Apologetics Amid Waves of Apostasy

by George Brahm

This morning, I was shaken by the news about Marty Sampson’s falling away from the faith. For the past couple of weeks, the internet had been buzzing with several op-eds about the apostasy of another popular Christian, megachurch pastor Joshua Harris, and before that, Dave Gass. But I knew nothing of Harris or Gass until news of their falling away surfaced– Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye was first published before I was even born, and Gass wasn’t much of a Christian celebrity until the Twitter thread in which he renounced his faith went viral.

But I remember Marty Sampson from my early childhood. Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home where Christian music was the only music allowed, I remember falling in love with Marty’s early work at Hillsong, back when the church’s songs weren’t as doctrinally-wonky as they are today. His rendition of ‘Saviour King‘ remains one of my favourite worship songs to date.

In a now-deleted Instagram post, Marty wrote–

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.

He then summarized his reasons for losing his faith–

How many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it…

I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God...

I am not going to speculate about whether Marty was truly saved. As a Calvinist, I do believe that everyone who is truly saved will persevere to the end, but as a creature within time and space who cannot see the future, I hope and pray that Marty will return to his Lord.

His reasons for leaving the faith, however, trouble me. Because every single question he says he hasn’t heard an answer to has been answered, innumerable times. Apostasy among preachers? In the past few weeks alone, we have seen several articles written on Joshua Harris’ falling away, with several more on Dave Gass and others before him. Miracles? The problem of hell? The argument from Christian hypocrisy? The case for the exclusive claims of Christ and Christianity? The alleged conflict between science and faith? Every single one of these issues has been addressed in books written by prominent academics and on various and sundry websites that are just a Google search away. We have an entire discipline dedicated to answering these questions– Christian apologetics. Perhaps one can claim that none of apologetics’ answers are satisfying. But it doesn’t seem right to say that no one talks about the questions themselves. Yet that is exactly what Marty claims.

I’m going to be charitable and assume that Marty never really heard an answer to these questions. But that leads to an even more troubling conclusion about the church Marty attended and led worship at for so long– Hillsong Church never addressed these questions, at least not during the period Marty was there.

Apologetics and the Church

The apparent lack of apologetics at Hillsong Church might not come as a shock to most. It goes beyond their focus on a feel-good gospel. Most of us have attended churches where apologetics is never an issue of focus. And what Marty’s case reveals is that a lack of apologetics-training in the local church can often be what causes a young person to apostatize, either when they are still young or later in the future.

Most of us who are brought up in evangelical churches are told what to believe. Our first Sunday School lessons usually begin with Adam and Eve eating the fruit and committing the first sin. A while later, we reach the point where we are told about how God came in the form of a man named Jesus, who died on a cross to forgive all our sins, and how He rose from the dead on the third day. Soon after, we are presented with what is usually termed the ‘gospel message’ that combines the message of both these stories, telling us that we are sinners who can be saved by asking Jesus to come into our lives. We earnestly repeat the sinner’s prayer along with our parent/Sunday School teacher/pastor, we open our eyes and are told that we are now a child of God. We are told to write the date we prayed that prayer on the flyleaf of our Bibles. We’re far too young to ask questions like why we should believe that Adam and Eve even existed, why we should believe that someone ‘rose from the dead’ (when experience tells us that dead people stay dead), or how praying a certain prayer somehow takes us to a different place in the afterlife (if there is such a thing). Our parents, the pastor, and the church assume that the lack of questions on our part is an indicator of their job of bringing us to the faith being completed. 

A time soon comes when we become capable of asking these questions and they take up more space in our minds. At first, we stay quiet because we aren’t sure whether it is appropriate to ask them out loud, but we finally muster enough courage to go to a parent and speak up. This is totally unexpected for the parent, who was living under the assumption that their child possessed a robust faith. They jump to the conclusion that it is the devil who is working in the mind of their child to bring in these doubts and tell us to go and read the Bible or just ‘believe it by faith’. Meanwhile, they begin to pray worried prayers, asking God to somehow get these doubts out of their children’s minds. Unfortunately for them, these doubts are not among the sorts of things that magically disappear without being answered. If anything, they only continue to grow as we enter higher classes in school and begin to be exposed to naturalistic explanations for everything around us. Evolutionary diagrams begin to look far more convincing than the drawings of Adam and Eve that we coloured in Sunday School. We are still within the Christian worldview, thanks to spending a large chunk of our time in a Christian home, but the seeds of doubt are being watered. We come to church, desperate to hear something that can counteract these doubts, only to engage in feeling-based worship and hear emotionally-charged sermons that preach to the choir.

​It is finally time for us to step out of the bubble-wrap of our Christian homes and enter the university system, followed by the real world. Almost immediately, we are faced with a barrage of competing worldviews that we’ve never encountered before. We encounter representatives of these worldviews on a regular basis, and they appear to have solid reasons to back up why they believe what they believe. When we are asked for the reasons for holding on to our worldview, we’ve got no idea; we were just told what to believe and never told why. The seeds of doubt are now saplings that are growing at an exponential pace. Gradually, we find ourselves rejecting our baseless Christian beliefs one by one, replacing them with the next best set of beliefs that comes with reasons attached. Within a year, a tearful parent has a sad story to tell:

“My son was such a strong Christian from childhood. He was a regular at Sunday School. He was an active member of his youth group. He used to lead worship at church. Yet, just a year or so into his college education, he’s been influenced by his ‘secular’ friends, he’s lost his faith, and doesn’t want to be part of the church anymore. I don’t know what happened!

The answer is simple. There wasn’t an issue with the transmission of content; the young man held all the right beliefs, including the existence of God, the saving work of Christ, the Resurrection, etc. The problem lay in the fact that he was made to believe in all the right things without being told why he was believing these things. He was never provided with a rational basis for his beliefs, so when he came across an opposing belief system, say secularism, that seemed to have some reasons supporting its beliefs, he adopted it as a reasonable alternative. And why not? The apparent conclusion from his experience seemed to be that Christianity has no rational basis, and hence lacks credibility as a worldview. This was the conclusion Marty Sampson reached too, not in university, but at the age of 40, after many years of leading worship at one of the world’s largest churches.

That conclusion, however, has been shown to be patently false. I can name several tomes that construct a rational case for Christianity, written by everyone from theologians to analytic philosophers to historians to lawyers to journalists to cold-case detectives. So if a rational case for Christianity exists, why are most of our young people unaware of it? Because the church fails to see it as important and hence never bothers to present it to them! Instead, we’re encouraged to check our brains at the door as we enter the sanctuary, worship God solely with our emotions (try thinking about some of the lyrics we sing and you’ll be surprised at how absurd they are), and listen to a sermon that helps in the circulation of those feel-good hormones and does nothing to stimulate our brains into thinking about what we really believe. The why questions are ignored (and often actively discouraged), and so what we get are a bunch of indoctrinated young people who hold onto beliefs that seem no different from irrational superstitions. The university system exposes them to a myriad of worldviews whose proponents are actually trained to argue for them, so he is more than happy to let go of his baseless Christian worldview for one of these.

The simple solution to this problem is what Blaise Pascal suggested, to “show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect.” When our young people come up with questions, it is the church’s duty to present the rational case for Christianity to them, which will in turn prepare them to weigh Christianity on the same rational balance that they use to weigh other worldviews. To do so, however, the church must first also prepare itself with the rational case. Unfortunately, they often aren’t, which leads to them giving their young people the impression that Christian beliefs are antithetical to reason, which in turn serves as a motivating factor for them to leave the faith.

If you want your young people, who would be your future Martys, to stay in the faith, don’t just try and ‘keep them involved’ by giving them a spot on the worship team or the ushering ministry. Educate them in doctrine to give them a firm foundation, make them aware that there is a rational case for Christianity, and equip them to defend their faith in the face of challenges. Once you do these three things, send them out into the battlefield to fight in the army of the Lord. Of course, I would urge you to pray that they hold on to what they’ve been educated in, made aware of, and equipped with. But remember that only prayers combined with preparation yield results. Prepare your field and only then get on your knees. God will send the rain.  Until we do that, and on a consistent basis, our churches will keep producing a bunch of uneducated, unaware, and unequipped indoctrinees– perfect subjects for the secular world’s ‘deconstruction’ business.

Marty Sampson went down believing that “science keeps piercing the truth of every religion.” I wish Marty had expressed this sentiment to someone who knew the why of the Christian faith before he chose to leave. If I had that opportunity, I would’ve taken him by the shoulders, given him a good shake and said, “No Marty, it doesn’t!”

Lord, grant someone that opportunity.

An update: Marty has since updated his Instagram with images of Christian and atheist thinkers he listens to. The Christian lineup includes the likes of William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias. I’m forced to retract my claim that it was possible that Marty wasn’t aware of the answers to his questions. Given those apologists, he very much was. However, my larger point about the importance of the local church educating their members in apologetics still stands.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other authors at Cogent Christianity.

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38 thoughts on “Apologetics Amid Waves of Apostasy

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  1. This piece strongly calls to mind the opening paragraphs of William Wilberforce’s Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country; Contrasted with Real Christianity (1797). His remarks on the sad state of the Christian mind in his age apply equally well to our own:

    *****

    Before we proceed to the consideration of any particular defects in the religious system of the bulk of professed Christians, it maybe proper to point out the very inadequate conception which they entertain of the importance of Christianity in general, of its peculiar nature, and superior excellence. If we listen to their conversation, virtue is praised, and vice is censured; piety is perhaps applauded, and profaneness condemned. So far all is well. But let any one, who would not be deceived by these “barren generalities,” examine a little more closely, and he will find, that not to Christianity in particular, but at best to religion in general, perhaps to mere morality, their homage is intended to be paid. With Christianity, as distinct from these, they are little acquainted; their views of it have been so cursory and superficial, that, far from discerning its peculiar characteristics, they have little more than perceived those exterior circumstances which distinguish it from other forms of religion. There are some few facts, and perhaps some leading doctrines and principles, of which they cannot be wholly ignorant; but of the consequences, and relations, and practical uses of these, they have few ideas, or none at all.

    Does this language seem too strong? View their plan of life, and their ordinary conduct; and let us ask, wherein can we discern the points of discrimination between them and professed unbelievers? In an age wherein it is confessed and lamented that infidelity abounds, do we observe in them any remarkable care to instruct their children in the principles of the faith which they profess, and to furnish them with arguments for the defence of it? They would blush, on their child’s coming out into the world, to think him defective in any branch of that knowledge, or of those accomplishments, which belong to his station in life; and accordingly these are cultivated with becoming assiduity. But he is left to collect his religion as he may: the study of Christianity has formed no part of his education; and his attachment to it (where any attachment to it exists at all) is, too often, not the preference of sober reason and conviction, but merely the result of early and groundless prepossession. He was born in a Christian country; of course, he is a Christian: his father was a member of the Church of England; so is he. When such is the religion handed down among us by hereditary succession, it cannot surprise us to observe young men of sense and spirit beginning to doubt altogether of the truth of the system in which they have been brought up, and ready to abandon a station which they are unable to defend. Knowing Christianity chiefly in the difficulties which it contains, and in the impossibilities which are falsely imputed to it, they fall perhaps into the company of infidels; where they are shaken by frivolous objections and profane cavils, which, had their religious persuasion been grounded in reason and argument, would have passed by them “as the idle wind.”

    Let us beware, before it be too late. No one can say into what discredit Christianity may hereby grow, at a time when the unrestrained intercourse, subsisting among the several ranks and classes of society, so much favours the general diffusion of the sentiments of the higher orders. To a similar ignorance may perhaps be ascribed, in no small degree, the success with which, in a neighbouring country, Christianity has of late years been attacked. Had she not been wholly unarmed for the contest, however she might have been forced from her untenable posts, and compelled to disembarrass herself from her load of incumbrances, she never could have been driven altogether out of the field by her puny assailants, with all their cavils, and gibes, and sarcasms; for in these consisted the main strength of their petty artillery. Let us beware, lest we also suffer from a like cause; nor let it be our crime and our reproach, that in schools, perhaps even in colleges, Christianity is almost, if not altogether, neglected.

    Link: https://books.google.com/books?id=ekqXG5PWBQ8C&pg=RA1-PA5

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  2. While this might be true of a lot of Christians who grew up in the faith and didn’t think to asl questions or were never given the opportunity to seek amswers in their Churches or with their leaders, what about those of us who grew up in the Church and were encouraged to ask questions and persue truth through heavy research, conferences. Seminars, In-Depth Bible Studies, respected Bible College, and continued education only to run into the same types of doubt and confusion and frustration these former men of faith have?
    I studied and asked and saught out answers only to leanr that the more I find out the less I actually know for sure and to grow up witnessing leaders with mismatched theories and the tragedy of conflicting denomimations really didnt help those doubts. At first I thought it would male me stronger, but I only grow weaker the longer I hang on and try to justify my faith through apologetics.
    I am only resigned to continue with the faith as I committed to as a child who lmew nothing because despite the human errors incolved in the structure of the Church I understand the greater good of hope and balance. That is enough. Whether I see Heaven or simply fade away into nothingness when I die is a mystery and it doesn’t deserve my life’s energy to discover the truth. I have had to continually accept that I don’t know what I don’t know and that’s ok.

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    1. It seems like you are hearing about an ideology. Somehow a relationship was not formed between you and God. You have accurately described the issue. Christianity isn’t anything worth your life’s energy without getting to know the author.

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  3. I think that the answer to the problem of Christians “falling away” that you provided here is only part of the answer. Even if someone is well versed in apologetics it only gets you so far, arguments can continue to be made, and God cannot be actually “proven” to a skeptic. I think that living a typical religious life is garbage and gets old. I think that when children are raised in a home that truly exudes the love of God and the power of God’s love is evident in their lives and their parents’ lives then that is something that you can’t walk away from. You don’t have reason to doubt that or become angry with that….

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  4. I think people ultimately fall away because of a few things. They’re not remaining connected to God, due to disappointment in the realities of the world and the faith. So it’s easier to blame God than it is take responsibility and persevere in the faith. God allows us to choose to leave, if that’s what we truly want. But he’s always more than willing to receive us back.

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  5. Jesus established His Church His Way. It was a reflection of His person and character. It was bold, strong, courageous and deeply authentic. His message was uncompromised. He taught hard, brutally honest truths with deep love and compassion, such as is recorded in Matthew 24:9 and following,

    “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

    How does this compare with the warm, fuzzy, “don’t hurt their feelings,” churches of today?

    Jesus called for immense courage and steel backbones. By contrast, we have raised leaders to wrap their congregations in the cotton wool of warm feelings, emotional washing and inspirational talks mostly devoid of the foundations and grit of the True Gospel of Christ and the Word of God.

    And then we wonder why they fail to stand in the hour of a tiny little bit of pressure. (I say tiny pressure, because what will happen when have to face a knock on the door with torturers and blood-slayers standing outside as many do around the world today?)

    We, the modern church, have gone away from The Church that Jesus established in many ways. It’s leaders have followed their own wisdom, their own messages and their own hearts to produce a modern church that is perplexed at the shaking and falling of its house of cards, its pretend roars, and its paper tigers. This is an incredibly tragic thing, because fall it must.

    Jesus continued his words in Matthew 24 with, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

    Isn’t it amazingly eerie how accurate and predictive Jesus words are about exactly what we are seeing today?

    So, why are we acting surprised when He has been warning us all along?

    As we weep for the fall of our false prophets, weak leaders, artificial edifices and idolatories, know that there is a bright side to this, which is that when false things fall, it gives us an amazing opportunity to see what is actually real, so that we can grab that which is real with both arms.

    When our false, fake and superficial religiosity falls to the ground, weep if you must – but the stop and look to see what does stand, and what has always stood the test of time. Then, you will have the opportunity to see that Jesus Church is still standing as it was the day that He established it – His way.

    Please Church, let us all go back to being Jesus’ Church, His Way. Let us carefully look at what we have added, that He never commanded or endorsed in any way. These things are the scaffolds that have been holding up our houses of cards.

    Let us all go back to being Jesus’ Church, His Way. After all, he is Lord and creator and He actually does know what He is doing and what is good and right for us. We are not smarter than Him! Why would we want to change His Church when it proved to be powerful, effective, amazingly attractive and world-changing?

    The truth is that things will either be true to the heart of God or false. That which is true will always stand strong and immovable. Everything else will fall, as it must … and as we are witnessing now.

    May God bless you with a love of His Heart and His Truth, His Way.

    Be His Church His Way.

    The Church Today
    https://TheChurch.Today

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  6. Thank you for taking time to post this thoughtful piece on apostasy and apologetics.
    .
    I come from a Lutheran background–not Calvinist–so have some different understanding on Salvation and some other key points. My goal here is not to get into an argument, but to lend another perspective on the way in which God works in our lives and perhaps why we see so many “leaders” in churches falling away from the faith.
    .
    First, to be clear, Lutherans do no believe in “once saved, always saved.” But we do believe what God says about his faithful “….no one can snatch them out of my hand.” – John 10:28. We also believe what St. Paul writes in Romans: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
    .
    All that said, the beauty of God’s Salvation is that it is HIS work, not ours.
    .
    We do not prayer the “Sinner’s prayer” in our church body. Not because it’s bad, but probably because we do not see it as THEE act of Salvation. Rather, we look to sacraments such as Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as offering forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. Without diving into a 100 page dissertation on the details, I simply bring these up because we have faith that God works his will thru these means of Grace, even when our faith, or our mood, or whatever may be rather faulty at the time.
    .
    I can’t tell you how many times I have failed to receive the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. But I am confident that God was working to draw me closer to him in spite of my stubborn unwillingness to repent. Likewise, I was Baptized when I was an infant and could not possibly understand all the richness and mercy God bestows thru that act. To be honest, at age 43, I still don’t understand the fullness of it. I don’t understand how God can use the water and the Word to change me from a lost and condemned person to being the washed and regenerated child of his that I am. I don’t understand how God uses bread and wine to bestow forgiveness, grace, mercy, and reconciliation with him to me. I simply believe he does…because his Word says that’s how it work. I’m learning each day more and more….coming to a deeper appreciation and awareness of just how amazing God’s gifts are.
    .
    So what’s that all got to do with mega-church leaders going rogue? Simply this: they’ve based their faith on themselves…their understanding….their level of dedication…their level of sincerity…and whenever something goes out of whack as it does with all of us daily, it leads them to doubt and question….not themselves as fallen and sinful human being, but the false god they have made OF themselves and their own emotions and understanding.
    .
    I think that’s where the problem all starts…. When we make gods of ourselves, of course we are disappointed when our emotions and understanding fail. Rather than trusting in God’s Word that he is who he says he is and he does what he says he does, we try to substitute in our thoughts and feelings of fairness, justice, and understanding. Rational thought is a great gift of God and an important tool for explaining many aspects of our faith, but ultimately it is God himself that says thru St. Paul, “Faith is being sure in things hoped for….being convinced of things we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1
    .
    So bottom line: these leaders and thinkers may simply be undergoing a bout of sinning against the 1st Commandment and making a god of their own understanding and feelings, rather than trusting in the Word. Or they may never have believed in God to begin with. I don’t know. All we can know is that our God is the same today, yesterday, and forever, and that he has won salvation for all thru the blood of Jesus and his resurrection confirms the promise that he overcame death, sin, and the Devil for us. This is a free gift to all. We cannot even accept it. It was a free gift, given by our loving Father, over 2000 years ago.
    .
    We Trust in God’s Word because our souls hunger for his Truth. He says the gift is ours. “For God so love the WORLD, he gave his one and only son….” John 3:16 and “Christ reconciled the whole world unto himself….” 2 Corinthians 5:19. I didn’t catch anything in either of those passages that said, “God only reconciled the people who say the sinners prayer….” Nope. The whole world.
    .
    Why then are some so reluctant or hostile? Well, we do have a free will. Not to accept, but to reject. We can’t claim any credit on our own for “accepting” something that is already ours. That’s like a kid telling his parent they are so lucky to have had him and they should count that as a credit in his favor. Um, ‘scuse me? That’s not how it works, sonny boy! The parents create and love the child, not the other way around. God chose us: we did not/do not choose him. We do sometimes choose to obey or disobey, but even those acts are no credit to us. They are simply the result of our sin and God continuing to reach out to us over, and over, and over….
    .
    The only thing we can do of our own free will, in the end, is reject it. I pray these leaders reconsider their erroneous thought that it’s all up to them and their beliefs and feelings and instead look into God’s Word and read the promise again, and again, and again. The Word is there, the grace is free, the gift is ours.
    .
    Thoughts from a Lutheran…. I hope they are a blessing to anyone who is doubting today who God is and what he’s done for you. He’s your Father, he loves you, he sent his Son to die and rise for you, and he wants you to be with him forever. Don’t walk away from this once in a lifetime opportunity! Bask in his grace and love and conform your life to the plan he has laid out for you as his servant to bring others to know this good news! 😀

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    1. Thank you for your thoughts. Just to point out– Calvinists do not believe in ‘once saved, always saved’ either. We do believe in the perseverance of the saints, based on John 10:28 and other verses, primarily because we believe that the work of salvation that God accomplishes in a person cannot fail. But that doesn’t mean someone can live like the world after claiming ‘salvation’ and still end up in heaven. Your salvation will be reflected in the fruit you bear.

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  7. I would agree that the church has much to learn from modern day “evangelical” preachers defecting (apostasy) from the Christian faith–and I would suggest that it goes a lot deeper than just the issues of apologetics and science and faith (hose are mere side issues, actually symptoms of the underlying problem). . No, it is deeply rooted in the very nature and heart of the Gospel of Christ itself–the shallow, superficial message and content of the Gospel that people are hearing in modern churches today that obviously is failing to convert sinners to Christ–to make them new (spiritual) creations in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17).

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  8. I was a false convert most of my life. But in my mid 30s God truly saved me and put me under the Lordship of Jesus. Since then I have been involved in church, learned and taught my children sound doctrine, and had a zeal to understand, learn, and teach my family church history, church foundational truth, and Christ crucified. Yet 2 weeks ago, our 16 year old daughter told us she is NOT a believer and plans to pursue a lesbian lifestyle as soon as she can get out of our house. Our hearts are hurting. I’ve spent hours praying and crying in my pillow. The world will applaud my daughters departure from truth and embrace her ‘sexuality’ but I will embrace the truth of the Gospel, God’s laws, God’s precious son, and cling to the hope that if God can save a sinner like me, he has the power and authority to save my daughter. Seeing these popular teachers/singers turn apostate is disheartening. But knowing that God is still in control and calling unrepentant sinners to salvation should be a daily and constant encouragement. Yes – if you love Jesus, you will see people around you turn away – even your own family. But your charge… my charge… is to lean on Jesus and proclaim HIS Kingdom that is eternal!!!! Pray for my family! Pray for all brothers and sisters. Pray for those who know the truth but left it – that God may save them yet still!

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  9. This news does not surprise me at all. Indeed, I, like others, have observed that sometimes those who grow up in a “fundamentalist Christian home” are the first ones to fall away, even renounce, the Christian faith (“fundamentalist” by the way has nothing to do with right-wing extremism but simply means one who believes the fundamental (essential) doctrines of Christianity). However well taught one may be in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith does not automatically translate into genuine conversion to Christ. It does not mean that one has been truly converted to Christ through the supernatural working of God’s Spirit in the new birth and faith in Christ. It reminds me of the parable of the sower , in which the seed (the Word of God) fell upon shallow, rocky soil, and because the seed does not take root [in the their hearts], they show signs of believing for a while but when temptation comes fall away (Luke 8: 11-13). In other words, they may have had an intellectual faith (head knowledge) but not saving, heart -transforming faith because they merely went through the motions of walking an aisle, praying the sinner’s prayer, making a decision for Christ (what some call decisional regeneration) but there was no real spiritual transformation/change of heart and life ( Ezekiel 36:26; John 3:3, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:17) –and therefore no true salvation/conversion because there was no genuine repentance and faith. That also, by the way, does not surprise me when you observe the shallow, superficial preaching/teaching in many modern churches today, especially in huge (mega) evangelical churches. There is far too little emphasis on the nature of sin (we sin because we have a sin nature) and the lost condition of the sinner hopelessly and helplessly bound in the shackles of sin and depravity (Ephesians 2:1: “dead in trespasses and sins” ); spiritually separated from God (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:23); spiritually blind (Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and whose mind is “enmity against God and spiritual truth (Romans 8:7). The great Puritan preachers (i. e, Bunyan, Owen, Whitefield, etc.) believed in what in Reform churches today is called “law work”; that is to say, a preacher must preach the “Bad News” of the Gospel before he is ready to receive the “good News” of the Gospel. He (the preacher) must first plow the furrows (soil) of the heart straight and deeply in preparation and readiness for the sinner to receive the seed of the Word of God by preaching the law of God against the exceeding sinfulness of sin (see Galatians 3:24); that is to say, God, by His Spirit, must convict the sinner of his utter inability and hopelessness to meet/keep the just requirements of the law (James 2:10; Romans 3:20) and thereby drive him into the welcoming arms of Jesus Christ as his only hope and salvation (Acts 4:12)—namely, One (Jesus Christ) who as fully man, and fully God lived a sinless life and perfectly satisfied (meet) fulfilled the law of God on behalf of sinners (Romans 8:3-4) and is therefore eminently qualified to be the perfect (sinless (“It is finished”) final sacrificial for sin in the the sinner’s place for all who will truly call upon (trust) Christ in Spirit-wrought repentance and faith for salvation (Hebrews 10:10)–for forgiveness of sin (past, present, future), peace with God (Romans 5:1) and the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11-13), , through faith in Christ. One God bless.

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    1. I think there is a place for apologetics in the church, but feel we are missing the mark when we get bogged down in these discussions.

      Aren’t we supposed to avoid irreverent babbling and vain controversies?

      And, didn’t Paul argue that the power of God to save people (and by that logic, keep them saved) is in the preaching of the Gospel? Didn’t Paul himself say that it wasn’t with wise and persuasive words but with demonstrations of the Spirit and the power of God that people are convinced of the truth about Jesus.

      I’m not sure that it is a lack of understanding the apologetic questions, or knowing how to answer them, that leads people to fall away. I think it is a lack of genuine Gospel preaching coupled with little or no Spirit Power at work in our churches. One pastor that led our church told me that we have to have the Word and the Spirit in equal measure for the church to stay healthy and I assume he meant by that ( for people to keep going and keep growing in Christ).

      Not wise and persuasive words but Spirit Power and Gospel preaching. Once upon a time, before I came to faith, Christian songs used to be filled with great doctrine (so I’m told), songs that bolstered faith by feeding the Word through song, now as a friend of mine says, many of todays Christian worship songs are nothing more than mantras, and meaningless ones at that.

      My own thoughts on the process of apologetics is that we have missed the point of “always being prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have”. We take it to mean we have to answer every question the world throws at us in response to our attempts to share our faith, when in fact it really means, explaining why we believe what we believe, based on our experience of Christ.

      The world says “jump over these obstacles and I’ll believe”, and we jump… No wonder some are falling, we will all fall if we keep on trying to clear hurdles we aren’t supposed to clear.
      It is time that we grew a spine and laid down a bundle of our own, the only huddle any one is asked to clear. Jesus Christ the stone of stumbling or the corner stone of salvation.
      Revelations says that we overcome the enemy of our faith by the blood of the lamb, our own personal testimony and by not loving our lives to death.

      Sadly those who have removed their faith were either never saved (covered by Jesus’s blood), have forsaken the reality of their own experience of Jesus or have loved life more than Jesus.

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  10. I agree that apologetics must be taught to the next generation.
    Some “ Christian” singers
    come across the same as a secular rock star losing the message of salvation. It’s a shallow type of feel
    Good Christianity.
    Worship leaders in modern churches try to emulate these people
    &’avoid speaking of those Christians who have given their lives refusing to renounce Christ.

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  11. . Biblical Calvinists have never believed in what is commonly called (and implied by) the teaching of “Once saved, always saved”–the absurd, non-biblical idea that a Spirit-regenerated, Spirit-adopted, blood-bought, true son or daughter of God can live and do as he/she pleases; that is, live no differently than the ungodly world (see 1 John 2:15-17) and still be saved. That idea, which in no way negates the clear teaching of true (biblical) eternal security, as taught in numerous scriptures, is totally foreign to the teaching of God’s Word (read 1 John 3:7-10; 1 John 5: 2-3) What adherents of the biblical Doctrines of Grace have long believed and proclaimed about eternal security–the eternal security of the believer that is clearly taught in the scriptures—is what is known as The Perseverance of True Believers or The Perseverance of the Saints which, contrary to what you sometimes hear Christians claim, does not mean that everyone who has made a public profession of faith is eternally secure. Nor does it mean the popular common caricature of this doctrine that we hear so often; namely, that believers are certain to be eternally saved regardless of the extent to which they may fall into sin or be careless and callous about their way of life. God forbid. What it does mean is that, though true believers will incur trials and will stumble and struggle with sin and temptation (1 John 1:9, James 1:2-4)—from the human perspective of this doctrine, true believers will persevere in the faith until they stand blameless before Christ in a sinless, glorified body–and from God’s perspective, God will never permit those [ true believers] to whom He has given true (saving) faith—those who are effectually called, regenerated, adopted, justified and sanctified by His Holy Spirit, etc.–to fall away way from that faith, so as to to eternally (forever) lost. In short, true believers will ultimately persevere in the faith to the end not because of their own strength but because of the unchanging, preserving mercy and grace of God, who completes salvation from beginning to end on behalf of those who are His own–those whom He has chosen in Christ from before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13; John 6:37; John 10:26, 27-29; John 15:16; John 17:2,6,9, 11-12, 24; 1 Peter 2:9; etc.) and whom He has predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29-30). As the Psalmist wonderfully reminds us: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighted in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with His hand. For the Lord loves judgment and forsakes not His saints; THEY ARE PRESERVED FOREVER: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off” (Psalm 37: 23, 24, 28) and “For the Lord will not cast off His people ; neither will He forsake his inheritance” (Psalm 94:14 compare John 6:37, 39; John 10: 27-29; Ephesians 1:4-7, 12-14; Romans 8:16-17). God bless.

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  12. I would like to say that I am praying for Marty Sampson. Contrary to what I read as his explanation for leaving his Christian faith, I have discussed matters of faith and science with atheists and skeptics, including liberal theologians and science students, for over 40 years and none of his questions are new, especially the allegation that the Bible is full of contradictions. When I hear this , I usually ask them to name one and go from there in addressing the presupposed contradiction because, as I have discovered, most who make this claim are really only parroting what they have heard from popular skeptics and Bible critics. Most do not know their Bible well, if they indeed have read and studied it at all. Claims of contradictions in the scriptures have been refuted again and again. I’m glad I studied apologetics in seminary but I can assure you that knowing how to give an answer with gentleness and respect to one who ask you of the reason and hope you have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15) will not help you if you are not “in Christ” to begin with, which gives me concern for Marty because he claims there are no miracles happening today; yet, as I, and many other Christians know from experience, the greatest miracle of all is to have a personal encounter with the Risen Christ through the supernatural working of God’s Spirit in regeneration or new birth (not infant baptism because the Bible does not teach baptismal regeneration) and faith in Christ ( Ephesians 2:1, 5; John 3:3, 6,8; Titus 3:5; Acts 16:14)–to be spiritually translated (resurrected) from the kingdom of darkness into the marvelous light of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (1 Peter 2:9). As for the impact of science on religion, especially Christianity, the Bible, as operational or experimental science has clearly shown, has nothing to fear from the modern scientific method of inquiry and scientific research in the scientific laboratories of our nation. Indeed,such is continually confirming or collaborating the truth of the Bible. God bless

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  13. If he is confused about his unseen faith then he surely does not need to lead worship at any church or venue. The word of God is infallible other words believed not seen. This teaching is exactly what we are taught about following false doctrines an itchy ears an temptations that make us feel better. Remember the pot cannot question the Creator it is only going to find truth in death.

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  14. I would like to get to know Marty and understand the reasoning behind his decision or the reason behind his inquiries. As believers we have to be mindful an take his entire being into consideration. It is easy to point out right and wrong using scriptures. But Insight is definitely needed. I’ve seen this multiple times but each individual have different experiences in their lives.

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  15. my question is what teaching materials are out there for me to lead my little ones? what you’ve described is completely right. we were not armed by our parents or churches to withstand the tides of secular ideology. modern praise music has never held much interest other than rocking out in my car; hymns were written by scholars and have a complexity that is beautiful. i have educated myself a lot; i generally know and listen when i encounter an intelligent deeply religious person. i read a lot on my own. but i want to give my children a more steady secure path. do you have any suggestions?

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  16. I’m not trained in apologetics. I don’t know a Calvinist from a Reformer- if there is a difference. What I know is the overwhelming truth that Christians-even those who profess Him and follow Him and love Him-haven’t READ Him. I’m am dismayed and distressed at my friends who have been long in the faith, but have never read the Scriptures cover to cover. They know Scripture… they have their favorites, and they can find the books. But read it? Cover to cover? Who has the time for that?
    We all do, and we all should. Cover to cover. Year after year. Over and over, until you can “hear” the Shepherd’s voice. Until you can “hear” the difference between Paul’s voice and James’s voice and Peter’s voice. Or Isaiah and Ezekiel. Until it becomes second nature to your very life and soul. Questions? Ask. Then go back to the Source and LOOK IT UP. Why are once “strong” Christians falling away? They have no foundation. Scripture: Genesis to Revelation is the foundation. The Living Word. (I’ll stop… I feel a Holy Rant coming on…)

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  17. I think you make some very strong points about the vapid nature of the faith we often find within the church. However, in reading some of these replies, particularly those regarding scripture, what sticks out to me is the way in which the Evangelical church writ large deals with the Bible. Often we have seen the Bible as an index of answers; thus, if you simply ‘know’ it firmly enough, you can counteract difficult questions. Yet that’s not really what the Bible is. It’s a collection of culturally-rooted documents that detail a particular group of people’s wrestlings with God and His nature (and I would say, perhaps controversially, sometimes getting it wrong). We struggle with the ambiguities in scripture (for instance, a struggle to reconcile the Old Testament God with Jesus and performing clever apologetic gymnastics to try and merge the two). The New Testament writers seem to have overcome that dilemma: they simply said that, in Jesus, they could finally see what God was really like. Thus, they were happy to reinterpret scripture around the truth they saw in Jesus himself.

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  18. George I agree with your thoughts/perspective 100% not that you need this ladies validation. However, as a former “mega church” pastor (and I hate that term) I have to tell you this is hard to address. Church today is competing for the alternative use of people’s time and the average church goer wants to leave church feeling encouraged, empowered, and knowing they play a part in God’s Kingdom. Apologetics are appealing to some but not all and there are most definitely generational differences here. Boomers don’t ask the why questions nearly as much as Millenials. Striking a balance is hard with such diversity. In the church I served we used small settings to address the deeper questions people had and what we found was that the loved ones of those who’d fallen away were the ones attending not the person having a crisis of faith.
    So, experience tells me that the remedy you’re suggesting is just one piece of the puzzle to a Goliath sized problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for that helpful response, ma’am. The generational gap is something that is worth addressing. One thing I would have to say is that while boomers don’t ask the why questions, we must help them understand why the next generation does ask those questions– perhaps because the challenges that the next generation faces are ones that bring up those questions on a regular basis as compared to those faced by the generation before them. I suspect one of the reasons many walk away assuming Christianity has ‘no answers’ is because they’re discouraged from asking the questions in the first place and they find that their university or friend circle seems like a safer space to ask faith questions than church is. (Except that the answers given here are the ones that convince them to walk away.)

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      1. Once again George we agree and I think that is the challenge for folks my age in the church. If I didn’t have two young adult children (one who has fallen away) I’m not sure I would be so determined to understand the complexities of this challenge. I often thank God for how my son’s journey is stretching my own. You have probably already read this but David Kinnaman’s “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…And Rethinking Faith” is worth checking out if you haven’t. Where he talks about what he calls “Heart Driven Prodigals” I’m especially encouraged and hope that the church can position itself appropriately to one day (God willing) welcome people back home with no judgment just love. It’s hard for older generations to change but it’s completely possible. Thanks for being an influencer and advocate for a younger generation.

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  19. The answer to Marty’s questions may lie in the Biblical idea that everlasting punishment means punishment for an age. Everlasting punishment is not forever. When you look at the use of the word everlasting in the Old Testament and compare it to New Testament truth, you can see it means for an age, not forever.

    When you look in Genesis 17, the covenant of circumcision is called an everlasting covenant. But Paul told the Galatian church in Galatians chapter 5 to not be circumcised or Christ would profit them nothing. So the everlasting covenant of circumcision lasted only for the Old Testament period.

    Psalm 90:3-4 says the God will turn men to destruction and then say “Return, O children of men.” The next verse says that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years. This seems to be pointing to the idea that everlasting punishment may be tied to this 1000 period. Psalm 90:2 in the Young’s Literal translation renders “from everlasting to everlasting ” as “from age to age”.

    In 2 Thes. 1:8-10, Paul tied everlasting destruction to “that Day”, the 1000 year day of the Lord from Psalm 90.

    In 2 Peter 3:7-10, Peter described the day of judgment and the perdition of ungodly men. But he said not to forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Peter tied the day of judgment to this 1000 year period described in Psalm 90.

    In Revelation 20, John described the same 1000 year period and then described the great white throne judgment of unbelievers.

    It appears that all three apostles are alluding to Psalm 90. In Psalm 90, the punishment is for an age, and then God calls men to return to Him.

    Many early church fathers believed in ultimate reconciliation before eternal torment became the dominant view of the church and all other views were largely suppressed.

    These scriptures may hold the answer for Marty Sampson and vast numbers of other Christians who struggle with the idea of eternal torment. We can all understand punishment for a time to bring unbelievers to a change of heart. This view is the only winning scenario for God and humanity as a whole. Traditional theology says that Jesus defeated Satan at the cross but that Satan ends up with much of God’s beloved creation forever. It may be time for the church to reconsider and take a closer look at alternative Biblical views to eternal torment.

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  20. Quite simply, the church should, and I mean “should” in a morally-responsible manner, follow the model of classical education of grammar, logic,.rhetoric. Too often, church’s stop with spiritual milk. This is what happened in the early 1800’s and it’s true today. I highly recommend other authors and speakers such as J.P. Moreland and Stand to Reason.

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  21. This was such an important article. It’s a sad story that is repeated again and again. It doesn’t need to be this way. How to motivate churches in this direction is the question.

    As to the final part, my understanding is he was now going to be listening to these various apologists. (Maybe I misunderstood. But that’s the way it seemed.) Either way, we need to pray he finds the resources & answers he needs.

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  22. disclaimer from a guy who is obviously late to the party: I don’t really know who Marty Sampson or Dave Gass are–though I’m sure I’ve sung and played Sampson’s music in church, and I just looked Gass up*.

    I’m not a deep student of apologetics, though I am an evangelical Christian and a philosophy professor. I do agree with the spirit of this article, and especially lament the way in which young people in Bible-believing churches sometimes get the idea–or the overt message–that asking questions or acknowledging deep and serious challenges to Christian claims is out of place. I hope that as a teacher in the church I have not contributed to that. I am glad that there are apologetic resources out there and we should use them and pass them on–but also recognize their limitations. These questions are hard, and answers are neither simple nor obvious (and the same goes for the positions of the challengers). Our kids need to know that, and they also need to know that intellectually serious people have wrestled with these questions and come out with responsible Biblical faith intact.

    As a professional philosopher and long-time teacher in the church (40 years?), I haven’t spent a lot of time with apologetics because people don’t get argued into saving faith. At best, the arguments clear the ground of excuses to avoid the central issues. And I don’t think people get argued out of the faith much either–IF we don’t set our kids up for disappointment by shielding them from hard questions. The central issue of the fall and of salvation is the question of whether we will submit to God–and that in large part is a moral question. If you look at Jesus’s preaching you will see him stripping away excuses and subterfuge in order to get people to face just that question. All this is what our kids need to understand, because they’re going to have to face it, for themselves, again and again.

    *about Dave Gass: I hate to bring up the poor guy’s troubles, but my quick introductory search brings out that along with his very real questions etc., he was in a year-long extra-marital relationship before dropping the bomb. I hope it isn’t true, but would certainly match my experience: the greatest challenges to my faith have always been moral, not philosophical, and too many of my friends have gone down just that way. We need to build honest communities of support, accountability, encouragement in the Holy Spirit, and honesty about following Jesus. …sort of like what the NT epistles urge us.

    a philosopher Christian

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