Apostasy and Atheist Pastors

The Bible is full of warnings about apostasy. The term means to deliberately renounce or reject one’s faith commitment. It is an act of defiance and rebellion, which is taken very seriously indeed in Scripture. Consider just a few of the many passages which address this issue:

Mathew 24:9-14 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

1 Timothy 1:18-20 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

I Timothy 4:1-2 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

Hebrews 3:12-14 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”

II Peter 2:20-22 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

The warnings are clear. Yet that has not stopped plenty of folks from joining the apostasy line. Some recent articles about pastors renouncing their faith and declaring their atheism have recently come out of the US. These stories make it clear that apostasy is alive and well – at least in America.

One news item says this: “More than 200 church leaders across the country now say they no longer believe in God, including a Houston-area pastor who was one of the first to publicly announce his decision. Mike Aus, who was pastor at Theophilus church in Katy, made that announcement during an appearance on a Sunday morning show on MSNBC. ‘Hardly anyone reads the Bible,’ said Aus on the ‘Up with Chris Hayes’ program. ‘If they did, the whole thing would be in trouble.’

“Theophilus church members told Local 2 Investigates they were blind-sided by the announcement. They said they had no idea Aus had completely changed his beliefs until they saw him on the program. ‘Are you going to preach next Sunday?’ host Chris Hayes asked Aus. ‘I’m going to go back next week and meet with my leadership and talk about where we go from here,’ said Aus. ‘We’ll see.’

“Aus was a long-time Lutheran pastor at churches in the Houston area, but now he said he no longer believes in the message he had been preaching for almost 20 years. Aus declined Local 2’s request for an interview. He said his statements on MSNBC explained his loss of faith. ‘As I started to jettison the beliefs, I came to realize fairly recently there wasn’t a whole lot left,’ Aus said.

“The effect was immediate on his church with about 80 members. Weeks after his announcement, the church dissolved. Members did not want to talk with Local 2 on camera, but they said their pastor’s complete change in faith was devastating.”

Another article on this began this way: “Jerry DeWitt entered the ministry when he was 17, launching a 25-year career as a Pentecostal preacher. He traveled all around his home state of Louisiana, preaching and ministering wherever he could.

“All these years later, DeWitt, 42, is still on the road, and now takes his message all over the United States. But the nature of that message, along with his audience, has changed dramatically. DeWitt is now an avowed atheist, and his audiences are made up of religious ‘nones,’ the growing number of Americans who are atheist, agnostic, humanist or just plain disinterested in identifying with a religion. Today, DeWitt preaches a gospel of disbelief.

“During his speeches, he talks about the process of leaving his preacher job. ‘If you don’t believe, then you will be like me – you’ll suddenly find yourself where you only have two choices,’ DeWitt told a group in Johnson County, Kansas, earlier this year. ‘You can either be honest that you don’t believe … or you can pretend that you do,’ he said. ‘Which is what so many people are doing and that is called faith.’

“The transition from preacher to outspoken atheist has not been easy, and DeWitt is trying to smooth the way for other former believers. He is executive director of Recovering from Religion, an organization founded in 2009. Its slogan: ‘Thousands of organizations will help you get INTO religion, but we’re the only one helping you OUT.”

Hey, Jerry, a word of advice for you: one does not really need any help in getting out of religion. It is the easiest thing in the world to do. Just do nothing and it will happen automatically. Just as a nice garden will go to the dogs by simply not doing anything, so too can we shipwreck the faith.

The thing that is difficult – at least in biblical Christianity – is staying in. Jesus made it crystal clear that following him was no joy ride. Indeed, it made things very difficult for people to follow him. And he said the Christian life is about self-denial, crucifying the flesh, and carrying our cross daily. He even said this: “He that endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

The article ends as follows: “When DeWitt runs into people he used to preach to, he still averts his eyes. Going to the post office and to Walmart, he said, can be stressful because of the possibility of running into a former congregant. ‘It is because places in which you were once admired now you are suddenly scorned or pitied,’ DeWitt said, who admits not having many friends anymore. ‘It makes for an extremely uncomfortable life.’

“And yet DeWitt said his atheist life mirrors his old religious one in some key respects. In some ways, he said, he’s still a minister. The origin of the symmetry is me, is my personality, my love for people, my love for ministering,’ DeWitt said. ‘What I have always tried to do is to minster from where I personally am at. When I was 17, I preached what I believed was best for people at the time; when I was 20, it was a little different; at 25 it was different, too,’ he said. ‘And now at 42, I am still the same guy preaching what I see is best for people’.”

No wonder he went off the rails. Since when is ministry about “where I personally am at”? Ministry is never about you – it is about Him. He is the goal, the focus, the centre, the rock, the guide, the source, and the mainstay. Personal feelings and experiences are never to be the basis of how we minister.

What we have here are simply a bunch of false shepherds. In addition to the many warnings about unbelief and apostasy, the Bible also frequently warns against false shepherds, which these men obviously have been. Here are just a few of these warnings:

Jer, 23:1-2 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings.” says the Lord.

Matt. 7:15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Acts 20:28-31 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!

2 John 1:7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

The need for perseverance in the Christian life is crucial. As we read in Revelation 2:10: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” I need to write more on this another time, but until then, see this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/05/11/on-the-perseverance-of-the-saints/

We have a perfect biblical summary of these tragic stories of apostasy found in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

Apostasy, sadly, is alive and well.


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20 Replies to “Apostasy and Atheist Pastors”

  1. I think of one former pastor turned atheist activist, whose blog has hundreds of followers, who hang on his every word, and they like to think that they’re intellectually superior to religious people.

    Stories like these are a humbling reminder to me that having theological training and a leadership role in the Christian world doesn’t mean that you’re saved.

    Ross McPhee

  2. With much of this, you have to wonder how many pastors actually had a fervent belief in the Holy God that they say they served in the first place, or simply saw it as a position from which to help people, or even saw it just as a job, or worse, a way to riches.

    And it begs the question just how many pastors are running big and small churches who have never had much passion and zeal for God and His Truth but would never acknowledge this since their job is their source of income.

    One good thing about apostate pastors coming out is that at least they are being honest with their parishioners, many of whom may have most likely been led astray with much waffle in the past.

    Garth Penglase

  3. Bill, about 15 or so years ago, Bishop Shelby Spong paid a visit to the local Anglican Church where he received a hearty welcome, presumably in the form of the invitation that got him there in the first place. About a dozen or so of us from the Baptist Church went along to hear this ‘man of God’ speak. I don’t remember the gist of what he said but it was along the lines of his well-known books. I do remember thinking, as I watched and listened to this gentlemanly, silver-hard pastor who at the time must have been about 65 or 70, “Man, he is as smooth and silky as Kentucky bourbon–a probably as dangerous!” During question time I asked him, “Sir, when you pray, who do you talk to?” I cannot remember his answer.

    My point at writing this is not to have a dig at the Anglicans, but there are apostates running around loose in all denominations. But about a month ago, a woman from our church came up to me after the service and thanked me for sounding a warning way back there in the mid-90’s. At the time, she attended the Anglican Church and had no idea what to think or make of Spong’s message. Perhaps I steered one dear sister away from the brink!

    Steve Swartz

  4. Greetings Bill. Though there seems to be apostasy all over the place the great Apostasy or falling away I believe is related to the controversy of Zion and Gods last day dealings with Israel and their final devastation, which is designed to test, divide and sift the church like never before.
    Rob Withall

  5. I was reading the Apocalypse of Peter the other day and found it rather interesting.

    20. And over against that place I saw another, squalid, and it was the place of punishment; and those who were punished there and the punishing angels had their raiment dark like the air of the place.
    21. And there were certain there hanging by the tongue: and these were the blasphemers of the way of
    righteousness; and under them lay fire, burning and punishing them. 22. And there was a great lake, full
    of flaming mire, in which were certain men that pervert righteousness, and tormenting angels afflicted
    …..27. And near those there were again women and men gnawing their own lips, and being punished and
    receiving a red-hot iron in their eyes: and these were they who blasphemed and slandered the way of

    Thats gotta hurt.

    “He that endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
    I have always found this verse to be a challenge. It calls for daily self checking of your walk with Christ.

    Jeffrey Carl

  6. What a sad situation. As a pentecostal preacher myself, I find it hard to get my head around what this Pastor has done. He obviously was keen to also destroy the faith of those in his church – which you can tell by the way he did it. And in ten years time when he has come full circle and repents and weeps before God, what will have happened to the people who’s faith he has destroyed. What a selfish selfish man.
    Peter Pilt

  7. Thanks Bill, I hadn’t heard of this, but it comes as no surprise. Wondering when Rick Warren – obambam’s “politically correct” pastor will reveal himself for what he is…
    Anita Cooper

  8. Even the shepherds need shepherding at times, but you can’t go past the encouragement of the book of Hebrews. But this man’s apostasy obviously went beyond the struggles and doubts common to us all, he did not care for the souls of his congregation.
    Ursula Bennett

  9. See also Justifying apostasy: A formerly well-known Australian pastor goes off the rails—and tries to persuade others to follow. Carl Wieland reviews of From Faith to Reason, by Brian Baker, formerly pastor of one of the largest churches in Western Australia.

    Dr Jonathan Sarfati, US

  10. reading articles like this makes me feel sick to the stomach. What betrayal, or at least pretense and facade. Better cuts from friends than kissing enemies I say. Faith has to do with trust and seeing how these “pastors” (I use that term very loosely) have betrayed the trust of their flock, shows they know nothing about what faith really is, or it’s value in a relationship.
    On the other hand, if this is the beginning of the great falling away before Christ returns, and shows up these fools, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit excited. Bible prophecy has always been fulfilled, is being fulfilled, and will be fulfilled. Truth never changes.
    Ben Peckover

  11. There’s a heap more to be exposed for where they are really at yet Bill…I know plenty, and have been contending with them for years now, soon enough they will be exposed and Biblical Christianity will be purged…but not without what seems to be a civil war.
    Dorian Ballard

  12. ‘A’ means away.
    Apostasy = Away from the apostles, an abandonment of Christianity itself or a corruption of its doctrines.
    So many ‘pastors’ have departed from original teachings of Jesus.
    Who can we trust today to teach the truth of Gods Word?
    Judith Bond

  13. Hello Bill,
    In answer to Judith’s question “Who can we trust today to teach the truth of Gods Word?” I think you answered it best when you said “Ministry is never about you – it is about Him.” A good pastor will always draw people to follow Jesus, not himself. God’s truth doesn’t go “out of date”.

    Michael Palma

  14. Hi Bill,
    I am afraid It doesn’t really surprise me when you think what a lot of these men have to go through in their Theological ‘Training’ Colleges. A lot of these have been consistently draining all faith out of their students for years. Explaining away all the miracles and supernatural events from Genesis to Revelation, accepting the theory of evolution with all it’s fallacies and turning God’s rendering of creation into a mythical story, along with many other biblical accounts, including the virgin birth, the resurrection etc etc.I know of many in the 50’s and 60’s who entered Theological College with a passion to preach God’s Word, who never came out the same way, unless they left and went elsewhere to finish. Some managed to hang in there and challenged their lecturers to sharpen their own faith, but you needed some maturity for this and many didn’t have it. And it was hard to get a Pass quoting the Bible! Some lecturers even in the School of Divinity at the University just didn’t believe the Bible.eg Barbara Thiering, who spent her whole time explaining it away.
    We read in a Creation magazine recently of a survey of ministers where a great many divulged they no longer believed in God or Jesus work of redemption on the cross. This figures if you are told evolution is true and there was no Adam and Eve, therefore death didn’t enter the world through man’s sin, so who needs a Saviour?
    I also read a local church’s Christmas message which declared Christmas meant ‘so much more’ than the ‘myth’ surrounding Jesus birth, it had so much more meaning as a time of coming together all over the world for families etc.!
    I think the danger in the church is not trusting the Bible and preaching it as God’s Word, I wish more people who are persuaded by ‘academics’ to doubt God’s Word could hear from the many bible believing scientists whose study has led them to find ample evidence on our planet of the truth of God’s version of creation and the world-wide flood. (And also find huge flaws and untruths in so called evidence of evolution.) We have every reason for the faith and hope that is in us..!

    Lesley Kadwell

  15. So true Lesley.
    As you state, Creation mag does a great job of exposing this, and others like Louie Giglio have attempted to turn the tide of kids from Christian families losing their faith during uni and college. I don’t know where the Passion Conferences are at nowadays but they were started from the basis of contending for belief in the simple and basic tenets of biblical truth.

    So many of the theological colleges started by great Christian men and women have been purposely infiltrated and turned from the truth. Many of them are now temples of thinly disguised atheism. When we move away from the core tenets of our faith all the rest ‘goes to hell’ as well.

    Garth Penglase

  16. Don`t these Pastors have Elders? Obviously not, or they are not doing their job.

    Johannes Archer

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