Dialogue with a former Believer who renounced Faith in God

The man I am dialoging with here on Facebook, Steve West, gave me permission to publish this. I think it is very interesting. It is also proof that spiritual experiences alone won’t keep you safe in your walk with God.

It seems that you can have all kinds of knowledge of the Bible, minister to people self-sacrificially, cast out demons, know people changed by the power of God, see all this, and yet renounce faith in God. Steve is a thinker, and seems to care about truth in some modernistic sense of the word. But he now finds Christianity to not be truth for reasons that I don’t fully understand. I understand a part of the intellectual justification is the writings of some historians. Why he trusts historians with an anti-Christian bias vs the things he has seen with his own eyes, I am not sure. I think a big part of it was being disillusioned with the kind of “Corporate Christianity” he experienced while serving the Hillsong vision. But we are all responsible for our responses, and rejecting a church system should not mean rejecting Christ.

Yes I thought your post about Hillsong was very interesting
I used to go to Christian Life Centre Sydney
so I knew many of the early players there

Ahh yes I remember those days.

I joined CLC in 1985
while in 3rd year Uni

Much earlier than I. I started around 1999

your experiences with Hillsong I don’t think are unique
but a lot of people don’t talk openly about it

No, they’re not. There was a website for recovering Hillsongers and CCCers; Signposts.

what happened to the site – did it get shut down by legal threats?
or is it still going? You used the word “was”

No – Dan and Phil, who ran the original, decided it was time for them to move on. There was a Signposts II but I never got involved. About that time I was in the media about Hillsong, and that felt like my final say on the matter.
I got a legal threat from Brian. My original Facebook article on Hillsong was pulled.


When I got involved in Hillsong, I would have been far more cautious if people were saying those things. It boggles my mind sometimes how people close themselves to evidence.

I would be interested in talking with you by phone
as it is faster
or I could call you

Indeed. I do prefer text such as this or meeting in person. I’m afraid I have an aversion to phone calls.

thats fine Steve
what about Facebook calls?

I have no idea how that works

if you have a headset its like a skype call
maybe it would call your phone, I never checked
you seem to be on a phone right now
I am on a laptop
anyway …

Sounds like a phone call yes I’m on a phone, but typing. I tend to be laconic and curt on voice calls I’m afraid.

I’m pentecostal by experience and participate in the real thing, but I’m not happy with the pentecostal movement in Australia in many ways
I think it is deeply compromised
I could, I suppose have risen in the ranks in Hillsong but in the year 2000 my wife and I just couldn’t do it. We felt something was really wrong.

Certainly. Prosperity doctrine seems to have been Brian’s initiative in the early to mid 90s

We were missionaries in Romania
from 1993-1998

Kudos. That sounds an interesting place.
I am no longer Christian of any form.

and also I was one of the early Leaders in Students for Christ, a very powerful movement which got aborted by Christine Caine after I left it I was informed.
I’m sorry to hear that
is this because of your experience with Hillsong

Don’t be, I feel much better now.
No, there’s much more to that. If a single church put me off faith, what a paltry and weak faith I must have had.
I did short term mission work and was a pastor.

I guess if feeling good was the goal then I would be happy for you
I feel terrific but that doesn’t prove my views are correct
do you care about truth?

Nihilism is dark, there is no good feeling in it. But I feel freed from struggling w doubt
Truth is a very high priority to me.

thats really good – I thought it was
I believe that Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead, validating his claims. Presumably you once believed that, but now longer do. Why the change?

By worldview, I am broadly modernist. I believe in truth as a meaningful concept.
Historical research debunked it mostly for me.
Not Jesus per se, I have an academic essay on his historicity on my Facebook. But the OT is definitely mostly bunk/bogus.

To me the evidence for the resurrection of Christ is very powerful, both historically and also because so many people who were NOT expecting to see Jesus, DID see him revealed as Savior.
Many muslims today for example
Someone from Iran just contacted me 2 days ago with a testimony like that

Have you seen on Facebook those memes where people attribute quotes to Ghandi or Einstein, but those persons in fact did not ever say the quote?

I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens

It happens a great deal. This is because when people want to give value to something they think is profound, they attribute to someone that they think would have said such a thing.
I think this process underlies the oral tradition of the NT.

I think you are presuming a lot
people who invent things normally do so for self interest

I sincerely doubt the Gospel narratives as it seems far more the saviour people wanted and needed, created in the late first century context. The historical Jesus, and I believe there was one, is largely lost to us.

the persecution against early christians was so intense it wasn’t a great way to live “your best life now”

Of course. Early Christianity was spiritual, not materialistic.

what people “want” is something like the New Age movement or gnosticism, something which offers spirituality without a huge price of self-denial
and that was there even in the first century, the apostles had to deal with it

Indeed, many want that. But there is a market for a truly ascetic religion.

a very limited market. Without the presence of God and the power of tradition, there is little force in Christianity. What was the force of it that gave such appeal in the first few centuries?

Buddhism disagrees with you.
It seems to have found a big market.

Most BUddhists I see are well and truly into enjoying the here and now
even if classical buddhism is essentially a rejection of life and creation

Christianity is in my view, the second best constructed memetic package in history. Its early explosion is very significant.
Most Buddhists I see = anecdotal. There will be statistics on Buddhist orders that demonstrate a large market for ascetic religion.

how many Buddhist monks are there vs Buddhists that just want a peaceful and prosperous life enjoying sex, food and money?

But if we are arguing for Christianity based on its fervency and early spread, then Islam trumps Christianity.

fervency alone is not the proof of truth
by the way, would you be so kind as to give me permission to publish this discussion later, if I leave your name out of it?

Re. Buddhists, of course most are materialistic, but I’ve already conceded that point. My point was merely that thee is a significant market for ascetics, not that there are more ascetics than materialists, which is obviously untrue.
Put my name in it, and publish away. I don’t care for anonymity.

ok. fine with me
I don’t think Christianity is purely ascetic by the way, because the Bible teaches that God made all things for us to enjoy richly
but it does demand denial of self will and times of self mortification for a higher cause

Indeed. My point is not that it is ascetic, but that its features have intrinsic appeal to segments of humanity in varying degrees.

I think it appeals to the conscience as being right
Have you become an atheist?

Yes. That resonance with the conscience is significant.
I don’t like the term atheist, but I guess it applies.

Did you embrace Buddhism?

No. I’m just a nerd. Learning is my opiate

Thats fine
When you were a Christian, did you experience what we call “the presence of the Holy Spirit”?

All the time. I’ve exercised demons, been visited by an angel and had a chat for about half an hour, and prophesied many times, and saw prophesies fulfilled.

So how do you explain these things? Do you believe in the existence of the spiritual world then?

I believe that we interpret a spiritual world, but I don’t think there actually is one. I view more as a projection of our subconscious, which is experienced in varying degrees by different people. I am genetically predisposed towards that sort of spirituality.

So when you cast out demons, did you notice it changed people’s lives? It did change my life and many others. Plus I have seen physical miracles. Is that all “the power of the mind” in your view?

Pretty much. Yes, one of my best friends was significantly changed by his exorcism experience.

I have seen deaf ears open and blind eyes open, mute speak and broken bones fixed instantly. I have no idea how the mechanics of this happened. It was, to me, simply faith in the name and reality of Jesus.
Do you attribute these kinds of things to mental power or something?

Placebo is, as a rough guide, 40% effective.

oh really, by what physical laws?
I am not talking about how people feel after prayer, but what they can DO that was physically impossible beforehand

Unless your processes have been controlled against placebo in a clinical trial, I don’t mind those claims. And of course, studies have been done on faith healing.

aren’t you making a huge assumption here, that the only valid method of determining truth is the scientific method?

That is not my assumption.

if it is not the desire of Almighty God to perform circus tricks for men in white coats, does that make God’s miracles invalid?
well you seem to be saying that the testimonial evidence of people cannot be trusted unless a scientist was there to do a double blind controlled experiment, or something like that

But let’s look at some assumptions underpinning a Christian faith healing:1. The person was genuinely ill

2. They we genuinely healed

3. This was supernatural

4. God did it

5. That god is the Christian god.

Those are all significant assumptions.

My life is too short to follow up every person with a healing story…Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, whoever.

I have a friend who came from the highest Brahmin caste in Inida
he brought a known deaf mute to an Australian evangelist
with the attitude that he would expose the man as a fake
the man was healed.
This Indian is now one of India’s leading evangelists
the healing miracles happening through his life are numerous
I have witnessed these also
I don’t see significant healing miracles happening through Buddhists, muslims and the like

I know similar stories amongst Buddhists. Why are your stories more valid than theirs?

Oh really?
Got a link?

No, but feel free to google such stories. Mine come from long conversations in the missionary context.
There are similar Muslim stories. And pagan. And from varying types of Catholicism. It’s all anecdotal.

I just googled buddhist healing miracles and found none on the first page, except perhaps some alleged stories from the time of Buddha himself.

Indeed. Healing does not hold the same place in Buddhist tradition as the Christian, it takes a bit more scratching to find. Further, much of it is not aligned with mainstream Buddhism but ‘folksy’ adaptions.

probably occultic healing then
satan oppresses and then can relieve people to lead people into deeper deception

But if it seems true a miraculous to them, how is that different to Christian healing seeming true and miraculous to you? Objectively, there is no difference.

folk islam also has witchdoctors
they don’t have the same class of miracles in my view
admittedly, they will have stories of people recovering from painful conditions etc

I’ll be more confident in your assertion if you’d delved into the literature of research on Buddhism.

never heard of pagans opening the eyes of a man born blind, for example
I want up to date testimonies
We have them in ridiculously huge numbers
Just google TB joshua on youtube and you can see many miracles too

Well, my stories are from 2003-04. But I’m sure it continues. But unless you’ve hunted them out to a good degree, I can’t help but expect you’re operating from a pro-Christian bias.

Are these things YOU witnessed?
I am talking also about things I have seen and heard

I’m adequately convinced of the efficacy of spirituality. I don’t need more convincing.

as well as other reports
but your philosophy seems to be essentially materialistic none-the-less. You don’t believe in a real spiritual world you say?


And in your view, how does all the complex specified information and even the incredible powers of the mind, as you allege them to be, how did it all come to be? Spontaneous generation out of nothing?

That’s the same as me asking where God came from. There is no answer on first cause. It is unknown.

See – it is very difficult to assert now that the physical Universe has existed eternally.
But a transcendent God who exists in eternity could exist.

Either can exist, if we’re just postulating.

It doesn’t match our best understandings of how the Universe works though
To me unbelief doesn’t seem reasonable. It is a faith position in its own right.

A transcendent God? Yes, probably not.
Yes, and not stamp collecting is a hobby.

You believe certain things you cannot see.

To some degree, but I assert as little about it as possible

Even that statement you cannot prove.
I personally believe that God has revealed Himself to all people, but to you more than most.
But unbelief is always possible.
Nevertheless, it is not justifiable morally.
If it is possible, I hope that you will return to faith in Jesus.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
I hope it won’t be the last time.

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