Turning away after Salvation

Good day,

My question isn’t necessarily a science related question, instead aimed at a specific scientist.

I find it very heartwarming when I hear about or watch videos of atheists, specifically scientists surrender their lives to Christ. It’s always a very powerful and moving testimony.

I watched a “Christian vs Atheist” debate involving the likes of John Lennox, Peter Hitchens and others. Defending the atheistic view amongst others was Dan Barker. I don’t know if this is a popular name amongst you or not, nevertheless. Dan Barker was a Pastor for almost 20 years, turned atheist.

My question is, if a person like Dan can serve God for so many years and according to himself being very sincere during those years and then turn completely the other way, is it really possible for a devout follower of Christ to radically turn away from Jesus after salvation? It takes ‘backsliding’ to a whole new level.

I’ve attached the final conclusions of himself as well as Prof John Lennox.

Thank you




Hello Wian, this is extremely sad to hear. While truly a valid heart searching question for all it could lead down many rabbit trails or avenues of speculation, as to why after all those years.

Many what ifs are possible but this scripture

For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Matthew 24:24 NKJV

Is the foundation of each thought.
Is anyone capable of buying into a lie and becoming decieved?

Faith in Christ and not in ourselves is the key. The future has not been written yet.

I am praying this scripture hidden in his heart will bring a revelation of truth.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

Brutal honesty, I have been there.
Have also watched others scream and shout what’s the use.
But for the grace of God there go i.

Thank you my brother in Christ


Hi Mike,

Thank you for your thoughts and scriptures. Much appreciated.

Hi Wian,
welcome to the forum.

I think the link to John Lennox’s address is broken; I think this one is the correct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otrqzITuSqE

your question is not rather the content of the debates or both sides; but rather how can Dan Barker turn away from God; and has he lost his salvation? There are a number of ‘deconversion’ topics on the forum, addressed very well by @SeanO and others.

Lennox is one of my favourite speakers and authors and I’ve read all his books, I was interested in Dan Barker’s talk. Barker mentions some points, none of which are new objections.

  • God of the gaps argument (God created the whole show, the bits we understand and the bits we don’t yet)

  • Adam and Eve are not literal people, because everyone knows the fact of evolution (actually many non-Christian scientists are finding serious issues with Darwinism, who basically observed micro-evolution; and scaled it up to come up with the theory of macro-evolution; an interesting talk is here: Giving Up Darwin)

  • Who is God’s creator (question doesn’t apply to an eternal God)

  • the resurrection doesn’t prove anything, and he mentions the usual objections; conflict in the resurrection accounts, Jesus did not rise physically but spiritually,

    (Barker’s quote was really interesting to think about as part of his discussion:

Jesus died and went to heaven but that exaggerated so the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not evidence for a god and even then it would just be evidence that a man rose from the dead

to stop and consider exactly what he is saying. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not evidence for a god, it’s just evidence that a man rose from dead. Huh!??! I’m sorry, “just evidence that a man rose from the dead”?? in the secular worldview, this is an impossibility. . I’m not sure he’s thought though this comment.

William Lane Craig’s book on Historical Evidence for the Resurrection is very good.

Actually one of my favourite Lennox quotes is the fact that Darwin himself doubted whether his brain, the product of mindless unguided processes, could actually get him to truth. It undermines it’s own ability to do logic.

Sometimes, when in conversation with my fellow scientists, I ask them “What do you do science with?”

“My mind,” say some, and others, who hold the view that the mind is the brain, say, “My brain”.
“Tell me about your brain? How does it come to exist?”
“By means of natural, mindless, unguided processes.”
“Why, then, do you trust it?” I ask. “If you thought that your computer was the end product of mindless unguided processes, would you trust it?”
“Not in a million years,” comes the reply.
“You clearly have a problem then.”

After a pregnant pause they sometimes ask me where I got this argument—they find the answer rather surprising: Charles Darwin. He wrote: “…with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”7

Taking the obvious logic of this statement further, Physicist John Polkinghorne says that if you reduce mental events to physics and chemistry you destroy meaning. How?
For thought is replaced by electrochemical neural events. Two such events cannot confront each other in rational discourse. They are neither right nor wrong—they simply happen. The world of rational discourse disappears into the absurd chatter of firing synapses. Quite frankly that can’t be right and none of us believe it to be so.8 Polkinghorne is a Christian, but some well-known atheists see the problem as well.

anyway, I think I may have talked more about the content of the talks, rather than addressing your question. interesting things to think through. :slight_smile:


@Wian Great question :slight_smile: Dan’s story reminds me of the stories of Joshua Harris and Rhett and Link (see below threads). Common themes include:

  • lived in a Christian bubble and had never encountered strong arguments against their beliefs
  • had a faith rooted more in feeling and tradition than in reason
  • as they were exposed to new ideas / questions about faith and saw inconsistencies in their beliefs, began to question their beliefs
  • they find these new ideas more compelling than their original beliefs

The truth is that we cannot know whether or not any of these individuals were truly saved because only God knows that information. I think what is more important is to treat them with respect and have a well thought through response for their arguments against Christianity. Dan in particular described his deconversion as sliding along the spectrum from fundamentalist to liberal Christian to atheist over 4-5 years. Specific issues he noted include:

  • the historical Adam and Eve - Dan incorrectly believes evolution makes their existence impossible - Hugh Ross has addressed this issue in his book “Who Was Adam?”
  • Dan says that, based on the evidence, there is a 10% chance the resurrection occurred. Both N. T. Wright in his book “The Resurrection of the Son of God” and Mike Licona have argued thoroughly that the probability is much higher.
  • Dan misunderstands faith - he says it is a lazy way to arrive at knowledge and is not rooted in reason - nothing could be further from the truth.
  • Dan believes that Christianity is arrogant because Christians claim to know the truth and claim to be serving the God of the universe - he views it as either a power trip or a fulfillment of a need for purpose / meaning. If God does exist and has humbled Himself, taking on the form of a servant to love us, and if He is the source of all that is good, true, and beautiful in the world, then the humble thing to do is to love Him wholeheartedly and obey Him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So there is a deeper question of God’s existence at the bottom of this objection.
  • Dan claims that Christianity is not concerned with morality, but rather with blind obedience to God. I do not doubt that may have been true in the religious tradition in which he grew up, but it is not true in Scripture. God invites man to reason with Him and the entire ethic of Scripture is rooted in selfless love, which has transformed the world. In fact, an argument can be made that without Christianity the Western world as we know it would not exist. Take a look at Greco-Roman society - its immorality and violence - and you’ll understand that Western morality is not in the least pagan; it is quite Christian.
  • Dan cites the conquest of Canaan and Biblical views on homosexuality as examples of immorality within the Christian worldview. While these are not simple issues, Paul Copan has addressed the conquest of Canaan at length and believing that the human body is sacred unto God is not immoral, though certainly people claiming the name of Christ have behaved reprehensibly towards people of different lifestyles. We are called to love the lost—not mistreat them.

One thing I want to agree with Dan on is that all people, regardless of religion, are capable of being moral and raising moral kids. Jesus did not come to make bad people good—He came to make dead people live. We are all made in God’s image and His law is written on our heart. The heavens declare His glory and we are all aware of right and wrong.

So here I agree with Dan’s point, but disagree as to the reason. Dan would say that our morality has evolved in some fashion. In contrast, I would say God’s law is written on the human heart and that this common morality in fact points to God rather than disproving religion.


Hi Matthew

Thank you for your thoughts and insight. Really helpful, I appreciate your time.


Hi @SeanO

Thank you for your response, it hit home.
I definitely have a beter understanding of the whole situation.

You’ve pointed out some interesting things I really didn’t even think of. I’ll work through your attached as well.



@Wian Great to hear :slight_smile: Christ grant you wisdom as you study and feel free to keep the conversation going as you work through this question.

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@Wian One thing I would add to what has already been said is that often when someone turns away from their faith, there is an event that has occurred that has shaken them to the core. As such, all the argumentation in the world will not turn them back. To get to the root of the issue requires lots of conversation & living life with them enough to where they will finally trust you enough to open up about what has gone on in their lives. Only then can you begin to deal with the actual issue.

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