A Christian Musician Leaves the Faith
Many listeners have asked Dr. Craig to comment on the report of a Christian musician who claims that Richard Dawkins was instrumental in his deconversion.
A Christian Musician Leaves the Faith
KEVIN HARRIS: Hey, what's up! It's Kevin Harris. This is Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. Let me just speak from the heart for a moment. I was in the studio with Dr. Craig not too long ago. Today we will discuss Shannon Low, a Christian musician who walked away from his faith. Boy, did this really blow up the blogosphere. It got a lot of press. So many of you have sent us articles and asked Dr. Craig to comment on this. I have to admit – I have to confess – that when I first read about this I got angry because I can be rather moody sometimes, unlike Dr. Craig who is very patient! I can get upset that people can reject Christ for what I see as very poor reasons. Questions are good, but there are good answers to tough questions. That is why we do what we do here on Reasonable Faith. Shannon Low, vocalist for The Order of Elijah, walked away from his faith because of some questions that basically went unanswered. It seemed to be a long process. Let me just read you some of the stuff I got off the Internet here. This headline said, “Metalcore singer renounces Christian faith after reading Richard Dawkins.”
The lead singer of the Missouri-based metalcore band The Order of Elijah announced on Saturday that he has renounced his faith, citing evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion with helping answer existential questions that he claims no Christian wanted to address.
On Saturday, Shannon Low, the lead singer of the band, confessed on the band's Facebook page that he has decided to shed his faith "like a cocoon."
In the post, Low explained that he was baptized at the age of 20, and once felt called to be a pastor. However, he derailed from that plan and spent over a decade doing drugs, having sex and playing guitar in metal bands.
It wasn't until Low joined the Ignite church in Joplin, Missouri, and became friends with the pastor that he got his life in order and stopped drinking and doing drugs. Low eventually played guitar for the church's worship team and became the leader of the church youth group.
"For the first time ever I felt I was doing what God had called me to do," Low wrote.
. . .
But after Low and his wife divorced about a year after his daughter was born, he explained that he fell back to his old drinking habits and entered a dark place in his life.
After returning from absence to church, Low said he began to question some of the injustices that he read about in the Old Testament and wondered how a just religion could promote things like sacrificing a virgin child for the sake of a battle victory and the mauling of children who insulted Elisha.
Shannon is apparently talking about the so-called atrocities of the Old Testament. Let's continue. He says,
"This didn't break me though. I still claimed Jesus, I said to myself 'Jesus must have realized everyone was insane and there to set it straight,'" Low reasoned. "Which many people were quick to inform me that was blasphemous because Jesus condones and quotes the Old Testament quite frequently. I still stuck to my guns but received a lot of flak by my spiritual peers for not understanding why the OT God was so racist, ethnic cleansing, jealous as an insecure girlfriend, cruel and power hungry."
Low said he then "picked up a book called The God Delusion which talks about how all of this chaotic puzzle adds up. It answered so many questions that my Christian friends would literally get furious for me to even address," Low stated. "Sometimes I would lose Christian friends by simply pondering certain questions.”
Stopping right there, it is pretty sad that he couldn't get answers to these legitimate questions, particularly from his Christian friends.
DR. CRAIG: That is sad if it is true and not just his perception. They needed to do better for him in giving him good answers. It is evident that he was ripe for The God Delusion which attacks the God of the Old Testament extensively. I am not surprised that he would have resonated with it. It is unfortunate, though, that he seems to be completely unaware of the responses to Richard Dawkins and the good work of Christian philosophers and historical scholars giving positive reasons for Christian faith. The people who are most susceptible to these sorts of things – this is like the Pentecostal pastor we talked about – seem to be the people who don't have any good reasons for what they believe as they do. It is just a lifestyle or perhaps something emotionally fulfilling. But they don't seem to be intellectually engaged with their faith and so they are sitting ducks when a guy like a Dawkins comes along.
KEVIN HARRIS: He says,
"After a few months I read about the science of addiction and life trauma. I stopped trying to pray my alcoholism away and began combating it with real methods," Low wrote. "I began confronting my problems head on rather than 'giving them to God.'”
Why, Bill? What do we do then? We are told to give our problems to God, quite appropriately. Maybe he misunderstands what it means to pray and also work . . .
DR. CRAIG: He saw this as a substitute for getting counseling and therapy and so forth.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK. So he is looking into all of this. He says,
So this led to research about the history of the bible. I never knew that the earliest gospel wasn't written until half a century after Christ supposedly died, or that Paul never read any gospels, or that there isn't even any evidence from that time that Jesus existed. Now that doesn't mean he never did, I mean we don't have writings from Socrates but still know he existed. Although the eye witness accounts were long gone by the time the gospels were written, not to mention many of the miracles are similar to other gods from before his time.
So for the first time he is confronted with when the Gospels went down, apparently not realizing just how early it is in comparison to other things from the ancient world.
DR. CRAIG: A lot of what he says here seems to be based on misinformation. He says the earliest Gospel (which is Mark) wasn't written until 50 years after Christ died. That would put the Gospel of Mark around AD 80, and that's later than most scholars date the Gospel of Mark. So he is misinformed there. The remarkable thing is that even a gap of time that short is very good for the sources for ancient history that we have for other figures!
Moreover, we are able to find the sources behind the New Testament documents that they used that help us to go even further back closer to the events. He doesn't mention the epistles of Paul which predate the Gospels. For example, Paul's letter to the church in Corinth was probably written around AD 55 which is 25 years after Jesus' death, not 50 years. In it Paul quotes from material that scholars have dated to go back to within 5 years of the crucifixion! So we are on really solid historical ground here with respect to the information about Jesus.
He complains that Paul never read any Gospels. Well, maybe that is because Paul was writing and working before the Gospels were even written! That underlines the earliness of Paul's testimony and the information he conveys. Paul was in touch with the original Jesus tradition. He quotes those Jesus traditions. So this is a very early source.
And he says there isn't even evidence from that time that Jesus existed. That is poppycock. The four Gospels and the epistles of Paul are evidence that Jesus existed, not to mention references to Jesus in Roman and Jewish and Christian sources outside the New Testament. He interestingly enough is aware that we don't have any writings from Socrates that are extant, but he still believes in the existence of Socrates. Then why doesn't he believe in the existence of Jesus? Even though we don't have any extant writings from Jesus, we have the writings from people who were the generation that followed him.
He says the eyewitness accounts were long gone by the time the Gospels were written. That is just incorrect. The Gospels were all written during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses while they were still about. In fact, Luke even mentions these in the preface to his Gospel. He says many have undertaken to write an account of what has happened, and he said, I want to put together an orderly account for you, and he addresses it to Theophilus. So there were plenty of accounts that were still available at the time the Gospels were written.
KEVIN HARRIS: Bill, what is going on here? Is it he has all of these assumptions? He thinks Paul and the disciples are all together in a room two days after the resurrection, they wrote all of this down and having a big old party. He finds out that is not true, and what? It rocks his world?
DR. CRAIG: I think he has been reading stuff like the Skeptical Inquirer and the Secular Web and The God Delusion. This is just basically repeating the stuff that you see on the popular infidel literature, which is largely inaccurate.
KEVIN HARRIS: Well, then he talks about the problem of evil – the barbarism in the Middle East and why children die. Wrapping up here, at the end he says,
Look, I love you guys and I'm sorry I'm not a Christian anymore. This is honestly me completely coming out of the faith closet, I tried to avoid throwing all my mental baggage into the road but you guys very important to me . . . Special thanks to Will Strotz for reaching out to me instead of getting angry.
Here it is. There are hundreds and hundreds of Christian bands out there. We are bound to lose a lead vocalist of a few here and there. But, like you, I hate for it to be for these reasons.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, me, too. This fellow sounds like an intelligent fellow. I think he has just been exposed to the wrong stuff. This is one of the things that grieves me the most. I hear from so many people that when they want to investigate Christianity they go to the Internet and just begin to read stuff there. And they are not exposed to good material. They are persuaded by this tissue of half-truths and distortions and wind up losing their faith. It is so unnecessary and underlines the importance of doing what we are doing. I think if this fellow, apart from the moral problems that he mentions (we don't know all that was going on in his life) but at least intellectually, if he had been exposed to the material that Reasonable Faith puts out, I think it could have insulated him at least intellectually from the problems that he describes here.
KEVIN HARRIS: One more question on this, and maybe it is just according to whatever mood I'm in at the time, but what is our best approach here? My first reaction is: I wanted to really kind of chastise him and say, Come on! You mean you are throwing Jesus under the bus and your faith under the bus because of these? Haven't you read seventh grade level apologetics? I can be condescending. I get angry, like you do. At the same time, there has to be a balance and say, Look, you bought into some stuff here, and you didn't need to do it. You've gotten some bad information and now you are throwing your Christian testimony away. In a way I want to be confrontational.
DR. CRAIG: Well, I think that we need to treat somebody like this with a great deal of compassion because he is really hurting, I think. I think there is a lot of hurt. He mentions things like his divorce, his daughter, his drinking, the drug life, and now he is afraid of losing his Christian friends and being rejected. I think there is probably a lot of hurt here that needs to be handled gently. Yet, that doesn't mean we can't give a very robust and firm apologetic that will address and answer the questions that he is posing.
 Total Running Time: 14:57 (Copyright © 2016 William Lane Craig)