Deconversion and Dilemmas

It’s been a few months since I’ve written here. Part of that is because my writing just hasn’t flowed and I don’t like to force it when it get stuck. Though I have had an opportunity to produce a couple of pieces for Reformation21–one regarding the incident involving David Platt’s prayer over Trump and most recently, a reflection about leaving the faith and hence the title of this post. But I’ll get to that in a minute. Another reason that I haven’t written much is because of some very interesting life changes with a new job serving a local nonprofit that is focused on celebrating the multiethnic diversity in Roanoke (as in internationally) and also a new ministry project that I’ll be sharing more about in the days to come.

Regarding my recent piece published over at Reformation21 (link here), it was a reflection of my own testimony in light of the public deconversion of Josh Harris where he announced in an IG post that he was no longer Christian. Since that time Marty Sampson of Hillsong fame also announced that he was having doubts and reconsidering Christianity (though he did later clarify it didn’t mean he was leaving the faith).

This resonated with me since I was a prodigal for 13 years (1986-1999). While I never denounced Christianity, I lived as though I had nothing to do with it. As I wrote in the Ref21 piece, the mindset was pretty much the same;

While I never denounced Christianity or indicated I was no longer a Christian, my line of thinking definitely echoed what I hear Harris and Sampson utter–there was a deconstruction, if you will. But really, it was flat out rebellion. I could not live within a Christian construct any longer, foolishly believing that it was freedom. I lived as one who did not believe, doing what was right in my own eyes, and making many foolish decisions along the way.

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So you think you’re a Christian

I recently came across this article citing a Barna survey that only 17% of Christians (or those who claim to be Christians) have a biblical worldview. Now, the idea of a biblical worldview needs unpacking a bit. I plan on launching a series called Bible in a Nutshell in which I want to show the cohesive story of the Bible. I think this is important as it directly links to this question of what makes a Christian a Christian.

What struck me about this survey is this statement here;

The percentage being so low means practicing Christians have accepted many more worldviews including ones based on other religions—especially when it comes to millennials and Gen Xers.

What is a worldview? Just as it suggests, it’s the framework by which we view the world, how we make sense of it in terms of its existence and purpose. I think this definition from pretty much sums it up.

A “worldview” refers to a comprehensive conception of the world from a specific standpoint. A “Christian worldview,” then, is a comprehensive conception of the world from a Christian standpoint. An individual’s worldview is his “big picture,” a harmony of all his beliefs about the world. It is his way of understanding reality. One’s worldview is the basis for making daily decisions and is therefore extremely important.

How we define a Christian worldview has everything to do with how we define Christianity. How we define Christianity must relate to it’s author, who is Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus and what did he come on earth to do?

While this might seem mundane and basic to some of you reading this, the truth is this Barna study is quite revealing about the way people define Christianity and develop a worldview based on that belief. It’s not surprising to me that the results of the study go on further to suggest that many have developed an unChristian worldview and call it Christianity; Continue reading

The things hoped for: on faith and the resurrection

As we Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord, we loudly proclaim that he is risen. Now through much of my Christian life, I tended to translate that into merely a spiritual enterprise. Meaning, the resurrection signifies the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father, baptism into the kingdom of God and union with Christ. It is that transaction that raises us to new life in Christ (see Romans 6:5-11).

Over time, I’ve come to recognize how this frame of thinking circumvents the significance of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. For his resurrection not only points back to God’s intention in creation but also brings the future of that intention into the present. In other words, it’s not enough for us to reduce the resurrection to merely a spiritual enterprise, that we are now part of God’s adopted family but there is a broader framework in which this reconciliation happens related to God’s restoration of what he intended. It’s why Paul emphasizes our bodily resurrection in 1 Cor 15, to which Christ’s resurrection is a first fruit. Death is an enemy because it is antithetical to creation. The entrance of sin and death unleashed such cosmic wreckage that the whole of the Bible’s story explains God’s plan and action to redeem his creation from that cursed grip.

In that regard, here’s a connection to the resurrection and faith I found quite interesting and insightful. I’ve been reading through this incredible book by Michael D. Williams, professor at Covenant Seminary. Far as the Curse is Found: the Covenant Story of Redemption  is essentially a biblical theology of God’s historical-redemptive narrative from Genesis to Revelation, or in other words, “the biblical story of God’s unfolding covenant relationship with his people.” I absolutely love that he starts the book off with The Resurrection: the Single Best Page of the Story to show that the whole story of redemption is anchored in and centered on the work and person of Christ according to what God intended from the beginning.

The writer of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). How does this relate to the resurrection? Continue reading

The hidden deception of spiritual idolatry

rock concert_man on stageWhen think of idolatry, it’s not uncommon to think of those things that take us away from the Lord. And certainly, that is what idolatry does. Usually, when it’s addressed items assigned to idolatry include career, hobby, politics, sports, etc.

As a side note, I think we should be clear of what idolatry is and what it is not. I typically hear this explanation: it’s anything we worship more than God. But what does that mean exactly and how does that square with Scripture’s treatment of idolatry? If we look at both Old and New testaments, I don’t know that this vague description really covers it. Idols took the form of gods in which people placed their hope and trust for existence in life. And while we can become self-absorbed in careers or sports, loving a thing is not necessarily idolatrous in and of itself.

I appreciated this description in my Bible encyclopedia, which succinctly captures the heart of idolatry;

Idolatry was the embodiment of human desire and thought. Idols, though made of many shapes and sizes, really represented the image of man, for they expressed his thoughts, desires, and purposes.

Those wooden statues in ancient times meant something more than just the object but provided the allusion of safety and security for one’s life. It gave people a sense of satisfaction. Of course, we don’t have little wooden statues that we bow down to. But keeping in mind what idols were in the ancient world, the “thoughts, desires, and purposes” translate into what we place our confidence in. Therefore, the warning against idolatry needs to go beyond just something we love more than God. Continue reading

That moment you trust in the Lord

man-praying whand raisedWell, first let me preface this post by saying I’m not so much referring to the moment of conversion, when you become a Christian. But I’m referring to is the on-going process of trusting in God to be who he said he is.

The other day I got into a good discussion with friends about trusting in the Lord. “What does that mean?” one asked. I think on a surface level we understand that to be trust that God is on our side and work things out. But I think it needs to deeper than that – trusting in who God says he is and relying on that in the face of contradictions.

Now, I’m about to get real honest in this post. What about to share is not for those whose life has gone pretty well or even better than expected and/or those inclined to dismiss the realities of living with deep disappointments. If that’s you, you might want to sit this one out.

For those who have experienced disappointing twists and turns, busted dreams, failures of various sorts and the overwhelming feeling that you thought your life would turn out better than it has, and boatloads of unanswered prayer this post will probably resonate with you. Because let’s be honest, all of these factors can take a toll on our ability to trust in the character of God.  You can be substantially challenged when experiencing a good amount of unanswered prayer, when you’ve longed for him to intervene in situations and circumstances and he hasn’t and those nagging questions if God really cares bubble up.  It’s when you’ve poured your heart out to the Lord for years for personal concerns to get back…nothing. It’s when you’re confronted with pending change of circumstances for the worse, and you wonder is God going to hear me this time? I know I have. And I know how easy that is, over time, to allow those thoughts to dominate, to shape how we see the character of God. Continue reading