The Problem with Ex-Christians

by Max Andrews

Earlier today I was listening to Dan Barker talk about how he knew that he was a born again Christian. He went to all these church events and was heavily involved with evangelism–all the Christian things Christians do. Well, Dan Barker no longer describes himself as a Christian. He, and many people like him, are very emphatic when they say that they were once Christians and they actually were saved or born again. However, if anyone is going to claim to be an Ex-Christian they’re going to have to say that they never were saved to begin with.

My concern isn’t with the doctrine of preservation or perseverance. (You can read about my position in my post, “Can You Lose Your Salvation? A Molinist’s Perspective.”) This is a different issue, and you’ll see what I mean shortly. What interests me is when individuals who claim to be non-Christian (atheist, agnostic, Muslim, etc.) claim that they were actually Christians prior to apostasy.  What are the conditions for being a Christian? Well, there are many conditions such as divine election, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the efficacy of the atonement, etc. Those are all important but what concerns the “apostate” is the sufficient and necessary conditions of believing the truth of the death, burial, resurrection and application of atonement to oneself.  When one apostatizes they must commit to the truth that the aforementioned conditions are actually false.  

So, the problem with Ex-Christians is that they never were saved to begin with. At least, they cannot consistently claim to once be saved and now not. To say that one was once saved and now not saved because of apostasy is simultaneously affirming a truth claim on one hand while denying the same claim on the next hand. Any Ex-Christian must say that they were never actually saved or born again because they couldn’t have been if they believe it to be false. They can equivocate and say that they believed they were saved just like everyone else believes they’re saved but they actually aren’t.

11 Responses to “The Problem with Ex-Christians”

  1. So true. Thanks for touching on this. This topic is always interesting when people say they “used to be a Christian”. Ummm…

  2. reasonable e this as a problem but rather to retroactively apply the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. It is possible, even likely, that a person’s beliefs about things will change over time. For example, I was a staunch atheist for many years before my conversion and I thoroughly and totally believed in the worldview that atheistic truth claims lead one to ie: The lack of a guiding intelligence in the universe, the unlikelihood of an afterlife, etc. The fact that I came to believe in the tenets of Christianity in no way implies that my prior beliefs weren’t sincere, but simply that they changed.

    The idea that a person who no longer identified as a Christian must never have been one is nonsensical at best.

    • There’s a difference between the sincerity of belief and the truth value of the affirmed propositions. Like I said, one can THINK one was saved but in turn, one ACTUALLY wasn’t because if there’s no such thing as God salvation is moot. The No True Scotsman fallacy concerns the epistemic issues of the knowing subject. That’s the problem with affirming or denying the same proposition at later points. For the ex-Christian all we can say is that he was a non-Christian. We can only negate.

      • Let’s say that at one point, a person accepts the statement ‘Jesus died for my sins’. At another point, he does not accept the truth of this statement. In order to make a distinction between beliefs and the affirmation of salvation propositions, you must explain how the truth of his acceptance or denial is temporally invariant. William Lane Craig makes the case that while God does have middle knowledge, he also experience time since the creation. Therefore His knowledge of the actualization of His middle knowledge (which of his projected propositions become actually true) will evolve with time. In other words, God’s knowledge of what actually happens (and thus which of his foreknown propositions become actualized) are not necessarily time invariant.

        Part of my concern here is that if you make God’s grace time invariant, then a whole host of theological problems result. Was Satan a bad guy even when he was an obedient angel? Was Adam damned prior to the first sin?

  3. That first sentence should read: I don’t see this a problem but rather a way to retroactively apply….

    I hate typing on a tablet sometimes.

  4. That – is – brilliant! I just love it when Christians think these things through and help me to think them through. Than you and bless you.

  5. I remember the moment when i was a child when I gave my life to christ. I KNEW I was a sinner and I asked Jesus into my heart and I KNEW he saved me. My whole childhood i never doubted, I went to church 3 times a week (sunday morning, evening and wednesday for AWANA). I tithed my allowance. I remember the moment between high school sophmore and junior years on a Mexico mission trip where i rededicated my life. I said “all in”, i don’t want to be a halfway christian i want to be all in. I lived like it afterwards i read the bible every morning. He was as real to me as a person.

    I am NOT telling these things to show my works, I’m NOT saying see “i did everything by the letter” rather i am trying to express where my heart and head were. I was completely and absolutely sincere about my beliefs and dedicating my life to Christ. I believed with all my heart, soul and mind.

    You say:
    “So, the problem with Ex-Christians is that they never were saved to begin with.”

    By question is what did I do wrong? I was completely for god, but somehow wasn’t saved anyways. I read the bible and asked each morning your will be done, not mine. I listened for his spirit and did what was put on my heart. You would have thought of all that time listening to God, he would have put it upon my heart that i wasn’t “really” saved and i just thought i was.

    What was I missing?

  6. The bible says in 1 Timothy 4 in the latter days, some will depart from the faith. Isn’t he talking to believers here? I believe a genuine Christian can walk away from faith. I would like to know exactly how someone becomes a Christian? How does one prove they are a Christian? For years I would go forward and ask Jesus into my heart. Just to be sure I’d do it again. I was even baptized a couple of times. Some would say I didn’t really receive Christ because I didn’t speak in tongues. Others said I had a demon. So how does one know if they are a believer or not? Does reading your Bible make you a Christian? Do you have to believe the entire Bible to be a Christian? What was the defining moment of believer or not without the aid of scripture to tell you if you are correct or not? They didn’t have printed Bibles back when there were early believers did they? Did you have to say “I pledge allegiance to the Holy Bible?”Which Bible version did they have back then? How do you prove or disprove someone is a Christian? Is it our sworn Christian duty to do this? Is God able to do it or is He not? Do you trust Him to impress upon someone’s heart whether or not they belong to Him?

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