One Semester at Yale Divinity School and I’m No Longer a Christian. Here’s Why.

Andrew Springer
6 min readDec 23, 2023


Me in front of the (old) Yale Divinity School entrance shortly after I was accepted.

This past Tuesday afternoon I turned in the very last paper of my very first semester at Yale Divinity School. And I have to say after just four short months, I’ve come to a profound shift in my thinking that I feel the need to say publicly: I am no longer a Christian. What happened?

To be fair, Yale Divinity is an amazing place filled with amazing people. It was the privilege afforded to me by it to be able to sit and learn from some of the world’s foremost scholars on the Bible, theology, and ethics that evolved my thinking. It helped me see, not just in a conversational way, but in a documentable, scholarly way just how far what we call ‘Christianity’ today has strayed from the original message of Jesus of Nazareth.

In my Introduction to Theology class, we delved into the work of Delores Williams, a towering figure in progressive theological circles. In her book, Sisters in the Wilderness, Williams calls into question some core tenets of the Christian faith, especially the idea that Jesus’ suffering and dying on the cross is meant to make up for everyone’s wrongdoings. (1)

She thinks this idea glorifies suffering and surrogacy, and, in so doing, excuses the past pain and forced roles American society has inflicted on Black women like her as “ordained by God”: ‘Sure that was hard, but God put you through it to take you to better places.’ (2)

To Williams, God would never ordain this horrific past. Jesus doesn’t “save” us through his death on the cross. Jesus shows us a path of redemption based on how we should live our lives. We “save” ourselves by changing our lives using the model that Jesus provides. Living like him, that is, living spirit-filled lives of love, is the only way to reconnect to God. It is action — not belief — which saves.

Delores Williams’ classic Sisters in the Wilderness sits on my desk.

Discussing this passage, our teaching fellow remarked pointed out that, “there are some people who don’t even consider this view Christian.”

Ever the contrarian, I raised my hand. “It’s not,” I said. “I mean, I don’t know of any polling, but I’d venture to say that the vast majority of the world’s two billion Christians wouldn’t define Christianity this way.” (3)

A lightbulb moment

It was a lightbulb moment for me. Something clicked. I totally agree with Williams, but I realized what she’s talking about is not Christianity. Christianity is something else. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life trying to convince people that what they think is Christianity isn’t actually Christianity. It’s a common refrain among Progressive Christians: “I’m a Christian — but not that kind of Christian.”

We try to put space between us and all the ancient silliness that those other Christians still believe: a literal resurrection, punishment in hell for all eternity, Jesus performing miracles, God becoming human, and so on.

Then we reiterate the parts of our faith that still make sense in the modern world, namely living a more spiritual and love-centered life that brings us closer to God, closer to each other, and closer to a more peaceful and just world. Only what we’re describing is not Christianity, it’s something else. I’ve come to realize it’s not the religion of Jesus Christ, or Jesus the Messiah; it’s the religion of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Jesus of Christianity: the white skinned, blue-eyed, son of God. Spoiler alert: This was not the actual Jesus of Nazareth.

In her book, Williams quotes another prophetic figure of Black theology, James Cone. In his book God of the Oppressed, Cone argued that “by becoming the religion of the Roman state, replacing the public state sacrifices, Christianity became the opposite of what Jesus intended.” (4)

That line hit me like a lightning bolt. What did Jesus — the poor, itinerant Palestinian preacher, teacher, healer, and prophet, who lived and died over 2,000 years ago, intend? To be fair it’s something I’ve thought and studied about a lot of the past two decades since doing ever since I did my undergrad in religion.

What did the real Jesus intend?

I have to say, and I think most scholars would agree with me, the religion which purports to spread the good news of which Jesus proclaimed bears very little resemblance to what the actual Jesus of Nazareth preached.

Scholars call this man “the historical Jesus,” in an attempt to distinguish him from “the Christ of faith.” One was an actual living human being with a message from God, who called out systems of greed and oppression, who preached a spiritual path of love and non-resistance that would lead to the Kingdom of God, a more just, peaceful, and equitable Earth.

The other is the Son of God, God become man, who will magically save you from his own wrath and give you eternity in paradise if you simply “believe” what other people tell you about “Him,” whose followers used his name to establish colonial kingdoms of mammon enslaving or slaughtering anyone who opposed them.

A meme that’s made the rounds in the past few years comparing the historical Jesus and the Jesus of Christianity (colonizer Jesus).

One is the religion of Jesus, one is the religion of man. One offers a radical but difficult new way of living that could ultimately bring an end to violence, oppression, and hatred. The other plays on our worst instincts, divides us, and supports systems of violence, oppression, and greed.

I’m no longer pretending Christianity isn’t what it actually is. I can no longer support an invention of humankind that has brought so much misery, destruction, empire, and violence to this planet.

A follower of Jesus

I am, however, devoting myself to follow the way offered by Jesus of Nazareth. I’m not a Christian. I’m a follower of Jesus.

In the coming weeks in here on this blog and in my newsletter, I’ll be diving into what scholars think Jesus actually preached, what it means for us today, and what it would mean if we all traveled that path together.

I hope you’ll join me and I hope you’re having a Merry Christmas with the people you love.

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(1) Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 2013), 143–157.

(2) A less brief summary of Williams’ ideas: Williams says too often Christian theology, specifically Black Liberation theology, explains away pain and suffering by claiming that such suffering is redemptive. Just as God lead the ancient Israelites out of slavery and into the promised land of milk and honey in the Exodus, so too will God eventually redeem you. Williams sharply disagrees: God doesn’t always save the oppressed. She uses the story of Hagar in Genesis as case in point. When Hagar, an Egyptian (African) slave runs away from her enslavers, Abraham and Sarah, God tells Hagar to return to them. Thus, God doesn’t always redeem the suffering. Any sort of thinking that lifts up or validates suffering as a path to freedom, whether through a parted Red Sea or Jesus’s blood the cross — is fundamentally flawed. Such thinking inadvertently justifies, and implies that God does too, the suffering that has been inflicted upon Black women in American history. To Williams, God would never ordain this horrific past. See Williams, Sisters, chapters 1, 3, and 6.

(3) The idea that humans are responsible for their own salvation, or that salvation comes through our own actions rather than the grace of God, is the ancient heresy of Pelagianism. Pelagianism “holds that man can take the initial and fundamental steps towards salvation by his own efforts, apart from divine grace.” Staunch opponents of this view included both Jerome and Augustine; the idea was repudiated by at least two Popes. Pelagius himself was eventually excommunicated in 418, although this idea has regularly reappeared in Christian communities across the centuries. See “Pelagianism,” in Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 4th ed., ed. Andrew Louth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022), 1474–1475.

(4) James Cone, God of the Oppressed (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 2012), 119.



Andrew Springer

Emmy winning journalist, producer and entrepreneur. Co-founder of NOTICE News, follower of Jesus. 🏳️‍🌈🌹 Weekly newsletter: