In the last couple of years, some very high profile people have publicly walked away from their Christian faith. These “walk aways” have been highly publicized in the press and have generated a LOT of discussion.
Josh Harris, the author of the controversial Christian bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye, announced that he was ending his marriage with his wife, and along with that said, “I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. ... By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”
Then there is Jon Steingard. He was the lead vocalist of the Canadian Christian rock band, Hawk Nelson. He took to social media and declared that he no longer believes in God.
Another musician, Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson, came out with a similar declaration. He stated that he is “genuinely losing his faith.”
Most recently, two prominent Youtubers, Rhet and Link, have declared their faith “deconstruction” (a fancy expression for falling away from the faith). They were very funny, and developed a huge following on YouTube. While they both worked in secular jobs, they were unashamedly Christian, and, for a time, even did comedy sketches for CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ).
But it is not just these high profile folks. Churches and denominations have been lamenting for years the fact that a large percentage of their youth quit the church when they leave home to go to college or to enter the workforce. All of this is a very serious problem for the Christian church.
There are different ways people conceive of the very idea of “falling away from the faith,” and most of them result from the different approaches various theologians take in their biblical interpretation. This article is not about that. Regardless of one’s theological take on this subject, the key question we are dealing with here is, “Why is it happening?” Well, there are several things we can point to that will hopefully help us understand this phenomenon and figure out ways to deal with the problem.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the reasons, though, we ought to make one observation. This phenomenon is actually not a new thing at all. People have been falling away from the faith since New Testament times. There are even references to it in various New Testament writings (Ex.: 1 Tim. 2:1; , 2 Tim. 4:9-10; Heb. 3:11-19, 6:4-6; James 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 2:20-22, and many others).
What seems to be different in modern American society is that the number of militant anti-Christians is rapidly increasing, and these folks are giving some of these high profile defectors a lot of publicity. They are trying to use them as evidence that the Christian faith is not true. Additionally, many Christian writers are pointing to them as a warning to other Christians about the faith dangers that exist in modern society. With that as a backdrop, let’s take a look at what is actually happening.
With few exceptions, those who are falling away from the faith are falling in one direction – into naturalistic belief. Naturalism is the belief that the natural universe is all that exists – there is no God or any transcendent reality. The reason this is the direction people are going is that Naturalism is now the dominant worldview in virtually all of the institutions of modern American society – education, news media, business, arts and entertainment, politics, and even many Christian denominations.
The reason this is so difficult to deal with has to do with the nature of the problem itself. There are actually a relatively small number of people who are actively speaking against the Christian faith (though this is becoming more common). Rather, they speak “as if” Naturalism is true, and the beliefs of the Christian faith are not. What this has done is to create a societal environment that is dominated by non- and anti-Christian beliefs that make Christian beliefs seem to be strange and superstitious. The fact is, though, naturalistic belief has many more philosophical problems than Christianity ever had. It is just that these problems are simply ignored or glossed over in modern pop culture. The pressure is on, then, for all Christians who must live in and navigate their way through life in this environment. So now, let’s take a look at specifically why Christians are falling away from their faith like this. I believe there are two basic reasons.
First, it is happening because most Christians are not solidly grounded in their own faith. We live in a society that is heavily dominated by a naturalistic worldview. In this environment, it is very difficult to separate out, in our own minds, many of the implications of a naturalistic worldview. As a result, many Christians end up allowing non-biblical beliefs to become a part of their own thinking without even realizing it.
The second reason many Christians are falling away from the Christian faith is because they don’t recognize the problems of the faith they are walking into. Every one of the people mentioned above not only walked away from the Christian faith, they walked into some other faith. The problem is, every one of these other faiths have fatal flaws that are not recognized by those who are adopting them.
The solution to this problem is for churches and individual Christians to reimagine Christian discipleship. First, we have to create a way both to consciously master the beliefs of our Christian faith (which represents the truth about reality). Additionally, we must understand the false beliefs of other belief systems AND why they are false. These two things together will inoculate Christians from being infected and destroyed by false beliefs. We need to do these things, and we need to do them NOW!
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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