Atheist Pastors Leading Christian Groups?

From ABC News,

Two active ministers say they no longer believe in God, but no one knows [about it].

“Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God,” he said… it was difficult to continue to work in ministry. “I just look at it as a job and do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it for years.”


21st Century pastors embrace divergent beliefs.

If “the Bible led me not to believe,” did this pastor find the magic bullet that kills biblical faith? If so, no longer does “faith comes from hearing the Word of God,” as Romans 10:14 claims. Or maybe the atheist pastor is confused?

Later he tells ABC News the real faith-killer was a sheltered upbringing, which includes seminary!

“I realized that everything I’d been taught to believe was sort of sheltered,” Adam said, “and never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies.

It seems this pastor simply encountered the weakness of his own faith, which “was sort of sheltered,” he said.

Sheltered Seminaries?

The saddest revelation is this man’s faith was seminary-trained. To emerge from seminary “sort of sheltered” means the seminarians (the professors) lost sight of the reason for seminaries–namely, to prepare students for effective communication, especially with the secular world. But he encountered the “New Atheists,” and it was a one-sided debate because he lacked intelligent, biblical counter-arguments.

There are innumerable examples of cogent, intelligent responses to the New Atheists, such as the Lenox-Dawkins debate, but tragically, these pastors were apparently unaware the answers were available.

This raises the problem with the seminary model, which is clearly outdated, even if it was efficacious once in the High Renaissance.1 Learning how to manage the church budget and arguing about obtuse speculations from the Cappadocian Fathers produces graduates vulnerable to the secular culture. The problem is not faulty professors as much as a faulty system. The seminary model treats  ministry as a profession, like accounting.

Ministry should be the natural outcome of personal discipleship. Clearly discipleship was the primary model of training used by Jesus and his followers, even though they could have employed the Rabbinic school model at the time.

Does it bother the conscience of these atheist-pastors to lead “the flock” while misleading them about God’s existence?

[Adam] and Jack said that when speaking to parishioners, they tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that they still believed in — the parts about being a good person.

“I try to be a person of integrity and character,” Adam said. “With the economy the way it is, with my lack of marketable skills other than a seminary education, it has me in a tough spot.”

Since Christianity is about God’s forgiveness and not about “good person” living, these Pastors are perpetrating a hoax on their unsuspecting “parishioners”.  Something is amiss when a Pastor can mislead so many and still consider himself “a person of integrity.” (Pastor Adam later admits even his own wife doesn’t know!)  But then again, it sounds like Jesus never made a difference for Pastor Adam:

“As I lost my faith … I realized that really had no bearing on who I am and my character and my actions. I live no differently than I did when I was a fervent believer.”

Surely that can’t be entirely true? At least he didn’t have to lie as “a fervent believer.”

  1. Citing classic European/humanist cultural bias, “the High Renaissance is widely viewed as the greatest explosion of creative genius in history…The High Renaissance is widely viewed as the greatest explosion of creative genius in history.” Wikipedia, High Renaissance. []
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8 thoughts on “Atheist Pastors Leading Christian Groups?

  1. Nick Schifer

    Wow. That is really sad. How does a person ever come to make the decision to want to be a preacher/priest and lack the level of faith required to accept Christ into your heart? I completely agree that there is major issue in the seminary model where ministry is treated as a profession. Formal training does not require the building of character. As stated in Romans 5:3-5, “we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” A leader and especially a spiritual leader should not an assigned or elected position, but rather a position earned. The character of a leader should be continuously be tested and it is through this testing that follower should become confident and trust in the abilities of the leader.

  2. Brian T

    This topic really saddens me. I hope these pastors will investigate the evidence for the truth of the Bible and come to know Jesus. The bible is very clear that what these “pastors” are doing is worse than murder.

    Luk 17:1 He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!
    Luk 17:2 “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.

  3. Mandy

    I think that this same problem being seen with the seminary model is also being seen with “the lay people” in churches everywhere as well as with the youth in churches today (largely owning to the current problem with the loss of youth in the church). We have “Sunday school” and “membership class” much like we have grade school and high school. Often without thinking or trying, we apply the same logic that we do in the secular world to the “religious world” (which is usually what makes it so!). We get so into the mentality of being sponges that just absorb whatever we hear – we go to school, we learn the required material, and we regurgitate what the teacher wants to hear in order to get the A that we all want. Quite frankly it’s usually the easier way out – it typically requires much less effort; although this comes at the expense of missing the reward of actually owning what you believe! Somewhere in the mix of it all we lose sight of taking it to the next level – of actually considering the validity of what we are taught – considering the antithesis then struggling with the idea and persevering until we actually come to a conclusion of our own. There are thousands upon thousands of pew-sitters across the world who have never risen to the challenge, perhaps never been posed with the challenge, of owning their own faith. The Bible tells us in James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”. HOW are we to do this (outside of legalism) if we don’t own our faith? How can we possibly have a personal conviction of how to live out our faith in our lives if we do not own our faith?? And, as this blog emphasizes, how do we face the criticism and opposition that this world is bound to throw our way if our approach is to be a sponge soaking up whatever we hear? To this end, it is vital that we actually know WHAT we believe and WHY we believe it and that we teach in such a way that encourages this approach.

  4. Elisaul

    It’s funny how the commentator of this news report misses the point about the bible and tries to make a whole case on a imagined seminary context of a person that he doesnt know.

    I saw the whole Lenox-Dawkins debate. I’ve read W.L.C. & Plantinga. There’s nothing coherent and it all goes back to obscure & ambiguous claims and lots of non sequituurs. You can talk about mathematics, quantum physics, etc, etc,… None of that points to Christian theism at all. Jesus? Resurrection? Atonement? None of those talks and debates make Christianity believable, probable. With theology you can argue that Voldemort or Santa Claus exists and those who doesn’t believe it exists are morally corrupt.

    I come from a family of pastors, overseas missionaries and national religious leaders. I was a believer for most of my life and to this day, I have not heard one single pastor make a good case for Christianity. I mean, in my youth I thought they were great & awesome, because all the arguments I heard were one-sided (and dont forget about the constant “demonization” of unbelievers).

    The case for Christian theism is dead a long time ago. It survives only because of the sentimentalisms of people. If there is something beyond theism, ah, that’s a good question. That’s why you have some Christian leaders and well-known theologians rejecting the idea of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god… but I guess they’re sinners and that ‘ad hominem’ is all Christians need.

    1. Robert

      Its interesting that you bring mathematics and quantum physics into the argument, because you are correct in saying that it doesn’t point to Christianity, the is not mathematical proof that arises stating Jesus Christ is the answer, the physics show us something a little deeper, namely as you dive deep into the theories of how our world and the universe work stated by our understanding of physics and mathematics, we begin to see such a complex web of events and constraints on how it all works that one has to ask themselves if logically one can assume it all spontaneously came about itself, or if there is a need for a higher being to help it give rise, namely God. Although this doesn’t prove Christianity, I feel that it proves that there has to be a Creator in the mix, and once one comes to terms with this conclusion, they can then figure out based on our multiple other resources as to which higher being this could be.
      As for proof towards Christianity itself, one has to look at the information that has been given to us, such as the Bible, now you sound like you wouldn’t be satisfied with just taking the word of one book to come to the conclusion that Christianity is the religion that makes sense, which is what most people would agree to. This is why I would urge you to dig around through the different books that have been written arguing FOR Christ, because as one dives deeper into this realm, just looking at proof along the lines of proving that the Bible is historically accurate, or even comparing Christianity to different religions to see the validity of it or if it even makes sense. I feel that after researching the topic and finding such large numbers of people that not only believe it but can argue for it, the proof for Christianity seems overwhelming.
      When it comes down to the point, theology could be turned to argue the existence of different things, such as the idea of “Santa Claus” but that takes away from the purpose of theology, which is to bring use to a sound and logical conclusion as to where to place our belief and faith, which I feel Christianity has done a remarkable job doing. In the end there is no magical formula that states Jesus was here, and there are no eye witnesses to the resurrection that can tell us definitively that the occurrences depicted throughout the Bible are indeed true. This is why God calls us to have faith, He has presented us with an overwhelming amount of information that we can use to decide for ourselves what makes the most sense in our lives.

    2. Keith Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to reply, Elisaul. I’ll take the time to offer a reasonable response.

      First, your “Santa Claus” and “Vooldemort” arguments are similar to Dawkins’ popular argument–that God deserves no more consideration than the “Spaghetti Monster”. It’s what logicians call reductio-ad-absurdum (a fallacious argument), or magicians call “slight-of-hand”, which distracts attention away from reality. Nobody in the real world believes in Vooldemort, Santa Claus, or “the Spaghetti Monster” because they’re patently absurd, shallow, and without factual support. Their parallel to belief in a Creator God seems spurious. Why are atheists using and reusing such unreasonable (and unfair) correlations, except as an insult?

      Second, your deprecation of the intellectual integrity of Dr. Lenox seems inconceivable, since he’s a logician and professor of mathematics at Oxford University. It is, however, consistent with your subjective condemnation of all theism as absurdism, where passion is overwhelming objectivity. Could Prof. Lenox truly be as “incoherent” as you say, and still keep his job and international reputation?

      Third, “The case for Christian theism is dead a long time ago. It survives only because of the sentimentalisms of people…” Your point presumes to know the inner motivations of all Christians, which is quite a claim. Is it impossible for someone to be intelligent and educated and still a Christian? And if some do exist, is it impossible they might have a reasonable and educated cause for their belief?

      Fourth, I think my claim that the seminary did not prepare these men to face the real world of skepticism is entirely justified, and not so imaginary as you think. They freely admit they were never schooled on these objections to the Christian faith, so my critique is based on their own testimony.

      I’m sure these points deserve at least some consideration, so thanks for taking the time to answer and think about these important issues.

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