by Thomas Valentine
The evangelical world has been jolted over the last month by a handful of prominent Christian leaders who have renounced the faith and condemned what they previously stood for. Now a well-known rocker is calling for Christians to resist relativism and embrace “truth over feeling.”
It started with Joshua Harris, a former megachurch pastor best known for authoring the 1997 bestseller I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The book had encouraged teenagers and young adults to forgo casual dating in favor of courtship, a “more intentional approach to dating focused on marriage and commitment,” as Joy Pullmann of The Federalist describes it. Last year, Harris renounced his book and asked the publisher to cancel further publication of it. Then last month, Harris announced that he was divorcing his wife of 22 years and renouncing his faith altogether, saying he had “undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus…By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” He stated he was “living in repentance” for his prior teaching and apologized specifically for not supporting same-sex marriage.
Then came Marty Sampson, a worship music singer-songwriter from Hillsong, a megachurch which produces ultra-popular worship and radio-ready contemporary Christian songs. Sampson said in a now-deleted Instagram post that “I’m genuinely losing my faith, and it doesn’t bother me,” asking questions about why preachers fall from grace and how God could allow people to go to hell. Sampson later reached out to the Christian Post to say that he had not renounced his faith but that it’s “on incredibly shaky ground.”
Now John Cooper, frontman of the prominent rock-metal band Skillet, has taken to Facebook to speak out and call for Christians to put their faith in the word of God, rather than celebrity Christian influencers, including but not limited to Harris and Sampson.
In the viral post, Cooper called for Christians to “STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or ‘relevant’ people the most influential people in Christendom,” adding that he was including himself in that statement. He said the church culture had leaned too heavily on modern praise songs to teach rather than the Bible and that the influencers who had renounced the faith claiming that they were “being real” were “not courageous, it’s cavalier.”
He went out to write that these influencers who had once tried to influence people towards God and are now trying to lead them away from the faith are fancying themselves harbingers of truth. Cooper did not name names, but in an apparent response to Sampson he said that the church had been wrestling with the question of hell for centuries and adding, “Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it.” He also called it “truly bizarre and ironic” how Christian influencers who leave the faith simultaneously encourage people to live by his teachings to “love people, be generous, forgive others.”
He ended his post with a rallying cry:
It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth. … I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. ‘The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever’ (Isaiah 40:8).
Cooper later went on CBN News to add further context and emphasis to his post:
Another prominent Christian singer-songwriter, Mike Donehey of the band Tenth Avenue North, jumped in to say that while the media overblows the number of people who are actually leaving the faith, Christians should not be surprised that prominent figures are walking away from the faith because “Jesus promised us things like this would happen.” He pointed to the Parable of the Sower, in which Jesus describes the Kingdom of God as a sower of seeds where some seeds wither or are choked or are trampled.
As the Catholic Church deals with a crisis, it seems that the evangelical church is going through a struggle of its own. But Cooper, Donehey, and many others are still out there holding the line and encouraging Christians to turn to God rather than men.
Photo credit: Ralph Arvesen via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0