Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders

by George Brahm

John Cooper, lead singer for the rock band Skillet, responded to the litany of recent apostasies among young Christian leaders. In a Facebook post titled ‘What in God’s Name is Happening in Christianity?’ put up on Tuesday, August 13, Cooper directly addressed the reasons given by Hillsong songwriter Marty Sampson for renouncing his Christian faith, before highlighting the need for Christians to stay grounded in a truth-driven faith over an emotion-driven one. Here is the text of the post in its entirety (not corrected for spelling or punctuation):

“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once “faces” of the faith are falling away. And at the same time they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith. I’ll state my conclusion, then I’ll state some rebuttals to statements I’ve read by some of them. Firstly, I never judge people outside of my faith. Even if they hate religion or Christianity. That is not my place and I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me. However, when it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.

“My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!) I’ve been saying for 20 years(and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?

“I have a few specific thoughts and rebuttals to statements made by recently disavowed church influencers…first of all, I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.” I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?

“My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.

“Thirdly, there is a common thread running through these leaders/influencers that basically says that “no one else is talking about the REAL stuff.” This is just flatly false. I just read today in a renown worship leader’s statement, “How could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

“And lastly, and most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He also said that he was alive before Abraham, and to see him was to see God because he was one with God. So why then would a disavowed christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is “good” be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, poplular opinion etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King.

“It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.

“Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting “now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!” Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers…I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)”

I am glad to see one of these ‘influencers’ come out in defense of the authority of Scripture and the importance of a robust faith that can outlast even the harshest of challenges.

A popular rock band for over two decades, Skillet recently came out with their latest album ‘Victorious’, available on their website.


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

301 thoughts on “Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders

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  1. Yes, so much of this is true, however we need to be careful not to throw the “churches of today” under the bus. This is nothing new. Judas is a prime example. People just go numb and over think Christianity and walk away in hopes of an easier life with no conviction. Many of them do come back, at the cost of their reputation. Stay the course, folks. Don’t follow a man to the point of losing eternity. Only Jesus. Interesting how so many people criticize Skillet and swear by Hillsong, and look what we have here. Choose your hero’s wisely.

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    1. Brian, I agree with most of what your wrote. That said, I think not acknowledging the enormous changes made by “churches of today” and the role that plays in driving many believers away from regular church attendance, and eventually away from a close relationship with Christ, would be naive. Many I know who identify as Christians have a hard time finding churches that aren’t hyper-evangelical, hyper-cinematic and focused on individual performance (be it on the “stage” or in the “stands”). Many churches of today live on emotion and that lasts only so long. I’ve heard several church leaders say their mission is to those who need saving, not those who are already saved. Unfortunately, I think many who are saved become disenchanted with the church. Eventually, many stop attending church regularly while still being bombarded with “mainstream messages” that can seem more genuine than many “churches of today”.

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    1. Cooper dead reference Marty Samson’s age. Read the whole article. if anything, Cooper may have been alluding to Lauren Daigle with the twenty-year-old comment.

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    2. The point is, Sampson was immature when he was front and center as a public Christian. But he is just now arriving at the point in life in which he is Biblically eligible to be considered for leadership. Had he (and any churches he was/is associated with) followed the Biblical rule, either he could have matured in wisdom which would now be coming to fruition, or else he could have departed from the path as he is now doing — but since he would not be a public figure, other Christians would be spared the scandal (in the original sense) of a leader turned apostate.

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    1. I agree with almost everything that’s been said in this article and the church should not be getting its theology from anybody except from the Scriptures however the Psalms were songs they were the hymns of the church so we need to be careful if we’re saying that we’re not to get our theology from our music our music should be good theology. And those that are up in front leading others in worship are held to a higher standard just as those who are preaching and teaching the word are held to a higher standard . So maybe we should be careful about having those who are not solid in their faith leading warship and we need to be really careful about continuing to disciple worship leaders and not assuming that they’re solid in their face I think we make a really big mistake in the church today and assume that just because somebody’s talented musically we put them up there to saying and we assume their faith is solid and that’s not true all the time we have an obligation as the church to be discipling and to be discipled at all times . None of us are above that and iron sharpens iron and we as the church should have been calling some of these worship leaders into account for the poor theology in the songs that they were singing instead of just liking the sound of it and singing along. I am not saying that all of the old hymns had solid theology either I love a lot of the modern worship music but it would serve us well to have theologians reviewing a lot of the music and counseling with the songwriters before it hits the airwaves.

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  2. The only comment I disagree with is that being kind and turning the other cheek is not an exclusive Christian value. It is a human value shared across several religions and philosphies. Even atheists (not all, of course) practice the Golden Rule. So just because someone has lost faith in Christianity doesnt mean that they cant teach those values.

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    1. “Even atheists (not all, of course) practice the Golden Rule”

      To be fair, many Christians fail to practice the Golden Rule. Religion isn’t the sole provenance of morals, my friend.

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      1. Friendly Neighborhood Atheist. I agree on both counts of who practices the Golden Rule. However, I think what many Atheists miss is that Christian Theology doesn’t teach you can only do “good things” if you believe in God. It teaches that fallen humanity only does some “good things” because there IS a God and that we are made in His image, although it is defaced. This is a critical distinction.

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    2. I kindly disagree with this 🙂 Turning the other cheek it is exclusive Christian value, even though in some secular cultures with Christian background and heritage the roots of this value have been forgotten. I come from a Muslim background and a Muslim country and turning the other cheek or forgiveness are NOT shared as values, but instead, are perceived as weakness and dishonoring. You loose respect in all circles, for that reason revenge, is highly encouraged as a way to restore honor. Peace is conditional- you have peace with someone as long as they are not stepping into your territory. The problem with many westerns and especially from the USA as far as I have noticed from comments is a huge lack of understanding and knowledge of other cultures and religions. I am surprised by how the concept of freedom of speech or free will is not recognized as a value that comes from Christianity and how you expect other cultures who do not have the same value to behave like you. Other cultures and especially religions do not show that same level of respect or tolerance toward different opinions or even grant you the free will- you are excluded and punished if you abandon your religion.

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      1. How can you “kindly” disagree with this then? If it goes against your beliefs, in your own words, you disrespect it and could even justify yourself for seeking revenge on this very opposing viewpoint (Christianity vs. Islam). Human nature is to seek revenge for every wrong and to get along with people only if they can get along with you. That’s human nature. And that nature is sinful. It’s a nature that divinely needs to be changed. Only Jesus Christ can change a person from wanting revenge when wronged, to humbly walking away from insults and to actually love those who oppose us. He did it by His own example because He is God. It’s supernatural..NOT natural. Especially of Western culture! People who truly are able to “turn the other cheek” have been given the divine ability by God to do so. I reject Islam because it doesn’t save or change people. It only gives people license to act on their natural desire to hate people who disagree with them. Christianity is completely opposite of Islam. Which is why my brothers and sisters are being slaughtered like innocent lambs by Muslims and other religions.

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      2. As a worship leader and drummer I really have to stand up and commend John Cooper for taking a stand on this now urgent and polarizing topic within the Christian Church.
        I come from a background quite different than your average Sunday church- goer. After crying out to Christ to please save me 8 years ago, I was radically rescued by Him and spared the death so many others have had to face due to intreveneous heroin addiction. Through what I call ‘the gift of desperation’, I completely surrendered my life to God, and what ensued was a radical conversion that has proven to be nothing less than miraculous, and has bore a lot of good and Godly fruit in me and those I’ve ministered to in Christian Recovery. Truly by God’s grace in 8 years I have went from a nearly dead and spiritually bankrupt ‘lukewarm’ believer, to a Spirit- filled all- in disciple for Christ… a Bible student, a Bible teacher, a writer, a preacher, a sponsor in recovery, and a worship leader and drummer in my church. I am FAR from perfect, with plenty of daily battles with my flesh and this world, just ask my wife. Lol.
        But by God’s grace I truly was born again and made a new creature, and I have truly been transformed by the renewing of my mind. I have truly been sanctified by God in a way that demonstrates His true power and graces beyond just me claiming “I got saved.”
        21 years of drugs and alcohol- laid at the foot of the cross and crucified in Christ- gone. 10 year opiate addiction and 2 years of the aforementioned intravenous heroin addiction- crucified, gone. 20+ years smoking and dipping tobacco- gone. 20+ years obsessed with porn- gone. The first 36 years of my life were riddled with the darkness of low self esteem, ego- mania, selfishness, insecurity, anger, anxiety and worry, physical violence and verbal abuse, lust, gluttony, drug and alcohol abuse, and a passionate love for rock and roll music that bordered on idolatry. Ironically it was that combination of things I thought I loved that turned on me and nearly killed me. Even more ironically it was in that pain and affliction that I found the Glory of God.
        Today I am free from all that bondage, walking in the Truth with the peace and joy and comfort that comes only from the Holy Spirit of God living in me. By God’s grace, my faith isn’t phony or religious, it’s genuine. It’s imperfect but real.
        I’ve said all this so that prayerfully what I say next is taken to heart by those who read it. See I have no theological degrees or credentials or paperwork to add creedence to what Im about to say. All I have is the Blood of the Lamb and my testimony to stand on. It’s on the unshakeable rock that is Jesus that I stand before the Church today as a disciple and a worship leader and implore every Pastor, leader, and elder of any church that professes Christ as Lord from their heart to see to it that your worship leaders are discipled Biblically in Christ!
        How can we sing songs about a God we don’t know intimately?! Yes I believe experiencing God personally in relationship is ultimately what it’s all about, and it’s how I was saved… by praying and listening and hearing directly from God’s still small voice… But without general knowledge of the Gospel of Christ found in the Bible, I wouldn’t have known who the One True God was that I was talking to! I wouldn’t be able to understand the beautiful tri-une mystery that is our God- Our Father, Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I wouldn’t have came to understand the huge outpouring of grace that Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul and others from Acts 2 and on into all of Paul’s Epistles. If it weren’t for studying the Bible deeply with other Christians, I wouldn’t know what things are ESSENTIAL to our faith so that we can unite in them, and I wouldn’t know what non- essential beliefs we can give one another liberty and freedom in to keep peace among the Body of Christ! If it weren’t for being Biblically discipled, I wouldn’t know The Truth which is found in Christ alone!
        It’s obvious by a simple browse on the internet or YouTube that the Truth as we know it in Christ alone is under attack from the enemy. Some attacks are subtle, some are very blatant.
        I pray that we can all come to know the Truth that is Christ and abide in Him in the intimate Way He taught.
        He is Lord. He is Master. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
        Come let us adore Him and worship Him and teach what He taught to this fallen world!

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      3. Ashley, I think you may have misunderstood Sunny. He/she was replying to the statement by Paul that “being kind and turning the other cheek is not an exclusive Christian value.”

        Sunny said: “Turning the other cheek it is exclusive Christian value…” and informed us he/she is very familiar with Muslim culture and beliefs. Reading between the lines, I think Sunny is a believer, giving us insight into that culture and religion. I saw nothing in the comment defending Islam at all.

        Paul’s original statement lumped together “kindness and turning the other cheek,” and those are very different things. Kindness is a universal religious principle, and there are various quotes in all religions similar to the Golden Rule (I just looked that up). However, I can’t find any evidence that “turn the other cheek” is part of any religion in the world other than Christianity. I interpret this to be a command not to seek revenge, even for reasons of “justice.” Sunny explained that in Islam, seeking revenge is approved and even expected.

        I just wanted to clarify a bit, because I think you maybe read too quickly and misunderstood Sunny’s important points. 🙂

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    3. I hear what you’re saying, but that is illogical. Whether you believe the Bible to be true or not, creation was the beginning. If we have a historical record of how God has interacted with humans since the creation, then we have an explanation from the beginning of where these things come from. To say that those other religions or philosophies hold to Christian values outside of the influence of Christianity is then only conjecture. You cannot create something after another thing, within the same realm of concern, and say that the latter did not include or was not impacted by facets of the former. Even before Christ, the laws were foundational for Christianity, why is it conceived that they were not foundational to the others as well? Consider this, the proponents of those other religions or philosophies did exactly what John Cooper here is saying modern Christian leaders are doing. They departed with a “new” and “right” way. They may have similar ideas to the One Way, making them not new, but they are definitely not “right”.

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    4. I’m sorry but it does , the church taught those very same principles ! Christians started hospitals , taking care of others before themselves, Islam followed , it and even Judaism , Buddhism and Atheism treat being kind to others as an obligation to either a deity or to show that you can be kind . When someone walks away from the faith , it’s because they no longer believe! It’s because they walked away , Jesus says Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you! If you leave , you also forsake ! Read John 6:66 , that verse number is not by coincidence! Every way seems wise to a man , but in the end it leads to destruction, or Every way seems right to a man but God judges the heart ! Or how about ,It is better to tie a millstone around your neck and hurl yourself into the deepest sea , than it is to harm one of my children. I can’t control someone else’s faith , but I must say to leave and say they are following a new truth , is leading others astray . We all have moments of doubt, but Jesus always is there to remind us of who we are!!!

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    5. that’s not what John Cooper said. He didn’t say it didn’t belong to other religions, he said it wasn’t a natural human instinct.

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    6. With respect, Paul, especially with the proliferation of social media, I’m definitely NOT seeing an abundance of, “turn the other cheek.” There’s quite a bit of vitriol, hate speech and ‘getting back’ at folks who post what others disagree with.

      Put on virtually any news show and wait. Inevitably, they’ll put on a pair of people with differing viewpoints to verbally duke it out in the hopes of getting a rise out of the viewers.

      While you’re correct that a number of religions teach forgiveness, it most certainly not a commonly practiced, and rarely evidenced, human value. It is, quite frankly, opposed to the self-centered nature of the human race.

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    7. Wrong. Other “religions” may follow these principles, but it was Jesus, the one true God, who taught us to love one another!

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  3. This a great article. In my opinion (and experience), the problem is that across the realm of the Christianity, believers or seekers aren’t allowed to ask questions, discouraged from it, risk being labeled a heretic or simply given religious platitudes or pat answers and sent on their way. There is no outlet for these people. The majority of pastors and leadership only teach and preach what they’ve been told or dictated by their denomination. They themselves haven’t asked hard questions for fear of retribution from denominational leaders and overseer’s. Leadership doesn’t want you asking questions; especially publicly where they can’t control the conversation, because they can’t answer the questions. If you’re in leadership; or like this guy, part of a worship team, and ask hard questions or verbalize doubts and difficulties you’ll be labeled and removed. They don’t want you verbalizing those things that might effect others. I know I’m painting with a broad brush and generalizing, but unfortunately this does happen. The overwhelming majority of lay people or members are not instructed in how to read and study for themselves. They are told what to believe and they don’t dare question. Unfortunately (sorry for overusing this word but it’s appropriate) there are many who don’t want to ask questions or to know. This has created a very anemic church body, unable to stand and think on their own. They are comfortable Christians that are steeped in tradition and want to keep living in their world. I am a person who asks all these hard questions and doesn’t settle for the platitudes and accepted general answers. I want to know the truth, no matter what. Don’t misunderstand me, there are well established truths with in Christianity, but there are areas that have been well talked about, debated, fought over and that divided us. I wish our local fellowships had an outlet for seekers to ask their questions without fear, but there’s only denominational settings that propagate their rhetoric. Sorry for the rant but I do feel for this worship leader, not knowing his full story or if this rant even applies to him.
    This is the second part to my thoughts on this subject.
    Everyone wants to belong! Period. The “loner” that secluded themselves, identifies with someone or some group. The loner who believes no one cares, and who believes they are misunderstood, still identifies with other loners or fringe people’s. How many “lone” gunman or bombers have written a manifesto derived from someone else’s thoughts, words or actions? Everyone wants desperately to belong. I have a suspicion that the man in this article is leaving because he no longer feels like he belongs there or with them. He now identifies and feels he belongs to another group of people.
    My point is that we all look to belong, identify with or associate with others. This of course is what cult leaders understand and take advantage of, and can make people do all sorts of things, just because we want to belong. This man had questions and I bet he got shunned and was made to feel negatively about wanting answers, to which they could not answer. If he was made to feel that it’s ok and natural to wonder and to ask and even to question, he wouldn’t have left. Even if he wasn’t satisfied with their answers and was made to feel like they’d walk through this with him and beside him while he sought truth, he may not have left. God is not insecure. He gave us a brain to think with. I know scripture and that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. If we could figure God out we wouldn’t need Him. If we have the capacity to develop a question in our finite brain that The infinite God gave us; does God not have an answer? (Real question there).
    Anyway, I could keep rambling, but that’s the jest of my thought and opinion. I definitely could be wrong about it all.

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  4. I thank God for the insight shared by John Cooper.

    I would also like to comment on one specific part of this issue. One of the reasons Marty Sampson gave for happily losing his faith is that he is bothered by the doctrine of hell. Very likely, the specific doctrine of hell he is bothered by is eternal torment. This doctrine has played a role is driving many away from the Christian faith and driving many others towards theological liberalism/postmodernism. I firmly believe in hell, but I do not believe the Bible teaches eternal torment. I believe the Bible teaches that God will destroy the bodies and souls of the unsaved in hell (Matthew 10:28), that they will perish (John 3:16), and that they will be burned to ashes (2 Peter 2:6). I’ve gathered links to articles and videos from a theologically conservative, evangelical viewpoint on this topic here:
    http://parresiazomai.blogspot.com/2018/11/marks-resources-on-hell-conditional.html

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    1. Mark- I’m afraid you’re taking from the playbook of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In contrast, the Bible and church history (the former more important) do teach the reality of eternal suffering in Hell. Consider the following Scriptures-

      Revelation 20:10, 15- “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever…Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

      Matthew 3:12- “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

      Matthew 25:41, 46- “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

      Mark 9:47-48- “ And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

      The Bible never uses the word, “destroy” to mean “put out of existence.” We can see this in our modern day use of the word, where in sports one team is said to have “destroyed” another.

      In Scripture, Matthew 10:28 for example, the Greek word for “destroy” is “apollymi” and according to Vine’s means, “a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies “to destroy utterly;” in Middle Voice, “to perish.” The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being.”

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    2. Mark- I hope this posts just once as I had trouble posting.

      I’m afraid you’re taking from the playbook of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In contrast, the Bible and church history (the former more important) do teach the reality of eternal suffering in Hell. Consider the following Scriptures-

      Revelation 20:10, 15- “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever…Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

      Matthew 3:12- “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

      Matthew 25:41, 46- “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

      Mark 9:47-48- “ And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

      The Bible never uses the word, “destroy” to mean “put out of existence.” We can see this in our modern day use of the word, where in sports one team is said to have “destroyed” another.

      In Scripture, Matthew 10:28 for example, the Greek word for “destroy” is “apollymi” and according to Vine’s means, “a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies “to destroy utterly;” in Middle Voice, “to perish.” The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being.”

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      1. chsh123, thanks for taking time to respond to my comment.

        You wrote, “I’m afraid you’re taking from the playbook of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

        I’ve never been a JW and the little interaction I’ve had with them has been focused on trying to win them over to true Christianity. My reason for changing from belief in eternal torment to belief in annihilationism is based on Scripture.

        I’m glad you mentioned the Greek word “apollumi.” This is probably the most common Greek word used to refer to the final fate of the unrighteous. Like many words, apollumi has a range of meanings. The precise meaning intended by the author is determined by context.

        For example, apollumi in John 3:16 is translated “perish.”

        ESV John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

        One thing we know from the context is that “perish” is a fate that does NOT require eternal life. You can’t torture someone forever unless they are alive forever. This alone rules out eternal torment as an interpretation.

        The precise meaning of a word also often changes depending on what it is referring to. “Destroy” does not involve a loss of life when we say one sports team destroyed another. But if we say that the enemy platoon was destroyed by a large bomb, it very well may mean that they lost their lives. So, it would be helpful to find examples in Greek where “apollumi” is referring to the final fate of human beings to see what it means. It turns out there are such examples. Here are some:

        **** examples of apollumi used to refer to the annihilation of human souls***

        Plato’s use of apollumi/apōleia to refer to the annihilation of human souls:

        They fear that when the soul leaves the body it no longer exists anywhere, and that on the day when the man dies it is destroyed and perishes (apollumi), and when it leaves the body and departs from it, straightway it flies away and is no longer anywhere, scattering like a breath or smoke.
        Phaedo, 70a

        “But the soul, the invisible, which departs into another place which is, like itself, noble and pure and invisible, to the realm of the god of the other world in truth, to the good and wise god, whither, if God will, my soul is soon to go,—is this soul, which has such qualities and such a nature, straightway scattered and destroyed (apollumi) when it departs from the body, as most men say?
        Phaedo, 80d

        Now what shall we say to this argument, if anyone claims that the soul, being a mixture of the elements of the body, is the first to perish (apollumi) in what is called death?
        Phaedo, 86d

        Plutarch’s use of apollumi/apōleia and phthora to refer to the annihilation of human souls:

        And they are discomposed when they hear it said of any one, he is perished (apollumi), or he is gone, or he is no more;
        NonPosse, 26

        Examples from Athenagoras
        from Apology, Chapter 31

        “. . . for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere by-work, and that we should perish (apollumi) and be annihilated (aphanizo).”

        from Apology, Chapter 36

        On the contrary, it is reasonable to suppose, that those who think they shall have no account to give of the present life, ill or well spent, and that there is no resurrection, but calculate on the soul perishing with (sunapollumi) the body, and being as it were quenched in it, will refrain from no deed of daring; but as for those who are persuaded that nothing will escape the scrutiny of God, but that even the body which has ministered to the irrational impulses of the soul, and to its desires, will be punished along with it, it is not likely that they will commit even the smallest sin.

        ************* end of examples ***********

        It turns out that if a Greek author wanted to refer to the complete and final annihilation of a person after death, apollumi is one of the best Greek words he could have used!

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    3. Hi Mark. Thanks for writing.

      I agree that words have varying meanings, depending on their context, which is probably the key here.

      As far as John 3:16 goes, I see this as reading one’s theology into the text. If someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, then that person will perish, as the verse says. But why take that to mean “cease to exist?” In taking all of Scripture together, a better answer would be to say that the person will be separated from God forever. They will perish or die spiritually.

      In Scripture, death of people is seen as separation, not ceasing to exist. There are 2 types of death- one is the soul from the body (physical death) and the other is the separation of the soul from God (spiritual death).

      Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

      Jesus says in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

      In verse 25 Jesus is talking about physical death and in 26 about spiritual death.

      The Scriptures that I shared were clear in showing that people in Hell will be in conscious torment forever. I agree that when a word or passage is unclear, then at times it can be good to go outside of the Bible to see how words were used in different contexts. But for our discussion, what the Bible says is clear. It seems best to let the Bible speak for itself and interpret itself, rather than going to Plato and his erroneous philosophy.

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      1. chsh123, I appreciate your thoughtful interaction. In your last comment above, you wrote:

        “The Scriptures that I shared were clear in showing that people in Hell will be in conscious torment forever.”

        What’s clear to one person is not always clear to another. I could reply to each of the scriptures you mentioned all in this one comment, but I would prefer to take them one by one so that we don’t end up talking past each other.

        I’ll begin with the last passage you mentioned. Here it is:

        Mark 9:47-48- “ And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

        I’m well aware that most who read this verse assume that the fire and the worms are being used to torment living people. I used to think that myself. However, my understanding of this verse changed when I found out that Jesus was quoting from the last verse of Isaiah. Let’s see what that verse says:

        ESV Isaiah 66:24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isa. 66:24 ESV)

        In Isaiah we see that the worms and fire are not torturing living people. Instead, they are consuming dead bodies. This makes sense because all throughout history and all around the world today the two most common ways to dispose of dead bodies are for them to be burned to ashes or eaten by worms and returned to dust. Further, the Bible tells us that the fate of the unrighteous includes them being burned up (Matthew 3:12) and turned to ashes (2 Peter 2:6).

        Do you see why I no longer consider Mark 9:47-48 to provide evidence in favor of eternal torment?

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      2. Hi Mark. Thanks for writing.

        Not really. : )

        I get the reading from Mark and Isiah that we are talking about things that will never die, or never go out of existence. The meaning from Mark is clear (sorry to use that term again). Jesus says that it is better to go to Hell where one will suffer for eternity. There is nothing specific that talks about one ceasing to exist.

        I’d rather not go through each of the other Scriptures, which are even clearer (there I go again!) than Mark. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

        Take care!

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  5. Study scriptures.
    I was saddened by Matty’s post but not surprised.
    Having done same thing for over 10-20 years, you can get bored and stale.

    But Angels should have been bored if the God of 2 million years ago is what they know him today.
    My personal study life shows me different revelations of the same God.

    And tell my folk in my youth study class, that
    “God can reveal himself to all of us everyday of our lives for the next 70 years and not repeat himself a single moment. As such no one knows God exclusively or have monopoly of him.”

    But when our celebrities (that’s a borrowed culture, you know) begin to speak like this, it saddens me that they stopped knowing God long time ago. Not judging because I do stop, I would same almost the same if not worse than Matty. The branch cannot live without fresh sap from the vine.

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  6. We need to worship God in spirit and truth, not just the signing. I see some people do not fear God they just use their gifts for gain in the flesh. God is not mocked, He will show people He is the Great I Am! I am not speaking as a man but a child of God, wait and see Him move on the evil in this world. This is how I fight my battles by God’s power. Amen The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

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  7. Such a great article and well spoken. I am glad a Christian with influence has made his thoughts known. The question is, will those being swayed wrongly brother to listen?

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  8. The problem is and forever will be lack of discipleship in the church and the home. Why? Because it’s easy to lead a child to Christ with the sinner’s prayer. It’s much, much harder to follow up with that child and walk alongside doing life with them. I have attended many Christian churches throughout my life, and I have never been to one that truly helped its members grow in their faith. Churches are focused on growth and stirring the baptismal waters. Having said that, true discipleship must happen at home. Your children watch your life on a daily basis, and they are experts at spotting hypocrisy. My guess (and I admit it’s purely a guess) is Marty Sampson was “saved” before the age of 10 and no one ever really walked with him spiritually.

    Take a look at scripture. The powerful men and women of God did life together and sharpened each other. In a culture where some people don’t even want to leave their houses and most don’t want to deal with other people, I expect there will be many more defectors. It’s sad.

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  9. Is it any wonder, when the majority of contemporary Christian songs are about God pursuing us – God taking care of us – God fixing our problems. When “I” am the focus then “I” will determine what truth is. Where are our songs about our pursuit of God – our pursuit of holiness?

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    1. How can you “kindly” disagree with this then? If it goes against your beliefs, in your own words, you disrespect it and could even justify yourself for seeking revenge on this very opposing viewpoint (Christianity vs. Islam). Human nature is to seek revenge for every wrong and to get along with people only if they can get along with you. That’s human nature. And that nature is sinful. It’s a nature that divinely needs to be changed. Only Jesus Christ can change a person from wanting revenge when wronged, to humbly walking away from insults and to actually love those who oppose us. He did it by His own example because He is God. It’s supernatural..NOT natural. Especially of Western culture! People who truly are able to “turn the other cheek” have been given the divine ability by God to do so. I reject Islam because it doesn’t save or change people. It only gives people license to act on their natural desire to hate people who disagree with them. Christianity is completely opposite of Islam. Which is why my brothers and sisters are being slaughtered like innocent lambs by Muslims and other religions.

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      1. Sunny doesn’t say they are practicing Muslim…they say they come from a Muslim background. It seems they desire for this to be a recognized trait of Christianity. Perhaps they are not Muslim even if they are living in this type of culture. I didn’t see any justification for anything in Sunny’s comment, only an explanation.

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      2. @Ashley, the person “Sunny” you replied to said he/she came from a Muslim background and country, but did not seem to identify as a Muslim. (If anything, probably a Christian).

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  10. 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and Peter 3:3. The only way to stay faithful is to know God’s word. Anytime we start a conversation about Christianity and the church and use “I think, I feel, I need…” then we are in dangerous territory.

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  11. I thank God for John Cooper’s excellent words.

    I would like to further comment on one of the reasons Marty Sampson gave for losing his faith (or possible losing it). He mentioned the problem of hell. It seems that the doctrine of eternal torment has contributed to many rejecting Christianity and to many others embracing theological liberalism and/or postmodernism.

    If eternal torment is taught in the Bible, then of course we have to teach it. But I and a growing number of other theologically conservative evangelicals have come to believe that the Bible actually teaches conditional immortality (aka annihilationism). While I don’t think that teaching conditional immortality instead of annihilationism would prevent everyone from rejecting Christianity, I do believe that correcting the error of eternal torment will help.

    You may read more about this topic here:
    http://parresiazomai.blogspot.com/2018/11/marks-resources-on-hell-conditional.html

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  12. Thank you for being vulnerable……some would take the easy road and not put themselves out there in fear of rejection or rebuke. Whether I agree with you totally is not relevant. I remember an older song.
    Stand up, stand up for Jesus! ye soldiers of the cross;
    Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss:
    From vict’ry unto vict’ry, His army shall He lead,
    Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.
    Thanks for Standing Brother

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  13. Great article. I completely agree. In my church there’s no seasoned people allowed to participate more than 2 or 3 times a year.
    We have a guy that was a worship leader for 20 plus years but our worship leader is so insecure that he hardly acknowledges the guy.

    Our worship leader is good but he needs to grow in the truth but in our churches today we place more value in a person’s gifts rather than their spiritual maturity.

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  14. Perhaps because, in part, this generation of “Christian leaders” was raised on the theology of pop-pseudo-Christian music, rather than the theology of the Scriptures? And since when does a singer in Hillsong qualify as a “Christian Leader”? There’s our problem right there – spelled out in the question itself. We’ve made musicians and singers the “Christian leaders” rather than the godly and Biblically wise. Where is “can play guitar and sing” listed in Titus and 1Timothy as qualifications for leadership?

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    1. Where in scripture does it say that Christian music and worship leaders can’t be church or aren’t church leaders? Obviously you don’t know either the book of Joshua, who King David is or anything regarding Old Testament worship.

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      1. Christian Musicians can also be the Leaders/Teachers in our Church, but we shouldn’t assume they are one and the same, because often they are not. I think this is what Scott is speaking to.

        Speaking to spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 12 that while we are all one body in Christ, we each serve a different function within the body. All too often I have seen those gifted to lead and teach ignored by the Church because they lacked a certain appeal. On the other hand, those not gifted by God in that regard were treated as though they were, because they had that appeal.

        I think there is a real danger for that where Christian Muso’s are concerned, perhaps more than any other area, because they have such a strong appeal. It is very easy for us to apply a rock star mentality to them, albeit subconsciously, and hang on every word they say. But let’s remember, Jesus was the ultimate teacher and leader, but he was never treated like a rock star, and I doubt he’d want to be. The same is true of any credible leader or teacher within the Church who has followed in his footsteps.

        God gifts each of us, we need to make sure that those gifts are used according to their place within the body of Christ. Those gifted to teach need to teach, those gifted to lead worship need to lead worship, those gifted to pray need to pray… and we the Church need to recognise the gifts of one another and be careful not to ascribe a function to someone that is contrary to their gifts.

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  15. This what the Bible says:

    Matthew 18:2-7 “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
    And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
    And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
    But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
    Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! “
    Revelation 18:22 “And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;”

    The life of deceit will be dealt with by The only Judge who can.

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  16. I really wish we could be less polarized on issues like this and more relational. It is worth noting why so many influencers leave the church. We put them in a position of being too squeaky clean. I know that many worship leaders and pastors suffer from feeling like they can’t express their doubts. They can say in a sterile way that it is hard to understand how a loving God sends people to Hell, but they aren’t allowed to talk about doubts or struggles with any emotion. Then you start bottling it up and it consumes you. We have too many people on stages trying to look perfect. It has been a long process of building up that culture, and I don’t think it is any one group’s fault. We need to stop calling out public religious figures for imperfect theology. It simply places too much pressure on them to be perfect, and they will eventually crack. No one has Christianity completely figured out. We need to give more grace to our leaders who live transparent lives, and we need to put our own hearts out in the open as well.

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  17. The boldness, clarity and veracity of this man’s statement has me in tears. Rise up, Church. The One who calls Himself the Word will be know through His Word. All of it. Even the uncomfortable, unacceptable parts. It isn’t just the lack of space for questions that is problematic. It is learning to ask those questions On our FACES, before a holy and magnificent God. Who are we without Him? Dust. We need constant reminders of our total lack of significance without Jesus as our Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Though I agree, I also understand that there are different interpretations of “Scriptural truth” based on denominational thought (non-denominational being one of them). It’s one thing to stand for truth, and yet another to have that truth “demonstrated” in daily behavior. Much of the demonstration has been lacking! There seems to be an abundance of “self-righteousness” these days, and it has turned off many. Let us ALL expend more energy in “demonstrating” the truth of Scripture, in our adherence to The Righteousness which is OF Jesus Christ!

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  19. Before we test individuals/leaders within Christianity, we need to test Christianity as a whole.
    Mainstream Christian doctrine fails the Deuteronomy 13 test.
    If we know this to be true, then does it matter if leaders within a false religion fall away from false doctrine?
    If they defy the direct quotes of Yahweh and Yeshua, and do something different, they are going to hear “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” anyway.
    I see lots of people getting tripped up by things going on within Christianity.
    I am not one of those “hate-the-church” people, but I do filter everything through the things that Yahweh said and the things that Yeshua said.
    Not much in Christianity makes it through that filter.

    John Cooper said this in his narrative:
    “Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?”
    All of Christianity is missing out on the Character of God.
    Yahweh said His instructions (Torah) are forever, and that His instructions are for both the native born Hebrew and for the sojourner among them.
    It is for everyone, and it is forever.
    Yeshua said He did not come to abolish the law or the prophets.
    He said that His teaching is not His own, but the Father’s who sent Him.
    Nothing has changed.
    Yahweh’s Character is the same as it was thousands of years ago.
    The standard that He set for people then is the same standard for today.
    If we love our Messiah, then we will keep the commandments, just as He says in John 14:15, John 14:21, and John 15:10.
    If we love God, we will know His voice, obey His voice, and cling to Him, just as He says in Deuteronomy 13:3-4
    “…for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk[a] after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
    How can a man who does not know the character of God criticize another man for not knowing the character of God?
    Yeshua talked about this:
    “Matthew 15:14
    “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”

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  20. Amen brother! Sadly, I see this becoming more and more of a problem in churches today to appeal to those who do not want to conform to God’s truth. 2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

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  21. Dude, that’s quite a rant, and without much citing about whom or what it’s really about it’s left to be fairly incomprehensible. Who are these “Disavowed leaders” he’s railing against? My guess is that it’s probably a handful people he used to respect or look up to, who came to the end of what fundamentalist conversion-centric bible-literalist evangelicalism can support and found that whole side of the Church to be teetering on the edge of its own apostasy. These Disavowed might even still be believers, just not in the inerrancy of the Bible or in the medieval doctrine of H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Also, I love the statement, “I never judge people outside of my faith,” but apparently when it comes to other Christians he gladly assumes the role.

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  22. Interesting. I think I have some insight into this but despite this lengthy reply I’m going to limit what I say on a public forum.

    I was a worship leader, and I didn’t completely lose my faith in my 20s, although I came very close and my faith is very different now from what it was before this crisis of faith.

    He has some good points, yet there are some things that he also clearly doesn’t quite understand, and he buries the headline halfway through his column:

    **The entire key to this is the fact that these worship leaders are abandoning their faith but still unwittingly clinging to the teachings of Christ.** We need to think DEEPLY about this. These folks obviously deeply believe in Christ’s teachings, but feel they have to renounce Christianity in order to practice Christ’s teachings more fully. Right or wrong, that’s what seems to be happening. I can relate profoundly to these worship leaders.

    There were some things about my faith in my 20s — a faith I shared in common with many others — that seemed to me to produce bad fruit. It was something I was certain about, until evidence slapped me in the face that some of the things I believed, some of the things preached from the pulpit, etc., just, in my opinion, were no good at all. I still feel this way.

    People who are worship leaders in general are advocates and are passionate about what they believe, for better or worse. If we feel a worldview or belief system is producing bad fruit alongside the good fruit, then people like me and the Hillsong guy have a hard time keeping our yaps shut about it. It is indeed an admission: “we believe we were wrong about something we were once certain about.”

    I think the difference for me, what ultimately stopped me from abandoning my faith altogether, was that I wasn’t in one denomination all my life. Honestly, I think that’s it. If I had been at First Baptist of Jacksonville all my life I’d probably be an atheist, and that’s not an exaggeration. I frankly find their belief system and actions as a testimony of what Christianity should not look like, and I believe they’re a net-negative on their community.

    So it makes sense that if I thought FBC Jax Christianity was “CHRISTIANITY”, if that was the only flavor of Christianity I had experience with, I probably would never have seen this article.

    My life experience that FBC Jax (or Hillsong, or whoever) isn’t the final authority on what Christianity looks like is the reason that my abandoning “FBC Jax-Christianity” wasn’t synonymous with abandoning Christianity altogether.

    I went to Episcopalian and Methodist churches as a child. I went to Catholic school. Two of my uncles are Episcopalian ministers. It’s made me a lot less dogmatic about Christianity… there have been dozens of brilliant theologians and none of them agree about everything. Which is why I treasure “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis… which does a brilliant job of reminding us of the actual basis of Christianity. I think every Christian needs to read it.

    Sorry for the rambling. I just think that the “why” regarding these folks losing their faith needs to be examined. I think there is some bad doctrine being taught in a lot of places, doctrine that is in many cases against Christ’s teachings… yet people are clinging to Christ’s teaching when they leave the church… and sometimes we need to ask ourselves this question:

    “Why do these people feel they have to stop being a Christian in order to follow Christ’s teachings?”

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  23. Everyone needs to understand that the war is not with other people of different cultures and backgrounds or other countries and religions or beliefs , it is within ones self. These are wars we must give to God because victory has already been won.

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  24. David the songwriter is not the same as a Hillsong worship leader or Lauren Daigle. What John Cooper said still holds true.

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  25. I think the mass exodus of young people from Christianity is partially because they can’t find a legitimate reason why God would burn someone alive in hell for eternity because they love someone of the same sex…. Yet the same righteous God commands the killing of innocent people, perpetual and brutal enslavement of foreigners, and allows for raping of women as well as ownership of them.

    This is compounded by the invasion of fundamentalism that teaches every word of the Bible is without error, yet it contradicts itself countless times. Chronicles misquotes/rewrites David’s feats with drastically different numbers and details. The NT authors quote endlessly from the Septuagint which is wildly different than the Masoretic texts. Nearly all the Messianic prophecies have to be removed from their original context to even remotely fit the Gospel narratives. The gospels themselves, contradict each other in very important places. And the problems go on.

    The “answers” for these problems are given by inept apologists with no ability to use logic and worn out answers that just don’t work anymore and people are growing weary of such things.

    Meanwhile, atheists like Matt D and Bart Erhman are providing answers to these problems and they are quite reasonable topically. For example, the issue of inerrancy. Apologists always try to worn out talking point about “proving” the Bible is inerrant because the Bible says it’s inerrant and because Christianity depends on it. But that’s circular. Any rational human can clearly see the errors in the scriptures and conclude that errors exist. Misquotes exist. Historical errors exist. Scientific errors exist.

    Until the church takes these issues and deals with them effectively, not by building a circular house of cards, then people will continue to defect.

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  26. Maybe it is the churches and leaders who says they hold to the authority of God’s Word who have sold their souls to political power and corrupt political leaders for certain purposes who are confusing and turning off this younger generation of Christians.

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  27. YES YES YES!!!! We don’t sacrifice truth because something sounds and feels “good.” The Bible says to not trust or rely on our feelings, that our heart is deceptive and wicked. So why is something that is popular, sounds kinda sorta biblically sound because it mentions God in there somewhere- WHY OH WHY is that being elevated in our churches?!?!? We can do better and we need to! Don’t compromise Church! I’m pleading with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, the music DOES matter and what we are saying MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE. We will lose so many souls to the enemy by shaky theology and it can very easily sneak in through our worship music. BE DILIGENT.

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  28. Good points, but one is wrong. Jesus did not say that he “was alive before Abraham.” He said, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” Huge difference. A fraud would have claimed “I -WAS- alive before Abraham” because his material, temporal brain is programmed to see itself as existing at a certain point on a time-line that goes forward into a not-yet experienced future, and backwards to an inaccessible past. The fraud would see Abraham as someone in the past, and use language betraying that mindset as he tried to claim to have preceded him.

    But only a being who had experienced ETERNITY as a past/present/future all existing at once because His existence coincided with ALL time and ALL space could have said what Jesus said. It’s actually one of the most remarkable statements that anyone has ever made, and human thought did not catch up to the concept expressed until Einstein in the early 1900’s

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  29. Thank you for voicing (what has been extremely disconcerting to me) with what has been going on in christianity. I totally agree with you, and feel we desperately need to fervently pray, and stay in God’s word.

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