Something that always causes a lot of questions is the issue of backsliding. (Indeed this article is a response to a couple of questions I’ve been asked about it, and so I’ve given it the FAQ title. Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing a few more FAQ articles as part of my ongoing look into the deeper doctrinal beliefs behind All4God.)
I would say what I believe is that once you are truly saved, then you are always saved. In Romans 8:38-39 Paul states that “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul makes it clear that nothing in the world can cut us off from God’s love, and that must therefore mean that we ourselves cannot cut ourselves off it. God has us in His hand, and we cannot jump out. I think that if there is a genuine faith either people won’t turn away, or if they do God will follow after them until they come back to Him. (In the second case the person is essentially on ‘reins’, thinking they can run away wherever they want, but all the time there is still some deep connection between them and God, which one day God will use to rein them back in to His open arms of love.)
If they do turn fully away I don’t think there can have been a genuine faith there in the first place. And I guess there are a lot of people who consider themselves saved, but have never made a genuine, sincere commitment who may appear to ‘lose’ their faith, but in truth didn’t truly have it in the first place – my biblical reference for that would be Matthew 7:21-23 when Jesus is talking about people who call out in His name but whom He doesn’t know. ““Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Only God can know the depth of a person’s heart and know if they are sincere when they say they believe.
One important thing to note is that it is a reality of Christian life that you will go through periods when you feel closer to God than usual. And thus there will be times when you feel less close. But when you feel you have slipped away, that you have lost some of your passion, when doubts start to creep in it is important to remember that nothing can separate you from God, and that if you seek Him, Jesus has promised you will find Him once again. It is important not to lose hope in those times of feeling distant, for there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you just keeping striving for it.
Finally as the Bible makes it very clear that God is fair I don’t think it unreasonable to presume that people who backslide in later life due to things such as mental deterioration creeping in would not have that held against them.
Have you any further questions about this issue? Any personal thoughts you’d like to chip in with? Feel free to use the comments to do so!