OSC’s Freedom to sin

Listening to Matt Slick debate Shawn McCraney there’s around two hours of back and forth for Christians to enjoy, although having learnt more about both camps, I agree with neither Slick’s divine determinism, nor Shawn’s full preterism. Shawn’s camp denies that Christ will return, whereas Slick’s camp made Him into somebody else when he does come back. Back then, not knowing Calvinism how I do now, I only knew one thing, Shawn denied plain sense of the text ideas like the personhood of the Holy Spirit, hell and the Trinity, and that meant I had to come down with Slick on the matter. What’s more Shawn’s camp kept insisting upon this subjectivity, they’d even attack the Bible as incoherent and contradictory. I didn’t know enough, but I knew enough to know Shawn’s little group were on an incorrect road. Still, there was something that stood out more in the ears of listeners. Always eager to see the train wreak or watch the drama, the comments were abuzz with how Matt stormed out of the debate. Let’s see that now:

I’m a young man without kids, though I knew for certain as a father (with daughters himself no less) Shawn shouldn’t have allowed his child’s snide comment to pass by. Matt’s had problems with the faith of his daughter, a young woman who’s gone her own way, and Shawn let his own daughter hit Matt below the belt on a personal level. Is Matt a jerk? Yes, he pretends he’s quoting the Bible (while debating Christians) to trap others into affirming the book of Mormon and other faith books. That’s poor form, but nothing he’s done deserves this kind of treatment, especially not in a supposed Christian setting.

Albeit the audio wasn’t great in the original video, for which I couldn’t really hear what was said, word got out, everyone knew what had been done. Matt trying to overpower this kid by the force of his personality said “you don’t like the word of God, do you?” she replied “I know your daughter doesn’t.” To which Shawn goes “ooh.” Now, that response is so stupid, he needed a knock on the head just for that. Even murderers and bank robbers and drunkards love their own, and Shawn defended his own even when they were clearly in the wrong. He then goes on to attack the reliability of scripture. I imagine Shawn was pleased with the ending, he was able to play act as reasonable after being manhandled by Matt for a long portion of the debate.

Still, this kind of behaviour made me wonder about the story with Matt and their lost daughter. I’m sharing the material in the order which I’ve seen it, largely because I feel this was the most compelling order. Next we’re going to read an article from Matt’s daughter explaining her apostacy. She’s clearly very skilled at weaving a story in print:

The Atheist Daughter of a Notable Christian Apologist Shares Her Story

The heart of the segment involved correspondent Samantha Bee interviewing Matt Slick, founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM).

Rachael is Matt Slick’s daughter. She’s not a Christian. This is her story.


I was born in 1992. My parents named me Rachael, after the biblical wife Jacob loved.


Rachael, after the biblical wife Jacob loved.

Rachael (right) with her parents

One of my earliest memories is of my dad’s gigantic old Bible. Its pages were falling out, its margins were scrawled over with notes, and the leather cover was unraveled in places from being so worn out. 
Every night, after we stacked up the dishes after our family dinner, he would bring it down and read a passage. I always requested something from the Book of Revelation or Genesis, because that’s where most of the interesting stories happened. After he was done, he’d close the Bible with a big WHUMP and turn to me.

“Now Rachael,” he would ask, “What is the hypostatic union?” 
and I would pipe back, “The two natures of Jesus!”

“What is pneumatology?”

The study of the holy spirit!

“What is the communicatio idiomatum?”

The communication of the properties in which the attributes of the two natures are ascribed to the single person!

Occasionally he would go to speak at churches about the value of apologetics and, the times I went along, he would call on me from the crowd and have me recite the answers to questions about theology. After I sat down, he would say, “My daughter knows more about theology than you do! You are not doing your jobs as Christians to stay educated and sharp in the faith.”

Conversation with him was a daily challenge. He would frequently make blatantly false statements — such as “purple dogs exist” — and force me to disprove him through debate. He would respond to things I said demanding technical accuracy, so that I had to narrow my definitions and my terms to give him the correct response. It was mind-twisting, but it encouraged extreme clarity of thought, critical thinking, and concise use of language. I remember all this beginning around the age of five.

Rachael receives an award from Awana for being the most 'godly' student. She would later complete the Awana course, memorizing over 800 Bible verses along the way.
Rachael receives an award from Awana for being the most ‘godly’ student. She would later complete the Awana course, memorizing over 800 Bible verses along the way.

I have two sisters, three and seven years younger than myself, and we were all homeschooled in a highly strict, regulated environment. Our A Beka schoolbooks taught the danger of evolution. Our friends were “good influences” on us, fellow homeschoolers whose mothers thought much alike. Obedience was paramount — if we did not respond immediately to being called, we were spanked ten to fifteen times with a strip of leather cut from the stuff they used to make shoe soles. Bad attitudes, lying, or slow obedience usually warranted the same — the slogan was “All the way, right away, and with a happy spirit.” We were extremely well-behaved children, and my dad would sometimes show us off to people he met in public by issuing commands that we automatically rushed to obey. The training was not just external; God commanded that our feelings and thoughts be pure, and this resulted in high self-discipline.

Rachael (bottom row, second from right) and her fellow homeschooled friends know to obey!
Rachael (bottom row, second from right) and her fellow homeschooled friends know to obey!

I recently came across this entry in a workbook I wrote when I was nine:

I’m hopeless.

Oh boy. I’ve got a lot to work on. I try to be obedient but it’s so hard! The more I read, the more I realize how bad I am! My problem is that when things don’t make sense to me, I don’t like them. When Dad gets mad at me for something, everything makes perfect sense to me in my mind, so I tend to resent my parents’ correction.

I have just realized that I yearn to please the lord, but why can’t I? I just can’t be good! It seems impossible. Why can’t I be perfect?

At this point, my dad was working at a tech job during the day and working in his office, writing and researching, at night. He developed a huge collection of books, with bookshelves that spanned the wall, full of Bibles and notebooks filled with theology. This was the early stages of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

It became a sort of game to watch him go “Mormon hunting”; if he saw them on the sidewalk, he’d pull up in the car to engage them in debate. After the Mormons visited our apartment a few times, they blacklisted us, and none of them ever visited us again. My dad was always very congenial to those he debated, and most viewed him as charismatic — though his debate tactics were ruthless and often more focused on efficiency than relationship-building.

We moved to Idaho when I was 12. My dad worked at Hewlett-Packard for a while but eventually made the big decision to make CARM his full-time career.

It was around this time my dad began receiving death threats — though I didn’t find this out until later. Someone was sending him graphic pictures, descriptive threats of rape against his family, and Google images of locations near our house. He got the FBI involved. They eventually determined it was someone from across the globe and likely posed no risk to us. My parents installed a home security system after that, but it only reinforced the “us vs. them” mentality he already held. My dad spoke frequently about the people “out to destroy him” and how his “enemies” were determined to obscure and twist the truth.

I wasn’t privy to a great deal of what went on behind the scenes at CARM — likely because I too young to fully understand it. A few times a year there would usually be an “event” that would capture most of his ire. For a while, it was the Universalists who were destroying his forums. Another time, it would be his arch-nemeses in the field of women in ministry or “troublemaking” atheists. Beyond these things, I knew little, except that I was immensely proud of my dad, who was smart, confident, and knew the Truth more than anybody else. I aspired to be like him — I would be a missionary, or an apologist! (Though not a pastor; I was a woman and thus unqualified for that field.) God was shaping my destiny.

As my knowledge of Christianity grew, so did my questions — many of them the “classic” kind. If God was all-powerful and all-knowing, why did He create a race He knew was destined for Hell? How did evil exist if all of Creation was sustained by the mind of God? Why didn’t I feel His presence when I prayed? 
Having a dad highly schooled in Christian apologetics meant that every question I brought up was explained away confidently and thoroughly. Many times, after our nightly Bible study, we would sit at the table after my Mom and sisters had left and debate, discuss, and dissect the theological questions I had. No stone was left unturned, and all my uncertainty was neatly packaged away.

Atheists frequently wonder how an otherwise rational Christian can live and die without seeing the light of science, and I believe the answer to this is usually environment. If every friend, authority figure, and informational source in your life constantly repeat the same ideas, it is difficult not to believe they’re onto something. My world was built of “reasonable” Christians — the ones who thought, who questioned, who knew that what they believed was true. In the face of this strength, my own doubts seemed petty. 

There was one belief I held onto strongly, though — the one that eventually led to my undoing. I promised myself “I will never believe in Christianity simply because it feels right, otherwise I am no better than those in any other religion I debate. I must believe in Christianity because it is the Truth, and if it is ever proven otherwise, I must forsake it no matter how much it hurts.”

Twice, I attended protests. Once, in front of an abortion clinic, and another time, at the Twin Falls Mormon Temple. I went to public high school for a few months, where I brought the Bible and a picture of my parents for a show-and-tell speech of the things we valued most. I befriended Cody, a World of Warcraft nerd, for the sole purpose of telling him he was going to Hell and that he needed to repent. Every time I heard someone swear in the school hallways, I would close my eyes and pray.

I informed my parents that I wanted an arranged marriage because love was a far too emotional and dangerous prospect, and I trusted them to make an informed choice for my future far better than I ever could. My romantic exploits through puberty were negligible.

I ran away from home when I was 17 (due to reasons not pertinent to this post) and went to college the following year. I must have been a nightmare in my philosophy and religion classes, raising my hands at every opportunity and spouting off well-practiced arguments. Despite this, my philosophy professor loved me, and we would often meet after class, talking about my views on God. Even though he tried to direct me away from them, I was insistent about my beliefs: If God didn’t exist, where did morality come from? What about the beginning of the universe? Abiogenesis? There were too many questions left by the absence of God, and I could not believe in something (godlessness, in this case) that left me with so little closure. My certainty was my strength — I knew the answers when others did not.

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Alex had no answer — and I realized I didn’t either. Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. 
But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity.

I still remember sitting there in my dorm room bunk bed, staring at the cheap plywood desk, and feeling something horrible shift inside me, a vast chasm opening up beneath my identity, and I could only sit there and watch it fall away into darkness. The Bible is not infallible, logic whispered from the depths, and I had no defense against it. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you.

Everything I was, everything I knew, the structure of my reality, my society, and my sense of self suddenly crumbled away, and I was left naked.

I was no longer a Christian. That thought was a punch to the gut, a wave of nausea and terror. Who was I, now, when all this had gone away? What did I know? What did I have to cling to? Where was my comfort? 

I didn’t know it, but I was free.

For a long time I couldn’t have sex with my boyfriend (of over a year by this point) without crippling guilt. I had anxiety that I was going to Hell. I felt like I was standing upon glass, and, though I knew it was safe, every time I glanced down I saw death. I had trouble coping with the fact that my entire childhood education now essentially meant nothing — I had been schooled in a sham. I had to start from scratch in entering and learning about this secular world. Uncertainty was not something I was accustomed to feeling. Though I had left Christianity intellectually, my emotional beliefs had yet to catch up.

Eventually I worked up the courage to announce my choice on Facebook — which generated its own share of controversy. I’m fairly certain I broke my mother’s heart. Many people accused me of simply going through a rebellious stage and that I would come around soon. Countless people prayed for me.

I don’t know how my dad reacted to my deconversion; I haven’t spoken to him since I left home.

There was no miracle to cure me of the fear and pain, no God to turn to for comfort. But it did heal. Eventually. I only barely fear Hell now, and my instinct to pray only turns up on rare occasions. For a while now, I’ve been educating myself in science, a world far more uncertain than the one I left, but also far more honest.

Rachael Slick
Rachael Slick

Someone once asked me if I would trade in my childhood for another, if I had the chance, and my answer was no, not for anything.
 My reason is that, without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful. 

Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.

On a side note, I find it very hard to believe a child who can understand the hypostatic union in any way, shape or form couldn’t handle such a simple objection as the difference between ceremonial and moral laws. Still, at the bottom of the original article there was an opportunity for people (Christians really) to email Rachael, which seems like one of the worst ideas ever. We’re writing about a girl who, at least during the time, was publicly humiliating her father. That’s not someone who’s open to a stranger’s internet preaching (or an atheist’s praise for that matter). Can people who identify as Christian leave the faith? Of course. Even the children of famous apologists can leave.

Why am I reading about it however? Because Rachael appears to have wanted this to be a public affair, putting their father to shame for a world of atheists to gloat over. That kind of behaviour makes no sense to me. I don’t know how far Rachael has gone with her apostasy, though in 2015 they were still an unbeliever. Still, the most interesting part of the situation was just around the corner. In the article Rachael came across as rather smart, not so smart as to answer questions against her faith, but there was a kind of sense to the entire thing, it wasn’t blind daddy hatred or contempt of Christians. She sounded like a girl who wanted the freedom to fornicate, that’s all.

Lewis wrote it something like so, there was a girl who said a prayer, she said “Oh God, make me a normal twentieth-century girl!” And because what the spirit of the age was was still up for grabs, this prayer would increasingly mean “make me a minx, a moron, and a parasite.” Rachael, at least in this point in her life, wanted to be an ordinary western girl, one who didn’t feel crippled by shame and upset for falling in lust with a guy. I wouldn’t want to ask her about her faith views, I’d like to ask if years later, was this person still in her life. If not, she threw away everything for nothing. Anyway, the most interesting part coming up. Rachael appeared to be kind of reasonable in the above article, she came across with real needs and a desire to be honest with herself, and that view is going to remain until we listen to her debate in person (where she seems to be crackers). Rachael isn’t an atheist by the point of this video, that’s not how she seen herself, rather she believed in conkers bonkers things like she is everyone in the universe, and that it’s wrong to kill people because then she’d be killing herself (I kid you not). Let’s see how she does:


― T. C. M


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