I had the strange occurrance of listening to messages this week that were recorded in 2004, and several speakers quoted, cited, or applauded the teaching of Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl). It was somewhat surreal, knowing now that not only has Harris disavowed the marital/dating advise of those works, pulling them from being republished, he also divorced his wife and eventually left the faith.
Other well-known professors of Christianity have done the same and have been quite vocal in blog and social media platforms in explaining their now unbelief. Are they looking for validation? Acceptance from a new audience? Is it simply an explanation to those who were their fans?
Deconversion – biblically known as apostacy – is a complex situation, and each occasion has its own nuance. But there are common threads. Sometimes its intellectual or theological questions that overcome faith. Other times it’s the hypocrisy and lifestyle of other professing believers that cause someone to doubt the veracity of Christianity. Still others express a kind of lingering unbelief that overthrows faith, as if a Christian is only to experience unadulterated certainty at all times.
I’ve been a Christian for over 50 years, and I can confidently say that I’ve faced all these types of questions personally from time to time. So, why didn’t I deconstruct my faith? Why have I continued to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (Heb. 10:23)?
As a thinker, both theological and philosophical, I’d be naive to assume that there aren’t difficult concepts and Scriptures in the Christian faith. There’s scarcely a day that I don’t read some writer offering up objections to the truth claims of the Bible. And I always wonder, “What if he’s right?” But many of those who deconstruct their confession allow their questions to derail faith.
I understand this. There was a time during my college years, after 3 years of Bible college, that I began to feel that I’d been caught for too long in what I now understand was an echo chamber – people and books who simply reinforced what I already believed. And though I never came to a point of deconstructing my faith, I did want to put my faith to the test. So I enrolled in a school where there were more opportunities to “bump heads” with non-Christian thinking. I didn’t so much want to drift in my own thinking as certify that my worldview would hold up when challenged by secular and neo-orthodox thought.
And I was provided with plenty of opportunity to dialog with atheistic hedonists and religious deniers of Scripture. None of that was able to rattle my trust in the truth claims of historic, orthodox Christianity; in fact, my hold on the propositions of the faith was thereby strengthened. Iron sharpens iron.
There will always be intellectual, experiential, and relational questions with Christianity. But instead of pointing us toward deconversion, the questions ought to drive us deeper into the Word, deeper into the writings of those who have gone before. The idea that “no one is asking these questions” is patently ridiculous. The very act of questioning should be encouraged, and honest answers should be given to honest questions.
Francis Schaeffer, the leading intellectual Christian light of the late 20th Century, describes in his writings a personal “spiritual crisis” in his own life. After becoming a Christian from agnosticism, serving for many years as a church pastor, and teaching in Europe, he tells us, “I had to go all the way back to my agnosticism and think through the whole matter….I walked, prayed, and thought through what the Scriptures taught, reviewing my own reasons for being a Christian. As I rethought my reasons…, I saw again that there were totally sufficient reasons to know that infinite-personal God does exist and that Christianity is true” (True Spirituality, xxix).
Bottom line, if you have questions, and truly want to resolve them biblically, there are sufficient answers to be found. There is no necessity to deconvert. Ask your questions, read the thinkers who, like you, had questions. Reconfirm in your heart and mind that Christianity is true.
I will write about questions related to the hypocrisy/behavior of Christians and that lingering sense of doubt in future posts.