You cannot be an "ex-Christian" because, in order to [be] a "Christian" in the first place, you must have been "born of the Spirit."
I gave my heart to Jesus when I was a boy; recommitted my life to him when I was 14. I was involved in the church, evangelizing to others through drama and music. I believed Christianity was true, and that I was in a relationship with the creator of the universe. I earnestly sought God's will through prayer and the Bible, and I even had spiritual experiences. I tried my best to live a Christian life.
The argument that ex-Christians were not really Christians to begin with is problematic because it unwittingly removes any meaning from those attributes that we normally use to identify a person as being 'Christian'. All the characteristics in the above paragraph describe me before I left the faith. If these characteristics cannot be used to determine if someone is a Christian, then what can?
William argues that being 'born of the Spirit' makes one a Christian. But if I, as a Christian, was certain that I was 'born of the Spirit', but in fact was not (because I would later left the faith), then how can current Christians be so sure that they are in fact saved?
As I've written before on this blog, I think there are two reasons why some continuously advocate the "you were never a Christian to begin with" argument:
- When a person regards Christianity as absolute truth, they cannot accept the possibility that they could be wrong. When they observe others leaving the faith, they naturally place the fault on the person who is leaving, instead of considering the possibility that Christianity itself could be at fault.
- This argument acts as a type of psychological shield against a real fear: that if someone else can loose her faith, then it's possible that it can also happen to you too! To safeguard against this fear, all you need to do is believe that you are a true believer, who can never possibly backslide into unbelief, and that the ex-Christian was not really a Christian to begin with.
- What makes a Christian a Christian; what are the criteria?
- If I met all these criteria but you still believe I wasn't a Christian, then how can you be so sure that you are really a Christian yourself?