Atheist Ex-Pastor Refutes the Claim That There is No Such Thing an Ex-Christian

easy believism

According to Fundamentalist Christian Jimmy Randolph, there is no such thing as an ex-Christian. In an article titled Beware of the Perils and Pitfalls of Easy-Believism, Randolph shares a recent experience he had of witnessing to an atheist:

A few days ago the Lord allowed me to witness to an atheist about creation and Jesus Christ’s blood atonement for sinners. After a few minutes of going back and forth, I could see that the particular atheist I was dealing with was not interested in truth, but excuse. As I was about to end the conversation by telling the atheist that he will one day face his Creator face to face at the Great White Throne Judgment and give an account for every secret sin, the atheist interrupted me by telling me that he was “a former Christian”. Now any Bible Believer knows that it is not impossible for a born-again Christian to apostate so dramatically to the point where they could possibly become an atheist (2 Tim 2:13 KJV).  Therefore, I decided to check out his testimony in the Lord.

I asked him “how did you become a Christian?” He answered “I was raised in a society that was mostly Christian.”  I then explained to him that being raised in a Christian society does not make you a Christian any more than being raised in a garage makes you a car. So I presented the question to him again: “how did you become a Christian?” This time he answered me and said “I believed in a theistic God.” I then explained to him that the devils also believe in a theistic God and tremble (James 2:19 KJV). I presented the question to him a third time: “how did you become a Christian?”  He answered and said “I believed the bible and that prayers would be the answer” I then explained to him that Muslims also believe in prayer and that Mormons also believe the bible, but that doesn’t make them Christians. I then rebuked the atheist by telling him that according to all three cases of his own testimony, he was NEVER a Christian, only RELIGIOUS.  It was at this point were the atheist let his anger get the best of him at accused me of being radical, mean-spirited, outrageous, illogical, spreading hate, unreasonable, what’s wrong with “Christianity” today, ridiculous ideology, blah, blah, blah.

Now why would this atheist label himself as a “former Christian” when he was absolutely clueless to what a Christian was? Two words: EASY BELIEVISM. Easy Believism is a heresy that teaches that salvation or reconciliation with God is relative to the individual and NOT ABSOLUTE according to God’s word. In other words, Easy Believism teaches that an individual doesn’t have to run to Calvary’s cross as a BROKEN SINNER in need of a sinless Savior to save them from HELL. Instead, the individual can come to God self-righteously as their own mediator, in their own way, in their own time, according to their own thoughts and logic.

According to Randolph, those of us who label ourselves as ex-Christians never really understood the Christian gospel. Randolph thinks that former Christians fell prey to what he calls easy-believism. Unfortunately, Randolph has no idea of what easy-believism is. Proponents of easy-believism (free grace)  — men such as Jack Hyles, Curtis Hutson, Bob Gray, Charles Ryrie, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, and Zane Hodges — believe that  people are saved when they put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Those opposed to easy-believism — men such as John MacArthur and most Calvinists — believe that unsaved people must not only accept Jesus as their Savior, but they also must make him the lord of their lives (lordship salvation). While both parties believe that good works are a natural consequence of being saved, those who oppose easy-believism say that these works are proof that a person has indeed been born from above.

As you can see from the previous paragraph, Randolph doesn’t understand easy-believism. I am not sure where he pulled his definition from, but it wasn’t from any of the pro/anti easy-believism books of the 1980s and 1990s. Randolph’s inability to understand easy-believism renders his claim moot, but for the sake of argument, I am going to let his definition stand so I can adequately address what he writes next.

According to Randolph, there are ten ways to spot the false converts to easy-believism (grammar errors and all caps in the original):

  • THEY WON’T OR HAVE DIFFICULTY ADMITTING TO BEING A SINNER
  • THEY DON’T BELIEVE THAT THEY EVER TRULY DESERVED TO BURN IN HELL
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT ANY GENERIC BELIEF IN GOD IS “GOOD ENOUGH”
  • THE IDEA OF SALVATION ALONE THROUGH CHRIST CRUCIFIED IS FOOLISHNESS TO THEM
  • THEY IDENTIFY THEMSELVES AS BEING A “CHRISTIAN” OR A “CHILD OF GOD” WITHOUT EVER ADMITTING TO BEING A LOST HELLBOUND SINNER BEFORE CONVERSION
  • THEY VIEW GOD AS A GENERIC BUDDY INSTEAD OF A SINLESS PERSONAL SAVIOUR
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT GENERAL GENERIC PRAYER, BIBLE READING, CHURCH ATTENDANCE, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, CHURCH MEMBERSHIP, SOCIAL FUNCTIONS, AND DEALING WITH SOCIETAL ISSUES EARNS THEM SALVATION OR SPECIAL FAVOR WITH GOD OUTSIDE OF SCRIPTURE.
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT SALVATION AND A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED BY REJECTING, IGNORING, OR BEING PURPOSELY IGNORANT TO WHAT SCRIPTURE SAYS.
  • THEY BELIEVE THAT ALL RELIGIONS ARE THE SAME OR LEAD TO THE SAME GOD.
  • THEY CAN’T REMEMBER A TIME IN THEIR LIFE WHEN THEY HAD A FACE TO FACE COLLISION WITH JESUS CHRIST AND CALLED ON HIS NAME FOR SALVATION AS A BROKEN SINNER.

As regular readers know, I was a Christian for almost 50 years. I spent 25 years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Like many readers of this blog, I was, for many years, a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. At one time, thanks to the churches I grew up in and the training I received at Midwestern Baptist College, I preached the easy-believism gospel. However, by the mid-1980s, I realized that the easy-believism gospel generally turned people into cultural Christians who had no desire to follow in the steps of Jesus. When John MacArthur wrote his Evangelical-shaking book, The Gospel According to Jesus, I quickly realized that MacArthur was spot on when it came to the lordship of Christ. From that point forward, my preaching and emphasis changed. Instead of just trying to get people to pray the sinner’s prayer, I focused on what I called the gospel of full disclosure. If people were going to become followers of Jesus, I believed they needed to know exactly what Jesus expected (demanded) of them.

So when I look at Randolph’s ten ways to spot a false convert to easy-believism, I can emphatically say than none of these things is true of me. And I expect that many of the readers of this blog can say the same.  We are living examples of the fact that people can be Christians and then walk away.  Any thorough examination of our lives reveals that we were once followers of Jesus. Our lives are proof that what Jimmy Randolph writes in his post is not true.

This should be the end of the discussion. I’ve presented evidence — my life — that cannot be refuted. But, this won’t be the end of the discussion because people like Randolph, when confronted with the exemplary lives of one-time Christians, will then suggest that we must still be Christians because the Bible says that the true Christian can never fall from grace or lose their salvation. We are just backslidden, and God, through chastisement or even death, will brings us back to Jesus.

Note

While perusing the comments on Randolph’s post, I noticed that he said his definition of easy-believism came straight from the Bible.  After reading several more of his comments, I have concluded that he actually believes in easy-believism, just not the Bible-defined easy-believism that he has concocted in his head (He also rejects lordship salvation). In other words, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Instead of trying to “save” atheists, perhaps Randolph should invest some money in buying several systematic theology books and do some study on what the Bible actually says about salvation. Then, once thoroughly confused, Randolph can deconvert and become an ex-Christian who was never a Christian.

By the way, the phrase easy-believism is not used in the Bible.

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10 Comments

  1. Geoff

    I actually regard the reverse as being almost exclusively true, that proper atheism is something that will never leave you.

    Believers like to quote people who claim they ‘used to be an atheist’, the likes of Lee Strobel now or C.S. Lewis from time gone by. Yet neither of these people were really atheists. At best, they simply hadn’t considered the position properly in their minds and were ‘passively agnostic’. Atheism is a realisation, a point where the misty cloud we call religious belief lifts and you suddenly appreciate that the world makes much more sense when there is no god.

    That’s something that will never leave you; the freedom offered by human reason, especially if you’ve first had to throw away the shackles of strong religious belief.

    Reply
  2. Karen the rock whisperer

    This ex-Catholic gets really, really tired of the Evangelical trope about Real Christians (TM). Even you, Bruce my friend, might well believe that I was never a “real” Christian. But Catholics, Episcopalians, non-Evangelical Lutherans, and other non-Evangelical Christians have just as much real claim to the label as Evangelicals. You don’t have to be dramatically saved to live a God-driven life. You don’t have to throw yourself down on an altar to acknowledge the continuing difficulty of sin, or to believe in God’s grace. From the point of view of my training, Evangelicals spend a lot of time thrashing about, sinning and then beating themselves and begging God for forgiveness… but I was taught that God forgives sins if you sincerely repent and try your best not to sin, and the cycle of unavoidable sin (because we’re human) and reconciliation is simply part of the process of trying to follow Jesus.

    Now I don’t believe in any of that, I’m a Humanist. As a human, I’m going to make mistakes, and as one connected with fellow humans, I need to own up to my mistakes and try to fix any hurt I’ve caused. Success is minimizing the mistakes and the hurt. But it annoys the heck out of me that so many Evangelicals are so damned Holier Than Thou about Christianity. I was indeed a Christian, as much as any citizen of Scotland is a True Scotsman (or Scotswoman).

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Certainly, there was a time when I thought Catholics were non-Christians. But, I abandoned that kind if thinking about ten years before I stopped pastoring. In one church I pastored , Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, we had a sign on its door that said, the church where the only label that matters is Christian. As I got older I become more ecumenical. I was even part of the local ministerial group, a choice I never would have made as a young pastor.

      Reply
  3. Jackie

    Did you read the comments on there? It’s one big argument about what constitutes “real” salvation and therefore “real” Christianity: you have to be baptized, you have to speak in tongues, blah blah, etc. Nasty responses and name calling ensues. I placed a comment about how amusing it is that they can’t even get it straight amongst themselves and was immediately deleted, haha!

    Reply
  4. Brian

    Grrrrr…. this kind of low-aim dick really gets me going. I wish the prick found me in an alley and started haranguing me about what a real Christian is…. fucker.
    Bruce, you said, “I am not sure where he pulled his definition from,” and I could tell you where he pulled it from but my atheist aversion/allergy to pure preacher shit would put my health at risk so you are going to have to guess the location 😉

    Reply
  5. Randy

    Mr. Randolph is a genuine jerk for Jesus. No grace, love or mercy in his talk with this atheist just self-righteous, pious posturing. It seems logical to me that if somebody can accept the Gospel and Jesus then they can reject him as well. I hate the “well you were never a Christian anyway” argument as much as I hate the “well you were never an atheist anyway” claim. What we have are a good number of Christians who are all 1 point Calvinists with the P of the TULIP. Even those that detest Calvinism still adopt this point into their theology. In believe one can be a devout Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist, Atheist, etc. and make a decision to leave that particular style of life behind.

    To say somebody like Bruce was never a Christian is a poor stance. From all I’ve read of his past he was 100% sold out for the Gospel. I believe I was 100% sold out to atheism and humanism in my past. I still have a healthy dose of skepticism left over from it that tends to get me in trouble, especially with church folks and church leaders who have been in church all of their lives. It’s like they have lost touch with the real world. To steal a quote, “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.”

    If I had the chance to talk to somebody like this former Christian turned atheist, I’d try to honestly listen to him. Ask him what led him to the change. And listen. Talk with him not at him. Maybe even ask him if he ever thought he might return to Christianity or another faith. Get to know him, not beat him over the head with a theological hammer. And totally avoid the Hell card. I mean, you think you are going to scare this guy into the faith? That pretty much shuts down other people when you draw that line in the sand.

    The truth is most Christians and most atheists are more interested in a monologue instead of a dialogue. They just want to shout and argue with each other instead of listen to each other. I’ve tried to have a mind open enough that any compelling argument could lead me to another belief. I refuse to be a religious zealot who is deaf to reason and logic. I’d love to sit down and have a coffee or a beer with somebody like the atheist in this story or Bruce and just have a real conversation about life.

    Reply
  6. Ian

    So, what does this theological giant think of this scenario?

    I have seen many people who got saved when they were children. By all accounts, they lived good lives and were active in the church. Everyone knew they were a Christian, since their works proved this. Then, this person had a crisis of some sort and they realized they weren’t really saved. They came to the altar, crying and snotting, and “got saved”. There would be much rejoicing and happiness, since this person was now truly saved. My question is this- who didn’t hold up their end of the bargain in the first salvation, God or the person? The person had all of the fruit of the spirit, walked uprightly and could pinpoint a time in their life when they accepteded (or received, for the Calvinist brethren) Jesus as their Lord and Saviour®. I’ve seen this many times, and I am one who had a second salvation experience.

    Hebrews 6:4-6 clearly states that some who have partaken of the Holy Ghost can fall away and it is impossible to again renew them to repentance. If you believe what is written and don’t play mental gymnastics, the author of Hebrews says you can become unsaved. Who failed, God or man? Is God unable to keep his elect or can man defy an all powerful God?

    Unfortunately, I know the church’s dishonest answers to the questions. We are labeled as false concerts and those that sow discord through evil questions. But, no one can deny that, while I believed, my testimony as good as, or better than, any other’s. My spiritual fruit was blooming and my service in the church was moving. No one can take that from me.

    Reply
    1. Randy

      The funny thing is one of my seminary classes was on the book of Hebrews. You cannot believe (well maybe you can) the hermeneutical gymnastics the instructor and the text books went through on that section of Hebrews to say that it was NOT teaching you could become unsaved. We even had one small book that focused totally on that section. A plain reading seems to indicate apostasy is totally possible.

      Here’s my quandary. So say you reach the end of life Ian (and/or Bruce) and discover that God is real (I know, big hypothetical leap for you but please bare with me). Do you think a just, loving and merciful God would really toss you into a lake of burning fire and sulfur for all eternity despite the many years you joyfully served him? Or, hypothetically speaking, would he chuckle, tell you he understands, and forgive you and welcome you on in. I guess my point here is I think our picture of God is often a fearful one. We treat our earthly children better than we believe a heavenly father would treat us, and that just doesn’t jive with me. No matter how bad of a deed one of my children would commit against me, I could never condemn them to eternal suffering and pain. Anyway, I struggle with that, and I’m not sure we actually have our theology on it correct at all.

      Reply
      1. Michael Mock

        I don’t think there’s any sort of God (or gods) out there. I could be wrong, but if I am than I am, at least, honestly mistaken. And if God is anything like what I was raised to believe in — loving, merciful, just, all-knowing — then presumably he would understand my failure to recognize him, and not just the fact of it; my limitations and my reasoning and everything that went into it as well.

        I do sometimes find myself thinking that I have a rather better opinion of what God would be like if He existed, than what many people who are convinced of His existence think He must be like.

        Reply
      2. Ian

        Randy, 2 Peter 2 and the book of Jude say exactly what is thought of unbelievers who were part of the church. Hebrews 6 talks about those who once believed. The New Testament is pretty clear on the fact that there are only two places people go when they die- Heaven or Hell. So, if I don’t believe any more, then I am not one of God’s chosen/children/followers, according to the scriptures. This means that my destination is Hell and, ultimately, the Lake of Fire, where I will burn for eternity because I wasn’t elected by God and sinned for less than 100 years (if I live a long life). That is the fate that I have waiting for me, according to Pauline Christianity. Jesus’ Christianity did allow for good works, but He also required that I believe in him (Matt 10:32,33).

        A loving and just god wouldn’t toss people to into hell for mere unbelief. He would weigh our good and evil and reward us accordingly. It is the god that Christians worship who delights in eternal punishment for less than a millennium of unbelief and evil deeds. Cain killed his brother, so he has been burning in Hell for 6,000 years. That is the god that most Christians delight in. So, I would follow a just god, but I haven’t seen evidence of him. I want nothing more to do with the god I followed for many years.

        Reply

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