Legendary Christian hip-hop artist Brady “Phanatik” Goodwin, one of the founders of the trailblazing rap group The Cross Movement, announced last week that he is no longer a Christian and no longer believes the Bible. His peers in Christian rap are responding to his departure and criticism of the Bible.
In Goodwin’s 24-minute Jan. 17 video, the emcee and apologetics teacher said he is parting ways with Christianity but refrained from going into too much detail.
“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,” Goodwin, widely known by the name “Phanatik,” shared in his Facebook video announcement.
In the clip, he calmly explained that his doubts began while attending Lancaster Bible College and increased in 2014 while studying at Westminster Theological Seminary, where it all began to unravel.
“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?’” Goodwin questioned.
The Christian rap pioneer shared that he turned to science and found many things in the Bible that he could not reconcile. Upon the release of his video, fans of faith-based hip-hop were devastated by the news. In response, Goodwin’s former Cross Movement group members made public statements and defended the faith that they once all held so dear.
Also a founding member of The Cross Movement, William “The Ambassador” Branch, took to YouTube with a long dialogue, using several passages in the Bible to respond to Goodwin’s renunciation. He shared the history of The Cross Movement and specifically addressed some of the things his old friend shared in the video.
“We love him, and I’m talking about Jesus, and at the time Phanatik was right with us, and Phanatik deemed and claimed with us,” Branch said, speaking of when they all first became professing Christians in the 1990s.
“Now, we’re going to start talking about I don’t believe the source that talks about Him, the Bible? Remember, Phanatik’s video was about him having some issues with the scriptures as though the scriptures lied to him. But what about meeting Him?” Branch inquired. “What about what you experienced? What about the One you had been walking with? Who were you talking to?”
Branch, who serves as assistant professor of preaching and Bible for The College at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he believes Satan is causing his former group member to forget his authentic experiences with God.
“I know the devil will make us have revisionist history,” he said, then illustrated, “‘I guess I was talking to thin air. The answers to prayer, I guess they were figments of my imagination. The provisions that came when I called the name of Jesus, I guess that was all coincidence or luck.’”
“No!” he added. “If you met the Lord Jesus, why turn from Him? If you knew the Lord Jesus intimately, not just mentally but intimately, How can you abandon Him? He’s real, and then you loved Him, even though you don’t see Him? Even though science may not affirm Him, even though historians may not affirm the biblical revelation of Him, you met Him!”
Goodwin responded to Branch’s video on Facebook, saying that if his friend “had endeavored to hear my heart like I asked instead of consistently taking the debate route,” he would not have misunderstood him.
John “The Tonic” Wells, another member of The Cross Movement, posted a 10-minute video response to fans of the movement as a word of encouragement.
“I want to encourage you today about something that you may not be thinking about,” he said on Instagram. “[The Cross Movement] doesn’t all orbit around him. There’s other people still here standing firm in the faith, a lot of us.”
Wells said that the movement’s faith does not rest in the hands of Goodwin.
“That very same group, the initiators of that movement, there’s about seven others who are still in place. Amazingly, you probably haven’t thought about a brother by the name of Juan James — ‘Enock’ — who was a member of The Cross Movement too, who up until he passed away, he still professed Jesus Christ and the God of the Bible. And now he’s basking in the presence of our Lord. Be encouraged by that!” he inspired.
Wells brought up DJ Official, a beloved Hip-Hop musician who was a part of The Cross Movement and later the 116 clique whose real name is Nelson J. Chu. Chu passed away in 2016.
“He faced a lot of trial and tribulation in his life,” Wells said of Chu. “Especially toward the end of his life — sickness in his body and suffered in ways that some of us probably would never imagine. But even with all the sickness and things racking him, you could imagine the challenges and the doubts that he had. Up until he took his last breath, he still professed Jesus Christ as Lord, the God of the Bible.”
Wells noted that other members — Earthquake, Tru Life and Cruz Cordero — are all still strong in their faiths as well.
“Myself, [I’m] still a servant of Jesus Christ and determined more than ever to serve Him with my last breath,” Wells testified. “So I’m telling you more than be discouraged, be encouraged. We still stand firm. Our God is still securely on the throne.”
“Unfortunately, the place that Brady is right now, he wants to walk you through some stuff and cause doubt. I don’t think he’s meaning to injure people. He’s just in a place where he doesn’t realize the damage that’s being done. But he wants you too to doubt; he wants you too to come along with him,” Wells added.
“I’ll tell you like I told him, he can’t have you all. You all belong to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.”
Wells stressed that no one can rely on science as science can not explain why people yawn. He ended his message by saying It’s not over for Goodwin.
“The story isn’t over! I believe in something called perseverance of the saints. I believe salvation is of God. He’s the author and the finisher of it,” Wells declared. “He preserves us and seals us to the day of redemption. So I believe the story, Brady’s still alive, so it’s not over!”
The next generation of rappers
In recent years, some notable Christian figures have deconstructed from Christianity altogether after experiencing doubts.
In a recent interview with The Christian Post after Goodwin’s announcement, Grammy Award-winning rapper Lecrae admits that he also had to do some soul searching after feeling so abused by fellow Christians in 2017.
That season almost made him walk away from his Christian faith. However, the rapper sought out on a journey to reconstruct his faith. Now his relationship with Christ is stronger than ever.
“A few people that I know this year, who’ve been professing Christians for years, have decided they no longer claim Christianity,” Lecrae told CP, speaking of why he posted a recent tweet about deconstructing from “politicized” and “corporatized” modern church culture.
“I just thought to myself, ‘Man, I know that feeling.’ But sometimes we throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I wanted to just encourage people that, ‘Hey, I know where you’re [at], what you’re feeling. But sometimes the problem is not with the faith; it’s with the distortions of the faith,’” he assured.
Popular God Over Money/ The Menace Movement rapper Datin has been personally impacted by Goodwin and stated that he was really “sad and disappointed” to hear the news.
“I consider Brady a friend. He, himself, may not even realize how much he has impacted me. But this man has been somebody I looked up [to] for a very long time,” Datin, who recently became an ordained pastor, shared with The Christian Post.
“He was the first established Christian rapper that embraced me and poured into me when I came to Christ and started writing Christian music.”
Datin said not only was he edified by Goodwin’s Christian music, but he also learned from him as they conversed while working on an album together. Even after the album was complete, they remained friends and kept in touch.
However, Datin noticed a change.
“In more recent times, I’ve kind of sensed him taking this new direction. The nature of his post on Facebook were very telling,” the New Jersey native continued. “If you had been paying attention, he has been alluding to this departure from Christianity for a few years now.”
“In September of 2021, he was in Florida and came by my church to watch me preach,” Datin detailed. “After the service, I asked him how he had been and mentioned that I noticed a change in the content of his post on Facebook. He confirmed that there was a change but didn’t get into detail. So when he announced his departure from the faith, I was not surprised at all, but that didn’t make the confirmation of it any less disappointing or sad for me.”
Datin, who has a huge following in Christian Hip-hop, proclaimed his stance in God.
“I, for one, completely believe the word of God with every fiber of me. So my brother’s current stance deeply grieves me when I think about the eternal state of his soul. I am praying for my brother to have an eye-opening experience and supernatural encounter with the Lord so that he would turn back to Jesus and restoration can take place. I am still very hopeful for him, and I will be praying without ceasing. Regardless, I still love him and consider him a friend to this very day,” he maintained.
Another artist who considers Goodwin a friend is Kingdom Choice Award-winning emcee David Veira.
The New York rapper told CP: “I know Phanatik personally and spoke to him many times online. He always showed me love and support. As far as him renouncing Christianity, I’m really sorry to hear this.”
“I know from studying the Bible, Paul was one that persecuted the Church until he had an encounter with Jesus. After Paul’s encounter, he was on fire for Jesus because he met Him. That’s the same for me. I met Jesus in my misery, and I know for a fact He’s real, and that’s not just from me reading the Bible, it’s from me personally meeting Him and experiencing Him taking my personal issues and turning it around,” he attested.
Veira ended by saying that he too is “hoping my Brother meets Jesus in this situation and He answers all the questions he has that cause him to doubt.”
Upon seeing the responses online, Goodwin instructed his supporters not to be upset with those responding to his announcement.
“Please don’t be upset with those making videos about me or in response to mine,” he wrote on Facebook. “Some of them are only doing what the Bible instructs good shepherds to do when they sense danger arising in or near a flock.”
He called it “group-think” or “herd mentality” human nature.
“Either way, don’t worry about me. I’m not brittle or bitter. I sleep like a well-nursed babe. I respect you too much to argue online. But I love you too much to remain silent,” he maintained. “I might add my voice to the ongoing discussion raging above the heads of most lay-Christians, most of whom (especially my ppls according to the flesh) are oblivious to it.”
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic