Posted in theology

Can you be an ‘ex-Christian’?

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

There’s no such thing as an ex-Christian. Look at 1 John-

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19)

John is saying here that people who ‘backslide’ and then fall away from the faith entirely, never really were saved to begin with. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him,” (Titus 1:16).

For many professing “ex-Christians”, it starts with apostasy, something Paul said there would be plenty of in the last days.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Tim 4:1-3)

And before the person started falling away, in came sneaky heresies they began listening to:

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1)

For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)

So the apostate’s progression is: profess Christ by mouth… but since there was no visible fruit to show the state of grace they were claiming on the inside, they were never really saved; fail to walk closely with Jesus by procrastinating in discipleship, bible study, prayer, and/or worship, furthering the distance between themselves and Jesus; listen to or promote destructive heresies that either they knowingly or unknowingly begin to believe, start doubting Christ’s sufficiency; doubt more, and then slide to full blown renunciation and end up in a state of atheism.

Peter says “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” (2 Peter 2:20)

Notice the words that both Jude and Peter use to describe the heresies what will infiltrate the church in the last days; “secretly” and “crept in”. The heresies don’t come into the church by way of aggressive men bellowing a ‘new doctrine’ to the delight of followers who joyfully jump their pews and run out the door to his new church. They come sneakily, secretly, subtly.

And no wonder, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made…” (Genesis 3:1) so satan isn’t going to capture hearts with bellicose attitudes or flagrantly detectable bad doctrine. Many of the preachers and teachers will not even openly pronounce their heresies, they will be secret within their heart and only after a while, introduced slyly, like Billy Graham. Jude’s words “crept in” also indicate something that also isn’t readily detectable and is subtle at the start.

These teachers will have a big, white smile, open their lecture with a warm joke, and tell you that Jesus was a good, moral teacher and that you deserve the best life now. They will never tell you that your best life is later and that Jesus didn’t come to be a moral leader but to seek and save the lost- And that you are lost. Others will tell you that we are all one universal consciousness, we are our own gods, and then, they will give you a car. They will tell you that if you believe in Jesus, He will make your life better, while you are seeking Him from comfy amphitheater watching a techno-sermon with a cappuccino in your hand. Seeker-sensitive churches are false on their premise because in Romans we learn that no one seeks God.

The end result of a Christian in name only – that is, one who claimed Jesus but never really believed – and is one who is at risk of being tempted by destructive heresies, and ultimately of apostasy. What comes next is atheism.

Atheism is a natural cul-de-sac in the road away from the cross. Gotquestions.org writes:

“At the same time, it takes just as much faith to believe in atheism. To make the absolute statement “God does not exist” is to make a claim of knowing absolutely everything there is to know about everything and of having been everywhere in the universe and having witnessed everything there is to be seen. [I]t cannot be proven that God does not exist. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist.”

Which, I suspect, could be one of the reasons Peter said it makes a person worse off from what they were before. After apostasy settles in and atheism rears its head, a person is well and truly now in the dangerous pits of despair, misplacing their burgeoning faith in something for a faith in nothing that will last forever.

Be careful you do not drift, make your calling and election sure.

RESOURCES

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation

Can I know that I am Saved?

What is Sanctification?

Posted in theology

Will God send over 90% of all humans who ever lived to hell?

By Elizabeth Prata

I received this question from a reader. That’s all he wrote. Not ‘I’m struggling with this doctrine, can you help?’ or ‘I need some clarification on why God would do this…” Just the question, no context or even a hello.

Will God send over 90% of all humans who ever lived to hell?

Oh, boy. I knew what was coming. I welcome questions and I love to point people to scriptures and to credible ministries that offer solid answers related to a person’s question. But a question that starts out with truculent phrasing is almost always from an atheist or purposeful provoker and never ends well. But, in good faith, I answered in the following way:

Prata: No… Our default condition upon conception is sinner at enmity with God. So God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell, since ALL PEOPLE since the Fall of Adam ever born (except Jesus) would go there just by being totally depraved sinners. It’s the just punishment for sinners against a holy God. What God does and did was send Jesus to rescue sinners and save them by His grace.

Prata: He justifiably judges sinners who rebel against Him, who is thrice holy. But He also chooses to save some through no merit of our own. This is grace, and we are grateful to a savior who saves wretched enemies who do not deserve it. What we ALL deserve is hell.

With my first reply, I tested the waters with going straight to the doctrine of total depravity to see how he would respond. If it was, I’d expect the person to sincerely ask for clarification, and then I’d begin teaching from scripture. If not, I’d reply once more to see if they were genuinely responding to the actual conversation, or just whipping up more scenarios simply to be vexing for their own entertainment. Here is his response:

Reader: If everyone is hell-bound by default, then people, especially Christians, should stop having kids. Because all we are doing is adding to God’s expanding no-fly list of billions of unsaved names. And if the vast majority of mankind is going to eternal conscious punishment in hell according to the end times prophecies of Revelations, then that means for the majority of mankind, life had absolutely no meaning in the end. Let’s say your car overturned and pinned you. There’s a fuel leak. I happened to be nearby. I’m a non-Christian. I am the only person around. I rush to your car and pull you to safety but the car bursts into flames and I burn to death while saving you.

Reader: But since I died a non-Christian, I would suddenly find myself in hell even though I ended my life doing a selfless, heroic act saving one of God’s elect. But if regardless of how I live and end my life, if the result is the same for non-Christians, I may as well have not saved you. I should’ve walked away and let you save yourself.

OK, one reply and then I’ll bow out. Scripture this time. Lots of them. It doesn’t seem like he cares about God but only about arguing his point. Going to the doctrine of total depravity and seeing peoples’ response to it shows me where they’re coming from. A low view of sin in ourselves means the person has a low view of God and a high view of man (and his deeds).

Prata: You have a man-centric point of view. You need to expand that and submit to God’s point of view and His plan. All lives had meaning in the end, those in heaven glorify God by being a display of His mercy. Those in hell glorify God by being a display of His justice.

Isaiah 64:6, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

So what you saved me from a burning car but died yourself? We all die sometime. All your works are as filthy rags if you’re not in Christ, whether you’re Hitler or an unsaved fireman saving someone from a burning car and died “selflessly.” The ONLY true selfless act in the universe was Jesus dying on the cross to save sinners like you and me.

I encourage you to read the article below about how hell glorifies God. The only meaning in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. It’s the chief end of man. (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, [a] and to enjoy him for ever. [b]

[a]. Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11
[b]. Ps. 16:5-11; 144:15; Isa. 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phil. 4:4; Rev. 21:3-4

Your argument is with God.

Romans 9:21, Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Rom 9:21–
Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour?—”The objection is founded on ignorance or misapprehension of the relation between God and His sinful creatures; supposing that He is under obligation to extend His grace to all, whereas He is under obligation to none.

How Does Hell Glorify God?

We will end our discussion here, your tendency for mockery against God only digs you deeper into a hellish hole. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).

(I hadn’t liked his characterization of God making a ‘no-fly’ list).

Well, as expected, he did not respect my note to end here. He came back with another email splattered with different scenarios on different topics, not really replying to the one we started with. It’s a key indicator that I’m dealing with a truculent person out for his own entertainment. I replied asking him to please respect my wish for him to meditate on the scriptures provided, to read the article suggested, and to think about what was already discussed, which was substantial (if one is truly seeking and not just arguing). I’d said that if he replied right away again, I’d block him, sadly. He did reply, not with one email but two, which I did not read. And I did block, without engaging again, as promised. So he went to comment on the blog, which I blocked him there too.

When you’re in a public ministry, expect questions, challenges, and even linguistic booby traps in the guise of sincerity. It’s OK to make decisions based on your experience of how long to go on in conversation with a person. There are two scriptures which apply:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect; (1 Peter 3:15)

and-

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6).

I’d said at the start that engaging with people who are obviously out for a fight doesn’t end well. It doesn’t end well for two reasons. Either I become vexed myself and speak ungraciously, blotting my witness; or they dig themselves deeper into a hole as Matthew 12:36 indicates-

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

I do not want to be the vehicle he uses to dig himself deeper. In not throwing pearls before pigs or in shaking the dust off my feet by not hearing my words (Matthew 10:14) and closing down discussion, it’s an art to keep that fine line. It’s an individual decision based on scripture and experience. I give one or two replies and cut it off from there, especially if they mock or use curse words.

Maybe I should give more time to a conversation or maybe my timing is just right. It’s a personal decision. Don’t feel guilty about cutting off endless replies and not engaging in a circling the drain conversation. I give a reply (hopefully graciously as 1 Peter 3:15 says to) but I also make decisions to cease engaging as per Matthew 7:6 says to. There are only so many hours in the day. I owe my time, metal energy, and emotional equilibrium to Jesus first, then to those closest to me in real life and my church family, and then to the anonymous public who contact me in this ministry.

It’s OK to bow out of a conversation that has run its course, or to block or mute people who have demonstrated ill-will. And I don’t feel guilty about it, either. Though I do feel bad for the person, so lost in his logic he is blinded from seeing the supernatural- which is God and His glory. I pray for that person. Then I shake the dust off my feet and go on to the next thing, ready with a reply for the hope that is within me…