We recently learned of yet another well-known Christian renouncing his faith. Barry “Phanatik” Goodwin was the co-founder of the Christ movement and was loved by his fans as a great lyricist and preacher of the Gospel. In a personal and heartfelt video, he does not articulate the specific issues he has with Christianity. Simply stated, there were “issues” in the Scripture he could no longer ignore and continue in good consciousness to preach and believe in. He also suffered from depression starting in 2014 when his crisis in faith began. Phanatik was not a self-taught Christian like myself. He spent years studying the Scripture in Bible college and also attended Westminster Theological Seminary. Towards the end of the video, he clarifies his intention to state his problems with the Bible publicly, so I presume a lengthy intellectual debate will ensue. I will leave that discussion for scholars far more capable than I, and focus instead on the tragedy of someone walking away from Jesus.
I do not know how Phanatik first encountered the Lord, but I met Him at the darkest point in my life. After decades of sincere worship, I left Islam because I could no longer tolerate a God that would punish me without mercy and with whom I had no direct relationship. Yet my soul still longed for a relationship with my Creator. I kept crying and praying for Him to reveal Himself to me until one day, I audibly heard the voice of Christ call my name. It was a supernatural encounter that was impossible to deny or ignore. Soon after, I had this overwhelming fear of what it would mean to become a Christian. I spent the next few years devouring Scripture and studying Biblical commentary about the text I was reading. I rarely left the house because I had to reconcile my heart and intellect that Jesus was God incarnate. I prayed incessantly as I read, and the Scriptures came alive. The Lord was revealing to me what He had done throughout time to draw man to Him and how salvation ultimately culminated in the sacrifice of His son so we can be in right standing with our Father. We were all sinners that needed a Savior. God loved us, but He was holy. He could not ignore the price of sin, so He sent His Son to pay that price on our behalf. However, redemption requires acceptance of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance, he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at present, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:25-26
I am eternally grateful the Lord did not leave me blind to the essential and straightforward reality that my salvation depends on faith in Christ.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Though there is overwhelming historical evidence that Jesus walked the earth and his arrival fulfilled nearly 300 prophecies written 700+ years beforehand, we must have faith. Faith is in what we cannot see. Therefore, I wonder how many nights Phanatik spent on his knees crying to God, seeking His face, and praying for the answers to his unbelief. We know he sought out scholars, both liberal and conservative but did he turn to God, the author, and finisher of our faith?
Being a Christ-follower is not about over-analyzing the linguistic nuances of Biblical texts but is primarily about faith in the one sent to save us from ourselves. I am not advocating ignorance of the text, but there is an inherent risk to using only our minds to understand the mystery of God. Evolutionists and atheists do a similar thing. They want to understand creation entirely through their intellect. It is an impossible task. Yet someone with an open heart who looks to find meaning in the world through science can ultimately meet God in that place. Intellectual giants like C.S. Lewis came to that conclusion, and we see that happening in renowned psychologist Jordan Peterson as well. Unfortunately, the converse can also occur. Someone determined to find an error with God will find justification to deny His word and His plan for our lives.
Some commentators opine that his departure from Christianity results from “church hurt.” Whether it’s a perceived lack of social justice in the Evangelical community or individuals that disappointed him, we cannot judge Christ by what people do. We are all wretched sinners saved by grace. We make mistakes, we commit offenses, but that should not take us away from the purity and grace of Christ. It is a relationship, not religion, that saves us. When the trials of life, like depression or disappointment from family or church friends, strike us at our core, our strength comes from the great consoler who helps us hold on and persevere. The Bible warns us repeatedly about relying on our emotions to govern our faith because the heart is deceptively wicked. I can understand the agony and frustration that would make someone want to leave a church, but I cannot understand walking away from Jesus.
I know what it is like to wander around without a relationship with the Living God. I would not wish that on my worst enemy. However, the Lord expects our reverence and awe to transcend our inquisitive minds. I cannot pretend to know the struggles Phanatik had when he engaged the Scriptures, but I pray he finds his way back.
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Mathew 10:32-33
Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel. She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.