Tag Archives: Self-Centeredness

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

Should Christians be motivated by the fear of missing out (FOMO)?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

My best friend Dina and I recently spent some time talking over some articles that we found on the culture. We specifically talked about what is motivating young people, so I wanted to write something about that.

FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out

Here’s a leftist New York Times article explaining where FOMO comes from:

It’s known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” and refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram. Billions of Twitter messages, status updates and photographs provide thrilling glimpses of the daily lives and activities of friends, “frenemies,” co-workers and peers.

[…]When we scroll through pictures and status updates, the worry that tugs at the corners of our minds is set off by the fear of regret, according to Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” and a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He says we become afraid that we’ve made the wrong decision about how to spend our time.

[…]A friend who works in advertising told me that she felt fine about her life — until she opened Facebook. “Then I’m thinking, ‘I am 28, with three roommates, and oh, it looks like you have a precious baby and a mortgage,’ ” she said. “And then I wanna die.”

It’s like they want to run a race to do fun and exotic things with their peers, and not finish last.

Anyway, I want to begin this post with examples of FOMO behavior I have personally encountered.

FOMO Travel

Dina and I read and discussed this article by Alain de Botton in The European – notice the emphasis on travel and having fun, sophisticated experiences:

We’re continually being bombarded with suggestions about what we might do (go jet skiing, study in Colorado, visit the Maldives or see the Pyramids). We’re always hearing of the amazing things friends have done or are going to do: ‘there was this great bar we all went to …’; ‘she’s getting married in a little country church, then we’re having a picnic…’; ‘the sun was glinting on Sydney Harbour…’ There are endless hints of the allure of life in other places: an article about family-friendly restaurants in Brooklyn, a crime novel set in Trieste, the departure board at the airport with its list of places only a plane trip away: Moscow, Bangkok, Addis Ababa… The modern world makes sure we know at all times just how much we’re missing. It is a culture in which intense and painful doses of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) are almost inevitable.

What’s interesting is this – how does FOMO travel affect young, unmarried Christians?

Travel through missions work seems to be the FOMO activity of choice for at least a few young, unmarried Christians. One of my best friends who is married to another of my best friends told me about her missions trip to a European country. I asked her why she did it, since it meant lost savings, lost earnings, lost work experience, etc. (She gave up a year of earnings, and she had a great job in engineering). Her answer was that she did it for the adventure. I have a hard time hearing Jesus say that he was going to do something because he was bored and wanted an adventure. Especially when it’s $30,000 in costs, $60,000 of lost income, and lost work experience – per year. This was before the time of the Internet, though, when missionary work actually made sense. I just don’t think it’s worth spending that kind of money for the impact you make. The people I know who went on missionary trips just wanted to feel spiritual, look spiritual, and have a fun “life experience” vacation. One missionary told me that she was desperate to get away from her boring mid-Western roots.

If you really want to share Christ effectively with people in other countries, then you can start a blog and pay the tiny costs for it out of your earnings from your day job – that’s what I do. I get more people from Europe reading my blog than I could contact in a year of missionary work. I Skype with the people who are interested in Christianity from these countries (Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, Canada, etc.), as well. Meanwhile, I keep working my not-exciting job, so my savings increase, and my resume remains gap-less. This is good stewardship of finances, and self-denial prepares your character for the hard work of marriage and parenting. The Bible says that those who do not work should not eat. And Paul says that he built tents so that no one could accuse him of taking on missionary work for financial gain.

You can tell whether a person is sincere in their missionary intentions by looking at how responsible they’ve been in their decision-making. If a person has gone into debt paying for fun, thrilling activities like skydiving, ziplining, surfing, etc., then it’s FOMO travel. We must look past the spiritual smokescreen, and tell young people to grow up.

After all, if defending God’s honor was the missionary’s main goal, then the real battlefield would be the university.

Bill Craig puts it best:

If serving God is your goal, look to the university
If serving God is your goal, look to the university

There is already a perfectly fine university right next door – no need to fly to Europe to find one! Remember, the university that took your faith away, or maybe the faith of someone you cared about? Yeah, it’s still sitting there in your home town! And it’s still ruining the lives of thousands of young people, by peer-pressuring them into secular, liberal views – and behaviors. It seems to me that it’s better stewardship to stay here and work, then give money to groups like Reasonable Faith. And you can start a blog, teach in church and invite scholars to the local university, too. That costs almost nothing, and it produces better results.

What about Jesus?

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to look beyond the words of the Bible and reflect on the overall message of it at a higher level. When I look in the Bible, I see that Jesus went through a lot of suffering in obedience to God in order to secure the salvation of people who did not even like him. And it’s from this sacrifice on our behalf that his claim on our obedience comes. There are things that I don’t like to do that I do anyway because they work to serve God. Jesus life’s ambition was not to do things that were easy, or that made him happy. Experienced Christians do things that are not fun, because these things are right and because they solve the real problem.

Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George reflect on the legalization of same-sex marriage

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

Same-sex “marriage” has been the law of the land for 10 years, now. As with the first redefinition of marriage – no-fault divorce – many unexpected problems have arisen. I found an article by two famous social conservative professors in USA Today, where they explain.

Excerpt:

[I]n 2013, [the Supreme Court] struck down the federal definition of marriage as a male-female union in a 5-4 ruling.

[…]Same-sex marriage advocates told the public that they sought only the “freedom to marry.” Same-sex couples were already free to live as they chose, but legal recognition was about the definition of marriage for all of society. It was about affirmation — by the government and everyone else.

It’s unsurprising that once a campaign that used to cry “live and let live” prevailed, it began working to shut down Catholic adoption agencies and harass evangelical bakers and florists. This shows it was never really about “live and let live” — that was a merely tactical stance.

[…]While these were the early effects of redefinition, the more profound consequences will be to marriage itself. Law shapes culture; culture shapes beliefs; beliefs shape action. The law now effectively teaches that mothers and fathers are replaceable, that marriage is simply about consenting adult relationships, of whatever formation the parties happen to prefer. This undermines the truth that children deserve a mother and a father — one of each.

Traditional marriage had the notions of exclusivity and permanence embedded into it. These were seen as necessary to safeguard vulnerable children, who are the natural outcome of natural marriage. But what if you take out the complementary genders, and make marriage about the romantic feelings of adults?

It also undercuts any reasonable justification for marital norms. After all, if marriage is about romantic connection, why require monogamy? There’s nothing magical about the number two, as defenders of “polyamory” point out. If marriage isn’t a conjugal union uniting a man and a woman as one flesh, why should it involve or imply sexual exclusivity? If it isn’t a comprehensive union inherently ordered to childbearing and rearing, why should it be pledged to permanence?

[…]But same-sex marriage is a catalyst for further erosion. Already, we see respectable opinion-makers mainstreaming “throuples,” “ethical nonmonogamy” and “open relationships.”

The progressive elites got rid of natural marriage without even thinking about why marriage was there in the first place. Marriage was traditionally seen as being an exclusive, permanent commitment – and that commitment provided the stability needed for children. Marriage required you to look for a partner who was good at self-control (exclusivity) and commitment (permanence). But when judges decided that marriage was just about two people having romantic feelings, it opened up the door to all of these other “lifestyles”.

I’m just thinking right now about how to stop this. I know that social conservatives are trying to highlight the damage that is being caused by focusing relationships on adult happiness instead of children’s needs and rights. But I still don’t hear any sort of thoughtful presentation of marriage as a commitment enterprise, where two adults suppress their own selfishness in order to make a promise to love and care for this other person. Does anyone see relationships as being a self-sacrificial commitment to another person, and to any children who result? Or are we locked into this view that the goal of relationships is to make my spouse, my children, and everyone else make me feel good and look good?

Bible study: responsibilities and obligations in Philippians 1-4

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here are some parts of Philippians that speak to an issue that I think is a problem today for many Christians – self-centeredness.

Philippians 2 talks about the importance of not being self-centered, but instead being focused on the needs of others.

Phil 2:1-8:

2 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And Phil 2:19-23:

19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

Nothing very complicated here, it’s important to look out for the interests of others and to be concerned about their welfare.

I think it’s a good idea to be practical about partnering with people, and instead of just speaking words like “I care” or “I’ll pray for you”, try to find out what needs to be done and do it. Solve the problem with actions. Prayer is important, of course, because so much of what happens to that other person is in God’s hands. You aren’t going to be around all the time, but God is, so talk to him about the other person and what you’re planning to do. But you must also do your part, and do it intelligently and effectively. (The New Testament book of James talks about the need to accompany good wishes with actions that solve the problem)

Also don’t just stand back and give orders while feeling righteous. Many people want to influence others by just quoting the Bible, putting on pious airs, or using mere words. This doesn’t work in any area of the real world. Instead, take a more active approach. Think about the problem that is preventing someone from serving Christ well, and then act to make it easier for the person to do the right thing.

I’ve been able to achieve good success by praying AND performing supportive actions, rather than by issuing commands or prayer alone. For example, I’ve gotten people to transition for useless careers into IT careers, got them to pay off their high-interest debts, got them to switch their majors from something useless to something useful, got them to move on from an abortion or a divorce, got them to not commit suicide, listened to their health problems, helped them pass the GRE or the GMAT or something, got them to take a better job, got them to do a public speaking engagement, taught them how to debate their atheist brother, sponsored a Christian speaker at their university, helped them recover from bad parents, etc. It’s pretty fun to partner with people to further the Kingdom, but if you just leave it at prayer and giving orders, you won’t get the same good results.

All it takes to move from prayer alone to prayer and solutions is to think about other people like a puzzle, and then sacrifice some of your time or your money to build them up. I have a lot of experience doing this, but it’s not something that I learned to do in church. Church doesn’t teach you to be practical about following the Bible intelligently and with your own initiative. It’s set up to favor emotions (singing) and passive listening. To be active, you have to think about the Bible from a higher strategic level. Think about who Jesus is, and then follow his example. Don’t read the Bible in order to just feel happy or sound pious, instead try to make a plan to really DO good. Your goal should be to achieve a result in line with Jesus’ character and goals.

By the way, part of being able to partner with other people to solve problems with actions is being capable yourself. Don’t study stupid things in college. Don’t get into debt. Don’t try to fill your days with fun and thrills. Instead, study hard things, get hard jobs in the private sector, save your money, and learn useful skills. That way, you’ll be able to do more when something more than passive words or feelings is needed. One time, a woman I knew severely hurt her hand at work. She has OCD, and liked to clean the stairs in her house every day. She has a furry cat who drops fur everywhere. So she was lugging this heavy vacuum up and down the stairs every day. And spending a lot of time ironing with an old-fashioned heavy iron, too. So I bought her a hand vacuum and a fancy new iron. With the extra time she saved, she was able to do more reading, public speaking and helping others. Doing Christianity well means making yourself strong, so you can look after others with more than just feelings, piety and prayers.

Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible. And the most important thing about Philippians is that it’s good to be focused on other people, and not on ourselves, and to think of the interests of others, not our own interests. It’s good to get down into the weeds of other people’s problems, and act to self-sacrificially to solve them. Read the book (it’s short) and see if there are not people who you could partner with by helping them solve problems so they can be more effective.

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