Showing posts with label #Apostasy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Apostasy. Show all posts

Bad Christian or non-Christian?

by K.W. Leslie, 30 January 2024

Yep, it’s time to play everybody’s least-favorite game, “Bad Christian or non-Christian?”—the game in which we’re trying to discern whether or not a person’s saved.

I say “least-favorite” because I’ve been rebuked multiple times for playing this game. How dare I try to discern whether someone’s Christian or not. How dare I not take their word for it—if they call themselves Christian, why, that’s what they are!

…Well, unless they’re not Evangelical. Unless they’re Roman Catholic, or Orthodox, or Mormon, or mainliner. Unless they’re members of the opposition party. Unless they’re woke. Unless they’re gay. Unless they’ve trespassed in a way that, to these people’s minds, undermines or undoes their salvation.

…Yeah, the people who rebuke me are nearly always playing “Bad Christian or non-Christian?” themselves. The only difference between them and me: Different metrics. They base it on whether these people claim to be a member of our religious tribe, whether they’ve recited the sinner’s prayer, and whether they’ve otherwise not trespassed against their personal peeves.

Me, I base it on the two requirements Jesus laid out in his Sermon on the Mount: Fruit and obedience.

Matthew 7.15-23 NET
15“Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ ”

Are they at the very least trying to exhibit the Spirit’s fruittrying to be more gracious, compassionate, empathetic, kind, patient, devout, peacemaking, humble? Are they at the very least trying to follow Jesus, not in a way which conforms to the crowd, but every once in a while opposes the crowd, because they recognize they have to abide by Christ Jesus’s higher standard?

I mean, if they’re not even trying—if instead they’re reveling in being dicks—we’re not just dealing with a bad Christian, a person who’s following Jesus but doing a poor job of it. We’re dealing with someone who knows Jesus teaches otherwise, but doesn’t give a rip; it’s more fun, and gets ’em more praise, to be evil. Jesus is in no way their Lord. They’re not Christian. They quit.

The Prodigal Son Story, part 3.

by K.W. Leslie, 16 July 2023

Luke 15.25-31.

There are three natural parts to the Prodigal Son Story:

  1. The son leaving and squandering his inheritance.
  2. The son returning and his father rejoicing.
  3. The elder son objecting to the celebration out of jealous bitterness.

By consensus Christians have always interpreted this story to be about someone who repents of their excessive living and turns to God, with the father as God’s stand-in.

And by consensus Christians have always interpreted ourselves as the elder son. And… we kinda don’t like comparing ourselves with this irritated man. So we insist he’s typical of other Christians. Less gracious ones. But not us.

’Cause we know better, right? We know Christianity is all about proclaiming God’s grace. And God forgives everyone! Any repentant sinner, anyone who tells God, “I can’t save myself, so you’ll have to do it,” anyone who says the sinner’s prayer and makes Jesus the Lord of their lives.

So to be like this elder brother, and say, “Oh, those dirty sinners coming to Jesus to save them—those people can’t be saved. Those people aren’t worthy of salvation”—that’s just nuts. Were we unsavable, or worthy of salvation, when we came to Jesus? Of course not, but Jesus died for our sins anyway, and we too can be saved. Anyone can.

Hence every single Christian reads the Prodigal Son Story, reads about the elder son’s bad attitude, and reacts pretty much the same way: “What a dick. Doesn’t he get it? His brother repented! He’s come to Jesus! Shouldn’t we rejoice if our wayward family members repent and come to Jesus? Rejoice!”

Here, watch him be a dick:

Luke 15.25-31 KWL
25 At this time, the elder son is in the field,
and as he comes near the house,
he hears music and dancing.
26 Calling one of the boys,
he’s asking himself, ‘Whatever ought this be?’
27 The boy tells him this:
‘Your brother is come!
Your father sacrificed the well-fed calf,
because he he got him back safe and sound.’
28 The elder son is enraged
and doesn’t want to enter the feast.
His father comes out to comfort him.
29 In reply the elder son tells the father, ‘Look!
I slaved for you so many years!
I never pushed against your commands,
and you never gave me a goat
so I might celebrate with my friends.
30 While this son of yours,
who devours your life’s work with loose women,
you sacrifice the well-fed calf for him!’
31 The father tells him, ‘Child,
you’re always with me,
and everything of mine is yours.
32 We have to celebrate and rejoice,
because this brother of yours is dead and lives,
and having been lost, is found.’ ”

Okay. Now here’s how the rest of us Christians have missed the whole point of this story, and missed how we actually are like the elder son. The younger son, who left his father and family and frittered away the father’s “life’s work with loose women”? Lk 15.30 Jesus isn’t describing a pagan who doesn’t know any better. He’s describing a Jew. A co-religionist. Someone who grew up under the Law of Moses, who was educated by Pharisees, who fully knew what God’s expectations are for his chosen people, who was raised better than this. Who left his family, left the promised land, to do as he pleased. To party.

Jesus is talking about an apostate.

And what does your average Christian teach about fellow Christians who quit Jesus? That they’re going to hell. That because they saw salvation, yet rejected it, they’re no longer receiving it; they’ve committed an unforgivable sin; they’ve doomed themselves. Some’ll insist they were never saved in the first place. They’re gone. They’re damned.

Some will even cut off all communication with them, lest they get all their apostasy-cooties all over ’em.

“Losing your salvation.”

by K.W. Leslie, 11 August 2020

When the subject of apostasy, of quitting Jesus, comes up, people tend to phrase it thisaway: “So you’re saying you can lose your salvation?”

Well I wouldn’t use the word lose. Because it suggests we can accidentally disconnect from Jesus.

Fr’instance pick any otherwise ordinary day. Let’s say I’m going through the Starbucks drive-thru, picking up another outrageously sugary mixture of coffee, milk, and ice. Let’s say I’m using cash, and the cashier gives me my change, and instead of a dollar bill she unintentionally gives me a hundred-dollar bill. Let’s say, instead of how I’d say, “Whoops, you don’t wanna make that mistake,” I say nothing and pocket the Benjamin and figure Starbucks is a big enough company to take the loss. And as a result of this hypothetical scenario, the Holy Spirit says, “Okay, I’ve had all I can stand of this jerk,” and unseals himself from me—and I haven’t been listening to him anyway, so I never notice his absence. So when a few minutes later I’m distracted by the straw wrapper and T-boned by a Mini Cooper, I die… and find myself burning in torment, and screaming, “Wait! Wait! I gave my life to Jesus 45 years ago! What happened?!

Well, y’know. Straw. Camel’s back. Whoops.

When a well-known Christian quits Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 October 2019

Back in July, Christian popular author Joshua Harris announced he’s no longer Christian. Which was a bit of a shock to people who hadn’t kept up with him—who only knew him from his books, particularly his best-known book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Which no doubt has prompted a lot of headlines and comments about Harris kissing Jesus goodbye. I had to resist the temptation to use that for this article’s title.

I was obligated to read I Kissed Dating Goodbye at the Christian school where I taught. Some of my students’ youth pastors were inflicting it on them. It’s basically his promotion of “courtship,” as certain conservative Evangelicals call sexless, heavily chaperoned dating. In the book it’s how he claimed God wants people to find their mates. In my article on courtship, I pointed out the bible depicts no such thing; courtship is entirely a western cultural construct. Nothing wrong with it when it’s voluntary; everything wrong with it if your parents or church force it upon you.

Which should really tip you off as to what sort of “Christianity” Harris was immersed in. When you’re convinced our western cultural standards is as Jesus would have us live, y’got Christianism, not Christianity. And once you realize you got that wrong, it’ll shake your faith, as it absolutely should. But the danger of that shaking is you might think it’s all wrong, top to bottom, makeup to marrow—and quit Jesus.

I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened to Harris. He might describe it as far more complicated than that. No doubt there were a number of factors in his decision to leave Christianity. But superficially… it sure looks like it.

Harris certainly isn’t the first well-known Christian to go apostate, and whenever this happens, it tends to shake all their Christian fans. “Wait, I was following him, and he went wrong… so what does it mean for me?” Only that you oughta be following Jesus instead, so do that! But if you’re really nervous that you mighta been taught some untruth, relax. You’re not justified by your beliefs; you’re justified by trusting God. Keep trusting him, ask the Holy Spirit to help you inventory your beliefs to see whether any are misbeliefs, ditch any wrongness or heresies you find within you, and you’ll be just fine. God’s got you.

What if 𝘺𝘰𝘶 were never saved to begin with?

by K.W. Leslie, 11 October 2019

If you believe Christians can never quit Jesus—that it’s impossible to reject God’s salvation, probably ’cause you believe God’s grace is irresistible or something—how do you explain the existence of ex-Christians?

Because plenty of people identify themselves as former Christians. Grew up in church, said the sinner’s prayer, signed off on everything in their church’s faith statement, got baptized, got born again. Believed in Jesus with all their heart, same as you or I or any true Christian does. Even had God-experiences, saw miracles, did miracles. But now they’re no longer Christian. They left.

So how do those who believe once saved always saved, reconcile their belief with people who say they were once saved and now aren’t saved? One of two ways:

  • Those people only think they used to be Christian. But they never truly were.
  • Those people only think they quit Jesus. In reality they’re still his; he’s still gonna save them. They’re just going through a period of rebellion. Give ’em time. They’ll snap out of it eventually. He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it. Pp 1.6

So, y’know, denial.

I once attended the funeral of my roommate’s ex-girlfriend. She grew up Christian, but abandoned Jesus in college. I had recently helped lead him back to Jesus, and in his new-believer zeal he naturally wanted to lead her back to Jesus. But she was uninterested and dismissive. A few months later she died. We attended her funeral. It was awful. Friends and family, one after another, got up to eulogize her, to talk about what a good Christian she was, and how she’s certainly with Jesus… yet both her ex and I had personally heard her say she quit Jesus. We hoped to goodness she had a last-second change of heart. (Hey, you never know!) But… well, you can see why Christians far prefer denial. I get it. Believing otherwise sucks.

But when you believe ex-Christians were never truly Christian to begin with, this belief leads us to a really heinous logical conclusion. One which actually plagues many Christians. It’s simply this: How do you know you’re truly Christian?

Once saved, always saved?

by K.W. Leslie, 10 October 2019

Let’s start by getting this first idea straight: God saves us, by his grace. It’s entirely his work, done by his power; we don’t save ourselves; we can’t possibly. No number of good deeds, no amount of good karma, not even memorizing all the right doctrines, is gonna do it. We gotta entirely entrust our salvation to God. Period. Full stop.

Since we can’t and don’t save ourselves, various Christians figure an attached idea—and they insist it’s a necessary attached idea—follows: We can’t and don’t un-save ourselves. If God saves us, the only way we can get unsaved is if God does it—and he’s not gonna. He’s chosen us, he’s elected us, for salvation. And it’s permanent. It’s a done deal. Nothing in our universe can separate ’em from God’s love. Ro 8.39

Not even if they themselves later choose to quit Jesus. (So how do they explain ex-Christians? “Oh, they were never really Christian.” Which opens up a whole different can of worms… which I’ll get to tomorrow.)

Sometimes Christians call this idea perseverance of the saints, or “perseverance” for short. Sometimes eternal security or absolute security. Sometimes assurance, though other Christians (like myself) mean something very different by this term. More recently some Christians have adopted the term free grace. All these terms mean “once saved, always saved”—OSAS for short, but since I really don’t like acronyms I’m going with “always saved.”

And loads of Christians have adopted the “always saved” view. It tends to get associated with Calvinists, but they’re far from the only Christians who believe it. Legalists don’t, ’cause they love being able to threaten people with hell; Pelagians don’t, ’cause they think God saves them based on karma, and bad karma earns you hell. But the rest of Christendom tends to think, “Well yeah, we don’t save ourselves… so it stands to reason we can’t unsave ourselves, so I guess it is a done deal.” The only reason they’d consider an alternative view, is if they know any ex-Christians and can’t rationalize ’em away as “weren’t real Christians before they quit.” Or, of course, if they grew up among legalists and Pelagians.

I grew up among both, but that’s actually not why I reject the always-saved view. Because I used to have the always-saved view. I totally get its appeal: It’s the security. It’s awesome that we can never just lose our salvation—that if we have one bad day, or commit a particularly heinous sin, God’s not gonna say, “That’s it! I’m done with you” and now we’re damned; our sins have driven God away. God loves us far too much to give up on us entirely. It’s a wonderful idea.

But “always saved” takes this idea to an extreme that can’t be supported by the scriptures. Because, as I say in all these articles on apostasy, the bible’s authors warn us to not reject God and his salvation; and it makes no sense that these passages would be in there if it’s impossible to unsave ourselves. Only God can save us, true. But we can still totally reject his salvation.

“They were never saved to begin with.”

by K.W. Leslie, 09 October 2019

Sometimes people who believe they’re Christian aren’t really.

Sometimes people whom we believe are Christian aren’t really: They’re faking it for any number of reasons. Or they’re Christianists; they’re big fans of popular Christian culture, but have no relationship with Christ Jesus himself. Somehow we missed the fact they bore no fruit of the Spirit… or, more likely, we didn’t care they were fruitless. We were much too happy to consider them one of our own; we never bothered to ask real, penetrating questions for fear we wouldn’t like the answers. We get that way about celebrities, wealthy people, politicians, or on-the-fence friends and family members; we’ll take what we can get.

So when these not-actually-Christian folks have a faith crisis, or God otherwise doesn’t come through for them in the way they expect or demand… they leave. Or when the only reason they pretend to be Christian is to make people happy, and they grow tired of making those people happy… they leave. Heck, even actual Christians will quit church and quit Jesus himself under these circumstances; we should hardly be surprised when pseudo-Christians do.

Thing is, when real Christians leave church or Jesus for much the same reasons, many a Christian will figure it’s for the very same reason the not-really-Christians did: They, too, were never really Christian to begin with. They were faking it. Pretending. Going though all the motions but never had the Holy Spirit.

I mean… that has to be the case, right? Because once saved, always saved. Right?

Well I wish that were so, but the scriptures indicate it’s not.

Hebrews 6.4-6 KWL
4 Can’t be done: Those who were once given light,
tasted the heavenly gift, became partners with the Holy Spirit,
5 tasted the goodness of God’s word, and the age to come’s powers 6 —and fall away.
To restore them to repentance again, crucifying and humiliating the Son of God for them:
Can’t be done.

Sometimes people do have living, saving relationships with God. Are born again. Are filled with the Holy Spirit; even experienced his baptism. Do have real live God-experiences same as the prophets and apostles in the bible; even heard God speak to them, and let him perform miracles through them. They were fully authentic Christians.

But they quit Jesus.

Quitting Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 October 2019
APOSTASY ə'pɑs.tə.si noun. When one leaves a religion.
[Apostate ə'pɑ.steɪt adjective.]

About half the pagans I meet say they used to be Christian. They grew up Christian, or at least grew up in church. Some of ’em even think they’re still Christian—though their nonchristian beliefs indicate they’re obviously pagan. Whatever their churches taught, they no longer follow. They left that behind. They went apostate.

I know; a lot of folks think “apostate” is a bad word. It’s really not. It comes from the Greek ἀφίστημι/afístimi, “step away.” Lots of us step away from things. I used to ride a bicycle everywhere; I’ve since discovered I prefer walking, and gave away my bicycle. So I’m an apostate cyclist. (Nothing against cyclists though. Whatever works for you.)

In the case of apostate Christians, they left Christianity. In my experience most of ’em no longer consider themselves Christian, nor consider Christianity to be valid. A minority quit God and went nontheist. Or joined another religion, like Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or Wicca. But most are simply pagan: They believe in God, but reject “organized religion,” by which they mean church… and everything the church teaches, like who Jesus is, and who Jesus says God is.

Why’d they leave? The usual reasons.

  • They had the crisis of faith. But nobody guided them through it, or their so-called guidance consisted of “Quit doubting and just believe really hard.” Well, they couldn’t, didn’t, and left.
  • When they had the crisis of faith, Christians didn’t step up… but nontheist friends, or friends of other religions, did. So they believed those guys, and left.
  • They never did believe. They grew up Christian, but went through the motions of Christianity because their parents, leaders, or peers pressured ’em to. Once they got away from those people, they got away from Christianity, and stayed gone.
  • Cheap grace: They believe God’ll let ’em into heaven no matter what they believe. So it doesn’t matter if they believe nothing. Or aren’t religious at all.
  • They expected or demanded God to come through for them in a certain way. He didn’t. So they’re pissed at him, and aren’t coming back to him.
  • They’d like to be Christian. But all the Christians they know are a--holes, and they simply can’t affiliate with such awful, immoral people. Anything’s gotta be better. So they try to follow God in their own way. (Which isn’t easy without a support system.)

And a number of ’em insist they have their own ideas about what should constitute Christianity—which of course don’t mesh with orthodoxy. But technically such people aren’t apostate, ’cause they didn’t leave Christianity; they’re what we call heretic. Whole different category.