Earlier this week, former Hillsong worship leader and songwriter Marty Sampson told his followers on Instagram he was “genuinely losing my faith.” Several other faith leaders have chimed in on Sampson’s announcement, urging him to do things like repent and reconsider giving up the faith. Sampson has since clarified his statement, saying his faith is not gone entirely, but it is on “incredibly shaky ground.”
“I have and continue to analyze the arguments of prominent Christian apologists and biblical scholars, and am open minded enough to consider the arguments of atheist debaters and debaters from other religions,” Sampson told the Christian Post when he responded to an open letter addressed to him and written by Michael Brown.
Losing My Faith, But It’s Not Gone, Yet
Since posting the original announcement about losing his faith, the singer and songwriter has taken it down and posted several other posts featuring quotes from Christian apologists and atheists alike. By all appearances, it seems as if Sampson is trying to find the truth he feels he lacks. Defending his deep-dive into philosophical, scientific, and theological content, Sampson says: “If the truth is true, it will remain so regardless of my understanding of it. If I search it out, surely it will become even more clearly seen as the truth that it is.”
Part of Sampson’s original explanation for questioning his faith was what he perceives to be silence in the Christian community on the “hard questions.” He brought up questions like why God, who is supposed to be unconditionally loving, sends people to hell, why pastors fail morally, and why advances in science seem to be “piercing the truth of every religion.”
In response to Sampson’s announcement, Christian rock singer John L. Cooper of the band Skillet wrote a lengthy post on his social media account addressing the situation without mentioning Sampson by name. Cooper implied the church had taken too much doctrinal and theological direction from unqualified people such as “worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or ‘relevant’ people.” Cooper surmises part of the problem of Christian leaders such as Sampson and Josh Harris “falling away” from faith has to do with who and what we allow to teach us. “We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word,” Cooper wrote.
Cooper also mentioned his disapproval of influencers such as Harris and Sampson essentially leading others astray when they post such announcements. “Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?” he asked in his post. Sampson wrote to him in response via his own Instagram account saying, “What right have you to put words in my mouth? I wouldn’t presume to put words in yours. To think that I am trying to influence others, without even asking me if that is my intention is offensive.”
Sampson also mentions in the response that he has 4,000 followers on Instagram, but it appears thousands more have started following him in the last week. Currently, his follower count is up to 10,600 people.
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@johnlcooper Wow. Where do I begin? What right have you to put words in my mouth? I wouldn’t presume to put words in yours. To think that I am trying to influence others, without even asking me if that is my intention is offensive. Did I write an article on myself in relevant magazine, or Christian Post quoting myself? Do I need this kind of criticism in an honest examination of what I believe from complete strangers? I have never even met you, yet you presume to know me or people like me? I only ever posted about this to explain to people (4K followers on insta I may add) where I was at in an honest and genuine way. Not to influence them and their beliefs. Not to draw attention to myself. Not to have a voice. To wrestle and to learn and to grow, and to present my current state of mind/heart to explain to people why I am not “coming back to Hillsong” or “when I’m going to sing on the next United song”. Instead of people like you asking genuine questions, you jump to conclusions, when you could easily ask. Who is trying to influence whom? Why when someone is influencing others, does this cause the kind of panic in a truth so strong that it cannot be shaken? I for one don’t see this kind of shock and horror in the scientific community when a theory is usurped by a new and contradicting theory. Perhaps this is the nature of religion. Say what you will, I have no opinion on you or your life.
Whether or not Sampson considers himself an influencer, it’s apparent he has the ear of thousands of people. Speaking to CP, Sampson justifies his postings and musings about faith and life this way: “You cannot have well-educated opinions without educating yourself well. This is a window into my thought processes at the present time.”
As far as asking questions, Brown’s letter to Sampson encouraged him: “don’t be afraid to ask your honest questions and to follow the truth where it leads,” Brown wrote. According to Sampson, he’s not just intent on asking questions but also finding the answers he’s looking for.
“I really do want answers. I don’t want judgement. If it comes however, who am I to judge?” he concludes.