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Goodbye Jesus

On breaking with the faith by J John


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A recent blog by Revd Canon J John, a popular evangelical Church of England priest, writer and traveller, has been reproduced in the Christian periodical ‘Christian Today’. What surprises me about this blog is not so much that there is nothing new here but that someone of the status of J John gives such a simplistic and superficial analysis of his subject. Is this man for real? Whilst the article obviously is aimed at Christians, has he even talked to any ex-Christians? Whatever, it is ‘milk’ not ‘meat’ and, I suspect, may be read by people who are hungry for truth and it will not satisfy them.

John: On Breaking with the Faith.

... a number of individuals …. at one extreme we have a few church leaders who, … have…. tiptoed away from their ministry and the faith. At the other extreme we have men and women who …  have defiantly declared that the fault lies not with them, but with Christianity or ‘the church’.

Comment: what of the many thousands of leavers between these ‘extremes’? It seems that he lumps us all together, using the few prominent leavers as an excuse to have a go at all of us. And we don’t all feel angry and defiant. I’m not sure many of us defiantly lay the fault where he suggests. We are much deeper thinkers than that, thank you very much. In fact many of us don’t think in terms of blaming anyone: we have worked out our own salvation for ourselves. Much more basic than discomfort with the church or with Christianity is our conviction that Christianity is based on the delusion that god exists.

John: What are we to make of it all? My first response…. ‘not a lot’. ….it’s a handful of cases magnified by the noisy echo chamber of the internet…. that seems more significant than it is.

Comment: only a handful? This is ‘head in sand’ stuff, as the figures clearly show (for UK at least and see the information provided by Wertberg in the thread ‘Good News’). The fact that  so many are not ‘magnified by a noisy echo chamber’ proves my point and if John thinks it is not significant he needs to get out more.

John: details examples of people in the Bible and in history who have left their faith. He describes this “de-conversion” as a “novelty. It is that those involved do not describe their action with any sort of humility or sorrow but instead portray it as some noble and heroic triumph over the unthinking Christian faith. Repeatedly we read that what they left was ‘naïve’, ‘outdated’ and ‘restrictive’.

Comment: does this make it of no consequence - it’s all happened before, the church continues etc etc? And why should we feel humility, quite the contrary my own experience is of being ‘surprised by joy’ at realising that the christian faith is untenable; and I know I’m not alone. There is nothing noble and heroic about our actions; we simply have discovered the real world. And there is, for some of us, a degree of sorrow about losing friends, for example, and we are open about that - but we are getting over it!

John: What lies behind these departures from faith? …. there seems to be no particular intellectual reason. ….One fundamental factor, however, exists which could simply be called a ‘spiritual restlessness’. This is a virus … and is a mindset that finds itself bored …. and constantly hungers for some sort of theological novelty. ….., this is the ancient problem that Saint Paul memorably described as ‘itching ears’ (2 Timothy 4:3); a seemingly insatiable urge to stray beyond the secure boundaries of historic Christianity.

Comment: what patronising humbug! And Christianity is secure? I don’t think so. We have come to realise that Christianity is intellectual dishonesty, unscientific and irrelevant for us.

John: I have objections to this search for ‘something new’.

Comment: this says it all! Leave your brain at the door as you enter to worship.

John: I am certain that once you ignore the solid, fixed anchor points of trusting Scripture, you have very little to hold you fast on what is the most slippery of slopes. I fear that today’s post-evangelical is in real danger of becoming tomorrow’s post-Christian.

Comment: It was Luther who said ‘Here I stand I can do no other’. Fixed thinking is debilitating. As for our dawn of asking questions being a slippery slope - too true! It leads to light and fulfillment and joyful satisfaction and even more exploratory thinking on solid ground.

John: In a further blog I want to make some proposals as to how we can all avoid wandering off the path of faith for the arid wilderness of unbelief.

Comment: anyone found that arid wilderness outside of Christianity? Seems beautiful and fertile to me! Does John really believe this stuff?

John: I look forward to seeing cases of ‘de-de-conversion’.

Comment: he can but hope. Perhaps there will be ‘a number of individuals’ but there won’t be tens of thousands. It seems to me that once an individual has seen the light of non-theism, they are very unlikely to return to the darkness of faith.

John: suggests that some of those who have broken with the faith were not “genuine members of the body of Christ. God alone knows and that’s good enough for me.”  

Comment: Where have I heard that before - a thousand times? And thus he dismisses us?

My final words: the article smells of an anti-intellectualism shrouded in christian-speak. At times it is not clear whether he is talking about post-evangelicals or ex-Christians: perhaps he thinks they are one and the same? Canon J John presents us with a good illustration of why we have left Christianity behind. It is to be regretted that a man of his stature should not have presented a more robust analysis - he owes that to Christians, let alone to those of us who are ex-christians.

And I’ll say one more thing: John entitles his blog ‘On breaking with the faith’ but in fact addresses only ‘Christianity’ and ‘the church’: given that the concept of ‘god’ is central to our rejection of faith, this, for me, is a bumbling blog.

What do other forum members think?



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My main response would be is that it’s important to distinguish between people who just drift away from Christianity and theism without explicitly rejecting the theology, and those of us who thought long and hard before rejecting it.  The former group might be retained or drawn back with the right kind of music, fellowship, etc, but not the latter.

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6 hours ago, nontheistpilgrim said:

What lies behind these departures from faith? …. there seems to be no particular intellectual reason.



The old testament is full of brutality, cruelty, and made-up history.  The new testament is full of contradictions and false prophecies.  Christians are no better than anyone else, and the church is guilty of some of the biggest crimes in history.  I defiantly declare that the fault lies not with me, but with christianity and ‘the church.’

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Well I'm scratching my head wondering why you would have expected better from a Christian particularly a member of the clergy. 

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Probably something to do with naively hoping to see the best in people. 😆

Careful with the scratching!

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On 9/30/2019 at 5:02 AM, nontheistpilgrim said:

John: suggests that some of those who have broken with the faith were not “genuine members of the body of Christ.

I guess there aren't any Scotsmen in the Anglican church.  That's odd. 

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  • 1 month later...

Not to be too ad hominem, but says the priest of a branch of christianity which broke off from catholicism because a king did not get his divorce papers or smth. Such a dedication to early historical christianity that was. And the same church that ordains women. Again a trend stretching to the so many women priets of the  1 century of which the numbers amount to exactly 0. What a hypocrite opinion, excuse my foul language! 

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