Ryan Anderson who says he was a Christian for 25 years and then left the Christian Church to become agnostics with respect to the question of a god who started the Universe and an atheist with respect to the God of the Bible. I posed some questions and some statements to him regarding what it means to be a born-again Christian from a Biblical perspective. He...er graciously...answered them. Instead of trying to just dash off some responses and more questions in the comments I decided to separate it into another post. I've placed my quoted words in Black, bolded, italic font. His words will be in black bolded text. Ryan has been arguing that he was every way as much as a Christian as I am now and the differences are only because of denomination. My responses to what he answered will be in red text. I started this part of our interaction as follows:
Ryan, if the Bible is true these two things is true:
1. You never knew Jesus the Christ because you left
2. A born-again believer can't become unborn-again anymore than a butterfly can turn back into caterpillar.
Let's go back to first things.
1. Do you know what sin is? Define it.
2. Are you a sinner? If you apply the Biblical standard and honesty you know you have to say you are a sinner, You cannot even keep the moral standard you have set for yourself.
3. If you are a sinner what do you give God as Propitiation? What about when fail your family and friends? If you are accountable how do y0ou make up your mistakes when you don't do what you are supposed to do?
4. As a "Christian" if you were walking around feeling guilt and pain over your past or present or future, you were definitely doing it wrong.
5. If you now say that prayer does not work and when you were "saved" for 25 yrs you only thought it worked, I've got to say given points 1-4 maybe God just ignored your prayers. That's not saying that God doesn't hear prayers from non-Christians because he does and can choose to grant them what they pray for, but God ignoring you or just outright saying "No" might explain your experience.
6. If you were saved it would mean having a relationship with God. Not just a "feeling" but a back and forth relationship. You claim that you didn't. That flies against my experience and every born-again Christian I have ever known.
7. Head Knowledge is not enough. Necessary but in no way sufficient.
Ryan Anderson answered me in the following way with my comments.
Right, because the bible isn't true, at least not about the supernatural stuff.
He keeps saying that, but never has managed to proven it.
I'll answer these later tonight, and I'll answer from the perspective of a believer because apparently you can't quite get your arms around the notion that my beliefs now do not reflect my beliefs from a past period.
At least he kept his promise to respond.
But, if I go to the trouble of answering these questions for you, I'll expect a description of your "born again" experience. Fair's fair.
It'll be at the very end of this in red.
OK, here you go. Also I have no doubt that some minor deviation from how your particular sect would answer some of these will give you license to yell "False Convert!!!"
Let's us see the conclusion of the whole matter.
1. Tough to define, there are the obvious ones like lusting in your heart or hating, but I came to think of it more as deviation from godliness or the difference between what you actually do and what you should do (or what god would do).
Notice how you look at sin, Ryan, as what you do. Methodists, as well as all other Bible-based denominations, don't define sin only in that limit view. It's more than just failing to live up to the standard God has set. It's crime and violence against the character of God himself. Think of it this way: you have a child who, after raising him/her up and giving him everything he/she could ever need, and he/she turns her back on you, rejects you, curses you, and spits in your face. Not only that but they do violence to others and try to destroy everything you have built for them. Think of how much that would hurt as a loving Father and you start to come closer to how our sin is an affront to God. It's not just about what you did or do - it's about what you fail to do. I can't ding you too hard for missing a lot of the thrust here because if you truly understood what Jesus did for you on that cross you would not have left Him.
2. You answered this one for me, but of course as a Christian, I believe I, and everyone else was a sinner and was born that way, that's how they scare you into needing the cure.
I was actually asking about if you consider yourself a sinner now? Do you live up to the standards of what you know to be right and shunning doing wrong now?
3. As a Christian, nothing, except faith in Christ. If you fell short, you were to "go forth and sin no more" or at least try. Maybe I misunderstood what you were asking.
Definitely misunderstood. Not surprising though because I don't think you ever understood it. Ryan, the question was more directed to your condition today. By Biblical definitions, you are still a sinner. How do you fix that. You and I will always fall short. How do you make up for that? Why shouldn't God just take you out? When you were Christian, did you understand that Jesus alone makes the difference? Without him you will receive the full wrath of God - what we truly deserve. We had an interaction once where you vehemently denied that people are inherently evil and without any hope of doing good on our own apart from God. You kept saying that people are capable of doing good things and never seemed to understand that I do not deny that. Instead I am saying that the Bible shows us that we are not good - instead we are shaped in iniquity and every inclination to evil - without God. I'd bet that when you were a Christian you would have denied those truths in the Bible just like you do today.
4. This was more of a statement than a question. I felt a lot of guilt prior to being born again, and then not after.
I'm kind of wondering where did I tell you I was only going to be asking you questions.After being born-again a believer should be going through the lifelong process of sanctification. This means that God starts cleaning you up from your sins and you grow to become more like Jesus Christ. You sin less and less. Your thought processes and relationships with others change. You get closer to God. The thing is the more closer you get to God the more filthy you see you are. You see you have sins you didn't even know you had. That's not saying the guilt comes back or increase. No. Joy and gratitude to God for saving you increases. It continually goes on. I realize that you,Ryan, was writing quickly and not giving a lot of details but in all of our interactions you have never brought this up as something you experienced. Every believer that I know, including myself, will testify to this.
5. Again, not so much a question. But I will say my prayers were sometimes "answered" and sometimes not. At the time, I was amazing when they were "answered", more likely I was simply counting the hits and dismissing the misses.
I think you are making a big assumption here, Ryan. To be fair I think most people make this same mistake: thinking an "answered" prayer means that things turned out the way you prayed for them to turn out. However God can and sometimes does say "No". In my experience some of my greatest blessings have come time when God has said "No". Another difference I see between mine and other believers I know experiences contrasted with yours is that you never talk about other kinds of prayers other than asking God to do something on your behalf. There are other types of prayers. Didn't you ever pray for guidance? Didn't you ever pray for wisdom? Didn't you ever pray to be a blessing to other people? Have you ever asked God to give you patience? Have you ever interceded with God on the behalf of anyone but yourself? Some of the best ways I've seen God move in such a way that there were no other explanation but that God did it were in those circumstances when I was concerned with pleasing him more than myself. My experience with God is that God never misses.
6. Please describe in detail some of the examples of reciprocation in your "back-and-forth" relationship with god and explain how those instances could not possibly have a natural explanation. I suspect, like I said before, you are merely counting the hits and dismissing the misses.
Everyone knows that if you are honest most of the time you have no idea what you are doing. We are all really "winging" it. I have had the experience of God's guidance. Giving me knowledge I did not know and how to apply it when I needed it. He's done it by having someone tell me about something I asked God about. And sometimes it's been straight revelation. Also there have been many times when God did not and has not told me things I wanted to know when I wanted to know them. He does both. It's not something we are in control over. I have walked up to people and been able to tell them exactly what they needed hear or read because God gave me what they needed. God has spared my life on numerous occasions - from dangers I knew about and some I did not - even before I was saved.I know what it's like to about to say or do something in anger, and the Holy Spirit stops me. Sometimes it's been a nudge and there have been times God has shut my mouth. I thank Him for both.
7. Again, not really a question, but on one hand you say it's not enough to "feel", on the other, head knowledge isn't enough. Is this one of the mysteries of your cult?
I'm not sure what your confusion is here, Ryan. Where did I say you should only go on your feelings to relate to God? When did I say that you should only use head knowledge to relate to God? I didn't. I'm thinking that you only had a head knowledge of scripture. and you didn't have a change in heart - mind and attitude. The more I learn about God the more I learn how much I need to change in my thinking and actions. You really didn't describe your born-again experience. What sins did you stop doing after your received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? How did your life change? Did you have an insatiable hunger to read the Bible and learn more about God? These are what happened to me and continue to grow and manifest. For example, recently God revealed a huge problem I had and I didn't even know it. I had a huge problem with the fact that slavery had been an institution in the United States - so much so that I thought that any white person who owned slaves had gone straight to hell. I was convicted by this when God made me realize that this thought was not Biblical. It's not part of the Gospel. It's not a litmus test for who makes it heaven or not. I was floored! I didn't even know I was that prejudiced. Another example is I thought that people who left Christianity or just rejected Jesus were stupid. I thought that there was something about me more special than they are. God again showed me how stupid that is - from scripture. When you were a Christian, how did God change your mind? Can you relate to the prophet Isaiah? He said:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” - Isaiah 6:5
If you don't have a clue about how Isaiah felt, you weren't saved. The thing about the born-again experience it's about a change in you. You are not supposed to be the same person you were before your conversion. It's a one-way conversion. Again: once one is born you can't become unborn. This is why Jesus used the term "born again" (or "born from above") to describe it in John 3.
Paul was also clear in Romans 12:1,2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It's an ongoing transformation not a one-time deal.. The word the Bible uses to say "transformed" is the same word we get "metamorphosis" from. Ryan, you claim to know biology better than I do. Therefore you know that there is not a single change described in biology as a metamorphosis that is reversible. For example butterflies do not turn back into caterpillars. This is why the changes born-again person goes through is described that.
Ryan, I recognize that the Bible holds not weight for you and I have to wonder how much weight did it hold for you when you were a "Christian". I think if you think back you will remember quite a few things in it you didn't accept from the Bible back then either. There are two more scriptures that I would point to underscore the point that saved people can't become unsaved.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.- 1 Corinthians 5:16-21
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 1 John 2:18-20
I know that there are some Christians who do believe that you can loose your salvation. Ryan, you may have been one of these. However, the scripture that tell us to persevere and not give up or turn away are there because we should never look at this as if you can do whatever you want and still be saved. If you are still doing and thinking all of the same stuff you were before you were born-again it's proof that you were not born-again. There should be some thing different if you are truly a new creation.
Ryan, consider for a moment: It seems to me that if you reject the scriptures as being true now, you actually prove that they are indeed true because you are fulfilling them. They are describing you. IT doesn't have to be that way. Everyone is born a sinner, and if you or anyone repents and agrees with God, He will accept you and change you the way the Bible promises. I know because that is what I experienced and you didn't.