Robert Barron | – When a Christian Rock Singer Stops Believing in God

Last month, Jon Steingard, frontman of the Christian rock group Hawk Nelson, revealed that “he no longer believes in God” after spending his life as a devout Christian. His prominent de-conversion was profiled by The TODAY Show, People Magazine, NPR, and numerous other outlets. In today’s episode of “The Word on Fire Show,” Bishop Barron and Brandon Vogt explore the reasons Steingard gave to explain why he lost his faith.

A listener asks how to explain to a “none” the role of the Church’s magisterium.

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About The Author

Bishop Robert Barron These are brief and insightful commentaries on faith and culture by Catholic theologian and author Bishop Robert Barron. The videos complement his weekly sermons posted and podcasted at WordOnFire.org.

Comment (49)

  1. I like listening to Bishop Barron. I was confirmed about 2 months ago, spent 2 years in the Catholic church listening, talking to people, studying, so on and so forth. I was one of the "nones" that left those evangelical churches alone when I was 25 (and now am 41). Grew up Baptist, went through various churches as a young adult, dabbled in theistic Satanism as a teen (wanted revenge on other kids, went to some really really dark places). After 25, got into Buddhism (typical when leaving Christianity behind), walked away years later but kept practicing meditation (and still do as a Catholic aside from just the Rosary), and as I never was able to let go of my anger towards those Evangelical churches I ended up joining an atheistic Satanist group (they followed the Satanic Bible written by Anton Lavey). My mind ended up going to some dark places I don't ever want to see again. There was a little voice in my head that I have heard since I was 20 in a Charismatic church, it never stopped talking to me (and even when I called myself an Atheist I would still talk to it, I do believe it was God talking to me this whole time understanding what I had to go through to get me where I am now, learning about meditation, NLP, all of those different religions), that voice told me to go to the Catholic church. It's ironic, most of the ways I had wished I could look at the Bible when I was in those fundamentalist Evangelical circles (non legalistic way), due to the education I have had over the last 15 years or so studying all of these different religions and now seeing that the Catholic church is the most accurate theology (I don't know much about Eastern Orthodox or Assyrian Church) to what is actually written on the page (that is ME saying that based on my own independent study, not just what I learned in the Catechism class), most of what I wished I could have believed back then IS what is actually taught in the Bible…I could go back to those Evangelical churches (no mention of my Catholicism), teaching them what I see clear as day now (symbolism is a perfect example, what the sin nature actually is, the goat Vs. sheep symbolism right hand path/left hand path dichotomy), and the same people who condemned me for even wanting to study all of these different philosophies/religions would find what I have to say about the Bible fascinating…hypocrites. Keep up the good fight Father!

  2. How fortunate I was to from age 4 listen to scholars in church and bible colleges and I had a mother who was a thinker and intellectual. It is a skill to examine and discern and research and look for the truth. I now love John Lennox, Michael Ramsden and you can find the true scholars / apologists who are reliable if you look. I still find the truth in the bible and Jesus but very few times any christian behaviour in the churches. I have tried many. So little kindness, leaders chosen who are charismatic but not servants who work to love and care for the poor, widows, orphans…not many ministers or elders who seem to notice. It is possible to get to know the bible so well that the fake churches/ music/ music leaders become obvious.

  3. There are larger parts of American Evangelicalism that are much too wedded to hipness and what is fashionable. Rock bands and tattooed pastors in T-shirts. If fashionable-ness becomes your Creed then when atheism becomes hip you go over the cliff. Somewhere in the Psalms it says " A fool says in his heart there is no God".

  4. I'm just an old Baptist boy, but I thoroughly enjoyed this discussion! I think, though, that you have made a mistake presuming this guy's sincerity. His questions, frankly, sounded less pondering than inspired by a cannabis induced discussion with his fellow stoners. I pray that he would follow your sound advice and, ultimately, find Christ. Still, I can't help but think that he has gotten himself involved with some sin and faith in Christ would only be a hindrance to his newfound pleasures. John 3:20

  5. I'd also recommend reading the Bible (especially the hard-to-understand parts) in a Eucharistic Adoration, for what could be better than reading the Book together with its Writer, even if we didn't realize that He was the real writer yet! Don't we all need the Translator to the language of God.. 🙂 I wonder if Revelation 5 is related to this non-Sola Scripture truth.

  6. O Bishop Barron pleeeeeeze!!! What do you mean telling this guy "Become a Catholic"–"Don't keep going back to scripture." This guy doesn't need Catholicism or Protestantism or any other -ism. He needs to read the Psalms and Book of Job and then he needs to read the gospels and look the crucified Lord in the face. If that doesn't touch him nothing will. And by the way, I think it's unfair to talk about the catholic framework of interpretation as being the only one that can make sense of a putative Christian becoming an atheist and how he might wriggle out of it. There are plenty of awesome Protestant and Orthodox theologians who could shed dazzling light on this young man's condition.

  7. Bishop Barron thanks for this engaging discussion. I like very much your point that we can take comfort in knowing that many great Catholic minds before us have wrestled with these questions so it gives us a place to start when we too wrestle with them. I also like the point that Catholicism is a big tent so we leave for all forms of worship as long as they bring us closer to Jesus Christ our saviour.. There are some in the comments section who have dismissed CCM. That is a mistake. I am one of those people who appreciates some 80s pop music, jazz, gospel and (probably my favourite) classical music. CCM music often tends to be kyregmatic which is helpful for people who are starting their personal journey of faith. It’s also helpful for mature Christians to be reminded of these kyregmatic messages. One other point I would make is I’d rather my children (and anyone for that matter) listen to CCM over almost any of the other popular forms of music du jour. The danger comes when you think that CCM is the be all end all of Christianity which it certainly isn’t. Personally I liked Hawk Nelson’s music (and other music like it), but I also like Gregorian Chant and many Latin hymns. Early on Bishop Barron said we can learn a lot from our Evangelical brothers and sisters. This is one thing we as Catholics can learn from them: cultivating kerygmatic entry points (such as CCM or other “religious entertainment”) as a way to help people on a journey towards the beauty of the full sacramental life of the Catholic Church which I believe to be the One True Church; the one which Jesus commanded St. Peter, the first Pope, to lead (“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18). Thanks again for a lovely video discussion and to my fellow Christian brothers and sisters for the wonderful and robust discussion!

  8. This reminded me of two experiences. I have a friend who converted to the Catholic Faith from Plymouth Brethren. He said when he was investigating the church, the choices for him were not Catholicism vs Protestantism. For him the choices were now down to Catholicism or Atheism. The second is an experience at speakers corner in Hyde Park. A number of Muslims were out evangelizing. I got into a discussion with one Muslim who I found out was a former Anglican. Many of the arguments he used would work well against a sola scripture understanding of Christianity. But his arguments were easy to deflect with a Catholic understanding of authority. The sad thing to me was this man left Christ because he did not have the deeper Catholic understanding to defend his faith in Christ. I hope some of the ideas I presented planted seeds and he will at some point return to a faith in Christ. Thank You Father Barron!

  9. Know the antichrist occupies the white house. the house of white supremacy. the evangelicals are the true harlot and are following satan by the millions. hold close to our Lady of Immaculate Heart, which as foretold the evangelicals despise. know that we live in the time of the antichrist. all former Catholics, return to the heart of Mary, reject the unholy racism of the evangelical cult. return to grace. Amen. Dominus Vobiscum.

  10. @Jon Steingard It is rather difficult to do as the world sits, but I have a suggestion. To preface: Sooner or later, scripture – which provides much illumination – leaves one with as many questions as answers. Sometimes, scripture can leave us with more questions than answers and this is corrosive to faith. And, authoritative answers seldom agree. This raises a natural, even a healthy doubt. Yet, the spirit, which was not comforted with belief is equally ill at ease with non-belief. Q: Do you know a (former) drug addict? If so, ask them if they have seen the devil. Nearly all, IME, will answer in the affirmative. The devil and evil surround us. Yet, we can still experience beauty. From whence comes this beauty? Since the devil is the purity of evil, there must exist a purity of Good – a source for the surrounding beauty we can see.

    Anyway, if you can, find a Catholic (or even Eastern Orthodox) parish which is open and spend some time in silence before the Tabernacle. Catholics and Orthodox who are well formed, believe that Jesus Christ is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist which is reserved in the Tabernacle. God is heard in silence. I counsel many to go and spend time in silence before Christ. Does not matter that you do not currently believe. He will hear you and will answer in proper time. Tell Christ that you have lost your faith and that you have no relationship (Key element: Relationship) with God, or belief in him. Rather than physical manifestations, or emotional comfort, speak to God heart-to-heart. Your search for truth is worth the investment. Be as patient with God as He has been with you. When you become aware that He is there, you will be changed.

    p.s. Your loss of faith parallels that of singer Marjoe Gortner (Lo and Behold), who fell into cynicism.

  11. I am currently trying to complete my Catholic confirmation. I have been divorced previously and currently remarried. My current husband, I'm told has to annul his previous marriage, as would I, in order for me to be confirmed. That probably wont happen. Does that mean I can NEVER receive holy communion, EVER, in the Catholic Church?

  12. As Catholic I sometimes try or attempt to read the writings of the celebrated theologians like St. Augustine or St. Aquinas but I could not seem to finish reading any of their works. I had this very condensed, abridged version of The City of God but I don't think I finished reading it. However reading just a few quotes from these theologians can be really inspiring and profound. I have also read The Story of a Soul by St. Therese and the first time I read I felt I couldn't really relate to it since her family, in the way she described them, was really devout. Yet, since the Church made her doctor of the Church there must be something really significant in her book. Now I see the simplicity of her faith which in actuality is really profound, where God is an ever-present reality and is very much rooted on the Sacraments of the Church. Yet even she struggled with her faith near the end of her life. She wrote about that on the last chapters of her autobiography and I find these chapters to be the most amazing or interesting to read. She wrote about how her soul went through a crucible and how she never has the kind of happiness she had as a child.

  13. As Catholic I sometimes try or attempt to read the writings of the celebrated theologians like St. Augustine or St. Aquinas but I could not seem to finish reading any of their works. I had this very condensed, abridged version of The City of God but I don't think I finished reading it. However reading just a few quotes from these theologians can be really inspiring and profound. I have also read The Story of a Soul by St. Therese and the first time I read I felt I couldn't really relate to it since her family, in the way she described them, was really devout. Yet, since the Church made her doctor of the Church there must be something really significant in her book. Now I see the simplicity of her faith which in actuality is really profound, where God is an ever-present reality and is very much rooted on the Sacraments of the Church. Yet even she struggled with her faith near the end of her life. She wrote about that on the last chapters of her autobiography and I find these chapters to be the most amazing or interesting to read. She wrote about how her soul went through a crucible and how she never has the kind of happiness she had as a child.

  14. I can see God working here. Like Bishop Barron said, a lot of the issue here is with a naive and "immature" faith, not necessarily no faith at all. I wish everyone could think more deeply the way Jon is doing–it won't lead to loss of faith forever, but rather with some study and a desire for knowledge it will lead to a deep, sophisticated faith.

  15. Amazing episode, Bishop. This question comes up often, especially during all of the present scandals, but what are your thoughts on other people encountering God's truth through the art of the broken, the lost, and of sinners. Can people still grow deeper in their faith through Jon's music despite knowing he was 'just going through the motions?' Some churches don't allow certain Christian Contemporary groups to be played at liturgies because of bad theology (see "Hillsong United," "Bethel Music," etc.) but can their art speak a louder truth than their personal beliefs? Lastly, can God still speak through the music of someone like Catholic composer David Haas through the multitude of sexual allegations against him. Do we erase the legacy of great Catholic music he has provided for the church based on his grave personal sin that has affected so many lives? God surely can work and speak through the broken, but is there a line that's too far (that David maybe has crossed) that invalidates Godly and spiritual works?

  16. — So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
    – Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
    – (To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.) The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
    – Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou [art] God.
    – And ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
    – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    – No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him].
    – The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
    – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    – Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.
    – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
    – For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
    – Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    – Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
    – But to us [there is but] one God, the Father, of whom [are] all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom [are] all things, and we by him.
    – Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
    – But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
    – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
    – He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
    – Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

  17. Great response. Speaking from my own experience, most former fundamentalists (aka evangelicals) who think they're leaving Christianity should strongly consider a more liturgical tradition (Mainline Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, etc) , if they would give it a chance. They think leaving fundamentalism is analogous to leaving the faith entirely. Mostly because of all the negative things they've heard from other fundamentalists.

  18. Christians, and Catholics especially, tend to be against "appropriating" the faith on a person's own terms, as Bishop Barron suggests. The Athanasian Creed makes it clear the faith must be held in whole, not in part. And that is the root of the problem. Christians are trained from a young age to associate doubt and questioning with perdition. There is simply no way in such a schema to verifiably make the faith "ones own" without being a heretic in some way.

  19. I am glad the rock star stopped believing in the "superman god" cos he now has a chance to find God.

    To me, free will is needed for us to know God – otherwise we are just like other animals which live in God but does not have the ability to know God.

    Free will is also need for us to decide what to do with the crosses of life regardless whether we are Christians or not. Basically we can decide to go through the challenges of life without suffering.

    I also don't think God wills sufferings. We suffer because we choose (using free will) to be under the control of our emotions and movies of our mind and not according to God.

    I don't think God kills like men kill. Rather physical deaths exist in God. Eternal life != (not equals) No physical death. And we don't have to die to "enjoy" eternal life.

  20. In the vein of the topics discussed in this video may I beseech the Word on fire team , or Bishop Barron, for a reasoned discernment concerning a most interesting catholic website called Countdown to the Kingdom, where two most agreable and orthodox people, Daniel O´Connor and Mark Mallet, present what seems to me, a most convincing and elaborate interpretation of St. John´s Apocalypse: especially the issue of a soon-to-come Universal and personal (God-to-individual) Warning and the inherent urgencies implied there and its disconcerting aftermath…I am of the opinion that it is within the evangelization mission of Word on Fire to adress somehow this issue, especially as whole-hearted catholic faithfull, like the two sposkespersons i mentionned, make a good stand as to the intellectual-faith integrity of their position on this matter and argue well and a lot for their posture on this most grave issue. Probably Bishop Barron might have some reservations that could end up being critically well articulated for all of us who are wondering why catholic leaders do not even seem to mention this at all?! Please?!…

  21. You never actually offered an answer to the questions regarding the numerous conflicts within the bible other than the idea that you can only get it if you are Catholic. This fails to actually address the core problem.

  22. I've come to the realization of the extent that eastern religion/philosophy has influenced the western world. Now it seems it is beginning to be a louder voice in which is influencing modern Christian youth and their leadership.

    This reminds me of why God commanded the Israelites to refrain from being influenced by the Canaanites. Which eventually happened, regardless.

  23. In one of your lectures you mentioned about the Jefferson, version of the Bible, where I think it was Jefferson who cut out all mystical and supernatural context of the Bible but kept the Moral scriptures. Maybe one day it could be useful in attempting to comprehend both ego and emotional as well as scientific Quantum physics, to understand the God of the Universe.

  24. Most of the Protestant groups came up after Reformation. People like Martin Luther stayed on with the Catholic Church like St. Ignatius of Loyola and reformed it within. Instead of leaving the great tradition and emphasising only on 'Sola Scriptura' How did Anglican Church came about…Open your eyes…Read Church history. We will be better believers.

  25. "If you're doubting Islam then what you need is theology. Read the smartest people in the Islamic tradition, all of whom were grounded in the Quran, all of whom saw every single issue you're bringing up and then thought their way through to a resolution"

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