BreakPoint: A Failure of Faith Formation

What We Learn from Public Disavowals of Christianity

by: 

Last week, following the high profile falling away from faith of Joshua Harris, former Hillsong singer and songwriter Marty Sampson posted this on Instagram: “Time for some real talk…I’m genuinely losing my faith…and it doesn’t bother me.”

The next day he deleted this post and clarified that he hasn’t fully renounced Christianity, at least not yet. Still, he admitted, his faith was quite shaky. He then reiterated his doubts and said that “the majority of a typical Christian’s life is not spent considering these things” because they fall into the “too hard basket.”

Sampson’s claims, I’m sad to say, are not uncommon among young evangelicals. And let me just say this as directly and bluntly as I can: they reveal a failure on the part of the church to take the difficult but essential task of faith formation {sanctification} seriously enough.

As I read through his description of what was happening, I thought to myself, “Which faith is he falling away from?” His words reveal a lot.

First, he described a faith largely driven by emotions. Losing his faith, he said, did not bother him. In fact, he’s happy about it. So, if his doubts bothered him and his faith instead made him happy, would he then reconsider?

The fact is, too many churches sell Christianity with feelings. We’re told how interested God is in our own happiness, our own meaning, and our own sense of purpose. But our feelings cannot determine whether or not something is actually true.

Second, the faith Sampson describes is an uncritical faith. Science, he says, “keeps piercing the truth of every religion.” I’m not completely sure what that even means, but it seems to buy into the classic science vs. faith narrative. It’s just not true that science is ultimately opposed to faith. It’s not true historically, nor is it true today. Faith doesn’t need to reject critical investigation.

Third, Sampson describes an uneducated faith. He claimed that “no one talks about” the seeming contradictions in the Bible, the fact that Christian leaders fall, or how a loving God can condemn “four billion people to a place, all ‘coz they don’t believe.” This of course is just not true. Every apologetics book ever written tackles these questions, and the issues he raised here aren’t even the difficult ones.

Still, while Sampson is mistaken that “nobody” is talking about these issues, he’s not completely wrong in his critique. In fact, far too many churches avoid tough questions. Far too many fail to equip Christians on the current cultural controversies. In fact, too much of Christianity – especially evangelical Christianity – neglects intellectual discipleship altogether. Not even basic theology is articulated from some pulpits. I don’t know how else to say it: They fail God’s people.

Fourth, Sampson also wrote that “Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of truth.” This statement reveals a misguided faith, one that smacks of what sociologist Christian Smith called “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” that the point of religion and faith is self-improvement. That’s not what Christian faith is about. Christian faith is discovering the truth about who God is and what He is doing in the world, and then through repentance and His grace, aligning ourselves to that truth.

Now look, I have no problem with Sampson admitting doubt. Most of us, at some point in our journey of faith, will encounter doubt about God’s love, about Scripture, about whether Jesus is really God, any number of things. In fact, I discussed doubt with apologist Brett Kunkle recently on the BreakPoint Podcast.

But Marty Sampson was a worship leader. He wrote modern Christian melodic catechism. He was tasked, as worship leaders are, with communicating theology to the body of Christ. Apparently, he was in a church where no one was talking about the questions he struggled with. The church failed him.

In his book “The Fabric of Faithfulness,” Steve Garber wrote that the reason so many young Christians lose their faith is that their worldview isn’t “big enough” for the world. This is a depressingly accurate description of what we can expect from a generation whose intellectual faith formation has been neglected.

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* Please note the bold print was added by me for emphasis 

Faith is a Gift of God

4 Sept 2002

Fall flat before Christ, cast yourself upon him and rest upon him completely. He can support you for ever. Faith looks to Jesus Christ as he is indeed the Son of God, as he is indeed perfect, sinless, and true man.

By this phrase “faith in Jesus Christ” we are referring to a saving grace, whereby sinners receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel, and we are affirming that that faith is a gift of God. We are talking about a wholehearted reliance on and trust in Jesus Christ the inviting and welcoming Saviour. You see me leaning on this pulpit rail, leaning my full weight upon it. Faith is leaning on Christ. It would be a better illustration if I stretched myself out on a flat rock. Fall flat before Christ, cast yourself upon him and rest upon him completely. He can support you for ever. Faith looks to Jesus Christ as he is indeed the Son of God, as he is indeed perfect, sinless, and true man. Faith looks to Christ and focuses upon his work as redeemer. It apprehends his life of perfect obedience and his sacrificial death on Calvary as the spotless Lamb. Faith considers Jesus’ relationship to us as prophet, priest and king. In other words, saving faith lays hold of these things – who Christ is, what he has done, and what he is to us. But it never stops there. My will is active in terms of his relationship to me. As a Prophet I learn from and believe everything he says. As a Priest who has offered a perfect sacrifice to God I depend on him alone for salvation, and as a King I gladly bow in submission to him and give myself in wholehearted obedience to him. That is saving faith in Christ, and I am saying that such faith is granted to us by God – his gift of grace to favoured sinners…

One of my favorite quotes and points Geoff makes: “Man does not posses a free will. Martin Luther wrote a book entitled The Bondage of the Will…The will is in the chains of an evil human nature.”

Continued at source: Faith is a Gift of God
 

A Prayer for a Friend Doubting the Faith

clip_image002_thumb.jpgFebruary 10

Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt. (Jude 21– 22)

Dear Jesus, the liar and thief is at it again, and a good friend has a bull’s-eye painted on his chest. The one who maliciously asked, “Did God really say . . . ?” (Gen. 3: 1) continues his unrelenting assault, seeking to twist, undermine, and sabotage the only Word that gives life. I long for the day when our already-defeated foe becomes our fully eradicated enemy. Hasten the day, Lord . . . hasten that day.

Jesus, as you know, this is a friend who’s {helped many people find peace in you}{new to the Faith*}{experiencing serious personal issues*}{backslidden*}, but right now he’s not really sure what he believes. He’s beyond anger. There’s a scary void in his eyes. He feels abandoned by you and cruelly punished. This could be burnout, but it feels like more.

I ache for him, Jesus. I groan for my friend and grapple for his heart. Help me love him well. Give me patience to stay present in his chaos. Help me wade through what feels like a smoke screen of theological questions to get to the real issues of his heart. What’s really going on inside of him, Jesus? Give me discernment. Give me good answers for honest questions, but give me great mercy for his real needs, whatever they are.

And please keep him from medicating in destructive ways. Pain makes us vulnerable, and isolation intensifies our demand for relief. He’s pulling away from those of us he’s walked with for years. That’s what concerns me the most. Jesus, I’ll keep pursuing and praying, but I put much more stock in your prayers than mine. You never stop interceding for us (Rom. 8: 34); you ever live to pray for us (Heb. 7: 25). I cannot imagine your prayers failing. Restore the joy of your salvation in my friend. Bring him home to your heart. As you prayed for the protection of your disciples, I’m confident of your prayers for my friend (John 17: 15). I pray with peace, in your tender and tireless name. Amen.

{*} are my additions, maybe you can think of more?

Edited from: Smith, Scotty. Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith (p. 55). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

PURITAN QUOTE(S) FOR TODAY – 11 January

p-day-byKNOWLEDGE

“The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowthkledge…” Proverbs 15:14

Knowledge direct conscience, conscience perfect knowledge – Thomas Adams

True knowledge and the profession of knowledge are distinct – Stephan Charnock

Opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making – John Milton

Taken from: The Puritans Day by Day © The Banner of Truth Trust 2016

** Note for a daily devotional this year check out our FSM FB page and M.L. Jones’s excellent “Walking with God”