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Tag: Christian Deconversion Stories

Mark Farnham Gives Ten Reasons Evangelicals Deconvert

deconversion

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-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Yet Another Christian “Explains” Why Believers Lose Their Faith

my ears hurt
How Evangelicals Respond When People Share Their Deconversion Stories

Another day, another explanation for “why” believers lose their faith by yet another Christian who refuses to accept deconversion stories at face value. Just today, Daniel Mann had this to say about people who walk/run away from Jesus:

It leaves us stunned that some seemingly mature Christian leaders eventually disown the faith. We wonder, “What did they see or learn that made them turn away? Will that happen to me as I learn more?”   Christian writer and theologian, Michael Brown, has confronted this question. He admits that he had been confronted by the same questions and perplexities as others had, who had disowned the faith. However, these doubts had led him to seek deeper. As a result, his faith had been strengthened.   However, this leads us to the question, “Why do two similar “believers” take opposite paths – one away from the Path and the other to a deeper embrace of the Path?” Brown correctly answered:

The Scriptures say repeatedly that God rewards those who diligently seek Him, who search for Him and His truth more than a miner searches for gold and silver (see, e.g., Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13; Proverbs 3:13-18; Luke 18:1-8; Hebrews 11:6). We are to seek Him with heart and mind, spirit and intellect. However, there must be more to the answer than this. Is it primarily a matter of our effort and determination that we remain in the Faith? Wouldn’t this provide grounds for boasting and arrogance? Instead, it seems that our God is ultimately responsible for keeping us:

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5; Philippians 1:6)  

Well, why didn’t our Lord keep others who had ministered the Gospel? This question is difficult to answer, or perhaps it isn’t difficult. Perhaps it is very simple, as Jesus had assured us:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:28–29; Romans 8:38-39)

Perhaps instead, we feel uncomfortable with the answer. It suggests that salvation is a gift of God, and along with this gift, we are also given the gift to persevere in the Faith.   The Apostle John needed to answer this very question, since many within the Church had turned their back on the Faith creating shock-waves among the faithful:

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. (1 John 2:19)

John reassured them that this wouldn’t happen to them as they grew in their faith:

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. (1 John 2:20)

Both sets of churchgoers had the Scriptures, but only those remained had the “anointing.” They had the Spirit, who illuminated the Scriptures for them. The other set never had the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:10-18).

But why not? Scripture claims that any who call upon God will be saved (Romans 10:12-13), right? Had those who departed never called upon God in truth? This sounds so harsh, even judgmental, but this seems to be the judgment of the Scriptures, perhaps even of those who had departed. Many of these had later admitted that they had never believed (or had “believed” in an unscriptural way). Perhaps we need to take them at their word.

Several things stand out to me in Mann’s explanation for why people deconvert. In the very first sentence of his post, Mann states: “It leaves us stunned that some seemingly mature Christian leaders eventually disown the faith.” Note his use of the word “seemingly” when referencing the spiritual maturity of those who lose their faith. These Christians-turned-unbelievers outwardly “seemed” mature in the faith once delivered to the saints. However, as Mann makes clear later in his post, they weren’t really “mature.” How does he know this? Why, if they were “mature” Christians they would never have deconverted. If only we had read more, studied more, and prayed more we would still be Christians.

Mann rightly recognizes this line of thinking is problematic, making salvation conditional on good works, not faith. After all, as Mann notes, isn’t salvation the provenance of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith? Doesn’t the Bible say we are saved by grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9)? Not wanting to be guilty of preaching salvation by works, Mann goes in a different direction to “explain” the Bruce Gerencsers of the world.

According to Mann, Christians-turned-unbelievers never had the Spirit; never called on God in “truth” (whatever the hell that means). Mann provides no evidence for his claims other than he just thinks that how it is. Unable to square the lives of former Christians with his peculiar theology, Mann concludes that former believers were, in some way, spiritually defective. How could it be otherwise?

The answer to the question “how could it be otherwise?” is found in the stories of those who left Christianity. I have spent fourteen years answering the Why? question on this blog. Yet, no matter how many words I write explaining how and why I deconverted, countless Evangelicals refuse to accept what I say at face value. Unable to make my story “fit” in their theological and experiential box, they dismiss my explanations and manufacture — as in pulling them out of their asses — their own.

Mann concludes his post by saying: “many of these [Christians-turned-unbelievers] . . . later admitted that they had never believed (or had “believed” in an unscriptural way). Really? I don’t know of any Evangelicals-turned-atheists who say that they “never believed” or “believed in an unscriptural way” (whatever the hell that means). In fact, most of them speak of their love, commitment, and devotion to Jesus and the Church. They speak of their deep immersion in the teachings of Christ, following the lamb whithersoever he goeth (Revelation 14:4). In every way, these unbelievers were, at one time, True Christians®.

Mann says “perhaps we need to take [former believers] at their word.” Good advice. Unfortunately, Mann didn’t follow it, choosing instead to put words in the mouths of Christians-turned-unbelievers or dismiss their words out of hand and make up reasons for their loss of faith. Let me give Mann a bit of advice straight from the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God: Answering before listening
is both stupid and rude
(Proverbs 18:13). James 1:19 says that Christians should be quick to hear and slow to speak. As Mann makes clear, he’s long on “speaking” about unbelievers, but slowing on “hearing” or deaf when it comes to why they no longer believe.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce, What’s the REAL Reason You Left the Ministry?

liar liar pants on fire

In the fall of my tenth grade year, I made a public profession of faith at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. I was fifteen. I vividly remember sitting with my church friends several rows back on the left side of the auditorium as Evangelist Al Lacey preached the gospel. I had heard over a thousand sermons by that time, yet on this night the preacher’s words struck pay dirt in my wicked, sinful heart. When it came time for the invitation — a time at the end of the service when the congregation stands, sings an invitation hymn such as Just as I Am, and the preacher pleads with people to come forward to get saved, rededicate their lives to Christ, join the church, or any other decision God may be laying on their hearts — I wasted no time stepping out of my pew and coming to the front. I was met there by an altar worker and deacon named Ray Salisbury. Ray knelt with me at the altar, took me through the plan of salvation, and had me pray to ask Jesus to save me. When I got up from the altar, it was if a heavy burden had been lifted from life.

Two weeks later, I went forward again, this time to let the church know that God was calling me to preach. Outside of people getting saved, there was no greater shared experience than a young man saying God was calling him into the ministry. Youth pastor Bruce Turner quickly took me under his wing. (Please see Dear Bruce Turner.) Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon from 2 Corinthians 5:20:

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

By the time I left the ministry in 2005, at age of forty-eight, I had preached over four thousand sermons, and pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

One of the questions my Evangelical interlocutors often ask is this: Bruce, what is the REAL reason you left the ministry? To these people, the reasons I give for leaving the ministry and later leaving Christianity are suspect. Several days ago, I re-read a post of mine John Loftus posted ten years ago on the Debunking Christianity website. I had forgotten the accusations Evangelical commenters had thrown my way (any grammar and spelling errors in the original comments):

Cathy: So the wolf has finally taken off his sheep’s clothes. Took a while. (Cathy is a member of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, a church I co-pastored in 1994. Please see the series I am a Publican and a Heathen.)

Dimitrios: Are you still married? There is more to this story than what you are leading us to………I recognize this is your story, but I can’t help but sense there is more to this than simply “losing” your faith. Are you a homosexual?

Dimitrios: Please disregard my last post…and, I apologize…I see from earlier posts that your wife is still with you. I’ve experienced people “leaving” their faith, due to a lifestyle attraction that was not supported by the church. In any event, I still feel there is more, but perhaps it is best unsaid.

Rusty: what a crock of horse manure if I ever read any.

Guest: I have doubts as to whether your testimony is truthful. but one thing I do know… It is incomplete. of all the journey and hardship you testify of — I don’t recall you mentioning the lord Jesus. It would appear that you became a baptist … not a born again Christian — you burnt yourself out serving a man made establishment. it is not possible to burn yourself out serving God as firstly it is a matter of loving him — to do so you must fall in love with God — after this, all things have joy, good and bad situations, have joy just as it is a joy to endure any amount of hardship for a child you love with all your heart, so it is a joy to endure anything for God, when you love him.

YoBro1: To Bruce G. So…..what really IS your problem? I’m not gonna quote scriptures and tell everyone off. We be praying for you here in Az man. Your brutal truth about what has happend to you, has happend to many as well. Just like Job, he wanted to discredit God and make his wrong justified to make himself feel better. Your you, and you know when the time is right. But, remember He keeps knocking at everyones heart. Be blessed.

Steven Shull: It does sound as if you have an injury that never healed and you blame God or the church for it. Maybe I am wrong. But you kind of come across that way. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:10 that we wrestle not against Flesh & Blood but against principalities and spiritual forces of evil (demons). If you don’t believe your enemy exists or is at war with you. Then that line of thought just gives that enemy even more power to mess with you as he sees fit. As I have said earlier I have been through similar situations in the Church. But rather then trying to find fault with the people in the church or learning Hebrew and Greek so I can study a more perfected Bible translation. I made the extra effort to see who was pulling the levers behind the scenes. Like the wizard of OZ. You find someone hiding behind the curtain. Someone desperately hoping to be dismissed (he needs that to happen) so he can help people discredit God and His word by causing Christians to not see who really is at fault. Then people will fight among themselves and blame God for the outcome.

Straightforward: that’s what happens when man turn to the other side. or they have been there, just that they hid it for sometime.

Over the past thirteen years, countless Evangelical zealots have left similar comments on this blog or sent them to me in emails. Unable or willing to accept my story at face value, they look for the “real” reason I left the ministry and later deconverted. Most often, my critics think I had some sort of secret sin in my life? Did I have an affair? Was I child molester? Did I steal from one or more of the churches I pastored? Was I a deceiver, a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing? The list of sins I allegedly committed is endless. No evidence is given for these allegations. My critics just KNOW in their heart of hearts that there must be some secret reason for such radical changes in my life. What God called preacher would ever leave the ministry or abandon Christian altogether. No, no, no, there must be some reason for me leaving the ministry and leaving Christianity other than what I have said.

These kind of people used to irritate the hell out of me. I thought, “why can’t they just accept what I have to say? Why try to trash my character and reputation? Why make me out to be a liar? Over the years, I have learned that when some Evangelicals read my story, it causes them to doubt their own salvation, leading to cognitive dissonance. Instead of examining their own lives, they dig for ways to dismiss mine. They comb through my life with a lice comb, hoping to find nits that prove that I was never a True Christian®; that I was a tool of Satan; that I was a false prophet.

When Evangelical zealots take this approach with me, I no longer try to help them see the light. Instead, I tell them, believe what you will. My critics would love to see COVID-19 take me out, but until it or some other disease claims my life, I plan to continue telling my story. I am one man with a story to tell, and I still have a few more chapters to write.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: Christian Deconversion Stories Making a Difference Among Evangelicals

alisa childers

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.]

Alisa Childers, Let’s Deconstruct a Deconversion Story: The Case of Rhett and Link, March 1, 2020

Bruce Gerencser