An open letter to a skeptic friend who once professed belief…

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Dear Z___,

It was good seeing you the other day and nice to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. I’d still like for Carolyn and me to get together with you and Y___.

Understandably, it saddened me to hear that you no longer profess faith in Christ and that you believe the biblical account to be fable – a “good fable, but a fable.” You now claim to believe that there is no God. You attribute this to your treatment by X___, saying that if that’s how Christians act, then you want nothing more to do with it.

I certainly understand the hurt you feel and the sense of betrayal you experienced. It’s difficult to have given of yourself for so long in that situation only to have your character called into question and to be accused of things you deny. I can’t speak to the validity of the claims, but the fact is, you’ve had real feelings of being treated wrongly, and you say this has led you to abandon the faith you once affirmed.

If I may, I’d like to speak to your abandonment of the faith.

Do you realize that you’ve engaged in a massive argument of circularity in declaring that the Bible and the story of Jesus is a fable and not in the least true?

You claim that if the behavior of X___ is indicative of Christianity, then this invalidates the truth of Christianity. The circularity comes because you need God, whom you now deny, to make this argument. You have invoked a “God-standard” (how Christians ought to act), observed a Christian who does not act according to that standard, and inferred from that that the standard is thus, not true.

Let’s approach this a different way. If you claim that God does not exist and the Bible is not true, then it logically proceeds that you have no basis to judge behavior; you have no foundation to call any of X‘s (or anyone else’s) actions wrong or unjust. In fact, there would be no reason for him not to treat you that way or worse.

“But,” you say, “I’m only calling into question his behavior because it is inconsistent with how he claims to live and the standards of the faith that he affirms.” Fair enough.

You professed faith in Christ and attended church long enough to know that no Christian claims to be perfect in this life. In fact, the claims of Christianity assert that only one Person ever lived in perfection – Jesus Christ. Even the redeemed people of God continue to commit sins and live lives inconsistent with commands of Scripture.

Furthermore, your treatment at the hands of X___ pales in comparison with the actions of many Christians in the course of history. Sometimes professing Christians have done far worse. Sometimes in the name of Christ great atrocities have been committed.

You, as well, when you were professing faith in Christ, never claimed to be perfect. You understood yourself to be forgiven and a work in progress who was not yet perfect. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it may own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own,” Paul says (Philippians 3:12). You once affirmed this of yourself.

You know all this. The difference is that now, it is personal. It was how you personally were treated by a believer. And this has led you, so you say, to abandon the faith you once claimed.

Whenever unbelievers experience the transformative power of the gospel, their lives are changed. But the changes are never complete until we reach heaven. There will always be a degree of disconnect between faith claims and real life.

The fact is, the behavior of believers can either enhance or belie the faith they claim, but their actions can never ultimately determine the objective truth or falsity of the faith. You yourself once lived with the inconsistency of X’s life, my life, and even your own life to affirm the truth of Christianity. How could further inconsistency now erode that truth?

I’d urge you to be honest in your skepticism. X‘s actions can be inconsistent with the faith he professes, but they do not have the power to invalidate the objective truth of Christianity. So, what is the real reason behind your abandonment?

I pray for you, that you return to Christ in repentance and faith. I pray that you will be able to get past your mistreatment that has blinded you, and that you will come again to a place of faith and trust in Christ, who is our only hope and Savior.

With love,

Mark