Scot McKnight on deconversions

I personally love the contrast, right in the same section, right alongside the Pharisee and tax collector of all things, of Jesus demanding that the rich young good person give away everything he has to the poor, while Zaccheus was lauded and his salvation announced for giving away half his possessions to the poor.

I think the idea isn’t hard to miss that we absolutely need to “renounce” (bid farewell to, take leave of, say goodby to) all we have, including wife, family, etc. “hate them” in fact., which I also clearly recognize to be a hyperbole, but a very real and meaningful hyperbole that we need to take absolutely seriously.

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Well, this is a good allegory in some ways, but not in others. Better to compare, perhaps, to a contract with someone by the Internet who appears to send you messages–but then you begin to wonder if that person was really who he/she says he/she is. We don’t have the same interaction with God through Jesus that a husband/wife does, as much as we use that as a comparison.

Evolution, the confusion between what the Bible says and what science says, the ancient NE mentality–all these are very good and wise reasons to question if our “spouse” is really there on the other side.

I know that the NT alludes to those who fell away as being because they were never part of the church (1 John 2 :19, though that may have been specific to that time)–but the implication can be that someone never really tried, or didn’t have the integrity to stay with the program. On the contrary, it seems to me that to be honest, we all should be willing to question and self examine the opposite–do I want God to exist, and is that why I believe in Him? Is the Bible really correct? Or do I want that way to resolve my insecurities?

Far better, it seems to me, to affirm true questioning as a seeking after God and truth–than to condemn someone for not being able to hold to a faith in the midst of such challenges.

More, it seems that God has more understanding for us, as He knows how we are made. He remembers we are dust. I fully expect to see many atheists and nonChristians in Heaven, once they’ve had it out with God.

We are made much different from each other in our ability to accept concepts of belief–some of us more like Thomas; others have no problem. There is another problem–if we think that just believing in something because it is written in a holy book, or was taught to us, or we have a burning in our chests, is a virtue–there is no way to communicate among folks of other faiths (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism; or atheism). There is no common ground on which to reason. Fundamentalism and conflict, based on our own insecurities and inability to understand the other’s point of view or questions our own, can (and have) ensue. Rather, it seems that we need to bear with each other as Jesus would, listening and giving trust to each other’s desire to know the truth, and communicate with logic, as much as possible.

George Macdonald, my favorite author, wrote, “You doubt because you love truth.” That’s in general very appropriate, I think.

You seem to be very patient with doubts. Maybe you had significant ones at one point, as well.

Great hyperbole example about the “hating” your family–very much in the genre. Thanks.

I think it was a true conversion, but they fell away. If it wasn’t a true conversion, what are they falling away from? People’s minds can be changed over the course of time for a variety of reasons, so falling away isn’t always because it was no longer to their own personal advantage.

I certainly think that is the GOAL. We should all strive to meet it. I don’t think falling away means you weren’t committed in the first place though. Again, from my experience, I was fully committed for many years. I truly believed, I was truly convicted one night almost 20 years ago that I needed to be immersed in water for the forgiveness of my sins, I confessed Jesus that night and was baptized. I studied the Bible and tried my best to follow God’s Word in everything I did. I was firm in my faith for several years. Then there came a point where I started to question some things. Then I started questioning more things. Then I was questioning everything. Unfortunately, I didn’t talk to anyone about these questions, so I instead ended up falling away. I was searching for truth. I even prayed for God to show me the truth. Literally a day or two later, my brain said, “None of this is real.” Three months later, I left my church. A friend guilted me (appropriately) into talking to someone at that point, and I began studying with one of the elders at my church. It took some time, but I came to see the truth. I also learned the value of being open and honest about what’s going on in my head. :slight_smile: It’s been a difficult road, but it’s also produced a lot of fruit. I’ve had opportunities to use my experience to help other people. I’ve grown as a person and as a Christian (still very much a work in progress though!). My marriage has been strengthened. My relationship with my church family has been strengthened. I have new perspectives on many things. I have a deeper understanding of the Bible (as I literally questioned everything :laughing:).

Was I truly converted almost 20 years ago? Absolutely. Did I fall away? Yes, very far. I sat in worship services for 3 months feeling like I was in a worship service for Santa Claus. I was fully atheist at that time. Now I am restored and am right with God again. I’m committed, despite the occasional doubts that pop up. Now I know that when those doubts come, I have people I can reach out to to discuss them and work through them, instead of bottling things up and letting things fester. The elders at my church have been fabulous in helping me with that - truly shepherding the flock as they’re told to do. :heart:


I started to put this in a different post, but it really goes along with this line of thought:

In the article, it states how spiritual crisis can lead to growth, and is a normal part of student life, and may even need to be nurtured to build authentic faith.
In reading the article, I wonder if not being sheparded through this process but being sheltered from it and being told that you must be a bad Christian if you have doubts or question the established dogma, then leads to a delay in the process to a later time in life where reconstruction is more difficult.
Some parallels in medicine are situations where diseases that may be minor in childhood like mumps, can be very hard to deal with as adults. Polio is also one of those, where adults who put off exposure to the virus until adulthood tend to get the paralytic form more so than children (a downside of better sanitary practices).


I hear you, but I would not make said comparison. My relationship with my king is far, far closer to that of a husband and wife than with an internet contact. Even beyond, in fact. I don’t exaggerate to say I love Christ far more than my wife and children. The marriage analogy breaks down, of course, but I don’t believe it does so in the way you suggest.

I have learned to wrestle through many doubts due to deep pains, but that is partly the reason I have grown so very fond of the laments, doubts, questions, and wrestlings of Scripture.

Largely agree, and I am often encouraging people to question and doubt more, and be more free to wrestle. I am always turning people to Lamentations, Psalms of Lament, Job, Ecclesiastes, etc. Due to my own aforementioned wrestlings and doubts, I have a great fondness for the parts of the Bible that invite us to wrestle with God.

But my fondness is with the parts of the Bible that invite us to wrestle with God. There is example after example of people accusing God, doubting his goodness, challenging him, wrestling with him (literlaly and figuratively). People express freely (and given my belief in inerrancy, I understand this to be by God’s direct invitation for us to similarly do so with his express approval) their doubts in his goodness, his plan, their frustration with him, their anger toward him, the seeming futility of serving him, the needless pain he inflicts. “Will not the judge of all the earth do what is right?” “Turn away from me so I may have some peace before I die.” “He bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrows.” “You have taken my friends and loved ones from me, the darkness is my closest friend.” “My hope he has pulled up like a tree.” All those kinds of doubts and wrestlings are fully endorsed, blessed, and encouraged by Scripture and by extension, by God himself.

What gives me pause, and thus why I must demur in part, is I can find nothing whatsoever that endorses in any way doubts that lead us to reject him or deny him. “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” Nothing about rejecting God or turning from him ever seems to be put in the same category as all the wrestling formerly mentioned. God seems to bless, endorse, and downright encourage all manner of wrestling with him. Doubts, accusations, anger, hopelessness, fear, distrust, and all the rest. But not doubting his very existence.

Unless I completely misread Scripture throughout, we are invited to wrestle with God, but it seems a different category, one I can find no blessing in, to entertain doubts that completely reject him. All the psalms of lament, doubt, and questioning are directed, in prayer, to God. Job for all his deepest doubts was yelling at God. Jeremiah was expressing his utter dismay about God. Abraham doubting God’s goodness was arguing with God. The teacher of Ecclesiastes was expressing all his hopeless doubts while acknowledging God.

Therefore, I can agree very far, but not to this extent…

I simply cannot find from Scripture any affirmation of questioning or doubting that goes to that degree of abandoning the faith altogether, to the degree of denying God completely. This doesn’t mean that God cannot use even such rebellion, he can use anything. But I just don’t see this as something I can endorse or give approval to, as I could all manner of the most seemingly irreverent and near-rebellious sounding doubts and accusations lobbed at God by his children -who have not abandoned him… since they are too busy yelling at him.


Thank you! But surely this isn’t saying that it’s a sin to question God’s existence since no one did that in Scripture?

The ANE mindset didn’t even consider that possibility. The Psalm referred to was in a different context–and we are interpreting it incorrectly with our Western mindset, I think you would agree. I think you would enjoy this:

Dr Rauser’s book, “Is the Atheist My Neighbor,” is one I think you would enjoy.

As a Christian, and therefore one who loves truth, one would say that while we believe God exists, we are open to questioning all dearly held beliefs in the interest of truth. Otherwise, can anyone take us seriously?


I would agree–as in our discussion on “Inerrancy,” God is certainly more important to me than anything else. However, the reassurance of His presence is not as clear or persistent as that of my family. My analogy was not the best, but the intent was to clarify that doubting His presence is not an issue of faithfulness as it would be for our families.


That’s also a favorite theme of mine. Middleton returns to it quite frequently, as well. You would enjoy a lot of the articles on his blog. Some representative pieces:

"Does God Come to Bury Job or to Praise Him? The Significance of YHWH’s Second Speech from the Whirlwind.”
“God’s Loyal Opposition: Psalmic and Prophetic Protest as a Paradigm for Faithfulness in the Hebrew Bible.”
“Samuel Agonistes : A Conflicted Prophet’s Resistance to God and Contribution to the Failure of Israel’s First King.”

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I am sure you have learned compassion from these experiences. My father often remarked that those help us understand others better.

Very good. Thank you.