In the past few weeks, we have witnessed the renunciation of faith by a man who once held a position as a major thought-leader in evangelicalism. I do not need to recount Josh Harris’s work here and the grief of those lamenting his carefully crafted social media releases of both his separation from his wife and later, his denial of faith in Christ.
With Hillsong being somewhat of a thing of the past (or at least I am past the age of keeping up with what’s what in music at all), many might have missed the Instagram post from Marty Sampson informing his followers that he too has left faith in Christ in the past. You can find the story here. Marty Sampson did not sell books, but he wrote songs, and songs will always have a prime place in Christianity. You and I received more of our theology from song than we have the great tomes of time.
We arrive at the portion of the post in which the blogger has a constitutional obligation to cite 1 John 2:19.
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.
After we cite this, the call comes in from one of our doctrine vendors, Dordt Synod Inc. and reminds us to speak on the matter per our contractual obligations. Standards and practices being what they are, Taking Every Thought Captive cannot squander any of its immense financial resources on litigation. Such waste does not become such a high-trafficked blog as this. Yes, indeed, the redeemed of Christ cannot become unredeemed.
Legal and contractual obligations met, we sally forth.
Blithe scriptural and doctrinal citations provide no clarity and offer no way forward to those shaken by the apostasy of influential people. It’s like calling a plumber to your home as water gushes all over the floor, asking him to figure out what’s happening, and getting the reply, “Well, ma’am—you see a pipe has busted.” Correct? Yes. Helpful? No. As we need the plumber to diagnose and repair the problem, we need pastors, mentors, and the like to speak to how these folks’ closing the door to Christianity affects us and others. Self-appointed authoritative internet commentators and discernment dealers rarely, if ever move the ball forward. They only have shouts at the television and for the message boards about the coach having no competence and our quarterback has a glass arm anyway.
My own pastor made a wise call in his sermon after Josh Harris announced his exit from the faith. Combing back through his writings and sermons, hunting for the hidden flaw won’t serve or satisfy. While I never held a place as more than a minor Hillsong music fan, many of their songs unequivocally exalt Jesus, and I’ll still sing along to them should they play. No one said they were the deepest songs, but telling my wife “I love you” every morning is going to go much farther in our relationship than reading her a love sonnet once a month. I cannot count the ways in which faithful simplicity overrules overwrought complexity.
But what of complexity? What of the conflict we feel in these moments?
The conflict you experience in your soul right now, the shaken feeling in your heart, and the pit in your stomach are normal responses to things such as these. I would say such a response constitutes a good thing. A callous write-off of the situation reveals a festering cynicism, which no prophet, apostle, or Incarnate Son of God ever taught us.
Instead, take the time to examine yourself. Do you find your faith rooted in Jesus, or do you find yourself taking hold of the expression of others? Do you go to God in prayer and see him revealed by intaking Scripture, or do you peruse precious social media posts and listen to music to get a Christian-y feeling?
Faith rooted in the expression of another person’s affection for God or deep rumination on ideas will suffer great difficulty when challenge comes. Devote yourself to Christ Jesus and grow less impressed with people.
As people, we find it necessary to seek leaders and thinkers who help our foggy minds understand the words of Scripture. The Bible has quite the cast of people tasked with leading others in their faith. None prove perfect, but we can learn from others. If you desire a person to help you along and gain in understanding, find someone older than you—someone who’s been around to see some things. Your Jesus-loving grandmother can tell you more than a hotshot with a slick haircut and flashy idea ever could.
If you desire a written resource, find one from an old guy or a dead guy. J. I. Packer’s work, Knowing God, continues to serve people seeking to gain understanding of their God for forty-six years. In modern terms, the book is ancient. Packer inches closer to his eternal reward, even to the point of losing his eyesight, but he goes along hand-in-hand with Christ. Pick up Francis Schaeffer’s The Mark of a Christian, R. C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God, or C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.
Friend, the Christian life does not prove flat or static. It comes with pains and complications, complexities and problems. Your heart will ache. Recall your faith lies not in the hands of any influencer—your faith rests on the one who ached for you naked and bleeding on a cross. Find your peace, joy, and confidence
Skillet's John Cooper on Apostasy in Young Christian Leaders
Another Pop-Culture Christian Loses His Faith by David French via National Review