Bell’s Quest to Atheism; Brian’s Quest to Christian Theism

by Brian Chilton

To be honest, I was anticipating another topic to begin 2015. However, the story of Ryan Bell has captivated me. Ryan Bell is the former pastor of Seventh Day Adventist Church, former professor of Fuller Theological Seminary, and former professor of Azusa Pacific University. Bell is more popularly known as the pastor who took a year off from God. Unsurprisingly, Bell announced in the article “An End, and a New Beginning” on Patheos.com that he now identifies himself as a “humanist and an atheist…of the agnostic variety” (Bell 2014, “An End, and a New Beginning,” Patheos.com). In the article, Bell provides 3 in-depth reasons as to why he left Christian theism for agnosticism. Some reading this article may be surprised to find that this writer entered a similar quest. For seven years, I was out of the ministry due to unresolved questions and doubts pertaining to the faith. During this time, I was at times a quasi-agnostic. Yet, I came back to the Christian faith because of certain evidences that led me to a stronger faith. This article will briefly examine the reasons that Bell provided that led him away from faith, will provide rebuttals to Bell’s claims, and then will provide some of the reasons why this writer came back to faith.

Bell’s Reasons for Rejecting God

Science and Social Evolution the Way to Understand Religion?

First, Bell claims that he came from a “Christian tradition that flatly refuses to acknowledge the discoveries of science” (Bell 2014, Patheos). Perhaps the issue that Bell has is not so much with God, but the ideology of a particular strain of Christianity that distrusts science. However, this is certainly

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not true of the vast number of Christians who believe that faith and science are complementary (i.e. Hugh Ross, Fazale Rana, William Lane Craig, etc.). Bell admits as much, but then goes on to claim that “I see no reason for this approach at this time” (Bell 2014, Patheos). But why? If this quest was about searching for the truth, it seems like a grand step to exorcise God while not considering all the options on the table. It seems as if Bell has proverbially “thrown out the baby with the bathwater.”

Bell goes on to claim that “biological evolution accounts for our present physical existence, the history of human social evolution is a much better way of understanding religion. The multitude of religious and spiritual beliefs…and the way that those ideas have changed over time convinces me that God has not created humanity. Humanity has created God” (Bell 2014, Patheos.com). He goes on to say that religion has “served a vital evolutionary purpose, uniting people around the common good” (Bell 2014, Patheos). However, how does this disprove God’s existence? Scientists have various ideas concerning how the universe came into existence, does this indicate that the universe never came into existence because there are various beliefs concerning the beginning? People have differing ideas on most everything. There are people who deny that the Holocaust did not occur. Does this indicate that the event never took place because there are various beliefs concerning the Holocaust? Or take science itself. There is an even deeper flaw to Bell’s reasoning. He claimed that not everyone accepted science, yet Bell beliefs in the authority of science. If there are various beliefs concerning science, does science lose its integrity, or worse yet, does that indicate that science is non-existent? Certainly not! Thus, Bell’s first evidence against God fails miserably…

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Bell’s Quest to Atheism; Brian’s Quest to Christian Theism | Pastor Brian Chilton