As hundreds of thousands of people battle COVID-19 following thousands of deaths, lockdowns and much fear, the world eagerly awaits a proven treatment plan to cure this dreaded virus. I’m sure many of you, like me, pray often for wisdom and protection for those on the frontlines battling this invisible foe. But there is another invisible enemy, one more formidable than COVID-19 that has wreaked havoc on millions of lives for centuries. This unseen tyrant takes many forms and can often be hard to detect. We are all susceptible to this disease, and without the proper precautions, anyone can fall victim. Sadly, the aftermath of this nemesis is often very visible, making it seem as though it is much more foreboding than it actually is. No, it’s not another novel virus. It is the always-lurking disease of bad ideas.
This disease’s most recent high-profile victim is Jon Steingard, lead vocalist for Hawk Nelson, the once very popular Christian rock group. Jon joins Rhett and Link (popular YouTube comedians and former Cru staffers), Marty Sampson (Hillsong worship artist), Michael Gungor (lead singer for Christian duo Gungor) and Joshua Harris (extremely popular Christian author and pastor) who have either renounced Christianity outright or expressed serious misgivings about the faith in recent years. This does not even mention the number of popular Christian leaders, authors, singers, etc. who are drifting, or have drifted, from biblical Christianity to a more liberal/progressive version of “Christianity.”
What can we do to combat this deadly contagion? The following guidelines may, or may not, be endorsed by the CDC. For the past 28 years, however, they are what Southern Evangelical Seminary has trained men and women from all walks of life to do effectively.
Recognize the Symptoms
In our brief case study, we will examine Jon’s story since he is the most recent casualty, and the reasons for his “deconstruction” are similar across related cases. Jon grew up constantly at church surrounded by Christians. His dad is a pastor, and Jon says church wasn’t just part of their life — it was their life. He points out, “When you grow up in a community that holds a shared belief and that shared belief is so incredibly central to everything, you simply adopt it.” It was in high school that, like many young people, Jon first began to encounter questions and doubts. He says, “I figured I was overthinking all these things. This was the beginning of my doubt, and I began to develop the reflex to simply push it down, and soldier on. … I felt it must be true.”
This is symptom No. 1, putting feelings over thinking. So many Christians and formerly-professing Christians experience this common symptom. Of course, it’s no wonder that this symptom is so widespread given the fact that our culture has by and large elevated man’s will over his intellect. This usually presents itself in one of two ways, or sometimes as a combination of the two. The first way is that many Christians, like Jon, simply “feel” better if they act as though Christianity is true and never seek answers to their questions or reasons for their beliefs. They ignore their doubts and simply attempt to muster up more “faith.” The second way, and perhaps more problematic, is that feelings cause others to question historic Christianity because they feel as though something like homosexual behavior, for example, must be OK. Or they feel that truly loving someone would never mean telling someone their thoughts or behaviors are wrong. Moreover, they seem certain that their feelings could never be wrong about such things. More and more people are presenting with this system, and it is something about which each practitioner should be aware.
Like any normal human being, Jon finally began to wrestle with the difficult questions of the faith and attempt to think through things about which he was having trouble making sense. He specifically mentions the perennial problem of evil (specifically noting both natural and moral evil), the problem of a loving God sending people to hell, the “pissed off” God of the Old Testament who commands the killing of certain people, and the fact that Jesus would have to die for our sins in order for God to forgive us. Jon also shares that he wrestled with many things he considered to be contradictions in the Bible. He honestly laments, “Suffice it to say that when I began to believe that the Bible was simply a book written by people as flawed and imperfect as I am — that was when my belief in God truly began to unravel. … Once I found that I didn’t believe the Bible was the perfect Word of God — it didn’t take long to realize that I was no longer sure He was there at all.”
This is symptom No. 2, a neglect or absence of prolegomena and natural theology. For those unaware, “prolegomena” is the study of the foundational truths that must be the case in order for Christianity to be true (ex. the nature of truth, the nature of reality, the existence of God, the nature of communication, the reliability of the Bible, etc.). “Natural theology” is the study of what can be known about the existence and nature of God apart from the Bible (i.e., using general revelation to reason from effect [creation] to cause [God]). The neglect/absence of these two areas is one of the most critical symptoms for which to monitor. It typically arises when believers, like Jon, have little or no exposure to philosophy and apologetics that provide the intellectual foundation for the truthfulness of Christianity. They typically make blind appeals to the Bible with no foundational truths upon which to build a confident trust in, and proper understanding of, the Word of God.
Retired academic Dr. Bruce Charlton notes:
“Modern Christianity as experienced by converts tends to be incomplete — precisely because modern Christianity has nothing to build on [i.e., a basic understanding of the nature of reality, natural law, the existence of immaterial realities, etc.]. This means that modern incomplete Christianity lacks explanatory power, seems to have little or nothing to say about what seem to be the main problems of living. For example, modern Christianity seems to have nothing to do with politics, law, art, philosophy or science; to inhabit a tiny, shrinking realm cut-off from daily concerns.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Adam Tucker