Michael Brown is slack-jawed at claim no Christians talk about challenges, contradictions
I just read the news that Marty Sampson, a popular Hillsong songwriter, is leaving the faith. In his words, “I’m genuinely losing my faith … and it doesn’t bother me.” While some critics claim he was never a true believer, accusing Hillsong of being “a prosperity gospel cult,” I know nothing about Marty at all. So, I’ll take him at his word that he did believe in the past but does so no longer.
What I find most distressing is not him turning from his faith. People fall away all the time, and there are warnings throughout the New Testament about the dangers of apostasy. It is tragic to behold, but not a total surprise.
What is surprising is that Marty seems to feel that “no one” is talking about challenges to the Christian faith. “No one” is discussing difficult intellectual issues. “No one” is engaging the apparent contradictions or interpretative problems in the Bible.
I can only ask (with sadness rather than condemnation), “Marty, what Christian world have you been living in?”
He asks, “How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it.”
How many articles have been written in the last few weeks about the apostasy of Joshua Harris, to give the most recent example?
And how many articles have been written – by believers – about sexual and financial scandals involving major Christian leaders?
“No one talks about it”? Seriously?
He writes, “How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it.”
To repeat my question, “What Christian world was he living in?”
First, there are wonderful books, too many to list here, documenting incredible, contemporary miracles performed in the name of Jesus. (For just a few examples, see here and here and here; more broadly, see here.)
Second, there are even more books, far too many to list here, dealing with the difficult questions of what to do when you don’t receive your miracle. Yes, plenty of times the expected miracles do not take place. (My search for the words “the problem of suffering” together with Christianity, which address a broader issue of faith, yielded almost 1 million results. For a great starting point, go here.)
Marty writes, “Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it.”
Once again, I can’t believe I’m reading these words.
Doesn’t almost every believer, at one point or another, ask about apparent contradictions in the Bible? Don’t all of us, at one time or another, try to find answers to these questions?
Again, not only are there countless scores of books that address these questions in general and in detail, but almost every major study Bible will tackle these questions as well. And what happens when you search for “Bible contradictions” with the word “apologetics”? You find thousands of websites offering different levels of answers to these apparent problems.
Marty writes, “How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.”
As this point I want to shout, “OF COURSE WE TALK ABOUT IT!”
Of course we discuss the question of hell and future punishment. Of course we ask how a good God could condemn His own creation to eternal destruction.
As for the notion that people go to hell “all coz they don’t believe,” I can only shake my head in amazement. Does Marty have no conception of human sin and rebellion? Do people perish simply because they didn’t recite some kind of magic formula?
He writes, “I want genuine truth. Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion.”
Well, I’m thrilled to hear he wants “genuine truth” as opposed to simply taking things by faith. But I must ask once more, “What Christian world has he been living in?”
Is it just me and my colleagues and the people who follow my ministry who want “genuine truth”? Who are willing to ask the hard questions? Who actually encourage honest seeking? (These are rhetorical questions. The answer is, “Certainly not! There are countless millions who want more than just a simplistic, ‘shut off your brain’ kind of faith.”)
As for science “piercing the truth of every religion,” I will simply say this. If Marty and I were standing next to wall of solid, academic Christian books responding to scientific challenges and that wall of books collapsed, we would not survive the avalanche. (Here’s a good place to start your study.)
He writes, “All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point.”
And this is even sadder. Has Marty not seen thousands of radically transformed lives through the gospel? Has he not heard the dramatic and moving testimonies of former Muslims and Hindus and others? Does he not see the cross shouting out to him from the depths of God’s loving heart, something not found in any other religion on the planet?
I have no idea if Marty is simply passing through a difficult stretch and will soon be strong in the Lord or if this reflects deeper issues in his spiritual foundations. And, having never studied Hillsong in any depth, I can’t say if these problems are endemic to their spiritual culture.
But what I fear is that Marty’s shocking lack of awareness of a massive array of solid apologetics material is not his alone. In other words, there are probably plenty of other believers who find no outlet for their questions and concerns, leading to apostasy (or, deep, secret doubt) rather than an intellectually sound, vibrant faith. (For the exact opposite approach to burying your questions, see my forthcoming commentary on Job titled, “Job: The Faith to Challenge God.”)
My prayer is that Marty Sampson would have the integrity of heart to seek the truth earnestly, with humility and passion, and that all others with questions will put those questions on the table.
I’ve done that for the last 47-plus years, being challenged by rabbis from my earliest days as a believer and having done all my academic studies in secular institutions. As a result, I love the Lord with all my heart and with all my mind. He is the God of truth, and His Word is truth.
So, don’t be afraid to ask your honest questions and to follow the truth where it leads. Just don’t do it superficially, and be sure to seek God first and foremost.
And let’s pray for Marty’s repentance, restoration and more.
Franklin Graham on Christian ‘leaders’ who renounce faith: For shame
‘You’ll stand before God one day and give an account’
Aug 17, 2019
Evangelist Franklin Graham is warning Christian leaders who renounce their faith that they will have to answer to God.
“Shame on them,” he said. “You’ll stand before God one day and give an account to him.”
Josh Harris, the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” author, recently announced his is divorcing his wife and leaving his faith.
Former Hillsong songwriter and worship leader Marty Sampson has disclosed he is “losing” faith.
“For whatever reason they have decided they’re going to turn their back on God and God’s standards,” he told Starnes.
Graham said he especially was concerned that they felt obligated to make their doubts public.
“[God] warns churches that turn their back on him and these young men who have renounced their faith have made it so public. Why did they make it so public? I think they just wanted publicity. Otherwise, why didn’t they just leave their faith and just be quiet about it?”
Graham, for one, won’t be following them, if that was their underlying motive.
“And for me I’m going to keep … doing what I do. I believe the Bible. I believe the Bible to be the Word of God. I believe every word of the Bible. I do not understand it all but I believe it all,” he sai.
“I’m going to keep on doing what I do and I’m going to keep telling people how they can have a relationship with God, how they can have their sins forgiven, and how it can make and have that hope of heaven one day by putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.”
Starnes commented, “And we should also pray for Mr. Harris and Mr. Sampson – that they, too, may one day become followers of Jesus Christ.”
Relevant Magazine reportedSampson posted a now-deleted Instagram statement: “I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me. Like, what bothers me now is nothing. I am so happy now, so at peace with the world. It’s crazy.”
Sampson said he hadn’t “renounced” faith but it was on “shaky ground.”
Harris posted a message on social media stating he no longer was Christian and was divorcing his wife.
The statements from Harris and Sampson prompted John Cooper of the rock band Skillet to write on Facebook, “What in God’s Name Is Happening to Christianity?”
“We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or ‘relevant’ people the most influential people in Christendom,” he wrote. “Most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their ‘new insight/new truth’ that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say ‘I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others.’ Ummm, why?”
Sampson responded, claiming people were jumping to conclusions about him.
“Wow. Where do I begin? What right have you to put words in my mouth? I wouldn’t presume to put words in yours. To think that I am trying to influence others, without even asking me if that is my intention is offensive. Did I write an article on myself in relevant magazine, or Christian Post quoting myself? Do I need this kind of criticism in an honest examination of what I believe from complete strangers? I have never even met you, yet you presume to know me or people like me? I only ever posted about this to explain to people (4K followers on insta I may add) where I was at in an honest and genuine way. Not to influence them and their beliefs. Not to draw attention to myself. Not to have a voice. To wrestle and to learn and to grow, and to present my current state of mind/heart to explain to people why I am not ‘coming back to Hillsong’ or ‘when I’’ going to sing on the next United song.’”