Eagle’s Story – Part One

“…I also deny Zeus and Jupiter and Odin and Brahma, but this causes me no qualms. I observe that a very large portion of the human race does not believe in God and suffers no visible punishment in consequence. And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt his existence.”

Bertrand Russell “What is an agnostic”

http://scepsis.net/eng/articles/id_5.php

Bertrand Russell

Introduction to Eagle's Story

The two of us believe that Eagle’s story is important for the current Christian world to hear. Eagle came to our blog looking for answers. He had been hurt and blown off by various Christian ministries. And he was in the process of blowing them off as well.

Many Christians do not know how to deal with those who have walked away from the church.  It is far easier to write them off and not deal with their hard questions or their pain. Some people were more concerned about his speech and anger than about his questions and his hurt.

However, far more of you cared about Eagle and engaged him on many levels not the least of which was friend. You saw beneath the surface to a man who was seeking God in spite of his avowed agnosticism. You saw the lovable, big-hearted person that was there all along. Your love, patience and kindness made inroads into his hurt. Your willingness to take on hard questions made a difference. Your refusal to let him go drew him in.

Over the next few Mondays, Eagle is going to take us on a journey into his life. He raises many issues that this blog deals with. His story culminates in one of the most remarkable responses to the love of Christ that we have ever heard. It is book worthy and it happened because of you.

People say that a community cannot be formed on the Internet. We disagree emphatically. We have a new and dear friend and have been privileged to be on the front lines as we watched this happen. Dee still remembers the day when Eagle called her and said, “Thank God you’re home. Something terrible happened to me.” At that moment, hearing the story, Dee prayed. It was an event that could have led to a permanent loss of faith. But, the Hound of Heaven was still in pursuit.

That event led to a remarkable story of life and liberty. This is a story of true humility, the real kind, not the “celebrity pastor buy my book” kind.

We thank God for Eagle. We thank him for his friendship and his encouraging tweets. We thank him for letting us invade his life. We thank you for allowing us to go with our guts on this one. Our lives will never be the same.

Eagle, buddy, we love you. 

Dee and Deb

Eagle's Story – Part One

This is a story of a faith crisis. It’s a story of falling away, wondering in the unknown, struggling to find faith, and finally hitting bottom. It’s a journey of coming to terms with my evangelical past and slowly finding a way forward. It’s an intimate yet painful journey. And it’s a journey that took me away from Christianity, brushing up against atheism and fundamentalism simultaneously. It was a journey that took me to the largest atheist rally in United States history while on a personal quest to finally find peace.

Just to make you aware this will be a long story (shared in installments), and that is with omitting a lot of experiences. I find it unique that I have come to embrace evangelicalism given my past, and yet after exploring secular humanism, I slowly came to realize that this is where I belong, even though I will be a very different evangelical who will not fit the mold. For me the “official” closure I sought to my 5-6 year faith crisis occurred with baptism. In order to be able to move forward, I was baptized on Sunday, November 24, at Fairfax Community Church, in Fairfax, Virginia. One more important point is I detest Christianese, I don’t consider this a testimony, rather a narrative story of my life.

Before I continue, I want to thank those who walked with me as well as those whom I met when I walked away from Christianity. I cannot tell you how much the people listed below mean to me. However, it's important to state that they are not the only ones I met during this faith crisis. Two names in this story are pseudonyms. That said I’d like to thank:

            Chaplin Mike of Internet Monk

            Jeff Dunn for keeping Internet Monk going after Michael Spencer’s death

            Dee Parsons of The Wartburg Watch

            Deb Martin of The Wartburg Watch

            Scott of a Homeless Rescue Mission in Kansas City, Missouri

            “James Crestwood” of National Community Church

            Danny Risch

            “Andrew White” of Sovereign Grace’s/Acts 29 Redeemer of Arlington

My initial religious experiences

I grew up Roman Catholic and came close to converting to Mormonism in college while living in Montana. I looked upon Mormonism with fascination and thought it to be a serious faith.  I was particularly drawn to it because of its structure. I dreamed of getting married in the Mormon Temple and attending grad school at Brigham Young University. Mormonism, however, was not what I thought it to be and after realizing what I was getting myself into, I pushed away. I came close to baptism but resisted the pressure to be baptized.

After Mormonism, I returned to Catholicism and discovered the Charismatic Catholic Church.  I became involved with it from 1997-98 until 1999. My experience in evangelical Christianity began at Campus Crusade for Christ at California State University Fresno in 1999. Shortly thereafter, I experienced my first service at Fresno Evangelical Free Church, where I was baptized on April 16, 2000. It was both in Crusade and Fresno Evangelical Free that I experienced my first Bible studies. My very first Bible study in Crusade focused on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the Book of Daniel. I still remember being wowed by the story. I moved to Milwaukee in August of 2000 to attend grad school at Marquette University, where I helped plant a Cru chapter and fellowshipped with many guys from Cru at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

The next two years were full of Bible studies, retreats in Lodi, Wisconsin or Lake Geneva, and Christmas conferences in Minneapolis with Crusade. I have many fond memories of hanging with people on the East Side of Milwaukee, movie nights, late night breakfasts, etc… During this time I also found this eccentric church in a middle of a cornfield in Colgate, Wisconsin called Wooded Hills Bible Church. It was a Third Wave, charismatic church.

My pastor, Joe Jenkins, gave some good talks and we had these praise and worship events we called “Winds of Worship”. They largely consisted of Kevin Bryum, a guy addicted to bodybuilding, jumping up and down on stage singing his lungs out. You had to see it to believe it!  It was at Wooded Hills Bible where I became a member of “the local church” for the first time.  That took place on July 13, 2003, and several other people were presented to the congregation after Kevin gave a memorable talk called “Who Picked These Guys?” discussing how the Lord calls many to follow him. Wooded Hills was an interesting mix of theology, and there were many people there that I loved. We also did Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life as a church-wide campaign.

During this time I thought highly of John Piper and read much of his material. His book Don't Waste Your Life had the biggest impact on me. I remember traveling to Cleveland on a business trip in 2004 and visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Having just finished John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”, I recall walking through the Hall of Fame, looking at all the exhibits and thinking to myself how the museum was such a waste because none of it glorified God. Then several years later my Mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Amazingly, she beat it because it was caught early. When she was first diagnosed, I gave my Mom John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  Finally, I had memorable experiences in Bible studies at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Studies led by guys like Rooster and Danny Yunk made an impact on me.

I moved to Washington DC in 2005.

It was in 2005 that I moved to Washington, D.C., believing that I was following the Lord’s will.  In 2006 my path crossed with James Crestwood, who invited me to National Community Church. James, who is from Salina, Kansas, attended Bethel in Minneapolis and worked on Capitol Hill. Even though he was much younger than me, he would have a deep impact on my life. He was someone whom I grew to love, deeply respect, and look up to. I also had connections to McLean Bible Church with which I did a mission trip to South Hall, London in the summer of 2007.

In 2008 my life crossed paths with Danny Risch in a D.C. area Panera Bread.  I was wearing my Fresno State t-shirt, and Danny came up to me and asked if I attended there. Danny, who was one of the team captains on the Fresno State soccer team, was also a Bible study leader in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. That chance meeting led to a deep friendship here in D.C., and Danny became one of the blessings in my life. He was loving, kind, and deep. Today as I reflect on what was about to happen spiritually, I can’t help but wonder if the Lord (knowing how my faith would bottom out) brought alongside both James Crestwood and Danny Risch to help me walk through it.

My faith collapses

In late 2008 and early 2009, I began to wrestle with difficult faith questions which, until this time, I had never considered. I struggled with growing doubt ,which began to tear me apart.  I had planned to go on a mission trip to Kenya with the National Community Church and work in Nairobi at the largest slum in Africa. As I struggled with my doubts they just continued to grow, and eventually I became angry enough and dropped off the mission team even though I had raised all my financial support. I knew I would be lying if I had gone to Kenya since I struggled to believe many parts of Christianity.  As the doubts kept growing, I began to question all of my previous evangelical experiences.

In October 2009 my grandmother passed away. I am grateful that she and I were at peace. I still remember our final, loving phone call, and the last time I told her “I love you” . I had no idea it would be our final conversation. When she died, I became even angrier because I had been encouraged to read the works of John MacArthur who holds to a dim view of Catholicism. During her funeral and later in the cemetery, I began to seethe in rage as I recalled the ignorance and arrogance that is promoted by many evangelicals towards Catholics like my wonderful grandmother. While I was wrestling with her death, my family and I had learned new, unknown information about grace and love that my grandmother had shown people in her life. During this time, I also heard an alcoholic who while expressing his condolences told me and my father how my grandmother’s love and occasional financial help and grace helped keep him sober and away from alcohol. However, my wrestling with John MacArthur’s teachings at a funeral and during my time of grief just increased the anger. And as I learned, fundamentalism has a way of coming back to haunt you during a vulnerable time in life such as death, or an illness.

It was also during this time that I had a sexual purity partner with whom I shared a lot of personal information. This accountability lasted for years, and in the end, the accountability backfired in a horrific way as there was a great amount of dishonesty. Today, I view accountability as suspect and believe it smacks of legalism. However, at the time this situation filled me with a great amount of rage. Experiencing all these evangelical faith system situations back to back, combined with overwhelming doubt, felt like a horrific betrayal. Faith was not supposed to function in such a way. This only contributed ammunition to my growing anger and disappointment with Christianity.

I also began to wrestle with understanding God’s will and began to see how Christians could manipulate “the will of God” to justify one’s choices for one's personal advantage. For example, there are Christians who use “God’s will” to break off relationships, convince others to enter into relationships, change jobs, etc… I always found it disturbing when you heard someone say for months or a prolonged period of time how they wanted to change jobs, etc… and then suddenly they say “I prayed about the job offer and I am accepting it because this is God’s will.” It is during those times that I think to myself…is it really God who wants you to change jobs or is it strictly your personal choice?

My Doubts

I found myself struggling with many doubts that erupted and confronted me upon being in the real world and out of the evangelical bubble for a few years. The doubts below consumed me, and I went back and forth from one to the next, and back to the original one. It was like a frantic, anxious, dark time of uncertainty where the chair was kicked out from under me. I felt like I was torn in many different directions and was so overwhelmed that the answers I had before just didn’t work. Here are the doubts and issues with which I wrestled:

The Second Adam

I often wondered about the evangelical definition of sin as portrayed in the second Adam. Why was I held responsible for another person’s sin which took place long before I was born? Why did this issue “taint” me? What kind of loving and forgiving God would allow and hold sin against me – even when I didn’t commit it? And why couldn’t God just forgive that sin? Also why did Jesus have to die? Is God a sadomasochist who took pleasure in murdering his son…especially when this infinite and sovereign God who created the world and brought order to it could have simply said “I forgive you”?

Genocide in the Old Testament

I realized how screwed up Evangelical Hermeneutics can be. You read about this God of wrath in the Old Testament. Then suddenly, you are to “turn the other check and forgive your enemies” in the New Testament. It appeared that God was schizophrenic.  Add to that, the massive loss of life in the Old Testament with the flood, the destruction of the Canaanites, etc. It made me wonder….how is this genocidal God any different than Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot?  

The Prosperity Gospel

It was obvious to me that this “gospel” did not square with the Bible. I was shocked at how widespread this thinking permeates evangelical groups, both overtly and also insidiously. My analysis is that 90-95% of Christianity struggles with prosperity theology in some context.

The Problem of Pain and Suffering and End Times Theology

I observed that the evangelical cultures can appear, and sometimes act cruel, to those struggling with pain and suffering.

It seemed to me that Christians were not allowed to be disappointed and angry with God.  Why is it that, up to this moment, all I mostly heard was this “happy clappy” God is good, etc. I came to realize that I had never really heard any ministry leader openly talk or teach about their disappointments or frustrations with God.

I began to question the serious flaws in some evangelical perspective on disasters and end times theology. So many events like September 11, the Iraq War, Iranian nuclear weapons program, and the current Syrian conflict are placed as proof of an end times perspective. When this happens, there can be devastating effects. I would even go so far as to say that Hal Lindsey and John Nelson Derbyshire have brought great harm to American Christianity due to how their teachings have led some Christians to view horrific events of war, terrorism or natural disaster to be construed as being “good news”. Why? Because it means Jesus is coming soon, and the rapture is around the corner.  Instead of empathizing it has led some Christians to have this perverse sense of glee in other people’s suffering.  

This brings up an important question. When an evangelical minister claims that events in the Middle East “prove” the End Times are upon us and nothing happens…how is that minister any different than Joseph Smith or Brigham Young? It’s just a thought….

The Eternal Destination of Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel

I began to wonder why someone living in Wuhan, China in 400 B.C. would be condemned to hell because he never even heard the Gospel. The Gospel wasn’t even invented yet so why would that be held against someone who never even had a chance to place his faith in the Lord? This made no sense, especially for all the descriptions of the Lord being just.

Sexual Abuse By Church Leaders

The hot button issue for me is child sexual abuse. I first became aware of this issue in 2003-04 when I was deeply involved in the 20 Something Ministry in Elmbrook Church, in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Several years earlier (in 1999) Daniel Varga, the popular youth minister, was found to be a sexual predator who abused a number of young adults, and the scars from that still hung over Elmbrook. For me it was hard to wrap my mind around the idea that there could be a sexual predator in a position of trust. How could this be? The scars of such abuse last a lifetime for the victim, haunt a church and compromise its mission for years. Yet, the evangelical church often covers up and excuses such activities, carrying on as if nothing has happened. 

Corruption in the church

Churches can seem no different than secular businesses. Money, nepotism and cronyism often take precedence over the truth and faith. Many parts of Christianity have become a business with money to be made in publishing, conferences, music, etc… There were times when I attended a Christian concert and cringed at the commercialism surrounding it. Nepotism and cronyism are major issues in evangelical Christianity, and it has amazed me how some pastor families can have a lock on a church or Elder board. This could turn a family event into a church meeting without the congregation even knowing about it.

The Problem of Prayer

I wondered…What good is prayer to an omniscient God? Does prayer serve any purpose in illness? Why do some seem to get answers in prayer and why does God seem to be silent in other instances? What purpose does prayer even serve?

The Problem of Evil

This was the hardest question for me and the tipping point which finally drove me away from the Christian faith. Evil is everywhere, and its not something you can escape. For example, in Canton, Georgia in December 2011 a maintenance worker in an apartment complex abducted, molested and murdered a 7 year old child. It garnered national attention. Eventually, the police found the body in a trash compactor. In Newtown, Connecticut a gunman killed 27 people – mostly students in an elementary school in one of the worst school shootings in history. And lastly who can forget one of the most evil acts in recent history that is the defining point for a generation?  Terrorists flying airliners into skyscrapers, smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Who can forget the images of people jumping from the highest floors of the Towers because that was the better option?

So why would I worship an omniscient God who allows evil to occur? Why is such a God considered good?  (I’ll talk about it later, but I would also suggest that in many parts of evangelicalism today words are being redefined. The word “allow” is one of many.)

Withdrawal From the Faith Community: Slipping Away

In 2009 I began to withdraw from all of my faith communities. The more I pondered the evangelical faith, the more sick and disheartened I became. I felt like something was dying inside. I recall times when I laid awake in bed and felt like something was leaving me. The more I fought these doubts, the more serious the problem became. And it felt like darkness just spread internally.

As I shared my struggle, I also had to contend with platitudes from some evangelicals, such as “read your Bible more” or “pray more”, which only made the situation worse. At church, I felt like I was shutting down. First, I couldn’t sing in church, then I got to the point where I couldn’t stand, and then after a long illness in May of 2009, I stopped going altogether.

My thinking was changing and I began to look at evangelical Christianity as a sham. I made a decision to pull away from as many people as I could. If someone was an evangelical, chances are I wanted nothing to do with them. I was filled with rage and looked upon Christianity as a cancer. I believed that Christian leaders and teachers had lied to me and that what they taught was the result of living in a bubble removed from the world. Much of the evangelical community lived in a bubble, which is where it thrives in ignorance. I felt betrayed and full of rage because it appeared that what I invested my life in had crumbled. At the thought of an evangelical culture and its teachings, I became livid because much of it wasn’t working. I then went out of my way to burn bridges, pull back from long relationships and shun some people. I told some evangelicals never to contact me. A number of books, notes, stuff from Campus Crusade, etc. went in a nearby dumpster. I probably walked away from 90 to 95% of the friendships in my life since most of my life centered around church activities.  

Exploring Atheism

Over the next several years, I began studying atheist material. I read websites like ExChristian.net, other skeptical websites and blogs by people like Richard Dawkins, Herment Mehta (The Friendly Atheist), Greta Christina and others. One book which made a deep impression on me was Losing My Religion by William Lobdell.  I stumbled upon this book by accident in a Borders in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. Lobdell, who was the Religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, chronicled his journey into atheism and out of Christianity. He wrote about how he converted to evangelicalism, taking a look at historic Protestantism, and then started the process of converting to Catholicism. He talked about the scandals, faith difficulties, the stories that he covered for the Times and how it all affected his faith.  In the end he couldn’t convert to Catholicism due to the pedophilia cover up and realized he was an atheist and that maybe God just didn’t exist. In a front page column in the Los Angeles Times, Lobdell wrote about how he lost his faith and how he became a reluctant atheist. It was a post that generated a strong response from many people who could empathize.

I tore through entire chapters of the book, stunned. I was unable to put it down. I was glued to the chair in Borders, and I could identify with some of the issues he was pointing out, especially church corruption, pain and suffering, and evil.

In 2010 I continued to avoid all Christians and wanted nothing to do with any form of church. I went from a very active social life to an inactive one since most of my friendships came from within the church. However I continued to talk with Danny with whom I felt safe and with James, but had little contact with other Christians. James and his wife had recently come back to the United States having been missionaries in Kenya for the previous year. He had gone back to Kansas and told me that he was returning to Washington, D.C., where he wanted to hang out and talk. At one point I tried to shake James but he refused to walk away.  Because of his tremendous loyalty, he would be the only person who knew me before my faith crisis, watched me pass through it and see me emerge on the other end.

But it was during this time that I felt intellectually and emotionally free from faith. And that is what I wanted…..

Lydia's Corner:   Obadiah 1:1-21   Revelation 4:1-11   Psalm 132:1-18   Proverbs 29:24-25

Comments

Eagle’s Story – Part One — 153 Comments

  1. Here is why I am telling my story on the Wartburg Watch. First of all this is part of my act of repentance. When I was seeking forgiveness and reconciling with a large group of people one of the individuals who I approached was someone who works full time in Cru. In the conversation I had with him by email he asked if I was willing to explain what happened so that he could learn from it and use it in ministry. I exchanged one email with him and then got caught up in my busy-ness of forgiveness and reconciliation. This remained in the back of my mind and it’s a key reason why I am speaking about my faith crisis. I gave him my word at the time that I was comfortable speaking about it and I am honoring my word.

    Second a couple of months back at Fairfax Community Church in a sermon the Senior Pastor talked about the importance of sharing your story for the community. I have a very complex one; and in addition to the above reason I am telling my story for the betterment of the community.

    I find many Christian blogs to be rich and represent the faith in healthy ways. I believe Internet Monk is one of the best Christian blogs that exists today. Michael Spencer is gone but Chaplin Mike has carried it forward and done an outstanding job in his own way. I still read and watch the discussions there. This blog, the Wartburg Watch I believe also represents the finest in Christian blogs today. This is a unique gem that I like to support. Here is the reason why I find this blog to be so rich… in the discussions here you will have a wide range of people who participate. You’ll have Baptist Pastors, and Presbyterian Pastors. You have non-denominational ministry leaders and para church ministry leaders who weigh in on the discussions. You have some classical reformed people and even Hyper-reformed. In the process you also have a lot of ordinary people, in the trenches who are involved in different churches engaged here, and they represent a lot of differing denominations to include Lutheranism, and Mainline Protestantism. We also have a Catholic Priest who enters the discussion. I am especially thrilled about having a Catholic Priest engage from time to time. How many Protestant blogs have that? I find that awesome! However, in addition to all that you also have members of the “Nones”, as well as agnostics, and atheists who engage here. How amazing is that? That in a conversation you can have an atheist interacting with a Hyper-reformed or a Baptist? Actually I think some of the best commenting and discussions happen when the atheists or agnostics enter into the picture. They offer a perspective that many Christians need to hear.

    In short the discussions that take place here would never take place in a church. The walls go up and many of the conversations that take place here would never happen due to evangelical culture, or other factors. These conversations are needed, rich and unique. We all have an opportunity to learn from each other and I hope this story will help others and offer some insight into the mind of someone who went through a faith crisis and brushed up or walked through different faith traditions or even no faith tradition.

  2. I have one additional point to make before proceeding forward with more comments. Maybe you noticed above but one of the books that made a huge impression on me was William Lobdell’s “Losing My Religion.” I liked Lobdells’ authenticity, honesty and frankness. I liked how he laid out his journey and took you along. I felt the book was deeply engaging and it felt like you were experiencing his faith walk with him as you read. To the best of my ability I wanted to honor William Lobdell, and I wanted to write something that could do something similar. Another faith journey where I lay it out and try to the best of my ability take you on the experience. I want to be honest, raw, open, and hopefully try to put you in my shoes. The difference between William Lobdell and me is that whereas he comes to the conclusion that there is no God, I will come to a different conclusion. But I deeply empathize with what he wrote and identify with it. Faith as I learned is a journey, and life is both long and short. Its short when you think how long time is, and its infinite nature, whereas we realize that we are but a blip on the radar. Its long in the sense that 80-90 years is a long time, and repeating life, or having your own personal “Groundhog Day” 😛 each day is a part of it. In your own journey you will have doubts, you will have moral failures, you will make mistakes and give and deny grace. You will look at things through a different lens as you age which means you will always be learning. A 30 or 31 year old who thinks they know faith and have it all figured out is going to be in for a rude and hard landing one day. At 33 when this started for me, I was in for a surprise.

  3. Here is the agenda for the next several Mondays, and be prepared to find a lot of links to articles, Youtube videos, and web pages for you to explore. I did a lot of research in putting this together. I hope you’ll take the time to click on the links and read or watch the presentations. I hope it will allow you to see things through my eyes. It’s for your benefit though I also think some people may find some of the differing points of view challenging or uncomfortable.

    1. Today you will read about my evangelical past and understand who I was before my faith crisis. I dive into some details to help you understand that before my faith crisis I was a deeply committed and involved evangelical. I was not casual or fly by night. I did all that I was supposed to do, to include a mission trip, small groups, daily devotions, sometime scripture memorization, church involvement, accountability etc… I also share a little about my Roman Catholic past and briefly how I looked into Mormonism while in college. I’m open to answering questions about Mormonism but I am trying to keep that low, as the emphasis will be on a faith crisis. I also explain to the best of my ability what happened in my faith crisis. How it started to develop, how my thinking changed and how it flourished. I’ve tried to describe what it felt like and how dark it became in my life. I also explore the individual doubts that tore me apart. And as you can see above I also detail how I started to look into atheism and the supporting communities for atheism online or even in the Washington, D.C. area.

    2. Next Monday I write about how my faith journey progressed. I spend a good chunk of time explaining how I wrestled with doubts and where the journey took me. This will include a detailed discussion of going to the Reason Rally and listening to evangelical atheists. I also explain a medical crisis and how I was overwhelmed by grace in the hospital and the roles that blogs like this played in my faith journey. I will also share what it was like to pop up in differing churches as an agnostic and the reception I received or the fact that many churches were unable to help. I will also detail how an evangelical, and Elder from his church in Kansas City built a relationship with me and how we engaged each other even though we were on different sides of the fence. Plus Sovereign Grace is going to be deeply discussed as that crossed my path while I was searching for answers and trying to find myself. The Sovereign Grace Church which will be the center of discussion is Eric Simmons Redeemer of Arlington. It was one of the 40 that broke away from SGM “Proper”. Today it is an Acts 29 outfit.

    3. Two Mondays from now deals with the story of redemption. This is actually the neatest part of the story if you ask me and one that I am grateful. With all the discussion going on with Mark Driscoll and SGM about what is repentance and reconciliation I hope that what I did with nearly 140 people will offer some discussion and debate about what genuine repentance is. I also try and take you on this journey of seeking forgiveness and reconciling with 140 people – person by person. Like I said I hope that this can lead to a discussion on what forgiveness is, and what it is not. Likewise I also hope that this can lead to a discussion of what repentance is, and what it is not. Please hang with me as I say this…especially for those wounded by SGM. But I also talk about what hate is and how I approached Sovereign Grace and asked for forgiveness for having hate. It doesn’t mean I agree with them, but there is a difference between disagreement and hate. And finally getting baptized at Fairfax Community Church and having an actual physical closure to something that dragged on for years. I refer to this time in my life as a “New Morning.” Don’t get me wrong…I’m still a doubter and in many ways I will go against the grain in evangelical culture but I will hold my own.

    4. Four Mondays from now will be a discussion of issues and problems that plague evangelicalism. I offer this as constructive criticism as I have been baptized and identify with evangelical Christianity in a loose form. And without getting ahead of me these are a sampling of some of the issues I am hoping we can discuss in detail in 3 weeks time.

    a. The problem of celebrity Pastors.
    b. Why evangelicals need to hold evangelical leaders accountable. We’re going to discuss John Piper teaching why women should submit to their domestic abuser.
    c. The ongoing problem of pedophilia in evangelicalism and my belief that pedophilia could be a bigger problem in evangelicalism than in Catholicism and the fact that many evangelicals never learned from the Roman Catholics. Why is pedophilia a bigger problem in evangelicalism? Because many churches are structured loosely and don’t have authority structure like the Roman Catholic church does.
    d. The Problem with evangelical testimonies. There is an incredible story that came out of a Men’s Conference at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin that I will use to make my point.
    e. How many churches embrace and operate more like businesses than houses of faith.
    f. The problem of fads and how they disrupt, harm, and create problems. For example the Left Behind Fad, Seeker Sensitive church fad, Prayer of Jabez fad, Purpose Driven Life fad, and Neo-Calvinism fad.
    g. The problem of prosperity Theology and the harm it poses, and how entrenched it is in many parts of evangelicalism. .
    h. How words are being redefined and how that affects faith.
    i. How many secondary issues trumping primary, and the needless division that is being created.
    j. How reformed theology has led parts of Christianity to be “Islamicized”. I think this is one of the legacies of John Piper…he teaches a sovereignty that is more in line with Sunni Islam and more appropriate for a Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan than a Baptist Church in Virginia. We’ll discuss this and I hope you hear me out but this kind of sovereignty is more about determinism and deeply problematic.
    k. The problem of discernment and how many evangelicals struggle with discerning un-healthy or bad theology. If evangelicals had discernment many of the issues being discussed on in 3 weeks would cease to exist.
    l. In the wake of the problem of evangelicals having discernment I would like to propose a new thought about atheists and agnostics. Perhaps they can be the “Bereans” (so to say) who while on the outside of Christian faith can point out and hold illegal activity to account. Many evangelicals are taught to think of atheists as enemies. I propose that evangelicals actually start to think of them as friends. And that they can offer a lot to the evangelical discussion and as a result make evangelical Christianity healthier.
    k. There are about 20 more issues to write about. Again please understand I write this from a perspective of an evangelical. I am not an atheist on the outside who will be lobbing Molotov cocktails or grenades at evangelicalism for controversy’s sake. I am writing this because we need to have some honest discussions and be frank about our problems. These issues are crippling the faith and the Gospel.

  4. Based off my journey and just in reflecting upon atheism I would like to propose that there are at least 3 different kinds of atheists. People are atheists for different reasons. Some because of bad church experiences, others because of intellectual reasons and just how they think. Others are just born and living outside the church and just living their life. I wish many evangelicals would show much more love, grace, and mercy to atheists than they do. While many evangelical Christians can act with arrogance, pride and become condescending to those on the outside, many evangelicals are less than kind to atheists. That said here are what I would propose as three different kind of atheists.

    1. The atheist who wants to keep to himself and live his life. He is not an evangelical atheist, he knows why he doesn’t believe in God – but he keeps it to himself. He’s focused on his life, career, family, etc… He doesn’t go out of his way to have faith discussions, but he really keeps to himself and doesn’t care about faith. I would propose this is the majority of the atheists who exist. I also propose that these kind of individuals both came from the church who moved on in walking away. And I would also propose that others have lived outside the church for the existence of their life and are content where they are.

    2. The evangelical atheist who used to be in faith and instead becomes an evangelist for unbelief. I think this would describe someone like Bart Ehman or many atheists who blog who had a past in Christianity in some manner, shape or form. There are multiple reasons why this kind of atheist holds to their beliefs. They could have been hurt by the church or created by having some issue like literal creationism rammed down their throat and in the process realized they were intentionally mislead. This leads some to walk away from everything. Others could have dealt with serious spiritual abuse or manipulation. These kinds of people could have been shunned by a church, or had a person in ministry sexually abuse them, or maybe they reported it and the church went after them. It may not be the person involved but a relative of a family member who watched this play out in horror. Others had good questions and through their intellectual thought process could not find an answer in the channels which they operated. I would propose that these kind of individuals came from within the church.

    3. The third type of atheist is the person who would like to believe in Christianity but for some shape, manner or form cannot. These kinds of people are serious in trying to get questions answered. They see folks like Lee Strobbel promoting “pop” apologetics with an agenda. These individuals are suspicious of such people and/or simple and easy answers that grew out of black and white thinking. Many of these people are highly intelligent and have advanced education which affects their thinking. They are intellectual in nature and are truly stumped by issues such as the Problem of Evil, legitimacy of the Bible, and wondering if they can have a faith while pursuing a career in science. I think this would describe a lot of people in medicine, academia, engineering, etc…

    Each atheist and agnostic is different. And while I am discussing it I think the terms atheist and agnostic are used interchangeably. Each person is going to be different and each person is going to have their issue that makes them tick. For example for me, and I don’t know why, but for me the entire issue of evolution and creationism never bothered me. I don’t know why and have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on it. That’s why I don’t participate as much in evolution discussions here. Now if someone told me that I had to believe in a literal 7 day creation to be a Christian than yes I would have a major problem on my hands. But what drove me the most in my faith crisis was the Problem of Evil. That one issue alone so overwhelmed, broke, and crushed me – that it became my own personal tipping point. Given my evangelical past and knowledge of both the Bible and evangelicalism based off what I wrote above I would say that I personally fell between the Evangelical atheist and the atheist who wanted to be a Christian but just couldn’t believe. Since I was full of rage and anger which was fueled by past evangelical and church experiences I guess in many ways I became kind of a mini Bart Ehman so to say. And during this stage I was eager and willing to burn bridges, embarrass or question others. I also remembered how I pushed back from Mormonism and did the same thing. And like Bart Ehrman I often used the knowledge I had to become an evangelist for unbelief. Likewise as time went on my thoughts shifted and I also wanted to believe in God but there were serious obstacles that prevented me from believing. And that made me both angry, jealous, etc… I hope this offers more insight into my thinking at the time.

  5. There is something I need to say which I think may push some evangelical Christian buttons, though that is not the goal. But here it is… Many evangelicals need to repent for how they have treated, attacked, or ostracized agnostics and atheists. I’ve hinted at this above, but many atheists and agnostics have a lot of things to say. They can and do speak a lot of wisdom, are honest and open. What I appreciate about atheists and agnostics is that many are open and honest about what they believe or don’t believe. Its refreshing, especially in the light of contemporary evangelical culture where people can and often do put on masks to fit in. The one thing I miss about secular agnosticism/atheism is that I could more freely think and think critically in that movement. And when I say think critically I don’t mean to criticize…I mean to asses, chew on, weigh, wrap my noodle around something and really think about it.

  6. When I pushed back from Christianity I started to consume a large volume of material that was atheist in nature. I feasted on it, read, watched and was always looking for more. I did look at some of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens books but I didn’t dive too deeply into them. There was so much material available for me to read. The internet is just alive with atheist material. But here is a sampling of the material that I would consume.

    http://new.exchristian.net/

    I read a lot of material at ex-Christian.net. Enclosed you read testimonies of de-conversions, problems former pastors have, or people that had faith crisis in seminaries. I looked at Valerie Tarico’s material here and much of it resonated. What many evangelicals don’t realize is that there are a large number of former Christians out there who were created by Christians. The reasons are multiple. Maybe it was doubt and inability to find answers. Maybe it was spiritual abuse.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/

    Hemant Mehta is a high school teacher I believe in the Chicago suburbs. He blogs about atheism, skepticism, corruption in Christianity or other religions. He also writes about how atheists are subject to and deal with discrimination. This is one thing I realized in my faith crisis and immersion into secularism. In the United States we live in a deeply religious country. And its deeply hard not to be a Christian. You can face a lot of hostility from society, culture, people, etc… just for saying you’re atheist. In some states people can be barred from adoption based on atheist beliefs. I never knew some of this until I walked through this valley.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/

    I spent some time looking at Greta Christina as well. She can be feisty and passionate in her talks. I heard her speak at the Reason Rally and she reminded me of Emma Goldman in a way for atheism. Here is Christina talking about her book “Why are you Atheists so Angry 99 Reasons that Piss Off the Godless”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E4RbDx3Kvk

    One channel on Youtube that I frequented was a channel called The Thinking Atheist. There were so many videos that I used to look at. Here are some of them.

    Rebecca Vitsmun: I’m Actually an Atheist

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iUcD86YvlE

    Farewell to Faith

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0fN-EK4qmY

    A Minister’s Son

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT-rmxbNAso

    After the Rapture

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9KlMWzKj4s

    The Story of Suzie

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd7iXASIOdA

    I used to watch or read material online by Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Dan Barker I believe is based out of Madison, Wisconsin and is a former evangelical pastor, current atheist. His organization is regularly bringing lawsuits against organizations out of concerns of church and state separation.

    http://ffrf.org/about/getting-acquainted/dan-barker/

    You can find plenty of debates online between Barker and Diniesh D’Souza or William Lane Craig. This is a classic by Barker in how he describes Christianity in a minute and a half clip.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ed3KYIGETA

    Bertrand Russell is another source. He was a British literary, mathematical and philosophical giant in so many ways, who empowered secular thinking in Great Britain. Here is a speech by Russell first given in 1927. This is called “Why I am not a Christian”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F6J8o7AAe8

    There is plenty of Richard Dawkins to watch also, and I often did. This is a classic that is traded in atheist circles, here is Richard Dawkins reading his hate email from Christians.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZuowNcuGsc

    Then there is Betty Bowers who does atheism satire. There is an entire channel on this stuff. This is called “You’re Going Straight to Hell”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0zLkZ6eXYw

    Betty Bowers on Traditional Marriage

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkeKKszXTw

    Again this is not to bait, anger, or upset people. This is designed to give you an overview of what I read or watched during my faith crisis. I hope this gives you an insight into my thinking during this time.

  7. This is something I would encourage anyone in ministry or any pastor to listen to at length. This is from Google Book and is William Lobdell speaking on his book, “Losing My Religion” As I wrote above Lobdell was the religion writer for the Los Angeles Times. In this presentation he speaks about his conversion to evangelicalism, dealing with doubt, and looking at Catholicism before slowly coming to the conclusion that he couldn’t believe in God. He discuss how he became a reluctant atheist. Child sex abuse became a huge issue which he had to grapple and wrestle. I keep hoping that the Deebs will one day review, read and write about this book. With all the articles on this blog about child sex abuse, doubt, evangelical culture and prosperity theology this is a book that should be reviewed. According to what I read from Lobdell some seminaries are using this book in their curriculum. But there is a lot that can be learned from this book.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCJhlZ_nqTw

  8. When I was in my faith crisis I was filled with incredible rage and yes I ranted about Christianity as a cancer for the longest time. I felt like I was betrayed by faith and God, especially when it felt like my faith crumbled. I became an evangelist for unbelief and I took a lot of joy and pleasure in stumping people or challenging them. I wrote about some of that above, and you’ll read more next Monday. Plus I also hinted at some of that when talking about the 3 different kinds of atheists that exist. So the question is what would you do if you cross paths with someone like me? Someone on the rant, someone who had their fundagelical burn job? Someone angry and hurt? What do you do? Each person is an atheist/agnostic for different reasons. I addressed this above I believe. Knowing me and how I was thinking and what made me tick…if I had to offer some advice this is what I would say if you choose to engage someone in a faith crisis or agnostic/atheist. Please note this is NOT a formula and each person will be different, so don’t misconstrue the numbers.

    1. Grow thick skin. Don’t be personally insulted or get angry at what they do. If they attack your faith, church, heritage, Bible, etc… take it in stride. Think long term and brace yourself for the long, long haul. This will be challenging and last for an extended period of time. When I was angry sometimes I challenged, and baited others after I walked away from faith. For me it was also a way to see where they stand, and how sincere their faith was, and I tested them on purpose. Many Christians speak broadly but can’t back up what they say by their actions. Or they get angry and can’t handle the questions, discussion, or shots across the bow. If you react badly or blow in anger that will feed their atheism and make it worse. You must remember the Christian is the one who has to prove himself in love, the atheist/agnostic is proving himself by his intellect.

    2. Kill that person with love. Love, love, love, love, love, love him no matter what they say or do. One of the guys who you will meet next Monday is a guy named Scott from Kansas City, Missouri. He evangelized me for 3/4 years and was clear in telling me that no matter how I would turn out, he wanted me to know that he loved me, and still wanted to be a part of my life. This guy when I hammered him, spent a lot of time responding in love. By being concerned for an atheist/agnostic’s well being and walking with them through life you can break down their defenses. But here is the catch that I saw in atheist circles and even I was into this with some people. Atheists are smart and on their toes, plus they are deeply perceptive and cannot be fooled. They can see through a facade and they will see shallow or false love. Also atheists/agnostics don’t expect to be loved by Christians. I found that to be especially true with former Christians, all you have to do is listen to their stories. (Again if you want to get inside an atheist mindset you might try spending some time at ExChristian.net and read some of the stories there) By showering them with love you are doing something they are not expecting. An atheist/agnostic may expect a Christian to hate, stereotype, and pick him apart. If you are going to engage an atheist/agnostic you need to love with a long term goal in mind. And be sincere in love, and don’t view that person as a project or trophy. Care deeply for them 110% to where they can’t doubt or question your love or concern for them.

    3. I briefly touched on this but this needs to be stated again and clearly. Prepare for the long haul. IF you are going to interact with this person, prepare to realize that it can take a long time. Don’t start this thinking it will be resolved in a week, month or even a year. This can take years. I started having problems in 2008 and by 2009 I was pushing back from people. I walked away for 5 years. If you hope to interact with an atheist/agnostic and help them, I’d brace for the long haul. And even as your life situation changes, (job, kids, etc…) remember you are dealing with their perception or experience and they are more likely operating from that mindset. By bracing for the long haul you are challenging that and as time goes on (maybe a few years possibly?) that will start to wear them down. I heard a story in my former church in Wisconsin where one married couple prayed for and showed love for someone for nearly 20 years. How many Christians would do that today? Too many Evangelicals have an ADD approach to faith, no instant results and they move on. Or they take people on as a project and then abandon them and walk away in the middle of it. Under no circumstances should you deeply engage and then suddenly pull away. That can do a lot of harm in the long term. The damage that takes place can be significant.

    4. I would pray for the person at hand. I’m going to admit something here that I can go into more depth later if people want to know more. I knew when people were praying for me. There were times I felt it in my soul. There were times when I would stop what I was doing and I’d shoot a text to someone asking them if they were praying for me, and I caught them in the act. I used to get angry at this because in a time when I wanted nothing to do with faith this only got under my skin. But prayer is powerful. I struggled intensely with prayer as a doubt, but I have since learned that prayer can work when in its in the Lord’s desire. In a couple of weeks you will read about how I prayed hard to reconcile with a lot of people before it happened and sometimes I was blown away by what did happen. I think the reason why is because the central message of Christianity is reconciliation. God reconciling himself to sinful man, etc… So when I was praying hard for people asking for opportunities to be forgiven I think that’s why I’ve worked things out with over 100 people.

    5. I would be open about things in faith I struggle with. Be open about your doubts, problems, etc.. with faith. Don’t always defend or become defensive about the faith. Admit its flaws and its problems. Talk about your disappointments with church, God or faith. He is most likely not expecting that to occur and you could disarm him be being so open. I’m not saying doubt is trendy…it’s not. I was terrified by my experiences but Christians need to be open about their unknowns. I would actually make a case that doubt is PROOF of faith. (Chaplin Mike at Internet Monk taught me that!)

    6. You’re going to be uncomfortable during this time. That is to be expected. I would suggest that many Christians like to preach law because its easier to teach than dispense and live in grace, but during this time you need to show sacrificial grace. Faith is deeply messy. There may be times during this interaction where you will be shaken. Hang tight and show sympathy toward your friend. He’s not trying to injure you out of being mean or difficult. He is in a very difficult and dark place and most likely doesn’t realize how dark it is for him. Personally I didn’t realize how far off the grid I went until I repented and reconciled to nearly 140 people. The stories I heard crushed me, because I heard them over and over. Today post-faith crisis I look back in shock as how deep, and difficult this faith crisis was. I made a number of people uncomfortable during my crisis. I shook up a close friend who never saw someone just walk away from faith. Others as I later learned struggled with their prayer life and when I bolted it gave some people a reason and way to pray, and helped them with spiritual discipline. Remember its going to be a rocky and uncomfortable situation and by wading in to this situation you will mostly likely will have difficult days in the process. The person searching needs both space and may want or need someone to walk with them through this time. For the Christian I’d keep my thoughts focused on the long haul.

    7. When you feel like you are failing I’d still hang in there. You are dealing with someone who is working through their feelings. For me it felt good to tear down faith. Anger feels good. Likewise it can feel great to hold a grudge. I took pride in saying I was an agnostic. I was bold with that claim. However, as my thinking was changing I would not admit it right away. I kept it to myself out of pride, embarrassment, and frustration. I did not want to publically admit that my thinking was changing. This was toward the end of my cycle. When I was speaking to a couple of people I was highly selective of who I spoke to. I didn’t want many people to know that I was trying to find a way out of the doubt cycle I was in, because I would have to admit that I was wrong. So in all likelihood they may be changing their mind slowly but can’t admit it.

    8. I would also be careful as to what church I am involved in. Because it will either help or hurt the situation. There are a lot of toxic churches out there. And if you’re talking to someone who is ranting how Christianity is a cancer, and how harmful it is and you’re involved in a prosperity gospel type church or a movement like Sovereign Grace which is covering up sexual abuse, and bleeding corruption …well all you’re going to do is feed their atheism. You are showing that person through your actions why their concerns and problems with Christianity are legitimate. The Christian becomes part of the problem and then they are crippled when it comes to sharing, evangelizing, etc… This blows my mind because there are people who go to questionable churches and in the process they lose their ability to speak the Gospel, evangelize or show love. Their church has crippled the Gospel message and it feeds their atheism. Next Monday we’re going to have a detailed discussion about Sovereign Grace. Sharing the Gospel is a privilege and not a right. Many Christians act like it’s a right.

    9. Build another foundation to lean upon, or find a common denominator. We are going to look upon this next Monday in further detail but one thing that is important is to build a foundation in a way that you can relate. You can’t build it on faith when a Christian and a atheist are on opposite sides of the divide. Find common ground that can build and maintain a relationship. Scott and I did this well. We both had a love for trains and during difficult and rocky conversations at times we both leaned heavily on that mutual common ground. During this faith crisis Scott and I deeply talked about trains, railroads, etc… And we went back and forth. This created a friendship between an agnostic and a Christian who was an Elder in his church.

    10. Also the final and most important one I would say is trust. If any of the above is going to happen, it will be because the person you interact with trusts you. Trust is learned by example, grace and love. It is earned – it is not sudden experience. Just because someone says they are a Pastor well for me that means jack squat. They have to prove themselves in time.

    Trust will be built slowly and will take time. If anything is going to happen they will need to find someone who he can find, and confide in. If you have thick skin, are loving, transparent, that will go far. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote about “cheap grace”. I would suggest that many evangelicals also engage in “cheap evangelism”. Often it doesn’t stand to the test and fails miserably. This is part of the reason why I hate tracts like 5 Spiritual Laws, etc… in Cru. They are appalling. And they cheapen faith.

    But if you hang with this person and commit to the long term….you could have an amazing Christian in the end. It’s not a formula. Its sad today that it can be hard to find love in many parts of Christianity. One of the reasons why Christianity grew in Europe when the plagues were killing large populations on the continent is because many Christians loved and risked themself in caring for plague victims. Likewise during the Roman Empire there were who showed love to the people who imprisoned, killed and tortured them. Polycarp is a good example of this, or if you want to find a modern example look at Jacob Deshazer, a Methodist missionary who found the Lord in a Japanese POW camp in China in World War II. He showed a lot of compassion and love to the guards who tortured him. That still blows my mind.

    But these are all ideas I would do in the long term. But remember each person is unique and this is not a formula. Formulas, and bullet point lists have brought great harm in Christianity. I’m not trying to do another.

  9. 2 people I would like to give a shout out to are Julie Anne Smith and HUG.

    First…what would an intense theology blog be without My Little Pony and humor? Whether it be TWW or Internet Monk, it’s a pleasure to see HUG. He helps keep the discussion humorous and fun.

    Second I have to say how much Julie Anne Smith impresses and wow’s me! It’s not every day that a mother of 4/5 (?) children gets into the London press, but what you faced from a John MacArthur clone in unthinkable. Defending yourself from a lawsuit Julie Anne, launching a blog, and speaking out about questionable churches and movements is deeply impressive. I wish more evangelicals had your discernment and love. If they did posses that well than evangelicalism would be much healthier than it currently is. Please keep doing what you are doing, you are the Berean that the scripture speaks about! I love you girl!

  10. Dee, Deb…

    Please don’t edit this post. I want people to try and imagine this happening in a church. My first exposure to pedophilia in the evangelical Church occurred in 2003/2004. Here’s what happened. I was in the 20th Something Ministry led by Brian Sonderman at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. One night after the service I was waiting with someone near the bookstore in Elmbrook. All of a sudden I hear this scream. I am trying to remember what exactly was said but I remember it was extremely profane. There was this girl walking out screaming, “They knew!! They fucking knew!!” And as she walked she kicked the door. I was stunned that the door wasn’t broken. Here it is 2014 and I never saw someone walk out of a building like that before.

    Something happened but I didn’t know what, so I asked my pastor at the church I was a member of and he said, “You didn’t hear did you?” And with that I heard the tragic story of the Youth Minister at Elmbrook Church Daniel Varga. Here is a Milwaukee Sentinel article about the situation.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1683&dat=19991030&id=hKcaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Wy8EAAAAIBAJ&pg=5584,1853698

    Daniel Varga was a popular youth minister. He used his authority and trust to sexually abuse a number of teenage boys. I want to say that at least 10 came forward. Now to Elmbrook’s credit they went straight to the police. Hours after the police were notified Varga fled the Brookfield/Oconomowoc area and went to Wisconsin Dells in central Wisconsin. There he checked into a motel, barricaded the door and committed suicide.

    I realized the person screaming profanities who kicked the door was related to one of the families that was affected. Hurting people from Elmbrook fled to other churches in the Milwaukee area. For me I was stunned that here it was a few years after the fact I was seeing the scars still exist. There were a number of things I realized

    1. The problem of pedophilia is likely worse in evangelicalism than the Catholic church since due to the issue of authority there are not the accountability systems in place like the Catholic church has. At least the Catholic has a system of hierarchy. What do all the non-denominational churches that have no structure do?

    2. I grew up Catholic and due to how I feel about this issue if I was Roman Catholic while this pedophilia issue played out I would have left the Catholic church. That is how strong I feel. I would suggest after watching the SGM sexual abuse lawsuit play out and the issues of sexual abuse happening in the SBC; that many evangelicals never learned from the Catholic Church.

    We’ll talk a lot about pedophilia and evangelicalism over the next few Mondays. But its a major issue that many evangelicals don’t talk about, and they really need to discuss it.

  11. Eagle —
    Your footnotes/comments are longer than your main manuscript!
    Might want to organize them into a Foreword, a Recap Summary, and/or Appendices.

  12. My family was in WI during some of the same years Eagle was – my husband was in leadership and I was on staff at Wooded Hills during part of that time. Eagle’s description of the church was spot-on. We were also at Elmbrook Church for other activities the night the youth pastor’s suicide was announced, and ended up wth the mother of one of the abuse victims in a Wooded Hills small group we were running in our home. The drama, chaos and politics of Wooded Hills burst of renewal created a very unstable church environment – there was a lot of emotional and spiritual intensity in those days, but not always much wisdom or wise boundaries at work in the congregation. (We left the church, then moved from clannish WI – where we’d always been outsiders – in early 2004.)

    Glad you’re telling your story here. This is a place where many who’ve wanted to follow Christ come to recalibrate and filter out the crap they’ve experienced at the hands of selfish, self-indulgent church leaders in order to find their way back to Jesus. May God use your well-thought words to bring healing and strength to others in this community.

  13. Eagle,

    I’m in awe of your courage and thoughtfulness. So much to digest. But one thing did stand out to me: “And as I learned, fundamentalism has a way of coming back to haunt you during a vulnerable time in life such as death, or an illness.”

    This is incredibly true. Undeniably, inescapably true.

    2014 has been more than a marathon, more like Parris Island in the middle of the summer for 7 months straight. The most recent kick in the gut was my grandmother dying yesterday. The wedding’s in 5 weeks, we’re still unemployed…. the picture clarifies.

    Basically, the god (little g) of legalism and that special brand of fundamentalism can’t handle what I’m walking right now. It doesn’t know that stuff at all. The Actual God of the Universe is also the God of crying at a funeral. Jesus preached the parable of the house built on sand for a reason. I’m glad you’ve found your rock, Eagle.

    And, yeah, we could use some prayers over my way. I think I’m feeling everything but joy- fear, anger, grief, exhaustion, worry. Life has not been very gentle with me as of late, and something needs to break. God has been steadfast and everything He promises, but I’m just so sad that what ought to be a bright, exciting, looking-to-the-future time has been clouded with so much pain, uncertainty, and continuous stomach-punches.

    I just hijacked that. My point is that a faith-system where bad stuff is your fault and also you’re supposed to turn it around OR ELSE is dead dead dead.

  14. Eagle wrote:

    There is so much information HUG! Remember I am also leaving a lot of information out! LOL!!

    If you were writing a novel, you’d have enough extra material for half a dozen sequels. Move over George R R Martin…

  15. Eagle

    Thank you

    Enjoyed, and appreciated, the whole read…

    Your post, “Eagle’s Story – Part One”

    And ALL you added in the comments. For me, a very fast and intersting read.

    Be blessed…

  16. As for “islamicization of Christianity” google udo middelmann and that title for an eye opener with which I am sure you will agree. @ Eagle:

  17. Caitlin

    Yes…
    “The Actual God of the Universe is also the God of crying at a funeral.”

    So sorry for what you are going thru… Praying for you and your family…

    I have experienced that “kick in the gut” and “continuous stomach-punches.”
    I have experienced “the Loss of ALL things” a few times…
    Over many years, and many tears… And every time it still hurts…

    I have shaken my fist at God more than once…

  18. Eagle,

    I loved all your ranting when you were sorting things out. You were fearless. You dared to say things that I thought, but was too scared to say. It has been delightful to witness your evolution ( ;

    Thankful that you put a link up on Internet Monk to here, which led me to SSB -Julie Anne’s blog.

    I don’t know what I believe when it comes to doctrine/theology anymore, I have lost all my christianize language, just trying to hear that still quiet voice of love.

  19. Thank you, Eagle. I remember way back, before my BGBC lawsuit, reading you ranting about this or that. I was nodding my head in agreement with you and understanding why this faith thing can be so complicated when we see so much around us that calls it self Christianity is really as corrupt or even more corrupt than what we see in the world. I have loved watching your spiritual journey, your boldness, your humility. Thank you for your friendship and your kind words. *hugs ~ja

  20. Eagle wrote:

    I think this is one of the legacies of John Piper…he teaches a sovereignty that is more in line with Sunni Islam and more appropriate for a Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan than a Baptist Church in Virginia.

    This is one of the areas that I find particularly interesting, but I am not that familiar with Piper and he has said a lot of stuff. Can you recommend some particular book or article from Piper along this line that I could read between now and when you write about it.

    Thanks

  21. Eagle – I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. I remember reading your comments here and at Internet Monk many years ago that were raw and angry. I appreciated that so much. I found myself agreeing with you many times and thinking that I wish I could express myself that way too.

    A big kuddos to Wartburg Watch and Internet Monk for allowing people to express their anger and doubts. I know how helpful it is as a part of the process of healing from deep hurt by the church. I’ve been there myself.

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    If you were writing a novel, you’d have enough extra material for half a dozen sequels. Move over George R R Martin…

    If he wrote it the GRRM way, the first 3 Mondays would be on schedule, the 4th delayed, delayed, delayed until E told us he was splitting it in two and the first wouldn’t have the bits we wanted to read. The 5th would come much later. And we would see the rest maybe in 2016.

    +1 to Gail’s mention about posting a link to here in iMonk. I think that is when I first visited this site too.

  23. Eagle, I am looking forward to the rest of your series.

    I have never delved deeply into anything John Piper has written. I’d be curious to know if he could be accurately described as hyper-Calvinist. I already know I reject his permanence view of marriage, as well as his advice to abuse victims.

    “h. How words are being redefined and how that affects faith.”

    Not sure what you’re referring to here.

    “k. The problem of discernment and how many evangelicals struggle with discerning un-healthy or bad theology. If evangelicals had discernment many of the issues being discussed on in 3 weeks would cease to exist.”

    This is a major reason I don’t describe myself as an Evangelical. I sometimes get discouraged by the large segments of protestantism that appear to be populated by unintellectual, goofy, nondiscerning, faddish, corny, reactionary, illogical, and sometimes just plain stupid people. I’m sorry if that makes me sound like some kind of elitist; I’m not trying to be. I originally turned to the Reformed world hoping for something better, with mixed results. 😛

  24. @ NJ:

    Words are being redefined today. And they are being redefined in ways that warp and twist theology. I have to credit many of the Neo-Reformed for creating this mess. Take the word allow. It used to be that allow meant that God let something happen. When I started my journey in 1999/2000 it meant simply that, and nothing more. It didn’t mean that God sanctioned, approved OR wanted it to happen. It was something that just happened. Today due to many Neo-Reformed the word allows has been redefined. Now it means that since God allows something to happen it’s because he wants it to happen and has foreordained it to happen. This puts a total spin on such issues such as child molestation, murder, rape, terrorism, etc… (For the record is this why Sovereign Grace protected child molesters while disciplining and shunning families and victims who reported the abuse of a child to local law enforcement? If God foreordains evil then could one say that the molester is living out his faith and being obedient to the Lord while the victim or family who challenge and report to law enforcement are being sinful, pride filled and rebelling against the Lord’s will? Just a thought…. ) Other words being redefined today include sovereignty, faith, evangelical, gospel, etc…

  25. Eagle, thank you for sharing this personal story. You bring up your three versions of atheists and I think it’s a fair list, keeping in mind atheists usually have differences in “flavor” just like theists. Personally I find myself fluctuating between numbers 1 and 2, though a few years ago I committed to being openly atheist and willing to discuss it with people any time. Your description of the agnostic or atheist who wants to believe but can’t reminded me of feelings and longings I had long ago, when I left Christianity. I forget how strong and compelling those feelings can be for those who apostatize, good of you to remind me so I don’t forget compassion for having to go through that, I remember my time in that trench and it was hard.

    If you don’t mind and have the time to respond, I have a question for you about your journey that I’d like to clarify. Did you miss your feelings of and belief in the existence of your deity while you were walking away from your faith (I’m going to shorthand with the generic “God” if that’s alright)? Not the church, not the religion but God. And then later on you bring up some excellent points on interacting and dealing with the differing responses of atheists to prep your fellow Christians in the comments. A good list, and I really appreciate your focus on dialogue and mutual respect.

    Looking forward to reading your series Eagle. Thanks again for sharing.

  26. Thank you, Eagle, for sharing your story! It is a courageous and generous move that will benefit many people.

    Looking forward to reading the rest…

  27. @ srs:
    lol. Well played. Man I was so annoyed when he split that one in to two novels. Feast for Crows was the last GRRM book I read, won’t go back till he finishes it, in case he pulls a Robert Jordan or War of the Chtorr type shenanigans.

  28. @ Caitlin:

    I don’t want to get ahead of myself but we’ll look at this more in detail next week. My Mother went through hell because of pancreatic cancer. It’s amazing she survived and today in the 1% of those who survived. Technically she should not be living today. You’ll read in great detail next week but giving my Mom John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” backfired in a horrific, challenging way. I’m grateful that my Mom forgave me and lived. Had she died due to pancreatic cancer and I learned how she felt about what I gave her…my life would be haunted and in great pain knowing what I gave her. For me it’s another painful lesson in how fundamentalism comes back to bite you in the vulnerable times. My family was vulnerable when my Mom suffered with Pancreatic Cancer and its aftermath, and this bit me.

    People forget that John Piper’s roots and heritage and much of his theology lies in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church (IFB). Evangelicals do not take the time to see what he teaches, pushes, etc… This is why I am so bothered by many Evangelical Free Churches pushing John Piper…basically they are pushing IFB material in their church.

    And I am even more bothered that organizations like Cru have invited John Piper, to speak, and push his material amongst Cru. Why is Cru pushing someone who teaches and has taught that a wife submit to her domestic abuser? Do organizations like Cru not see domestic abuse as sin? This just baffles me….

    Fundamentalism hurts, and bites. And the destruction it leaves in its wake is severe. Personally I would rather see a person became an atheist or agnostic as compared to a fundamentalist….because at least there is hope down the road for the individual. There are too many people who get burned by fundamentalism, walk out the door, and never come back.

  29. Eagle,
    So happy your story is up. (At least the beginning)
    I want to commend you that even through your questions. ( and they certainly were bold 🙂 two things came across loud and clear, your unwavering pursuit of honest answers and your tremendous sympathy for those wounded by the church. In fact, you have expressed more genuine care for my family than anyone we knew in our former SGM church, the one we attended for 12 years.
    Thank you for your telling your story, the church has a lot to learn from it and I believe many will be helped by it.

  30. @ Eagle:

    You’re not the first person I’ve met who has sideswiped someone in pain with legalistic thinking. We’re all human and fallible and quite frankly no one ever really seems to know what to do when faced with another person’s pain, so we’re prone to Foot-in-Mouth Disease.

    Thankfully, you’re also not the first person I’ve met who has regretted, repented, and repaired the damage of Legalism-By-Proxy. God can and does repair broken relationships, even relationships we broke with our own short-sightedness. That’s part of His deal.

  31. In the OP Eagle wrote:
    “I often wondered about the evangelical definition of sin as portrayed in the second Adam. ”
    The popular phrase “second Adam” has been a long-time vexation for me. Not a seriously faith-crisis inducing one, but annoying. I never heard it while I was in mainline librul churches, except from Ellen G White. But in fundagelicalism– whoa, Nellie! To be clear– Jesus is the LAST Adam, and the second MAN, and we don’t become the third, fourth or fifth Adams every time we sin!

  32. Eagle, I can’t wait to read the rest of this. It has been a pleasure to get to know you these last couple of years and to be able to count you as a friend. You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers!

  33. Over the last well, few years, I went through a crisis in faith. I wrote about it in my blog, I discussed it with family. I discussed it with friends. ( to my surprise had close family going through the same problem.)
    The more evangelical, the more flak I received. I had former students who are now making a living in one way or another as a “professional Christian” ( church staff, ministers, Christian musicians etc.) attacked me during this time like you would not believe.
    It was like they saw my troubles as a weakness and went after me. I was close becoming an atheist. ( I hate to say this, but if I had seen some of these “Men of God” on the street, I may have resorted to violence. It got bad. Really bad.)
    To my surprise, the one ex-student who helped me more than any other was one who was Muslim.
    Rather than try and convert me, rather than tell me give up, he helped guide me. ( I am not back to the faith I once had, and may never be.)
    Eagle, I am still well, ” in the weeds” and am really looking forward to the remainder of your story.

  34. Eagle wrote:

    First…what would an intense theology blog be without My Little Pony and humor?

    I’ve seen Intense Theology get too serious.

    And Eagle, you have enough material here for an E-Book at least.

    “What a long, strange trip it’s been…”
    — The Grateful Dead

  35. Caitlin wrote:

    You’re not the first person I’ve met who has sideswiped someone in pain with legalistic thinking. We’re all human and fallible and quite frankly no one ever really seems to know what to do when faced with another person’s pain, so we’re prone to Foot-in-Mouth Disease.

    I have found that when someone’s in that situation and hurting, anything you say will just sound stupid.

    I even think there’s a scene in some episode of The Simpsons where somebody says something glib like that to a recently-widowed Ned Flanders and Flanders punches his lights out.

  36. I was one of those privileged to be able to watch parts of Eagle’s journey through his comments on Internet Monk. Along with others I appreciated his honesty, and his willingness to share the journey with us. I also felt that he made a significant contribution due to his willingness to hold a mirror up to us, to show us some of the ugly truths of evangelicalism.

    Thank you, Eagle, for your willingness both then and now to share so much with us.

  37. Eagle,

    Thanks so much for sharing all of this. You hit the nail on the head when you said this stuff comes back to haunt you. I can relate. Like you, I searched for as many as I could that I might have had a hand in hurting in some way. It was not only awkward but very triggering in some cases.

    I personally think evangelicalism is manufacturing in droves the exact type of person they really despise. They just don’t stop long enough seeking followers to figure it out and instead go through tons of people. That is because it is about them. I think narcissists and sociopaths are attracted to ministry in droves. It is the quickest route to adoration. And it is time for those who are not to start calling them out. But the “blame everyone else” tactic is in full force in these ministry circles so there is never any responsibility for their actions. I am constantly amazed at how many pew sitters believe it when some guy on stage says the “Holy Spirit” or God is leading ____. It is epidemic.

    As to Piper, I am of the opinion that people have to follow his stuff for a while to get it. He is so verbose, flowery, passionate and charismatic many people miss what he is actually teaching. They see this nerdy little man who looks very benign and simple. He does not live grandly so appearances deceive. (Although I know some like him, minor mega celebs, who have amassed millions for retirement and are only now starting to retire. they usually move to another location)

    Piper has a foundation of IFB with a Calvin suit on. I think he and Mohler have done more damage than we will ever be able to fathom. But social media has been a game changer.

  38. Glad to read some of your journey Eagle. We have a few similarities with the Efree Church and Calvinism in our past. Glad you have found a place of peace. I thought I did but alas the questions have come back and agnosticism is where I am leaning toward again.

  39. Lydia wrote:

    As to Piper, I am of the opinion that people have to follow his stuff for a while to get it. He is so verbose, flowery, passionate and charismatic many people miss what he is actually teaching.

    Interesting observation, Lydia! I had not thought of it that way, but I think it’s so true. He uses his charm to distract from the error and make it more palatable.

    Thank you for that.

  40. Eagle said,

    (For the record is this why Sovereign Grace protected child molesters while disciplining and shunning families and victims who reported the abuse of a child to local law enforcement? If God foreordains evil then could one say that the molester is living out his faith and being obedient to the Lord while the victim or family who challenge and report to law enforcement are being sinful, pride filled and rebelling against the Lord’s will? Just a thought…. )

    Just curious, did you ever hear anyone at SGM use that kind of rationale? I would have thought it had more to do with fear of interference by unbelieving secular authorities who aren’t going to do things ‘God’s way’, fear of damage to the church’s reputation, and bad theology.

    I would think that only the worst of hyper-calvinists might think along those lines.

  41. @ NJ:
    Agreed, and I would say even the worst ideologues on that front are being rhetorically inflexible then realistically. That sort of focused negativity is rare to be that explicit and strong, I would say it burns out quickly for the most part Ex. Khmer Rouge. Most evil covering child predators and enforcing shunning has to be made common and everyday, if it was explicit it would fail and wouldn’t have as many oblivious collaborators.

    And it all meant this: that there are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.

  42. Thank you , Eagle.

    As others have said, I remember your comments here and at the Internet Monk, and there’s certainly been a change… But, definitely, you are still you.

    I would like to say that some things you said have deeply resonated with my current experience, especially when you talked about your doubts.

    Doubts? There are doubts, questions, issues or whatever you may want to call them… Can’t stand Christian platitudes. There are times when I honestly can’t sing at church. Other times, I simply have this urge to leave the building. Of course, it varies depending on the day and on my mood. But it certainly feels as if a part of me were slowly dying… I don’t want it to pass away! However, a while ago I learned the hard way that to be honest to yourself and to your own conscience is really essential, and I guess that I can not betray that.

    So, once again, thank you very much for sharing your journey. I really look forward to read more.

  43. Eagle wrote:

    I would suggest that many Christians like to preach law because its easier to teach than dispense and live in grace, but during this time you need to show sacrificial grace. Faith is deeply messy.

    So true! What you describe is a battered and more mature, and authentic, faith. Having gone through it, it is intensely painful, and so worth it. I look forward to following the rest of your story. I will send an email soon.

  44. Eagle, I am so glad you are sharing your story. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I followed you over here from Imonk 4 years ago or so. Thank you! 🙂
    Someday, if you are ever in western Colorado or I in DC, we need to get together and have a beer and just talk. Many of the questions you asked over the years were also the questions I had. I am very glad you are a part this internet family. Hmm…..I really am having a had time finding words….I have looks forward to hearing your story…..thanks.

  45. Eagle wrote:

    Words are being redefined today. And they are being redefined in ways that warp and twist theology. I have to credit many of the Neo-Reformed for creating this mess. Take the word allow. It used to be that allow meant that God let something happen. When I started my journey in 1999/2000 it meant simply that, and nothing more. It didn’t mean that God sanctioned, approved OR wanted it to happen. It was something that just happened. Today due to many Neo-Reformed the word allows has been redefined. Now it means that since God allows something to happen it’s because he wants it to happen and has foreordained it to happen. This puts a total spin on such issues such as child molestation, murder, rape, terrorism, etc…

    My Dear Wormwood,
    I refer you to my previous epistle regarding semantics, specifically the redefintion of words into their diabolical meanings.
    Your Ravenously Affectionate Uncle,
    Screwtape

  46. Raise your hand if you would love to see Eagle write a book. (Raises both! Flailing wildly!!). My dear friend is going theough this same struggle now. Honestly, I would have walked away from the faith too, had I not been such a “word geek” & seen the redefining of many terms, like you mentioned. I realized that God was not the problem–the infiltration of heretics was the problem. <3. Please keep writing. I'm going to share your story w/ my friend, & I hope it encourages her to keep seeking.

  47. srs wrote:

    If he wrote it the GRRM way, the first 3 Mondays would be on schedule, the 4th delayed, delayed, delayed until E told us he was splitting it in two and the first wouldn’t have the bits we wanted to read. The 5th would come much later. And we would see the rest maybe in 2016.

    I saw that shtick all over the Black-and-White Indie Comics bubble of the 1980s, and in a lot of fanzines and other fandom-produced stuff since. Except the 5th would be pushed back to “Real Soon Now” and the 6th would never appear.

  48. Eagle wrote:

    I don’t want to get ahead of myself but we’ll look at this more in detail next week. My Mother went through hell because of pancreatic cancer. It’s amazing she survived and today in the 1% of those who survived. Technically she should not be living today. You’ll read in great detail next week but giving my Mom John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Cancer” backfired in a horrific, challenging way.

    I should preface this by saying we live in a heavily Mormon area. (It’s so heavily Mormon that a candidate for state Senate has signs up touting his endorsement by Mitt Romney, who, as you all will remember, lost in 2012. Only here would that endorsement fly.) My mother went to one of the local thrift stores and picked up a book by Spencer W. Kimball called “The Miracle of Forgiveness.” My Mormon friends call it “It’s A Miracle You’re Forgiven.” It’s a serious heavy guilt trip about sin, particularly the big three: masturbation, sex outside of marriage and homosexuality.

    When my mom told me what she’d gotten, and that she was going to read that on the trip to Houston, I broke down and cried and begged her to throw it away. I have never asked her to throw anything away ever. But I knew what kind of pain that book had caused really close friends of mine and I didn’t want to take the chance that my mom might read something. I believe she threw it away.

  49. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Eagle –
    Your footnotes/comments are longer than your main manuscript!
    Might want to organize them into a Foreword, a Recap Summary, and/or Appendices.

    hehe, to me it sounds like a vent after the stress of coming forward publicly for all the world to see, and it sounds like a very good vent! fly free eagle!

  50. I’m going to be online very little in the next couple weeks, didn’t want eagle to think my not posting was disinterest. Also I don’t have a lot of comments on church things, but it is great to see a persons journey they went through. the reason I don’t comment much on church posts is that I probably been to church less than 300 times in my 53 years. I have no idea what IFB, calvin, SGM, evangelical, fundamentalist etc mean. I don’t visit a lot of other peoples blogs that post here that deal with church abuse because while I have been sexually abused, never by a clergy member. I have only suffered ‘church abuse’ in the form of being outcast and my character assaulted in court by Christians which resulted in my losing custody of my kids. I don’t think I have ever gone to the same church for 9 months, but have visited briefly some of them. I don’t know the names for things they use, or the differences between a lot of them so sometimes its hard to follow conversations on Christian blogs. I used to always be mad at God for not letting me be one of those ‘Christian kids’ growing up and was often mad at God for not letting me feel welcome at a lot of churches. but the more I read about churches on blogs like this one, I think its about the same as the world. In hindsight I can see my heavenly Father saving me from a lot of things, particularly in the churches I wanted to belong to. I grew up with violence and a lot of sexual abuse but I got to stay drunk a lot and Christians handled theirs sober, but other than that it sounds the same. I would add though, that when people go to churches they are usually seeking Jesus and God and somehow because of that I think it is worse for people to be abused “in jesus name”. people don’t go to bars to try to find God usually. I know Jesus doesn’t abuse or want His followers to abuse people. When I went to church seeking Jesus it was because I knew I was a failure in the world. when I found out I was a failure in church as well(according to the church), I tried to kill myself. I think that people that pretend to be Christians and play church but don’t follow Jesus are going to be held to greater judgment because of that.
    please keep praying for fires here, God bless everyone in Jesus.

  51. @ Eagle:
    I think you should have added a caveat here that anyone currently having doubts or problems with their faith should avoid ‘faith destroying conversations with faith destroying people’. Abandonning the faith is never virtuous.

    Many atheists in my experience have a barely disguised hatred of God and the church, and will turn this on Christians who engage with them. I totally agree with you about having a loving attitude and not hitting back (talking at rather than to), but Dawkins’ combox, for example, is no place for young or otherwise vulnerable Christians. There have been occasions when even Dawkins himself has been bothered by the nastiness displayed.

    [Albuquerque Blue – to save you apoplexy over the above paragraph, there are also atheists who are not like that and respectfully argue for their position. Unlike the above, they don’t think Christianity has nothing going for it at all, but rather the arguments against are better than the arguments for.]

    There is a mind-boggling amount of ignorance in many atheist circles regarding Christian truth and it takes a well-equipped Christian to cope with it. Someone with the gift of mercy coupled with an extensive knowledge of the bible, someone secure enough in the love of God not to feel they always have to have an answer to every question or negative assertion.

    This kind of spiritual battle is not for everyone.

  52. I just have to say it was a blast getting together last night with people, even though I’m dead tired today!

  53. Eagle, as someone who knows you from IM, I have been waiting forever to hear your story. What a gift this morning! I wish I could hug you in person and thank you for this great service you’re doing for many hurting souls.

    (BTW, I was one of those “stealth pray-ers” and it was a privilege.)

    Thank you!

  54. Ken wrote:

    feel they always have to have an answer to every question or negative assertion.

    Yes indeed. People who can lose the battle in order to win the war. I had a philosophy professor college who kept reminding us of some quote (which I do not have word for word) to the effect that if, in an argument, you feel that if your side loses then you as a person lose, you have lost already.

    Then I heard Guy Penrod say, in talking about his days as a Nashville studio singer, that one thing he (anybody) had to do was get really comfortable with being told “no.” (Again, not a direct quote.)

    I have worked with only a couple people on the job who did not know when to hush up when talking to self-proclaimed atheists, but then I have not known that many atheists. I would leave that to other people, personally, preferably people who had themselves been atheists.

  55. Eagle!

    So glad to finally get into your story! I will stay tuned as much as I can over the coming weeks.

  56. Caitlin wrote:

    And, yeah, we could use some prayers over my way.

    I’m sorry that life is such a chaotic mess for you now, Caitlin. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  57.   __

    Touch’in Da Sky: “Brave And Soaring…”

    hmmm…

    Remarkable faith, Bountiful courage, 

    ‘fly high’ Eagle!

    ATB

    Sopy 

  58. Pingback: LINKS! | PhoenixPreacher

  59. @ Ken:
    No worries Ken. We both have our share of zealots in our communities, I’m certainly aware of that. Personally, I’m not here to debate the truth of theism vs atheism. Its a question I’m fairly settled on personally (though always open to examining new evidence), and I look at my time and interaction here more as a way of learning about the how, the what and the why of Christian perspective/life/culture as opposed continuing the debate. There are other, focused places for that.
    Ken wrote:

    @ Eagle:
    I think you should have added a caveat here that anyone currently having doubts or problems with their faith should avoid ‘faith destroying conversations with faith destroying people’. Abandonning the faith is never virtuous.

    This really helped me understand some of the way you think and approach your faith. Thanks for expanding my mind. ^_^

  60. Ken wrote:

    Many atheists in my experience have a barely disguised hatred of God and the church, and will turn this on Christians who engage with them.

    I didn’t like this post at all. I only selected a portion of the post to comment on because I’m on my phone.

    It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that there might be really good reasons for atheists to be angry at.God and the church. Recent polling indicates that atheists are held in less esteem by other Americans than even Muslims. (Not that this is good either.) People who are Christians often do not reflect the ethos of Jesus, who told us to love our enemies. Instead it’s flat out hatred from people who claim to be the representatives of Jesus here on earth. Why shouldn’t atheists be angry?

    As for claiming atheists are ignorant, general polling on religious knowledge here in the US indicates atheists are more knowledgeable than members of a religion.

    And if you see sharing your faith with an atheist as some sort of spiritual battle, then maybe you shouldn’t be treating people as some sort of spiritual battleground.

    Thanks, your friendly neighborhood heretic, who reads stuff like your post and prays, “Jesus save me from your followers.”

  61. @ Albuquerque Blue:

    Albuquerque Blue….sorry its been a crazy day and I am returning to people’s questions. I will tackle yours first and feel free to ask as many questions as you like. That really goes with everyone here.

    When I walked away I was filled with rage. I really looked at Christianity as being a cancer. I was burned out, fried, and I was processing all the bad experiences and everything that happened. I had also known others who who burned out and fried, and some of those tried reaching out to me. I was just full of rage. I mean here I was…I invested my time, life into my faith all the while doing what I was supposed to be doing. I read the “theologically correct” guys and then everything imploded. My doubts overtook me and I had a lot of experiences that I didn’t know what to do. I felt like my life had fallen apart at 33/34 and all that was left were the pieces of it.

    So walking away from Christianity was something that I viewed as healthy. I had read so much John Piper that in my mindset that was all one should largely read. I based my decisions on that theology and when it imploded this was the problem that I had. I had this narrow view of theology or atheism/agnosticism. Given what John Piper says about those in other traditions, or people like Greg Boyd or Roger Olson, I came to the belief that if what John Piper taught was Christianity than it was healthier not to be a Christian. This view also tinted my view of God. Because the God that I knew was the God John Piper taught.

    So I pushed back and was driven with rage. I didn’t think a lot about God except to rant about the harm that God causes in the world, and the danger Christianity poses as a faith system. And I would look at all these competing stories of brokenness or harm and it would pour gasoline on the fire. So my anger and hatred at God increased due to my prior church, and ministry experiences and books that I read.

    The other problem I also had was the Problem of Evil…I looked at all this evil, and turned around and asked, “why?” The Problem of Evil really drove me simultaneously against God. I literally felt sick at the thought of worshipping a God who allowed sexual child abuse, murder, rape, genocide, terrorism, war, etc…

    There was a lot of freedom, but when I thought of God I thought of the anger, pain, hurt, etc… that was caused by God in the process.

    Does that help Albuquerque Blue?

  62. @ Albuquerque Blue:

    One more point I want to make that I think applies to this conversation. When an evangelical Christian walks away, evangelicals will largely say one of two things about that person who walked away. They will say:

    1. That person was never a Christian, if he was a Christian he would not have walked away.
    2. A real Christian doesn’t deal with doubt, doubt shows a lack of faith.

    What both of these answers du is show how parts of evangelical Christianity suffers as a result of dualism. Many evangelicals can only think in black and white ways, and answers like, “well he was never a Christian to begin with…” I believe show insecure many evangelicals are. There is no need to feel threatened by someone walking away or someone dealing with doubt. I realized through Internet Monk and Chaplin Mike that doubt is a healthy sign of faith. If a person doesn’t have doubt, then they wouldn’t have faith.

  63. @ K.D.:

    I had former students who are now making a living in one way or another as a “professional Christian” (church staff, ministers, Christian musicians etc.) attacked me during this time like you would not believe.

    As a “professional Christian” (church organist), I’d just like to apologize for the stupid behavior of others in my profession. 🙁 I’m sure many pastors feel the same way all the time.

  64. @ Ryan M.:

    Ryan…thanks! You come through Washington, D.C. one time and I’ll go to mass with you! Your story on SGM Survivors and the pain that Sovereign Grace has caused you, your wife, your family and extended family makes me grieve. There are so many hurt, broken and crushed families due to SGM. A healthy faith should not pit a brother against brother, and people should not be in a position to where they chose a church over their family….thus permanently cutting them off. The Mormons operate like this, a Christian church should never operate like this at all. A Christian should never practice shunning. I’m happy with how things are slowly turning in your family and hope they continue.

  65. @ K.D.:

    I have to tell you sometimes I am perplexed…some of the nicest people I have met are people outside the Christian faith. It baffles me. But then there are others who a real gems. The Deebs is one, and in my life folks like Scott and James Crestwood are another. It can be hard to find that love in the church. It really can be at times.

  66. @ Albuquerque Blue:

    I would ask Ken this, but I hesitate to do that. Hope you don’t mind my asking you. What would be the point is debating theism vs atheism? I can see the point in debating some specific ideas in religion, but that requires that people are fairly close together, understand the vocabulary and the nuances, and have some evidence or statistics or such to bring to the table. It looks to me like “tis too” and “tis not” would be pretty much a waste of time, however.

    I had thought, please correct me where I am mistaken, that theists and atheists had looked at the same information and just disagreed as to where the weight of the evidence came down, which seemed the better conclusion. It looks like that would be a pretty fixed position at that point. It also looks like that is a legitimate approach to thinking. OK, so I am naive. Help me here if you will.

  67. @ Lydia:

    Lydia…totally agree that Christian ministry attracts sociopaths and narcissists today. When I look at what is playing on the national level with the celebrity pastors this is what I am convinced.

    I believe that Mark Driscoll is a mentally ill person. What I read by Joanna Petry at the blog Joyful Exiles deeply disturbed me. He shouldn’t be teaching, he needs to get out of ministry.

    I believe CJ Mahaney is also deeply mentally ill. How someone can blackmail another person and go forward and teach the Gospel blows my mind. Individuals like CJ Mahaney are attention whores who strive, thirst and crave attention. Its not about faith for Mahaney. Its about power, money, fame, and power.

    I wonder if the reason why people like Driscoll and Mahaney are opposed to psychology and psychiatry is because they know they would need to be treated for mental illness and they don’t want to do anything like that at all. Their condemning of mental health treatment has nothing to do with the Gospel, but everything to do with themselves avoiding treatment.

  68. @ SeanR:

    SeanR the Evangelical Free Church of America has a lot of problems. I am not going to step foot in an Evangelical Free again due to the problem of hyper-Calvinism hijacking many churches. But I relate and understand. You should read Janet’s blog about what she went through at an Evangelical Free Church in California. Horrifying, horrifying…

    My next post the following Monday deals with me trying churches and it was after looking into one EFCA in the DC area (while knowing others have been hijacked by hyper-Calvinism) I realized that most likely I am not going to look at the EFCA again.

  69. Eagle wrote:

    2. A real Christian doesn’t deal with doubt, doubt shows a lack of faith.

    “Blessed is the mind too small for Doubt.”
    — Warhammer 40K (and that’s NOT a complement)

  70. Eagle! So happy to finally be reading your story. You’re the reason I found TWW, I too followed you from iMonk. You will never know how much relief your rants gave me in the months following my Mum’s death & faith implosion, & that was followed only by my joy at most people’s (here & there) genuine kindness to you, & ability to see the pain behind the words.

    I’m still in the wasteland…a nasty case of what Christian Smith calls ‘pervasive interpretive pluralism’….I can see the Bible could say God is like x, or like y from a passage but can’t find the deciding vote that pushes it one way or another… just can’t pin down meaning, all over the place Biblically speaking. I don’t know how to put the weight of all my life & hope(back) on something so moveable. The furnace of grief melted all the glue between the layers of interpretation/learning/experience that made up the cognitive & emotional entity of my faith… like plywood coming apart under pressure. And it matters to be because I’m still not sure God won’t turn out to be a huge John Calvin, or worse, John Piper 😉

    I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this. You’re awesome.

  71. @ Nancy:
    Nancy I’m happy to try to answer you to the best I can. You ask why the debate would happen? Perhaps think of it this way. Theists and atheists of all flavors think they have the truth. And we all tend to want to share or proclaim that truth with others. Some for debate, some for conversion, some for power, etc… To some people that debate can definitely be a defining point or support for your world view, and thus is something to debate when challenged. You could also see that debating theism vs atheism is going to change how we act and react to various topics/actions/situations. Does that help? I’m just going for some of the reasons I’ve had such discussions or debates I’ve followed.

  72. E.G. wrote:

    Totally off topic, but I’m posting it here in case others (or you) haven’t seen the latest Driscoll scandal-of-the-week. This one’s a doozy. http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/07/29/mark-driscolls-pussified-nation/

    Followed those links of yours. Woo. Kook Rant City, with Hypermasculinity somewhere between Seventies Guns & Ammo editorials, Eighties Soldier of Fortune, and ol’ Adolf (according to the OSS). Otherwise with a vibe like that “Disturbed Little Boy’s Tea Party” candid-camera Cartman footage from that one South Park episode. Some clever wording in the rants, though.

    Oh, and did “William Wallace II” ever realize Braveheart was HEAVILY fictionalized?

  73. @ Eagle:

    It is sad what has happened to the efree church recently. Lots of good people are stuck in churches that barely resemble the one they joined but still stick around because it is their main social outlet. I would hazard a guess that most people don’t even understand what the implications of the new theological direction are (ie: tgc & 9marks affiliation). When it snuck in 4 years ago I smelled a rat just the the sheparding movement tactics used during my youth group days. It was a motivator for me to dig further into the ultimate concern and few years later after reading lots of theology I am tired. RHE’s blog recent blog post summed up how b I feel perfectly.

  74. E.G. wrote:

    Totally off topic, but I’m posting it here in case others (or you) haven’t seen the latest Driscoll scandal-of-the-week. This one’s a doozy. http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/07/29/mark-driscolls-pussified-nation/

    that is horrible, and on the page I followed a link because I know nothing of steven furtick… and it should be illegal… who are these people? http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/02/19/this-is-what-stevenfurtick-is-teaching-the-kiddos/

  75. One comment not approved. Folks, with the revelations in Mark Driscoll’s latest scandal we are anticipating our share of rather off color comments.

  76. @ dee: after reading the MD material, I cannot see how/why he ever developed such a huge fowwlowing. He sounds exactly like a manosphere blogger, and I suspect he haunts manosphere sites.

    I’m surprised he hasn’t been reported to the police for bar brawls. (The stuff W. Throckmorton published sounds like a drunken rant, literally.)

  77. numo wrote:

    @ dee: after reading the MD material, I cannot see how/why he ever developed such a huge fowwlowing. He sounds exactly like a manosphere blogger, and I suspect he haunts manosphere sites.
    I’m surprised he hasn’t been reported to the police for bar brawls. (The stuff W. Throckmorton published sounds like a drunken rant, literally.)

    It reads like something a Men’s Rights Advocate (MRA) would write. My only comfort is in knowing my life as a single, never-married, no children, independent woman would be such a terrible offense to Mr. Driscoll. The thought of Driscoll’s frustration with independent women warms the cockles of my cold, frozen heart. *grin*

  78. Eagle, I’d tell you to write a book but it looks like you’ve already got a big chunk of the first draft written 🙂 Your story is amazing, and I loved reading all your additional thoughts and responses. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this series. I remember when you first showed up at TWW, occasionally being frustrated but always fascinated by your posts and perspective. It’s people like you who have made this blog what it is, and even though my comment participation is low and you have no way of knowing me, it’s been good to get to know you over these years.

  79. Albuquerque Blue wrote:

    Feast for Crows was the last GRRM book I read, won’t go back till he finishes it, in case he pulls a Robert Jordan

    Wellll, worse things could happen to a series than getting a finale by Brandon Sanderson, anyway.

  80. Well, I was having a little think about MD this morning as I was standing on a tyre lever undoing the nuts on a wheel with a flat. Why is he so scared of women?

    That tirade, apart from all its wrongness, is utterly hilarious. It’s the kind of thing I would expect Eminem to come out with in character as a red neck misogynist preacher boy…only not as eloquent or self-aware. It is an old piece but does anyone know the chronology as to whether it was written while MD was having lots of terrible sex due to Grace’s sinfulness? (& actually that was the thing I found most offensive about Real Marriage – his saying that all he got out of this unsatisfying sex was 6 kids, poor boy, all Grace got was 7 pregnancies, 6 to full-term, a tribe to look after & a manchild to pamper)…I do occasionally wonder if he has a 3rd gonad because the amount of unused looking-for-trouble testosterone he has had swirling through his body must be coming from somewhere.

  81. Beakerj wrote:

    I do occasionally wonder if he has a 3rd gonad because the amount of unused looking-for-trouble testosterone he has had swirling through his body must be coming from somewhere.

    Male nymphomaniac — can’t stand to go without for more than a couple days before he starts going really crazy. Captain Bonerhelment’s Constitutional Right to Command cannot be infringed.

    If he devolves into animal herd-harem behavior, he will view ALL females as His by right and all males as Rivals to be destroyed. Only (temporary) exceptions will be those he can Utterly Dominate as Alpha Male and Herd Boss. Dominate like a Draka.

    I see a BIG sex scandal in his future.

    P.S. Wasn’t Torah given to Transcend the Animal?

    P.P.S. Back when I was playing D&D every week, there was a joke about the “Law of Proportions” — the more Overpowered and Perfect in Every Way the character is, the bigger a pathetic Loser the player is.

  82. numo wrote:

    @ dee: after reading the MD material, I cannot see how/why he ever developed such a huge fowwlowing. He sounds exactly like a manosphere blogger, and I suspect he haunts manosphere sites.

    Has he written and uploaded a 140-page Manifesto yet?

  83. @ Beakerj,

    I’m amazed that you could see through all the “wrongness” in Driscoll’s rants to be amused by them. In the first Wallace post alone, I lost count of the number of utterly wrong things that he said.

    And I love your assessment of Driscoll’s sulking about sex with his own wife. (He actually said that about the woman he claims to love!?) I’d love to share your words elsewhere, if you don’t mind. You’ll get full credit. No plagarizing, I promise. 😉

  84. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Has he written and uploaded a 140-page Manifesto yet?

    I think we just saw it. It’s interspersed with others’ comments, but that whole thread is pretty much the “He-man Driscoll Show”.

  85. Serving Kids in Japan wrote:

    @ Beakerj,

    I’m amazed that you could see through all the “wrongness” in Driscoll’s rants to be amused by them. In the first Wallace post alone, I lost count of the number of utterly wrong things that he said.

    I thought ‘evangjellyfish’ was a funny portmonteau. As to the rest oof it, when someone is that far over the line I think getting offended is giving him too much credit. Laughter is better for revealing how pitiful these posts really are and how weak he is for making them.

  86. @ mirele: yes, it does – I discovered the existence of the so-called manosphere part of the internet last summer, and I’m willing to bet that MD is involved in that, somehow or other.

  87. Wow, so I just got through a lot of the 140 page WWII exchange. Got to the part where he talks about the movement starting in Seattle. The only thing that MH/MD defenders would slightly give me over here when I would complain about him was that they believed he and his movement started out good and possibly got distracted, but that was their way of shutting me up because I really have only known from his rant sermons and blogs from the last 7 years or so ago so what could I say? The blog from 14 years ago opens a new discussion.

  88. mirele wrote:

    It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that there might be really good reasons for atheists to be angry at God and the church.

    I think you should read my post again (Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 05:17 AM). In particular, I dealt with the ‘attitude problem’ that Christians might have towards atheists and the need to engage without any trace of rancour, there is no disagreement there. I’ve never seen any flat-out hatred myself from Christians, though I have seen some who think lobbing a verse and riding off into the sunset is all that is necessary.

    It is clear to me that hate mail supposedly sent by Christians to atheists does not originate with genuine believers. When a post is littered with the f~ word and other profanity, yet signs off ‘The Jesus Team’, you would have to be pretty gullible to consider this a genuine Christian response. It might even be a fellow atheist trying to discredit Christianity – after all, if there is no God, they will never have to give an account for it!

    I can understand atheists being angry at the institutional church and its hypocrisy, especially if they have personally been on the receiving end of it. I would qualify that by saying that with any hypocrisy being practiced, the problem is Christians – assuming they are – are not living out their faith, not the faith itself. Child abuse is the most obvious example. Where do atheists get their standard used to pass judgement, all the more so as they usually reject Christian morality wholesale?

    I don’t seen any justification for atheists to be angry at God himself. He purposes to do them good, and not harm. When Christpher Hitchens’ brother returned to the Christian faith from atheism, I find it interesting he wrote about this in a book called ‘The Rage against God’. Is this not an anger born of fear that their personal autonomy is threatened by the biblical God?

    Even as believers we can be perplexed at what is going on in the world and amongst those we know, but in the end we have to trust God that he will eventually put everything right, and we are in no position to question him.

    I did qualify what I said about atheists to ‘my experience’ and ‘many’, and I would contend there really is massive ignorance of what it is they don’t believe in, even if this is not universal. Quite staggeringly so sometimes. Even my brain eventually realised that unbelief is chosen, it’s not really about evidence, and that this choice is far more irrational than many atheists would care to admit.

  89. @ Eagle:
    This post has prompted me to ask something about your piece. I’ve had to think through the whole issue of baptism – believer’s versus Christening, as I am firmly in the first category.

    I noticed you were initially baptised in 2000, and then again last year. Does this mean that your initial faith in 2000 was really only intellectual assent to the Christian faith? I’m in no sense having a go at you, but this would explain why you suffered so much from doubt. I think there is a huge problem with this in many churches of different stipes, members who are doctrinally sound but have never done any business with God himself.

    You pushed ‘Christianity’ away from you – I’ve been there with the disillusionment over formal ‘church’ life, but in all that I was never disillusioned with Christ himself, I never stopped believing in him – it was some supposed followers who were the problem, plus my own immaturity added to the mix.

    Apologies if this is something you are going to deal with in a following installment.

  90. Serving Kids in Japan wrote:

    @ Beakerj,
    I’m amazed that you could see through all the “wrongness” in Driscoll’s rants to be amused by them. In the first Wallace post alone, I lost count of the number of utterly wrong things that he said.
    And I love your assessment of Driscoll’s sulking about sex with his own wife. (He actually said that about the woman he claims to love!?) I’d love to share your words elsewhere, if you don’t mind. You’ll get full credit. No plagarizing, I promise.

    Here we go:
    By a miracle of God’s grace, we stayed faithful to each other in our marriage, without infidelity of any kind. We did have mediocre sex that eventually resulted in five children and one miscarriage. We really did love each other and wanted to connect, but often did not. We still disagree on how often we had sex (I was bitter, and she was in denial, which skews the perspective), but we both agree it wasn’t a healthy amount to support a loving marriage.
    Real Marriage, Introduction I think.

    Oh, I got the number of kids wrong, but I found his sentence about mediocre sex absolutely excruciating.

  91. Ken, atheists don’t hate God any more than I hate the Easter bunny. They don’t believe He exists.

  92. Marsha wrote:

    Ken, atheists don’t hate God any more than I hate the Easter bunny. They don’t believe He exists.

    I do appreciate saying atheists [I have experienced] hate God does sound strange, as they don’t believe anyone is there to hate.

    One way they do this is by blaspheming or verbal condemnation. They say all sorts of things about the biblical God that aren’t true, for example, he is a cosmic bully. They think he enjoys inflicting suffering and ‘smiting’ people all day long. He delights in child sacrifice. Isn’t one way of hating someone shown by saying untrue things about them? I suppose you could argue atheists hate what they think God is like, but I’m not sure this really lets them off the hook.

    Another way, more indirect, is by constantly reviling believers or even rejoicing if something terrible befalls someone who is religious. (This isn’t universally true, but it is surprisingly common especially with the more militant new atheist groupings.)

    Another way of looking at this is that atheists ‘hate’ God in comparison with something else they love more. The existence of God is seen as a threat rather than good news, his commandments burdensome rather than liberating.

    It’s in Romans 1. v 28 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct”. Not acknowledging God perfectly fits the atheists insistence that they have an absence of faith. The passage goes on to describe what they are filled with, including being ‘haters of God’ in v 30. That little phrase has often struck me – those who don’t aknowledge God can actually hate him. Worth mulling over!

    Lest you think I am only ever religious and therefore unremittingly serious all the time, I did smile at the potential for misunderstanding in your post. You mean atheists don’t believe in the existence of the Easter bunny … 🙂

  93. Eagle,

    What the heck is “Cru”? The only two things that come to mind are, 1) a shortened “texting” abbreviation for Motley Crue, or 2) a nick name for “Campus CRUsade for Christ.”

  94. I’m back from the funeral and it brought to mind something that seemed relevant. My grandmother was not a church-goer (she had serious introversion that only got more powerful after my grandfather died and church in a small town would be quite the trial.) The family donated land for a Methodist church years and years ago, so we’re still considered members of that parish. The preacher of the church came and spoke at the funeral.

    Sure, he had lots of reasons to “doubt” my grandmother’s salvation, and a different branch of the faith might have stayed far away from that (though I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the fundy of fundies would be so insensitive). But he pointed to her life, pointed to how much she loved children, and said that God is love and God was clearly working through her.

    So even though she never set foot in the church while he was preacher, he was happy to say that he could see God in her life.

    That is the closest to speculation anyone should make on another person’s state of grace.

  95. @ Marsha:

    Ken, atheists don’t hate God any more than I hate the Easter bunny.

    There are some that hate the idea of God for various reasons and are extremely hostile to religious people. That may be what Ken was trying to say. I don’t have enough evidence to claim that the majority of atheists behave this way, though.

  96. Steve Scott wrote:

    Eagle,
    What the heck is “Cru”? The only two things that come to mind are, 1) a shortened “texting” abbreviation for Motley Crue, or 2) a nick name for “Campus CRUsade for Christ.”

    Cru is the new nickname for Campus Crusade.

  97. I am overwhelmed with your story. Thank you so much. I am praying I can get my daughter to look at your words. She left the faith when we were forced out of our last church. My heart aches for her, and I just don’t have the words to speak honestly. I freeze up every time I try and face her anger and utter disdain of my God. Yesterday was her birthday, and each year since she was eighteen I have begged God to give her more time to come back to him. I cannot pretend to understand everything that you have written, but my heart hurts reading how you struggled. I can only imagine how my child must feel. I am going to reread and dive in here and pray for a better understanding of your struggle in the hope that I can understand hers. thank you so so much!

  98. Eagle wrote:

    I wonder if the reason why people like Driscoll and Mahaney are opposed to psychology and psychiatry is because they know they would need to be treated for mental illness and they don’t want to do anything like that at all. Their condemning of mental health treatment has nothing to do with the Gospel, but everything to do with themselves avoiding treatment.

    I strongly suspect that you’re spot on with this.

  99. Beakerj wrote:

    Well, I was having a little think about MD this morning as I was standing on a tyre lever undoing the nuts on a wheel with a flat. Why is he so scared of women?

    I don’t know why, but he clearly has gone totally & completely over the edge…..and all that was FOURTEEN years ago????? Why the HELL are people still going to hear him preach???
    Of course, I suppose they may all have money on the date when he decompensates & starts drooling into his beer….

  100. OK. Now for what I came here for: Thank you, Eagle, for sharing your odyssey with us. I look forward with much interest to your next post.

  101. Ken wrote:

    Lest you think I am only ever religious and therefore unremittingly serious all the time, I did smile at the potential for misunderstanding in your post. You mean atheists don’t believe in the existence of the Easter bunny …

    I’m pretty sure they don’t. 😉

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  103. I think there are a few RC’s reading and engaging. Being real about our doubts and struggles builds community eh?! Jo Uk.
    @ Eagle:

  104. Eagle, you give a number of good reasons for rejecting religion, esp. Evangelical Christianity, but then you go on and rejoin it anyway. I can’t help but suspect that you allowed your psychological need for community to overwhelm your deeper suspicions that the whole religion, however comforting, is just b.s. The fact is that you’ve joined the enemy, and your testimony (and it IS a testimony) helps perpetuate the abuse you went through.

  105. @ Granny Goodness:
    Welcome to TWW.
    Granny Goodness wrote:

    I can’t help but suspect that you allowed your psychological need for community to overwhelm your deeper suspicions that the whole religion, however comforting, is just b.s.

    The one thing I have learned within my faith paradigm is this. You cannot discern peoples’ motives; just like I cannot discern why you would write such a comment to a guy who is sharing his gut. So, I am going to assume that you had his best interests at heart.

    I am glad that you have found peace within your paradigm. I only wish that you could feel the same way about those who find peace in their faith.

  106. Eagle, this is so wonderful to find your story. I have had you on my mind so much this past week and when I went on the IMonk site this morning to see the info about you I was thrilled. I journeyed with you as I had to re-examine my own evangelical “bubble” as you rightly describe it. The IMonk site was such and incredible part of my life as I took my frightening yet freeing journey. You were in my prayers and heart for all that time and I am so glad to read this.

    Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your story. I KNOW many lives will be touched and healed by it.
    Adrienne

  107. Ken and others…I am not avoiding you I am just working on Monday’s thesis for my East Coast Mom! 😛 I will get to your questions soon Ken. I am up to my eye brows in working on this thing.

  108. I must apologize for this post, which comes late in the thread, is not in response to anything, and may vex some, given the generally prevalent Ecumenical sentiment.

    None of the churches which have successfully alienated Eagle and many like him from Christ are part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, that is to say, the Orthodox church. Most of the key theological problems that drove Eagle crazy have been wrestled with by Orthodox theologians and are addressed in works ranging from The Philokalia through more recent publications such as Kallistos Ware’s book The Orthodox Way.

    The Orthodox Church, without denying original sin, believes that God is infinitely merciful. To the extent that we are under sentence of death for it, and our other horrible sins, we can find reconciliation through the person of Jesus Christ, and we cannot to any extent presume to know the soteriological status of those other than ourselves; the Orthodox have always held that the salvation of a pious member outside of the church is entirely possible, just as it is possible for someone within the church, on account of habitually refusing to repent and reform themselves, and having ought to have known better, to waste their baptism, and to, when partaking of the Eucharist, partake of condemnation rather than of salvation (indeed, it is for this reason the more conservative jurisdictions put a very strict fence around the Eucharist, by maintaining the mandatory Eucharistic fast, and confession before the Divine Liturgy).

    Theodicy, for its part, is also rectified by the Apostolic belief in free will; the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity was a lack thereof, based on a perverted reading of Augustine in isolation; if one reads Augustine in the context of Ambrose and the other saints of his error, not the least of whom are luminaires such as Athanasius and Basil the Great, one finds that the early church never believed in anything resembling total depravity.

    The alienation of people like Eagle results from them receiving erroneous instruction from a succession of schismatic churches; churches that are the result of schisms of schisms; for the entire Western church entered into schism, and the Protestants, in their attempt to recover from Roman excesses, were unable to entirely reconnect to the Apostolic faith (although some came close, most especially John Wesley, whose teaching was essentially Orthodox, right down to the matter of fasting discipline).

    That said, the Orthodox church is not perfect. Many allegedly Orthodox churches are really national churches that maintain vestigally Orthodox patterns of worship, but are really driven more by nationalism or the desire to maintain a link to one’s ethnic identity in the diaspora than a genuine piety; this is especially true in those American jurisdictions under the rule of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, such as the mainline Greek Orthodox Archdiocese (not the Greek Old Calendarists); these jurisdictions are also experiencing attrition similar to that of the mainline Protestant churches.

    In addition, even among the pious Orthodox, our approach to worship can be so shockingly different from Western norms as to be alienating, and not enough work has been put into developing the “Western Rite”, which consists of parishes worshipping according to the ancient rites of the Western church before the schism; these parishes consist primarily of former High Church Anglicans (known as Anglo Catholics) and their descendants.

    In like manner, the quality of preaching in the Orthodox Church leads much to be desired; the recently deceased Metropolitan Philip Saliba of the Antiochian church was one of the few really inspiring preachers in the United States, and we have no one who could compare with the late D. James Kennedy. Lastly, the Orthodox, myself included, have a tendency to succumb to a triumphalism which is itself a manifestation of sinful pride; this triumphalism results in us coming across as holier than thou, and alienates people from us; it does not properly express Orthodox theology regarding the non-Orthodox.

    However, the fact that we do claim to uniquely be the One Holy, Catholic and Orthodox Church, and to alone possess valid sacraments, is a tough pill to swallow, but this is a pill we can guild, by pointing out that we believe that God in his infinite love can certainly save anyone; our great limitation is that we cannot testify with certainty to our own salvation, much less the salvation of others. Additionally, there are vexing problems we have to work on internally, such as the relationship between the Byzantine Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrians; these Eastern churches, though long divided by schism, resemble each other closely in praxis and theology, and St. Isaac the Syrian, a member of the Assyrian Church of the East, was accepted as a saint by all of the above in the eighth century, inspite of the fact that the majority of those who declared him a saint regarded his own jurisdiction as being Nestorian heretics. So if that can happen, it does suggest that there may be some form of invisible unity within the Orthodox church, and beyond that, there might by extension be an invisible unity with people outside the church, which is why I am not terribly worried about the soteriological status of my relatives; I personally believe that intercessory prayer might well have an effect similiar to that of Mormon “proxy baptisms,” albeit with less of a perfunctory, procedural requirement; if any of us make it to heaven, surely we can pray for the salvation of others, to a loving God who has promised us “ask and ye shall receive.” So to a large extent the exclusivism of the Orthodox church is mitigated by its own dogma; Orthodoxy ought to be seen as just that; the normative expression of the Christian faith, and a lamp that can illumine the path for other Christians and lead them to safety. However, at present, due to malpractice on our part, the Orthodox church exists primarily as an ethnic enclave, and not a terribly compelling one, as witnessed by the fact that one of the founders of this blog is formerly Orthodox; if we were doing our job right, there would not be so many people experiencing a certain degree of spiritual starvation within our own church. However, if our dogma was universally used, I think far fewer people would find themselves alienated by Christianity, because our approach to problems such as theodicy and original sin is much more attuned to the notion of a loving God than, for example, Calvinism.

    John Wesley once told George Whitefield “Your God is my devil”; I increasingly feel like some forms of “Calvinista” churches that are decried here border on devil worship. If one takes delight in the sure knowledge that one is member of the elect that will be saved, and everyone else is surely damned, is that not Satanic? If one believes in a deity that created humanity so that the vast majority could spend an eternity in Hell, is that not Satanic? Can one fault someone like Eagle for being alienated from Christianity as a result of continued exposure to this poisonous crypto-Satanic false dogma?

    I do apologize for the sectarian nature of this post, but this is not the first time that I’ve heard of someone progressing down an ecclesial conveyor belt of one heretical schismatic church to the next, an assembly line of doom, with further alienation and dehumanization occurring at each stop along the way. It’s a bit like John Climacus (The Ladder of Divine Ascent) in reverse.

  109. @William G, I need to read over your posts and website more thoroughly when the distractions are less, but you’ve got me interested (well, you and Frank Schaeffer) in the orthodox side of things. Thanks for sharing.

    @Granny Goodness, I think I understand where you’re coming from, but if you wanted to share more about your own path I’d be interested to read. Cheers.

  110. i too have followed ‘eagle’ at imonk, and can only add thanks for the telling of his story, i am walking a parallel path, of hurt, rejection and pain of ‘friends’ tring to ‘help’ . i have found comfort in the writings at ‘imonk’ and ‘wartburg’ thank you

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  112. One comment not approved due accusations that certain large, orthodox religious groups serve Satan, amongst other such nonsense.

  113. Steve Scott wrote:

    Eagle,
    What the heck is “Cru”? The only two things that come to mind are, 1) a shortened “texting” abbreviation for Motley Crue, or 2) a nick name for “Campus CRUsade for Christ.”

    It’s number two. By calling it by a name that sounds like a hair metal band, they hope to dodge the bad connotations of “Crusade” in this day and time.

  114. Today I had to eat some crow as I attended an Orthodox service that did have a really good sermon; I was reminded of the preaching of D. James Kennedy. The actual loturgy was four hours long, with 800 people crammed into a tiny church; the incense was so thick that despite being 10 feet away from him I could not perceive the features of the Priests face with clarity. Now I love to worship like this, but a Baptist might well be utterly nonplussed, or might choke to death on the incense; however, if one is contemplating throwing in the towell and converting to atheism, it might be worth visiting such a church first. I think I might find myself really bored out if my mind as an atheist, given that I love the divine liturgy, the related music, er cetera, more than my own life. Others of course might find such worship profoundly alienating; I have a great love for the Quakers, but I could never worship like that, nor do I think they would have an easy time coming to terms with the extreme conditions of Eastern worship. It is lamentable that the via media historically provided by mainline Protestantism is eroding.

  115. One comment not approved. To that person: I wrote you an email which was returned as not deliverable. i have some suggestions in how to comment on this blog. Accusing an entire faith group as belonging to Satan, amongst other things, only comes across as a bit nutty.

    Instead, state your case carefully and I will consider approving your comment.

  116. @ NJ:

    I think it grew out of part of SGM theology. No I never heard it per say, but its a logical conclusion to the hyper-reformed theology of Sovereign Grace. Some in SGM will deny this, and can’t admit this fact. But look at what happened when Rick Warren’s son committed suicide. Some of the hyper reformed came out and said that Warren’s son was following God’s will. I have to wonder…if some of the hyper reformed believe that about suicide….then what do they believe about rape, molestation, murder, a 767 flying into 1 World Trade?

  117. @ sam h:

    Your post moved me Sam. I too am a broken, crushed individual. During this time I viewed Christianity as being a faith system for perfect people. Those that had no doubts, upper middle class who had a perfect marriage, 2 car garage etc… I have my issues as well. You are not alone…

  118. @ Ken:

    I have several points I want to make Ken….first I don’t think every Christian needs to be a William Lane Craig or Paul Copan. I’m not asking or expecting people to be that at all. However to live and show love should not be intellectually difficult. Love should be first and prominent in a Christian’s behavior and actions. Listening, comforting, help to serve food, making a phone call, etc… That kind of love can speak volumes.

  119. Ken wrote:

    @ Eagle:

    Many atheists in my experience have a barely disguised hatred of God and the church, and will turn this on Christians who engage with them. I totally agree with you about having a loving attitude and not hitting back (talking at rather than to), but Dawkins’ combox, for example, is no place for young or otherwise vulnerable Christians. There have been occasions when even Dawkins himself has been bothered by the nastiness displayed.

    I don’t view many atheists to be ignorant. I think that is overkill. I think if you take the time to listen to some of them you would learn how many have roots in some form of Christianity. Some atheists are created by evangelical Christians themselves. It can be the lack of engagement, inability to hold intellectual discussion, deal with differing points of view, etc… That also needs to be remembered as well.

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  122. so found this site looking for an old childhood friend. I knew Danny Varga, played with him and his sister. She was a best friend. Then saw her as a teen, and she acted like she never knew me. My dad was a pastor. Our families believed the same, as in we were indoctrinated or brainwashed. The church was hardcore. As an adult, I too question the hypocrisy of “christian” people. I do live in the biblebelt. I sometimes say its my hell on earth. I always said if I were god how could he allow children to be abused, or animal cruelty to occur etc. I would strike them down, pillar of salt. I have determined that the do unto others is the only way to live, and we are all eventually accountable. Be it in our lifetime or the great judgement, possibly both. Do I belive in God? yes. do I go to church, no.

  123. sam h wrote:

    I don’t think I have ever gone to the same church for 9 months, but have visited briefly some of them. I don’t know the names for things they use, or the differences between a lot of them so sometimes its hard to follow conversations on Christian blogs. I used to always be mad at God for not letting me be one of those ‘Christian kids’ growing up and was often mad at God for not letting me feel welcome at a lot of churches. but the more I read about churches on blogs like this one, I think its about the same as the world. In hindsight I can see my heavenly Father saving me from a lot of things

    Sam h, I don’t know if you’ll ever see this comment, I missed it when you posted sorry, but just in case you do, I think you totally rock. I hope you don’t ever doubt that (and btw, I was always jealous of anyone growing up in a non-Christian environment, they always seemed so much more normal and developed and wise to the ways of the world.)