During the time I took off from blogging, I became acquainted with a blog called Memoirs of an ex-Christian, run by Kevin Parry from South Africa. I was intrigued by the title of his blog. Over the years I have met many people who called themselves ex-Christians, people who for one reason or another gave up their faith and stropped believing in God.
The title of his blog made me think about the reasons people leave the faith. Like Kevin, there are many others who have made similar decisions to abandon the faith. The blog outofchristianity has become a safe haven for people who have made a decision to abandon their faith and stop calling themselves Christians.
Kevin’s blog also prompted me to ask myself: Why am I a Christian? In an attempt to answer that question, I had to understand some of the possible reasons people stop believing in God and leave Christianity.
Why am I a Christian? The first reason I am a Christian is because I know whom I have believed, not what I have believed, the what being the Bible.
Christianity is focused on Jesus Christ, who he is, how he lived, what he did, how and why he died, and the fact that he rose again. Without Christ there is no Christianity. Christ is the foundation upon which faith is built.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). As Christians, we have to believe in Christ and also be convinced that he is able to keep us faithful until the final day.
However, in the Christian life, many people put their faith in the Bible. They say: “I believe in the Bible.” Some believe that the King James Version is the only version God has inspired, and when the King James is criticized, that criticism becomes an attack on their faith.
Some people are shocked about the fact that the final verses of Mark may not be genuine or that the Trinity verse in 1 John 5:7 in the King James is not original to the letter of John. I know that Kevin is concerned about the veracity of some biblical passages because he quoted in one of his posts my article on 1 Samuel 13.
The Bible is very important to Christians, but faith in Jesus Christ is not destroyed because a verse is corrupt or because a passage has been added to or deleted from the Gospel. One must remember that people believed in Christ even before there was a New Testament. In the life of the early church, faith in Christ preceded faith in the Bible.
The second reason I am a Christian is because I know whom I have believed, not what I have believed, the what being the church. The Apostle’s Creed says in part: “I believe in . . . Jesus Christ . . . I believe in the holy catholic church.”
The problem is, believing in Christ and believing in the church are two different things. Faith in Christ is faith in a person: “I know whom I have believed.” When we put faith in Christ, we know that he is Truth and that he will never disappoint us. But the same cannot be said of the church.
In the history of Christianity we read about the many evils committed by the church. The church has made many mistakes and has perpetrated many atrocities that shock believers and non-believers alike.
In a lecture delivered to the National Secular Society on March 6, 1927 titled “Why I Am Not A Christian,” Bertrand Russell gave many reasons why he was not a Christian, one of them was that the church “inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering.”
Those who put their faith in the church will be disappointed because the church, sooner or later, will fail them, and out of disgust or unhappiness, they may stop believing in the church. But, Jesus never fails because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
The third reason why I am a Christian is because I know whom I have believed, not what I have believed, the what being dogmas and creeds. Christian denominations are separated because of doctrines. Doctrines about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, justification, and a host of other doctrinal positions divide believers, but none of these saves; Jesus saves.
Unable to distinguish which doctrine is correct or which view is better, some people give up on Christ and stop believing altogether. The fact is, that doctrine separates but Christ unites. If people would put their faith in Christ rather than dogmas or creeds, there would be no reason to abandon the One who remains constant in the lives of believers.
To be continued tomorrow. Tomorrow I will discuss what happened when Israel abandoned God.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary