This is a post explaining why I have rejected evangelicalism as a faith movement. This is one that I have been meaning to work on for a while. From issues with Calvinism to politics to corruption there are many reasons to reject evangelicalism. This is just a part of my journey.
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Hebrews 6:10 NIV
After my baptism at Fresno Evangelical Free in Fresno, California in April of 2000.
This blog played a role in writing about the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal in Chicago. Before I traveled to Chicago to attend a conference I wrote a post explaining why evangelicalism can not be reformed. You can read that in, “Before Julie Roys Restore Conference An Explanation as to Why Evangelicalism Can Not Be Reformed.” This is a follow up post to that article. There has been a lot of thinking going on in my mind that is the result of processing and working through situations. I consider myself to be part of the dones. I have given up on any effort to go to church. I still will attend when I travel or visit as I am busy writing about this mess people call evangelicalism. In this post I want to explain why I have rejected evangelicalism as a movement, their way to worship and more. Let me break it down into differing sections. There is both the Calvinist or Neo-Cal movement on one side. Then you have the traditional Baptist and charismatic on the other side. I want to explain why I have reached this period in my thinking.
Why Neo-Calvinism Should be Rejected
Two years ago I wrote a post about what I do admire and respect about those in the Neo-Calvinist movement. You can read that in, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.” That I think is a fair post and one that is honest. I explore things from both sides of the equation. The major problem with Calvinist theology in my view is that it makes the problem of evil worse. That plane crash, school shootings, events like September 11, 2001, a bridge collapse are all made to be worse. The sovereignty that is taught by people like John Piper creates a God who is a monster. Its a God who takes pleasure in people’s pain and suffering. I used what John Piper said about the Newtown shooting to explain how this comes about. You can read that in, “How Reformed Theology/Neo-Calvinism Make the Problem of Evil Worse: John Piper, Adam Lanza and a Massacre in Connecticut.“
In addition to the problem of evil here are the other reasons why I believe Neo-Calvinist or reformed theology should be rejected. Its too authorterian, controlling and can be abusive. How many scandals have shown this? Acts 29, Mars Hill, Harvest Bible Chapel and Sovereign Grace Ministries. I could go on but you get my drift. Many of these places control people, use information against them and are abusive in their practice. I would never become a member of a 9 Marks church. I would never get involved in an Acts 29 church. The idea of signing a membership covenant especially when pastors can be exempt and play by another set of rules is another problem. The problems in these places are deep and can not be resolved. The best thing to do in my view is to avoid them all together. The problem of tribalism in the Neo-Calvinist movement is a serious issue. Watching the behavior of ministries like Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christian Counseling and Education Foundation and more is a behavior of frustration. You also have personality cults that have developed in this tribe. How many people have identified with people like Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, etc…? I wrote about the personality cult of John Piper and as a guy trained in history wrote about the similarities in the personality cult of Chairman Mao in China in the 1960’s and 1970’s. You can read that in, “The Little Red Book…of John Piper?”
And some issues are changing as well. For example up above I wrote what I appreciated about the Neo-Calvinist movement is that it is a-political. That is changing with Al Mohler’s decision to become political and sound more like Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas. Mark Dever as a close friend of Al Mohler will stay silent. I guess those op-eds in the Washington Post that I read by Jonathan Leeman on why the church should not be political or take controversial stands should be dismissed. And people like Garrett Kell of Del Rey Baptist who is trying to move up in these organizations will stay silent. For people like Jonathan Leeman, Mark Dever or Garrett Kell its not about Jesus but its about tribalism instead. At the end of the day it never was about Jesus. It was about empire building, publishing and controlling others. And that is on top of the problem of evil situation. And it should be noted that while the Neo-Calvinists do have a more intellectual approach there is not an answer for everything. This also leads to problems for them as well.
Why Traditional Baptist Theology Should be Rejected
Because of my rejection of Neo-Calvinist theology I tried to find a home for a while in traditional Baptist or evangelical kind of churches. In the course of time I learned that I don’t belong in these places either. Here are the problems that exist with this faith movement. Some places are too caught up in end times theology. If I hear more about the rapture I am going to heave in disgust. The rapture and end times theology is bad theology. The other problem is that in these places they are too political and wrapped up in Christian nationalism. Jesus did not die for the sins of the world. He suffered at Calvary and cried out to the Lord and died for a United States Supreme Court seat here in Washington, D.C. Christians in this tribe should be ranked and considered a political party instead. When are the people in this camp going to understand that there is not a covenant between God and the United States? Only Israel had a covenant with God. Everything that this side stated about character for years was lost in rallying around and embracing a man who had affairs with pornography stars in 2016 and who boasted of grabbing pussy. I don’t know how else to say it except that Jesus is a means to power in the end on this side of the house. Its not about salvation or reaching the lost its about control of the government. I was foolish to think that this is about faith anyhow. Its the sad brutal reality but its what I have arrived at. Another factor is that in this camp you find more people sharing conspiracy theories and pushing and buying into fake news and more. This side of the theological house has people that can not think for themself at all. Just this evening I saw on social media a pastor I know who accused the governor of his state of being a Muslim and there was no legitimate claim to it. If you are going to disagree with someone do so on principle. Don’t lie and make up something as conspiracy theories are the lazy man’s job. This side can also be hostile to science and intellectualism. So if you believe in science as I do, this is not a place where you can belong. Also another concern is the embrace of alternative facts and the rejection of intellectualism disciplines. A movement that embraces disgraced or problematic people like Ravi Zecharious, Ken Ham or David Barton is one that is fatally flawed.
Why Charismatic Theology Should be Rejected
Charismatic theology in my view is exhausting. Its draining and has deep problems. I was in a a Bethel like church in Wisconsin that at one point had a pastor who tried to raise someone from the dead in a Milwaukee area hospital. The concept of a demon behind every door and closet was exhausting. When people believe extreme spiritual warfare that replaces individual responsibility and ownership. You don’t have a problem with alcohol but you were under spiritual attack and you succumbed. Charismatic theology plays with your emotions and your mental health which makes it toxic. In this camp I wonder if it attracts people who are mentally ill especially those who can deal with borderline personality disorders or schizophrenia. Charismatic theology leads people to make spectacular jumps in theology and claims. It has also led to bad decisions and situations. How many people have died when they could have been saved medically if a mental health professional was consulted? How can you have any discussions about science when that flu you have is a demonic spiritual attack? How can education better people’s life when they reject the facts? The pray it away mentality can exacerbate many situations. Charismatic theology in the end is just embarrassing for many people who have been caught up in these places to come clean. I get it. I write about Wooded Hills in Wisconsin but others can not. Charismatic theology is a mess and not one of my finer moments in life. Its actually one of my most embarrassing.
Evangelical Christians Should be Held to a Lower Standard than Secular Individuals
So how should Evangelical Christians be viewed? In light of all the above and what is written? I think its best that if the world lowers their standards for evangelicals and have higher standards for other groups of people. When someone says they go to an evangelical church or they state one should be born again ten I think that should be a red flag, and that they should be held to a lower standard. This way when the scandal or double standard comes out one can expect it and know its going to happen.You are not as surprised and you are okay with it. Its defuses the situation and life is much easier. In secularism I find more honesty, character and values. Those values are hard to find in evangelicalism. The reasons why baffle me but I also can’t deny its existence. I can’t understand why evangelicalism is so corrupt. In the end its just a part of culture. In my take it you really want to find corruption you go to religion because that is one of the most corrupt rackets that exists today.
A Concern About Those Who Left Corrupt Churches
There is another concern as well that I am noticing that has bothered me and its influenced the reasons for writing a blog such as this one. When the Sovereign Grace scandal raged here in the Washington, D.C. area I saw and interacted with people who talked about sex abuse in places like Covenant Life Church or Sovereign Grace Fairfax. They talked about the problems of sex abuse and how evil it was, and they were right. Then in the course of time I saw a few people shift and explain away the sexual abuse issue with Donald Trump. I realized that sexual abuse was only important if it happened in their family but otherwise they could dismiss it. Seeing the double standard was disappointing but I thought this was an isolated incident. In Mars Hill in Seattle I also interacted with people who talked about how Mark Driscoll was a bully. They talked about his anger issues, his narcissism, and more. This blog agreed with them and then I saw some of those people who called out Driscoll defend Donald Trumps’ bullying. It shocked me and I distanced myself from a few people. This happened again with James MacDonald. I saw people from Harvest on Twitter who talked about how James was a bully. Look at how he treated students in Harvest Christian Academy. What he said to people in Harvest, etc… And just as I witnessed with Sovereign Grace and Mars Hill some of the people from Harvest did the same thing. They rallied around Donald Trump, excused the bullying and explained it away. When James MacDonald did that behavior its abusive. When Donald Trump does that behavior its fine. The double standards by many Christians who leave these organizations talking about abuse who then justify abuse in other areas is emotionally crushing.
As a result I have come to the conclusion that you really can’t help some of these people from some of these churches. Some are never going to learn and just will go from one personality cult to another. Its heartbreaking to see but its also the reality of the situation as well. When I write its mostly for the community that these places reside. My goal is to keep people away from them and spare them of the divided and destroyed families.
The Next Question to Wrestle with…Does God Exist?
Years ago in a faith crisis I read part of a book that hit close to home for me. The book was by the former religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, William Lobdell and was his own personal journey into atheism. One of the things he said in that book is that many religious organizations are not drenched in God’s spirit. They are much more corrupt, much more hypocritical and that was the point for him. If people are going to go to hell then why would God allow all these corrupt organizations to harm and destroy people. What type of loving father would allow their son or daughter to be hurt or abused? With a message so pertinent and needed why does God allow or entrust it to the James MacDonalds or C.J. Mahaney’s of the world. Maybe the answer to the question is that perhaps God does not exist. Perhaps that is why these problems happen over and over. If God existed he would intervene and stop them from occurring. It could also mean that perhaps God does not love his creation at all. These are longer and deeper questions that I will have to wrestle with in the course of the next few years. As I have written about before the problem of evil is the best reason for rejecting God. You can read that in, “Why the Problem of Evil is the Best Reason for Rejecting God.”
Its a hard and difficult journey but to know yourself is very important in the end. How many people recall when they were young and they realized that things like Santa Claus did not exist? You have that awakening and realization that you were strung along for the longest of time. For me that is kind of what religion feels like for me in many ways as these situations have dragged on. To be criticized and attacked I can take. For those who say I was never an evangelical to begin with, I can dismiss those claims. I recall when a military officer from a Sovereign Grace Church tried to get me involved in Redeemer Arlington and then triggered a false accusation that threatened my ability to earn income and more. It was the darkest season of my life. I responded in time by approaching many people for forgiveness as a way out of a faith crisis. I built many bridges in 2013 and 2014. In the process I learned that Christians don’t admit error or say they are wrong. That is why my action stood our and moved so many people. After that effort many of those bridges were burned by Christian nationalism in 2016. And in another way it left me reeling. It also showed me as well which was hard to admit that many parts of the Christian faith are not true. And it took me practicing it to realize that it was not true. Actually it reminded me of when I was in college and the Mormon missionaries were telling me how to build a testimony in both Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. When it didn’t work the missionaries put the blame on me and made me the issue. Evangelicalism is similar in that you can do the faith or live it out but it fails and then you can have faith communities who shift the blame to you and make you the issue.
Anyhow I will have to wrestle with some of these other issues for a long time but as for evangelicalism its best to leave it behind. Yes its the loss of innocence in many ways but that is a part of growing as well.