Witnessing to Those Who Have Fallen from Faith

By James Patrick Holding

Christians, in their witnessing, are accustomed to giving a presentation of the gospel and offering their personal testimony. What if, however, the reaction of our evangelistic audience is something like this: “I know what the gospel message is. I once believed it myself, but not anymore” or, “I once had a testimony like yours, but I am no longer a Christian.”

These troubling responses, regrettably, are becoming more commonplace. Support groups for ex-Christians, such as Fundamentalists Anonymous (FA), are gaining prominence; the FA Web site receives tens of thousands of visitors each month, and the Internet is rife with “antitestimonies” of those who once confessed belief in Christ but have abandoned their faith. A few have joined cults or other religions, but the majority have retreated into some form of skepticism. How is the witnessing Christian to respond to the “ex-Christian” for whom the Good News is “old news”?1

Intellectual Objections. An informal survey conducted by a Web site support group for ex-Christians indicates that two-thirds of respondents began to question Christianity because of some intellectual difficulty. The largest portion (28.5 percent) cited “theological/doctrinal problems” as their

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reason for questioning their faith; another 27 percent claimed that their faith “no longer made sense” or that they “grew out of it.” Ten percent cited “Bible contradictions” as their reason to initially question Christianity.2

All three of these areas are concerns of Christian apologetics, and the sort of intellectual problems these persons faced, as related in exemplary antitestimonies from the same Web site, reveal familiar questions; for example: Is free will compatible with God’s sovereignty? Is eternal punishment just? Is the theory of evolution compatible with Genesis? In one sense, therefore, preparation for encounters with those who have fallen from faith is no different than preparation for those who have never professed Christ. The intellectual objections we encounter will usually be the same, and the importance of providing sound answers is magnified by the fact that some antitestimonies cite the provision of unsatisfactory answers as a factor in deconversion. One such story relates what happened when the author wrote to a radio ministry seeking resolution to a common claim of biblical contradiction: “Instead of an intellectual [sic] satisfying apologetic, they merely admonished that some things could only be answered through the eyes of faith. I pretty much got the same answer everywhere I went.”3 Having adequate answers (or knowing where to get them) clearly should be one of our priorities as Christians. It will not be sufficient to tell seekers to “have faith,” while ignoring their questions…

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Witnessing to Those Who Have Fallen from Faith – Christian Research Institute