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May 17, 2012 / Dale Melchin

Reasons Why Christians Fall Away from the Faith

Intro: I know this is an odd article to write when so close to Pascha (Orthodox Easter), however since I have started a new phase of my journey I have begun to think more and more about the human psychosomatic (mind/body) composite and how that relates to over all reality and to spiritual development.

One of the areas that has drawn my attention is why Christians fall away from the faith. I used to buy into the simple arguments that either they weren’t saved in the first place or they fell off the path and lost their salvation. As an Orthodox Christian my tendency is to agree with the first part of the second choice. I’ll explain why I don’t elaborate on the “lose their salvation” part in another article. Here are two primary reasons why Christians lose faith and sometimes don’t come back.

Over-commitment to intellectual reasoning

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for education and intellectual development, however, societies’ larger problems are not a function of a lack of intellectual development, they are a function of a lack of spiritual development, however, I digress.

When a person comes to faith in Christ everything is awesome, they are basking often times in the new reality. However, after a honeymoon period, the new Christian may embark upon an intellectual path leading them to possibly higher Christian education and vocational ministry, again this is great. However, sometimes during that development phase they get into trouble because they elevate their reasoning principle as the ultimate arbiter of reality. It generally comes out in 4 ways.

They put limits on how many times they can start again on the path. When we become Christians we are told that there are certain things that we do that will enhance our spirituality and some things that will damage it further. This is called virtue and sin respectively. We can very easily get hung up on past sins that we are having a hard time defeating. Because we fail to look at the problem the right way often times we just live with the problem and make no progress. This however chokes out our ability to grow because we are setting limits. Problem could very easily go into the other box. However, I’m putting it here is because our tendency in the West is to make all problems left brain problems, to reason our way out of them. Truth be told, there is no logical reason to sin. However, try telling that to someone who is highly committed to intellect. The reason that they are this way is that they’ve tried everything they can think of and they still can’t beat that area. So they settle and it becomes a problem for further down the road. Sometimes they suffer in silence and don’t leave the Church. Other times, they do leave, falling “in love” with that particular sin. Again this could rightly go into the category below, but I’m leaving it here because so often our left brain places limits on our vision to create a new reality.

Another intellectual trip up is that they hold God responsible for things that He has put us in charge of collectively as a race.

One of these issues is “the problem of evil.” If you use reason with a low level of spirituality yes, you can say that ultimately God is to blame because He created the world, and despite His Omni qualities He doesn’t intervene every time we attempt to destroy ourselves. (Which…oh wait, He HAS! Numerous times!)

But can you really? If you look at it from a spiritual point of view, no, because God entrusted us with the ability to make choices, and our first parents (Adam and Eve) failed. It’s like a parent training a child. A parent may give instructions, or take corrective action, or sometimes, they may let the natural consequences of our actions play out so we can learn our lesson.

The point is that we ultimately are in charge of how we relate to each other as individuals and as groups and nations.

If we as human beings take an entitled approach yes, we can blame everyone but ourselves for our problems, including God. And some people get caught up in this frame of mind that they can’t bring themselves to believe in Him.

They allow themselves to be externally defined. This is a problem that relates to the other ones. So often we allow our external realities to define us. I’m fat, I’m skinny, I was told I am this. It relates to the previous point in an interesting way because if we look outside into the world we can see chaos, but we don’t see passed that to the deeper reality because there is too much chaos going on. We also make our conditioning the arbiter of our lives as well, saying that we can’t believe in God because X happened and He doesn’t love me because He let/caused it to happen.

They do not understand how to keep the actions of others from affecting them negatively. This is related to the whole external definition aspect of spirituality. This most often comes out in the Church. Church people are viewed as hypocrites. I agree hypocrisy happens. But that doesn’t mean every spiritual person is categorically, deliberately and intentionally a hypocrite. It happens in any community or organization. The person allows the actions of another person to affect their reality and ultimately keep them from the good thing they desire which is salvation and then blame the other. If a person can understand that they can never control the actions of others but that they can control their own reactions to what happens to them, we’ll be in a helluva a lot better shape.

Under-cultivation of spirituality

One of the big problems especially in Western civilization is an under-cultivation of spirituality that is at least related to an over cultivation of the intellect as we explored above. However there is also the actual under-cultivation of spirituality that is the problem.

The first problem is a lack of understanding as to how to cultivate spirituality. This is a problem in the Christian West. Many attempts have been made to get us to a point where we have a strong spirituality and all have failed. This is why psychology popped up in the 1800’s to deal with internal issues that the Western (Protestant) Church refused to deal with. The reason why is that people are expected to either use their intellect to solve spiritual problems or simply hide them, where as in the East (Greece and Russia Eastwards) all of those spiritual traditions deal with the problems directly through breathing, meditation and otherwise internal programming. This is why when you see someone who has properly applied these traditions while they may not be perfect they are very close to it because the Ancient Traditions have been dealing with these problems for centuries and have managed to systematize them.

Western Christianity still being relatively new and in many cases reinventing the wheel, has yet to come to grips that these “filthy eastern ways” do in fact work and are part of all enduring traditions.

Lack of personal self-knowledge is a huge problem when entering into the Christian faith or really any tradition. We come to Jesus, we bask in the honeymoon of having found this new way of being. However, most of us have spent our lives being externally defined, so we really don’t know ourselves. So when we attempt to fit ourselves into this new way of being our mind/body composite rebels because of old habits we have cultivated either consciously or unconsciously. Depending on your choice of Christian tradition you may be unequipped or underequipped to deal with the issues of life in the flesh. We view our tendencies as who we are rather than something that can be changed and sometimes we will give up. It’s like tending a garden, you have to know how to tend it properly before you can be successful in cultivating it. So it is with the human heart. What happens often-times is that the fruit we cultivate gets choked out because we haven’t properly weeded our gardens.

Failure to change relationships after the commitment to the Faith has been made and they get dragged back into old scripts.

This is huge. Often times our family or old friends will throw weed seeds into the garden of the heart or their influence overwhelms the commitment we have to change. Again it all goes back to applied knowledge. One must limit those negative relationships and replace them with positive ones.

Now, what is the solution?

Understand that Christianity isn’t a spectator sport. It is Gladiatorial Combat against our old tendencies. If you want salvation, if you even want to believe, you must be committed to the vision of the new reality, even in the presence of conflicting evidence. You have to understand that you are ultimately responsible for how you respond to your environment, and how you are in the universe.

You it is also required that you go beyond intellectual faith into the bring it into the depths of the human heart. I think most people realize this, but in the west we tend to get so caught up in the parts, rather than the wholes that we stumble over the faith if we fail to properly use our intellect as a tool rather than the end result. If we operate by faith, it eventually “becomes” real to us even if objective reality seems to present contrary “evidence.”

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  1. John Day / May 17 2012 2:42 am

    1.) You don’t address that Christianity began with a decision to fall away from faith, in that to join up with the Christian cult, you need not bother becoming a Jewish. Something that Jesus never reportedly said, and something that was hard to convince a grown man to do in 30 or 40 C.E. because it involved cutting off part of their penis. Hence why the forced conversion of the Edomites was a terrible thing to do.

    2.) Since the belief system originated with a decision to fall away from faith, it should come as no surprise that a little later it was decided that some guy should be able to change whatever he wanted about Christianity. After a few centuries of this, someone cried “bullshit!” and orthodoxy was born, with the best attitude possible “If Jesus wants us to change things, he’ll come back and change them.” (Although Orthodoxy carries with it a a lot of the decision which moved away from the original set of beliefs)

    3.) Every single protestant doctrine that is practiced, no matter how strict and how reformed, is a decision to fall away from faith. Even worse, a lot of modern/evangelical protestantism emphasizes a personal relationship with God, and a personalization of the belief set to the point that it no longer reflects the original dogma and doctrine, and as long as you meet a few key criteria, you’re good to go. (Even if the person is running about repeatedly blaspheming the holy spirit) A good example of this is when people describe being told to do things by God, or claim they were guided to a specific decision by God, even though it’s pretty clear that they are not a prophet.

    4.) Christianity -is- an Eastern Religion. Monotheism was the invention of Eastern Cults, Monotheism at this point first enters into our record as the brain child of Zoroaster, and a portion of his views were adopted by the Persian Magi, and spread throughout the Empire, and everywhere West of Greece remained polytheistic for many more centuries until the Pax Romana created a safe and secure environment that allowed for the ease of travel, a common language, customs, and currency, in addition to a relative tolerance towards other religious ideas and cults. (There are some examples of people being put to death that were Christian, but they weren’t put to death because they were Christian, but they insisted upon breaking other laws, usually involving around sedition, denying the authority of the empire, etc. Modern Christians really, really like to blow this out of proportion to some sort of mass systematic persecution that just never happened. Before you go on about the Jewish revolt, think of it this way: Caesar pays to build a temple. The temple gets built. A general practice at that time would be to offer a sacrifice to Caesar and the Empire for building the temple, and when the Romans do, the people they built the temple for go apeshit crazy and start attacking and killing your Roman citizens and soldiers.)

    5.) You can’t really blame Liberalism for this. New sects of Christianity were popping up for centuries prior to the Enlightenment. Keep in mind that very few people were literate, and even fewer people could afford a bible, so there was a lot of acceptance based off of the authority of the person who told you what it said, and what it meant.

    6.) Just like Christianity had to stop asking converts to cut off part of their penis, some changes will have to be made to a religion that was thought up by crazy desert people who used to stone their friends and neighbors to death for failing to follow a ridiculous set of rules in order for that religion to survive into the modern era.

    The only reason why Christianity is still around is because it was adaptable. Otherwise you’d be writing about how people are falling away from their faith in Mithras.

    • Dale Melchin / May 18 2012 1:52 am

      1.) You don’t address that Christianity began with a decision to fall away from faith, in that to join up with the Christian cult, you need not bother becoming a Jewish. Something that Jesus never reportedly said, and something that was hard to convince a grown man to do in 30 or 40 C.E. because it involved cutting off part of their penis. Hence why the forced conversion of the Edomites was a terrible thing to do.
      Before I launch my response I’m going to says this. It depends on how you look at things. Since I haven’t gotten a reply back from you regarding your worldview, I am assuming that you are looking at everything from a humanistic, secular, point of view, so your assumptions dictate how you are processing my post. That said.
      Christianity was not a decision to walk away from the faith, it was God reconstituting Judaism. By the time of Christ’s Ministry 27-30 AD and well before that Judaism has become an established religion that was losing touch with true virtue and spirituality that was taught by the Torah. It was the establishment Jews that had rejected the Christ despite all of the evidence He had on His side, they knew what they were doing. Since they had rejected Christ, it would only follow that would reject the authority of the Apostles. The Christians didn’t walk away, they were forced out of the Jewish community. So it would only follow that Christianity would become separate because of the rejection of Christ and the Apostles.

      2.) Since the belief system originated with a decision to fall away from faith, it should come as no surprise that a little later it was decided that some guy should be able to change whatever he wanted about Christianity. After a few centuries of this, someone cried “bullshit!” and orthodoxy was born, with the best attitude possible “If Jesus wants us to change things, he’ll come back and change them.” (Although Orthodoxy carries with it a a lot of the decision which moved away from the original set of beliefs)

      Again, I object to this mostly because you are ignoring the supernatural and providential elements of the development of Christianity. Christianity started off Orthodox. It grew in understanding, but it didn’t change, the core beliefs of the Christian faith are still the same then as they were now. Admittedly, some practices would’ve changed. If you are referring to the Patriarch of Constantinople (New Rome) calling “bullshit” on the Roman Patricarch because he was going beyond his ecclesiastical authority and meddling in politics trying to bring political and spiritual authority back to a city that was bereft of its authority b/c it was sacked by barbarians repeatedly and the Roman Emperor moved the Capital to New Rome (Constantinople)

      3.) Every single protestant doctrine that is practiced, no matter how strict and how reformed, is a decision to fall away from faith. Even worse, a lot of modern/evangelical protestantism emphasizes a personal relationship with God, and a personalization of the belief set to the point that it no longer reflects the original dogma and doctrine, and as long as you meet a few key criteria, you’re good to go. (Even if the person is running about repeatedly blaspheming the holy spirit) A good example of this is when people describe being told to do things by God, or claim they were guided to a specific decision by God, even though it’s pretty clear that they are not a prophet.

      I have little objection to this because I’m not a Protestant. However, if you were observant of recent trends there are several evangelical Churches within the last 20 years who mass converted to Orthodoxy because they realized how bereft of spiritual heritage and authority the Protestant movement has become. Its basically a political club now, with some spirituality. I know some would object to this interpretation, but unfortunately on the whole Protestantism has come to resemble Judaism of the early 1st Century AD. It emphasizes an adherence to external rules but fails to address basic issue of the inner life and will often borrow from modern psychology to get the job done, not realizing there is a huge therapeutic tradition within Christianity, they just need to dig through Church History.

      4.) Christianity -is- an Eastern Religion. Monotheism was the invention of Eastern Cults, Monotheism at this point first enters into our record as the brain child of Zoroaster, and a portion of his views were adopted by the Persian Magi, and spread throughout the Empire, and everywhere West of Greece remained polytheistic for many more centuries until the Pax Romana created a safe and secure environment that allowed for the ease of travel, a common language, customs, and currency, in addition to a relative tolerance towards other religious ideas and cults. (There are some examples of people being put to death that were Christian, but they weren’t put to death because they were Christian, but they insisted upon breaking other laws, usually involving around sedition, denying the authority of the empire, etc. Modern Christians really, really like to blow this out of proportion to some sort of mass systematic persecution that just never happened. Before you go on about the Jewish revolt, think of it this way: Caesar pays to build a temple. The temple gets built. A general practice at that time would be to offer a sacrifice to Caesar and the Empire for building the temple, and when the Romans do, the people they built the temple for go apeshit crazy and start attacking and killing your Roman citizens and soldiers.)

      I don’t object to your first sentence. However, according to the Old Testament record Abraham was 10th in line from Noah and Predates Zoroaster by a couple thousand years. Zoroaster was around in 6BC. Noah’s influence probably led to the creation Zoroasterianism. But I digress.
      I’m going to lump the comments about the Christian persecution the Jewish War in to one response. In both cases Casear and the Empire were requiring something of both Christians and Jews that their respective faiths would not allow them to do. Ascribe Divinity to someone who was not Divine. Christians believe that Christ is Divine because of the miracles He performed oh and the Resurrection, so its ok to worship Jesus, it really is. Jews on the other hand were already forbidden by the First and Second commandments from worshiping Caesar or the Empire. Doesn’t matter if everyone else is doing it or if the law requires it the State is not the highest authority, God is.

      5.) You can’t really blame Liberalism for this. New sects of Christianity were popping up for centuries prior to the Enlightenment. Keep in mind that very few people were literate, and even fewer people could afford a bible, so there was a lot of acceptance based off of the authority of the person who told you what it said, and what it meant.

      I realize this is a fact of Church History, Arians, Monophystes and so on. I blame a liberal and entitled mindset for the more recent (relatively) messes created from the 1000’s forward.

      6.) Just like Christianity had to stop asking converts to cut off part of their penis, some changes will have to be made to a religion that was thought up by crazy desert people who used to stone their friends and neighbors to death for failing to follow a ridiculous set of rules in order for that religion to survive into the modern era.

      Now you are just being a troll. If you had any understanding as to why the death penalty was used so often it was because God was making a point about wicked practices. Also with the Incarnation we do see that God is serious about His standards, but He is rich in mercy because He died on the Cross. God still expects us to worship only Himself.
      The only reason why Christianity is still around is because it was adaptable. Otherwise you’d be writing about how people are falling away from their faith in Mithras.
      The reason why Christianity is still around because of providential and supernatural influence.

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