Whilst the article was originally written back in February, this piece written by Max Andrews appeared in my Twitter feed and attempts to argue that the term “ex-Christian” is not only incoherent, but apostasy (geez, some Christians love to throw that word around) His argument is as follows:
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.
Now I don’t have a PhD from Edinburgh (or anywhere for that matter) but the article doesn’t seem to make much sense.
To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ, that’s what the term means. Christians follow Him because we believe he is the Son of God and that he died and rose again. We also trust Him with our lives, we believe he is trustworthy. Indeed the Greek word for faith used in the New testament is Pistis; and it carries the same meaning as fides:
Belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same fidelity, faithfulness the character of one who can be relied on
Even the dictionary definition of faith has a similar definition:
Complete trust or confidence in someone or something
So what happens when that trust is broken? What happens when we stop believing Christ is trustworthy? You’re not going to follow someone you don’t trust, so you stop following Him and by the definition of a Christian you are an ex-Christian. You trusted Christ, now you don’t. Trust can be broken for a multitude of reasons, and we can debate until the second coming whether they are good reasons, but given the relational aspect of Christianity, everyone’s reasons will be based on their own personal experience of Christ and events often force perceptions to change. This doesn’t mean that because you’ve changed your mind that you didn’t believe in the first place; Even with the relationship aspect to one side it doesn’t mean that. If I was a young earth creationist and believed the earth was 6000 years old, then changed my belief to the earth is billions of years old, that doesn’t mean I was never a young earth creationist. My reasons have changed, I am ex-whatever I was. This happens all the time in life, why is it hard to think that it can happen with faith?
This will inevitably raise the question of salvation which is the focus on Max’s article. Now it’s true that God may indeed change us, but that is a process that can take a long time and may not be fulfilled this side of heaven (we don’t all get to have a “Paul on the road to Damascus” conversion moment) Max’s whole article comes across as an exercise in tribalism; “If you’re one of us, you never leave. If you leave, you were never one of us” as one commenter on my Facebook page put it. This is rampant in fundamentalism as justification to shun those they don’t agree with, especially those who have left the fold and to apply pressure through emotional blackmail to get them back. Salvation is between an individual and Christ and Christ was quite clear no one goes through the father except through him (which is not the same as saying only Christians go to heaven) as well as being clear that calling yourself a Christian is no guarantee you’ll get to heaven either (Matthew 7:21-23)
Ultimately Max demonstrates a breathtaking lack of understanding as to why people believe and the kind of journey’s they go through in their life and faith. Not everyones story and faith and the same. He takes the easy option of simply dismissing those stories as “well you were never a Christian then” which I’m sure would not have led to his many honours had he taken the same approach to his studies. Trying to usurp Christ in passing judgement over who is/isn’t a Christian, is not only dangerous but probably apostasy as well.
If an atheist made this argument (and I did have an atheist say to me I was never an atheist) Christians would tear them apart and rightly so, it’s total nonsense and remains so even when said by people with PhD’s.
I would like to apologise if you now have Monty Pythons dead parrot sketch in your head.