A great many of us have been thinking about apostasy lately, that is when a person renounces their faith. First, Josh Harris renounced his faith. And now, more recently, Hillsong songwriter Marty Sampson has renounced his. Both cases are interesting. In the case of Josh Harris, I suspect there is still more to hear. My sense is that the explanation of his apostasy will yet become quite plain. And in the case of Marty Sampson, I am overwhelmed with how little he understood about the faith in the first place.
So much has already been written about both Harris and Sampson, I do not wish to rehash it here. But, even so, I think there is something to add:
First, the idea of apostasy is hardly a new one. Consider the book of Hebrews. Some of these believers were thinking of abandoning their faith and going back to Judaism. The entire book of Hebrews is written to address the threat of apostasy. Or consider Paul’s words, recorded in 2 Timothy 4:10. “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” Jesus’ parable of the 4 soils in Matthew 13 is a parable about apostasy. It should hardly surprise us that apostasy is occurring in our day.
Second, the reasons for apostasy are varied. Hebrews 2:3 warns about neglecting so great a salvation. Hebrews 10:26 tells us that if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received a knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin remains. Romans 8:13 warns that if we live according to the flesh, we will die. Galatians 1:6 speaks of those who turn to a different gospel. 1 Timothy 4:1 says; “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” 2 Timothy 4:4 speaks about those who pay attention to teachers that tickle the ears of the hearers, rather than teach the whole counsel of God. 2 Peter 3:3 speaks of those who follow their own lusts and become mockers. All that to say, there are many reasons for apostasy.
And so, it is important to insist that there is no promise that if we only changed the way we do things, apostasy would cease. Clearly, the Bible gives us no such promise.
And yet, it is important that we teach the faith in its fullness. Paul’s assurance that he is not guilty of the blood of any is premised on his insistence that he did not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27). It becomes imperative that we do not present either a so-called “positive gospel”, or a “negative gospel”, but a gospel that is faithful to the biblical text. Rooting the faith, not in current trends, but in the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) is a necessary antidote to the apostasy of the day in which we live.
Hence, the greatest challenge of the church is that she be completely and thoroughly Christian.