Why do so many Christian musicians, artists, athletes and celebrities leave the faith?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Several people sent me the story about a former Hillsong worship leader who decided to leave Christianity. Since we’ve had a few high profile departures, I thought it might be worth giving my very controversial view on Christian musicians, artists, athletes and celebrities. I’ve always been suspicious of celebrities claiming to be Christians and there’s a very simple reason why.

Anyway, here is the story sent to me by Tiasunep, published in the Christian Today.

It says:

Hillsong worship leader has reportedly walked away from the Christian faith after posting a – since removed – Instagram update in which he said he was “not in anymore”.

[…]”Time for some real talk… 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 / this is a soapbox moment so here I go xx 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 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it.

“Christians can be the most judgemental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me. I am not in any more.”

[…]Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion,” he writes.

“Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real.

[…]The news has saddened many in the Christian scene who were still getting over a similar announcement made a few weeks ago by Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

Within the space of a week, he announced that he was separating from his wife and that he had fallen away from the Christian faith.

It looks to me like no one has ever made the evidential case for a Christian worldview to him, and he’s just crumbling because he doesn’t have answers to basic, ordinary questions.

In modern secular America, authentic Christianity is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S

In primitive areas of the world, a person could be a sincere Christian without knowing how to answer basic questions about scientific evidence for a creator, historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, philosophical defenses to the problems of evil and suffering, etc. But this is modern America, and there are atheists in the universities and in the workplace and just everywhere. If you meet someone in America who claims to be a Christian, it’s guaranteed that this person will have met atheists in these places. If this Christian has not put in any effort to learn how to answer basic questions about God’s existence, the resurrection, the problem of evil, etc, and they are regarded as very pious and spiritual, you should immediately distrust their claim to be a Christian.

1 Peter 3:15-16
1 Peter 3:15-16

Authentic Christians will be appropriately moved by the existence of people who not only do not accept a Creator, but also deny Jesus as Lord and Savior. And since the example of using reason and evidence to respond to skeptics is everywhere in the Bible, then sincere Bible believers will likewise want to find a way to answer people who question the Christian worldview. If you look at a Christian, and you can’t find anything in their writings or words that interacts with Christian scholarship and responds to popular challenges to the Christian worldview, then you’re looking at a fake Christian. Such a person is merely posing as a Christian for feelings, fame and peer approval. Every real Christian is concerned about defending God’s reputation and character. And the way that this is done in the Bible – and today – is with evidential apologetics.

There is no mature Christian worldview that majors in praise hymns, social justice, essential oils, devotional reading, etc. Today, right now, your co-worker is an atheist. Today, right now, your child’s professor is an atheist. If you haven’t put in the time to prepare a defense to the challenges right in front of your face – challenges that affect you and your legacy in Christ – but you have plenty of time to major in the minors for fame and fortune, then that’s a sign that you don’t have a Christian worldview. If all your Christianity is just having feelings, devotional reading and singing praise songs, then you need to ask yourself whether you’re not on the same road as this Hillsong worship leader.

Young people should be learning apologetics from their parents, pastors and other Christian leaders

It’s not surprising to me that the Hillsong worship leader is an apostate. What’s surprising to me is that anyone at all who is raised in any American church is able to preserve their faith for very long after leaving home. The churches in America do a poor job of equipping Christians to answer the most basic questions about the Christian worldview. Questions that could easily be answered after a few Lee Strobel books, or some True U DVDs. But in Christian homes and Christians churches, young people are never exposed to the challenges of non-Christians. They never do any investigations to learn how to respond to them. Then when they get to college, they feel (rightly) as if they’ve been brainwashed and indoctrinated by people in the church who were divorced from reality. And then they quit on Christianity. I see it all the time.

If you’re going to pick someone to look up to as a Christian, then choose people who have put in the time to study the truth claims of the Christian worldview enough to defend them to other scholars, using arguments and evidence. I admire people like William Lane Craig, Stephen C. Meyer, Michael Licona who actually debate non-Christians on university campuses and other public forums. In contrast, an entertainer isn’t usually qualified to defend truth claims.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

26 thoughts on “Why do so many Christian musicians, artists, athletes and celebrities leave the faith?”

  1. I’m not abandoning my faith altogether, but as I said in our private conversations on Facebook, I am putting it on hold. I can’t shake the feeling that God has predestined me to fail, like the Servant with One Talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sigh! Why won’t you let me buy you anything to read or watch? Even if you (justifiably) feel bad, that doesn’t change whether the universe began to exist or whether it fine tuned. Christianity isn’t a religion for feeiling good. In fact, it is a lot of embarrassment and struggling to be obedient when it gets you nothing but trouble. Did you ever consider that Jesus was treated very badly by people who needed him most, just for being obedient to the father? That’s the whole religion right there – it’s not fun! It’s hard!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Also, where does it say that person with one talent was pre-destined to fail? He received a talent, then he freely chose what to do with it.

      In any case, salvation in Christianity is not based on good or bad performance. It’s a free gift to everyone who accepts it.

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  2. It could also bee that these kind of celebreties sing or praise God for success and do not se or live the curses, judgements or woes which also part of God’s blessings and descipline to those that love him… and the celebrity does not understand that type of love from God to the believer in his or her own life or the life or ofthers….. the rest couyld also be weakness in apologetics knowledge as you point out

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is not just celebrities that have walked away from the faith, but folks from every walk of life. And not just those from questionable churches/doctrinal positions, but those from places that teach sound doctrine. That bloke who kissed dating goodbye seems to have done that same w/the faith…

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  3. I think another part of it is the tension that comes with Christian celebrity, and how to love and be near those on the outside without deciding that their sin (and ours!) is suddenly not sin because they’re (or we’re!) nice people.

    It takes a strong constitution to be a celebrity Christian in this society. It should also give them serious pause to examine where to draw lines between interacting with the larger culture for the sake of spreading the gospel while still being separate from the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your description of performers being focused on emotions made me think of a Church counselor I have seen. It’s a different topic, and counselors aren’t famous generally, but would you include them too?
    I think they think that abiding in Christ is crucial, versus a performer that thinks the emotions are essential, but the counselors I see or hear on the radio seem to mainly traffic in emotional responses, not solid thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I would include anyone who seeks to make a difference primarily by using non-cognitive means to produce an emotional response.

      When I talk about investing with my friend Vera, she doesn’t try to change her voice and talk in funny weird ways. She just starts talking about P/E ratios, historical performance and other such factual things. She is trying to persuade me with facts, not entertain me with feelings. Investing is important, so I want someone with knowledge.

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  5. Emotionally based people are more likely to base a world view on feelings.

    I also beleive it is easier for a celebrity to be emotional and shallow especially if they are an actor or an artist because having strong views that are counter culture are not good for your career.

    So compromise sets in and takes them down a path that may lead them to reject Christianity because they never examined or accepted a faith in Jesus

    Liked by 1 person

  6. While this is an important subject I must confess that I laughed at
    “There is no mature Christian worldview that majors in praise hymns, social justice, essential oils, devotional reading, etc.” Especially the part about essential oils.
    I’m happy to report that my son and I do discuss apologetics. He was recently challenged by a coworker and we talked through their conversation. It really helped him. I also send him videos that I find helpful on YouTube that can explain things better than I can.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I like one of your subheadings where you mention that “authentic Christianity is spelled A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S”. This is just so true. When you look at some of the pillars of historical Christianity: the apostle Paul, Peter, or John.–You notice the trend amongst the Christian religion to be an intellectually vibrant community.

    Paul dedicated a significant portion of his life to the study of the Old Testament Scriptures.– Most likely the Torah. Peter and John defended Jesus’ divinity and the end that God would bring in the “last days” although they were unable to be educated like Paul was.

    Then when you look at significant figures in Church History like Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Blaise Pascal, Joseph Butler, William Paley, William James, G. K. Chesterson, and C. S. Lewis– you notice the trend that real followers of Christ want to have real and strong reasons that their faith is veridical. This type of thinking should be more commonplace amongst Christian churches in a postmodern Western society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jesus would say things like “your sins are forgiven” and everyone around would say, “why should we believe that you did that”.

      Then Jesus would do a miracle in order to prove his statement, like this: (Mark 2:1-12)

      1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

      6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

      8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

      It’s the most natural thing in the world for a Christian to be like Jesus (by recounting miracles like origin of the universe, fine-tuning, origin of life, resurrection). But nobody does, and churches don’t teach how to do it. This is the faith we were born again into. It works like this. We need to follow the Leader, and do like the Leader did.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Damned Artists! Pansies, players, performers, and portrayers! There is good reason they were formerly refused burial in church graveyards. They are not to be counted among the saints to begin with. They live for the applause of men and women, they long to be idolized. Christians should get degrees in something that involves truth, not just fanciful self-aggrandizement. They are lost in so many ways just to begin with. Shirking real work, they just want to be cheered for a living. That in itself is a life aimed at the deadly sins of slothfulness and vainglory. I’ve got no respect for these sort of parasites who contribute nothing or real value to the world except for entertainment saturated with the heathen spirit of their own debauched morality. It is about time the members of Hellsong outed themselves as ungodly apostates.

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  9. If I may add my two cents worth! (It ended up a long two cents’ worth!)
    There are some factors that are critical in a person persevering in their faith walk:
    1. People who have had a profound encounter with the Lord, where they experienced his forgiveness and grace, as well as being transformed. This is not just about emotions, for it has to be the work of the Holy Spirit bringing revelation of who Jesus Christ is and the immensity of what he did for us sinners, along with conviction of our sin, bringing us to our knees in repentance and surrender. I found that God gave me faith I hadn’t had, as I repented and surrendered to Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord. It is also not just mental assent, but inner transformation sealed by the Holy Spirit – he transforms one’s heart, which is innately “deceitful above all else” (I cringe when I hear the worldly “follow your heart” mantra), so we become people after God’s own heart.
    2. The individual has a hunger to know God’s Word, to spend time in his presence, to walk in step with the Spirit. This ties in with discipleship, so one gets a grounding in doctrine, theology, hermeneutics, etc., so one knows not only what one believes (not popular feel-good platitudes), but also why one believes it (which is where apologetics comes in).
    3. The person grows in knowledge and in truth, but also increasingly bears the fruit of the Spirit and serves the Lord selflessly and with humility, according to his/ her gifting, for his glory, not their own.

    We do go through phases – initially, I became somewhat religious and fanatical, and also came under condemnation when I felt I was failing. I had to come to a fuller revelation of God’s grace – with my background, he had to do quite a lot of work in me! We need both grace and truth. Our faith is based on fact, not on feelings, signs and wonders, which are ancillary. God is more interested in our character than our comfort.
    I read voraciously after I received Christ, and also did a one-year Bible survey course that gave me an excellent grounding, plus I was in a church that, while very staid, did give me a good doctrinal foundation, as did the radio programmes we had back then (our ANC government’s politically correct broadcasting authority has since stopped them being broadcast nationally).

    What I’ve noticed in those who “fall away”:
    They often relied on feel-good stuff with “goose-bumps”, but never really surrendered their lives to Christ: “Your will, not mine, be done” – that is taking up our cross and following him. When push came to shove, they wanted to remain in control (on the throne of their lives) and balked when God’s will clashed with theirs. The heart is deceitful above all else.
    Others came under condemnation (and it often ties in with wanting their will rather than God’s will), because they didn’t have full revelation of God’s grace (not hyper-grace). Paul dealt with this in 2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Godly sorrow and repentance involves handing over the problem to the Lord, and he sets us free.
    Finally, I’ve noticed that the Biblical injunction “Bad company corrupts morals” is very true:
    The entertainment industry and world of celebrities is full of worldliness and temptations, and there is also a lot of superficiality, putting on a facade. Also, I have watched people start out well and then gradually begin to compromise: The person, whose originally Christian business takes off, ends up compromising and remaining silent so he or she doesn’t offend worldly business connections who bring more business; the person doing compassionate work of helping people in distress, ends up getting publicity that brings financial support from the ungodly. I’ve witnessed a few who now endorse the liberal LBGT+ agenda, or else remain silent about their principles. People adhering to compromised liberal theology think they’re Christians, but it’s “apostasy lite”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your thoughts are always welcome here, and what a clever alias you have, too.

      I agree with you about why he likely fell away. Feelings and bad company. He clearly has not read even the most basic apologetics book if he doesn’t know scientific arguments for a Creator / Designer. This stuff is all out there now.

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      1. I do (mostly) agree with the other views expressed here, so was bringing my perspective. Even though I don’t have a science background, I believed during my agnostic years that all of creation couldn’t just have happened by itself – plain logic. I’ve had to get informed, but since I’m out of my depth when it comes to astro-physics and related topics, I rely on logical evidence for my faith, which is why I like J. Warner Wallace and Douglas Groothuis.
        Anti-theists despise Christian theology and doctrine (which is central), as well as what they derogatorily call “anecdotal experience” (personal experience, including of miracles and the supernatural), and there is some validity in this, because so do New Agers regarding their “spirit guides”, and other supernatural experiences, but then anti-theists are good at throwing the baby (truth) out with the bath-water (superstition, deception, etc.). Ironically, they’ll often endorse theories about extra-terrestrial life/ beings somewhere else in the universe, based on the anecdotal ET alien experiences. (Not the kind of alien the apostle Paul was referring to, as in my nom-de-plume!).

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  10. I find this post to be bit myopic not in a bad sense but in the sense that there is more to APOLOGETICS. When we view these events from a Panoramic vision we see that Christians are confronted constantly by secular worldview at work, play, social interaction be it causal or with close friends.
    Courage says C.S.Lewis: ” is the form of every virtue at its testing point.” In other words, we don’t really know if we have virtue until we are tested! Yes, we can learn all the apologetics and able to wax eloquently on his faith and like a warrior safe and sound at home believing he/she is brave. However, only when in battlefield will he/she know if he/she are brave. I believe that they are retreating from faith not that they lack knowledge ( though quite a number I suspect do lack the skills in apologetics ) or lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of the countercultural doctrine grows too great to resist. The question is : Do we have the Courage to cure political correctness such as identity politics or gender identity etc in a graceful,humble and convincing way?

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  11. Why just reformed Calvinist apologists? What about the early church father apologists like Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria? Why are evangelicals so surprised when they see happy clappy mega church Hillsong celebrities falling away from the faith?

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    1. I’m not Reformed. I named three people: Craig, Meyer and Licona. I know Craig is not Reformed, and I don’t think Licona is. Meyer might be. I just cite people who deal in evidence. The people you cited lived before any of the current apologetics arguments were developed. The only argument worth using (origin of the universe, fine-tuning, origin of life, Cambrian explosion, irreducible complexity, minimal facts, consciousness and free will, habitability, etc.) are all new OR updated with new evidence. I don’t read people who have no value for apologetics today.

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  12. So true

    I’ve long suspected a large portion of people who call themselves real christians were fake.
    As mainstream society moves closer to full rejection of God and the pressure builds against Christians, the pretenders immediately cave and are exposed.
    Just think about just how weak and pathetic they truly are too. Christians were being slaughtered and stood firm and these bags of fluff are caving in at what would amount to a dog barking at them to the saints of old.

    It serves the Church to expose the pretenders who really just joined the local club for social reasons.

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