Who You Are

– A story about our identity –

When the bird says, “Because I am not like the fish, inhabiting the underworld without air, I am not free; I must plummet, feathers and all, into that world, for without it I am coerced into that which is not life” –

When the fish says, “Because I am not like the bird, inhabiting the outer-world with air, I am not free; I must ashore, gills and all, into that world, for without it I am coerced into that which is not life” –

Will you say to the bird, “I love you and want to affirm you, so you must plummet into the sea?” Will you say to the fish, “I love you and want to affirm you, so you must ashore onto land?” –

And so help them to death? Can you call that love, or freedom, or life?

So say to the bird, “I love you and want to affirm who God made you to be. You soar so wondrously. Remain in the breeze.” Say to the fish, “I love you and want to affirm who God made you to be. I am amazed you can breathe without air. Remain in the sea.”


The Relevance of the Theocracy

The Relevance of the Theocracy: The bearing of Old Testament practices on some modern problems

By Meredith Kline


(Originally posted at http://www.meredithkline.com/files/articles/Presbyterian-Guardian-February-16-1953.pdf)

More than is generally recognized, the answers to some live questions facing the Christian today depend on a right view of some “dead” Old Testament history. In recent articles, for example, two writers seeking to define the roles of family, church and state, have, in our judgment, erred in so far as they have founded their conclusions on the history of Israel, because both misconstrue the nature of Israel’s Theocracy.

Fresh from their experience of divine deliverance out of Pharaoh’s tyrant hand, Israel at Sinai entered into a covenant with the Lord. This covenant was pursuant of the earlier covenant promises made to Abraham, and in terms of it, the seed of Abraham which had meanwhile multiplied to national proportions was now organized as a nation whose king was the Lord. Directly from Him would Israel receive both Law and Land. It is to this unique arrangement that the name “Theocracy” has been given.

To what shall we compare it? Was it a state-church like the Church of England? Or were it better to call it a church-state? These answers are equally inaccurate. For when we work with the ordinary concept of church and state and family we do not have the materials out of which the Theocracy can be constructed. It is as though we tried to construct a three-dimensional object out of two-dimensional elements. The conjunction of two or three or a thousand depth-less planes will not produce a solid. So no combination of family, church and state can produce the theocracy, for they do not have their being in the same “dimensional” sphere as the Theocracy. They exist in the sphere of common grace; but the Theocracy in the sphere of Consummation. As G. Vos points out: “The significance of the unique organization of Israel can be right measured only by remembering that the theocracy typified nothing short of the perfected kingdom of God the consummate state of heaven” (Old and New Testament Biblical Theology, 1942, P. 80).

Our illustration of two and three-dimensional things will not take us all the way here. For with these dimensions the difference is simply one of addition. Even when depth is added as a third dimension, length can still be distinguished from breadth and depth as length, and breadth can still be isolated as breadth in the resultant solid. But the difference of the Theocracy and its anti-type, Heaven, from the ordinary institutions is not merely a matter of combination or addition. There is here the appearance of a new species.

For in the kingdom of glory the family cannot be isolated as family distinct from the citizenry of the kingdom. Nor is the sessional record book with its church membership roll something distinguishable from the royal archives with its register of his majesty’s subjects. Nor can it be said, “In this activity the heavenly community function as a family, and in that activity as a state.” But in the “dimension” of common grace it is essential to the nature of family, church and state that they be separately organized and perform separate functions. That is at times difficult for us without access to Urim and Thummin to determine the boundary line of the appointed territory of each institution does not blur this distinction. Since then what is essential to these institutions under common grace vanishes in the Kingdom of the Consummation, the difference must be one of [a] kind. Heaven is a brand new species.

What is true of Heaven is true of its divinely order type, the Theocracy. For though the Theocracy was in the world of common grace, as a type of heaven it transcended its environment and anticipatively shared in the world to come. Whenever we would deal with the theocracy as we behold it in the pages of the Old Testament, we should first listen attentively to the Lord as He speaks to Moses on the Mount: “Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). If we do listen we will not try to segment the Theocracy into the usual three discrete institutions. We will not then say: “Here (e.g. in Aaron) is the church, and here (e.g. in Moses or David) is the state, and there the family.” Not even roughly speaking. For all that can be said accurately is, “Here are theocratic priests, here are theocratic kings, here are theocratic prophets and there are the theocratic people from whose ranks all these have come. (Cf. Ex. 28:1; Dt. 17:5; 18:5.) Over all His Old Testament house as the mediator of the covenant stands Moses, the servant of God. And behold, he directs our eyes down the ages to his antitype, Jesus, the Son of God, who is exalted ‘over his house, whose house we are, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorifying of our hope firm to the end (Heb. 3:6).'”

In illustration of the relevance of this thesis to the solution of some current problems of the church, state and family relationships, we turn to the articles mentioned earlier. One of the writers leans heavily on an argument from theocratic arrangements to support his theory that the Christian religion should be officially recognized by the civil government. (Rev. M.R. Mackay, “Is ‘Equality of all religions before the Law’ Scriptural?” Part IV. The Contender. July, 1952.) Having indicated the positive roles played by David and Solomon in the establishment of Israel’s center of worship at Jerusalem, the opposition of various godly kings to Baalism, and similar data, the writer suggests that those who do not accept his view of the relation of church and state are confronted with a dilemma. Their only alternative to capitulating to his position is, he thinks, to contradict the Bible’s approbation of the conduct of David, et al., by judging that these kings transgressed the limits of their authority in interfering in religious affairs.

That the horns of the dilemma are vaporous is evident, for the argument rests on an utterly false equation of the theocratic monarchy with the ordinary state. As observed above, neither church nor state is isolable within the Theocracy. It is therefore impossible to identify one theocratic institution such as the kingship with the ordinary concept of the state. From this it follows that one cannot determine the relationship which should obtain between, e.g., the United States of America and the Christian religion, by a study of the relationship of godly theocratic kings to the worship of the Lord in their day. What we do see in the activity of these theocratic kings is a typical portrayal of the kingly office of the Christ of God, exercised in behalf of His Body, the Church, in a reign which now is and is to come in the glory of the Consummation Kingdom. For that Kingdom will be the anti-type of the theocratic kingdom ruled over by David’s dynasty of old.

To cite another example of the misuse of theocratic history, we turn to an article by the Rev. J. M. Kik in the December, 1952, issue of The Presbyterian Guardian. While it is our opinion that the particular error which will be noted below is part and parcel of a failure throughout his argument to follow the most fundamental exegetical principles of the discipline of Biblical Theology, it is nevertheless by no means the intention of the present article to criticize Mr. Kik’s argument as a whole or to evaluate his theory as such.

The article in question contends, in part, that the Old Testament by precept and example gives to the Church alone the right and duty of training men for the ministry. It offers as proof of this claim: 1. the role of the Levites in the instruction of the people; 2. the training of Samuel by Eli, the high priest; 3. the training of Elisha by the prophet Elijah; 4. the divine calling and instruction of the prophets.

As matters of detail it may be noted that the first item is inaccurate (for with only one partial and inconsequential exception none of the passages offered in evidence has anything to do with the non-priestly Levites). Also item four is irrelevant (as would be the first point even if corrected). Mention may be made, too, of certain features of the calling in the theocratic teaching ministry which seem, irrespective of our main objection, to prevent close enough comparison with the teaching ministry of the new covenant to warrant one’s basing the mode of preparation of the latter on that of the former. Of the two special teaching groups in the theocracy, the priestly and the prophetic, the first calling was hereditary and the second was charismatic. It is obvious that these features would control the agency and mode of preparation, and neither of these features is characteristic of the gospel ministry today.

Our chief criticism again, in terms of the thesis of this article, is that to label the priests and/or the prophets as the church within the Theocracy is unwarranted. The priests were, indeed, the representative-mediators of the congregation in its approach to God, and the prophets declared the Word of the Lord to the congregation. But the king ruled in the congregation, and Israel was that worshiping, serving congregation. All alike who lived in the Theocracy were always engaged in specifically religious, because theocratic, business. God was in the midst of the covenant people and, therefore, all was church, as also all was family and all state – the church of God, the family of God, the Kingdom of God – all in one and one in all, and such was the Theocracy. However, if all is church and all is family and all is state, then nothing is church and nothing is family and nothing is state in the usual sense of those words. Strictly speaking all is Theocracy and nothing but Theocracy.

The one criticism presented here, it need hardly be added, does not by itself invalidate either of the theories used in the illustrations. Our present purpose is only the narrow one of defining the true nature of the Theocracy and so to clear the way that certain problems might be approached on the basis of proper Scriptural evidence. Wide enough, however, is the application of this thesis, for how many pages pro and con regarding the definition of the specific function of the major institutions have been devoted to irrelevant appeals to theocratic practice. The systematic theologian is always obliged to stop, look and listen to the voice of Biblical theology, but that is, perhaps, nowhere more apparent than when he comes in his search for proof texts to the Theocracy.

The Vanity of Unbelief: A Letter Exchange

[Editor’s note: It has been a somber time, seeing old friends fall away from the Christian faith. Something happened during that time we had together, and it left us all asking some very difficult questions. For me, it almost left me without faith. But here I am, holding to mine. I believe this interaction will be helpful for seeing just where we have gone, and where these paths lead. Know that this conversation is not over; it is my prayer that it is just beginning. I’ve written this response more specifically to Kaleb’s circulating letter, which describes his reasons for leaving Christian church, reproduced below my response, both publicly posted with his permission.]


April 5, 2016


My old Lynchburg friend. Thank you for sharing you story. It is honest, and your openness is truly appreciated. As I reply, your story and mine merge yet again. I believe it was meant to be, even from the foundation of the earth. My hope is that this letter will bring about belief, just as the power of God, through the truth, can bring resurrection from the dead.

It appears we missed opportunities, back then when we were close, to commiserate deeply as friends. I am sorry for the despair and the hurt, the travail and the tumult, which you endured alone. I was hurting back then, too. I believe a number of us men and women of Grace Assembly were struggling with our faith. As our doubting pastor stepped down from leadership, I remember – I was steeped in Kierkegaard and Derrida, on a downward spiral of darkness. I had no answers, and as my faith was attacked, I felt only silence. You, in many ways, seemed stronger than I. You were a dependable figure in our community, with a budding family, established friends (all who seemed to have you as their best man at the wedding), and everyone’s esteem. But apparently neither of us had answers. When you said,

I was being dragged kicking and screaming out of [faith], unable to ignore the increasingly obvious intellectual problems and unsatisfactory answers

I was there with you. Truly. I remember asking myself how in the world if the invisible and intangible realm was not something I could probe, how could I trust the Bible? I had no answers, but in pain I returned again and again to Isaiah 59, putting it into the first person: “justice is far from me, and righteousness does not overtake me; I hope for light, but look, darkness, and for brightness, but I walk in gloom. I grope for the wall like the blind; I grope like those who have no eyes; I stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor I am like a dead man.” I felt dead. After a break-up with the woman I was going to marry, who deceived and hurt me more deeply than I could have ever imagined, and after finishing my degree and having no answers for what I was to do with my life, and after being completely consumed by my lusts and fears so that I locked myself in solitude for months on end without any outside connection but a crumbling church, I felt dead. What was life if it had no transcendent purpose? Could I, as a finite worm, approach the word “transcendence” without laughing, or crying? I cried. And I laughed, too. And then I read Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, or I tried to get up and fix my problems, and I cried and laughed some more.

But although we shared this despair, and a longing for answers, we found a different way, a different path, and another story. That’s what I want to talk about.

I began meeting with pastors, mentors, friends- telling them I was struggling deeply with questions. This was almost inevitably how each discussion ended- a concession to the difficulty of the questions and a dismissal of the question by discrediting your mind, logic, rationality, or empiricism as means to discover truth. It ultimately came back to presuppositionalism- one must simply believe it’s true no matter what the evidence- and take every objection or contrary thought and take it captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

Yes, let’s start with ultimate things. We can agree, you and I, that the answer is not presuppositionalism. Well, at least not the way you’ve defined it. Allow me to attempt a redefinition. Cornelius Van Til, the father of presuppositionalism, though he didn’t create the title (and it isn’t a good one!), was an apologetics professor at my school, Westminster Theological Seminary. In his legacy, one of my professors, David Powlison, put it well: “Christian truth is about the facts of life. It is pointedly not a leap of faith in the face of the facts, despite the facts, and damn the facts.” You might notice Powlison is referencing Kiekegaard, or Kant looming behind him, in speaking of a “leap of faith”. Christianity is not what Kierkegaard or Kant have made it into. I think of Ignatius, martyred under Roman Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117), who wrote that Jesus “was from the family of David, who was the son of Mary; who was truly born, who both ate and drank; who was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, who was truly crucified and died while those in heaven and on earth and under the earth looked on; who, moreover, was truly raised from the dead when his Father raised him up.” Christianity is in every way concerned with truth – with the facts. While “presuppositionalism” does seem to sound like, “You have your presuppositions and I have mine, and that’s it, despite the facts”, that isn’t the position Van Til or his students hold. Rather, I think you will find our approach clear after I show it to you. After all, it is easy to knock-down a straw man, as you have done. But I would like you to engage with the “truly” of Christianity, for it is really and truly in accordance with the facts.

Let me show you. Let’s look at your ultimate answer – your conclusion:

I finally concluded there’s nothing I’ve ever witnessed that can’t be explained naturally.

Nothing? Can you explain this:

But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Where does evil reside in the heart, Kaleb? Is evil in the left ventricle, and good in the right? Where is the natural-physical reality you just spoke about? Tell me, in your wisdom, how you can reconcile this – that there is nothing you can’t explain naturally, and yet you assume all kinds of answers that are non-physical. Let’s even say you find depression or anxiety in the brain – what makes depression an evil, and not a good? At every corner you are faced with the metaphysical, and you are faced with your ultimate presuppositions, and you are faced with your own gross inconsistencies, each one pointing to unfounded presuppositions, since your naturalistic presuppositions cannot uphold your beliefs in good and evil. At best, good and evil are social constructs, which are just as relative to their contexts as truth. And let’s push it further and say you accept Darwinianism. What makes you think your “scientific” search for truth is actually a search for reality, and not just a survival mechanism, which is actually your highest value? You are not working according to naturalistic presuppositions, but you are borrowing Christian values; in this case, the Christian truth that all men, save Christ alone, is a mixture of good and evil since the fall. This is what is meant by “presuppositionalism” – not that we all have presuppositions, but whether those presuppositions align with our other beliefs, and cohere within a whole system. Yours patently do not.

Let me show you, again.

I decided to stop being afraid. I decided I would no longer allow shame, guilt, or fear dictate my beliefs, and I would seek the truth fearlessly, entertain any argument, read any book or discuss with any person and yes, rely on my mind to discriminate truth and error. After all, if my mind was untrustworthy how could I trust it to judge the validity of my current position? It’s all I’ve got.

What is your ultimate presupposition here? Ironically, it is that your mind is the ultimate standard and judge of truth, because “It’s all I’ve got.” You actually have quite a strong faith in the metaphysical, don’t you? You have lied to yourself, thinking you can explain everything naturally. You have, with contrary evidence, even, believed and presupposed that your mind is the sufficient rule for truth – where is your natural evidence for that, and on what basis should it be accepted? Ultimately you end up in a circle of your own making. And did you not say the heart bore good and evil in it? Is that same heart wholly divided from the mind’s investigations? If not, you have again shown your utter inconsistency, and the bankruptcy of your humanism and naturalism, and have stuck yourself in a spiraling morass of mere opinion. When you accept yourself as the rule of truth you become Pontius Pilate, saying “What is truth?”, putting to shame the Lord of glory, who you know in your heart to be the King of Kings. But you say, “NO, I know my own heart!” And how do you know that you know your own heart, unless you presuppose that your mind is without fault? And what natural reason do you have for saying so? Your presuppositions fail you, because you begin at the wrong place. And yet, you do know certain things – but you don’t know how you know, and I would like to talk about that next.

Before I go on speaking about presuppositions and such, let me address your use of scripture. For all your evangelical accolades, please consider this – you have a very impoverished understanding of the scriptures. And at the very least, I would have thought the Calvinistic church which we shared would have pulled you out of such basic errors. I was wrong. I will correct a few of your misapprehensions, but they are so thorough, I cannot address them all.

So I’m 16… and I realize that every single person I pass on the street is (from the time perspective of eternity) seconds away from an unchangeable fate, for the great majority -an eternity in hell, but I have the secret that can change their eternal destiny.

“I have the secret that can change their eternal destiny.” This is not a proper understanding of what the scriptures teach. First, your view throughout your letter is that people are basically good, that they think clearly, and that they just happen to find themselves in eternal torment because they weren’t historically put in the way of acquiring knowledge of Christ. I’d ask that you humbly consider this is not at all what the scriptures teach. Quite the contrary. In Romans 1 Paul teaches that all men, by nature, “suppress the truth… For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but… exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” God and his salvation are not a secret to mankind, as you’ve written, but the scriptures teach that men reject God because of evil, endemic to the human heart since Adam’s fall. So then, men are liable for knowing God and rejecting him, because God has shown himself in everything that exists; therefore their rejection is inexcusable, just as yours is inexcusable. People don’t find themselves in hell because they are frolicking along ignorant of god, but because, rejecting God in the manifest ways he reveals himself to us (in every fact of the created universe, including the fact of one’s own psychology), He is rejected out of the wickedness of the human heart, which in order to follow its own lusts, willingly tumbles headlong into destruction. In this way, everyone has the “presupposition” of God built into who they are as creatures made in his image. You don’t go around actually believing you have to prove naturalistically that your language is sufficient to communicate to others, that your love or pain is real, or that your reasoning can be reliable –you presuppose these things because you actually know God, who has made us to be this way, in the deepest recesses of your being. You would have no basis for presupposing these things in a naturalistic world. For example, while I was in Cambodia, I met a man who was in the sex-trade “industry”, who openly confessed to selling girls as commodities. He told me that if Darwin was right, people have no intrinsic value in themselves. But we don’t live that way, and we believe it to be completely wrong, because we are made to know that. We are made to be in relationship with God – and so we are. I, therefore, do not tell him, “Well, that’s just your opinion, and I have my own presuppositions.” I tell him, “You are rebellion against the God you know by your violent rage against people made in his image, and you will be held accountable. Repent and believe in Christ to be saved.” I also would have turned him over to the police, if I had the power; I did see him arrested. But the point is that there is an active suppression of the truth in all unbelieving systems, and you are also actively suppressing that truth by fighting against Him, and by extension His anointed One, as your arguments show.

Let me show you, again.

I pondered these things and a little thought experiment occurred to me: What if out of say 10 world religions I would be randomly born into any one of them but there was only 1 true religion, Christianity (which I would not be born into). What mindset, what disposition would make my chances of discovering the truth the greatest?  Suddenly every social mechanism for corralling my belief was not virtuous but a blockade to truth. Skepticism vs dogmatism. Open-mindedness vs strong belief. Maximum exposure vs censorship. Embrace every question without shame, fear, or guilt. The truth tested will stand stronger. And to hell with presuppositionalism- that all but guarantees I’ll just be whatever religion I’m born into.

Here again you make the grave mistake of thinking that through one’s own use of logic and reason, they make their way to God. As I have just argued, God has made his way to us, evidencing Himself in everything that has been created, so that it is immediately evident to all He is God. Further, the radical slavery of the human heart means that everyone is born into slavery, and everyone is born a stranger to the salvation of Christ. No one is born a Christian. So this assumption of a tabula rasa does not stand. On that note, a second and equally grave mistake you’ve made is believing you actually are embracing “every question without shame, fear, or guilt.” You have this unbelievable unproved metaphysical commitment to the reliability of your own self. Again, if your heart or mind is at all faulty, what makes you able to answer any question reliably, or even know the right questions to ask? I wonder if ever you were a follower of Christ, since your love of self has come to the foreground. If you are such a valiant skeptic, why have you not been skeptical of your skepticism? All your beliefs are self-defeating, as any untrue faith is. All men have faith, and you have placed yours in the wrong place.

I know that I have spoken sharply, but it is only in hopes that you see the foolishness that you have dived headlong into. How can this trust of self be addressed? What is the answer? I tell you, that only by submitting to the God who made you, who has revealed Himself in the self-authenticating scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, revealed by His holy prophets, who stood as witnesses in all ages, can you be forgiven of your treason against God, and can you rely on an answer more sure (our mind is not “all we’ve got” as an ultimate presupposition). Your boldfaced assertions, despite your gross misunderstandings of the atonement, hell, and God’s morality (as if you had the right to judge Him!), these assertions must be placed at the foot of the cross, so that they may die with your rebellion. Only then, through the sacrifice of Christ, can your sins be forgiven, that you may see clearly, and be saved from this blindness and inane circularity. “Do no harm”, your unproved metaphysical commitment, you have violated with pride – you have epistemologically placed the name of the LORD on the same level as the dirt and false gods, taking it in vain, and encouraged others to do so by claiming this is the “truth”, as if you knew truth in itself. You should be ashamed. Jesus the Christ, has really and truly raised from the dead, as a historical fact. He is the only answer for our life from the dead, so I can say you to, “Repent and believe, and you will be saved.”

Say to God, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Not, “I trust my own light.”

Say to Him, “Your son really and truly died, and really and truly lives forevermore. I want to live with him, since I know nothing but death apart from him.”

You have rejected Christ because of epistemology, and yet yours is fundamentally faulty. You have rejected Christ based on the “psychology of belief”, and yet you yourself have no explanation for your faulty psychology. You have rejected Christ because of the “moral repugnance of the Bible”, and yet you don’t know the Bible, nor do you have categories for morality without assuming Christian presuppositions.

Kaleb, you have rejected Christ for no good reason. I have shown you a better way, which is the good news of Christ.

Our two stories converge, and we needn’t commiserate any longer, but if you will die to yourself, I will die with you, and we will both die with Christ, in order that we may share the only true path, eternal resurrection life. For all falsehoods will fall headlong into destruction, and I plead with you to embrace the only foundation for reason, for love, for goodness, for kindness, for life – Jesus the Christ.

In Him,



Original letter:

November 7, 2015.

I wrote this about a year and a half ago on a rainy Sunday while I stayed home from church (which really upset my wife) to document some of my thought processes that led to my loss of faith while it was still fresh. Alot more water has gone under the bridge, alot has changed, and I’d probably write this somewhat differently now, but I just re-read it and it accurately describes much of the early part of my journey. I’ve added a brief postscript, and if anyone has any further interest or questions let’s discuss in person.




Religious Journey.
I come from a large conservative home-schooled christian family. Think Duggers, Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, patriarchal, quiverfull, purity culture etc. At 15 years old I encountered the teachings of Ray Comfort (of the Way of the Master TV series w/Kirk Cameron), a street evangelist with serious passion for saving the lost. His teachings resonated strongly with me and under his influence I became very serious about my faith. I was very burdened for the lost and couldn’t believe the apathy of almost everyone who claimed to be Christian around me. The entire existence of humanity- a blip on the radar of eternity. My life- a blip on that blip. Seventy years, a blink of an eye, poof. Gone. But what happens during that blip for every human determines the eternal destiny for each of them- the outcome being either eternal bliss in heaven or eternal conscious torture and torment in a fiery hell. Which end is determined in the blip. So I’m 16 years into my blip, and I realize that every single person I pass on the street is (from the time perspective of eternity) seconds away from an unchangeable fate, for the great majority -an eternity in hell, but I have the secret that can change their eternal destiny. Repent and believe in Jesus and you’ll be saved from the wrath to come! How could I not warn them? How could I not spend every last second of my waking existence shouting from the rooftops, running from person to person shaking them to wake them up to the gravity of this dire situation? I was baffled and appalled at the Christians around me who appeared to me to be firemen holding a water hose just watching a house burning down with sleeping children inside unwilling to turn it on because the owner of the house might get upset you spilled water on his carpet. It was with this sense of urgency & desire to seek and save the lost that I started doing evangelism. As soon as I got my drivers license I began driving to the area malls, parades, universities, festivals, downtown events- anywhere people gathered- to pass out tracts, share the gospel & preach in the open-air. Warning everyone I could of the wrath to come and telling them of the love of God in providing a way of escape through repentance & belief in Jesus. I was incredibly burdened for all these lost people, if only they knew what I did! I spent thousands of dollars on tracts, studied apologetics, theology & world religions, took classes and went to evangelism conferences to hone in my ability to communicate the gospel. I memorized entire books of the bible. I cried & prayed with desperation that God would purify me, take away anything & everything in my life that might hinder me or decrease my ability to be a messenger of the gospel to the world for his glory. For about 7 years I did street evangelism every week- debating one on one with hundreds of people of wildly varying beliefs in the streets or preaching in the open air. The people I met and the conversations I had! Fascinating people. I had countless funny or amazing interactions, but I was also no stranger to persecution. I was mocked, threatened and cussed out more times than I could count, kicked out of places and even arrested. I started an evangelism group and for years we had a group of 10-30 people who would hit the streets every week preaching the gospel. I always hated, dreaded, going out but the euphoric presence of God we felt when we’d all gather back together to share the stories of the people we talked to, to pray for their souls and the seeds that were planted, to sing hymns and praise God together- the feelings were intensely emotional and made me happier than I’ve ever been in my life. The feeling of being so happy you feel like you’ll explode! While most Christians were lukewarm, distracted by worldly desires, how blissful it was to be part of the faithful remnant minority even within Christianity, to be obedient, sold-out, rock-solid, on-fire for God. There’s little I can compare it to even to this day.

Today I’m an agnostic humanist. I am no longer a Christian. Looking back it just keeps getting stranger and stranger like some dream of a previous life but the feelings were no less real. I was not hurt by the church, I am not angry with god, Christianity, or Christians. I don’t think Christians (or Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or people believing in any other religion for that matter) are stupid. I don’t share the hostility towards religion that seems so pronounced among many of my fellow apostates. People love to mock the belief sets they don’t subscribe to. Having experienced firsthand the astounding power of religious belief gives me a sympathy for even the most extreme religious groups (e.g. radical violent Islam, Westboro Baptist Church). “Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him”-Dostoevsky. The guys in ISIS, WBC, Nazi Germany- most of them are/were genuinely not ill-intentioned, they were simply doing what’s normal to them- what they believe is best for their God, their country, their family- just like everyone else. We look on from the outside or from the perspective of history and are horrified at the things these people would believe and do, but we forget we are also products of our upbringings. We sit in church listening in horror to the missionary’s tales of some exotic cannibalistic superstitious tribe sacrificing their children to some false god while dancing and singing around a campfire. Then we sing a hymn and begin our cannibalistic ritual of eating and drinking the flesh and blood of the human sacrifice that was made to appease the wrath of our angry god while chanting in unison music praising the beauty of the dripping blood from that human sacrifice. “Why yes grandma, it is a beautiful Sunday, thanks for asking.” We are products of our environment, and horrific things are often accepted without second thought because it’s ‘normal’ to us. The banality of evil described by Hannah Arendt. Every day now my previous religious life becomes stranger and stranger to me, and I’d like to share how that process began.

I used to describe my conversion to Christianity as more of a process than an event, and so it has been with my deconversion. My days of radical evangelism slowly dwindled as the introduction of the responsibilities of a career, marriage, and age began eroding my youthful zeal. My lack of ministry bothered me, and I vacillated between calling it inexcusable laziness and maturation from the crude evangelistic methods of a zealous youth.  In either case I was losing my will to do it- which was a far cry from the teenager who had a hard time justifying going to two years of college because it would be wasting time in books while people around me were dying and going to hell. I slowly became a normal Christian, going to church, attending bible studies, just like all my friends and family. I began reading alot more- political philosophy, social psychology, Austrian economics, history and philosophy were all of particular interest to me. I became involved in contemporary politics and worked on a few campaigns. As my understanding of current events and politics deepened I began to find myself embarrassed by the Christian right on more and more issues. I was amazed at how much religion influenced politics- particularly in foreign affairs. The religious narrative of a cosmic fight clearly polarized between good and evil lends itself handily to opportunistic politicians trying to gain support for whatever cause. This overly simplistic worldview combined with the blind nationalism & pro-war/militarism tendencies of the religious right made me sympathetic with Netanyahu’s (Prime Minister of Israel) sentiments of the American Christians as “useful idiots”. I couldn’t understand how the American church guided by the prince of peace of seemed much more eager to send soldiers than missionaries to the ends of the earth. I frequently thought of Solzhenitsyn’s quote-  “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” This basic understanding of human nature seemed absent among both Christians and almost every military of the world- we’re always the angels of all things good and beautiful, they are always the embodiment of evil. The psychology of enmity. I began reading about propaganda and social psychology, reading Bernay’s, Arendt, Milgrim, Zimbardo, and alot of others who have pondered how decent people can be brought to believe absurd things and commit atrocities. Religion was uncomfortably often a major part of the equation. This is just one wedge that began to cause me to increasingly distance myself from my religious upbringing.


About this time I had my first daughter. I was quite excited to be able to experience fatherhood and experience the profoundness of a father’s love for his child- believing this would give me a new glimpse into god’s love for us as his children. One night my beautiful little daughter was throwing a fit at 3am as infants tend to do. In my frustration and exhaustion (and looming 5am alarm) I began to think- under what circumstance would I be willing to physically inflict torture on my daughter? I couldn’t remotely imagine any circumstance that would justify me taking a spike and driving it into my daughter’s spine for even 3 seconds. Then I began to think of our christian eschatology (end time studies), about hell and eternity. One of the things that always reassured me when I thought about the god and atrocities of the Old Testament was the idea of the incarnation. This doctrine teaches us that though we cannot see god, we can see in Jesus ‘the fullness of the godhead bodily’- i.e. through the life of Jesus we can see and know what god is like. All that O.T. stuff made me uncomfortable, but I liked Jesus, and I consoled myself that god had to be at least as nice as Jesus. But then I thought- what if god was to reincarnate himself again today in our world in bodily form, but this time he came to execute his promised future wrath on the wicked? This would be no less biblical than his last visit fulfilling redemptive history through his death/resurrection. But what would it look like? Based on what I believed, the great majority of those currently inhabiting the planet would be going to hell. But lets say he just chose one person. Jesus takes one person, pronounces him a sinner worthy of hell, lights up a fire and starts roasting this guy alive like a pig over a burning pit. As the guy screams in agony with his flesh & hair slowly burning- how many of us watching Jesus slowly turning this human rotisserie could stomach the character of god displayed in fullness in front of us at that moment? And this for all of eternity for the great majority of humanity who have ever existed. Looking down at my daughter fussing in her crib and pondering what I would think of god’s character were I to witness him executing his promised future wrath presently caused a nagging thought I was ashamed to even admit… I would think him an atrocious monster. But how was this hypothetical thought experiment any different than what I already believed? My hopes for fatherhood giving me a glimpse into god’s love ironically turned into the beginnings of my loss of belief in him.


Once I allowed myself to explicitly admit my disconcertion with one issue, the questions began to quickly pile up. Soon I was having a full fledged crisis of faith. It’s interesting to think about now- it’s not as if my awareness of those issues was absent before- I was confronted and had as a christian argued apologetically every imaginable explanation of most of these questions in the street with atheists many times before- but it hadn’t ever really phased me because I just knew I was right, and I could easily dismiss any counter-argument with the Psalm-writer “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” I was right, and if I didn’t understand it I had to be humble enough to simply trust god and lean not on my own understanding. It’s a very subliminal self-censorship- a mechanism that allowed me to avoid confrontation with even the most fantastical claims of my religion. I began meeting with pastors, mentors, friends- telling them I was struggling deeply with questions. This was almost inevitably how each discussion ended- a concession to the difficulty of the questions and a dismissal of the question by discrediting your mind, logic, rationality, or empiricism as means to discover truth. It ultimately came back to presuppositionalism- one must simply believe it’s true no matter what the evidence- and take every objection or contrary thought and take it captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

This began to bother me. It seemed highly anti-intellectual. It began to feel like censorship. I became much more acutely aware of my own psychological instincts. Questioning anything made me feel guilty, and I would often block questions out of my mind in shame that I was even thinking them. I was fearful of being exposed to bad influences that might lead me astray in my beliefs. I was fearful of reading anything that didn’t support my view. One person even told me I shouldn’t read so much since it could damage my faith. So my faith was dependent on ignorance for survival? This floored me. I became increasingly aware of the social mechanisms that corral belief. Censorship. Shame. Guilt. A once-Christian friend of mine became an atheist, and my church expelled him and forbade us from associating with him to protect us from his evil influence on our weak minds. Ostracization. Why the heck was that? I decided I wasn’t going to comply. Why the need to ostracise someone because they believed differently? The only conclusion I could come to is that ostracisation is for censorship and as a warning of the social consequences of not conforming in your beliefs to the remaining faithful. I might be able to understand the need for distinctive belief-set criteria for participation in a group with specific objectives- but to cut them out of your life completely? What are we afraid of? Was my truth so  weak that it will crumble if exposed to any opposition? It reminded me of Asch’s conformity experiments where one-truth teller has the effect of the little kid calling out the emperor’s lack of clothes- was that what we were afraid of? The domino effect of disbelief? What if someone believed the world were flat? Would I need to limit my exposure to that person to prevent my weak mind from being deceived into believing such stupidity? If my mind were so weak and deceptive that I had to censure and protect it from any unsanctioned thought how could I trust that what it currently believed was in fact correct? I didn’t think I would need to censor a man who believed the world was flat because that stupid belief was no threat to me- so what about religious thoughts were different? I began to realize that you only need rely on censorship when the belief you currently hold is in some way in doubt and you fear it would not stand if tested. That strength of belief (glorified as a virtue in Christendom) was often simply my unwillingness to ever question myself.

I pondered these things and a little thought experiment occurred to me: What if out of say 10 world religions I would be randomly born into any one of them but there was only 1 true religion, Christianity (which I would not be born into). What mindset, what disposition would make my chances of discovering the truth the greatest?  Suddenly every social mechanism for corralling my belief was not virtuous but a blockade to truth. Skepticism vs dogmatism. Open-mindedness vs strong belief. Maximum exposure vs censorship. Embrace every question without shame, fear, or guilt. The truth tested will stand stronger. And to hell with presuppositionalism- that all but guarantees I’ll just be whatever religion I’m born into. Becoming conscious of the ubiquity of these psychological tools for conformity of belief brought me to what was retrospectively a tipping point in my faith: I decided to stop being afraid. I decided I would no longer allow shame, guilt, or fear dictate my beliefs, and I would seek the truth fearlessly, entertain any argument, read any book or discuss with any person and yes, rely on my mind to discriminate truth and error. After all, if my mind was untrustworthy how could I trust it to judge the validity of my current position? It’s all I’ve got. In a Pascal’s-wager-of-the-mind of sorts I fell back on Jefferson sentiment to “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” And with that the floodgates opened. I knew the bible well, I had memorized whole books of it. I knew the difficulties well, I had argued with atheists for many many years. But it was like all of the sudden I finally actually considered them. The questions were all so familiar but it was almost as if I was encountering them for the first time with an odd sense of deja vu.

I hated the fact that I was struggling with my faith. Religion has a way of being so consuming, so wrapped up in every part of your identity that to question it is to question the rationale for your entire existence. I think this is why doubt is so strongly eschewed- the consequences of the question being answered differently then the status quo are so great it’s easier just to simply avoid the question. But I felt liberated. More free than I ever have in my life. I no longer had to justify god. I no longer had to justify his designing of a world system where the great majority of the human race that has ever existed would suffer eternity in conscious unending unspeakable torment for not meeting a standard god purposefully set too high just to show them how insufficient they were, then threw them all in eternal hell for not believing in the human sacrifice of his son that appeased his wrath likely simply because (if you believe in free will) they lost the sperm lottery and were born into the wrong demographic with it’s own social pressures for it’s own belief sets. As a reformed Christian, they had no choice anyway, they were either designed for heaven or for hell. I could finally just admit that seemed pretty messed up and I didn’t have to justify it. I didn’t have to justify god commanding the genocide in Canaan, the slaughter of innocent children, the captors killing off everyone except the virgins who they’d keep as sex slaves (how’d they figure out who was virgin or not?). I didn’t have to justify a raped women having to marry and spend the rest of her life with the disgusting sicko who raped her (if he paid off her father to buy her). I didn’t have to justify slavery, or polygamy, or chauvinism, sexism, nationalism, racism (what else do you call the indiscriminate murder of any man women or child not of the Jewish race in Canaan?). I didn’t have to justify god commanding Abraham to kill his own kid, or Jephthah offering his own daughter as a human sacrifice to god. I didn’t have to justify the Christians around me who had never heard a proposed bombing of a foreign country they didn’t support (until Obama starting warmongering- the cognitive dissonance that induced!). It was ok to acknowledge that I felt like smashing little kids heads against rocks isn’t a happy thing (Psalm 137:9). It was ok to feel like many of these things are (of course asterisked by my limited understanding) pretty freakin screwed up. The questions piled up, and the justifications became bizarre. In my later stages of deconversion people would ask about where I would derive my morality if it wasn’t from god and the bible, but then I’d hear the same people justifying every atrocity above because- god and the bible. I began to rely more on my political ethic- do no harm- which I later found out was closely aligned with humanism. Does happily smashing babies heads into rocks align with the flourishing of humanity? The ethics of Christians began to seem more and more immoral, and the loss of those ethics became less frightening and the embracing of humanistic ethics more and more appealing.

Around this time I met with one of the one pastors I’ve been close to. Having met with him nearly weekly for years we knew each other fairly well. He had recently resigned his position as pastor due to his own wrestling with doubts. One of the big questions I had was whether or not to be transparent with my wife about these struggles. At this time I hated the struggles I had and wouldn’t wish them on anyone. They were devastating, depressing, and isolating. My wife had a simplicity of faith I envied. I wished I could have just accepted things and lived my little life without having to encounter such world-shattering struggles. I desperately wanted to protect her and avoid dragging her into struggles she wasn’t having. But it was quite evident in the ways that I wasn’t leading her spiritually like she would have liked. I no longer read the bible with her or prayed together. I think much of this was due to my dislike for hypocrisy, and I hated going through the motions of religious rituals while feeling like I was being a fake. So I didn’t do them, and that was hard on her. She had married a deeply religious man, and now she was married to a deeply struggling man. We had dozens of conversations about this, but they were always limited to the acknowledgement that I was wrestling deeply with faith, and the question of whether it’d be wise to drag her into the particulars or to protect her and keep it to myself (or strategically find someone who could fix me). I stubbornly resisted her desire to at least talk about it so she could know where I was at, fearful that it would damage her faith as well. She persistently insisted that that was a risk she was willing to take if it was required for religious intimacy, so at least she’d know where I’m at. My pastor at this time recommended I be explicitly honest with her, otherwise in five years we might find ourselves in radically different places and that would be more destructive (to the relationship) than communicating honestly, no matter the risks and difficulties. So I took his advice and we began to discuss openly my struggles with my wife. She was shocked and we spent many nights with her in tears, terrified of who the man she had committed her life to was becoming religiously. She had married a fundamentalist street preacher, and now he was an agnostic questioning even the very existence of god. Her first fears were what her family would think, and what morally I’d become. If her family found out it could be devastating. And without any moral compass, what would prevent me from becoming a sexual deviant who would just cheat & sleep around on her? Her first fear simply confirmed to me the power of social pressure to conform belief. I thought about how I’d respond if my beautiful little daughter became an atheist. I’ve witnessed countless times, especially in my more dogmatically fundamentalist homeschool circles, how any variance in belief about the metaphysical by a child from their parents had destroyed their relationship. Then I began to think about how destructive this was.

I began talking with a philosophy teacher who specialized in epistemology. How could we know what was true about the metaphysical? The invisible. Things we cannot perceive empirically. Was it even knowable? How could people be so dogmatic about the truth of things no-one can see or perceive? Is there an angel or demon sitting beside me in this room right now? Are you willing to bet your life on your answer? Are you willing to cut off your child based on your answer? If we can’t be sure about it how can we be so dogmatic about it? Even if we all agreed 100% that there is objective truth, and that that was expressed absolutely in the Authorized 1687 version of the King James Version bible, and we put it on the table in a room of 10 Protestant Christians… how many different interpretations of every single issue would we come up with? The only person I agree 100% with is myself, and even that’s in question. So what are the chances that in all of history, in all of Christendom, in all of Protestant Christendom, in all of Baptist Protestant Christendom, in all of reformed Baptist protestant Christendom, with the millions of differing opinions in this narrow scope, that I was the one with the monopoly on truth? That when we stood at the pearly’s every other person, even if they made it in, would be corrected by god on many points in their theology, but when my turn came he said- enter in, you got everything right son! Yet I saw many families behave as if this were the case, and cut off anyone who disagreed on tiny nuances of theology, even cutting off their own children for such offenses. Pondering these things gave me an epistemic humility that helped me let go and not care so much about someone’s metaphysical beliefs, which inevitably led me to kierkegaard.


Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian existentialist philosopher. I still have no firm grasp of what he was all about but many people pointed me to him as the man to go to rescue you from faith crises. At this time I had many people around me abandoning Christianity, even one of my close friends I had met doing street evangelism had become atheist. There was no debating or answer I could give him he hadn’t already heard or used himself while witnessing in the streets. I could only ask him to tell his story. And since I wasn’t about to censor him he became the truth-teller from Asch’s conformity experiment. His deconversion rocked my own faith and played no small part in my own deconversion. Having experienced that I understand now why Christians desiring to remain faithful would ostracize and censor apostates like him. A little leaven does seem to leaven the whole lump. Back to Kierkegaard. The way I understand Kierkegaard is that he (unlike many Christians) fully acknowledges that faith is in some sense ridiculous. That faith begins where reason ends. That there can be no such thing as provable faith. That one can only make a leap into the dark by faith. This was refreshing and I could see how honest concession in this way could allow me to hang onto faith while acknowledging it to be ‘foolish’ in a worldly sense. Also instead of defining who’s in and who’s out by the belief set one subscribes to, he claimed we would know someone by their fruits, by their works of love, their love for one another. I quickly adopted this view but it created it’s own heretical theological implications. What about the Buddhist who spent his entire life relentlessly and selflessly denying himself to pursue the truth he called god? Versus the American teenager who once gave mental assent to 3 metaphysical beliefs and said a prayer in youth group and then spent the rest of his life living however he wanted? Would the buddhist spend eternity in hell but the youth group teenager an eternity in heaven based on 3 doctrines they respectively gave mental assent to? Where’s the justice in that? It seemed more based on the luck of the  sperm lottery and which religion you were born into than anything else. So Kiierkegaard’s existentialism appealed to me. Much less weight was given to the belief sets subscribed to and much more was given to the fruits displayed by the individual, namely- do they love one another? At this point I was becoming pretty theologically heretical from the perspective of my religious roots. The more I let go of the more questions I became willing to entertain, and Kiierkegaard, rather than saving my dying faith, became a stepping stone into disbelief.


The more I freely explored the questions, the less the canned answers satisfied. Every answer ultimately came back to a suspension of reason, whether that was through censorship of the question or Kierkegaardian fideism. In either case simply asking “If I was a Muslim, would this answer lead me out of (the obviously false) Islam into the (obviously true) Christianity?” Invariably if I responded the same way as I a Muslim I’d have remained a Muslim, no matter the evidence. Slowly I began to realize I simply didn’t know the answers and that the bible and Christianity began to appear just as peculiar as the superstitions of Islam or Buddhism or any other dogmatic belief about the metaphysical invisible world. I began to examine whether there were any empirical events in my life and world I could point to that pointed to the invisible supernatural world. But everything could be explained and understood perfectly naturally. For all the years I spent praying- on the random chance circumstantial events would line up we’d freak out and cling to it as direct answer to prayer. Most of the time we just prayed vaguely to avoid it being actually subject to test. Worst case it was completely unanswered and then it obviously just wasn’t God’s will. It was unfalsifiable. I’ve never witnessed a bona fide miracle, nobody has ever been healed of an amputated limb, miracles either happened 2000 years ago or in 3rd world countries where camera phones don’t exist. There seemed to be an inverse relationship between miraculous events and the ability to document them. I finally concluded there’s nothing I’ve ever witnessed that can’t be explained naturally. I finally realized I was a skeptical agnostic who doesn’t have a clue what I believe about the metaphysical unseen world, and that’s ok.


At this point I’ve told very few people. I talk very openly with my wife about it and she’s fairly devastated. We love each other, have a beautiful daughter together, and have thus far had a very rich and incredibly easy life together with no real problems besides this religious issue. I continuously apologize that I’ve put her through this, and I feel incredibly bad for her. She married a fundamentalist street preacher and now is married to an agnostic who has little desire to participate in many things religious. I understand how difficult it is, sympathise deeply and don’t hold it against her. She has been incredibly patient and tried hard to endure our discussions, but even just discussing it is painful for her. Had she not married me I don’t think she’d have ever had to wrestle through these issues, but now that she is I can’t imagine the status quo continuing. As I talk to her she’s begun to have her own doubts, but I want to respect her and I have no goals of deconverting her. It may be a false dilemma but I feel like if she continues to discuss with me I will influence her and lead her astray from her faith (which she fearfully suspects as well) meaning at this point she may be faced with the pre-emptive decision- her faith or me. Jesus says unless your love for your spouse is like hate compared to your love for him you’re not worthy to be his disciple. This is a hard issue and brings frequent tears in our discussions. But having read some of the horror stories of others coming out, I am very grateful for her gracious response. I wouldn’t wish the situation on anyone.


Other than that my perspective is quite optimistic. I’ve finally come to the point where I am grateful to have gone through this.  For the first time in my life I can interpret the world based on how I see it. The cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics required to fit evidence into a presupposed conclusion are gone. I am reading a ton and find the world more beautiful and fascinating than ever before. The world is not all evil and my life is not consumed with preparing for the next world cause this one’s all gonna burn. I have no idea what happens after death and though that can be scary it invests every minute of my life with extra meaning. My ethic is free to be humanistic, I don’t have to justify genocide and I am free to embrace an ethic of minimizing harm and maximizing human flourishing. For meaning and purpose I have the most incredible career that I find deeply meaningful and believe it to be incredibly contributory to the good of humanity, I couldn’t think of anything more meaningful for me at this point. I have a beautiful wife, an incredibly charming daughter, a bright future, and some hard times ahead when/if people find out. My family and those around me will be devastated I’m sure. But it’s bound to happen and we’ll roll with the punches as they come. As for my philosophy and purpose in life now- I find it best summed up in Lester’s final dialogue at the end of the film American Beauty-

“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined my street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday. ”




Postscript (11/07/15)


This seems like ages ago. So much water has gone under the bridge. I’ve since either ‘come out’ or been ‘discovered’ (the fact that it’s a scandal to not have certainty about metaphysical, invisible, untestable, allegedly ‘not subject to logic or reason’ beliefs is strange in itself) by almost everyone I love or care about. I’ve lost friends (either through direct biblical excommunication or simply by no longer having religion in common, which was the basis for many relationships), had many very painful, tear filled conversations, become a scandal to some family and former friend circles, submitted to church discipline etc. It’s a brutal process to lose faith… when anyone (usually in confidence) tells me they’re also beginning to have their own doubts it simply makes me want to cry for them. I became incredibly depressed, isolated, some days I couldn’t even get out of bed- it was like watching everything I’d ever built my whole life upon crumble before my eyes. Five years ago had I known where I would be today I would have shot myself to save myself (I say that only to illustrate my level of sincerity & commitment at the time). But the more I read, studied, learned, pursued relationships with Christian PHD philosophers, PHD apologists, pastors, mentors (many of whom I can call friends today) the more I felt like my faith was being ripped from me against my will, I was being dragged kicking and screaming out of it, unable to ignore the increasingly obvious intellectual problems and unsatisfactory answers. Today I can honestly say it was the worst thing I’ve ever been through (had a pretty easy life) but the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Truth is a gauntlet but an incredible reward worth pursuing. There is so much I could say, but I’ll leave that to coffee conversations for anyone interested (yes, that’s an invitation [to family and friends anyway]). I was asked by one of my sisters “If you now believe Christianity is false, how could you just let your family & friends continue believing what you think is a lie without saying anything?” It’s a fair question, and one I’m quite conflicted about.I think I at least owe it to those I care about to explain myself and offer the opportunity to discuss further if anyone’s interested, and that’s why I’m sharing this with you today. Looking back with the perspective of time I’d say my loss of faith can be attributed to 3 things primarily (in order of importance):


  1. Epistemology. Faith is a poor epistemology. If I could have only one reason, this is it.
  2. The Psychology of Belief. Our deceptive minds can be incredibly misleading.
  3. The moral repugnance of the bible. Google that yourself, I have no suggestion.


The above three points are the most concise explanation I can give for why I am no longer a Christian. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I understand even explaining myself is relationally risky from a Christian worldview and I have no desire to further jeopardize our relationship, so for most of you this will probably be the end of our religious discussion. That said, if any of you would like to discuss further I’m an open book.



The Lego Movie: Is Everything Awesome?

The Lego Movie is not your average “kid’s movie.” It is packed with relevant socio-political cultural allusions, relentless in its humor, catchy when you wish it wasn’t (Admit it now – you have sung “everything is awesome” at least once since watching), and what may have caught us all off guard – it was deeply emotional and philosophically robust. Who knew going into a Lego movie would mean being confronted with complex views of time, libertarian freedom, and the nature and purpose of god and man?

Maybe you didn’t catch those, but they were there. **Spoiler alert** While the word “god” was never used, “the man upstairs” immediately stepped into a god-like character, controlling the whole Lego world (a character reserved only for one as morally astute as Will Farrell) from the infinitieth-floor.

Represented as “President Business” in the Lego world, the man upstairs decries the status of the world by saying, “People everywhere are always messing with my stuff. But I have a way to fix that. A way to keep things exactly the way they are supposed to be – permanently.” Gluing Lego pieces into place is, representing a deterministic universe fixed in time and space, the ultimate Lego-world conflict.

Although intuition and cultural context might lead us to suspect a critique of the Christian God, whatever aims the film had at representing the man upstairs this way were foiled by both his deterministic desires and the film’s rejection of a creation from nothing (ex nihilo):

“All the people of the universe were once free to travel and mingle and built whatever they wanted. But president business was confused by all the chaos, so he erected walls between the worlds and became obsessed with order and perfection…”

Liberal trends in the Christian church want to view the Bible as merely one of many ancient near Eastern creation myths by interpreting its narrative to describe a God who merely patterns the chaos of time and space, instead of creating time and space in Genesis 1. This god does not transcend the created world, but only exists within it. Ironically, not only is this unorthodox, it is clearly not the case with Will Farrell’s character, who exists both outside and within, an inconsistency worth a good smile and some armchair reflection on the creator-creature distinction.

The movie is not shy about its inconsistencies. Cloud koo-koo-land appears as the ideal-utopian society, which exists in a heavenly-cloud realm. Princess Uni-kitty describes it:

“‘Here in cloud koo-koo-land there are no rules. There is no government. No babysitters. No bed-times. No frowney-faces. No bushy mustaches. And no negativity of any kind.’

‘You just said the word “no” like a thousand times.’

‘And there’s also no consistency. Any idea is a good idea, except the not happy ones – those you push down deep inside where you’ll never ever ever ever find them.'”

A fascinating glimpse into how the human will is interpreted in the Lego world, the writers show their poker hand here by admitting that there is no way to be consistent in saying that the ideal government is a government that has no government. But why is this “ni dieu, ni maitre” (No Gods, No Masters) such a powerful rallying point in heaven?

The Lego Movie puts forth its highest statement of value in the form of “the prophecy”, which is stated numerous times, but in its essential form is most directly told to Wild Style:

“The prophecy states that you are the special. The embodiment of good. The foiler of evil. The most talented, most brilliant, most important person in the universe.”

Unlike Biblical prophecy, this prophecy is not an infallible revelation of an all-powerful God at all, but is admittedly made up, “because the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be.” And this takes on a utilitarian aspect when Emmet asks, “How can I believe I’m the special when I’m not?”, and the answer is “Because the world depends on it.”

This really is a fascinating concept. The creativity of the creature, or the Lego in this case, contains the purposes of the whole world, and recognizing self-value is the key and universal objective.

This is similar to the Christian’s conception of Imago Dei (“Image of God”) with Adam and Eve, who were, as the pinnacle of God’s creation, sent out to actualize their creative powers by subduing the earth in order to reflect, and spread the reflection (i.e., image) of God’s glory. But in the Bible, this creative power comes indirectly; it is mirror-like. Because Adam and Eve are image, their creative power is derivative. Not so in the Lego world!

Because the inhabitants of the Lego cultures are asked to realize they are “the special” by creating anything, or destroying anything, as “ground breakers”, all sense of orientation for what a prophecy might mean by “foiler of evil” is completely lost, since morality, knowledge, and reality are self generating. If Unikitty says only happy ideas are good ones, what if it makes someone “happy” to lie or to murder in the Lego world? What kind of Lego creation is this in which chaos is the highest law? Even the Lego Movie creators are inconsistent in their hate of order since they created an entire movie that is now utterly fixed in its form. But relishing the inconsistency, Emmet’s Lego piece even moves by itself on the table as the power of the creature over the power of god starts to surface. The creation doesn’t need a creator!

It is just at this point that the film’s most stunning emotional arguments are made in the person of the son. In the humorous but profound argument about a “highly sophisticated interlocking brick system”, the father and the son are entirely at odds about their creation. The son does not see an ordered universe, but the father does. Through Emmet, the son makes a case for the chaos creation:

“What I see are people, inspired by each other, and by you. People taking what you made and making something new out of it.”

Through the mediation of the son, the father is reconciled to the world and no longer at odds with his creation.

Sound familiar?

Despite just how closely this narrative resembles a Christ-figure story, it is entirely at odds with a Biblical one. The Lego Movie says the god-figure, “the man upstairs”, is actually the bad guy! And the son’s character teaches us all that the father-creator is flat-out wrong. Except for a failure to see each person as a god-like creator and self governor, no wrong can be done in the Lego world. If sin is defined as “lack of conformity to, or transgression of God’s law”, then sin is actually the highest moral virtue in the Lego world.

But the Biblical God, the God of our world, claims sole right to say what is good and evil, and to order all of creation. Jesus came as fulfillment of prophecy to call men to repentance and faith in the God who made them, as well as to believe in Him as God’s Son so that they could be made right with the Father, and made to be like Him.

But the Lego Movie not your average “kid’s movie!” Instead of bringing sinful man up to heaven through the son, the Lego Movie brings sinful god down to earth through the son. While the movie was one of the most riveting and amusing “kid’s movies”, its religious values and teachings amount for the Christian to cosmic treason.

But who wants to think about all that!? Cue Music!

“Everything is awesome!”


Notions of “Peace”

“They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.” – Jer 6:14

Recently, while volunteering at a local university with Christian campus ministry, I was caught up in a long conversation, speaking until my voice was nearly gone, fading in and out like spasmodic radio reception. While the conversation swam through a broad spectrum of topics, one specific conversation piece had my attention for the few days following. It centered around the basic theme of peace. What is peace, and how is it had? Is the peace of Christianity the same peace as the peace of, say, Buddah? I’d like to share how I answered, and then fill in the lines with a little color.

First, two pieces of background information.

1. Benjamin Warfield contends that the Bible is the “Book of mankind,” since through it many peoples have become literate, opening the way for greater learning and scientific inquiry. This historical verity is accountable for much of the literacy throughout the whole world, including the English speaking peoples (Side note: Cable & Baugh have a wonderful treatment on the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons in their book “The History of the English Language”).

2. On the evening of April 4th, 2013, a lecture titled “Why I’m Not An Atheist” was presented by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale at Princeton University. The entirety of it can be seen here:

For my purposes, I’ve typed out this important question asked by an atheist in the crowd, and its answer:

Student question:

“When you say that atheists have no basis for morals, it seems that you are ignoring the existence of mankind, in that we can look at the world and see that peace leads to prosperity and nations… we can look and see that, objectively, trust and safety in communities allow art and science and technology to prosper. You attack atheists like Hitler and the lonely rich, but it seems like a bit of a stretch to think that all atheists search for happiness in murder, power, and cutthroat business. So it seems like you are attacking the weak nihilist, who looks at the universe and sees that there is no ultimate moral authority and leaves it at that, but you are ignoring the strong nihilists, who look at the universe, see no moral authority, and say “this is an opportunity for us to use reason, to use our experiences, to create morals, to create the society that can further us, that can create the happiest society. So two questions – 1. Is it fair to ignore these strong nihilists, and 2. Isn’t it more noble to use our own reason and experiences to form morals than to put blind faith in an old out-dated text?

Ravi’s answer:

“The question is not whether an atheist can be a good person or not, the question is [if there is a] rationally reducible extension of reason to do that- except pragmatically that you want to live in peace, but that is assuming that peace is a good thing… There are people today in the world who want to eradicate it, and then the world will be a better place. What is the grounds for us reasoning with that kind of person? ‘Oh, yeah, we all need to get along.’ He says, ‘Yeah, well I get along better when you are not around.'”

Now, Ravi’s answer is a good jump off for understanding my discussion. The university student to whom I was talking had a similar question to the above Princeton student. I followed the same basic pattern of thought that Ravi did; however, they were not asking about nihilists or Muslims, but they were asking about Eastern philosophies. Shouldn’t that be more difficult? Sure, one might think, it is easy to defend an idea of peace against “radical” Muslims or a Hitler, but Buddah? Guy was probably just kicking back – comm’on!

Enter Warfield. Interestingly enough, the way the question was intially brought up was in the context of my contention that just as literacy spread throughout the earth because of Christianity, so real ideals of peace which now stay the nations are the resulting factor of Christian dogma. “But what about,” comes the response, “nations which had peace without Jesus? Like Buddah’s?”

This is roughly what I said: “Well, you might argue they both maintain or create peace, but then it must be asked, ‘What is peace?’ There are differing conceptions of what it means between Eastern and Christian philosophies. When I was in Thailand I saw the red light distrinct. Young girls were numbered off like cattle and sold for sexual pleasure, many by no volition of their own. I questioned a local woman who told me these girls ‘get what they deserve, for in a past life they must have done evil.’ Is this doctrine of karma a true peace? In the Eastern eye whatever is, is without disruption, ‘peace.’ But for the Christian peace is only understood in terms of being right with God. Prostitution is evil in His sight, so prostitution is at odds with peace, and this has ramifications for how man lives with man.”

After this came the assertion, “Okay, but I knew a man who lived in a small African village, and he was old and his wife had passed away. Clearly, it is evil for him to go around raping women to fulfill his sexual desires, but he told me that having a village prostitute helped to stop him and other men from that evil. What about that?”

I said, “Is the answer to evil more evil? If you replace evil with another evil, what do you have? Evil. But in Christ, evil has been conquered by good. And through Christ, man is enabled to live at peace with God.”

This was the end of that portion of our conversation, but as I continued to think on it I was struck by the nonchalance of my challenger’s acceptance of evil. Our undergirding socially constructed ideals about peace as a society and people are deeply influenced and produced by our sociological inheritance. If peace is not to be defined by God, then by what? Indeed, there is no such thing as peace without God. And this is not merely a sociological issue, though this was how we spoke about it, but a deeply personal issue. We know when we sin we are setting ourselves against God Almighty. We know that replacing sin with lesser sin is still sin, and that we are still at enmity with God so long as we are slaves to sin. We become like dogs who cower in their shame and back away from a wrathful master in fear. Perhaps we conviniently supress the knowledge that God is there so we can keep on sinning.

As long as we do so, we are enemies of peace.
“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked.” – Isaiah 48:22

Look how closely the commands of the LORD are attached to peace. Malachi 2:6 “True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.”

And in Jesus alone is true ultimate peace. Listen to these words:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” – Colossians 1

It may be hard to get our minds around it, but all peace (in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible), even for the Buddhist or Muslim, ultimately comes from Jesus. The curse that this world is under, with its resultant evil dissemated throughout our existence of time and space, can only be extinguished or conquered, by Jesus alone. What other sort of peace is there if not reconciliation with God? True peace with men only comes through peace with God, for everything we do and think anthropologically has theological ramifications, and vice versa toward sociological order.

May we, then, be people then who point to Jesus in order to say, “Shalom”, or “peace be with you.” Peace has no other genesis or referent.


“The Word” Became Flesh

Carl Dreyer’s Ordet (1955), translated as “The Word” in English, is a Danish film adaptation of the theatrical play written by Lutheran minister Kaj Munk in 1925. The film has garnered much attention in the realm of spirituality in film, and is regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, spiritually significant films. Among its honors are the 1956 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the National Board of Review Award for Best Foreign Film, the Golden Lion (the highest prize of the Venice International Film Festival), the number one rank of “most spiritually significant film of all time” in 2010 by the Arts and Faith online community, and the Vatican’s one of fifteen “important films” pertaining to religion.

Munk’s Ordet is primarily the story of faith and love overcoming skepticism and doubt. On a small Danish farm in a hauntingly quiet rural setting, a dogmatic orthodox farmer’s family is torn asunder by various trials: one child believes he is Jesus the Christ himself, another is a cynical and stoic atheist, a third falls in love with a rival family’s daughter, forcing his father to face the doctrinal divide between their families, and all this comes to a climax in the death of the farm’s mother figure. All this conflict is put to the viewer as a question, asking, “Is there a place for the power of God today?” And the story unequivocally answers back, “Yes.” In the analysis that follows, we will investigate, through Robert B. Strimple’s book, “The Modern Search for the Real Jesus,” how Munk is able to say, “Yes,” and how that has significant implications for the Christian searching for Jesus today.

The foundational and epistemological assumption the viewer must be prepared to accept to understand Munk’s script is the Kantian distinction between scientific and religious knowledge. This is the fountainhead for the film’s skepticism and agnosticism, and its chilling desperation for faith. While referring most directly to an earthly father, the first word spoken in the film is, “Father?”, a demonstration of the distance felt between God above and men below. Miracles, a constant point of tension, are mentioned sixteen times in the film, representing the connection between the empirical, that which we sense here on earth, and the transcendent, that which is divine. Johannes’s atheist brother denies any spiritual presence on earth, saying, “It is all so meaningless – so meaningless.” Not only does Germany’s late nineteenth century Ritschlian Liberalism also put forth this strong and impossible Kantian division between heaven and earth, it also, along with Munk, puts forth this answer to the ineffable gap between the two: love; it is love, along with the faith of Bultmann-like existentialism, that Munk is able to provide an answer to the hopeless gap, albeit a faulty answer.

Picture of the play’s author

Faith and love work together for Munk’s depiction of the historical Jesus in Johannes; for Munk they become equivalents, as the reader will shortly understand. While Ritchlian Liberalism characterizes Munk’s value of love, the basis for love and Richtlian value is found in existentialism. This existentialism accounts for the psychological turmoil Johannes finds himself in. The film’s minister, after first meeting Johannes, who believes himself to be “Jesus of Nazareth,” was told something was wrong with Johannes. Therefore he asks Johannes’s brother Mikkel, “Was it… a love affair?” And Mikkel says, “It was Søren Kierkegaard.” Kierkegaard, the father of existentialism, produces the “leap of faith” theology necessary to embrace value judgments like love and hope. Johannes, we are told, “had a difficult time with speculation and doubts… [which] turned inward.” Strimple explains this phenomena as “[an embracing of] uncertainty as integral to being” (119). It is this blind nonsensical faith which allows for the film to communicate change and hope in the physical realm, and allows Johannes to make sense for his family the value of love.

Value judgments like love, following after this existentialism, become far more important for Munk than any historical ones. Both Munk and Albrecht Ritschl believe, as Strimple says, that “the concept of the kingdom of God… [is] interpreted solely in ethical and social terms. The kingdom comes as men unite for common moral action, motivated by love” (51). And so Mikkel’s atheism is written off by Inger, his wife, who explains that virtue, not doctrine, brings one close with God. Mikkel confesses that not only does
he not have faith, but has no “faith in faith.”

Inger replies,

But you have something else, something more important. A heart, goodness. I tell you, it is not enough to have faith if one is not a good person at the same time. And that’s what you are… [Faith] will come… Yes. And then you will see how warm you will feel, a glow inside you, and you’ll be so happy.

This faith, a faith which finds the divine, comes only through acts of love and goodness; that is, it comes through value judgments. Inger’s “I tell you” seems to be a reference to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when he says, “But I say to you…” This, then, is a pivotal point in the film, a point which seems to correct or re-orient the viewer’s current position with new teaching. Around this value judgment hangs the whole film.

The answer, then, to the distance between God and man becomes the act of love upheld by faith. Strimple explains how this value judgment should be interpreted:

In Ritschl’s estimation, religious affirmations – regarding God, for example – are strictly ‘value judgments.’ That qualifier, ‘value,’ cuts two ways: a value judgment is a judgment that affirms what we consider to be of value for our life; at the same time, it is a judgement that actually has value in making our life the kind of life it should be. A person can come to a sense of his or her own dignity and worth through the idea of a God who is his or her Creator, Savior, and Sustainer. But remember, Ritchl emphasized that this doctrine of a divine being is strictly a value judgment. (50)

The tension of value cutting both ways is well depicted in the conversation Mikkel and Inger have with Anders, the youngest brother. Though and unknown doctrine divides two families, the farmer’s and the tailor’s, the value judgment of love bridges this gap, too. Inger says, “Anders! You haven’t fallen in love with the tailor’s Anne?” …You know, they’ve got quite different ideas about religion.” Anders, knowing this to be the case, says, “We love each other. It doesn’t make any difference.” To which Inger says as the final thought, “Yes, that’s what we think too, Mikkel and I.” Inger again gaps the distance between belief and unbelief not only through her belief in love for Ander’s romantic situation, but between belief and unbelief in the divisive nature of dogma for herself and Mikkel. In this way love becomes the qualifier by which life not only is seen as communal, but is made communal. This type of common brotherhood, an acceptance of all of humankind under the banner of faith, hope, and love, appears as Munk’s explicit purpose for the film, and is proposed under the guise of blind faith in God, most clearly demonstrated in Johannes.

Munk’s view of Jesus, and even the historical Jesus, only now under the banner of love, becomes manifest in the person of Johannes. Under existentialism the issue of Johannes being divinity is a moot point (119): functionally Munk, like Ritschl, “emphatically repudiat[es] the orthodox doctrine of Christ’s two natures, yet he retain[es] the traditional terms, such as deity, in order to express the value, the unique value, of Jesus’ life for us” (51). Jesus, in this way, is not divinity condescending to die on the cross for the sins of his people, but Jesus is he who stands squarely and preeminently in that place of highest value, pointing us to community and life. Therefore, when Johannes performs god-like miracles, it is not simply a modern day miracle to bridge the gap between science and religion, a cheap trick or evangelistic propaganda, but a statement about the existential power of faith and love. Whether or not the film’s demonstration of miracles asserts something actually happening in reality is not important (notice how the clock is stopped by Anders), but important for Munk essential is the reality that a blind existential faith can and truly does produce manifestations of the divine presence, whether that be in the form of a prophet-like man or communal love.

The genuine Christian believer has no such existential blindness; his epistemology is not rooted in rationalism (15), or in a blind faith which makes room for love, but in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which are a light to life’s path. Therefore, the revelation of God which came down, not the rationality of man which looks up, is the answer to Munk’s hopelessness. Jesus Christ is not Kierkegaard’s “Knight of Infinite Resignation,” or “Knight of [blind nonsensical] Faith”, neither is he Munk’s Johannes, or Munk’s faith, but He is God descended from heaven to earth in the flesh. He is not an idea, a myth, blind faith in the infinite gap, or an appropriated persona, but a person who lived and died for His people in the first century of our Lord. The true Christian can answer “Yes” to the question “Is there a place for the power of God today?” because the Jesus of history was incarnate of the virgin Mary, suffered, died, rose, ascended, gave his Spirit to the church, and sits at the right hand of God, ever making intercession. For this reason also, Ordet, “the word,” has meaning; otherwise, love cannot be defended as an ultimate value, but only a subjective one. But the Christian knows what love is because Christ, the Word, gave his life for sinners.

The film’s last word, “Life!”, representing the fullness of faith and love expressed in the characters, becomes Mikkel’s declaration of “It is all so meaningless” if it is taken apart from God condescending to reveal Himself to man (especially through the historical space & time Jesus). If the historical Jesus did not come and die, then what does “faith” and “life” mean? We know true life only if we know Jesus. The true Christian can look on Munk’s film only in appreciation for its question, but not for its answers; Jesus is made known in the gospels, not in this existential experience. Jesus is not a wandering sage pointing to the truth and the need for faith, but He is Truth pointing to Himself, and faith finds meaning only in Him. The power of God today is seen, then, in the Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. “The Word” is not something we create today, He is the eternal Way, Truth, and Life spoken forever, and given to us in the Holy Bible, the Word who became flesh.


The Misnomer of Aronofsky’s “Noah”

Having very much enjoyed some of Darren Aronofsky’s work in filmmaking, especially due to those attributes the Huffington Post mentioned in their review of Noah (“the canted camera angles of ‘Requiem,’ the unfiltered feel of ‘The Wrestler,’ the psychological twilight of ‘Black Swan'”), I was looking forward to sitting down in the theater for this epic.

However, much to my dismay, the versimilitude of the movie was quickly shot by its Biblical infidelity. To this time disagree with the Huffington post, who claimed “Everything you’ve read in the Bible is there. It just fills in the holes with fantasy. So calm down”, I evoke a sigh of relief by noting a few (emphasize “few”) important deviations from the truth (i.e., the Biblical narrative) in an epic countdown:

3. The Earth, Animals, & Dominion

While the film had a quirky yet effective montage (Aronofsky usually very effective with this) of the fall of man, visiting numerous times the eating of the forbidden fruit and Cain’s act of murder, it appears that the extent of the fall of man excludes the earth. For this reason the flood is construed as a portal through which all of mankind would be exterminated and the animals could then live in peace and harmony on a sinless earth (man now extinct).

However, Romans 8:22 makes clear that “the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth…”, pain in childbirth being a result of the curse (Gen. 3:16). In fact, it is rather surprising the film missed this since Gen. 5:29 attaches this significance to a name: “Now he called his name Noah, saying, ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.'”

Noah is seen as one who will reverse the curse of Gen. 3:15 by doing what Adam could not. The command to Adam, then, to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28), applies to Noah, so that a cessation of humanity would be against God’s intent for mankind, thereby making Him capricious. But on the contrary, God blesses Noah and tells him to multiply on the earth after the flood (9:1).

It is notable that the only time God’s command to Adam to subdue the earth is quoted is in the mouth of Tubal-Cain, the arch-enemy of the film. Subduing the earth and movement away from agrarianism is considered evil, but Isaiah 45:18 says, “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!)”.

2. Sin & Noah’s Fault

Gen. 6:5,11 says “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.”

It is interesting how the film tries to interpret “man.” Aronofsky’s Noah uses the term to refer to all those outside his family, or household. Surely there is no warrant for this Biblically. And while Aronofsky’s Noah tries to maintain that even himself and his household are under sin, he actually turns out to be in-the-wrong, and is told by numerous characters, especially his wife, that the core of his sons are actually good.

This doesn’t sit well with Gen. 6:5, or scriptures like Ps. 51:5 where David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” The result of the fall, according to scripture, is not a partial depravity, but a thorough corruption. While the hope for Noah is that he would be a new Adam perfectly obeying, even he sins after getting off the ark by getting drunk (especially represented by his nakedness, as with Adam & Eve). The world awaits another savior, one who is morally perfect, who is the Christ to come (the “second Adam”).

But this is not the hope for Aronofsky. The film maintains that men are basically innocent, despite the vast corruption of humanity. This comes out quite a few times, most notably with Ham’s girlfriend, who Ham says is innocent. The twins born are also maintained as innocent (despite Ps. 51:5, quoted above). The physical world is said to be innocent. And yet, Biblically, none of these are innocent (Rom. 3:9-18), so that the only hope for humanity is the mercy of God.

You would think that a movie so focused on judgement would understand mercy, but this is woefully not the case. In fact, Aronofsky’s Noah finally resigns himself to the pressure of his family and conscience, so that God is actually made out to be unjust in wanting to destroy all mankind (noteworthy again is the fact that, Biblically, God doesn’t intend to destroy all of mankind, but preserves Noah and his family). Would God be unjust to do such a thing? He would be if men were innocent, as the film argues, but in fact, there is none innocent (Rom. 3:9-18), so that all deserve judgement and death.

Interestingly enough, Noah is said to be a herald of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5), but Aronofsky’s Noah seems to be well set and happy about the destruction of humanity, even killing off quite a few himself. There is no Biblical notion of this. Instead, the idea is that Noah was mocked and derided for his belief in the judgement to come, and the peoples of the earth largely ignored him while continuing in their eating, and drinking, and being merry (Luke 17:26-27) – They were not crowding the ark as soon as the rains came, they were not Tubal-Cain yelling at the heavens for God to reveal Himself, they were well satisfied with their rebellion against the Creator, revelling in their ignorance and evil ways.

1. Revelation – God meets Noah

Is Aronofsky’s Noah a Biblical prophet? While his dreams were rather confusing, it seems they were authoritative, for what he thought would happen actually happened. But it is either that Noah heard clearly from God that all humanity was supposed to be wiped out (including his family), so that Noah actually rebels against God in the end, or it is that God’s revelation to Noah wasn’t clear and Noah actually realizes how wrong he was, which is the film’s implication.

Aside from the fact that the scripture never even gets close to indicating God desired Noah’s family to be wiped out (in fact, all the sons have healthy baby making wives, all who are blessed by God), is the revelation (or message) of God to Noah somehow unclear? In the film, we never hear audibly from God, but Noah either gets a dream or stares blankly at the clouded sky. The silence of God is clearly popular in Aronofsky’s mind.

So when the Bible says, “God said to Noah” (Gen. 6:13), are we to believe God did not actually say to Noah? A friend of mine didn’t want to watch the film, for he thought it would portray God in physical form (a violation of the second commandment of Ex. 20), and the reason he thought that is because God sometimes manifests Himself in physical form. In Gen. 3:8 it is said that Adam and Eve heard his footsteps, and there are many appearances of God physically throughout the Hebrew scriptures (especially as “The Angel of the LORD”).

Couldn’t the Lord have simply spoken audibly from the heavens? Sure, that could be the case, or he may have physically manifested himself, but the point is that God spoke to Noah, as the scriptures say, not gave him general impressions for him to interpret. Even the specific dimensions of the ark are given by God directly (Gen. 6:15), just as the interpretation of the rainbow is given by God (Gen. 9:12-17), so that God’s word is not only authoritative, but it is clear, and it is sufficient.

This is an important point because the whole second half of the film is trying to deal with the tension between Noah’s revelation from God and what they believe to be true about the future, which seems equally unknown to everyone. This is not the case in scripture, for God knows the beginning from the end of things, and never reveals Himself to his people in vain (Is. 55:11), but He says “I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.”


Unfortunately, Aronofsky’s Noah does not appear to be a prophet knowing God’s word, but a mystic sikh who is more in touch with the earth than with a God who infallibly directs all human history. Aronofsky’s Noah gives in to the understanding of sin given by others and makes God out to be capricious, which would drive anyone to get drunk times over.

No, Aronofsky’s Noah is no Noah at all. This story can be added to the pantheon of pagan flood epics, with Gilgamesh and Atrahasis.

For God has said to us:
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (Gen. 5:28-29)

The hope for scripture is in one who would save us from the curse, but for Aronofsky the curse doesn’t extend to all the earth – it doesn’t even extend to the whole of humanity, and because of that the Lord is wrong to desire judgement on all men, and equally wrong to think people need judging (or saving!). But Scripture tells us we are in a helpless place, and that the hope was for Noah to save us.

Noah failed to do that very thing, but there is One who has, and His name is Jesus. This same Jesus said a flood and judgement is coming for us (Luke 17:24-18:8), and when it comes, the question is – will you make it through on the ark? This is the same as asking, “will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is the significance of the true Noah, and as far as it is missed, there is no Noah.

Aronofsky’s “Noah” is a misnomer.