Joshua Harris, author of I kissed Dating Goodbye announced he is divorcing his wife after 20 years of marriage. Harris is also discontinuing his once-popular book and denouncing many of the teachings held within. He was also the senior pastor at a megachurch in Maryland and is stepping down from that position.
In an Instagram post he said he was falling away from his faith and no longer identifies as a Christian. Harris wrote, ” …I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” 1
He continues, “To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful.” 1
A few weeks later Marty Sampson, a former Hillsong writer and musician, shares with his followers that he is losing his faith. He wrote in his now-deleted Instagram post, “Time for some real talk, I’m genuinely losing my faith … and it doesn’t bother me… like, what bothers me now is nothing… I am so happy now, so at peace with the world… It’s crazy.” 2
He continues, “This is a soapbox moment so here I go… how many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgmental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me.” 2
It is interesting how both men have expressed elated feelings concerning their decisions. Feelings of being alert and conscious as if they had been under some shroud or dark covering. Attitudes of serenity and confidence towards the future and being celebratory towards their new life and their new role in the world.
I don’t know of a world view or religion that does not have restrictions on behavior or conduct within their circle of members. Christianity does, Islam does, Buddhism does, and the list goes on. I personally never felt a weight or oppression from being a Christian. Struggles yes, but never a dark cloud hanging overhead.
Indeed, there are behaviors Christians struggle to avoid. Selfishness, greed, sexual immorality, and a host of other offenses, but their efforts to curb such behavior come from a desire to be Christ-like, not because of some overshadowing cloud of sin equals guilt and punishment. At least that would be true of those who genuinely understand the charity and compassion He offers.
We all need his grace and mercy, I certainly do, daily, sometimes hourly, and having an understanding of what He has done for me allows a more humble posture toward those who have hurt me. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote concerning people who have hurt and been hurt, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people don’t just happen.” 3
Despite this understanding of His mercy and grace, the questions of how men are raised to such positions of power and influence within the Christian community, yet lack such basic understanding of who He is and what He has done, have to be asked.
Looking specifically at what Marty Sampson wrote, “how many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it.” Who is he kidding? When preachers fall, especially preachers from megachurches, it is front-page news. Everyone talks about it, and you could not visit CNN or any other news site without seeing the headlines or hearing an announcement. Yet, is the word ‘many’ a fair assessment? Yes, some names come to mind, Jim Baker, Bill Gothard, Jimmy Swaggart to name a few. But we can come up with many more who have not fallen, Billy Graham, Greg Koukl, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, and our own local Russ Peters, plus ‘many’ unnamed others. The bottom line is pastors are human; they make mistakes, they sin and are not immune to the world’s temptations. The rise and fall of preachers over the centuries has nothing to do with the truth of the Gospel.
Author Russell Moore addressed falling leaders of the church in one of his blogs. From apostles to current day pastors, all are found to be as human as you and I. Moses saw the miracles in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and still fell, being denied the blessing of entering the promised land. Peter spent three years with Jesus witnessing miracles and again denied his Friend and Lord just outside the trial while warming himself. If we are shocked by such behavior, it suggests we don’t grasp the weight of human nature and the power of sin. Yet scripture is very genuine and graphic about it. Scripture provides us with not only a narrative but a solution to our fallen nature.
“How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it.” Are Christians supposed to have lives full of miracles? Is that what scripture teaches? I am not so sure and I have heard good reasons on both sides, but that would be for another post. The number of miracles documented in scripture is few and far between; the exception is Jesus. He certainly did a lot of miracles. John 21:25 Yet volumes have been written on modern-day miracles.
I think of the books written by Craig S. Keener titled Miracles. Well worth the purchase and is full of documented modern-day miracles. God is not at our beck and call bedding our will and whim. Miracles or acts of God display his power over creation and often serve a purpose that goes beyond our own needs and wants, but enter and act on His redemptive plan for our lives and those around us.
Tim Keller wrote about miracles in his book The Reason for God, “They lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, to awe and wonder. Jesus’ miracles, in particular, were never magic tricks, designed only to impress and coerce. . . Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Why? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order” 4
“Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it.” What contradictions I would ask. Yes, there are difficult passages for the layman to understand and may seem contradictory, but many can be explained. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe wrote a book titled, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties. Will you find an answer to every one of your questions? No, but you will find more answers in the Christian world view than any other.
J. Warner Wallace, the author of Cold-Case Christianity, likens Christianity to the bulletproof vests the police officers would wear in southern California. Wallace talked about how some officers would take their vests to the shooting range and use them for targets — then retrieving them to see if they really worked. Wallace suggests that Christians should take Christianity to the gun range and fire a few rounds to see what happens. Can you find answers to some of the difficult questions or claims atheists or skeptics make? Yes you can, and each time you retrieve your faith from downrange to see that it held up, your confidence and trust will increase, just as those officers had for their vests.
“How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.” In the past several years, I have watched countless debates between Christians and Atheists, and I can’t think of a single discussion that did not raise the topic of ‘the problem of evil.’ This question posed by Sampson displays great simplicity in his understanding of the Gospel. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that God does not send people to hell because they don’t believe in Him. For starters, the demons believe so it should be obvious that ‘belief’ in God is not what is required to avoid separation from our Creator.
Matthew 7:13 makes it clear that a lot of people are going to hell, but it is not because of their disbelief. Our God has many characteristics, not merely love. He is also a ‘just’ God.
I believe in justice, and you probably do too. I don’t know about you, but I want the guilty punished, well, everyone but me. Ray Comfort in his street evangelistic style points out time and time again that we are all guilty. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything (even something small like a pencil)? Have you ever used the Lord’s name in vain? Have you ever looked at another person with lust? I would imagine all of us would have to raise our hands for one or more of those. Revelation 20:12 makes it clear that we will be judged by our deeds.
Guilty people should are punished unless pardoned, and we are all familiar with presidential pardons. Starting with George Washington to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who granted 3,687 to President Obama, who issued 64. Persons in a position of power and influence can grant pardons to those found guilty. The blood of Christ is our pardon; that is the deciding factor. A free gift, a free pardon to those that recognize their fallen nature. So whether it is 4 or 4 billion, this place they go to is because they are guilty, not because they don’t believe.
Again I wonder how movers and shakers like Joshua Harris or Marty Sampson, Christian leaders, and powerful influencers can move up to seats of authority, then end up walking away. Was it simply charm and appeal? Were they cultural Christians? Christians who have religion, but not genuine repentance. That is beyond my pay grade, but I wonder how much they were influenced by culture and how much the roots of their own faith factored in. What was their conversion story?
Paul M. Gould wrote Cultural Apologetics and shared about a time he was teaching philosophy at Purdue University. “At the beginning of each semester, I assign my students a worldview paper where they answered, without any additional research, these core perennial questions. Over the course of the semester, we would engage, one by one, each question by exploring the intellectual options, probing the strength and weaknesses of each view, and seeking together to find the truth. At the end of the semester, students would rewrite this worldview paper utilizing the arguments and evidence they had learned to justify and defend their views.
After spending six weeks of the class discussing the question of God, invariably I noticed that most students moved from unbelief or nonbelief to a firm conviction that God existed.” At that time, Gould was more than pleased with the results each semester, believing that when you accept that God exists, everything else changes, but what he observed over time was disheartening and discouraging.
Gould writes, “But I was wrong. I began to notice a disturbing pattern. Though students shifted from unbelief or nonbelief to a belief in God, almost all of them responded to this newfound belief with a shrug and sigh. ‘God exists. So what? Pass the beer and pizza.’ Apathy was the common denominator, not conversion and faith.” 5
Finally, Garry, a friend of mine, gave me a book by Dean Inserra titled The Unsaved Christian. Inserra writes about Christians who are Christians because that’s what’s popular in their circle of friends. Christians who claim to be Christians, but really don’t follow Jesus unless they royally screw up. Inserra gives an example of our singing ‘God Bless America’ at baseball games, “This god they are singing of, however, functions more like a national mascot than a God who demands our faith and repentance. The church must awaken to the reality that this is a false gospel with eternal consequences.” 6 Sure some may get goosebumps on their arms as they sing, but he wonders how many really have a saving relationship with their potential pardoner. This big man upstairs is someone we are supposed to be on good terms with and if not, then we ask our more ‘religious’ friends to ‘say a prayer’ for us. Cultural Christians honor Jesus but don’t really think He is needed except to take the wheel in times of trial. Talk about salvation? Well, that is just for the weird Christians.
Four Billion to Hell by James W. Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
- Harris, Joshua, My heart is full of gratitude Instagram, 27 July 2019, https://www.instagram.com/p/B0ZBrNLH2sl/
- Foust, Michael. “Hillsong’s Marty Sampson: ‘I’m Genuinely Losing My Faith’.” ChristianHeadlines.com. Salem Web Network, 13 Aug. 2019. Web. 16 Sept. 2019.
- Kubler-Ross, “Death: The Final Stage of Growth.” Death: The Final Stage of Growth. Touchstone, 1975, pg. 93.
- Keller, Timothy. “Science Has Disproved Christianity.” The Reason for God. New York, Riverhead Books, 2008, pg. 99
- Gould, Paul M. “Disenchantment.” Cultural Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019. 52-53.
- Inserra, Dean. “Help Them Get Lost” Chicago. The Unsaved Christian. Moody Publishers, 2019, pg. 18