I was saddened to learn that Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic gold medalist and triple jumper has renounced his Christian faith. Edwards has been one of the most high profile Christian figures in the public eye overt the last two decades. For a time like Eric Liddle he refused to compete on a Sunday. I was always slightly puzzled that having taken that stand, which I didn’t agree with, that he then did a complete u-turn.
Seemingly his reasons are intellectual. In a recent interview in the Times he said, “During my documentary on St Paul, some experts raised the possibility that his spectacular conversion on the road to Damascus might have been caused by an epileptic fit. It made me realise that I had taken things for granted that were taught to me as a child without subjecting them to any kind of analysis. When you think about it rationally, it does seem incredibly improbable that there is a God.” Such reasoning led me to a number of conclusions.
The first is I again became aware of the continued impact of liberal ‘Christianity’ in our day. That this kind of nonsense is still perpetuated and sadly still believed by some.
Secondly, Edwards was an avowed evangelical but sadly he seems to have belonged to that weak, unquestioning strain of evangelicalism, that raises less than robust Christians. The suggestion that Paul had an epileptic fit is pitiful. Yet, sadly, Edwards, hears this type of thinking and his faith is blown away. It reminds us of the need for a spiritually and intellectually robust faith where followers of Christ are able to stand firm in the faith of such feeble rationalism.
Thirdly, it of course raises the question as to whether this is the real reason that Edwards departed from the faith he once professed. I doubt it. I also doubt that he realises that himself for ‘the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.’ Perhaps Edwards story is not so surprising for a man who has been elevated in the public eye as a world class athlete and media star.
Fourthly, it raises the issue of how churches use Christians in the public eye uses. Edwards was a headline act and speaker. Yet he admits that his own understanding of the faith was shallow. It is perhaps inevitable that he was pushed forward into such a role. But it should be a sobering reminder that that is not God’s way. That he uses the things of no repute to shame the things that are of repute.
Edwards says he has no interest in returning to Christianity. I hope that God in His grace surprises him.