Since I’ve been following the Lord over the last three decades, I’ve watched Christians—some of them being the most faithful and the most zealous of my friends—leave the Lord and veer off into atheism or some other world religion.
Keep in mind that the purpose of this blog isn’t to discuss the once-saved-always-saved doctrine nor to speculate on whether or not these folks truly knew the Lord. That’s an entirely different topic and not the one for today’s post.
Rather, it’s to explore why these people—who in all cases had all the outward marks of being a true follower—decided to serve Jesus divorce papers and turn their backs on God.
Whether you want to call it apostasy or backsliding is irrelevant. I want to stay with one narrow idea: The reasons why they said they bailed out on the Lord.
As I shuffle these people in my mind—some of whom served the Lord for over 20 years before they pulled the plug on believing in Jesus altogether—each of them said they did so for one of these seven reasons.
1. The horrible, disgusting, nasty way that Christians treat one another in-person and online.
I wrote about this in “Warning: The World Is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another” and “The Art of Being a Jerk Online.” But it’s also one of the reasons why some Christians want nothing to do with following Jesus anymore. It’s because of the subhuman way that so many of His professing followers treat each other. Ways in which they themselves would never want to be treated, breaking the cardinal commandment of Jesus Himself—which fulfills the Law and the Prophets—in Matthew 7:12.
2. The canned, superficial answers they had been given to complicated questions.
Example: An 18-year-old is brought up in a Christian home. She is taught that God created the earth in seven literal days and that the earth is young. The 18-year-old enters college and she hears this idea ripped to shreds. She is confused and finally concludes, “If that’s wrong, then I have to throw out everything I’ve been taught in the Bible. Maybe it’s all myth.”
The fact is, this 18-year-old has never been exposed to some of the best thinking on the subject. She’s never been exposed to the sophisticated answers to modernity, to empiricism, to the problem of evil in the world. Nor has she ever been taught that one can interpret Genesis a number of ways and none of them mean doubting the authority, reliability or inspiration of Scripture.
The canned answers she received is all she knows, and they are proving inadequate.
Greg Boyd’s excellent book Benefit of the Doubt goes into some of this very well.
(Incidentally, to the fundamentalists who might read this post, I’ve not given my view on Genesis 1 and 2 here, so don’t assume it. I give my views on those passages in Jesus: A Theography. I find too many holes in macro-evolutionary theory (although there is clearly evolution within species, etc.), and I believe that Adam was a living, breathing mortal.
However, I have many friends who take all of this figuratively and they are more faithful to Jesus Christ than some of my fundamentalist friends. So if N.T. Wright or C.S. Lewis reads Genesis 1 and 2 completely figuratively, that doesn’t make them apostates. The real test of whether or not you really know Jesus Christ is if you love the brethren—1 John—and walk in Matthew 7:12. Many so-called “Bible-believing Christians” do not; they are hateful and dishonest people who will be shocked when they face God one day.)