Why did the lead vocalist of a Christian rock band abandon belief in God?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Carla told me about this celebrity singer 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 from Christian Post.

It says:

Jon Steingard, the Canadian Christian rock band Hawk Nelson’s lead vocalist, has declared on social media that “I no longer believe in God,” explaining “it didn’t happen overnight.”

[…]“After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life — I am now finding that I no longer believe in God.”

He has three objections, the first being the problem of evil, the second being Old Testament violence, and finally the doctrine of the atonement:

“If God is all loving, and all powerful, why is there evil in the world? Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to?”

[…]”Why does he (God) say not to kill, but then instruct Israel to turn around and kill men women and children to take the promised land?” and “Why does Jesus have to die for our sins (more killing again)?”

[…]I am not looking for a debate at all — just a chance to share my story in the hopes some good can come from it.

He mentions having his “heart changed”, and that’s how most people these days approach religion. Whether they accept it or not depends on their feelings, experiences, and peer approval. Their Christian worldview isn’t compelled by logic and evidence. They have a non-STEM approach to religion. If they like it, they keep it. And this is why so many people who are raised in the church give it up in high school and college. They feel that Christianity isn’t truth in the same way as math, science, engineering or history. Christianity, they are taught, is about their family, their feelings, their community. If it feels good, and helps them fit in, they keep it. But when they get to high school or college, they find things to do that are more fun, feel better, make them look smarter, and make their new friends like them more.

Regarding his three objections. For the problem of evil, William Lane Craig answers that in “Hard Questions, Real Answers”, or more technically in “Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview”. For the Old Testament challenge, Paul Copan answers that in “Is God a Moral Monster?” The third objection is just philosophical theology. William Lane Craig has written on the logic of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, for example, and found parallels in the insurance business. These topics are debated in formal academic debates, but Mr. Lead Vocalist probably won’t find the answers by watching TV and asking his artist friends.

By the way, the Christian Post article notes that he was objecting to the moral demands of the Christian life prior his atheism:

In 2015, talking about the song “Live Like You’re Loved” from Hawk Nelson’s album Diamonds, Steingard told The Christian Post that it was “inspired by growing up and learning the dos and don’ts of Christianity and how to be a good Christian.”

[…]“I just had an epiphany … all this running around and trying to do everything exactly right, these are not the things that bring us closer to God. Our relationship with God is already secured with what was done on the cross. What if we went into life with confidence of knowing we are already loved?”

Lyrics to “Live Like You’re Loved” include: “So go ahead and live like you’re loved, it’s OK to act like you’ve been set free / His love has made you more than enough so go ahead and be who he made you to be / And live like you’re loved.”

He had an epiphany. Doing what the Bible teaches isn’t how you love God. No, no. You just follow your heart, and God will love you for that. That’s so convenient and very popular in the feminized church today. But it’s also exactly the opposite of what the Bible teaches:

1 John 5:1-3:

1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.

3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

I don’t know his personal life, but I know a lot of Christians who went nuts in college drinking and having sex, and then subsequently found “reasons” for thinking Christianity was false.

I meet so many Christians whose entire reading life consists of reading fiction, romance novels and popular female preachers. Instead of learning how to engage against challenges to the faith like socialism, feminism, atheism, etc. we’re more focused on entertaining ourselves, and trying to be liked. Not only is this narcissistic, it also doesn’t result in a stable and influential Christian life.

Most of the adult Christians I know today slipped into the wild life of atheism as soon as they left home. They came back to the faith later, but they’re still politically liberal and they have a non-cognitive understanding of Christianity. They may have returned to the faith and church, but it’s still all about their feelings, experiences and peer approval. They aren’t working for God, they’re making God work for them.

This is the exact opposite of my experience of Christianity. I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. I wasn’t raised in a church. I don’t sing songs. I don’t have fun. I am not trying to be popular. I don’t drink. I’m a virgin. I have multiple STEM degrees. I work in a STEM field. I read evidential apologetics. I engage in debates with non-Christians. I’m a non-white immigrant. My view of Christianity is masculine, not feminine. It’s effective, not emotional.

Christian scholars are more important than “Christian” entertainers

I don’t think that Christians should waste their time on Christian entertainers and celebrity preachers. And I’m going to lump in pastors and preachers who focus on feelings and experiences into that group. 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 in public settings. Defending Christian truth claims is a low priority for most Christian entertainers and celebrities. Don’t be like them.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

30 thoughts on “Why did the lead vocalist of a Christian rock band abandon belief in God?”

  1. I meet so many Christians whose entire reading life consists of reading fiction, romance novels and popular female preachers. Instead of learning how to engage against challenges to the faith like socialism, feminism, atheism, etc. we’re more focused on entertaining ourselves and trying to be liked. Not only is this narcissistic, but it also doesn’t result in a stable and influential Christian life.

    Interesting that in an exposition about a man who left the faith, this came up as an example of why he drifted away. I highly doubt he was doing any of these things. I’d be interested in hearing what you think are the things that pull men away, especially since most of the recent high profile defectors from the faith are men, not women.

    By the way, I think the fact that it is mostly men who publicly renounce the faith is evidence that these men take it seriously enough that they don’t find it appropriate to twist it to suit their emotional needs and find it more respectful to just admit that they no longer believe, and walk away.

    One more question: When you say, “I don’t have fun”, what exactly does that mean? My husband engages in many fun activities that can in no way be considered sinful or inappropriate in any way, shape or form.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Look I did a survey of a bunch of male Christians recently. These were not my friends, just regular church Christians who were married with kids and involved in their church. Not a single one of them had read any Christian book in the last year. The one guy who had read a book read it a while ago and it was some goofy A. W. Tozer like book.
      What were they doing? I’ll tell you: playing league of legends and Minecraft. Watching star wars movies. Debating whether star wars or star trek was better. Talking about movies. Talking about which video games were free on Microsoft’s Epic game service. (One of them downloaded Grand Theft Auto V because it was free).
      Everything they are doing is designed to feel good and follow the crowd. It’s all video games, Netflix, movies, and science fiction.
      All my friends are involved with campus ministry, organizing debates and lectures, organizing apologetics conferences, blogging, podcasting and so on. But we are in the minority.

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    2. Yes, I mean I don’t have sinful fun. For me, fun is: watching old war movies, listening to military history books and Jane Austen novels, building models, playing co-operative games with my friends. Bird watching. But the important thing is that there is reading of economics, pro life, marriage, and apologetics to go along with this clean fun.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Interesting questions.

      So, I believe that most “Christians” associate being Christian with going to church, especially those who were raised in churches. Since 99% of churches in the West engage more in easy-believism, feminized churchianity and not authentic Christianity, I believe that most people who walk away from the faith were never there in the first place. They are walking away from churchianity, not Christianity.

      Since I also believe that very few pastors in the West are born again followers of Jesus Christ, the fact that he was a pastor’s kid was a huge strike against him. Far better to be raised an atheist, like I was, than a pretender. There is at least SOME hope for the atheist in search of truth.

      Since he almost certainly spent his childhood hearing a watered down message, no cost of discipleship, etc, this poor kid really had no chance. Once he received a couple of “tough” questions that could be very easily answered had he studied apologetics within the churches, he fell away from what he never had to begin with. That is my take anyway.

      The reason that women do not fall away from churchianity is because they LOVE the touchy-feely nonsense that is taught in churches today. They can wear the “Christian” badge and make no effort at all – and even vote for abortion, gay “marriage,” and socialism to boot!

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Bogus- not ALL. Not this female & not many of my acquaintance/friendship. Yes, there are some & maybe this is generally true of female “Christians”. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Look, I can only report on my experience. The Christian women I meet (not my close friends) are all about non-fiction, romance novels, unicorn mugs, unicorn posters, and cats. There is no non-fiction reading going on, and so many excuses about why they have no obligation to discuss feminism, socialism, atheism, etc. These are not their problems.

            My close female friends are of course not like that, but that’s 5 female friends in 20 years of searching. None of them were met at church or anywhere at an in person event.

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  2. In other words, he never gave one serious thought to his faith, and now his epiphany is the very base questions one has answered when one does ask. And he hasn’t done that yet.
    He might have put off his announcement until he actually put a lite effort into it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree. He says he asked his friends and they have similar doubts, but when one is deciding what is true, one doesn’t ask ones peer group what they think.

      He won’t learn to throw a football properly by playing in pick-up games with the neighbor kids.

      To get good, he would have to participate in competitive teams. And learn from coaches and expert players who mentor him.

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      1. He hasn’t done sn honest search for answers. It’s just an ill-informed rejection. Sad to see so many pass this same thing off as an important decision when it’s only an excuse.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. There are so many enrltry level resources to look at like the Lee Strobel books, or the J. W. Wallace books, or the Focus on the Family True U DVDs…. But it seems like this approach is not that popular among parent and pastors. Instead, the no-reading Christianity is just accepted by all. If this guy is singing and dancing on a stage, then this is just fine. Nobody thought that he needed a worldview check-up at any point. Christianity didn’t mean reading books, it just meant singing and dancing, having feelings, being liked. And that is totally acceptable apparently as an “authentic” Christian life.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I also find it amusing that a Christian that dislikes the existence of evil. Dislikes that the same God that permits us to do evil acts also let’s him sin and not follow God.

    People don’t realize that what they ask for in a choice for no sin is to have been created as a robot with no choice but to follow God.

    Freedom to follow God means freedom to choose either way.

    And people only dislike evil that they find bad or harms their life personally.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think in these cases people have this intuition that it’s God’s job to make his creatures healthy and happy, and help them to have fun.

      But this is of course nowhere in the Bible or the early church. This guy doesn’t have a Bible based view of the normal Christian Life which involves use of evidence in debates, self sacrifice, endurance, suffering, persecution. He’s got the happy married home white people church attending view of life.

      He was not a Christian because he felt obligated to God for rescuing him from sin. He was a Christian because it felt good and made him popular … Until it didn’t. That’s apparently normal for a lot of happy clappy white married home church-raised Christians who attend private Christian schools in rich suburbs.

      That wasn’t my experience. The normal Christian Life is uncomfortable service and being disliked by non-Christians when you’re faithful to the Bible on moral issues.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” podcast’s tag line: easy to talk them out of it because they were never taught into it. Or something like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Response to backsliding Christian entertainer:

    1. The problem of evil is only a problem for atheists.

    For what is evil without good?

    And what is good without God?

    2. “Why does the God of the OT tell us not to kill, and then commands the Israelites to kill the Canaanites?”

    First, the commandment is not Do Not Kill, but Do Not Murder. Why?

    Because as the Giver and Sustainer of all life, God alone has the right to take life at any time or manner He chooses.

    Also, weren’t you just complaining a second ago about all the evil in the world, and why doesn’t God do something about it? And yet when He does, He’s mean and hypocritical?

    You can’t have it both ways. And how do you know how much evil God IS preventing?

    3. Finally, the atonement. This was to demonstrate three things:

    A. How terribly wicked and truly lost we all are.

    B. How absolutely just, righteous and holy God is.

    C. How deeply God loves us, that He willingly took our punishment on Himself.

    For He would rather die than live without us.

    Bearing shame and scoffing rude
    In my place condemned He stood
    Sealed my pardon with His blood
    Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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  6. About these public apostasies one thing I’d add to what you said is that they are the fruit of an Evangelical church that has largely dropped (for two generations now) serious preaching about sin, judgement and repentance. This of course leads to the EMOTIONAL, marketing gospel you mention. So when the time comes that there is a REAL price to pay for one’s faith, it is an occasion for many to turn away. The “gospel” they heard preached never confronted any REAL issues in their lives… When a person has gotten solid teaching on repentance, then eventually this will lead to serious questions about one’s intellectual life (2Cor 10: 3-5; Mt 22: 37; Rom 12: 2). But the influence of the pietistic movement amongst Evangelicals is also a factor. Pietists viewed the intellectual life as “of the world”, leaving science, philosophy and the arts to Enlightenment propagandists…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is really the same sad story that repeats year after year. It seems that a disturbing number of churches have failed to catechize generations of believers and instead fed them on “self acceptance.”

    Overall I agree with you that the average Christian should not be idolizing Christian entertainers and should spend much more time reading apologetics. However, I do think you may be undervaluing what Christian artists/entertainers can contribute. Quality songs or stories can help believers, whether offering encouragement, helping to learn scriptures, or simply providing a safer alternative to the garbage mainstream culture offers. But of course it is important these entertainers actually understand the faith and that the average believers not treat them as idols or imagine they have more authority than they do.

    However, there have been quite a lot of Christian artists who are strongly grounded in good theology. Personally I have found a lot of value in the earliest waves of Christian pop/rock back in the 70s when it was called Jesus music. Artists like Keith Green, John Michael Talbot, Love Song, 2nd Chapter of Acts, and Phil Keaggy all made very uplifting, biblically-based songs. Kemper Crabb and Michael Card are also good artists with strong theological focus.

    While I’m not much of a rap fan, I must admit Christian rapper Shai Linne has made perhaps some of the most doctrinally-rich Christian music in the past few decades (though some may not like his strong Calvinist bent). His Lyrical Theology albums are probably the only Christian music to ever define what the hypostatic union is and he actually called out the likes of Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Joyce Meyer on False Teachers. Music like that can definitely help young people in their faith (though of course it can’t replace the teaching churches should be providing). (not sure if my comment went through apologies if reposting)

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    1. Great examples of solid worship music and, yes, I have often felt that some of the soft (in tone, not content) Christian rappers have the deepest lyrics.

      As an aside, I know a open atheist who plays in the worship band of a Reformed church. He tells me that his pastor is well aware that he is an atheist, but man, can he play! (facepalm)

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  8. A former co-worker of mine (passed away in his sleep last fall) was an evangelical who listened to K Love at work. The irreverent music, performed by the many female vocalists, had lyrics about “cuddling with Jesus”. The dialogues between the D.Js referred to God as “your bestie”, like a fraternity brother, or a fishing buddy.
    As an outsider looking in, evangelicalism is going to see yet many more divisions as a result of the increased feminization of their churches and clergy, disengagement of their male laity,
    and the continued encroachment of progressivism.

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