Can my faith in Jesus Christ one day wane to the point of rejecting Christ?
This is a jarring question. At least for me.
It is one, which in the wake of the decisions by two prominent Christian leaders has caused several responses. Having championed the purity culture that has been a foundational understanding of Christian dating, Joshua Harris a prominent pastor initially denounced the central thesis of his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye publicly in his 2017 TED TALK, then together with his wife announced through Instagram their decision to divorce one another and finally underwent “a massive shift” or “deconstruction” of his faith in Jesus Christ, eventually renouncing his faith on July 26th, 2019.
Although Harris says that after his paradigm-shifting decision he feels more alive and hopeful, as a Christian, I cautiously ponder this turn of events. If it can happen to Harris, can it happen to me too?
“It is complicated”. The answer is.
On one hand, several texts point to the fact that the journey of faith, from start to finish, is God’s project. And this project will surely be completed. For instance:
John 10:28 “I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand”
Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”
Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”
These verses affirm that our faith from start to finish is God’s project.
Yet, other verses seem to call us to certain responsibilities.
Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore . . . work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for this good pleasure”
2 Peter 1:5, 10 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue . . . be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities, you will never fail”
Passages such as these ones seem to suggest that we have a responsibility.
God has graciously supplied all we need for our faith, but similarly, we are called to rely on His supplies.
So can we walk away?
There are some passages that seem to warn us against the presumption of our faith.
Romans 11:22 “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you too will be cut off”
1 Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls”
2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith . . . “
Hebrews 6:4 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt”
1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they were not one of us”
These warning passages are written to challenge us as believers.
On one hand, we have strong confidence that God will get us to the end.
On the other hand, we have the humble responsibility of working this truth out through the common means of grace He has given us such as hearing the gospel Word preached, sharing in the Sacraments and joining in corporate worship to encourage one another.
To summarize, this question of apostasy – denying the faith – is partly mysterious as has been brilliantly argued in this 3-part post by the Center for Pastor Theologians but partly of benefit, when we are called back to persevere in faith till the end, trusting upon God’s faithfulness to sustain us.
No wonder the Hebrews passage concludes the section by implying that it is patient and enduring faith in Jesus Christ – God’s supreme Son [chapter 1]; the founder of our salvation [chapter 2]; the better Moses [chapter 3]; the great and eternal High Priest [chapter 4-8]; and the greatest and sufficient sacrifice [chapter 10] – that inherits the promises of salvation (Hebrews 6:12).
May God help us.