The Ex Files
Today I’d like to ponder the phenomenon of “ex people”, specifically ex-Christians and ex-atheists. Or so they say.
The ex-atheists are easy enough to understand, especially for Christians, since we believe God made everyone with a “God-shaped vacuum” and that Jesus through the Holy Spirit draws everyone toward Him (John 6:37, 44, 12:32). They may have had a vision, a traumatic experience, a miracle, or just responded to the gospel alone. They may have debated a believer and lost— to be found.
I personally believe that salvation is permanent, though backsliding can happen to an extreme. It’s possible that completely losing faith can happen but, like the Prodigal Son, God will see to it that they get it back. I’d cite Heb. 6:4-6 to argue that if it’s possible to lose salvation then it is impossible to regain it, but there are many who insist that they were absolutely saved, absolutely lost, and absolutely saved again. In that case, either Heb. 6:4-6 isn’t literal or these people are mistaken at some point.
But what about the many ex-Christians, whether they’re staying that way or will return to faith? I have written often about the need for precision and thoroughness in presenting the gospel for this very reason, to prevent false conversions and thus false hope. But can we write off every ex-Christian as never having been saved? We’d have to interview every one of them to know for sure, but on occasion they will write about their journey away from God (e.g. my earlier article). Yet I remain unconvinced that there is a verifiable case of a truly saved person turning their back on God permanently.
In addition, it seems that some of the most rabid anti-Christians are these alleged ex-ones, as if they were abused, lied to, or God was simply getting in the way of their happiness (?!) and now they want revenge. They rage against that which they believe is imaginary and cannot stop it. They obsess more about religion than believers do. The more you try to reach out to them, the more rabid they become. They hate God and Christians so much that they cannot endure the sight of a church or listen to so much as John 3:16. It isn’t so much that they stopped believing in God as that they now hate Him.
But what happened? What did God do or fail to do? What did His people do or fail to do? Above all, why isn’t this one of the top issues being discussed by the Christian community? All they seem to be about these days is navel gazing (mysticism), ditching truth for worldly acceptance, entertainment, putting women in their place, covering up sex scandals, and fondling lots of cash. We have become focused primarily on the flesh and forgotten about the spirit, except perhaps as a force or a way to get high. While we’re following the pied pipers of prosperity, hurting souls are being buried in the back yard.
Are you as an individual believer prepared to answer whatever questions these ex-people may ask of you about the faith (note: not just YOUR personal faith, but THE faith— Jude 1:3)? Do you care enough to prepare? Are you able to discern the true seeker from the rabid, drooling hater to whom Jesus said not to waste our time (Mt. 7:6)? Do you pray more for new pews than these lost sheep? Do you sit in Sunday School week after week but still can’t recognize someone who is hanging on to faith by a thread?
The time is very, very short; the return of our Master is imminent. We all need to take a hard look at how we use our time and how we view the lost. We need to be sensitive to our fellow believers and their struggles, and to give more than the standard canned responses or pass them off to pastors or paid counselors.