Pioneering Christian Hip-Hop Artist Phanatik Renounces His Faith

By Josh Shepherd
phanatik brady goodwin
In an online video posted Monday, Brady Goodwin aka “Phanatik” renounced his Christian faith. He is pictured here performing at Legacy Conference in Chicago, Illinois on July 21, 2016, when he and members of Christian hip-hop group The Cross Movement reunited for a reunion concert. (Photo: Niketa Pechan / Facebook)

Brady “Phanatik” Goodwin, founding member of Grammy-nominated Christian hip-hop group, The Cross Movement, and in recent years an apologetics teacher, stated Monday in a video posted online that he has renounced his Christian faith.

“I sent a letter to my church withdrawing my membership and saying that I am denouncing the Christian faith that I have believed, professed, proclaimed, and defended for the last 30 years of my life,” said Goodwin in his Facebook video.

A graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, he indicated his doubts emerged during theological studies over the past decade. Specifically, he said learning how scholars use preexisting “theological commitments” to arrive at translation and interpretation of the biblical text raised questions for him.

He compared Christian theology to a Rubik’s cube. “I began to look at the faith and say, ‘Man you could turn this Rubik’s cube any particular way and end up with a different understanding.’ And who can say that understanding is right or that understanding is wrong?” asked Goodwin.

Over the past 25 years, Goodwin has been a creative force in the tight-knit Christian hip-hop community. In 1996 he adopted the moniker “Phanatik” and helped form The Cross Movement, a collective of rap artists based in Philadelphia.

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Goodwin recorded 10 records, including six with The Cross Movement—two nominated for Grammy Awards. They collaborated with top artists including Lecrae, Shai Linne, and Tedashii. In a 30-year retrospective of Christian hip-hop, Urban Faith stated that The Cross Movement “staked a claim at the top of the Christian hip-hop soundscape.”

Longtime Fans, Followers of Goodwin Respond

The recent video by Goodwin, posted on Facebook and elsewhere, has garnered hundreds of comments from his followers. 

Justin Martyr, a hip-hop artist, graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and minister, commented that he had “shared the stage” with The Cross Movement in the past. “Praying for Brady . . . he is one of my heroes in the Faith,” wrote Martyr.

Pastor Curt Allen
Pastor Curt Allen (via Solid Rock Church)

In an episode of All Things Theology podcast posted Tuesday, Pastor Curt Allen of Solid Rock Church in Riverdale, Maryland responded to Goodwin’s video. 

“I don’t immediately run to First John 2 when this happens: ‘Well, they were never with us,’” said Allen, referring to 1 John 2:19. “He has to die in unbelief to make that statement. As long as he’s alive, there’s a possibility that he returns (to the faith).”

Carson Weitnauer, executive director at apologetics ministry Uncommon Pursuit, urged against believers “turning Goodwin into a talking point or a ‘target’ for prayer,” he stated via e-mail. “I respect how Brady demonstrated compassion, vulnerability, and honesty in his announcement. It’s okay to acknowledge the complexity of his story.” 

Another commenter on Goodwin’s video, Kadmiel Valcin based in New York City, noted the explanation seemed incomplete and wrote: “I still love this brother and will continue to pray for his journey. But like everyone else I’m curious about the details.”

The context for Goodwin’s shift goes back to 2008, when artists involved in The Cross Movement parted ways, and Goodwin expanded his horizons beyond music. 

Upon earning multiple degrees, including a Master of Arts & Religion degree from Westminster in 2015, Goodwin began to teach character education and apologetics classes at the high school and community college level. He also authored several books including The Death of Hip Hop, Marriage and Morals.

In his recent video, Goodwin addressed his doubts during these years. “I got to the point where I felt like I was, one, being lied to—and two, being trained to lie to other people,” he said.

He added: “I literally told God: ‘If I find one more thing in the scriptures that doesn’t have a good explanation without resorting to some kind of, having to bend over backwards and hop over barrels to explain it, I’m going to lose my faith.’”

Pastor Allen, while noting the positive past impact of Phanatik’s songs, found parts of the video disingenuous and lacking enough specificity to start helpful dialogue. 

“In some of the comments, people are affirming him: ‘We’re with you, brother.’ But we don’t actually know what he’s talking about (so) it’s hard to process,” said Allen.

Social Issues A Factor for Goodwin

While Goodwin’s denouncement video did not address issues of justice, posts about race and discrimination issues have been a refrain on his social media profiles in recent years. “There are some hard but honest discussions we need to have,” he said in the video.

In November 2020, Goodwin appeared on the popular Southside Rabbi Podcast co-hosted by two urban evangelical influencers in central Florida. He affirmed his faith at that time. “I am what you look at as traditionally evangelical in terms of the stances,” said Goodwin. “That’s me all day.”

Yet he indicated that his growing frustrations with evangelical culture were partly rooted in seeing a lack of compassion following recent shooting incidents of black men.

“In light of what has happened over the past nine or 10 years, and the way some of our prominent white Christian brothers and sisters have responded . . . there’s some folk who really just need a whole other education,” said Goodwin.

He and co-hosts discussed the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, which occurred while Goodwin was studying at Westminster Theological Seminary. “Like, we’ve been saying ‘mercy’ all this time,” said Goodwin. “We’ve even been talking about God’s ‘holiness and justice’ all this time. (But) I’ve come to suspect that we don’t even mean the same things.”

As he closed his recent video, Goodwin sought to keep his social followers engaged. “You may see me as an outsider now if you want,” he said. “But I’ve always only ever been a seeker of truth and a relayer of what I believe to be true.”

In his response video, Allen said that was not what he heard in the video. “He acknowledges that he stepped away from the Bible,” said the pastor, referring to Goodwin. “He said he was trying to find God in the world, instead of the Word.”

In the end, Goodwin sounded wistful in expressing his change of heart.

“(I) still love the gospel actually. Still love the way that the message has been massaged and presented to us. The way that the scriptures present themselves, the various authors, I get it. I just don’t believe it.”

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

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40 thoughts on “Pioneering Christian Hip-Hop Artist Phanatik Renounces His Faith”

  1. The people against him don’t want to hear with their own ears. I understand him perfectly! They are looking for anything salacious! Not the fact that he has done a deep dive for 10 years and found it wanting! I applaud him for his stance he now takes although I know it was with great thought and sadness. I did not even know who he was.

    1. The Gospel is founded on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Those closest to the source died for their faith in Him. Nothing has changed since to make that faith unreliable. May God draw this man back to Himself.
      Roy’s Report, your reason for reporting this is what? In what way does this restore the church?

      1. it’s not nearly as simple and cut&dried as you present.

        christian culture has made the pursuit of faith into a complex labyrinth of conflicts of interest, so disturbingly similar to the world of health insurance and big pharma.

        christianity is what people make of it.

        people have made ‘the christian faith’ to equate to a whole host of things that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ.

        i imagine this gentleman is rejecting the whole stinking system.

        1. Matthew Michaud

          Your analogy fails.
          Jim Jones claimed to be the return of the prophet Elijah, convinced many that this was true, and which then resulted in murder-suicide of hundreds. A similar kind of story plays out throughout history.
          The story of Christianity is strikingly different, in that the early followers claimed Jesus rose from the dead, and they themselves saw it, and that he appeared to several hundred of them. This is referred to as the “1 Corinthians Creed”, and was recited by the Church in Jerusalem, so they would never forget what had happened, starting at about 2 years after Jesus died. Almost every scholar on earth, including atheist, agnostic, liberal and orthodox scholars believes that this is true. Skeptic scholars are then forced to offer hypothesis as to *why* people would make something up so bizarre (this has never been seen, anywhere in history).
          The difference here is people who will die because they are convinced by somebody else (Jim Jones, Hitler, the American Flag, Mohammed, good or bad, whatever), and usually by extremely charismatic figures. That is all fascinating, but has nothing whatsoever to do with, and is not comparable to, people who literally died for a story they concocted themselves, and they knew it never really happened. There is no other example in history, of a bunch of people who were persecuted for something they themselves made up, but knew was a lie. People just “dying for a cause” or a charasmatic prophet are a dime a dozen, this however is not.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_Corinthians_15

        2. Tim M, you can not be serious! Really!

          Jonestown was a mass murder. There are people who survived. It was a mass murder.

          Drink the kool aid or get shot to death.

          Tim, you can not be serious!

          Children don’t commit suicide. The people who died from gunshots to their back did not commit suicide.

          Tim, you simply can not be serious.

  2. Well, renounces faith in what?

    ‘the christian faith’, in his own words.

    it seems to me that he is renouncing faith in what christian thinkers have made of the bible, and the whole eventuating culture that derives from these systems of thought.

    ‘christian’ is a human-made system, separate and distinct from Jesus Christ the human and being and divine being.

    God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit (by whatever names people know them as) exist and interact with human beings across and around the four corners of the earth. Regardless of whatever the ‘christian’ systems of thought have to say.

  3. I have known quite a few colleagues in the ministry who renounced Christ. (In fact I was married to one. After years of serving in Wycliffe Bible Translators and as a pastor’s wife she discarded her faith to pursue lesbian relationships.) There is something I have found to be worthy of note in every one of these faith-deconstruction stories. I have yet to hear a former Christian say, “Here is why I no longer believe that Jesus rose from the dead.”

    When they talk about issues related to faith, they always talk about something other than that. But to me it’s the only thing that really matters.

    Chemist James Tour (whose videos I can’t recommend highly enough!) interviews devout academicians and scientists, and he begins every discussion with the question, “Why do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?”

    1. Paul Lundquist,

      I am so extremely sorry to hear of your loss. I am pretty sure I have heard you describe your story elsewhere (did you perhaps post it in one of the comment sections of Gospel Coalition, back when they still had those?) and it still hurts just as much just to hear about it. May the Lord comfort you and provide you with the fellowship and companion that you need all your days on earth.

      1. Auburn Packwood

        “In the last days many shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits.” Paul’s prophecy being fulfilled!

        1. (1)…Scottie writes:
          “christianity (in its present iteration) is about everything it’s against and everything it’s for. Which amounts to an agenda.”

          I have to agree with you, man. I am totally disillusioned with the Americanized version of Christianity. That’s no one else’s hang up…simply my own. I believe in God, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Spirit. Outside of that, it’s up for interpretation…to me.

          1. I think your beef is with the “Christian Industrial complex”. There’s lots good about Christianity in America.

      2. Thank you for your kind words, Brian. A few years after my wife left me, I met Lisa – a godly widow and nicest person in the world – and in short order she made me the most happily married man I have ever known. God be praised.

        1. Just reading your comments makes me glad this story was posted. So happy God blessed you with a wonderful wife and companion.

    2. Hi, Paul.

      You said, “I have yet to hear a former Christian say, “Here is why I no longer believe that Jesus rose from the dead.”

      When they talk about issues related to faith, they always talk about something other than that.”
      ————–

      this is because christianity, really, is about everything except Jesus’ resurrection.

      christianity (in its present iteration) is about everything it’s against and everything it’s for. Which amounts to an agenda.

      it’s about politics, careers for professional christians and their job security, rules, control, out-groups and in-groups, and cute life-coaching — none of which touches on Jesus’ resurrection.

    3. Paul, I’m not going to dispute what you say because I agree to a large extent–the resurrection of Jesus requires a response, whether that’s belief and faith in the saving work of Jesus on the cross or whether that’s disbelief.

      But when it comes to a proof you can point people to, Jesus’ words were “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-5).

      So the best apologetic is to love, love, love your brothers and sisters. I’m not saying Goodwin wasn’t properly loved, but it is hard to leave a family that loves you the way Jesus does.

    4. Jesus Christ could have died and risen again from the dead 100 times, and that would still not prove that the Creator God is going to send myriads of his most cherished Creation to suffer forever in Hell. There is no logical necessity here, just faith, which I no longer possess.

  4. Todd H. McCauley

    I’m currently teaching a Bible Study on Eschataology. We are living in a period of time called the “Last days” (1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 2 Pet 3:3). The ONE thing that characterizes this period of time is Apostasy. The Bible clearly states that people will defect from sound Biblical teaching followed closely by a defection from sound Biblical living. While hearing about Apostates is interesting, it should not be shocking. God’s word is TRUE. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

      1. Technically, the “Last Days” began with Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit, but depending on your theology and eschatological chart. we may debate that…
        However, to the point about why this matters (Richard Stadter), many people do get their theology and encouragement through artists and musicians who publicly defend the Faith through their art. His denouncing the Faith will have repercussions to his congregation and fans. My Faith is rooted in Christ, but I feel the jabs in my heart every time another historic CCM rocker from my younger years steps away from the faith.

  5. Jesus did not come to found Christianity; Jesus came for us! Maybe that part is still in tact for this brother. When one looks around at the public expression of “church”, it is very easy to say, “yes, I am giving up on that”. And when one looks at the attitudes and defensiveness of the Church concerning systemic racism, justice for refugees, the patriarchy and power abuses, etc., I don’t want to identify with that either. I hope he doesn’t throw out the baby with all that horrible bath water. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Hallelujah

  6. I decided I was not a Christian in my early 20’s – I’m now 75. Freeing myself from the convoluted thinking of religious nonsense was the happiest decision of my life – not made easier by being a PK. I congratulate this gentleman on his new freedom.

    1. Thomas, what if you’re wrong? What if it is all true that Jesus came, walked this groaning earth, died in our place, conquered death, and is now preparing a place for us with Him in eternity? How does not believing any of that bring you freedom, bring you hope for life today and beyond the grave? Like C. S. Lewis or other skeptics, have you asked Him to prove to you He is real? He will show you if you let Him.

    2. A question for Josh, the author. You have a title that says “ Social issues a factor for Goodwin” then follow it with “ While Goodwin’s denouncement video did not address issues of justice, posts about race and discrimination issues have been a refrain on his social media profiles in recent years.” Why make that heading to imply this statement about Brady’s faith is about social issues in any way?
      It comes across as though his FB post about his faith is somehow related to the social issues taking place in the US, as opposed to what he actually says in the video. I am assuming you didn’t actually talk to him, because you pulled from his social media account, and you make no mention of asking him for a comment (which seems sadly too common of late)
      Could all his other posts about issues of race and justice be because they are issues he sees and personally has had to deal with? For me any committed believer should be engaged in conversations about race and justice as they are core to how we love people, especially those living under injustice.
      Even more so Josh, if you did reach out to Brady, then let us know that he didn’t respond. Otherwise, how about you take an extra few minutes and ask him before you write about him. It seems the least our trusted journalist should be doing.
      (And yes, I do know Brady. I haven’t asked him about this video or his reasons for posting. I regard him as a man of strong character, honesty and deep intellect. And as has been case with other friends who have “left the faith” I hope our friendships remain and my love for them would be evident)

      1. Coz, I appreciate the comment. I did reach out to Mr. Goodwin for comment on this story prior to publication, but did not hear back.

        In lieu of an interview, what he has said in the public record is relevant to understanding what led him to this point. The last section quotes Goodwin speaking about a year ago on important issues of race and justice.

        One can perhaps contextualize that part of the story in various ways. To me, Goodwin’s words here echo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s still-relevant message about the “white moderate” from his 1963 Letter From A Birmingham Jail which was written to Christian ministers:

        “I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. . . who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom…”

        It’s a challenge to Christian believers in particular to listen and speak and act according to a high standard of biblical justice. I agree in the importance of friendships, including with those one may not share all beliefs with. I hope this helps bring some clarity.

        1. Thank you for responding Josh.
          To clarify, I think Brady has spoken on issues of race and justice. I just don’t think those things are connected to this decision, based on what he has said and continues to post publicly about. I just think your article connected 2 issues that he never has said are connected.
          I am glad you reached out, and would just say that as a reader, it helps for us to know that.
          But all just my view. And I appreciate the your reporting and I think I get your points on this. Appreciated.

  7. This is sad news. I appreciate his honesty, however. I hope he continues to dig for the truth, & finds his peace with Jesus that allows him to trust Him, yet live into the mystery, without needing to connect every dot.

  8. This was ‘Phanatick’s’ mindset for a very long time. It just took him years of exhausting his popularity in the ” Christian Hip Hop” (Whatever that is!?) scene to step up and say what is really in his Heart. He is by no means alone. Many others WILL renounce, denounce, and pronounce their delivery from the “Bonds of Jesus”!

  9. “I literally told God: ‘If I find one more thing in the scriptures that doesn’t have a good explanation without resorting to some kind of, having to bend over backwards and hop over barrels to explain it, I’m going to lose my faith.’”

    So, who was he telling this to?

    Just curious whether he applies that standard to everything else where he doesn’t have what he considers a satisfactory answer.

    These stories always remind me of a graduate student I knew in college who one day, in a fit of gnostic hubris, enlightened me about the presence of mistakes in the Bible because he had personally seen them. I guess that long ago Bible mistakes were kept under lock and key and only brought out on special occasions.

    1. My heart goes out to Mr. Goodwin/Phanatik, especially as much of his “renouncement” as I see it involves being disappointed or disillusioned by people and their interpretation of the gospel (or how they do or do not live it). I’ve been there quite a bit in my life – having been part of a legalistic church that had me wound up in air tight rules for years, and more recently, watching the American church descend into little more than an extension of the Republican party.
      It is clinging to the gospel and the gospel alone that has kept me faithful and trusting in God and our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that wherever Mr. Goodwin’s journey takes him next, that it will take him back to God’s Word and God’s Word alone.

      1. Marin – thanks for your comment.

        You said,

        “It is clinging to the gospel and the gospel alone that has kept me faithful and trusting in God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

        crimany, christian powerbrokers have even redefined ‘the gospel’ to mean rules, rules, and more rules. (for their own benefit – to get published, attract attention, make a name for themselves, enhance their own power and revenue…)

        so sick of it.

        how do you understand ‘the gospel’, and what is the practical application that helps you?

        1. Scottie, I’m sorry for your experienced. I’m grateful to have been part of a local church for 35+ years that seeks to love Jesus, one another, and people who need Jesus. We are obviously not perfect, and have to “work hard at loving one another” at times as we are instructed in Scripture. Prior to this church, we were part of another church for 4 years in another city that had more issues, and was struggling. I’m grateful for the local churches that I have been able to call family. I know there are dysfunctional churches. I also know that are good churches who seek to fulfill God’s plan for them understanding that they belong to the “Chief Shepherd” – it’s His church and He died for it.

        2. Thanks so much for your message, Scottie.
          I understand the gospel message to be that we can ALL be saved through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The practical application that helps me is going back to this – making sure I don’t fall trap to allowing others to place additional expectations of me to be saved (and making sure I’m not doing that to others). Another practical application is allowing room for the Holy Spirit work; nagging, berating, or shaming others into behaving the way we think Christians should behave does not work.
          I keep myself encouraged by reading the word, especially those scriptures on how Christ fellowshipped with “the least of these”, showing love, compassion – and yes correction – to sinners. We failt to note that Christ showed ALL at the same time. Correction without love and compassion is little more than a condescending demand.

    2. He added: “I literally told God: ‘If I find one more thing in the scriptures that doesn’t have a good explanation without resorting to some kind of, having to bend over backwards and hop over barrels to explain it, I’m going to lose my faith.’”

      He “told” God. Who tells the Almighty?

      Have problems? Ask questions, seek truth, repent. Don’t presume to ‘tell God’. Don’t threaten the Creator of heaven and earth with unbelief. He is will not scramble in panic to come up to your high standard.

      Go to the Book of Job and read again. The LORD, the Almighty, the ‘One with Whom we have to do’ is above our scrutiny.

      The LORD has expended the riches of His grace and mercy on our behalf, once and for all in the sacrifice of His beloved Son.

      Find a place of repentance.

  10. “There are no rules in love. And the engery of God is love. It cannot be otherwise. The essence of the teachings of the Christ are beautiful and true. But if you believe in fear or a god that would propagate fear or damnation, you are living a lie and must wake up to that fact.” Paul Selig

    1. “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” -the above mentioned Christ (who, btw, never made a dime off of book sales)

    2. @ David Farrar

      Was it ultimately loving of God to judge the world through a flood where all of humanity was wiped out with the exception of Noah’s family and a small number of animals?

      As the rain began to fall and the water began to rise, wouldn’t those outside the ark have experienced great fear, if not terror, that God’s promised judgment had finally arrived? Since they were outside the ark, what hope did they have for eternity? And since God saw fit to destroy the earth as he did then, what hope do we have if we listen to the doctrines of demons?

  11. I have noticed over the years is that those who study “apologetics” can be predisposed to depression and struggle with doubts. They are also passionate about “defending” the faith. I am one of those people although I have backed off a bit-for my sanity. Nagging doubts have been the bane of my faith journey-sometimes it’s 60%-40% l am sure. Sometimes 70-30%. The Scriptures are what we have “as is” warts and all. Westminster Seminary is quite “fundamentalist” in my opinion but I do respect the mission of the seminary. While reading a bit of Brady’s book I was struck with his second guessing and ‘overthinking’ the issues. I was getting tied in a knot reading his thoughts. I hope he obtains some peace of mind.

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