Phanatik, RZ, Inerrancy, Faith


I first learned about Brady “Phanatik” Goodwin In late January 2022 from one of our faithful AIIA constituents. If you’ve never heard of Phanatik, I will tell you that he is a very intelligent and articulate individual who gained prominence because of his skill as a Hip Hop artist and as a two-time Grammy Award-nominated Christian rapper.

Like me, you may not be particularly familiar with, or a big fan of, Hip Hop or Rap music. But if you watch Phanatik perform, you’ll have to agree that his creativity, memory, talents, and communication abilities are extraordinary. He is also clearly gifted intellectually. And he seems likable — approachable.

Phanatik has been popular in certain sectors of Christendom for the past 30 years but, even so, his prominence does not compare with that of Ravi Zacharias, the late Christian apologist who, after his death, was shown to have been guilty of ongoing immorality in his private life. Ravi Zacharias was known across the whole Christian world and beyond. 

There is however, in my opinion, a sense in which recent developments with Phanatik are even more concerning than the shameful demise of Zacharias. For Ravi Zacharias the issue was morality. With Phanatik the issue seems, at this point at least, to be intellectual. Zacharias failed to live consistently with his faith but never actually verbally denied it. Phanatik has denounced the very basis for faith. In terms of impact, his story may be prove to be more dangerous and damaging.

Brady Goodwin received a Bachelor’s degree from Lancaster Bible College (LBC) and a Master’s degree from Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS). He has authored a number of books. He has taught Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and cultural engagement in a number of Christian venues. He has been a trusted and significant influencer in certain church circles for 30+ years.

But then, in mid-January 2022, Goodwin resigned from his local church and posted a 24-minute video announcing that he had now denounced his Christian faith. His decision was apparently not impulsive. He describes doubts that began years ago. He says that the process of coming to his current position included numerous candid exchanges with reputable evangelical Christian scholars, professors, and apologists over a period of years, and throughout all of 2021.

I have chosen not to publish a link to Phanatik’s video in this article because I believe that watching it could be risky for Christians who are not well-grounded in their faith. Anyone can easily find it on the web, of course. But I don’t wish to personally facilitate the risk. And if your faith is at all shaky, I would caution you about watching the video alone. In fact, it may be a good thing to avoid it anyway — especially without a supportive network of well-grounded fellow believers.

At no point in the initial 24-minute video is Goodwin ever clear about the specific cause(s) of his doubts. He alludes to what seems to be higher critical views of Scripture. But at this time not enough is known publicly to put a finger on the crux of the matter, or to challenge the rationale for his conclusions. Perhaps there’s more to the story that will come out over time. In fact, Goodwin himself has hinted (since the release of the 24-minute video) that he may be going to publish a book in which he will be more specific and methodical in presenting the basis for his doubts and current conclusions.

All of that to say that this blog is certainly not intended to be a comprehensive response to Brady Godwin’s denouncement of Christianity and the Bible. There’s just not enough to go on to offer a good apologetic rebuttal at this point. 

However — and this is a really significant however — Goodwin did make one very telling comment in his video. He said that he came out of LBC “unscathed.” But then he added: “. . . “though I did in Bible College sorta adjust my view from, uh inerrancy — biblical inerrancy — to infallibility, which is kind of a, a lesser claim, but still just as solid in terms of the Bible being trustworthy.”

For me that was an “Aha” moment. It very much reminded me of the pivotal moment Bart Ehrman has described having had at Princeton Theological Seminary. And I’m convinced that, whether he fully understood it or not, then or now, Brady Goodwin was not so “unscathed” as he evidently still thinks he was following that “adjustment.”  He downplays its significance in the video. But to deny the inerrancy of Scripture will never ultimately leave a sharp thinking individual like him on “just as solid” a ground when it comes to the trustworthiness of the Bible. Never. No. As of that moment, the sand began to shift. The foundation began to sink. A cancer deep within began to grow.

Brady Goodwin is brilliant enough to understand and articulate the difference between the terms “inerrancy” and “infallibility.” But like a doctor that misjudges the seriousness of his own illness, he seems to hugely either miss or underestimate the gravity of what he gave up, where it left him then, and where it’s got him today. Infallibility is not just “kind of a lesser claim” than inerrancy. It’s a massively diminished claim.

In February of 1984 the late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer published The Great Evangelical Disaster. In some ways it was the culminating warning of his lifetime of work. It was prophetic. And it’s almost as if Schaeffer was looking down through the corridors of time at the case of Brady Goodwin. If you’ve never read the book, you should do so. But for our purposes in this post, here’s one spine-tingling excerpt:

“Evangelicals today are facing a watershed concerning the nature of biblical inspiration and authority. It is a watershed issue in very much the same sense as described in the illustration. Within evangelicalism there are a growing number who are modifying their views on the inerrancy of the Bible so that the full authority of Scripture is completely undercut. But it is happening in very subtle ways. Like the snow lying side-by-side on the ridge, the new views on biblical authority often seem at first glance not to be so very far from what evangelicals, until just recently, have always believed. But also, like the snow lying side-by-side on the ridge, the new views when followed consistently end up a thousand miles apart.”

“What may seem like a minor difference at first, in the end makes all the difference in the world. It makes all the difference, as we might expect, in things pertaining to theology, doctrine and spiritual matters, but it also makes all the difference in things pertaining to the daily Christian life and how we as Christians are to relate to the world around us. In other words, compromising the full authority of Scripture eventually affects what it means to be a Christian theologically and how we live in the full spectrum of human life.”

Surrendering inerrancy always inevitably leaves an immense crack in the foundation of Christian faith for thoughtful individuals. Brady Goodwin is thoughtful, sharp, rational, consistent, and sincere. Given the terms of the trade he made in the early 2000s, he has pursued what he perceived to be the truth about the Bible to its logical end — except for the bit about it still being “trustworthy.” No. Given those terms, the Bible would no longer be trustworthy in the plain sense of that word. The Bible and all that it affirms would become totally negotiable, relative, nuanced, and meaningless. It would no longer be reliable or trustworthy — at all. No wonder his old faith has collapsed.

Of course, if Brady Goodwin is going to continue to be intellectually honest and consistent, some dark lonely night in the coming weeks, months, or years, he will very possibly wake up and realize that he is now obliged to answer a whole other equally challenging set of questions, such as those cited here. What will he do then? What would he even be able to do then? I suppose that’s a story for another day.

Daryl E. Witmer | AIIA Institute


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