(my response is in italics)
Despite a clear request on the contact form to NOT send me emails like the one that follows, some Christians just can’t help themselves. It is like they have this pathological need to prove themselves right and what better way than to tell a man who was a Christian for 50 years, a pastor for 25 years, that he is wrong.
A man in his 40’s who self-describes himself as a scientist/engineer and loosely associated with the emerging church movement writes:
I find your blog very interesting….
….Suppose someone is telling you he used to be Mormon/Yehovah’s Witness/Moonie, but now is no longer a Christian. You would be puzzled, right? So was I when I read that you were a fundamentalist, but now you are no longer a Christian.
Why is it puzzling. I once was and now I am not. The fact that you can not wrap your mind around this fact doesn’t change it. The problem is that your theology is getting in the way of common sense. People change beliefs all the time. I once was a Republican and now I am a Democrat. According to your logic, I never really was a Republican. After all, if I was, I would still be a Republican.
People change. People mature. You admitted yourself that you changed beliefs and churches a few times. Are you not being hypocritical?
Your error is a common one among the human species. We take our experiences, our beliefs, and we judge everyone else by that standard. Of course I don’t measure up. How could I….after all…….are your ready for it…I AM NOT YOU!
….There were commentators claiming that, on the basis of the once-saved-always-saved doctrine, you never were a Christian. You insisted you were a Christian because you had a conversion experience, you honestly believed what the Church believed, and you were serving as a pastor for 25 years.
No, you are dead wrong here. I was a Christian not only because I had a conversion experience BUT as a result of that conversion experience I followed after Jesus Christ. I didn’t believe what the Church believed. I believed what I thought the Bible taught and I taught that every Sunday and Thursday from the pulpit.
I think the once-saved-always-saved doctrine is nonsense. Otherwise, the passage in Hebrews 6 you mentioned in a recent post would make no sense. Nevertheless, I believe you never were a Christian.
This is your opinion, nothing more and nothing less. Millions of Christians disagree with you. Whole denominations disagree with you. Calvinism and Arminianism and all their step-children can clearly be found in the Bible. That is what is so neat about the Bible…..it supports virtually every theological system.
Of course the real issue here is that you KNOW you are right. What YOU believe is the faith once delivered to the saints. You are so certain of your certainty that you feel you can judge the spiritual relationship of others. In other words, you are God.
Some commentator was pointing out that being a Christian is a relationship rather than a religion. You replied that Christianity is text-based, therefore it is a religion.
I have heard fundamentalists preaching over and over that being a Christian is all about a relationship to Christ and not at all about following religious rules. I would be surprised if it was different in your case. When you still were in office, you probably did not preach that there is no such thing as a relationship to Christ, but, on the contrary, Christianity is entirely a text-based religion.
You are a careless reader or you have not reach much of what I have written.
Christianity IS a text based religion. No Bible=No Christianity. However, I never would have said that a relationship with Jesus Christ is not important. If you read carefully what I write you will notice that what I reject is the notion that a person can have a relationship with Jesus apart from the teachings of the Bible. How does a Christian KNOW they have a right relationship with Jesus? Is it a touchy-feely emotion? Of course not. The standard is the teachings of the Bible.
The modern, It’s a Relationship movement is just an attempt to ignore or reject any part of the Bible they don’t like. I reject such thinking. I am an all-in kind of person. Say you are a follower of Jesus? Then follow him all the way. Like the Bible says, “follow the Lamb withersoever he goeth.”
Fundamentalists preach that Christianity means a relationship to Christ, but they actually believe something else – namely that being a Christian means (i) having a conversion experience, (ii) believing that the Bible is “inerrant”, and (iii) participating in Christian activities. As it is characteristic of sects and cults, they hide their true believes behind coded language. They are deceiving themselves and others. It is the same with political sects. For example, communists and Nazis frequently use the term “freedom”, but it has a different meaning for them.
Maybe in the “cults” you were a part of but not the “cult” I was a part of. All religions, by the way, are, by definition, cults.
The Bible is clear that being a Christian means having a relationship to Christ. There is a warning about false Christians who think they are Christians but are not. They are called wolves, because they are dangerous as they lure people in their cults and keep them from the true knowledge of Christ.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves … On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.”
I will assume that you think I was a cult leader, that I never had a relationship with Christ, and that I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
What can I say to such closed minded, arrogant thinking that I have not said countless times before?
I have come to realize this about people like you. It is not about me, it is about you. You need certainty. You need to know you are right. You need your past and present validated. What better what to do it than to deconstruct and invalidate a prominent Evangelical Pastor turned atheist’s life story.
Interestingly, these people are unaware that they are wolves, but consider themselves Christians on the basis of their works (e.g., going to a Bible college, serving as a missionary). Jesus makes clear that they are not Christians because they don’t know him.
No, again, I considered myself a Christian based on the relationship I had with Jesus. That said, faith without works is dead and 1 John 1 makes it clear that the measure of true Christianity is how a person lives. Want to compare Christian dicks? I bet mine is bigger than yours.
Because of the relationship I had with Jesus, I worked day and night to win souls to Jesus and build up the body of Christ.
Here is what I find so interesting. You read a few blog posts and you KNOW I was never a Christian. You KNOW I was a cult leader and a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Yet, for 50 years as a Christian and 25 years as a pastor, not ONE pastor or parishioner ever questioned whether or not I was a Christian. I came into contact with thousands of people and not one person EVER suggested I wasn’t a Christian. They might have disagreed with what I taught but they never doubted that I was a sincere follower of Jesus. Yet, you have a special gift from God to be able to discern whether or not someone is a Christian. I suspect there would be a huge demand for a Christian detector like you IF such a gift was real. (hint:it is not)
Apparently you did not know Christ. You did not taste the heavenly gift, became partaker of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come. Otherwise, you could not be an atheist today. You could not believe that these things you have once experienced do not exist.
In my opinion, the key to becoming a Christian is honestly searching God. This will be rewarded by finding God.
I choose to understand my Christian past in a sociological and psychological context. My birth, upbringing, and environment had a lot to do with the fact that I was a Christian. Of course you reject such notions, but the facts, from study after study, are on my side. Who a person’s parents are and where they are born go a long way in determining what religious belief they have.
The fact remains, I once was a Christian and I now I am not. I know what I know and I was there when it happened. I only respond to your email in this manner because I think some of the readers of this blog will find my response helpful.
Your final paragraph is quite careless and could lead one to conclude that as long as someone is seeking God that is all that matters. Of course, I would somewhat agree with that. However you mean YOUR God, don’t you? The Christian God. Your flavor of the Christian God. When a person is like YOU then they will know they have found the true God. Seems quite cultic to me.