Rob Bell, Peter Enns, Jen Hatmaker and now Joshua Harris. These 4 individuals now have something in common: each of them are telling their deconversion story to modern audiences.
A “deconversion story” is “a testimony of why a former religious person (in this case, Christian) has left their religion for something contrary to their former beliefs”. It is not always atheism that these “former Christians” turn to. Sometimes, it is a universalistic form of Christianity or a vaguer form of Christianity. Whatever the end result, deconversions are sad tales of moving from truth to ambiguity.
Many have written in recently days about, “How these deconversions happen” and “why they happen” and “how can we protect our own heart” from hardening towards deconversion.
For myself, as I process these disturbing and heart-breaking trajectories of men I have benefitted from in the past (e.g., Harris, Enns), the 1st truth that comes to mind is also the hardest truth to accept: these are not stories of actual departures from Christianity. What is really happening, I believe, is this: they are demonstrating who they have been all along. In short, they aren’t “deconverting”; they are revealing.
I John 2:19 allows for the possibility of someone being part of a Christian community for an indefinite amount of time, ministering to the people, leading the people, doing all the religious things you might expect of them, and still not being an actual member of that community. John says some people leave but their departure simply reveals they were never authentic to begin with.
John 6:66 records on occasion where so-called disciples leave Jesus because the cost was too high. They had never truly committed even though outwardly they blended with the real band of disciples.
Now, we cannot discern the real heart, because we cannot know the authenticity of someone’s profession (Jeremiah 17:10), but we can certainly help men and women evaluate their own hearts by examining the fruit that is present or absent in their life (Matthew 7:16).
Someone who has denied the faith can certainly repent of that sin. Peter denies Jesus on 3 occasions. Each of those interrogators who asked him if He knew Christ could have said, “Peter just deconverted.” But Peter repented of his sin of denial. Peter didn’t apostatize like Judas Iscariot.
Of course, the longer someone goes on with their “reconversion” and further strays from the truth, the more unlikely that any repentance will ever be their experience.
People apostasize because people want to be who they really are.
We need to be praying that we will all hold fast to the truths passed on to us (I Thessalonians 5:21) and that God would soften the hearts of those who seem to have left the faith that they once “knew” (Jude 3).
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