I received this email today. It is a story about a Christian, named Virginia who left the faith after 23 years.

Here it is along with my comments:

“Christianity thrives on human suffering and yearn for community. It was precisely under these circumstances that I committed myself to Christ at 19 years old, when my family got into serious trouble — father filed for bankruptcy, my parents separated.”

Yearn for community? This is what pushed her over the edge to become Christian 23 years ago? I yearn for community as well, but if we become Christians because of this, aren’t we setting ourselves up for a fall? Isn’t the circumstance that should cause us to become Christians the reality of our sin, the Cross, and the conviction of the resurrection of the God-man? Community may or may not be a continuous by-standard of our beliefs. It is the beliefs and trust that provide the genesis of our Christianity.

With all the yearning for care and love upon the utter shattering of my family, my high school pals who were Christians befriended me.

The illustration of need for community again.

I began fervently witnessing Christ, became a cell group leader on Bible study, witnessed to friends and relatives about Jesus and the salvation, using the tracts supplied from my church.

I was active in church and in my college years, also leaded evangelizing activities witnessing Jesus. However, I sensed in the entire ethos of this set of belief, some incompleteness.

I would imagine that the “incompleteness” comes from a rising realization of “cognitive dissonance.” Cognitive dissonance describes a physiological condition where a person’s beliefs are in contradiction to other beliefs or the way they live. Often people’s habitual patterns do not harmonize with their intellectual convictions. In Christianity, it is often the case where people live according to a Christian worldview due to traditional bents without ever experiencing a true cognitive or intellectual conversion to such. This produces a dichotomous life of dissonance—inconsistency in their beliefs and practices. I would imagine that this is the case with Virginia.

It promised one being “new in Christ”, with Christ Lordship, a person should be filled with blissful joy and contentment. It was not the case, the blissful atmosphere common in Christian community were mainly externalized activities expressing contentment.

She begins to notice the cognitive dissonance of other Christians.

In the core, the person’s problem, their pains and hurts were never really addressed — the religious experience serves only to numb one’s sense.

What senses are numbed? The reality of pain, suffering, or evil? Pantheism, Christian Science, Scientology, and other Eastern Religions seek to rid themselves of the problem of pain, suffering, and evil by denying their reality, but Christianity should never do such. In fact, Christians should have the greatest realization of the problem of evil since it is through the Christian view of God and righteousness that evil can truly be called evil.

I gradually felt the sharp incongruity as I became more aware of the many contradictions within the Bible, and contradictions with contemporary social reality.

The dissonance begins to resolve itself as her subjective experience begins to whisper. Having no solid foundation, where do you expect Virginia to go? Back to the community and hope that it is the right one?

For example, the Bible prohibits woman from assuming any leadership role or ministerial role, yet I saw many women who are talented leaders and fine ministers.

Similarly, the way Genesis described the origins of life do not reconcile with clear scientific evidence.

Yet the most disturbing aspect of Christianity was its hypocrisy [emphasis mine]. As I got acquainted with church leadership, with larger circles of Christian, their behavior and methods of dealing with others is so unchristian — lies, deceits, double-talks, abusive use of powers etc. — all carried out under the veil of a smiling face uttering Jesus’ love.

Ouch! There it is again. Hypocrisy. I hate this. Christians often make the worst Christians, I know. But does this provide evidence that Christ did not raise from the dead? Does hypocrisy have a stranglehold on truth?

For years, I wrestled the issues, trying to find ways out by reading contemporary theological works from Karl Bart, Hans Kung etc. — I was overwhelmed with long elaboration of a set of belief attempting to “re-explain” the Bible — which raised more questions than answers — the Bible became so malleable that you don’t really needed it — just place any contemporary philosophical thought and slab the “God” label and that’s it.

Is the resurrection of Christ malleable? How? I understand that much of Christianity is shaped subjectively and culturally, but can’t this be seen as a strength as well? Just a thought since I don’t know the conditions of Virginia’s understanding of malleable.

I considered Catholicism, primarily due to its beautiful liturgy, yet I found myself avoiding the key question — Christianity started from a immutable assumption — we owe our existence to God and God is the one that give us life and meaning. We are not permitted to ask if God existed, this is something the Christian theologian referred to as stopping “infinite regression” — but is this the right place to stop?

We are not permitted to ask if God existed? I would think that such a proposition would cause me some trouble as well. Questions that are left unanswered or swept under the rug called “blind faith” are far too common in today’s Christianity. Virginia should have wrestled with these issues in Christianity 101. Unfortunately the void in her discipleship process was filled not with an honest engagement of the most important issues, but with the need for community which lead to a reliance on people, not truth. When truth asked for an audience, her only apologetic was a hypocritical community.

Attempt to use existing apologetic materials on the origins of life, creation etc. lead me to nowhere — for I read enough materials that clearly debunks ideas like Intelligent Design etc.

Clearly? It is these type of overstatements that come at the end of the departure process. Virginia was already on the way out. She leaves her old faith with an emotional conviction that is shrouded with a false sense of certainty. This is common among all of us, but such overstatements, in my opinion, reveal a stronger lever of uncertainty than certainty.

I finally asked the question: do our cosmos come to existence because of a creation ? My discovery tells me that, we simply cannot find evidence that our cosmos are created — Christians like the sound of a creation by God more and cannot bear the seemingly impersonal description of how matters/energy exchanges.

I look to atheist sites like infidel.org and books by Richard Dawkins — and there I realize that Christianity is the “gap” worshiper — whenever there’s something inexplicable, “God” is the default — the inconsistency of Christian’s approach to answer questions about scientific truth prove to be a very strong push factor that cause me to say no — I am not into superstition — no matter how Christians packaged their “scientific ideas” — that very assumption of God (requiring unquestioning faith) cannot be accepted — it leaves the ultimate core in the balance — we based our outlook of life, morality etc. on something that simply “accepted as truth”.

With the void of left, what does one expect? She believes in “blind leap Christianity.” But Christianity has never said that accepting something as truth is simple at all. Unfortunately, such is the discipleship process where we seek converts rather than disciples.

Moreover, on issues of morality, God is silent and permits so many flavours of understanding — hardly a sure way for basis of morality.

As I satisfied and convinced myself that God existence is so improbable, I announced my resignation from Christianity, and embraced atheism — only to my surprise that I can let go of the burden of defending a set of inconsistent ideas and be free to be a person of reason.

Such is the releasing from cognitive dissonance. In one sense, I have the mind to congratulate Virgina. If what she says is true, she was living under the presumptive faith of a Christianity that never was, but is often promoted. Would be that many would experience a “de-conversion” process that they might accept Christianity based on a foundation that is true to what it is all about. Being satisfied with people who live in such dissonance (even ourselves) is destructive.

What are your thoughts on Virginia’s “de-conversion”?


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    28 replies to "Why Virginia Left Christianity After 23 Years: An Illustration of Cognitive Dissonance"

    • T

      What are your thoughts on Virginia’s “de-conversion”?

      That 30-60 seconds of presuppositional apologetics would have her questioning her newfound “person of reason.”

      She is an ex-Cultural “Christian.” Someone needs to reach her with the real Gospel.

    • Chuck Thomas

      Michael, I appreciate the way you put the last word of this post…de-conversion, in quotation marks. As a Christian layperson, who favors a reformed view of our faith, I don’t think I am convinced there IS such a thing as de-conversion, although I’ll readily concede that from Virginia’s perspective, that is what she thinks she did.

      It seems like Virginia “associated” with Christianity as long as it was meeting her perceived needs in the moment. She also seems to presuppose that HER act of “committing herself to Christ” was all that was required to initially “convert.” Would not an effectual call have been required in advance? She doesn’t mention that she sensed such a call, vis a vis recognizing her need for a savior. Rather, as you point out, she found some solice, during a difficult time in her life, in the people who professed Christ. If there were the effectual call and subsequent regeneration (neither of which would have had anything to do with her “commitment”), would there not also be a divinely empowered sustaining of faith to the end, in spite of doubts that may arise?

    • Scott K

      Tim Keller’s recent quote from Christianity Today seems poignant given Virginia’s reasons for “becoming a Christian”:

      “Marketing is about felt needs. You find the need and then you say Christianity will meet that need. You have to adapt to people’s questions. And if people are asking a question, you want to show how Jesus is the answer. But at a certain point, you have to go past their question to the other things that Christianity says. Otherwise you’re just scratching where they itch. So marketing is showing how Christianity meets the need, and I think the gospel is showing how Christianity is the truth.

      C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it’s relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it’s true. And if it’s true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. But there will be many times when it’s not relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. To be a Christian is going to be very, very hard. So unless you come to it simply because it’s really the truth, you really won’t live the Christian life, and you won’t get to the excitement and to the relevance and all that other stuff.”

    • David

      (Wow Scott I previewed this and saw your comment as well, nice!)

      My two cents:

      I think Tim Keller has some good points about this (Youtube has a 2 hour Veritas Forum lecture worth watching), namely that there are many in the church who don’t understand the Gospel.

      He argues that you can have two people beside each other in church doing exactly the same thing (worshipping, studying the Word, etc..) but they are doing them for completely different reasons.

      For example, I see many who :
      1. Search for intellectual satisfaction and security about the belief system they were raised in
      2. Practice Christian morality to elevate their self-image (athletic legalism)
      3. Find the social whirlpool of their church provocative and quietly suppress “objections”

      The Gospel may not change the outward forms of the things listed, but it certainly changes the underlying meaning behind them. When the search for knowledge comes up dry, or morality flounders in the face of the adversary…the Gospel remains central and thus such inadequacies glorify God for grace.

      On the contrary the individual who doesn’t rest these “things” on the Gospel, will find no leg to stand when struggles appear. Yet many limp along finding new legs to support them and may or may not leave the fold eventually. I am convinced the likes of many “deconversion” experiences stem from this, but I am not in a position to make any general statements so this is only my little opinion. 🙂

    • Kevin Davis

      I do not see any evidence that she was ever a Christian. When did she realize that she has no rights before God and must receive her broken life anew by God’s holy standard given to us on the Cross?

      Also, I would love to know if she really read Barth (not “Bart”), or did she, more likely, just sort of come across him on the internet or hear that he was this great theologian that fundamentalists don’t like. Barth is the last theologian you would read and walk away thinking, “Wow, the Bible is so malleable!” No theologian was more committed to an exegetical grounding in the great doctrines of Christian orthodoxy — the Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ.

    • Ranger

      I don’t think she is saying that Barth left her feeling that the Bible was so malleable, but that after reading him, Kung, etc. (assuming she read some more), that she felt each was having to reinterpret Christianity in a new way…thus it was malleable. But what if she did read Barth and took him to heart?

      I enjoy Barth, but when studied in balance with others. His dogmatic faith-alone stance is anti-apologetics so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone who was already struggling with the faith, and searching for answers might not benefit from his work. I hope she took the time to read “Does God Exist?” by Hans Kung. I’m assuming she did not as most of her critiques of theism were with “god of the gaps” talk, which Kung is not satisfied with. Her comments show little knowledge of the actual theist position and is usually only typical of the arguments from new believers in scientism, or from radical fundamentalists (i.e. Dawkins). The more intelligent atheist apologists like Graham Oppy make it clear that both sides of the debate have strong arguments and that the difference in belief usually comes from presuppositions or external reasons (for me this comes in the confirmation from the Spirit).

      I’m glad Virginia mentioned infidels.org. That site does agnostic/atheistic apologetics in a way that I wish more Christian sites would. It engages Christianity with debates from some of our faith’s biggest minds (Frame, Plantinga, etc.) and also many of the more popular apologists. With that said, they also have a large mixture of junk and pop-atheistic articles/books that are equivalent in my estimation to bad, youth-ministry level Christian apologetics. They also will often give the last word to the atheist in debates, but overall they are an excellent site for atheistic apologetics. There are some very good Christian apologetic websites out there too, but I’m not sure that we have one with the total amount of information, although the overall quality of the articles at CRTA and Leader U may make up for the difference in quantity.

      I think Virginia’s comment about “Christianity” being a system that worships a god of the gaps is telling. Her arguments against the god of the gaps were against intelligent design and possibly traditional theistic arguments. That’s not Christianity. Those familiar with our faith know that we do not worship the god of theism, nor the god of apologetics, intelligent design, et. al. Those may prove helpful in pointing people toward the true God, but our faith is in the God of revelation, who revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and speaks to believers through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, her argument shows a categorical error in equating the god of intelligent design, theistic arguments, etc. with the God of Christianity.

      In my estimation, purely scientistic faith (which Virginia now embraces) does not provide a compellng alternative to the wholeness of human existence, nor does pop-Christianity (which she clearly formerly embraced). Perhaps her experience with scientism will confirm this and lead her to continue her pursuit for truth. Scientific reductionism teaches that free will is an illusion (thus destroying a need for justice), relationships are a mix of sexual desire and territorial defensiveness (destroying an authentic need for forgiveness and reconciliation), and that all external “meaning” in life is merely myth.

      In opposition, authentic Christianity neither denies the value of science (i.e. Polkinghorne, McGrath, Collins, Lennox, et. al.), nor diminishes the fullness of relational experience, free will and the need for justice and reconciliation. In fact, true faith calls us to embrace more robust relationships as we love God and neighbor in opposition to the sexual desires and territorial defensiveness that rage in our hearts.

      Virginia’s case appears to be a clear example of cognitive dissonance, and how pop-Christianity does not offer a full answer to life’s challenges and questions. The god she previously worshipped required unquestionable faith, but hopefully through her questions she will come to meet the God who listens to questions (Abraham, Habakkuk, the Psalms, etc.) and encourages his believers to ask them. I pray that Virginia’s deconversion from pop-Christianity will lead her to a relentless pursuit for truth only ending once she finds Him.

    • davidbmc

      sorry if someone already said this—

      a) i’m not so sure she was ever a believer. we come to Christianity not for community but for salvation from our sins. Community is a fortunate (and sometimes unfortunate) by-product.

      b) Only in the Osteenesque version of Christianity does it promise happiness.

    • Jared Penner

      Why so quick to cry “inauthentic”? This email seems like an honest exploration of faith to me. To blame her conversion only victimizes this individual further, and could well be misplaced.

      I agree with the initial post, yet what if part of the *problem* is an emphasis on some pristine conversion moment as the defining mark of a “true Christian”? Virginia says she took her first step toward God in a time of turmoil, for mixed reasons. In my opinion, this has to be allowed: we are imperfect (and need grace) in the first moment of our commitment as much as in the rest of it.

      To blame her for not “becoming a Christian” in some sanctioned way–and use as evidence her imperfect expectations–is a double standard. We should *encourage* people to approach Christ imperfectly. It’s the resulting free “blissful joy and contentment” that’s the misconception–which the notion of a pristine conversion moment only perpetuates. A process of painful surrender (and God’s deeper healing) is closer to the truth, and where the more profound (bittersweet?) joy comes from. Unfortunately, she says it herself: “pains and hurts” were not addressed.

      I think we agree an honest facing of brokenness is needed for a deeper understanding of grace–it’s just that’s exactly what Virginia didn’t find in her church community, won’t be found in judgments about conversion veracity, and is at the heart of the hypocrisy for which I often need grace myself.

    • davidbmc

      Actually I said, “I’m not so sure…”

      I dont get to decide whose faith is authentic or not. I’m just evaluating her own words that seemto indicate she joined Christianity for community. Thats the wrong issue.

      SHe may have in fact had a valid faith. I dont know.

      Whether she did or not, Christians can be a pretty sorry group. Myself included.

      However, we must speak the truth in love. Christianity is not about making us happy.

    • i’m not so sure she was ever a believer.

      I’d have to echo Davidbmc’s statement. Which I know that CMP would have to affirm as well, given that CMP is a 5-point Calvinist.

      Therefore, there’s no “de-conversion” if there was never a “conversion” in the first place.

    • Chuck F

      Hi Michael,

      Really appreciate your site and efforts to encourage intellectual virtue as fundamental to discipleship. I’m afraid my comment may seem like snobbery or “poisoning the well” but here goes anyway! I’ve lived and worked in the Muslim world for about 25 years, and maybe I’ve become paranoid or cynical having seen my share of dissimulation used for polemical purposes. Virginia’s post is full of incorrect and unnatural language presenting classic objections. The most plausible explanation for the language is that it was written by an educated non-native speaker. I felt more like I was reading a polemic than a testimony and found it hard to attend to the substantive issues or the posts in reply. It is certainly possible that Virginia’s is a sincere testimony, in which case my apologies all around. But the value of personal testimony entails a certain degree of credibility vis-a-vis the genuineness of the source. All the issues raised (hypocrisy, questions about the integrity of scripture, creationism, etc) are raised and discussed in countless arenas. To discuss these in the context of a person’s individual experience drives me to feel a certain confidence that the testimony is genuine. Without some way to gain some sense of that genuineness, and considering the nature and number of issues included, I felt I was reading a polemical pastiche of classic objections. As a result, my heart wasn’t engaged in dealing with the issues so presented.

      Question: How does the anonymity of the internet change the use of testimony? I confess that the previous post about someone leaving faith (the person who prayed for 9 months without an answer from God) had the “ring of truth” and engaged me. Do we have to depend on individual intuition?

      I’m interested in reactions and, again, apologize to all, including Virginia, if I’ve badly misapprehended the situation.

      Chuck

    • Ruben

      I think we have to engage people philosophically and historically, our witness
      usually consists of Bible passages and a person assents to these verses. If
      the Scriptures are questioned or doubted then the whole thing falls apart.
      I believe in the Scriptures because I believe first in Christ and that our
      existence cannot best be explained by science alone (in fact atheists seem to
      believe that anything outside our understanding does not exist!). But I do
      think that the actions of believers leading to these deconversions are a
      very serious matter, time and time again Jesus emphasized our behavior,
      our “fruit”, shining as lights, the judgement for those who make others
      faith fail, etc.

    • Jared Penner

      True, I have to agree with both #9 and #10. It’s just that the section that stings for me is

      Unfortunately the void in her discipleship process was filled not with an honest engagement of the most important issues, but with the need for community which lead to a reliance on people, not truth. When truth asked for an audience, her only apologetic was a hypocritical community.

      I guess reading CMP’s question about Virginia’s “de-conversion”, my gut reaction is more along the lines of: “Framing the question in terms of conversion avoids the indictment of her audience.”

      In that way, in reponse to #11–I’m more interested in where the testimony (taken at face value) leads, than in its veracity or Christian-ness. I sense a critique of her church (and us, by extension) in not responding to brokenness with a we-are-broken-too(-then-healed!) empathy. At least in one sense, her church failed her; I want to learn from that.

      I guess the “23 years” statement makes me wish for a more personal response than Christian: Deal or No Deal, even though it is unavoidably the depersonalized internet.

    • Mike H.

      It appears to me that this is another example of a watered down gospel requiring only intellectual faith that resulted in a false conversion. If there is true conversion with both repentence and saving faith, people won’t abandon their faith.

    • Peter

      The crusade continues that the only right way to become a Christian, is via having all the theologically correct answers, and having made a logical rational decision on the existence of God, the probability of the Christian truth claims vs competing explanations, etc etc.

      I’m sorry, I just don’t see this anywhere in the bible. Jesus said to Peter “follow me”. It can be that simple. Zaccheus said “I give half my possessions to the poor”, and Jesus said “salvation has come to this man”. Peter said “repent and be baptised”, and 3000 were added to their number. They didn’t have to spend a few years making sure all their theological and rational pins were aligned.

      Just as having all the answers is not all there is to coming in, neither should it be all there is to going out. If not having a fully satisfying response to competing world views means I have blind faith and I’m in for the wrong reasons, then I should be out too, so would a lot of other well known Christians. I’d rather people were in with a few bad reasons than out for good ones. If not meeting hypocritical Christians would have kept her in, I would say great, I’d rather her in. It doesn’t after all say she was just in to have friends. It says she was “fervently witnessing Christ”, not that she was “half heartedly witnessing Christ to keep her new-found friends”. I’m not going to say to a new convert who is fervently witnessing Christ, “Yes but, are you sure you have fully considered all the arguments that there is no God?”

    • C Michael Patton

      Peter, I appreaciate you comment here, but I have to ask, follow who?

      You said: “I’m sorry, I just don’t see this anywhere in the bible. Jesus said to Peter “follow me.”

      OK, fair enough…but who is Christ? Follow him where? To what end?

      These are all discipleship questions that require a theological answer don’t they. Can you really say that it does not matter?

    • Peter

      I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, I’m saying it doesn’t always matter. Some people get married because they did all the marriage courses, compatibility courses, pre-marriage counciling etc. Others just get married with little forethought. Both are equally married. In the latter case they’ll probably find stuff out later that the others found out earlier. In both cases, knowing your partner is “important”, but its not a pre-requisite to being married.

      I use the marriage analogy, because we’re talking about a relationship, not a university degree. The former you enter into and maybe, hopefully learn. The latter you can’t get till you pass the exams. You’re just as married whether the reasons you got in were good, bad or indifferent.

    • […] August 15, 2008 — samsen Over at Parchment and Pen, Michael Patton had an interesting post about a person Virginia who apparently was “de-converted” from Christianity after 23 years of cognitively […]

    • Ruben

      I think in the end, it is mysterious – who stays and who leaves. I once left the
      faith (or what I thought the faith was) became an agnostic and God called me
      back. A literal reading of Hebrews 6 says I am without hope but I keep hoping
      that it was not Christ whom I denied but the fundamentalist way of thinking.
      I saw a movie on abortion (Lake of Fire) and the Christians they represented
      were of the cooky and downright scary variety, I don’t blame anyone who
      leaves this kind of “faith”.

    • Eric W

      A literal reading of Hebrews 6 says I am without hope but I keep hoping
      that it was not Christ whom I denied but the fundamentalist way of thinking.

      There were several papers on Hebrews 6 at an ETS conference a few years ago (either San Antonio or Valley Forge, the two I’ve attended), and one of the more intriguing ones argued that parapiptô, since it’s related to paraptôma (sin/trespass), should not be translated as “and then have fallen away” but “and then have sinned.”

      One of the earliest church controversies had to do with Christians who had sinned after they had been baptized, and whether or not or how they could be received back into the church or whether or not they could be rebaptized. (The Nicene Creed says “I profess ONE baptism for the remission of sins,” and that may relate to this idea that one can only be baptized once.) The context and language of the first few verses of Hebrews 6 lends itself to a sacramental and eucharistic and baptismal/initiatory understanding, esp. since “enlightened” was a term for baptism (I think Justin Martyr uses it), and the eating/tasting language is reminiscent of communion, and being made a partaker of the Holy Spirit relates to what would later be called chrismation.

      (The “parapiptô” presentation didn’t say anything about what I just wrote
      re: sacramental language or the question of postbaptismal sin, IIRC, though.)

    • Rampert

      To me it seems to be a sad case of a “Pilgrim’s Regress.” In over 20 years of Christian service, I have seen many come to Christ seeking relief from their immediate predicament – health needs, family crisis etc. I do not doubt their sincerity. However, the reason Jesus came was not for aiding people who are going through crises but to save them from their sins. Some unfortunately never get to see sin for what it is. I read somewhere that Martin Luther had made the statement “sinner is my name; sinner is my surname.” Having seen our sinful nature like that, the cross of Christ becomes our only hope. Thereafter the situation becomes “where else can we go?” Maybe Virginia had never got to see herself as a hopeless sinner in need of a Savior – she had definitely sought God as a refuge in times of trouble. If she had seen in truth the depravity of the sinful nature the situation probably may have ended differently.

    • Vijai

      Michael- It is interesting that she took the time to write to you. An atheist who simply wants to trump a Christian apologist? I do not think so.

      I agree with Ranger’s post on most points. But I do think she is lacking something in her newfound faith in scientism and hence the email.

      CS Lewis said that God constantly changes our ideas and notions of himself and that this is a painful process. For Virginia to know God as someone more than the god of the gaps or the reason for community it would necessarily take a lot of soul-searching. Who among us knows if this could happen to us? After all God is inexhaustible as the fount of wisdom. I believe we should pray for her committing herself to Christ.

    • Scott Ferguson

      Most of these comments seem to run like Rampert’s, to wit: If she had seen in truth the depravity of the sinful nature…. I am taken aback by the need to blame Virginia. The undertone of self-congratulation masquerading as sin-soaked humility is almost palpable. Most of the commenters are content to sit back and theorize about why she was never “one of us” and therefore remain comfortable.

      Jared nails it. Every professing Christian here should be appalled and squirming in his or her pew. Where was the Christ’s church when Virginia came to them? Why did she experience nothing but hypocrisy? Where was the Love that is supposed to be the first fruit of the Holy Spirit?

      If you believe that the Bride of Christ is his instrument in the world then she has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do when Ricky gets home.

      I know the response I am likely to get: She was probably shown God’s love but her heart was hardened to the real Gospel. How convenient.

    • Rampert

      Hi Scott.. saw your post and felt the need to clarify my position. I don’t know about the others who had responded – but let me please speak for myself. Like Virginia, I too came to Christ at a point of crisis – though my situation was different. I was a professional musician, an agnostic, given to lapses into alcoholism and drug abuse. I perceived my condition as bondage since the good that I wanted to do I was mostly unable to do and compulsive behaviors that shackled me I was unable to escape. I came to Christ and I experienced the forgiveness of sins and freedom from the things that once held me captive. In my journey, I have found that to a Christian, a return to past patterns of behavior is not impossible. I have been amazed time and time again to see that I have a propensity to desire the things that can potentially destroy me. I have however found another fact. I have a Friend in all this who holds me when I skid and heals me when I fall. Well, I have experienced His never failing forgiveness and emotional/physical/spiritual restoration during the past thirty years and the demons of the past are but a faint memory now. I know what I am capable of and I see no other hope outside of the solution offered by Christ. This is the backdrop to my post.
      Regards
      Rampert

    • britphil

      “Jared nails it. Every professing Christian here should be appalled and squirming in his or her pew. Where was the Christ’s church when Virginia came to them? Why did she experience nothing but hypocrisy? Where was the Love that is supposed to be the first fruit of the Holy Spirit?”

      “Ouch! There it is again. Hypocrisy. I hate this. Christians often make the worst Christians, I know. But does this provide evidence that Christ did not raise from the dead? Does hypocrisy have a stranglehold on truth?!”

      Michael.

      No. I don’t believe Christian hypocrisy negates the fact that Christ rose from the dead, but it sure does blunt its impact big style. Don’t get me wrong, we are all capable of it, me as much as anyobne else, but it is when such hypocrisy is so blindingly obvious to non-Christians or those who are struggling with their faith that it can become the biggst bar to continuing in the faith, or coming to faith at all.

      On the community issue, I think there is a necessary see-change taking place in the church. There are many people who will actually need to “belong” before they “believe” asnd should be encouraged. We are so set in our exclusivist church membership systems of believng before you can belong, or even worse , believing this, this ,this oh yes and this too and only then you can belong!

      Yes, of course there is a danger of belonging and not believing but I think there is another equally as dangerous issue, the issue we often shirk, that of “believing”, but not really belonging.

      The hypocrisy issue raises the prospect that there may be many in our churches who “believe” (by all outward indicators) but don’t actually belong.

    • Vladimir

      Sometimes the only Bible people will read is Y-O-U.

      Valdimir

    • Luke

      As I read everyone’s replies I got the distinct sense that it may be more easy for some of us than others to think about Virginia and talk about her “de-conversion” experienced in a detached manner. Then again, I could be completely wrong. It’s hard to tell where someone’s heart is or be critical of their analysis because they may appear detached but are actually very empathic. For me, this hits close to home and I can feel the pain coming through her words. One of my best friends and fellow believers I have know for over 15 years decided that Christianity was a farce. We spent our college days together and afterward. His family are all believers to this day. I was his best man at his wedding. His departure from the faith has been extremely painful for all of us. He was someone that was always on fire for the Lord, and we spent countless times worshipping him through music and sharing in Christian community. Something happened after he got married that threw everything he ever believed in question. He became completely unfulfilled in that marriage and blamed God for it. He’s now divorced and has abandoned Christianity. In the midst of all his doubting and questioning his faith he had every possible means of community he could imagine to support him.
      In tying this back to Virginia’s experience, I come away with a few observations:

      1) A lot of people reject Christianity on account of an intellectual objection on the outside but on the inside they reject it because they resent God for letting them endure suffering

      2) Some people just love the world first, and that it is only by the grace of God that those of us who don’t are able to find our way to Him

      3) Suffering produces very different results in people, and there’s really no telling what result that will be. For some of us it breaks us. For others, we are broken open by it and come to see Jesus in it

    • Gordon

      “But does this provide evidence that Christ did not raise from the dead? Does hypocrisy have a stranglehold on truth?”
      Yes. Yes, it does. If our doctrine holds a supernatural rebirth and regeneration into an empowered life, and then we live as hypocrites, we’re proving to the world that the HS isn’t real, proving that Jesus’ promise is broken, proving him untrustworthy, on top of that anyone who can think for himself already sees the biblical literalism untrustworthy enough, given explicit contradictions between easter morning stories and unreliable canon criteria. (We trust this book because we trust it. We reject that book because we reject it. We are certain that there is no interpolation, pseudepigraphy or deletion anywhere, despite obvious signs of all three.)
      We’re only ‘virtuous’ because in our doctrine, any and all virtue without the password to heaven is ‘filthy rags.’

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