Atheist Pastors Pretending to Believe?!?!?!?!

Posted: March 19, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Heresy, The Mysterious World of American Evangelicalism
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Al Mohler has an eye-opening article over at his wonderful website ( titled “Preachers Who Don’t Believe“. Here is a sad account found in Mohler’s article:

Wes, a Methodist, lost his confidence in the Bible while attending a liberal Christian college and seminary. “I went to college thinking Adam and Eve were real people,” he explained. Now, he no longer believes that God exists. In his rendering, God is a word that “can be used very expressively in some of my more meditative modes” and “a kind of poetry that is written by human beings.”

His church members do not know that he is an atheist, but he explains that they are somewhat liberal themselves. His ministerial colleagues are even more liberal: “They’ve been de-mythologized, I’ll say that. They don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead literally. They don’t believe Jesus was born of a virgin. They don’t believe all those things that would cause a big stir in their churches.”

This story is becoming an increasingly common story that I hear. In fact, I met a fellow parent today at my daughter’s track and field practice who shared with me an experience at an institution I will leave unnamed, where the Old Testament professor informed the class on the first day that the Old Testament contained a lot of mythology. This parent’s faith was shattered and fortunately later recovered.  It is no secret that a local university (Northwest Nazarene University) here in Nampa, Idaho has some professors that question a lot of orthodox assumptions about the historic Christian faith.

I met a young man at a local coffee shop, The Flying M, who I overheard questioning whether there was even a God. I struck up a conversation with him and he shared with me that he came to NNU as a zealous Christian, heavily involved in his church and interested in missions, but after some Religion courses at NNU, now didn’t know what to believe.

Another student, who had visited our Church, has shared with me that her faith is challenged every week in a particular class (and not in a good way). It turns out that it has forced her to substantiate her orthodox Christian faith and she has been the better for it, but she shared how shocked she was to have certain basic core Christian doctrines attacked. I’m sure that there are some good stories of students coming out of some of these liberal universities and seminaries with their Evangelical faith intact, but I have met very few. The more common stories I hear are as follows:

– Adam and Eve aren’t real.

– Evolution is obvious.

– Noah story is false.

– God didn’t tell Abraham to sacrifice his son. That’s if Abraham is even seen as historical.

– God didn’t tell His people to kill others.

– Paul misunderstood the origin of sin.

– Jesus wasn’t born from a virgin.

– God the Father didn’t plan for His Son to suffer a painful death on the cross.

– Jesus didn’t satisfy any sort of wrath that God would have with us.

– Jesus isn’t the only way to salvation.

– There is no eternal hell.

– We shouldn’t “judge” people for sexual sins, but we should certainly chastise people who don’t recycle.

– Killing animals might be a bad way to steward creation, but let’s not get too zealous in our opposition to killing babies in the womb.

If I should dare raise a concern about people espousing these things, I get labeled the dreaded “fundamentalist” word. Apparently that’s supposed to end all debate because “fundamentalists” are just morons who are mistaken about the Bible, Jesus, and need to tone down their “soul-winning” zeal. What’s sad about this whole thing is that some of these folks are in ministry prostituting themselves for a paycheck and intentionally using ambiguous language to hide their absolute hatred for orthodoxy. I would dare say that I fear for their souls before the God who says “let not many of you be teachers”, and that it is better to be drowned with a millstone around us than to lead people astray. If I am a “fundamentalist”  for saying such things, then so be it. Call me arrogant if you’d like, but the irony is that these “nicey-nice” liberals actually cloak a very real, dark, and sinister arrogance.

I would confidently say that anyone who believes that Jesus didn’t atone for our sins on the cross and didn’t rise from the dead are “anti-Christs”.  The parent I met said that they would never send their children to this institution. She also made an insightful comment suggesting that these institutions that dub themselves “Christian” and then deconstruct Christian orthodoxy on the very  first day of class are more dangerous that a secular institution, because at least you know what to expect at a secular institution and they are being consistent with their label. I have had correspondence with an academic dean from one institution I will leave unnamed that showed a terrible arrogance and disdain for orthodoxy. He insinuated that we were doing kids harm by teaching them the Bible as if it is trustworthy. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. He said that they have to correct the “Sunday School” faith of the young adults we send their way. I teach our kids that God loves them and has a plan for their lives and then they go to this institution and are taught that God didn’t even know that they would exist and doesn’t even know when they will die and how they will die. I teach kids that it was the will of the Father to crush the Son on the cross (Isa 53:10), and they are instead being told that this ancient doctrine of “Propitiation” is dark and evil and tantamount to “divine child abuse”. What Jesus are they teaching? Perhaps, Mark Driscoll, who used to run with the emergent crowd sums well these concerns:

“In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God’s sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell which is one hell of a mistake.”

“there is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes.”

  1. joelmartin says:

    Seeking approval from the Academy is a sure road to losing the core of the faith handed down to us. You *will* get called a fundamentalist – a term that seems to mean you believe in the stuff – and so what that you are called that? While our scholarship and reasoning should be first rate, this does not mean we have to bow to the Academy on everything to curry its favor.

    If scientists had examined the wine that Jesus had changed from water, it would have exhibited all the characteristics of wine: aged grapes fermented into wine. This “appearance of age” is enough for me to know that all things are possible with God.

    • Joel, the disdain for “fundamentalists” is astounding. I am the first to offer criticism of “fundamentalist” engagement of culture and piety, but my goodness, these folks love Jesus, His Word, and want to evangelize the lost. Yeah, some insist on KJV, white collared shirts with red ties, a clean shave, oppose abortion, don’t drink, etc. but do we really want to crucify these folks as the enemy? The alternative from the hipster emergent progressives is even more distasteful. By swerving so hard from one ditch, they are in a pile in the other ditch and really stink. Those who find the stench attractive are very few, so I’m not worried. Recent polling has shown the Christian Church is growing nationally and internationally among those groups which actually believe the Bible, believe that Jesus is the only hope for salvation, and believe that Jesus died on the cross to satisfy God’s wrath against us. Whether it’s the Pentecostals in the Latin and African countries, the growing Church in China, the Evangelical revival that has swept through South Korea, or the conservative Anglican bodies on the African continent, it is folks who uphold Scripture that are thriving. The churches that are growing here in American are led by Pentecostal/Charismatic, Reformed, and Conservative Independent Churches. I am embarrassed that Christians from these other countries look to America and wonder what in the world is wrong with us. I guess the liberal response would be to set up their seminaries on these continents and tell everyone that they are sincerely mistaken about Scripture, Jesus, and the Cross and that they simply need to be smart and open up their minds to these brilliant professors who really know what the Bible means. These liberal profs remind me of the gnostics in that they think they have this higher knowledge which will really liberate people from their misconceived notions about Scripture. What they are liberating their students from is Christ Himself. Sad to say.

  2. Michael says:

    Well said Pastor Rick. I have been in debate with the leadership of the Nazarene Church and the Universities for the last few years. There are literally thousands of Nazarene’s across the country questioning their leaders and getting very little feedback because most of these leaders have embraced the liberal thinking of emergent teachers like Brian McLaren, etc. They invite these people to their campuses and treat them as their own. Students on Nazarene campus’s who hold to an orthodox view are marginalized and treated like second class citizens. This has been documented by many students over the years. Your readers may want to go to for more information.

    • Michael, I am so sad to hear about the struggle, but the Church has always been in combat mode since day one regarding doctrine. A lot of people treat these issues with indifference thinking we are just trying to count the number of angels on a pin, but these things concerning many mainline denominations are very significant. I don’t feel threatened, because all denominations that have gone down the liberal road are dying and becoming extinct. I feel bad for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and more generation of folks within those movements who decry what is happening, but very little can be done. It’s like trying to stop a snowball going downhill.

      • Michael says:

        Thanks for fixing the link Rick. I have been listening to generational fundamental orthodox families in the Nazarene church for many years. I now refer to them as the pew people who love Jesus and do the brundt of the ministry. I was one of them for 15 years. They are the ones being hurt and do not seem to have any authority or control in the church or the universities. They are constantly marginalized or dismissed as divisive if they question what is going on. I agree with what you say about combat mode since day one. The enemy never rests. I find that a lot of the liberal elitists leaders at the universities and in the pulpits seem to share a common embarrasment regarding their backgrounds as being labeled fundamentalists or legalists when they were growing up in the public school system. Many of them did not get to go to the school dance or participate in certain activities for religious reasons. Now these same individuals are in leadership and excited about being in the public forum and rubbing sholders with what they consider the cool neo-evangelical crowd. I have read some of their testimonies of growing up in fundamental households and now they openly wear their liberal badges so proudly. They are in the spotlight, writing books, traveling to exciting places with the pew peoples money who are sending their kids into the lion’s den unaware of these gnostics who are transforming these students to be like them with better ideas and new truths. Some of them are getting special grants from very liberal groups because they are supporting and espousing their theology or ideology. You will consistently find their spiritual heroes and the people they support come from similar backgrounds and have rejected or have reimagined Scripture, Doctrine and Church history. Nothing is new. Anyone who studies church history will recognize the same old ploys with new clever postmodern names and deconstruction of truth.

  3. joelmartin says:

    Rick, when you get right down to it, I think anyone who holds the Bible to be God-breathed and tries to live by it is considered a fundamentalist by most. Of course, the term no longer has much to do with the movement that gave birth to it.

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