Leaving My Father’s Faith (#625)

Wayne and Brad just watched a new documentary titled, Leaving My Father's Faith. It is a conversation between popular evangelical author and speaker Tony Campolo and his son, Bart, as the process Bart's loss of faith in Jesus after a lifetime of growing up in the faith and working alongside his father as a colleague in the ministry. It is a compelling look at how these men put their relationship above their agreement about faith. But it invites some intriguing questions: How does someone so anchored in faith lose it, and how does Christianity as a religion contribute to that by disfiguring the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Podcast Notes:
Get info on Campolo documentary: Leaving My Father's Faith You can now stream the video through Amazon.
Drew Marshall Interview with Bart Campolo and with Tony Campolo - See 2018 Archive
Order Wayne's newest book: Beyond Sundays
Wayne's Travel Schedule in early 2018
The latest news from our project in Kenya
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27 Comments

  1. There was just so truth at that echo moment—the “system” couldn’t handle it. lol

  2. I imagine Campolo’s son couldn’t reconcile his faith against seeing his father’s political activism and the faith of of his dad being put in the backseat.

  3. A particular religion (or worldview) is the way, the truth, and the life, said Jesus NEVER. John 14:6

  4. When I listen to conversations or interviews with Once Christian turned Humanist or Athiests… is so hard to separate out their distaste for religion and their struggle with God. The conversations seem to waver between the two. Then I wonder just how much is the “deconversions” is a distaste for religion and how much is actual struggle with God.. for Bart.. it seems more of a struggle with God… because it seems like he actually misses the religion part. That was my take on it… Didn’t see the movie but did read the book and have enjoyed multiple Drew Marshall interviews with both Tony and Bart. Their story interests me… because I want to open the doors to have a conversation with my family about our differences. I gave the book to my mom… still waiting to hear her take on it.

  5. I agree with you, Ruby. It is very difficult to identify someone’s true struggle, but I have found that it was just as hard to identify my own. It turned out that my struggle was against the ‘God’ I thought I knew, and the religion that enhanced that concept of him. Then one day, when the real God came to me, and sat with my heart, I heard him say to me words I will never forget: “I’m not who you think I am!” That statement kind of wiped out everything I knew, or thought I knew, about God from before. The ‘relationship’ I thought I had with him turned out to be imaginary also.

    I didn’t see the movie either, but I did see the trailer. Tony seems to be visibly shaken at times. I am curious about his response, but also Bart’s, since today’s Christianity is largely humanism with a ‘Jesus face’ put on it. Maybe the two of them are closer together now? even though neither of them thinks so. Their debate is merely between two understandings. The big thing that is always missing from these stories is an encounter with the God who is real, which develops into a true ‘knowing’ of each other: me knowing the real him, him knowing the real me. ‘Knowing’ is much more than relational–it is a heart-to-heart union. [aka ‘eternal life’ Jn 17:3]

    We can be in the deep end of death and not know we are swimming in it. Thinking like this keeps us there: “don’t expect God to have any connection with you apart from the scriptures.” For 50 years, this belief I had kept him from coming to me and sitting with my heart. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” he said. I insisted that he wait outside while I read his literature. (rather than letting him come in to explain it, and himself)

    About family: my biggest regret is that I didn’t get to teach my kids how to hear God. Because of that, I pray differently. The most beneficial request I can make for my loved ones is that God prepare them, and then make himself known to them. That’s it. That is the greatest gift that anyone could receive.

  6. Hi Ruby….and Craig….thanks for your input. Right now nothig for me to add, just appreciated reading your comments. Blessings, Sue

  7. Hey, Sue. Always good to hear from you. I remember we have had some very wonderful conversations in these podcast comments over the years. I have appreciated them very much. I’m working on a comment for /2018/03/02/process-not-product-623/ that you might be interested in, so watch for that. Blessings, Craig

  8. Thanks Craig. I do remember the thoughtful blog exchanges. I will check the podcast you mentioned…Blessings, Sue

  9. Hi,
    I have felt many times like saying “If this is what it means to be Christian (what I observed in the settings I was in), I don’t want that.” Not having seen the movie, that is what I sense was being talked about from the son’s view. I have had to fight at times to think that God cares when all my senses would tell me otherwise. I have not felt the or sensed the peace like I wished that would cause me not to doubt. I can appreciate that some may have that. I have also come to a place that doubt is not “bad” and lack of faith. It is more prompting for seeking to understand. I like that your perspective on the podcast is to help others trace steps back to meaningful points where God is more noticeable.
    I was wondering if you all would talk about Jordan Peterson’s work “Maps of Meaning” or ” 12 Rules for Life” ( I know Wayne probably just threw up a little at the title) and some of his thinking. His ideas are interesting to me and have helped me not throw out faith altogether, but helping to discuss order, chaos, and the strength to navigate in the midst of the confusion in life.

    Thanks for all your discussions. It is good to hear people talk and communicate with an effort to understand.

      • It is Jordan Peterson. He is at the University of Toronto

        Listen to his talk on Virtue. It was one of the best “sermons” I’ve heard.

    • I’ve actually wanted Brad and Wayne to do a podcast with Jordan Peterson because in the same vein Jordan Peterson’s work has been probably my only second resource to help me out of through some of the stuff other than Wayne’s work. So Wayne for what it’s worth both you and Jordan have beenthe two Most helpful authors help me navigate some of life’s most challenging problems. As a caveat 12 rules are not a list of things that you should do every day there more like cardinal directions to help point you in a particular direction during a possible storm or maybe even help you avoid the storm. I’m also going to see him in Washington DC when he comes to speak.

  10. Hey Joe — I have Jordan’s book and also his Maps of Meaning one — I find him interesting, lots of good stuff there I am pondering, but haven’t digested enough to feel I have a full handle on it all. I like him!

    • He has all of his biblical lectures listed on YouTube and they are phenomenal. Would love your thoughts on some of his interpretations of the old testament.

      • Thank you Joe, Tom, Patrick and Brad, Your comments were the first I had heard of Jordan Peterson. I’ve just finished watching the first talk on Genesis and am with Brad re: “a full handle” on Mr. Peterson…but it’s fascinating stuff. Coincidentally I’ve been praying for a more “complete historical” understanding of the Bible.

        I’m with Patrick it would be interesting to hear Wayne and Brad’s comments. There’s a lot to digest.

  11. When people reject “God”, I wonder how often it is that they are rejecting some caricature of Him, either formed through religious culture and/or some other “god box”. Why not lay down our assumptions about Him for a moment and invite Him to reveal something about Himself that is outside of our grid?

    Part of what I love about Him is that He is so mysterious. Even though at times He doesn’t fit my concepts of how I think that an all-loving, all-powerful Creator of the universe should behave, I am drawn to seek Him further. “Let me know You, show me Your ways.” This has become so intensely personal. He meets me right where I am. At times He drops me little unmistakable signs of His Presence here and there, and no, I don’t think it’s confirmation bias. At other times He seems so absent. Seems… Will I still trust Him in those times too?

    The more I sojourn on this “God Journey”, the more and more I realize that i don’t know Him as well as I had previously thought. And I am becoming more comfortable with that. In fact, at times it thrills me. I am a scientist type that likes to figure things out. Can God ever be figured out? Or does knowledge of Him come strictly through divine revelation? I don’t want to confine Him to either of those boxes. But that doesn’t stop me from asking Him questions, like a young child asks his parent. And I realize that like a young child, I may not be ready for some of the answers that I am seeking. And that’s okay. It doesn’t stop me from asking. That is just part of getting to hang out with Him. I don’t have to know “stuff” to enjoy Him, but I am thrilled when He does reveal things to me.

    I love adventure. He is my Grand Adventure. Now and for always.

  12. Have you considered that some people stopped believing due to discovering history behind the bible and other religions? Christians will start researching the reasons why they believe in a God and sometimes end up discovering that perhaps the idea of god is a human construct. Also, some start studying evolution and believe thats probably the best explanation for why the universe exists. The stories in the bible just end up not holding much weight.

    There are certainly situations where religious trauma or perhaps some disappointments in life can cause one to stop believing. Yes, its can be a combination of rational & emotional conclusions that makes an individual decide to become an atheist. I would suggest if, you are brave, check out ex-christian.net or ex-christian reddit. It can gives some great insight as to why people leave God altogether.

    Personally, Im struggling with my faith. I grew up in a strict fundementatlist doctrine and have issues with it. Also coming across some information from the skeptic community has got me wondering..why? What good reason do I have to believe? I grew up in a Christian household, particapted in church most of my life, studied the bible cover to cover, set aside time for daily prayer & devotionals. For many years I felt that I was in LOVE with God. But something changed within the past couple of years. I felt that my path with this denonimation was coming to an end. Unfortunately this has lead me to question ALL of it.

    In addition, I’m worn out on this walk. Trying to live by the examples of Jesus feels..oppressive to me. I didn’t experience any church hurt or trauma. I’m not mad at anyone in my church family. Other than issues with my church’s doctrine, Its simply a re-examination of why I’m doing all this. Perhaps its not meant to be this way. Maybe I need to just find my own positive values to live by. I havent given up completely. I still believe in God, but I’m not as confident that its the God of bible.

    Thanks for sharing this story and your thoughts on why Christians leave the faith. This podcast has given me more to think about.

    • We have discussed that quite a bit in the podcast, Al. I understand people who give up on God if they think the Christian religion is the best way to find him. And so much of the Bible has been misinterpreted and distorted to promote someone’s agenda. When you see through all of that, it is easy to toss out God with it. But I came to know God as a real presence inside his universe. It has changed me thoroughly and it is why we want people thinking outside the box of religious obligation. God’s not in our religious sensibilities. God is in his world, drawing people to himself. Once endeared to him then the truths of Scripture and the power of community with other followers becomes more palpable.

      I’d like to say I’m sorry that your struggling with your faith. Everyone needs to do that and honestly find out what is real and not just trust someone else’s interpretation of all that. It’s a scary journey, no doubt. And some don’t make it beyond the failures of religion in their lives. But man more do, and come to discover that God is the most endearing presence in the universe and that he is knowable in each human heart. I suspect your journey will lead you to some very spacious places as you start recognizing the hand and voice of the Father as he has been reaching into your heart.

      Reject the religion is fine. But I pray you find him beyond it all. He is the one worth knowing and following….

    • Hi Al, “trying to live by examples of Jesus” can seem oppressive to me and and wear out anyone:)! A book that has helped me so much in this factor is Breaking the Hex by the Fields Brothers. On page 145 it says, “ Christianity is unique. It’s the only way of living where the One who instructs us is also the power inside of us who carries out the instruction.” “Before the cross the commands of Jesus are just external rules that are impossible to obey on our own, this side of the cross He enables us to walk in God’s righteousness, peace and joy.” There is so much more in this chapter that was so powerful to me.

      I read this and wanted to stay away from Christians and Christianity as much as I can because the “Hex” is so prevalent that I don’t want it to taint the simplicity and burden free truth there is after the cross! In my experience there are few sermons and devotions that talk this way and do not put more burden on the person to be better and do better…I am excited for you Al to break out of religion you have seen and encounter Truth, Love and Grace more and more…He is the One who makes my life a celebration!!! I know it may come across wrong for me to say that I want to stay away from Christians…obviously I don’t mean the Body of Christ I just am being honest that my thoughts went there because the Hex is so deceptive it makes me not want to hear any of that.

  13. if love is the evidence of knowing god, why do we think our theology so important? maybe we have it backwards…we don’t come to love through right knowledge of god…we come to right knowledge of god through love.

    • Kent, you asked a key question, “why do we think our theology so important?” It seems that only God can answer that question for each of us, and that it is a necessity that he do so. In a recent podcast (623), Wayne read this quote: “God kindly and tenderly tended to me. He sat with me. He held me as most of my theology was being dismantled.” My own experience with God mirrors her quote.

      I had no idea that deconstructing my theology would be part of the process of coming to know God as he is. “God is Love.” When I experienced his Presence in a totally new way, I knew it was him, the essence of Love, and realized that Love is a Person. It could not have been anyone else, because the Presence overwhelmed my being. Kent, I agree that, “we come to right knowledge of god through love,” in fact I would say that Love is the only way to a right knowledge of God.

      What confounds me is that most of our interchange, the getting to know each other, is not in transactions of words. There is a conversation going on, but it does not use language. Much of it I cannot articulate, unless he gives me the words to share. It’s more of a relational proximity. We sit with each other. The interchange is largely unspoken; a dialogue of heart. Maybe that is because Love is not a word or concept, but rather a reality or Person.

      One thing I did hear, though, was this statement: “I am not who you think I am.” (I recently reread ‘The Shack’ and was surprised to find this statement there also.) To me, this has become God’s promise to free my mind. What I think, or have thought, is erased by the Truth of Who Love Is. Someone unexplainable who must be personally experienced.

  14. Don’t know if you or Brad heard Tony and Bart’s interview with Steve Brown a while back (https://www.keylife.org/shows/why-i-left-why-i-stayed-tony-bart-campolo). It was before the film and just after the book they wrote together. I would be curious if you get a chance to listen to it if you found their engagement any different than was displayed in the film. With the film now streaming, I’ll get a chance to review it and see if I notice any differences.

    Also, Wayne, great quote about people rejecting religion and God with it and admitting that maybe they encountered a wrong approach to it. I’m in a group that I enjoy being a part of, but some are so entrenched in their thinking, that it’s impossible to even broach this idea with some of them. BUT, since we know that God is at work, I just leave it be, entrusting that they will be drawn into spiritual truth. I don’t have to get caught up in trying to convince them of it. It’s probably better off that way, anyway. But it’s hard when some have been so traumatized and abused in religious systems. That creates a bigger hurdle to get over.

  15. Hey, Pat. Thank you for the link. I followed it and from there found links to Tony’s site (RLC) and Bart’s podcast just to get a sense of where they are coming from. Very enlightening. I have no other comment about RLC, except for “whoa!’ A quote from Bart that reveals much: “to me humanism is simply a commitment to pursue love and goodness for their own sakes, instead of because you believe in a God who will reward you for it.” I can truly identify with Bart’s apparent ‘rebellion’ although I’m not sure he knows what or whom his opponent is. He knows his father’s religion is not the answer. So he has discarded one religion and taken up another that makes more sense to him.

    There are many out there who have rejected both religion and God assuming the two are a package. It was only the grace of God that showed me that the two are unrelated, and actually in opposition. Religion is death, while God is life. Because we get trapped in religion, anything less oppressive feels like freedom, so we park it there and stop seeking to be truly free. Only God can take us through and complete the freedom process for us. It takes time because it is a huge legacy.

    We desperately need to have our theology dismantled.

  16. Yes check out Jordan Peterson…. such a smart and articulate man who is able to reach secular people. But I’m not sure where to place him on the faith spectrum. He has both said he is a Christian and he is not. When asked if he believes in God, he said “no, but he’s probably there”. He is a wise man and well grounded. How cool if you did a podcast with him !

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