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There’s No Such Thing as a Former Christian

saved or lost

Like Hotel California, once you are in, you can’t get out.

Once you are saved, you can never be lost.

Once God’s hound dog, the Holy Spirit, tracks you down, you belong to God forever.

Or so says Charles Smith:

If you scour the world-wild-web for any amount of time using atheism as your search term, you will undoubtedly find pages and pages of sites laced with the famous proclamation, “I used to be a Christian.” While this may be intriguing to the seeker, desiring a glimpse at the testimony of a formerly professing believer turned cynic in hopes of discovering reasons to remain religiously repulsed by Christendom, or possibly the opposite – looking to see if their retroversion experience is sensible – one thing is certain…there’s no such thing as a former Christian.

Cultural Christianity is quite the phenomenon of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries…

After “leaving the faith,” these misguided, false-converts then find their voices in the blogosphere, social sites, chat rooms, discussion boards and every other form of digital media outlet known to man – exhaustively expatriating as many “cardboard Christians” as they can sink their flaw-full claws into. Ironically, if they would spend as much time truly investigating and begging with a contrite heart, “God, please show yourself to me!” they would discover that He is absolutely faithful to do so – and the door the Lord has once opened, can be closed by no man.

These poor misinformed “ex-Christians” were never truly reborn of the Holy Spirit of God. They followed the crowd in church, were dunked under water, consumed crackers and gulped grape juice, sang songs, talked the talk, looked the part, memorized verses and so many other religious acts, but never came to a saving faith found in a relationship with the only begotten Son of God. Like so many of their contemporaries who weren’t led to the foot of the blood-stained cross of Calvary, they never saw their sins in the mirror of the ten commandments and consequently, never realized the magnitude of their debt – owed to a God who, because of His perfect love and justice, must punish sin – and they never saw the spotless Lamb for who He was and is, the ransom payment – the sacrificial substitute – who carried their sins before the Father and said “I will take their punishment.” Their prideful hearts of stone never crumbled under the weight of such a love and therefore, they simply socialized and enjoyed the music and learned to get along. But, of course, anyone who goes through a “phase” knows, it wore off and they moved on and Jesus wept…

Let the reader understand, just as you can’t become unborn once you have evacuated the womb, you also cannot become un-born-again. It is impossible to un-ring a bell, un-cook an egg or un-kill the living. If you are a spiritual seeker, please know that there is no such thing as an ex-Christian and if you want the truth, please look in a good Bible teaching church for assistance. If after reading this you still claim to be a “former believer,” you just do not understand…

While Smith’s argument certainly might apply to cultural or nominal Christians, it falls flat on its face when it comes to people like me; those who were sincere, committed, devoted, sold-out, on fire, consecrated, dedicated, sanctified followers of Jesus. While it is quite easy to dismiss those who never really took Christianity seriously, what about those of us who did? Did I really spend most of my adult life deceived, never having come to faith in Jesus Christ? Only in the echo chamber of Smith’s mind is such a claim possible. The only way he can square his theology with the life of someone like me is to say I never was a Christian, and since theology always trumps reason, Bruce Gerencser never was a Christian.

Look, I understand. I really do. Christians such as Smith cannot fathom anyone walking away from their Jesus. Why would anyone want to walk away from J-E-S-U-S, the most awesome God-man in the world, the biggest, baddest God in the entire universe? Why would anyone walk away from a golden ticket to God’s Motel 6? No more pain, no more suffering, no more death . . . who in their right mind would turn down such an offer?

But I did, others have, and more will continue to do so. Evidently, God didn’t want us bad enough to keep us.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    Charles Smith sees you but does not question his idea that people are either Christians, or not. Oh no, a Christian turned atheist is outside of his beliefs, because you can’t leave Christianity once saved. Thus he has to disregard any evidence to the contrary so he can continue with his ignorant beliefs.

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    “If all the Christians who have accused other Christians of not being “true Christians”, were to vanish – there would not be any Christians left.”

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      I love that aphorism. I think I might amend it to say there would only be one true x-tian left, me! I also like the witty comment someone wrote on another blog. He described how he got sucked into a fundy church and said ‘It came as a surprise to find that many there thought the separation of sheep from goats was their personal job.’

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    God was not faithful to show himself to me even though I truly, thoroughly, fully begged him to. So if God wouldn’t bother, why should I? Of course, I eventually came to the realization that God – gods, angels, demons, demi-gods, supernatural beings, spirits, etc. – happen to be fiction, madd up by people who want to believe in these things.

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    The No True Scotsman fallacy surfaces again and again. “These poor misinformed “ex-Christians” were never truly reborn of the Holy Spirit of God…” Cue a blast of bagpipe music!

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    You know, Bruce, that Chuck Smith is speaking from one particular branch of Christian theology, right? “Once saved, always saved” is a Calvinist doctrine. But there is an Arminian side to the question of eternal security, and the two provided wonderful and sometimes heated discussions in my Christian high school. I, however, prefer the practical side: The last chapter hasn’t been written yet.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      No, Don, I didn’t know that. (That’s sarcasm.) I’m quite familiar with all of the various soteriological systems. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, right? Yet Christian sects can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, communion. This is a reminder that Christianity and the Bible are manmade.

      Calvinists don’t believe in once saved always saved. They believe in conditional salvation. One must persevere until the end to be saved. Works matter. For many once saved always saved Baptists, works are irrelevant.

      As far as Arminianism is concerned, there are many flavors of that too. I’ve dealt with all of them on this site. I primarily write about once saved always saved/Calvinism because it seems to be the dominate soteriology in the United States, especially when you factor in Catholicism.

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    As a woman raised Catholic and thus baptized as a baby but now firmly atheist and secular, I aak him – just how much whoring, swearing, pants-wearing, job-having, childfree-being, Planned Parenthood-supporting do I have to do to cancel my Christianity membership???????

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    Mmhm. Yet another way in which a Christian insist I do not exist. I don’t know though, I seem to function well for someone that doesn’t exist.


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