All posts by Wintery Knight

https://winteryknight.com/

Are men allowed to have preferences about which women are best for marriage?

Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her
Telling a woman how to make wise decisions protects her

So, in a previous post, I explained why men have to be careful about choosing a wife. Men have plans and they need a woman with the right skills to achieve it. Even if a woman genuinely repents her past, she may not have developed the skills for a godly man’s marriage plan. For example, her 50K of student loans makes it harder to afford a stay-at-home homeschooling mother.

But many Christian women feel that there is no such thing as a Christian woman who is a bad candidate for marriage. It doesn’t matter what a Christian woman did in the past. A man should never evaluate her skills for the roles of wife and mother. After all, if God forgives a Christian woman for running up student loan debt for a useless women’s studies degree, or for getting drunk and sleeping around with hawt bad boys in college, then no Christian man should hold her past decisions against her when choosing a wife. Men are obligated to disregard the past anti-marriage decisions made by women. To do anything else is to deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So many Christian women say.

What would happen if the shoe were on the other foot? What if it were the MAN who had been selfish, lazy and irresponsible? What if the MAN had made choices that seriously harmed his ability to perform male marriage roles like protecting and providing for his wife and children? Would marriage-ready women be obligated to marry this man as much as a man who had remained chaste, got a good education, built up a gapless resume, saved enough for a downpayment on a house, and taught apologetics in his home church? Is she allowed to prefer a man who has made good decisions to prepare for his marriage roles over a man who has made horrible decisions, but just hollers “grace” when anyone questions his ability to be a husband and father?

This MUST-READ article from The Federalist asks and answers that question.

Do you agree with the author?

I think it’s time for a conversation about another elephant in the room: this idea that women prefer physically fit men with good jobs and no criminal record. It’s incredibly sexist and matriarchal to insist that women have a natural preference for men who have invested time and energy into stewarding their bodies, have shown the capability of earning a living and supporting a family, and have not gone to jail for attempting to grow 452 marijuana plants in their mother’s basement.

I know more than a few men who spent their twenties languishing in their parents’ homes, subsisting on Cheetos and Mountain Dew, playing Xbox, watching pornography, and smoking controlled substances. If one of these men turns his life around, accepts Jesus, and starts fresh, young women have no right to overlook him as a potential mate just because he is 280 pounds, has almost no marketable skills at 30 years old, and cannot vote, serve on a jury, or own a firearm. He is created in the image of God, and accepted by Jesus! Any women who would overlook every other noble quality he possesses for basic financial security and a clean background check (not to mention browsing history) isn’t a woman he should want.

Men like this have often long since repented of their listless and slothful ways. If the lingering consequences of their pasts didn’t stop Christ from living and dying for them, then it shouldn’t stop a Christian woman from loving them, either. Period.

The Federalist article makes it clear that a man’s poor choices about his education, job, obedience to the law, and physical fitness CLEARLY compromise his ability to perform his male duties to protect and provide. What about moral and spiritual leading? Well if he didn’t spent his teens and 20s studying  apologetics, moral issues, etc. then he isn’t going to compare favorably to a man who teaches apologetics in his church, debates atheists, and writes blog posts for the Life Training Institute.

My friend Lee is a superb stay-at-home wife and mother. She says that we shouldn’t accept “Jesus forgives me” as an immediate reversal of past harmful choices:

I would note that there is a difference between just being forgiven of sin and actually repenting of it. Repenting is a turning away from and will manifest in changes; paying down debts, becoming chaste, becoming otherwise responsible and wise. Someone’s past doesn’t have to define their future. But that will manifest in observable and measurable changes.

She’s right.

I knew a Christian woman who had 25,000 worth of student loan debt when she was 29. She wasn’t using her degree, she was just working as a waitress. I found her a job as an IT project manager in an FT100 company, so she could pay off her loans. She declined, because “being a waitress is the easiest job I’ve ever had”. She hasn’t worked full-time as a professional since January 2013. She’ll say “Jesus forgives me!” and “I hate my student loans!”, but the loans are even larger now, and the wasteful spending on fun and thrills hasn’t stopped. Hollering “grace” and saying you hate debt doesn’t make you a good steward – and you’ll need to be a good steward if you are in a marriage. She’s not ready to manage the finances of a household. If she had taken the job, and paid off the loans, then she would have overcome the mistake, and become marriage-ready.

So what’s really behind the hysteria against men evaluating women for marriage?

Deti nails the real root problem:

Not one person – NOT ONE PERSON – said that nonvirgins with tattoos and debt are bad people; that they are irredeemable, that they’re bad Christians; that they cannot be Christians; that they’re unsalvageable; that they’re ugly; or that they couldn’t and shouldn’t marry. That is NOT what was said.

All that was said was that men prefer tattooless, debtfree virgins for marriage. That’s all.

[…]The bible… teaches repentance is the way to salvation. But repentance does not mean you no longer bear the scars of your past sins in body and mind. You do. Oh yes you do. The effects can be minimized, even overcome. But they’re still there.

And more to the point, what’s really being complained about here is a Christian woman acknowledging that men have preferences and that men are entitled to have preferences. If women want men, then they have to satisfy those preferences or lower their standards until they find men whose preferences they can satisfy.

This can’t be overemphasized – it’s the idea that men have preferences. Its’ the idea that there’s a man that’s one-half of that relationship, and there are things HE wants, and HE needs, and HE desires. Why does it matter what HE wants? Why do we care about him?

Men don’t want to marry high N women. Men don’t want to take on debt and they don’t prefer markedup tatted up women who look and act like men.

What this gets down to is women objecting to men having standards. Because that leads to men judging women. And that leads to men evaluating women. And that leads to men rejecting some women and accepting others. And women hate judgment and rejection, especially when it’s “less than” men who are doing the judging and rejecting.

N refers to the number of sexual partners a person has had.

The reason we discuss best practices for marriage-minded women is so that young women, especially young women who lack a father in the home, can get some kind of guidance about how to resist the culture’s lies about men, sex and marriage. Such a woman has NOWHERE TO GO in this culture in order to learn how to relate to men, and how to marry to a man who will love her faithfully and forever. That’s not fair! We have to help her!

What Christian men are doing by promoting chastity, sobriety, good stewardship and self-control to these young women is protecting them from a culture that lies to them. The well-meaning Christian women who think that talking about moral boundaries and wisdom will hurt the feelings of women who have made mistakes are actually making it harder for young women who have no guidance at all. The most vulnerable ones are the ones who need to hear that chastity is wise. Doing a STEM degree is wise. Getting out of debt by spending less is wise. Not seeking attention with graffiti on your body is wise. That’s what unmarried women need to hear.

It’s amazing to me that so many Christians do not understand the protective value of recommending Biblical morality and Biblical wisdom to young women. They would rather sacrifice these young women to the secular culture than allow older women to feel bad about their past decisions. So many Christians seem to be more concerned about their own feelings than about promoting and defending what the Bible teaches to young people who really need help.

Is the Bible’s definition of faith opposed to logic and evidence?

Bible study that hits the spot
Theology that hits the spot

Probably the biggest misconception that I encounter when defending the faith is the mistaken notion of what faith is. Today we are going to get to the bottom of what the Bible says faith is, once and for all. This post will be useful to Christians and atheists, alike.

What is faith according to the Bible?

I am going to reference this article from apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason in my explanation.

Koukl cites three Biblical examples to support the idea that faith is not blind leap-of-faith wishing, but is based on evidence.

  1. Moses went out into the wilderness and he had that first encounter with the burning bush, and God gave him the directive to go back to Egypt and let his people go. Moses said, Yeah, right. What’s going to happen when they say, why should we believe you, Moses?God said, See that staff? Throw it down.Moses threw it down and it turned into a serpent.God said, See that serpent? Pick it up.And he picked it up and it turned back into a staff.God said, Now you take that and do that before the Jewish people and you do that before Pharaoh. And you do this number with the hail, and the frogs, and turning the Nile River into blood. You put the sun out. You do a bunch of other tricks to get their attention.And then comes this phrase: “So that they might know that there is a God in Israel.”
  2. [I]n Mark 2 you see Jesus preaching in a house, and you know the story where they take the roof off and let the paralytic down through the roof. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And people get bugged because how can anyone forgive sins but God alone?Jesus understood what they were thinking and He said this: What’s harder to say, your sins are forgiven, or to rise, take up your pallet and go home?Now, I’ll tell you what would be harder for me to say : Arise, take up your pallet and go home. I can walk into any Bible study and say your sins are forgiven and nobody is going to know if I know what I am talking about or not. But if I lay hands on somebody in a wheelchair and I say, Take up your wheelchair and go home, and they sit there, I look pretty dumb because everyone knows nothing happened.But Jesus adds this. He says, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man has the power and authority to forgive sins, I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and he got out. Notice the phrase “In order that you may know”. Same message, right?
  3. Move over to the Book of Acts. First sermon after Pentecost. Peter was up in front of this massive crowd. He was talking about the resurrection to which he was an eyewitness. He talked about fulfilled prophecy. He talked about the miraculous tongues and the miraculous manifestation of being able to speak in a language you don’t know. Do you think this is physical evidence to those people? I think so. Pretty powerful.Peter tells them, These men are not drunk as it seems, but rather this is a fulfillment of prophecy. David spoke of this. Jesus got out of the grave, and we saw him, and we proclaim this to you.Do you know how he ends his sermon? It’s really great. Acts 2:36. I’ve been a Christian 20 years and I didn’t see this until about a year ago. This is for all of those who think that if you can know it for sure, you can’t exercise faith in it. Here is what Peter said. Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” There it is again. “Know for certain.”

What is faith according to Bible-based theologians?

I am going to reference this article from theologian C. Michael Patton of Parchment and Pen in my explanation.

Patton explains that according to Reformation (conservative, Bible-based) theologians, faith has 3 parts:

  1. notitia – This is the basic informational foundation of our faith. It is best expressed by the word content. Faith, according to the Reformers must have content. You cannot have faith in nothing. There must be some referential propositional truth to which the faith points. The proposition “Christ rose from the grave,” for example, is a necessary information base that Christians must have.
  2. assensus – This is the assent or confidence that we have that the notitia is correct… This involves evidence which leads to the conviction of the truthfulness of the proposition… This involves intellectual assent and persuasion based upon critical thought… assensus… says, “I am persuaded to believe that Christ rose from the grave.”
  3. fiducia – This is the “resting” in the information based upon a conviction of its truthfulness. Fiducia is best expressed by the English word “trust.”… Fiducia is the personal subjective act of the will to take the final step. It is important to note that while fiducia goes beyond or transcends the intellect, it is built upon its foundation.

So, Biblical faith is really trust. Trust(3) can only occur after intellectual assent(2), based on evidence and thought. Intellectual assent(2) can only occur after the propositional information(1) is known.

The church today accepts 1 and 3, but denies 2. I call this “fideism” or “blind faith”. Ironically, activist atheists, (the New Atheists), also believe that faith is blind. The postmodern “emergent church” denies 1 and 2. A person could accept 1 and 2 but deny 3 by not re-prioritizing their life based on what they know to be true.

How do beliefs form, according to Christian philosophers?

I am going to reference a portion of chapter 3 of J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God With All Your Mind” (i.e. – LYGWYM).

J.P. Moreland explains how beliefs form and how you can change them.

  1. Today, people are inclined to think that the sincerity and fervency of one’s beliefs are more important than the content… Nothing could be further from the truth… As far as reality is concerned, what matters is not whether I like a belief or how sincere I am in believing it but whether or not the belief is true. I am responsible for what I believe and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act.
  2. A belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced the belief is true. As you gain ,evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you… The more certain you are of a belief… the more you rely on it as a basis for action.

But the most important point of the article is that your beliefs are not under the control of your will.

…Scripture holds us responsible for our beliefs since it commands us to embrace certain beliefs and warns us of the consequences of accepting other beliefs. On the other hand, experience teaches us that we cannot choose or change our beliefs by direct effort.

For example, if someone offered you $10,000 to believe right now that a pink elephant was sitting next to you, you could not really choose to believe this… If I want to change my beliefs about something, I can embark on a course of study in which I choose to think regularly about certain things, read certain pieces of evidence and argument, and try to find problems with evidence raised against the belief in question.

…by choosing to undertake a course of study… I can put myself in a position to undergo a change in… my beliefs… And… my character and behavior… will be transformed by these belief changes.

I think definition of faith is important, because atheists seemed to want to substitute their own definition of faith as blind belief for this Biblical definition, but there is no evidence for their view that faith is belief without evidence. I think this might be another case of projection by atheists. Blind faith is how they arrive at their views, so they are trying to push it onto us. But the Bible is clearly opposed to it.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Is the definition of atheism “a lack of belief in God”?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

First, let’s see check with the Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.

Stanford University is one of the top 5 universities in the United States, so that’s a solid definition. To be an atheist is to be a person who makes the claim that, as a matter of FACT, there is no intelligent agent who created the universe. Atheists think that there is no God, and theists think that there is a God. Both claims are objective claims about the way the world is out there, and so both sides must furnish forth arguments and evidence as to how they are able to know what they are each claiming.

Philosopher William Lane Craig has some thoughts on atheism, atheists and lacking belief in God in this reply to a questioner.

Question:

In my discussions with atheists, they  are using the term that they “lack belief in God”. They claim that this is different from not believing in God or from saying that God does not exist. I’m not sure how to respond to this. It seems to me that its a silly word-play and is logically the same as saying that you do not believe in God.
What would be a good response to this?
Thank you for your time,

Steven

And here is Dr. Craig’s full response:

Your atheist friends are right that there is an important logical difference between believing that there is no God and not believing that there is a God.  Compare my saying, “I believe that there is no gold on Mars” with my saying “I do not believe that there is gold on Mars.”   If I have no opinion on the matter, then I do not believe that there is gold on Mars, and I do not believe that there is no gold on Mars.  There’s a difference between saying, “I do not believe (p)” and “I believe (not-p).”   Logically where you place the negation makes a world of difference.

But where your atheist friends err is in claiming that atheism involves only not believing that there is a God rather than believing that there is no God.

There’s a history behind this.  Certain atheists in the mid-twentieth century were promoting the so-called “presumption of atheism.” At face value, this would appear to be the claim that in the absence of evidence for the existence of God, we should presume that God does not exist.  Atheism is a sort of default position, and the theist bears a special burden of proof with regard to his belief that God exists.

So understood, such an alleged presumption is clearly mistaken.  For the assertion that “There is no God” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “There is a God.”  Therefore, the former assertion requires justification just as the latter does.  It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence.  He confesses that he doesn’t know whether there is a God or whether there is no God.

But when you look more closely at how protagonists of the presumption of atheism used the term “atheist,” you discover that they were defining the word in a non-standard way, synonymous with “non-theist.”  So understood the term would encompass agnostics and traditional atheists, along with those who think the question meaningless (verificationists).  As Antony Flew confesses,

the word ‘atheist’ has in the present context to be construed in an unusual way.  Nowadays it is normally taken to mean someone who explicitly denies the existence . . . of God . . . But here it has to be understood not positively but negatively, with the originally Greek prefix ‘a-’ being read in this same way in ‘atheist’ as it customarily is in . . . words as ‘amoral’ . . . . In this interpretation an atheist becomes not someone who positively asserts the non-existence of God, but someone who is simply not a theist. (A Companion to Philosophy of Religion, ed. Philip Quinn and Charles Taliaferro [Oxford:  Blackwell, 1997], s.v. “The Presumption of Atheism,” by Antony Flew)

Such a re-definition of the word “atheist” trivializes the claim of the presumption of atheism, for on this definition, atheism ceases to be a view.  It is merely a psychological state which is shared by people who hold various views or no view at all.  On this re-definition, even babies, who hold no opinion at all on the matter, count as atheists!  In fact, our cat Muff counts as an atheist on this definition, since she has (to my knowledge) no belief in God.

One would still require justification in order to know either that God exists or that He does not exist, which is the question we’re really interested in.

So why, you might wonder, would atheists be anxious to so trivialize their position?  Here I agree with you that a deceptive game is being played by many atheists.  If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view.  But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof.  So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions.  They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities.

This is disingenuous and still leaves us asking, “So is there a God or not?”

So there you have it. We are interested in what both sides know and what reasons and evidence they have to justify their claim to know. We are interested in talking to people who make claims about objective reality, not about themselves, and who then go on to give reasons and evidence to support their claims about objective reality. There are atheists out there that do make an objective claim that God does not exist, and then support that claim with arguments and evidence. Those are good atheists, and we should engage in rational conversations with them. But clearly there are some atheists who are not like that. How should we deal with these “subjective atheists”?

Dealing with subjective atheists

How should theists respond to people who just want to talk about their psychological state? Well, my advice is to avoid them. They are approaching religion irrationally and non-cognitively – like the person who enters a physics class and says “I lack a belief in the gravitational force!”.  When you engage in serious discussions with people about God’s existence, you only care about what people know and what they can show to be true. We don’t care about a person’s psychology.

Dealing with persistent subjective atheists

What happens when you explain all of that to a subjective atheist who continues to insist that you listen to them repeat over and over “I lack a belief in God, I lack a belief in God”? What if you tell them to make the claim that God does not exist, and then support it with arguments and evidence, but instead they keep leaving comments on your blog telling you again and again about their subjective state of mind: “I lack a belief in cupcakes! I lack a belief in icebergs!” What if they keep e-mailing you and threatening to expose you on Twitter for refusing to listen to them, or denounce you via skywriting: “Wintery Knight won’t listen to me! I lack a belief in crickets!”. I think at this point you have to give up and stop talking to such a person.

And that’s why I moderate and filter comments on this blog. There are uneducated people out there with access to the Internet who want attention, but I am not obligated to give it to them. And neither are you. We are not obligated to listen to abusive people who don’t know what they are talking about. I do post comments from objective atheists who make factual claims about the objective world, and who support those claims with arguments and evidence. I am not obligated to post comments from people who refuse to make objective claims or who refuse to support objective claims with arguments and evidence. And I’m not obligated to engage in discussions with them, either.

Related posts

Facebook censors admit that they suppress Republican content to help Democrat Party

Facebook content moderator explains how she censors Republican content as "terrorism"
Facebook content moderator explains that Republican content is “terrorism”

Project Veritas meets with members of the secular left and get them to talk on camera about how they discriminate against conservatives in order to help Democrats win elections. In this post, we’ll look at their latest sting of Facebook, and review some of Facebook’s censorship of Christians (e.g. – Seth Gruber, Franklin Graham) and conservatives (e.g. – Live Action, PragerU).

Life News reported on the new Project Veritas video:

The Civic Harassment Queue was a list of all the posts that had been flagged for violations of the Community Guidelines. McElroy said, “So, for 75 to 80 percent of the posts to be targeting Republicans and conservatives, you can say it was a bot. But somebody had to design that algorithm. So really, somebody at Facebook.”

[…]An unnamed moderator said that it’s “common sense” to delete posts that have #MAGA in them.

One journalist asked, “If you see a conservative post you just get rid of it, right?” The unnamed moderator responded, saying, “Yes! I don’t give no f*cks, I’ll delete it.”

Another content moderator said:

 “Facebook shadowbans. Facebook is notorious for it, they say they don’t but, it’s clear that people’s content don’t come because it’s been de-filtered off the queue.”

Someone asked on camera, “How many of you are like, take your own stance and say we’re just deleting whatever, all the Trump posts?” An unnamed moderator said, “There are probably like 16 of us.”

A service delivery manager was reportedly caught on camera saying, “Gotta get the Cheeto (Trump) out of office.”

[…]He took screenshots of a memo saying that a poster which showed President Donald Trump’s head being cut off would not be flagged as hate speech. A meme that showed a cartoon of Elmer Fudd shooting at former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was allegedly flagged as hate speech.

In another screenshot, one memo read, “CNN host Don Lemon recently said ‘white men are the biggest terror threat in this country.’ This is implying that white men are terrorists and so would typically violate (HS Tier 1-2 1:6 dehumanizing speech). As this is a newsworthy event, FB’s content policy team is allowing a exception for this content on the platform.”

The video from Project Veritas features about a dozen content moderators (censors) from Facebook, admitting that they deliberately censor Republican content. My favorite is the woman who says that anything pro-Trump is “terrorism”.

Here’s the full video released by Project Veritas, which features conversations with a dozen Facebook content moderators.

Previously, I’ve blogged about other cases of Facebook censoring Christians and conservatives.

Live Action reported:

In yet another apparent attempt to silence pro-lifers, Facebook has removed a post created by Seth Gruber of Life Training Insitute. Gruber had interviewed abortion survivor Melissa Ohden and was sharing information about the interview on his personal Facebook page when he was sent a warning message from the social media giant — and his post was removed.

Fox News reports on another case of Facebook censoring conservatives:

Four Republican senators blasted Facebook for ‘censorship’ over the tech giant’s recent fact check of pro-life organization Live Action.

In a letter today to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Mike Braun of Indiana condemn the company’s “pattern of censorship” and demand that it issue a correction, remove any restrictions placed on Live Action and its founder Lila Rose, as well as submit to a “meaningful” external audit.

The Washington Times reports:

The Rev. Franklin Graham was kicked off Facebook for defending North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” which the social-media giant’s review team decided was hate speech.

Facebook acknowledged over the weekend it had banned the prominent evangelist over transgender issues… But Mr. Graham was having none of it Sunday, calling the move “a personal attack towards me” and an example of the censorship that Silicon Valley has in store for Christians and/or conservatives.

And this one from the Daily Caller:

Facebook is censoring PragerU videos for violating its speech codes that prohibit so-called “hate speech” and shadow banning its posts, PragerU wrote on Twitter Friday.

“We’re being heavily censored on @Facebook. Our last 9 posts are reaching 0 of our 3 million followers. At least two videos were deleted last night for ‘hate speech’ including our recent video with @ConservativeMillen,” PragerU tweeted.

And then there is the previous Project Veritas sting of Facebook, where it emerged that official company documents said that efforts to censor Republicans was important to do, especially in an election year. That makes it clear that Facebook’s intention is to get the Democrat Party elected.

The previous investigation found this:

Project Veritas has obtained and published documents and presentation materials from a former Facebook insider. This information describes how Facebook engineers plan and go about policing political speech. Screenshots from a Facebook workstation show the specific technical actions taken against political figures, as well as “[e]xisting strategies” taken to combat political speech.

[…]According to the insider, the documents revealed a routine suppression of the distribution of conservative Facebook pages. The technical action she repeatedly saw, and for which Project Veritas was provided documentation, was labeled ActionDeboostLiveDistribution.

Said the insider, “I would see [this term] appear on several different conservative pages. I first noticed it with an account that I can’t remember, but I remember once I started looking at it, I also saw it on Mike Cernovich’s page, saw it on Steven Crowder’s page, as well as the Daily Caller’s page.”

[…]The insider says that unlike many actions that Facebook content moderators can take against pages, the “deboost” action, which appears to occur algorithmically, does not notify the page’s owner.

[…]Upon further review, the insider says she did not notice the tag on any left-wing pages.

Everything that hurts the Democrats is “terrorism” and has to be “de-boosted”, especially “in an election year”.

It’s easy for Big Tech executives to go to Washington and lie about whether their companies are censoring or not, but the evidence speaks for itself. We should be investigating them right now, while we still have the Senate and time before the election. Wake up Republicans! Investigate them and hold them accountable.

Why did Dan Barker leave Christianity for atheism?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Unbelievable’s  radio show featured a discussion with former Christian Dan Barker, the founder and co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The MP3 file is here. (60 minutes)

I thought that I would make some general comments about why I think that many people leave the Christian faith, and what you should be careful of in order to avoid following in Dan Barker’s footsteps, specifically.

Basically, there are four major reasons why people leave Christianity.

  1. They want to do something immoral with impunity. This type of person wants to do something immoral that is forbidden by Christianity, like pre-marital sex or getting drunk in clubs with friends. They dump Christianity in order to have freedom to seek happiness in this life.
  2. They want to make decisions based on their emotions, rather than wisdom. This type of person thinks that God’s job is to save them when they act irresponsibly. When God disappoints them by not make their recklessness “work out”, they leave the faith.
  3. They want to be loved by people, not by God. This type of person thinks that Christianity is a tool that they can use to become popular. When they first try to articulate the gospel in public, they find that people don’t like them as much, and they feel bad about offending people with exclusive truth claims that they cannot back up using logic and evidence. So, they water down Christianity to get along with non-Christians. Finally, they jettison Christianity completely. This happens to a lot of young Christians the moment they hit college / university.
  4. They don’t want to learn to defend their faith. This type of person is asked questions by skeptics that they cannot answer. Usually this happens when people go to university after growing up in the shelter of the Church. The questions and peer pressure make them feel stupid. Rather than investigate Christianity to see if it’s true, they drop it, so they can be thought of as part of the “smart” crowd.

Now listen to the discussion and see if you can identify some of these factors from Barker’s own carefully-prepared words. He is trying very hard to make himself look honest and moderate, because he wants Christians to be sympathetic with his story and his motives for leaving Christianity. But I think that there is enough in his statements to construct a different hypothesis of why he left Christianity.

I’ve grouped the data by risk factor. Some of this is my interpretation of his real motivations, based on my experience dealing with former-Christians.

Non-rational, emotional approach to Christianity

  • he was raised in a devout Christian family where he probably wouldn’t have faced skeptical questions
  • he converted to Christianity at age 15 as a result of a religious experience, not a serious investigation
  • his idea of God was probably idealized and uninformed, e.g. – a loving God who wants us to be happy
  • he wandered around from church to church preaching, with no fixed address or source of income
  • he earned money by collecting “love offerings” from churches where he performed his music
  • he wrote Christian songs and Christian musicals, but nothing substantive on apologetics and theology
  • he worked in three churches known for being anti-intellectual and fundamentalist
  • there’s no evidence that of any deep study of philosophy, science and history during this time

Desire to gain acceptance from non-Christians

  • he began to notice that some people were uncomfortable with sin and Hell
  • he began to avoid preaching about sin and Hell in order to make these people comfortable
  • he watered-down the gospel to focus on helping people to be happy in this life
  • his manic approach to Christian ministry was challenged by the “real life” needs of his growing family
  • he met liberal pastors while performing his music in their churches
  • he found it difficult to disagree with them because they seemed to be “good” people
  • he watered down his message further in order to appeal to people across the theological spectrum

Ignorance of Christian apologetics

  • he began to think that if there are many different views of religion, then no view can be correct
  • he was not intellectually capable of using logic and evidence to test these competing claims to see which was true
  • he decided to instead re-interpret Christian truth claims as non-rational opinions, so they could all be “valid”
  • he became a theological liberal, abandoning theism for an impersonal “ground of being”
  • he embraced religious pluralism, the view that all religions are non-rational and make no testable truth claims
  • he began to see God as a “metaphor” whose purpose is to make people have a sense of meaning and purpose
  • he jettisoned God completely and focused more on helping people find meaning and morality apart from God
  • seems to think that religion is about having a “great life”, and felt that you can have a “great life” without religion
  • seems to think that religion is about being “good”, and felt that you can be “good” without religion
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them what to do instead of letting them do anything they want
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them what is true, instead of letting them believe whatever they want
  • religion makes people feel bad by telling them that God will hold them accountable for their beliefs and actions

So what do I think happened?

Barker was generating an income from donations from churches where he entertained them. Gradually, his family grew to the point where conservative churches were not enough to support him. He had to change his message to appeal to liberal churches in order to cast a wider net.

He seems to have thought that Christianity is about having his needs met and being liked by others. I think he wanted to feel good and to make people feel good with his preaching and singing. But Christianity is not a feel-good religion. It’s not a tool to make people like you. He seems to have become aware that the exclusive claims of Christianity made other people feel offended, so he cut them out. Christian apologists learn how to provide evidence for claims that non-Christians find offensive or hard to believe, but Dan hadn’t studied philosophy, science or history so he couldn’t defend it. It’s hard to speak unpopular truths when you have nothing to back it up except your music composing. Eventually, Dan just quit making the truth claims entirely.

I also think money was a factor. It seems to me that it would have hurt his career and reduced his invitations from liberal churches if he had kept up teaching biblical Christianity. In order to appeal to a wider audience, (like many Christian singers do – e.g. – Amy Grant, Jars of Clay, etc.), he would have felt pressured to water down the unpleasant parts of his preaching and singing. Lacking apologetics skill, he instead abandoned his message. He needed to account for his family’s needs and “real life”, and exclusive truth claims and Hell-talk would have reduced his ability to do that. It seems to me that he should have scaled back his extreme schedule of preaching and singing, and instead gotten a steady job so that he could afford “real life” and a family without being pressured into altering his message. The Christian life requires a certain amount of wisdom that Dan did not have.

Life isn’t a fairy tale. God isn’t there to reward risky behavior. We need to be more shrewd about financial matters so that we have the ability to not care about what people think of us. Look at this blog. I work all day as a senior software engineer with two degrees in computer science, so that I don’t have to rely on donations. Additionally, I save most of what I make in case a tragedy strikes. Since I am financially secure, I can say what I think, and disregard anyone who wants me to change my message because they are offended. Becoming a Christian isn’t a license to behave irrationally and immaturely with money. For some people, (like William Lane Craig), stepping out in faith works. But if it doesn’t work, it’s better to retreat and re-trench, rather than to compromise your message for money.

I actually met someone like Dan Barker recently. She grew up in an anti-intellectual hippy Christian home. Her mother came from a good family, and decided on a whim to marry a non-Christian. Like Barker, the family exalted feelings and irrational expectations of miracles from God for “fearless” acts. She got herself into trouble with alcohol and promiscuity in her 20s, by making emotional decisions and mixing with the wrong crowd. Her way of fixing this was to fly off on a one-year missions trip, wrecking her resume and finances. Now, she is in her late 30s, unmarried, and literally blaming Jesus for putting too many demands on her that she doesn’t have time for, e.g – morning quiet time. This causes her to feel guilty, and make her want to reject Christianity. She had no intellectual conception of basic core doctrines like God’s existence or Jesus’ resurrection, which might have acted as a bulwark against her emotions. When I explained to her how I had structured my education and career so that I could have an influence without testing God, she seemed bored and said that I was too “fearful”.

This is apparently widespread, especially among anti-intellectual denominations. Another ex-Pentecostal atheist woman I heard about from people who knew her when she was young decided to drop out of college to travel around North America doing pro-life work. When she found herself penniless, unmarried and without children in her mid-30s, she decided to have a baby out of wedlock. The government will pay for it, she said. Rather than trying to justify this decision as a Christian, she blamed God for not making her madness “work out”. She is now an atheist, because God did not reward her decision to live fearlessly for him with a husband and children. It was all God’s fault. There is a whole subculture within Christianity, where the pursuit of fun and thrills can be masked with pious language, and all talk of prudence and restraint is seen as cowardice and lack of faith.

The Christian life requires a certain level of intelligence, a certain level of practical wisdom, and a certain level of self-control and discipline. Make sure that you don’t walk away from God because of your own bad choices.