Instagram delivered the news: Jonathan Steingard no longer believes in God. Not what you expect from the lead singer of a Christian band – in this case, it’s the band Hawk Nelson – but we’re seeing more and more of this kind of formal faith renunciation.
Jon’s came in the form of a May 20 apology: “I’ve been terrified to post this for a while – but it feels like it’s time for me to be honest … After growing up in a Christian home, being a pastor’s kid, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word ‘Christian’ in front of most of the things in my life – I am now finding that I no longer believe in God …”
I get super sad whenever I see things like this. It represents so many misunderstandings on so many levels. Not only that, but I’m sad for Jonathan. He’s obviously in a state of crisis. You and I should pray that God meets this man right where he is. Not too much for God.
Now, please allow me to make a few personal observations …
a. Almost without fail, this kind of announcement is generally followed (in relatively short order) by a second announcement: that the person who made the first announcement has entered into a lifestyle that is incompatible with Christianity.
b. We in the Christian community are at least partially responsible for the damage we inflict by elevating anyone in a ministry spotlight to “celebrity” status. We can add to the hypocrisy and the pressure without intending it or realizing it.
c. Nothing can replace the church! God has instructed us to learn our doctrine and theology within the context of the local assembly of believers, to whom every member is accountable – and the church must be shepherded by qualified and tested leaders.
d. This is a truth from Scripture, and from the lips of our Sovereign Lord Jesus (John 6:37): “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” That never changes, friends. Period.
I wanted to say all of that so that we don’t set up our kids to be disappointed by another fallen hero. That will still happen from time to time, but we need to minimize that fallout danger by making sure that we are strong in the gospel! When we’re strong in Christ, we’re much less likely to be shaken by someone who appears to be abandoning orthodoxy. In fact, the Bible tells us to expect such departures (check out First Timothy 4, for example).
So let’s say that we have a friend or a family member who is struggling, intellectually, with the claims of Christ – whether the person professes to be a believer, or not. Are there some ways in which we can help them reason through their struggles – and navigate through those murky waters of doubt? Yes.
We can point people toward the basic principle of cause-and-effect. Every known thing in our world has a cause. That seems more than accidental. It’s worth pondering that the cause of a universe as awesome as ours must be none other than an awesome God.
We can point people toward the incredible and undeniable design which is all around us. By making even simple observations from nature, we can highlight the harmony, order, and design of the cosmos – and suggest their consideration of the intelligent purpose behind such a grand design.
We can point people toward logical deduction. (Bear with me.) This example goes all the way back to Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). 1) God is the greatest being one can conceive. 2) Is there a being that meets the definition we assign to God? 3) If so, then I have an understanding of God in my own mind that is not based on prior understanding. 4) I then have an understanding of God’s existence. 5) Hence, God exists in the understanding of a person. 6) But, God cannot exist in the understanding alone because He is the greatest being that can be conceived, thus God must exist in reality, which is greater than understanding alone. 7) Therefore, God exists. (I don’t expect you to get it the first time, but keep at it.)
We can point people toward fundamental notions of right and wrong. Most everyone you talk with will express some innate sense of “good” and “bad” – as well as some desire for justice. Perhaps we can help them see that there must then be a God who is just, and who will one day accomplish perfect justice.
And we can point people toward an empty tomb! When we make Jesus the main thing, and when we keep Jesus the main thing, we can know that we’re at least walking down the right road.
These conversations may help people correctly evaluate the evidence, and correctly reason to a true conclusion, but they’re unlikely to dispel every doubt. Our aim as Christ-followers is to help others overcome at least some of their objections even to the existence of God. We must remember, however, that we can’t create saving faith in anyone – only the Holy Spirit can accomplish that. So our posture must always be one of humble prayer and desperate dependence on the Lord.
It has been my experience that most people have moral struggles with God which in fact far outweigh their intellectual struggles with God. It’s the problem of human pride, and it reminds us how much we all need a Savior!
So let’s go initiate some encouraging and life-giving conversations …