The dangers of theological amateurism

This is not a hot take; it’s a late take. Sometimes it’s better to let the people who are better at reacting quickly do so, rather than rushing to react while a particular story is trendy. The departing of Marty Sampson, one of the most influential figures in contemporary worship music, was revealing of a prevalent problem in the church: theological amateurism. Marty Sampson Instagram post was as follows:

Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith.. and it doesn’t bother me… like, what bothers me now is nothing… I am so happy now, so at peace with the world.. it’s crazy / this is a soapbox moment so here I go xx how many preachers fall? Many. No one talks about it. How many miracles happen. Not many. No one talks about it. Why is the Bible full of contradictions? No one talks about it. How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe? No one talks about it. Christians can be the most judgemental people on the planet – they can also be some of the most beautiful and loving people… but it’s not for me. I am not in any more. I want genuine truth. Not the “I just believe it” kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion. Lots of things help people change their lives, not just one version of God. Got so much more to say, but for me, I keeping it real. Unfollow if you want, I’ve never been about living my life for others. All I know is what’s true to me right now, and Christianity just seems to me like another religion at this point… I could go on, but I won’t. Love and forgive absolutely. Be kind absolutely. Be generous and do good to others absolutely. Some things are good no matter what you believe. Let the rain fall, the sun will come up tomorrow.

How many preachers fall?

Actually, we talk about people falling away from faith a lot. His own announcement made international news contradicting his statement. The author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris, also made his way in the headlines. In my own experience, smaller churches remember when their pastors depart from Christianity. It’s as if a fellow brother died. But to pile on further, we talk all the time about fallen pastors when it comes to pedophilia in the church. Now we could debate whether these fallen leaders were ever Christian in the first place or descended into their sin, but its, once again foolish to state we do not talk about it. Satan has been trying to infiltrate the church and tear down its leaders since the Book of Acts. The Bible talks about it quite a bit in the New Testament.

How many miracles happen?

Miracles are very subjective outside of the Bible, where a miracle is made explicit. We live in a time where all of the miracles are implicit, subject to debate. I recall that Dr. Ben Carson in his medical profession counted two miracles in his career. There are stories of people awaking from comas and surviving the unlikely. On the pro-life side, we hear several stories of the unlikely unborn surviving despite doctor’s insistence otherwise. The American Revolution required several events that certainly come off as miracles. The D-Day invasion of Normandy was a decisive in ways unforeseen, as the casualty counts were well below estimates. The real question here is not whether miracles occur, it’s whether God intervenes in the affairs of man. This is not a lightweight question, for the focus of the question is on the nature of God. I do not know whether Marty Sampson is intending to ponder that question.

Why is the Bible full of contradictions?

He doesn’t name any, but perhaps there was an atheist meme he saw. I’m going to defer to the next question to address this question.

How can God be love yet send 4 billion people to a place, all coz they don’t believe?

I believe this is the contradiction he is referring to in the previous question. This question is the epitome of theological amateurism. Allow me to ask the same question in different ways:

  • How can 4 billion people reject a loving God and expect to go to Heaven when they die?
  • Why would a loving God permit 4 billion people to his Kingdom who didn’t believe in his Word on earth?
  • Why is there a Hell?
  • Why would a loving God send Josef Stalin to hell?
  • Why isn’t there unlimited atonement?

The first two questions I pose mimic the theologically infantile question he asked. But he is really asking why is there a Hell? This comes from a worldview that believes that human nature is basically good. It’s clear he has a much higher view of mankind than is warranted. Meaning only the Hitlers, Stalins, and Pol Pots go to hell, because otherwise people are generally good right? In refusing to realize the extent at which mankind, its nature, is in rebellion against God, Marty Sampson and anyone else who poses this question puts God wrongly on trial for an injustice.

6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of Godthrough Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5: 6-11 NASB

There is a deeper theological question to be asked and that is why isn’t there unlimited atonement? Christianity places a limit on atonement, whether the atonement be a general atonement or a limited atonement, both Armenians and Calvinists agree. For if there was no limit on atonement, there would be no dichotomy between saved and unsaved. As Christians, we should recognize the dichotomy between saved and unsaved in our own lives.

Doubt vs Seeds

Apostle Thomas whom we nickname Doubting Thomas had doubts. He wanted absolute assurance that the man in front of Him was Jesus. We blame him, but we really should not. Thomas had doubts, but he didn’t dismiss Christ, or else he would not have gone to test them. He didn’t want to be made a fool by a poser. But this is not an example of a dealing with doubt, rather this is a seed that has not born fruit.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil onecomes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23 NASB

The context is Jesus explaining the parable of the Sower after being asked why someone endowed with the secrets of the universe teaches in such ways. The statements of Marty Sampson resembles most closely Matthew 13:19. Perhaps that’s not where he was spiritually, but his Instagram post was spiritually embryonic, not even infantile. This is someone who didn’t believe in the authority of scripture, the exclusivity of God, or the need for mankind to be saved.

Spreading the Good News involves baptizing believers and making disciples. The latter is where spiritual maturity takes place. Marty Sampson is but one example that illustrates the dangers of remaining an amateur on theology. The fault in this is likely the unsaving nature of the Popularity Gospel peddled by Hillsong. This issue is broader, people who have been inundated in a church environment for several years, yet not understanding basic fundamentals of Christianity. CS Lewis writes in Mere Christianity comparing theology to a map for navigation, a tool of upmost practicality. Presently this would be equivocal to the GPS on your phone. We want to be that fourth category bearing a hundredfold fruit, and that cannot happen if we remain amateurs on a theological level.


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One comment

  1. It kind of blows my mind a bit. Did he ever crack a bible all that time as a Christian? Did he never lay up at night pondering those questions and then work his way through them the following day? I’m not super-christian-man but but I worked my way out of my embryo on my walk in faith, and resolved those questions for myself long ago.

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