Mark and Avoid: Authors that Helped Exvangelicals Deconstruct and Let Go of “Harmful Theology”

Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them, because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words. Romans 16:17-18 CSB

[Revised 11/23/18]

Watch Out for Deceivers

There are people who claim to speak the truth of God and the truth about God who are actually teaching things that are contrary to what God has revealed in Scripture. They may say they believe in Jesus and the gospel. They may say the Bible contains truth (the bible doesn’t merely contain truth—it is truth). The reality is that these deceivers distort the truth. They hold to the form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5).

God has revealed the need for Christians to be watchful for false teachers and false teachings in many passages of Scripture, such as 2 Peter 3:14-18, Ephesians 4:11-16, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Galatians 1:6-10, 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, Acts 20:28-30, 1 John 4:1-6, Matthew 7:15-20, 2 Peter 2, and Jude.

We need to be firmly grounded in Scripture if we want our faith to withstand the attacks that are made against God and His Word. Some people will overtly attack God and the Scriptures while others are more subtle in their distortion of truth. They may simply claim to be “asking questions” or “trying to make God relevant to the current cultural mindset”. We need to be on alert for anything that is contrary to sound doctrine. We need to be on guard so we are not led astray from the truth.

Deconstruction Starts With Doubt

All it takes is one little doubt in your mind about the certainty of the truth of God to send you down the pathway to rejecting the true gospel (Gal 1:6-7 and 2 Corinthians 11:3 state that people can preach a false gospel; there aren’t multiple true gospels, they distort the one true gospel of Christ) and/or believing a false gospel. If you’ve read any deconversion stories you should know that people don’t typically wake up one day and decide to abandon God. It often starts with a doubt. The doubts slowly start to pile up and they chip away everything that the person thought was true about God.

We need to be watchful for those who put doubts in our minds. There are people outside and inside the church who say that Christianity is not about having all the right answers. These people would say that those of us who believe that Scripture is the Word of God and the only source of infallible truth in this world are arrogant and close minded.

Deeds not creeds is the mantra of those who think that our actions are more important than our theology. Some common objections that are made against people who believe that the Bible is the Word of God and who affirm the sufficiency and authority of Scripture:

“Christianity isn’t about being right.”

“You don’t have a corner on the truth.”

“The Bible isn’t the fourth person of the trinity.”

“You are a bibliolater—you worship the bible more than you worship Jesus.”

“You can’t put God in a box.”

I want to analyze these claims at length in a separate article but for now I will say that these statements sow seeds of doubt about the authority and truth of God and the Scriptures. Those who lack vigilance are in danger of being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4:14).

Exvangelicals

I had encountered the Exvangelical Community on Twitter in January of 2018. I chronicled that experience here. I spent much time in the months that followed this encounter documenting Exvangelical tweets. My concern was that this burgeoning movement had the potential to lead people astray. They claim to have insider knowledge of the abusive theology of “White Evangelicalism”. The group as a movement formed largely as a reaction to Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory. They come from many different experiences of Evangelicalism and they hold to different beliefs (some are atheists, agnostics, progressive Christians, Wiccans, etc.) but what unites them is their shared Evangelical sociocultural heritage.

Exvangelical Deconstruction

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There is a difference between deconstructing theology and believing in sound doctrine rather than false doctrine as a result of careful exegesis of the Scriptures.

Deconstruction is the tearing down of everything that is foundational to theology.

When Exvangelicals talk about “Letting go of harmful theology” or “letting go of abusive theology”, it’s another way to say “deconstructing”.

“Harmful theology” is rather vague phraseology. It could simply refer to truly harmful teachings like purity culture, legalistic fundamentalism, prosperity gospel, seeker sensitive Christianity, or purpose drivenism.

However, knowing that this is coming from an Exvangelical, you can figure that they really are referring to sound biblical teachings as being harmful theology (inerrancy, sin, homosexuality being sin, hell, exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone, etc.).

Mark and Avoid These Authors and Resources

I took the time to look at all the responses to Austen’s tweet and I compiled some information from them into a table. I counted each time an author was referenced (either by someone mentioning a book title or someone mentioning an author directly by name) and recorded the number of times different people had made reference to the author. Do you think you can name any of the top 5 most referenced authors that have helped Exvangelicals deconstruct their faith? I suggest you mark and avoid these authors:

Author Times Referenced by Different People
Rachel Held Evans 20
Rob Bell 17
Donald Miller 6
James Cone 6
Sarah Bessey 5
John Shelby Spong 4
Madeleine Le’Engle 4
Richard Rohr 4
Nadia Bolz-Weber 4
Peter Enns 4
Sally Mcfague 3
Marcus Borg 3
Barbara Kingsolver 3
NT Wright 2
Anne Lamott 2
Willaim P. Young 2
Mike Mchargue 2
Peter Rollins 2
Frederick Buechner 2
Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker 2
Karen Armstrong 1
Tom Krattenmaker 1
Richard Beck 1
Macrina Wiederkehr 1
Richard Fischer 1
Thomas Torrance 1
C. Baxter Kruger 1
John Crowder 1
David W. Congdon 1
David Crowder 1
Jim Wallis 1
Patrick Cheng 1
Chris Stedman 1
Dr. Wil Gafney 1
Diana Butler Bass 1
Tich Nhat Hanh 1
Carol Howard 1
Monica Coleman 1
Kelly Brown-Douglas 1
Karen Baker-Fletcher 1
Ram Dass 1
Lauren Winner 1
Matthew Vines 1
Justin Lee 1
Slacktivist Fred 1
Robert Wright 1
Dale Martin 1
Tito Colliander 1
Kathy Escobar 1
Elizabeth Esther 1
Juergan Moltmann 1
Brennan Manning 1
Henry Nouwen 1
Weatherhead 1
Bill Nye 1
Deepak Chopra 1
Eckhart Tolle 1
Tony Jones 1
Hugh Ross 1
David James Duncan 1
Jeremy Young 1
John Macquarrie 1
Tillich 1
Elizabeth Johnson 1
Deborah Jian Lee 1
Liz Edman 1
Nancy Eisland 1
Dru Hart 1
Warren Throckmorton 1
Bart Ehrman 1
Carl Sagan 1
Richard Dawkins 1
Philip Yancey 1
Octavia Butler 1
John Fischer 1
Jeannine K. Brown 1
Marlene Winell 1
Darren Dochuk 1
Philip Pullman 1
Rosalind Miles 1
William Loebdell 1
J. Cameron Carter 1
Delores Williams 1
Justo L. Gonzales 1
Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz 1
Bell Hooks 1
Emilie Townes 1
Gloria Anzaldúa 1
Aurora-Levins Morales 1
Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre 1

Questions Vs. Doubts

I think there is a big difference between having questions and having doubts. We all should be asking questions about what we are taught about God and theology. We all should compare truth claims to Scripture. Anyone who knows me knows that I always encourage people to ask questions. You shouldn’t believe anything (especially something you read on the internet) without studying it for yourself.

Doubt is different from asking questions. The serpent deceived Eve by placing doubt in her mind. The Serpent said to Eve, “Did God really say…?”. Then after that doubt was placed, the serpent directly contradicted God’s Word and said to Eve “No! You will not die…in fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”. Doubt is dangerous.

Please know that my admonishment comes from a place of love and empathy. I care deeply for people who are struggling with doubts and questions. We all go through periods of questioning our beliefs.

I experienced depression, depersonalization, and derealization for about 5 years. During that time I felt distant from God. I felt like I was going crazy and that I didn’t exist. I never doubted God or His Word but I had questions about what I was taught about God.

I went to community college (Fall 2009-Spring 2012) during this time of depression and my faith was challenged by students and my professors.

I was unsure of what I wanted to major in during my first two years at college. I enjoyed the arts so I took several arts and humanities classes. My humanities 101 professor was a Pantheist. She talked about how God was found in everything and how God speaks through our expressions of art. The class was enthralling and I was able to learn about and appreciate the beauty of architecture, music, painting, etc. but my professor’s worldview could have influenced me to abandon my faith. Thankfully, God kept me from entertaining doubts about Him.

I took a mythology course because I thought it would be interesting to study myths and legends. When we covered the Genesis creation account, my professor talked about the narrative and explained how there were different writers of the book of Genesis. He pointed out the differences between the creation account in Genesis 1 and the account in Genesis 2 and made a convincing argument that the accounts were written by different people.

My parents and the church didn’t teach me about this so I had to study it for myself. This same professor asked a question that I never thought about, “why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden if He knew Adam and Eve were going to eat it?”.

I didnt have an answer for that at the time. It didn’t wreck my faith as it may have done to others who weren’t prepared for questions like it but it did lead me to asking questions. I asked myself, “Why did God put the tree there if he is all-knowing and if he knew that they would eat the fruit? Doesn’t this mean that he wanted evil to be a reality?  Could he have done it differently…made a world where there was no suffering and sin?”. I did not have a firm grounding in Scripture during this time but this period of asking questions led me to discovering the importance of reading Scripture in context and using biblical hermeneutics to interpret the Scriptures.

My wife has severe anxiety and depression and at times she feels distant from God. She has lots of questions and is seeking to understand God’s sovereignty and how that relates to human suffering. I know that I can’t force her to understand. I have to continue being a loving husband and pray that God would give her understanding. Whenever she has questions for me I answer them. I base my answers in Scripture and show her why I believe what I believe is true and let her think for herself. That’s how it should be done. I in no way think people should blindly believe what they are taught.

If you have doubts or questions, I encourage you to study the Scriptures and ask God to help you understand His truth. There are some difficult questions and it may take time for you to come to an understanding of the truth but I encourage you to keep seeking him. Remind yourself of the gospel. The good news that Jesus Christ lived a perfect and sinless life, died on the cross, was buried, and came to life three days later. Now all who repent and believe will be cleansed of their sin and will be seen as righteous in God’s sight.

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

The Exvangelical Community: The Unexpected Twitter Swarm

Introduction

My heart breaks when I think about people I personally know who once claimed to be Christians that have fallen away and swerved from the truth. People who used to sing songs next to me in children’s church that now reject Christ and have nothing to do with Him. You can probably think of people in your life that have fallen away from the faith or perhaps you have fallen away.

I have written several articles (here, here, and here) about the Ex-Evangelical phenomenon and have sought to explain how exactly we have gotten to where we are today with the mass exodus from churches and from orthodox Christianity. My short explanation is that this exodus is the result of bad theology and hypocrisy in the American Evangelical church over the past 60+ years.

This article explains how I discovered the Exvangelical Community on Twitter and how I became the target of the swarm.

The Background

I created a Twitter account back in 2013 but didn’t really understand how to use it. I stopped using it for several years but then I began to use it again in late November 2017. I was new to the Twitter world and I frequently engaged in Twitter debates. The Andy Savage scandal broke out in January 2018 and as it goes with every controversial news story, people (including myself) shared their opinions on Twitter.

My tweet:

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I think some clarification is needed for this tweet. Every time there is a story about a Christian (whether it is a pastor, leader, or a Christian radio DJ) committing a particularly heinous sin like sexual abuse or marital infidelity, there are people who use these cases as examples of why Christianity is wrong and why you can’t trust pastors. I’m not saying that you should just blindly follow pastors. What I am saying is that while there are bad “pastors” out there, there are also good pastors. There are pastors that don’t engage in sexual abuse that faithfully preach the Word and the gospel.

I also am not saying that we can’t ask questions to Christ about these kinds of atrocities. I find nothing wrong with asking God questions and seeking to understand how the existence of evil and suffering relates to God and His sovereignty. However, I believe that God gives us answers to these questions about suffering in His Word. We may or may not like the answers He gives us though. Also notice that I acknowledged the importance of holding pastors accountable. I repudiated these “Christian” men that take advantage of women (I would have included minors too if I had more characters). Men need to act like Christian men. There is no excuse for sexual abuse. It is a sin and it grieves God. These were the thoughts that were in my mind but I had a limited amount of characters to use to express them. I also didn’t know you could make tweet threads (don’t laugh…okay you can laugh, I don’t care).

The Irish Atheist

A Twitter user named The Irish Atheist saw my Andy Savage tweet and either commented on it or quote tweeted me. Quote tweeting is when someone retweets (shares) your tweet (a tweet is a post on Twitter) on their Twitter timeline. They have the option to comment on your tweet or simply share it directly to their followers. The Irish Atheist is the person who introduced me to the Ex-Evangelical Community. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I decided to engage him.

I have since learned that a primary tactic of Ex-Evangelicals on Twitter is to swarm people through the use of quote tweets. An Exvangelical will quote tweet your tweet to their followers. Then their followers respond to the quote tweet and they also respond to your original tweet. Then the followers of the original person who quote tweeted you quote tweet you and/or the quote tweet of your tweet to their followers. They sometimes tag other Ex-Evangelicals (that usually have a larger following) in response to your tweet or the quote tweet of your tweet. The quote tweet swarming continues until the Ex-Evangelicals eventually decide to move on to a different target or topic. This is usually after they’ve made their point by making a full mockery of you as well as letting everyone in the Ex-Evangelical Community have a chance at it. This is a very connected and united movement and they are able to get their ideas and tweets out to many of the Ex-Evangelicals very quickly through this process of retweeting and quote tweeting.

I am missing some of The Irish Atheist’s tweets but here are my interactions with him in chronological order:

1. The tweet below was my response to The Irish Atheist’s quote tweet of my Andy Savage tweet. I unfortunately did not save his tweet and I couldn’t find it when I searched for it.

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I use presuppositional apologetics as opposed to the more popular classical apologetics. Sye Ten Bruggencate is an apologist that influenced me and you can clearly see that showing in my tweets to the Irish Atheist.

2. The Irish Atheist quote tweeted my tweet but I didn’t save it and I can’t find it. This was my response to him:

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I used the Transcendental Argument in this tweet. For more information on that I recommend that you check out this site.

3.

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This is a great example of fallacious logic and unfortunately this fallacy is used on Twitter all the time. His tweet contains a faulty comparison. He makes a false comparison between the moral failing of specific Christians that covered up the sexual abuse and that gave Andy Savage the standing ovation to my epistemological claim that Atheists steal morality from Christians and makes it look like there is a contradiction. There is no contradiction. I would ask how The Irish Atheist could claim that abuse is objectively wrong without appealing to an objective standard of morality. It is simply his subjective opinion that abuse is morally wrong. Christians believe that abuse is wrong because the holy objective God declares abuse to be sin. God commands us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31, Leviticus 19:18) and abuse is certainly a violation of that command.

4.

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I responded to the Irish Atheist with the basic gospel message. I gave the bad news and the good news. The bad news that we are sinners. The bad news that we deserve judgement and separation from God for our idolatry. Then I gave the good news that God showed us grace through Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 2:11-14, and Colossians 2:4-15).

5.

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I hope you realize that I was not calling for his actual execution and I realize that there are places today where Homosexuals are executed. That may have been a poor word choice on my part. The main point I wanted to emphasize was that we all deserve judgement for our sinful rebellion against God (Romans 1:18-32). Romans 8:7 says the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.

6.

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The Irish Atheist quote tweeted this tweet and tagged (included) an Ex-Evangelical named Christopher Stroop.

Christopher Stroop

Christopher retweeted my tweet so naturally I thought I would respond to his statement. This was a trap. He (like many other Exvangelicals) quote tweets in order to hand you over to the Ex-Evangelical hornets. Here is our exchange:

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He makes the strawman statement “the negging pickup artist in the sky god of Evangelicalism and Catholicism”. Notice that his tweet got ten replies, nine retweets, and fifty-one likes. He also calls my tweet spiritual abuse which is completely ridiculous. Jesus Himself says that it is wrong to love family more than God (Luke 14:26). I am not advocating that people actually hate their families. I responded to him by quoting two bible verses because I wanted to let God speak rather than speak with my words.

2.

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Christopher accused me of having an authoritarian persecution complex and told me that I was sharing Bible verses with people who already knew them. I responded by genuinely asking him if he understood them and believed them and pointed him to Scripture.

3.

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This tweet is filled with assumptions. I share the gospel with people out of love for them not because of my supposed insecurity or because of my ego. I engaged Christopher because I had empathy for him (not pity, empathy). I grew up in Evangelical Christianity like him. I experienced many of the things that Ex-Evangelicals experienced. I don’t identify as an Evangelical. I think the label has become poisoned and that it needs to fade out. My story is not welcome in the Ex-Evangelical Community because I proselytize and because I still hold to orthodox Christianity.

4.

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He is right to say that I don’t get to determine whether or not he was religious in his childhood but that wasn’t my intention. I was not gaslighting him and I did not want to frame his story for him. I did not seek to invalidate his childhood experiences in Christianity. I was challenging the beliefs he holds now. He rejects Christ and I was trying to direct him to Scripture. God’s Word is the standard of truth not my word.

Ex-Evangelical Hornets

Here are some of the many responses I received as a result of the Irish Atheist quote tweeting me and take notice how most of them are logical fallacies:

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I tweeted this to someone and got a bunch of nasty replies:

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Here are some of the responses I received as a result of Christopher retweeting me:

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Conclusion

This all happened in January 2018 so why am I posting this now? My primary purpose in writing this article is to document my experience with the Exvangelical Community and to warn others so they don’t fall into the same trap. This Community is thriving and growing and not many people are aware that it exists.

 

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)

Problems

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

Specifics

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 (http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/ 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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Yuk

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This one makes me laugh. “Bye”

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Welcome to the Abyss…

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WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY quickmeme.com

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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.”

Tom:

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.

ZAP!

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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

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  • 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.
Examples:

  • 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

Sources

  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, http://www.ldnews.com/story/news/local/2016/03/25/how-lebanon-county-churches-growing-good-shepherd-missionary/81650050/.
  4. “Hyper-Calvinism.” Monergismcom Blog, http://www.monergism.com/topics/hyper-calvinism.
  5. High, Thomas. “I Went to Church Camp to ‘Pray the Gay Away’.” OUT, Out Magazine, 9 June 2017, http://www.out.com/news-opinion/2017/6/09/i-went-church-camp-pray-gay-away.
  6. Lemke, Rebecca. “Purity Culture Isn’t Wrong For Loving Chastity, But For Weaponizing It.”The Federalist, 12 July 2017, thefederalist.com/2017/07/12/purity-culture-isnt-wrong-loving-chastity-using-weapon/.
  7. Mohler, Albert. “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion.” AlbertMohler.com, 11 Apr. 2005, albertmohler.com/2005/04/11/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-the-new-american-religion-2/.
  8. Blankschaen, Bill. “How Worship Music Destroyed Me: From Bitterness to Blessing.”FaithWalkers, 28 June 2013, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2012/07/how-worship-music-destroyed-me-from-bitterness-to-blessing/
  9. Lisle, Dr. Jason. “Are You Epistemologically Self-Consious.” Jason Lisles Blog Are You Epistemologically SelfConscious Comments, http://www.jasonlisle.com/2013/09/06/are-you-epistemologically-self-conscious/.
  10. Proctor, Jerry. “Apologetics and Deconversion: How We Murder to Dissect​​​​​​​.” Fundamentally Free, 7 Mar. 2018, http://www.fundamentallyfreeblog.com/read/2018/3/7/apologetics-and-deconversion-how-we-murder-to-dissect.
  11. http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/
  12. Happy Halloween, http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0032/0032_01.asp.
  13. Angels. https://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0034/0034_01.asp
  14. The Gospel: A Method or a Message?: How the Purpose Driven Life Obscures the Gospel, cicministry.org/commentary/issue80.htm.

The Fear of God, the Holiness of God, and the Futility of Life Without God

 I’ve been reading “The God Who Hears” by W. Bingham Hunter. It’s an excellent book on prayer and I believe it should be required reading for Christians. I believe there is a lot of confusion in the church about prayer and this book answers a lot of questions:

  • Are faithful prayers always answered?
  • Does prayer change God’s mind?
  • What can I tell an all-knowing God?
  • Why pray to a God who lets people hurt?
  • How can I be intimate with an invisible God?

 There are many erroneous teachings on prayer that have infiltrated the church. Some teach that you need to pray big audacious prayers for God to do big things (largely in the seeker sensitive movement). Some teach that your words actually create your future. That is, your words/prayers actually have the power (God is not using power but it is your words that have power) to create reality (word-faith). Lectio Divina/contemplative prayer is another erroneous teaching. Instead of using the minds God has given us to study His Word, the objective is to empty your mind and “listen” to what God has to say. This teaching combines mysticism with Christianity and is very dangerous. When we go to God’s Word we need to ask “what does this passage mean?” rather than “what does this passage mean to me?”. We pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to understand His Word.

 There is also the view that we pray to ask God to do things for us. It is not wrong in and of itself to pray for our needs but there is so much more to prayer than simply bringing our requests to God. This book sets out to put prayer into the proper Biblical perspective. Prayer is not a means for us to get what we want from God. As mentioned in the book, “Prayer is a means for God to give us what He wants. The most important word in this definition is God. I say that because at the root most of our prayer difficulties are theological problems. “Theological” in the sense that we simply do not focus enough on the Theos (the Greek word for God). So the following chapters discuss prayer in light of what the Bible says about God. Prayer really only makes sense against the background of God’s nature and attributes. First, we must know whom we are talking to. Second, we have got to know ourselves. Third, we need someone who understands both God and ourselves to show us how to do it.”.

Here is another great excerpt from the book, bold emphasis mine:

The Reality of Fear:

“Since irrational fears (“phobias”) have destructive effects on human lives, it is hard to see fearing God as a good thing. But many of the arguments against holy terror are based on faulty theological systems (“the “fearful” image of God belongs to the dispensation of the Law”), imprecise exegesis (“God has not given us a spirit of of fear”), or the existence of psychopathology ( “some Christians do have phobias about God”). I assert that without a sense of God’s awesome holiness, and the consequent “fear”, we simply do not have biblical religion, either positively–“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10)–or negatively–“Concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ps 36:1). 

The dynamics of fearing God are helpfully explained by Robert Morosco:

  “One’s ultimate fear-object is that which he reveres above all else in life…This is the position which legitimately belongs only to the creature’s Creator, though this is often not the case. One’s supreme fear-object warrants total regard and esteem…

   Hence the biblical translation “revere”, or “respect” or “regard” is actually close to what the writers of Scripture had in mind [when they spoke of “the fear of the LORD”]….Theological fear is not primarily dread or repulsion for the fear-object, but surrender to [God’s] authority.”

Fearing God is thus not irrational. It is the only course open to a thinking Christian. In fact, not fearing God is irrational. It forces us to deny the reality of God’s holiness, power, and presence. So Morosco is right when he says:

   “Only by fearing Jehovah is reality viewed as it truly is. In order to replace God with another supreme fear-object [fear of failure, or fear of other people, for example], reality has to be distorted (i.e. the character of the Living God must be altered”.

Those who do not fear God in the biblical sense either do not understand, or find themselves forced to deny, the facts of existence. And such a venture into fantasy  advances against truth on two fronts. It defies the fact of God’s infiniteness and rejects human finiteness. No one has seen more clearly than Harry Blamires that this latter (and very common) deception is at the root of human unholiness:

   “What is common to those who lack any interest in religion is failure to recognize the finitude of the finite, and especially failure to accept man’s finite status for what it is. This failure is the source alike for moral evil and of intellectual confusion. All forms of moral evil have their roots in a tacit denial of human finitude–of the contingent and wholly dependent nature of man’s existence…”

   “Man behaves as though he were not a dependent creature with a limited and temporal universe. Covetousness and greed for power both express defiance of finitude. Covetousness implies that the pursuit of earthly possession is of ultimate significance: it implies that to possess within the finite is a state of fulfillment. This is nonsensical. There is no stability or security in possessions within the finite order, where at any moment accident or death may strip or destroy. The pursuit of power implies that temporal sway and masterdom are an ultimate satisfaction: [but] finitude precludes satisfaction within its own domain…In these pursuits, and in a thousand others, man conceals himself from the fact that finitude sets a term to all activities at the temporal level.”.

Those who do not fear God as the transcendant holy, and infinite Creator replace His power and authority with either themselves, others or material things. “They [have] exchanged the truth for a God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is [to be] forever praised” (Rom 1:25). Having denied the realities of both divine and human nature, it seems obvious why they may have little concern for doing God’s will and are unlikely to pray according to it.

It took decades of discipline through suffering before Israel began to take “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev 11:44) seriously enough to fear and call on the Holy One out of pure hearts. One wonders just when and how this reality will dawn on us. There is certainly no way around with respect to effective prayer: “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing, and does His will, He hears him” (Jn 9:31 NASB).”

Conclusion:

What do you believe about prayer? Have you come to understand the attributes of God and how they affect prayer? Is your ultimate fear-object the Lord? Think about the fact that God is transcendant, holy, and infinite and we are finite, temporal, and sinful. When you pray, think about the attributes of God. Thank and praise Him for His sovereignty, love, forgiveness, omniscience, omnipotence, justice, mercy, wrath, and etc. Remember, prayer is God’s means of giving us what He wants. We are often so focused on ourselves and what we think we deserve and need rather than being focused on the One who knows all things. He is sovereign over our lives and works in all things for His own glory and praise. Our Father knows what is best for us.