If you are like me and you find enjoyment listening to debates between Christian and atheist scholars, then you no doubt have heard on multiple occasions something like the following:
“Yes, Mr. Moderator, I was a Christian until the age of 24. And then I slowly came to the conclusion that faith was not reasonable, the Bible was full of contradictions, the God of the Old Testament committed genocide, and the problem of evil was bigger than God. So the only intellectually honest thing for me to do was to reject my faith and become an atheist.”
Upon hearing such proclamations, the obvious question is if it’s actually possible for an atheist to have once been a Christian.
Here is the Problem:
Salvation is more than a work of man. It is not just our belief in Jesus, our intellectual assent to the propositions of the Bible, and certainly not just our feelings. Salvation is, at a fundamental level, a supernatural act. An act of grace by God, on our behalf, that literally changes our heart (whether this happens before belief or right after is not the issue here).
For example, in Ezekiel 36:26 we see that God changes the heart of “stone” to a heart of “flesh”. And we see in John 3 Jesus teach on the necessity of the born again heart (regeneration). Both of these examples, and there are many more, reveal to us that salvation is more than just a work of man. We can’t “born” our hearts again; we can’t change our hearts from “stone” to “flesh”. A work of God is necessary.
Therefore, for one to claim that they were a Christian is to acknowledge that they were a recipient of a supernatural work of God in their heart. It is to acknowledge that they had a heart transformed from “stone” to “flesh”; that their heart was born again.
This can be clearly understood as follows:
- Salvation involves a work of God.
- I was saved.
- Therefore, I was the recipient of a work of God – a new heart.
Now, if they later decide that they aren’t a Christian, but an atheist, they are left with a serious philosophical problem. How do they account for their regenerated heart?
Since God doesn’t exist for them any longer, they certainly can’t claim that God regenerated their heart; replaced their heart of stone with one of flesh.
The only tenable solution they have is to explain away their Christianity as merely an experience, a feeling, decision, or a cultural relic from which they finally escaped. But this is not Biblical Christianity.
Foundationally, Biblical Christianity isn’t an experience, a feeling, a decision or a cultural relic. As we said, it is a supernatural work of God on one’s heart. So whatever the atheist may have been, it certainly wasn’t a Christian in any Biblical sense.
Finally, if God does not exist, Biblical Christianity does not exist. It is an illusion, a scam.
It is absurd, then, to ever claim to have been a Christian while now denying the very existence of the Being needed for Biblical Christianity to exist in the first place.