There is No Doubt - I Was a Christian

A while back I posted my deconversion story and received a lot of comments. I wasn't able to respond to everybody since I was in the middle of moving and lost my internet connection for awhile. But thank you all (well, most of you) for your support.

I expected some opposition, of course, and got some. One commenter said:
A very interesting and thorough account of your alleged deconversion. However, since you were obviously never a believer in the first place, it is merely interesting from the point of view of what the Bible itself says about self-deception and the unconverted...

So the fact that you found Spong, by your own admission, "a breath of fresh air" indicates that you were never educated in the faith (although you may think you were, of course); nor did you hold to the faith (though you may think you did, of course)..

I know why it is so hard for Christians to admit that one time believers have fallen away - if it happened to her, it could happen to me. It is easier to say an ex-Christian was never a Christian in the first place than to have to admit that they were converted away from Christianity.

What could any of us here on the board say to convince the above reader that we were indeed Christians, many of us more devout than the average Christian?

I used to have a devotional time every morning where I prayed for my friends and family and myself, I read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times during my devotions. I witnessed to my family and they were saved (except my dad, no matter how hard I prayed), I brought up my kids as Christians and led them in the sinners prayer, I spoke in tongues and gave prophecies, I went to prayer meetings and Bible studies, I studied the Bible and prayed with my Christian friends. I believed God had a plan for my life, I believed he would help me through any situation, I believed I had a personal relationship with him. I lived my life for him.

So for this reader to say I was never a Christian says more about him than it does about me. I would venture to say that if he knew me when I was a Christian we would have gotten along just fine, he wouldn't have doubted my belief or sincerity one minute, we would have prayed together for all of the lost souls we knew.

To any Christian readers who happen on this blog, please don't doubt my sincerity when I say I used to be a Christian, but ask yourself, what did she find out there that convinced her otherwise.



45 comments:

Martin Wagner said...

This kind of rationalization is all too common. The whole "they're not True Christians" lin gets pulled out all the time whenever one of the faithful does something embarrassing and stupid and the media gets wind of it. Ted Haggard runs a 30-million member evangelical organization and is the head pastor of a 15,000-member megachurch. But once his sex scandal erupts, suddenly he just was never that important a figure in American evangelism. Uh-huh.

John W. Loftus said...

Theresa, that's just one of the delusions that Christians have about us. They would rather believe their interpretation of the Bible when it comes to a personal testimony to the contrary, like yours, even though they will believe the personal testimonies of ancient superstitious people of the miraculous when the evidence of everyday life disputes this.

The thought that they are wrong about their interpretation of the Bible will never occur to them.

Anonymous said...

Part of it is also, I suspect, theological baggage. Arminian theology, for instance, allows for individuals to come into and out of faith as they choose. Calvinism, however (as I'm sure you know) does not. For Calvinists (and many fundamentalist Christians come from a Calvinist heritage) it is categorically impossible for someone who has been saved by God to lose their salvation.

Given the certainty exhibited by the commenter here, I suspect that they come from a Calvinist heritage. As such your story is not only disconcerting, but ultimately impossible. From their perspective it is quite possible that you thought that you were a Christian, and went through the motions of discipleship. But as salvation comes only from the irresistable choice of God (again, speaking here from their perspective rather than my own) you could not really be a Christian and then lose your faith, as true faith is imparted as a gift from God, given to the elect.

The elect did not choose their election, and so cannot unchoose it.

In any event, John is right. Nothing can be said in the face of dogma, whether that dogma comes (as John asserts) from a literalist reading of the Bible or (as I assert) from an inherited theological world-view. You need not waste your time and energy defending the sincerity of your former faith, as those who are likely to take you at your word need not be persuaded of anything concerning your past.

Dave Armstrong said...

Yes; I was gonna say: their theology doesn't allow it. Mine does allow that folks can fall away from true faith. I never believed otherwise (thus in my critique of your deconversion I never denied that you were a Christian). I was an Arminian Protestant and am now a Catholic.

The "perseverance" / eternal security position is a minority viewpoint in historic and present-day Christianity. Catholics deny this; so do Orthodox (that's already some 1.4 billion Christians). So do most pentecostals, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans and lots of non-denominational groups. It is mainly the Presbyterians, Reformed, Baptists, and smaller groups related to them theologically, who hold this (greatly unbiblical) position.

Before Protestantism arose in the 16th century, Christians virtually unanimously agreed that falling away was possible.

So argue against it; you are right when you do that, but be sure to note that this is only one position within Christianity, and a minority one at that.

Dave Armstrong said...

Of course the downside of the opinion that you were a Christian, would be that you, therefore, rejected Christianity and the first hand experience you had with it (and with God), and are now (by definition) an apostate. The ones who claim you never were a Christian cannot really say that. They'd have to say you were a "wolf-in-sheep's clothing." So it's either that or an apostate.

Either way, the future doesn't look too bright for you, from where we sit.

But my theology and approach tries to adopt a middle way as much as possible: objectively you are an apostate, but subjectively there may be many reasons (mitigating circumstances) why you left (or that influenced your decision) that would cause God to exercise mercy on the last day. That is my hope.

The key would be if you truly knew Christianity was the truth and rejected it. That is very serious. Only God knows if you had and have full and sufficient knowledge or not.

If you didn't, and didn't now, there is hope that you may be saved, because you are not directly rejecting something you know to be true, but rather, mistakenly believing a falsehood that you sincerely believe to be true. In Catholic theology, this is a very large factor.

In any event, our job as Christians (of whatever type) is to convince you to embrace Jesus and Christianity again (or for the first time, so say the Calvinists, etc.). That is obviously far better than to be an atheist, from our vantage point.

You know this; it isn't like I'm saying anything new. But what we believe on this affects how we approach people. Those who think you are unregenerate and never-saved will tend to be (but don't necessarily have to be) more rude and presumptuous about your soul and ultimate destination.

I make no claims on either your sincerity or the state of your soul or moral character. None whatsoever. I simply critiqued the reasons you gave for your deconversion. I don't see why that would be insulting to anyone (as it is merely entering into the arena of competing ideas), yet John Loftus blew a gasket when I examined his story.

Go figure, huh?

Dave Armstrong said...

I wrote:

"I make no claims on either your sincerity or the state of your soul or moral character. None whatsoever."

I should clarify that I assume in charity that you are sincere, I rarely deny or question anyone's sincerity (having often had mine denied, by dialogical opponents).

The same applies to soul-states and character. I would only arrive at a negative appraisal after repeated, compelling evidence to the contrary.

Dave Armstrong said...

Some o' y'all may also be interested in knowing that John Calvin actually denied that anyone can know for sure that they or anyone else is of the elect. I wrote a paper about it.

So it is not even right (acc. to the origin of their own system) for a Calvinist to flatly deny that a person is in the elect. We simply don't know, because we don;t know the future. God cold save you on the last day of your life. We don;t know what would change in the end.

Practically speaking, it works out the same: the Calvinist would simply say that last day was the only time you were "saved." We Catholics would say that you were always of the elect if in fact you were saved on the last day of your life, because God knows all things. But we couldn't know the ultimate destiny of your soul.

All anyone can do is go by a person's profession of faith and what they do (because almost all Christians agree that some fruit should be apparent in a true Christian's life).

christy said...

I too am a "covert" away from Christianity. The one thing that gets me is how Christians make the assumption that I am falling away from an actual "god" into the "dark"...and then they feel sorry for me and hope that I find the light again.

To me-there is no God, and Jesus did not exist-he was a mythological personality-such as Zeus...so for me, it is more of falling away from the absurb , supernatural and an ancient story telling that has been told numerous ways with numerous characters....

and then finally coming to the enlightment of logic and reasoning.

I am a creature of the planet...not special, not chosen. I simply am.

I came to this through many years of prayer, following "Christ's" word, trying to be what was expected of me... trying to believe in all this...and deny what I secretly knew was the real truth... And then began the re-education of self...and I started studying the psychology of religion, anthropoloy of religion etc... and finally... I had the clearest thought I've ever had... there is no god.

I do not feel lost-I do not feel hopeless.. if anything-I feel relieved that I can stop trying to believe in nonsense that doesn't make any logical sense...

Now if only I could wake up my Christian friends...

christy said...

damn...should have checked my spelling! :)

Dave Armstrong said...

Jesus never existed, huh? Thanks for enlightening me with this "logic" of yours.

Anonymous said...

Christy, what was it that you finally decided was the real truth? For myself, I had a difficult time reconciling the good of mankind versus the evil of mankind.

es said...

Teresa, totally predictable response from the xians. Your response will probably still not convince them due to the fear factor.

Dave, if you are interested in reading about whether Jesus was an historical figure, you can go here to read more. The author of the book, The Jesus Puzzle, has made most or all of his book available online. It is well worth reading. His theory is that Christ was an invention of the early first century, an idea spread by Paul. The fact that Paul had virtually no knowledge of an actual historical person is particularly compelling. Later authors in subsequent centuries fleshed out the myth (the "official" gospels as well as various apocryphal books) to make it more believable to the average man. Also interesting is "The Jesus Mysteries" which suggests that Christianity began as a gnostic mystery cult - the story was intended allegorically. The literalists later took over. And The History of God, which I am currently reading, is also helpful in putting the development of God and Christianity into a historical perspective. I'm sure there are many other good sources of information out there - I'm still learning.

Christy, congratulations on your newfound happiness. It IS a relief not to be wondering what "god" could possibly want on a daily basis. I feel sad that so many people are still so wrapped up in these myths, yet have no understanding of how they developed over time. Of course if they did have any idea of their religion's history, they wouldn't be wrapped up in the myths.

Steven Carr said...

I heard a conservative Christian on the raadion yesterday saying that more than 70% of Britains self-identify as Christians.

I guess people are Christians when it suits apologists to say there are lots of Christians, and I guess the same people are not Christians , whenever it suits apologists to say so.

DAVE ARMSTEONG'If you didn't, and didn't now, there is hope that you may be saved, because you are not directly rejecting something you know to be true, but rather, mistakenly believing a falsehood that you sincerely believe to be true. In Catholic theology, this is a very large factor.'

CARR
So a Muslim who sincerely believes Jesus was not crucified and preaches to Christians that they should reject Christianity because of this, such a Muslim would be saved.

While a Muslim who is not sure whether or not Jesus was crucified, and doubts Muslim apologetics, and is not quite sure. Such a Muslim is doomed.

Who rejects something they know to be true? How can you 'reject' a fact? If somebody knows it to be true that Jesus is their Saviour, isn't that the very definition of believing that it is true that Jesus is their Saviour?

John W. Loftus said...

Dave Armstrong: John Loftus blew a gasket when I examined his story.

You are an idiot! You never critiqued my whole deconversion story. Deconversion stories are piecemeal. They cannot give a full explanation for why someone left the faith. They only give hints at why they left the faith. It requires writing a whole book about why someone left the faith to understand why they did, and few people do that. I did. If you truly want to critique my deconversion story then critique my book. Other than that, you can critique a few brief paragraphs or a brief testimony, if you want to, but that says very little about why someone left the faith. You walk away thinking you have completely analysed someone's story. But from where I sit, that's just stupid. That's S-T-U-P-I-D! If you truly want to critique a deconversion story, then critique mine in my book. I wrote a complete story there.

Berlzebub said...

Theresa, congratulations on seeing the truth. As far as the xians saying you weren't a true christian, I would expect it to be more out of fear than out of spite. They fear looking inside themselves to analyze why they believe what they do, and resent anyone who had the courage to do so. I commend you for that courage. It takes a lot of guts to question your beliefs, and even more to put them out there for the world to see.

-Berlzebub

John W. Loftus said...

Dave, I can only tolerate stupidity so long.

I challenge you to really critique the one deconversion story that has been published in a book. It's a complete story. A whole story. It's mine.

Anonymous said...

what did you find out there that convinced you otherwise? please

Dave Armstrong said...

test

John W. Loftus said...

Dave, test accepted. Do you accept my challenge?

Dave Armstrong said...

Do you accept my challenge?

1) First of all, why would you even want to have your book critiqued by someone whom you routinely call an "idiot," an "arrogant idiot," a "joke," a "know-it-all," and so forth? I've never understood this. I have four published books (soon to be five). The last thing in the world I would want (on amazon or anywhere else) is for a blithering idiot to either praise or bash one of my books. I want respectable people to do so.

I have less than no desire in any of my dialogues to interact with the worst examples of opposing views. I want the best. Of course, if someone has a personal ax to grind, that's different, isn't it, John? If your goal is to embarrass and belittle someone who disagrees, then this would explain the big desire to wrangle with so-called "idiots."

2) It is a hyper-ludicrous implication to maintain that deconversiopn stories are immune to all criticism simply because they are not exhaustive. It's embarrassing to even have to point this out, but there it is.

3) I have already long since taken up your "challenge." I said many weeks ago that if you sent me your book in an e-file for free, I'd be more than happy to critique it. I won't buy it, and I refuse to type long portions of it when it is possible to cut-and-paste. That is an important factor since my methodology is Socratic and point-by-point. I actually try to comprehensively answer opposing arguments, not just talk about them or do a mutual monologue.

You railed against that, saying that it was a "handout." I responded that you could have any of my (14 completed) books in e-book form for free.

4) One wonders, however, with your manifest "gnashing teeth" attitude towards me, what would be accomplished by such a critique? You've already shown that you can't or won't offer any rational counter-reply when I analyze any of your arguments. You didn't with the deconversion thing and refused again when I wrote about God and time. On both times you simply made personal insults. There is no doubt about that. It's all a matter of record.

Why should I think it would be any different if I were to spend a month writing a detailed critique of your book? Maybe then you would get so mad you would sue me for libel or hire a hit man? LOL

John W. Loftus said...

Dave, there are just some people I don't care to dialogue with and you are one of them, for various reasons I'll not state. People can come to their own conclusions about why this is so. To me you are the Catholic mirror image of JP Holding. I can't hear what you say because you offend me too much with your attitude.

Why you mentioned me at all in response to what Theresa said is beyond me. This is her Blog entry. DO NOT SIDETRACK IT ANYMORE WITH ANY MORE OFF-TOPIC COMMENTS! I'll delete them if it's not on topic.

Dave Armstrong said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave Armstrong said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John W. Loftus said...

Dave, if you want to post here you can. Just make sure it's about the topic at hand. For further details Read this.

Noogatiger said...

I too am a former born again believer. Would you consider doing an article about your tongues speaking? It would be intersting to see how people get into that, and why they think it is real.

Anonymous said...

I think it's quite funny when those who argue in pursue of the truth, close themselves to dialogue. You made yourself appear just like the fundamental christians that you are so passionantely against, John.

Marie said...

I came across this website looking for some information about proving God's existance "outside the Bible" if you will, as not everyone accepts the Bible as man's final authority. As I began to read some of the many comments posted, I see that they were posted quite sometime back. I would however, just like to say that I am a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, and I do believe that you were a believer/Christian at one time. I do not find it strange that you have tossed in the towel to Christianity. Being a God-fearing, Bible-thumping, and praying believer, I can certainly feel the heart of a fellow Christian or ex-Christian when I hear one. I would love to know what caused your deconversion from this faith. Unfortunately, too many of us Christians do not exercise the teachings of Jesus at all but on the contrary put a huge emphasis on the very things He died to destroy.

Believe it or not,

Love you all in Christ Jesus.

mmywill2856@sbcglobal.net

Gerard said...

You wrote...

"I used to have a devotional time every morning where I prayed for my friends and family and myself, I read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times during my devotions. I witnessed to my family and they were saved (except my dad, no matter how hard I prayed), I brought up my kids as Christians and led them in the sinners prayer, I spoke in tongues and gave prophecies, I went to prayer meetings and Bible studies, I studied the Bible and prayed with my Christian friends. I believed God had a plan for my life, I believed he would help me through any situation, I believed I had a personal relationship with him. I lived my life for him."

I am a Christian. Once I did all of this too and thought I it made me a Christian. But I have since discovered that engaging in such religious activities and beliefs does not make one a Christian, only through the grace of God can that happen!

Joel said...

Gerard, your quoted testimony from John is very similar to mine. I was astounded recently when of my long-time Christian friends expressed the idea that I "never really believed."

My wife doesn't question the fact that I was a Christian, but I'm frustrated by her belief that I never really had a relationship with God because I never had a real, deep experience with God’s grace.

If faith in God isn't evidence of being a Christian, what is? How can anyone have a clue as to whether anyone is a Christian or not if such evidence as John presented isn't credible? How do you know that you have a relationship with God? How do you know that God's grace applies to you? Why would you accept that it applies to you, but not to John?

Ron said...

Wait – This is too easy. :^)) Since having a relationship with God is an integral part of being a Christian; if you were once a Christian, then you once had a relationship with God. If you had this relationship with God, then He exists (regardless of whether any of us now believe in His existence, or not). On the other hand, if you didn’t have a relationship with God, you weren’t a Christian. Ex-Christian atheist?? I don’t see how you can have it both ways.

Nevertheless, logic will never make someone a Christian. We will all choose to believe whatever we choose to believe.

Joel said, “How do we know if we have a relationship with God?” How do we know if we have a relationship with anyone? We spend time with them, experiencing them, communicating with them. Going through all the motions is not necessarily evidence. Many familial relationships are lost by people simply going through the motions of working long hours, taking care of the yard work, caring for the kids, going to three ballgames a week, and doing other “family things.” You can be so busy as to make your family “nonexistent” to yourself. Deciding they no longer exist though, does not make them nonexistent. Likewise many relationships with God are lost by the person being too busy doing "Church" things, to tend to and develop the relationship. Deciding He does not exist, does not make Him nonexistent though.

Anonymous said...

The list of activities that you say are the evidence that you were a Christian leaves out one crucial thing: You never said that you believed Jesus exists, is the Son of God, was crucified to pay for everyone's sins, and then rose from the dead to bring all of us to heaven when we die. You never said that you got to know him, how he can change people's lives, how his Holy Spirit lived in you (as weird as that may sound), etc. Those are the things that make you a Christian. Not even believing in God and having a relationship with him can do that. At the end of time, God will ask you if you knew his son, Jesus. That's all that counts.

What if everything about Jesus, God, etc. is true? If it's all not true, then you are right and a lot of people are deluding themselves, and we all go into oblivion when we die. But what if it's all true? You'll be missing out on eternity in heaven as a result. I pray that Jesus will make himself real to you in a powerful way.

Jen W.
Wisconsin

Gordon said...

People quoted the parable of the sower to me and said that some wither and die eventually. Then the person saying it could move on in their life and not have any concernsa bout someone changing their mind about God.

Remmis said...

What if everything about Jesus, God, etc. is true? If it's all not true, then you are right and a lot of people are deluding themselves, and we all go into oblivion when we die. But what if it's all true? You'll be missing out on eternity in heaven as a result.

Pacal's Wager will never convince an atheist, I don't think, of anything.

From my point of view this is the case because there will always be many more religions than the one belonging to the person with whom you are conversing, therefore believing in their god will simply cause you to be damned by another.

This, of course, assumes that a god would be willing to accept someone into heaven simply because they were taking the better odds of what might happen to them in the end, which cannot be considered true faith.

Anonymous said...

If you want to believe the heavens are green and grass is blue. Go ahead believe it, but it wont change the fact that grass is green and the heavens are blue.. even if you believe it till you are red in the face. If you believe there is no God you are a fool and you Will spend eternity in hell. Just read the book "Voices from the edge of eternity"

Those are real people with an eternal spirit that realised they were wrong and there is a God, one that hates sin, but love people and made provision for all of us to spend eternity with Him. That provision is in Jesus Christ and if you think I am a fool just wait till you die and in less than a 100 years from now you will curse yourself in Hell for believing Satans lie.

If you were truly Born-again you cannot forsake Christ, it is not possible.

Louis Kriel, South Africa

ATL-Apostate said...

not only is this rationalization delusional, I find it terribly condescending. Although I'm embarrassed at some of the things I once believed, I believed deeply with all my heart. It hurts that my "closest friends" would question my sincerity.

ATL-Apostate

endyish said...

im having major faith issues right now, so that is why im on this site.

but i can still understand from their perspective why they would say that.

let us presume that there is a god and that the bible is real. if that is the case, then the bible sort of implies that people who fall away from the faith were never real christians to begin with. which is an honest reasoning. i am debating this with myself if i was ever a 'real christian.'

anyway my point is that from their pov, thats how they would see and justify things. if you come from the viewpoint that there is a god and the bible is real, then all of us indeed were never 'real chrisitans.' '

now of coures if u come from the viewpoint that its all wrong, well your conclusion would be totally different.

Jon said...

Theresa,

I'm sorry you "fell away". Its sad to me you were so close to it. Yes it is my opinion, that if you are truly born again. You cannot fall away, because you wouldn't want to. God is too evident in my life to "fall away". I'm afraid the Devil is working overtime and he has confused you and many like you. For any Christian reading this, keep the faith, stay strong.

In His grace and mercy,

JMW

mylifeintheblender said...

This is the comment I get that drives me the craziest. People assume they know me, know my heart, and know what I was thinking and feeling years ago based on one or two blog posts.

Really, I would think this line of logic is just as scary, because if we tell them we did and felt everything they did and felt, then maybe one day, they will wake up and realize they were never a Christian, too. But oh, well, I guess that is what defense mechanisms are for.

Cold Steel said...

As someone who is a Christian, but not a Pentecostal, I've always been fascinated about the people who speak in tongues and prophesy. The only time I've seen this is in a Pentecostal church and I felt terribly ill at ease.

When you spoke in tongues, was it just the first mumbo jumbo that popped into your head? And what sort of prophesies do people make when they do this stuff?

Thanks!

Graced said...

I will just be quick and simple. I am a believer and there is one truth I would like to leave on this blog. When I was done reading your posting I felt something missing. Here is what I think it is. Galatians 6:14 Paul says, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ..." I see that you are boasting very much in what you did. All your prayer meetings, all the times you read scripture, and your evangelizing even. There is nothing in me that I should boast about as a believer, none of my ministries should even be to the glory of me, but all should aim to glorify God. There are no "I's" in Christianity, because my I is nothing but filthy rags. Thank you for reading.

James said...

Let me say this, I am a Christian and I am very proud of it. However,, there have been times when I was not. You see, I don't believe a person can ever lose, nor deny their faith. Faith is what God gives to every human being. Belief is what changes. The terminology that is proper would be "born again" (changed from above) or walking according to the flesh. You said it all in your opening statement (header), you use to be a Christian. I do believe a person can be a Christian one day and then turn from God and go back to the world. I was once a Baptist and now I'm just a Christian. The Baptist title, like all other denominations, is nothing more than an organization that adheres to circumcision. It may not be the cutting away of the foreskin, but their circumcisions are not a circumcision of heart either. Denominational circumcision is not the cutting away of anything. They are not willing to give up . . . whatever.
With all my heart, I believe in Jesus Christ and the resurrection power. everyone is a believer in something. I would rather refer to myself as a person who has faith in Christ. People have latched on to words like Christianity when it is profitable to them, yet abandon it the second it no longer fills their desires.
One other thing so as to be brief. In the Passion of Christ movie, Pilate's wife answering his question of "what is truth?" said, "If you will not hear the truth, who can tell you?"

James said...

I would be willing to act as an opposing view if you would allow. I am a old paths type of preacher that calls sin what it is and am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

lnewsome said...

First time poster this maybe a duplicate.

I was wondering about speaking in tongues. Were you faking? If not the only other alternative I can think of is that it was supernatural. How did you reconcile this?

The Curvy Catholic said...

Graced wrote: "There are no i's in Christianity."

Actually, there are three. See them? I do. ;-)

Malanie said...

Theresa, thank you for sharing your story.

Martin, so true. I used that same rationalization when I was grooming my prey for conversion. If my prey brought up a story of ungodly acts done by a Christian I would always fall back on, "Well, they probably never knew Christ in the first place" or "you know the scripture does talk about wolves in sheep clothing." I had so much authority back then you would think I created a few planets or something!

I am so happy to find this blog! Thank you all who take the time to run this.

For so many years I thought I was all alone in this journey out of the Christian Hell. Maybe, that is because I live in the Bible Belt?

Have a great day everyone!