If Nothing Else Look at the Trend, From Conservative to Moderate to Liberal to Agnostic to Atheist

In Ed Babinski's book, Leaving The Fold: Testimonies Of Former Fundamentalists, published seven years ago, there are testimonies from former fundamentalists who became moderates, liberals, and even "ultra liberals," like Dewey Beegle, Harvey Cox, Conrad Hyers, Robert Price (who now describes himself as a "Christian atheist"), and seven others. We could add other names like Howard Van Till, Valerie Tarico, John Hick, Marcus Borg, John A. T. Robertson, James Wall, Andrew Furlong, and James Sennett. In another section there are testimonies of former fundamentalists who became agnostics, like Ed himself, Charles Templeton, Farrell Till, and five others. We could add other names like Robert Ingersoll, William Dever, Bart Ehrman, and William Lobdell. In still another section of his book there are former fundamentalists who became atheists, like Dan Barker, Jim Lippard, Harry McCall, Frank Zindler, and four others. We could add other names like Hector Avalos, Michael Shermer, Ken Daniels, Ken Pulliam, Jason Long, Joe Holman, Paul Tobin, myself and many many others. I can't remember all the names of the important people who left fundamentalist Christianity because there are simply too many of them to remember! If you read Ex.Christian.net, deconversion stories are posted there almost every day.

Here's what Ed wrote about this trend:
Many professional scholars whose entire scholarly careers have consisted of studying and researching the Bible and whose careers began with a devout love of Scripture in a conservative Christian sense later abandoned their formerly conservative views after gaining knowledge of the full range of questions involved, and hence they changed from being religious conservatives to either more moderate or liberal or even agnostic standpoints. In fact entire seminaries founded originally as seminaries for conservative Christian denominations have changed over time into liberal arts colleges, and now entertain moderate to liberal to agnostic professors and views. (For instance the seminary founded by John Calvin later became filled with Deists. While in America, Yale was founded due to the "liberal theological excesses" of Harvard.) Even in our day look what happened to Fuller Seminary, or look at some of the professors and graduates of Wheaton College, Billy Graham's young-earth creationist and inerrantist alma mater. They seem to be stretching all sorts of boundaries these days, headed away from such conservatism and toward moderation, but not taking radical or huge steps all at once which would lose too many conservative donors. (Dr. Bart Ehrman, the agnostic Biblical scholar and bestselling theological author, graduated from Wheaton with extremely high honors.) Others who left the conservative fold of their youth after majoring in Biblical studies include well known and prolific biblical writers: Crossan, Goulder, L├╝demann, Borg, Cupitt, Bullock, Larson, Cunningham, Salisbury, Dever, Armstrong, and others listed at Steve Locks's Leaving Christianity website. Neither their stories, nor the stories of the host of seminaries founded as bastions of conservatism that grew more moderate and liberal, will be found in books sold at Evangelical Protestant or Catholic bookstores, nor highlighted on TV networks owned by those churches. *smile*
This is true of publishing companies too. Christian publishing companies grow more and more liberal with each decade so that conservative ones are started to maintain the status quo, who subsequently grow more liberal. This cycle repeats itself every few decades or so.

[Edit: we see this same trend in science. Why is there a need to start organizations and websites like Answers in Genesis, Reasons to Believe, The Institute for Creation Research, The Discovery Institute, Creation Science Evangelism, and many other examples? Why is it that Christians cannot just be scientists? Why does science gravitate away from creationism such that Christian creationists must start separate organizations if the evidence supported what conservative Christians believe?]

While it's hard to convince conservatives they are wrong, just think for yourself what it tells us about the evidence to believe. Many dedicated biblical scholars from a fundamentalist perspective are leaving that viewpoint and embracing anything but their initial stance. It would seem that fundamentalists, conservatives and/or evangelicals do not have a leg to stand on. Their ship is going down. All they're doing is re-arranging chairs on the Titanic.

[First published 8/4/10]


Papalinton said...

About time

Lvka said...

..or at the trend from Evangelical Protestantism to traditional Protestantism to Catholicism or Orthodoxy..

Charity said...

Although there are significant numbers of religious fundamentalists leaving their belief systems behind, I'm not sure I'm ready to jump on the idea that this is happening in large numbers. Statistically, I think the growing number of atheists is stemming from our youth and people who really weren't fundamentalists to begin with. When people are programmed with these beliefs from infancy, it seems nigh impossible to get through to them as adults. My guess is some of these "fundamentalists" became fundamentalists a little older or left their belief systems as teenagers/young adults. Growing up surrounded by hundreds of fundamentalist Christians as a missionary kid, it has been my experience that it's near impossible to dissuade the hardcore fundamentalist to see outside their perspective. There are fail safes built in. However, if some solid research is done on this trend, I am willing to look at the facts of the matter. At this point, I'm not convinced it's a trend.