As someone who has at least flirted with apostasy, I was really struck by the recent reports of high-profile Christian leaders abandoning their faith. In one, Hillsong musician Marty Sampson posted this on Instagram: “Time for some real talk… I’m genuinely losing my faith…and it doesn’t bother me.” He also asserted that science “keeps piercing the truth of every religion.”
Deciding that Christianity isn’t true after all can be a clarifying moment. Such a break promises new freedom and possibilities. Josh Harris, who counseled Christian young people to kiss dating goodbye, now seems to be falling headlong into the LGBTQ orbit, renouncing traditional morality and divorcing his wife while saying, “I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful.”
That is how all apostasy begins.
That is pretty much how I felt in my time of doubt, but the feeling didn’t last long. Soon after I removed God and His rules from my life, I began to feel vulnerable and naked. The classic play “A Man for All Seasons” captured my newfound sense of unease. Sir Thomas More and William Roper are arguing about the law.
Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”
More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”
Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”
More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”
That which had given me meaning, purpose, and value had been cut down, and I was alone in the wind of a pitiless, savage universe. Once you remove God from your life’s equation, none of the other answers really makes sense. The God-shaped vacuum never gets filled, no matter how hard we try.
Sometimes we think that abandoning Christianity will unshackle us from superstition and a narrow religious outlook and allow us to pursue the best things in life—what the philosophers call the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. But consider that Christianity presents us with what has been called the greatest story ever told—a story that has been reprised over and over in everything from A Tale of Two Cities to “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
Indeed, it is the greatest story that can ever be told—of a personal God who created us for infinite joy in Himself, who out of love refused to abandon us to our fate when we committed apostasy and decided to go our own way, who out of holiness provided a just way of escape by sacrificing His own Son in our place, and who out of grace raised Him from the dead, offering all who believe eternal life in Him. There is no goodness, truth, or beauty that matches this story, which never could have been conceived by sinful human beings.
The Good. While no religion or social movement in this world is wart-free, Christianity undoubtedly has been the greatest force for social progress in history. Through it, slaves have been freed, children rescued, women emancipated, and modern science (supposedly its greatest foe) launched. Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan has noted, “Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of western culture for almost twenty centuries…. It is from his birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by his name that millions curse and in his name that millions pray.”
And what sense does it make for anyone who claims to seek the Good to overlook inarguably the greatest Man of all time? As Napoleon Bonaparte is thought to have said, “I know men, and I tell you Jesus Christ was not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and other religions the distance of infinity.”
The True. Jesus claimed to be not just a truth, but the Truth—the fountainhead of all truth as the only Son of God. Lewis reminds us there are only three options with regard to these claims: Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord of heaven and earth. Are you really ready to believe that the matchless Jesus was a liar or a madman? As well, the historical evidence for the Bible—both Old and New Testaments—is so overwhelming as to give pause to any honest skeptic. Are you willing to bank your eternal destiny on the theory that the disciples, who were martyred for proclaiming a risen Savior, were hallucinating or making it all up?
The Beautiful. Jesus’ treatment of women, children, and societal outsiders was breathtakingly lovely, His teaching sublime, His mission selfless, His miracles undeniable. Jesus has inspired countless penetrating books, the world’s greatest universities, heart-stirring hymns and symphonies, priceless works of art, soaring cathedrals, and innumerable selfless acts of ministry. Those who abandon Jesus in a quest for Beauty are fooling themselves. There is nothing and no one more beautiful than He.
Those who have truly met Jesus Christ cannot soon forget Him. While there are many compelling arguments for the Christian faith and God welcomes your honest questions, there is no substitute for looking into the awesome face of the Risen One and falling down before Him in trembling worship.
So before you flirt any longer with apostasy, consider that only Jesus can fill the vacuum in your soul. And don’t worry. If you come, He will take you back. Right now. For as He said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”