I expected–and then heard–these questions: 1. “Where have you been?” 2. “Have you found a new church?” 3. “Will you be back?” I’m sure this question will come my way soon: 4. “Do you no longer believe?”
The answers are, in order: 1. Home and work. 2. No. 3. Not likely. 4. That depends (I’ll expand at the end).
After more than four and a half decades faithfully attending and even leading evangelical churches, I quit. Not the faith, but evangelical churches. Here’s how it happened:
Step One: I learned about annihilationism (also referred to as “conditional immortality”).
From the latter part of the first century (around A.D. 90) right on through to today, “orthodox” Christians have stubbornly held to the doctrine of eternal damnation for “the lost.” Throughout most of my evangelical tenure that doctrine bothered me. But I chose to accept “the bad” with “the good.” Then, finally, in 2015 I first heard the term annihilationism and began to study the concept. The more I studied, the more convinced I became that, for centuries, Christians have believed a lie. And that lie has hindered at least hundreds of thousands—more likely hundreds of millions—from accepting the good gospel.
How could a good, loving God send the vast majority of people who ever lived and ever would live to spend eternity burning in hell? Why would people be drawn to such a God? No wonder so many turn away.
As I re-read the Bible from the annihilationist perspective—setting aside those traditional lenses that insisted on the eternal damnation view—I saw Scripture in a dramatically different way. Some of the most basic passages—ones evangelicals commonly use to recruit converts—clearly contradict the traditional view of eternal conscious torment (ECT). And it’s so obvious, I can only guess why I didn’t see it before: tradition had blinded me.
Two of those passages evangelicals commonly cite in their evangelism (conversion attempts) are Romans 6:23, which says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” and John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Those two prominent verses—and many more like them —plainly state that the result of sin, any sin, is death (annihilation), not eternal damnation. They also teach that faith is the only antidote to sin.
Over the course of several months I studied and then prepared an extensive PowerPoint presentation to prove—primarily from the Bible—that God has no intention of sending anyone to eternal punishment in hell. Greeks brought that notion into the church; the concept is antithetical to the teachings of the Bible. Plato, for instance, taught, “The soul of man is immortal and imperishable.” Search the Bible as diligently as you like and you will never find the term immortal soul, or anything similar. Quite the contrary, the Bible repeatedly teaches that humans are not inherently immortal.* But once the early church accepted the notion of immortal (eternal) souls, it was just one more step to conclude that eternal lost souls must be punished eternally.
Meanwhile, the passages traditionally cited to teach eternal conscious torment have been grossly misinterpreted. But centuries-long traditions are not easily abandoned. Despite my persistent efforts, I was able to convert only a few to the annihilationist view.
Consequently, I will not spend time “worshiping” with people who hold a grossly distorted view of God—of a vicious God who seems to hold His created beings to a higher standard than He expects of Himself.
Step Two: Donald Trump exposed evangelicals’ true motives and characteristics.
At about the same time I was re-learning the Bible from my annihilationist perspective, I also was desperately-but-vainly trying to convince my evangelical friends and family members that Donald Trump was not their friend—and certainly not the savior many were proclaiming him to be. Those attempts proved to be even less successful than my efforts to change their views on eternity. Every time I tried to expose the lying, cheating con man, using undeniable facts, I was dismissed as a “hater.”
In the three years since Trump’s election, I’ve seen the same responses to every effort I’ve made to show my fellow evangelicals the many huge chinks in their new savior’s armor. I’ve watched helplessly and hopelessly as evangelicals have twisted themselves and their faith claims into knots as they invent new excuses for their leader’s bumbling mistakes and horrible misdeeds.
Even now, with volumes of undeniable evidence of Trump’s gross mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic’s assault on America, evangelicals have intensified their support for the bumbler-in-chief. Rather than admitting their lack of discernment in supporting an arrogant ignoramus, most evangelicals have shown themselves to be too proud to concede their mistake. Rather than obey the call of the “old” savior who told His followers to admit and repent of their incorrect notions, today’s evangelicals have chosen to follow and emulate their new savior who refuses to admit to making any mistakes. I’ve witnessed the regression of evangelical Christianity into the Trump cult; I have no desire to be a cult member.
Do I Believe?
So, as to point number 4, listed above: Do I no longer believe?
I still believe in most biblical doctrines, as properly interpreted. But I have lost faith in the perverted counterfeit Christianity that evangelicalism has become. I will return to church if the church returns to the Truth. I don’t foresee that happening any time soon.
* See Genesis 3:19; 2 Samuel 14:14; Psalm 22:29; Psalm 37:20-28; Psalm 90:3; Psalm 103:15-16; Ecclesiastes 3:19-20; Isaiah 40:6-7; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:53; 1 Timothy 6:15-16 (and these are but a few).