Donovan Nagel Donovan Nagel

Truth On (Dumpster) Fire: One Reformed Heresy After Another

  • Written by Donovan

I mentioned recently that I’m now well on my way out of the Protestant Evangelical “tradition” and prayerfully preparing for catechism into the Eastern Orthodox (Apostolic) Church.

Huge I know. 😯

Trust me - decades of theological inquiry, prayer and experiences have led me to this point.

It’s not a decision I’ve come to overnight.

I’ll go into greater detail on the theological reasoning behind my conversion in another post (or several), but I also highly recommend reading my earlier announcement where I mentioned it.

For today, I’ve decided to share a recent experience as an example that was part of the catalyst for my decision to ‘migrate’ - the straw that broke the camel’s back. This was one of the last Protestant church experiences that turned me off Protestant Evangelicalism in all its forms for good.

I also just want to get better about debriefing in writing.

I’ve learned over the years that if you don’t debrief/verbalize hurtful experiences, they get internalized and start to fester into unforgiveness and bitterness.

So I’ll go ahead and be descriptive about my experience and what it taught me.

Protestants are forever church shopping

I came to Christ when I was 17.

At 18, I began moving around the world starting with my first mission trip to North Africa as a brand new Christian.

Other than my few years at seminary, my entire adult life up until COVID has been nomadic.

What this has meant is a lot of church changing - moving to a new location, finding the nearest Protestant Evangelical church, attending a service and assessing its beliefs, and then establishing some sense of community for the time I’m there.

Included in this is finding that sweet spot between too rigid and too charismatic.

Some of the things I look for:

  • Theologically sound
  • Educated pastors who have studied theology seriously through a reputable college
  • No progressive/liberal heresy
  • An openness to the Spirit of God minus the charismatic, heretical nuttery
  • No prosperity gospel (or overemphasis on tithing as an obligation)
  • No history of scandals with the leadership

So every time I enter a church for the first time, I’m immediately scanning the room and the service for red flags. I’m doing my homework on the senior pastor and leadership. I’m listening to sermons with open ears to detect unacceptable errors and heresies.

Exhausting.

This highlights part of the problem with Protestantism and sola scriptura - when there’s no Apostolic succession or tradition and no bishopric oversight, any random person with his or her own interpretation of Scripture can be convinced that “God is telling me to start a church”.

This means that for those of us looking for a church home, who knows what we’re walking into.

Protestantism is essentially a “pick and choose” faith.

Funny, the word heresy comes from the Greek word hairesis meaning “choice” - a heretic is one who chooses what parts of the faith to believe.

Adam Ramsey [Truth On Fire] - Liberti Church

Liberti Church Cararra

Liberti Church, at least on a surface level, ticked the right boxes for us.

Friendly group of people, decent teaching, no hype, no prosperity gospel, no pressure to tithe. My wife was happy there because of the large contingent of Americans (she’s also American).

It was founded by Adam Ramsey, a relatively young Mars Hill mutineer (one of the less significant ones) who fled the wreckage in Seattle to start his own empire on the Gold Coast.

Pastor Adam Ramsey Liberti

I admit, I knew nothing about Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill prior to attending Liberti.

A good friend of mine, another Gold Coast pastor, warned me early on that Adam Ramsey had been involved in deposing Driscoll and to be wary of my involvement, but I gave Adam the benefit of the doubt and stayed on (first mistake).


Side note: I assumed that like most megachurch leaders inevitably are, Mark Driscoll probably got caught in adultery, embezzling funds or some other major misconduct.

Nope.

He was actually deposed over his personality.

People like Adam Ramsey didn’t like his style.

That’s it.

Although I found some of Driscoll’s comments ‘distasteful’, I was unable to identify one single accusation that would have been grounds for dismissal in any normal company, let alone church. People were offended by his personality, and in an increasingly left-leaning, progressive Reformed church culture (especially in a city like Seattle), his defence of masculinity and opposition to deranged leftism made him an easy target.


But that’s a tangent. Let me focus on Adam and Liberti a little more.

Why I left Liberti and wiped the dust off my feet

I’ll try to keep this succinct.

The Driscoll thing didn’t bother me enough to make me leave, to be honest. Stuff like this happens to the best of us, and often people who are caught up in it learn and grow.

Speaking from experience.

So I wasn’t prepared to write Adam Ramsey off based solely on his past involvement in the Mars Hill mutiny.

There were much bigger concerns.

Some of the initially troubling observations that stood out to me were:

  1. Liberti Church seems to be non-missional. It’s part of the Acts29 church planting movement, but I never once saw community evangelism of any kind or a missions program.
  2. Additionally, I never saw Adam pastorally active. As is common in many Protestant Evangelical churches, the head honcho pops in to preach on Sunday and then seems to disappear until next Sunday.
  3. The “elders” are all young. It’s a church led by the inexperienced.
  4. The name, including its spelling, is straight up cringe (like so many other fly-by-night churches), and it’s more like a branded startup than a church (guests we brought to the church even remarked on the lack of any visible cross, including in the logo).
  5. The “poet theologian” shtick - the sage teacher - and the insecurities that follow when challenged/questioned intellectually by a pleb in the congregation.
  6. Liberti appeared to enjoy the COVID lockdown in early 2020 far too much (but then, so did many Protestant Evangelical churches who couldn’t wait for an excuse to digitize their services).

We lost a child during lockdown and had zero pastoral support

Times of crisis reveal a lot.

On the lack of pastoral care issue above: we lost two children last year. Two pregnancies.

The first was a medical emergency that was life threatening for my wife. I took a risk and made myself vulnerable by reaching out to Adam Ramsey about it for support and prayer.

I explained what was happening and he said, “we’ll pray for you”.

I never heard from him again on the matter.

Not even a text message to ask if my wife was okay or if she’d handled surgery okay. Nothing.

Of all the lousy, inept pastors I’ve encountered in my life, this was the first time I literally said, “wow”.

Not even the pretense of caring.

I pretty much knew at this point that we wouldn’t be staying long term.

Two girls from the congregation came over and cleaned the house to help my wife, which I paid them for.

BLM, George Floyd and extremist preachers

This is what turned my disappointment into righteous disgust.

Remember George Floyd, the drug-addicted, violent home-intruder who ingested fentanyl while resisting arrest, overdosed and subsequently suffocated, while a police officer was restraining him?

Terrible optics with his knee over his neck.

That cop (whose mortal sin was being born with the wrong skin color) is now going to die in prison for doing his job.

All because an addict concealed a lethal amount of opioid in his mouth while being restrained.

When this first appeared on the news (before the facts even came to light), Adam Ramsey and his wife went full-blown BLM (to our shock) and started using terms like “white supremacy” to describe what was going on. They shared content from a close friend of theirs, Leonce Crump Jr. (a racist pastor from a church called Renovation in Atlanta) who has for years abused his position as a “pastor” to stir up racial disunity.

He’s literally the walking epitome of an race-baiting antagonist.

My family met Crump not too long before and we immediately sensed in the Spirit that something wasn’t right about him or his wife.

If you want an idea of how degenerate Crump’s church in Atlanta is and the kind of company (Acts29, The Gospel Coalition, etc.) that Liberti Church is part of:

Word of advice: Be wary of any church that over-emphasizes words like ‘mission’ and ‘justice’.

I reached out to Adam privately online over his comments and support for extremists, and he passive aggressively blocked me on social media (I was still a member of his congregation at this point).

Completely disregarded my concerns as worthless.

His wife then removed my wife preemptively from leading a Bible group (my wife had done nothing wrong and had no idea about what was going on until she was targeted).

So, at that point we were out.

A million micro-papacies

These churches are part of what’s described as “New Calvinist” or the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement.

Yet another ecclesiastical abomination, that has given rise to all kinds of heretical churches and splinter movements.

It’s increasingly left-wing.

Think of it as a more palatable and culturally capitulating alternative to the Prosperity Gospel heresy of the past few decades. Equally as abhorrent.

Here’s where Fr. Josiah Trenham’s book Rock and Sand really opened my eyes.

Protestant Evangelicalism is, forgive my French, a theological and ecclesiastical clusterfuck.

It’s a mess.

It has given rise to near countless denominations, sub-denominations and cults over the past few hundred years.

Protestantism emerged as a protest against the papacy, yet all it did was spawn a million small popes and a million micro-establishments with their own unrestrained abuses and heresies.

The churches mentioned above are perfect examples of this.

Like small business startups, part of a network of similar brands that use their pulpits for political activism, cultural capitulation and self-enrichment.

I’m tired of it. I’m exhausted by it.

Craving authentic Christianity

After two decades of experiencing abuse after abuse in many different Protestant Evangelical churches, I finally realized that what I was craving was the Church.

The Church that has remained unchanged in succession since the time of the Apostles.

The suffering Church.

I’m done with micro-papacies and sacrilege.

Experiencing the revelation that the Orthodox Church of Christ has remained unchanged and has been passed down through Apostolic succession for nearly 2000 years has been so liberating.

It feels like I stumbled upon a spiritual oasis that quenched my thirst.

I now realize that the frustration I felt at churches like Liberti (and so many others before it) was because I was never at church.

I’ll expand on my theological reasonings (and struggles) in embracing Orthodoxy soon (subscribe to my email list).

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Donovan Nagel
Christian, husband, dad, entrepreneur, linguist, theologian and clown world survivalist.
"Put not your trust in princes, in mortal man, who cannot save."
- Psalm 146:3