Michael Kruger And De-Conversion

Michael Kruger And De-Conversion February 8, 2018

Michael Kruger, a fellow NT professor (though he does the admin thing too!), has an insightful analysis of what he calls a deconversion story, and he focused his article on the shift of Jen Hatmaker. Thoughts?

From Michael Kruger’s blog, Canon Fodder:

When it comes to reaching the “lost,” one of the most tried-and-true methods is the personal conversion story.  Whether done privately or publicly, it’s compelling to hear a person’s testimony about how they came to believe in the truth of the Gospel, the truth of the Bible, and embraced the Christian faith. Such testimonies can personalize and soften the message so it is more easily understood and received.

But when it comes to reaching the “found,” there’s an equally effective method—and this is a method to which the evangelical church has paid very little attention. It’s what we might call the de-conversion story.

As a student of conversion theory, the term “de-conversion” usually refers to those who totally walk from the faith. So, while this is atypical for the term, what this term evokes in Kruger’s fine analysis (according to conversion theory) is a radical break from one’s past religious group into another one. And few would doubt today the stakes are high on the same of same sex marriage.

Kruger continues:

De-conversion stories are designed not to reach non-Christians but to reach Christians.  And their purpose is to convince them that their outdated, naïve beliefs are no longer worthy of their assent.  Whether done privately or publicly, this is when a person simply gives their testimony of how they once thought like you did and have now seen the light. …

Indeed, many of these de-conversion stories are told with the kind of conviction, passion, and evangelistic zeal that would make any modern televangelist blush.  In their minds, they’re missionaries to the “lost” in every sense of the word.  They just have to help these Christians realize they are mistaken and lead them to the truth. …

But, I was particularly reminded of the power and impact of de-conversion stories when I listened to last week’s podcast of Jen Hatmaker being interviewed by Peter Enns (you can listen here).  This interview has been making the rounds, and I can see why.  She’s a friendly, charming and well-spoken woman who is easy to listen to. …

The purpose of this post is to lay out the steps in this de-conversion playbook and offer a quick response to each of them.  My hope is to help others who hear these de-conversion stories and struggle with how to respond.

I was fascinated — and in agreement with — the five major points he makes about these personal stories of conversion from one group to another: [Go to the link above to read the whole thing]

Step #1: Recount the Negatives of Your Fundamentalist Past 

Step #2: Position Yourself as the Offended Party Who Bravely Fought the Establishment.

Step #3: Portray Your Opponents as Overly Dogmatic While You Are Just a Seeker

Step #4: Insist Your New Theology is Driven by the Bible and Not a Rejection of It

Step #5: Attack the Character of Your Old Group and Uplift the Character of Your New Group


In the end, there’s no doubt Hatmaker’s de-conversion story will be persuasive to our postmodern world.  And I am sure some will adopt her newfound theology as a result.

But, upon closer examination, it is rife with problems.  While claiming to be non-judgmental, she declares the fruit of those who believe in traditional marriage as “rotten.”  Despite her insistence that the Bible should be read without certainty, she offers all sorts of dogmatic claims about what the Bible teaches. While claiming her views are due to a deep study of Scripture, she offers only simplistic explanations for the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality, while disregarding 2000 years of church history.

Yes, we should not settle for pat answers.  But, sometimes the Bible does give clear answers. And when it does, we should be willing to listen and receive them.

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