Tuesday, November 26, 2019

It's Not Enough: Dustin Kensrue's Turning Away

By Dmileson - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0


Mars Hill Church in Seattle was once a surprisingly powerful influence in the Pacific Northwest. In the fall of 2014, the whole thing came tumbling down as the founder and senior pastor of the church, Mark Driscoll, was forced to publicly step down amid controversial financial dealings and interpersonal sin issues. You can read my thoughts about Driscoll and that whole ordeal in one of my blog posts from that time (now over five years ago -- wow!).

Many good things came out of the imperfect ministry of Mars Hill Church and high-quality, original Christian music is near the top of that list. The Sing Team, Citizens, Kings Kaleidoscope (see this article also), Ghost Ship, and The Modern Post were all Mars Hill guys. Dustin Kensrue, front man for Thrice, was also the front man for The Modern Post.

Over the last 18 months or so, Thrice has released a new album and The Modern Post has remained stagnant. Interestingly, the Gospel Song Union web page linked above still describes The Modern Post in this way:
The Modern Post is a band who believes that the good news of Jesus should forever be the headline. Band leader Dustin Kensrue, frontman of the critically acclaimed alternative band Thrice, crafts lyrics that challenge believers and non-believers alike to grapple with the gospel of a God who owes them his justice, yet gives them his grace.
Sadly, these words are no longer true. God's gospel is still the same -- and justice and grace are still fully found mingled together in the cross of Christ. But Kensrue's belief system has changed dramatically. He no longer encourages people to consider a God of grace. Instead, he challenges Christians to rethink Christianity completely. He challenges Christians to believe in a god who is just like them because he now professes such a faith.

I'm writing this article because it seems to me that one hasn't been written yet. I'm not trying to drag his name through the mud or discourage people from engaging with his content. In fact, our church still sings some of his songs. However, Christians need to know who he is and where he is now. Here's an overview of what Kensrue believes today.

Tiny God Theology

Dustin Kensrue now believes in Process Theology, a teaching that is not nearly as popular as many other unbiblical systems, mostly due to its comparatively young age. Developed in the 20th century, this worldview teaches "that the only absolute which exists in the world is change. Therefore, God, too, is constantly changing."

Process Theology is just one of many wayward teachings that Kensrue has embraced. Below is some Twitter documentation where he expresses his beliefs in his own words. These snippets are obviously very limited in their scope; however, this is the closest we can come to understanding Kensrue's newfound religion, as Twitter is his main mode of public communication.

Although these tweets weren't really a "coming out" for Kensrue's new worldview, they did prove to be instructive for those seeking to understand his worldview more comprehensively (or as comprehensively as a series of tweets allows). The middle tweet, the third of the five in the screenshot, tells us what we need to know.

Notice what he says in his analysis of the Bible's presentation of who God is and who man is: "It never sat well with me."

Here, at this most basic level, we know all that we need to know. God says one thing, man thinks another. Therefore, God must be the one who is wrong. May it never be! A healthy dose of Romans 9 is in order.

Yet, Romans 9 means nothing to someone who abandons the idea that God would and could reveal Himself through human authors, just as He desires.

In this very recent tweet (which contains a typo), Kensrue is essentially stating, "The most destructive thing I used to think was that the Bible is inerrant." His rejection of Scripture was elaborated more clearly in earlier tweets.

In his own words, Kensrue's worldview has been deconstructed. What has replaced his former beliefs is an understanding of the Bible as a flawed, imperfect, uninspired, and, thus, non-authoritative series of documents. Yet, he doesn't believe this separates him from Christianity. And yet still, he doesn't know if that's right or not. He is trapped in a postmodern conundrum from which there is no exit. He knows nothing, other than the fact that he knows nothing. And you don't either.

This system of thought is fundamentally incoherent. Notice he says that the abandonment of Scripture as inerrant was the "foundation" of his "deconstruction." Laying a foundation is a constructive act, not a destructive act. Perhaps a better way of putting it would have been, "Rejecting inerrancy was the first step in leaving Christianity to believe what I wanted to believe." What we discover when we examine those who apostatize is that they know where they want to go, but Scripture is in the way. Therefore, to get to the god of his own choosing, he has to suppress the revelation given to him in the Bible.

It all becomes clearly seen when examining Kensrue's other tweets. When asked about the doctrine of God's immutability (His unchanging nature), he responded this way:

His objection to God's sovereign control over the world seems to be rooted in his perception of morality as opposed to his philosophical preferences. The problem of evil has brought him to this point, as illustrated in the following tweets.

Kensrue was "never satisfied" with orthodox Christianity; thus, he had to get Scripture out of the way to clear a path for a more desirable understanding of the world. He was unable to get the worldview he wanted by using the Bible, so he moved the goalposts, so to speak.

The Bible teaches that God is absolutely sovereign and ordains whatsoever comes to pass. Nothing is outside of His control and every event that occurs in His world is an outflow of His will (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28-30). He is not caught off-guard and He doesn't change. This has been Christian doctrine for as long as there have been Christians -- because Christians get their doctrine from the Bible.

Yet Kensrue has forfeited this understanding of the divine and has embraced an understanding that aligns with his presuppositions. He has a preconceived view of who God should be even before he opens the Bible. So, it's entirely reasonable to challenge him on this presuppositions, as one Twitter user did in October 2018:

This, of course, is personal, subjective, shooting-in-the-dark, uncertain drivel. "As a species" is a tip of the cap to an atheistic understanding of the universe. "Spiritual consciousness" is a tip of the cap to Eastern philosophy. "Other strands of wisdom traditions" is a tip of the cap to universalism. The only direction his cap doesn't tip is toward biblical Christianity.

He can't tip his cap toward the faith once for all handed down to the saints because it absolutely repulses him. He hates the God of the Bible and he hates the Christian faith. He loves his own understanding of the universe and God's book is not allowed to challenge him on it.

Sad Irony

I've said this before and I have no problem saying it again: Dustin Kensrue is one of the best songwriters of this generation. I could point to Exhibits A-Z to prove my point, but if you've listened to his music it's likely that you realize this. I should also note here that he seems like a genuine person who would make for great coffee shop conversation.

His 2013 album The Water and the Blood is one of the best Christian records of this decade. One of the originals from that collection is "It's Not Enough" and in that song he states this:
It's not enough, it's not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It's not enough, it's not enough
Though I could live for all to lift them higher
Or spend the centuries seeking light within
Though I indulged my every dark desire
Exhausting every avenue of sin 
It's not enough, it's not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It's not enough, it's not enough
I could right all wrongs, or ravage
Everything beneath the sun
It's not enough, it's not enough
Though all would bow to me
Till I could drink my fill of fear and love
It's not enough, it's not enough

The philosophies of man and the "light within" are not enough. What he sang in this song is true, but it has become clear that he never believed it. When challenged with his understanding of the lyrics he used to belt out, he said this:

This is a sad irony. Scripture tells us that there's a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death. Kensrue formerly professed to agree with that. Today, he rejects the notion. It's like he reversed his regeneration. It's more accurate to understand that he was never born again.

Consider the closing lyrics from one of my favorite songs from that aforementioned album, "Grace Alone": "So I'll stand in faith by grace and grace alone / I will run the race by grace and grace alone / I will slay my sin by grace and grace alone / I will reach the end by grace and grace alone."

Grace -- and grace alone -- enables the believer to stand in faith, run the race, slay his sin, and reach the end. Dustin Kensrue has never been changed by such grace. His relationship with it has been purely theoretical and academic. He prefers a religion fashioned with his own thoughts under his own authority. What a shame.

Now when I listen to these songs or sing them in church, there's something that rings hollow. These beautiful arrangements of words, certainly a reflection of the image of God found in Kensrue, are not truths embraced by their author. Instead, they are a facade of a past profession lacking any real substance. When I see his name at the bottom of our screen where the lyrics are projected, I feel bad. I know he's not my brother. Yet he knows exactly what the gospel is. And this is tragic.


The takeaways here are quite similar to the takeaways from the Joshua Harris situation. As I wrote in a previous article, "Our trust is not in man who changes, but in God who cannot change. We do not trust in ourselves, but in the One who has saved us." These words are even more applicable here, considering Kensrue does not believe God is unchanging.

Yet, the application here has a deeper impact as I consider the circumstances. Joshua Harris rose quickly to fame writing a book that many Christians never agreed with. He joined a pastoral staff and got an education, always being led and guided by others before deciding to craft his own version of reality. He wrote some other things (notably and ironically among them was a small book on orthodoxy that I found to be helpful), yet he was always known for that first book that skyrocketed him to stardom.

Kensrue was a rocker who found God in the Pacific Northwest. He has never been famous in the same way Harris was famous. And Kensrue wrote lyrics to songs that enriched all who sang them. Words were put together carefully and biblically so as to remain faithful to the gospel, to Scripture, and, ultimately, to the church. He was never a blind follower of Mark Driscoll, but showed the ability to discern for himself as he joined with other pastors to call for his resignation. He eventually stepped down from his position as pastor at Mars Hill because of his correct convictions.

And even so, here we are. Kensrue has denied the faith and followed after his own heart, which is deceitful and sick. He, like Mars Hill Church in 2014, is not on a good trajectory.

In a day and age where good Christian music is as abundant as four-leaf clovers, it's heart-breaking to see that such a talented songwriter has no intention of continuing his songwriting ministry. What's the worst, though, is that this lack of intention stems from a hatred of the God he once professed to know.

So let us be reminded, once again, that our trust is not in man. Let us be reminded that many people are not only deceived, but self-deceived. And let us hold fast to the confession of our faith, even as many among us fall away.


  1. Thanks for posting this. Well written. Well thought out. Thrice was one of my favorite bands back in the day, and I've even played some of Dustin's Modern Post songs at church. I haven't been able to get into Thrice's newer stuff due to Dustin's theological changes in recent years. I pray for the man as I too believe that his lyricism and song writing talent is unmatched in his generation.

    I'm actually seeing Thrice for the first time, playing in Rochester NY this evening. They are playing Vheissu in it's entirely to celebrate it's 15th anniversary. I'm thrilled with the fact that my first time seeing him live will be featuring what I believe to be his best material.

    God bless ya for writing this.

    1. I've been a Thrice fan for more than 15 years, I've also been an atheist for as long as I can remember. Never have I had a problem finding meaning in Dustin's lyrics, nor was I ever bothered by their Christian influence. I think that's because - like you said - his lyricism and song writing talent is unmatched in his generation.

      I don't mean to offend you but from my perspective, I see the biblically inspired lyrics similarly to those inspired by mythology, like Daedalus or Melting Point Of Wax. He just crafts something very relevant and current from those ideas and stories that humans have contemplated for centuries.

      I can see how his spiritual change taints your experience of his music but I hope that you can still find meaning in it. It's just too beautiful. :)

      I hope you have an amazing day and had a great time at the show. I hope to see them when they come to Germany later this year, unless Corona has other plans...

    2. Stop worrying about being a Christian and start worrying more about acting like Jesus. And if that confuses you or confronts you then ask yourself why lol

    3. Did mean to post that to you specifically sorry lol. Meant to post it to the general thread.

    4. Me again. Did not*. Thanks

  2. "All of the woods already rotting, though you've made it gleam.
    You've painted every shortcut,
    Concealed each crooked seam.

    But every flaw will be revealed,
    Each imperfection shown.
    Oh I can hear the wind howl
    And the timber groan"

    Very sad and ironic indeed

  3. Thrice's pre-hiatus albums are a huge reason as to why I am a Christian. This is heartbreaking, but I pray he returns to the truth. I had a short conversation with Dustin on Twitter as well and it was heartbreaking in that it seemed deep down he knew there were issues with his new worldview so he doesn't give too much. As if he wants to keep his Christian audience, maybe. Either way it ended with me asking if he was being pressured into this by a post-Trump record company after the success of Black Honey. Probably not the best tactic on my end.

  4. I think this one stings more because Dustin seemed to be pretty much the antithesis of the "young, hip worship pastor" who sang the same vapid lyrics of generalized hope, faith, victory, power, etc... that much of the Christian music scene seems to be filled with. Many of us obviously never expected that he would start traveling the same road of denying the authority of scripture and Christ as "the Way" as so many of those folks have. Many weeks we will sing songs that Dustin wrote at my church and I know it's going to take some serious prayer and patience to not be closed off to joyfully proclaiming the truth that saturates much of what he wrote. This is all such a shock to me...

  5. Not really surprising when his background had to do with Calvinist theology. That theology is extremely destructive. It denigrates God's character and is the antithesis of the Good News of the Gospel.

  6. so sad. Penal Substitutionary atonement is central to God's plan to redeem a people unworthy of his love. Take it away and you have a senseless death of the perfect man, who had the power to stop it. Just nonsensical to rip up the truth for your own need to be able to tick every box as "acceptable to me". Too many people throw it away and then end up leaving the church - the bride of Christ, who He died to make beautiful. So sad.

  7. I have to say, I'm impressed with how well-written this was. I've read many an article talking about those who have fallen from the faith or have shown they never believed (depending on one's theological views) and they usually start with the feeble attempt to make it seem like they are writing this out of love, but one paragraph in to the article you can already tell they harbor some strong negative feelings towards whoever they are writing against and you see their article probably has very little to do with the 'speaking the truth in love' which they try to hold to at the beginning and more with their personal vendetta. This was not such an article, though. You can hear the heartbreak in your language and tone, the grace which you are trying to give as you present the facts of what Dustin now claims to believe. So thank you! Although still a depressing story, this was truly refreshing to read simply because of how you presented it. Thanks again

  8. I went to Mars Hill until shortly before the implosion. I have to commend Dustin for being one of the group of pastors to take a stand against what was going on. From my point of view, he was brave.

    I have to believe that the corruption and hypocrisy he witnessed from the inside, particularly on the part of Mark Driscoll, played a part in changing the way he viewed his faith, God, and where he fits into all of it.

    I never met Dustin, but it seems from his artistry and from his advocacy, he is a guy who is seeking. My disappointing experience at Mars Hill led me back to the Catholic Church and to deeper and far more expansive views of who God is and how He loves me and all people. But I went through a lot of questioning and negative emotions between Mars Hill and what I feel like now is true salvation by God's grace. Perhaps Dustin is on a similar but different sort of journey.

    God desires all of us to be saved. God, salvation, Jesus' role in our salvation, and the problem of evil can all be very difficult concepts to come to terms with. St Augustine said, "If I can understand it, it is not God." I love that, because it grants a sort of permission to rest with our questions, our big or small chunks of unbelief, and our inability to understand the infiniteness of God.

    God desires Dustin to be saved. Maybe he is already. Maybe God wants Dustin to keep seeking. Maybe God wants Dustin to struggle more with these issues and questions. Who knows? God knows. We don't know.

    I'm praying for Dustin in the same way that I hope all of us are praying that all people be saved.

  9. “ Kensrue has denied the faith and followed after his own heart, which is deceitful and sick.”
    You sir can go fuck yourself. He no longer believes in your view of some god so he is deceitful and sick? No true love like Christian hate am I right? How about once you have some real evidence based facts to prove your god, his opinion is just as valid as your own.

    1. Your problem is not with me, but with your Creator. Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?"

    2. Thrice album “Major/Minor” song name “Promises” Dustin’s lyrics on man’s heart - “our hearts are so deceitful, sick and filled with lies that lead to death” Dustin is no exception, his heart is also deceitful and sick.

  10. You might benefit from learning more about why other people hold the views they do. It seems like you're pretty quick to reject other perspectives without trying to understand them. You don't have to agree with Kensrue, that's fine, I don't either, but process theology is an interesting perspective with a lot of smart people trying to better understand God.

    When somebody says they don't believe in an inerrant Bible, attacking them with a Bible verse isn't really a meaningful response. Maybe somewhere else you explain your disagreements with these views, but this whole blog post just came across as incredibly arrogant, and your use of scripture in responding to another commenter here seemed weirdly aggressive and closed-minded. Anybody can hit people over the head with accusations of bad theology and slap a Bible verse on it. We're called to higher purposes than that.

    1. Did you just hit me over the head with accusations of bad theology and slap your own opinions on it? I thought you were called for a purpose higher than that.

    2. Hermeneutics via "I'm rubber, you're glue." Though about as profound as this discussion ever got, really, given that it started from presuppositional Conservative Evangelical takfirism, and has wandered via "yeah, Calvinists are all fake Christians too".

      BTW, three-leaf clovers are the standard kind. It's four-leaved ones that are rare and "lucky". If your intention was to claim that good Christian music was _actually_ commonplace and routine, that was the opposite of what the structure of that sentence implied. As well as being fairly unlikely on its face.

  11. Dustin agrees with 95% of your world view, so you chose to make a shitpost about the other 5%? Classy.

  12. Pretty sad read. Seems to have been really thrown by trying to understand evil. I get his problem but not his solution. I grew up in a church not unlike Mars Hill but instead of rejecting it and turning to modern books, I turned to old books and God both deconstructed and rebuilt at once. Deconstructing one's beliefs and really examining them can be a step 1 to thinking for one's self and starting to really know God - rather than be a call and response Christian. That said, most seem to consider this first step as some kind of end in itself and just hang out there, or get lost. Seems to me Kensrue would be better served by CS Lewis, Chesterton, Augustine, maybe even Plato, than his current list. I mean Plato claimed by reason (though by strange logic) that God didn't author evil almost 2500 years ago. Despite how we might argue that, these ideas are far from new...

  13. The biggest takeaway is that Dustin puts up with and offers tremendous grace to the sheep, panicked about their satanic world view being disrupted.

  14. Jeremy Howard.net thank you for writing this article

  15. So, I've been a fan of Thrice since 2003, spoke with Dustin many times throughout this period and I've had a feeling for years that he was starting to go down this road, but reading this and learning this and finally accepting it is ABSOLUTELY HEARTBREAKING on a deep level for me.

    I think that any Christian who found Thrice can join me in saying it is music felt in the depths of one's soul and spirit in a way that maybe nothing else ever has. I'm heartbroken. Like many of you said above, it's hard to even listen to these songs now. It's devastating.

    And while I could go on about just how devastated I am by all of this, I want to remind everyone that ultimately we cannot truly know his journey and what God is working in him. To say that he NEVER EVEN WAS a believer and to cast him aside as such is just as tragic; and to make claims about the state of his salvation is, in the words of Thrice, "to play at God, play at God."

    Like Dustin, I went through a "deconstruction" period around right the same time he started his, actually... and while it was no where near as drastic as his, never to the point of outright heresy (which a lot of his views now seem to be), I still walked through a lot of muck before coming out on the other end and seeing the truth from the lies. Because of this, I can relate, and find it even more devastating to see just how far down the deconstruction hole he has gotten. But God can and will use all things for good, and has the power to bring Dustin back to Him in Spirit and Truth with a stronger faith then ever before.

    ONLY GOD can speak to his salvation - whether he was ever truly a real believer or not. And if you listen to his lyrics it's hard to imagine they were written by someone who hasn't experienced Jesus.

    My point here is that I think we should be viewing him as a fellow brother of ours in Christ who has dearly fallen off the path and is on a road of spiritual destruction. Our hearts mourn this, and thus we should fervently pray for God to complete His good work in Dustin and bring him back to the Truth.

    We love you, Dustin.

  16. Articles like this are one of the many reasons why people are leaving Christianity. So painfully self-righteous.

  17. This is a pretty absurd, overly-presumptive article, although incredibly helpful having someone compile all of Dustin‘s tweets in one place to see what he was believing-at least at that time (who knows how much his theology has changed by now).

    Most of this article is jumping to some pretty extreme conclusions based on some short tweets, going far beyond the actual words of Dustin to interpreting what is implied by them, and even accusing him of not being a Christian anymore. When in reality he has only stopped believing a particular (though widely accepted) Christian theology. I’m not familiar with the phrase process theology, but God does certainly change how he interacts with man, and his systems, laws, and covenant are evolving from Genesis to Revelation, though God himself is unchanging in His personality and nature. It seems God is constantly meeting man where he is and as he changes through time. Also, there are a lot of scholarly, devout Christians, who don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, including one of Dustin’s idols, C.S. Lewis. So maybe a lot of these accusations against what Dustin does or doesn’t believe should be applied to C.S. Lewis as well.

    And also, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ will always be a mystery to some degree this side of the grave, so there’s certainly room for different perspectives on what exactly Jesus did and how He did it. And those varying views on His life and teachings and sacrifice, what He truly intended by them, by no means exclude someone from being considered a Christian, or believer in Christ’s divinity, or the inspiration of Scripture.

  18. This is tragic news. I knew Dustin growing up and revered his passion for God and theology. The thought of him falling away decades later never crossed my mind. I hope he repents.

  19. Helpful for someone to compile all the twitter posts. Maybe would have been better to allow people to draw their own conclusions. I think it’s been pretty clear his perspectives have changed and he’s been grappling with it if you just listen to the lyrics of the past two albums.

    It does make it harder for me to enjoy the music as it seems like most of the songs in the new albums are voicing these new perspectives. I’ve always wondered if he now feels weird singing those older songs from Beggars and Major/Minor.

    I think the author of this post should have maybe been a bit more charitable to a sensitive soul such as Kensrue. Maybe don’t forget Jude v.22.

  20. This article was super helpful. I loved Thrice back in the day but was always creeped out by Dustin being a Christian. Knowing he's following a more reasonable theology at least helps me still listen to those old songs without cringing to death.

  21. Sometimes people revisit their beliefs and in that moment they put it out in front of the whole world instead of in their personal journal where they caan reflect on it further- maybe this is what happened- who knows?
    When you are a public figure your words and thoughts are on steroids and you must be judicious of them.
    All the Best,

  22. Oh,
    thanks for your writing.

  23. While "inerrancy" feels like a misnomer to me, I don't see Christianity and rejecting the Bible's "inerrancy" as mutually exclusive. We know without question that there is error in our interpretation of the Bible, and I suspect that's what Dustin is getting at. The Bible is a collection of writings in the same way that an art gallery is a collection of pieces. So for example, fundamentalism will interpret the creation story as seven literal days, when I think it's more prudent to understand that as non-literal, rather to point to truths about God and the Gospel that a literal interpretation will miss.

    Why would you write an article about one person's social media posts about their faith? If you want to talk about it, then respond to his posts. Have a conversation. What does Dustin mean when he references "inerrant" or "deconstruction". There are plenty of Christians who are non-evangelical, which is actually an attempt to revisit the belief and theology of the early church.

  24. This is hilarious to me.