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.


18 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?

  7. Here is my story: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. I repented of all my sins and accepted Jesus Christ into my heart to be my Lord and Savior at age nine…and again in my early teens…just to be sure. In my early 20’s my family moved to another state where we attended a non-denominational, evangelical mega-church (which taught Baptist doctrine) for several years. In my mid to late 20’s I stopped going to church because I didn’t “feel” God inside me and he didn’t seem to listen when I prayed.

    I remained unchurched until I was married in my forties. I started attending liberal churches. When we had children, I started looking again at more conservative/fundamentalist churches, something closer to what I had believed as a child and teenager. We joined a conservative, orthodox Lutheran church. I became very involved in the church. I was happy and content in my orthodox Christian belief system. I read the Bible and prayed regularly.
    One day I was surfing the internet and came across an atheist’s website. He was a former fundamentalist Baptist/evangelical pastor! I was shocked! I started to engage him in conversation, and also tried to bring him back to the Faith, to belief in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
    However, this man pointed out to me some very big assumptions in my Christian belief system which I had never thought of, such as:

    1. Just because there is evidence for a Creator does not mean that the Creator is the Christian God, Yahweh.

    2. Our current Bibles contain thousands of scribe alterations, most of them inconsequential, but a couple of them are shocking. Why did God allow scribes copying the original Scriptures to change, delete, add, or alter his inerrant, Holy, Word?

    3. How do we know that the books of the New Testament are the Word of God? Is there a verse that tells us? Did Jesus give us a list? Did Paul?

    4. Do we really have any verifiable eyewitness testimony for the Resurrection or is it all hearsay and legend?

    5. Modern archaeology proves that the Captivity in Egypt, the Exodus, the forty years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the great kingdoms of David and Solomon are only ancient Hebrew fables.

    At first I fought him tooth and nail. I fought him for four months. At the very end I had to admit that there are no verifiable eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus in the Bible or anywhere else. All we have are four anonymous first century texts full of discrepancies and contradictions. The only thing I had left to attach my faith to was the testimony of the Apostle Paul: why would a devout Jewish rabbi convert to a religion he so hated unless he really saw a resurrected dead man on the Damascus Road?
    But after studying the five Bible passages that discuss Paul’s conversion, I had to admit that Paul never says he saw a resurrected body. All Paul says is that he saw a light…and that this event occurred in a “heavenly vision”. Visions are not reality…not in the 21st century nor in the 1st.

    And as for the improbability that a Jewish rabbi would convert to a hated religion, there is a Muslim cleric in Israel today who not too many years ago was an ardent Zionist Jewish settler and rabbi, intent on ridding the Muslims from Jewish land.

    Strange conversions occur. They do not prove that the new religion is true and inerrant.

    I was broken-hearted, but I saw my Christian Faith was nothing more than an ancient superstition that had been modified in the first century by Jesus, a good man, but a dead man. There is zero evidence that this first century Jew is alive and the Ruler of the Universe.

  8. WOW
    Talk about a necro-post Gary.
    I notice there’s a lot of question marks in your 5 points above. Six maybe ??????
    They must be personal to you because I certainly don’t have those doubts.

    BTW – if there was never an Exodus out of Egypt, then why do so many anti-theists go on and on and on about the (imaginary) invasion of the Promised Land by Moses/Joshua. You can’t have it both ways. The same bible which talks about the slaughter of the Canaanites ALSO explains the reason tens of thousands of dispossessed Israelites happened to show up there in the first place.

    • The top archaeologists in Israel have concluded that there was no Hebrew enslavement in Egypt, no 40 years in the Sinai, no Conquest of Canaan, no great kingdoms of David and Solomon, and no Solomon’s temple. These stories are Iron Age fabrications, pure and simple. If you don’t believe me, contact the Archaeology Department of the University of Tel Aviv.

      • Wow, which bridge did you crawl out from? How about you send me a PDF letterhead from the archeology department saying exactly what you just said. I know this might be asking too much for a troll, though.

        • Nice comment. Just goes to show there is no such thing as a “Holy Spirit”. The only spirit you have is that of an ass.

          This post is about ex-Christians. I am an ex-Christian sharing my views on the subject. If the owner of the blog does not want to hear from skeptics, he should say so and stay isolated in his little fundamentalist cocoon. My comment is on topic…you just don’t like it because it blows a hole in your superstitious belief system.

  9. Relax Gary. :)
    You are just being asked to back up your own extraordinary sweeping claim – one which appears to rest on the alleged ABSENCE of evidence

  10. Atheist dude…”that’s very un-Christian of you”.
    Christian replies…”I thought that’s what you people wanted”.

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