I can understand why a Christian churchgoer can leave a church congregation and go worship at a different one. Most of us in the faith have witnessed a Christian brother or sister doing that. I myself have done likewise.
I have also witnessed ministers who left the church because they were required to preach what they no longer believed to be correct teachings found in the Bible. This may have been caused by changes in doctrines by the leadership of the church leading some pastors to become angry and disillusioned away from that congregation. Many new Christian churches have been planted and blossomed as a result.
Which church has more truth than another is not the point of this post. We can all agree that no church is perfect in knowledge and must continue to grow. I have discussed the existence of why so many different Christian churches in my post, The Oneness Of The Christian Church (part 2).
Most Christian churches do not reject Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They believe that He died was buried and rose again from the dead. Most do not reject the Bible or have dismissed major sound Christian doctrine from the Bible. In other words, according to these believers, God is alive and ever present among them.
But what amazes me most is when a Christian pastor stops believing in God and the Bible altogether. This I find baffling. After giving much thought about this, I offer one possible reason why it happens and discuss how a Christian, especially a shepherd of God’s flock, can avoid becoming an atheist.
Most, if not all, pastors began their ministry with a sense of calling in their lives which they believed came from God. I believe that most, if not all, of these callings were legitimate promptings by the Holy Spirit to them for God’s service. But something happened later that darkened their view and belief about God and the Bible.
I have been reading one of Dan Barker’s books entitled, Godless, which stirred my thinking about atheism. You see, Dan was an evangelical Christian pastor for over 17 years. He was a strong believer in seeking after the lost for Jesus Christ. He worked devotedly with Christian youth. His music ministry was well known by many preachers and gospel musicians and singers in various parts of the United States. Then he espoused atheism which developed within him gradually, little by little, until he reached the point where he no longer believed in God. Secular reasoning strongly took over his thinking which spilled over into the spiritual area of his life. Here is where I began to realize that if he, a pastor, could become an atheist, I can easily become one also. I am not immune.
Dan Barker is now co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. This organization actively promotes government regulations of separation of church and state and provides a source of solace and refuge for pastors who have left Christianity to become atheists and agnostics.
How could pastors become atheists? Dan was told by several of his friends and colleagues that perhaps he never really received the Holy Spirit. I am inclined to believe otherwise. Dan may have had the Holy Spirit but lost it when he lost his faith. He now believes there is no Spirit and no God that was ever with him. But then again, God is the one who actually knows Dan’s heart.
As I read his book, I noticed something lacking which may have been a key toward his departure from theism to atheism. I know I may be risking oversimplification here, but I noted missing factors in his narrative of his former journey as a Christian. Although he mentioned in his book low Bible study and scholarship while he was in college, that was not so critical to me. I know we all are to grow spiritually, but we do not do so all in the same manner. Dan apparently got to know much of the Bible afterwards and may have read it through from cover to cover more times than many of us faithful Christians will ever do.
But I noticed that Dan never mentioned any Red Sea episodes as a pastor. By Red Sea episode, I mean those times when his back was against the wall; a tremendous trial ensued; a life threatening moment occurred; or a crisis situation appeared where he earnestly sought God for help. I am almost sure he had those moments during his ministry where he was rescued, saved, or won a victory with the helping hand – not by coincidence – but of God. He never mentioned any testimonials of how God helped him (or even may have helped him) as he looked back on his life of the cloth. He now has dismissed God as Sustainer during those moments. Mr. Dan Barker, I believe, became like the Israelites who, after being delivered from trial gave little or no acknowledgement to God. Please click on this link, Am I That Easy To Forget?
If Dan Barker, as a pastor, seriously had those moments, he would have been brought to his knees in supplication to his Deliverer, God. Again, Dan, in his book, never mentions any divine or marvelous interventions before becoming an atheist. I am almost sure he had a few. I am also sure that he has seen and heard of miraculous accounts occurring from within the flock he was shepherding. No testimonies were given of him ever praising God for what He has done for them or for himself in the past.
Could he have also seen evidence of Satanic activity? If so, for some reason, what Dan may have experienced in the supernatural he now apparently dismisses as coincidences or figments of the imagination, otherwise he would have proclaimed a powerful spirit being called God as existing. Instead, as I have stated, Dan behaved as did one the ancient Israelites sojourning through the wilderness after crossing the Red Sea and forgetting God.
He never mentioned anything unique that I would call, Godwinks. See link, When God Winks. He never admitted to evidence of his prayers being answered anywhere. I am sure he must had heard and led many of them. Those prayers that were answered he would claim now as only coincidence.
But going back to the Am I That Easy To Forget? post, I believe that how you react to the mountains that I mentioned, the trials, struggles and uncertainties in life, are what is critical to growth in faith. Without faith in God you quickly start depending on yourself and your reasoning abilities that only lead to seeking evidence, scientific evidence, for the existence of God.
Again, I plea guilty for possibly oversimplifying this subject somewhat. I have not conducted any full scale research on this topic. Instead, all I have is what I have studied as a Christian – the many sermons, literature and testimonies about God.
If you are struggling with the possibility that God does not exist; if you are being bombarded by teachings from secular professors or colleagues who are trying to I nfluence you to believe their reasons for why God does not exist; if your faith in God is being challenged by those who claim there are so-called Bible errors and discrepancies that you are finding difficult to defend, seek outside help. There are also good sounces online out there that are very helpful in defending your faith (apologetics).
Websites, for example, that have William Lane Craig in them are great. There are many excellent YouTube sites that have Dr. Craig debating with atheists on subjects related to the existence of God. I believe they are worth the time assimilating.
Craig’s own website is also very helpful! I am on his mailing list. Here is the link: ReasonableFaith.org. I strongly suggest it be used by any of you Christians in (or planning to be in) a secular college or university. At least be aware of the issues and arguments questioning the existence of God and the veracity of the Scriptures.
Also, any of William Lane Craig’s published works I highly suggest you read and study. I have recently purchased one of his latest books entitled, On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision.
Any sound biblical college course offered (especially online) on apologetics is also beneficial to look into. The college Dr. Craig attended, Biola University, offers a modular one. [Click here for the link].
As you can see, I am very biased toward Dr. Craig’s apologetics. I am very impressed with his work. He is also known by his colleagues as a philosopher. And, and, AND and, Dan Barker quoted William Craig often in his book, Godless.
But I am sure you can find several other comparable Christian apologists as well. Here are others I am familiar and have studied: Robert Bowman, Norman Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, Ken Ham, and C. S. Lewis. Here is a website link of the Top Christian Apologists that will be a valuable resource.
There is no good reason for becoming an atheist – none. May God help you here.
Christians, I cannot emphasize enough the value of thoroughly reading, knowing and studying your Bible. Many atheists know all too well how many Christians – a far overwhelming number – have not read the Bible through or are even familiar with its flow and its major themes.
As for Mr. Dan Barker and other ex-pastors who are now athiests, I will state one thing that is encouraging (at least for me it is). The God I believe in has not given up on any of you. He still loves you. And He, in one way or another, will very likely have many, if not all, of you back home into His arms. He is far smarter, far wiser, far patient and far more loving than we will ever imagine.