Why Christians Say “You Were Never a True Christian”

By Jordan Standridge. Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Rhett and Link, former CRU missionaries who have become famous through YouTube, have recently joined the chorus of “former Christians” who feel the need to share their “faith deconstruction” stories for all to hear. They are now agnostic.

As part of their healing process, they are all told to declare to the world their reasons for why being a Christian is wrong. As a result, they are surprised and hurt by Christians who promptly said that they never truly were of us (1 John 2:19).

Their response has been very interesting; they have lamented this by retorting something like “if there ever was a Christian, I was”. Some describe the hurt that it has caused them and they then, in Philippians 3:4-6 style, describe, like a pre-converted pharisaical Paul, all the reasons why they were actually Christians. They described their Christian lives like, “I prayed, I shared the Gospel, I went to church, I read my Bible, I believed the Bible, but then as I met LGBT folks and as I studied evolution, I discovered that the Bible could not possibly be true and therefore Christianity is false.”

This grieves my heart. And perhaps the main reason for this is the fact that most of these “former Christians” love declaring that they were true Christians. This leads thousands of young people questioning their faith and wondering if their heroes could be right. Can I simply stop being a Christian?

It is important to remember that we are called to be gentle in how we talk to someone who now claims to be an unbeliever (2 Tim. 2:24), at the same time it is imperative that we care about their soul enough to gently walk them through why they were never truly a Christian (probably the best approach is by explaining to them what a Christian is, rather than just yelling at them, “You were never a Christian!”) This is not to make ourselves feel better (as they claim) but because we are saddened that they have walked away from Jesus whom they once said that they loved.

As we think through this, I want to offer you a couple of reasons why it is so important for Christians not to grant the fact that our friends who walked away were ever true Christians.

The first is that salvation doesn’t depend on what you do.

The fact that upon being told that they were never Christians, they respond with things that they did that proved they were Christians shows that they misunderstood what Christians believe about salvation. They were in a works-based relationship with Christ.

God doesn’t want us to earn our salvation through our works; instead, the Bible declares that He causes Christians to be born again (1 Peter 1:3) so that He gets all the glory (Eph. 1:12-14). In other words, when you say, “I am a Christian,” you are declaring that God reached down into your dead spiritual heart, ripped it out, and gave you a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26)! You are declaring that you believed that God made you rise from the dead (Rom. 6:5) and made you hate sin and love holiness (1 John3:9). You are saying that spiritually speaking, Jesus came to your tomb and caused you to be resurrected.

There is nowhere in the Bible that says that God would ever undo this miracle. By declaring that you are no longer a Christian, you are calling God a liar and saying that He then re-damns you after having once saved you. He makes you dead again after having made you alive (Ephesians 2:4! The whole point of Christianity, the thing that separates it from every other religion, is that it is not based on what you do, it’s based on what God does to you! So, when you hear someone say, “I used to be a Christian,” he is saying that God undid a miracle.

The second is that you can’t undo anything that God does!

The second reality about salvation is that God promises that no one will ever be able to snatch someone out of His hand (John 10:28).

The Bible describes our relationship with God as children where He adopts us into His family (Eph. 1:5). That means that no one is born a child of God (John 1:12), but rather we are born haters of God (Rom. 1:30), dead in trespasses (Eph. 2:1-3), and at some point, God reaches down into our deadness and makes us alive (Eph. 2:4-5)

No Christian would ever ask God to be unadopted. On the other hand, He causes us to love Him and want to persevere in following Him. If someone doesn’t want to, it’s not a sign of God not keeping His promise, but rather of people never being adopted in the first place.

No one is trying to hurt the feelings of those who walked away. It is out of love for those who walk away on one end, but, more importantly, it is out of love for God that we say so. God would be a liar if anyone could cease being a Christian.

It is also important to note, as Sye Ten Bruggencate always says that God is not Someone you can reason to, He is the one you can’t reason without. He is the one who causes you to believe. Our belief in Him is not based on reason since, in our sinfulness, we would never trust Him without a miracle occurring (Rom. 3:10-11).

I hope you see that the whole concept of faith deconstruction is an impossibility. In Ephesians 2:8-9, God is the One who grants faith as a gift. You don’t need to work for it, it is given to you, you were dead and were made alive and given faith. It’s not something you can deconstruct, it is something that you keep till you die and then for eternity. Faith deconstruction is the height of pride, you can’t deconstruct anything that God creates. By merely saying that, you are proving that you never believed in the God of the Bible.

It is imperative for the sake of the lost, for the sake of our children and church members, and for the glory of God that we understand the fact that faith cannot be deconstructed. Rather, when someone walks away, he is simply saying, whether he likes it or not, that he never truly believed.

Obviously, this post is directed towards Christians and not towards those who’ve walked away. If I had the chance to speak to Rhett and Link, I think that I would be very gentle with them. In fact, I’d probably have tears in my eyes as I really like them. But I hope this is helpful for you as you think through these issues yourself, or if you help someone else who might be struggling with these thoughts.


Jordan is the pastor of evangelism at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He and his wife Jenny have 4 children: Davide, Matteo, Nico, and Gabriella. They’re on their way to Italy as missionaries. Check out their website at Standridge.org.

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There are 14 Comments

Mark_Smith's picture

This article is full of stuff I have no idea about?

1. Rhett and Link... sounds like a couple of bad cartoon character names.

2. CRU?

3. "As Sye Ten Bruggencate always says"... you got me there... who?

I must be out of touch. Yes, I know I could google, but the point is this is written like I know...

Mark_Smith's picture

If a "former missionary" starts attacking Christianity, I think it is a safe bet to say that person is in serious trouble. Can I say they were a Christian? No.

But, this is the tricky part, we do not earn salvation by works, but... we demonstrate salvation by our actions. You know them by their fruit, right? God created us to do good works that He ordained for us to do.

So, when people by their own confession say the were "former Christians", let alone "former Christian missionaries" I take that to mean they were false professors.

I think the book of Hebrews has a lot to say about this...

 

Mark_Smith's picture

and boredom Sheltering in Place, I am listening to a podcast about the "deconstruction of Rhett and Link's Faith" and I will report back. It doesn't sound good and I am a mere 5 minutes in. My early report is I don't believe for a second they were "really" Christians. They were just cool guys that said they were and since they were cool some leader thought they were called... been watching that for 30 years.

#ChristianLeadersFailRegularlyToPickGoodMentees

 

Mark_Smith's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

can you provide the link to that podcast

I can't link it. In itunes, search podcasts for Ear Biscuits podcast. Episode 226 and 227.

Word of warning if you'd like. Episode 226 is mostly clean. Episode 227 about Link is very mocking about Christianity... These guys now swear a lot and mock Christian beliefs.

Mark_Smith's picture

here is my analysis. I know nothing about these guys. I've never heard of them.

He is from NC. My analysis is his "faith" was built on a system of rules and assumptions. This is not uncommon. He placed a lot of faith in so-called "intellectual leaders" of evangelical Christianity. He wanted his faith to be rational and to be built on certainty. The problem is the Bible is clear this is not the case!

As a high schooler and college student he focused on evidentiary apologetics. He wanted to find a rock that was labeled "created by God" with a bar code on it. Many Christians are taught this way.

In his deep study of apologetics he was bothered by the young earth idea, and then he moved on to wondering about DNA and evolution, especially chromosome 2 on humans compared to 2 and 3 on chimpanzees. He clearly accepted "science" and in his discussion there was no mention of revelation. No concept of it.  At this point he started to accept common descent.

Once you do that you are on a free-fall, and went all the way. He wondered why Adam would be needed if there is evolution. But Luke lists Adam as Jesus' ultimate ancestor. So now you doubt the Bible.

All during this time he had serious doubts with the resurrection.

This all blows up and, to make a long story short, he leaves Christianity.

My analysis is he came from a "system" form of Christianity. He was very good at it. From listening to his doubts, and he was apparently open about them for decades, it is clear he should have never been in leadership. Unfortunately, all too often, leaders pick charismatic people to help them, and don't look at what is under the surface. In my opinion he was never "born again." He constantly talks about his deep faith until a few years ago. No mention of being "born from above." A new creature in Christ. I don't think he understood that.

I think Rhett's story shows the danger of most modern evangelism. It gets people to check a few boxes, and then labels them "saved" and don't doubt it. He wanted to avoid hell. Wanted something to teach his kids. Etc.

I note that in the podcast early on he is very clean and thoughtful. Later on, after saying he rejected Christianity, he starts swearing. Just a heads up.

They now call their Christian journey The Lost Years in their podcast titles and conversations.

Paul Henebury's picture

Mark,

You are so right about how evangelical leaders are often picked.  They are usually ambitious boot-lickers who are enthralled by the Christian "elite" and want to feel in the clique.  They start to copy their favorite preacher.  Often their ambition is mistaken for zeal and their fandom is looked upon as spiritual growth.  Some of these guys are saved, but sometimes they have simply "escaped the pollutions of this world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" yet they remain "brute beasts."  

I have seen this sort of thing many times in my life.  In his chapter on the "call to the ministry" Spurgeon says that he had often had to tell these "zealots" that he was not convinced of their call.  Lloyd-Jones said that if someone told him he thought he was called to preach he considered it his duty to try to dissuade him.  Of course, many evangelicals don't believe in the ministerial call, so they don't believe in testing it!   

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Mark_Smith's picture

Rhett had intellectual doubts that was, in my opinion, the Holy Spirit asking him "who do men say that I am"?

Link felt like he never measured up. That he was a failure all the time. This is the Holy Spirit as well, convicting him of sin. That no man can measure up to the law...

I wish they had someone who could have helped them years ago.

Mark_Smith's picture

On Sunday nights last year I tried a months long series answering many of the questions that these guys ask. What I found was the people who are older and still go to church do not want to hear these problems, let alone answers to them. They want simple "amen" statements and then move on. I stopped the series when one guy after I was done on Sunday evening, who was waiting out in the lobby, came in and asked who was trashing the Bible up in the pulpit... It really hurt. But, I am not staff, let alone a pastor, so I quit teaching on Sunday night to stop the problems.

ScottS's picture

This false belief manifesting as a rejection of the truth, according to Scripture, is only bound to increase. 1 Tim 4:1-2 says

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.

And then the warning of 2 Thes 2:1-3 is relevant on what is going to happen before our gathering unto Christ (bold added):

1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition

Of course, if they were "leaders" in the "church," then they also will be some of the main promoters of the deceptions that these passages warn about.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Bert Perry's picture

The numbers have most likely changed a bit in the centuries decades since I've been in college, but one thing that struck me very strongly when I was in college was that for parachurch organization members who were not involved in a local church, about 90% fell away from Christianity after college.  In contrast, most of the people who attended the college ministry of my church at the time appear to be still living well in Christ.

Yes, almost just an anecdotal case, but it's striking to me.

More directly to the point the men profiled are making, it strikes me that somehow they were CRU missionaries (Crue?) without ever coming into contact with LGBT activists or evolution...um, wait a minute?  They made it through high school and (secular) college without ever coming into contact with this and making any decisions about that?  Seriously?  

Call me weird--I'll "own" that one--but if they can make it through college and high school without realizing that people are pushing evolution and LGBT pretty hard, maybe....just maybe....they've got limited powers of perception?  And maybe they're not the best judges of what actually might constitute vibrant Christian faith?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JohnBrian's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:
 ...search podcasts for Ear Biscuits podcast. Episode 226 and 227.

found it - thanks

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Bert Perry's picture

It's what used to be called Campus Crusade for Christ.  They changed their name--rightly but oddly in my view--because in a world confronting fundamental Islam, the word "Crusade" was deemed to be likely to be deemed offensive.  The odd thing in my view is that "Cru" is a lot like "Crüe", shorthand for "Mötley Crüe", one of the preeminent party hair metal bands I grew up with.  

Jim was on staff with Crusade for a while, if I remember right.  So he's in a position to know about shallow theology on their part.  I appreciate as well Ray Comfort's concerns about their methods.

Going further, what is being talked about by the "Ear Biscuits" crew, and as well by Ray Comfort, ought to give us pause as well as we go about with our various evangelism methods.  Are we preaching the Gospel, or are we running a system that give a portion of the Gospel to people watered down--and the end result is that people are actually inoculated against the Gospel?  Sobering thought.  It's like my former church--800 "converts" and zero rear ends in pews on Sunday morning.  Are those real decisions, or inoculations?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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