-sex attraction an abomination. Point them to the truths of Scripture. Pray with them. Be real with them.

Thomas ended up leaving the church altogether. Andrew found a church that accepted same-sex relationships and continued in a homosexual lifestyle. That’s what happens when the church poorly addresses homosexuality.

  • Modesty Policing. By this I am referring to women that were told that they needed to be modest so that they wouldn’t tempt men with their bodies. If they were sexually abused and dressed immodestly they deserved it because of how they dressed. Certainly I believe modesty is important to some degree…but this takes it too far. The fact is, a man doesn’t need to see a woman who is dressed immodestly in order to lust. He can undress her in his mind and she could be as modest as a nun.
  • Marital infidelity and abuse. Pastors that don’t or didn’t take abuse allegations seriously. Pastors that tell wives to submit to their abusive husbands and that the reason their husband is abusive must be because the wife is committing sin of some kind. “Christian” husbands that abuse their wives mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually. Spouses that wreck their marriages and the family by following their lusts and having affairs. The fact that these kinds of stories exist really hurts my heart and makes me righteously angry.
  • Purity Culture. Purity rings. Shame. Believing that losing your virginity before marriage is the one sin you can never truly be clean from and that if you are virgin you deserve to marry a virgin and marrying someone who isn’t a virgin is selling yourself short. Soul ties…that if you have sex with someone (consensual or nonconsensual) you are bonded to them for the rest of your life. Feeling completely dirty and used because you were sexually abused. Now you are considered “used goods” and what Christian guy wants to have used goods? Bouncing the eyes. Consider what Rebecca Lemke says about Purity Culture:

Purity Is Good, But Not Puritanism

In the 1980s and ‘90s, several organizations and figureheads within conservative Christian circles, like True Love Waits and Silver Ring Thing, rose up. Literature like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” brought an increased awareness to no-touch courtship and strongly advocated for young people to stay virgins until marriage. This was in response to the secular culture’s obsession with sexual perversion brought on by the Sexual Revolution and rising teen pregnancy rates. This push for purity was a good thing, at least in theory.

There is more to leading a life of sexual purity than waiting until your honeymoon to have sex, and proponents of the purity movement began addressing this as well, arguably very poorly. To say they went a little overboard would be an understatement.

In their efforts to promote purity, they endorsed no-touch courtship, a relationship in which affection of any sort was strictly reserved for the altar and beyond. Not only did this forbid kissing, hugging, and holding hands, but in some cases, it also outlawed private conversations between couples and even having a crush to begin with. The essence of the rules could be boiled down to two beliefs: that attraction was a sin and sexuality was dangerous. If one transgressed Purity Culture’s boundaries, they were said to have “given their heart away” before marriage.

Violating any of these “rules” of Purity Culture made a person the spiritual and sexual equivalent of “chewed gum,” “spit-in water,” and “a de-petaled flower.” If you committed any kind of sexual impurity by the movement’s definition (even if it wasn’t included in the Bible or was a non-consensual sexual encounter), you were “damaged goods.”

While sexual purity is a good thing and something the Bible asks us to strive for, Purity Culture does not advocate for it. Instead, it advocates for a one-size-fits-all model for handling dating and affection. It is a lazy, convenience-based solution to a complex spiritual problem, one that has cost many their mentalphysical, and spiritual wellbeing.

This model for achieving sexual purity neglects the work of the Holy Spirit to convict on spiritual decisions that are within the realm of adiaphora (a matter that is neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture). This leaves many to rely on behavioral modification rather than acting out of love for their neighbor.

We Cannot Make Ourselves Perfect

The problem with the convenience of Purity Culture is this: it puts the focus on how sinful human beings can avoid sin. This is a hopeless endeavor because we will never be perfect, even without the extra rules of no-touch courtship and purity culture. The shame inherent within the movement hinders the ability of survivors to bond with a healthy community and God.

While Purity Culture graduates continue to pay the cost of convenience through spiritual degradation and dysfunction of the body and mind, the solution is, and has always been, available to us. The problem of sexual impurity was resolved by paying the highest price that can be paid, the life of an innocent: Christ’s life.

Purity Culture glosses over one very simple fact: We aren’t pure because of anything we do. We are pure because Christ made us so in his death and resurrection. Our worth is not found in what we have done, but in what he has done for us. (6)

  • Pastors that create theology from quoting Scripture out of context. Pastors that twist the Word of God (Your typical TV Evangelist, prosperity gospel huckster, or word-faith teacher)
  • Any church where pastors or leaders cannot be questioned and/or demand loyal devotion.
  • A church culture that looked down upon or discouraged asking questions about God or theology.
  • Being taught that it is up to us to evangelize other people. Evangelism that was based on how many people you were able to convince to follow Jesus. If you didn’t get high numbers of salvation prayers you were shamed or felt like a failure. After all…those were souls headed to Hell and you probably didn’t articulate the salvation message well. Now you have to live with the guilt that others were going to Hell because you couldn’t convince them to follow Christ.
  • Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about ones self.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.” (7)

  • Being a Christian is about “doing the right and moral things”. WWJD. Veggie Tales theology. Being a Christian means that when you pray for God to take a sin away from you that He will do that immediately and if He doesn’t, and you still struggle with a sin (like masturbating, same sex attraction, lust, anger, etc.) it means you are not saved or in danger of losing your salvation.
  • Terrible Contemporary Christian Music with vapid platitudinous lyrics. Over-emotional, sensational, “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. Rock show or hyper-emotional worship where you sang theologically barren me-centered songs with a chorus that you repeated 20 times. Youth conferences that gave you a spiritual high that was gone two days after you came back. Oceans.

Getting a Spiritual Buzz

In the aftermath, I would feel warm and spiritually buzzed. I felt drained, spent, and yet so very, very happy. In those moments I felt close to God. When people said “The spirit really showed up” I couldn’t help but echo that statement, as I knew exactly what they meant. I remember being a teen and later a young adult in a church which had a very talented worship team, and while perhaps not to the same degree as the big conferences, they were usually able to match the intensity and whip me and my friends up into a frenzy. More often than not all they needed was the right Hillsong song and we were good to go.

But those moments of being buzzed and feeling close to God did not last too long. When we would have youth on Friday, I was high all night. That feeling would wane a little on Saturday, got a small uptick on Sunday, sag on Monday, and then by Tuesday it had all but dissipated. I did not feel close to God. I did not feel spiritual. Half the time I didn’t even feel like a Christian.

   I found myself longing for that spiritual high that I felt.  Instead of basking in it, I found myself chasing it. Needing it. Coveting it.  I found myself counting the hours until Friday would come, so that I could worship and get back those feelings that I had lost. On Friday I was loved by God and I knew he was happy with me — on Monday I was depressed and sensed his disapproval. On Friday he was pleased with me — on Monday his disappointment was tangible.  Because, after all, if God and I were tight then I wouldn’t be feeling so disconnected from him. I would feel the same way I did during worship.

This was, upon much reflection, a very strange time.

Worship as a Weapon?

Yet in the years since then I have learned some valuable lessons. Chief among them is the realization than an emotional high is no substitute for true spirituality. No one tells Church-kids that, but its true. I’ve learned that absent knowledge, even the worship of Christ can be used as a weapon against me. When we treat the worship-high like heroin in an addict’s hands, people are going to get hurt.

I’ve learned that often worship music can be little more than manipulation and is used that way to varying degrees consciously or unconsciously. I’ve learned that most variations of the expression “the holy spirit really showed up” in particularly intense worship session is a Christological joke and is theological poison.

I’ve learned that a kid can attend youth group, spend two hours in heaving sobs while on her knees with hands raised, and not once have tasted anything close to a true, legitimate encounter with the Holy Spirit. I’ve learned those experiences can mess her up, and that same kid can, after youth is over, smoke a joint and have sex with her boyfriend, the last two hours seemingly forgotten.

 I’ve learned that the point of worship can be not to teach doctrine and to deepen our knowledge of God, but rather to recite silly and shallow lyrics about nothing.

I’ve learned that chasing the emotional high can crush a soul. That it makes people think such experiences are normative for the Christian life. When they fail to experience it consistently, they grow bitter and disillusioned. It can foster depression and angst and whets the sharpening stone for the knife that slaughters the sheep. Instead of developing depth it breeds shallowness, immaturity, and confusion.

I’ve learned that because worship can become the biggest draw for the church, worship nights will steamroll over Bible studies and adult Sunday school. That a church oftentimes will pour much more resources, energy, thought and time into making a killer worship service than they will into developing deep, thoughtful, meaty, mature, theologically precise and provoking Bible studies.

Warning: Worship in Progress!

I’ve learned that parents and pastors will send their children away to youth group and conferences without ensuring that they have solid teaching on what worship is, how it functions, and how it relates to the gospel and God’s pleasure with you. There are no warnings of “Don’t mistake the spiritual high for biblical sanctification. Its not real!” but rather they will tacitly endorse that sort of confusion. They’ll let the seedy underbelly of mainstream evangelical goofiness swallow up their kids and spit out the bones. Then they’ll wonder why their sons and daughters leave the Church after high school.

   I’ve learned that there are tons of people out there like me who have been burned by this sort of thing — who have been beat up and are fellow bruised reeds — victims of men and women with good intentions but no discernment. They thought they were doing us a favor but should have known better. (8)

  • The influence of Charles Finney. Altar Calls. Sinner’s Prayer. Asking Jesus into your heart. Legalistic obsession with the sacred and secular divide. KJV Only. Cultural Fundamentalism such as not being able to listen to “secular” rock music. Claiming that songs like Highway to Hell by AC/DC and Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden are satanic (Hint…they’re not satanic. Just look at the background to the writing of the songs). People who see evil symbols everywhere. I personally remember reading some article saying that the symbol on Monster energy drinks represents the number of the beast (666). Kids not being allowed to play Pokemon because it promoted evolution and was influenced by the Egyptian book of the dead (I experienced this one).
  • End-times obsessed Christians that use fear mongering about the rapture. Left Behind. Thief in the Night. Omega Code. This:

Charles Anderson - Rapture - 1974. Commissioned by Leon Bates of the Bible  Believers' Evangelistic Association (Texas). Over 3 million reproductions have been distributed.

  • Evidential/classical apologetics. I’m not intending to say that the classical apologetic method is sinful or false but I believe it is ineffective. I grew up with classical and have tried using the arguments from evidence in the past. However, when I learned about presuppositional apologetics (Are You Epistemologically Self-Conscious?  9), I realized the ineffectiveness of classical apologetics. I was intrigued when I read what Jerry Proctor wrote regarding his de-conversion and apologetics:

Faith was a beautiful thing, and I miss it sometimes. I finished my degree in Evangelism with a concentration in apologetics twenty-two years ago. I learned to read the New Testament in the original Koine Greek. I served as a missionary in China and Mexico. I’ve done street preaching, and I’ve walked up to perfect strangers and asked them if they know Jesus.

I now identify myself as an agnostic. It’s been fourteen years since I left.

I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Youth pastors and well-meaning friends said, in matters of religion, it’s best not to think too hard. When I showed an interest in philosophy and apologetics, some shrugged, and said, “Well if that is where God leads you.” My motives were pure. But it’s an open secret that many who delve into theology and the science of answering doubts and arguments with an apologia seek to convince themselves. Many of us aren’t successful. Even those who remain sometimes use convincing others as a means of avoiding their own questions and doubts.

Apologetics are a dangerous terrain for faith. When most people think of the subject, they think of CS Lewis, Josh McDowell, Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias. You have a doubt or a nagging question, or some quandary that won’t go away. Then, someone hands you a book, or sends you a Youtube video where someone answers that question. Your faith is renewed. We know how to handle these things in the church. Get some extra rest, read this book, and call me in the morning.

The truth is more complicated.

Why are apologetics so dangerous? Is faith something we can only murder to dissect?

For many questions, there are no easy answers.

This seems obvious to me, now. But as a young theology student, I had the confidence of youth combined with a toxic inexperience of the questions mature people really ask. You can blow through the major arguments for the existence of God in an hour. But as a student of philosophy, I know that philosophers have been tearing down and reconstructing the ontological argument, the teleological argument, and the cosmological argument for thousands of years. That’s not even addressing modal or symbolic logic. The only way to use those arguments to convince anyone that God exists – especially your particular God, out of all the possible choices – is to hope they haven’t delved too far into the matter. Go for the low-hanging fruit. Hope that you planted seeds with the others.

If you read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity carefully, the first half of the book could be titled Mere Theism. It could just as easily be used as a preface to Judaism or Islam, or any monotheistic, morals-based believe system. At some point in the book, Lewis does a little two-step shuffle and starts talking about Christianity. But wait a minute? Even if I grant that my morals point me to a Moral Giver, how did we arrive at the conclusion Christianity is true? That’s an awful lot of baggage someone snuck in the door.

There are so many questions. Why does God allow suffering? More specifically, why does God allow suffering in my life? Which inevitably leads to a story about death, or pain, or events like the Holocaust or the slaughter of various peoples during Christian conquests. Maybe a loved one who died. The answers I was trained to give, like the free will defense, tasted like sand in my mouth. I found the most useful tool often wasn’t any of the clever arguments I’d read, but shutting up and listening.

But why should I continue to believe this stuff, if the answers it gives are so unsatisfying? Listening is a human response. It’s not uniquely Christian. Listening certainly wasn’t a skill they taught in my classes. The danger of listening is that you may realize the question the other person is asking is superior to any answer you have to offer. That’s what happened to me. (10)

Proctor very rightly sees the flaw of this method of apologetics when he says that the Christian God is not proved by the existence of a Moral Giver. It’s true…there is a very big difference between believing in the existence of a god (a Moral Giver) and believing in the God of the Bible. The problem is that you can’t convince anyone that God exists. The reality is that everyone already knows God exists but they suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-32). The problem isn’t lack of compelling evidence…the problem is rejection of the truth and rebellion. In the Classical method of apologetics, evidence is viewed as neutral ground: “I have my evidence and you have your evidence. We will debate and see whose evidence is more reasonable to believe.”. I think of the movie God’s Not Dead, when the main character says to the class,”We’re going to put God on trial”. In reality, there is no neutral ground. The unbeliever knows God exists but suppresses that truth. God is not to be put on trial. God is the judge. Therefore we must expose and refute their inconsistent worldview and point them to the gospel truths of Scripture ( 11).

  • Jack. Chick. Tracts.

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I might just have to write an article in the future about the Fundamentalists and the fear of Halloween. Parents not letting kids go out for trick-or-treat night because of potential openings for demonic forces. But at least some of us had a fall frolic or trunk-or-treat.

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This one makes me laugh. “Bye”

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Welcome to the Abyss…

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Scary. Can you imagine reading something like this as a kid?

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This is actually pretty scary stuff but I can’t help but laugh at Satan saying “Welcome to the Abyss, Timmy.”. He’s such a gentleman for being the Prince of Darkness.

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If he had just listened to his mom’s warning to not go out for trick-or-treat Timmy wouldn’t be dead.

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He refused to repent of his sins and he quit Sunday School.

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“Bobby, that decision caused your friend to be sent to Hell forever!”

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I mean, he does get this right at least.

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Again, this is true.

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If only Timmy accepted God’s “love gift” (which is a phrase I’ve always found to be odd) of Jesus Christ. If Timmy just mustered up enough faith and made a decision for Jesus then he would have gone to Heaven. “But he turned the Lord down…”

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This kind of evangelism often yields false converts. I’ve never understood the phrase “Please come into my heart”…where is the Scriptural support for Jesus coming into someone’s heart? It makes zero sense. Wow, look how happy Bobby is immediately after asking Jesus to come into his heart! He feels so safe. He KNOWS he will go to Heaven when he dies because he prayed that prayer from his heart and truly meant it. Let’s see how Bobby fares when he deals with some real life problems like addictions, disappointments, same-sex attraction, betrayals, lust, divorce, war, poverty, reading atheists blogs on the internet.

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The choice is yours. Choose Jesus or Satan. Choose life or death. Choose an eternity in Heaven or eternity in Hell. It’s up to you. Better make sure you really mean it when you pray. You don’t want to backslide and have to recommit your life to Christ several times in your life. It’s dangerous to scare people into believing Jesus.

One more. This one is worse.

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The Green Angels is a pretty lame name.

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Let go and flow.

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Gotta love the dated slang here…”let’s see the bread”.

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Are you a “solid” Christian? No, you say…how about liquid? Gaseous?

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Mr. Siffer: “Yeah…just sign this contract…in your own blood.”

Bobby: “That’s really gross.”


Image result for meme dangit bobby

Mr. Siffer:

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Apparently music is the devil’s masterpiece. If you don’t want to listen to music you are welcome to avoid it but please don’t say that all Christians should avoid music.

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‘Killer Rock”. I definitely would agree that you shouldn’t be pulling your theology from the Beatles but I don’t see anything wrong with listening to a Beatles song for entertainment.

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I’ve never really been into KISS or Motley Crue but I do like Black Sabbath. I think Jack Chick was a little paranoid (I couldn’t resist) about Rock Music. Now country, classical, and soul are of the Devil? Satan started Christian Rock…what? The music itself is sinful? So it doesn’t matter if the lyrics are written by Christians or not…the sounds that are made by the instruments are sinful? Ridiculous…but not the most ridiculous thing you will read in this tract.

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I like metal music. I guess that makes me a rock-a-holic zombie. He’s got the souls of the whole world dancing to his beat.

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Some deep lyrics right there. I love the serpent/bat/demon hybrids. Brace yourself…the next one is terrible. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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I really don’t understand…”Then I’ll give you a little wedding present…some AIDS.” Why? Just why?

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Fundamentalist Christianity capitalizing on the AIDS hysteria and using it to bash rock music. This is nothing but manipulation and fear tactics.

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These tracts are depressing. Thank the Lord that little girl slipped a Jack Chick tract in his pocket.

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Get it…Lew Siffer.


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Some music should be avoided but Chick is way off here. Some who are weaker in the faith should probably avoid certain bands or songs but I don’t believe that applies to every Christian.

That’s it? I just have to die to self and burn anything I have associated with rock music and I’ll be set free? This was popular before my time but I had heard about it happening. Bonfires where you would bring and burn all your rock merchandise. This is nothing more than legalism. It does not save and has probably pushed some away.

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And now for something completely different…please read a few Dilbert comics to recover from those two terrible comics.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

This might be favorite Dilbert single strip comic.

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

 - Dilbert by Scott Adams

  • Seeker sensitive/church growth movements which had come under the influnce of Charles Finney and Peter Drucker. Purpose Driven Life.

In this article I will show that Warren’s book teaches an approach to the gospel that is not Biblical. His teaching is in keeping with popular, American, evangelical pietism so it is no wonder most evangelicals cannot see what is wrong with it. It comes from a stream of theology that can be traced back to Charles Finney who popularized a methodological “how to” approach to the gospel that puts spiritual revival in the hands of man to work at will. In doing so neither the message nor the method of Jesus Christ and His apostles is followed. To help show the difference between Warren’s method and the gospel message I will cite John MacArthur’s book Hard to Believe which explains the unadulterated gospel better than any book I have recently read.2There is a chasm between the teachings of Warren and those of MacArthur. They cannot both be right. Let’s begin. (14)

  • Running the church like a business and using marketing strategies to meet the felt needs of people. Vision casting. Making church for the unchurched. Rock show worship. Sermons that are 99% personal stories and 1% Scripture. Positive thinking Chirstianity.
  • Hyper-Charismatic Christianity, Seeing demons everywhere and in people. Slaying in the Spirit. Fake faith healers. Holy laughter. Prophetic words. Breakthrough. New Apostolic Reformation, Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, YWAM, IHOP, etc.
  • Hyperpatriotic Christians. U.S.A. idolatry. The belief that the U.S. is God’s chosen nation (quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 out of context).

3. People saw hypocritical Christians in the church and at home.

  • Either having experienced sexual abuse by a “Christian” or having heard about sexual abuse perpetrated by “Christians”.
  • Moral failure of (popular) Christians like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and most recently Andy Savage (I’m sure there are many others). Moral failure of parents who claimed to be Christians. Moral failure of local church pastors and/or leaders.
  • Strict parents who imposed strict moral rules on kids. Often parents lived hypocritical lives.

There often is a blending of bad theology and hypocrisy, of which the effects are catastrophic to people and to the image of the church/Christianity:

  • Think Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen and word-faith/prosperity gospel hucksters living lives of luxury, profiting off of and deceiving people. They peddle false teaching and live hypocritical lives.
  • Abusers that quote Scripture and say God told them to abuse. Abusers that “God is happy when you do X for me”.

4. The church for too long has had a reputation of not being willing to talk about the real difficulties of life. Church is a place where “good” people go. People are fake. People don’t open up. You exchange the cliche greeting:

“How are you?”

“I’m good” (when, more often than not…you’re not good. In fact, you are miserable. You are depressed and doubting your faith. But people don’t expect that as an answer)

You don’t talk about sex. You don’t talk about doubts. You don’t talk about your depression. And you hear from the pulpit and from parents that doubts are sinful, that homosexuality is an abomination. This especially happens in your more fundamentalist churches.

5. Outliers. Now, certainly there are outliers. Those who had perfectly fine parents and grew up around good doctrine and theology that simply did not believe. It’s easy to grow up in Christianity and think you are saved when you might not really be a genuine believer. It’s almost better for someone to be converted from a non-Christian background than it is to be raised in Christianity.

The Church Needs a Reformation

Bad theology and hypocrisy results in people getting hurt in the church. Many who have been hurt reject anything related to their previous experience in Christianity. For example, you have people who have been badly burned by their experience in fundamentalism and purity culture and they now see God as abusive and doctrines like original sin and total depravity as abusive. Thus we have the rising community of Ex-Evangelicals online and offline. They can see the bad side of Christianity and to that end they are right in being angry about these kinds of things. Where they err is in their rejection of God based on the bad theology and hypocrisy they have experienced. They reject God’s authority and make their own moral autonomy the supreme authority for their lives.

We’ve got a big problem. There are many people leaving Christianity and we have a Church littered with false teachings. We need a return to the Bible. We need a return to fathers instructing their children in the faith. We need pastors who preach the Word faithfully (expositionally). We need humble shepherds to watch over the flock rather than take advantage of congregants. We need leaders to equip the saints for ministry. We need young and faithful leaders in our churches. We need a biblically literate church. We need congregants that are discerning truth from error. We don’t need to change the culture…we need change within the church. We need to hold fast to Scripture and grow every way into Christ.

Lastly, don’t blindly believe what people say (especially on the internet). Be a Berean. Compare what people say to the Bible (in the proper context). It’s easy to read an article, especially an emotional story and just accept it as true without doing any research or critical thinking. I especially don’t want you to just believe what I say. I want to point you to the truth of Scripture. I want to point you to Jesus.

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be[e] in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.” John 17:20-26


  1. Ham, Ken, et al. Ready to Return: Bringing Back the Church’s Lost Generation. Master Books, 2015.
  2. Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. Thomas Nelson Inc, 2015
  3. Walmer, Daniel. “How Lebanon County Churches Are Growing.” Lebanon Daily News, Lebanon Daily News, 25 Mar. 2016,
  4. “Hyper-Calvinism.” Monergismcom Blog,
  5. High, Thomas. “I Went to Church Camp to ‘Pray the Gay Away’.” OUT, Out Magazine, 9 June 2017,
  6. Lemke, Rebecca. “Purity Culture Isn’t Wrong For Loving Chastity, But For Weaponizing It.”The Federalist, 12 July 2017,
  7. Mohler, Albert. “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion.”, 11 Apr. 2005,
  8. Blankschaen, Bill. “How Worship Music Destroyed Me: From Bitterness to Blessing.”FaithWalkers, 28 June 2013,
  9. Lisle, Dr. Jason. “Are You Epistemologically Self-Consious.” Jason Lisles Blog Are You Epistemologically SelfConscious Comments,
  10. Proctor, Jerry. “Apologetics and Deconversion: How We Murder to Dissect​​​​​​​.” Fundamentally Free, 7 Mar. 2018,
  12. Happy Halloween,
  13. Angels.
  14. The Gospel: A Method or a Message?: How the Purpose Driven Life Obscures the Gospel,

A Corinthian Contradiction?

The Background:

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries participated in an interfaith dialogue with Muslim scholar Dr. Yasir Qadhi in Memphis, TN in January 2017. The IFD was held in a mosque one night and the other night was held at a church building. There have been many critics since then that claim the IFD was not biblical and that it violated several Scriptural passages. Brannon Howse of Worldview Weekend Radio has been one of the major critics of the IFD. Jeff Dornik is also a very vocal critic of the IFD. Some critics have claimed that Dr. White’s participation played into the hands of the ecumenical goals of Dr. Qadhi. I want to look at some of the arguments made by the critics and see if there is any merit or accurate Scriptural basis to their claims.

Introduction to Part One:


It has been argued by critics that the IFD violated 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. The argument is that we should not be unequally yoked to Muslims and IFDs violate this passage. I want to examine this claim and look into the context of this passage to form my own opinion based on Scripture. Here is the passage:

14 Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said:

I will dwell
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
17 Therefore, come out from among them
be separate, says the Lord;
do not touch any unclean thing,
and I will welcome you.
18 And I will be a Father to you,
and you will be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 CSB

I can see that on the surface this passage would appear to be prohibiting partnerships between Christians and non-Christians and more specifically between Christians and Muslims. An IFD between a Christian and a Muslim would certainly seem to be a partnership and would therefore be a violation of this clear passage. If you are a discerning Bible reader you should be able to come up with questions as you are reading any portion of Scripture. Several questions came to my mind as I read this passage:

Who are the Corinthians?

What is the purpose of the book? What of 1 Corinthians?

What is the immediate context of this passage?

What is the context of this passage in 2 Corinthians?

What is the context of this passage when looking at 1 Corinthians?

What is the Greek word for partners/partnership in verse 14, what does it mean, and where else is it used?

What info can I glean from my bible commentaries and study Bibles about this passage?


As I go through these texts I aim to demonstrate the importance of discernment and the importance of biblical hermeneutics (the art and science of scriptural interpretation). We just read in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that we should not be partners with those who do not believe. However read this passage from 1 Corinthians:

I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.10 I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world.11 But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? 13 God judges outsiders. Remove the evil person from among you.

This would appear to be a contradiction. In 1 Corinthians we are told that Paul did not tell the Corinthians to stop associating with the immoral people of this world. He actually tells them that they shouldn’t even eat with a person who claims to be a brother or sister yet is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. The book we know as 1 Corinthians is not actually the first letter that Paul wrote to them. His first letter is lost to us but we know that he sent one because he says in verse 9 that he “wrote to them to not associate with sexually immoral people”. The immediate context of this verse relates to the preceding passage of 1 Corinthians 5 regarding the man who is sleeping with his father’s wife. In verse 10 Paul goes on to say that he did not mean to say that the Corinthians should not associate with the unbelieving sexually immoral, greedy, swindlers, or the idolaters of this world. As biblical Christians, we would say that anyone who worships a false god is an idolater. We would also say there is only one true God, Yahweh the God of the Bible:

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
there is no God but me.

I will strengthen you,
though you do not know me,
so that all may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
that there is no one but me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make success and create disaster;
I am the Lord, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:5-7

You, Lord, are the only God.
You created the heavens,
the highest heavens with all their stars,
the earth and all that is on it,
the seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them,
and all the stars of heaven worship you.

Nehemiah 9:6

 About eating food sacrificed to idols, then, we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,”and that “there is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.

1 Corinthians 8:4

In 1 Corinthians we are told by Paul that he did not mean to say that the Corinthians should stop associating with unbelievers and then in 2 Corinthians we are told by Paul that the Corinthians should not be partners with unbelievers. Which one are we to follow? Is he changing his mind in 2 Corinthians? Muslims believe in a false god and idolaters are those who put anything else above sole worship and belief of the God of the Bible. 1 Cor would suggest that we can and should associate with Muslims but 2 Corinthians seems to suggest that we should not be partners or have a partnership with Muslims. This seems to be contradictory and very confusing on the surface. Yet we need to dig into the context and the original language and try to get a clearer and better understanding of what is going on in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

The Context:

Let’s start by setting up the context of 1 and 2 Corinthians. The following quoted information is taken from the Wycliffe Bible Commentary:

“The city of Corinth. Corinth was a wealthy commercial center. …Corinth’s moral character made it a fertile field for the glorious good news of the Messiah. The old city had contained the famous Temple of Aphrodite, where one thousand sacred prostitutes were made available to its cultists. The same spirit, if not the the same temple prevailed in the new city. …Corinth was a city noted for everything depraved, dissolute, and debauched.”

1 Corinthians was written in response to a letter that Paul received from the Corinthian church. Paul addresses very specific problems that had been affecting the Corinthian Christians such as division, sexual immorality, abuse of the sacraments, and lawsuits between believers. The church sought instruction from Paul regarding marriage, divorce, food offered to idols, spiritual gifts, and other matters. Can you picture this young church at the epicenter of an incredibly wicked and depraved culture and city? False apostles are deceiving the Corinthians and are turning some of them against Paul. Picture a young church like this in Portland, Oregon or a post-Christian New England city. There truly is nothing new under the sun. It may seem that our current American culture is becoming more and more depraved but it’s really not any worse than the state of the culture of the early church. There was sexual immorality, greed, hate, violence, racism, and any other wicked sin like there is today. It may have changed dynamics but the root sins have been around since Adam’s fall and were extremely prevalent in the pagan culture surrounding the early church.

The Greeky Section:

Now let’s take a look at some of the Greek words used in our two texts. I’m not a Greek scholar and I haven’t been to Bible college or seminary but I know a little Greek and I know how to use the internet to look up the meanings of Greek words used in Scripture. All of the following Greek information comes from

This is the word that is translated as “associate with” in 1 Corinthians 5:9:

sunanamignumi: to mix up together, hence to associate with  

Original Word: συναναμίγνυμι
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: sunanamignumi
Phonetic Spelling: (soon-an-am-ig’-noo-mee)
Short Definition: I keep company with
Definition: I mingle together with, keep company with.

HELPS Word-studies

4874 synanamígnymi (from 4862 /sýn, “identified with“; 303 /aná, “up, finishing a process”; and 3396 /mígnymi, “mix”) – properly, mix-closely-together to influence, “associate intimately with” (Souter).

Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that he did not mean to say in his previous letter that they should not “keep company with” or stop “mingling with” unbelievers (sexually immoral, greedy, idolaters, etc.). The word study help above says that this Greek word means mix-closely-together to influence, and “associate intimately with”. This passage very clearly does not support the claim that an IFD between a Christian and a Muslim is unbiblical. Dr. White and Dr. Qadhi clearly stated that they have different beliefs and that they were in no way compromising their beliefs. They did however say that the goal of this IFD was to open more dialogues between Christians and Muslims and to take away the fear and anger that each group has towards the other. The modern American evangelical church’s view of Muslims is that they are all Jihadists and they want to implement Sharia Law and destroy Christianity. The majority view is that Muslims hate Christians and Americans should fear Muslims. There are many groups out there that push this view of fear and anger towards Muslims. If that is what most Christians believe about Muslims then it would follow that most Muslims would believe that these are the views held by most Christians. We as Christians should love our Muslim neighbors and friends. We should give them the gospel and pray for them.

However, in this divided climate driven by fear and anger there honestly is very little open and honest dialogue between Christians and Muslims. This is where Dr. White stepped in with the IFD. This IFD sought to diffuse the tension between Christians and Muslims. The goal was to help Christians understand what Muslims actually believe. The Islamic extremist view is not the majority view held by Muslims. If we are to engage Muslims and share the gospel we need to know what they actually believe and we need to view them not as people to fear or be angry with but as lost people who need to hear the gospel. Let’s say for example that Islam became the majority religion in the United States and Sharia Law was implemented. Would God not be sovereign? Would Christianity die? Would the gospel cease to spread? No. God is sovereign over all things:

 King Nebuchadnezzar,

To those of every people, nation, and language, who live on the whole earth:

May your prosperity increase. I am pleased to tell you about the miracles and wonders the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his miracles,
and how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom,
and his dominion is from generation to generation.


34 But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I praised the Most High and honored and glorified him who lives forever:

For his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom is from generation to generation.
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing,
and he does what he wants with the army of heaven
and the inhabitants of the earth.
There is no one who can block his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At that time my sanity returned to me, and my majesty and splendor returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and my nobles sought me out, I was reestablished over my kingdom, and even more greatness came to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of the heavens, because all his works are true and his ways are just. He is able to humble those who walk in pride.

Daniel 4:1-3, 34-37

We as Americans have had it relatively easy and we don’t often think of our Christian brothers and sisters in other countries were persecution is severe and frequent. Yet the gospel continues to spread in North Korea, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, the middle east, etc. Persecution will not stop God from accomplishing His will. We need to examine our hearts and see if we have put our American freedoms and American way of life as equal or maybe even higher than our devotion to the Living God. Christians are not guaranteed a life of ease…in fact we are told by Paul that we will face persecution and suffering.

Application of 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

I believe that I’ve laid out a solid, biblically sound argument that 1 Corinthians 5:9 actually says it is okay for Christians to keep company with and/or mingle with Muslims or any unbeliever. Here are some application points I want to summarize:

  • Christians can have friendships with unbelievers, in fact it is unavoidable as long as we are alive. We definitely should desire to and actively share the gospel with our unbelieving friends and aquaintances. From my understanding of this text I don’t believe that we necessarily have to preach the gospel every time we get together with them. If we have preached the gospel at least once, the Holy Spirit will do His work and draw those who are chosen to the Father.
  • Christians should not have friendships or even eat with someone who claims to be a brother or sister yet is sexually immoral, greedy, an idolater, a swindler, and etc. I believe this is talking about Christians that engage in an unrepentant continuation of sinfulness. We know from 1 John that Christians will struggle with sin until we die and that if we say we don’t sin we are liars. So this passage can’t mean that we should never associate with a Christian that struggles with sin. However, we should not continue in a pattern of unrepentant sin. This is a sign that you are not truly converted. These are false converts and Paul warns us and commands to not even eat with people like this. Probably so that we do not get led astray ourselves.
  • An interfaith dialogue between a Christian and a Muslim does not violate this passage. As long as it is not an ecumenical occasion but a discussion of differences and similarities, I believe it is permitted. Again, this is based on the goal of diffusing the current tension that exists between American Christianity and Muslims. This is not a compromise or an attempt to downplay the gospel. If Muslims think Christians hate them and fear them will they even listen to a Christian share the gospel with them? Definitely not if the gospel they hear is that they will go to Hell if they don’t repent and especially if that gospel is given in a fearful or angry manner. We are to speak the truth in love. American Christians need to be better at speaking in love to Muslims but at the same time not downplay the truth of God.

The Second Greeky Section:

We’ve used our hermeneutical skills and looked at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9. We can finally get into 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. We need to interpret and understand what this passage means. The CSB translation uses “partner” and “partnership” in 2 Cor 6:14 and my first thought was to find out what words  were used in the originl Greek. This is the word that was translated into “partnership”:

metoché: sharing

Original Word: μετοχή, ῆς, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: metoché
Phonetic Spelling: (met-okh-ay’)
Short Definition: sharing, partnership, fellowship
Definition: sharing, partnership, fellowship.

HELPS Word-studies

Cognate: 3352 metoxḗ – a close relation between partners, i.e. people sharing something held in common (used only in 2 Cor 6:14); joint-activity.See 3353 (metoxos).sharer, partner
Definition: a sharer, partner, companion.

Metoché refers to a close relation between partners. The Greek word that is translated into partner is:

metochos: sharing in

Original Word: μέτοχος, ου, ὁ
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: metochos
Phonetic Spelling: (met’-okh-os)
Short Definition: a sharer, partner
Definition: a sharer, partner, associate.

HELPS Word-studies

3353 métoxos (from 3348 /metéxō, “share in,” derived from 3326 /metá, “with change afterward” and 2192 /éxō, “have”) – properly, change due to sharing, i.e. from being an “active partaker with.”

I think it is interesting that metochos was only used 6 times (once in Luke and 5 times in Hebrews) and that metoché was used just once, here in 2 Cor 6:14. These words seem to imply something stronger than a mere friendship or fellowship. These are active partakers or partners. After finding this out, I wondered how this related to the 1 Cor 5:9 passage. I decided to see if there are any other Greek words that could be translated to our English word “partner”. There is another word that could be translated into partner/fellowship in English:

koinónos: a sharer

Original Word: κοινωνός, οῦ, ὁ, ἡ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Transliteration: koinónos
Phonetic Spelling: (koy-no-nos’)
Short Definition: a Cognate: 2844 koinōnós (a masculine noun/substantival adjective) – properly, a participant who mutually belongs and shares fellowship; a “joint-participant.” See 2842 (koinōnia).

[2842 /koinōnía (a feminine noun) stresses the relational aspect of the fellowship. 2844 /koinōnós (a masculine noun) more directly focuses on the participant himself (herself).

2844 (koinōnos) is also used as a substantival adjective, as with the classical Greek authors, see J. Thayer.]

Koinónos is used 10 times in the New Testament. As you can read above, this word refers to a relationship between a participant who mutually belongs to and shares fellowship with someone else. Are you thinking what I’m thinking right now? If Paul wanted to say that Christians should not have fellowship, relationships, or friendships with unbelievers (that includes Muslims) I think he would have used koinónos in 2 Cor 6:14. So what the heck does this verse mean? Well, I will now address what I believe is the key to understanding this passage.


The CSB translation uses “partner” in verse 14 and I wanted to find out what word was used in the original language. Here is the info on this word:

heterozugeó: to be yoked up differently, i.e. to be unequally yoked

Original Word: ἑτεροζυγέω
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: heterozugeó
Phonetic Spelling: (het-er-od-zoog-eh’-o)
Short Definition: I am yoked with one different from myself
Definition: I am yoked with one different from myself, unequally yoked.

HELPS Word-studies

2086 heterozygéō (from 2087 /héteros, “another of a different kind” and 2218 /zygós, “a yoke, joining two to a single plow”) – properly, different kindsof people joined together but unevenly matched; hence “unequally yoked” (not aptly joined).

2086 /heterozygéō (“mis-matched”) is used figuratively of Christians wrongly committed to a partner holding very different values (priorities), i.e. that run contrary to faith (the kingdom of God).

Reflection: Scripture uses symbols to teach about the importance of keeping spiritually pure

The picture we get from this is a metaphor that Paul’s readers would certainly be familiar with. Two oxen that are yoked together are both pushing the plow. They are both working towards completing a task. Being yoked to someone implies a very intimate relationship. If you have two unequally yoked oxen pulling a plow nothing will be accomplished. Picture a big ox and a small ox yoked together pulling a plow. The bigger ox will last longer and the small ox will tire out quicker. This word heterozugeó coupled with metoché paints a picture of a person who is actively participating or working alongside a nonbeliever. This could be applied to a self-proclaimed “Christian” going to a mosque to worship God. This would refer to ecumenical initiatives like Rick Warren’s PEACE Plan. This would refer to Christians embracing or working alongside Unitarianism and postmodernism. This passage is directly referring to marrying nonbelievers and also applies to starting businesses with nonbelievers. A Christian should not marry a non-Christian. This is not talking about situations where both spouses are unsaved and one of them comes to faith while the other remains unsaved. This is talking about a single Christian that chooses to marry an unbeliever.

Here is the crux of the interpretation of this text and the concept of being unequally yoked. Picture a dead ox yoked to a live ox. We who are Christians were once dead in our sins and trespasses and we have been made alive through Christ. If we willingly marry an unbeliever or enter a business relationship with an unbeliever we are essentially yoking ourselves to someone that is still dead in their trespasses and sins. We can still push the plow but we have to put extra effort into it and we also have to carry the extra weight of the “dead” ox. Now picture two healthy live oxen pushing the plow. They were both dead but through Christ they have been redeemed. They are equally yoked. They press on together to accomplish the same task. Throughout their marriage they continually press towards the same goal: unity in Christ. Sure there are trying seasons and difficulties but they are bonded together by their shared redemption in Christ. A Christian married to an unbeliever does not have that bond. An important lesson to learn from this is that if you are single and a Christian and you desire to get married: pray about it, make sure you know what this person is really like and what their Christian faith looks like now. Don’t rush to get married…sometimes people only find out what their spouse is like after they get married and then it is too late.


In summation, I do not believe that the IFD between Dr. James White and Dr. Yasir Qashi violated 2 Corinthians 6:14. I believe that we should form friendships and relationships with Muslims or any other unbeliever. We should share the gospel with them but there is nothing wrong with having friendships with unbelievers. I would also say you need to be careful if you aren’t very mature in Christ. You could easily be led astray by your unbelieving friends. This is why I stress the importance of Biblical hermeneutics and sound doctrine.

I know far too many who were raised in the church and were taught surface level Christianity that have no interest in God today. If you have been taught that you can choose God or that you can convince someone to become a Christian by not using the Bible and instead they can be convinced by using other forms of evidence I encourage you to seriously consider the implications. If you “accepted” Christ you can still reject Christ in your lifetime. If you can reason someone into the faith apart from using God’s Word they can also be reasoned out of the faith. The church has done a good job of being loving but we have largely abandoned sound doctrine. May we test all claims against the truth of God’s Word.