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Mark Farnham Gives Ten Reasons Evangelicals Deconvert


Mark Farnham, a Fundamentalist Christian, is associate professor and coordinator of pastoral and pre-seminary majors at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, Farnham wrote an article for Sharper Iron titled Ten Reasons Christians Are Deconstructing Their Faith.

Farnham ignorantly stated:

  1. They have experienced some hurt, trauma, or abuse at the hands of professing Christians, churches, and/or pastors.
  2. They have spent too much time reading, listening, watching, and talking to people espousing weak theology, heresy, and the hiss of the serpent asking, “Did God really say?”
  3. They have wittingly or unwittingly absorbed and adopted naturalistic, atheistic, and hedonistic assumptions and presuppositions and then critiqued the Bible in light of those. As a result they find the Bible objectionable, ludicrous, or repugnant.
  4. They have tired of the scorn, ridicule, and pressure of the unbelieving world, and find it easier to abandon the faith to just get along.
  5. They had deeply-felt expectations for life and what God would do, and when disappointed, could not bear the thought of worshiping the God they feel has let them down.
  6. They have misunderstood and misinterpreted the Bible’s revelation about the character and actions of God, and have come to believe that they are more moral than God, and now stand in condemnation of God’s character and his actions in the pages of Scripture.
  7. They grew up in legalistic churches and families where an abundance of man-made rules were added to the gospel and to God’s moral law. At some point they tired of these oppressive environments and could not separate true Christianity from the legalism, and so left the faith.
  8. They fed on liberal social justice and incipient Marxism, and found the Bible’s acceptance of inequality because of the curse of sin and the Bible’s call to suffering wanting according to their new belief system that salvation is deliverance from inequality.
  9. They simply no longer wished to be bound to the biblical ethic, most often related to the Bible’s clear restriction of sexual activity to one man and one woman in a monogamous covenant of marriage. They wanted to have sex and not feel guilty about it.
  10. They were never true believers to begin with. They are apostates who posed as Christians, very convincingly and for a long time. 1 John 2:19–22 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. [20] But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (ESV)

Let me translate. Evangelicals who deconstruct/deconvert:

  • They have been hurt
  • They spent too much time reading the wrong books and blogs and listening to the wrong podcasts (“wrong” means anything that doesn’t conform to Farnham’s peculiar Fundamentalist beliefs)
  • They have a worldly worldview
  • They are tired of being “persecuted” by the world
  • They feel let down by God
  • They misunderstand the Bible
  • They grew up in legalistic churches and could not separate legalism from True Christianity® (says a Fundamentalist with a straight face)
  • They embraced “liberal” political beliefs
  • They want to fuck anyone they want
  • They were never True Christians®

Absent from Farnham’s screed is any interaction with people who have actually deconstructed/deconverted. No need. Farnham “knows” why people walk/run away from Christianity. Instead of presenting a careful, thoughtful, nuanced look at why people leave the faith, Farnham chooses to build a “these people are weak, ignorant, shallow, selfish, lustful, never-were-Christians” strawman. Anything but accepting the stories of people at face value.

Other Posts About Deconversion

I Smell Fear: Another Gospel Coalition Article on “Deconstruction”

The War Against Deconstructing Evangelicals

Quote of the Day: Evangelicals Ignore Those Who Left at Their Own Peril

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    ‘…experienced hurt, trauma and abuse…’ ugh! Sue joined a project I work with recently and said I looked familiar. We worked out that 20yrs ago, I was the Sunday School leader of a fundy church that her parents attended. She came maybe 2-3 times with her child when visiting her parents, but remembered me. We met for coffee last month and she unburdened herself. I’d been told she was the rebellious, had-a-baby-out-of-wedlock daughter of the fine x-tian parents I loved. In fact she suffered appalling sexual abuse and was then shunned and excoriated in a terrible way. (I’m not exaggerating.) Her parents covered it up, as they did dad’s alcoholism and her mum’s marital infidelities. And others in that church did the same in their lives. I didn’t sleep that night…how Sue isn’t in a locked psychiatric ward is beyond me. Her courage is amazing! So I lay there thinking…..the x-tian answer to Sue’s problems – and those vile sins committed by her parents and others in that church, is, says Farnham….to just ignore them and pray them away. And probably stand up in church and give god the glory for wiping everyone’s memory clean. Hallelujah. Wish he could hear Sue’s life story….and then tell her, and me, that a loving father-god allowed it all without intervening. Her parents still lead worship every week, an act of unbelievable hypocrisy. You’re a monster, Farnham if you believe she should just ‘forgive and forget’ and come back to jesus!.

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    I live just a bit from Lancaster Bible College. Mark is quite the nitwit and I always love a Christian who claims that they want comments but the website they publish their nonsense on will only allow agreeing Chrisitans to post. Nothing like showinng just how cowardly they are. I entertained myself with my own blog post about this nonsense.

  3. Avatar
    Captain Cassidy

    These strawman constructions are a message to the flocks, too, esp any who are starting to doubt in unapproved ways. He’s telling them what to expect if they deconvert: hatred, abuse, false accusations, and more.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    When folks like Farnsworh tell people who’ve been damaged by a church or its representatives, he is inflicting further trauma on victims by telling them, in essence, to “forgive and forget.” When he and his ilk say such things, they are defending the perpetrators—or are perpetrators themselves.

    They also don’t understand what being sexually abused as a child does to that child. Even if he or she has the language to express it, that child is isolated and therefore even more vulnerable. I don’t know how typical my story is, but I know that the abuse I experienced from a priest in the Catholic Church in which I grew up had a lot to do with becoming an Evangelical Christian in my late teens and early adult life. Walking away from Christianity and belief in deities had more to do with seeing those beliefs for what they are.

    Aside from that, Farnsworth’s Reason #8 is perhaps the most appalling: It’s bad enough for anyone—and hypocritical for anyone who professes belief in Christ—to accept inequality as “the wages of sin,” especially when the “sins,” especially the most egregious ones (according to people like him) are not committed by those who suffer from inequality.

    • Avatar

      I read that one of the leaders of a conservative denomination (PCA) changed his view on divorce.

      Now he thinks that domestic violence is a totally valid ground for divorce (his previous view must have been rather terrible). When asked why, he replied that he’s witnessed his own share of battered wives over the years. Much too little, much too late.

      How convenient! All these leaders who themselves have never suffered in such a manner dictating how others should behave in a given situation.

      Also, with regards to point 8, it is laughable if one remembers that the FIRST ordained ministry in the early church (according to the Acts of the Apostle), the Deaconate, was established to resolve the issue of social inequality among widows! On top of that, the issue had its roots in racial prejudice (Greeks vs Jews).
      And yet, one super conservative Evangelical church I visited had an active and well-funded music ministry yet there was no one to take care of the poor. They had too much on their plate, they said. Talk about priorities.

  5. Avatar

    1) Fundamentalist evangelical Christianity taught me that I was a worthless piece of sh!t so repulsive that a deity had to make itself human, die, go to hell, and raise itself from the dead to appease a blood sacrifice to itself so that if I admitted my sh!ttiness and pledged eternal fealty to it, I coukd have eternal life worshipping said deity instead of suffering eternal conscious torment.

    Being female, I am designed to be submissive to the headship if father, husband, or other male relative because I am not capable of agency. I am also to bear a bunch of children.

    So yes, this religion teaches all us humans that we are pieces of sh!t, and that women are designed to be inferior.

    2) Education: Fundamentalist evangelicalism seeks to restrict exposure to any information that isn’t approved by Fundamentalist evangelical leaders. Yes, I went to school, learned science, learned about how to use the scientific method and critical thinking skills, and used those skills to examine ideas and concepts of Fundamentalist evangelicalism that do not line up with reality.

    3) As an extension of point 2, yes, I examined the Bible based on scientific findings and have found it inaccurate historically and scientifically, and in terms of moral messages in regard to issues such as slavery, treatment of others (women, children, foreigners, unbelievers, LGBTQ people, etc).

    4) Fundamentalist evangelicalism is anti-intellectual by nature, and as a student of sciences, history, etc, I could no longer be a part of that anymore.

    5) John 14:14 “If ye shall ask anything in my name, that will I do.” Explain to Mr why this is not the case? Is it a lie? There are no conditions explicitly stated.

    6) When one reads the Old Testament where God allegedly executes a massive genocide upon the planet through the flood, and he later commands multiple acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing upon the people of Canaan, it’s difficult to interpret him as anything other than a monster.

    7) Legalism: Fundamentalist evangelicalism is legalistic. I left it and went to a “kinder, gentler” Christianity that wasn’t legalistic. Christianity itself did not stand up as truth, legalism or not.

    8) There are many examples of Jesus commanding people to aid the downtrodden, sick, weak, poor. In James we are told “faith without works is dead”. Your proclamation that sin makes injustice a situation of “it is what it is” doesn’t exclude you from the direct command of Jesus to serve “the least of these”.

    9) Let’s talk about sex, baby. Fundamentalist evangelicals certainly love to discuss what consenting adults do with genitalia. They certainly don’t want to talk about sexual abuse that is perpetrated within their ranks though. Funny how that works.

    10) No True Scotsman fallacy – the Bible certainly gives that argument for its way to dismiss those who disagree with True Christians (TM).

    Whereas you did touch on some of the truths of ex-Christians and exvangelicals, you did miss the biggest points. Exvangelicals no longer find that the doctrines and teachings of Fundamentalist evangelicalism hold up to scrutiny. Ex-Christians no longer find that the tenets of Christianity hold up to scrutiny. As much as we may have been abused, hurt, ridiculed, etc, many of us spent a lot of time in prayer and Bible reading seeking answers. When those answers did not appear, we followed the logical conclusion that Christianity is not true. And we were no longer able to accept that it was our problem – our problem with sin, with being human/mortal and incapable of understanding, of not trying hard enough, etc. It just did not hold true.

  6. Avatar

    Farnham’s entire screed seems to consist of:
    – Cherry-picking
    – Gaslighting
    – Dishonorable insinuations of turpitude against those who ‘dare’ to disagree, and
    – Bald-faced lying when nothing else will serve.

    And then he wonders why people keep waking up and leaving?

  7. Avatar

    Remember that when conservatives, which Farnham is, use the word Marxism they’re not referring to the political and economic theories of Karl Marx. For them Marxism means “opinions that we don’t like.” I’ve seen an evangelical denounce ordination of women as Marxism.

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