Those of us who were formerly Christians are often informed we didn’t truly know God. We are informed we only dabbled in religion; didn’t really partake of what God was. We are informed we were never saved in the first place. I will highlight two problems with this claim.
1. It is a circular definition. The definition of a person who knows God is alleged to be: “A person who knows God.” Not very helpful. Oh, you can add as many adjectives as you desire, but it still boils down to a circular definition. “A person who truly knows God is a person who truly knows God” is just as circular as “A person who absolutely, positively, unequivocally knows God is a person who absolutely, positively, unequivocally knows God.”
The other day my daughter was working on a paper and asked, “Dad, can you give a good quote regarding Core Democratic Values?” Since this came out of the blue, I was uncertain as to what she was referring. “What are ‘Core Democratic Values?’” I asked; looking for clarification. “Oh, you know,” she responded in frustration, “Values which are both core and democratic.”
Not very enlightening. Yet I have the same conversation with many theists:
Me: I was once a Christian.
Them: Do you still believe there is a God?
Them: Then you weren’t a true Christian in the first place.
Me: Why not?
Them: Because a “true” Christian is defined as one who always believes there is a God.
So we define theist as a person who believes there is a god. I think I already knew that. Are they saying I didn’t really believe in a god? I was always faking it? Odd. Or was I self-deluded in believing in a God. Does a theist really want to go down a route claiming God-believers can be self-deluded? I would think not!
2. For a Christian, this is contrary to the Bible. Yes, I am quite aware the Bible speaks of us abiding in Christ, and his abiding in us. John 15:4-10. However, we cannot stop there. “Interpret Scripture with Scripture”—remember? The various books give specific and observable demonstrations which separate the believers from the non-believers.
Galatians 5:22 provides certain “fruit” or results which should be evident in a person who walks in the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. And yes, I exhibited all of those fruits. And continue to do so.
Here is why the Christian making this claim, “You were not a true believer” never, EVER goes to Galatians 5. This is key--because they recognize ALL humans are capable of exhibiting these traits! They dare not use this as a measuring stick, as we would all pass. We would all qualify as “walking in the Spirit.” Sure, we don’t exhibit all the traits all the time; but neither does the Christian! If this was the definition, no one is saved. If we use the Christian’s nomenclature (exhibiting some of these fruits some of the time) we are all saved.
Galatians 5:19-21 contrasts the works of the flesh. The works which all of us non-Christians should be partaking in. The things which would prevent us from inheriting the kingdom of God. That list: Adultery, Fornication, Uncleanness, Lewdness, Idolatry, Sorcery, Hatred, Contentions, Jealousy, Outburst of Anger, Selfish Ambitions, Dissensions, Heresies, Envy, Murders, Drunkenness, and “the Like.”
Again, what do we see? Sure, Christians as a whole avoid the adultery, Murder, drunkenness, idolatry, and sorcery. But what about selfish ambition? Is there an American Christian who has not had some selfish ambition? And in looking at the various splits and denominational fractions—need I point out contentions, dissensions and heresies? Never hated someone? Never envied or been jealous? Never angry?
Here the Christian excuses an occasional slip-up with the fact they still have a sin nature. So if you have this straight, Christians have Love, Joy, Peace, etc. some of the time (just like everyone else) and occasionally are selfish, contentious, envious, etc. some of the time (just like everyone else.) No wonder they dare not use Galatians as a determination of god-belief—we would all pass or fail!
Matthew 25:31-46 gives distinctions between believers and non-believers. The Believers helped the poor, needy and prisoners. Again, no Christian, in my recall, every told me I wasn’t a “true Christian” because I failed to conform to Matthew 25. Why not? Because I did!
In fact, I fulfill the requirements of a Bishop/overseer of 1 Timothy 3:1-8! One wife, hospitable, able to teach, good reputation, etc. How come no Christian ever wants to use those as the measuring rod by which I could be determined to be a “true” Christian? Simple—because I would pass!
Or take the simplest test of all—Rom. 10:9. “Believe with your heart and confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and God has raised him from the Dead.” Yep—passed that one too. Oh, the person making this claim may argue I didn’t “truly” believe—but the proof is in the pudding. Our beliefs are demonstrated by what we do—not what we say.
If I didn’t believe—do you think I put all that money in the plate out of fooling---what? Those hours spent studying and praying as a gag—for whom? Those days spent helping in the church, teaching, leading, cooking, cleaning—all for some sort of laugh and giggle?
What is it you think I believed?
In conclusion, let me ask this question. I believed there was a God, manifested in three persons, including Jesus (the Son) who took the form of a human, died, and was raised again so that we have the opportunity to have everlasting life. You tell me I didn’t really believe.
O.K., for arguments sake, imagine I became convinced again and re-converted. How would I know I wasn’t deluding myself again? If a person can believe as deeply, honestly and truly as I did—yet be completely fooling themselves—how do YOU know YOU aren’t fooling yourself?
Or, by this claim, must the person concede people who believe in God are very possibly tricking themselves into doing so? How could one tell the difference?