Sent in by Gabe
I broke free from Christian fundamentalism in April 2006. I was a third year student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. This seminary is considered by many to be the intellectual hub of evangelical seminaries. The president of the seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, has been called "the leading intellectual voice for evangelicals in America." He has been a frequent guest on Larry King Live, debating controversial topics such as gay marriage, abortion, religious tolerance, etc. Dr. William Dembski also teaches at the seminary, who is widely considered the world's leading proponent of Intelligent Design. Dr. Dembski was my professor in the fall semester of 2005.
But with one year left to complete a Masters of Divinity in Theology, I could no longer ignore the questions that were piling up in my mind. My questions and doubts troubled me to the point that I simply could no longer preach and teach something that I wasn't sure if believed any longer. I had become a member of a Southern Baptist church almost a year earlier. I absolutely loved this church, and all three pastors were also students at the seminary. The pastor was a Ph.D student, so I really enjoyed his sermons because they were really "deep" theologically. So when I informed them of my decision to leave the faith, you can imagine their reaction! Shortly after hearing of my decision, they held a Wednesday night service to excommunicate me from the church and "deliver my soul over to satan for the destruction of my flesh and the eternal flames of hell." Here is the email correspondence that took place after I informed them of my decision to leave the faith. Hope you enjoy:
MY FIRST EMAIL INFORMING MY PASTORS OF MY DECONVERSION:
How's it going? This is Gabe. I apologize for not contacting you, Brandon, and John sooner. I hope things are going well for you. As you know I am not in seminary this semester. You are only the second person from the seminary I have emailed so far, and I regret causing such a stir by not contacting anyone before this semester began. First I want to say that you and everyone at Crossroad have been great friends. But I must get down to the heart of the matter. I know a good number of people are wondering where I am and why I have not shown up for class. I actually just dropped my classes, so I know my name has been called on the role for the last few days, and I'm sure that people are asking where I am. I don't know what the situation is like on the seminary campus. It may be that I have become the topic of many conversations, understandably so. I guess my roommate Craig has already informed you of the change in my beliefs, or at least some of the doubts I have. I have hesitated to speak to anyone because it is so difficult to tell you, my friends, and those I know of the change in my beliefs. I guess I should go ahead and tell you that I am no longer a Christian. And I can imagine how you feel from reading that statement. I could probably use the word shocked to describe the way you feel, but horrified is probably a better description. I fully understand everyone's reaction. In the eyes of a Christian something like this is more dreadful than a Christian cheating on his wife, because in my case the whole belief system which I held so fervently has crumbled. My family and friends in Georgia and South Carolina are completely shocked. I know that when the news gets around, everyone will be worried that I am on my way to hell, and I fully understand should anyone put forth an effort to bring me back into the fold. If it were me two months ago hearing of a brother or sister leaving the faith, I would have probably cried in prayer that God would bring him/her back. I know that many, if not all, will conclude that I was never a sincere born-again Christian due to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But I can assure you that was not the case. This might not be the best time to get into the specifics which led me to leave the faith, but I know that I will probably end up in a few debates. People are going to want to know. I can assure you that this is not something that I have taken lightly, and my deconversion did not come at a whim. This has been a very emotional process, and I even prayed for God to lead me back to my Christian beliefs if indeed I was wrong. I have had doubts in the back of my mind for quite a while, but I simply ignored them, as many Christians do. The only way I could continue steadfast in my faith was to ignore my doubts. I even preached this summer while going through this process, simply because I had already committed to preaching there a month prior. It was the most difficult sermon I have ever preached because I knew I was preaching something I no longer believed. If anyone asks you why I have not returned, feel free to tell them. Many are probably thinking that I have fallen back into being the partying drunk and drug addict, but I have not. There are too many responsibilities in life for that. I do not regret going to seminary, it has been the deepest learning experience of my life, emotionally and intellectually. Right now I am doing construction with my brother while looking for a job in which I can use my business degree. I'll talk to you later. Again, I apologize for any heartache I have caused. This is certainly not my intention. I hope the best for you all. Talk to you later.
RESPONSE FROM CHRIS (SENIOR PASTOR)
I must say that I am very disappointed with both your decision to abandon the faith once for all delivered to the saints and the approach you have taken in arriving at that decision. As your pastor I am absolutely shocked that you failed to contact me when these doubts began to enter your mind. I am not sure what resources you chose to consult as you sought to assuage your doubts, but obviously they were poor ones. I, along with every professor at Southern, would have been at your disposal had you merely picked up the phone or sent an email. Instead you waited until you left town to begin the process of walking away from Christ and then never bothered to contact either your pastors or your professors. Did you doubt our ability to answer the questions you were facing? Do you think that [...], Al Mohler, or Bill Dembski would hold to a faith that was not intellectually viable? Or did you doubt our veracity? Had we ever given you the impression that we were lying or did not have your best interests in mind? These are questions that I am dying to have answered. Your comments that you did not want to get into the specifics or discuss specifics about your change of heart leads me to conclude that you are not very serious about discovering the truth. He whose mind is closed has ceased to learn. Give me specifics and I will answer any questions you have.
Of course at this point I must admit that I am a bit skeptical of your claims to no longer believe the Bible (as your roommate conveyed to us). To me it sounds as if you have found something that you love more than Christ (sin) and merely have changed your mind about Scripture in an effort to self-medicate against feelings of guilt and conviction of sin. Sin is crouching at your door Gabe. You must master it.
We have shared your abandonment with the members of CrossRoad Church and have called for a corporate fast on your behalf. Please rest assured that it will not be the last time we do so. We will not surrender you to the enemy. Gabe you need to return to Christ. The first step will be to share some specifics of your struggle and call me on my cell (###-###-####). At the very minimum we need to have considerable email correspondence. Brandon, John, and I are all prepared to travel to the Georgia/South Carolina area to sit down with you. You still have a trailer up here. Why don't you come up and visit for a week? We can sit down and discuss this issue patiently.
Gabe you requested that we remove your name from our church rolls. Please know that we will not give up on you that easily. We will pursue church discipline. Our church is prepared to put you out of the church, but that does not mean that our relationship with you will cease. It merely means that our relationship with you will change. At this point Gabe you give us little reason to conclude anything other than the possibility that you are either very confused by the attacks of the enemy or you were never a Christian to begin with. I pray you will give us a chance to relieve those fears.
Gabe, you are the victim of satanic strongholds (false ideas about God). If you will pursue the truth diligently God will lead you to it. Failure to let your pastors know about your struggles is not diligent pursuit of the truth.
Please call me.
MY INITIAL EMAIL FORWARDED BY CHRIS TO THE ASSISTANT PASTORS, JOHN AND BRANDON. THIS IS JOHN’S RESPONSE:
My mind is racing right now with all of the things I want to say to you. Chris and Brandon have responded to you well so I won't belabor any point that has been addressed. Please listen to what we are saying to you. We are in complete unity in our love and commitment to you. Gabe, there is nothing wrong with having some doubts in your mind. Anyone who is honest and engaged intellectually will have some from time to time. God is big enough to handle and answer your doubts if you are seriously searching after the truth.
I have found the disconnect you are experiencing usually begins with either a refusal to believe something that is true to the nature of God or a refusal to repent and forsake sin. My brothers have pleaded with you in both of these areas. Gabe, I really think you need to remove yourself from the atmosphere where sin has clouded your mind and return to Indiana. Maybe you need to sit out a semester -- that's fine. You need to be with people who love you as you are and long to help you understand the richness that can be found only in Christ.
We are praying and fasting fervently for you. Gabe, I would rather not eat than to lose you to Satan. It's like I'm watching my son play in the highway and I can't get to him. Come back home, Gabe.
Yours in Christ,
BRANDON’S RESPONSE TO MY INITIAL EMAIL. BRANDON IS THE PASTOR WHO FEELS HE IS GIFTED IN ADMINISTERING SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE!
I have read the email that you sent to Chris and I am deeply disturbed and upset with your decision and line of reasoning. In fact Gabe, I do not believe your story at all. You are a very intelligent individual who is steeped in theology and apologetics. I don't think for one second that in your heart you fully deny the truthfulness of God's word and the exclusivity of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have convinced yourself that these claims are false but you have been strongly deceived. Gabe lets get down to the bottom line here. This is the fact----you were saved out of a drug abusive lifestyle saturated with sexual immorality and these things still to this day haunt you and rid your conscience with guilt. This summer before you left I warned you that the enemy was going to swift you like wheat and try to tempt you to sin---talk about a prophetic word from GOD---how is that for prophecy? Gabe you told me that your brother was hooked on meth and was a drug addict as well as his wife. We grieved over his drug abuse and over the state of his soul. You have been with him all summer long.
Gabe lets cut to the chase here---what drugs are you on? Is it cocaine again?--I know you told Ryan you used to snort. Are you on meth? Smoking weed? What is it Gabe? No Christian in the history of creation walks away from the faith in the manner that you have. There is always a sin issue!! ALWAYS! I will not except this garbage that you just stopped believing because of some doubts you had. You can tell me that all day long and I don't except that Gabe. That is nothing but an excuse from Satan. Gabe take it from a man who has done drugs and abused alcohol and backsliden in the faith----I know what it feels like to walk away from Christ and i am telling you this---you are about to feel the biggest pain in your life if you do not repent of your lifestyle sin. God has put a hook in my nose and he will do the same for you---IF you are or ever were his child to begin with---which by the way I feel that you did give evidence of being a genuine Christian. We will help you. We love you. We will do whatever it takes to heal the pain that you are going through. Gabe I will drive to Georgia if I have to in order to get you some help...only stop telling me that you just don't believe because of some doubts because when you do that Gabe you insult my intelligence and my friendship.
Gabe I am praying for you and I love you. I want to help. We as a church want to help. In your response please tell us the truth about your sin so that we can attack the root issue.
MY FIRST RESPONSE TO BRANDON:
Brandon, I received your message, and I will say that I am not surprised by your tone. But I know that you must rebuke them sharply. First I will say that you have been a good friend. But I must respond to your message. First I want to comment on your statement that "no Christian in the history of creation has walked away from the faith" as I did. I don't know where you came up with that. I don't know if you have ever heard of a man by the name of Dr. Charles Templeton. He was Billy Graham's best friend and original preaching partner when Billy Graham started in the revivalism circuit. It has been said that he was every bit as strong in the gospel as Billy Graham. However, upon examining the evidence for and against his Christian faith, he became an agnostic. There are countless other examples of people who have deconverted from Christianity, including Farrell Till, who is a former minister, but now an outspoken critic of Christianity. He even debated Norman Geisler, who as you know is one of the most highly respected Christian apologists in the world. You can read the debate online as I did, but if you don't want your faith shaken then I suggest you refrain from reading it. This debate didn't turn out so well for Dr. Geisler. Dan Barker is another example, a former Baptist preacher for 19 years, a touring evangelist, and a successful Christian song writer, who also turned away from the faith after much research. There are tons of other testimonies just like these of people who left the faith after putting their beliefs to the test. And you said that you do not believe that I abandoned the Christian faith because of some doubts that I had. Well if it were just a few problems I perhaps could have continued in the faith, but the problems and doubts are by no means few. How many problems does it take for one to honestly question whether his beliefs are true? Not many when the foundation of your faith is that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. John Wesley even said, "If there be any mistake in the Bible, there may well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in that book, it did not come from the God of truth." (John Wesley, Journal, Wed., July 24, 1776). But of course a presupposition that it is inerrant and infallible makes it easy to explain away any problems. Under such a presupposition, you have no choice but to somehow make it "fit."
Second I want to clarify that my brother is not on methamphetamine. I never said he was. I only said his wife was at one point. But that's no big deal, just a little misunderstanding on our part. But she is still in rehad where she is receiving treatment, and we are confident that she will fully recover from this addiction. My brother has not done any meth in over four years. He has a son whom he takes care of every day, and he simply has too many responsibilities. And myself, I've been clean for almost six years and I plan on staying that way. Its not "garbage" when I say that I'm not on drugs, and its not "garbage" when I say that my doubts led me to abandon the Christian faith. And honestly, I do not like it one bit when you talk to me like that, nor does anyone else. Its late, so I have to go. Take care.
A FOLLOW UP MESSAGE THAT I SENT BRANDON, INSPIRED BY HIS SMART-ASS "PROPHETIC WORD FROM GOD" STATEMENT:
Brandon, since in your email you mentioned prophecy, it reminded me to include a link to Farrell Till's discussion on the validity of using prophecy to prove the Bible is inspired. I was wondering if you wanted to read it. If the faith is true then it will withstand any objection brought against it, but it is strange that the vast majority of Christians are afraid to read anything that challenges their faith. Here's the link:
Talk to you later,
BRANDON’S RESPONSE, AFTER REALIZING THAT MAYBE HE WAS BEING A LITTLE ARROGANT. FRANKLY, I THINK HE GETS A KICK OUT OF ADMINISTERING CHURCH DISCIPLINE. I GUESS IT ADDS A LITTLE VARIETY TO HIS MINISTERIAL DUTIES. ITS GOTTA GET RATHER BORING REPEATING THE SAME MESSAGE OVER AND OVER, WEEK AFTER WEEK, YEAR AFTER YEAR. HE BEGINS HIS RESPONSE IN AN APOLOGETIC TONE, BUT BY THE END HE’S JUST AS HARSH AS EVER.
First I want to say that I love you dearly. I am not trying to be rude or mean to you. Gabe I fear for your soul....I can't imagine you burning in hell for all eternity. Second, I am glad that you are not on drugs and if apologize if I misunderstood about your brother. Thirdly Gabe you misquoted my original email. What I said was this: "No Christian in the history of creation walks away from the faith in the manner that you have. There is always a sin issue!! ALWAYS!" I am not arguing that no one walks away from the faith. What I am arguing is that there is always a sin issue associated with the apostasy.
Gabriel I have read the material you sent and have a response to each point, however I want to know if you are open to hearing a response. If you have already made up your mind on this issue and are not open to the truth then I will be wasting my time and energy. However, if you are open then I suggest we have dialog on the subject.
Gabe this is a very serious matter and we are taking it seriously. There is a scheduled meeting for next Wednesday to excommunicate you from the flock of God. This will include handing you over to Satan for the destruction of your flesh.
1 Cor 5:5 "you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
As you know Gabe, this means that the Lord himself will sit in judgment with us as a body and deliver you over to demonic torment in an attempt to force you into repentance. Whatever we bind on earth the Lord Jesus will bind in heaven. I don't want you to be demoniacally tormented the rest of your life. I fear for your soul the rest of your days on earth and for the eternal flames that await you on the day of judgment if you do not repent. Gabe think about these issues seriously...demonic torment....eternal fire.
Gabriel we are willing to suspend this vote if you are willing to be open and talk with us about these issues. A phone conversation, email correspondence, or a personal visit will do. Chris and myself will drive to Georgia and sit down with you and work through these issues. Gabe we made a covenant with you and we take that very seriously. Gabe I am your pastor and I will give an account to God Almighty for your soul. I will search for the lost sheep.
Please respond with your openness to doctrinal correction and repentance to sin. I have also copied John and Chris so that they are informed about our conversation.
Gabe again I am pleading with your soul out of love....please don't forsake Christ. Gabe little 5 year old [...] knelt beside her bed last night and prayed the following, "Jesus please help Gabe to remember you again." Chris's daughter Brooke prayed that "Gabe would come back to Jesus." Gabe even the little children of CrossRoad Church are pleading with the Lord for your soul. We have fasted as a church for your soul. Gabe please don't force us to hand your soul over to demonic torment and the eternal flames of Hell.
MY LAST RESPONSE BEFORE WE MET IN PERSON:
Brandon, I am more than willing and open to any correction in what I have researched. But it is clearly evident that you are not open to the option that your beliefs are false, because you said to me, "If you have already made up your mind on this issue and are not open to the truth then I will be wasting my time and energy. However, if you are open then I suggest we have dialogs on the subject." You question whether I have already made up my mind on this issue. I am open to being corrected, but the arguments opposing the Christian faith are much stronger. But you are guilty of having already made up your mind, because you claim that I may not be open to the truth, proving that your presupposition is that your beliefs are correct and mine are false. Brandon, lets be honest, if you had never been told that the Bible is the Word of God, would you believe it is inspired? Talk to you later.
HOPE YOU ENJOYED, SORRY ABOUT THE LENGTH.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)