Liberty professor Dr. David Wheeler discusses Christians ‘losing their faith’
Amidst recent controversy over “Christian celebrities” renouncing the faith, Liberty University Professor Dr. David Wheeler is calling out those one-time believers who have turned apostate and provoked others to do the same.
Wheeler, who teaches in the Rawlings School of Divinity and also serves as senior executive director of the LU Shepherd Office, was a guest on the Aug. 16 Fox News podcast, “The Todd Starnes Show.” During his interview, Wheeler discussed the danger of churches appealing too much to the congregation’s emotion and the importance of believing the Bible in full, not just in part.
“My question would be are they really denying God or are they denying their perception of that?” Dr. Wheeler said. “I believe the Bible to be true. I believe every word of it. I can’t understand all of it, but I believe it to be true. To me, I think that makes a big difference.
“I see students all the time that come up to me and tell me that they’re atheists and basically I look at them and say, ‘So you want a world where there’s no God so you can kind of deify yourself and do whatever you want to and not be accountable to anybody.’”
Joshua Harris, author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” announced over the summer that he has walked away from his faith while Marty Sampson, a Hillsong Worship songwriter, said his faith was “on incredibly shaky ground,” according to Fox News.
Wheeler says though he doesn’t know Sampson’s and Harris’s stories personally, he told Starnes if people really know God, they would not want to walk away from Him. Starnes and Wheeler also discussed the impact of Christian music and how it takes the focus off of God and puts the focus on the worshippers. Wheeler described the phenomenon as “narcissistic.”
“I think so much of our worship music, while I love a lot of it, the reference goes back to us,’” Wheeler said, referring to a discussion Starnes had with ”Skillet” lead singer John Cooper on the same topic. “It’s almost this narcissism in that, ‘God is there for me.’ I tell my students (that) the Gospel commands total surrender under Christ. It says when a man gives up his life he will gain it. You have to have the theological strength and maturity to understand what that really means.”
Part of the problem, Wheeler believes, is an abundance of emotion in worship and the deceitfulness that lies in emotions.
“I think it is dangerous … when you think your emotions and my emotions will lie to us,” Wheeler said to Starnes. “You and I probably learned under an old system which is an orthodoxy, which is what we know; orthopraxy, how we practice; and orthopathy, how we feel. The problem we’re seeing now is this generation, they have to feel, it’s orthopathy, and have to practice it a little bit before they’re grounded in what it’s really about. I fear too often in our worship services and our churches that they play to that emotion too much and don’t really dig into the Word. Our foundation has to come out of the Word. If there’s anything that I teach, or believe, or do that’s not grounded in the Word, it is going to fall anyway. So, it is grounded in the Word (and) that is key.”
Wheeler told Starnes that the way to avoid falling into a path like Sampson and Harris is to consistently be immersed in the Bible.
“Stay in the Word,” Wheeler said. “Practice your faith every day and don’t treat church like your once-a-week power pill. Be the church every single day. Practice your faith, practice sharing your faith, because the more you share your faith, the more you’re going to learn and grow in discussing that with other people. Put yourself in fellowship. Honor the church and put yourself in a Bible-believing church that teaches the Word of God — not just gives psychobabble lessons, but actually digs deeply into the Word of God. You’re not going to grow strongly in your faith by babying yourself. Dig into it. It takes time and I think that’s most important.”