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Last year, a very famous pastor and author walked away from his church, divorced his wife, and declared, “I am not a Christian.” Joshua Harris was pastor of a megachurch for about 11 years before leaving that work. He was also the author of what became a very popular book for young people about dating called I Kissed Dating Goodby.
I personally find reading about him and his situation rather strange. There are still so many unanswered questions. In fact, reading some of the disjointed and rambling things he has said following his “deconversion,” I get the sense that even he does not know exactly what has happened. I have not seen where he has specifically said that he has become an Atheist, but he does talk extensively about his regrets about his former views; particularly his teaching that homosexuality is wrong, his views about women in general, and more specifically about women’s role in the church. He also regrets how he used to judge “all these more progressive people” – meaning that his views of social issues in general no longer reflects the thinking of biblical Christianity.
At this point, I am not particularly interested in what caused him to walk away from his faith, his family, and a Christian lifestyle. I am really more interested in what belief he has walked into. You see, he is not the first, nor will he be the last, to walk away from his Christian faith.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to listen to Dan Barker debate a Christian theologian. Barker is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a degree in religion, who is also a musician. He served as an evangelical Christian preacher and composer for 19 years before leaving the Christian faith in 1984 to become a militant Atheist. He is now the leader of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Almost everything I have read about both of these people, and others like them who have walked away from the Christian faith they were raised in, leaves me completely baffled as to why they have chosen the path they now walk. The reason I find this bewildering is that they have not walked away from faith into non-faith, but rather from one faith to a different one.
At this point, I should give a brief explanation. Most people who are Atheists (and actually even many people who claim to be Christians) hold the mistaken belief that Atheism is not a belief, but is a “lack of belief.” That is simply not true. Atheism is as much a religious faith as is Christianity or any other known religion. It is based on the naturalistic worldview belief that the natural universe is all that exists. Based on that foundation, they claim that all of reality can ultimately be understood using empirical science. (After all, if the natural universe is all that exists and it operates by natural laws, we will certainly be able to completely understand everything about it once scientific knowledge advances enough.
But there is no empirical science able to back up that belief. The belief that we will be able to ultimately figure it all out is completely a matter of faith – it is a religious belief.
Interestingly, those like Harris and Barker who walked away from their Christian upbringing thinking they were stepping out of faith and into “non-faith,” actually did no such thing. They stepped out of one faith that they obviously did not know as well as they thought they did, into a different faith that they had no idea about. They stepped out of ignorance into a different ignorance.
Sadly, there are a lot of people who today are seemingly very faithful Christians that will, at some point, fall into this trap. And the reason they fall into it is because they have never taken the time and made the effort to really understand their own faith, and the other faith possibilities that surround them. When people don’t consider the worldview influences that surround them, those influences can begin to infect their beliefs without them even knowing it. Unless a person actually makes a conscious effort to understand worldview concepts, worldview beliefs remain unconscious.
American society is currently dominated by atheistic Naturalism. If we don’t consciously identify these false naturalistic beliefs, they can sneak into our own thinking and begin to make sense in a way that crowds out our Christian beliefs. It happens when we don’t have a way to consciously evaluate what is true. We have to somehow get to a place where we not only know “what” we believe, but “why” we believe it. It is an understanding of worldview that gives us that.
I personally spend a lot of time and effort dealing with this topic, and the reason I do is related specifically to what I am sharing in this blog. Our Christian faith is true, and all genuine Christians understand that. But, if we don’t get to a place where we understand “why” it is true, we can easily be buffeted with the kinds of temptations and doubts that lead some people to actually leave the faith. Take the time and effort to get up to speed on this. It will provide you with the kind of spiritual strength and confidence in your faith that will allow you to find and live in the joy God has promised to those who know him.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
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