A Response to Dr. James White

In my last post, I reflected on my Christian past after reading a comment by a Christian professor I had in seminary, Dr. James White. He responded here.

I wanted to address a few points he makes in his post.

Dr. White,

You wrote:

"Now, first, I truly wonder why anyone would wish to remain anonymous and yet be a contributor to a blog 'debunking' Christianity. . . But why the anonymity? Fear of family reprisal? Is he a 'secret' apostate? I suppose I could do some digging around, but I truly have no interest in investing time in such an effort. . . I would say to 'exbeliever' that I would think a great deal more of him if he were not hiding behind a non-descript moniker, first and foremost. . ."

I have a few reasons for wanting to remain anonymous on this site:

1) My mother and in-laws do not know about my "apostasy." While I try not to openly lie to them about my lack of faith, I do try to avoid conversations that reveal the depth of my rejection of the Christian faith. It's not that I am ashamed of my lack of faith, but rather that I know this would cause my mother and in-laws a lot of pain and heartache. I would rather let them know gradually over a period of years instead of allowing them to be pounded in the face with my apostasy after typing my name in a search engine.

2) I came from a very conservative Christian college and, for some reason, every time someone from there hears about me, they feel it their duty to confront me. This bothers my wife a great deal. She doesn't enjoy being gossip-ed about (oops, I mean "prayed for") and pitied by her former Christian friends. I remain anonymous for her sake as well.

3) I have very little time for blogging. When I do post, I rarely have the time to put a lot of research into my posting. I often write "on-the-fly." At the same time, however, I am pursuing a PhD in philosophy and have to publish more scholarly materials as part of my studies. I really don't want something I carelessly throw out on this blog to come back to haunt me when I'm in the middle of a professional academic discussion with someone else.

4) "Well, it's hard out here for a [atheist]!" (Oscar humor). As much as Christians enjoy decrying America's antipathy towards them, it's far more detrimental to profess atheism in this country than it is Christianity. There are certain high-profile positions unavailable to atheists (e.g. the presidency (which, by the way, I have absolutely NO aspirations)). I have an interest in academic administration and may, one day, be "up for" a high-profile position. I don't want my atheism to be a factor in the committee's decision (though, I would certainly be honest if I were asked about my position).

So, these are some of the reasons that I have chosen anonymity on this blog. If it is really important to you to know my identity, I don't mind emailing you privately. I trust your discretion. I can't see, however, why it would matter whether or not you know my name.

If it helps narrow your focus any, you rightly identified the class (L1311, "Christian Philosophy of Religion") and the location of the school is identified in your list. It was an intensive class (as I mentioned in my previous post--"During that (albeit, short) class. . ."). It was the week after you had laser surgery and you were having some problems with your eyes. I made a really stupid comment in the school parking lot about some of your debates that we were viewing in class, and you were stepping out of your car at the same time (I still cringe when I remember that; I really don't even know why I said it; I think I was just trying to make conversation with a classmate that I had nothing in common with; I said something like, "Time to go and watch some more stupid debates."). You joked with me about it in class, and I apologized for my comment. Maybe that helps, but if you want an email, let me know.

You wrote:

". . . secondly, I would say even asking if he "fooled" me demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the theology he should have gotten in the course of that class."

As I stated in my original post, it is not that big of a deal that I "fooled" you. You are right to point out that ". . . there could not be any logical connection between taking a class in a seminary setting and one's true spiritual state. . ." Reading your previous post in which you wrote, ". . . rarely do you find a high regard for fairness or accuracy in ["'former' Christians[']"] writings," simply made me reflect on your complementary statements about my work in your class.

My bigger point was not that I "fooled" you. I really don't think I fooled anyone. I believe that I was as much a Christian as anyone I ever met. My current belief, however, is that Christianity is a sham and that everyone who believes it is believing a lie.

The point of my post was to point out a "problem" for Christians. I would hardly present this as an argument, but rather just as a cause for reflection.

As much as the Reformed Christians who read this blog try to deny it, it certainly seems to be the case that Jesus and the early Christians felt that the Holy Spirit plays a vital role in the life of the church (this is something that I think you would agree with if I remember your book, The Forgotten Trinity, correctly). The Holy Spirit is said to indwell believers. The Spirit is supposed to guide the church into truth, right?

If not the Holy Spirit, then, at least, one would think a Christian believes that God gives some kind of guidance to the church other than the Bible. The Bible does not tell a church which minister to hire, but only which qualities a minister should have. If many ministers, who all share the same qualities, apply to a church, that church normally looks for God's guidance through prayer.

In another (childish) post (on another blog) about my last post, one of the brain-dead reformers made it sound as though the church receives absolutely no guidance from their god except through the Bible. I am willing to bet dimes to doughnuts, though, that his church prays for guidance before they ordain a new minister or hire a new pastor.

Even when I was a full cessationist, I respected the work of the Holy Spirit speaking through a local body of believers. While I was extremely skeptical of any one person who claimed to have "a word from God," I tended to put a lot of weight in the prayerful decisions made by a body of believers. While I didn't believe those decisions were infallible, I did believe that when a whole body of believers agree on something after prayerful consideration, that I should be very hesitant to doubt that decision.

In this light, then, the fact that many Christians believe I could never have been a "true" believer, causes a problem for those who believe (like I did) that God does give guidance to his church in prayer. They must reconcile this belief with their belief that I could not have been a "true" Christian.

The dilemma, then, only applies to those who believe (1) that a person cannot be a "true" believer and then leave the faith (1 John 2:19), and (2) that their god still gives the church guidance through prayer.

They must, then, not only doubt the validity of my former faith, but also all of the Christians and churches who truly believed that their god was confirming my testimony and ministry. My past should give any Christian who believes these two propositions cause for hesitation.

While it is certainly reasonable to believe that the Christian god can use a "pretender" to do his work in the church, it puts believers in a very uncomfortable position to think that their god could have intentionally deceived all those Christian churches who said their god confirmed their affirmation of me and my past ministry.

You wrote:

"'Exbeliever' goes on to present a bit of his 'Christian credentials,' as so many who leave the faith and then seek to defend their apostasy do . . ."

I see this complaint a lot in reference to this blog. Many Christian bloggers seem to have a real problem with our anecdotal descriptions of our apostasies. I have a couple of comments about this:

Christians often use their testimonies as part of the "proof" that their god exists. Recently, I read Paul Manata's fascinating testimony of coming to faith. While he did not (and most Christians do not) present the testimony as incontrovertible "proof" of the existence of god, it is still meant as some sort of verification. Though the Christian testimony is rarely presented as a formal argument ("My life has changed, therefore God exists"), it is often seen as a legitimate and effective means of evangelizing.

So, too, should the anecdotal posts on this blog be taken. I don't offer my Christian past as undeniable proof that the Christian god does not exist. I offer my "testimony," however, to counter those Christians who offer their testimonies as a proof of their god's existence.

All the bloggers, then, that continue to complain about the "testimonies" we post here can simply ignore them. There are some Christians who use testimonies exclusively as evidence of their Christian faith. Any atheist who seeks to "debunk" Christianity (though, I'm not really comfortable with that term), must answer those Christians who rely on testimony. Offering our testimonies is a direct challenge to those Christians.

Other Christians who are "offended" by anecdotal "evidence" can read and comment on some of my more substantive posts (that rarely get any comments from theists). Here, I wrote about my foundation for the laws of logic and morality (in answer to the myopic questioning of the presuppositionalists). Here, I wrote about the authorship of the Pentateuch. Here, I wrote about the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Though, as I stated above, I do not have the time to do the research required to convincingly discuss these issues, these posts are definitely not anecdotal.

The Christians who don't like atheist testimonies are free to ignore them, but they should realize that many Evangelicals do, in fact, put stock in testimonies, and that they are a powerful tool in both conversions and de-conversions. Instead of thinking our anecdotal posts are directed to every Christian, those who do not appreciate these posts should simply understand that these objections are not directed at them, but rather at those Christians who use testimonies as a primary means of evangelism.

I am kind of an "old school" atheist. I believe that the Christian has the primary responsibility to prove their assertion that a god exists. Presuppositionalism asks legitimate questions about the foundations of an atheists' reasoning, so I took the time to offer a possible solution. Having addressed that concern, I have turned to other, positive arguments for the existence of a god. As Christians give an account for the hope that is in them, I will consider those accounts and respond, in turn. Because most of the bloggers attracted to this site are unwilling to provide any evidence for their assertion that a god exists, I have taken it on myself to counter the traditional arguments for a god's existence. So far, I have only discussed cosmological arguments. In the future (if Christian bloggers continue to avoid giving any evidence for their assertion), I plan on discussing other traditional arguments for a god's existence.

Dr. White, thank you for taking the time to respond to me on your blog.


tired said...


While I am not James White, I became Reformed through his ministry about a year before when you speak. (I remember the eye incident pretty well, just through a different setting) For what it's worth, I didn't grow up in a Christian home except in an acutely nominal sense.

I have no issue with anything in your post from "As much as the Reformed Christians ..." to "... that I should be very hesitant to doubt that decision." However, I don't understand your reasoning from then on. You say it's a dilemma that:

1) we are expected to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit
2) God's people prayed for guidance over your spiritual state
3) They concluded you were a Christian
4) Given the Calvinist idea of faith, you never were.

I have no desire to snort and brush this off, as if I can't get my mail without confronting three or four ecclesiastically approved apostates along the way. On the other hand, in the middle of your account of how the Holy Spirit works in congregations, you said, "While I didn't believe those decisions were infallible ..." and went on from there. But that means you recognize that sometimes God's people will earnestly pray for guidance, and nevertheless conclude wrongly- otherwise, why the disclaimer? How does your so-called dilemma violate the boundaries around the corporate work of the Spirit you already acknowledged?

exbeliever said...


You wrote: "How does your so-called dilemma violate the boundaries around the corporate work of the Spirit you already acknowledged?"

In my original post, I stated, "The point of my post was to point out a 'problem' for Christians. I would hardly present this as an argument, but rather just as a cause for reflection."

This isn't meant as an irrefutable argument. What I hope it does is give Christians cause to think and pause before quickly brushing off my claim that I was once a true Christian.

It is more than just saying that I was deluded. It is also saying that those churches that prayerfully considered "my calling" were also deluded into thinking that they actually got guidance from a god. It also opens up the possibility that god sometimes deceives his people when they ask for guidance.

So, there are explanations that avoid a true dilemma. I think a more likely explanation, though, is that Christian churches aren't making decisions based on their god's guidance, but rather, their own subjective feelings.

Hope that's clearer. Thanks for commenting (my post was feeling left out).