The unfolding tragedy of “exvangelicalism”

May 19th

Kevin Max, the Grammy award-winning singer from the band DC Talk, has become the latest prominent Christian to announce his departure from evangelicalism; that is, the belief salvation is received by grace alone, through faith in Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection.

For the uninitiated, "exvangelical" is the catchy term that those walking away from the doctrines of Protestant evangelicalism use to describe themselves. Many of these individuals, spurred by "traumatic" experiences or teachings in their conservative church upbringing, gravitate towards progressive Christianity, which sadly often serves as nothing but a transitory bridge to their eventual rejection of the Christian faith entirely.

Former mega-minister Rob Bell, former "Desiring God" author Paul Maxwell, former best-selling author Joshua Harris, and former Hillsong worship musician Marty Sampson are just a few who recently walked the "deconstructing" path now embraced by Max.

While alarming and disappointing, the phenomenon is anything but surprising – either biblically or culturally. The pressure to conform to the patterns of the world have never been stronger than it is today, and I suppose that it is even more intense in the entertainment world in which Max has tried so desperately, for so long, to make a name for himself.

To be completely transparent, I admit battling feelings of indignation and exasperation with this emerging trend. In an era where social media has made victimization a profitable enterprise – where even multimillionaires claim some identity-politics aggrieved status and where anyone and everyone is encouraged to "shout their trauma" – we have incentivized exaggerated accounts of mistreatment and suffering. It reeks of dishonesty and breeds slander, and worst of all it cheapens actual abuse.

In other words, while being sexually molested by a minister is criminal, traumatic abuse, sitting through sermons that preach the Christian sexual ethic is not. Being denied an elder position because you are black is racist, but hearing the unbiblical teaching of critical race theory exposed is not. Sunday school teachers saying that voting Democrat sends you to Hell is pointlessly provocative, but your church making public its position on the sanctity of human life in the womb is not. Lumping these all together as examples of the "trauma" inherent in evangelicalism is as ignorant as it is common among the exvangelical crowd.

Still, despite the frustration, my greatest desire is to get these brothers and sisters back. I want those who experienced real pain to find healing in Christ alone, and I want those who have feigned mistreatment in order to justify their conformity to manmade religions (wokeism, LGBT ideology, etc.) to shake the scales from their eyes and return home.

Which means we Christians have to do the hard work of engagement rather than dismissal. We have to commit to doing battle with "every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God." What do those pretensions look like? Take what the former DC Talk front man wrote about his own "deconstruction":

"I believe in a God of the universe, and I believe that He can hear me. And that, in itself, is just plain kind of crazy. But if I believe that, then I truly believe that He cares about my progression and asking questions and wanting to know what is real and what isn't real."

Max is absolutely correct. There is a God, He is there, He is listening, and He does care infinitely more than any of us could imagine or express. And because He cares so intensely for us, He has done the unthinkable. He has inspired, protected, shielded, and transmitted into our fallible hands His infallible, perfectly preserved, divinely delivered word.

In every generation, fools clamor that if only God would perform some miracle, offer some kind of undeniable evidence of His existence, His authority, His investment in humanity, they would put their faith in Him. They demand a supernatural experience in order to believe, all while denying themselves that very thing by refusing to simply pick up a copy of scripture and encounter their Creator personally.

Consider Max as a prime example of this. After acknowledging that God surely cares about his questions and doubts, the singer goes on to reject God's effort to answer them.

"I don't think the God that I believe in is going to just all of a sudden ignore me because I don't believe every single thing that's written down somewhere [in the Bible]."

It isn't a question of God ignoring Kevin. By his own rejection of the inerrancy of Scripture, it is Kevin choosing to ignore God.

And that is the tragic error of exvangelicalism: in their alleged pursuit of truth, these confused souls turn to the wide path that leads them further and further away from its only source. Any hope of winning them back begins right there.


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