CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Making Cheap Excuses for Rebellion

Jan 24, 2015

There are all sorts of lousy excuses atheists and unbelievers make about not coming to faith in Christ. And there are plenty of cheap excuses made by those who leave the Christian faith as well. I have heard plenty of them in my lifetime firsthand, and I continue to find them thrown around cyberspace and elsewhere.

But the Apostle Paul, writing about this very matter in Romans 1, says that “people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). More on that shortly. Let me here mention yet another such set of cheap excuses, this time from someone claiming to have been a big-cheese Christian celeb, who is now proudly glorying in his atheism.

Perdikis, GeorgeI refer to George Perdikis, formerly of the Christian group Newsboys. In a rather arrogant headline (perhaps written by his editors – but see his own words below) we read this: “I Co-Founded One of the Most Popular Christian Rock Bands Ever… and I’m Now An Atheist”.

Since I am not a big fan of most contemporary Christian artists, let me simply offer this Wikipedia description for others who may know next to nothing about this group:

Newsboys are a Christian pop rock band founded in 1985 in Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia, by Peter Furler and George Perdikis. They have released 16 studio albums, 6 of which have been certified gold. Currently, the band consists of lead vocalist Michael Tait formerly of DC Talk, keyboardist and bassist Jeff Frankenstein, guitarist Jody Davis, and drummer and percussionist Duncan Phillips.

His piece, in Patheos, begins this way:

In 1985, I co-founded Newsboys, one of the most successful Christian rock bands in history. You may have heard the band’s music in the film God’s Not Dead. The band’s album of the same name hit No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart. And I’m now an atheist….
The choice to become a “Christian Rock Band” was heavily influenced by Peter’s parents, Bill and Rosalie Furler. As fundamentalist Christians, the only acceptable form of music was the kind that worshipped God. Bill and Rosalie were like second parents to me and, for that reason, I never questioned their advice.
When John needed a place to stay, he moved in with the Furlers as well. For the next few years, John, Peter, and I shared a bedroom and spent all our free time writing songs and rehearsing our asses off. We might have been classified as Christian Rock, but, musically, I felt we were as good as any secular band. With forty solid songs under our belts, we became the Newsboys….
I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity. All I wanted to do was create and play rock and roll… and yet most of the attention I received was focused on how well I maintained the impossible standards of religion. I wanted my life to be measured by my music, not by my ability to resist temptation.
I left the band in 1990 and went back to Adelaide. There, I got married, taught guitar, played pubs and clubs, built homes, and had two beautiful daughters.
As I carved out a life for myself away from the church, I began my own voyage of inquiry into what I believed. My perceptions started to transform when I became interested in cosmology in 1992. I soon found myself fascinated by the works of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins. I learned so much and was blown away by all the amazing scientific discoveries and facts. When my marriage dissolved in 2003, I turned my attention to human psychology.
By 2007, I renounced Christianity once and for all and declared myself an atheist.

OK, so how are we to respond to all this? First, a few positives. I suppose we can acknowledge his relative honesty here (note I say “relative”). And I guess he is not being a hypocrite anymore (although one can find new aspects of hypocrisy to discuss).

And one thing he said is also possibly true for many: “The Christian music scene is populated by many people who act as though they have a direct hotline to a God who supplies them with the answers to the Universe. There seems to be more ego and narcissism amongst Christian musicians than their secular counterparts.”

But let’s get back to the cheap excuses he makes for abandoning Christianity. He speaks about “the strict rules imposed by Christianity” and “the impossible standards of religion”. Well, yes and no. Sure, religion is full of man-made rules and regulations, but Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

However, unlike the hyper grace and emerging church teachings, the two in fact go together. By grace through faith alone we enter into that love relationship with Christ, but it is to result in obedience, holiness and a sanctified life. We are saved to serve, to obey, and to become more like Christ.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10 (which follows immediately from the verse I just hinted at above), “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are not saved by good works, but we are saved unto good works.

If one simply reads between the lines of what he has written here, including the bit about “my ability to resist temptation”, it becomes pretty clear that what we have here are more lame excuses for a lifestyle issue. It is a moral problem in other words that we are dealing with.

It is certainly not an intellectual one. I mean really, reading someone like Dawkins opened his eyes? Puh-leeese. Even fellow atheists say that reading Dawkins (especially his appalling The God Delusion) makes them embarrassed to be atheists.

The truth is, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it is not intellectual issues that keep people from coming to faith – or driving them from the faith – but moral ones. No less an authority than Jesus Christ made this absolutely clear. Consider what he said in John 3:19-21:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

It is because of selfish and sinful lifestyles that people stay away from Christ and the truth of the gospel. So all that Perdikis is telling us here is that he prefers to live a life of sin and rebellion instead of allowing himself to be transformed and remade in the image of Christ.

So all his whining about “impossible standards” is so much baloney. Of course they are impossible. Jesus actually said we should be “perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). No mere man can attain this. But that is why Christianity is different from all other religions.

God provides what he demands. He gives us the Holy Spirit to live within us and to help us be conformed to the image of his son (Romans 8:29). God in us allows for progressive sanctification and growth in holiness. But if you prefer living a selfish and me-first lifestyle, then of course you will reject all this as so much myth. Perdikis simply fully confirms the words of Jesus here.

And the words of Paul as well. In Romans 1 he speaks about those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). So let me here give the whole context of what Paul says:

What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts. (Rom. 1:19-24)

This is the perfect picture of rebellious mankind. As Paul says, their desire for sin and unrighteousness blinds them to the truth, and it leaves them without excuse. George Perdikis is without excuse. Of course we all need to pray for him that he comes back to his senses: his moral, intellectual and spiritual senses.

But at the moment, he is without excuse, and under the judgment of God for vainly and foolishly shaking his fist at the one true God. Pray that he repents and comes back to truth, to righteousness and to holiness. In other words, that he comes back to the living God.

www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/1/21/i-co-founded-one-of-the-most-popular-christian-rock-bands-ever-and-im-now-an-atheist/

[1526 words]

20 Responses to Making Cheap Excuses for Rebellion

  • I wonder does Hebrews 6:4-6 have any relevance here. Of course nothing is impossible for God. The ‘impossible’ here refers to the inability of the one who has turned away in the given circumstances, to turn back to God and repent. The author (presumably Paul) gives the reason in v. 6b …because to their loss etc. Rather terrifying thought to my mind. I am not judging anyone here but simply citing a text which may or may not have some relevance and which, in my view, is well worth reflecting on, especially by anyone contemplating turning away from God. Turning away from God, in whatever form it takes, is a very serious business.

  • Thanks BT. Yes, regardless of who actually wrote the book of Hebrews, we must certainly take the various warning passages contained therein very seriously indeed.

  • Hebrews 6: 4-6 warns that the sinner who has been enlightened by the Word of God and who knows about salvation can nevertheless arrive at a point in life when it becomes impossible to truly repent and be saved. When a man continually refuses to yield to the Holy Spirit’s pleading his heart becomes increasingly hardened and eventually he loses all desire and interest in the Gospel. He is no longer sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and has no desire to be pardoned for his sins. He has ultimately made a conscious decision to reject Christ and, in this sense, it is likely he has committed the unpardonable sin. Sadly, there are many who go that way.

  • I read all that, but I noticed
    a) the article was from 2007-8
    b) he never claimed to be Christian, just that he absorbed the behaviour when living with his mate’s fundamentalist Christian family
    and
    c) he left the band before they became Newsboys

  • Thanks John A. But you may not have read it too well! The article is from 3 days ago, and he was a founding member of the Newsboys. But yes, he may have just faked his Christianity all along.

  • True, the likes of George Perdikis are without excuse, as Rom 1 says.

    But I differ in understanding of the use of terminology such as sanctification/holiness.

    It was Christ’s sacrifice that sanctified Christians, as Heb 10:10 confirms.
    By that will we HAVE BEEN sanctified THROUGH the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

    The view that sanctification is gradual or progressive is to contradict Heb 10:10 by suggesting that Christ’s sacrifice failed to complete our sanctification

    It also suggests that those with death bed salvation or a short life as a Christian are less sanctified/holy than those with the benefit of longer lives and thus a so called longer sanctification process.

    I agree with you that a Christian’s lifestyle often improves. But I see this as them obeying Christ’s commandment that we love one another

  • Thanks Harold. But as is always the case, if we fail to get the biblical data in right balance, we can easily go off into error. You are right – but only partly right. Of course on the one hand all we have in Christ is solely due to his grace – that includes our justification, sanctification, and glorification. But on the other hand, the Bible is utterly clear that we have a real role to play here, especially in our sanctification. There are hundreds of New Testament commands which tell us to work on our sanctification, to obey, to grow, to seek Him, to pursue holiness, to work out our salvation, to put off the old man, to put on the new man, to strive to be Christlike, to resist temptation, to seek Christ earnestly in all things, etc., etc.

    Theologically we thus speak of ‘our standing and our state’. My standing with Christ involves being already complete and perfect in sanctification. But my state is a work in progress. Both are part of the same package and can never be separated. In Christ we are indeed already viewed as perfect and complete. But in reality, we have a lot to work on. Both aspects are true, both are ultimately due to God’s grace, and both must be emphasised together.

    Another way the NT deals with this same issue is what is known as the indicative/imperative. In Christ we are already complete (the indicative), but we are to make this a reality in our daily choices (the imperative). But I speak to this in detail here, which I recommend you have a look at: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/06/27/on-emergents-and-false-dilemmas/

    To offer one verse about the role Christ plays in our sanctification while ignoring the hundreds of commands given to us to work out our sanctification progressively over time, no matter how imperfectly, is to do injustice to the totally of God’s revelation, and is just not all that helpful to be honest. So I will continue to stress both, since this is exactly what Scripture does. But thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • If George ‘carved a life away from the Church’ it surely was only a matter of time before he believed differently

  • As an atheist, I thought I knew all about religion, specifically Chrisianity, as Perdikis claims. When I met Jesus and became a Christian, I realised how completely ignorant I was of the basic, foundational precepts of our faith. It’s a wilful ignorance for anyone insisting they are an atheist – five minutes of careless research could correct their blindness but so great is the willingness to reject Christ that any old excuse will do – even wrong ones that don’t make sense.

    And that’s about where Perdikis is until he runs into Jesus – hopefully that is soon!

  • Perdikis left the band almost 25 years ago – in 1990!
    (Wikipedia) “None of the band’s first three albums garnered much attention… It wasn’t until their 1992 album, Not Ashamed, that the band gained notice in the Christian music scene…”
    That makes him like Ronald Wayne, one of the three founders of Apple computers who sold his share in 1976 for $800. Whoops.
    With Newsboys hitting the big time with “God’s not Dead”, it looks like Perdikis is seeking revenge on God for the band getting so famous – after he left.
    So he jumps on an atheist web site to vent his spleen. Sorry Patheos.com, move along, nothing to see here.

  • Thanks Bill.

    I went back and re-read. This is where I mis-read, I think:

    “By 2007, I renounced Christianity once and for all and declared myself an atheist,” Perdikis says.

    Yes, sorry I missed the date of the article, but it still seems to be old news. Why was there nothing said back when he first declared himself?

    And as Tim above said, he left the band in 1990…what had he been doing since then, that gave people the impression he was a Christian muso?

    And a related question: why was this article published just now? Que bono?

  • Is it really that hard not to kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, be greedy, not rest on the Sabbath and work the other six, respect your parents, honour and only worship God and treat others as you would be treated?

    Surely the yolk is actually pretty easy.

  • Christian rock bands have always to reckon with being the music world’s equivalent of “Earthlings visiting Venus”! – The old phrase, “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” was not coined by accident.

    I must confess to mixed feelings when I come to assess the contribution of the late Larry Norman, “godfather” of the “Jesus Music” brand of rock music: Much of his material is a sorely needed wake-up call to devotees of the rock music scene. However, his own personal life was not without its darker sides.

    The admission that there are voluntary reasons as well as philosophical ones for denying God and His rights in His world is well set forth by Aldous Huxley in his 1930s book Ends and Means in the chapter entitled “Beliefs”. Huxley himself was no Christian…

  • I can only agree with everything that’s been said above. But having been in the ‘place’ where George finds himself now, I can’t judge. As for Sagan, Dawkins, Krauss, Cox: as Paul pointed out to the Corinthians there will always be people who think that their ‘wisdom’ is smarter than the ‘foolishness’ of God & can divert us from the simplicity that is in Christ (as per Galatians).

  • John:
    To whose benefit? Evolutionism of course.
    This is all about “God’s Not Dead”, which was all about evolution. A college kid standing up against the evolutionary bullying of his professor, actually.
    Budget $2 million
    Box office $62,630,732
    Ouch. That hits the atheist propaganda machine right where it hurts.
    Speaking of movies. It’s probably been a bit of a show in the offices of the main stream media lately;
    INT. NEWSROOM OFFICE – DAY
    A stressed boss burst into the office, cigar in mouth.
    BOSS
    Where’s my dirt on the Newsboys?
    REPORTER
    We’re still looking, but…
    BOSS
    What? No drugs? Adultery? Look harder, these are rock stars.
    REPORTER
    Nothing like that chief, but…
    BOSS
    I’m not letting creationists get off scot-free. You can’t tell me there’s no dirt after 30 years of rock and roll.
    REPORTER
    One of the original guys left the band 25 years ago… calls himself an atheist…
    BOSS
    Perfect. Call him a founder. But don’t quote the dates – no-one needs to know.
    * * *
    Newsboys must be pretty squeaky clean if the best they could dig up was from 25 year ago – before Newsboys was even famous.

    And the movie itself (God’s Not Dead). Good effort, we bought the DVD – nice to see a Christian movie hitting some solid topics head-on.

  • Thanks Bill for your reply. I agree with you that our standing is complete and perfect in sanctification. And I see this confirmed even in the scriptures which you used to suggest a progressive sanctification.

    I read that other article you referred me too but was left wondering whether this doctrine of progressive sanctification you refer to, suggests that one could ever actually attain the physical reality (imperative) that you speak of.

    And what is the measure for this physical reality of sanctification?

  • Thanks Harold. Jesus Christ is of course the measure or standard, and he is perfect, and he calls us to be perfect (Matthew 5:48). Of course none of us will ever fully attain sinless perfection, but we nonetheless – with God’s help – seek to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). But this is just basic Christianity 101 of course. To be honest, I am a bit surprised that any Christian should even have to ask any questions about this very basic and clear set of New Testament teachings.

  • As soon as I hear that a ‘Christian’ has tossed it all in and become an atheist I see what his/her background was. One of the first things he says is, ‘when I needed a place to stay’. There is so much emotional history there that is unstated. He owed his ‘adoptive’ family a lot and many people move in Christian circles for a while out of loyalty to people not God himself. In my experience, people who name themselves Atheist have a lot of emotional baggage and they state the ‘freedom’ from law as a means to not have to deal with issues and pain they find too difficult. People most often make emotional decisions and then find scientific, logical or philosophical ‘proof’ to then allow the hiding to continue. I’d say George never met the real Jesus. His life is one of failing the rules he thought he had to live by. Hopefully one day he will meet Jesus himself and realise Jesus offers grace to the broken.

  • “The truth is, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it is not intellectual issues that keep people from coming to faith – or driving them from the faith – but moral ones. No less an authority than Jesus Christ made this absolutely clear. Consider what he said in John 3:19-21:

    This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

    Never a more true word spoken. Wont it be great when Christians start listening to God’s opinion and silence their own on matters. The Word is final authority, we ought to stop trying to reason that people have an excuse and let the Word tell us what it was in truth….sin.

  • I haven’t heard of George Perdikis, but it seems he has naively embraced the SCIENTISM and “Metaphysical” naturalism of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins; mistaking the unproven “blind faith” dogma of “metaphysical” naturalism and “scientism” for science: Unaware that “Metaphysical”, means “beyond science and physics”. Thus, having abandoned Christ and all hope of redemption and eternal life he has wandered into the atheistic nihilistic wilderness and “indifferent” uncaring godless universe of the late Christopher Hitchins, stripped of all ultimate meaning, purpose, and future hope. What a trade off! This guy no doubt has many good qualities, but comprehension and discernment is not among them.

Leave a Reply