Every time we turn around there is yet another deconversion story being proffered as the newest ex-evangelical smoking gun. The most recent—and arguably most influential—one has come from entertainers and YouTube sensations Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal of the Good Mythical Morning channel and Ear Biscuits podcast.
Rhett and Link have grown their brand performing hilarious satirical songs and engaging in zany stunts such as duct-taping themselves together, playing wedgie-hangman, crushing glow sticks in a meat-grinder, and flinging bags of dog feces at one another’s faces. With guest appearances on The TODAY Show, Live with Kelly, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, their stars have been rising for the past few years, swelling their net worth to an estimated $23 million. They were also Christians, former missionaries, and Campus Crusade (now Cru) staff members.
When they each recorded videos walking fans through their spiritual-deconstruction stories in February, it shot through the internet like a bolt of lightning. Over the course of a few days, social-media newsfeeds became inundated with hot takes, responses, disagreements, and praise for the comedy duo. The comment sections of their Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube pages reveal that their stories inspired many atheists and touched the hearts of some folks who experienced similar deconversion journeys, describing the videos as “beautiful,” “candid,” and “vulnerable.”
Several people reached out to me personally, including pastors who reported that the faith of several kids in their youth groups was rocked by the broadcasts, leaving them shaken and doubting. After all, when someone is conversant in apologetics and theology, knows his Bible, and can anticipate my suspicions and objections, it’s difficult to simply pass him off as someone who never really understood Christianity. Blend that with Rhett and Link’s magnetic personalities, and it’s no wonder the faith of many Christians has been unsettled.
The stories themselves weren’t so different from others that have lit up social media over the past few years. For Rhett, it started with questions relating to science, the age of the earth, and evolution. It morphed into doubts surrounding biblical reliability, the historicity of the resurrection, and the general idea of hell and judgment. But as both Rhett and Link recounted, there was something brewing underneath the intellectual questions. They both felt a deep discomfort with biblical sexual ethics, which they perceived to oppress women and their LGBTQ+ friends.
This brings us to the salient question. How can two guys who make a living as YouTube personalities go from making possum corndogs one day to throwing 2,000 years of Christian history under the bus the next? Why were so many people rattled and even persuaded by them? Could it be that the cultural influences driving these deconstruction stories needs to be re-examined, rather than Christianity itself? [Or maybe, just maybe, the deconverted have pulled back the curtain only to find out that the Wizard is a mere man or a construct of the human imagination. Nah, it’s easier to blame deconversions on cultural influences instead. Keep telling yourself that, Ms. Childers.)
The sad reality is that, for the deconverted, disbelief isn’t sufficient. These apostles of unbelief are on a mission to help others deconstruct with the same evangelistic zeal they learned from their previous tribe.[Yes, we are. The difference being, of course, we have traveled both sides of the road. That’s what makes deconversion stories deadly to faith. We know where the dead bodies are buried.]
The probability that the Bible is God’s word is inversely proportional to the amount of work it takes Christian apologists to defend it from objections to the contrary (that is, the more work its defense requires, the less likely the Bible is God’s word), and it requires way too much work to suppose that it is.
Consider the sheer numbers of Christian apologists/scholars and books that have been published by the following author/editors: C.S. Lewis, Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Richard Swinburne, Paul Copan, Alvin Plantinga, N.T. Wright, Chad Meister, J.P. Moreland, Gregory Boyd, Gary Habermas, Steven Cowan, Douglas Groothuis, Peter van Inwagen, Randal Rauser, Michael Murray, William Dembski, Richard J. Bauckham, Michael Brown, Dan Wallace, D.A. Carson, G.K. Beale, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Stephen Davis, Donald Guthrie, Ralph Martin, Richard Hess, Dinesh D’Souza, and Timothy Keller to name some of the more noteworthy ones. While some of these authors deal with the same issues most of their material is unique to them, for further defending their faith. If we add in their magazine and journal articles we already have a small library of works. If we were to get and read the references they quote from we have a whole library of works in defense of the Christian faith, a comprehensive case. That’s what a comprehensive apologetic requires. The important question left unaddressed by them, as always, is why a defense requires so many books? Why does Christianity need such a defense at all?
The fact that it takes so much work to defend Christianity is a strong indicator, all by itself, that the Christian God does not exist, or he doesn’t care if we believe.
If God had done a better job of revealing his will, there wouldn’t be much of anything for Christian defenders, or apologists, to do but share the gospel message like evangelists do. But since the God of the Bible was in fact incompetent, Christian apologists are forced to defend their faith against the multitude of objections raised against it. It’s as if God gave Christian defenders permanent job security, while forgetting that there are eternal destinies stake, people who, on some accounts, will suffer conscious torment forever because of it.
When dealing with the problem of divine miscommunication, Christian defense lawyers seek only to get their divine client acquitted no matter what the intellectual or moral cost. Rather than face this evidence that shows their God to be nothing more than the product of ancient people, who didn’t have a clue about civilized matters, these apologists use convoluted legalese to obfuscate and confuse the jury.
Typically they’ll say we couldn’t possibly know what an omniscient God is thinking, so we have no right to judge him and his ways. However, even if this is the case, it changes nothing. Millions of people died because God didn’t correctly reveal the truth. Christians will further object by saying we just don’t know if God did anything to help the people who died, to which the obvious answer is that this is my point. If God did something to help these people, then there is no evidence that he did? Think about it. There isn’t any. This objection is based on faith, not evidence, the very thing reasonable people should reject if they want to honestly know the truth. And if God really wants us to believe in him and believe that he loves us, this is a strange way of going about things. For an omniscient God would have known that later generations of intelligent people would find him to be guilty of not doing what decent people would do if they could, and as a result, disbelieve in him and his love.
The best Christian defense lawyers are liberals who admit there are texts in the Bible that, to a great degree, are reflective of an ancient outlook rather than the rigid literalism of conservative believers. In their view, God’s revelation is progressive, becoming better as humans grope to understand the divine. In other words, theology evolves. Liberals didn’t come by this conclusion easily though. Down through the centuries, they came to it as the realities of life and the results of science forced them to accept it. Yet this view is exactly what we would expect to find if there is no truth to their theology. It’s what we would expect if there is no divine mind behind the Bible or the church. If there is a God, then his so-called progressive revelation is indistinguishable from him not revealing anything at all, and, as such, progressive revelation should be rejected as an unnecessary theological hypothesis unworthy of thinking people.
Furthermore, such a view actually undermines their theology, for it leads to theological relativism, since there was no point in the history of the church when any theologian could say that a final, unchanging theology had been attained. So the theology of yesterday was true for Christians of the past, as the present-day theology is true for others, as the theology of tomorrow will be true for still others. So don’t talk to me about an unchanging theological truth. Don’t talk to me about an absolute standard for theological truth either. It doesn’t exist. Never has. Never will. Liberals therefore cannot state any theological truth that is true for all time. As far as they can know, the end result of revelation could be the death of God, the conclusion that we don’t need God, which would make him effectively dead. As far as liberals can know, atheism may be the future of their theology. The only reason they won’t accept the relativism of their theology is that they perceive a need to believe. They are playing a pretend game much like the people in M. Night Shyamalan’s movie The Village. In my opinion, liberals should just stop pretending.
The bottom line is that the whole notion of progressive revelation is a “heads I win, tails you lose” strategy. If their God had revealed the truth from the beginning, then these Christians would use that as evidence he exists. Because since he didn’t, they have introduced the concept of progressive revelation, which betrays their desire to believe no matter what the intellectual cost. What they’re doing is justifying their God “after the facts,” rather than asking “before the facts” what they would expect of their God if he lovingly communicated to human beings.
— John Lofus, Debunking Christianity, Excerpt from the book, How To Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, November 27, 2018
I found this gem on a Reformed Christian apologetics forum. As soon as I read it I fell on my knees and . . . laughed my ass off. Sorry, no salvation for Bruce. Come on Christians, you are going to have to do better than this.
Jesus, a character on The Walking Dead, is currently among the living. Whether by Negan’s hand or a walker’s bite, this Jesus will one day die, joining all the Jesus’s that have come before him.
Over the past nine years, countless Evangelicals apologists have emailed me or commented on this blog in hopes of winning me back to Jesus. Reclaiming an Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist for Jesus would certainly be big news and viewed as a sure sign that God is still in the soul-saving business. Why is it, then, that former Evangelical pastors rarely, if ever, return to the faith?
Many apologists suggest that the reason former pastors can’t be reclaimed for Jesus is that they are apostates or they have committed the unpardonable sin. (Romans 1:18-32) These pastors are blasphemers who have trodden under their feet the blood of Christ (Hebrews 10:26-30), degenerates who have crossed the line of no return. Apologists will often engage former pastors anyway, seeing it as an opportunity to hone their apologetical skills or preach the gospel to those who are lurking in the shadows.
Assuming that I am not a reprobate that God has turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, why, then, do Evangelical apologists fail to win me back to Jesus? One reason is that the behavior of apologists towards me is contrary to everything the Bible says about how we are to treat other people. Some of the most arrogant, nasty, judgmental people I have ever met are people who attempt to win me back to Jesus. I have never understood how behaving this way is conducive to reclaiming me for Jesus. As a pastor, I talked to hundreds and hundreds of people about the state of their souls. I found that being loving, kind, and compassionate helped in setting the tone for a presentation of the gospel. Leading with hell, judgment, and the wrath of God generally turned people off. Sadly, many apologists are oblivious to these things, choosing instead to bully people with the Bible. (Please read Bible Thumpers: Dealing With Evangelical Bible Bullies.) In doing so, these apologists give Christianity and God a bad name. When such people savage me with their words, I often ask them, what is it in your behavior that would make me want to return to Christianity? Granted, just because the messenger is an asshole doesn’t mean that the message is untrue. That said, kindness and respect will open far more doors than hatred and judgmentalism — a lesson some apologists need to learn.
Another reason that Evangelical apologists fail to win me back to Jesus is their belief that the Protestant Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I recently wrote a post titled, Why Biblical Inerrancy is Not Intellectually Sustainable. This post attracted an apologist who was certain that his intellectually superior arguments would destroy any criticism of the Bible. His arguments failed to convince anyone that the Bible was inerrant. The only people who believe the Bible is inerrant are presuppositionalists who assume, without evidence, that the Bible is without the error. The Bible says is it is without error, so it is. End of discussion. This is, of course, a faith claim that cannot be refuted. Once apologists appeal to faith — which is inherently subjective — all rational discussion ends. Faith, according to the Bible, is belief without evidence. Hebrews 11: 1,3, and 6 states:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Creationists love to argue that the events recorded in Genesis 1-3 are scientifically accurate; that God created the universe out of nothing in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,022 years ago. Everything that science tells us about the universe says that creationists are wrong, that the universe is billions of years old, not thousands. Vast amounts of scientific data must be rejected or misinterpreted for creationists to conclude with a straight face that Genesis 1-3 is how the universe came into existence. Lost on creationists is the fact that the Bible says that believing Jesus created the universe is a matter of faith, not scientific fact. Millions of Christians reject creationism, yet believe God is the grand architect of the universe. Creationists, on the other hand, refuse to budge on their ignorant beliefs. Why? Their commitment to literalism and inerrancy forces them to embrace beliefs that are absurd. One need only drive to Kentucky to visit Ken Ham’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter to see colossal monuments to Evangelical ignorance.
Let me conclude by giving three obstacles apologists can’t overcome in their attempts to win me back to Jesus:
The Christian God is the creator of everything.
Jesus was born of a virgin.
Jesus was executed on a Roman cross and resurrected from the dead three days later.
These three things ultimately stand in the way of me returning to Christianity.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
The Apostle Paul said the universe itself gives testimony to the existence of God. Look at the wonders of the earth and beauty of the star-lit sky. Sure this is proof that God created everything? Perhaps, but what evidence is there for this creator being the God of the Christian Bible? I have long argued that I understand how someone could look at the night sky on a clear summer night and conclude that a deistic God of some sort created the universe. What does not make sense to me, however, is that this creator God is the triune God of Christianity. What in the night sky tells me that the Christian God is the creator? Why the Christian God, and not any of the other Gods human worship? I see no intellectual bridge that gets me from A GOD to THE GOD of Evangelical Christianity. Again, the belief that the Christian God created everything rests on the presupposition that the Bible is the Word of God and whatever it says is true. Believing this way requires faith, a faith that I do not have.
The virgin birth of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead thirty-three years later, are equally problematic for me. Virgins don’t have babies and dead people don’t come back to life. Pregnancy requires the uniting of a female’s egg with a male’s sperm. Believing Jesus’ mother Mary was a virgin requires me to ignore what science tells me about where babies come from. But, Bruce, with GOD all things are possible! So Evangelicals say, but one thing is certain: millions and millions of people have prayed to God asking him to give them a baby. God has — supposedly — answered these prayers countless times. I have heard numerous testimonies about how God “blessed” people with children. What is the common denominator in all these stories? — a female egg united with male sperm, and nine months later a child was born. There’s no evidence that God played any part in these births. Believing so requires faith.
So it is with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Billions of people have lived and died on planet Earth, yet not one of them has come back from the dead. Cemeteries, funeral homes, and crematoriums are reminders that when people die, they stay dead. I believe Jesus was a real person who lived and died in Palestine two thousand years ago. How Jesus died, it matters not. Jesus lived, died, end of story. Evangelical apologists offer no evidence for the claim Jesus resurrected from the dead. Again, believing this to be true requires faith, a faith I do not have. Either someone accepts as fact what the Bible says about the things mentioned in this post or they don’t. I don’t, and this is why apologists fail in their attempts to win me back to Jesus. I want evidence, not special pleadings that appeal to Evangelical faith and the inerrancy of the Bible. Until apologists can come up with arguments that are more substantial than the litany of proof texts and faith claims they currently use, I remain unconvinced. The ball is in your court, Evangelicals.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.
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